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Shirley G., Long Island, New York

"The name Shoily Chick feels comfortable for me as it reminds me of a dear friend of mine, who is no longer with me that used to call me, Shoil.

While our children were small, I worked in a community college library and later, when we moved to Long Island, I worked in a synagogue library. When our son entered college, I decided that I needed to earn real money and I got a job as an information and reference librarian at a public library on LI. I worked there for 17years until I retired 8 years ago.

Working in a public library was like being a detective. It was fun to try and answer people's questions. Dealing with the public can be hairy sometimes, but most of the times it was quite enjoyable. You make friends with the patrons, who are glad to see that you're on duty when they come in to use the library. They shared their life events with me and I with them. Now that I'm retired, I do volunteer work at a special Jewish library and am a member of the Jewish Library Association, LI branch. I have a minor position in the organization.

The Hodgkin's literally popped up when we were on vacation in the southwest this Feb. We were on a plane from San Diego to Phoenix, I felt a pain on the side of my neck. That evening, as I dressed to go out, I noticed a lump on the side of my neck… 2 days after we returned home, I went to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) man who said he'd have to do a biopsy, because he couldn't tell if I had a tumor or an infection.

The biopsy was done on St. Pat's Day. When I emerged from the anesthesia, I asked the doctor if I had lymphoma. When he said, "I can't tell that yet." I knew he was looking for cancer…

Being a library lady, I looked up best doctors in NY in the June issue of New York Magazine and found 2 for lymphoma at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I also found Dr. Straus in a book of best doctors. I called his office and found he would do nothing until the biopsy report came back. So, I called the hospital 10 days after the surgery and found that they had sent my biopsy out to a special lab. They couldn't believe what they'd seen, because people my age don't get this disease.

The special lab decided it was Hodgkin's. I got the ENT man to send me the report, which I forwarded to Dr. Straus. We have never regretted going to Sloan Kettering, even though it's about 1 1/2 hr. drive. They are wonderful, so caring and careful. Now I'm at the point in my treatment where Dr. Straus hoped I'd be when we started. I have 3 more chemos to go and then more tests. At that point, he'll decide if I need radiation as well.

I knew that if I kept upbeat, my family and friends would do the same and keep in touch with me, which I wanted very much. All along, I've advised them of my progress, i.e. 1/2 way through, one more chemo before the tests and then the test results. People have been very responsive. I also acquired a group of women friends who have had cancer, and two who are actively being treated. We email and call, laugh at the silliness of all this sometimes, exchange ideas about how to handle people and foods to eat, etc. One friend even offered to let me scream at her if I felt the need. I never did, but it was nice to know that I could.

I had a big issue with hair loss and one lady told me that she pulled hers out when she saw it starting to fall out--a perfect example of having control over a situation. As for me, I just let it come out, mourning each loss. My husband told me that there's more to my identity than my hair and that helped, but I still miss it. The return of hair is something to look forward to, like a trip, and there's the added mystery of whether it will grow back curly or straight.

My husband has been a rock through all of this. He said at the outset that he would do whatever was necessary. He gives me my neuprogen shots to boost the immune system. When he puts on the Band-Aid, I always thank him so he'll know I'm grateful for what he does. During the period that he gives me the shots, I've taken to calling him Dr. Kevorkian and friends get a laugh out of that."

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