Comeback Kid.

 

This is the weekend before I found out I was sick. I was scared and sad so this wonderful human planned a truly magical weekend for me. I even met like every princess. Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 10.12.12 PM

 

This is the weekend right after I found out I was sick. My beloved cousin (who is more of a sister) and her husband (who tolerates me) drove six hours to be with me and make sure I was ok.

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This is when some truly awesome friends came and had a last hair hoorah with me. We ate pizza, we laughed, we got some pretty bomb hair.

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This is me doing homework at chemo. I was clearly thrilled about the whole situation.

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This is when I finally was brave enough to shave the head.

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This is when my friends came and supported me at Light the Night.

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This is when I looked like Lord Voldemort (cape included) at my college graduation. Go Noles?

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This is me not letting cancer damper my Christmas sweater party fun.

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I don’t know what this is.

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This is when we went and partied like there was no tomorrow at Mardi Gras.

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This is me getting a best friend.

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This is celebrating mine and Tom’s birthday at Disney. Whoop!

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This is me cruising to Mexico with friends.

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This is me now.

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Just kidding. That is Riggs. Holla because it has been a year today since my diagnosis and I LIVED.

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Remission.

Eight months. Eight chemo treatments. Eighteen radiation treatments. I have made it to the other side of this thing.

I went into the doctor’s office expecting the worst possible news. But to my great relief she gave me the best possible news. I.AM.CANCER.FREE.I still do not think it has hit me yet. I celebrated with Starbucks, lasagna, champagne and cannoli.

I am able to start planning my life. Job hunt and get excited for a future. I know my friends are probably tired of hearing about it but it is such a big deal to me. More than I could ever express. I played it cool the best I could. I made it to tailgates and football games even when I felt like hiding in bed all day, went to Disney about three hundred times, and went to class four days a week even when I was in tremendous pain or felt like I was going to vomit at any given second. So I would always reply “I am fine” until it became a habit. An automatic response. Partly because I needed it to be fine but also becauseI didn’t want pity. I did not even tell my professors I was sick for goodness sake. But there were times where I was sitting on the bathroom floor, crying and vomiting into the toilet and trying to convince myself that this life was worth living. To keep on moving.

I am glad I did.

I wish I could say I learned something about ~inner beauty~ after losing my hair but I cannot. There is no way around it, being bald (when you have no other choice) sucks. I pine for my long silky hair every day. People would always say things along the lines of “well at least it is not permanent” like it was supposed to make me feel better. Permanent or not, it hurts all the same. Yeah, now I am rocking the heck out of a blonde pixie but I still do not quite feel like my self. There is something terrifying about not being in control of your own body.

I did learn something incredibly important about myself, however. How I personally define success. As some of you know I graduated from FSU in December with a big fancy degree in Real Estate. I always thought I would get some big fancy job in commercial development and make a lot of money and work all the time. That would be my life. That is how I defined success. Landing a huge job and making money. I cannot say the same anymore. I want a job that allows me to be in control of my time. I want to be able to travel occasionally and go to Disney with my cutie and enjoy my life now that I get a chance to. I want to actually like what I do not just take a job because it has THE title (if that makes sense).

In other news, I did embark on a new journey in the form of a twelve week old puppy named Riggs. He has been the best therapy I have ever had and the cutest little thing. There is so much joy (and frustration at times) in owning a pet. He takes up most of my time. In my other spare time I have booked a trip to Mexico in May with a slew of friends. I spent a week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras earlier this month. I am at a point where I cannot sit still. There is so much life to live and it took me having a cancer diagnosis to realize that but now I am telling all of the internet so that you all do not have to do the same. GO LIVE YOUR LIFE. Always wanted to see Bora Bora? Start saving money, make a plan and go. People in your life bringing you down? Ditch them and remove yourself from that situation. Hate your job? Find a new one. Eat a cupcake. Get your cartilage pierced. Do karaoke. Life is too short to be afraid. (Except skydiving. I will always be afraid of that.)

Go live your best life because I sure plan to do the same.

La Vita E Bella

It is that time of year. A time to reflect. Where you were and where you are now. It is the time of year to ask yourself, “do you like the person you’ve become”.

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been quite the year. From the whole Harambe debacle to electing a new president to the countless mannequin challenges and so on. It has been controversial and unforgettable.

I can honestly say that I am not the same person I was January 1, 2016 and I firmly believe this should always be the case. In a year you meet all sorts of new people, learn lessons, have new experiences, listen to new music, question your life, set new goals for yourself and possibly you lost it all. These all are things that shape us as people. What kind of life are you living if you are not in a constant state of change and growth?

Personally, I have experienced the highest highs I have ever felt but also the lowest lows. I spent the first half of my year in a nonstop adventurous frenzy while falling in love with someone else but also myself. Then I spent the second half of my year laid up in a bed feeling nauseas, losing my hair, trying to just get through each day.

