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! 

Well, It Is March Again

Monday, March 7, 2016

Well friends, we are closing in on a year since D-Day.

I have a lot I want to say (as a matter of fact, I have started this post three previous times), but am struggling to share it. 

I get all nervous and sweaty when I think about March 16 showing up in the calendar again. Part of me wants to sleep the entire day and part of me feels like celebrating how far we have come from that day. I honestly have no idea how to feel or what to expect about that day. I know I have to go into the school to help with some testing they have going on, but other than that, I do not know what we will do.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my last normal day at college. I only went to one class the morning of the 16th and then never went back. It is USC's Spring Break this week, which is causing all sorts of PTSD (hate to compare it, but even my therapist agreed it is a form of it). Even the weather warming up recently has me remembering last year at this time. I absolutely hate it.

I am hoping the anticipation of the day is worse than the actual day. I think the days after will be sorta rough too. I know it can be hard to imagine if you have not experienced something like this (you might be thinking "it is just a day!"), and you are right, but it is also a huge marker in my life. March 15, 2015 was the last night I went to sleep as my old self. I am healthy now, but I will never be as healthy as I was (mentally at least) before March 16, 2015. I will never be the person I was before all of this again. I have always been sentimental about dates (I believed I have mentioned before that I remember lots of dates of all kinds of things), and this is just another one to get through.

Looking back, I honestly have no idea how I made it through those first few days. I do not remember all the details (thank goodness), but it is truly proof you can get through anything. How I made it through all those days, I have no clue. 

I remember last year at this time SO clearly. To think of all I had coming literally makes me nauseous. The Timehop app is a blessing and a curse. I love to see what I did in years past, but I also kinda hate it at the moment. Who knew last year at this time my sore knee was cancer??????

It is weird, I kinda miss it. Please do not take this in the wrong way. I absolutely 100% do NOT want to go back. Ever. I think I just became comfortable in that routine and having to figure out a new one is throwing me off. I do not miss chemo or hospitals or blood draws or anything at all. It is seriously a weird feeling. I am so thankful to be where I am, do not get me wrong. It is just an adjustment. I feel like I went to being sick to being out in the world, I do not feel like I ever really transitioned. I currently am trying to figure out a lot of things that I would not have ever imagined having to figure out. I thought I new what the next 3 years would look like, but it has all been flipped around and I do not really know where I am right now. 

I do know that I do freak out at every pain I get. Well not freak out, but my first thought is not one most people have. I can talk myself out of it (and has gotten better), but I hope that this goes away. It is almost a paralyzing feeing. I have come a long way, but I still have miles to go on this whole "getting back to normal" thing. I also sometimes eat something and expect my mouth to hurt. This happens especially with chips and other things that were hard to eat when I had them. It is so nice it does not actually hurt! 

Life is different now than it was before March 16 (duh). There has been some bad, but also so much good between now and then. I am thankful to have made it through this last year. And I thank you for sticking around as well! This recovery thing is still just as important as the fighting part. I still miss my old life and have moments of "what the heck happened??". It is absolutely crazy when I think about this last year. I feel like I had more to say, but it is not coming to me at the moment!

On an update front, (I do update my FB more often than this blog--Cancer Can't Drag Us Down-Strong and Sassie), there is not much to update on really! I got my port flushed and Lupron shot last week (took FOREVER as they recently got a new computer system and to say it is not going smoothly would be an understatement). I actually drove by the turn for the Cancer Center, which I took as a good sign! My port did not have blood return, but the nurse said we would try again next month. I do not really know why or what that means (and I don't think it matters much). I delivered some gift baskets to the nurses at the hospital a few weeks ago, and although it was weird being back, it did not hurt as much as I thought! I was super happy to leave without having to wait for discharge! It was so nice to see everyone and for them to see how well I am doing. It is amazing how good you can feel when you don
'T spend 3 weeks each months pumping poison in your body! I am still doing PT 3x a week and have come a long way! My energy comes back a little more each day. I am definitely less tired than I was a month ago! I also shaved my legs and started washing my hair again! I have full coverage and then some. I definitely do not think you would necessarily be able to tell I was sick. I do not really know what to do with it! Headbands are becoming uncomfortable, but I feel like it looks weird without one. I also have a weird cowlick going on, which I did not know I had! I will have scans sometime in April (I am guessing at the beginning), but there really is not much going on medically, thank goodness! I have waited a long time to report that! 

