On December 11, 2009 I was in the food court at a local mall with some of my colleagues, on a lunch break from our professional development workshop, when my doctor called to tell me I had cancer.
The rest of that day is somewhat of a blur.  The phone calls to break the news.  The sadness.  The panic.  The love.    I haven’t been doing a great job of documenting everything that has happened since then.  I have written about the experience several times, but not all in one place.  I’m going to condense the info here on my blog, so that I don’t lose any of it, and then I’m going to try to remember every detail.
I don’t want to forget any of this.
First, an e-mail that I sent to family and friends at 9:19 pm on December 12, 2009
Dear Friends and Family,

I am writing to share with you both good news and bad news.  First, the good news: it is very likely that by this Monday morning, we will be holding our newborn baby girl, Claudia Sofia.  I’ll be checking in to the hospital tomorrow morning for an induced delivery.  We are so thrilled to be able to meet her even sooner than we expected, and we can’t wait to share her pictures with you all.

Unfortunately, the reason we need to deliver her early is not so joyous.  Some of you already know that I have been undergoing some medical tests in the last couple of weeks, including a lymph node biopsy.  We learned yesterday that the results are not in line with what we were hoping or expecting to hear.  I received a diagnosis of Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a type of immune system cancer that usually strikes in young adulthood.  Needless to say, it has been a very difficult 24 hours for our family, as we are trying to process this news.  We have been riding a roller-coaster of emotions and we have a load of questions that we don’t have answers for yet.  At this time I do not know what stage the cancer is in, what type of treatment I will receive, or for how long.  I only know that we need to work on getting me better as quickly as possible, and the first step in getting me better is delivering the baby.  We will be meeting with my oncologist after we check in to Winnie Palmer (the hospital where I’ll deliver the baby), in order to start making decisions related to my treatment.  I’ll probably have to go through all the normal cancer treatments – chemo, radiation, etc., and I know it’s not going to be easy.  However, I have always been strong in body and faith, and I know that I can take what’s coming, however difficult it may be.  The good news is that Hodgkin’s is a very well-understood and highly treatable form of cancer, with a very high survival rate, and we also have a very strong support network of family and amazing friends to help us through this.

You probably don’t know what to say or how to react, and that’s ok.  We don’t know either.  We are first-timers with this sort of thing.  Many people have been asking us what we need.  My response is this:  I know that we will get through this, but in order to do so we are going to need a lot of love and support.  I have never been good at reaching out and asking people for help, companionship, distractions, laughs, etc., but I know that I am going to need all of those things in the coming months.  I am going to try to get better at asking, but my natural tendency is to be more of a home-body.  Edgard and I are going to need people to surround us, drag us out of the house, show up unexpectedly with funny movies, call us until we’re so annoyed we have to answer the phone, talk openly about the cancer and joke about it with us in order to take it’s power away, and all those sorts of things to help us feel normal and remember that there is so much more to life than this mountain we’ll be climbing for a while.

More than anything, please surround Edgard and let him know he’s loved.  I know that he will be feeling the pressure of being a caretaker to me, our babies, his parents who now live with us, and our pets.  He’ll be the only breadwinner for a while, and I know that will be difficult for him as well.  And of course, he is very worried about me, as anyone naturally would be for his or her spouse.  No one gets married thinking that the “sickness” part of the vows will happen this soon, and no one wants to see a loved one suffer.  Please reach out to Edgard, if you know him and feel comfortable doing so.  He will need it very much.

I am so sorry to be telling you all this via e-mail.  I would love to be able to call each and every one of you and tell you personally, but the truth is that we are running out of time to do that, and I need your positive thoughts and prayers ASAP.  We’ll be waking up early tomorrow to make it to the hospital by 7 am, and from then on I have a feeling that there is going to be a whirlwind of action in our lives.  We know that you are here for us and we will be thinking of all of you.   You are our support system.  I hope to have a chance to talk with each of you in the coming days.

If we don’t talk before Christmas, please know that we love all of you, and we wish you a beautiful Christmas with your loved ones.

Warmest wishes,

Melodie and Edgard Robelo