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!