On June 15, 2016, I retired for the first time (out of four times) from a career that I loved at Jewish Family Services as Director of Business Services. My colleagues threw a fabulous party for me, shared a video of their experiences working with me, and named a conference room in my honor. Little did I know about the news I was about to receive later that day. I returned home and decided to go to the pool to enjoy working out and received an unexpected call from the Spielman Center indicating I had small lymphocytic lymphoma. The nurse indicated she did not know anything about SLL (because she specialized in breast cancer), but would have a doctor contact me in a month! I was thrown into utter panic! In addition, our family was planning a retirement vacation to Hawaii and we were leaving in a few days.
I went into work mode and in to see Dr. Jennifer Woyach, an OSU oncologist who specializes in SLL/CLL, within a day (and trust me, I did not handle my diagnosis or prognosis well!) I had had chromosomal abnormalities that made my disease more aggressive. I was told "your cancer is treatable, but not curable; you will die with it but not necessarily from it."
Looking back, I was a wreck. I stopped eating and sleeping, was depressed, and never left my sofa. My persona as the "energizer bunny" had left me, and I was wallowing in fear and self-pity.
I have fought, and continue to fight, the good fight and find humor as a way of managing the side effects. When I knew I was going to faint, I shouted to my husband, "Catch me, I'm going down!" Fortunately for me, his athletic prowess helped as I was caught in mid-air! Another time I felt disoriented, fell out of bed, and landed on the floor. While I thought this was hilarious, my husband Wayne did not share my sentiment due to the potential of broken bones! I now live what I call the mysterious "new normal."
I thought my retirement would be fun in the sun, and fun-filled with grandchildren. Instead, they are filled with monthly infusions, side effects, doctor's visits, and countless blood test (both treatment-oriented and for clinical trials). However, the unpredictable days are still filled with "fun times" with grandchildren, family and friends, but I still go into "outer space" with blood test results; the unknown remains frightening and stressful. On those days when my health allows me to flourish, I enjoy giving back and volunteering at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since I have always been mission-driven.
I do not know what my future holds, and I have come to realize that no one does! I do know that each day is a good day and that by giving back I can be part of the process that helps find a cure for blood cancers. I have also allowed myself to "breathe" and take care of myself on those rough days, which is new behavior for me. Lastly, my family is my strength that carries me through this journey.