Give Heather Hair!
$1,025 raised
102% of $1k goal
26 contributors
4 Years running
Give Heather hair for her wedding day!

Help Heather raise the money necessary to have beautiful hair for her wedding. Share her story to raise awareness of Lymphoma and to encourage others who may be fighting a similar battle.

Hello! That is me up above (the one on the right). On April 4th, 2013 I was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal Large B-cell Lymphoma, Stage II. Although there were times I did not think I was going to make it, here I am and this is my story.. 

It all started back in November 2012 during my senior year at Millersville University. I went to the doctor complaining of mild shoulder pain. I was given some muscle relaxants and sent on my way. The muscle relaxers didn't really ease the pain, but they helped me sleep. Eventually the pain went away. By the time finals came around, I was feeling tired all the time. Any senior college student knows that this is completely normal, so I ignored it.

When the spring semester came, I was still working my part time job, and also picked up an internship (as it was a requirement for one of my classes). I was still feeling exhausted, but was not letting that keep me from getting my work done. I needed my job and I wanted to graduate!

One week I had night sweats, every night for just that week. I figured the night sweats were from the new sheets I had bought. I changed the sheets and then voila, they disappeared. No harm, no foul. 

However, as the semester progressed I began to have fevers. Mild fevers, maybe 99-100F. They would last a couple days and then disappear as quickly as they started. I went to the doctor about this. The doctor thought that this was just a virus I was fighting and told me to call back if it wasn't gone in 2 weeks or so. I had also mentioned that the shoulder pain was still there but also came and went just like the fevers. I was told that was probably just stress (made sense). The fevers persisted, so, 2 weeks later I made another appointment. This time I had blood work done. The blood work was completely normal. And by normal, I mean really normal! I had them check for all sorts of hereditary diseases, autoimmune diseases, lymes disease, etc. (I may have been known as a hypochondriac.. okay still am!) Anyway, since the fevers didn't cause any problems and there was no visible reason for them, we just let them go. (Do not do that!)

In late February my heart rate began to skyrocket. I had never really noticed my heart rate until then. My heart rate was constantly elevated. The one night I was at work I was feeling light headed and I could feel my heart pounding. When I checked my blood pressure, it was fine but my heart rate was 143. I remember that number exactly, because I checked it 3 times. I began to panic. I called my dad who told me I was probably just having another anxiety attack and to just "calm down" (I really hate when people say that. I mean if I could calm down, don't you think I would have done that already!!!) So later that night I woke up in so much pain I couldn't even cry, I could only throw up.

The next day I went to Patient First to have my shoulder checked out. Patient First took x-rays and sent me home with Vicodin. Here's the thing about Patient First, they have their radiologists review films within 24 hours of getting them done. Patient First called me the next day with not so good news. The radiologist told me that they found a "mass" on my films and I needed to get more imaging done ASAP. I called my PCP and he told me to just wait and keep my scheduled appointment that I had with him for 2 days later. I almost canceled my doctor's appointment that day, because I was waiting for my third interview with Target, but Target made me go and thank God they did. 

That appointment is where my life changed forever. Dr. Washington, my PCP at the time, had reviewed my x-rays. He seemed very quiet. I wasn't as alarmed until he asked me, "what are you concerned your scans mean?" I thought that was strange but I told him I was concerned it was a cyst or something I would have to have surgery for. He looked at me dead on and said, "I am concerned it is cancer." At that point he excused himself to check which imaging he wanted me to have the next day with the more experienced physician. I held it together because obviously he was wrong. I know I was a hypochondriac but there's no way at 22, I had cancer. He gave me the paperwork for the CT I was having the next day at the hospital. Luckily I had friends and family to comfort me that night, along with Klonopin. 

The next day I had the CT and was told by the technician that I should really wait in the hospital for the radiologist to view the results,  but it was lunch time and I was hungry so we left. I got a call within the hour from the hopsital telling me to come back and get checked in because the "mass" was huge and this was serious. 

I get admitted and am wheeled up to my room. My parents went in first and I followed. I was given my gown and non-slip socks, as well as, a "welcome" packet. My "welcome" packet said "welcome to the Onocology Unit." Well, I guess it was cancer. 

