Some Thoughts on Two Years

Friday, December 29, 2017

This past December 22 was my two year off chemo-anniversary! In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, and in other ways, it seems like two years isn't that long at all.

This second year was much better than last year. Things have become somewhat more "normal".  I have settled into new routines, my hair is at a length I don't hate, and my scans are now at 6 month increments. Two years ago, reaching this point seemed lightyears away, so I don't take a second of this for granted.

All that being said, this year was not without challenges. Challenges that relate to cancer and challenges that come up with life (because unfortunately getting cancer doesn't disqualify you from other crappy things). Luckily, after cancer, anything seems manageable, so there's that!

I think this year, the realization that cancer is forever really set in. I am now back on the road I had planned for myself, but I have to make accommodations for what happened. This will affect everything in my future in someway. It has been kind of a lot to take in.

I had a first, despite it being my second year. I had my first real sickness. I am not a person who gets sick (thats why it is almost laughable that I got CANCER). I had a sinus infection this past summer, but  I can't remember the last time (before cancer) that I had anything other than a cold. Anyway, I managed to pick up the nasty cough crud that was going around literally everywhere. It came on in stages and lasted for a month. Turns out I had a terrible case of bronchitis and a sinus infection. Nothing a little mucienx and antibiotic couldn't fix, but it still freaked me out. I think during cancer you get so used to feeling sick and then once you feel better, it really freaks you out to be sick again (even if it is minor). It took me a month to kick it, and at one point I did get a little fever. I felt the fever come on and honestly it scared me at first. I started to feel really dizzy and my first thought was I was going to end up in the hospital. Clearly, my mindset isn't that of your average person when they get a fever! It was definitely a reminder for me to not take being healthy for granted, but also that this cancer stuff has a deeper affect on me than I may realize.

I still measure time in increments of scans. I have a couple of very fun things this summer (including seeing Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden!!!), and in my head I calculate how many scans I have to pass to feel confident I can be excited. I feel like I should be able to relax a little (and it definitely isn't as bad as it was at first), but scans will always bring out a sense of anxiety for me.

I still cannot eat avocado (plain, at least) or those brownie crisps. I still cannot handle the taste of ice. I still sometimes smell the hospital. I finally bought a plastic bin that I have simply labeled “2015”. Everything I wore or that reminds me of that year goes in the bin. For some reason I couldn’t get rid of it, so for now, this will do. 

I think as things become more normal again, processing cancer becomes different. I am doing my best to move on (in a way) but also allow myself to process what happened. It still feels completely unbelievable that this happened to me.

On a more "updateful" note, I am about to start my last semester of school (finally!). I will be full time student teaching and I am SO excited! It has been a long time coming :). I have been keeping busy with school, work, and lots of babysitting. I will have scans at the end of January. This is my first set since my doctor moved me to 6 month increments, so it has been awhile!

Some of you may have seen that I was lucky enough to attend the AYA Global Cancer Congress, which was hosted by Teen Cancer America in Atlanta at the beginning of December. I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to attend! I am working on writing up something about it to share with them, so will be sure to share it with you too! It was an amazing experience.

I am also in the process of becoming a volunteer for the hospital system where I was treated (and yes it is a PROCESS. I started in October and am still not through). I am hopeful I will be cleared soon and can begin working with the doctors in charge of the AYA program they have going. It is fairly new and they are inviting me in as a patient advocate for the program. I am SOOOO excited about this. There is lots of room for growth, but things are in motion and I am thrilled to get to be a part of it!

All in all, things are moving forward, as I wanted them to two years ago. I remember when the nurse coordinator came to visit me in the hospital one of my last inpatient stays she said that next year at this time I would be celebrating a year off treatment. Here we are, two years later! It is just amazing to me that I went through what I did and am where I am now. I know it sounds cheesy, but I continue to be amazed by all the continued love and support. My story is not unique (unfortunately), and I could only hope that everyone has the support that I still do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I will close with a fundraiser I started to celebrate two years off chemo. I chose Teen Cancer America as the recipient, for obvious reasons! They are doing amazing things in the world of AYA (adolescent/young adult) cancer and have given me a lot of cool opportunities. I know they use all donations to do great things! No pressure, but thought I would leave it here if you are interested!

I hope you all had a great holiday! I wish you all a happy and HEALTHY 2018!

Me (and my friends) on 12/22...Two Years off chemo!