Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2006: My Story

     In honor of my 5th cancer anniversary I decided to blog about it. I realized that as much as I talk about myself and about my life, I have never discussed my cancer. Which I find pretty crazy, but I think its a good thing. It shows that I am moving on and that my life doesn't just revolve around cancer anymore. But today is a special day and I wanted to share for once and for all My Story.
     The summer of 2006 brought many changes. I had decided to lose weight beginning in February and because of that I started running and eating well. By the time summer came around I lost all of my appetite. I would push food around on my plate and take only a few bites. As summer continued I started to feel very tired and warn out, and decided to stop running. Come August my knees began to throb and hurt. The only way I could find relief was by icing my knees. But for every symptom that I had there was an answer. My knees hurt, but I was playing volleyball and horse back riding, which both use my knees. I was tired and going to bed around 8:30, but I had jammed packed days. I wasn't feeling my best, but I still felt that I was fine.
    Luckily my mom, older sister Heather, and her best friend Keisha knew better. On a Monday my mom took me to a near by clinic to get blood taken. The doctor couldn't quite figure out what was going on with me, and decided that my mom's idea of blood would be the best. At that point my mom thought that I either had mono or that I was anorexic. Both had many symptoms that I was experiencing. We were told to come back on Friday for the results to my blood test, which we looked forward to finding out what was wrong.
   The night before my appointment we joked about everything that could be wrong. We all felt that it was no big deal and a few antibiotics or a good dose of suck it up would fix whatever was wrong. I remember joking about cancer, not even thinking it was a real possibility. The next day we went to the doctor to hear the results of the blood test. We sat in the waiting room and felt no uneasiness or nerves. Dr. Lee came out and said that he had a diagnosis but that he wanted to speak to my mom first. I sat in the waiting room while my mom went in with the doctor and I began to cry. I thought "Oh my gosh! I am anorexic and I don't know it!!" I was 100% positive that that was what it was, I just didn't know how I could not know it. It's funny what you think at moments like that.
   I remember my mom and the doctor coming out and asking me to come back to a room with them. My mom did what she does in a moment like this and put up a wall. Her eyes were red and she took my hand and said "It's all going to be okay." I sat in the chair, just 2 weeks after my 14th birthday, as the doctor told me that I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL. It was the most common form of childhood cancer and also the most treatable, but to me all I heard was death. I thought about my family and my life and I remember thinking "I am really going to miss them". At that point all I knew was that my aunt and many other relatives died from cancer. In fact I couldn't recall many survivors at all.
   We were directed to go to Children's Medical only a few hours after my initial diagnosis, but we still had a few hours in between. A few hours meant that we had time to tell the family everything we knew. I remember asking my mom to tell them because I wasn't strong enough to do it. Heather was cleaning the kitchen when we walked in. She immediately knew something was wrong and we slowly told her what the doctor said. Like everyone else that was later told Heather burst into tears. We later told my brother Kyle, my sister Linsey, and my dad. It was all the same reaction. They cried and looked at me as if it was the last time they would see me. I felt so guilty for making them all so sad and worried. I felt that it didn't matter to me what happened, but I hated that my family had to watch me go through it.
    A few hours later we met with the doctors at Children's. I met Dr. Bash and Dr. McCavit and they reassured me that this was very treatable. I was put in the hospital that day, and on Monday I had surgery to put in my port, a spinal tap,  a bone marrow biopsy, and my first dose of chemo. I went into remission 3 weeks later and never came out. I spent 2 1/2 years on treatment and at times it was not easy. I didn't have an easy path and the doctors joked that if there was a small possibility of something happening then it would happen to me. Although it was the hardest thing that I have ever had to go through I learned a lot. I learned a lot about who I am and what my purpose is. I learned that I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist so that I could offer support to my patients that only a survivor could offer. I feel very blessed to be here today and to have a family that is so amazing and supportive. It might not have been my choice, but I wouldn't change it for anything.
    In honor of today I am going to share my very very very secret pictures that not many have seen! Enjoy!
