I remember hearing the news from Dr. Chetan, “I am so sorry but the biopsy came back with carcinoma cells, you have cancer.” I remember that initial feeling, numb, and instantly emotional. There I sat in the doctor’s office, diagnosed with a rare cancer, with so many questions. My first thought was to find a doctor, who specialized in this cancer, start chemotherapy, and radiation immediately. My family was too important to me to waste anytime. Time was of the essence.
Looking back, I wish I had a patient/survivor during this process to help me discuss options about a plan, that technically doctors do not answer. Dr. Lee, radiation oncologist, presented three different radiation options. Who ever knew there were three options for radiation? To be honest, before being diagnosed, I really didn’t know much about radiation. Then, Dr. Sherman, presented different chemotherapies, but strongly advised Cisplatin. This was so foreign to me. It is like I needed a quick college course to understand what I was about to face. The doctors presented options, but left the decision for treatment to me. This is when I wished I had a network of past/present cancer patients to help me through the process. At this point, I wasn’t thinking talk to someone, I was thinking plan, treatment, and survive.
Then I set up my blog, to communicate to my family and friends. I thought it would be easier to just post updates for them eliminating me to repeat myself on the phone, or have Craig talking to everyone daily. At the time, I never realized it would turn into a benefit for everyone creating a blog that allows me to educate and communicate at the same time.
During my treatment, a fellow survivor, Anthony reached out to me. Never in a million years, did I think our relationship would build into a friendship. It all started with a simple message on my blog, to me emailing him, and building a relationship with him. We actually continue to help each other discussing side effects and fears we face on a daily basis. I also was able to hook him up with fellow survivors that reached out in New York, building our own Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma network. We both are determined to talk to people and help anyway we can.
Anthony family resides in New York, and cheers for the New York Rangers. Our families are quite similar; Italian, need I say anymore. His upbringing reminds me so much of my family. It was an instant connection. We both were raised in the northeast, with loving families who love food, and are full of jokes. One morning I woke up to this photo. I instantly had tears in my eyes. I knew we were in this together.
Then came the NHL playoffs. Never in a million years did we think our teams would go head to head in the second round. It actually made it quite fun for us, however; the jerseys created a little good controversy in the post season. His one son thought the jerseys were bad luck for the Rangers, so he froze the 41 jersey until the round was over. All I could think about was Craig was frozen. I pictured his jersey folded up neatly freezing to death. Then they proposed the idea, that if the Senators win game six, we would inherit their dog, Zuccarello. I never told Craig that joke until afterwards because we already had two dogs, and to add another dog to our crazy lifestyle could of mentally took him off his game. That being said, we never inherited Zuccarello. We thought he was better off with the Ranger fans.
This past month, we had the opportunity meeting each other at Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza. It was awesome to finally meet Anthony and his lovely wife, Sandra. It was good to talk about our side effects and for the caregivers, Craig and Sandra, to discuss their concerns as caregivers.
Additionally, I joined the Nasopharyngeal Group on Facebook creating close relationships with two other women, Erika and Mouana. They had their treatment at the same time I did and found it very beneficial to be able to learn from each other. I also look forward to meeting them one day too. The whole group on Facebook has been a great support system too.
If you are about to start a cancer journey, my advice to you would to be team up with another patient/mentor. It truly helps to talk to someone walking in the same shoes as yourself. Even though each case of cancer varies, it is comforting to talk with other cancer walkers to help understand the process and struggles one faces.
I am very fortunate and blessed to be in the position I am to meet so many people through the blog, but don’t be afraid to ask your doctors if they have patients or support groups that are available. There are also support groups on Facebook to join too. It breaks my heart to say this, but remember you’re never alone.