I. I’m not your average 26 year old
I’ve always lived my life in the fast lane. If the pedal isn’t to the medal, I am one unhappy camper. I am fully aware that at the age of 26 I’ve accomplished more than some will in their entire lifetime. I’ve lived in both Ireland and Italy and traveled the world extensively (France, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, U.K., Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, you get the picture). I started my MBA at 24 and true to nature I made sure that I was in an accelerated one year program. After my MBA, I fought long and hard to switch my career industries from legal to business consulting. I didn’t jump at the first offer that came across my plate (or second or third for that matter). I’m a fighter and I will hold out to get what I’m after. I’m not climbing my way to the top, I am sprinting full force with my entire heart and soul.
For me, everything is in acceleration. That’s why I am doing lymphoma now, not waiting for those 70s or 80s to eventually roll around. This week I was officially diagnosed with Large, T-cell Lymphoma. I’m still not really sure what that means, but the name sounds fancy and exciting.
You only get one chance to respond to the words “You have cancer”. With the help of some classy friends, I chose “Fuck cancer”. To which my doctor responded, yes fuck cancer.
As most of you know, I am super independent and insist on doing everything on my own. Yesterday as my doctor was screwing a huge needle into my back bone for a bone marrow biopsy, I threw that crap to the wind. I am absolutely positive that the only thing that got me through ripping bone from my back was a best friend with a huge super hero complex blasting Indiana Jones theme music from his iPhone. We won’t mention the part where he continuously invaded my doctor’s “sterile” space or played nurse helping her inject anesthesia.
My point being, I need all of my friends and family. I need my selfless friends, the ones who already offered to donate their bones upon hearing that I had a bone marrow biopsy. (That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard, but please keep your bones right where they are!) I need my nerdy friends to take notes and remind me what the doctor says when I zone the horror out. I need my racy friends, who promised to buy me as many weekend blue and purple wigs as I want. I need my athletic friends, who already offered to run a race and raise money in my honor. I need my sugar momma friends, who buy me three different Italian dinners just to make sure one of them is to my liking. I need my international friends, who send me notes and pictures to keep my spirits up. I need my super hero friends, who arrange a pirate cancer party on a boat to raise money for lymphoma to which you are all invited. Most of all, I need my best friends, who hold my hand and make me laugh through the scariest procedures and sacrifice sleep to check to see if I am still alive at night.
This leads nicely into why I decided to start my little morbidly humorous blog. I can’t do this alone. I cherish your notes, texts, emails and calls. They are going to power my fight. At the same time, my energy levels won’t allow me to respond efficiently. This is going to be my official update channel to you. Ready?
I start my first chemo treatment next Saturday, the 20th. I trust my life to a Doctor Charita Ujjani at Georgetown’s Lombardi cancer center. http://www.georgetownuniversityhospital.org/body_fw.cfm?id=8&action=detail&ref=3689 She’s young, motivated, tells bad jokes, specializes in lymphoma (treated too many lymphoma patients to count), did her rounds at UPenn and wants to come to my pirate boat cancer party. Plus, she puts up with all my bullshit and friends’ crude jokes. Plain and simple, I like her. This is the most important factor because even after remission, I must see her every three months for the rest of my life.
The outcomes initially look fantastic. Charita tells me 90% of patients make it to remission and 70% are still in remission five years out. I’ve been making a lot of jokes, but in all honesty that last figure scares me. Remission happens with lymphoma, so I’ve got to keep my mind in the right place always. Here is how I do that, no I am sorry looks or treating me like a cancer patient. Cancer is not who I am. I am an ambitious, young professional sprinting full force to the top. I am going to stick to my normal lifestyle as much as possible, including working full time. I will never let go of the career that I love or my dreams of giving back to society by building my own business (and let’s not forget my house in Cinque Terre). I’m still the same Lisa and I need you all to treat me as such!
I promise to continuously update my blog as new information becomes relevant or as ridiculous events occur, such as going to my favorite local spot immediately after diagnosis demanding whiskey and eggs benedict to a horrified waitress.
If you want to send me encouragement my new address is 1714 Troy Street, Apt. 803, Arlington, VA. I swore that I’d never move from the District, but an amazing person to whom I will be forever indebted has let me set up camp to hold the line.
