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« Some Pre-Chemo Thoughts on Round 50 | Main | Saying Goodbye »

Chemo Round 49 and Duke

Chemo Round 49 and the trip to my beloved alma mater that followed capped off a pretty crazy (but very fun) two weeks for me: from Atlanta to Coachella to chemo to Durham.

First, chemo. Round 49. It is not lost on me that many do not make it to 49 rounds of chemo, and this realization will continue to be at the front of my mind as I march off to Round 50, 51, and so on. I woke up feeling excited for treatment, as usual, but also grateful. This cancer-killing adventure hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been quick – but I’m still in it and that’s probably an understatement. If this was a boxing match between me and cancer (and it is), we’d be deep into the fight and I’d still be looking pretty good: no broken nose but maybe a little something shoved up a nostril to control bleeding….face not too bruised but maybe a cut on the cheek. Meanwhile, cancer is looking pretty haggard and bloody – footwork not nearly what it was, bag of tricks almost totally empty, and coming to the realization that this opponent won’t be giving up any time soon. To steal from baseball for a second: this one is going into extra innings.

Infusion at Norris went well. As always, I am incredibly well taken care of by Dr. Lenz, Taline, and all of the nurses and volunteers in the clinic and at the Day Hospital. I got a bed, cuddled up, and grazed on the various vegan foods provided by Norris and my mom (it’s a bounty, trust me). All the while, my body was dutifully guzzling up some more chemo and making sure that cancer continues to wonder “why the hell did I pick this kid?”

The week that followed wasn’t the easiest of chemo weeks, only because my activity was way up from what it would normally be. Instead of staying in bed on Tuesday, I went to my friend Alla’s memorial service, which was a mandatory thing for me regardless of how I felt. After crying my little eyes out and missing my friend, I was pretty drained. And instead of resting in bed all day on Wednesday, I got up and headed to Norris to get some pre-flight fluids, just to make sure I’d be bounced back as quickly as possible. The next morning, I was up at 6:30am and flying across the country because The WunderGlo Foundation would be hosting a basketball tournament on Duke’s campus on Saturday. All in all, I felt pretty good, although a little headachy and not that interested in eating that much food…but those things are to be expected if you’re pushing yourself during a chemo week.

And I did. I can admit it. But it was worth it the minute the plane touched down in the North Carolina.

Coming back to Duke is such a special feeling. It truly is a homecoming, and one for which I am continuously grateful. I really don’t know many people who love their school as much as Duke folks (I mean, we LOVE our school), and so I know I’ve been a part of an institution and community that really is special. Duke takes up such a huge part of my heart, and coming back fills my heart and recharges me like few other things do.

One of my favorite spots on campus, Armadillo Grill, is closing after graduation, so I made sure I soaked up some of my favorite Tex-Mex cuisine. A little sign hanging from the menu board that said “We happily accommodate our vegan guests” made the trips even more satisfying. We ate at ‘Dillo (that’s what the Duke kids call it, including me) every single day, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

I also couldn’t have been more pleased at the fact that my good friend (and WunderGlo Foundation board member), Dan, made the trip out to Duke to join in the fundraising and the festivities. I loved showing him around campus, and he fit in like a glove. We even bought matching Duke sweats and sweatshirts. Bringing people into the Duke family…that’s what I like to do.

I also like to play basketball, which is what I and about 70 others did on Saturday at our “Go To Hell, Cancer!!” 3-on-3 basketball tournament. We raised several thousand dollars and had an amazing time in Duke’s holy land and where so many basketball moments of glory were made: Cameron Indoor Stadium. Hooping in Cameron was truly an unforgettable experience, and hosting such a fun event with awesome people made it all the sweeter. It was an incredible trip, and I have a feeling I’ll be back on campus very soon.

We left Durham on Monday night, and here I am: back in L.A., recharged and refocused, and ready to accomplish big things in May.

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