In the Air!

In the Air!
400 feet above the ground in Orlando.

Florida

Florida
Taking my first step towards a new life.

Virginia

Virginia
Spending an afternoon at Marymount during my internship!

My rocks!

My rocks!
Wouldn't be where I am without my parents!

Graduation

Graduation
Walking for my Masters. An interesting book end as this all started when I graduated from undergrad!

Awesome Nurses!

Awesome Nurses!
After my port removal and saying goodbye to my chemo nurses before moving away from Michigan. Wouldn't be doing that without them!

Hair again!

Hair again!
Growing longer each day

Last Chemo

Last Chemo

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Silliness

Silliness
Something to remember and return to. A good day!

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moving Forward

We'll, I'm working on doing better each day.  Nothing too amazing happening.  Trying to do a little more each day.  Sadly having to avoid my dad who has a cold and praying I can stay healthy. 

One of the hard parts of being done is remembering I'm going to be at my lowest now from all the chemo and still have to be very carefully about getting sick!  So please pray hard I don't catch my dads cold!  The last chemo hit the hardest and even though my levels are still normal, they are low normal.  I just want to see those numbers start to go up and stay up! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Head Is More Alert Than My Body!

Well, a week and a half away from my last chemo and mentally I'm raring to go!  Physically is a completely different story!  It isn't that I can't do anything...but I have to go slowly, still rest A LOT and pace myself.

This I think will frustrate me the most now.  I'm the type of person who, when one thing in life is done, I'm ready to move on to the next right then and there.  My philosophy has always been, if you know what is next...why wait?  I always just jumped into the next thing.  This time though, I can't jump.  I have to slowly walk, and then rest, then slowly walk some more.  My brain may be saying full speed ahead but my body is trying to give it a reality check.  It isn't easy getting those two to agree these days!

So, I'm taking things one day at a time.  Trying not to get frustrated.  But also trying to move forward every day too.  Even if it isn't at the pace I want!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last Chemo

A milestone was reached today...and I wasn't even sure I was going to reach it yet!  I finished my last chemo treatment! 

I've been fighting a sore throat since Sunday afternoon.  I think a little miracle happened!  Here is the power of prayer.  A sore throat is usually visually indicated by at least one of three things.  White patches, redness or swelling.  I was at the point where swallowing was painful!  And yet, every time my throat was checked, there was no visual indications that I was fighting anything!  So, your prayers, Mass and a blessing from a first class relic of St. Theresa of Jesus worked and I was able to take my last chemo today!!!!

I've been asked a couple times today how I feel and to be honest...I don't think it has fully sunk in yet!  This is a huge step towards recovery but I also acknowledge it is but one step.  I'm totally psyched that it has finally arrived, don't get me wrong!  But there is still a long road ahead and more fighting to do.  The icky recovery of the first week after chemo.  The long recovery from chemo and even some more recovery I couldn't fully do from my surgery.  Also, the continued fight and appointments to do everything we can for it not to come back!  That's a life long project.  But if I can make it through this...I can make it through anything!

I'm going to share some pictures I've been plastering on Facebook.  They are from today and include some of the people who have helped me through all of this.

One is with three of my awesome, amazing, loving, caring and dedicated nurses!  Without these women, and many more like them at the Cancer Center and hospital, these past months would have been completely unbearable!  You guys always make me feel better, lower my anxiety and build me up to be able to fight as hard as I can!  Love you all!!  I'll be coming back to visit for years to come!

Another photo is of me and Dr. Ron.  I have many doctors and each is important.  I was allowed to take my chemo MUCH closer to home and after my 2nd chemo, Dr. Ron took over as my supervising oncologist.  His regular check ups, kind frankness, encouragement and honesty were always helpful in building up my confidence!

A very big THANK YOU and I LOVE YOU goes out to my brother Chris and and my sister-in-law Margo!  From literally day one of this whole ordeal they have both been there for me.  From kneeling next to me on my kitchen floor to leaving work to meet me at the ER to holding my hand and making me laugh through two surgeries to helping me through the trauma of losing my hair and being there with love and support through all the chemo!  Today they surprised me by coming to my last chemo and hanging out with me!!!  They pulled me out of my Benadryl haze and made me laugh!  That visit meant so much to me as well as everything they have done for me!  I love you guys!

Another picture is of me and my mom.  I'm saving a separate blog about my parents though.  That will come after I've gotten up out of this chemo:).  Rest assured though, without them, I would be a total wreck! 

I'm done with chemo but the fight goes on.  If I can make it through this part though, I can make it through anything!   I have a request of you.  Reach out to the cancer community around you and be there for someone going through this horrible thing.  The physical connection in friendship is important to recovery!  I know that is going to be a big part of my future!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Night Before The Last Chemo.

It's almost here...the beginning of the end!  Tomorrow is my last chemo.  I'm hitting it with a bang too!  A sore throat that has absolutely no visible indication that it is sore!  Only what I feel.  They will do a double check before starting to make sure I'm still ok to move forward.

The thing is, as anxious as I am to go through all this again...I also would be afraid to have to postpone it!  Then I would live through the anticipation even longer!  That and my goal has been to get through this with no delays and no ER visits!  One more week (I have to pull out if it still) and I'll make both those goals!  Please Mother Mary!  Let me feel better tomorrow and hold me tight during the days after!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Playing In The Leaves

There are important things a person has to do when going through all of this.  One is to take those moments, even if they only last a short time, that make you smile and enjoy them as long and as much as you can!

Today I found myself outside in the front yard kicking around the leaves on the ground.  They make that lovely rustling sound as they move about!  And then there is that distinct Autumn smell (and no, I don't mean pumpkin spice!) that wafts through the air as you stir up the leaves!  The colors go from yellow, to orange to red and the sun shines through the thinning branches and warms you up!

