Finding Balance

Monday, May 1, 2017

I should be graduating from college on Saturday.

I am not.

This time of year brings a lot of emotions back to the surface for me. I think knowing that two years ago at this time I was starting chemo and really entering that "phase" of this road brings back a lot of memories for me. Even the weather and general "feeling" of this time of the year affect it. It is a bit less powerful than it was last year, but it is still there.

I think it doesn't help that I "should" be graduating on Saturday. I know it isn't a big deal and blah blah blah, but it still sucks. It sucks because it was something that was totally out of my control. I DID everything I could. I went to class, did my homework, made good grades. I can't really explain it, other than it is not fair and I am not all that happy about it. I am so happy and excited for my friends and I do like my school now, but it is still hard and I am mourning what should have been a little extra lately.

I am continually trying to figure out how to mold all 3 versions of myself into one semi-functioning person. I am finding this especially hard lately. I am feeling more like my pre-cancer self, but I have to balance where to put all the "stuff" that came along with cancer. I may be a "regular" person again, but I have scars, experiences, and knowledge that weren't there before (and are important). I don't want to forget about my experience, but I also do not want to only be known for being the girl who had cancer.

Cancer left me with a lot of new emotions and feelings. I have some new anxieties (I had to drive to something near the hospital a few days ago and my heart started racing just getting off the exit) and some new fears. These feelings and emotions come and go, but one emotion that has been more present lately is guilt.

A lot of you probably know (or saw on Facebook) that I hit my sideview mirror backing out of the garage a few weeks ago. I was pretty bummed about it, seeing as I am generally a careful person. We called the dealer to get an estimate, so I was prepared to spend that amount of money on it. When I took it into the dealer, they told me it was worse than they thought (is it ever not?) and they gave me a new total that was over 2x the original amount.

I cried. Right there in the Hyundai dealership, I burst into tears.

And then I hated myself for crying.

Was I seriously crying over fixing a CAR? I tried to get some perspective into my brain, but it still didn't stop the tears. People have real problems and I am crying about having to shell out a little extra to fix my car. Two years ago, I would have willingly hit my mirror on the garage just to have that be my biggest problem. I felt so bad for crying over something that is easily fixable and not a big deal at all (and although I didn't want to spend the money on the car, I did indeed have it).

People, including the lady who was helping me at the car place, told me I was not the first person to cry. That it is okay that I still cry about normal people problems. I just feel like I know better and therefore it shouldn't bother me as much.

I hate that it does, but as I was saying before, how do I balance all I know with being a regular person?? I need to be able to be who I was, but also be aware of what I know and I am finding that to be extremely difficult. I shouldn't feel guilty about these things, but I do.

Everything I do, I have an added perspective of, which is great, mostly. I am thankful and aware for the little things, but sometimes that prevents me from just being okay with being frustrated or upset. It is tough figuring out exactly where I feel comfortable.

On a more personal note, my semester just ended and I am officially done with my 3rd year of college. I was thinking about it and this was only really the second year I got to finish "officially". I now have to begin fighting my life scholarship for next year, so wish me luck with that!

Things are going well and I am preparing to have a summer that I wanted so badly two years ago. I have been in a thing lately with reading my old posts and looking at pictures. I really wish I had documented more. I think the further I get from it, the more I need to really absorb it to know that it was real and that it happened.

Other than that, I have scans again in July, and have otherwise just been keeping busy. The last few weeks of school were super intense, and I am looking forward to a relatively relaxing summer. I don't have much planned other than some nannying, hopefully some fun trips with friends, and plotting how I can meet Harry Styles. He (finally) went solo and I am DETERMINED that this is my chance to finally meet him. He's playing small venues, so at this point I'm just hoping to get tickets, but I have no shame at all about pulling out the cancer card if I need it. It is finally hot and humid here, so I am trying to figure out what to do with my hair at the length it is at in that weather. I like the length, but it isn't all the same length yet, so it is a struggle.

I guess I'll end there for now. It is crazy to look back on two years ago and compare it with now. I truly am very thankful to be here, even if some days are still hard. Please keep sweet Bella (local osteosarcoma fighter) in your thoughts and prayers as she is beginning some new immunotherapy and radiation treatments.

Thanks for all the continued love and support. It still means the world!

Cancer's Mark...Two Years Later

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tomorrow is two years.

Two years since I found out my subtle knee "pain" was actually cancer. Two years since I lost my normal.

