1. Welcome to my adventure

I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this blog.  I’m not into social media at all.  I’m not even on FaceBook! I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself, for those who don’t know me.  I’m 38 years old and married with two beautiful children; a six year old daughter who started prep this year and a one year old son who is, like most one year old boys, busy!.  I’m a forensic pathologist and up until recently was working full time in the city I live about an hour away from.  Life was pretty hectic.  I was juggling the demands of a young family and a full time job (with a husband who also worked full time in the city), and was probably not doing a particularly good job of either.  Something had to give.

Life was seemingly normal, but I probably had cancer.

First day of school. Life was seemingly normal.

My one year old dude.

My one year old dude.

In July this year, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Obviously that is the main reason for this blog; to document my adventure (I don’t like the word journey, it’s used too much on all those reality shows, so I’m calling this an adventure).   So why is a person who is not even on FaceBook doing a blog?  If I think about it there are several reasons.

  • I get a lot of texts and emails which I hope I always respond to, although sometimes it might take a while.  There are probably people who don’t text or email because they don’t want to annoy me (or perhaps they don’t really care).  This is probably the easiest way of keeping everyone up to date.
  • It will be something for me and my family to look back on to see what I was thinking or how I was feeling as I faced the biggest challenge of my life.
  • It might connect me with other people who are going through the same thing.  So far, I haven’t been able to find any blogs by people going through the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma right now.  They are probably out there, I just haven’t found them.  Probably because I’m not on FaceBook.
  • It might help other people who will go through this in the future.  Unfortunately they don’t know who they are yet.

I was probably inspired to write this blog by my beautiful, courageous friend, Lisey.  We went to primary school and high school together, lost touch after high school and reconnected last year at our 20 year reunion.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January this year.  I made a few trips to her home town earlier this year.  She lives quite a distance from me, but as luck would have it we do a bit of work at her local hospital.  After initially refusing to participate in the ‘country roster’ because it was too far away (and I was expressing for my son at the time), I put my hand up to go.   Lisa and I managed to catch up for lunch and it was great…..although she paid and I am still very embarrassed about that!  She had only recently been diagnosed with cancer and her attitude was amazing.   We laughed like school girls and I remember commenting to a mutual friend (that’s you Ev, you’ve scored a mention in my first post) that it was like we’d never lost touch for those twenty years.   Lisa told me what was in store for her and we joked that she’d probably get through the months of treatment ahead, be given the all clear and then walk out of the doctors office and get hit by a truck.  We have a similar sense of humour.

Two girls with cancer in their thirties. One knew, one didn’t. Taken by the Queen of selfies! Lisa wonders if it was our long hair that gave us cancer.

Lisa has documented her journey (yes, she called it a journey) in a truly inspirational blog which you can find at http://www.shittytittiebangbang.com (awesome name for a blog!).  I signed up to Lisa’s blog from the start and have loved reading her posts so hopefully someone out there will love reading mine.  I must make one thing clear though.  I am not doing this blog to compete with Lisa.  She wins hands down!  We were very competitive in primary school, both pretty fast runners and we took it in turns beating each other (although she probably won more times).  The competitiveness waned a bit in high school but it seems it started up again in adulthood when we got cancer in the same year, but she got it first (or found it first) so she wins again!  It’s been a bit of a running joke between us about who is the winner on this cancer journey/adventure.  Unlike primary school where each of us wanted to be the winner, it seems we have now matured and are adamant the other one is the winner.

Lisa was one of the first people I told that I had cancer, via email as I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and she has been a bigger support to me than I’m sure she knows.  She has encouraged me, empathised with me and supported me, but most importantly she has made me laugh.  I think that started the day I told her I had cancer when she decided we should call ourselves Kylie and Delta.  We joked about the reason both of us got cancer in the same year, in our thirties.  Was there something in the water at that primary school?  Was it that ridiculous red rooster slide (a piece of play equipment in the play ground)?  It’s gone now so the children are safe.  The conversations we have now are priceless.  Just today, we were texting about pubic hair.  I wish I had been the one to get cancer first, so I could be there for Lisa like she has been there for me.  And so I could win!

In her post entitled ‘Just call us Kylie and Delta’, which you can read about here (I will be so impressed if that link works!), she is right on the money with everything she says, of course, because she has been where I am about to go.  She says “you will be surprised at the people that will be there for you and the ones that aren’t”.  So very, very true.  I am actually gobsmacked rather than surprised; almost moved to tears by the generosity of some people, like the school mum who dropped a voucher for a massage in my letterbox, the non-stop offers of play dates so my daughter doesn’t have to see me sick, the meals that have been cooked for my family, the ‘cancer show bags’ friends have thoughtfully put together for me, cards from people I haven’t seen in years, my mum virtually moving in when I am incapable of looking after my children for a few days after chemotherapy, my sister dropping everything when I’m having a bad day (there’s only been one really bad day) and offering to dry and straighten my hair (when I had it) because I just couldn’t be bothered.  I have also been really hurt and confused by the people I thought I was close to who haven’t bothered to contact me for over a month.

