Entry 32: Acknowledging the Caretakers

Hello everyone! First, a quick update: I still have yet to start my second round of chemotherapy, but my platelets are finally on their way up! Yay! So I should be able to start treatment next week, and my oncologist has decided to switch me to a milder form of chemo so it’s not so hard on my blood levels. I am very happy with that! I see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I wanted to do a post about the people that can sometimes go unnoticed in times like this .. the caretakers. And I am not referring to the nurses or doctors (who are also AMAZING!), but the moms, the dads, the spouses, partners and friends. I feel like my illness becomes their illness, and they, too, take on the same stresses and grief as I do. I strongly believe that my caretakers need just as much emotional support as I do.

If you’re diagnosed with cancer, seeking professional help or therapy is kind of no-brainer: DUH! You need help!! But, it’s not so obvious for the caretakers in this situation. I have gone through the 5 Stages of Grief, and I will continue to cycle through them over and over while going through this (I’m on denial, AGAIN. “What? No, I’m just a normal twenty-five year old girl with normal twenty-five year old girl problems.” Yup, seriously. lol). Some of my loved ones and caretakers are cycling through the 5 stages of Grief right along with me. The only difference is that I am working with a professional to pin-point which stage I am at and how to work through it in a healthy and productive way. My loved ones who are experiencing the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are trying to find their way out of a dark, cluttered room of emotions all alone. And they have no idea what’s going on and can’t find their way to the exit. I see them try to self medicate on their own, but this usually makes it worse. All they need is some one to guide them through the darkness and start turning the lights on! And Caretakers, that doesn’t just mean dumping your problems on a friend over drinks… this is serious, dark stuff that needs to be addressed by an experienced professional. Your friend may be a GREAT listener and having a support system around is awesome, but they are not going to guide you out of the darkness. If you are going through loss or grief, there is no shame in seeking help. And just because you’re not the one who is sick does not make your problems any smaller or less important.

If you know some one who is going through grief or loss, remember to just give them a BIG hug, even if it’s out of no where. Send them an email or message on Facebook just to say that they and their loved one are in your thoughts. Be a good a listener and a shoulder to cry on if you’re up for it. I know that being a caretaker can sometimes feel like you are constantly in some one else’s shadow. If their behavior starts to concern you, it’s best to just let them be. You cannot help some one until they are ready to be helped, and taking on other peoples’ problems only creates a greater stress on you. Not to say you can’t express your concern, just don’t expect a reasonable response.

So a BIG shout out to my caretakers (you know who are are!). Even though my treatments are almost over, the journey will continue. And of course I am always thankful for having such amazing family and friends who support and cheer me on through all of this.

Lots of love!

xoxo,

Kathy

Edited: Certain people have been edited out of this post upon request. :*(

Entry 31: True Blood (Treatment Update)

Last Thursday was supposed to be chemo treatment #2, and I was ready for the official “I’m half way done!” dance. However, when I spoke with my doctor before treatment she said that my blood counts were too low to go forward with chemotherapy that day. To be specific, my platelet count was waaaay too low. Chemotherapy causes my blood counts to plummet, but I was reassured that the platelets will bounce back on there own. So we had to reschedule my chemo and I have to go in for regular blood tests so my doctors can monitor my counts. This has also made me slightly anemic … bleh.

Some of the symptoms of having low blood counts are being super tired, bruising very easily and maybe even some bleeding (bloody nose, blood when I brush my teeth, etc.). I was wondering why I was feeling so tired lately, and I was getting winded walking to the car. Well now I know! What I am bummed about is there is really nothing I can do to help my platelets along, just get lots of rest and make sure I eat my protein. My doctor said she has seen counts go up in just a few days, but sometimes it can take a week or two. Sigh.

I was a little heart broken when I was told we have to postpone my second chemotherapy treatment. It means that my end date is also postponed, which means I have to wait that much longer for this to be over. Grrr! I’m did my best to feel discouraged and to just accept that these kind of things are out of my control. I had to trust that everything is going exactly as it should.

Then I thought about one of my guilty pleasures, the TV show ‘TrueBlood’. (Is anyone watching the start of the fifth season right now?? Sooo good!!). Why can’t I just drink a bottle of TrueBlood to get my levels back up? The instant cure! TrueBlood is a ‘main stream’ beverage made of synthetic blood marketed to Vampires so they don’t have to feed off humans and can co-exist in peace. What I wouldn’t do to get my hands on one of those so I can start my next chemo treatment ASAP! Too bad it’s just a TV show.

One of the benefits of postponing chemotherapy was that I got to enjoy the last beautiful hot day in Oregon before the rain came in. I actually have a tan now! This is especially beneficial when I am slightly anemic. You can’t even tell, lol! Instead of treatment last Thursday, my husband and I went to the country club to spend the afternoon laying out in the sun with a gorgeous view of the river. It was heavenly.