That means that March 15 is the last day the last two years where I did not think about cancer at all. It will forever be the last day I had of my previous "normal".

I found my old backpack and planner a few weeks ago. It got tossed in the basement in the chaos of everything and I hadn't seen it in two years. I didn't realize the planner was still in it. I flipped through it and it made me sad. I had all the dates for the fall semester that year and all the dates for the spring semester that I never finished. Most haunting of all though, was where I had written "doctors appointment 8:15". Never in a million years would I have ever thought that appointment would hold as much weight as it does now.

I wasn't as anxious about the approaching date this year. Am I thrilled to see that date on the calendar? Not really, but compared to last year at this time, I am in a much better place. I know it is important to mark the day somehow, but part of me kind of just wants to ignore it this year.

I think it is because I have settled in a bit to this "new" normal. While it is not where I expected to be, I am happy. I like my school and my job. I have a routine and my days are busy. I honestly have less time to focus on the date this year.

I know I kind of let on to it, but last year was an extremely hard year for me. Coming off of treatment and just feeling in "transition" for a year was not easy. I struggled a lot with a lot of things. It wasn't until my scans last October (my doctor called those my 1 year scans) that I really felt some of my "old" normal return. For some reason, it does a lot for me mentally to be able to put this experience in years rather than months. I almost did not realize how hard last year was until this year started.

I am so thankful to be where I am two years post diagnosis. I am on no medications, my scans from February were clean and if my August scans are clean I will get to go to 6 month increments, my hair finally feels like hair again (although I am waiting for the day I can put it ALL in a ponytail), I am back to basically full leg function, I could keep going but you get it. Back when this first started my mom said that everyday that gets further from D-Day will get better. I am so thankful I have found that to be true.

With my last set of scans, I wasn't as anxious as I was annoyed to get back into that mode. I do not live in cancer mode anymore so having to go back there is annoying. I have to figure out how to schedule scans in between my already insane schedule. It is just very inconvenient now, and I am jealous that not everyone has to deal with this.

All that said, I want to emphasize that cancer is not gone from my life.

I may not be thinking about it as much as I once did, but it does cross my mind everyday. It literally altered the course of my life. I know for a fact if it had not happened, I would still be at USC and I would be graduating in May. I am where I am because of cancer. I am slowly coming to accept that (not easily).

I still have pain in my leg. If I sit with it bent too long, it hurts to straighten it. It "clicks" when I bend it back and forth or walk up the stairs. I do not say this to sound ungrateful, but it is not a "normal" leg. I am so thankful to be able to function regularly and that it wasn't worse, but sometimes it is still annoying. I am not sure if these things will continue to get better or if it is what it is at this point. The skin to the left of my scar is numb (so my lower thigh). Not a big deal, but it is still a mark cancer left.

I have not talked much about this (I did post it on my FB page a few weeks ago with scan results), but I have noticed some things about my hearing this past year. At first I didn't think much of it, but once I got back to school and work I noticed it more consistently. It wasn't affecting my daily life or regular conversations, but it was still something I picked up on. I noticed that I could sometimes hear people, but couldn't understand what they were saying. I get really frustrated when the TV is on and people are talking. Phone conversations can be difficult and sometimes things just don't sound as clear to me as they once did.

I brought up these concerns to my oncologist at our last appointment and he referred me to an audiologist. He said he didn't think I received enough to have major damage, but it was still worth checking out.

I went to the audiologist this afternoon and had a hearing test, and while the results are far from awful, cancer left its mark there too.

I have high frequency hearing loss. She said this is very common with patients who received Cisplatin (a kind of chemo I got). She said this is why I was experiencing all those things I mentioned above. I am far from needing hear aids and I am normal in every other range, but there is quite a drop in my high frequency. She said she has seen worse so I shouldn't worry, but I will have annual appointments for the next couple of years.

I am glad I wasn't going crazy and there is a justified reason for it, but it was still kind of sad to hear. I know that this is hardly a major problem and I am so thankful it is not worse, but it still kind of sucks. I mentioned that I work with kids a lot and sometimes I have to ask them to repeat themselves and she said that makes sense as kids can fall into that high frequency range where I struggle. I spend a ton of time with kids and am going to be a teacher so that kind of sucked to hear, if I am being honest.

So totally not the end of the world, and in the scheme of life it is nothing, but it is just another thing that cancer caused. Cancer doesn't just end when treatment does...I will be dealing with these side effects for the rest of my life.

