An Open Letter to my Caretakers

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Dear Mom and Dad,

You’ve had many names over the years from your children: G-Momma and G-Daddy, Mommy and Daddy, The Unimommer and Papa Nuke…I could go on and on. However, one I’m sure you never expected to have is “Caretaker.”

I’m sure that 24 years ago when you met your little girl for the first time, you never expected to have to do and see any of the things that you’ve dealt with involving my cancer.

Cancer did many things for me, and one of those things was strengthening the relationship I have with my two amazing parents.

So this letter is to say two things. The first is, I love you both SO very much, and the second is to say thank you.

Dad,

Thank you for waking up at 3am when I was screaming in pain from a tumor pushing on my ribs to hold my hand and talk to me until I was able to fall asleep again.

Thank you for taking mom and I out for Valentines Day ice cream and preventing that day from being a scary, awful, painful day of scans and tests shortly after my cancer diagnosis.

Thank you for making sure my movie collection at the Houston apartment was stocked full of awesome movies to watch.

Thank you for the breakfasts you cooked me in the apartment every morning you were there. Especially the cheesy eggs.

Thank you for buying special devices to grind or cut the pills I couldn’t take when they were too big.

Thank you for being the worlds best problem solver and having a solution to every single problem I could throw at you(there were a lot).

Thank you for all the times you went out and got me literally EXACTLY what I wanted when I had cravings during chemo, and remembering those cravings when I didn’t want to eat later on.

Thank you for all the things you carried for me when I was hurting or weak and couldn’t lift my own arm.

Thank you for sitting peacefully for hours on end in hotel rooms when all I could manage to do was sleep.

Thank you for holding me while I cried the day that my hair started falling out in clumps, and for all the times after that where you reminded me how beautiful I looked without hair.

Thank you for reserving and paying for hotel accommodations while we were in Austin for ACL so I could have fun between chemo treatments. I had an amazing time there with my little sisters.

Thank you for taking me out for dinner and a movie as our tradition before every chemo treatment. It was such a blessing to have that time with you.

Mom,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to leave and have a job to come back to after cancer.

Thank you for springing into action after my diagnosis to learn everything you possibly could about my cancer and the drugs they were using for chemo, and for organizing it neatly into my hot pink “Battle Binder.”

Thank you for washing my hair like a child at the beginning of my treatment when I couldn’t manage to do it myself.

Thank you for helping me find scarves and hats I liked. Also, for modeling said scarves with me and taking selfies.

Thank you for all the times you yelled at nurses when I wasn’t being cared for to my/your expectations. You were a nightmare to inattentive nurses everywhere.

Thank you for the numerous times you drove me in tears to the ER in the wee hours of the night, and for using your supermom powers to get me seen quickly when I was neutropenic.

Thank you for taking me shopping or buying me new clothes every time mine got too big for me to wear. I know the intense weight loss frightened you and I both.

Thank you for all the meals you cooked for me. Especially for hauling your huge wok up to the Houston apartment just to make me my favorite fried rice.

Thank you for being a constant source of motivation and encouragement for me throughout my journey, and always being there to listen when I needed to talk or in chemo when I “didn’t know what I was crying about.”

Thank you for getting certified and learning how to do a dressing change, and for keeping my CVC clean and infection free for 15 months. I’ve bragged about this to several nurses and doctors and they were very impressed. It’s quite a feat.

Thank you for the numerous times you stood in the bathroom and rubbed my back or comforted me during my most intense nausea, and for all the cold rags you’ve retrieved to put on my neck.

Thank you for shaving my head, and for telling me it made me look like a supermodel. Also, for taking me on my first wig shopping trip and making it fun.

Thank you for sitting on the hotel patio with me while we drank a glass of wine the night before my surgery. You have no idea how nervous I was.

Thank you for all the recliners and makeshift hospital pull-out beds you slept on when I wanted or needed human interaction with someone other than a nurse in the hospital. Having you there made it 100% better.

