Twas the Night Before Chemo

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tomorrow is I think what I will truly consider the start of this whole thing. The start of chemo. I can't say I am particularly excited. I am excited to start crossing treatments off my list and getting closer to the end, but that's about it. It is going to suck. I know it. I am hoping it will only really suck for a few days and then I will be able to resume some version of normal.

I wouldn't say I am nervous for tomorrow. I mean people get chemo all the time, I am not nervous about what is going to happen tomorrow. I am kind of anxious about how I am going to feel the rest of the week. I think once this first round is over, I will feel better because I will have some idea of what to expect. I think not knowing is the hardest part.

I know the actual event is going to be anti-climatic. It sounds like this big thing, but really it won't be. I don't expect tomorrow to hurt or anything. I am more afraid I may become bored and run out of things to do! I need to pack up my bag of stuff to bring. I feel like I am packing for the first day of school (oh how I wish). I don't know what exactly to bring or not bring. It is just weird. 

Meanwhile, I am trying not to focus on all the "should be" things. I should be having my last day of classes tomorrow. I should be packing up my apartment. I should be getting excited about coming home for the summer. I should be stressing about finals. I should be hanging out with all my friends I won't see over the summer. I should be excited about the summer ahead with two of my favorite kids. I should be planning trips with my friends. Should be, should be, should be....

I am not really prepared to not feel like "me". It is hard to describe, but I am bummed I won't feel like my usual self. I know I may get glimpses of it, but I also know that I am going to be spending a decent amount of time tired and nauseous. I really don't want this whole summer to be a washout. I want to be able to salvage something. I'm honestly kind of scared I won't feel like myself again until this is all over.

On the bright side I had a good weekend. I was able to do a lot of my favorite things. I had a sleepover, went to Starbucks, squeezed in a Target trip, and babysat. I got to spend good quality time with two of my three best friends. All things I hope to continue to do, despite this crappy chemo stuff.

I wish tomorrow did not have a reason to exist, but I can't do anything about that. So I go in tomorrow and then Tuesday armed with my iPad, magazines, and Biology homework. Let's be honest though, it is at 8am so I am probably going to sleep! I have never been a morning person and I don't expect that to change (plus I doubt much sleep will be happening tonight). Prayers the chemo is kind to me, but hell on this cancer are appreciated!!!

I promise to keep you all updated at all times! I am not expecting tomorrow to be too bad, but I have kind of written off the rest of the week. I plan on sleeping a lot and catching up on some DVR!

I hope everyone has a great Monday and that all my friends have a great last day of classes! I can't wait for you all to be home with me!!

But it's strange, when you've always been told something is true, like the moon will come back. You need proof. And while you wait, you feel the entire balance of your world just tipping. It's crazy. But when it's over, and it does come back, that's the best, because it's all you want, everything narrows to just that. It's this great rush, like for that one second everything's okay with the world again. It's amazing.”
― Sarah DessenKeeping the Moon

Ready to Roll

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First some updates:

Today I got my lupron shot and had my chemo orientation. The shot was quick and pretty painless so that was a relief. It turns out I will get the shot once a month (it is a lower dose and works out better). I got a call today from the fertility doctor with the results of a blood test they do to see how many eggs you have. The higher the number the more eggs you have. My number was 6.74 or something, which the lady said was excellent. They really just hope that it is over 1! So that is great news and hopefully they hang on and the lupron will be successful in protecting them!

The orientation went well, I guess. No new information really, it just doesn't get any easier to hear. Some of the side effects are scary, but luckily those are rare and we pray they don't happen to me! I also received a multitude of prescriptions to keep on hand. Many will help with the nausea, one is numbing cream for when they access my port, and one is an antibiotic. They also put me on some medicine that is supposed to counteract some of the side effects of the lupron. For someone who doesn't take more than an occasional ibuprofen or mucienx, it is kind of overwhelming.

So chemo starts Monday at 8am. I believe it takes four hours or so. Then Tuesday I will go again at 8am for the second drug. I then have a 3 week break and then I will have the inpatient treatment. I will be in the hospital the two weeks following the break for that (not for 2 straight weeks...I should get to come home in between!). That is basically the pattern it follows. Assuming that goes according to plan, I am looking at surgery sometime the very end of June or early July. I apologize if that makes no sense, I am still trying to understand it!

People keep asking me if I am nervous. Not really. I mean, I am not excited, but I don't know if nervous is the right word. I want it to start so it can end. I am prepared to feel like crap. I know it is not going to be fun. Will there be good moments? Absolutely. It is just going to be a change...but it is temporary and that is what I have to keep telling myself.

