Coping with Chronic Cancer: Cheri's Story, Part II

Cheri

This three-part article was written exclusively for LymphomaInfo.net by Cheri Monaghan. In March of 2012 at the age of 33, Cheri was diagnosed with stage IV incurable non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This is her story.

Click here to read Part I.

The surgery took place on March 7. It was a long procedure that ended up requiring a drain and two nights in the hospital. When my surgeon came to visit me he said that the mass was completely embedded and wrapped around my jugular vein, so he was unable to remove it entirely.

I finally went home on March 9. After being home for only a few hours I got a call from the hematologist/oncologist who had been monitoring my blood clot and the medication used to treat it. He left a voicemail saying that I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I called him back immediately, and he said it was highly curable and I should not worry.

(At this point I think that I should add that I was alone for this phone call. I am single and live on my own. I have two sisters who live in Denver, a dad who is not at all involved in my life, and a mother who was preoccupied with her boyfriend’s recent diagnosis of terminal cancer. Both my blood family and my amazing work family did the best they could to support me, but to be honest I’d never felt so alone in my life.)

Diagnosed with Incurable Cancer

For the next five months I had to surrender my body to my oncologists. It took about a week to get a complete work up, including full body PET and CT scans, blood work, an echocardiogram and a bone marrow biopsy. My final diagnosis was diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the mass in my neck and indolent follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my bone marrow. The cancer in my bone marrow automatically made me stage IV. My oncologist was right in saying that the diffuse large B-cell is highly curable, but unfortunately there is no cure for the indolent follicular cancer in my bone marrow.

At this point in my journey one of the best things I had done was to bring my mom and aunt with me to my staging appointment because once I heard that I was stage IV nothing else sunk in. I felt like I was in a nightmare. To me stage IV meant that I was going to die in the very near future. I was overwhelmed and terrified. Even now, 15 months later, there are times that I completely panic. The indolent follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer. It is considered to be a chronic cancer that will need to be treated intermittently for the rest of my life.

Click here to read Part III.

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