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2016 has given me perspective. Things that once were important to me now take the back burner. Things I used to be afraid of no longer scare me. I’ve become a more honest person. Not in the sense that I used to be a pathological liar (because that is not the case) but in the sense that I do not leave things unsaid like I once did. If you really like something about someone- tell them. If your friend is headed down a slippery slope- tell them. It might be uncomfortable in the moment and that is ok. I have learned that sometimes you have to take care of yourself and let things go. The things that make life harder. These can take the shape of bad habits, relationships or even mindsets.

Back in July when I got my diagnosis I was devastated that I would have to put my goals on hold and prolong graduation. I still am trying to figure out how I pulled that one off. But I am happy to say I am now a graduate of Florida State University. It is something that I am most proud of. I still don’t think it has hit me.

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I have not had any sort of treatment since mid- November so I have had some time to recover and just enjoy life again. I feel like my normal self. I can just breathe. It has been a much needed break. Radiation starts for me next Thursday on January 5, 2017. I will have to go every weekday for a total of 18 treatments. It is bittersweet. On one hand, I am about to lose the progress I have made of the past month and a half and feel like hell again for a while. But on the other hand, this whole thing is going to be over soon and I can have my whole life back. I am ready for a new year, a fresh start. I am ready to leave all this mess behind and live a life to be proud of. A life to be in love with.

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There is so much to be thankful for. Life is beautiful.

 

 

Thanksgiving.

It’s a day late, I know, but I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the life saving treatment I am receiving so that one day I can resume life as normal and this will all just be a bad memory. I am thankful for smart doctors and those who have suffered before me so that research could be conducted and knowledge gained on my disease.

I am thankful for my family and friends who double as cheerleaders (that includes everyone who keeps up with my blog). Without that support system, who knows where I would be. I can guarantee you I would have given up by now. I’m thankful for people in my life who understand I have low days and don’t expect me to be perfect. Thankful that they let me feel all the things I feel. Friends who visit me at treatment. Parents who haven’t missed a single appointment. Brothers who make me laugh.

I am thankful for my sweet boyfriend who has never lost patience with me and has stood by my side selflessly. Even when I lose my head. This has been a journey that he was side swept into and he has handled it so well for the both of us. He’s my best friend and number one fan who never lets me feel alone. I hope everyone gets to have someone like him in their life at some point.

I am thankful that mac and cheese still tastes like mac and cheese and I get to eat it regularly.

Things We Lost in the Fire.

There are times I forget I even have cancer. Then I walk past a window or mirror and get a flash of myself and then have that “oh yeah” moment.

At this stage in Hurricane Cancer I fight so hard for any sense of normalcy I can find. It’s important to me. I am still the same person, just more tired and nauseous sometimes. I hate being treated like I am frail. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the day and go shave my legs. I go out of town as much as I can. Sometimes I order a drink when I’m with friends. There was a Tuesday last month where I had to go get a flu shot. After spending time in a doctor’s office where I was the youngest (and baldest) person by at least thirty years, I left feeling tired. Tired of the sympathetic looks and feeling pathetic. I went to visit my brother at his job where we ate cheesecake, drank cappuccinos and shared in much needed honest conversation. From there I was supposed to go to class but that particular day I did not have the will power or the emotional capacity to go. Instead I went to Target and bought the most obnoxious shade of pink nail polish I could find then sat in my car and did my nails. It was the happiest I had been in a while. It was a good day.

I have been thinking about relationships more than ever recently. How we relate to and how we treat people. Strangers and friends. When I found out I was sick people came slinking out of the shadows of high school and decades ago wanting to offer their condolences or asking for some time with me. Why is it that we don’t invest in other people’s lives always though? Isn’t that what we should be doing? Not just when things go sour but always. Share in their pain AND their joy. Today I went through the drive-thru at Starbucks and messed up my order a little bit. The employee was snarky back to me over the intercom but I brushed it off. But man, when I got to the window and she SAW me did her attitude change. She then spoke to me in the higher pitched, customer service voice that we all have. Asked me if I needed anything else. Apologized for the wait. The whole nine yards. Why? Because I’m sick? Seems like a dumb reason to be nice to someone.

This has been such a strange season in my life. I can’t even begin to tell how many times someone (stranger or not) has told me about a relative or friend who has died from cancer. It always puts me in the most terribly awkward position. What am I even supposed to say to that? I’m not dying. Don’t plan on it at least. Everyone has advice and is an expert on my situation and how to make it better. I have all this free time but rarely have the energy and never have the money (unemployed) to do much with it. It’s hard to feel like yourself when you don’t feel like yourself (or look like yourself for that matter). This isn’t the life I want, this isn’t who I want to be. I have to remind myself constantly that this is temporary. In December I am going to walk across a stage in front of thousands of people while bald. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be doing that. I don’t know how to make plans for my future because things are uncertain for me. What is for certain is: One day (hopefully soon) I am going to start a career and start making money again and then I am going to go on a wonderful and much needed vacation. That is my motivator.