Please keep everyone fighting in your thoughts and prayers. Everyday people have their own "March 16ths". Some may not even know there's is coming. Last year at this time, I still had no idea. Cancer is a horrible, horrible disease. I beat it, but it still sucks!

Thank you for all the love this last year! You guys truly made it bearable. 

I hope everyone has a great week! I am off to get some dinner and watch the Bachelor (totally Team Lauren.....cannot WAIT for the finale next week! Thanks to my aunt and cousin for getting me addicted to it!). 

Now for some pictures :)

Yes that is a dog booster seat in the car and yes, I did purchase it! I cannot get the pic of him in t to upload but it is awesome! I accept the title crazy dog lady, but it truly is for safety too! He likes to sit on my lap while I drive, which is not recommended. This way, he is strapped in, safe, and can still stick his nose out the window :)
One of my cousins came to visit last weekend and we have such a nice visit!

We took Stanley to the dog park and he LOVES it!
Very first time voting!

An Idea List and Other Things

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Not much has changed since my last post, but I felt like writing (aka avoiding my homework), so here we are!

I was recently asked what I would suggest a friend put in a chemo bag for someone she knew. I figured I would post my list here as well so others may find it helpful! I will say it definitely has a feminine influence (I mean I wrote it), but I am sure guys would like similar things!

Chemo Suggestion List (in no particular order):

1. Chapstick- my lips got SO chapped! I never experienced super dry skin, but my lips definitely got dry. I typically use Burt's Bees, but have found Blistex and Softlips to be good as well!

2. Some nice face wipes- When I was too tired to shower or take a bath, I liked to wipe down with some nice smelling face wipes. I also really liked to use them in the hospital to help freshen me up! Make sure they aren't makeup remover wipes...most brands have some that are more cleansing! I used the Say Yes to....brand. I like the blueberry! 

3. Evian Mineral Water facial spray- This was a new product I discovered! I know it sounds like a rip off, but it really made my face feel clean and soft! I also would use this as a body spray in the hospital or if I was too weak to shower. Anything that helps one feel clean in that situation is good! A little goes a long way too...I have had mine since the summer and it is still not empty! Also this could be useful to non chemo people is a nice little refresher and it won't mess up your makeup! I found mine at is what the bottle looks like: 

4. Mints, Jolly Ranchers, or other hard candies- Sometimes chemo can taste bad going in or leave a funny taste in your mouth. We learned quickly to keep some Jolly Ranchers on hand after Methotrexate! 

5. Some nice stuff for the bath- I took a lot of baths because I was too weak to stand and shower (also because of my leg surgery). I had purchased some bath bombs and bath bars from Lush that made the bath so much nicer! I do not love baths, so it helped to have some stuff to make me like them! I also got a bath pillow off Amazon that suctioned to the tub that helped make baths more comfortable. I always love Bath and Body Works body gel and use that to make the bath water smell good!

6. Some body spray- I mentioned before that I did not use my good perfume during treatment. I did not want to ruin my favorite ones with bad memories! I went to Bath and Body Works and bought a few little body sprays in random scents to use in the mean time. 

7. Some fun cups- you are supposed to stay SUPER hydrated so I always had a cup with me. I found several cute ones at Target that had a rubbery straw that was easier to use when I had mouth sores. I do not know the brand, but I would recommend them for sure! You can find cute cups of all kinds almost anywhere! 