Lisa also says “you will learn to laugh at the stupid things people say or believe about why you got cancer, or how you got the “good cancer”.  Also very, very true and another reason for doing this blog and in fact, the inspiration for the name of this blog.  People who know me will know that the title “I Got The Good Cancer”, is me being sarcastic.  I did not get a good cancer.  There is no such thing as a good cancer.  Well OK, a little basal cell carcinoma of the skin could be good.  If I had $1 for every person who told me I got a good cancer, or even THE BEST cancer, I’d be quite well off.  Saying that to someone with cancer is not helpful, so another reason for doing this blog is a bit of education.  I think people feel the need to say something positive to people with cancer, and I understand that.  I’m guilty of it myself.  I’m pretty sure I told Lisa it was good that her cancer was only in one lymph node.  That’s not good.  It’s shit!  Good would have been cancer in no lymph nodes, or no cancer at all.  What I meant was that cancer in one lymph node is better than having it in twenty, but that doesn’t make it good.  I now know that is not a helpful thing to say.  So I am not trying to insult or degrade you if you have made these comments, although I probably already have, but I just want you to know it is not helpful.  I know that you are trying to say there are worse cancers, and it is true there are worse cancers.  But that doesn’t make any cancer a good cancer.  Since being diagnosed with cancer I have met many other people with cancer and we have all been told we have a good cancer and we all find it annoying!  Yes, Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a good prognosis but that does not make it a good cancer.  It is certainly not the cancer I would choose if I had to have cancer and got to choose which one I could have.  Hopefully by the end of this blog, or even before then, you will agree with me.   I haven’t heard any theories about why I got cancer.  I’m sure people have them but I am blissfully unaware of what they think.  I have never questioned why I got cancer.  My theory is that shit happens.  In my line of work, I see that a lot.

Oh, one other thing.  Please don’t tell someone with cancer you will do anything to help when really you can’t or you have no intention of doing anything.  I do not expect or even need help from every person I know.  I understand people are busy with their own lives and worries and the world doesn’t revolve around me and my cancer diagnosis.  Sometimes I think people say that just to make themselves feel better; they’ve offered to help the chick with cancer.  Job done.   It’s funny…..it’s mostly the people who have gone over the top and told me they’ll be with me every step of the way that have actually done nothing and I haven’t heard from them again.  So if you want to piss me off, tell me I’ve got a good cancer and you’ll do absolutely anything for me.  If you want my respect, tell me it’s shit I’ve got cancer and you’d love to help but you’ve got a bit going on right now and you just don’t have the time.

What will follow is a multitude of posts documenting my adventure through Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  For those who don’t know me, I hope you enjoy getting to know me.  For those who do know me, or think they do, I hope you enjoy getting to know me even better.  To Lisa, I say a huge, heartfelt thank you.  Thank you for getting cancer before me, but seriously, you shouldn’t have!  Bring on that joint pity party I say.  If we wait long enough, it could even be a joint remission party!  Lisa has been on my back for ages to get on FaceBook so I might just have to do that for her.

I apologise in advance as I will probably write too much so I hope it doesn’t bore you.  I always had trouble sticking to word limits at school.  As I write this post, I am (based on the current plan) one third of the way through treatment and just over two months since I was diagnosed, so there is a lot of catching up to do.  So far, I can say it is shit, it is not fun and it is certainly not good.  But I will get through the treatment, as many people have before me, and there will be some positives.  I still laugh, I still have a sense of humour and I still have good times, in fact, many more good times than bad.  It’s life changing, not just for me, but for everyone around me.  Despite the many downsides, I really do believe that at the end of this, I will say “I’m glad I got cancer”…………”but it wasn’t a good one”.

22 thoughts on “1. Welcome to my adventure

  1. What a great blog. We are all missing you like mad at work and it is great to hear how it is all going. Lets all get the comments flowing! Keep safe and let me know if there is anything I can do to make things easier.

  2. Great work Mellisa very inspiring and hope to read lots more learned so much reading your first blog ( just being human is difficult enough ) so you putting pen to paper was very courageous keep punching hey regards Charlie meo x

  3. Great Blog, I wish I’d done it with Jordan. You are so right you find out who your friends are and the verbal diarrhoea of some. Cancer sucks big time. I can’t physically offer you help but I do think of you often and send you love and light and ask Jordan to look over you. Will enjoy reading your bog. ♥

  4. Wow! Yet another moment I have been moved to tears. What a raw and honest account to begin your blog. I am so happy you have started writing. Although, unlike so many of your supporting followers, I have the pleasure of seeing you or at least talking to you every day. I have total admiration for how you have handled everything that has been thrown at you so far. You are amazing. X

  5. Since your not on Facebook I will follow here. Keep being brave, when Mum told me I too used the SHIT word! Make sure you smile the days you can and hopefully we can catchup in SF again after this adventure.