 This was hiking the Y just 4 weeks before I was diagnosed
 This is in Ruidoso and the water is freezing! It felt so good on my throbbing knees!
 Hunters & Jumpers
 My horse & I. 5 days before diagnosis
 One of my oldest best friends! Devon! He called every day and asked how I was doing!
 We decided to gradually cut my hair. This was my first hair cut. My brother Kyle and sister Linsey. I was going to my first church dance and  I was so nervous!!
 This was my second hair cut! After this we buzzed it because the hair was getting everywhere!
 My niece Tommye-Lynn was 2 at the time. She helped me more than she will ever know
 If you ask Linsey and I what our favorite memory is together than this would be it! This night Linsey came up to my hospital room and we laid on the bed and raised it up and down and laughed hysterically. It is amazing how you can be going through the hardest things but then also be so completely happy. Linsey became my best friend throughout this whole process. She was fantastic and so supportive!
 My nurse Liz! I came in when she was just getting pregnant with her second and I informed her she was pregnant with her 3rd on my last treatment. Okay I didn't inform her I just said "Liz you are acting like you are pregnant again!" turns out she was!! I love her!
 My oldest brother Darrin! There is no better teddy bear then my sweet sweet Darrin!
 Dr. McCavit (my oncologist and now boss) and I. I spoke at a fundraiser where you pay people to shave their heads. Sweet Dr. McCavit gladly let me shave part of his head! Such an amazing man!
 This was my home bound teacher, Chris. He basically was the only reason I passed 8th grade and I think that he also was the reason I got all A's. I think he mostly did all my work for me. Such an amazing man!
 White Sands just outside of Ruidoso. I love my family!
 This was the first day of high school, and also my first year back to school. I was very nervous but Linsey being a senior made it an easy transition. When I went to orientation Linsey had all of her friends line up at the door and put their hands up to make a tunnel for me to go through. The all screamed my name as I walked through and congratulated me on being a new freshmen. I will never forget that day.
 I was supposed to wear these masks while coming to the hospital so I didn't get any infections, but we decided that we needed them for cleaning my mom's silverware. Have you guys smelled that stuff? Its so gross, and we weren't having it!
Corby's bowl game at Las Vegas. This was my second trip to Las Vegas for Corby's bowl game, but the first I spent the entire time in the hotel throwing up. It was wonderful to make it through a full game. In this picture is Back: Dad, Corby, Darrin, Brent; Front: Me, Lori & Tommye, and Analisa
 These are my amazing sisters and my wonderful Grandmother
 The whole family at Katie & Corby's wedding! It was such a beautiful wedding! And thanks to Keisha my hair looked stunning!
 My freshmen year I decided to jump right into it. I started doing theater and in the spring I was Helen in Bye Bye Birdie. That meant I got to start the Telephone Hour song off! It was so much fun!
Mrs. Long and I. Mrs. Long was my freshmen and sophomore English teacher! She was beyond fantastic and she changed me in so many ways. I learned a great deal about myself, people, the world, and a bit about English too. She has become one of my greatest friends and we still see each other when we can.
 Linsey, Layton, and I. Layton is my cousin Jennifer's little boy. He is the sweetest thing you will ever meet and loves Linsey because she plays basketball. Every time we see him we have a blast, and he gives the best hugs!
 Sophomore year of high school! I dressed up for crazy hair day at school!
Once I was feeling better I started a project that focused on teenagers with cancer. At the hospital there were so many things for younger children because the normal age of cancer is between 1-10, so I wanted to have things that were for older kids. I made up letters and sent them out for donations and I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who wanted to help out. I created bags full of fun things for teenagers and was able to deliver them personally. This gave me the perfect opportunity to talk to other kids and help them to know that chemo does end and you call live a normal and healthy life. It was a wonderful experience that I cherish.

 This was my make-a-wish! I decided that I wanted to spend 10 days in Europe with my parents and Linsey (that's all that could go otherwise I would have invited everyone!). We spent 2 days in Barcelona and then boarded a ship and did a 7 day cruise through the Mediterranean. We visited Spain, France, and Italy. It was the most amazing trip I have ever experienced and make-a-wish really hooked us up! Wish I could go back every day!
