My Cancer Story

Cancer sucks. We all know that. We’ve seen it in the movies, and some of us have experienced it with a loved one. For me, I had only ever heard about it in health class and seen it on TV screens. No one in my life had it. As far as I know, there is no history of cancer in my family anywhere. Although I’ll admit, I’m not very knowledgeable about my family’s medical history.

This is my story about getting cancer twice in my 20’s, and what it did to me.

I was first diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 26. I remember it was October 30th 2014. The recurrence happened in December when I was 28. To back track a bit, I originally went to the doctor about six months prior (the first time) because of one symptom: bleeding during sex. Ick. I thought I had all sorts of STDs and it really freaked me out. There was a smell I wasn’t used to, and the bleeding!! Ugh it was horrible. I also had never had an exam “down there” before. I hadn’t had health insurance since I was a teenager, and just never went to the doctor. It was a very uncomfortable time in my life. Fast forward six months and many tests and attempted treatments later, they find cervical cancer. I need to go see a specialist in a city an hour and a half away. That’s fine, that’s where my family is anyway.

Cancer was caught super early, all I needed was surgery to remove my cervix. Awesome, everything was going to be fine and I’d just have surgery and miss three weeks of work and life would go on. I’ve had surgery before (appendix removed at age 12) so this will be easy. And it was. I had the surgery, they got all the cancer, I recovered, everything went back to normal.

For a year and a half, anyway.

I started getting symptoms again. Bleeding and discomfort during sex mainly. I’ve seen this before and of course I begin to worry. I just started dating a new guy and he knows my history so he worries too. Once again, it took a few visits to my oncologist before they found out it was cancer again. I’m not sure what it is with these guys that make them always think it isn’t cancer!

I always seem to get really bad news when I’m at work or on my way to work. I was in the building at work, about 10 seconds from clocking in for the day, and I get the call from my doctor. The cancer is back.

Fuck. Me.

I quickly release all my frustration and move on so I can work my shift. No one knows. No one can tell that I just got some of the worst news of my life. I’m extremely emotionally strong and handle things very well, so I’m not surprised no one notices.

Anyway, long story short (haha! too late for that now!!) I eventually go through all the testing and scans and meet all sorts of new doctors. At this time I have about 5 specialists working on my treatment plan.

Okay now this is where I’m going to go into more detail. This is, after all, a story about what I went through during treatment. While I was going through all of this, every single step was me learning something new. I didn’t know anything about any of this; all I knew was what I had seen in movies, in which they never really cover the details.

The first thing I had to go through was a minor surgery to place a stint in one of my ureters. I had developed issues with my right kidney. My ureter was blocked from the growth, so my kidney wasn’t functioning properly. A stint is just a small plastic tube thing that keeps the canal open for functionality. Super quick and easy procedure, I was back to work the next day.

My second procedure was to place my port-a-cath (commonly just called port). This was a small catheter placed just below the surface of my skin, directly below my right collarbone. Its purpose is to deliver the chemotherapy meds (which apparently is just a liquid medicine, who knew! The movies just tell you that chemo sucks, I had no idea how it was delivered). They put the port under your skin and connect it to a vein to deliver the medicine. That way, all they do is stick a needle in your skin so they aren’t doing an IV every time you’re treated, and your veins aren’t destroyed. Now this port, it kinda sucks. Once you heal from the procedure (which you’re awake for by the way), you can’t really feel it under your skin but you can see it. Mine was a large bump about the size of a quarter. Very noticeable, at least to me.

Now the fun begins!!

My treatment plan was five and a half weeks of radiation treatments, five days a week, for a total of 25 treatments. Every. Single. Weekday. Then, every Thursday would be my chemo day. At least I only had to do that once a week. I only needed a small dose of chemo every week, I couldn’t imagine more. I feel so bad for those with much more aggressive treatment plans.

Radiation is easy. It takes five minutes each day and you don’t feel a thing. The radiation techs put you on the table and line you up properly, the machine goes around your body for a couple minutes (which for me of course it went around my abdomen) and you were done.

