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Next year it could be you

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

 I’ve always empathized with Frankenstein’s monster. Through no fault of his own, he found himself a hideous scar-bearing creature that people feared, mocked and ran from. 

However, in Mary Shelley’s original novel, the creature–for he is never named–was quite eloquent, could speak three languages and aside from his physical appearance, was quite human-like and only sought love and acceptance.

Unfortunately for many, it is the physical appearance that pushes to the forefront when we encounter people. 

Women–even those who claim they aren’t vain–can be reduced to tears by a chipped tooth, a facial pimple or a bad hair day. I know. I’ve been one of those women.

But a month ago, none of those things bothered me when I got the diagnosis that I have lymphoma.

A little over a year ago I had a bump on my back that itched. I thought it was a mosquito bite. But when it got larger, I knew it was something else–most likely a cyst, since I’ve had a couple of those removed in the past.

When I went to the dermatologist for my annual freckle/mole inspection, I had him check out the bump and he, too, said it was most likely a cyst but until pathology came back, couldn’t say for sure what caused it.

Three weeks later I learned it was not a cyst but a B cell lymphoma–a blood cancer.

While I waited for an appointment with an oncologist, I did my research–and what I found wasn’t encouraging.

Lymphoma is not cureable, but highly treatable with 70 percent survival rate but only 10-15 years life expectancy. The survival rate was wonderful, the life expectancy not so much.

I told only my immediate family and a handful of close friends. We prayed. We prayed a lot.

As my cousin Alice and I sat in the sunroom of my cousin’s house in Indianapolis, where we had gathered for my aunt’s funeral–she who had died from lymphoma–I told Alice that never in a million, zillion years did I expect this coming from seemingly out of nowhere.

“How can anyone who feels so good be so sick?” I asked her.

I met the next week with the oncologist who immediately captured my trust when she leaned forward, touched my hand and said, “I’m so sorry you heard it over the phone.”

Blood work was done, a CT scan order and possible scenarios were discussed. When Tom and I left her office, I felt relieved. And that’s when I went public on Facebook–because the majority of my friends on there are prayer warriors and I wanted everyone on my team.

It worked. Last Friday I received the call that the cancer is not in my lymph nodes.

I have another lymphoma that will be removed April 1 and I will meet with the doctor later in the month to decide where we go from here.

Worst case scenario? It will enter the lymph nodes and travel throughout my body.

Best case scenario? The cancer will miraculously disappear but if not, the lymphomas will continue to manifest under the skin and they will be surgically removed, with radiation a possibility, to prevent the spread.

And so, it is possible that like Frankenstein’s monster, I will be scarred but that’s OK. At least I will be alive.

That’s why it is so important to have regular checkups, don’t assume anything out of the ordinary concerning your health is routine and to participate in next week’s Relay for Life.

The Relay celebrates cancer survivors. The money raised from the year-long fundraiser benefits the American Cancer Society in a multitude of ways including the Hope Lodges, cancer information specialists, lobbyists and above all, research. Research that may come in my lifetime that will cure lymphoma for the 70,800 new cases that will be diagnosed in 2014.

It’s not too late to get in on the action and the fun. Volunteers are always needed and your tax deductible donations are welcomed any time of the year.

I encourage your support for this year’s Relay and ask that when you’re asked to make a donation to put a face to the cause and dig a little deeper in your wallet.

This time last year I never dreamed I would be a statistic.

I pray that next year you’re not either.