Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dealing with Death

Perhaps the title alone suggests, for many, an "untouchable area."

Yet here I am, and for the first time in my life I have come to the realization that I am not as immortal as I once felt. Yes, immortal is a strong word, yet it's how everybody seems to live. 
"Live like there's no tomorrow."

I entered this world of cancer only two months ago. It's a place of new feelings, realizations, and realities. Obviously, the chemo has worn my body down. On Monday I head in for round 6 - round 6 out of 36. That leaves a good 30 rounds to go, a bout of radiation, and multiple surgeries. Frankly, this doesn't depress/discourage me. If it takes these two terrible years to save my life, then I have no reason to complain. 

However, there is a much more luminous side to this disease than I have really allowed myself to realize. 

To be "straight up" with you all, where I am at in this fight is like this . . .

Ten people will enter this specific fight- and three will get to win. 


Too many people (including myself before all this) assume that beating cancer is all about the size of the "fight in the dog," the "will to live," the "fight in the fighter."

It's not.

In the course of my coming out of sedation (2/3 chemos include being drugged so this is a frequent habit), I have learned a lot about my own cancer, and also cancer in general. The realization of what I am dealing with hasn't been easy, which is why I have written this post.

I keep writing even when I don't want to write. I write when I would love to curl up and deny everything that is happening. I write when reality is too painful and I'm ready to be done with it all. I write when I know that where I stand could help others - even the many who haven't and probably will never be in my position. So what is to be learned at this point in my journey?

Death is now real.

At any moment, it could be my time to go. In fact, statistically - that's the most likely. I totally get that if God doesn't plan for this cancer to take me, then all of my treatment will be my lifesaver! Just understand that our prayers may not be His plan. For me, that is what I'm having to process.

For you? 

You never know what you have until it's gone.

Don't take life for granted. I find it amazing how much my perspective has changed- and even now life in the doldrums seems precious.

Yet most importantly - know you have hope.

Hope that lies beyond this world- beyond this suffering and pain. I couldn't imagine facing these realities without such hope. That is what keeps me smiling. That is what keeps me fighting.

Hope is the realization that cancer can be beat; and an early death is only the doorstep to an eternal beginning!

(Stem Cell Harvesting and also a double red cell transfusion on Saturday. When I tested my blood sugar that was 4 needles in me at once- new personal record!) 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"Cancer Difficulties: In Me" by Me

What is the most difficult part of cancer?

This seems to be my most frequently asked question (and often one that I wondered) before I entered this new world. Before I break it down, I have to disclaim and inform you all of an important fact: this is me. I can’t speak for others who have had cancer, but now I can certainly relate. Every cancer is different and difficult in many ways. 

So what are the hardest things about cancer?

It’s evil.

Both my younger siblings and I have lived for five years with a deadly and serious disease- Type One Diabetes. T1D doesn’t play by the rules. It ruins days, ruins weeks, ruins plans and wrecks havoc on normal life.

Cancer is different.

 Cancer attacks the body and mind with an evil vengeance. . . At times it makes one doubt their will to live. It cripples the soul and works to drag one’s focus onto the ominous task of surviving. Cancer thrives on the fear of the unknown - the opportunities that could arise at any moment. Hence, I think I can easily state it’s apparent evilness.

It’s selfish.

I used to have an incredibly focused and driven life.

Fueled by my ambitions of becoming a pediatric nurse, my days were carefully structured and managed to raise grades and become the best nursing student possible.

Then I was blindsided by my cancer.

College stopped completely as new tests, surgeries, and appointments filled my agenda. With only two weeks two go in the semester, I was completely stripped of my opportunity to finish strong. My ambitions and dreams have come to a stand still, and now I have at least two years of fighting. With a year of chemo/ radiation/ surgery/stem cell transplant, and then the process of removing/rebuilding my entire shoulder blade - happiness and hope are easily fogged out by the darkness that is my cancer.

My emotions are easily shaken by the longing for normal life of one day being a pediatric nurse! The simplicity of helping others without the dark reality of living just to “beat the odds”.

It’s powerful.

The sickness that I feel isn’t comparable to anything in life that I had experienced. I assume it is this way because our bodies are never meant to be this sick. Chemo kills the cancer, yet it feels like it’s killing me at the same time. Both the cancer and the chemo are working to destroy.
It’s a deadly duo.
 All this with the lovely combination of Type One Diabetes. Any T1D knows the comforting sickness that high blood sugars entail. Well, combine that with the BG-spiking chemo and we have a combination that will really send one for a ride! Yet even diabetes has a hard time topping the lovely side effects of chemotherapy - so far.

