Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I'm Thankful I Have Cancer

So tonight I'm just sitting here thinking about why I'm really grateful I was diagnosed with cancer.

Life On Cass Lane | Life with AML

Sounds like an odd choice of words to put together, huh?

There is no doubt that hearing "you've got acute myeloid leukemia" was one of the scariest moments of my life, but I've come to realize this experience is one that should truly be cherished.

The truth is I've gained a lot from this entire process.

I've witnessed things I never thought I'd witness.

I've proved to myself how strong I can be throughout this process. (I mean, do I have to say it again? Natural child labor was the most painful and rewarding experience of my life. I pushed a 3 lb 8 oz human being out of my lady parts with no pain med. And I'm pretty proud of that).

My family and friends have shown their support for me in so many ways and I know how much I mean to them and they know how much they mean to me.

I was on the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show (which is pretty awesome). #famouskinda

But the most rewarding blessing from this experience are the people I've met and the friends I've gained. I'm not in any way, shape or form saying being diagnosed this disease doesn't suck, or you should wish it happened to you, but I feel like I've grown so much and a light has been shed on the way I'll live my life that I'm forever thankful to be a part of such a grueling, life-altering process.

Sure, there are times when I've just bawled my eyes out and wondered "why me?"

I mean I go through about 50 different emotions on the daily. I know, I know. I have more issues than "Vogue"... just last week I blogged about the fear I felt and some anger just trying to understand why it had to be me that is going through all of this...

I'm a hot mess and melting pot of emotions. I guess that's to be expected when you have the big "C."

"It's freaking cancer, yo," as Jesse from "Breaking Bad" would say. I had to throw in a "Breaking Bad" reference after binge watching this recently; I just loved that show.

Anyway, looking at all of the smiling faces I've met and the other people who have been infected by such a powerful disease (AML or any other type of cancer), I really feel like I found some purpose in life by talking to those who share this title with me.

I know now and accept now that I was supposed to go through this.

I accept that I have leukemia.
I accept that it's hard.
I accept that things can turn bad or get worse.
I accept that things can get better.
I accept that I'm bald.
I accept these next 6-12 months are going to blow big toes.
I accept that I'm a mother of two and I'm battling for my life.
I'm OK with that.
I'm OK with you, cancer.

You've taught me so much.
You taught me how selfish I was before.
You showed me to how to never stop fighting.
You've shown me how to push aside the little things and be thankful for all that I have.
You've given me new partners for life, new friends and a renewed way to view life.

It's odd because month's prior to my diagnosis I had this "intuition" that something was off. It was like I knew something was going to happen to me. My brain knew it before my body.

I never dreamed something so serious (medically) would happen to me so early in life. I'm only 27 years old and I was diagnosed with AML which mainly effects people 60 years plus. It just seems so strange how cancer works, how it evolves, how some people get it and others don't.

Many times I've sat in the waiting room at the doctor's office looking around at those much older than me, who are fighting for their lives and struggling so much more with this disease than I am. I have my youth on my side, and they don't.

But we are all fighting this fight together. It's tough on our body and a lot of things aren't going to go our way, but we are coming out stronger because of this.

We were the ones chosen to go weather through this storm for some reason or another.
And I finally landed on the answer to the "why me" question.

If you know me personally, you know I WILL talk to anyone--all ages, all colors, all species--it's just what I do. I talk.

That's probably why I blog to. I always feel like I have something to say. I've always been good at coming up with an answer to a question, even if I don't know the real answer. I just always talk my way through it.

And so I think that with the people I've met, I was supposed to talk to them. I was supposed to share my story and listen to theirs. And everyone has a story to tell, you just have to know what to listen for.

I feel like I was supposed to talk to all of these people, make them feel a better about their day, let them know they aren't alone in their situation and share my experiences with them as well.

My story may be laced with cancer jokes, playing the "cancer card," or pretty much only talking about my life with "CANCER," and right now, that's what my life is about--this "cancer" thing is a big thing in my life. My life revolves around it until I get healthy again. And I have to make sure that I keep "cancer" a priority so I can be there for my boys in the future. And that's what we are doing--everything we can so I can get better.

Today, I went back to the doctor to talk to him about transplant stuff, what's to be expected and where the numbers fall for my prognosis statistics-wise. As tough as it is to sit and hear the numbers, I just really didn't care too much to hear them. Yes, I wanted to know them because it's the way I am, but the numbers don't matter to me either way. Science only goes so far and then comes God. And that's what I'm sticking with.