Not to end on an unhappy note, I will just say thank you so much for the all the love and support these last two years. Part of me cannot believe it has been two years and another part of me cannot believe it happened at all! I am so thankful tomorrow will be March 16, 2017. I am hoping for a good day! Throw a little kindness into the world never know who might need it.

I want to share two things I wrote for Teen Cancer America that they shared. The first one was back in November/December and the second one was the beginning of February. I hope you will read, share, and support TCA however you can! They are truly doing awesome things. (this is one of my favorite things I ever wrote)

We live among everyday heroes. Men and women who have seen real combat, horrific tragedy and the battle often comes home with them.:

Inspiring Quotes for Cancer Patients,:


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Life after cancer is weird. I have been trying to figure out the best way to explain why, and I think I have some idea now.

Before cancer, I had total control of my life (or as much as any regular person does). During cancer, I have 0 control over my life. I was told where to be and when to be there. I had to wait to see if my counts were good enough so I could go out. Now, in this life after cancer, I am back to having control, mostly. I have control in the month in between my scans. As scan time gets closer, I start to feel like I am losing control again. I have to wait to hear from my doctor to see if I will be "allowed" to continue to live like I have gotten used to. It could all change just by him walking into the room. It is a terrifying feeling, one I am not sure ever gets easier. 

After we leave the doctor on these scan result days my immediate thoughts are "my hair gets to continue to grow!" and " I get to go back to school next week" (no Friday classes over here!). I think of all the things that I "get" to do in the months ahead without cancer interfering. Sure these things are mostly things people do everyday, but I feel like clear scans=permission to live my life. 

For some reason, I felt like these scans were a big deal. Technically I won't be one year off treatment till December, but my doctor counted these scans as my one year scans. One year cancer free is a HUGE deal. I remember the Nurse Coordinator (or something like that) visiting me in the hospital last November saying that next year at this time I would be celebrating being a year done. It is crazy that that year has passed and here we are. I don't know how, but I am thankful. 

It is also kinda crazy that one year cancer free is such a big deal. I lived 19 years without cancer, so why is it such a big deal now to live one year without it? I am asking rhetorically, as I know why, it is just such a strange thing. I could trust my body for 19 years, why can't I trust it for more than 3 months now (I swear thing hurt more around scan time). 

The circumstances surrounding these scans was a little too familiar as well. I just submitted my application to the professional program yesterday. I had submitted my application in March of 2015 right before I was diagnosed. It is now another thing I (finally) get to do....I get to go to school next semester. We are at the halfway point of this semester....I was at the halfway point when I was originally diagnosed. I am so thankful to get to finish out the semester.

My next scans will be in February. He increased the increment to four months! Technically, the protocol is move to 6 months after the first year, but for peace of my mind he decided to try four. I think it was mainly for my mom :) because he said he would have been fine with 6 and I would have been too! The more space between scans=the more I am "allowed" to do things as normal. Hopefully we can go to 6 months from there!

I am fully aware that not everyone has positive experiences at their oncologists. My doctor walked in the room smiling and gave me a hug. He told me he would pull up my scan, but there was no reason to because it "is a perfectly normal CT scan". He told us to celebrate. Cancer is a monster and I think about those still fighting daily. I hope you will too.

I know my last post seemed kind of negative, but these last few days I have felt like things are good again. I feel like my independence is coming back and I am remembering who I used to be. While I will never be that person again, bits and pieces are coming back. There have been times I wondered if that would happen. I feel like I am once again excited about looking to the future. I don't know what changed, but I am happy to find myself slowly coming back. It took almost a year, but I think I am finding a new "normal". I just pray that I get to keep it. 

Thank for all the love and support through the good and the bad. I am hopeful that there is lots more good to come!

The most beautiful words in the English language. I am not sure I will ever be happier than when I find out my scans are clean (sorry future husband and any future children). Truly there is no greater feeling!



Some Thoughts on Life After Cancer

Friday, October 7, 2016

- I may be nine months off treatment but I still think about cancer Everytime something hurts or just randomly throughout the day. My hair is still short and I have scars in noticeable places. Literally not one day has gone by that cancer has not crossed my mind. I would honestly say not even an hour goes by without me thinking about it. 

