Cancer: I thank you, but I still hate you.

It would be damn tragedy if I got diagnosed with rare form of cancer and said I learned nothing from it. It would be disheartening if I beat the shit out of every tumor on my liver and said that it didn’t change who I am or how I see the world. I know it may seem a little cliché, and if you don’t like it then you can stop reading right now.

When I found out I had Epitheloid Hemangioendothelioma obviously my first thought was, “Excuse me? What the hell did you just say?” But after that, and I processed everything, I felt like I was getting slapped in the face.The part that really gets good though, is when I first met with my oncologist. I sat there numb. Again, I had to sat in a tiny box of a room with poor ventilation and ugly curtains. You would think they would redesign these kinds of rooms for the love of all that is holy!

I remember her sitting next to me writing on blank, crisp white sheet of paper. I was confused, why was she taking notes? Whatever. She told me slowly that putting me on chemo or radiation would be pointless and waste of time.

WHAT? That is how I am supposed to get rid of cancer. Hook me up to the IV’s shoot the nasty ass medicine in me and let’s get started. Get these evil solid bitches out of me. I had so much to learn…

She explained to me slowly that my cancer has shown several times to “not respond” and “show no progress” to chemo or radiation. I wanted to cry. I felt like she was telling me there was nothing she could do for me and that my evil faced solid bitches were my death sentence. Not only was I diagnosed with cancer, but a cancer that cannot be treated with chemo or radiation.I was in total disbelief.I felt the nausea coming on and choked back the tears.

She explained options of surgery first and down the line a transplant. I was 23 and getting ready to start my life – I landed the job I wanted (at the school I wanted),  I had just moved, eventually I want to get married, hell, I would like to say I haven’t peaked quite yet. But, here we were having the conversation of a liver transplant. Wow, talk about college giving you a diploma and a real grown up situation. I learned within a month of graduating college (yes, I took a victory lap – because leaving college early is like leaving the party at 10pm – super lame) that being a grown up is tough and that you don’t get to decide when you are ready to grow up. It just happens.

So, Cancer I thank you for all that you taught me. I thank you for teaching me to wake up every morning and to put on my big girl pants and face the world even when is cruel.

I thank cancer for teaching me to love every second and every minuet that I am blessed to feel healthy. To be honest, that’s not every day. I’ve been tired and weak for almost over a year, which has been hard mentally on me. On my good days, I make sure I’m doing everything in my power to enjoy every second. Even on my bad days I try so hard to Enjoy. Every. Single. Second. There’s a lot times I wish I would have done that before, but I also have learned not to dwell on the little things. I have more important things to worry about, unfortunately.

Having EHE has made me strong. Having EHE has also made me weak. I’ve said it so many times before, but this experience has been the biggest blessing in disguise. I’ve told people I’m almost thankful for the experience. Am I thankful for having cancer? Absolutely not. I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned. As I have mentioned before to many of you, I have grown so much as a person. I have been able to see life through a different set of eyes. I appreciate life so much more now and I have felt so much love (see about me page). I wish that everyone could change, grow, and feel what I have felt without having to go through what I have gone through. Every morning I wake up thankful to just be breathing. I may not have been blessed with greatest health, but I have been blessed with so much more than that.

Being brave isn’t easy, but its possible. I am not going to sugar coat anything, there are days where I break down. Days where I don’t think I can be brave. There are days where I am tired of fighting for my “normal” life back. Some days it’s suffocating, but I remember that there are people out there that have it worse than me, and that’s what makes it a little easier. Some days I’m not brave for myself, I’m brave for other people.

“There is something you should always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robbins to Winnie The Pooh

Lifetime Accomplishment: Just Live

I’ve always set goals for myself. Since I was little I had goals of being on the competitive dance team, of going to college, of getting that 4.0. In fact, I’ve learned how to set SMART goals several times thanks to being an education major. In addition, I am still learning how to write goals as a Special Education teacher. Goals are a never-ending part of human life. If you don’t set goals, what type of person are you? What type of life do you live? We set goals without even realizing it.

So recently, someone pretty important in my life asked me the following question:

“What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime? Think big picture!”

I was completely stumped for days. I had no idea how to respond or what to pick. Not to mention I am really bad when put on the spot. Thankfully, I was asked in a letter so I had some time to gather my thoughts. Except there were no thoughts…

I actually started to get kind of distraught with this because I am the type of person who is constantly making lists, setting goals, and crossing things off. I am a pretty organized person and when things don’t tend to go a certain way or follow a plan, sometimes all chaotic hell can break loose in my mind. I would like to think on the outside I hold it together pretty well, but I’m sure others can contest to that.

I had thought up a few goals in my mind that I wanted to accomplish but they were all short-term and I kept deeming them as not worthy for a “lifetime accomplishment.” Like, holy shit a lifetime accomplishment that should be big right? I mean, I know I am never going to go to the Olympics to get a gold medal but that is probably someone’s lifetime accomplishment and the ones floating around in my mind were nothing compared to that!

I spent another day deliberating some more accomplishments. I had time because lucky for me, I have surrounded myself with the most patient person in the world. After about a two days, I finally had something worthy.

Here it goes:

I think it’s fair to say anyone who has cancer or is affected by cancer in some way experiences some form of “a wake up call”. Here’s the thing, anyone who gets that call, is going to choose to do whatever they want to do with that call, and how they react to it. You can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control how you react to them. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT!

For me, I have experienced a few wake up calls with the C word. One was of course when I was first diagnosed. That was actually a wake up call and slap in the face if you ask me. We won’t venture down that road today though. The second wakeup call was in November after my diagnosis. I think by that point, all the shock had worn off. At this point, I decided that I was going to just live. Every. Single. Day. I would take every opportunity that came my way and (not to be cliché) but seize the day. (Sorry, I really could not thin of any better way to say it.)

I knew that my time could be short, as terrible as that sounds and I did not want to be 50 years old wishing that I would have done more things. I didn’t want to wish that I had more time to “live”. P.S. Screw cancer, I don’t care what statistics say I will live to be at least 93 because thats number I just randomly picked and it sounds kind of cool.

I decided in a car driving down Dodge Street on a frigid winter night almost in tears with my mom that I wanted to be a “doer”. I wanted to see every part of the world that I possibly could, help anyone that I possibly could, and I wanted to stop being so busy and spend more time with my friends and family. And then, when it’s all said and done, I want to say that I did everything I wanted to do and that I just lived.

While it’s vague, my lifetime accomplishment is to just live. Some days I feel like I used to spend a lot of my life running around pleasing other people and living their life, not mine. I think a lot of us do that. My wish for everyone is that they just live and that they don’t need a wake up call like I did – but I am thankful for the wake up call. It truly made me a better person. How could I not be thankful? It’s sucky, but it does have its positives.

So for me, I will just live and be a “doer” and right now, it’s working out pretty great. And now you know the story behind “Just Live” 🙂