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Surviving Cancer

On September 5, 2013, my friend Lisa received a devastating diagnosis.  A diagnosis that meant almost certain death.  Stage IV B, Plasmablastic non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  That’s the stage next to “you’re dead”.  It doesn’t get much worse than the diagnosis she received.

cancer survivor

For those of you who’ve been around a while, you may remember Lisa from this interview in my Women of Inspiration series.

The first cancer doctor she met with said she’d be lucky if she lived 2 months.  They’d do their best to keep her comfortable but there really wasn’t much they could do.  Lisa’s response:  “I’m too young.  I’m not done living.  Figure something out”.  Twenty-four hours later she met with the same doctor.  He sent her immediately to LDS hospital where her grueling treatment and fight for life was to begin.

The outlook was bleak.  Survival would be nothing short of a miracle.  And I’m not using the word miracle lightly.  She basically got a death sentence.

Over the next nine months Lisa went through 13 rounds of in-patient chemotherapy at LDS hospital.  For 6 days, she received chemo treatments 24 hours a day.  She then stayed in the hospital each time for another 6 to 10 days while she recovered.

cancer treatment cancer treatmentBecause she had lost control of most things in her life, she wanted to have control over when she lost her hair.  So she chose to shave it.  On September 27th of 2013 she planned what she now calls a hair funeral.  I asked if I could come document it.  Because documenting is what I do.  Just for her and her family to have.  Painful moments need documenting just as much as happy ones.  It was never really meant to be shared with the public.  But today she’s decided to share it.  To help bring awareness.  And hope.

Hopefully this will inspire anyone out there currently battling cancer or supporting and loving someone who is (pretty sure we ALL fall in to that category).

The Hair Funeral.

After the 13 rounds of chemo, she received one more round of high-dose of chemo (Beam chemotherapy) to kill all of her bone marrow.  On May 8, 2014 she had an autologous bone marrow transplant (a transplant using her own blood-forming stem cells).

bone marrow transplant dayHer battle was more like a full-fledged war.  Sick isn’t even the right word.  Nearly dead many times is more accurate.

On August 16, 2014 Lisa was told their was NO evidence of disease in her body.  No cancer.  When she walked into the hospital the first time after she was diagnosed, there was no doubt she was capable of fighting as hard as any human has fought before for their life, but not many people  thought she’d be able to walk back out at the end of all this with NO disease.  And yet, she did.  Her response to all of this:  “You CAN do hard things when you have people that believe in you.”

Can we just take a moment to appreciate that head of hair!!!!  It came back curly!

SONY DSC

Lisa has approached her life with a renewed will to LIVE.  In every aspect of her life.

She has since been nominated as a candidate for the Man & Woman of the Year fundraising campaign with LLS.  She accepted the nomination to team with the Leukemia and Lymphoma society to find a cure for blood cancers.  A cause that helped SAVE her life.

In an e-mail she recently sent to me she said: “Currently, there are over one million Americans battling a blood cancer.  Approximately every 3 minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer.  Every 10 minutes, someone dies from their cancer.  But there IS something we can do.  There are so many reasons to be proud to support LLS’s efforts, and dedication toward the fight against cancer.  Of the 81 new anti-cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2000, 31 of them were initially developed for blood cancers.  So many of these drugs had funding from LLS and now show promise for treating other cancers and autoimmune disorders….

I’ve struggled with the “why” of all of this.  Not the “why did this happen to me,” but rather the “why am I so lucky to still be here when so many dear cancer friends aren’t”?  So, “why” am I still here? I believe I am here to DO. A lot of people can ask the question “what can I do”?  I believe the answer is to just DO SOMETHING.  I am owning my title of a cancer survivor and DOing something.  It is my turn to DO.  I am rallying with the LLS to find a cure. To end the suffering.  You go to war with people that have your back, people you believe in.  I believe in the LLS, because they believe in me. ”

Cancer sucks.  And Lisa’s trying to help find a cure.

If you’d be willing to team up with her (ANY amount makes a difference–truly) and LLS in finding a cure you can donate directly on her page HERE.

OR, you can purchase one of these ridiculously awesome t-shirts (that Lisa helped design) at this link HERE.  I got the cancer fight club shirt.  The sizes run a little small so keep that in mind when ordering.

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Join the cancer fight club!

A HUGE thank you to Lisa for her courage, her inspiration, and her vulnerability.  There was a lot of discussion before we posted this video.  It was not a rash decision.  But instead one with the hope of helping others.  And a hope of inspiring others to team up for the fight against cancer.  I tear up EVERYtime I watch it (and I’ve watched it a lot).  One of the most courageous battles I’ve ever witnessed.  I’m nothing but humbled to have been so close to such a sacred moment.

Peace out Cancer.  Glad you’re alive my friend.  Thanks for fighting every.single.day.

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