Thank you for all the times you had to push me around in a wheelchair when I was too weak or tired to walk on my own. I never had to know how to wheel myself around cause you were always there to push me. I’m sure you enjoyed the workout session you got in the process.

Finally, to both of you,

Thank you for all of the time you took off of work to care for me. I know this was the biggest sacrifice that both of you made and you both made it work so perfectly. Thank you for all the time you had to sacrifice away from each other when one of you had to be with me in Houston at all times.

Thank you for dealing with the crazy mood swings involved with chemo and for waiting on me hand and foot when I wasn’t capable of doing things myself.

Thank you for forcing me to move back in. I could never have done this on my own.

Thank you for the two vacations you took me on to Colorado and California. They took my mind off of cancer and it was great to see places other than Houston for a change.

Thank you for driving me around Houston and for all the effort you put into avoiding bumps in the road so I didn’t hurt.

Thank you for encouraging or even making me eat when I refused. I know I am very stubborn without chemo, so this is impressive.

Thank you for all the prescriptions you filled and picked up. I know I had a lot of drugs to keep track of.

Most of all, thank you for reminding me every day with your words and actions how much you truly love me. Words could not ever express how much I truly adore and appreciate both of you for everything you are and have been to me in the past fifteen months. You are two huge sources of strength and you helped me lead a life that was damn near normal while I was fighting for it at the same time.

Love,

Your cancer free daughter(Also your favorite)

Sarah Kaitlin Tindell

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Don’t Be THAT Girl: The 10 types of girl you DO NOT want to be

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As a female in this world, I’ve realized that the best way to be toward other females is empowering. I’ve learned to be a friend and a role model, and to lead by example for how my sisters and close friends should act. Now, I’m not saying I’m always perfect or that anyone HAS to act like me or have the same ideas as me to be in my circle of friends. However, as ladies, we know when something we are doing is unacceptable, childish, or wrong. I know none of you are stupid. Which is why it’s so disappointing when other women make less than admirable choices. So, I’ve made a list of the girls you DON’T want to be. Ever. In no particular order, here they are.

1. The Friend for Gain: This girl is only friends with you when it benefits her. She may be friends with you because you have money, or because you give her access to friendships or relationships with other people, but that is the only reason she is your friend. You can easily point these friends out because they leave a trail of evidence. They only hang out with you in certain places or with certain people. This is not a healthy relationship. Drop this person like a hot rock. Example: A friend that only wants to go out to bars when you have money to spend. She wants you to spend it on her. “Bye Felicia!”

2. Questionable Tattoos Girl: Please tell me more about the “inspiration” for tattooing whatever that is on your “hip.” I’m sorry, but if your bra or panties are the only way to conceal that tattoo, and you’re showing it off in public, we’ve got big problems. Please put your genitals away and save that tattoo for one person. Quit giving your goodies out to everyone.

3. Ill Fitting Clothing Girl:
Part of having good fashion sense is obviously making sure your clothing fits before going out in public. This is specifically for those wearing clothing that is too small. Know when to get a bigger size. Belts do not cover muffin tops, they accentuate them, and if your legs are bulging out of the holes in your jeans it might be time to get some new ones. There’s no way that you looked at yourself in the mirror, saw the busted can of biscuits you’ve become, and thought, “Hey, this is super cute. I’m gonna go out like this.” Just have some common sense.

4. Endless Summer Girl: If it is 30 freaking degrees outside, put some clothes on. I know you’re afraid that when you’re all covered up you might have to develop a personality, but trust me it’s not that hard. Do not wear open toed wedges, daisy dukes, and a crop top when it’s below 60 degrees outside. Just don’t do it. It’s not going to magically make sand, Palm trees, and 80 degree weather appear. I promise. Save your nakedness for somewhere far closer to the equator.

5. Drunk Girl: I understand that alcohol makes people easier to talk to, but you’ve drank so much that you’re befriending complete strangers, old guys, and hobos, you just ate a French fry off the ground, and you’re about to go butcher a karaoke song by Celine Dion. Yes, people are laughing…but they’re laughing AT you, not with you. Also, your close friends WILL get tired of holding your hair when you puke and telling you no when you try and call your ex boyfriend. Plus, all that alcohol is making you fat. Get it together, sistah!

