October 06, 2009

Cancer Milestones...

So, I created this blog in order to keep my friends and family up-to-date with my progress and with my life --- I realize, I've been failing miserably at keeping it up. Sometimes it is so difficult to stay in touch with all of the people in my life who care about me and who want to be informed of my well-being. I created this site not only to allow people to "be in the know" and to leave encouraging comments of support, but also as a way for me to work through my own feelings about my disease and the ups and downs that come along with it.

One of my latest goals has been to maintain a "normal routine". I've made some progress, but I've also been forced to face the fact that cancer is NOT normal, and because of this fact it makes maintaining a completely normal routine impossible. I'm forcing myself to realize and accept that while fighting this disease my life is going to be messy and inconsistent. I've figured out there is only so much I can do to change this. My plans are forced to change at the drop of a dime, making me feel at times that I have no control over my life whatsoever. This lack of control is one of the most difficult things for me. Prior to cancer I was used to having 100% complete control over my life, but not with cancer!!

So although I've been slacking B-I-G-T-I-M-E with the updates, I assure you that is going to change - Starting now. (I know, I know, how many times have you heard that before?)

Over the past few months I've experienced many what I have decided to call "Cancer Milestones". So, I guess cancer and my current treatment is the logical place to start. As far as the treatment progression (or lack thereof), as of right now we are at a sort of temporary stand-still. After almost two months of the immunotherapy clinical trial regimen my body decided it was not going to tolerate it any longer. I developed some very severe (and WAY abnormal side effects.) As of last week I was taken off the drugs and given a 7 day break. I will resume the same immunotherapy treatment tomorrow with a decreased dosage and longer breaks between the cycles. If all goes well, hopefully I will be able to continue this treatment and my body won't react in crazy ways. Prior to the abnormal side-effects that developed with this trial over time I found this particular treatment to be the easiest on my body thus far. Through the duration of this regimen the extent of my discomfort didn’t normally progress any further than muscle aches and extreme fatigue. (Much better considering all of the other treatments and some of their horrible side effects I have experienced.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that these stupid cancer cells decide to finally give up. Or to at least not increase and spread to any new locations.

As many of you already know, I am back in Ohio with my family – as of right now while I continue to fight this it is definitely the best place for me. I really do need the support and care from my family members. As hard as it is to be back at times, I have wonderful family and friends here. I get by reminding myself that this is not permanent and it is the best solution for me right now. Though true friends sometimes seem few and far between, I would give the world for the few I do have - they are simply amazing. Thank you.

Now for the GOOD NEWS. I officially got the “okay” from my doctors to begin lifting weights and training again (with the agreement that I would listen to my body and not push too hard.) For those of you who know me personally, you know this probably will be a little bit difficult for me, but I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear this news! It certainly turned my day around today. I will begin training with Scott Vickery here in Fremont at his gym tomorrow. As for today, I ran the first significant distance since the day I was diagnosed, almost TWO years ago. I got on the treadmill and ran almost 2 miles, and I feel GOOD! I'm hoping to eventually be able to run some local races again. I can't explain how amazing it feels to know that I have at least a little bit of control over my body again. Once I’m back into a little bit of shape I may try a few classes at the YMCA – I know my aunt is the instructor of one in particular that I would love to try. I'm probably getting a little too far ahead of myself as I am no where near conditioned enough to participate yet, but hopefully I will get to that stage sooner than later.

I'm even excited enough to post this post-run picture of myself!! (Now THAT is rare for me.)I also start school again as of Monday. Due to my health insurance requirements I have to be a full-time student – so here I go again!!! It's hard for me to believe today that only a week ago I was bored out of my mind – I definitely don’t foresee that being an issue for a while!

October 15th will be another “Cancer Milestone” It will be the two year mark since my original diagnosis – not quite as positive as the other "Cancer Milestones" above, but it's there just the same. I look back and I cannot believe it’s been TWO years!! Once again, looking at the positive side, when I was diagnosed they told me I had 4-6 months to live, and I’m STILL HERE & STILL FIGHTING! I am determined to beat this disease and continue to advocate for this fight!!!

Thank you everyone for your continuous support and encouragement. I cannot tell you the difference it makes, especially on the bad days when motivation and positive energy is difficult to come by. THE FIGHT ISN'T OVER!!!

I will continue to update with my status & progress. I’d love to hear from everybody!! Definitely leave some comments!!!



April 15, 2009

1 1/2 Year Cancer-Versary

1 1/2 Years Ago Today - I was Diagnosed with this Horrible Disease. 1 1/2 years ago today, the words "Cancer" and "Melanoma" came out of my doctors mouth and told ME, that yes, I had CANCER! I'm not sure why I find 1 1/2 years so significant (I mean, why wasn't a year so significant to me?? I'm not exactly sure. Maybe because I have been slacking HORRIBLY on keeping my blog up-to-date, and this 1 1/2 year mark is a chance to get it going again? Yes, let's go with that. I do know I've spent so much time thinking about what I wanted to say today. Somehow, I'm still stuck with nothing...

So, I guess here it goes...

18 Months ago today, my life changed when cancer interrupted everything I had going in what I thought was my perfect life. 1 1/2 years ago today, I was certain I would be dead in just a few months.

