Last Thursday I went for my fourth CT scan. Back in November I had one. If you have read my previous blogs you know the story, it was an all day event. I had fasted since midnight the night before, had an 11 a.m appointment and did not get my turn to do my scan until 4:30. Apparently at Bellevue, the hospital that has no concept of time, they think patients have all the time in the world to sit and wait for their turn through the CT scan machine. It was a Friday afternoon, perhaps they assumed this was where I wanted to spend my time, waiting in a room with an IV in my arm watching Judge Judy on a fuzzy television screen. The other two CT scans were at Lenox Hill during my three week stay. Fortunately they did these scans after my surgeries so all I remember is being drugged up on morphine and unable to move from the stretcher to the CT scan bed. They had to roll me over, it was awkward yet hilarious at the same time. When you have a cat scan you have to lift your arms up behind your head. After my biopsy and surgery, I couldn’t do it without wincing with pain. I remember them asking me to breathe in deep and hold my breath, which is standard. After my surgeries, I couldn’t lay flat for more than a few minutes, I felt like my lungs were going to collapse. Taking a deep breath was just as painful as the aftermath of the surgery itself.
Fortunately this time around, my CT scan went how it should have gone, quick and simple. Well, although it was quick and simple, I can’t forget about how disgusting it was as well. This CT scan was a full body scan instead of the usual neck and chest scan, so I also had to drink four servings of vanilla flavored barium. It kind of reminds me of going to the dentist as a kid, being told I had a choice of bubblegum or banana flavored fluoride. Like either of those were a delicious option?! I sat there in the office chugging the vanilla milkshake-like substance through a straw for a good thirty minutes. I must say, I did it like a champ. I bet you those Coney Island hot dog contest eaters couldn’t compete with barium milkshakes like I could!
|This is the breakfast of champions...NOT|
I had such a lovely “good week” and weekend that I almost forgot I had chemo and my CT scan results Monday. Sometimes I think this is the way to go about it. Sunday night I was out at a Spanish tapas place in my neighborhood for my friend’s birthday, completely putting aside the fact that tomorrow was chemo day. That felt good. Yesterday I went in for my fourth out of six chemo treatment at 9 a.m. I was anxious to receive the results of my CT scan. It’s standard to receive a CT scan once you’re at the halfway mark to see the progress. If no progress is apparent, then treatment would have to be changed up a bit. Luckily for me though, my cancer is 75% gone! 75% of those tumors are destroyed, murdered, killed off! My mom and I were so delighted to hear the news as we really had no idea what to expect. I must have texted almost everyone in my phone (before I fell asleep from the Benadryl of course) to share the amazing news. I am praying that because most of it is gone, that by the time I’m completely finished with chemo it will be nonexistent. I am also praying that I will not have to have radiation after my chemo is finished, but I will not know until after my chemo is done in June. Even when I am declared NED (no evidence of disease) I will still have to continue going to my doctor for follow-up visits and scans for two years.
|This is my bracelet for the day, I am a number. The nurses have to read the numbers out loud to each other to make sure the drugs they are giving me correspond. So glad they do that or I'd be second guessing them.|
|This is what I do during chemo. I always attempt to bring my laptop and having things to do but once that Benadryl IV hits, I am out...fast|
Once I am done with chemo, I will celebrate. I should start planning how I want to celebrate now! It will be the happiest day of my life as it will be the start of a new life, a revival. This new life will show to me that there is so much more to life than the every day mundane activities that myself and many other people go through day in and day out. I know that my own personal renaissance will be gratifying beyond what it ever was before cancer. My perspective on life will have changed and I will continue to grow into a person who strives to, and will take plenty of time to take care of myself, appreciate life, be good to myself, and be there for others who are going through what I am going through.
It seems so easy to assume that once the cancer is gone, life will be wonderful right away, it will be all puppies and rainbows and all that happy stuff. I have every expectation that my life will be amazing but I am human after all and dealing with the aftermath of a life changing point in my life is going to be a difficult journey at times. Even when I am declared NED (no evidence of disease), I will still have to continue to go to my doctor often for follow-up visits and scans. Cancer doesn’t just disappear right away, I still have to be wary of what could happen.