-I am still bitter about school. I am very thankful to be back this year, but I think part of me will always long for what "should" have been. Sometimes I really do get angry about the situation. It hurt to see all my friends post their "last first day ever" pictures. That should have been me too. I know I did the right thing by transferring, but dang it still sucks that I had to. Walking around my new campus is nice, but it makes me miss my old campus and the life I had there.  Everytime people ask what year I am (which is a lot more often than you would think)  and I have to reply junior, I get mad. I want to say junior, but I should be a senior, but that involves getting into the whole story. Which brings me to my next thought...

-What do I tell people??? Cancer is kind of a big bomb to drop in a conversation. I don't want people to feel bad for me or think I am doing it for sympathy. I don't want to totally ruin a conversation by bringing it up. What does one do? I try to follow the flow of the conversation but sometimes I still feel awkward bringing it up or bad if I don't. It all still seems so new to me that I feel like I want people to know. The people I have told responded well (and it is nice to finally have an interesting fact about myself to share on the first day), but it is still hard to know how/when to say it.

-On the topic of things that are hard to say, I still struggle with saying "I had cancer". You would think 18 months later that I would be able to say it, but the words still do not come naturally to me. I still cannot believe that this happened to me. I had cancer. How did that happen? How did I get through what was once my worst nightmare? I lost my hair and had chemo and spent 9 months in bed. It is truly unbelievable.

-I still miss my old life. A lot. I often think about what I would be doing now if I hadn't gotten cancer. Sometimes I forget that I was away at school for the time I was. I forget that I had an indepedent life at one point. I was thinking the other night that this has been the longest I have gone without seeing my brother (he's at Clemson now!), but then I remembered that not that long ago I was at school! Things are just so different now. I got so immersed in "cancer life" that I feel like it wiped out everything else. Things almost seem so "normal" now that when I realize where I am and how I got there I get sad. It just is so not what I thought my life would look like at this point. 

-Cancer changes things. Some for good, some for bad. As much as I don't like to admit it, things are different. My friendships are different, the way I do things is different. I tried for some time to just pretend like cancer never happened, but it is impossible. I spent 9 months in hibernation, but everyone else was out living and accomplishing things. I did not go back into the world I left on March 16, 2015. I have a new anxiety about schedules. I get seriously anxious when things come up that interfere with how I thought the weekend would look or things that interupt my usual schedule. I am doing my best to overcome this and not say no to things just because I didn't plan for it, but it is HARD, friends! I didn't have this before. You would think that considering how unplanned the last year was this would not be an issue, but that is not the case. I am hopeful that this will go away since it is fairly new. 

-Senses are POWERFUL things. I still get whiffs of the hospital, even just walking around or sitting in class. Literally while sitting in the lobby of the building my class is in (where I starting typing) this I started to smell the scent of the outpatient chemo room. I had a white cotton blanket on my bed and had to have my mom change it because it reminded me too much of the hospital blankets. The change of the season is not helping at all either. My memories of this time last year are so vivid that it is almost scary. I know the holidays scents and decorations are going to get to me. The feeling of the weather...the cooler temperatures (which I am hopeful are coming) and the cloudiness of the sky all bring me back to last year at this time. I have been told this gets better the further away you get from everything...I think it is also just my way of processing all this.

- I wish I had documented more. I wish I had taken more pictures and spent more time documenting my day-to-day events. I go through times where I just want to look at pictures and read posts to make my experience feel real and like it actually happened. I think I still am in such disbelief that this happened so I need to posts and pictures to prove it to myself. I am happy to have what I have, but I wish I had more. 

-I am thankful everyday that things are the way they are. So beyond thankful. That being said, I get angry because I feel like I shouldn't have to be thankful for some of those things. I was reading something a few weeks ago (I wish I could remember what) but it inspired this feeling. Why should I have to be thankful to be in back in school? I am is almost a given. Why do I need to feel thankful for things that everyone else just assumes will be there? Why did this happen to me?? Why did I get torn from my college experience and all that comes with that? I know what it is like to have terrible mouth sores, so I am thankful everytime I can eat something (sometimes I still expect my mouth to hurt when I eat). I know what it is like to not have hair, so I am thankful for clear scans because that means my hair can continue to grow. I know what it is like to not be able to walk and to be in in constant pain so I am thankful everytime I can walk to my car and drive somewhere. I am happy I can truly appreciate the small stuff now...but why should I have to? 