Although, I was expecting it to be awkward hanging out at a country cub while having a cancer. I wore one my new scarves around my head, and even though I love my scarf, I feel like the look has “Cancer Patient” written all over it. If there was any place to feel out of place it would be a country club, right? Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I noticed that I have really learned to let go social stigmas and vanity while going through this experience. What I love even more is that most people don’t even care that I wear a scarf! I don’t know why I assume people will point and stare. That has NEVER happened. Walking up to the front doors I was a little self conscious, but as soon I made my entrance I felt like nothing could touch me. Even sitting around super skinny college girls in their Ralph Lauren bikinis didn’t make me flinch! I just sipped on my cocktail with my sunglasses not caring about my scarf, and in fact feeling like I didn’t have a care in the world. It was lovely!

There was something I was jealous of the Ralph Lauren bikini girls … I couldn’t help but overhear them chatting about boys, their parents, classes, their career futures and such. I tried to remember back to a time when all I worried about was my job and boys. Even though I felt that a mess at the time, life was so simple back then! Now my conversations with my friends revolve around how I am feeling, my treatments, dealing with illness, etc. Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s just how things are when you have cancer. In Cancer World, I make a mental imagine in my head of me and my make-believe college girlfriends laying out in the sun in our tiny bikinis and super tan bodies, and I say “Oh yeah, my blood counts are, like, totally low right now. My doctor said I couldn’t do chemo, and I was totally, like, ‘As if!'”. Haha! That would never happen in real life. Or would it? The movie ‘Clueless’ meets ’50/50′? 🙂

So I am spending this rainy Oregon weekend hanging out at home, snuggled up with a blanket and cheering on my platelets. Go platelets!! Multiply! You can do it! Think positive platelet thoughts! Geez, I didn’t know blood could be such a downer sometimes. Thank you to everyone for keeping me and my blood platelets in your prayers.

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 30: Part of Me

My husband and I just returned from a five day vacation at Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon, and oh my, was it gorgeous! It was around 73 degrees every day, clear blue sky with a few clouds, crystal clear view of the snowy mountains and green, green pastures. Every time I go there during the summer I want to spin around in my apron singing, “The hiiills are aliiiiiive with the sound of musiiiic!”. I just help but feel so calm and relaxed there, like nothing could go wrong.

But something happened half way through our trip that totally disturbed our peace and serenity. I noticed that the roots of my hair started hurting like heck (like when you have bad bed head and try to comb your hair the opposite direction). Then it started hurting even worse. Then, I noticed that my leg hair looked patchy. “No, it can’t be!” I thought to myself. “Not yet!”. Sure enough, I woke up yesterday morning to find my white pillow covered in hair, like a lab puppy was sleeping on it all night. My hair loss has started must sooner than I expected – and on our vacation no less! Really?? If I were to lose my hair at all, I thought it would be after my second chemotherapy treatment coming up this week, just like last time. Well that settles that. I’m definitely going to lose my hair again, and it’s ready to come out NOW. I am literally pulling clumps out while I’m writing this. The first thing that pops into my mind is that I am dreading taking a shower in the morning, because if I try to shampoo then I end up with hands full of hair. But if I don’t shampoo then I feel icky! And the hair gets EVERY WHERE – in the bed, on my clothes, in my food … Lol, could you imagine me telling my waiter that I found a tuft of hair in my food? Just kidding!!

My wig collection was tossed out with the trash during our recent move (they were tattered in anyways since I haven’t used them in months). I rushed ordered a wig today, but I don’t think it will come until next week. And I don’t know how much longer I can go without just shaving it all off (I’m giving my husband the honor again); if it’s going, I just want it gone! The only thing stopping me is the Father’s Day Champagne Brunch this Sunday at a local restaurant with my family. I love hanging out with my family, and I love my Champagne!! But I don’t want to be a baldy wearing a baseball cap to BRUNCH, and I don’t want to wear a scarf because I’m not really a scarf kind of girl. But, I don’t want hair falling into my scramble eggs either. What to do! Not to mention trying to emotionally prepare for being a baldy for most of the summer. It’s not even the weekend yet and I have all sorts of problems. What the heck!!

Well, anytime I run into problems that I can’t solve on my own I try to focus on the positive and think of my favorite things in life. Hmmm … sort of like that song from The Sound of Music? “Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels/Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles/Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings/These are a few of my favorite things”. That is my favorite line. You know the rest, you get the idea! I think of bright pink peonies, a French chateaux, a glass of fancy Champagne with macaron cookies, horses ready for me to ride, frilly dresses, shoes, little blue boxes with white bows … there are so many things that make me feel warm and fuzzy, I can almost forget about my hair problems! I just have to focus on things that make me smile so I can get through this transition. Once I’m bald, it’s only uphill from there. “You can take my hair, but you can’t take my dignity!!” And as another cancer buddy pointed out, at least this means that the chemo is working.