Chemo was a little different. Each of my doses took about four hours. You get kind of a room, or at least that’s how it was at my cancer center. It was a private little area that was separated from my neighbor by a wall, but the back of the little room didn’t have a wall, that was open. SO anyway. They sit you in a chair after taking your vitals, they take your blood because it is very important to keep track of your platelets and blood counts during treatment. I always had the same nurse, the only male nurse who worked there from what I could tell. He was awesome!! His name was Roger and I’m super glad he was my nurse for all of my treatments. He always gave my tips for all things cancer related, he asked me about my life, he was funny, and made my experience a lot more bearable. During your chemo treatments, you can have visitors, you can eat and drink whatever, bring books or games or other activities, watch TV, or even nap. It was actually not nearly as horrible as I was expecting. When I had all my appointments with my doctors to prepare me for my treatment, it scared the crap outta me!! But the actual experience, was a walk in the park.

Okay, so most normal people, or other cancer survivors might call me crazy for saying it was an easy experience. I don’t mean that they symptoms from cancer or the treatments were easy. That’s different. I’m just saying that the experience itself wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t enjoy getting up really early to get to radiation before work, and I absolutely hated what all this crap was doing to my body.

My radiation oncologist was amazing. She was super thorough, more so than any doctor I have ever met. She could see the changes in my face if I made a minor smirk or gesture, and could tell if I had a question about something she was saying, then would answer it before I could even ask!! Amazing woman ­čÖé

She told me to stop using toilet paper, and to buy some sensitive wipes and carry them with me in a bag at all times. I did not expect this. Since the radiation was over my abdomen, my hips, bladder, rectum, and all the surrounding skin would be affected. The radiation causes skin irritation, redness, dryness, all sorts of fun! She didn’t want me to use toilet paper because it would add to the irritation and make everything worse. They also gave me this butt bath thing with a recipe for a salt water soak. Ha! I was to use it as often as I could, to help soothe the irritated skin. None of this was in the movies, what the heck Hollywood?!?! Anyway, I never did the butt baths cause it was weird and I actually never really felt any real bad skin irritation, so that’s good.

The radiation also causes fatigue and weakness. And I mean, holy crap I’ve never felt this weak and tired in my life kind of fatigue. You constantly feel tired, and any type of physical activity sends your heart racing so fast that it causes actual pain against your chest. I’ve worked out before, and ran and rode bikes and been out of breath, but this was a completely different feeling. I couldn’t go up ONE SINGLE flight of stairs without my heart going absolutely nuts. And I was 28 and naturally thin and have always been active. No one could have ever prepared me for how weak and pathetic and useless I felt. I was still working part time through all of this, but boy it was rough. I literally went to treatments, worked about 20 hours a week, and did nothing else. I took naps on a daily basis, which is something I have never done unless sick in bed.

Chemo causes nausea. Even though I only had one treatment per week, it stayed in my system at all times. At one time, I had six or seven different prescriptions just for nausea. I took them every day, around the clock. I think it helped, but I still felt nauseous every minute of every day for at least two months. Once again, no one can ever prepare you for that. I had actually forgotten what it was like to NOT feel sick. They really warn you not to lose any weight, because you can lose your appetite and vomit from chemo, but I had to consistently eat all throughout the day to help me from feeling any sicker. If I didn’t eat snacks constantly, or drink lots of water (which I am typically the worst at doing) then I’d feel just absolutely miserable. Luckily, I never actually got sick from any of it, but it was awful. I actually gained 15 pounds from the lack of activity and constant snacking. My doctor was happy about that. Me… not so much.

I think the worst part about having cancer is that no one understands what you’re going through and you feel very alone. I’m very strong minded, independent, and stoic. I hate getting sympathy from people, and I hate it when people are always asking how I’m doing and if there’s anything they can do to help. I know they mean well, but I just freaking can’t stand it. I didn’t want to always talk about what I was going through and how I was feeling, I just wanted someone who understood and was just simply there. Don’t get me wrong, I had fantastic support from my loved ones, but no one got it. None of my family, or friends, or even coworkers knew what it was like. Some of them had witnessed it with a family member, but no one I know has had to go through what I was going through. Okay I take that back. I had one friend who was a cancer survivor, and he was honestly one of the best people to talk to because I could talk about what was going on, just without the lengthy explanations. It was refreshing.