8. Sleep mask- I got one of these for my birthday, but how I wish I had gotten one sooner! I like to sleep in the dark, and this would have been SO helpful, especially in the hospital. It would also have come in handy for sleep a lot during chemo and a mask would be helpful for all the naps during the day! 

9. Fuzzy blankets or nice sheets -I LOVE blankets..probably because my house is always cold. You typically spend a lot more time in bed than usual, so I loved to have fuzzy blankets to snuggle under and some clean sheets! There is nothing better than clean sheets. I got 2 new sets during chemo since I spent so much time in cheered me up (plus my other sheets were quite old). 

10. Tote bags- I received one that said "kicking cancer's @$$" and I LOVED it! I used it as my main chemo bag. Whether packing to go spend the day at the Cancer Center or to go to the hospital, you can never have too many bags!

11. Of course, magazines (maybe a subscription?), fuzzy socks, cute hair bands, hand sanitizer, nail polish, movies, candles, etc are always good options too!

I would love to hear if anyone else has any other suggestions! I hope my list can be helpful. If I can ever be of more help message me on FB or let me know somehow!

In other news, life is good! I have had a cough/sore throat thing all week, so I haven't felt 100% but hopefully I can kick it soon! It is nice to not be freaking out about fevers or going to the hospital! It doesn't get worse, but I may go to the doctor next week if it doesn't seem to go away!

I have been keeping busy at the school and with babysitting! I am enjoying this weekend with nothing to do (besides homework). It is extremely cold so I am just fine with staying inside!

In fun news, I got a new car this past Monday! We had kind of been talking about it for awhile and then last week we went to look. I loved my first car, but it was very basic and had some bad memories associated with it. I am so thankful my dad was able to get a GREAT deal on a new car and am ready to make new memories with it! I never got a good picture of it, but here is what my dad sent me when he got it. It is a Hyundai Elantra GT (another hatchback!) and it is so cute! Plus it has some really cool features (obsessed with SirusXM radio). 

I have eyebrows and eyelashes again!!! I am SO HAPPY to have my eyebrows back! I also started wearing mascara this past lashes are not full grown yet, but am SO glad to be able to wear mascara again (it is always my go to makeup product!). My had is still fuzzy and I actually had someone ask if I had cancer or if I cut my hair like that the other day (the person asking turned out to be another survivor). I don't think my hair looks on purpose, but it is cool other people may think so! It has allowed me to have some neat interactions with people when out, so that is a bright side. 

I don't have much else to report! I have some schoolwork to do, but my class ends this month so it will be nice to not have to worry about schoolwork for a little! 

I hope everyone has a great weekend and stays warm!

Life Post Chemo (One Month)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It has been awhile since I posted an update, so here we update about life a little over a month post chemo!

It has been a very busy couple of weeks for me! A good busy though, and I am thankful to once again be leaving the house and getting to go places!

We had a little snowstorm last almost two weeks ago. We got ice and some snow, which was fun. I love snow days and I totally embraced them! I stayed inside and baked. I took Stanley out in the snow and he LOVED it! Not surprising, as the dog seems to love everything, but it was so cute! It is gonna be 67 tomorrow, so we will see if we get anymore winter weather this year!

I have been keeping busy!! I have been doing tons of errands. I am happy to say that I have reestablished my presence at Target. I have cleaned my room and gotten it back to how it "should" be. I did have to go get a new comforter as we had taken mine off and when I went to put it back on, it did not look nice. I know it is risky to have a white comforter, but I love it! I like my new one even better so all is well. It is nice to feel like my room is mine again and not my sick room!

I have been spending LOTS of time in the 2nd grade class! I love it and it makes me so excited for the future. I am not getting credit for school, but I do have to complete a project for my children's lit class. I forgot how exhausting it is to wake up early and jump into action! I love having a reason to get up and get dressed though. Plus, I am done by 2 so I still have a day once I finish. It is so much fun to be around kids again! I was worried about how they would react to my hair, but the kids have been so sweet. Everyone has really. I am thankful to have the opportunity to do this! It is such good experience and will definitely look good, even if I do not get credit for completing a practicum.