For now, I’ll leave you with the proverb, “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” Well to that I refrain back to my initial response to cancer, fuck that.
I just got the news via Sean Cullinane who saw your post on Facebook … I’m so very sorry to hear it; this particular ailment is close to my heart because its the one that initially affected my mother. She beat it; making it into remission at the age of 63 back in 1990; but it was a subsequent attack of a different cancer related to smoking that got her two years later.
My mother was mentally tough and physically strong and this got her through Lymphoma; it was a double whammy following one after another that got her. Unlike my mother you are not a smoker and you are a lot younger; you are better equipped being both young and strong; mentally and physically agile and fit; and you WILL beat this! … and you have us all standing right behind you to help you to get through those days ahead when you might feel you are not.
Lisa – I’ve never met a more well equipped woman to face something like this head on and beat it.. so as you say; to hell with cancer and two fingers to the odds whatever they are!! … You will pull through this and you’ll be stronger and better for it.
(My other) Lisa and I are both thinking of you across the miles and we’re here for you whenever you need to call on us … I’m sure you are feeling overwhelmed right now, what with this news; friends reaching out; fear of what might lie ahead; anger; frustration; confusion; and a myriad of other things spinning around inside your head … but please reach out to us on Skype or phone or whatever any time you feel the need. We’re here when you need us and we’d like to talk to you soon!! When you feel able.
We love you and we miss you … so don’t be a stranger.
Wow Lis. I saw your facebook update this morning and then came here to read your very awesome blog. You are a fighter and I have NO doubt you will kick cancers ass (or at least shove a stick up it 🙂 )! I am moving to Arlington next week so now it is going to be soooo much easier to FINALLY meet up! Let’s pick a date for brunch ASAP! I love you and I am sorry you are going through this, but god doesn’t give us what we can’t handle.
Very well written, very happy to have some news. Thinking of you a lot. If you want to laugh a bit try and practise the sexy tricks while hooked up to the ivy #hospitalchallenge xxx
God damn it, I don’t even know you (I’m one of Jess Novak’s former professors at SU) but I am squarely on your side. No doubt about it. This blog is great and so is your spirit!
Hey… my names Jessica Sloan.. I believe we went to high school together… Your blog is awesome! A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I’ve been on a pretty tough road with more tests and possible surgeries to come. Your story inspires me, as I am also a mid-twenty year old girl who thought I was “normal” until I heard the word cancer last year. We’re too young to be going through this shit but the fact that we’re young makes us that much stronger. Good luck, know that I’m praying for you, me, and everyone out there who has to go through things like this. There’s no reason why this stupid cancer shit should run our lives. We’re still the same person. And after all this your going to be stronger than you ever could have imagined. <3<3<3<3
My daughter just sent this to me. As a Breast Cancer survivor, I understand most of the fears and confusion you mention, but your blog does not dwell on that part of your journey, which is the attitude needed to whip this monster back. You have taken control and with such fierce determination there is no doubt that you will conquer this and consider this just a “bump in the road”.
I believe that attitude is the one thing that cancer cannot assault. Attitude will allow you to travel through this and exit with more determination and courage than you ever knew existed in you. Your definition of yourself is magnificent. Cancer does not define you and you should not let it!
You must do three things daily!! Laugh, Love, and Live! Laugh, a deep belly laugh, often, love the day and the people that come into your life and live for the moment. Drink in the beauty of the day and feel the wind on your face. Take your pleasures in simple things and keep things simple.
Please continue this blog! It will provide a record of your journey and let others know how to fight. Surprisingly, not many people know how to fight when the road is blocked with obstacles. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Your courage will encourage others!
Well said, girl! “Fuck cancer” is RIGHT!
I am of course very upset to hear you are having to deal with this but also glad to see that it has not in any way dimmed your spirit or determination. Sending lots of positive vibes your way. Didn’t know about your cinque terre dream. This link will interest you. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/even-paradise-needs-a-gardener-1.1461727?page=1
Love and best wishes
Your writings are so inspirational. I am so sorry that you are experiencing such a challenging and life changing situation. You are in my thoughts and prayers, hoping the best for you.