-Sometimes I just want to scream that I HAD CANCER and although I look fine on the outside, I AM NOT OKAY on the inside. In a way, it was almost easier when I looked sick because people just assumed you weren't okay. It is harder now that my weight is back to normal, I have hair, and my port is out (all the praise hands for that). Looking healthy is not a bad things at all, but I have a lot of emotional baggage I am still processing. Some days I just want to stay in bed at home where I am comfortable. Then I immediately tell the universe that I don't really wanna stay in bed because last time I got to spend days in bed it was because of cancer.

-Short hair is not fun. Better than no hair? Of course. Easy to manage? No! I am struggling. I LONG for the days of a ponytail. I have dreams of having long hair. I just want to be able to put it back into a ponytail. I'm tired of fixing my hair in the morning (but completely rewetting it) and not knowing how it will dry till the afternoon. Sounds like a dumb complaint, but let me have my moment.

-How come people in movies who have cancer always die? Are they any movies where people survive? I know there is a stigma with the word cancer, but jeez. People do die of cancer it is true...but why is that all we are slammed with? Lots of people survive.

-Surviving doesn't mean struggling is over. It is just now on top of normal life stresses, I get to stress about scans and fitting in physical therapy and figuring out all kinds of new things. It just added another layer of stress to everything normal people stress about.

-Did I mention I am bitter about school? 'Cus I am. I am so happy for my friends who are posting countdowns and their "lasts" but I get so angry that is not me. Why am I just now figuring out student teaching when all my friends are looking for jobs? That is NOT the way it was supposed to go. It sucks and it is unfair. 

-I have developed a weird kind of nostalgia. It is weird and I am not sure I can put it into words. It is not AT ALL that I wanna go back to last year at this time, but I also like can't believe that time is over and I made it. It is hard to describe...I think having literally NOTHING to do and getting back into life as a normal person contributes to it. I wish I could phrase this better. I'll keep trying.

-Sometimes it is hard for me to tell what are normal changes that happen when you are in your 20s and changes that have happened because of cancer. Certain things that have happened leave me wondering if it would have been this way had March 16, 2015 not happened. This is just such an important and transformative time and it sucks that this new thing got thrown into the mix. 

There ya inside peek into some of my brain recently. I know things will get better as time goes on. It is just all this learning and readjusting is a lot more intense than I could have expected. I promise to write some more as I find I do feel better when I let stuff out...and I promise more of an update will come soon!

Thank you again for all the love and means so much and still does. 


Saturday, July 9, 2016

I usually stay away from discussing current events on this blog, mainly because that was not the point of it. I still aim to keep it that way, but given the recent events and journey back into the regular world, I feel like I can make this work. 

A few months ago, Humans of New York did a several week series sharing the photos of children and their families at Sloan Kettering battling cancer. I obviously followed along and each story tugged on my heart. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely encourage you to go back and read each post. 

Anyway, one of the doctors was quoted saying something that has stuck with me. It was something I have tried to put into words, but just could not figure out how. The quote is:
              "Cancer engenders immediate fear. I think that deep in our soul, we don't want to admit to the possibility that we might have it too. So when someone else gets cancer, we turn that person into an "other". It that person is "other than us", then maybe it won't happen to us. For the past thirty years, I've done everything I can to keep children from feeling like an "other". Yes, this child has cancer. But this child is a normal kid..." 

He keeps going, but you get the gist. While I personally can relate to exactly what he is saying, I think that the word cancer could be replaced with many other circumstances as well. We all read and see stuff in the news everyday, and I know I am guilty of making those people "others". I feel like it is an automatic reaction to seeing disturbing things. No one wants to admit the truth...that those people aren't really "others". The sad fact is, we are all people and what hurts one could hurt any of us. 

While the exact circumstances of the recent events do not necessarily effect me directly, just as cancer may not effect you, there are people who it does. It is easy for us to turn those people into "others" because we can say well, I am not a cop or I am not black, or I am not Muslim, or I don't go to parties or I don't live in an unsafe area or I am not gay or...I could keep going, but do you get my point? We all make other people "others", but those others we create are also doing the same thing to us. 

I think my recent experience with cancer changed my view on "others". I now know that anything can happen to anyone. I was not an "other". Those people in Orlando or in Bangledesh or in Turkey were not "others". Those cops in Dallas or the recent victims of police brutality were not "others" either. I feel like I can better put myself in people's shoes. All those people had families and friends and a whole life that we do not even know about. Obviously I am not saying I understand completely what they are going through (I can't even pretend that I know what other cancer patients are going through), but I do feel like I have more empathy for them. All those people in the tragedies in the news recently could have been me. They could have been you, too. 

