Monday, October 24, 2011

It is Done!! My Battle with Cancer is Complete!

It is done! Yes, it is true - Friday was my 8th and final Chemo treatment!  I am really finished and victorious over my battle with cancer!!!  It seems almost unbelievable now that it is really here.

Friends came to celebrate, the staff at Huntsman sang to me and gave me my "graduation" certificate and I made up a song: "no more needles, no more hooks, no more nurses dirty looks" (joking of course).

My sweet aunt, who has battled MS and many other challenges in her life made the most amazing display of congatulations I could ever imagine.

My hair is coming back more each day (mostly blonde with some dark brown streaks). I am having a contest with my 6 month old niece - she is winning but not for long :).

I woke up Saturday morning thinking: "I am so excited to live the rest of my life".  Even though I am tired and lethargic from chemo, I know that there are many happy days ahead and that I have a lot to live for. 

So what am I going to do now?  Hmm - well I did spend last week in the happiest place on earth, so how can you top that?  My awesome date pushed me around in a wheelchair, so we all got to go to the front of the line.  My huge family all said thanks for the perk - I told them it better not happen again :). 

As hard as it has been there, truly have been many great memories along the road. I have come to know of many people in my life who are true friends.  I know I can never repay all that I have blessed with along the way.

With all of this excitement, I would like to say that I am feeling great but today has been a little more challenging. While I know that I have arrived at the top of the mountain, there is still another for me to climb that feels overwhelming right now.  I am laying here recovering from my last chemo treatment on Friday and although I do have less pain, I feel a complete lack of energy and motivation.  I am tired of being tired :) and the emotions they warned me about when I was at Huntsman are ensuing.  

It surprised me to hear that many people actually feel depressed after they finish chemo because often the support system goes away, under the assumption that now they are fine. But as a friend pointed out tonight, I have climbed the mountain and to go back down the mountain will require different muscles that are painful in their own unique way :).  It will take several months for my full energy to come back and I have a lot of work to do in order to feel whole again.  Over the past 6 months my body has been through so much and I am really looking forward to getting back to real life and figuring out what my new "normal" is. 

Tonight I am grateful for the reminder from a recent talk that I am not alone:

"You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time!  He who created and knows the stars knows you and your name—you are the daughters of His kingdom .  . ."

"God loves you because you are His child. He loves you even though at times you may feel lonely or make mistakes. The love of God and the power of the restored gospel are redemptive and saving. If you will only allow His divine love into your life, it can dress any wound, heal any hurt, and soften any sorrow." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Adventures of Chemo Round VII

For the first time I am unfortunately experiencing what most people usually picture when they think of chemo :o - maybe I'll lose some weight after all ;).  My beloved friend Jennifer tried getting me out today and in return got to experience what it must be like to have a sick child.  We made it back home, almost in time and I am now in bed for an early night :).

As one of my friends pointed out, I can now say "one and done"!  I am so excited for the 21st to come so I can officially declare: "it is done!"

Thursday at chemo was a pretty low key session with just mom and I to relax and talk. I was pleased to be given a bed again to lay low.  My cute mom read to me for much of the 3 hour infusion - an experience I haven't had since I was about nine :).  The book was a feel good, humorous take on cancer and we both had some good laughs!

Before the infusion I was happy to meet with both Rosie (the nurse practitioner) and Dr. Ward.  They got a kick out of my TV spot on KSL this week - for those of you who missed it, here you go:

They told me the good news that my blood counts were sufficiently high to again avoid the Neulasta shot and gave me a new drug to help with the issues of tingling and itching in my hands and feet.  They also answered several questions about next steps and what to expect after the 21st. 

Apparently it takes 3-6 months to overcome the fatigue and overall effects of chemo, so I am going to have yet another opportunity to be patient with my mind and body :).

I have technically been "cancer free" since my surgery on 5/27/11 when my tumor was removed but the chemo was to catch any other microscopic cancer cells that could be floating around and to ensure that it doesn't return.  I will see them every 3-4 months for the next couple of years and will be given mammograms and MRI's every year to make sure there are no new issues. 

So that's what I have to look forward to, along with a small touch up surgery in May, related to reconstruction. This is where the free plastic surgery comes in :).  After all my body has been through, I'm looking forward to that final step to help things along.

A celebration party will be planned for some time in November, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fight Like a Girl!

“It ain't about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and how much you can take, and keep moving forward.”  - Rocky Balboa 

It feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve written much.  I have had some good days and bad days since my last post. 

Saturday I went to the Susan G. Komen Survivors Lunch, where I got to meet some amazing people who have fought a much more challenging battle than I have known.  It was very touching to be in a room filled with survivors, to hear their stories and realize more than ever that I am not in this alone.  Despite my reluctance, my wonderful, survivor friend Thessaly persuaded me to go - she spoke along with a couple of others. 

One story that touched me deeply was from a young girl who was diagnosed when she was only 15 years old - wow!  Even though I don't know her, I have an incredible amount of love and respect for her.  I can now understand a little more how many who do not know me, have called me amazing.  Until today, I thought they were just saying this to be nice, but now I know that when you see someone going through something you hope to never experience, you are amazed at how they can get through it. 

Friday was a really great day, for a few hours I was free from most of the issues I have been having from chemo.  I even did some retail therapy to find some new clothes that will fit my body that is under construction. I’ve only gained a few pounds but my body feels so uncomfortable most of the time and so I always feel like I have nothing to wear.  Anything that is the least bit snug drives me crazy – I am pretty much living in sweats right now.

After shopping and dinner with a friend, I made it home to relax.  As I was reading the scriptures I felt much more connected spiritually than I have in awhile.  Sometimes it is hard to feel the love that God has for us but that doesn't mean he doesn't.  It is also hard to feel close to anyone when we don't talk to or see them.  When I was on my mission to Ontario, Canada back in 1993, I often felt disconnected from family and friends - because I WAS disconnected by not talking to or seeing them.  But that didn't make them any less real or wonderful. 

With the veil that has been placed over our minds, we cannot remember and often do not feel connected to God.  But I know that as we continue to call upon him in prayer and read His words through the prophets in the scriptures, we will feel a peace and know that we are not alone to wander in the wilderness below without His guidance.  I am so grateful to have this knowledge.  I am so blessed to have people in my life who live in a way that testifies of the Lord's love for all of us. 

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”  -Spencer W. Kimball

Thank you to so many of you who have and continue to be an answer to mine.  Although I’m on the home stretch, I still need your prayers.  I struggle daily to deal with the side effects of fatigue, tingling hands and feet, hot flashes and chills, head and overall body sensitivity as well as the drastic change in my appearance.  BUT I am thankful that my fight is still so much easier than it could be and for the wonderful people who are supporting me along the way – you have no idea how much your kindness means!