Small but Fierce - Battle with Cancer Doesn't Suppress the Spirit Within
On the nightstand next to Megan Meier’s bed is a card her sister made her.
On it is a quote from "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" by Shakespeare that reads, "Though she may be but little, she is fierce."
"That’s really gotten to me, I guess," said Megan, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls. "I may be little, and I may be a girl, but I can do this."
Megan, 22, was diagnosed in December with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes, also known as white blood cells, which are the body’s primary defense against infection and disease. But she is no stranger to the disease, which her mother, Amy Hertel, also was diagnosed with as a teenager.
Her mother gave Megan advice from her experience that has helped during her months of treatment.
"She told me that you need something to look forward to. You pick little things, like maybe a birthday party or my cousin’s prom, but also look forward to the bigger things so you always have your mind on something else," Megan said.
“I may be little, and I may be a girl, but I can do this.” - Megan Meier
It isn’t hard for Megan to find something to look forward to. She’s planning to wed her fiancé, Aaron Stevens, in August 2015 and has taken advantage of many idle hours during chemotherapy to surf Pinterest for ideas.
Megan’s diagnosis came late last year when she went to see a doctor at an independent clinic in Watertown because she was feeling poorly and having pain in her left shoulder. She thought she had pulled a muscle but within two to three days a swollen ball the size of an orange had developed on her collarbone.
After a day of tests, she was scheduled for a biopsy after the Thanksgiving holiday and doctors soon determined she had stage 3A Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She started twice-weekly chemo after the first of the year.
"I think the moment that it hit me the most was when I went to go try on wedding dresses and I didn't have any hair," she said. "It was really hard to picture being out of where I’m at right now. Right now, it feels like it’s going to last forever and life is never going to get back to normal."
Though her diagnosis took place in Watertown, she knew that she wanted treatment at the Avera Cancer Institute. Her doctor is Hematologist, Dr. Vinod Parameswaran, who also is her mother’s physician.
Megan, who now lives in Miller, has some testing done at the outreach clinic there but receives her chemotherapy in Sioux Falls.
“They have really saved me mentally, physically, emotionally — everything,” she said of Avera. “They’ve been awesome.” - Megan Meier
She’s had many positive experiences, including working with Del Lomheim, who spent several hours with her choosing a wig. She’s gotten to know the nursing and office staff over the months, who make her visits for treatment more enjoyable.
"It keeps your mind off of what’s going on instead of sitting there watching it get pumped into you," she said.
During treatment, Megan has tried to stay busy by continuing to work when she is able and doing craft projects. Her family and her fiancé’s family have been major support systems for her, as well as her Catholic faith.
“My theory is that everything happens for a reason and it’s all part of God’s plan.” - Megan Meier
"One of the first things that we did was meet with my priest and talked over things," she said. "My theory is that everything happens for a reason and it’s all part of God’s plan. I was never angry about it because I know that it does happen for a reason. I just had to have faith that he knew what he was doing."
With only three treatments left, Megan already has clear scans indicating that the cancer is gone.
Breathing problems of late have led doctors to change her chemotherapy a bit and she also has lost her eyebrow hair and eyelashes, something that had not yet happened.
"Technically, I don’t have cancer anymore," she said. "It feels like I should be stepping forward and everything should be coming back. It’s hard for me to comprehend it’s not going to happen for me overnight."
As she has done throughout her treatment, she’s looking forward to both the little and large milestones — an upcoming 5k, a Fourth of July weekend spent at the beach and the purchase of a wedding dress.
"We got engaged before I was diagnosed. I’m a big planner, so I knew I wanted at least one year to plan," she said. "It actually ended up working out for the better. When I was diagnosed there was no way I was going to plan the wedding and get married as soon as I was done with treatment. There are certain things I don’t want to do until I know everything is going to be OK. I don’t want to get a wedding dress until my hair starts growing back."
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