Speaking of my hair, it is coming in! I put on my shorts for PT the other day and it occurred to me that I should probably shave my legs..I haven't shaved since my surgery in August. I hate it, but it is one of those normal things I am happy to have back. My head is super fuzzy and you can definitely see it. I am waiting for coverage and cannot wait till you cannot see my scalp! I also have baby eyebrows and eye lashes!! PRAISE! I cannot WAIT till they are back full time. It is exciting to see it all come in! I have even started using conditioner in the shower!

I apologize for the super awkward pictures, but I wanted to illustrate haha! 

I also babysat for the first time since the summer last night! It is exciting to be at the point where not only can I take care of myself, I can now also take care of other people! I have missed it. I remember wondering if I would ever get back to that, and I am so happy to say I have.

I am still doing PT 2 to 3 times a week. I can see the improvements. I am walking so much better! Not 100%, but we are getting there. My leg hurts if I am on it all day, which I have been lately, but it is not gonna get better without some pain! I do look forward to the day my leg feels "normal" again. I know it will happen eventually!

Other than PT, I have stayed out of doctors offices! It is so weird, but nice, to not being at the doctors once a week. I did get my port flushed and my lupron injection last week. I do not think I will be back 
at the Cancer Center till the end of the month for my next flush and shot! 

I had an awesome 21st! My mom and I went out to brunch on Friday, where I had my first legal drink (a mimosa!). We did some shopping, then my family and I went to a fancy dinner that night. We splurged and ate and it was SO good! I tried wine and a cordial, but was not a fan of either. I may be the lamest 21 year old ever! I do plan to keep trying things though, I will acquire the taste!

Saturday, I knew one of my best friends was picking me up for dinner. She and I had made plans like earlier that week. What I did not know was that two of my other best friends had come home from Columbia to surprise me!! I walked into the restaurant and they were already at the booth! I am not often surprised (I am nosy), but I literally almost cried. We missed my other best friend who is in Scotland studying abroad. It was a lovely night and I was SOOOOOOOOO happy to get to celebrate with my friends. I had been so bummed about not seeing them and it meant the world that they drove up to celebrate! We enjoyed dinner then went to the Melting Pot for dessert. I am so unbelievably thankful for my friends! 

I believe I mentioned the drama with my license on my last post. Well, it turns out they cannot renew it because my eye exam is out of date. When we mailed the paperwork to renew it in the first time (back in December!), it was not. My chemo doctor told me not to get an eye exam until later this spring because chemo can mess with your eye site (it relaxes muscles or something). Problem is, insurance only covers one eye exam a year, so needless to say, this is quite an ordeal. We are hoping the eye doctor can do something that is not a full exam, just to satisfy the DMV. I personally find this ridiculous. I cannot be the only person who has had an issue like this! Nothing can ever just be easy! I am thankful, however, that this is now my biggest problem!

So, all in all, things are good. I feel great and am going and doing. I do get tired a bit more easily, so I sleep really well at night. I love bedtime! 

Life is resuming a version of normal and I am so thankful. Sometimes I read over old posts and am amazed at how far I have managed to come. I am so thankful! Life is not perfect, but it is good and I will never take it for granted again! I will say it is frustrating to feel so good, because I feel like I may overdo it some days. I want to go and do so much, but I have to pull back and remember that I still have recovering to do. It is all about balance and I am working to find what that means for me. 

The boys!

New bedding! No longer a "sick" bed

Birthday Pictures 2016!

first legal drink with friends!

Stanley and I took a trip to Petsmart to get him some low-fat food! The vet was not happy with his weight gain...I think he is perfect :). He loved the pet store, he was just mad I made him stay in the cart!