6. Complaining About Good Things Girl: “Ew, I’m too skinny.” “OMG, my hair looks TOO good.” “I wish my eyelashes weren’t so long.”
Shut up. Just shut up.

7. Contest Girl: It doesn’t matter how skanky you look, you’re going after that first place wet t-shirt contest title. Please have some sense. That “Banana Eating Contest” is not REALLY to see how fast you can eat a banana…don’t be a sloot.

8. The Flirt: There is a way to make more girl friends, and that’s by keeping your distance from their boyfriends. I don’t care how long you’ve known him, if he’s got a girlfriend, get off his lap and don’t you dare kiss him on the cheek again. Even friends need boundaries when it comes to relationships, and a girl shouldn’t have to worry about their man leaving them for a friend. Also, if you’re dating the guy that’s letting this happen, dump him. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

9. The “Model”: I know women and men that are actual paid models, and not once have I seen them don dominatrix gear and nipple tassels, or pay for someone to take “boudoir” photos of them. Their work albums look professional, not like a wannabe playboy centerfold. Please, I beg of you, have more respect for yourself. I know you have common sense and you know what professionalism looks like, even in the modeling industry. If you do not have a professional look book, and you’re not getting paid to take photos, you’re doing the whole modeling thing wrong. Very wrong. I understand it’s common for younger girls to get caught up in it and think that taking their clothes off is “art,” but it’s not. It’s just preventing you from getting a job as a professional in the future.

10. Pretty Girl with An Ugly Attitude: As women, we should all be helping each other, not hurting each other. Above all else, if you learn anything from this, be kind to everyone you meet. A pretty face, does not even matter if you’re being rude to everyone. Hold your head high, but never assume you are better than any other woman you encounter. Even if they are any of the girls on this list. Being catty doesn’t get you anywhere, and it sure doesn’t make you any friends.

The “Can” in Cancer

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Now, because I’ve been trying to lay off the haterade lately, I decided to make a wonderful blog with ONLY the positive things about fighting Cancer. It has taken me more than just one day to compile this list, but there ARE in fact good things that come with Cancer and chemotherapy. The newest chemo regimen I am on has been far less than awesome. I’ve suffered physical and mental exhaustion, heightened emotions, and extreme nausea. So, I needed to post something cheery for you all, and for myself. So without any further hesitation, here is my list of “Cancer Pros.”

1. No Hair: Yes, this one could also make the con list, but hear me out. As a woman who used to have long hair, it’s usually everywhere. It ends up on the floor, in your car, and most of all in your shower drain. It’s just disgusting. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that right now. Also, I do not have to pay to get it colored or maintain the color. I don’t have to style my hair either. However, the best part about being hairless has to be not shaving. You don’t have to shave anything, at all, ever. Plus, your skin is so soft without hair on it. I love getting ready to go somewhere with my friends and just doing my makeup and putting on a wig while I watch them struggle with their hair that wont straighten or curl, or panic because they havent shaved their legs in days. I often make jokes about it to my friends too. With wigs you just get to choose who you want to be every day, and it’s pretty sweet.

2. Less Anxiety: Before, I had Cancer I had anxiety about going to the doctor, people poking me with needles, and people touching me in general. Now, it’s a walk in the park to get my blood drawn or get an IV put in. Even stitches weren’t that bad when they had to re-do them on my chest. I’m also more comfortable being around people and meeting new people, and a simple shoulder graze from a stranger doesn’t make me extremely uncomfortable. Once you’ve had Cancer, you truly can do anything.

3. The Friend Filter: I call it the friend filter, because you find out so quickly who cares and who does not. Immediately there’s a huge wave of support and then when it dies down there are people who will stick around, and people who wont. This was such a good and healthy thing for me because of all the toxic people I had in my life. Many people were only my friends for gain, and that changed when the tables turned and I needed them. I’m glad that even though I had Cancer, I now have only the people in my life that WANT to be here. It’s refreshing.