Some quick updates: Though each treatment gets worse and worse, I’m trekking along. I got a 92 on my Real Estate Investments exam and a 95 on my Real Estate Market Analysis (ARGUS) exam recently. I have all A’s and B’s currently. At this point in the semester, that has never happened (thanks cancer). Graduation is in 32 days. There is a light at the end of this college tunnel. This Friday will be my eighth (and last scheduled) treatment. Then on November 28th I will have a PET scan. As long as my tumors have shrunk down to manageable sizes and there is no more activity (the cancer isn’t still producing more cancer) then I can move on to radiation. I’m hoping with my whole being that is the case. I’ve gotten to the point in treatment where just thinking about it makes me nauseous enough to vomit.

Updates.

In an attempt to not have to repeat this 100 times, here is my update post. I have now had five treatments. It feels like all of this has been going on forever at this point with no end in sight.

Friday September 30th I had my second PET scan. Those results came back saying that all of my tumors have shrunk to about half the size they were. Which is good news but I still have a long ways to go. This past Friday while at the doctor for my treatment, my oncologist informed me that I will for sure be doing radiation (every day for three weeks) after I finish chemo which could still go up to twelve treatments. The real bad news I got on Friday was how low my white blood cell count was. Which meant one thing: I had to do Neulasta again. If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know how bad of a reaction I had to this drug last time. The difference this time is I have THREE midterms this week. Which fills me with a sense of dread. It is so hard to not feel discouraged.

I met a woman on Friday in the waiting room who once battled breast cancer and was in remission for five years and one month. Then they found her cancer has metastasized to her liver. She has been doing chemo for two years every three weeks and likely will for the rest of her life. She still works full time and goes snow skiing and goes wherever the wind takes her. I have so much respect for her.

Sunday.

I think I may have created some misconceptions about how I have been handling all of this. How cancer has been for me. You see, cancer isn’t a derby party on the lawn with sun hats and mint juleps and gossip. I crack jokes about my circumstance sometimes because that is how I deal. That is the only way to get through the day sometimes.

I leave the house with a full face of make up on and a hat or headband to cover the fact that you can almost see the whole top of my head. I smile and make small talk. I say things like “Well, it’s one day at a time” or “I’m hanging on” because those things are true but they just cover the surface. I try to spare the people I am talking to because…cancer is scary and you never really understand just how much until you are in the thick of it.

Here is what I don’t say to people. I cry when I look in the mirror because I almost don’t recognize myself. My hair is scraggly. My skin is dull. I break out in weird bumps and rashes. My lips are almost always chapped. I hate shopping now because all of the clothes I want to wear won’t look good on me. I tried wearing my wig one day. Not only was it scratchy as hell but it didn’t feel right. Meaning, it didn’t look right. I felt like the whole time I was wearing it people were thinking “OH SNAP THAT IS A WIG ON HER HEAD”. Which I know isn’t true but it is how it felt.  I don’t say how I would give anything, anything, to have control over my life and my time again. My life is dictated by doctor’s appointments and whether or not I will have the energy. I can’t even pursue careers right now because I don’t know when this will be over. How do I interview for a job and tell them “well I don’t know when I will be able to start because…cancer”? So, to all my peers graduating this semester- you’re welcome? One less competitor, right? Sometimes sitting through a 75 minute class on real estate investments feels more like four hours. Confession: Sometimes I can only pay attention to the girls who are sitting in front of me with perfect, thick, beautiful hair.

So no. Life isn’t always easy. But I also firmly believe that how you react to situations is a choice.  

Just so no one takes this post as all gloom and doom and gets concerned, I’m going to share about some happiness I got to take part in. Some magic.

Last weekend on Sunday afternoon Thomas and I decided to go to Orlando for the night. It was already 4:00pm but Monday was a holiday and we have season passes to Universal so why not? That’s usually how things go with us. It’s spur of the moment, where ever our hearts take us. We dive head first. It’s one of my very favorite things about our relationship. Anyway, we rounded up a couple other friends and got on the road by 7:00pm. We flew into Disney Springs on two wheels just in time to make dinner at the T-Rex restaurant. I also ran away (literally ran) to the Christmas store before they closed to get a new ornament. That is one of my traditions. The next morning we woke up with not much of a plan of what we were going to do that day. We were sitting around discussing ideas when a rare opportunity arose. Our friend who works at EPCOT rounded up some tickets for us. The day was spent eating around the world and eating every thirty minutes, riding roller coasters and playing games and laughing with some of the best people I know. We went to three parks that day, walked over ten miles and ended with the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. Seriously, if you have never seen Celebrate the Magic or Wishes at Magic Kingdom you are missing out. I tear up every time. We got home super late on Monday night but it was so worth it. That day I got to breathe and smile and feel like just another normal person. There is an undeniable magic about Disney that you never outgrow.

I have been dealt a hand of cards I have no idea how to play. There is no strategy. We dive head first.