a special guest.

by Janetha on July 20, 2011

in guest posts

as you know, we are just days away from the great fundraising act. it is set for monday, july 25th and will run from 8 AM – 11 PM EST. there are nearly 200 items up for auction!

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this is all to raise money for my dear friend, susan, who is 25 years old and battling hodgkin’s lymphoma.  she just experienced her first round of chemotherapy.  susan recently discovered that her out of pocket medical bills will be $5,000 each month. FIVE THOUSAND EACH MONTH?!  raising this money for susan is going to help her a whole lot. i am so grateful for all of you who are making this fundraiser possible!

there are SO many donations! not only from awesome companies, but from fellow bloggers (and non bloggers!)here are a few links to some posts where bloggers show what they have contributed to the auction:

also, danica has taken the time to compile a post of almost all the items up for bid in this post. check it out!

guess what? i have a special guest poster for you guys today! a fellow blogger reached out to me and let me know that SHE experienced her own battle with hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 25, just like susan. i asked her to share her story with all of us so we can all learn a little more about what exactly we are all joining together to raise money for.

here’s sarah.

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My world changed forever at the age of 25.

Hi! My name is Sarah and I write a little blog, Sarah L.J.: Loving Life in Iowa.

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I love reading healthy living blogs and one that I read regularly is Janetha’s blog. Recently, Janetha posted a link to her friend Susan’s blog, The Great Balancing Act.

Susan had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I immediately felt a connection to her thousands of miles away in Iowa. You see, I was the same age as Susan (25) when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 2A.  I had always been a relatively healthy person, I had my first “real” job at a small town newspaper, I shared an apartment with a great friend, and I had been dating my boyfriend Matthew for 7 months when things began to change.

For about a year and a half prior to my diagnosis, I suffered from vertigo.  I always felt like I was moving, even while sitting down, and just taking a simple walk was hard to do. Then I began to feel a lump in my neck that I could wiggle around.  That did not seem normal to me, yet every time I went to the doctor all my blood tests came back great.  I was not gaining or losing weight and my energy was about normal.  Finally I went back to my doctor and I told her that I was not the same person anymore, because I was fearful to even go to Target or the grocery store, because the vertigo was getting so bad and the lump in my neck was growing.  So, she sent me to a surgeon the very next day and that’s when my world changed forever.

I went in for a biopsy and woke up with an incision on the left side of my neck where a lymph node was removed and two incisions in my lower back where a bone marrow biopsy had occurred.  Luckily, I did not have cancer in my bones, but I did test positive for Hodgkin’s Lyphoma Stage 2A.  The “A” diagnosis was because I had no real symptoms of lymphoma, and my vertigo was not found on the symptom list.   I had a large mass in my chest and on the left side of my neck. I went back in for surgery a week later to have a port installed, and I was supposed to begin chemotherapy treatments.  However, my mom and I had just booked nonrefundable plane tickets to visit my great aunts in California.  So my doctor reluctantly let us go on vacation and start chemo in two weeks.

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I had 12 chemo treatments that were on a Friday every other week. The treatments lasted for 4-6 hours depending on how busy the chemo room was and how well I felt. I had tons of friends and family come sit with me while I received treatments at the local cancer center.  My mom came to almost all of my treatments and she had a notebook where she wrote down every single drug I received (I got the ABVD just like Susan is) and how long it took to administer and which nurse I had for the day.  image Throughout the treatments the hardest part was getting the question, “How are you doing?” It was usually said in some sad but nosey voice and I grew tired of being nice and began to snap at people. “I’m fine,” became my go-to reply.  So, one of my best friends Emily decided to bedazzle a shirt for me with “I’M FINE” on it.  I soon began to wear that to all my chemo appointments and could just point at the shirt when someone asked how I was.

