In late October of 2016 I noticed that my neck had begun to swell and I was bone tired every day. My parents noticed my neck in photos and that I was too tired to call home. When we located a doctor in Miami who would see me, she had the unhappy duty of telling me we’d better test for cancer. Tests, a PET scan, biopsy and visit with an oncologist confirmed I was stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma. After experiencing a very short “Why Me?” phase, my parents and doctor said we have no time for anything except chemotherapy (12 treatments) and a daily “NEVER QUIT UNTIL CURED” strategy to beat cancer.
It was overwhelming to see the number of people fighting cancer in various stages. I suddenly came to the conclusion that we’re all in this fight together. My co-workers from the Miami Seaquarium were there for every surgery, test, and treatment with their friendship, rides, humor, food, and support. I was fortunate to receive my chemotherapy at the University of Miami Lennar Medical Center which opened one month before I was diagnosed.
Anyone who has experienced chemotherapy knows the anxiety and helplessness you feel when you allow these intense drugs into your system. You also know they are the road to remission and a cure. It takes time for you to accept the tradeoff of healing versus the discomfort. I saw so many courageous people step up and do what was necessary to save their lives. There were a variety of caring staff supporting us during chemo. Even the U of Miami Mascot came by one day and shook hands with me. My hair got thin. My eyebrows went on vacation and I had little energy. Physical appearance does little to tell you how much a person wants to survive.
The real spark of life is in the eyes. I managed to work several days during my treatments and my co-workers at the Seaquarium donated hundreds of hours of sick leave and did what they could to make my work day survivable. Each treatment brought me closer to remission. Each test showed improvement and gave me more hope each day.
When it became clear in June of 2017 that I was going into remission and hopefully a complete cure, things picked up quickly. I was able to work more, my appetite improved, and my energy level rose. It was clear that I would get my life back and the plans that were on hold are back on track. Thanks to God, my family and friends I am a survivor. Now it’s up to me to pay this healing forward as a volunteer and donor.