I’m actually kind of relieved that it’s all happening now. Losing my hair was the last thing I was waiting on, and I know I know what to expect. No more surprises, and only 4 weeks left of treatment. Let’s get this show on the road! Last time while my hair fell out I listened to Lady Gaga, and this time around I’m listening to Katy Perry’s “Part of Me”. I’m pretty sure it’s about breaking up with a boyfriend, but it could be about cancer too! My fabulous nurse played Katy Perry songs during my internal radiation treatments, so Katy has gotten me through a lot of crap these past few months. (Que random memory of listening to “Teenage Dream” while my radiation oncologist was setting me up for treatment: “Who is this? Should I know who this is? Is this a popular song?” He was the sweetest!).

Well friends, next time I write on this blog I will be bald and beautiful! It was humbling the first time around, and now I am totally redefined. I am not who I am because of what’s on the outside; I am a pillar of strength stemming from the inside! And a life-threatening disease is not enough to bring me down.

Stay positive, and lots of love! Happy Father’s Day weekend!

xoxo,

Kathy

Pictures from our trip:

Goodbye hair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I have my Fräulein Maria moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubby paddle boarding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It begins …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few of my favorite things:

Me riding Chocolate Sundae!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no/This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no/Throw your sticks and stones, Throw your bombs and your blows, But you’re not gonna break my soul/This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no.

Entry 29: Treatment Update – The big announcement!

I had been counting down the days until this day for three weeks. Last Tuesday I met with my oncologist to discuss the possibility of doing more chemotherapy or not. There are definitely pros and cons to doing more treatment, so my doctor took my specific cancer case to a Tumor Board, which is a collective group of doctors who evaluate my treatment plan and give their two cense. I image it would like the Knights of the Round Table … well, knights in white coats of course. 🙂 My doctor was also scheduled to do a pelvic exam to see if there was any noticeable signs of the tumor left and how my body was recovering from radiation treatment.

As you can imagine, I was super nervous and extremely anxious for the appointment! I had no idea what to expect, but apart of me really didn’t want to expect the worse even though I always tell people its the safest way to go. I had been pestering my oncologist about the chemotherapy decision for a months, so he knew I was a wreck coming into the appointment.

When my husband and I first arrive, we did the usual protocol: first I talked to the nurse who took my weight and blood pressure (which was good). Then my oncologist’s assistant came in to ask how I was feeling, how I am doing after radiation, and if I had any new symptoms, yadda yadda, and she leaves. Then my a few minutes later my oncologist walks in and announces:

“Three more rounds of chemo!”

Talk about ripping off the band-aid! He must have read my mind to know that I was not in the mood for mumbo jumbo. I just wanted to know!! Where, there I had it.

He went on to explain that after consulting with the Tumor Board, the decision for more chemotherapy was unanimous. Since my tumor was extremely aggressive and I responded so well to chemotherapy the first time around, there is no reason not to do one last treatment so we can know for sure that it killed every single living cancer cell in my body. The radiation therapy killed my tumor, but the treatment was only focused in abdomen and pelvic area. If any cancer cells floated to different parts of my body, they would dodged the radiation. And since there were cancer cells found in my upper adominal lymph nodes, we knew that the cancer was already spreading.

So, these last rounds of chemo are the nail in the coffin. The last blow to the disease. I’ll never have to look over my shoulder and wonder if we got it all. And as my oncologist sweetly put, “Yes, it’s another six weeks, but this will be a little blip of time out of your big, big life.” That statement almost had me in tears, and I had come close to tears already.

My blood tests came back normal, and yesterday was my first round of chemotherapy. I was back at my old stomping grounds, the chemo lounge, and it was nice to talk to the nurses who were just strangers to me six months ago. Now it feels like we’re old pals. I knew the drill, and I had packed a book, a magazine, my iPad, bottled water, some snack and my cell phone. Since I didn’t get much sleep the night before I just slept most of the time. One of my best friends and “surrogate” sister (as we call each other) brought me lunch and visited for a while. And once she left, I was pretty much done!

I am so thankful that I know what to expect this time around and how to handle it. Today is the first post-chemo day which means I am still hopped up steroids and feeling pretty good. Those will start to wear off tonight, and tomorrow is when the tiredness should set in.

I asked my oncologist, “When do people start feeling back to normal after they are done with chemo?” He said this happens usually three or four months, but if I commit to be active around 30 minutes a day while going through treatment I can expect the best results. It’s very hard to stay active, but I am determined to do it this time!

