Abby’s Story

As many of you know, I manage O’Neill Plastic Surgery and I am currently working towards my master’s degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Healthcare Administration.  Little did I know, the future I had mapped out was about to take a huge turn.

It all began in early October when I woke up with chills and a fever.  The next day I went to see the doctor and was given medicine to treat the flu.  Two weeks later, I was still having the same symptoms (night sweats, high fever, etc.) and returned to the doctor for further treatment.  After several tests and an x-ray, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and was prescribed an antibiotic.  I was told to take the medicine for two weeks and to take it easy. After another two weeks, my symptoms had gotten much worse. Daily activities like walking my dog (Sailor), taking a shower and walking up and down a flight of stairs were a challenge for me.  I began having upper back pain and found it difficult to take a deep breath if I was standing up straight.  Not knowing if this was a side effect of pneumonia, I called the doctor for advice on my way to work.  Within two hours the doctor not only called me back, but had already scheduled me for a CT scan.  I left during my lunch break for the CT scan and simply returned back to work just thinking he was being over precautious.  My doctor, Dr. Meacher, called me at 3:00pm to see if I would swing by his office on my way home.  So that’s what I did.  I left work just like any other day and stopped by for the results from my CT scan.

When I got to Dr. Meacher’s office there was no one in the waiting room. As I walked up to the front desk to put my name down on the waiting list, the receptionist told me that I didn’t need to do that and she went ahead and put me in an exam room. I was just sitting in there by myself, and you would think my natural reaction would be to feel nervous, but it wasn’t! It was frustration! I was frustrated that he made me come into the office just to read a report. Why couldn’t he just do it over the phone?  When Dr. Meacher and his nurse came into the room I looked at them and I was instantly nervous. I knew something was wrong the second I saw his face. I will never forget his demeanor and the look on his face as he searched for the words to tell me that something, he wasn’t sure what, was terribly wrong.  I don’t remember his first words, but basically he said “there is a reason your back is hurting and you are in so much pain. The CT scan revealed that there is a mass that is about 11cm wide in your chest.”

For an instant it felt as if time had frozen. Like a thunderstorm of my body, a crash of thunder inside my head brought me back to reality and the tears started pouring down like rain. As my eyes filled with tears, my mind filled with a thousand questions!!  What could this be??  Where do we go from here??  And how fast can my Mom and Dad get here?  I was scared, and not knowing what to be scared of is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. Before I left Dr. Meacher’s office he told me I have an appointment the next day with Dr. Reed, a thoracic surgeon who specializes in esophageal and lung cancers.

I remember leaving his office in a complete daze and driving to Courtney’s house to find comfort. Without warning, I burst into her house and fell to my knees in tears as I told her the news. We spent the next few hours trying to think positively as I waited for my dad to get into town. The next couple of days I kept to myself, prayed A LOT and tried to focus on everything except the news I was just given.

After meeting with Dr. Reed, she ordered a biopsy so we could have a better understanding of what we were up against.  That Friday morning at 8:00 am I had the procedure and was told they were to rush the results.  At 7:45 pm I was sitting on the couch with Jay and my family when Dr. Reed called to inform me that I HAVE CANCER.  I burst into tears and can’t find the words to explain the feeling I had or the thoughts that began to run through my head.   Dr Reed stated it was lymphoma, but she wasn’t sure the type and told me that several test needed to be done to make that determination.  It would be some time Monday before they would know anything else.  Well, I did what anybody would do……I prayed, cried and searched on WebMD to try and learn a little more about the news I was just given.  After a little research, I found that there are over 40 different types of lymphoma and that looking at WedMD was the worst idea EVER!  On Monday, November 7th at 3:45 pm (longest day of my life), Dr. Reed informed me that I had mediastinal diffused large b-cell lymphoma, a curable cancer!

She referred me to Dr. Costa, an oncologist that specializes in b-cell lymphoma at Hollings Cancer Center.  The very next day (Tuesday) my family and I met with him to discuss my options.  I was stuck in the worst nightmare I’ve ever had and I couldn’t wake up!  My biggest fear had somehow become my reality and I needed to get ready for battle.  There was so much I still wanted to do.  In many ways my life had just begun.  I was worried about the chemo affecting my ability to have children, I was scared that it may be located in other places in my body and I was devastated that my life had just changed completely for the worse in a matter of two weeks.

