Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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Monday, May 13, 2013

First Time

     The first time I heard the word "colostomy" it was very casually & quickly preceded by the word "permanent". I remember bracing my arms on the examination table & shaking my head from side-to-side like I was trying to get water out of my ears. I looked up to find the eyes of my parents & Chad focused on me; they all knew what I was thinking. PERMANENT COLOSTOMY?! My mind split into a thousand pieces & scattered in every possible direction. PERMANENT COLOSTOMY?! I was 26, a dancer, &, a newlywed. My body was so much more than just my "shell"; it was my art, my passion, my therapy, & at the time, my job. This was, without-a-doubt, going to change my life in a very substantial way but then again, cancer had already started to do so. My mind was a hurricane of  incomplete sentences, what if's, & swear words that, even at 26, I was hesitant to say in front of my parents. The next thing my surgeon said put all the doubt, reservations, & uncertainties into perspective; he looked at me & said: "I am never going to lie to you; because your tumor is so large, your sphincter has been completely compromised which means this will be irreversible. You will have this for the rest of your life BUT this will give you the rest of your life". Since diagnosis, I was desperate for an "ace" - something that would help my mind wrap around the fact that I was facing something that could very easily take me away from my family & Dr. B had just hand-delivered my ace. There was no question as to if I could or would do this. I was all-in.
     My first six weeks of chemo & radiation came & passed by much quicker than I had anticipated &, ready-or-not, I found myself face-to-face with August 19, 2010. 2 days after surgery I had my first look at my stoma (the opening made on my lower-left abdomen) in the ICU when my Ostomy Nurse, Robin, came to talk all things "Colostomy 101" with Chad & myself. It was very-much sensory &  informational overload with words I couldn't pronounce & never-ending options as far as the stoma could see. I somehow managed to keep my composure until Robin left the room & then instantly let my guard fall. It was like someone cued the waterworks & I was ever-ready to hit the mark; I cried heavy tears: tears of anger & fear, tears of uncertainty & nervousness. I cried for the "me" that existed before cancer, before tumors, & before colostomies. I cried so deeply for the 26-year-old who wanted so badly just to live a normal life. Then, something clicked - Dr. B's words replayed in my head: "you will have this for the rest of your life BUT this will give you the rest of your life". What was wrong with me??? I was still breathing & my heart was still beating. I was still alive. I quickly made the decision to allow myself to mourn the "old me" for 10 minutes. I could cry, be mad as hell, & hate the world for 10 minutes & believe me, I definitely did. On the very-eleventh minute, I wiped my eyes, took an extremely deep breath, looked down at my colostomy, & whispered: "thank you".
     Life post-colostomy is so incredibly less dramatic than I had ever expected. Stella (yes, she most definitely has a name - she's my homegirl!) is only a small part my battle & I am thankful for her existence everyday. My colostomy allowed me to celebrated more birthday's, anniversary's, & Christmas's with the people I love so much. I'm able to wake-up next to my love every morning & say "sweet dreams" to my family every night. Life is beautiful & I can't wait to experience every tomorrow that comes my way.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

What Lies Beneath

      Since we've been seeing each other for a while & before we get even more serious than we are now, I thought maybe we should talk. I mean, I think we're in that part of our relationship where I tell you more about myself because if we're going to continue with this little thing we have going on, you should know that there is SO much more to me than a past full of pirouettes, cancer, & distance-running from the cute lost-control guy at work.
     I'm the youngest of 4 children; my sister (Barbara) is 12 years older than myself, my brother James was 10 years older, & John was 4 years older than me. Obviously my parents saved the best for last because I was the fourth born...on my dad's birthday actually & yes - I was absolutely his best & favorite birthday present ever. ;)
     I'm named after my "mom & dad #2", Sis & Jim's, daughter - Lisa Marie Wright - who passed away in the early 80's a few weeks shy of her 16th birthday. She had chronic asthma & allergies that she struggled with for most of her life &, sadly, became an angel during a severe asthma attack. Although we never had the chance to meet, I've always felt a really strong connection with her. The car that was meant for her 16th birthday would become my first car: a red 1989 Toyota Corolla. She was a ridiculously talented drummer & when I was pretty sure I was destined to be a teenage rock star, Sis & Jim surprised me on my birthday with her golden-shimmer drum-set, which I still have & plan to pass down to our (one day) adopted son or daughter.
     I totally duped Chad into meeting my family for the first time. We planned to meet-up after work one night & then decide what we wanted to do. We ended up coming back to my house to so I could change, but little did Chad know that my parents & my Gram were at home & he was about to meet them...with no warning or preparation. Of course they loved him & he passed the "parent test" with flying colors, but this is one of those "remember when's" he doesn't let me forget. Something I never let him forget? He never really asked me to be his girlfriend; he referred to me as his girlfriend (which I obviously didn't dispute!) on January 31, 2009 at a get-together with friends but didn't officially ask me until I pointed it out around our one-year anniversary. Eh, technicalities! ;)
     My parents gave me the ultimate 21st birthday present - the Las Vegas experience! My mom, dad, Sis, Jim, Chad, & myself, flew from Pittsburgh to LV & spend four amazing, February days in 80 degree weather. I didn't return as a multi-millionarie but it was one of the best trips of my life.
     I originally majored in Nursing my first semester of college. The first time we had clinicals at the hospital I was asked to foley a much-older gentleman but refused because I was literally shaking with fear of hurting the guy! Needless to say, I switched my major the following semester to undecided, then to forensic psychology, & then to general psychology in which I now have a Bachelor's Degree (I also have an Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice).
     I love, love, love college football; yes, my husband absolutely converted me. Our first season together I spent the majority of the time on the phone, but now I'm the one swearing at the refs for missing the very-obvious holding, block-in-the-back, & pass interference calls; to which Chad's mouth still drops open in pride only to be followed by "I love you!". So really it's always a win-win for me.
     A piece of advice from my late-brother John that I hold close to my heart is that any life answer can be found in a song but it's our job to dig through the music & the lyrics to find that 1 song that holds the key to our situation. I'll never forget how his voice sounded when he said those words to me when I was 18.
     I believe everything happens for a reason but that sometimes we have to wait out the pain, the fear, the tears, & the uncertainty for life to unveil that reason. I have every excuse in the book to be completely pessimistic about life in general but, to me, that would mean part of life's charm has disappeared, & where is the fun in that? I like to wake-up everyday & remember what lies behind me because I know, in the long run, it will barely compare to what lies inside of me.