Moments like this pull you out of yourself!  For a short time all is right with the world and you can't help but smile and kick up those leaves!  And the great thing is, even though it may not feel like it sometimes, you know a moment like that will be repeated.  You don't know when or where or how but it will surprise you, take you out of yourself, and make you smile!!! :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm Not Who You Knew...But I'm Still Me.

Through out this whole thing, from surgery to chemo, I have been just so afraid of the whole process.  Of going through all of this and wondering if it will work.  Fear of getting to the end and the end not being there.  I realized today though that I think, lately at least, I have been fearing these things more because I am actually afraid to acknowledge what is coming.  Moving out of the world of chemo and back into the real world.

I know that from the beginning that is all I have been begging for.  To have my life back   To be able to move forward.  I think, with my last chemo only a week away, I am battling the usual fears but also this new one.  I've been in something of a bubble since April.  98% of the people I have been around since April have been people from the cancer world.  My parents, my doctors, nurses and the other patients as well as the staff at the Cancer Center.  It's not that I haven't been around any other people but...it's different.

When I'm out in public, I hide behind my surgical mask and under scarves and hats.  I know that anyone looking at me knows I have cancer.  But I think, in order for those looks to not drive me crazy, I've just simply drawn myself behind that mask.  I have had 3 friends visit me, but they were either friends who have had to deal with cancer closely or someone who has been in my life for a very, very long time.  My cancer has taken over and made itself my identity.  And I don't think that is going to change when this all over

That in itself is pretty scary.  You go into all of this knowing who you are and realize somewhere along the way that you are no longer that person.  And that's ok I think...only it means starting over and rediscovering who you are to yourself and everyone around you.  I love my family and my friends but most of them I haven't seen since before this all started.  They don't know who I am anymore and I sometimes wonder if they don't know how to act around me anymore either.  And that, I think, is the biggest fear I am fighting now.  Whether the cancer comes back or not, I know how to fight that.  I know who I am in that world.  I am a warrior against this terrible thing and I am a victor no matter what.  I'm scared and terrified of the whole process.  I'm uncertain and sure at the same time.  I pray for strength and bravery through clenched teeth, tears and anger.  I refuse to give up even when my mind and body are screaming at me that there is nothing I can do.  I am determined that I will somehow be able to touch the world.  To reach out and help someone, somehow.  To make a difference.  But who am I to my family and friends?

Lets face it, most of our perceptions are physically based.  The people in my daily life right now are the ones who understand who I am.  Who I know, without a shadow of a doubt, know me for who I am.  One of the biggest things that has been pulling me to get through these treatments has been a planned trip to Virginia to see all of my friends out there.  People who have been a big part of my life until this all started.  By the time I get out there, it will have been a full year since I saw them.  Last time I saw them I had strength, health, an assurity of where my life was heading and a plan that we were all rooting for.  And, I had hair!  When I see them again, I'll still be a lot weaker than I was.  I won't be able to go without stopping.  I'm not even sure if I'll be able to drive again by then.  And...I won't look anything like what I did.  Yeah, a little thinner.  I've been blessed to not be wasting away.  But also, no hair.  It sounds petty, I know, but honestly I think it is the biggest battle for me in stepping out into the world again.  Everywhere I go, the missing hair is a screaming, neon sign that I have cancer.  That I am forever changed.  I'm afraid of how people will accept me.   I'm afraid of seeing that look of pity in their eyes.  Afraid of hearing the platitudes that sound good to them and are like nails on a chalk board to the person receiving them.  I'm afraid of friends unable to talk to me for whatever reason.  I've lost touch with so many people because of this, I'm afraid they won't know how to restart that friendship.  I'm afraid of loosing connections with family and friends because they are afraid.

So, as much as I am looking forward to this trip in January, I'm also terrified of it.  I'm not the person who was there last year.  I'm still learning the ins and outs of who I am now myself.  And I don't think I am the only person going through this who is dealing with this either.  This is just too big of a change for it to just be me.  I know other cancer patients are having to rediscover who they are...and the people around them have to learn who that new person is too and accept them.  Move on with them and rediscover their connection.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sunshine Is Good!!

There are so many battles to fight while going through chemo that you really want to not have to fight the weather too!  The past few days have been very Michigan weather of over cast and rainy!  Not a good atmosphere when you already don't feel good.  However, today is making up for that by being a beautiful, autumn day!  Temps in the 60's and blue sky and sunshine as far as the eye can see!!

The trees are changing colors and adding a wonderful splash of color to the Fall pallet!! Weather like this, while a bit chilly on a bald head, is the perfect weather for someone not feeling well!  It makes you feel better just looking outside!  I can't stress how important having a seemingly small thing like good weather that can change your outlook!!  That change can get you over a difficult time or make you realize the world really isn't coming to an end and there is something to look forward to!  Sunshine is a very important element to fighting this battle!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Surprises Can Be Great!

So far, since April, the surprises I've received have not been very good.  Surprise!  You're anemic!  Surprise!  You need a little surgery!  Surprise!  You have cancer!  Surprise!  You need another, bigger surgery!  Surprise!  The cancer moved a bit so you need chemo!  Needless to say, these are not surprises that help make a person feel good.

However, there are surprises that are good and I was greeted with one earlier this week!  On a day I'm normally pretty out of it, a knock came at the door and....Surprise!  It's my brother in law David and my two nieces Lexi and Becca!!!  This was a surprise I could handle and loved!  While I was still tired, and had to lay down for a bit during the visit, I was never happier!!  Happiness and excitement can wipe away exhaustion for a little bit and it was so good to see the three of them!!!  I've decided...from now on, I want surprises like that!  Love you guys!!!