Dr. Costa informed us of the standard chemotherapy regimen for diffuse large b-cell lymphoma called R-CHOP.  R-CHOP is the abbreviated name of a combination of drugs used in chemotherapy for aggressive Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas (NHL).   It consists of Rituximab, Cyclophosphmide, Hydroxydaunorubicin, Oncovin and Prednisone.  I would receive six rounds of chemo (21 days between each round) staring Thursday, November 10th.

1st Infusion

On November 10th, I began the fight against cancer, the fight for my life.  The treatment or infusion as they call it went pretty well.  I was blessed to have my family and friends stop by to show their support.  It was simply another reminder that I’m not in this alone.  I had a reaction to the first drug called Rituximab.  It was pretty scary to say the least, but the remainder of the day went as planned.  The next weekend I was blessed to have most of my best friends from college come down to surprise me for a weekend of FUN!  They ALL went with me to get my hair cut really short and to get my make-up done.  I felt like a princess.  We laughed about old times and snuggled on the couch watching old movies.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was experiencing some pain and began running a fever.  After speaking with my doctor, I was told to go to the nearest hospital with an oncology department for blood work.  It was 5:50 am Thanksgiving morning and we were heading to CMS hospital in Charlotte…..not quite how I had pictured me spending my holiday with my family.  After the blood work was completed I was told that I was neutropenic (neutropenia is an abnormally low level of neutrophills which means that my body was unable to defend itself against infections).  With absolutely no immune system, I was then hospitalized and treated with IV antibiotics for the next three days.  My family (yes all 26 of us) were planning to spend Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house, but unfortunately things didn’t go as planned.  I spent the next couple of days in isolation laughing at my brother in home videos and watching many Disney movies on the VCR player (yes, I did say VCR player!) in my hospital room, including The Little Mermaid, my fav!   It was far from ideal, but we made the best of it!

2nd Infusion

The second infusion went much better!!  Because we knew better how my body would react to the drugs, we were able to adjust my medication to make the process easier for me.  They also gave me another shot called Nuelasta that is used to reduce the chance of infection by boosting my white blood counts.  I was still experiencing flu like symptoms, but I was so happy to be out of the hospital.  I was able to return to work some and they even set me up so that I could work from home when needed.

3rd Infusion

Two days prior to my 3rd infusion, I was experiencing some pain.  In fear of it delaying my chemo, I rushed to the hospital to have some blood work done.  After meeting with Dr. Costa I was given orders to go home and avoid being around people, but that I should be able to receive treatment.  I was thrilled!!  When I arrived for the infusion on Thursday, I was told to report to the main hospital for an x-ray.  Dr. Costa read the results from the x-ray and I’m happy to report that the mass has shrunk tremendously!!!  I cried tears of joy for the next two hours (seriously, could not stop)!!  All of the pain that I had been suffering from couldn’t compare to the amount of excitement that consumed every inch of my body.  IT’S WORKING!!!

I’m halfway through this journey and I pray that I continue to improve.  This journey won’t be easy, but I can and WILL get through this.  I don’t know what caused the cancer or what God’s plan is, but I do know how truly fortunate I am to have each of you by my side as I travel down this journey.  I’m blessed to have the most amazing parents, boyfriend and friends that anyone could ask for!  Thank you all so much for believing in me and giving me the strength to fight this battle. Thanks again for everything!

My name is Abby Bunkley and I’m a fighter.

61 thoughts on “Abby’s Story

  1. Abby,
    Your story brought tears to my eyes, you are an inspiration. Please know I think about you and am praying for you.
    Sincerely,
    Michele Storozuk

  2. Abby… what an emotional and inspiring story you have written. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you and pray for your full recovery. I’m not far away if you ever need anything.

    Much love,
    Courtney (Ackerman) Greider

  3. I love you to the moon and back and when ever things re terribly wrong in my life or your life we have always said Blue Skies! You had been a rock and a constant in my life for years and many others feel the same so let us been your rock through this. I love love love you!!!

  4. Knowing that beautiful laugh and smile of yours as I do the world would be a less happy place without it. I continue to pray for you and your family and wish the best for you. I know you have the strength and determination to win this battle Bunkles.. Thanks for sharing your story I look forward to following you through this journey to a successful conclusion.

