The Last Round

Please note that this is a look back on the chemo journey I went on back in 2020. I am currently cancer-free. Writing this piece and sharing it is part of my healing and, hopefully, something that will help those of you reading it.

It’s the last day of chemo. For real, this time. My last chemo session should have been two months ago, but my doctor wasn’t satisfied with my previous scan. 

“Although I haven’t seen any growth, that blood flow near the tumor concerns me.”

He said some other things, but I didn’t really hear them. All I knew was that this wasn’t over quite yet. 

So, I had to get another round of chemo.

Now, here I am. I woke up to the blaring alarm of my infusion pump, notifying my nurse that I could be disconnected and sent home. 

I was diagnosed with aggressive cancer six months ago. In the middle of a pandemic.

PET scan image showing lymphoma.
The PET scan my doctor showed me the day I was diagnosed, May 13, 2020.

I didn’t know it was cancer. I went to the ER thinking I was having some cardiac issues. Still serious, but I’ve been going to a cardiologist since I was a baby, and cancer was the last thing I expected.

“So we got the x-ray results back. We see an expansion in the upper part of your chest. We don’t know what that is. Your chest x-rays from last year were completely clear. I’ll be sending you for a CT scan.”

I just stared at my ER doctor. She was covered from head to toe in protective gear because of COVID. I could barely see her eyes. Her voice told me everything I needed to know – this was serious. Three days later, I was unofficially diagnosed with lymphoma. Forty-two years old, sitting in a hospital bed, alone because they weren’t letting anyone visit. 

A month later, I received my first chemo treatment ever, alone. Having my hair fall out in clumps was more traumatic than I thought it would be. I couldn’t stop sobbing. My husband and I shaved our heads together. My dad held the trimmers for both of us. 

I adjust my mask, collect my blanket, backpack, and water, and head to the check-out desk. I’ve already texted my dad so that he can pick me up. My parents have been taking me to and from all my appointments. Although he would love to do it, my husband works out of state. He comes home every weekend and takes care of me, though. The kids are amazing, but I can’t wait for them to have their mom back. I mostly just sit around; other days, I’m in and out of sleep. 

I’m lost in thought on the drive home. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks. Will I be able to enjoy it? I keep reminding myself that this is the last chemo session. This is the end of cancer and the start of my recovery. It’s hard to be excited, though. I was so excited back in September when I thought I had finished, and then two months later, I was reattached to an infusion pump. 

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, sitting in an oncology waiting room while wearing a portable chemo pump, black long-sleeved shirt, blue glasses, a mask, and a colorful beanie in 2020.
Wearing a portable chemo pump in the waiting room at my oncologist’s office

“Ok, muñeca, we’re home.”

My dad always calls me muñeca, Spanish for doll. His sweet words bring me back to reality. I give him a weak smile and let him lead me inside. My mom is waiting in the kitchen. Her eyes are warm and hopeful. She’s made me a sandwich, but I’m not hungry. 

My nine-year-old comes around the corner excitedly, greeting me, “Mom! You’re home!” She gives me a big hug and then lets go and studies my face. She wants to make sure she hasn’t hurt me. 

“Oh, Nadia. It’s so good to see you. I think I just want to lie down, OK? Mom, will you help me?”

My mom gives me a tight smile and slowly walks me to my room. I gently lower myself onto my bed while my mom tucks me in. She gives me a light kiss on the head before leaving the room.

I reach for my phone to text my tween son. “I’m home!! I love you. I’ll see you at dinner, ok?” He spends a lot of time in his room, so we message each other often and schedule special time together. 

As I lie in bed staring at the gray ceiling and watching the fan blades whip around at top speed, I reflect on the past several months. On how much love I have received. A friend from high school and fellow cancer survivor rented a PO Box for me, and it’s always full of letters and gifts. My phone is constantly pinging with uplifting texts and messages. People have been rooting for me. My heart is overflowing, and I have taken that overflow and done my best to pour it out onto others. I know that some in that infusion room are alone. They are scared. I have focused my attention and love on them. Every night, when I wake up in pain, I think about them. I remember that I’m not the only one going through this. 

My greatest support, though, has come from my closest family and friends. They have been with me every step of the way. I never had to worry about food, shelter, my kids, or working. My sole focus was on healing. On keeping my mind focused on making it through and coming out better than I was before cancer. 

As I drift off to sleep, I smile. I dream of hiking on pine needle-covered trails and feeling the warm Florida sun on my pale cheeks. 

A day-in-the-life video with actual footage of my treatment

10 thoughts on “The Last Round”

  1. Thank you for sharing part of your story, Jessica. ❤️ I am so grateful to understand a bit more about your journey. So glad our paths converged.

  2. Jessica – I don’t expect you to remember me (I too was a RVer once upon a time) but I have been following your journey from afar – sending love, peace & healing. Today, I just wanted you to know that your article is powerful & encourage you to keep sharing. Like Teresa said – the right people are reading in all of the right places! Sending you continued healing & joy ahead ❤️‍🩹✨❤️

    • Hi Melissa, I do remember you!! Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and for stopping by to check out this writing and for this lovely comment. I hope you are doing well.

  3. Jessica, that was a wonderful article or blog post. Reading it made me feel like I was sitting there having a conversation with you. I’m so proud of you.

  4. This is heartbreakingly beautiful. I appreciate your story and your vulnerability, and I’m so glad you’re still with us to share it 🫶🏼


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