I am not going to lie, this week has been rough emotionally. I have cried a lot. I just feel like I haven't even processed that this is actually freaking happening. I am so mad. How did this become my life!? A really really good family friend said it sometimes feels like I am a visitor to my life. I had not been able to put it into words, but that is exactly it. I keep getting glimpses of my life before all this and then reality comes back crashing down. I had plans and things to do. I did not need this.

I have come to realize that even though I will get back to my old life, it won't be the same. I am not just going to seamlessly flow back into my life before this. I will be a semester behind in school. The way the professional program works, it just has to happen that way. I am angry. I know a semester is nothing in the long run, but I won't get to be in classes with my friends or graduate when they all do. I am a good student. I get good grades and I only skip class when I absolutely have to. It just leads me back to the question of "why is this freaking happening?!"

I know I will get it back, but I am losing a bit of my freedom and "me". I don't know how to be a sick person. I am very independent and love to go and do on my own schedule. I won't have that for awhile. I will have to worry about counts and doctors appointments and hospitalizations. It isn't fair. This is just going to be a temporary change, but it sucks. I just keeping thinking of how good last summer was and how I am not getting that this year. The whole situation just sucks.

On a brighter note, tomorrow my mom and I are going to get passport pictures taken. I wanted to make sure to get one taken before my hair falls out. Next summer, my mom and I are going to Paris, London, and Bruge on a trip with my high school french teacher turned friend (family really at this point!) I am have never been out of the country so I am SO excited! We had signed up to go before all this happened so now it is going to be my big reward for going through all this. This summer may suck, but next summer will (prayerfully) more than make up for it!

I have also purchased several hats/large headbands. The hair thing seems kinda small at the moment, but I know it is going to be hard once it starts happening. Thankfully they make super cute hats so it will just be a new fashion accessory for the time being! The doctor also recommend a wig place to us, so we plan on checking that out as well. As the little boy I have babysat/nannied for several years said when he was told I am going to lose my hair "she is still going to be Fefa!" Kids are seriously the best...and he is right! My hair may be going places, but I am not!

I was pretty upset leaving the doctor today (just overwhelmed really) so I managed to talk my mom into a mall trip. I was able to pick up some cute PJs to wear when I am in the hospital or feel crappy at home.  I have a feeling my collection will only grow over the course of the next 6 months!

So that is it for this week really. I am going to embrace feeling like myself and do all the errands I won't be able to do next week (Target may go broke without my weekly business!).

I have a feeling the blog may have a lot more action in the coming weeks, so I am going to go ahead and apologize for that haha! I want to update and I am not going to sugarcoat anything. If you are not FB friends with me, feel free to add me. Sometimes when I don't feel like writing, I post short updates on there!

This is so not what I expected to be doing at this point in my life, but here we go. Thank you again for all the love and support, kind words, prayers, etc. I am eternally grateful to you all! Keep them coming!! The hardest part is about to start...but the sooner it starts the sooner it ends! What a fabulous day that will be...

Love to you all! And good luck to all my college friends finishing their semester! Hurry up and come home so you can keep my sick self company. Finals suck but things could be worse ;). Humor is necessary at all times!
P.S. Loved hearing/reading all the things everyone did for Sweet 16!! I have big plans for this to be a monthly thing! Thanks again for all the love and support...yall are amazing!

Some Updates

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I haven't given an update in awhile, so I figured I would go ahead and do that.

First up, the medical part of my life:

I got my port placed last Friday. The procedure was quick and the doctor said it went well. It has been extremely sore and uncomfortable this last week. I think that goes away eventually. It is slightly bruised and there are 2 incision marks. The actual port is A LOT smaller than I had thought! It isn't very noticeable if you are facing me, but you can see if from the side. I thought it was going to be a lot more noticeable so I am glad it is not! The biggest struggle has been with adhesive. I have to keep it covered until the glue rubs off. I have always had sensitive skin and sometimes get allergic reactions to adhesive. This makes wearing these bandaids EXTREMELY ITCHY! We try and reposition the bandaids each time to allow the skin to breathe, but I will be so happy to not have to cover it up anymore! The other issue is that I like to fall asleep on my stomach. The first two nights, that was impossible, but I am slowly finding a way to do it!