The fact is I have high-risk leukemia, meaning I have a really high-risk to relapse. And I'm finally there; I'm to the point with this cancer sitch that I ACCEPT IT.

It is what it is. There is nothing I can do to change it. I'm continuing to fight this fight and have the best doctors and staff behind me doing everything I can to get better. I'm never giving up, but I needed to really stop partially being in denial.

Accepting you have cancer doesn't just happen in a split second. It's very hard to swallow.

I'm so happy right now in my life.

From what I understand from my oncologist, I have a 60-70% chance that I'll be cured after the transplant. I have a 30-35% chance to relapse post-transplant with my FLT3 mutation, which makes my leukemia high-risk. The other 15% basically means the transplant could do more harm than good.

And I'm OK with that. I'm happy with that news.

I love my life. I'm happier than most people have ever been in a lifetime and I've accomplished that at 27 years of my life. I have married my soul mate and have two beautiful children and I have so many family and friends who love and support me. How could I not be happy?

Having leukemia has only made that more of a fact--my happiness is there and I feel lucky to be going through what I'm going through. I really do. Isn't that strange? It's truly a blessing. I was supposed to go through this. And it's making me stronger every day.

My doctor got a little concerned about my counts today, so on top of having another lumbar puncture w/ chemo I also got a bone marrow biopsy done in the clinic. And this time I wasn't knocked out on propofol, so I did feel it. I always heard nightmares about how painful it was, but honestly it wasn't bad at all. LIKE AT ALL. It hurt for like three seconds and it was over. Done. #crushedit #ballastatus

I should get the results by tomorrow, so we will see what they say, hopefully all is good and we will move forward with the transplant process next week. We just need to double check everything to ensure that I'm still in remission for the transplant (I have to be in remission to get the transplant). As of today (March 26), I'm supposed to go in Monday (3/30) to have my line placement put in and start chemo next week.

I wanted to share with you guys the amazing things through this process, as well as the not-s0-fortunate and fun stuff.

Throughout the past four months, I've made friends with many strangers, a ton of nurses, doctors and medical staff. I've befriended people that I've met in the waiting room, people I've met at Target, and people online whom I've never met.

I just want to take a second to tell you about a few people I've met in the past few months that I know I will stay forever friends with and forever made me grateful to be going through this journey.

  • Emily -- My nurse at Presby. You, woman, are a Godsend. I simply love and adore you and you're the first person I connected with through this entire process. You were there when I was diagnosed and there for me all the days afterward. We are forever sisters. Thank you for being there for me and letting me cry to you (and you know I mean really cry) when I had to just get out the tears and the fear for the first time. And, you were just about to get off work and I lost my shit, going all Sally Fields in "Steel Magnolias" kind-of-meltdown and you stayed and listened. I felt so bad, but showed me how much you do care about not only me, but all of your patients. Thanks for letting me show you my bald head for the first time. You were the person I chose to show it to first (who'd seen me with hair and knew me pre-cancer and that wasn't family), and that was a big moment for me. I wanted to share it with you because I felt we had a connection like no other. I love you, Em!
  • Neha, Susan, Amber & my 4North Girls -- No one quite kicks some ass the way my girls at 4N do. I honestly was so lifted spiritually, mentally and emotionally by you ladies through this process and when I was at Presby, I don't know how I'd ever be able to truly thank you. You guys decorated my room when I moved to the oncology building and visited me, left notes, cookies and just came to chat when you could. I honestly felt so loved, and as you guys know, it was so hard to leave you and go to another unit. I just wish I could have done my chemo there with all of you; the experience would have been so much better and more uplifting. You guys boosted my spirits in no way anyone else could. Thank you for that.

  • Dr. P -- OK, she delivered Brody too so technically I didn't meet her through this process but she was my rock every step of the way. She cared for me and supported me when we got my diagnosis and worked with so many other doctors to make sure I had Bex safely and when I needed to. Dr. P, you're the best OBGYN doctor around. I'd like to say you've been through more with me and my vagina than Klay has, but that may not be completely true. But we've been through a lot together. I love you. You're encouragement and motivation helped me make it through the tough part of the process--having a baby. I could have never done it without your support. I wanted to hear your thoughts on everything, even the cancer stuff, which I know isn't your area of expertise. But you were so compassionate and wanted to check on me every step of the way to make sure I was getting the best care possible. Ultimately, you gave me the best care possible and I had a successful, quick birth. Your kindness in getting the cord blood registry donated to us was so unexpected but just shows how passionate you are about your patient's their health and the health of their families. Thank you for being such an amazing doctor. 