Wish me luck on my last six weeks! My last day of chemotherapy is …..drum roll ….. Thursday, June 12th!! Time certainly did NOT fly by during my six weeks of radiation, so I am hoping things go quicker for me this time. It’s safe to say the chemo will hit me harder this time since my body is still recovering from radiation, so I’m prepared for feeling more tired. I will most likely lose my hair again, which I have come to terms with, and if I do it will probably be right after my second treatment in three weeks. More wig shopping for me! 🙂

There are times that I cry and feel sad in my bed late at night, but I suck it up and tell myself I am going to go on. I replay the final moments in ‘Titanic’ and hear Leo’s voice in my head (swoon!): “Listen, Rose. You’re gonna get out of here, you’re gonna go on, and you’re gonna make lots of babies, and you’re gonna watch them grow. You’re gonna die an old woman warm in her bed, not here, not this night. Not like this, do you understand me?” Hey, everyone has their guilty pleasures, right?!? ‘Titanic’ is soooo one of mine (yes, I did see the release in 3D!). Then I see the camera moving past all of the frame photos by [old] Rose’s bed of her as an actress and in front of an airplane, and finally the photo of her riding on a horse on the Santa Monica Pier (Gasp! Just like she promised Jack!).

As always, thank you for sending your positive thoughts and prayers my way. I get stronger and stronger every day, and I cannot wait to put this cancer stuff behind me! It will always be apart of me and now defines who I am, but I also know that bigger things are now in store for my life. Bigger things that I can’t even imagine right now, I just feel that they are there, waiting for me. And, we WILL go on!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 28: Pain Management

It’s been a busy week for this girl! My husband and I moved apartment units from what we called “The Dungeon” (our old unit which was below ground level and rarely received any sunlight) to our new high-rise, which gets TONS of sunlight, has a beautiful panoramic view of the hills, is totally private and faces the sunset. We love our new place … but it’s three flights of stairs to get up here! I was dreading the move because A) I had just mastered climbing just the ONE set of stairs leading out of our old apartment, and B) what if I physically could not handle moving and had to rely on other people the do it? That would make me feel crappy. I was stressed about this all week, and by coincidence I also was having super bad shoulder and neck pain as well.

We picked up our keys to the new place on Thursday, and my neck pain had skyrocketed by then. I decided that if there was any chance of me cleaning, packing and moving over the weekend, I needed to shell out some cash for a professional massage. My back was so stiff and painful that it practically brought me to tears! I couldn’t sleep or event sit still without clawing and fisting at my shoulder muscles (which, by the way, made it much worse). Being in the state I am, I should have addressed the pain right away in its “early” stages, but, being typical Kathy, I let it go until it became unbearable.

My cancer therapist would have a hissy fit if she knew I was undergoing so much pain and not seeking help. “One of the most important things while going through treatment and recovery,” she would tell me, “is pain management.” This includes physical pain AND emotional pain as well. Especially, STRESS. Wasting my precious energy by being in pain will not only delay recovery, it can take a major toll on my health. I was told to do whatever it takes to manage it – pain meds, spa days, massages, acupuncture, harassing the triage nurse – but I should NEVER allow myself in be in pain. When it takes all my energy to take just a teeny step forward, pain can cause me to take five steps back. You get the idea, right?

I’m not sure why I thought that by being out of treatment (for now) I could get away with being without pain management, or why I thought it would be a good idea to do so. I finally went to a swanky spa on Friday and got a fifty minute deep tissue massage. It helped me to relax, but unfortunately my neck and shoulder pain came back in full force 24 hours later. The good news is that I was able to go up and down three flights of stairs for most of moving day! The bad news: my body HATAES me. Even though there is still plenty of work to be done before our move is complete, I have bound myself to the sofa today with a therapy hot-bean-bag thingy on my shoulders, and I promised my body that I will just relax. I will do some Pain Management.

To effectively manage my pain, I knew it was necessary to target all the areas where I was hurting so I could make it better. I took a hot, hot bath (which felt soooo good!) and started to break down in my head all the pain I was experiencing: my neck, my shoulders, my calves from walking up all those stairs, and my quadriceps. Then I started to think about the emotional pain I felt: stress about finishing the move, stress about working too much, stress about not working enough. I dug a little deeper … stress about losing weight, stress about saving money, stress about affording adoption, stress about the idea of not becoming a parent. I shut my eyes and went for the gold: stress about the fact that I can’t get pregnant.

Ding ding ding!! I think I found the root of my pain. Even though my back is killing me, the subject of my infertility forces me to a put a smile on my face and say, “I’m fine!”. That hurts even worse.

