Today is February 16th 2012. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the death of my dear Goosey. The only good thing at that moment I could see was that I might get more than 3 hours of sleep a night now that his illness was over. And, that was the only good thing. Over a span of 7 months I lost my 2 best friends and ended my engagement to another amazing friend. It was so much loss and change. I was exhausted and broken hearted and ready for a break. It could only get better from here, right? I truly could not have imagined what was lurking ahead.
Shortly following Goose’s passing I began to have breathing trouble. It was very painful to breath and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I was diagnosed with pleurisy, which really made me laugh as of course I would have something as dramatic as pleurisy and worse, I did not have the proper wardrobe for a 17th century disease. We all had a good laugh at this diagnosis and I took some anti-inflammatory meds and chalked it up to another colorful swatch in the fabric of my life. Only it wasn’t pleurisy. Around April, I had begun to have some significant pain in my left arm and thought it must be this cyst I have on my shoulder since the EKG had shown my heart was fine a month earlier. I’ve had it for years and my dermatologist had assured me years ago it was nothing and to not remove it as it would just grow back and also leave a scar. SCAR?!!! Well, I wasn’t about to do anything that might damage my impending shoulder modeling career so I let it be. Back to my GP I went and he told me the same thing, it was nothing. The pain was a real drag and I was just tired ALL THE TIME! Was I depressed? What the hell was wrong with me? Ok Jo, join a workout group. Get moving. Raise your endorphins. SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!
So, in July I joined a GREAT group called Lunch Crunch Workout with Open Sky Fitness. I was the oldest among a bunch of young hot bodied actors (mostly) but it was walking distance and the group was great. We did a lot of strength training and drills but when it came to the short distance run I was just lame. I could not keep up. I could not keep my breath going and I was not getting better at running, I was getting worse. Is this just that I am getting old? No way. It can’t be old age! The shoulder/arm pain was just awful. So off I went to an orthopedic guy. He assured me it was not orthopedic at all and perhaps chiropractic. So I went to a chiropractor. On August 19th I noticed a lump on the left side of my neck. Hmnnn…. I pointed it out to a friend at my church and she said I should have it looked at. On August 29th I noticed that I could no longer see my collar bone. On Sept 1st I pointed it out to my chiropractor who took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and told me to leave his office and go to my doctor immediately. So I did. On Sept 2nd I went to see Dr. Horowitz who looked at my neck and said “Let me make a call.” A few hours later I was having an ultrasound at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The technician looked at me and said “You must be someone important to have us fit you in today.” I smiled and thought no, I must be really sick. When he brought the radiologist in I knew it wasn’t good. He described that they were seeing a significantly large mass, and I looked at him and said ‘It’s Lymphoma isn’t it?” He said he believed it was. They both were very serious but I managed to make a million jokes about it and pulled off being my charming self. I got in the elevator and just lost it. Seriously? I mean really? Really? Is this a joke? I called my sister the second I got out of the parking lot. Oddly enough this news was coming on Bill’s birthday, my sister’s husband who had passed away 6y yrs ago that month from Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Dr. Horowitz set me up with an amazing head and neck surgeon, Dr. Carlton Lee. On Sept. 9th I met him and we did a needle biopsy. On Sept 12th he called to inform me it was malignant. I returned on Sept 13th with my dear amazing friend Karen Smith to talk about what was next. Karen was the note taker and I was the listener. I asked Dr. Lee to not candy coat anything and that I could handle it. So here it was. The tumor was matted around my laryngeal nerve, my carotid artery and my jugular vein. OF COURSE it is! It couldn’t be something simple. After all, this is ME we are dealing with. Epic is always the proportion of my adventures. He informed me that removing the tumor would most likely result in paralysis of my left arm and the loss of my singing voice as I know it. Is that all? At least I am right handed! We scheduled a cat scan for the next day and surgery on Sept 15th, 2 days later, to get a better biopsy. It was full steam ahead and it was clear to me that there was no playing around. Breathing was a real challenge and it was beginning to hurt to swallow. This sucker was growing and fast.
On Sept 21st I met my Oncologist, Dr. Fred Rosenfelt, at Tower Oncology which is part of Cedars. (can I just say that every step of this journey for me was very clearly Divinely Guided and I was never so sure about how to proceed and that I was in incredible hands…I am grateful to now know what this feels like so I have a standard for the rest of my life!) He believed I was between stage 2 and 3 for lymphoma. Sept 22nd was my Pet/CT scan and by Monday, Sept 26th, 2011 I was sitting in a chair being injected with chemo for stage 2 non-hodgkins lymphoma.
My last chemo was on January 6th 2012. I am now cancer free.
This is just the jist of things. The chemo journey was filled with humor, sadness, loss but mostly LOVE! The plan is to break it all down and write about it. I just could not do it while I was going through it. I was tired, sick, still working 7 days a week and just could not focus.
So stay tuned if it interests you. It’s been a rich time with a lot of lessons and a lot of love and I am ready to start processing it. Hope you are along for the ride. I promise to do my best to live up to my ‘Epicness.’