  5. Abby –
    Amy Pickard is one of my best friends from home and has spoken so highly of you over the years. After reading this excerpt of your life, and crying at my desk, I can completely understand why you’re so special to her – and everyone in your life! While your story brought me to tears, your willingness to fight and stay positive is what it’s all about. I wish you a speedy recovery and a long, happy life with all these wonderful people!!

  6. Abby!

    Wow. You are one of the coolest people I knew while I was in Charleston, and it’s saddening to hear that this is happening to your body….but here’s the good news: you are praying to the right God, He wants you healed, and He has already made it possible, and set you free from that Curse of disease and sickness in Jesus’ amazing work on the cross! By his stripes you are healed. You just have to believe that He did and rely on that….

    2 Corinthians 9:8 says: And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

    Love you Abby!!!!

    Dickie

  7. You’re amazing and beautiful with or without your hair!! Wishing you a speedy recovery….you are in our prayers!
    Jan and LeRoy Frederick

  8. Abby –

    This is Bobby and Ansley’s sister, Jennie. I’m weeping as I read your story because, despite being such a different form of cancer you have, it’s like reading my own diagnosis and treatment journey. You are a fighter and you will come through this just fine. In fact, you know what? You’ll be altogether better, stronger, smarter, and braver than you ever were before. And someday in the future, you MAY just be thankful you had this experience to show you and those who love you exactly what you’re made of.

    Keep up the fight! Can’t wait to see the photos of you and your friends when life has returned back to “normal” and all of this is behind you. Trust me, it seems a ways off now but you’ll be back in the high life again before you know it!

    XO

  9. Abby – I am so proud to know you. We pray for you every day and you are fighting and winning and I can’t wait for this to be behind you!! I have always thought you were beautiful and kind and smart, and now brave and determined are added to the list.

  10. Abby, You are a true inspriation to me. You are such a strong and beautiful person on the inside and out. I know we are several miles away, but I am praying for you and thinking about you daily. Continue to fight and know that we are all by your side all the way. LOVE YOU,

  11. Abby, what an amazing writer you are, I am
    Overwhelmed with emotion at your bravery and strength! Thank you for sharing this, we continue to pray for your complete healing!!!! Love you, julie and co.!

  12. Abby, you are an amazing person. You will beat this cancer and will win! I pray for you always. May God continue to bless you. Xoxo Love you!

  13. Hi Abby,

    I know Courtney through my best friend and her cousin, Brooklynn. You and I have only met a couple of times, but I wanted to say that I am sending prayers up for you. You have two of the most important qualities a person needs to fight this battle: the right attitude, and faith in God. With those you can stay strong!

    Lindsey McCoy

  14. Hi Abby,
    Your story is so brave. I knew what you have been up against but reading this really put the battle into prespective. It is so good to hear that your recovery is going so well and I know that soon enough your body will be back to what is was before October but your attitude of life, love, and all the little things will grow after all you have been through. Thinking and praying for you and I loved your story…you are such a strong girl!
    Crystal Roney

  15. I love the story you have put together! It is great and I am sure it was hard for you to put into words. I am so thankful to have you as a friend and Steve and I love you dearly! Not too much longer you will be cancer free!
    Love you bunches!
    Emily, Steve, and Banks

  16. Abby, I know that the ability to overcome this hurdle exists in you! Please continue to know that we all care about you and will do anything to help! Don’t hesitate to lean on others and especially lean on the Lord. It is through our struggles, that he is able to lift us higher. With prayers and support, Teresa Billig

  17. My dearest precious, Abby,

    Your courage is no surprise to me – you are a fighter!!!!!!!!!! All the Newmans love you and are with you on your journey!!!!!

    Love you bunches,

    Lee

  18. Abby,
    I only knew you from USCL but when I heard what you are going through I instantly felt for you. My mother in law has been fighting cancer so it is very close to my family as well. I know how difficult this must be for you. You will be in my prayers every day. Stay strong! Wishing you a devine healing!