First legal drink!

I do not think this is a gross picture, but I thought I would post a picture of my scar, for documentation sake. I have shown people and they are surprised by how long it is! I do not love it and it will be interesting to see how it affects me once shorts are back in, but it could be so much worse so I will take it! It really doesn't look bad considering what was done!

The Big 2-1

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Well, as of tomorrow (Friday the 29th) at 1:15pm I will no longer be 20 years old.

I am a big lover of birthdays. I love my own birthday almost as much as I love other people's birthdays. I think everyone should feel special every minute of their day. I love to decorate for parties and surprise people. Birthdays only come once a year and I am a total believer in celebrating as much as possible!

Needless to say, I am not spending my 21st birthday the way I imagined. I remember thinking about how cool it was that this birthday happened to fall on a Friday. Not that I ever planned to go out and party super hard, but I probably would have gone out with some friends to do some celebrating. Instead, I will go out with my mom for brunch and then my family and I are going to a nice dinner. I am just as happy to do that, it just wasn't what I had planned (but what about this past year was really ha!). I am still hoping for a fun day and a nice weekend. 

I have had some awesome birthdays the last few years. Two years ago (my first birthday at school), it snowed and classes were canceled! It was nice to have the day off and we braved the roads that night and went out for dinner. Last year was probably one of my favorite birthdays ever. My friends made it SO special from the second I woke up (literally one of my best friends stopped by my apartment on her way to class that morning and put balloons all over my floor and left me pancakes!) till the second I went to sleep. It was awesome. I am really, really, really going to miss them tomorrow. 

I can't type this post without some reflection of my 20th year. Not my favorite year to say the least. I experienced a lot and I think I really grew some as a person. I am kind mad I got somewhat robbed of my year, if I am being honest. I feel like I want a redo of being 20. It is kinda funny because I do not usually dread birthdays or getting older, but for some reason I had a hard time with 20. Maybe subconsciously somewhere I knew it was not going to be my best year? I don't know, but I feel a lot better about 21! 

On another note, my birthday last year was one of the last memories that sticks out before everything happened. I still have all the pictures we took on my phone because I just couldn't delete them. I had that we are getting into the "last year at this time" phase of this journey, but we are. It makes me sad, but also relieved to not be there. Just as everything so far has been, it is a weird feeling. 

So, I won't be celebrating my 21st like most people do. I spent enough time nauseous and dizzy these last ten months anyway ;)! I am still excited to turn 21. I have decided that turning 22 will actually be better (not just because the Taylor Swift song says so), but because all my friends will be of age by then. The majority of my close friends are not yet 21, so I think the real celebration will be next year anyway! 

Of course, my license expires tomorrow as well. This would happen the year I have NO HAIR on my birthday! At first they were going to make me take a new picture, but we found a nice lady when we called the DMV who agreed that would be ridiculous. Instead, I will be getting another five year license with my same picture on it. So yes, my 16 year old self will be on my license till I am 26! Just a small thing that is not something many would think about, but I had to! 

Speaking of hair, all I really want for my birthday is a bit more coverage and my eyebrows and eyelashes back! I have some baby hairs coming in and my head is fuzzy, but I would really like my head to be covered! Plus it is cold! 

So *cheers* to 21. May it be filled with fun and friends and NO hospital visits or sickness! I feel like I should have some deeper thoughts on this subject, but I spent all day in the second grade class I am working with so I am exhausted! Maybe I will have some more thoughts after I get some sleep! 

I am another year older, wiser, and more grateful. Picture Quote #1

Obviously the Bachelor drama isn't enough to keep Stanley's attention.

Not the best picture, but he fell asleep like that! In my arms! I was so happy!

I love everything about this picture

This is his "seriously a button up shirt AND a bow tie?" face


Just thought I would include some pictures from my birthday dinner last year! I hope to have hair that long again soon!