I met with the fertility doctor today. I cannot say I ever expected to find my 20 year old self there (with my mom!). Originally I thought we would be freezing my eggs, but that process takes several weeks and we want to start this chemo already. Instead, I will have a shot of lupron. They have a 3 month shot, so I will get two of them over the course of treatment. My nonmedical explanation is that it shuts down your ovaries so they don't release any eggs, therefore not exposing them to the chemo. Once I finish chemo, they will have to "wake up" and should resume their function. Both the fertility doctor and Dr. B think that I should not have any problem with the shots. I was originally told there would be a 14% chance of fertility issues, but the doctor today said 10% chance at the most with these shots. Two of the chemo drugs I will get are not even on the list of drugs that mess with fertility, and the one that is, is at the very bottom of the list. The bright side of this is no periods for however long! The downside of this is that I am talking about possible fertility issues at TWENTY. Also the shots have some side effects so I will be on some medicine that will counteract them.

Just FYI the BC (before cancer) me would never have DREAMED about posting stuff about ovaries and periods on a public blog where everyone from my old teachers to my dad (sorry dad) can read! The AD (after diagnoses) me no longer cares! (well I guess I still kind of care, but not enough to not post about them!).

So when will I start chemo? Great question, I am wondering myself. Not that I am excited to feel nauseous and tired all the time, but I am ready to get this show on the road. I wanna get started because the sooner it starts the sooner it ends. I will have the lupron shot before any chemo starts. Dr. B is going to call me tomorrow to figure things out. I am hoping I will start maybe the end of next week. When I know, I promise you all will know too!

I think that is all the medical stuff for now. Now onto more fun stuff.

My cousins were able to come into town last weekend. I know that 14 hour drive is no fun, but I am SO thankful they did it anyway! It was so great to have them here. We have been through a lot the last two or so years, but it did not mess with our sense of humor or love of being together. I was so sad to see them go and am counting down till they come back!

Yesterday I drove down to Columbia for the day. It was great to see my apartment and friends down there. I never thought I would be sad to leave that apartment, but I was! The semester is almost finished and I am so glad all my friends will soon be home! They may not be as excited because I am going to force them all to come to my treatments with me and keep my sick self company!

Being back in Columbia was sad. I never expected to be back like this. We went to the Chipotle I have been to a million times, but this time was different. I wanted to go up to every single person in the restaurant and tell them how lucky they are. They may have a lot of work to do finishing up the semester, but their college life is still the same. They just have no idea. Oddly enough, I do not feel this way about hearing my friends complain about classes. I think it is because my friends know. Their worlds have been rocked too. Not that I want anyone to go through what I am currently going through, but I just want people to know that it does happen. It happens to anyone. Just a month ago, I was a regular college kid getting dinner at Chipotle.

I was angry when I got home. I am angry that the semester is almost over, yet I haven't even started treatment. I am not sure if this could have been prevented or fixed, but I am still mad. I am tired of waiting. I am tired of being uncomfortable. It just sucks because this is just the beginning. It is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. And that sucks. I just want to go back to my life before. But everyday is one day closer to being done! That is what I need to focus on!

I meet with the counselor tomorrow. I am kind of excited. I think it is going to be really helpful for me. I still get horrible, mean waves. Right before they took me back for my port procedure, I had a breakdown. I was just so sad. All my friends were at school in classes and I was getting wheeled back for surgery. It was just a moment of reality slapping me in the face. I need to get used to hospital rooms unfortunately.

Have you ever had a bad dream that you feel so glad to wake up from? I feel like I can't wake up. Not that every minute is some horrible nightmare, but when I wake up the first thought that hits me is "well this is real life".  I am thinking that may stop eventually, but right now it is not a fun way to wake up. When did this happen to me? When did this become real life?!

On the bright side, I was able to bring my TV back from Columbia to put in my room. My parents have always been super anti-TV in bedrooms, so this was a nice surprise. Sadly it is under these conditions, but I am excited to be able to catch up on DVR from my bed! And I need a little table to put the TV on in my room so I get a shopping trip out of it! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a needed shopping trip :).

I have started looking into fun hats and wigs. If anyone knows where to get good, well made wigs, please let me know! I'm trying not to think too much about losing my hair and rather just embrace it while I have it. I do have to say that all this rainy weather is making me excited I won't have to deal with hair in the humidity! Also less shaving this summer! Bright side again.

I started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. If you haven't watched it yet, you need to! It is so funny and good. Anyway, in one of the episodes Kimmy talks about how you can survive anything 10 seconds at a time. Thats my goal! I can and I will get through this! I have times where I am feeling ready to fight and get this behind me, then other moments where I think there is no way in hell I can and whoever thought I could was wrong. I was talking to my roommates last night before I left and I was saying how I am not cut out for this type of thing. My roommate, Amanda, listened to me complain then said "but you are". It was really encouraging to hear that other people think I am! I know I am. I am so thankful to have friends that will bring me back to reality when I go way too far out.

I apologize for any grammar errors or if something doesn't make sense! I just wanted to write and did not really organize anything!

