My Fundraising Page
Sep 20, 2011
Hello! My name is Jennifer. My parents call my Jenny, most of my friends call me Jen. Welcome to my Light The Night Walk homepage. I'll start off by telling you a little about myself. I'm 19 and I'm currently battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (And kicking it's butt.) It all started with a simple lump in my neck. My general doctor had told me to keep an eye on it but didn't seem very alarmed. Then on the first saturday of June I closed my finger in my boyfriend's car door. When I got to the ER I decided to ask about the lump once I realized how much it had grown as of late. My doctor dismissed my concerns so I demanded to see someone else. The next doctor seemed very concerned and told me not to panic but I needed to see a surgeon first thing Monday or Tuesday. That night I cried for the first time in a really long time. I was talking to my boyfriend, Ian, about it and what could be wrong with me and I just broke down. I just had this overwhelming feeling it was cancer. He told me it would be alright and he'd be there for me no matter what happened. To this day I still don't know how to describe the feeling... I just knew. On Tuesday June 7th, 2011 at 10:30am, my life changed. I had an aspiration biopsy of a lymph node in my neck that showed markers for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. When the word cancer first escaped by doctor's lips it felt like my heart had stopped. It was like I almost felt it coming but it was still so surreal. I mean, what else could a lump in my neck that's growing, doesn't hurt, and has been there for 4 weeks mean? "Well, Jennifer, it looks like we're dealing with cancer here. It's looking like it's Hodgkin's Lymphoma." I couldn't stop crying. My mom had taken time out of her day to walk from her MassDOT office across the parking lot into UMASS to be at the appointment with me. I'm so thankful she insisted on coming. We waited for about an hour alone in the exam room for someone from Hematology Oncology to come and speak with us since neither of us knew much about Cancer, let alone Hodgkin's. I just kept wondering, "Am I going to die?" The next day I was in surgery at 8am to have the entire 2.5cm lymph node removed for a tissue biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. The medical student on my case who held my hand during my aspiration biopsy came to see me before my surgery and told me she would be there when I woke up. She told me I seemed a lot more put together than the day before and I told her that I cried a lot but then I realized that it wasn't doing anything but giving me a migraine. I decided that I wanted to live, and I was going to fight with everything I had in me to make it through it. I have cancer, and that sucks, and it's not fair, but it's the way things are so all I can really do is accept it and make it my goal to beat it. She commented on the tattoo on my right wrist and told me she thought it really fit me. It says "Still the optimist." It's something I see every day and something that has really become something I live by. The official pathology report ended up being Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Nodular Sclerosis. It was about a week for the official report to be released and at that point I already had plans for it to be sent to Dana Farber for their pathologists to do their own report. I did my research and I decided that I would rather be treated there than at UMASS where my surgery was done. As soon as I had my first appointment at the Jimmy Fund Clinic in Dana Farber I knew I chose the right treatment facility. They were incredibly thurough and I didn't even consider getting another opinion. After talking to me, getting my entire extensive medical history, PET and CT scans they told me that they were pretty sure I was going to be staged at stage II, but they needed one more thing to ensure that the cancer had not spread to my bone marrow... a bone marrow biopsy. That was not fun, let me tell you. They had to do both sides of my hip bones in my lower back. I had a portacath inserted at the same time while I was under anesthesia. I was not a happy camper for a few days, but a negative result on the bone marrow lifted my spirits. I was staged at 2B. The B means that my type of cancer is more complicated than a regular stage 2 because I had symptoms. I would need more treatment due to the B. We had a few meetings with my team of doctors and my family and they came up with a treatment plan for me. The chemo plan they chose for me is called Stanford V. It's a combination of quite a few cancer drugs and will be followed by radiation. The plan is for 3 cycles that are each 4 weeks long. I got chemo every week. Right now I've just finished my third cycle of chemotherapy and I just had a CT to be sure nothing has started growing since my last scan. I've been positioned and tattooed for radiation, and within the next week or so I will be starting. Radiation is every week day for about a month. At the end of August I had a PET and CT scan that revealed that I am in fact in remission! There was no visible active cancer on the PETscan, although there are still some swollen lymph nodes in my chest which is why I needed another set of scans after chemotherapy and before my radiation treatment. I'll be getting my chest radiated in an upside down triangle type shape from shoulder to shoulder. They're going to block my breasts as best as they can to reduce my risk of breast cancer down the road. I also need a lymph node on my heart radiated because chemo hasn't shrunk it as much as my doctor would have liked. I will need echocardiograms and pulmunary function tests periodically for the rest of my life to see that chemo didn't damage my heart or lungs. Although I'm an optimistic person, I'm also realistic and I know about my odds of survival, getting cancer again, long term side effects of treatment, etc. Something that I'd really like to focus on is that my prognosis is so good that my doctor doesn't even really talk about the chances that I don't make it through this. There has been so much research done and there are so many effective treatments available for Hodgkin's that it's still considered very treatable with sucess even in patients who are Stage IV. Most of the clinical trials with Hodgkin's are focusing more on minimizing side effects rather than raising their cure rates, simply because their cure rates are already so high. It would be ideal if that were the case for all blood cancers. Hell, all cancers in general. I never take for granted all of the medical research that has been done in the past years to make my situation so much better than it would have been otherwise.
Now that you know a good amount about me and my situation and why raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is so important to me, here's some more information about the Light The Night Walk that I'm participating in and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in general!
Light The Night Walk is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's annual fundraising walk to pay tribute and bring hope to people battling cancer. Hundreds of thousands of participants raise funds for lifesaving research and patient services.
For more than 60 years, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been solely focused on people with blood cancers. Presently, we have more than $250 million committed to research across the United States and in ten other countries. Every dollar is provided by concerned donors. We invest in the best, outcome based science:
- Anywhere, with no geographic or institutional boundaries
- Without profit incentive
- To meet unmet Medicare needs of people with blood cancers
And LLS funded advances are helping patients beyond those for whom they were originally developed, including people with solid tumors and auto-immune diseases. In the past decade, nearly 50% (19 out of 39) of the cancer drugs approved by the FDA were approved as treatments for blood cancer patients. Twelve are already approved for people beyond those for whom they were first developed. With your help, we are saving lives.
- A donation of $25 provides patients and their loved ones with FREE booklets that contain up-to-date information on their disease and help them make informed decisions about their treatment options.
- A donation of $50 makes possible a Family Support group with a trained facilitator where comfort can be found and experiences can be shared among patients and family members.
- A donation of $100 helps supply laboratory researchers with supplies and materials critical to carrying out their search for cures.
- A donation of $1,000 makes possible one- on-one conversations with health care specialists who provide patients with information about their disease, treatment options, and helps prepare them with questions for their health care team.
Please make a donation to support my participation in the Light The Night Walk and help save lives. Be sure to check my Web site frequently to see my progress, and thanks for your support!