Yesterday was my last day of being “in treatment”. I am now what I officially consider a survivor. I know that lots of people have told me that I’m a survivor the day I’m diagnosed, but I just couldn’t do that. I considered myself a warrior. Fighting the battle. Once that battle was over I became a survivor in my mind. I’m so happy to have made it to this milestone. It’s a big one. Today I celebrated by not leaving the house and wearing my pajama pants all day. No doctor appointments, no going to the hospital, it’s amazing. I have to say I am fully enjoying every moment.
I got a certificate and a medal when I finished treatment yesterday, it was a nice way to mark the end. I need to talk to Oncology – they should do something like that too. I went straight from the hospital to the tattoo parlor and got my tattoo – sponsored by one of my closest friends. It’s funny to think about how much has changed this year. One of the big things is that I am no longer afraid of things hurting. Well, I’m sure if someone was coming at me with a baseball bat I would run the other direction, but little things don’t bother me at all. I used to tense up as soon as I heard they needed blood, or even a finger stick. Not anymore. The tattoo was the same way, no problem – just sat down and put my arm out until it was done. Even today, it’s barely even sore. I don’t know if my pain tolerance has changed or if I’m just kind of over it mentally. Anyway, here’s the tattoo:
I’m going to have some more work done in a couple weeks but we didn’t want to do too much at once because that can cause scar tissue to form. Eric thinks it looks very Pirates of the Caribbean which I think is hilarious.
I made a photo last night using what we call the “ghost” picture. This was taken the day after my surgery and I have no recollection at all of this time period. I know that we attempted several walks in the hallways and I had to be wheeled back to bed every time so I’m guessing this was one of those walks. And then a picture from last night celebrating the end of treatment. I posted it to facebook and it’s been reposted by Stupid Cancer and HOPE for Young Adults With Cancer and is getting a ton of likes. It’s a little surreal, but then so is life these days. Here’s the pic.
It really is amazing to look at how far I’ve come just in the seven months since that picture. I had four months of chemo before it was taken so it doesn’t even tell the whole story. Seeing myself like that is just scary. I don’t know how everyone who loves me made it through that. At least I didn’t have to look at myself. I could just close my eyes and pretend it was a dream. It all seems like a dream now.
So, what happens now? Well, a lot actually. I will continue to get blood work every four weeks to make sure my bone marrow is repairing from damage it sustained during chemo. It’s been taking longer than expected for everything to bounce back so they are monitoring me. I will go back to my oncologist for these appointments and see my radiation oncologist in four weeks. She will at that time order my scan which is usually done about three months after treatment ends. I know this past year has sucked, but waiting three months for that scan feels like an eternity. They can’t do it too fast because the radiation can cause a false positive so they have to be sure it’s all out of my system. I should also have my next surgery in about three months. I haven’t been scanned since before my surgery so we are really just going on the pathology from surgery that they got everything, and then of course that treatment has worked. But I don’t think I will be able to fully believe that it’s gone until I see that scan. So, the countdown begins.
In the mean time, I am moving forward with life. I have been working a lot on trying to figure out the best way to spend my time and energy. I’ve found that answer. I met a couple at OMG who had a non-profit which sounded great but I didn’t really think all that much about it until I got home. I started investigating what we have available and trying to determine where the gaps are. One of the areas that I think is a huge gap is financial help (as you’ve probably already picked up on). That just happens to be what this couple does… and, they had mentioned they were interested in starting a Denver chapter. So I picked up the phone and found out all the details. And I loved it. So I’ve planned, recruited, and guess what? We are here. HOPE for Young Adults With Cancer now has a Denver chapter and I am the president. We have 7 board members so far, and they are all fantastic. Here are five of us at our first official meeting:
You can check out our website here http://www.hope4yawc.org if you are interested. We will be doing fundraisers all year, then twice a year we take applications from patients/survivors who are 18-40 years old with ANY kind of cancer. We find out what they need and depending on our budget, send it to them (for some people we may cut a check to their doctor, for others we might buy them car seats and ship them to their house). There are VERY few organizations who can actually help with medical bills out there. Also, you don’t have to be at poverty level to receive help. No one takes a salary, so everything goes back to the people who need it the most. I love it. We are in the process of organizing our first fundraisers and will be having a happy hour launch in Denver soon. We are looking for volunteers to help with events, and are really in need of a graphic designer who would volunteer to do small jobs like a design for t-shirts for some of our bigger events. Please contact me if you are interested!
I am really excited to be able to move forward with my life and I really want to help others navigate through this ordeal in any way I can. I can’t make cancer any better but hopefully this will help alleviate some worries, or at the very least just give someone a really good day when they get the phone call that they’re getting some help. So, on to better days!