Thanks again for all the love and support!!!!! I keep saying that, but I feel like I will never be able to thank everyone enough!

Also if you haven't, be sure to read my post from yesterday :)

Life is full of unbreakable moments. Watch the new Netflix Original Series 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' starring Ellie Kemper! #StreamTeam

Sweet 16

Monday, April 13, 2015

Well, we are coming up on a month since this all started. I have been trying to figure out what to do on that day to distract myself from the feelings March 16 caused. It is just not a day I want to ever go back to.

16 used to be my favorite number actually. I don't have a particular reason, I just always liked it. I am not going to let this experience change that.

I'm sharing this in hopes that some of you will also participate. You don't have to, but I plan on it.

I wanna make this Thursday, April 16 sweet. To do that, I wanna spread kindness. This could be as easy as holding the door open for someone or as fancy as paying for the person behind you at Starbucks. Anything to make the day a little "sweeter" for someone! Maybe you can send a text to someone you've been thinking about or just be a little nicer to a sibling. Say yes to something you usually say no to or bring a friend their favorite treat. It doesn't matter what it is, just do something! And maybe go a little out of your comfort zone to do it!! I know I hate doing stuff like that, but this whole experience is out of my comfort zone, so it can be done!

I seriously struggle with finding any meaning in this deal. The only way I can accept it a tiny bit is if some good comes from it. This is just the start.

Feel free to share this post! And share what you do to make it a "sweet 16" (it should also be noted that I love cheesy names and to play on words so this worked too perfectly) here on this blog or on Facebook! 

You never know what people are going through or dealing with so a simple act of kindness may make their whole day. 

Love to you all! 

Cancer Doesn't Care

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cancer doesn't care. But I do. And you should.

My name is Samantha. I am 20 years old and a sophomore at USC. I am studying Early Childhood Education and plan on becoming a kindergarten or first grade teacher. I babysit/nanny, so clearly I like to spend time with kids! I love to shop, hang out with my friends, and bake. I love to listen to music, especially One Direction and Taylor Swift (no judgement :) ). I am totally obsessed with celebrity gossip and watch just about everything on TLC. I led a pretty normal life, but on March 16, after some pretty harmless knee pain, I was diagnosed with cancer.

This cancer thing is a jerk. There is not one kind thing to say about it. I usually try to look for the best in people/things, but there simply aren't any to say.  It doesn't care if you are rich or poor, girl or boy, young or old, the mother of Taylor Swift or just an ordinary mother. It It can happen to anyone. And it does.

I know it is a complicated disease and cases vary so much, but why is this not being treated like the epidemic it is? I feel like everyday I hear of someone new who has or has had cancer.  My mom told me the other night that a young adult my age is diagnosed with cancer every 8 minutes. THIS IS NOT OKAY. I know there are plenty of very smart people working for a cure, but it is not enough. Sure, we have come a long way, but we have a very long way to go.

While the treatments we have can be successful in a lot of cases, they don't come without sacrifices. Chemo is toxic. It is a poison. Anyone who has had chemo (myself included) has allowed their body to be pumped with poison. Why are we okay with this?

I am extremely lucky, and I know that. Not everyone gets the news I have. Some people have treatment for years and years. It is 2015 and we are one of the strongest countries in the world. We have phones smarter than some people, cars that can talk to us, and $1000 dollar smart watches, but we still have people suffering and dying from a disease. That's messed up.

Is it an awareness issue? I don't know. I feel like most people are aware of cancer. There are commercials and fundraisers. Apparently it takes more. Don't get me wrong, I love pop culture more than most people, but imagine if instead of making billion dollar movies, we used some of that money to find a cure.

Sure there are movies that deal with cancer (pretty sure I am throwing out my copy of The Fault In Our Stars), but it isn't reality. This disease isn't just affecting people in movies. It is affecting our children, our friends, our mothers, our fathers. Just because it has not affected anyone close to you, does not mean it is not happening. It is easy to turn a blind eye. I have been guilty of that before. That is going to stop now. I am sorry that it took this, but it is never too late to start making a change.

Next time you here of someone being diagnosed, think on a more personal level. Every single person has family and friends that are also being affected by this mess of a disease. We owe it to every person to help. Every person has a story like mine at the beginning of this post. If you have a story, share it. Sometimes it takes getting on a personal level for people to understand and want to make a difference.

Today I am not angry for myself. I am angry for every person who has ever had their own March 16 or will have their own. I am sorry for them. I am sorry for me.

Cancer is a war, and I am just gearing up for battle. We spend BILLIONS of dollars on other is time we put some of that money and energy to this one.

