When my new friend and I received the exact same diagnosis just months apart, we couldn't help but stop and think: "How did this happen?" Did we drink the same water? Sit on the same toilet seat? Breathe the same air? But, now, with the benefit of five years of hindsight, I've come to believe that God places people in our lives at the right time for the right reasons. I thank God every day for my Lymphoma sister.
Julie and I met at Bennett Optometry, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was my son James' vision therapist who helped correct his vision and tracking issues. We instantly clicked and our relationship grew from therapist/patient to friends. Julie and I began talking on the phone like we had known each other since grade school.
Despite our busy lives and work schedules, we'd planned to take a road trip to Frankenmuth, a little German town in Michigan, to shop and eat their famous chicken. Our plans, however, did not come to pass. In September 2006, after an abnormal pap smear and extensive testing, Julie was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I was shocked to learn that my new found friend had cancer. How could this be? We were supposed to go to Frankenmuth. Instead, Julie began treatment along with the ups and downs of chemotherapy.
Fast forward to December of that same year. Julie seemed to getting along okay with her treatments and her job. I, however, ended up in the hospital with difficulty breathing, swollen face, eyes, and hands. The doctors made hints and speculations that pointed toward Lymphoma. They were going off of CBC testing, X-rays and CT Scans, and I had to wait until after the New Year to get more extensive testing and the final diagnosis. After a lymph node biopsy from my neck, my diagnosis of Diffuse Large B Cell non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma was confirmed.
I now have a Lymphoma sister I never wanted. I was satisfied with being friends.
Still, we instantly start joking that I was jealous and didn't want her to have cancer alone, or to be the only one wearing a wig. I just had to be sick with her. LOL!
Like the awesome aunt she is, she stepped in to care for my son while I was in the hospital. (However, she almost gave him a concussion while closing the back of Explorer on his head.) James quickly returned the love by teaching his aunt how to fry Spam and making her eat it.
Julie and I compared doctor reports, medications, chemo sessions and all the strange things that happened to our bodies while going through cancer treatment. We even solved the issue of taking the nasty taste out of our prednisone by wrapping the medication in fruit roll ups. No one understood what we were going through except each other. We spent countless hours on the phone talking, crying, and consoling one another.
We continue to share every milestone and celebrate our remissions: Julie's remission date is April 10, 2007, and mine is June 20, 2007. We have participated in the Blue Bird Cancer Retreat. We continue to raise funds for Relay for Life and Light the Night walks. Last year, we celebrated our 4-year anniversary by going to Frankenmuth.
Julie and I always joke that our story is very unique and it's a made for TV movie. We've already picked out who would play our parts. Julie chose Sandra Bullock for herself and Kareem Abdul-Jabar for her NBA husband (because of his brave fight with blood cancer), and I chose Queen Latifah.
Julie, thank you for being my sister and sharing cancer with me; I love you Lymphoma sister.
Kimi-Kali is part of a large extended family which now includes her being a "Lymphoma Sister. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she is raising her teenage son while writing the story of her journey. Kimi-Kali says: "I was inspired to write this story because God brought two strangers together to fight and win against Cancer."