After being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, one Brooklyn mama drew strength from community support and celebrated the new year with remission.
The New Year is always a time of reflection. This year, I have much more to be grateful for than I ever thought possible.
In January 2012 my son, Noah, was born. During my pregnancy, building a community was so important, and I was lucky enough to find two wonderful support groups. One was filled with women from all over the country and even some from Canada, Europe and Japan. The other was local families from my neighborhood. Both groups were instrumental parts of my pregnancy, providing support, encouragement, advice and laughter. They made the unknowns of being a first-time parent much less scary.
I spent the next year working, traveling, enjoying time with my new family, and marveling at every little thing my son did. Life was tiring but wonderful.
On May 11, 2013 I started coughing and noticed that I was having difficulty breathing. I was fortunate to have a wonderful medical team who took me seriously and acted quickly. No one was prepared for what we would find. A chest X-ray showed a 5 ½” tumor in my chest. It came on quickly and was growing aggressively. On May 22, 2013, after a four-day hospital stay, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. We were blindsided.
I was facing eight chemo treatments and then a month of radiation. I was told that I would be tired, weak, sick, and lose my hair. I was determined to be strong – for myself and for my family. Noah was only 16 months old. He was too young to understand what was going on, and he still needed me. Being sick was not an option.
A lot of the burden fell to my husband. He had to take over many of the household responsibilities that I used to do. He went to every doctor’s appointment and every chemo session. He came home from work early whenever he could. He cut back on his work travel so he could be home with me. He made things as easy on me as he possibly could so that I could just focus on getting better.
Without being asked, the community around me stepped up in a way I never imagined. The girls in my support group signed up for weeks, and each person sent a gift or card to remind me that they were thinking of me and cheering for me. It made going to get the mail fun and usually ended with tears in my eyes from the incredible outpouring of love and support.
My local friends brought dinner, watched Noah and bought groceries. They came over and hung out and didn’t get offended when I fell asleep mid-conversation. They laughed and cried with me on the phone late at night. They dropped everything when I called, crying hysterically, because my hair was falling out in clumps. Everyone prayed for me and lifted me up on the days when I just wasn’t feeling strong enough to do it myself. They reminded me that I didn’t have to be strong every second.
On December 27, 2013 I got the call that I am in remission. As we begin this new year, and I reflect on everything that has happened, I am finally starting to process all the feelings and emotions I refused to let myself feel. I am truly humbled by the community that I am so lucky to be a part of. This experience has made me not only a stronger person, but also a better friend.
Photo by Kristy May Photography