Cancer is a lot of things, but it is NOT stronger than we are. It is not going to take me down, because once I finish, I will take it down. I don't know by what means yet, but I have big plans and will need help. Cancer has messed with the wrong person!

If this post makes you angry...GOOD. It should. Let's all take that anger and use it to make a change. There is too much good in the world for cancer to be the terrible thing that it is.

P.S. I know many of you leave comments on Facebook, but feel free to comment here too! I'd love to know who is reading :)! UPDATE: I fixed the comment thing so now anyone should be able to comment! There is an anonymous option which should let anyone post :)!

I Have Cancer

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I fancied up the blog a bit since some of you may have last visited! I thought this was a little easier to read and more sophisticated! Some of my more recent/popular posts show up on the right and the social media symbols at the bottom of each post allow you to easily share the post if you want to!

The other night my family and I watched The Theory of Everything. It was a great movie (maybe a bit too sad), but otherwise good. Not in any way comparing the ALS to what I'm dealing with, but it was just crazy to see how fast he deteriorated. I have been handed a lot of unfortunate news, but I cannot imagine being told that I would lose the ability to talk and walk. It is kinda crazy how you get this new perspective.

It got me thinking how the heck our bodies just fail us. Fail is a slightly dramatic word, but you get the point. I had a check up in December and I was declared perfectly fine. How the heck did this happen?! Was the cancer in my leg then too? And how the hell did I get cancer?? I've never had anything worse than the flu before. I eat well, try to use natural type products when I can, and take care of myself. No one in my family gets sick. People in my family live forever without ever getting sick.  How did this happen!?

Sometimes thinking of the how distracts me from thinking of the why. I know I have said before asking that is pointless, but I can't help it. It is an automatic reaction. Why is this happening to me?! No one has a good answer. I honestly cannot come up with anything.

I just got a call from the chemo doctor (I'll call him Dr. B for future reference). My biopsy came back positive, as expected, for osteosarcoma. While I expected this, now I have to actually accept it. I haven't been able to say "I have cancer" out loud. I know it is happening but I can't believe it. I have a meeting tomorrow with Dr. P (the orthopedic oncologist) to discuss the biopsy. Dr. B said the news doesn't change anything, just allows us to go forward, but prayers for a good meeting tomorrow are appreciated!

I have an appointment next week with a counseling lady from the Cancer Society here in Greenville. I know I have plenty of family and friends who I can talk to (and I will), but my mom and I both thought it would be good for me to talk to someone outside the situation with experience in the field. I either feel fine or I am curled up on the couch balling my eyes out. There are a lot of programs out there to help, so I am definitely going to start taking advantage of them.

I know everyone wants to come visit and help. I sincerely appreciate and plan on taking everyone up on those offers. I just need to slowly expand my circle. I know everyone feels better after they see me. Right now, I have 0 symptoms. I am still having that weird knee pain when I bend, but that is literally it. I am running, walking, etc all fine. I don't feel sick or look any different. Once treatment starts and I begin to process what is happening, I am sure I will want visitors. Please don't be offended or think I don't want to see you! I just need to remain in my little bubble for now. Please feel free to text or message me! You can call, but I'm gonna be honest and say I am not great at talking on the phone.

Needless to say, this is not at all how I imagined I would be spending the end of my sophomore year and my summer. I am completely bummed. What the heck happened?! One minute I was stressed about an upcoming math test, and now here I am dealing with all of this.

Tomorrow I have a PET scan then that meeting with Dr. P. Thursday I don't have any appointments, but my cousins are coming (!!!!)! I am so excited for them to be here! Then Friday I get my port put in. It is just a minor outpatient procedure. Next Wednesday I have an appointment with the reproductive specialist to talk about freezing my eggs. I am not sure when chemo will start, but my guess would be either the end of next week or the week following. The first chemo drugs are the outpatient ones, I think the one that requires hospitalization isn't till the third week.

Thank you again for all the thoughts, prayers, love, and support! Please keep them coming... they are working, but we have a long road ahead! Currently, just pray it continues not to spread, it responds well to the treatment, and for a good meeting tomorrow! I will be sure to update at least on Facebook sometime tomorrow.

This is not an adventure I would have picked, but here I go anyway. Everyday is one day closer to getting to put this behind me (which I will and I am already planning the massive party for when this is all over!)! Like I said when I first found out, at least now I will have an interesting fact to share about me during all those "getting to know you" type things that happen! I may have cancer, but cancer does not have me!

I know most of you are on Facebook, but for those who aren't here is a picture of me and my brother on Easter!

So much love to all of you! (also I bought cute thank you notes, fun pens, and new address labels so I can tackle my running list of people to thank! I am slowly starting to work on those!)