4. Feel Better About Myself: It took losing all my hair for me to think that I was pretty. I’m so serious. I used to wake up in the morning with no makeup on and think, “Gah, I look like a disaster.” However, now I get up every day and see my bald self in the mirror with no makeup and I know I look pretty. I know I could go out just like that and get compliments. (I probably won’t ever do that, but I totally could.)

5. Unintentional Weight Loss: I was already on a diet before I was diagnosed, but once I got on chemo I hit my goal weight real fast. They’re actually trying to get me to gain weight right now, that’s how much I’ve lost. I wouldn’t recommend the diet to anyone, EVER, unless they absolutely needed it. However, it totally rocks being skinny again. It’s that kind of skinny other girls hate, too…where I can eat as much as I want of whatever I want and I won’t get fat. Yep. Dream on ladies. You wish you had this Cancer body.

6. The Cancer Card: Yes, I saved the best for last. The Cancer Card is this lovely thing that you get to play whenever you want, because you have Cancer and you CAN, dammit! The perks include lots of free stuff and special treatment. I haven’t exactly used mine a whole lot because I never wanted to be one of the “show offs” of my disease that use it to get anything and everything they’ve ever wanted. I don’t believe that I am entitled to certain things because I have Cancer, but I love when they are given to me. It’s nice to get things like free hats, wigs, or food just because people care. Other bigger things I’ve been given have made me pretty emotional.

I am definitely blessed to have all the people who care about me, and happy that Cancer isn’t ALL bad. It helps to write things like this when I am in a negative mood about my chemo or being shut in because it’s flu season. It gives me a bit more to be thankful for this season.

 

The Simple Life

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I am so tired. I’m just exhausted from fighting. When you have Cancer, everything gets harder. It gets harder for you AND everyone around you. It’s harder to eat, harder to sleep, harder to keep food down. You have to plan around treatments for everything, and you can’t simply just pick up on a whim and go hang out with your friends. You have to check your blood work first and make sure your white count is up. You also have to make sure you feel up to being out and about. Then if you make it past all those steps, you have to get ready and put on a wig. Then you still worry the entire night about germs, and you get bored of it so easily because there’s not much you can do…except talk to people. Know what people want to talk to you about? Cancer. They want to talk about Cancer.

This disease follows you around and makes sure it is the subject of every single conversation you have. So, when you’re tired of all the exhausting treatment, and being physically exhausted, there’s always someone that wants to exhaust the subject more. I’ve actually had to say in conversation, “Can we not talk about Cancer tonight?” It’s already taken so much from me, I hate when it steals the conversation. However, I usually just brush it off and answer people’s questions because I know it means they care. I don’t want to be rude.

Anyway, I wrote this because I can’t wait. I can’t wait until life is simple again. I can’t wait until I don’t have to go to doctors appointments and get blood work every two days. I can’t wait until I can swim or shower without having to worry that my CVC is going to get wet. I can’t wait until I can go on a vacation without chemo looming over me. I can’t wait until chemo no longer kicks my ass every three weeks. I can’t wait until I have the physical strength to go hiking again on my own. I also can’t wait until I don’t have to wear fake hair. I can’t wait until I no longer have to be chaperoned the majority of my life because I’m physically exhausted, or could fall.

However, I have to wait for all these things to happen. The main thing I’ve prayed for recently is patience. Because, with 8 cycles left I am exhausted and EXTREMELY impatient. So, patient or impatient…I still have to wait my turn. I have to wait for my forever, and wait for the simplicity I long for.

This prayer, and the longer version of it, have helped me in moments like this:

God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference. Amen.

This prayer and the love and good energy of those around me has helped me to wait for when my life will be simple once again.
It’s funny that I call it that because life isn’t simple, but I believe that as long as I’m not fighting cancer anymore, that is exactly what my life will be. Simple. Pure. Wonderful.

