The Park Avenue Wig: One Mom’s Journey to Beating Cancer

I keep thinking about the last episode of Sex and the City where Samantha gives a speech I keep thinking about the last episode of at a Cancer benefit saying, “She’s brave, she’s capable, she’s you. Oh f*@k it she’s me.” Watching that episode in 2004 with my college friends, I would have never imaged having a wig called the “Park Avenue” that I wear to cover a main side effect from the chemo that I received to cure my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

When first diagnosed, I feared that I was going to miss something in my kids’ lives – either from being sick from treatment or if treatment didn’t work. I remember having a panic attack one night with my husband. The only thing that was able to stop me from completely hyperventilating was thinking that if I did need medical intervention, then what would I do with my sleeping kids?

Looking back, I still can’t believe how different my life is than last year at this time. In July of 2013, I woke up one Saturday morning with pain in my wrists and in my sternum, took some Motrin and tried to relax – not the easiest thing to do as a mother of 2. On Monday I went to work – for the last 10 years I have been a Pediatric Nurse at NYU Medical Center. My boss took one look at me and told me to go home. I had a low-grade fever and just didn’t feel good. For some reason, I decided to go to the doctor. Mine wasn’t in, so I saw a doctor who, to me, looked like a teenager. He told me I was dehydrated and needed to drink Gatorade.

The next morning, my wrists hurt so much I couldn’t get my daughter out of her crib. By the end of that week I had seen 2 more doctors, had countless blood tests, and no answers. It was one of these doctors, a Rheumatologist, who, after an appointment while we were talking in the hallway, looked at me and said, “You look like you are breathing a little fast and have a little swelling on your right clavicle.” That led to an X-ray, which led to a Cat Scan, which over the next 2 months led to me seeing a hematologist and a pulmonologist who both said, “Its not a lymphoma” (since I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms).

In September, as a follow-up and with no remaining symptoms, I had another Cat Scan followed by 2 biopsies before finally receiving my diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 2A Unfavorable. Over the last 6 months I have had chemo, surgeries, ER visits, an overnight hospitalization and radiation. Just like Smith’s note to Samantha in the last episode of Sex and the City, I have been “looking forward to spring” for my new start as a survivor (and for my hair to grow back!)

Last Day of chemo January 23, 2014 Last Day of radiation March 19, 2014
Last Day of chemo January 23, 2014
Last Day of radiation March 19, 2014

Now that I have clear scans and I can officially say that I am cancer-free, I feel like I just can’t go back to my normal life as a part- time nurse, super hero UWS mom and wife. I want to make sure that my cancer changes me in some way for the better. Ironically, I ran and fundraised with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT) in 2008 and completed the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco. That race I ran in honor and memory of the oncology patients whom I help everyday at work. This year, I decided to join Moms in Training, a new branch of the LLS, to run the Oakley Women’s New York Mini 10K in June. I am so excited to meet and run with other moms who want to help cure Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other Cancers and I am very happy to be part of the amazing cause that has saved my life.

Pre-season training for Moms in Training with my daughter  March 30, 2014
Pre-season training for Moms in Training with my daughter
March 30, 2014

Throughout this process, I was constantly looking for other moms to talk to who had been through a similar experience. Yes, I have my amazing mommy friends who will listen to me complain about my “black cloud” of a medical year that my family has been having, but I wanted to know how someone could live in NYC, work, raise kids, be a wife and Kick Cancer’s Ass. Now I want to be that person for someone else. I am so lucky that my Rheumatologist decided to send me for that X-ray and that it was caught. I am so lucky that I have an amazing support network of family and friends. I am so lucky that I have two children who remind me of what is most important in life. I am so lucky that there are organizations out there that care. But mostly, I am just so lucky.

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Lauren Rubinstein is a 34 year old mom of 2 who lives with her husband on the UWS in Manhattan. She is a part time nurse, full time mom, and cancer survivor. She is running with Moms in Training to raise funds and awareness for cancers including Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of which she was diagnosed in the fall of 2013.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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