I have been blessed with a wonderful group of family and friends to hold dear in my life. As a teacher I know It’s not uncommon to get a slight cold and to be really tired during the first couple weeks of school, so the sore throat and swollen lymph node didn’t set off any alarm bells.
Well, by mid-September, I gave up on the idea that it would just go away on its own, so I made an appointment with my doctor. With a prescription in hand, I thought all was good, but no such luck. I was still feeling exhausted most days and the lump seemed to be getting bigger to my dismay, so in February I went to the doctor again who referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
I was told it was most likely a benign parotid gland issue. Well, benign or not the not so attractive lump needed to go, so in early May I had it removed. Vanity might just have saved my life, because a week later my whole world changed. The biopsy came back cancer, Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to be exact. Not at all what we were expecting. I was just tired. No other symptoms. No other warning signs. I was healthy! (obviously, not)
So, we were hopeful as we waited for the results that would tell me how bad it was. Maybe they got it all. Maybe it’s just stage one. I just turned 49 and I’m otherwise healthy, right? Wrong.
The afternoon on the last day of school the oncologist gave us the news. Stage 4 Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The doctor was shocked to see how far the cancer had spread, but nevertheless, there it was. My PET scan showed the cancer was head to toe.
In a single moment everything changed. Yes, we are going to give you an aggressive chemotherapy course of treatment. No, you can’t go back to teaching until your treatments are done. Now, let’s make a thousand appointments and get you an encyclopedia’s worth of stuff to read before we get you all set up to start treatment July 1st.
You all know that I work hard and that I give 100% to my commitments whether it is my family and friends, advocacy work, or my job. I am always just a phone call or message away. This diagnosis and treatment means that I might not be out and about as much as I was or want to be, but please still include me in your rallies, meetings and calls to action, I will do what I am able. I will never stop fighting for a better, more equitable future for all of us. We do not know how any of this will play out over the coming months, but I will be tackling this diagnosis head on. I am 100% all in for recovery.