I have shoved off dealing with my infertility issues over the last few months, mostly because I don’t want to seem like the bitter bitch when it feels like every woman around me is getting pregnant. I don’t, for a minute, want to come off like a victim or gain sympathy from people. And I would never want to steal the attention away from a happy pregnant woman, especially when pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a [fertile] woman’s life. For me, giving up the ability to carry a baby was a small price to pay in order to beat cancer and LIVE. But, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t eat me up behind closed doors. And just because I choose to shove it off, doesn’t mean it just goes away. I am starting to realize that even though physical pain can be debilitating, it can be easily managed with some relaxation and pain medicine. Emotional pain, however is much harder to deal with. There’s no medicinal cocktail strong enough to get rid of that kind of hurt. And the longer I ignore it, the worse it gets …

When I went arrived at the spa for my massage last Friday, I went through the usual protocol of updating my personal information and filling out the standard medical form (so I couldn’t sue them if a facial peel went wrong). As I was mindlessly checking boxes on the medical form, the very last question made my heart stop:

“ARE YOU CURRENTLY PREGNANT? Check YES or NO.”

I felt a small sting a pain and disappointment as I read the question over and over again. Thoughts ran through my head like “I’ll never be able to answer ‘YES’ on this form. Sigh.” But I bucked up and decided to be the bigger person. (And checked NO, of course.) I told myself that I can’t avoid these kind of things from happening, and I just need to face them with strength and dignity and move on! I got through my paper work and anxiously waited for my massage. Despite the plushy robe and complimentary foot soak, my neck pain had suddenly gotten worse.

By the time my masseuse was ready for me, my back had stiffened so bad I practically threw myself onto her table. We discussed my problem areas (the physical ones, at least) and I was ready for the massage to begin. Or so I thought. Then she asked me,

“Are you currently pregnant?”

Don’t freak out, I told myself. DON’T. FREAK. OUT.

My poor masseuse must of thought I was a weirdo because instead of answering I just sat there, and I’m pretty sure my eye started twitching.

Pregnant? PREGNANT?? No, I am not pregnant. And I will never BE pregnant, so will you people just stop asking!! Read my paper work! What, do I need it tattooed on my forehead or something? Do I need to wear a special neon paper bracelet so you know I’m apart of the Can’t-Get-Pregnant club? Well EXCUSE me for not being the picture-perfect model of a female our society wants me to be. This is 2012, so don’t judge me lady!! My uterus is just as good as yours!

Ok, clearly this is what I was thinking at her and I didn’t actually say it. And yes, I acknowledge that it was totally over dramatic. I know perfectly well that she is legally obligated to ask me if I’m pregnant or not. I know it’s not the last time I’ll face this question, and I know that it’s not ok to take out my stress on total strangers.

That’s what husbands are for! 🙂

After talking to Alex, he was concerned that I am keeping in my emotional pain and going through it alone. I learned that I can’t just let it eat me up inside, and that I have to address it and give it the attention it deserves. So, this is where I start. Talking about it in secret is one way to deal with it, but I feel like writing about my pain and putting it out there for all to see is not only healthy, but maybe I’ll help some one is going through something similar.

Pain management is not just for people with cancer or an illness, it’s for every one. Every second we waste on being in pain is a second we could have been happy, physically AND emotionally. We cannot get those seconds back, people! Not addressing your innermost pain is like sinking in quick sand. And believe me, it will suck you in until it’s way over your head. So whatever issues you are avoiding, whether it problems at home, at work, with a friend or just yourself, address them! Put things right. The tole it takes on your mind and your soul is not worth having to put a fake smile on your face. Talk to your friends and family, write about it, or get creative.

Stay happy and healthy everyone!! Lots of love!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 27: The Waiting Game

The end of May is near. Every day I get further and further away from my last day of radiation therapy, and every day I get closer to being cured of my cancer. I see my oncologist in a week, and hopefully I will find out whether or not I have to do more chemotherapy. If he says I am done with treatments, I will be officially be in remission for the next 2 years (remission is the temporary end to a medical disease). If my cancer does not reoccur within the 2 year period, then I will officially be cancer free!

So … the Waiting Game begins. Sigh. The Waiting Game has a lot of rules, many of which mean I can’t make any major commitments in my life or do much until I reach the 2 year mark. I’m learning that this can be a major bummer, because there are so many things that I want to do in my life! My husband, too. We can’t do any major traveling, relocate for work (or pleasure), start any new big projects, or take on any major responsibilities like adopting a child or taking care of a loved one. Two years certainly is not the end of the world, especially considering that most cancer patients have to wait five years until they are in the “clear”. But my husband and I are in our youth, and we want things NOW NOW NOW! 🙂 Sound familiar to anyone? For example, my husband mentioned to me last night, “Hey hun! Wouldn’t it be so cool if I ended up getting a job a fire house in Bend? I hear they are hiring now!”

“Sorry babe,” I had to say, “Not for two years.” Bend is almost four hour away, and I need to be close to my oncology center just in case my cancer comes back and I have to do treatment all over again. I will be having frequent check ups and scans, so it just makes sense to stay close. My husband was bummed because he wants to start his career so bad, but he understood.