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During my chemo treatments I lost my hair, my eyelashes, eyebrows and leg hair. It was great not having to shave my legs for the first time in years, but I began to long to be treated normal again. I wore a wig, still went to work even on days when I thought I’d drop from exhaustion, and continued to date my new boyfriend.  People don’t realize that people with cancer don’t always act like they are sick.  It’s not the same symptoms as the common cold.  I could still function, except on the every other Friday when I received treatment.  I was also lucky to never get sick from a treatment, but I did become lactose intolerant and never wanted to see another turkey sandwich again.  Carbs became my friend and I ate pasta like it was going out of style.

On New Year’s Eve 2007, as my boyfriend and I were driving to Omaha, I received a phone call from my doctor.  The results of my PET scan were in and there were no signs of cancer!  I had surgery a week later to have my port removed, and my doctor put me on a schedule of check-ups that include CT scans, blood work, chest x-rays, and PET scans.

I have been cancer free for 3 years and almost 8 months.  I have to get to the 5 year mark before I am truly in the clear, but Hodgkin’s Lymphoma does have a “cure” and I hope to achieve that on New Year’s Eve 2012.

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In the meantime, I’ve managed to stay somewhat normal.  My boyfriend, who stood by me during some pretty hard times, and I got married two years ago.  We bought a house, are raising our 12-year old mini Schnauzer, and I got a new job.

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I also made a great cancer friend who also had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We have started a Young at Heart Cancer Support Group that meets monthly at the cancer center where we received our treatments.  I also got involved with the Race for Hope committee that raises money for the local cancer center.

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While I am not glad I got cancer, I know it has opened many doors for me.  I am hoping this will be the case for Susan, too.  Cancer has taught me be present in my life and go after what I want.  It has also taught me that life can be short and relationships with loved ones are truly what help people get through the good and bad times. There is still a long ways to go to find a cure for all cancers, but I hope someday other forms of cancer will have a “cure” like Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Be sure to stop by Janetha’s blog on July 25 (my two-year wedding anniversary!) to support Susan and The Great Fundraising Act!

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elise July 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

this is so inspiring. the outpour of support, camaraderie, and love from this community truly makes me burst with joy. im so happy that foodies can have so much power in helping people when they are in need. thanks for being the leader in organizing it all janetha!

Kristina @ spabettie July 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Janetha THANK YOU for sharing Sarah with us!! and thank you again for organizing this for Susan, I am so happy to be involved and cannot wait until Monday!!

Sarah, yours is an inspiring story with a wonderful ending – I am so happy to hear you will soon be at the 5 year mark! You CAN come out on top and as we all stand together for Susan, this is exactly the encouragement we all need! Bless you!

Leah @ L4L July 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm

This is really inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

holly July 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

what elise said :)

Sara July 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm

That was quite nice, thanks for sharing, Sarah! :)

Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) July 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Wow, the similarities are numerous. I’m really glad that you shared this with us. I must admit that I have been texting Susan on a regular basis asking how she’s feeling, but maybe I shouldn’t do that. I figured that it would be nice for her to know that I care about her, but apparently it can sound different on the receiving end?

I’m so glad that you are pretty much in the clear- you are so close- 2012 is just around the corner! And I’m so happy that Janetha has done this monumental job of organizing this auction.

katie July 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Sarah , you are beautiful! Thank you for sharing your amazing story, and so glad that you are better!!!

Janetha, all the auction items are amazing! Beautiful blog community!!

lindsay July 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm

wow, thank you sarah, These stories are so powerful and its good to see/hear th raw story!

Thanks Janetha for hosting this wonderful event, so very honored and more inspired by susan strength during this time!

Holly @ The Runny Egg July 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thank you for sharing your story!

Maren July 20, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Great story Sarah! My best friend from hs also had lymphoma. It was very difficult to understand what she was going through because she always put on a front! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

ps. I totally used to work at Spaghetti works ;) (the restaurant in the background of her with the blue shirt on) how cool!! haha

Lauren @ Suar Coated Sisters July 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

What a moving story, thanks so much for sharing Sarah. I hope You and Susan stay strong and continue to inspire all of us with your fortitude!

