In 2010, when I was just starting to raise my two children, I was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a very rare cancer that only approximately 9,100 people are diagnosed with in a given year. I was only 32, and my son Nathan was just shy of celebrating his 1st birthday. My world was turned completely upside down, and my family was devastated to learn of my cancer diagnosis. My prognosis was poor, but I was determined to fight and win.
My treatment was not your standard chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was a 6 month regime mostly used in Germany, referred to as Escalted BEACOPP. This form of chemotherapy carries many life-long side effects, not to mention many painful obstacles along the way. I endured 2 weeks of straight chemo at home, and 2 lengthy infusions in the hospital with each cycle. I was only given one week of rest before my next course of treatment started over. It was terribly grueling, exhausting, and not something a mother of two should have to encounter while trying to raise her young children. I was completely out of commission, and on top of all the terrible nausea, I had to tackle a terribly restricting diet. I could not eat any foods that contained tyramine, an amino acid found in many natural, fermented and processed items. It was terribly limiting, and meant that I could not have ANY processed cheeses, wine ?, breads, chocolate, onion, soy sauce, bananas, spinach, beans, peanut butter, tomato sauce, chicken broth, etc….. The list goes on and on, and it is quite overwhelming when you need to focus on trying to get healthy.
I had very few good days. I lost all my hair, had 2 major surgeries to remove lymph nodes, open chest surgery to dissect a portion of my tumor behind my lungs, bone marrow biopsies, and several blood transfusions. It was not a picnic, and not something to try to rationalize to a 2-year-old daughter who wants to go to parks and her buddies houses. She was a spitfire, high energy, and needed constant attention. My son, was just walking and needed constant care. Our family was living moment to moment, day by day, and avoiding germs at all costs, due to my compromised immune system.
Being a young cancer survivor has many challenges. Some people assume that you move forward and get back to normalcy right after chemotherapy. However, this is never the case. You are continually trying to find your normal and cope with a lost identity. Countless doctors and follow-up for post chemotherapy issues continue for years, and many health issues arise along the way.
Survivorship is probably the most challenging time in a cancer survivors life, and one that nobody wants to tell you about when you are diagnosed. I have struggled with this for many years, and I can say to this day it continues to be an extremely hard life journey.
I have started this blog as a way to channel my hardships, and to create something that I truly love. Having such a limiting diet during my chemotherapy really helped me appreciate having the opportunity to eat real food everyday. I have been blessed with a passion to cook and share these recipes with you.
I hope you enjoy and pay it forward to your loved ones!