I have been back at my job for two weeks now after been gone for six months, and I knew once I reopened the “work” door that I would let the flood water in. And boy, is it flowing! My energy levels are still very low, so I am slowly working my way up to 40 hour weeks again. It’s amazing how after about 5 hours of working in the office, my body just literally shuts down to where sometimes I feel like I can’t even drive myself home. This totally conflicts with my mindset of wanting to be treated just like any other employee [who has to work 9am-5pm] and how I want to set a good example as being apart of a family business. Pacing myself has been difficult (“I want it NOW NOW NOW!” lol), but if I don’t do it, then my body does it for me.

I’ve always said that the hardest part about having cancer is being sick on the inside and not on the outside. The treatments literally kill my almost everything inside of me, but on the outside I look “fine”. You would not be able to pick me out of crowd as having cancer. Because of this, people can have unrealistic expectations of me because I look healthy, and they can’t understand why I can’t do what they do. Unfortunately, I am just as guilty of doing this to myself.

Just because I’m done with radiation treatment does NOT mean I can flick the switch from “sick” to “better”. No one needs more reminding of this more than me. It will take months before I will get my energy back, and it’s going to take two years before I know the cancer is really gone. As much as I don’t want to be treated like a sick person at work or any where else, the truth is that I AM A SICK PERSON. Ugh, why is that so hard to say? Maybe because it’s the truth, I guess.

Now that I have had a few days to let The Waiting Game really sink in, I think I am ready to reroute my life a little bit. I was resistant to it at first, but now that I have thought about it actually feels nice to have a period of time when I can just relax and not have to worry things like making a big career move, or starting a family, or having to take care of other people. The only thing I have to worry about is taking care of myself!

So, what will I do for the next two years? Since one of my dreams is to have a “big” career in the wedding and event industry, I am going to focus on doing little things to help make this dream come true. I’m going to work towards earning some certifications, take a few classes, do some job shadowing, and continue to network. Nothing too fancy! Another one of my dreams is to live a clean, holistic and healthy life, so I will also be educating myself on how to do this. I want to know everything form the foods we eat to the chemicals we use  and how it affects us. Since having cancer, my ultimate goal is to keep my lifestyle and body totally healthy, green, and free of crap.

Ok everyone, time to get back to my relaxing weekend! 🙂

xoxo,

Kathy

One of my calming daily affirmations:

Entry 26: One week post radiation!

It’s been a little over one week since my last radiation appointment, but it seems like it’s been a month. I started back to work last week, and it was great! Our business is super busy right now, and I only made it two and half days of work before I needed a break. I didn’t realize how much energy my job takes – I passed out in my bed as soon as I got home! I know it will get better as I regain my strength, but wow it was a crazy week. I was so exhausted! It feels so good to be working again, but I had to remind myself that I can’t go from 0 to 60 in one week. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

On my “work” days I only have energy for work, and that’s IT. And it’s difficult. Pre-cancer, my day could consist of work, a morning work out, an evening work out, grocery shopping (or any kind of shopping), cooking dinner and cleaning. Now my days can only consist of one or two major “events” and that’s all. I wish I knew when my energy will be back to normal, but with more treatment still pending, I try not to think about it too much. Right now I just take it day by day! Sometimes it’s hard to be around people who have “normal” energy and can do so many things in one day, and here I am ready for bed at three o’clock in the afternoon. And re-ntroducing myself back into the work force with my short hair can make me a little insecure, but at the end of the day I am who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing! It’s all apart of adjusting to my new life. Letting go of worry about how I look (Hair up? Hair down? Curly, or straight?) has been nice because it’s one less thing to worry about, and I can literally just accept what I see in the mirror versus restyling myself a hundred different ways until I am happy. Losing my hair and having it grow back has been one of the most humbling elements of my journey, for sure!

Another part of adjusting to my new life is making some major decisions regarding my health and the choices that I make every day. I will never know what caused my cancer, but I can’t imagine that the unhealthy lifestyle I was living for many years of my life certainly did not help. I overate, and ate way too much sugar, fat and salt. The result of that was me being over weight and heading down a bad and serious path. I lost weight for my wedding last September, and I felt like I was really ready to start making some big goals for myself. After my wedding, I floundered a bit in the health department, and it seemed like my job and relationships are were starting to fall apart. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, and it seems like the slate was wiped clean for me.

I’m ready now! I’m ready to set big goals and make big changes. I am ready to commit to those the changes every day. The problem? I have NO idea how to do it. I’m not educated in nutrition or exercise. I can get myself started (start moving more and eating less crap), but when it comes to focusing on making big goals, I’m discouraged because I feel like I have no idea how to get there.

