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A few weeks ago my oldest daughter, Abbey, who just turned 25, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 2B. It has been, obviously, an emotional and trying time as once again we navigate a cancer diagnosis.
I’ve gone through all the emotions that I am familiar with-extreme anger this time because heck haven’t we had enough of hardship and suffering, and then grief and then acceptance and okay, what’s the plan. The thing with the cycle of grief (because a cancer diagnosis is a loss of many things) is that it isn’t a beginning and end. No clean steps that you navigate through, checking off and getting to some “magic” ending that feels all better. It circles back around, cleaning up where it might have left off the first time, new emotions you didn’t have time to complete, new information that adds in a level, and requires more time to process.
On to the medical side of things for a little bit-her prognosis is great. The treatment is short and tough. She will lose her hair. She is going to attempt to work throughout the chemotherapy treatment. Coincidentally, her “team” is pretty much the same that I had-the same oncologist and radiologist who are so excellent and who I trust completely, which is a huge part of this all-not having the doubt creep in, or having to feel like it’s all in our hands, or that our questions won’t be answered.
For all those who are raising teens and young adults-the symptoms are fatigue (she would get a good night’s sleep and wake up exhausted), some night sweats here and there, and very swollen lymph nodes in her neck-this started back in the beginning of spring. The lymph nodes were at first attributed to covid and/or the covid vaccine, which Abbey had within months of each other. But thankfully, Abbey, I and her GP, (another incredible physician) kept up with testing, investigation and inquiry. A risk factor for Hodgkins is having had the Epstein-Barr virus, otherwise known as mono, which Abbey had a terrible case of in high school. There are alot of unknowns, questions that will not be answered until more research is done in terms of this risk factor combined with the circumstances of covid virus/covid vaccine- if it had anything at all to do with this, or was just a coincidence. (I know there are passionate opinions on either side of this, and for me, it is neither here nor there-it’s an unknown, all together, for everyone.) There is much about cancer that is unknown also.
Do I think it is weird that Abbey and I both have and have had cancer? Yes. But I think it is a coincidence. I had no risk factors at all for triple-negative breast cancer. I do think stress contributed, I think of course that what research thinks in terms of plastics and our environment has a play in most cancers. Again we don’t have answers now. I think Abbey’s was stress, but also the mono virus, and maybe weak immunity after illness. She eats healthy and exercises almost daily. We laughed a little because I think people might think we live in some sort of cancer cess pool but I assure you we do not. We are a healthy bunch usually.
After a couple dark days-I described to my mom as my bootstraps just need a break-they’re a little worn and lost some elastic and take a little longer to snap back up after the last five years-we are going to get through this like champions. I am showering her with care, the kind every cancer patient deserves, the kind that my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and children and my incredible friends just poured into me-showing up without fail, emotionally and physically present with loyal kindness to the end. It’s cathartic for me, and also easy because I adore her as I do all my children. And boy do I know now what my loving and beyond generous parents went through watching me.
I have had one moment of real fear. When she had her port placed and bone marrow biopsy done, the surgery was tough and she was given more medication than usual and she was very sick afterwards in recovery. I wanted to be her, I wanted to be the one sick, I wanted to make it go away and take her place because it was awful to see my child (adult or not) suffer. Holding her hand and scratching her itchy skin, and holding the barf bag and telling her it will be okay, it will be over soon and remembering what it felt like to be her-wondering if I had the strength to not lose it, for just one moment, a panicky feel overtook me. The what ifs- what if this is how it will be the whole time, what if she has this side effect or this reaction…the what ifs, letting my mind wander to the future-I know better. It didn’t last for a minute, that feeling of despair. And that is the gift that makes everything I went through worth it times a million. To know how to help her, to know what to say, to know what she needs, and to know what that loss feels like-what a gift. Yes, she will have different experiences and is at such a different season of life, but there are many parts of this that are universal, and to have walked that before her, I am so grateful.
Abbey and I have always been closer, and closer than ever when she moved home after college. We can laugh at so many things together, we know each other so well, and I admire her like crazy. She is an extraordinary woman-I always tell her she was one of those “wise soul” babies, that was trapped in a little body that she couldn’t make do the things she knew her brain had already figured out. She is still that wise soul. With a little spice sprinkled in. And heck is she going to get through this and keep on going, full steam ahead, through life.