My reality.

So there it is. Up above I have detailed the side of this disease I usually don’t describe: the harsh, demanding, selfish battle with cancer that seems to strip me of so much!

Even as I type this out, my head begins to spin. Emotions begin to flood my heart and thoughts of the hardships ahead make me yearn for a normal life.

But first of all, this is all momentary. I can do two years. I can handle a month in the hospital in complete isolation because that means I can beat this cancer! I can do a year of chemotherapy because that means I can beat sickening statistics! I can do momentary.

Second of all, yes, cancer appears to be robbing me of everything I dream about and love. Cancer can take my normal life away. It can destroy even the normalcy of feeling physically well. But it can’t take away my core! Though at times I don’t feel like myself, I have an incredible support team, family, and God. Cancer can’t touch that.

Finally, the most significant question that people are asking me, and that I have wondered myself, is why God allows cancer and other trials in our lives. This is a very important question, and I want to lay it out somewhere other than the end of this post. Within the next few weeks, I’’ll actually add a tab called “Why Hope?” permanently on the blog. That will provide a great way to share with you the significance of what God is doing in my life right now.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Awesomes / Not Awesomes Update

Well hey there world! 

There's so much to write about and then the difficult task of, well, writing it. 

I had my first 5-day admitted Chemo. This was actually incredibly interesting in so many regards. As I sit here reminiscing of where I was just a week ago, it is like trying to think back to a year ago. How so? I'm not sure. I suspect either the chemo did it- or my nurses slipped some "forget-everything drug" into my port. 

Due to the fact that my awesome nurses are now part of my blogging audience, I'm gonna go with the chemo.

In my opinion, the 5d Chemo has wrecked many more side effects and havoc. Through the week of chemo, I "felt" like I was me. I slept a crazy amount - yet I still played soccer in the hallway with my PT dude, talked to my doctors (sometime), and did all the extremely thrilling things people do in hospitals . . . but I only vaguely remember all of it. My family has enjoyed fabricating false stories and now I have had to beg to find out whether they are true or not.

(My T1D nurses! If I look partially drugged ... it's because I was.)

Also during my stay I got to meet two of the nurses with T1 Diabetes. The one on the right is practically one of my main P4 nurses for the next year: we have a blast! All of my nurses are incredible - I just didn't get a picture with every single one. (I have a feeling I will be kindly reminded by the rest upon my return) They also have become fans of the "Diabetes4Dummies" videos Daniel and I put together - as they had ever so kindly referenced on the welcome board...

(If you haven't seen "Food Police", you can watch here)

Instead of rambling on, I thought I would conclude this update with my ER trip. As many of you heard, I was in the ER on Tuesday - for 14 hours. Although it was extremely complicated then, thankfully it is more simple now that we are on this side of it. Tuesday I was instructed to go to the ER after "blacking out" and also having low blood pressure/ sodium levels. Upon getting to the ER, my blood pressure was fine, but my heart rate was hitting 130s (should be 60-90s). To make a long story short, they had an EKG done, put me on fluids, and monitored me for 6 hours. I was very dehydrated from the 5d Chemo, my wonderful sleeping spells (wasn't drinking fluids), and high blood sugars (from Chemo). After my heart was stable, they re-evaluated and gave me the go-ahead to go home. 

Ten minutes from home, I get a call from the ER saying that I possibly had blood clots in my lungs - thus putting a strain on my heart. So, we turned back and headed up for an MRI. Due to a bad night in the ER, we waited 9 more hours and didn't get home till 6 AM. The tests came back negative on the MRI, and it was just my lovely Ewing's tumors in my lungs (EKG) and severe dehydration (heart rate) that caused the wonderful dilemma. Anyways, thank you all so much who were praying for me during the lengthy event.

In conclusion, thanks a million for your support, prayers, and encouraging messages you have sent! 
Small/big detail: my platelets and white blood cells are low so I may be going in for transfusion on Saturday/Sunday. I also have a 2 Day Chemo on Tuesday (if transfusion goes well), so if you could pray that my counts cooperate and I can stay on schedule that would be awesome! Seeing I have a year of this to go, I'd rather not get off track this early on. 

You guys are an amazing support group!! 

I'll update soon!

(My main activity during chemos, with my little princess)