  • Melissa -- You know I loved you long before this cancer mess. I couldn't wait to come to my OBGYN appointments just so I could see and chat with you and Dr. P. I loved that you came to check on me all the time, as much as you could, throughout the whole process. You came in one time, and I was having a mini-meltdown, but it was like God sent you in my room just at the time I needed you most. You talked me through it and helped me relax and overcome the thoughts and fears I was dealing with at the time. There is no way that people ever know the right thing to say in a situation like mine, but it always seemed like you had the right words. Thank you for caring so much about me and my family. I know Dr. P knows this already, but there is no one better than Melissa! 

  • Devora -- Instantly when you walked in my room the first time, I knew you were my soul sister. I'm so comforted and instantly feel so much happier when you'd walk in the room. You, my friend, were made for your job. You brighten up every room you walk through and light up every soul you touch. I'm so grateful I met you. You battled a tough disease and are proof that things get better. Your positivity is infectious. I honestly looked forward to being in the hospital just so I could see you and my soul was not as bright when you weren't around. And that's the truth. Thank you for making such a terrible experience a great one and a fun one at that. I truly admire your spunk and spirit and I hope I can be more like you. Love you!

  • Jo-Ann -- The day you walked in my hospital room, I was pretty down. But instantly your sweet words, kind heart and family story took me over and lightened my mood. I'm so grateful you volunteer at the hospital and happened to walk through my room that day. Those blankets and gifts you give may warm our bodies but you warmed my heart and took my mind off of so many things I didn't even want to think about. You boosted by spirits and I really needed you that day and God sent you to me. Thank you for continuing to be a friend to me and caring so much to follow my journey.

  • Linda & Judge -- To the loveliest couple on the block... I simply adore you two. I'm so thankful you decided to ask me about my hat that day in the waiting room. It sparked up a conversation and a friendship that I will always hold dear to my heart. You guys are truly exceptional in every way. The other day I was so down and a bit upset but I talked to you two and you let me know we were all going through this together. I instantly felt better after talking to you both and knowing that you guys were by my side. And sometimes you need to hear that from people who are going through the same things as you. I love you guys.

  • Dr. B -- I know you won't read this because you're insanely busy, but he is the smartest guy I know. When I met him the first time I knew he had to be my doctor. He knows his stuff and is so educated, I'm just blown away by how brilliant he is and how much he cares for his patients. This man must work around the clock. His passion for his patients and his compassion for life makes him a world-class doctor. He also has a gift in talking to be people about such a scary disease. He knows just what to say and how to make you feel comfortable with the truth of the situation. He's given me so much more reason to hope, to fight and to keep moving forward. Thanks for being so incredible. I hope one day to bless as many lives as you've done throughout your career.

  • Katie -- My little bundle of sunshine! You are my girl forever. I just love love love you. I honestly enjoy my doctor appointments cause I know I get to see you and talk to you a bit. You make this process so much easier, and even fun when it's never supposed to be--believe it or not. I'm blown away by how smart and intelligent you are and you always reassure me that things are going to be OK. You know I start to freak out, but it seems like you always know what I can handle and how much I can take. I'm so grateful that you are in my life and I just know we will remain friends forever. You've truly been my rock and answered questions, and given me the confidence I need get through this "cancer" season. I get excited every time I see you and I'm a little bummed I won't see you as much the next three weeks cause I'll be in the hospital for the transplant. But you found your calling in what you do and make all those lives around you so much brighter and the day so much better after we see you. 

These are just some of the people that I've met. But I feel so lucky to have met all of these wonderful people who have not only impacted my life in such a short time, but who will forever hold a place in my heart.

Although I have a plot twist to my story now--and maybe one day I'll write a book (which is my ultimate dream by the way)--I think this is just a chapter in a long story ahead. I finally found my calling--to care and talk to people about this process. I hope to one day be able to work or find more ways to impact the lives of those effected by this disease.

Feeling blessed, lucky and grateful,