Cally Berry Dog in her favorite position

(Originally published November 22, 2022)

American Thanksgiving is my birthday season. This is a birthday I wasn't sure I was going to see.  This is a year that did not turn out the way I expected.

Instead, life is amazing, humbling, scary, and a lesson in how much good I have in my life.

  • I met many amazing people I would have never encountered without lymphoma:
  • The folks at Inova Alexandria Acupuncture and Wellness Center (eg - the Hospital) took excellent care of me during both hospital visits this year.  Special shout out to Outpatient services and the Phlebotomy department for being so welcoming every time I see them.
  • The ladies at the Inova Mount Vernon Health Spa (eg - Transfusion Services)- they were great company and even provided lunch!  Almost like being at a spa - just without the fancy decor, soothing music, and aromatherapeutic room scents.
  • The case managers at Cigna - Brandy, Ken, and Meredith- They have been amazing helping me navigate our complex healthcare system, pointing me to resources I would have never heard about, and supporting me on this journey by breaking down some of the barriers that occurred on this health care journey.
  • The pharmacists, nurses and patient advocates at McKesson Biologics - Amazing customer service and they always provide clear answers whenever I have questions on the simplest stuff, such as whether I can take cold medication.
  • Dana and the Clinical Trials researchers at the Lymphoma Research Foundation - I am so grateful that I was in a position to help raise money for further research into Lymphoma.  Their work directly impacts my life and I am grateful for their efforts.
  • Cath, the volunteers at Reeling and Healing Midwest + the ladies I had a chance to play with during that weekend - I enjoyed meeting fellow travelers and learning something new.  Ryan and I also appreciated getting a week away from "Cancer World" and seeing a part of the country we seldom get an opportunity to visit.   Central Michigan is gorgeous!  Highly recommend!
  • My oncologist, Dr Arjun Sood, and his staff - I wanted an oncologist who was willing to answer my questions honestly, respected my priorities, and clearly explained what was happening. I found someone who also has tremendous empathy and cares about his patients as people. He provided a masterclass in giving difficult news when he diagnosed me this year. He is also not shy about reaching out to colleagues for second opinions and advice regarding my case. We're both enjoying this oasis time and it's a great day when he bounces into the exam room with good news. I am incredibly grateful to have him guiding me through this journey.
  • I have heard from so many friends, some of whom I haven't talked to in decades.  The amount of support has been humbling. I know I am missing a number of names.  Just know I'm thinking about you.
  • Anne and Hope, two of the little sisters in my fraternity, provided expertise and solid advice as I started on the cancer journey.  Anne works for the Association of Clinical Oncologists.  Hope has been on the journey twice. These two were key in helping me get my bearings earlier this year.
  • My former colleagues on the Customer Success Team at Presidio were amazing cheerleaders and helped keep me going during the first few months as I came to grips with the severity of my situation. I'd also like to thank Amanda Lopez for helping me as I transitioned to disability.  Also a big thank you for all of the art supplies and gift cards. Ricky, Tiffany, Lindsay - thank you also for the check-ins and letting me know that I left you all in a decent position. Goal achieved.
  • Ryan's colleagues at FTI provided amazing support to him, particularly earlier this year when he had more caregiving duties.  Their friendship and willingness to pick up his slack helped both of us in ways no one could imagine. Big props to Katie, Ryan's "work wife," who keeps us both distracted with fantasy house hunting during off-hours.
  • I had started Yoga Teacher Training a week before I was diagnosed and in the hospital.  The 2022 cohort at Mind the Mat in Alexandria VA were incredibly supportive and generous. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to continue, but I am thrilled to see some of the cohort start their teaching journey.  Special thanks to Caroline at Mind the Mat for all of her help and support.  I look forward to trying again when I get on the other side of CAR-T.
  • Our local friends and family have been critical in helping Ryan and I feel somewhat "normal" during all of this.  Simple things like taking Ryan out golfing and encouraging me to leave the house for hikes and lunch have been crucial for our mental health.  We also appreciated the offers of delivery and food - even when I wasn't able to eat much and wasn't in a position to see anyone.  That meant a lot.
  • So many people have been reaching out to me - from near and far - with thoughts and prayers.   Those mean a lot - even if I don't always respond.  Big thank you to Marcy, a former GW colleague and one of my project management mentors, who always pings me when I haven't updated in awhile.
  • I am very grateful for everyone's generosity during the Lymphoma Research Foundation fundraiser. I still owe some key people (Jeff) a Thank You note.  My goal is to get them written by the end of 2022.
  • Everyone I have had a chance to talk to via Zoom or break bread with this year - those social times help a lot. I have enjoyed hearing about the cool stuff everyone is getting into.  I'm not as social as I feel I ought to be, but I always leave those social sessions grateful that I have such an amazing group of friends.
  • Special shoutout to Adam M, Brian D, Sarah, and Julie D, long-standing professional colleagues and friends who kept me in touch with the "real world," share their lives with me via Zoom, sent amazing gifts, and patiently listened to my sick-person ramblings.
  • I'm in the (un)fortunate position of having an extended family who have also been on the cancer journey.  I am insanely grateful for their love, friendship, and support network.

Most importantly, I have the best partner, who finds himself in both the primary breadwinner and primary caregiver positions.  He stepped up in ways I didn't expect. For that, I am grateful beyond words.

Ryan, I love you.  Thank you for carrying this extraordinary burden.  We got this.

I'm grateful that I am currently in good enough health to walk, see friends, do yoga, and pursue some activities that bring me joy. I'm grateful for this oasis time I'm currently in and for the medication that has provided both this time and the decent quality of life I am experiencing.  I'm grateful for the rapid advancements in medicine that have allowed me to see this birthday and provides hope that I might see many more.  And I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned so far as I've navigated this journey.

Thank you for an amazing year. May you and yours have a peaceful holiday season.