I am not saying that this is the answer, but I really think if we stayed away from categorizing people as "others" then we would all see things differently. We may be different and lead different lifestyles, but in the end we are all people. All people deserve to be respected and loved, and all death is to be mourned. One of my favorite quotes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is at the end when the dad is giving the speech and he says"
    "You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller one from the Greek word "milo", which is mean "Apple", so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek worked "Portokali", which mean "orange". So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, Apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit". 
(Bonus points if you read that in his voice)

People are people and while we do not like to admit it, there really is no such thing as an "other". It is a trick we play on ourselves. Some people have been slammed recently with this truth. It is very hard to come to terms with the fact that any one of us could find in ourselves with cancer or in a shooting or in some kind of trouble. I am not saying to walk around in fear, but the world needs more empathy. We see it directly after times of trouble, but what about the rest of the time? We all need to care about one another as we care for our own family and friends. No one is that much of an "other" that they do not deserve the same love and respect. 

I will end this post by saying my intention of posting was just to share some thoughts going on in my head. Not to start controversy or a conversation about politics. I am sincerely praying for all the victims of recent events and for better days ahead for everyone.

Six Months Off

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hello there! It has been awhile!

I have lots to say, but I will just hit some highlights here so I don't tie up your whole day!

First off, today is SIX months since I finished chemo. Half a year! Six months is a big deal. I remember back in January, my doctor told me I would feel good 3 months post-chemo, but almost back to normal at 6 months. It sounded so far away, but here we are! It is so crazy to me. I feel great. I cannot exactly remember how I felt pre-cancer, but I would say I am pretty close if not back to normal. I go to bed tired, but I am also busy. My hair is back and coming in full force. People cannot believe how quick it is coming in! I still don't love it, but I do get lots of compliments on my "haircut". I had my first haircut back in May and am scheduling another one soon! 

This morning I had what we are praying was my last port flush! I was supposed to get my last Lupron shot as well, but because of insurance issues, that will be done another day! It was kind of a bummer because I wanted the get the last one overwith, but what can you do? I will have scans at the end of July and if those are all clear, I can get my port out! I am so looking forward to that day. I was hoping it would be out for the summer since it is so noticeable in tank tops and swim suits, but oh well. The day will come, and hopefully soon!

I still do PT twice a week. My walking is fine, but I have some strengthening still left to do. I am kinda over going, but I know it is good for me. My leg still gets tired a little more easily if I do a lot of walking, and if I keep it bent for too long it hurts, but overall it isn't bad. I know I will be in PT through the summer for sure, but we will have to see how things look in the fall.

Speaking of the fall, I am going to talk about school. I actually wrote almost a whole post on this, but never published it. I am transferring to USC Upstate. They have a small campus in Greenville, so I will be staying at home. It was SO not an easy decision. I have my reasons and will share those in another post, but ultimately it is what felt right. I was cleared to go back to Columbia, so it is nothing medical. I am still sad about not going back. I just need a fresh start, and I am excited to get back to school and finish! It will be what it will be. I just wanna graduate already!

I have done a lot of traveling! In April I went to see my cousins in New Jersey. I flew by myself and it was the most independent I had been since March of 2015! We went into NYC and had such a lovely visit. My mom and I just returned from a trip to Florida to see my great aunt. It too was a great, relaxing visit. It is so nice to be able to go and do this summer. I do not take that for granted at all.

In just a few weeks my mom and I are heading to Europe! We signed up for the trip literally the day before I was diagnosed, so it has kind of been the thing I have been looking forward to. I am SO pumped. We go to London, Bruges, and Paris. I cannot wait!

I am still nannying/babysitting like crazy. It is nice to be doing all the things I wanted to be doing last summer. I am trying not to take it for granted and not to complain about getting up in the mornings!

Some other exciting news is that I am working with Teen Cancer America as an ambassador. Since it is still a fairly new organization, they are still developing the role. I am one of four "starting" ambassadors. The hope is to eventually have at least one in every state. I am still 100% sure what the role will entail, but I am super excited to be involved! Currently TCA is working with the Bon Secours hospital system, which is not where I was treated, but I would love to get the Greenville Hospital system involved! The organization is based in LA, but two of the main ladies were in Greenville in April and I was able to meet with them. It is a great organization that is focusing on how to improve the teen/young adult cancer experience. If you wanna check them out, I expect they will do big things and I am so excited to be apart of it!