Even though I’m scared and intimidated by the idea of changing my life for the better, this WILL NOT stop from changing! I will over come the fear, step out of my comfort zone, and change. I have all the fuel I need, I just need knowledge.

It’s never too late to change, and it’s there’s not limit of how many times one is allowed to start over.

I promise myself that I will NEVER put my health second (or third or fourth) ever again. I will not put my “working life” first like I did before (wake up, go to work, come home, eat crap, go to bed, do it all over again). My health will always be number one, which means going to the gym may be more important to going to work. I would rather go to the gym and be tired at work, then go to work and be too tired for the gym. Healthy meals are more important than cheapness and convenience. I need to be my best self in order to do my best work and live the best life I can.

And so it begins!

Thanks for cheering me on everyone. Lots of love!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 25: Preparing to leave Cancer World

Tomorrow is my last internal radiation treatment – 5 out of 5! I feel so overjoyed and lifted. This Monday is my last external radiation treatment, and then I am DONE with radiation for good! It feels amazing. If I have to do more chemotherapy, then I am ready to take it on … because nothing is worse then effing radiation.

As I walked out of treatment today, I realized that I was going to miss my oncology center once I am done. I know, crazy, right?!? I mean, who would miss going to treatments? It’s hard to explain, but unless you have visited Cancer World, you don’t know what it feels like. It’s not the treatments I will miss (trust me, never again), it’s the people and the environment. As I walked down the hall today at least five different staff members stopped me for casual conversation or just say, “Hi Kathy!” with a huge smile on their face. It was like the theme song to ‘Cheers’ singing in my head, “Where everybody knows your naaaaame; and you’re always glad you caaaame.” We talk about their kids, or how they are remodeling their kitchen, or how many days I have left of treatment and how AWESOME that is. Even though it’s a cancer center, there is so much love and positivity in the air it makes me feel so loved and special. Everyone, patients and staff members alike, are all your personal cheerleaders telling you that you can do it, you’re strong and how amazing you are. I feel bubbly and positive every time I come because I know I will be spoiled with affection. Ironically, it’s like nothing bad will ever happen in Cancer World: no one talks about you behind your back, no one says anything mean or hurtful, and everyone just wants the best for each other. Every one loves each other in Cancer World.

Unfortunately, Cancer World is not the Real World. In fact, it’s far from it. Yesterday I went back to work for a few hours, which felt so good! I miss being around my friends and co-workers, and I miss helping people and feeling productive. I was so excited to be back at work that I wrote our my May schedule (I hope I don’t jinx anything!). It felt great to be back to my old life. However, going back to my old life also means going back to old problems. I witnessed somebody being not so nice and having a negative attitude, and it made me so mad, like it always used to. I even let it stress me out, which is not a good thing because I’m still in treatment. But now I have a new attitude and a new me, so things are going to fly a little differently. I reserved myself from speaking out because I didn’t want to get too stressed (I had just come from treatment), but I mentally took notes for what lies ahead in the Real World.

It was the first time I realized I am super sensitive to negativity now, especially coming out of Cancer World. But I do not consider this a bad thing. If anything it means that the old me and people around me were being way too tolerant of negative people! We all just accepted it, and then enabled it because we thought that’s just how things were. I never spoke out against it because I was too afraid of what other people thought.

Well, I just can’t do that anymore. I’m beating my cancer, which is the most joyous thing I have ever felt. I am embracing and loving life, and I want other people find that, too. I want to spread positivity until it’s contagious, because everyone deserves to feel happy and every one deserves to feel loved. No one should have to enter their home or work place and feel uncomfortable or anxiety because of another person’s behavior. This is just unacceptable. I’m not a ding-bat, I know there will always be bad people and evil in this world. I know that I just can’t “change” people. I also know that a lot of negative people are not bad people … they just need hope. What if they were around some one who is happier than they are unhappy, and what would that look like? What would it look like to see a shining light overpowering the darkness?

It’s like when my doctors tell me that attitude is everything. My oncologist even went as far as to tell me that his patients with negative attitudes don’t do nearly as well with treatments or recovery as patients with positive attitudes. I sincerely believe this is true, and it’s just as true in Cancer World as it is in the Real World.

I still have a lot of learning to do. I need to learn how to handle new myself and my new found sensitivity. I’m nervous about leaving Cancer World, and to be honest I’ll be sad when I can’t come back again (and hopefully never will). Despite being nervous about stretching my sea legs, I’m excited for this new chapter in my life. I’m excited to introduce the World to the new me.

A quote I recently read that went something like, “You don’t start living life until you are pushed out of your comfort zone”. I have been pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even know when to start! What a great quote, and very true.

Well everyone, wish me luck tomorrow on my last internal radiation treatment! And after that, only two more external to go!