A Cancer Patient’s Opinion on “Party Girls”

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This is a special blog post for this time of year. With Halloween next week, and some of the madness I’ve witnessed this summer…I just had to get it out.

First of all, to avoid sounding hypocritical, I tried to get away from this label for years. Yes. I was one of these girls. However, I’ve learned now that you can go out or attend parties without being a “party girl.”

For years before my diagnosis I did the same things over and over again and expected different results. I didn’t always think before I acted. I enjoyed instant gratification. I went out to bars on week nights, and insisted I could get up early in the morning and make it to work on time. I messed up a lot with that one, because I even got fired once or twice for not showing up or being habitually late. I had about 15-20 pounds of extra weight that I couldn’t shed, because I drank so often. I never got enough sleep, so I was always getting sick. Hangovers were a regular thing that I had kind of gotten used to. I was often that girl at the bar making a fool of herself to draw attention. I was even known to indulge in the cancer patients nemesis from time to time(cigarettes). I believed that my extremely extroverted personality was to blame, and I always thought, “Why worry? I’m just young and having fun!” The people around me did it all the time, so I could too.

I believe that the first time I came up with these excuses for my behavior was when I was in a sorority at Texas State. I went through rush as a freshman, and was fresh out of highschool and innocent and sweet. I never drank alcohol unless my parents gave me permission. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t love being in my sorority. I met some very beautiful true friends in Delta Zeta that I’ll keep for the rest of my life. However, after rush I was thrust into the deep end of this crazy world. The day after bid day actually, the older girls invited us all to get ready at the house to go to this huge fraternity party. I still remember it now. It was a black light party. We all went and bought white shirts, only to cut them up and wear them over sports bras. We were decked out in white, neon, and glowing/flashing accessories. I can count on one hand the times in my life that I have been terrified like I was going to that party. However, I ended up loving it. The rush of meeting new people and socializing with so many others was like a high for little freshman Sarah. From that day on, I loved being out and around others at parties and bars. However, I didn’t see the negative influences on me. A few of the senior girls drank in excess to have fun, and I failed to see the harm in what they were doing.

These days when I see “party girls” I get frustrated or angry. I’ve seen the girl I used to be, and worse, and I severely dislike any girl who doesn’t care enough about themself to make a lifestyle change. So, in no particular order, these are my “Party Girl Pet Peeves.”

1. Drinking Heavily: Okay so this one might be in a particular spot, but the rest are in no particular order. There is NO reason at all EVER that you should consume that much alcohol. You are doing shots and ordering drinks that you have no business ordering, or you’re “slapping a wine bag” that eight thousand other people have drunk out of, having a chugging contest with the guys, or God forbid you’re shot-gunning ANYTHING. Just stop. There’s also no reason to drink anything called a “Mind Eraser” or a “Liquid Marijuana.” I don’t care how YUMMY your friend said it was…it’s just bad news. Quit while you’re ahead. I don’t care how pretty you are. At some point you have to say no to the guys buying you drinks. Buy yourself a six-pack of something decent, or a bottle of wine. Have some class. And, don’t just drink beer because it’s there. If your only options are Keystone, Natty Light, or some weird off-brand from Walgreen’s, maybe you just shouldn’t drink that night. Any beer that you can buy a 30 pack of for fifteen dollars should not be on your beverage list for the night.

Also, it makes you gain weight. Lots of it. While your drunk self is going to the nearest fast food establishment to gorge yourself, us cancer people are laying awake in bed with no appetite. When you’re puking your guts out because you drank too much, we are being fed IV medications to try to keep our food down. We already wake up every morning of infusion feeling like we have seventeen hangovers, and you’re out there waking up with one on purpose. Not to mention the amount of money you’re spending on alcohol when we are pinching pennies for spending money and medical bills. If you wake up and don’t remember anything, you have issues. Just get your act together. There is a way to drink in moderation, and you’re doing it wrong.

