It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that exactly two years ago today I was sitting in a hospital bed and a doctor was telling me that I had cancer. In some respects it feels like it just happened, in others it seems lightyears away from where I am now. Two years later I still have cancer and two years later I am still thriving.
This year was so much different than my first year with cancer.
1.) I think the most obvious difference is the course of treatment and the physical impact it had on me. In year one I had dropped down to 85 pounds, I lost my hair, and walked with a cane. This year, despite having ANOTHER major invasive surgery and undergoing a different kind of chemo, my illness was not as obvious to others that did not know me. My hair is back, my weight is normal, and despite being constantly pale (I think I would have been anyway) I look like any other person.
2.) This experience was more solitary in nature. I wouldn’t say that it was private as I clearly spill my guts to the world in the blog, but it was different. I take my drugs at home, I am at the hospital less frequently, and my reactions to the drugs typically happen pretty privately (except for that time I threw up on the side of the road on Gano St. after the NOCC walk. That was super public.).
At the beginning of my trial I felt really alone. I didn’t know anyone that was doing this trial so I couldn’t really find anyone to relate to. I was transitioning away from Women and Infant’s, an institution so dear to me, and it was hard not constantly seeing Dr. Robison, Sheila, or my social workers. Between getting used to this trial drug and navigating my new-new-normal, I felt pretty lost for a few months.
3.) I experienced survivor’s guilt for the first time. There is a young woman with OC that touched my life in a significant way this past spring. Her influence is a major reason that I chose this trial. Currently, I am living quite happily and semi-normally while she has just been moved into hospice. It’s not fair and that has really bothered me.
4.) I have the ability to give back to a community that has served me with such love and compassion. This year has consisted of fundraisers, a service trip in DC, and joining the Women and Infants Oncology Patient & Family Advisory Council. I couldn’t ask for better opportunities to serve the cancer community and beyond.
5.) I have bought into the notion that cancer is not black and white. It is possible that illness could be part of my life for a long time. Regardless, I know and believe that I will continue to have a very fulfilling life.
What hasn’t changed? I still have the greatest friends and family of all time!
There were plenty of hardships and I even considered posting some of the pictures that I have taken to document the more difficult times but I when I look back on the past year, it was still so rich with fun, love, and great memories that I think that deserves to be highlighted most.
I have said time and time again, I am not afraid to die but my greatest fear is a life unfulfilled. After looking back on these joyous moments, I can say that my family and friends certainly ensure a fulfilling life.
Cheers to many more years.