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    OFFICIALLY CURED!!

    I got the good news today from my oncologist: I'm officially cured! Last Monday I had a head and neck CT scan - I haven't had a scan in about 2 years, so this was just a "one last look" for any tumors.  That was clear!  I also had blood work done as I've had done several times a year over the past 5 years.  All good! So all signs point to continued remission! With Hodgkin's Lymphoma, after 5 years in remission you're considered cured of the cancer.  That means my chances of getting Hodgkin's are about the same as yours.  I am at a higher risk of getting a secondary cancer as a result of my chemo and radiation, but that's still fairly unlikely considering I had a relatively small amount of treatment. For those of you who are keeping track, I was diagnosed in July 2013 and finished treatment in November 2013.  So I'm technically about 5 months shy of 5 years in remission.  My oncologist felt comfortable calling this 5 years and cured since I was early Stage I at diagnosis and responded so well to my treatment.  I'm comfortable with it if she is! If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, please do. I have an important message I want to share with each and every one of you. After running the Indianapolis Mini Marathon (my 3rd half marathon) in May 2018

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    I Don't Deserve You


    To my dear friends and family... you are the ones who kept me going.  I read every single Facebook/blog comment over and over.  I still go back and read those comments every so often.  I drew strength from your support and still do.  Your words and compassion mean the absolute world to me; I don't deserve you.
    To the friends who chipped in to hire house cleaners... thank you for helping to keep me healthy when my immune system was so low.  You were so selfless; I don't deserve you.
    To the church who brought us meals each week for a few months... while I couldn't always eat them, I know my husband was thankful for those home cooked meals and for one less thing to worry about.  Thank you for the thoughtfulness; I don't deserve you.
    To the friend who coordinated with a landscaping company to have our lawn mowed each week... that was so incredibly kind and my husband really appreciated the help; I don't deserve you.
    To the friends and family who sent gifts... knowing the thought you put into selecting those gifts made me smile; I don't deserve you.
    To everyone who sent a card in the mail... I looked at those cards almost every single day during treatment.  I hung them on a door in the house and then on the wall next to the door when the door filled up!  On days I was feeling particularly bad, I would go over and read all of those cards.  You kept me positive; I don't deserve you.
    To the family members who sent us money... while we were never concerned about putting food on the table or paying our mortgage, things were definitely tight.  Over $6,000 in unexpected out of pocket expenses definitely put a strain on the budget!  Your selflessness allowed us to enjoy a quick trip to Florida after my treatment was complete.  That time away, just the two of us, was exactly what we needed; I don't deserve you. To those friends who were at my side without a second thought... I couldn't have done it without you.  Those of you who came over the night I found out my diagnosis - I will never forget that.  What could have been the hardest day of my life, turned into one of the most fun and memorable.  You came over to keep me company, drove me to appointments, sat with me through hours of chemo in the infusion room, brought us food, and most importantly brought us laughter and a bit of normalcy; I don't deserve you.
    To my mom... I know how hard it was to be so far away during all this.  Thank you for rallying so many people to pray for me.  Knowing that many people were thinking of me brought me so much comfort; I don't deserve you.
    To my dad... I can't imagine what that felt like watching your child go through cancer.  Having you at one of my chemo treatments and radiation treatments was comforting, and fun, too!!  It reminded me of those days at Paws when we would get in trouble for giggling all day - you've always made things fun.  I'll never forget that day you took me to the hospital for an entire day of tests - I wasn't allowed to eat all day, so you didn't either.  We were both starving by the end!  That was so incredibly sweet; I don't deserve you.
    To my brother... you were always there for me when I needed lunch, a ride to an appointment, etc.  Thanks for taking me to get ice cream for lunch!  I love you big brother; I don't deserve you.
    To my husband... I can't even find the words.  2 years into marriage, you shouldn't have had to deal with all that you did.  I never once heard you complain.  You took such great care of me and were always positive and supportive.  I honestly don't know how you did it and I often wonder if I could ever be as amazing to you if the tables were turned.  I love you more than anything and most of all, I don't deserve you. As I reflect back on the last 5+ years, I don't know how I am so fortunate to have all of you in my lives and in my corner.  I am so undeserving of you.  I don't say that in a self-defeating way and I'm not seeking your affirmation (so no need to tell me that I AM deserving); I guess what I mean is I am incredibly grateful and humbled at the support and thoughtfulness of all of you and I will spend the rest of my life trying to re-pay it and pay it forward. I fully expect to get good news tomorrow as I have my very last oncology appointment where I'll get the results of my final CT scan and blood work.  I fully expect for this chapter of my life to come to an end.  I will never ever forget all of the wonderful people who were there for me when I needed it.  This experience has changed me in so many ways and I truly believe I'm a better and stronger person having been through it.  I love you all; I don't deserve you. Love, Melissa

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    Happy Tears


    Happy tears! Just heard back from my oncologist. My sed rate is back in normal range, so no need for a CT scan; just my normal follow up again in October. Of course it's frustrating that this could have been a lab error and that my family and I still have to worry about all this... but I don't care about that right now - I'm just too darn happy!

