12 Rounds of ABVD Chemotherapy + 20 Days of Radiation = Treatment Complete.
Cancer free. RING THE BELL!
Exactly a year ago on April 16, 2016 I posted a blog (that has since been taken down) that was titled “Cancer Free”. When I wrote that blog we had spent six days in the hospital, two of those in complete isolation (due to the stupidity of the hospital…not because we were contagious somehow. You can’t freaking catch cancer anyways.) and we had been told that James was cancer free. They didn’t know what was wrong with him or why he had a 10x7cm mass in his chest and wouldn’t know until we finally went to a THIRD diagnostic hospital and had open lung surgery. Six months later when he was finally officially diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and in fact had cancer, I had felt so stupid for believing those words just months before. We had no idea the journey that was ahead of us. I was pregnant and we were about to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. It was such a blow. To our faith, to our joy, to everything.
But a year later, I can proudly yell at the top of my lungs that my husband is in fact finally CANCER FREE and treatment is over!!!!
On my last update he had just finished chemo and had his first PET scan that came back clear, but still had to undergo radiation treatment. Radiation was a BREEZE compared to chemo. I know that it is not always like that, and a lot of people have a horrible time with both so we were so incredibly thankful. He was definitely exhausted (but who are we kidding, once Lyla was born we didn’t sleep the first six weeks anyways) and the only real reaction he had to the radiation short term was a sore throat towards the end. We are believing that there will be NO long term side effects from the radiation, but decided that the risk was worth it in order to make sure that the cancer never comes back.
The next step from here is going to be a follow up scan at the end of May to monitor James and confirm that he is still in remission. Prayers for peace of mind and a clear scan are appreciated. He will have his port in for at least another year, they do this as a precaution in case he relapses and has to undergo more treatment. Is this ideal? No. But it’s reality. With a port in there are still limitations to your physical activity and it is still a reminder of what we have been thru and believing will never come back.
James will still have doctors appointments every three months for the rest of the year. He will then have at least one PET scan a year for the rest of his life. Anytime he coughs I will remember that that was our only symptom of cancer we ever saw on the outside. I’m sure as time goes on those memories will fade. Even now, I forget what he looked like completely bald. When I look through our old pictures it is so surreal.
I have to be honest, a part of me feels as if I am waking up from a horrible nightmare and it doesn’t feel real, and the other part of me just wants to desperately forget it and move on (obviously so does James). A lot of people think that once you have completed treatment and received a clean scan that you can just return back to life as before. But let me be the first to say, life will never be the way it was before. Going through something as traumatic as cancer changes you and things will never be the same. We will never take the things for granted that we used to. And we will never take our time together for granted.
Every day with James will forever be the greatest blessing of my life (alongside the gift of our beautiful daughter). I am so thankful that he is here with me, alive and well. We will never be the same. Our marriage will never be the same. I refuse to say that “we are so much stronger now” because I feel as if that glorifies cancer. But I will say, our relationship is solidified by the grace of God and we walked through hell together and came out the otherside. What a joy it was to have his last day of treatment land on Good Friday. Such a beautiful reminder that Jesus paid the price so that my husband could be healed!
So, we ring the bell that this part of our journey is FINISHED!!! Thank you to everyone who has followed us, cared for us, prayed for us, paid for us, cooked for us, and celebrated with us. We couldn’t have made it through this without you.
Natalie, James, Lyla, & Mary-Kate <3
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
(Ps. For those of you wondering, Lyla got the complete okay from all technicians that she is safe from anything radioactive, and James will be the last person EVER to use this facility before they move and so there was no one else here! #safetyfirst)