First Chemo Session Down


Josiah and I are lounging in our backyard, dogs on our laps. It’s a such a nice day it would sound flowery and cliche if I tried to describe it: dappled sun peeking through trees, birds chirping, a slight breeze on our faces. I’ll spare you.

On a normal Thursday morning, Josiah would be busy at work with a hundred tasks and I’d be at library story time with Georgie, tapping out my own list of a hundred tasks on my phone. But this isn’t a normal Thursday at all, because this is the day after Josiah’s first chemotherapy treatment.

I think many of you know already, but a little backstory for those who don’t: after feeling sick off and on for about six months, Josiah went to the doctor in hopes to get some antibiotics for a self-diagnosed sinus infection. The doctor, who he’d never seen before (he hadn’t seen a regular doctor in years) ordered a bunch of tests at that first visit. Weird, we thought – a chest X-ray? Less than 48 hours after that first appointment, I was getting some work done at Starbucks–motivated to write after having just come home from an inspiring writers conference–when Josiah texted me to come home. He never comes home from work mid-day. I made the seven minute drive home in silence, knowing in my gut it might be my last few moments of peaceful ignorance before getting some bad news.

Still, nothing prepared me for the word cancer. 

Funny how life can change with just one word like that. The hours following were filled with shock and tears and fears, some spoken and some unspoken. The days following were filled with phone calls and doctors appointments and biopsies and test results and blood counts and scary Internet forums and panicked texts to friends. The weeks following – God, has it been three weeks already? – were filled with steps bringing us closer to answers, and then to the official Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis, and details on staging and advancement and treatment options and more tests and blood work and then finally, yesterday, the very first chemotherapy session.

Evening Prom Dresses

And today is the first day we’ve breathed since this all began. Josiah is feeling OK. We’re both wiped out, but so far, the chemo drugs haven’t wrecked him like we anticipated. I’m watching him closely, waiting for him to start throwing up or foaming at the mouth or something. But so far, all I’ve seen him do is drink his coffee and read his book and crack dumb jokes. In fact, he’s in better spirits today than I’ve seen him for a long time. I didn’t realize how much I had missed those dumb jokes. I know we have a long road ahead of us, and he will be sick sometimes and things will suck, but for now, I’m thankful for this moment of peace. If treatment is working the way his doctors think it will, his tumors are already being attacked, the poisonous cells that were growing way too fast are already shrinking. That alone is enough to allow us to breathe for the first time since hearing the word cancer. 

We’re overwhelmed and touched by the support we’ve felt from friends and family. Not a day has gone by in the last three weeks that we haven’t relied on our loved ones for babysitting or rides or meals or emotional support by way of phone calls and care packages and texts. Our thankfulness extends beyond the physical needs you are meeting. It reaches us in this very deep place that moves us to joy in the midst of our circumstance. Thank you.

I’m having a baby in three weeks. There’s never a good time for a cancer diagnosis, but this feels like an especially shitty time. I didn’t realize how spoiled I was before this, in that my life was basically going the way I had planned. The last few weeks for me have been about letting go of plans, big and small, and letting go of ideals I’d held way too closely. I’m learning to downsize expectations and boil my hopes to only the things that truly matter. I’m trying to accept that the new normal for us–at least for the next eight months–will not be normal at all. But I’m also realizing that in between the chaos and exhaustion and toxic drugs and unanswered questions and trips to the hospital and late nights with a crying infant, there will still be plenty of moments of laughter. That I can hope for.

Since I began writing this, Josiah has moved from reading his book to playing princess Legos with Georgie on our back patio. I can hear him telling a story as they play, one about mermaids going for a day at the beach. It’s enthralling to Georgie and entertaining even to me, (and I’m supposed to be the improvisor.) A couple hours from now he might be ill and tomorrow may bring more bad news–but for now, there is giggling and Legos and that breeze I promised not to tell you about, and a lightness in our hearts.

I hold this moment loosely, knowing it can all change in a second, but I also hold it dearly for the same reason.

I’ll be writing about our experiences with cancer from time to time on here. The few lymphoma blogs I found as I first entered this world last month were invaluable to me, and I hope these posts can help someone else out in the same place, in addition to keeping friends and family updated on how we are doing.

  • April Fiet

    Carly, Thank you for sharing and inviting us to journey with you. Ugh. :( This just sucks so much. I’m so sorry. I’m praying.

  • Amanda Mendez

    Thanks for this Carly. I love how amazing you are able to bring us right into your experience while we are reading. I love seeing Josiah smile in that picture. I want to write something as beautiful back to you but, duh, I can’t. Prayers and Love, Amanda