Oh my gosh. I haven’t even begun to explain the actual worst thing I had to endure!! After all of my external radiation and chemo, I had to have internal radiation, formally called Brachytherapy. Five treatments over about a two week period. This especially was never in the movies. My cancer buddy didn’t even know what the heck that was. So this might get a little personal and detailed, but I’m going to explain internal radiation in the lady bits.

You have to have someone drive you because they give you pain killers and mild sedation. Because it freaking hurts!! There’s this contraption that is widest on the end that first inserts into your vagina, which really sucks ass. It’s maybe an inch and a half to two inches in diameter. The doctor inserts it, and keep in mind this is right after finishing external radiation that has made all your parts sensitive and kinda closed up also. So this device gets pushed all the way to the end of the vagina, and then he TWISTS it, as if it weren’t uncomfortable enough! He attaches some more equipment to this piece, which puts a small tube into the center of the device previously inserted (this is at least my understanding of the procedure and what I felt). That tube goes further inside you, as far as they need it to go to deliver the radiation. They get everything in place and secured so it won’t move, then you’re wheeled into another room for a quick scan to make sure it’s lined up exactly where it needs to be. So you’re on this table/bed, with a long device sticking out from your vagina, just being wheeled around like no big deal. Once you’re back in your room, everyone leaves the room so the radiation can be inserted by a machine. The machine just sends it into the small tube and it releases little by little, all the way down that tube. When finished, the doctors come back in and take everything out and you’re done. But then you get sick from the sedation you were given. You just can’t win.

The recovery process for cancer treatment isn’t easy. Chemo doesn’t fully leave your system for a couple of months, so even though you’re done with treatment, you’ll still feel like crap for awhile. I tried to go back to working full time right away because it was our busy season, but it was tough! I managed decently well as long as I asked for help when needed. It took a few months for me to feel normal again, and to be able to walk up stairs with a normal heart rate. My red blood cell counts and other blood work also took awhile to get back to normal.

I sometimes wish I could impart my cancer wisdom on others; help women get through what I went through and give them advice on what it’s really like, the things no one ever tells you or quite knows how to explain. I am not afraid to go into personal, gory detail with people if I think it would help. I didn’t always tell my loved ones all the details because it was exhausting to talk about, and it was very personal stuff that was happening to me. But another cancer patient… they’d get it. There are still countless details that I haven’t touched in this entry at all.

It has been about 9 months since I’ve finished treatment, and I still have a hard time sometimes. I went on a hike last week for the first time in a few months, and my heart was having a difficult time keeping up. It will forever be a struggle for me to stay healthy and fit. And no one will fully understand. But that’s okay, they don’t have to. I am strong and can do anything.

I beat cancer, twice, and I will never let it get me for good.

Advertisements

Being Young and Sick

I have Cancer. At the age of 28, I am about to go through treatment for the second time because of a recurrence. It’s scary, it’s annoying, and it downright causes me anger.

I was first diagnosed with Cervical Cancer on October 30, 2014. Age 26 and in a new relationship. Testing had gone on for months before my doctor finally found out what was causing a growth on my cervix, along with a few minor symptoms. It wasn’t until he decided to go in surgically to remove the growth, that he realized what it was. He told me I’d have to get a full hysterectomy; it was the only cure. No babies for me. My boyfriend was as upset as I was, he wanted kids badly. A month later, I meet my oncologist (who is awesome!) and the first thing he tells me is that he can save my uterus. Woohoo!! Fast forward a few months, I’m in the hospital to get my cervix removed. Major surgery. It took about three painful weeks to recover and left me with five small scars across my stomach. That was the best part, I love scars! They got all the cancer, and I’d be able to have kids someday with just a couple minor complications. Problem solved.

Now, they say you aren’t “cured” of cancer until you are cancer free for at least five years. I had to have checkups every three months to make sure everything was still fine. I was doing well. Thriving at work, built up a pretty significant savings for myself to begin travelling (my life goal and obsession). Then BOOM. Symptoms return, I get a biopsy, and I have cancer again. I got the news while I was in the staircase at work, on my way in to start the day.

