In the Fall of 2014, as I was at the end of my first year in business, I started to come out of my shell a little bit and meet more photographers in North Carolina. I met Misha through one of the Camp Lejeune Photographer Facebook groups. We met up before a (Military) Homecoming at Dunkin Donuts on Lejeune and we really hit it off. As I got to know her, I learned that she battled cancer. I was taken aback a little bit, as I always viewed cancer as an ailment that preyed on senior citizens, not someone who was the same age as me.
I admire her for her courage and positive outlook. She taught me that cancer comes in all forms and all ages.
I want to share her story because she is such an inspiration to me...
"In October 2009, after a bout with pneumonia I went in for what I thought was a routine cat scan. When the results came back from the scan, they told me I needed to see my primary doctor immediately. I started crying not knowing what was going on. The Radiologist sat me down and showed me the images. Pointing at the scans, he told me that there were tumors in my chest and if they are cancerous I would need chemo. Without anything more, he had the assistant walk me out to my husband and 4 month old son who were waiting for me. I was terrified with the information I had and went straight to the doctor, where I left again without an answer. A few days later, I got a call from the Oncology Department at Balboa Navel Medical Center, they had received my case and I had an appointment. I was lucky enough to have my parents, husband and son at my appointment when the doctor informed me he was 95% sure I had Hodgkin ‘s Lymphoma. A biopsy to a lymph nod in my neck and a PET scan later I was officially diagnosed with Classical Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin‘s Lymphoma stage 2B. What was thought to be pneumonia was actually two baseball size tumors in my chest.
I started chemo in January of 2010 just shy of my 25th birthday. Chemo took it's toll on me. I had almost every side effect. Body pain and weakness that made it almost impossible to get off the floor. I had severe bone pain and mouth sores that made it hard to eat or drink anything. Severe constipation, extremely low white blood count causing me to have to give myself shots, food tasted weird, I lost my hair and was very fatigued. I was on twenty-one different medications, some chemo but most managing my side effects making me in a somewhat painless state of living.
After 2 months of chemo therapy I received my 2nd PET scan to see how the cancer was reacting to the chemo. My doctor called later that night and said he had some good news and some interesting news. Good news is your cancer is responding very well. The interesting news is there is a fetus in your uterus. I was pregnant, which wasn't good during chemo. He said we are almost positive there won't be a heart beat as we have created an environment a baby couldn't survive. I had to go in the next day to verify the heart beat or lack of, and schedule the removal of what they thought would be a lifeless fetus. To their surprise and mine, they found a strong heart beat and that I was fifteen weeks along with a baby girl. Today I am now the proud mama of a healthy little girl! I continued on with my chemo while pregnant and had my last treatment on April 30, 2010, three days after my husband deployed to the front lines of Afghanistan.
Five months later I had our daughter and a month later, started radiation treatment. For me radiation was worse than chemo. The radiation was given to me on my chest and back over some major organs and my esophagus. Causing me to be very weak and tired. This treatment formed ulcers in my esophagus, making it literally impossible to eat of drink anything. This landed me in the hospital several times. Coming home after one for my stays in the hospital during radiation, my brother had to help me up the stairs where I had to stop to rest on the landing and sit down at the top to catch my breath before making it to my room. I lay in my bed and thought I was going to die. I was terrified that I was going to die alone that night, never seeing my husband make it home from Afghanistan and leaving my children without a mommy. At that moment I looked inside myself and pulled what little strength I had left out of me and keep living. When you have children, and those of you who do, know that you don't have a choice but to keep living for them! People always ask how I am so brave and I tell them its not about being brave it's about doing what you need to do to win!
I finished my radiation 1 day prior to my husband's homecoming. As of March 8th, 2016, I am in five years of remission and I can finally scream to the world that I AM CANCER FREE!!! I've been living everyday enjoying my son, who is now six, my daughter, who is now five, and my husband. Although I still struggle daily from medical issues that seem to be caused from the chemo and radiation, I've learned from having cancer, I allowed myself to be a student of life throughout my journey to learn from my experiences and my surroundings. I challenge you whether you have cancer, another sickness, a death in your family, or any other low point in your life to also be a student of life. Look at everything as a lesson. Write a blog or a journal to channel your pain. Surround yourself with those who love you. Share your story with others so they may learn from you and enjoy everything!
Laugh with those you love. Walk barefoot on the beach and dance to the music in
The grocery store. But most of all never give up!"