Monday, August 29, 2011

The Way I Am

     It’s been 2 months since we found out about my recurrence and we’re still pretty much in the same spot now as we were then. The only “progress”, if that’s what you would call it, would be the 2 visits to have consults with my new surgeon in Pittsburgh, another trip to the burgh’ to meet a urologist and plastic surgeon who will also be a part of my surgery, and a colonoscopy for good measure (through my stoma for those of you who are like “but…how??” Don’t feel bad, I asked too!), which actually brought us full circle since that is where my cancer journey first began back in April 2010. Maybe that seems like more progress to you than it does to me; I’m just so frustrated these days. Frustrated, nervous, anxious, angry, scared - all of the above and every other emotion you could think of….which, when all mixed together, as they are now, equals an emotional mess, which equals me. Up is down, down is up, left is right, and right is left - at least that is how it seems to me lately. I feel such an urgency to get this tumor out of me…that’s the first step back to remission and I would really like that first step sooner rather then later. After all, remember I have super-tumors that grow at an astronomical rate every second it's in my body that doctors around the globe have never even seen before…well, at least in my mind they do. :) Oh, I guess we could definitely add paranoid to that list of emotions I mentioned shortly ago, yep - definitely paranoid. I don’t understand why it seems like such a task to get a surgery date…a date…that’s all I’m asking for…is that too much for a girl to want? We know it will be on a Thursday but just give me a friggen date already! Geesh! I understand that my specialist deals with my type of cancer everyday but, it’s his job and this is my LIFE. To me, every day that passes is a day that could, potentially, be a day that is used fighting this disease. I think that fuels my frustration…I’m ready now for surgery; I’m ready for the pain, for the healing, and ultimately, I’m ready to have this surgery behind me and be moving on to the next step, whatever that may be. I’ve stated in earlier entry on this blog that I’m the type of person who, once placed in a intense position, I will, most likely, convince myself that a baseless, ridiculous, off-the-top outcome will without-a-doubt happen. It’s something I do a lot and I’m not afraid to admit that. It’s silly and usually just fuels my anxiety, but it’s just what I do. What I haven’t told you yet is why I do what I do and why I am the way I am.
     Over the past 7 years, my family has been through hell & back, even before my cancer diagnosis we knew what tragic really meant and what havoc it could reek on your lives. In 2004, my older brother John (24) passed away from smoke & soot inhalation in a house fire. I was 20-years-old at the time and had never experienced a death before, so for it to be my big brother was more than tragic…it was…well, it was something that I can’t really describe in words, but I’ll try. It’s like a sucker-punch to your gut that you can’t get rid of and, much like cancer, you can’t truly understand the feeling until you, unfortunately, may experience it yourself. You feel so alone even though you surrounded by the world & you feel so smothered even though that world is giving you room to breathe. You feel lost and wonder if you'll ever feel "found" again.
     My family grieved, as we still do & will forever do, and eventually began to rebuild our lives minus one. However, 28 months later, in 2006, my brother Jay (32) suddenly & unexpectedly passed away from “Acute bronchopneumonia” after experiencing flu-like symptoms for a few days prior - we had no clue it was anything more. He had promised to go to the doctor the next day but once again, our world was shattered, smashed, shred to pieces and we found ourselves in a familiarly tragic & unfair position. In a little over 2 years, I had lost both of my big brothers. I didn’t understand why and really, to this day, I’m not sure I do now. The only comfort we could find was that my brothers were best friends and even though they were not with us, they were together and that, for me at least, gave me a slight hint of peace. Jay’s death would eventually lead me to meet someone half-way across the country who, to this day, holds a very special place in my heart and still helps me get through some really dark days (Love you Shelley!).
     So maybe now that gives you a little understanding of why my mind is constantly spinning and coming up with the “glass half-empty” mentality. I don't like being like that so I’m working on myself and I have full faith I’m going to kick cancer’s ass…again. It’s not going to be fun, in fact, it’s going to be hell - but, like I just told you…I’ve been to hell & back a few times and still, here I am. On the plus side, I have a little extra help from 2 handsome guardian angels on my shoulder to guide me through this cancer fight.
     Along with being mentally exhausted, the physical aspects of recurrence are definitely making their presence known. The all-too-familiar tailbone pain that I had ignored for so many months before diagnosis has returned full-force, extending up to the middle of my spine. My joints from my fingers to my toes feel every step I take during the day, my knees usually feel like I ran a 5K after climbing our stairs, and finding a comfortable position to sleep in is an obstacle I have yet to conquer (Sorry Chad ILY). Last week I swallowed my pride gave in and got a cane, I know, I know…but don’t worry, it’s super cute! I can’t let something like cancer ruin my fashion, that would be absolutely unfair justice!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I Know

     I can't believe how much has changed in the past month; it blows my mind how quickly cancer can change your life over & over again. I remember sitting on the beach of Oak Island in early June of this year, smelling the ocean air, feeling the sand between my toes, & telling Chad how cancer had tried to take that experience away from me but had not succeeded. I would have never thought 2 months later I would once again be putting on my armor & gearing up for battle - but that's the thing about cancer, it's unpredictable & it's ruthless.
Although I try not to, I often find myself thinking about the year or so before I was diagnosed. During that year, I was ignoring symptoms because I didn't have the knowledge that they were symptoms. I can't help but blame myself sometimes; maybe, just maybe if I had seen a doctor sooner I wouldn't be in this mess...but that's something that I, or you, will never know.
     What I know now is that I hate being back to the days of feeling the constant ache in my gut knowing the fight that lies ahead of me. I hate running out of energy trying to make it up our steps; I hate the fact that it's getting harder & harder to pick of my 4-yr-old niece. I hate having to explain to my 8-yr-old nephew why I have so many doctor appointments & I hate having to hide the fear from both of them so they always believe I'm still the same "LaLa" I was before cancer. Bottom line: I hate this disease.
What I know now is that I have one hell of a battle coming up: surgery to remove my tumor, my uterus, & my ovaries - not because the disease has spread but because my new surgeon has fears that they could have been affected by cancerous cells & have not yet matured. We agreed that removing them was a better decision than leaving them in & increasing the chance of having ovarian or ureutal cancer in the future. I'm not going to lie - that was a mighty hard pill to swallow.
     Although our radiologist told us very early on that treatment would make me sterile, I think I still held out that small hope that I could pull out a miracle & one day, when we were ready, Chad & I would be able to have a child of our own. Not everyone knows this, but Chad actually took MY last name when we married because both of my older brothers had passed away, leaving no males to carry on our last name...we had hoped to have a son to do so. I know, I know...there is adoption & for some very strange, unexplainable reason Chad & I have always talked about adoption since we met. So, when we are ready, we whole-heartedly intend on adopting a child who will be meant to be our's & we'll be meant to be his or her's. I have full faith that my brothers will lead us to that baby when the time is right.
     As for now, I'm enjoying spending time with my family & my husband (and the countless # of appointments with various doctors) - we live our days as normal as possible but cancer is never far from any of our minds. I've beaten this disease once & this time, the only difference is I know what lies ahead - surgery & chemo, but experience never hurts, right?
When it comes down to it, cancer is a part of my life - it doesn't define me, it doesn't consume me, & it doesn't stand for who I am as a person. I'm a wife, a daughter, a sister, a "LaLa", & a friend. There is so much more to me than what hides inside my body & everyday that I remind myself of that fact & live by that fact...well, that's a victory for me.