Category Archives: Survivorship

Thankful For This Year

I’m long overdue for an update, but for the longest time I didn’t know what to write about. I waited almost four months, so now there’s plenty to talk about!

First things first. I had my second follow up scan and I continue to be in remission! My doctors say that the first year after chemo is when recurrence is most likely to happen (which already is a low chance for the type of cancer I have) and after the first year the recurrence drops significantly. So I’m halfway out of the “danger zone” which is a great feeling.

Continuously Evolving

The last time I wrote a post over three months ago, I wrote about a new normal life I was getting used to. I was accepting my body, which had been physically and mentally beat up by cancer treatment. I was accepting my limitations. I told myself to be gentle to myself. Just do what I can do and that’s better than doing nothing. I was accepting my long term side effects and my post cancer body.

Time does heal. I had neuropathy in my hands throughout chemo and after. But about four months after I finished chemo, I noticed I no longer had neuropathy!

I was dealing with a lot of chemo brain. I was more forgetful and didn’t have the same sharp memory I had before. I was learning to accept my new brain, the one that forgets things and suddenly loses my train of thought while in the middle of talking. But recently, I realized that my brain still is pretty sharp. I’m not forgetting things so much and I’m able to remember things without writing them down like I did before. Perhaps the chemo brain is fading or maybe I’m retraining my brain again. My mind feels sharp.

My hair is growing back! I no longer look like a cancer patient. I’m surprised when I get compliments for my hair, since I never chose this hairstyle. I’m using a hair dryer again!

The evolution of my hair

My physical abilities is where I was the most concerned. I thought there was no way I was going to be physically as strong and in the same shape as I was pre cancer, much less pre baby. Fatigue is a long term side effect of chemo too. I told myself just to try and do what I can. I started small and had to remind myself that doing something was better than doing nothing. I did 20 minute workouts at home using body weight or light weights (bottles of lotion!). I started going to yoga again. I didn’t go crazy chatarunga pushups like the old Allie would have. Then I joined a gym by my work and tried lunch time work outs. Just 30 minutes of interval strength training. I also decided to go back to teaching BODYPUMP, which I was nervous about since I’m not in the same shape I was before.

What did I learn from all of this? I’ll never know what I’m capable of unless I just try. I can do push-ups on my toes! I’m planking for over a minute! I’m doing box jumps! I’m leading a 60 minute strength class using light weights and role modeling to my students that we all have to start somewhere before we can achieve bigger things. I still have a long way to go. Seven months ago I was finishing chemo and just had a baby, so I think my progress is pretty damn good! I would have never achieved this if I didn’t 1) accept my new self and 2) forgive myself for anything I can’t do.

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect on what we are thankful for. For me, it’s also the anniversary of my diagnosis. Last year, the entire month of November was the culmination of my diagnosis. I remember finishing our family pictures and coughing so hard that I felt a sharp pain in my side. It was my rib fracturing from all the coughing. I tried to push through the pain and continue on with normal life. The pain was too much that I succumbed to getting an X-ray. The week before Thanksgiving, I got an X-ray and CT scan that showed a huge mass in my chest. I met an oncologist that told me I may have cancer. Two days before Thanksgiving, I got a biopsy of my mass. I agonized for a week waiting for the results. I had to pretend I was fine at Thanksgiving, when I was a wreck inside. I sat in an empty conference at work talking to my oncologist on the phone about my diagnosis. I spent my wedding anniversary (November 29) meeting my oncology team for the first time.

That was only a year ago but it feels like an out of body experience that was a lifetime ago. This year, Thanksgiving (and the entire month of November) is extra special. It’s like I get to redo November, but this time being able to enjoy it. I’m thankful for my health, my family who helped me through the last year, and my miracle baby Joel who is here for his first Thanksgiving.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about everything I went through. But now, I find myself thinking about it less. I am physically looking and feeling less like a cancer patient and feeling more triumphant each day, but I’ll carry cancer in the back of my mind for the rest of my life.

“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars” -Richard Evans

Life is Good, But Different

I’ve been meaning to write an update, but have waited until I found a good topic to write about. Also, now that I’m no longer pregnant and in remission, I’m figuring out how to transition this blog to be more about survivorship. And then being a mom of two makes it hard to have much free time!

Three Months Out

It’s been three months since my last chemo and life has been changing so much. I’ve been back at work for 2 months and getting used to the working mom life. Roberto’s at home on paternity leave which has been a great transition for our family with one parent still at home to help take care of the household. Kudos to companies that offer dads paid paternity leave! Roberto has gotten to spend some precious time bonding with Joel.

My miracle baby

Most importantly, I had my first follow-up scan. I’m still in remission! For my type of cancer, primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma, the risk of recurrence is generally pretty low, but if it does happen the risk is greatest the first year. After the first year, the risk of recurrence drops significantly (less than 10%, my doctors say).

We had a big celebration earlier this month to celebrate me finishing cancer treatment and being in remission. It was also a way to thank the many people who supported us the last few months.

Celebrating life!

Just Like Everyone Said, My Hair Would Come Back

My hair is growing back so fast! It’s in an awkward stage right now where it’s very full on the sides and back, and not so full on the top. I credit my quick hair grown to eating lots of eggs and almonds which are rich in biotin.

My hair regrowth over the last 3 months

When I was going through treatment, it was winter time and cold so I had a collection of wool hats in neutral colors to wear and keep my head warm. I was working from home anyway, so no one really saw me. As the season changed to spring, I started wearing scarves and baseball caps instead since it was getting warmer. I was at home on maternity leave, so I could dress casually each day. But then I went back to work, where the dress code is business casual. It was a lot of effort to get dressed each day with a coordinating scarf. And then summer in Houston happened and it’s insanely hot to have anything on your head. So at the end of June, I got a hair trim to even out my hair length and then stopped wearing any sort of head cover.

It’s been so much easier getting dressed everyday and not having to worry about coordinating a scarf. It’s also way less hot being without a head cover. My hair is still growing in and I’m thinking that in August I’ll be able to have a more shaped haircut!

I wonder if people look at me funny or stare when they see me now with my current hair. It’s a hairstyle that really no woman would voluntarily have. There was an occasion at work recently when I met someone new. They only saw me as the person that appeared in front of them at that moment and knew nothing about my last 6 months. As I left the meeting, I wondered if they thought I had a weird haircut or thought I looked unattractive. I felt a little ashamed.

I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed. I should be proud of everything I went through and that I’m still standing. There are so many people who go through cancer and aren’t ‘still standing’ in the end. I had that chance and I think most people would easily choose a bad haircut in order to get a second chance at life. I always have the remind myself that these temporary things are a small blip in the grand scheme.

A New Me

I had written before how cancer had changed me as a person on the inside. Now I am starting to understand how I’m also a different person now physically. I was a little naive to think that after cancer, I’d physically go back to being the same healthy young adult. While I still consider myself healthy, my body isn’t the same anymore.

I’ve got chemo brain and have become a little forgetful. I had an amazing, sharp memory before. Now, I catch myself being a little more absent minded. I’ve tried to help this by keeping to do lists (I never really had to do this before – I used to remember everything!).

I also got a cold twice since finishing chemo. My first cold I ended up with congestion for over 2 weeks. My second cold hit me hard. I had a fever up to 104 and lots of coughing and congestion. Roberto reminds me that I had crazy drugs in me (chemo) that nearly wiped out my immune system, so I can’t expect my immune system to be the same as it was before.

Sharing My Story

It’s been important for me to share my story. I hope it gives hope to others going through something similar. I’ve had the honor of having my story shared recently on a few websites:

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” – Iyanla Vanzant