On a deeper level, life post cancer is weird. Obviously, I am so extremely thankful to be here. I don't ever forget that. I would say I am back to "a normal", but it is not the same normal. I still think about cancer This first year of scans every 3 months is really emotionally draining too. The closer we get to scans, the more my peace of mind disappears. I think it is just a natural reaction. I still struggle with how much of a role cancer should have in my life. For awhile I wanted to totally forget about it and pretend it never happened. Unsuprisingly, pretending it never happened did not work. Sometimes I feel like I want to just emerse myself in it and in other people's stories to make my experience feel like it did actually happen to me. It is hard to explain, and I don't totally understand it. I do not want to forget about it, but I also don't want to only focus on that. I don't know if I should tell people I meet that I had cancer. I don't want it to define me, but I also think it is an important piece of my story that people should know. I am sure I will figure it out. 

I also struggled for a bit with feeling guilty. I feel bad moving on when so many people are still suffering. I just don't understand how someone can go from being so sick and out of it to being totally back in life. I have worked through this now, but it did bother me for a little. Please keep all those still dealing with cancer in your prayers. There are hospitals full of people in every state. It sucks. There's another local girl who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January. I have been following along and have been in touch with her mom. I am hoping my story encourages them, but I know they would appreciate any thoughts/prayers sent their way as they still have a long road ahead. It is a nice feeling to be on the other side and to be helping others through this though I do wish there was no need for any of it. I am hopeful I can continue to be a resource for people going through this (especially young adults/teens)...if any of you should ever know anyone diagnosed, I would be happy to talk to them! 

I was able to share my story at Clemson's Relay for Life and it was SUCH a good experience. I was nervous about speaking in front of people, but it felt so good to talk about it. I was told it was a very good speech and I really hope it resonated with people. I would definitely be open to more speaking opportunities in the future if some should present themselves. I thought it would be hard to talk about my experience, but it really felt good. I want people to know. I tried to be honest in my speech, as I have in this blog. 

Life is good, but different. I still cannot believe the last year happened to me. I am still sad about it and have moments of missing my old life. I should be graduating next year, but I won't be. All my teacher friends are excited about student teaching in the fall, and I can't help but think that I should be too. I will always wonder what my life would have been like if cancer hadn't come into my life. I don't use a lot of my energy for that, but I do think about it. I do not want to burst anyone's bubbles, but life does not go back to "normal" after cancer. I am slowly working to find my new normal. I feel like I went from doing literally nothing to doing everything. I wish I had given myself a bit of a break before bouncing back into life. I think I just wanted some normalcy back. It has been a HUGE adjustment working almost everyday. I know this is what normal people do and that it really isn't a big deal, but it has not been an easy transition for me. I got very comfortable being at home and not doing much, so being out of the house and back on a schedule has been a change. It is a welcome change and has gotten easier, but it is still a struggle some days. 

I am looking forward to a nice summer. My next set of scans will be July 27 and I meet with my doctor the 29. It is just a chest CT scan this time, which is nice! My doctor only does the bone scans every 6 months which I am just fine with as those are the ones that take the longest! Any good thoughts/prayers are appreciated. Of course there's no reason to think anything, but it is still a nervewracking few days. 

I am sure I am forgetting about something. That's what happens when I go this long in between posts! I will try not to let that happen again! 

I hope everyone has a wonderful, healthy summer!                          

I will leave you with some pictures! 

Speaking at Clemson!
We have had Stanley ONE year on Sunday, and yes I plan on celebrating :).It sounds crazy, but I am so incredibly thankful for this little dog. He made a rough time SO much better! 
NYC with my cousin! 
Probably one of my favorite days in awhile! Lunch in Bryant Park with my aunt and cousin. 
Strawberry picking!

Jeremy's graduation!

Long Time No Post!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Where to even start???

I apologize for neglecting this little blog! I honestly do not have a good reason why. I have been pretty busy, but I wouldn't use that as an excuse! I think I am really focusing in on how to navigate this post cancer life, and part of that has been taking a step back from this blog. I know I have never been super regular in posting, but I also am not ready to totally give it up. As I do with everything, I am taking it day by day! I'll post when I feel the need to, but if you need updates, I would like my FB page! I am a little better about updating there! 

So my last post left off right before the one year anniversary of my diagnosis. The anticipation of the was actually a lot worse than the actual day. I did do the whole "last year at this time" thing a bit, but it wasn't as traumatic as expected. I went into the school for the morning then my mom and I got lunch and pedicures. It was a nice day, much better than the day had been the year before!