2. Drugs: This isn’t one I personally had issues with, but apparently plenty of ladies in this county do, because you see them at bars all the time. Get some help. What you’re doing is gross, and it’s going to kill you. I have to do legal prescription drugs all the time and I hate them, so I cannot imagine the appeal in illegal ones. I’ve seen them destroy plenty of lives, and you’ll be one of them if you don’t shape up and quit the nonsense.

3. Smoking: I’ll just save my time telling you what chemo feels like, cause you’ll find out eventually. Super fun stuff. If you want to try it, just keep smoking for another five years or so.

4. Skanky Clothing: That doesn’t fit you. WHY did you wear it out tonight? People are going to wear what they want to wear regardless of how many of us try to play fashion police, but seriously? Muffin top cannot be comfortable. I mean I’m ten pounds away from being underweight and STILL can’t stand tight clothes that don’t fit. I have been known to wear very loose clothing, but that’s the furthest thing from skanky there is. There is a difference between classy and trashy. Just because you own a pair of red heels does not mean you need to wear them to the bar with cut off blue jean shorts that are a size too small. There’s no way you looked in the mirror and okayed the amount of cellulite hanging out of your shorts. Leave a little to the imagination. Also, don’t wear a bra to a bar! This is a big one. You know who you are if you’ve done it. You may be saying, “It’s a crop top!” No Honey, that is a BRA.

5. Promiscuity: Out of all the dumb contests you’ve won at bars, I promise there isn’t one for how many guys you can flirt with. I mean, I just saw you making out with some guy who I assumed was your boyfriend, but here you are flirting with another one. This isn’t creepy dude Monopoly. This is a public establishment. Pull yourself together girl. Pick one. Preferably not one you met at a bar. That sure has a 100% success rate…NOT. At least play hard to get…I mean they’re all gonna catch on when half the guys in the bar are wearing your shade of lipstick. Calm down. Chill out. Stop trying to pick up guys at bars or clubs. Keep it in your pants or you’re gonna catch something, and I’m not talking about Ebola.

If you take these five tips to heart, I promise it’s a fool-proof way to have a blast at parties, and not be labeled a “Party Girl.” Please, and Thank You.

-Classy Girls Everywhere

(Especially those with cancer)

Strength is Genetic

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During the course of cancer treatment, the words, “Be strong!” are used more than any other combination. Up until I was actually faced with my first round of chemo, I had no idea what being strong even meant. So many cancer patients say, “It was either this or die, and I didn’t like the alternative.” Fighting was really the only option to me. There was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to face this evil thing head on and show it who was really in charge…for myself, and for my grandmother. I was first diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma almost EXACTLY a year after my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was a woman who took the phrase, “Be strong!” and raised you something better. It was so amazing to me that she fought so proudly and with such grace. However, it was only when I started experiencing chemo for myself, that I truly found out just HOW strong she was. We were kept from her a lot during her chemo, because she had low counts and our parents didn’t want to give any of our germs to her. However, there were a few times that I remember being able to spend time with her during her treatment.

She was so particular about making sure she still looked fabulous every day. Most times that I saw her she had makeup and a wig on and looked like normal, healthy, beautiful Dee(That’s what we called her). I guess it’s just genetic that we take chemo so well, because many of my friends tell me I look great or that I look healthy. I don’t like looking frail or sick though…so they might be lying to me. If that’s the case, let them lie. I try to do that every day if I can. I try to get out of bed and put on makeup and a wig. Some days it doesn’t happen, because I feel too bad or I’m in the hospital. I actually had the young adult director at MD Anderson giving me puzzled looks when I decided to put on a wig and makeup for a young adult meeting. She said, “You don’t have to get all gussied up. I promise there won’t be media there.” I simply replied, “I don’t think you understand…I want to.” I don’t like being bald around my friends. It’s not that I am ashamed of being bald. It’s also completely obvious that they KNOW I am bald. I just like them to look at me as the same old healthy Sarah that they’re used to hanging out with. I don’t want them to feel like they need to hold back anything for feel like I am incapable of doing things because I am sick. I do the same things as all my girlfriends do in the morning, except I don’t have to do my hair. I just have to put it on. This is something that I think I am taking for granted…I’ll find out when I have to actually style my hair again.