Stay happy, healthy and POSITIVE!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 24: One week left!! Thoughts and feelings!

I can’t believe how quickly last week flew by! And next week is my last week of radiation – YES!! At my oncology center, they call it “Graduating” when you finish all the radiation treatments. It’s such a wonderful feeling!! As for finishing treatments all together, I’m not sure when I will find out if I’m doing more full-on chemotherapy or not, but it should be within the next few weeks after radiation is over.

My upcoming week is a little crazy. I have my last two internal radiation and my last 3 external radiation treatments. I also have a follow-up meeting with my fertility doctor who helped my husband and I become successful with IVF. We will be discussing how to move forward and our options for parenthood.

I have been secretly stressing about how my husband and I will come up with enough money to adopt and/or have our frozen embryos placed in a gestational carrier (like surrogacy). We would love to become parents in the next three to five years (as originally planned pre-cancer), but with our job incomes it seems impossible to come up with the large sums of money. We also dream of owning a home, traveling and pursuing our passions. Obviously we can’t do all of these things at once, but I feel discouarged that money has to stand in my way of motherhood and achieving our dreams. I always wanted to believe money wasn’t the “end-all be-all” or that it could buy happiness, but now I’m starting to think differently. I hope this is not the case.

I promised myself I would not think about work or money while going through treatment as it is TOO stressful, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind. When my husband noticed that something just wasn’t right with me the other day, he reminded me that talking about feelings is the healthiest way to deal with them. So we talked about it, which of course made me feel a little bit better, and we decided to start down grading some things in our life so we can start saving money now. We contacted our apartment manager and asked if there were any smaller and less expensive units available in our complex before our move out day, and there was! We are moving at the end of May. Yes, it’s nice having a large, cushy apartment – but I like having a baby better!! Hubby and I are starting a savings account dedicated just to babies, and we are thinking of all kinds of creative ways to save money. Penny-pinching will help us on our journey to become parents, but I’m not sure if it’s going to foot the huge bill if we want to be parents before we’re 40. I’m toying with the idea of fund-raising and donations in exchange for some kind of product (like cupcakes???). I feel a little weird with the idea of taking donations for just myself and my husband (versus giving to a charity for children in Africa), but people raise money for different things all the time. You just have to believe in the cause! We’ll see if we decide to move forward with this idea, but if anyone else can think of a way to come up with $25,000 cash for adoption or $50,000 for a gestational carrier – LET ME KNOW!!

Besides dreaming about parenthood, I am so excited to go back to work, too. This is the time of year when my company starts to get super busy with summer wedding and events, and I’m missing out! I miss being around people and being productive, so I am crossing my fingers that my doctor gives me the green light to go back to work soon. I’m looking forward to getting my creative juices going again.

Every day I get closer and closer to end! Thank you again to all of our family and friends for your consistent support, and as always, thanks for following my blog. Lots of love and hugs!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 23: One down, four to go!

First off I want to give a shout out to Oregon this weekend – 80 degree weather! Whoohoo! This is exactly what I need, so thank you Mother Nature! It’s 10:00am Saturday morning, no sun yet, and I am anxiously waiting for the clouds to part.

On Wednesday this last week I had surgery to have a “sleeve” put into my uterus to use during internal radiation treatment. The surgery went fine, so thank you everyone who showed their support on my Facebook page! Thursday was my first treatment. I was told that the first one would be the worst, and it was no picnic! BUT I made it through. I dug down deep for strength and I had an amazing medical team with me. One treatment down, four more to go! My next one is on Tuesday.

Since I had surgery I didn’t have to do chemotherapy this week – YES!! That means more energy for me! Also, the internal radiation has very little side affects (just some cramping) so I shouldn’t be sick at all this week. What will I do with myself?? I’m going to take advantage of my newly found energy and stamina and be ACTIVE!

Being active is one of the things that I miss the most about “normal” life and always under-appreciated pre-cancer. Now that I am going through chemotherapy and radiation, I’ve been completely stripped of my energy. My main focus is trying not to feel sick, and any energy I have left after that goes toward doing everything day things. On a bad day, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I have completely redefined what it means to be active in my daily life and now understand how important it is. What I would do to go running on a track again! I can’t beat myself up for letting my body go to mush during treatment, but unfortunately I have to start from scratch to rebuild my muscle strength and endurance. I get sore just from taking walks! I don’t want to jump the gun, but I’m excited to ease back into physical activity.

Every day I get closer and closer to the end! Feeling good makes me so anxious to return to normal life post-cancer treatments. It feels like I’ll be starting on a blank slate with new habits, new routines, and a new me. I have many hopes and fears about starting my new path, and I know that everything I learned on this journey will lead me to a better life and many more amazing experiences!

Thank you again everyone for comforting me with love and support. Enjoy the sunshine!!

xoxo,

Kathy