Guest Post: TJ’s Cancer Story

I’m currently travelling out of the country, so over the next two weeks I will be bringing you guest posts from my friends who have been so supportive in my fundraising efforts.  As a reminder, I have committed 2017 to running for charity.  I’m on a mission to raise $10,000 through Fred’s Team, which is the fundraising organization that supports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  If you’re interested in donating to my efforts, you can click here to make a tax deductible contribution.  Thank you!

Today’s post comes from my running friend TJ, who blogs over at TJ Tells It.  We met 4 years ago when I signed up for my first half marathon.  TJ was part of the training group I joined through the Atlanta Track Club.  I love talking with TJ, and I am constantly inspired by her drive to help others get active.  When I began fundraising, I found out that TJ is actually a survivor herself!  I asked TJ to share the story of how cancer has impacted her, and what the phrase “imagine a world without cancer” means to her.  Thanks for sharing, TJ! 

Hi. My name is TJ and I am a survivor!

My battle against Non-Hodgkin’s Large B Cell Lymphoma began just months after I graduated from law school and was studying for the bar. Just like most people, I knew cancer existed but never thought I would be the one on chemo or in radiation. Here’s the thing, I’ve had health issues in the past but I managed them and was on the road to a healthier me. To manage the stress of studying for the bar exam, I  took up walking and eating right. I was very overweight and needed a change.

Memorial Day weekend I had some stomach/chest pain and thought it was my Crohn’s flaring up. I made some adjustments and the symptoms went away. Or so I thought.  My journey began after I flew home from Charleston, SC where I was studying for the bar. From late June 2009 until January 24, 2010, I fought my battle. I went through 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 24 radiation treatments. Each round of chemo and radiation treatment helped me in my fight. While at times I hated each poke, prod, and new medication, I decided early on to use laughter as my medicine.  I can say I spent more time laughing than crying.  I fought and won the battle against the mass in my chest.

March 2010 – 2 Months Post Treatment

Here’s the thing, I’m still fighting.  One of the things that is little known is that treatment can cause fatigue.  You are probably thinking, “Of course it does!”.  The thing that is lesser known is that the fatigue doesn’t go away completely…even years later.  Everyday, I fight the battle against fatigue.  I am seven years cancer free but still have to fight fatigue.

The type of fatigue I’m talking about is the kind that makes you so bone tired you know you could sleep for a week…the kind of tired that makes breathing a chore.  However, I decided that I fought too hard to give into the fatigue.  I went through 6 rounds of chemo, 24 radiation treatments, two teeth extractions, two allergic reactions to antibiotics, the ‘sun burn’ from radiation two treatments into treatment, a chest tube, spinal tap, and a port insertion and removal and studied for the bar.  I knew I could fight and win this battle as well.

Each week I asked my doctor when the tired feeling was going to go away. He continued to tell me give it time and we will come up with a plan. Following my conclusion of treatment and finishing my post-treatment recovery, the doctor told me the plan. It was exercise. Now mind you, prior to cancer, I wasn’t active. I was on the road to try and change that fact but really I was hoping for something a little easier.

Once I decided to try the plan, the battle started slowly. I joined a gym and started taking spin classes.  I moved from there to kickboxing and body pump classes.  I went several times a week and started to feel more like myself. I started to consider new things beyond surviving each day.

Imagine a world without cancer: @TJtellsit shares her cancer story #fredsteam Click To Tweet

I didn’t begin my running journey until 2011 with the Atlanta Women’s 5K. Little did I know, I would weld the sword of running and walking long term in my fight. The months prior to the race, I was spinning and kickboxing and other gym classes to combat fatigue left over from treatment but still declaring that I would only run if something were chasing me. I did the race because my Mom asked me to do it with her, and was happy to complete it so I did another 5K.  It was all over from that point.  I started talking about doing a 5K in every state.

In the fall of 2012 I moved back to Atlanta and said I was going to do the AJC Peachtree Road Race. The first time I ran the Peachtree (2011) it was totally awful. I mean it was hot and took what I thought was forever. So since I was back, I planned to try a training program. I joined Atlanta Track Club’s In-training for the Peachtree Road Race.  I was at a point of having let the fatigue creep back up on me and needed a change. I took those 12 weeks to renew my fight. I fought for 12 weeks and came out the other side with a renewed life and feeling stronger than even my pre-cancer self. I trained and loved the people I met. Even better, I took over 20 minutes off my time. It is amazing what training can do.

To date, I continue to run and to walk, I lift weights and fight fatigue. I have completed 2 marathons, several half marathons, and numerous shorter races.  I push myself to the limits, some days just to keep winning the battle against I fatigue.

Each step I take is to remind myself that I won and will continue to win. Each step I take has me imagining a world without cancer. It would mean that I could run, walk, and workout for the pure joy of it. I could make the choice without having to worry about my energy levels.  I imagine a world where no one else has to fight the lifelong fight or experience loss.

Until that world exists, I will keep moving. I will keep being an example of a fighter. I will thank those who fought with me. I will thank those like Jess who support the fight. I will continue to to tell it.  If my story has inspired you, I encourage you to click here to donate to Jessica’s efforts to raise money with Fred’s Team.

Please support the fight against cancer. Each step, word of encouragement, and even dollar donated helps move us closer to a world without cancer.

TJ Tells It

P.S. You can follow my journey at www.tjtellsit.com or on Instagram

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Jess

2 Comments

  1. What strength and grace you have! Keep on fighting and using your story to bring awareness. You are an inspiration!

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