The weekend after the anniversary, my mom and I jetted off to Hawaii! My mom's cousin and his wife graciously offered us a trip all the way out west, and we had a GREAT time! It is gorgeous there! It was nice to get away and relax in a new setting. It was also nice to not have to worry about going somewhere! We did a lot of relaxing on the beach and eating! It was a bit hard at first as it was the first time I had put on a swim suit in over a year. The constant reminder of my scar was a bit unsettling...I can't say I love it, but I know as time goes on it will get better. I would LOVE to go back when I am a bit less limited...I am not really able to swim and we couldn't do any pretty hikes because I'm still not 100% in walking on uneven surfaces. It was the longest I had been away from home since everything. I missed Stanley so much, but it has been COLD here in Greenville since we got back, so I would love to be back in Hawaii! 

Right before we left, I was accepted a part time nannying job! It has been really nice and I am really enjoying it! I nanny 3 days a week, so I still go to the school the other two. It is a nice balance, and seriously keeps me busy! I may not always want to wake up early and go, but I do appreciate that I can! I always try to remember that this is what I wanted a year ago.

I still have PT, but am down to two days a week. Thankfully the nannying job is flexible so I can still go to my appointments. I have made tremendous progress, but my balance and strength still need work. It wears my leg out, but I know it is good! I will look forward to the day I don't have to go anymore!

My hair is seriously coming in! It is just now getting a little curl to it, which should be interesting. I don't really know what to do with it! I like the low maintenance of it, but I do miss my length! It is funny though, I get compliments on my "haircut" at least once on every errand I go on! I don't say that in a braggy way at all, but I think it is so funny! The flight attendant on the flight to Hawaii complimented me and so did an old man sitting next to me when my friend and I got pedicures! I really appreciate it because I can't say I love it yet! I am glad really glad to have hair and have it look "on purpose" again! 

I am speaking at Clemson's University's Relay for Life this Friday. I still have to write what I am going to say, but I am looking forward to the experience! I am not someone who does a lot of public speaking, so fingers crossed I can do it! Put me in a classroom of kids and I have no problem, but put me in front of my peers and I freeze up!! Hopefully I won't, and even if I do, no one is gonna be the one person to laugh at my speech about my experience with cancer!

I will have my scans this Thursday (the 14), and I will meet with my doctor on Monday afternoon. It is going to be a LONG weekend! I will have a bone scan and a CT scan of my lungs. The CT scan is super quick (although they give you this contrast that makes it feel like you wet your pants! Gross, but that seriously is what they tell people and they are right!). The bone scan takes awhile because they have to give me dye through an IV and then I get to come home for three hours while the dye runs its course. Then we go back (luckily this happens at the hospital closer to our house!) and have the scan which is an hour or two. It is a long day! They schedule the scans for me, which I don't love (not just because it messes up my work schedule), but because I was hoping to avoid the weekend of waiting (my doctor doesn't work Fridays). I have peace about them, but can't help but be anxious. These are my first scans I have had since being off treatment this long. I truly am thankful for any good thoughts/prayers/wishes you can send my way! I would also appreciate any of those things for peace of mind while waiting :). I am hopeful it will all be well, but the unknown is so scary. It makes me sick to think about too much! That one meeting could change my life so drastically...I am praying my life looks the same at this point next week as it does right now! 

I cannot really think much past scans at the moment! My brain just kind of stops there. I will (hopefully) be so relieved once they are done. Please pray for good news!

I feel like I had so much more to say...that's what I get for trying to summarize everything in one post! I have a lot on my mind right now about a lot of different things. This post treatment world is great, but also different. I thought I had the mostly completed picture of what my future would look like (well at least the next few years), but cancer changed that. My puzzle was severely messed up and now pieces are missing and I have new ones on the table, but I am not sure how they fit. Hopefully I can figure it out once I get scans overwith! I feel like I am living my life in three month increments this year. Once I get this set overwith I get three more months (prayerfully) which sounds so good!

I promise to keep y'all updated about the results. I also will try to post here at least once or twice a month. I kind of like it as a record to look back on too!

Thanks again for all the love and support over this last year. I could not have made it without it! I hope everyone has a great rest of the week! 

I will leave you with some pictures!

I got new furniture so while I was putting my drawers back together, Stanley thought he would make himself comfortable :)
View from the balcony of where we stayed!