 Senior pictures!
 I graduated on June 4, 2010 7th in my class and one year early. Most of my high school was spent on treatment, but I didn't feel any different from any of the other kids. I did all the same things, except on Fridays I went in for spinal taps and every night an hour after I ate I took chemo. No matter what the conditions things become normal to you and you don't think anything of it. My school and teachers were extremely supportive and made it very easy to make up school work and deal with everything cancer intells.
   And now I wanted to say a few things to my family! I am sorry if this post is already too long, but I have wanted to say this for a long time. You can ex out if you find it too boring!
   To my parents: I want to thank you for having the insight to take me in. Thank you for always sacrificing for me and putting my needs first. Mom, you would stay up all night with me in the hospital and then leave at 6 am to come home and take care of your day care kids. Once they left, you hurried back up to the hospital to do it all over again. You bathed me and told me that there was no way I was going to die. I love you and I don't know how I could have done it without you. Dad, you took over mom's role once she left and there were very few mornings I woke up without you there. You gave up your bed so I could sleep with mom for 9 months and supported me in every way possible. You made sure any food I wanted I had and we spent many nights with ice cream and Whataburger. Thank you for always being there and loving me so much! I love you!
   To Darrin & Analisa & Tommye: Brylee you weren't here yet, but I know you were rooting for me in Heaven. Darrin you were my quiet support system and teddy bear. You didn't talk a lot but you were 100% positive that I was going to make it. Even at my worst and when I doubted it the most you believed that I would pull through. You assisted in one of my first blessings and you blessed me that I would heal completely. You would always sleep on the couch and stay up late to watch TV, usually a hunting show. I remember waking up and coming out and sitting with you while you watched. You were the one who taught me the idea of if you're not going forward then you are moving backwards, and I respect all the talks we had about becoming a better person. I was always reassured by your faith and strength. Annie, you gave up so many weekends to come here and spend time with me. You always made me laugh and I loved just listening to you talk. You were always willing to sacrifice for my family and I always admired that. I have always enjoyed our watching of What Not to Wear and every comment we made about the girls on there.  I remember the first time I met you and how fascinated I was with the idea that you were a twin. I remember the letters you wrote to me, and how I saved them forever. You were my first pen-pal! Tommye, you were too young to really know but your affect on me was profound. Whenever you were around I tried to be strong and courageous so that you wouldn't grow up afraid of pills or shots. You held my hand when I had shots and you always kissed my boo boos better. I remember when you were born I thought you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. You still are, and you are still the angel you were as a baby. I love you all!
   To Heather & Shawn: Once again Gavin you weren't here but I know that you were already planning ways to hit me and lick me once you got down here. Heather, I couldn't have asked for a better oldest sister. As a baby you sang to me "Give Said the Little Stream", and once again you did the same while I was on treatment. At the time you were in Idaho, but you sacrificed money and time to come down so often, you basically lived here. I will never forget all that you did for me, or all that you still do for me. You inspire me to be a better person, and if I am half the mother you are when I have children (Heaven forbid) I will be doing just fine. Thank you for your example and strength. Shawn-a-lot, my warrior and knight and shining armor. You were the jokester and the please get over yourself Hailey. You always remind me to stop taking myself so seriously and that I have no taste in men...I mean boys... On treatment you always were willing to let Heather come down and visit, and you worked hard in all you did. You always held my hand and let me sit in your lap. You even let me throw up on your favorite sweatshirt in Vegas. I still feel guilty for that by the way. Thanks for making me laugh and making fun of me even when I was bald. Made me feel like nothing had changed at all. I love you guys!