  6. Hi Melissa,
    You won’t remember me but I remember you. I was friends with Jenni in high school. We too lost touch for many years and have only recently been ‘reunited’ through good old Facebook. My family has also been touched by cancer, so it is a topic that is close to my heart.

    I want to commend you on starting your blog. You didn’t choose to get this disease, but you have chosen to be courageous throughout it. You will never know how many people will be touched and inspired by your courage, your honesty and clearly your sense of humour. I truly wish you all the best and hope your adventure is a short one with not too many uphill climbs.

    And I agree, there is no such thing as a good cancer, cancer sucks and it is just shit luck that you got it. I look forward to following you on your adventure! Jenni

  7. Hey Mel, don’t really know what to say, but here goes.
    Stay positive, most people can’t begin to know what you and your family are going through. I thank you for sharing your thoughts with those of us who have crossed your path and as corny as it may sound- get well soon.
    Adam P

  8. Dear melissa Reading your adventure …. You have moved me to tears, keep brave you are a beautiful woman, keep up the courage to fight .

  9. Well done Melisa your blog has opened my mind and yes I appreciate your honesty we do not understand how your treatment affects the person with cancer and we do not talk open about it. Hope to catch up soon will keep up with your adventure through the blog love to all.

  10. …..as much as I’m not in your life, or Lisa’s for that, there is something about someone you knew in pain of some description, that hits a spot in your heart and ‘hope’ is the first emotion that springs to mind…..I’m really happy for you both that you have each other to lean on and laugh with, and I am one who reads (with a laugh and a tear) with anticipation of your final blogs that read “…..beat it!”…
    Good luck. And if you really want a laugh, get Facebook! You can laugh ‘at’ or ‘with’ and people are non-the-wiser!! Take care.

  11. Hi Melissa,
    I have never understood how to follow people’s blogs, so you are my first! I just hope it doesn’t turn me into a blogaholic! 😉 I love your honesty about how you feel and that everyone can be educated so intimately!!! You seemed to excel in everything you set your mind to at school and I have no doubt you will be tackling this the same way!!! I look forward to following your adventure!! And yes, get on Facebook – best form of time wasting ever!!! Hope to see you around school!!! Jodi xx

  12. Hello Melissa, im following your blog!.
    It is a great way for me and others to see how you are traveling on your adventure.
    I hope it wasnt from that bloody red rooster slide!
    Take care

  13. So the first time I heard of you having cancer was when Jen posted on FB something like this is a heartfelt message from my sisters friend to my sister who has just been diagnosed with cancer(something like that anyway) my first thought was hang on Jens sister is Melissa…. She does not have cancer I know Melissa, I am sure I just saw her.. Turns out you do!! I read Lisa,s blog and then realised I also know Lisa. I also went down the big red rooster slide, so it certainly was not that that gave you both cancer 😉 I am good… So far!!!
    It’s all very full on Mel, I am still shocked I guess, we are not close friends but we are friends. I don’t have your number so I couldn’t call or text but now I can talk to you through your blog. You always fascinated me Mel with your forensic “stuff” and now i feel the same fascination through your blog, thank you for sharing your experience so far and for your raw and honest approach to it (although it is what i would expect from you 🙂 ) i am sorry you got the shit disease and I feel for your kids and Jen too, I know she loves you to bits. Anyway I hope I am invited to the remission party, I am thinking of you and Lisa too xxx

  14. Hi Mel dont know u but know Jen and my mum too had cancer and she was so pissed off when everyone said u are so lucky you only have stage 2 cancer. My mum was like wtf lucky no not lucky to get cancer at all . Will b keeping an eye on your blog , stay strong and take it out on everyone if u don’t feel like staying strong , they will forgive you


  15. Hey Mel, I’ve tried to look you up many times over the years but you have such a bloody common name it proved impossible! This wasn’t the way I hoped to find you but I guess we don’t have much say in the way our lives go. As always, your words are incredibly articulate but you are lucky there are no word limits in blogs…that did make me laugh through my tears as I was reading, you always were a shocker at sticking to the word limit at school! Take care Mel,
    Caz xo

  16. Hi Baker….this is my first reply and I know its very late, but I wanted to start from the start. I have read most of your post up until now (just realised that I have not got all the email update). I will never forget the monday morning (at about 6-7ish) that I received your text saying you needed to goto the GP. I initially thought nothing of it, but within 5 minutes nat & I knew that it was serious as you were never sick or one to over react! Plus was never one to complain…. we did go though the pregnancy journey together with Seb and Spence and I was the one that did most of the complaining!

  17. Hi Melissa,

    I just wanted to touch base. I’m in Sydney, 40 years old and also a mother of 2. I loved your blog! I had the ‘the good cancer’ too.

    I just wanted to let you know that I had 16 cycles of brentuximab. It saved my life and I pray it does the same for you too!!!

    It kills me that you are having to fund raise for it… If you start a petition to the federal govt, I’m sure that I can help you that way also….

    Feel free to touch base…


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