Another thing that my grandma wasn’t up to doing was coming to my birthday dinner. I do not blame her for this. I didn’t then, and I certainly do not now. Getting ready to go out somewhere is such a task. Also, the risk of being around others when you have low white counts is very great. My chemo cycles last for 21 days and there are about 7 of those where I am available for dinner dates. I either feel too awful to go out to eat, or my counts are low, or sometimes the idea of food just really grosses me out. There are a number of things that can prevent me from being able to go out.

That brings us to another thing: food. One time I came over and my grandpa had gotten into a mental wrestling match with Dee about eating half a sandwich.

“Just eat half! You have to eat something,” he begged.

“I don’t want to eat half of it. I really don’t want to eat any,” She retorted.

I would end up having the same conversation with my mother SO many times while on chemo. My mother would do ANYTHING to get me to eat. I’ve gone as many as five days without eating a single thing. One time she begged me to just sip broth and after about an hour of her begging I agreed. She made the broth in a mug and I took two sips before deciding I’d rather sleep and laying back down. I’m very stubborn that way. The only way to get me to eat used to be to tell me that they wouldn’t release me from the hospital until I had. THEN I would eat whatever it took to get free. There’s nothing I hate more than staying in the hospital. I hate needles, and I think any bed that moves is not to be trusted.

The point is, if you believe I am handling cancer with grace, you should’ve seen the way she handled it. I do my best and I love to be told that I am being strong, because I know that’s her. Strength and Grace. They are both genetic. If anyone prepared me for this, it was her. Sadly, in June of 2013 I lost my grandmother to lung cancer. I’d like to think that I am honoring her fighting spirit every single day of my fight, and when I beat this thing it will be HER victory as well as mine. I have nine more cycles of chemo to go until I can laugh in cancer’s ugly face. And, Boy will it be sweet!!

A Secret Look Into the Life of A Young Cancer Patient

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Ever wondered what it’s like to be 23 years old and have Cancer? Well, here’s your chance to find out all about it! This should also answer a lot of questions that I get asked frequently.