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    Not Necessarily Bad News; Not Necessarily Good News

    My last post was almost a year ago.  It was on the third anniversary of when I received my initial diagnosis of Stage I Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  A few months after that (October 2016) I had a routine follow-up with my oncologist - all good news.  Blood work was normal and she found no enlarged lymph nodes upon a physical exam... officially 3.5 years remission. Fast forward to today, when I had another follow-up appointment.  Unfortunately, this time my my bloodwork was off.  My sedimentation rate - which is explained here, was elevated.  The normal range is 0-20 for a woman of my age.  My past tests have all been well within the normal range (usually around 10) but this time that number is 33.  There are a few reasons reasons this number could be elevated, but a high sedimentation rate can be an indicator of a relapse of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is why it is of concern.  Boo.

    While this is all somewhat scary, the positive is that there is a decent chance that this could be an anomaly or a false positive as a result of the lab taking too long to do the test after the blood was drawn (I'm trusting my oncologist on this one - I can't find any sources online to back this up).  I have no other symptoms, although I didn't have any symptoms when I was initially diagnosed, so it's hard to say that that's any indicator.  My oncologist could not feel any enlarged lymph nodes, so that's good, too. So at this point, the plan is to redo that blood test and if the number comes back high again, we'll schedule a CT scan.  If the number comes back normal, we will assume all is good and I won't see my oncologist again for another 6 months. My oncologist is contacting the lab where I had my blood work done to see if she can get an idea of what their procedure is on this test.  She may have me go to a hospital for the test, so they can do the test "STAT" - meaning within 2 hours of the blood draw.  I should hear from her tomorrow and get instructions on when/where to have this test redone.  Unfortunately, I'm traveling all week for work, so getting this blood work done may end up being delayed if she wants me to go somewhere specific.  Boo again. Right now I'm remaining hopeful that this is either an anomaly or a lab error.  My oncologist says that is more likely than not the case, so that's what I'm focused on.  I will gladly take all the positive thoughts, prayers, etc. that you're willing to throw my way.  I will be sure to keep you posted in the upcoming weeks. Love, Melissa

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    3 Years; A Million Emotions

    Well hello there!  I haven't posted in nearly a year, but you know that no news is typically good news and that's the case here!  As of April of this year, I'm officially halfway to being cured of Hodgkin's Lymphoma!!!  5 years is considered cured for this type of cancer, so that puts me at 2.5 years in the clear!  I figured it was time to give an update as today is the 3 year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed, so here goes :) It was on this day three years ago my doctor uttered the scariest words I've ever heard... "You have cancer."  Two years ago I wrote this post about what that day was like and what I'd learned over the prior year (check it out if you haven't already). Just recently I was trying to explain to someone how this day makes me feel, but I found it difficult to put into words or pinpoint any one exact emotion.  I very distinctly remember how terrified I felt three years ago, but I also remember the tremendous outpouring of love and support.  I feel relieved that I'm in remission but still scared at the possibility of a recurrence.  This day brings out so many emotions. But one of the strongest emotions I fee today is proud.  I'm by no means tooting my own horn here, but I can't help but to feel proud of what I've been through and what I've accomplished since finishing treatment. Cancer will definitely make you examine your life in a whole new way.  Someone once asked me why I like to run and my answer was "because I can."  Three years ago I couldn't, but now I can.  Three years ago I sat in the infusion room with 20+ other patients receiving chemo, all of which would have given anything to be able to run, or walk, or even just get out of bed every day.  So because I can run, I do.  I run for myself, I run for those who are in treatment, and I run for those who lost their well-fought battle.  With that being said... here's what I've been up to for the last few years :) In the fall of 2014 I ran my first 10k.  I like this picture comparison of me "plugged in" getting chemo one year and running a race the next: In the spring of 2015 I completed my first triathlon: In the fall of 2015 I ran my first half marathon.  I was literally moved to tears when I crossed the finish line: I completed my second triathlon in the spring of this year (2016):
    My goal for 2016 is to run/bike 2,016 miles.  I'm happy to say that I'm officially on pace... As of today I've completed 1163 miles. I've run tons of 5k races as well and have another 10k coming up this weekend, which is such a fun way to continue my training.  I especially like the races with beer at the finish line... the one this weekend is wine :) Halfway to being cured has felt pretty good and I can't wait to get these other 2.5 years out of the way too! Love,  Melissa

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    Embracing My Chemo Curls!

    For as long as I can remember, I've been flat ironing my hair straight.  I've always had somewhat wavy hair, but not in a good way.  Some parts were stick straight, some were super wavy, and the rest was somewhere awkwardly in between.  I was never able to wear it natural, so I was a slave to the flat iron (or the ponytail!). But here's a positive thing that's come out of chemo: curly hair... that actually looks good!

    I have actual ringlets of curls!  And they're actually quite pretty! I will admit, I'm still trying to perfect the curly hair look.  Most days they look great, some days they look flat and messy.  But for the most part, I've figured out what products are best for me and how to style it to make it look good.  It is SO nice to hop out the shower, spend less than 5 minutes on my hair, and be done! Don't be fooled, my brother actually loves me. Apparently, it's very common for hair to come back a different texture (sometimes even a different color!) after chemo.  Something about the chemo changes the hair follicles, which can change the hair.  Many people experience what I have - chemo curls! I still straighten my hair sometimes, here's what it looks like when I straighten it: Huge difference from last year, right?!  Sometimes it doesn't seem like it's grown and filled in all that much since I finished chemo, but then I see this picture from a year ago... holy moly! There's no telling how long these "chemo curls" will last, but I'm embracing them and loving them while I have them! Love, Melissa