Whoever said goodbyes are the hardest part clearly hasn't heard this story. We saw Erin's creative and witty celebration and had to get to know her a little more. We asked her about all the ups and downs that she faced in her fight against cancer.
To start off, tell us the story behind this photo.
Last December, I was diagnosed with b-cell lymphoma, (and created the #bonvoyagebertha because both B cell and Bertha start with a “B”. and hashtags are apparently cool these days), then I kicked lymphoma's butt, and this was how I announced that my PET scan was clear! I cant take the credit for the boards: while i was getting my PET scan my friend Leslie was busy at home watching my two little girls and writing out the boards so we could celebrate when I got home. How did we celebrate? With bunt cakes, and margaritas, and handmade artwork from my girls.
How did you cope when you received the diagnosis?
Receiving my diagnosis was a huge sigh of relief. I think the days (weeks) leading up to it were possibly the hardest of my life. It's absolutely terrifying knowing you have a mass, but not knowing what it is, or if/how it can be treated. But once I was diagnosed, my fighting instincts kicked in and it was GAME ON. I still cant believe 2017 was the year I lost ALL OF MY HAIR. Cancer was always something I thought only happened to “other people.” And I truthfully cant believe it happened to me (but my short hair is a really good reminder).
How were you able to maintain a positive attitude while you fought cancer every day?
I would be a liar, liar, pants on fire if I pretended I had a positive attitude each and every day. I had some dark days during/after rounds where I was just plain tired -- tired of chemo, and cancer, and being bald, and not having a “normal” life. I craved normalcy SO BADLY, so that's what we clung to. Simple things like taking my girls to school, being able to watch them all day, going to the gym suddenly made me SO HAPPY. And that’s something I truly hope I don't lose -- taking those little things for granted. Also, everything is better with a sense of humor. EVERYTHING. What's a marriage if it doesn’t involve your husband taking his razor to your head when things get patchy?
Tell us more about your family and how they helped you with this fight.
I think as hard as the “fight” is on the patient, it's even harder on the caregiver and family. My husband was absolutely wonderful through it all. It's hard because as the patient you have no clue what you need. But everyone wants to help, they want to do ANYTHING to make it better -- even if it's running all over town to satisfy your craving for lemon meringue pie. We have two little girls (5Y and 2Y), and we fought to keep their lives functioning as normally as possible. They reminded me each and every day to laugh, smile, and, most of all, to be okay. Our parents were crucial for helping us too -- emotionally and physically (by the final few rounds I couldn't function for my 5 chemo days and my mom would take the girls to her house).
When you look back on beating cancer, what are some of the special moments that stick out to you?
One of my favorite moments was when my five-year-old shaved my head! It's so hard losing your hair, but we wanted to make it not so scary for the girls. So we let my daughter take the clippers to my hair to help me shave it off. We may have made them a little TOO comfortable with the bald because they refused to let me wear hats! It taught me a lot about confidence!
Describe the moment you found out you were cancer-free.
My dad came with me to my PET scan so we could take a peek at the scan before my oncologist (perks of having a Dr dad). I walked out after the scan, and I could just see the relief on his face. We studied the scan, looking for the mass and both just started crying. I called my husband and we both started crying in utter disbelief that the fight was over. I think I’m more emotional AFTER chemo than during chemo. just looking back at everything we went through still brings tears to my eyes. We went home to tell the girls I wasn't sick anymore, and my oldest looked at me and said “YOU WERE SICK?!” And that's when I knew my husband and I had handled the whole process right.
What got you through the hardest parts of this fight?
My friends and family, but hands-down my friends. I felt so incredibly supported by my IRL friends (because they love me, they HAD to support me and tell me I looked epic bald), but it was the friends I've made through social media that REALLY blew me away. I made so many close friendships because people genuinely cared. They reached out, distracted me, and just offered me unconditional support.
Your story has touched the hearts of so many people. How can we better support the cause of others fighting cancer?
Oh life. It's full of twists and turns and roads you never imagined you would travel. I remember December of 2016 sitting there thinking, "No way. There is no way I have CANCER. I'm young! I'm healthy! I have two little girls! I can't LOSE MY HAIR!" And then December 23 hit and it was confirmed. I had the BIG C. But I'm lucky. Lucky that cancer research has come so far. Lucky that when I was diagnosed, my doctor knew the exact path I needed to take. Lucky that I survived this. Think you don't know rare cancer? Pediatric cancers, leukemia, lymphoma (my BFF), thyroid, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers are classified as rare. (Yes, I had to google if I had a "rare cancer.”) So this past year I rode (and will continue to ride) in an event called Cycle for Survival. All of the proceeds go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where they do research, and even researched and fine-tuned my chemo treatment.
Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?
GUYS. I’m so embarrassed. . . but honesty is always the best policy. My board currently reads “Insert instagrammable AF quote about summer here”. . . but my daughter starts kindergarten on Monday, so I have BIG plans on fitting in with the rest of the Internet and forcing her to pose with the board.
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