I freaked. I cried. I didn’t know what to do. I had just gotten to work and I’m too strong and proud to take time off for emotional stuff. Luckily, I had a friend at work downstairs who I could talk to before clocking on for the day. I needed to calm myself down somehow or I’d never get any work done. Went downstairs, trying to hold myself together but I couldn’t really talk without losing it. I told him I needed a hug. He gave me the best hug and I confided in him why I was so upset. He let me lose my cool for awhile, and then reminded me of how strong I am and how much I kicked Cancer’s ass the last time. I continued my day, staying strong for myself.

I have completely accepted the fact that I have cancer. You don’t have to like the things you accept, but coming to accept the things we cannot control, is the only way you can be happy. I still don’t know my treatment plan, it depends on the PET scan results. It will either be another surgery or radiation. Either way, no babies for me. Which is fine, I had pretty much decided I didn’t want kids anyway.

I am the strongest person I know. I can get through anything and come out of it better than before. Cancer will not defeat me. Although I have a feeling it’s worse than last time, I am better prepared to deal with it. Mostly, it’s just an annoyance. More debt, more missed work, more annoying symptoms and more recovery. Luckily I have a good job that pays decently and is very understanding and willing to help any way they can.

A few months ago, I planned a trip to Guam. I leave in five weeks and I’ll be gone for two weeks!! There are also some really cool layovers I’m excited about. I thought about cancelling the trip for financial reasons since my recurrence (tickets to Guam are crazy expensive) but there is no way I’m missing out on my dream of travelling the world just because of a little bit of cancer. No one should ever stop pursuing the things they love for anything or anyone.

I am sick. I have a life threatening disease at a young age. But honestly, I have been through worse. I’m going to be okay. I will thrive yet again. Travelling the world will become a reality and I will spend the rest of my life doing just that. I’ll admit that morbid thoughts have come to my mind, but I pushed them out almost as quickly as they snuck in. They do not belong in the mind of someone like me. I will go to Guam and have the time of my life, and when I return, I will kick Cancer’s ass for the second time. There will be no third ass kicking. ┬áThis time, he will stay away for good.

Abuse in a relationship

Abusive relationships come in so many forms. Physical. Emotional. Verbal. A combination of those. For me, it was verbal.

I was in love. We fell so hard and so fast and it was so amazing to be with someone who felt as strongly for me as I did for him. There were many red flags from the beginning, things I chose to accept because I believe everyone can change. Everyone can improve themselves if they just want it bad enough. And he did. Oh, he knew he had issues, he knew he needed to make changes. He had a rough upbringing, and most of his close relationships were very toxic. There was drug and alcohol abuse, abandonment issues, daddy issues, you name it.

But, I am and always have been very compassionate, I try to be understanding. I sometimes believe I am here on this earth to change lives. Most of my past relationships haven’t worked out because my exes were all stuck in some sort of rut, they didn’t have the tools yet to get themselves out. They weren’t ready for me. For love. When I could no longer handle the impossible relationship, it would end, and then and only THEN, they would snap out of their funk and change themselves like they’d always wanted to.

Back to the abuse. See, this guy knew he was troubled. He even warned me when we started dating. He had said that he didn’t like being this way, I inspired him to see things in a different way. I thought maybe I’d be the reason he would finally get what he wanted out of life. I was the best person he had ever dated, at least the most logical and understanding and real.

We had problems almost right away. I had some health issues that affected our intimacy, and I think that played into our problems more than I thought at the time. He had moments of doubt when it came to us, he didn’t always feel like we had something special. It just felt like a friendship to him at times. He could snap at any moment, it didn’t take much to set him off. And boy, he would cuss and just be plain cruel. If I said something he didn’t like, he didn’t try and figure out if maybe he’d heard me wrong, or maybe I didn’t mean it the way it had come out. He fumed. Said things I knew he didn’t mean. Yell. Put me down. Talk about breaking up. Once, he told me “get the fuck out.” I had just come over in the morning to pick him up to go to the gym. He asked about a Facebook post I had written about grabbing dinner with an old friend to catch up. It just so happened to be a male friend. His response: “get the fuck out.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were good times. Every relationship has good times, otherwise how in the hell would it have turned into a relationship in the first place?! He gave me massages, made me laugh, took care of me when I had surgery, even though it was clearly rough for him to see me in such a vulnerable, pain filled situation.