Abby July 20, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Incredible.
Everything about this post.
Incredible.
The end.

Megan Siegel July 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Amazing. Thanks Janeetha & Sarah. Cant believe the similarities!

:)

Paige @ Running Around Normal July 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm

What an uplifting story!! So glad to have heard it :)
That’s awesome your friend made that shirt for you.

Jen July 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing :)
Happy {early} Anniversary!!

Electra @ vanillabeanlean.com July 20, 2011 at 8:19 pm

WOW. Thank you Janetha for sharing all of this with us, I want to help! And Sarah, I can’t imagine. What an inspiring story.

I hope the fundraiser is the BIGGEST success :)

dana @ my little celebration July 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

What a beautiful story. So inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Carbzilla July 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your story! I’m so glad you’re doing well. Just the other night I heard a similar story from another woman who’s been a survivor for over 15 years. I hope these stories are of great comfort to Susan.

Again, the blog community blows me away. I can’t wait to start bidding on Monday!

Lindsey @ Gluten-Free Lindsey July 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm

sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story.. you are inspiring :)

Casey @ Pocket Full of Sunshine July 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Thanks for sharing your story Sarah. It’s so wonderful the way bloggers can inspire one another. So glad to hear you’re doing well!

Eden July 21, 2011 at 12:16 am

oh sarah, I’m so touched by your story. susan is lucky to have someone like you to give her hope.
I hate cancer. My mom died from breast cancer when I was 13 and my dad has terminal brain cancer.
PT, MRI, CT scans! AGH! I hate that I’m so familiar with it! I love reading stories like this that have a happy ending. You rock. As cheesy as that sounds.

Carol July 21, 2011 at 3:24 am

Great story, Sarah!

I just copied and pasted the link with all the auctioned items to my Spark page. This is incredible.

Hope July 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

This is such a beautiful and inspiring story, Sarah. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

Michelle @ A Voracious Appetite July 21, 2011 at 7:17 am

Sarah, this is a beautiful story with such a happy ending :-) Thank you for sharing. I hope that Susan fairs as well as you have. It’s a wonderful thing to see the blog community come together to support her!

Lindsay @ Lindsay's List July 21, 2011 at 7:53 am

The support from this community is one of the reasons why I wanted to start blogging!! It’s all so inspiring and contagious! Can’t wait until Monday!

Kristin (Cook, Bake, Nibble) July 21, 2011 at 8:02 am

What a beautiful, inspiring story. You are so strong, so happy for you you made it through it. Thanks for sharing!

Brigid of Vegging out in T-Town July 21, 2011 at 8:13 am

I’m a new reader of Susan’s and your blog, but I had to comment for the first time to say that this post was inspirational. It almost brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing.

Ivori July 21, 2011 at 8:34 am

Love it! Just cleaned up the tearfest and now I feel hopeful and happy. Can’t wait for the 25th.

Annette@EnjoyYourHealthyLife July 21, 2011 at 9:30 am

Whoa! This is SO inspiring. Life is full of miracles, that is for sure!

Maura July 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

May we be thankful and appreciate each day for our blessings. Thank you for sharing such an amazing story.

Megan (Braise The Roof) July 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

What a great guest post- and so inspiring! It’s amazing how strong our bodies can be and how they can heal when we need them to. :) Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah.

Amanda July 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Janetha & Sarah, thanks for sharing this story! I loved it! I really loved what you said about learning to be present in your life and going for what you want. That is so important, I’m still learning how to do that.

Can. not. wait. for. the. 25th. I’m honored to be a part of this blogging community.

Elina (Healthy and Sane) July 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm

What an uplifting story! :)
This is going to be the most epic auction. I’m donating 2 baked goods but something tells me I’m still not going to be able to resist bidding for the other goodies!!

Carla in Sydney July 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Thankyou for sharing your story Sarah. After reading this, I will definitely try to be more “present” in my life because every day really is a gift.
xx

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