 To Corby & Katie: Jade I know that you were looking down with that look that you wear all the time, just waiting till it was your turn. Your parents were just meeting and you weren't even thought of yet. No one could have guessed how beautiful you would turn out. Corby, my superman who can do anything. It drove you crazy you couldn't fix my cancer and so you micro-managed. You made a drinking chart and I was given 4 oz of water every hour. You surprised me in the fall by waking me up to give me my pills. I didn't know who it was and when I realized it was you I fell into your arms crying. You were such a rock throughout it all, even though I knew it was killing you inside. You remand strong and reminded me that I could get through this. Katie- Lynn, I met you about a month after I was diagnosed. I was obsessed and in love with you about 2 seconds after meeting you and wanted more than anything for Corby to marry you. I don't remember who called who, but a few days later we spend like 3 hours on the phone while I sat in the transfusion room getting blood. You were so funny and light hearted and understanding. I am so grateful that Corby had you through it all. You guys were married in the spring and it became final. I get to share the rest of eternity being your sister-in-law and I don't think I could be any luckier. I love y'all!
  To Brent & Lori and the kids they will never have: Okay just kidding you guys will so have kids one day! And they will be beautiful or maybe even really ugly, but we will love them still the same. I mean the family will love them still the same. I'm not making any promises about me. Brent, you were my laugh for 2 1/2 years of chemo. You called me every day even if it was just for a few minutes to talk and tell me a joke. I don't remember any of the jokes you said, but I do remember the light you brought to my very dark life at the time. You also came and surprised me with Corby. I was thrilled to see you and be with you, but you took it pretty hard. It was hard for you to see your baby sister in so much pain. In Saint Louis you pushed me up all the steep hills of the zoo, and didn't say anything about all the pain you were in till it was way too late. You spent weekends with me eating everything we could think of and encouraged Lori to skip work. You kept me smiling and reminded me that grape allergies were far worse then my fake cancer. Lori-ann, oh Lori Lori Lori. What am I to say? I knew you long before I was sick and we always had so much fun together. You always asked about my boring life and pretended to be interested far beyond what is called for. You made me laugh, watched movies with me, played cards, and refused to take pictures. Luckily I vetoed that last one by guilt tripping you into this could be my last picture. You lied to skip work, so we could spend more time together in St. Louis. We went to the puppy shop and you might have even cried when we had to leave them behind. You came to so many of my cancer activities and programs, and even lived with us for awhile. One thing is for sure, if I'm with you its always a blast. Thanks for not killing or breaking up with Brent. We all know you are a brave woman! I love you both!
    To Kyle: Miss Hollie was not in the picture at the time, but she would later come in and be a bright star in your life. You were great while I was on treatment. You would come watch shows with me and spend time with me in the hospital. You made really lame jokes that made me laugh really hard. You cried when you told the whole  football team that I was diagnosed, and they all decided to have a team prayer in my honor. Mom always talks about how you were her sunshine baby when you were born because you were always so happy while mom was struggling with losing her own mother. You grew up and still kept that sunshine about you and while I was on treatment it showed through. You were always so happy and positive, esp. around me. You would get me and Linsey anything we asked for without a complaint or a rude comment back. I see how those things have carried over into your life even now and have made you this wonderful, caring, guy. I love you!
   To Linsey: Jordan the boy who survived a life threatening toe cut would come into your life much later and realize that he had a lot of sucking up to me to do before he was ever considered even decent. I love him even though he said I looked like Voldermort while on treatment. He is still not forgiven though, but I will forever be his angel baby. Linsey, my best friend and partner in crime. We fought like crazy before treatment, but I can't really recall a fight we have had since I was diagnosed. You hated going to school because you hated being away from me, and when you did go to school you called every hour. You used me as an excuse and told your teachers that I was having a bone marrow transplant. Luckily your teachers knew nothing about bone marrow transplants, and had a lot of sympathy. You made my transition into high school easy, checked in on me often, and almost beat kids up that made fun of me. I couldn't have done it without you, Lins and I am lucky to have you as my older sister. Thanks for letting me be your maid of honor and control your wedding. Thanks for not leaving the room when I had to throw up, and making jokes about at least I didn't have to hold my hair back. "WHAT?! I DIDN'T EVEN SEE THIS COMING?!!" I love you Linsey! You are the best!
   Thanks for sticking it through and reading all the way guys! I hope that this post finds you well and as blessed as I am!
Until next time,

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