We almost broke up too many times to count. The fights were all the same. Same topics, same misunderstandings, same result. He’d tell me he would get better, he regretted the things he said and the way he treated me at times. He loved me and I loved him. We worked it out. For the time being anyway.

I found myself losing myself. I had more negative thoughts than ever before. I judged people I didn’t even know. I said no to hanging out with friends sometimes, because I was so used to just being with him and I didn’t want him to get suspicious that I was up to no good. He was paranoid and jealous, even though I didn’t give him any reason to be.

I remember the exact day I knew I didn’t love him anymore. He had insulted me about my parenting skills with my chihuhua, who apparently he had to take care of all the time. I was done. I did not feel the same way after that. Except I was stupid and still stayed for almost two more months… Hey now, I was living with him and it was very hard to find a place.

Eventually I found my own apartment, way way too expensive, but it got me out. I didn’t even tell him I had looked at a place because I knew his reaction would be very negative and he’d be very mean to me. I told him at dinner. I had found a place and got the keys the next day. Yes, I was moving out. Yes, we were breaking up. He sat there in silence, refusing to look at me. He admitted later that he almost walked out before the food had even gotten to the table. We went home. Didn’t speak. I got a pillow and blanket to sleep on the couch. And I sobbed. Sobbed for my unfortunate situation, sobbed that it was over, sobbed for how mean I knew he would be to me afterward.

But it wasn’t over. I became all those girls who just can’t leave a bad thing when they need to. He came out of the bedroom, and wanted to work things out. I’m not sure how, but we stayed together even though I was moving out. It didn’t last long, and it wasn’t pretty. He made an effort, I will say that. He could feel that I didn’t love him anymore, and he was determined to make me fall back in love with the new him.

One night, we went out for drinks with friends. He doesn’t do well when he drinks too much, and he doesn’t know how to limit his alcohol consumption. He broke something in a bar. Fucked up his arm real bad, had to have stitches and was facing felony charges. What happened? He couldn’t find me in the bar and went looking for me and thought I deliberately was trying to lose him. Found me, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, asked “where the fuck have you been?!” That’s all it took for him to lose it. I was furious. Drunk and furious. He scared me. For the first time in over a year together, he got slightly physical and appeared capable of hitting me. He didn’t, but it sure was close.

We broke up soon after. He began seeing a therapist, went to church, stopped drinking completely, and surrounded himself with some good people. Everyone knew he needed help. And he finally, finally went after it. We tried to be friends, but he still had hope I’d fall for him again, and I was simply just over it. He still smothered me and always asked what I was doing, who I was with, if I was seeing anyone.

Well one day I did see someone. I hooked up with a friend at a wedding. He found out, and called me all the names in the book. That was it for our friendship. He was the one thing in my life that caused stress, and I didn’t need it anymore. I am in control of my life, not him or anyone else. At that wedding I had gone to, my best friend said that I seemed happier that weekend than I had in a long time. It just goes to show how much negative people can affect your life. He messed me up for awhile. I was not me. And I knew that yet I became the girl I hate. The girl who made excuses for her man and his behavior.

Every situation is different, and to this day, I still justify my decisions in that relationship. If I hadn’t stuck around, maybe he wouldn’t have made the changes he needed to make for himself, and I can live with the pain he caused if it means his life is on the right track for the first time. He is finding himself. He is learning new things about himself. He is paying for all the mistakes he made, and learning patience and how to not judge everyone so quickly. He is growing up at 30 years old. From losing me, he has gained everything he had wanted while we were together. The perspective he has gained on life, are some of the things I tried telling him before. The things he says now, some of it is word for word to things I’ve told him.

No one will ever learn anything until they are ready to. People are stubborn. You can’t be your boyfriend’s therapist. You can’t change him. He has to change for himself. He has to love himself and treat himself with respect before he can treat others the same way. There is never an excuse for abuse. Never a really good reason to stay. I had my dumb reasons, and I knew a long time ago that it wasn’t going to work out in the end. I knew I’d leave someday. He is now turning into the man I always knew he could be, and he is happy doing so. He can be proud to be who he is. He doesn’t have to regret anything he does or says from now on.

