My Story

Like so many people, I spent my teens, 20’s, & a majority of my 30’s happily oblivious of my health, neglecting at times even the most basic upkeep. My body was “supposed to” just move me from here to there, absorb any abuse it was given, and keep thriving. I smoked heavily, ate what I perceived was a decent diet (aka “I’m a vegetarian so it must be healthy”) and as a bar manager & bartender, drank my share of alcohol. I rarely exercised and was always stressing out.
In February of 2016, I noticed a gumball sized lump near my right breast that seemed to grow out of nowhere. Alarmed enough to seek answers I sought a doctor. I had not had even a check up in a decade or more. She sent me to a women’s health clinic to get a mammogram. The mammogram proved inconclusive, so a needle biopsy was performed. Still nothing conclusive, I requested a referral to a surgeon to have the lump removed. Later that month I underwent a lumpectomy where several lymph nodes were removed & sent to a lab for analysis. Two weeks later, I walked into my follow up assuming the surgeon would examine the now healed incision and I would go on with my life. Instead he came in with 2 assistants and said “I might as well get right to it. The results came back positive for lymphoma”. It took me a minute to realize what he said. I remember saying “like cancer!?”. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I vaguely recall hearing him say to me (or the body I felt like I no longer belonged to) something about seeing me in a few weeks to install my port. It felt seedy & cold to me, like he knew he had acquired a returning customer. The next few weeks were a time of unexplainable chaos & fear for me and my family. For weeks I wouldn’t know what type of lymphoma I had (there is hodgkin’s and at least 30 types of non hodgkin’s, which is determined by whether it involves b cells or t cells, and then further categorized by whether it is aggressive or indolent) or how far it had spread in my body. Just these thoughts, along with late night internet searches and speculations are enough to change a person. I, who had never spent a night in the hospital, who felt perfectly fine, who thought I looked healthy and normal, was potentially very very sick. It turns out I had non-hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma, a mouthful of words I had either little understanding of or had never heard before. The good and the bad news were the same….I had an “incurable” yet “treatable” cancer. My newly appointed (by my surgeon nontheless) oncologist had me take a series of diagnostic tests (PET scan, CT scan, blood work, bone marrow biopsy) to determine that I was stage 2. She was rather vague and only seemed to explain aspects that I inquired about. She also matter of factly recommended 6 months of chemotherapy & gave me a referral to a fertility doctor so I could freeze my eggs. To say I was terrified and confused is an understatement. I told her I needed a few weeks to consider my options. Something inside me said “no way!”. I can’t explain it other than in the last 8 years I had seen my great aunt, my uncle & my 38 year old cousin go down that “matter of fact” chemo road and not survive. I am not saying that it never works for anyone of course. My mother went through stage 2 colon cancer and had radiation & chemotherapy & has been in remission now for 6 years. The pressure I felt to make a decision that very day and the fact that I questioned anything at all seemed to annoy my new doctor. Is it wrong to wish that new cancer patients could go into these life changing decisions well informed? After all options are weighed carefully shouldn’t it be up to the patient to decide how to go forward. After my diagnosis, I proceeded to research all I could about “my” disease. I joined a support group called “Living With Follicular Lymphoma ” on Facebook. It turned out many people do a little known/talked about option called “watch and wait” or “watchful waiting” or “w/w” for short. This is when the disease is monitored to see how fast it progresses over a length of time and for most people “treatment”, usually chemo and/or immunotherapy is only used when the illness has compromised the patient’s wellbeing or lifestyle and/or there is major organ involvement. The purpose is that these “treatments” can only be used a certain amount, they are finite…so it’s often described as keeping your “bullets for the gun battle”. Soon after this last appointment I sought out a new oncologist & was fortunate to find the one whose care I am still under. I have since developed an ever-evolving health and wellness regimen. I am always learning and growing & my health has greatly improved. At first I had a full body scan done every 6 months, and now I am only having one annually. I have come to think of my cancer as a chronic yet manageable illness.
This website is devoted to educating and helping people living with cancer and other chronic illnesses. In addition, it is for anyone wanting to bring a less toxic, healthier lifestyle into their homes.

Here’s post high school Dee smoking…
20’s Dee smoking…
30’s Dee still smoking/drinking and looking very unhealthy
In these photos I see a person who was malnourished, vitamin deficient, and who’s health was deteriorating.
Underneath that smile….
And party girl facade,
was a toxic, sick, & unhappy lady.
It took being diagnosed with cancer to decide to change my life. I hope other’s will find inspiration from this & see that they too can regain their health & thrive!!!

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