If Someone Said To Me, "Matt, Why do you participate in Relay for Life?", I would say:
I was diagnosed with stage 2A lymphoma on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment which includes a maximum of six cycles of chemotherapy (probably four for me). Each cycle takes 28 days to complete. The first two cycles, nicknamed OEPA, include Oncovin (also called vincristine), etoposide, prednisone, and Adriamycin (also called doxorubicin). The last four cycles, nicknamed COPDAC, include cyclophosphamide, Oncovin (also called vincristine), prednisone, and dacarbazine. After every two cycles of chemotherapy, CT and PET scans will be repeated to see how the chemotherapy is working. Once the PET scan is negative, additional PET scans will not be done. The total number of cycles of chemotherapy for each patient is based on a combination of the initial stage of the Hodgkins lymphoma and the response to treatment.
It all started when I discovered a bump on my neck and went to the doctor and got antibiotics which didn't work. Over a few weeks, the bumps only enlarged. Monday October 14th, I had 4 appointments at the hospital: exam, bloodwork, X-ray, ultrasound. They said I needed a biopsy on to diagnose what was going on definitively. I had the biopsy on Friday, October 18th. I had a surgery on Thursday October 24th to place a port that will be used for the chemo treatments to deliver the drugs and also to draw labs, etc. Chemotherapy treatment started on Monday, October 28th. My treatment will probably be 4 cycles... each cycle is 28 days. So, probably 4 cycles of 28 days = 112. I will have chemo on days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (every day for first 5 days!) then day 8 of 2nd week and day 15 of 3rd week. No chemo 4th week. That is one cycle. Cycle will repeat 4-6 times. I will be constantly assessed, and the need for radiation treatment will be determined after the end of cycle 2. At the end of cycle 4, the need for additional cycles will be reassessed. The drugs are delivered to the body through the port. I was worried that it would be like a huge cord hanging from my body but turns out it is just a small bump under the skin (I joke around and call it my third nipple!). Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, and also cause some damage to normal cells. Specifically, the drugs target cancer cells which grow rapidly, and in turn affect other cells in the body which grow rapidly (ie. hair, cells that line the mouth, stomach, and bowel). Side effects will include:
hair loss (but it's been confirmed by my friends that I look sexy bald!)
possible reversible nerve problem that may affect the way I walk or the feelings in my fingers or toes
feeling of weakness or tiredness
overeating or loss in appetite
difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
decreased ability of the body to fight infection
changes in hormone production which may result in weight gain
As of Monday, November 20th, we are nearly at the end of cycle 1, and I have experienced most of these side effects in some form. Many medications to help with side effects like nausea and sleeping problems have been prescribed.
This is going to be a long and difficult battle and I am definitely going to have to make some changes to my lifestyle and what I can commit to. My wish, however, is that my friends, family, teachers, etc. allow me to make these decisions for myself on what I can/want to do during treatment. There are many things that I do that I want to make sure I can continue doing throughout treatment to keep me motivated, and I promise that I will self-advocate in that if I am not able to do something, I will say so personally.
The support that I have been receiving from friends and family has been overwhelming. Thank you so much to everyone! I am mostly through the first cycle and feeling good!
Relay For Life:
I have participated in Relay for Life many times but this year it is completely different! Despite the support from family and friends, battling cancer has many ups and downs, and it changes life. I plan to write a book about it after I am cured. I never want anybody I know to have to go through this experience. The American Cancer Society is making strides towards curing all cancers every day, and at the same time they provide many resources to cancer patients and their families. My Relay for Life team, the SuperHeroes is a #GoldTogether team, which means that our team is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children fighting cancer by supporting, celebrating, and honoring them. That is people like myself! If you are able, please consider donating to my Relay for Life Fundraiser. I have set my fundraising goal for this year at $2,500, and I hope to fundraise well past that goal. I appreciate any support you can provide.
Ways to donate:
Online: Check out my fundraising page at this link. You can donate here with Credit cards, etc.
Mail-in: You can mail in your donation by following the directions on the attached form, or hand me a check made out to the American Cancer Society in person.
Facebook: You can also check out my fundraiser on my Facebook page.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me!
Thank you so much for your support!