Marine On FIRE

Planning to be FIREd from the military

So I Have Cancer

BLUF: Completely out of the blue, suddenly felt like I was dying.  Diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December 2016.  After lots of chemo, my fight continues.  Planning for the future was suddenly put into perspective.


Seriously?!?!

You got to be kidding me.  I won the crap lotto.

  • I am relatively young
  • I run & go to the gym five days a week, over 15 years
  • I eat healthy, mostly organic
  • No history of cancer in my family

I knew something was not right in 2014 when I returned from Afghanistan.  I had an itchy rash on my leg which would not go away.  The rash would randomly move around my body.  Numerous visits to dermatology and various medications, nothing was resolving the problem.

Then everything went to hell in November 2016.

Symptoms

  • Itchy skin for two years (previously mentioned)
  • Immediate hearing loss in one ear (turned to extremely loud ringing)
    • Continues to this day
  • Loss of balance
  • Lost 15 pounds in a month
  • Extreme lower back pain
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Lump on neck

I visited the hospital every other day for tests, until doctors took a core sample of the lump on my neck.  I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few days before Christmas in 2016.  Shortly after, a PET scan determined I was stage III.  The disease was throughout my whole body.

In Disbelief

So many emotions, I do not know where to begin.  You always hear about this type of thing happening to other people, we always think we are some how different.

It is surreal when you are the statistic.

I have been deployed to combat a bunch of times and experienced some shitty things, but this disease has been by far the worst.  Everything else I could reason, cause and effect; however, now my own body was trying to kill me.

It took some time to accept this was my life now.

The Fight

Most days it does not feel like a fight, it feels more like a test of endurance through a nightmare.

In the last year, I have endured ABVD, BB, and high-dose BEAM (going through now) chemo.   I have track lines all over my arms from the countless IVs.  Experienced chest surgery.  Had a PICC line in my arm which resulted in a blood clot (and now get a blood-thinner shot in the stomach everyday).  Had two big lines my neck.  Visited the Emergency Room three times.

Then all the side-effects of chemo; hair loss, no taste buds, “chemo-brain”, blisters, tiredness, insomnia, constipation, and diarrhea.  I wish the experience of chemo on no one.

And I am about to do a stem cell transplant.

My fight continues.

New Normal

After mentally regrouping, I reevaluated everything in my life.

I see life a lot simpler now, take things easier, and not get stressed out about most things (because most things do not matter).

I listen to my body more.

Appreciate the little things and remember things can always get worse.

This Is Not Taking Me Down

Financially, I have always been interested in FIRE.  Getting diagnosed with cancer reconfirmed all my beliefs of not wanting to work till 65-70 because it could all be over much sooner.  Any reservations I had about things ceased.

In the past year, while I was going through continuous chemotherapy I have:

  • Continued serving as an active-duty Marine
    • With some physical fitness adjustments
  • Attended post-graduate school in a foreign country and earned a second masters
    • Read and wrote papers on the days I felt decent
  • Paid off our first house (currently a rental property)
  • Purchased a second house
  • Cleared a major financial milestone
  • Purchased two vehicles in cash
  • Started this website to assist others

Getting sick has stopped me from holding back from anything.

Saving for the future is important, but remember you are living your life now. 

None of us are getting out alive so appreciate everything you have, be kind, and live.

Everyone’s journey is different.  This is mine and I own it.

14 Comments

  1. What a way to reinforce your goals. Good for you for staying positive. Oohrah. Cancer has nothing on a Marine.

  2. My boss, a retired infantry O-5, says seeing his wife go through cancer treatment is the hardest thing he’s ever done. I know watching my sister deal with her cancer was the worst year of my life, as well as the thing that kicked my butt into high gear about FIRE. Stay strong and be well, MoF.

    Mil$

    • MoF

      2017-12-02 at 15:52

      Sincerely appreciate your comments and support. This past year has been rough and everyone has been very supportive. I am taking it one day at a time. This isn’t taking me down.

  3. First, thank you for your service to our country.

    And thank you for sharing this really trying part of your journey. All of us on the path to FI have to remember that we are still living our lives today. None of us our guaranteed tomorrow.

    Thank you for sharing that message loud and clear. Keep up the strong fight! I’m praying for your healing, and that you’ll be able to share this story for years to come in your early retirement.

  4. You have done so much good in life. Keep the positive attitude to crush the cancer the same way you have crushed your personal goals. Sending positive thoughts your way for what it is worth.

    • MoF

      2017-12-02 at 22:09

      My fight / test of endurance continues. It will take a lot more than this to knock me down. Thank you very much.

  5. You can do it!!! I know a bit of what you’re going through (I was told I had cancer, but thank god they were wrong), and all I can say is to hold your family close. It’s really amazing that you’ve started a website and been able to talk about your experiences (I’m definitely following you!) because it’s so hard to put your health out on the internet for everyone to see.

    Here’s a bit of hope for you: my father is a retired military man, who was diagnosed a little while back with stage III throat and tongue cancer. He’s stubborn though (it’s you Military types!) and he was able to keep running (and winning) 5K races throughout his treatment.

    Now he’s officially better, and he’s turned his life around and is healthier than ever before.

    Thank you for your service. I believe in you!

  6. You have a wonderful outlook, and HL is among the more treatable/curable cancers. Life is so unfair, never moreso than when something like this happens to someone who seemingly has done everything “right” (exercise, eating healthfully, etc).
    Thank you for all you’ve done in service to our country. Thank you for sharing so honestly, and reinforcing the reason we are all on this journey. Life is short, “None of us are getting out alive so appreciate everything you have, be kind, and live.” Sending positive thoughts & hopefulness.

  7. Just curious, did you have any skin conditions before the unexplainable itchy spots leading to your diagnosis? Great post by the way!

    • MoF

      2017-12-10 at 00:39

      I had a lump removed off my center back (near the spine) back in 2012, but it came back benign. Then in 2014 I noticed a red patch on my right shin, it would flare up and become very itchy (thought it was poison ivy / oak). Then over two years, I would get random itchy spots on my arms, legs, and sometimes chest. Extremely unpleasant, almost ripping my skin off in my sleep. By the time I was able to visit dermatology, the itchiness would calm down. I visited the doctors many times. It was very frustrating. I ended up taking pictures whenever it happened and showed the doctors. They prescribe various meds. Prednisone was the only thing that helped, but I was only covering up the underlying issue. It would clear up while I was on it, but come right back once I stopped. Ultimately, it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma causing the itchy skin (a big symptom of the disease).

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