  19. God bless you Abby. Keep the faith and pray every chance you get.. God is powerful don’t lose site of that ever.. You will beat this, I don’t know you but your incredible story assures me you are a part of gods great things for you in the future.. I am praying for you everyday. Your name will also be put on our prayer list at church…”High Tide Church” roxanna, de

  20. My tall friend B, I love you dearly! I am so proud of you and you are such an inspiration to us all! Another one tomorrow, right? You’ve got this… good luck my love! Oh, and the Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie too 🙂 Love you!!! -Your short friend, C

  21. Aww Abby you have always been a fighter!! Praying for you girl!!!
    My 28 year old cousin just went through the same thing you have!! God’s watching out for you!!!

  22. Abby,
    This is the first time I’ve heard your complete story. I am so inspired by your courage! I will promise to pray for your complete healing EVERY DAY! We have so many fun memories of you girls growing up. I smile even now as I think of some of them:) Please tell your mom that I will definitely be praying for her, too. I know she would take this dreaded disease from you in a second! Keep the faith, and the FIGHT! Love to you and your family:)

  23. Hi Abby you keep fighting, we will keep praying, and remeber our Lord’s promise “that He willnever leave you or forsake you.”
    God bless you and we hope to see you soon.

  24. Hey Abby! I just “stumbled” across this – i say “stumbled” because I know there are no coincidences in life. Not sure if you remember who I am…Susan Moree Alvarez now..I worked with your mom for years at Founders. I will add you to my prayer list. Your words are strong as I can hear your voice and heart in them. I will be praying for Jesus Christ to hold you close and lift you high during this time…but also I pray that you seek Him. He is always here for us, especially in these times, but even before this time He was close…seeking your attention. He loves you. And as you have already said He has big plans for you! Sometimes a little different or alot different than what we had planned. Your mom knows my story. He changes lives…but only and always for the better! Keep strong and keep focused and most importantly, keep seeking Him! He will NEVER let you down! you are in prayers,
    Susan Moree Alvarez

  25. Abby,
    I absolutely hate to hear of your battle fighting cancer! Your story has absolutely touched my heart. And, yes you are a fighter! You are a strong woman that can overcome anything! You are healed! Speak it, believe it, and have faith in it and our amazing God! I will pray for your health and complete healing in your body! I will also put you on my grandfathers prayer list! My family believes in healing and we know it will happen for you! Keep your head up, stay positive, and know that you are a fighter and a survivor!

    Be blessed!
    Your old tumble coach at Tumble-N-Roll,
    Christina Penegar-Tucker

  26. What an amazing story Abby. I have a 17 year old grandaughter who was diagnosed with Lukemia at 12. She too has been a fighter and is doing well now. God was with her (Michaela DeBruhl),all the way as he has been in your life. We’ll keep you in our prayers.

  27. Dear Sweet Abby,
    I am touched by your remarkable story of your cancer journey. Having faith in GOD and maintaining a positive attitude will comfort and sustain you. As I write this I can see your beautiful smile and twinkling eyes!! Abby, you are loved by everyone whose lives you have touched. Our paths lead us in all directions as we criss-cross with others through our daily lives. It is your turn to receive blessings from all of those people! You and your family continue to be in my prayers. Much love and God Bless…
    Jan Baskins

  28. Abby,
    You are in my prayers! You are such a sweet person and always has been! Keep fighting and always lean on Christ! He is the ultimate healer and He does have plans for you! I pray that God heals you and continues to touch the hands of those doctors! Take care and you will constantly be in my mind. ❤

  29. Abby!
    I have always been so fond of your beautiful spirit! You will beat this and become a beautiful hero/spokesperson for the fight against cancer. I will pray for you and and family as you complete your treatments.
    Blessings,
    April

  30. Abby, I just want to let you know that you are in my prayers. Your story is such an inspiring one and I’m so glad to know that you’re fighting through this. It takes a strong person to stay positive when it’s so easy to go the opposite direction. It says a lot about you as an individual and I’m so proud of you. You have been an inspiration to us all. I will pray for you every day for a fast recovery.

  31. Abby,
    I came across this posting and remebered your pretty face from high school 🙂 I am touched to hear your story and I will be praying for you 🙂 you will have one great testimony to tell of how great our almighty healer really is when you are all better! I’m sure you are def. an inspiration to others going through similar situations! Wishing you the best! Keep fighting!

