When & How I was diagnosed
Hi, my name is Jessy Kyle and I was diagnosed the first time with Hodgkin’s Disease in 1989 at the age of sixteen. A massive lump appeared above my right clavicle. I was biopsied and cancer was detected. I had my spleen and my appendix removed and I had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The second time I was diagnosed with cancer was in 2000. I presented symptoms for many months before I went to the hospital, so by the time I actually went to HUP, I was very, very sick and started chemotherapy immediately. Under the brilliant care of Dr. Stephen Schuster and Lisa Holland Downs, MSN, NP, I successfully completed six months of chemotherapy and beat the disease again. Life was fantastic as I met and married the love of my life and we were blessed with a healthy, baby girl in 2008. Shortly after her birth, I began to have severe abdominal pains. After months and months of pain, I finally had a CAT-scan that detected a “suspicious” mass in abdomen. After more tests and a subsequent biopsy of an enlarged node in my right clavicle, our fears were confirmed and the cancer reappeared in August 2009. Again under the care of HUP’s medical staff, I had several rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant in December 2009. As of our March 2010 PET-scan, we are, for the third time, cancer free.
My experiences with treatment
The first time I was ill in 1989, treatment was very painful. The chemotherapy was injected directly into my forearm, so the pain was intense. The anti-nausea medicine was also not that great back then, so basically I was given the chemo and given a bucket. I was also only 16, so aside from the physical aspect of treatment, I didn’t fully understand how sick I was. In that instance my ignorance was bliss.
The second time I was diagnosed, I was 27. I was single and living alone in Old City. My father had been very sick the months before I was diagnosed, so I was devastated to tell my family that I was sick myself. So I went to all my appointments and my first chemotherapy treatments alone. It was only after the urging of my doctors that I finally told my family. Of course they were sad and rallied around me and supported me through the rest of my treatments.
The third time I was sick, I was a wife and a mother. Our daughter was only 15 months old when I was diagnosed. This time, each chemotherapy treatment required a 3 day hospital stay. Then I was admitted for 3 weeks to undergo intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. I was physically ill from the chemo and even worse with the stem cell transplant, but not seeing our daughter for 3 weeks was the worst thing of all. I am so blessed with a tremendous husband who stayed every night with me, went to work the next day, took care of our child at night, and came back to the hospital again. I am truly grateful for our family and friends who cared for us and our child so that we could concentrate on getting better.
What I have learned
I learned that every single day is precious and that everyday is not guaranteed. I learned that you truly can’t sweat the small things when you’ve undergone what we have undergone. I have learned to find the beauty in everyone and to be humble and grateful for everything, good and bad.
How I am feeling now
I am so thankful to say that 200+ days after my stem cell transplant, I am at 100%. I feel terrific, I am caring for our daughter, and I am back on stage. It’s a terrific life.
How I got involved
I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Colleluori at my first visit to HUP upon my August 2009 diagnosis. As we were leaving the hospital, Mike told my husband and me about his brother Nick and the HEADstrong Foundation. We were so moved by his kindness and the foundation was very generous to us during our treatment. We immediately became proud supporters of HEADstrong.
I really think my health triumphs have made me aware of the plight of others. No matter how sick I ever got, I always knew that there were people who had it worse than me. I also found strength in focusing on and being grateful for all the good things in my life, not the fact that I had cancer. The bottom line is I am thankful to be here to tell this little story and I try to live my life well and never forget those who have lost their battle. Thank you to The HEADstrong Foundation and to the Colleluori family for this opportunity to share my story.
~ Love, Jessy Kyle