The Places You’ll Go
Last updated: June 2023
Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places. You’re off and away…Dr. Seuss
"Wow! I’m going to New York City to take part in a blood cancer storytelling event. How cool is that?" I thought that afternoon when I received the news.
After I hung up the phone, the Dr. Seuss book, Oh the Places You’ll Go, came to mind because cancer has brought me to many unique places.
Beginning my cancer journey
However, my cancer journey didn’t start out this way. Far from it.
They diagnosed me with two cancers in 2016, almost back-to-back. In July, a hematologist diagnosed me with a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera or PV. I had never heard of this cancer before my diagnosis. I learned PV is one class of blood cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms or MPN. A gene mutation, which causes my bone marrow to overproduce red blood cells, usually causes it. This makes my blood thick and increases my risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack, blood clots, and stroke.
Although all my blood levels were high, particularly my platelets, I was stable at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, the initial plan was for me to take a baby aspirin every day and follow up in a few months with the hematologist. But before I had a chance to tackle the PV again, an oncologist identified me with invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) in September.
Not venturing too far
At the beginning of my cancer journey, I didn’t venture too far. Between the two cancers, the only place I consistently went was Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. With chemo, multiple trips to the ER, a plethora of appointments, it was almost like a second home. I also didn’t stray too far from home because of my immune compromised state.
After I finished the breast cancer chemo and surgeries and started on some medication, things started looking up and I started going to places much more fun. It would take pages to list every place I’ve gone and the things I’ve done. However, some examples include being a model and an honoree in cancer shows, cancer writing workshops, conferences, and a fly-fishing retreat. The word serendipity means something that occurs unexpectedly, but in a positive way. What a great word to describe my last few years.
The MPN Advocacy and Education International organization does amazing things for those with my type of cancer. In April, they sent out an email looking for individuals with PV to attend a storytelling event and share their cancer story. Since I have told mine dozens of times through storytelling workshops, writing and even song, I immediately responded that I was interested in participating.
Off to NYC
Soon afterwards, they contacted me with details. The storytelling event would take place in New York. I had to ask to ensure I heard it correctly. New York? You’re going to send us to New York City? I was so excited! There was no question I was going! A pharmaceutical company, who does research with those diagnosed with PV, was sponsoring the event. A storytelling organization called The Moth would assist us in writing our stories.
I spent two incredible days working with the team and three of my fellow PVers. We had the opportunity to discuss our mutual challenges with this cancer. We were treated like celebrities the whole time we were there.I am astonished at how my life has changed since 2016. Cancer has led me down a path to places I never expected.
To quote Dr. Seuss...You’re off to Great Places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting.
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?