1. I am a 90 year old trapped in a 23 year old’s body: Walking at a normal speed is nearly impossible. I constantly find myself telling people to slow down or wait up, and walking hand in hand with friends often ends in me being light headed and out of breath. Just walking 20 feet on a day during chemo is a daunting task. Sometimes, in the hospital, if you don’t get up and walk they give you these blood thinning shots in your stomach to prevent blood clots. They aren’t super fun, but I have a way around them because I have a 4 by 4 inch numb area on my stomach from past surgeries.
Also, if you walk around too much, stand too much, or sit in an uncomfortable chair even once…like for just five minutes, your back WILL hurt…ALL day! You get tired very easily, and most of the time your body gives you an early bed time. Any staying awake is forced.
2. All meds MUST be prescribed: You cannot take over the counter meds like Advil or ibuprofen ever again in your life. If you need any other over the counter meds, you must ask permission from your doctor. My Advil substitute for the rest of my life is a drug called Tramadol. If that one doesn’t work, we bring out the big guns: Morphine. I have about ten other drugs that I am prescribed to take daily that do a number of other things to keep my body going. They test how all those are working with “blood work.”
3. Blood Work: Now, I’m not sure how you all feel about needles, but having Cancer means LOTS of needles. When I am not in chemo, I get lucky and they draw blood out of the Central Veinous Catheter or CVC placed in my chest. That doesn’t hurt a bit and goes super quick. However, when I am in chemo they have to draw straight from my arm. During outpatient chemo, I usually go around noon to the labs about every other day. During inpatient chemo, a phlebotomist comes in from the lab between 3 and 4 am every single morning, wakes you up, and draws from your arm. By the time I go home, you can assure I’ve been stabbed on every possible area of my arms that you can get blood from. I sometimes even come home with band-aids on my hands and wrists.
4: The Central Veinous Catheter or CVC: This little thing is your best friend and your worst enemy. It is a catheter that they insert into a vein above your heart to allow them to pump chemo without having to set an IV every time. As I said previously, they can also draw blood from it. When they placed mine, I was wide awake, and had to be given anxiety medicine because I was freaking out about it. I’m glad they gave me that medicine, because five minutes in they notified me that my vein was too small and they would have to dilate it to get the catheter in…talk about uncomfortable. The entire thing totally freaked me out, and I was in pain even though they numbed my entire chest with lidocaine before doing the procedure. Also, when you have a CVC, you are required to get a dressing change every week. My mother usually does mine, and on some rare occasions I will let nurses do it. I am very particular about it, because my mom is very gentle, and nurses are not always gentle. A dressing change requires a dressing change kit and a sterile area to perform it in. Mom is a professional at it by now, like….better than the nurses. What happens is: The current dressing is removed and the area is cleaned. There’s a tube(catheter) that goes into the vein and then on the outside there’s a little plastic piece with wings that is stitched to my chest that keeps the catheter in place. That is all cleaned thoroughly with alcohol, and sometimes it stings pretty bad. Then mom applies the skin prep for the new dressing. I love the smell of the skin prep ointment and I have no idea why. Then she places a new bandage and puts the date and her initials on it. The End.
I have had my CVC since February without having any infections or issues with it. However, before this round one of the stitches came out and a lady from the IV team came and removed and replaced all the stitches, just in case. I cried like a baby. It hurt pretty bad, but it’s over now and I don’t have to deal with that pain anymore! Just to let you know, lidocaine to the chest hurts like hell.
5. What does chemotherapy feel like?: This isn’t always easy to explain, but I will do my best. Imagine the worst sick day of your life. You’ve got a sore throat, headache, your whole body aches everywhere, and all you want to do is sleep. You don’t want to eat, or go anywhere, or see anyone. Now imagine feeling like that every single day for about a week and a half. That’s what chemo feels like. Now if a fever flares up it’s ten times worse, and you have to be hospitalized, and get blood transfusions, and they pretty much nurse you back to life. By week three you feel almost normal again, and after that’s when you have to go back and do more chemo.
I have experienced different things with different chemos, but the thing that happens most often is strange or very bad dreams. With the mood swings that I already get from chemo, I usually wake from these dreams very sad, scared, or angry. Same goes with hallucinations, which I have had a few of during treatment. One time I hallucinated that my dad was here by my bed talking to me, and when I realized he wasn’t really there I was very confused and angry. Chemo does some very strange things to your mind. Also, I always have an elevated heart rate. Especially, when I am infusing the chemo. This usually makes me anxious and shaky to where I cannot text or type. I also lose a ton of weight, but I do not recommend the chemo diet to anyone. There are more fun ways to lose weight.
6. Surgery: So, I have had two surgeries since I began treatment. These are the only two times in my life that I have ever had surgery. Both required going into my thoracic(chest) cavity and removing unwanted parts. The first surgery was an emergency surgery to remove the blood clots that were slowly filling my chest when my tumor began hemmoraging about two days after my diagnosis. The second surgery was to remove parts of three ribs and anything the tumor touched which included some lung tissue. This surgery left a six inch diagonal scar on my back that I hope never goes away. I am very proud of it.
7.Being Bald:
Basically, it’s pretty fun, minus the not being able to grow hair part. Also, your head gets cold very easily. I have a collection of around ten wigs now that I love to switch around and play with. I get compliments on all of them. I also love to wear little caps that I get at the hospital that are made specifically for hot bald ladies like myself. Scarves are fun too. There’s a whole lot of ways to deal with being bald that are fun and easy.
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That’s about it for now. If I think of more things, I will make a sequel to this post. Feel free to ask questions too. I love to answer them, and I love to get feedback on my posts. Thank you.