Following that I was placed in a private room in the cardiac unit to monitor my heart rate and prep for my biopsy surgery. The biopsy confirmed it was cancer, specifically Primary Mediastinal Large B-cell Lymphoma, Stage II.  

In the hospital, the visiting oncologist told my family and I what the primary side effects were going to be as a result of the extensive chemotherapy they had planned. Given my young age, the oncologist gave me the option to delay treatment in order to preserve my eggs for future IVF since infertility was a likely side effect of the chemo. She also warned me about the total hair loss that would occur. However, my only concern was making sure that I would survive. To me, that meant not dealaying treatment, because everything else, could wait. 

I was enrolled in a clinical trial to test the addition of another drug to the chemo mix but I got the control. I began chemotherapy 1 week after I was released from the hospital. I was not given a port, but instead had an IV inserted for every treatment. Treatment took around 6 hours to administer through IV. The treatment was administered once every 3 weeks for 6 cycles and would possibly include radiation after completion of the chemo. 

Chemo was tough. I would develop mouth sores that blistered and made it difficult to swallow. I would have occasional diarrhea or constipation that never seemed to be alleviated with OTC meds.

My potassium would plummit so I would have to take potassium supplements for 5 days with my treatments. The extremely low potassium put me at a high risk for developing cardiovascular complications, which given my elevated heart rate, could have been life threatening. I remember one night my potassium was so low I became delirious and couldn't concentrate. I was having difficulty walking and had to have someone carry me to bed.  

I developed neuropathy in my fingers and toes. My chemo levels were adjusted to prevent the neuropathy from becoming permanent. Luckily, the neuropathy subsided.

I started to get extreme nausea with my last 2 cycles. The nausea would last a couple days following treatment and kept me from eating those days. I blame it on the steroids I had to take, they were awful.

My hair did fall out. I think it was after the second treatment that it really started coming out. My hair came out in thick clumps. I could comb through my hair with my fingers and pull out entire sections. I found it amusing and would go around showing people (it's not often one gets to see such a sight!)

I had other side effects from chemo that would come and go like headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, but what got me the most was the fatigue. It was not uncommon for me to sleep 12 or more hours in the days following treatment. This made it extremely difficult to work full-time, but somehow I managed. 

My scans were repeated at the end of my chemotherapy. The scans were unfortunately not 100% clean so I had to have radiation. I am currently still undergoing radiation. The radiation isn't bad. I have throat irritation and can literally feel my entire esophagus when I eat something that's really cold or really hot. I have a rash and am still tired but the long term side effects are what concern me the most with radiation. My chances for developing heart disease and breast cancer are at 5-6% more likely than the normal population. Although this doesn't seem like a lot, when you are talking about cancer, it is. I finish radiation Thursday (November 7th). My scans will be repeated in 2 months and I am hoping for a cure.

In the midst of all of the awful things that were going on in my life during my treatments, an amazing thing happened, I met the love of my life. I was fortunate enough to get the job at Target, given the circumstances, and they have allowed me to work around my treatments. My fiance and I met at Target. According to him, on the day of my orientation, he was wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt and I whispered into his ears these magic words, "Hey, I like your shirt." Supposedly, from that day on he knew he was going to marry me. I sit and wonder sometimes how amazing it is to have found someone during the worst time of your life. How can someone possibly fall in love with you when you yourself are just fighting to stay alive? I have no idea how or why it happened but it did and I have never been happier in my life than I am right now. We are engaged to be married May 31st 2014. I cannot wait. However, I also dreamed of having long hair on my wedding day, but unfortunately, after doing the math, it would take 4.5 years for my hair to be at the length I would like it to be for my wedding. I am not about to wait 4.5 years to get married. So here's what I came up with..

There is man in Minneapolis, Minnesota who specializes in doing hair extensions on women who have lost their hair to chemotherapy. I have scheduled an appointment with him for Monday, February 3rd 2014. He has lowered the price for me but it is still expensive. So after the immense support I have received from my friends and family I have decided to create this page so that we can help raise the money I need to pay this artist for his services.

I don't want anyone to feel as though they have to donate. I only created this page as a result of the feedback I got from my friends and family. Sharing my story and helping others who may be struggling to cope with any aspect of their diagnosis is the best gift anyone could give me. 

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