  32. Hi Abby,
    You don’t know me, but I believe we have mutual friends in common. You story is so very inspiring and you are a VERY strong woman! You keep up fight beautiful! You are one of God’s children and you’ll get through this.
    Prayers & Hugs <3,
    Amanda

  33. The Lord is using you Abby. He promises whatever we sacrifice and suffer in His names sake He will repay 100 times as much (matthew 19:29)…He has got Big plans for you sweetie. Keep fighting. You will be in my prayers.

  34. Abby,
    I am truly touched by your story and want you to know that I will be praying for you and your fight. You are a very determined and strong young woman who I know can beat this. I know your wonderful Mother from work also and being a Mother myself I cannot imagine how this has been for your whole family. Contiuned prayer for you and your family!
    Beverly J.

  35. Abby,
    As I read this I remember what a special young girl you were growing up, and want you to know you have become a very special young woman. What an inspiration you are as you battle cancer. I will be praying for you.
    Cathy Montgomery

  36. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. Hopefully the chemo will continue to reduce and remove all of the mass. Recently cancer has hit our family also, and with trips back and forth to the infusion rooms you realize that Cancer doesn’t have age limits.It seems that you do have a great support group with friends and family, and this will only make your relationship with God stronger. Praying for you and your family, and wish you the best of luck, keep fighting and never give up!

  37. Abby,
    I have no idea if you remember us or not, but our paths cinstantly seemed to be crossing whether it was at dancing, school, or even at CB;s LTd. We have always loved your family & I know through all of the prayers being sent up for you & your family that you will beat this.
    Keep fighting,
    Melinda, Dexter, & Abby Baker

  38. Abby,

    I had no idea what you were going through. I live on the other side of the world so being out of the loop is an occupational hazard. You are so inspiring and I wish you nothing but success in your future battles.

    I will always remember you in Charleston smiling and traversing the streets. Don’t lose that love for living!

    All my best,
    Greg

  39. Wow! You are so strong and I admire you for all that you are! That definitely brought tears to my eyes. You are in my prayers girl!

  40. Abby, we don’t know each other, but I too have lymphoma, having been diagnosed in January. Mine was found incidentally while looking for a possible blockage of the renal artery (that could contribute to high blood pressure.). However, I believe there are no “accidents” in God’s timing. Mine is B-cell non aggressive follicular and at this time I will be monitored with blood tests and scans. May God bless you as you continue your journey of faith and healing. Your page was sent to me by a mutual friend. I too have a huge support group of praying friends and family and had no idea this was going on. I want my journey to somehow honor the Lord. I am 75 and He continues to bless me so much more than I deserve.

  41. Abby,
    You have always been such a genuine girl–beautiful inside and out. Your story is inspiring. Keep the faith and keep the fight! Love you, Mrs. Caroway

  42. Abby,
    I am praying like crazy for you and your family. You are strong and I have the faith that you can beat this!!!
    Love you Girl!
    Tabitha (Montgomery) Whitaker

  43. WoW! this is a shock to me to see someone I graduated high school with going through something like this. It makes me think about life in a whole new way. I am sorry you are having to go through this and I am praying for you. I also wanted to tell you that I am a caregiver for miss. Geraldine Simmons. She and I have a lot of conversations about our lives and she had mentioned that she used to work at your household when you were a child. I told her that I graduated high school with you and brought my year book to her home and showed her your picture. She said last time she saw you that you were a child and now you have grown into a beautiful woman. I will tell her about your story and I am positive that with everyone praying for you that the prayers will work =-) Keep your head up and stay positive. God Bless!

  44. Keep fighting, Abby! Mary Loyal and I are praying for you. The Lord ALWAYS knows what he is doing. Take care.

    Lash and Mary Loyal

  45. I am so pleased that you are sharing your story. I am sure that it has been cathartic for you. I was happy to get to talk to your Mom when I took the prayer shawl to her, but I did want to talk to you as well. I am so sorry that you are having to face this difficult illness and I wish you continued courage and spirit to deal with the treatments. I guess your Mom shared with you Furman’s recent brush with cancer also. He got great news this week that the pathology showed the least aggressive form and for now no treatments, only surveillance. Stitch-n-Pray group at church will continue to include you in our prayers.
    Peace,
    Mrs. Marshall

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