I have learned what I won’t put up with. I have learned what it’s like to be put down by someone I love. I now know what it feels like to love someone who only ever tries┬áto push you away. It is difficult. It is very hard to move forward from that, to not let myself sink down lower and lower. But I am strong. I am not that person, it is not me, it is what happened TO me.

Don’t let what happened TO you define who YOU ARE. You are in control of the way you turn out. The way you love. The way you live life. Your destiny is up to you, your attitude and the decisions you make. No one else.

A poll to take

The Road

Life is a road. It may be long or short, travel through the countryside or cities or along the coast. It may lead you to a dead end every once in awhile. Each turn you make changes your life in ways you cannot predict, but at least you have a destination in mind. The further you choose to go, the greater the amount of obstacles you’ll face, the greater amount of time it takes, the greater the reward.

So… where will your road take you??


It’s a New Year!!

The new year always brings hope. Hope that things will be better this year, because everyone knows last year was just terrible. New years’ resolutions have become more and more popular. Lose weight. Get a better job. Go back to school. Save money. Become more involved in my community. The options are endless, most people making multiple resolutions each year.

But I ask you this: have you been successful in past years with fulfilling your resolutions?? Most people will probably answer “no.” If your answer is yes, good job! From my experience, everyone makes a resolution to lose weight or save money. And the point of a new years’ resolution is to make it by the end of the year, right? So you think to yourself, “I have an entire year to do this, it should be easy!”

What’s wrong with resolutions is that no one sticks to them for very long. They think they have the whole year, so even if they get behind, they can always catch up. Right? Well, what if your resolution is to lose 20 pounds? If you lose the 20 pounds in the first 2 months, will you just stop making progress on your level of physical fitness?? You’ll just get fat again.

STOP MAKING RESOLUTIONS. Instead, make life goals in general. Ongoing goals that have no specific time frame will be much more enjoyable. If you make a goal to lose weight by summertime, what happens when you get behind and can no longer reach your goal in time? You don’t even try. Because what’s the point if you won’t have that bikini bod by June anyway? You’ll just try again next spring.

I have always been naturally thin, but by no means am I in shape. I am 5′ 6″ and about 130 pounds, size 5 jeans. So although I look alright, I have hardly any muscle and a little bit more chub than I’d like. I can’t wear tube tops because of the fat by my armpits. I can’t wear super skin tight dresses without some sort of spanks underneath, because yes, I have love handles, no matter how small they may be. I have made countless attempts to get in shape and be super toned and fit, to have that bikini body and look like a Victoria’s Secret model. I’ve set goals to do it by summertime, but it has never happened. And even though I look “okay” in a bikini, I am a little self conscious about my body.

I realized something though. Time restricted goals are just a way to set yourself up for failure. If you change your mindset, you can achieve anything. Changing your mindset is a very difficult thing to do, but it’s all up to you and you alone can do it. Change your goals. THIS IS 100% IN YOUR POWER. I made a list last year, of things in my life that needed changing in order to increase my happiness. None of the items included anyone else. My own happiness is completely up to me. The list consisted of things such as “quit my job” (I worked for terrible people and it caused a lot of stress in my life), “get a gym membership and USE IT” (using it is the most important part of this goal), and “stop caring for people who don’t care.” The list consisted of about 10 goals, most of which are ongoing. It took awhile for me to use the gym regularly, but I’m doing it and I have no intention of stopping, because I did not set any type of goal to allow me to stop. I don’t have weight loss goals, I don’t have a time frame. It is much more rewarding when it is continuous, you feel like you’re actually bettering yourself and you don’t have to feel ashamed or unworthy if you don’t achieve goals right away.

If your goal is to save money, them just do it! Yeah it might be good to save up a specific amount for a vacation you’ve been planning, but don’t stop there! Maybe you’ll save up $5000 to go to Hawaii, but 2 days before your trip, your dog gets hit by a car and needs surgery that you can’t afford. Would you save your dog or go to Hawaii? Or you get back from your trip to find your car was stolen, or whatever the case may be. Bad things in life usually happen when we least expect it. These ongoing goals help alleviate the stress caused by those things.

My point is, make goals that you can accomplish little by little every single day. You’ll be happier and have more reasons to be proud of yourself.

CONSTANT PROGRESS