I love feeling emotions because it makes me feel alive and in touch with myself. I am especially fond of emotions of happiness, joy, and thankfulness, who wouldn’t be? However, other emotions will still follow me. Even if it won’t be on my mind constantly because I will be ecstatic to be living a life free of cancer, fear and anxiety will be resting on my shoulders at times. Fear and anxiety is like an annoying person that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get them away. It follows you against your will. I accept that this is common and normal, plenty of people that have gone through something as tough as cancer feel these emotions as well. If anything, I am thankful for these emotions. Feeling sad is not necessarily easy, but it’s all part of the process of dealing with cancer. If I wasn’t sad, or did not have fear or doubt, I’d probably come off as not being real, it would be delusional. I love to cry, it’s a release for me. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to be a certain way. I expect myself to be elated and celebrating that my cancer is 75% clear according to my CT from Thursday. When I was told the results, of course I smiled with relief because the treatment is doing it’s job, it’s working. I was happy that others were happy about the good news. I am focusing in on that positive test result because ultimately if I focus my thoughts on promising and encouraging things, then my mind will less likely to be filled with worry and doubt. But realistically speaking, I need to prepare myself for what lies ahead. I’m only 24-years-old and I went through a major turning point in my young life. My entire life was turned upside down suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent months unknowingly living with Lymphoma, worrying if I did or didn’t have Lymphoma, having a biopsy and being told I do not have lymphoma only to find out a few weeks later that I was finally getting diagnosed with stage IV cancer, spending three weeks in the hospital, having numerous surgeries, losing all of my hair, going through chemotherapy and the side-effects, and putting my regular 24-year-old life on hold to an extent. IT IS HARD, it is emotionally draining and yes, it makes me want to cry A LOT. I am young so who knows, but I think this is will definitely be the hardest thing I will have to go through. Very soon I will have to get back out there and live a life without cancer. I wonder what that will be like? I can’t just brush everything that I have faced under the rug and always put on a happy face and act like nothing ever happened. I know that people do not expect me to either, I have dealt with a lot. But I just wonder when I will feel like my normal self again. Will it be when my hair grows back a normal length? Will it be a few months after I have NED, will it be two years from now? I just do not know. In June I will go from having cancer to suddenly not having cancer, that’s a big change.
A life without cancer though, is at times going to be full of the unknown. The chance of a relapse occurring is highest within the two years that one is finished with chemotherapy. No one is really considered cured until after five years. I do not want to dwell or worry about the possibilities of what could happen down the road, but I do have to be realistic to a certain extent. Am I going to let it rule my life and worry that it will come back? No. Of course there will be times when I will get nervous about it, especially with my PET scans I will have to do every 6 months for two years. They don’t call it “scanxiety” for nothing. But, I can do everything in my power to put myself at ease. To a point, there are many things I can do to take control over this. Eating a plant based diet, which I highly suggest everyone, not just those with cancer, to read about it and research it! It makes a major impact in people’s lives, those with and without illnesses. I can learn to take better care of myself. I used to work seven days a week. I need to relax more, my brain does not always have to be “on” 24/7, I don’t always have to be productive and doing things. Not once did I take time for myself and do what I love to do in my spare time. I also have to take a big step of faith and trust God that He has a plan for me, a very good one. He is the only one that knows the future. I struggle with it at times, trusting God. He has all the answers but we don’t, that is what faith is. Trusting that God has it under control no matter how terribly bad WE want the control, WE want to know the future. I could ask “why do some people relapse, why do some people have to go through so much more with cancer?” “who’s to say it won’t happen to me?” I had a long talk with my mom about this, about how much I struggle with this. But she explained it to me in a way I never thought of before and that is, God works in everyone’s lives differently. I can’t look at other people and wonder why they would be so much worse off than me, how can I be guaranteed that I’d be the lucky one to have nothing else go wrong, how can I know for sure that I won’t relapse? The same way that I can’t look at everyone else my age WITHOUT cancer and say “why me? why did I have to get cancer?” “why does everyone else’s lives seem so carefree and easy compared to this?” There’s a reason things happen in our lives, sometimes it will take a while to figure out the reason behind it. I know a few ways already why this may have happened to me, and I mean that in a good way. I mean it in a way that it’s giving me a new life and a new perspective that I otherwise may never have found until years down the road.
What I do know though for certain is that I will enjoy ordinary moments that I used to not recognize. I do know that I will be a stronger person and I believe I will be less afraid of many things in life that used to make me worried. If I can get through this, I can handle anything. Sometimes I do not even know what to think, my mind is all over the place. I will be stronger but even if all I want to do is cry myself to sleep at night, it’s because I can and I will.