But today, 18 months later I AM ALIVE and I AM FIGHTING!!
I've decided to call it my Cancer-Versary

When I think of anniversaries, I think of milestones. The person I am today, 18 months after this disease decided to create a complete mess in my life is a completely different person than that scared girl who was told she had almost zero chance of seeing her next birthday. So today, oddly enough, is a happy day for me. I am still here.
So, how have I made it this far?

That is a question I find myself asking frequently, and after really thinking about it, I’ve realized the constant support of my friends (old and new) my amazing family, the ability to find HUMOR and to LAUGH at the many experiences associated with this horrible disease, the personal growth I’ve experienced since I was diagnosed, the non-profit foundation I co-founded with a friend in support of other people all over the world who are fighting and the overall change cancer has created in my life are the reasons I am still here today, 18 months later fighting harder than I could have ever imagined I had the ability to fight.

Somehow, at some point in the past 18 months I have learned how to stay positive (ok, at least I’ve learned to try really hard to be positive, most of the time.) I've stopped allowing myself to waste my time focusing on negative possibilities because I believe 100% in the horrible power that cancer can have. I know if I focus on the negative, that cancer truly has the ability to take over and end my life faster than the quickest spreading, most invasive cancers known. So, I do my best to shut down the negativity.

For someone my age, 18 months is a lifetime – and it really does seem like it sometimes. Losing my independence has been one of the worst things, but I've also learned that there are people here willing to move mountains for me. I have the greatest friends and family. Friends and family who have never left my side and who have loved me through good, bad, ugly, through EVERYTHING. The relentless love and support my family has probably been the strongest support line I could have ever have imagined. Since day one they have sacrificed more than anyone can ever believe possible in order to help me to their greatest possible capacity. They have provided such a solid, tangible foundation for me. They have never let me wonder how far they would go. When most people would be at their limit, they go furthur, every single time. For 18 months their dedication, love, faith, hope and support has NEVER wavered, regardless of the strength of the many, many trials and tests this disease continues to bring. They have been my strength, my voice, my eyes – not only now, but since the day I was born. The love I feel for them is so far beyond words or expression - They have been my life line, over and over again and I cannot thank them enough.

Cancer is so hard, but Humor has had a huge role in carrying me to where I am today. My friends and family have slowly adapted to my attitude of at least appearing to be dealing well. My friends laugh, at least 75-80% of the time we are awake and together, I’m not just talking, but I’m laughing. Laughing HARD. I’m talking doubled over in pain, tears running down my face, hyperventilating while making every attempt not to pee my pants kind of laughter. Non-stop – to the point of losing our voices from laughing so hard. I laugh at my situation constantly and laugh at myself even more. Laughing keeps me floating and my friends and family laugh with me to ensure I don’t drown in it.

The Bottom Line: 1 1/2 years ago today, Cancer changed my life. But cancer has also made me a new person. Cancer has made me better. If this hadn’t happened, I don’t feel at all confident I would ever have experienced true happiness. Cancer has given me the opportunity to learn about myself and the person I am in a way I never knew possible. Cancer has allowed me to begin a relationship with myself, a person I look back and realize I never really knew. I know God, I know peace and I know happiness. I go to bed every night with complete confidence that there is a reason for all of this happening in my life and knowing that I am safe. I used to depend on happiness and comfort from other people in my life, but I have finally learned what it means to rely on myself and to be content with the person I am and what I do. I am so at peace, so much more than before.

I have no idea what the future holds for me. I have no idea how long I will have to keep fighting this monster inside of my body. I HATE cancer and I HATE the negative things it has brought upon me over the past year and a half. I HATE sitting by and watching what cancer is doing to others and watching it destroy and take away innocent lives. But I do know that I am strong, I am resilient, I am determined, I am optimistic and I am a FIGHTER and a SURVIVOR. I can beat this, regardless of the obstacles cancer stands in my way. As much as I hate cancer and how it has taken over my body, my life and my world – Cancer has become a part of the person I have become and has truly taught me now to live. No matter how long I have to fight, I’m ready and will not fail.

Above all, I know I wouldn't be here today if I had to do this alone, in any aspect. I have been so lucky to receive such amazing support from my family and friends. I will never be able to express how much the people who stand by my side every single day mean to me. I truly have the most amazing Team of Cancer Fighting Warriors on my side helping me fight every step of the way. The constant support is appreciated more than you will ever know. 18 Months and counting, 18 months down, but the FIGHT is NOT over.

March 27, 2009

My Blog Layout Changes

Hey Everyone!!!

Yes, I am actually posting something on my blog, but unfortunately you are probably going to be a little disappointed. I just want to let everyone know that due to some "unexpected circumstances" (AKA, I didn't create a back-up of my previous blog layout) If you happen to stumble across my page while I'm creating the new layouts you may see some crazy colors and other odd changes while it's in progress. (I'm sure the level of "craziness" it is currently at right now is scary enough for you!!)

As far as a REAL update goes, I assure you it is on its way, probably more sooner than you all believe!!

Thanks for all of your support of me & my cancer fight.

Stay Tuned... The Blog will be back to "normal" as soon as the new design is finished :)

Have a great Friday!