Surviving Cancer: We get through it.

I’ve had some phenomenal supporters throughout my journey. I have supporters who have been with me from the start, some who came in at the middle, and some who are just joining me now. I always say that is one of the many things I am thankful for, the people who stayed with me, put up with me, and joined me in my journey.

On the other hand, I’ve also met my fair share of negative, arrogant, ignorant people. I never thought I would come across those types of heartless people. Not that I like to use the “cancer card” but seriously, when someone has cancer, you just typically “understand” you just “get it.” Right? Or is that just me?

I specifically remember someone who told me only a few months of being diagnosed that I just needed to “get over” the fact that I had cancer. I was floored and immediately wanted to take my foot, and give this person a swift kick in the ass out of my life. Which, later I did, but, in a much nicer way. I have learned the most important part of a happy and healthy life is to get rid of negative, unsupportive people.

Do you really get over anything traumatic life? Whether it is cancer, death, or heartbreak do you just“GET OVER IT?” You more so get through it. Sure, if it’s something petty you might get over it. For example, if your friend wants to go to Chipotle for lunch but you want Qudoba – you might just get over it because that is petty and stupid. However, something that is life changing or traumatic like cancer – you don’t just get over it. You get through it.

Typically when you “get over” something, that means you don’t have to deal with it anymore. It’s gone. Dunzo. See ya.

The reality with cancer is it never really goes away. If you are just starting your journey, please don’t jump to conclusions and reach for a brown paper bag to breathe into. I promise you it gets better and it isn’t that bad. I was always searching for my cancer to go away until I accepted the fact that it will always be hanging around. Now that I have accepted that, it has gotten a little better.Every now and then, cancer will creep up behind you with scanxiety*. Or you’ll randomly remember where you were when you got diagnosed. Sometimes the vivid memory of telling your family and friends hits you when you least expect it. How can you get over feelings like this? The truth is, you cant. You keep pushing through them, dealing with them, and accepting them.

A perfect example: Just the other night, I was unpacking some things because I just moved. What was I unpacking? A random tote of pills. I have acquired lots of pills, like any other chronically ill person. I have my own damn pharmacy for crying out loud. I was going through each pill bottle to see if I really needed it and tossing the ones that I didn’t. As I was tossing pills into the trash I thought to myself. Shit. Are you really supposed to be tossing out drugs like this? So, what do I always do when I have questions pertaining to drugs? I text my own personal pharmacist best friend, Abby. She told me to make sure I ripped off the labels and shredded them – or I could wait until Walgreens did a drug take back. There was something very invigorating about ripping off that damn label and shredding it and throwing those pills away. Kind of like “hey cancer; fuck you and all your drugs!!” In the mix of listening to hip-hop, (because country music would have been far too depressing for my ripping rage) I come across hospital bands. I immediately wanted to break down right then and there. I froze. Memories of MRIs, CTs, sitting in the waiting rooms, surgeries, treatments, everything comes flooding back. These are times where I don’t know if being alone is better than being with someone.

Is it a little morbid to save all these (not even sure how many I have, but I have more than what is pictured)? Some people might say yes. I say no, because I have kept a lot of different things. I have kept every card, I have taken various pictures, and I have kept letters. I don’t see EHE as all negative and I want to remember what I went through, and how I fought.

Right now, I am struggling. I’m struggling with my 1-year cancernniversary. I debated whether or not to admit this on my blog, but I figured why not, it could help someone, somewhere who could be struggling. I am coming up on a year of my initial diagnosis. Not only that, but a year ago I started the scary of process of not knowing what was wrong.

A year ago, I thought I just had mono. I lay on a table in a room and knew something else was wrong. The radiologist tech was calling people saying, “Looks like there are four” and she left the room to talk to someone. I asked my mom what was going on and I could tell she was scared too. She told me she didn’t know and I started to quietly cry, tears streaming down my face. My first thought was actually breast cancer because early in the semester I had abnormal pains in my left breast but my doctor did a breast exam and dismissed it and said nothing was wrong.

It’s almost been a year. Some days it feels like it’s been a decade. Other days I feel like this year has flown by and I can’t believe how much has changed in just a year. If I’m struggling, does one really “get over” cancer? CAN one really get over cancer? No. You get through it. You keep on keepin’ on.

I’m scared for June 3rd 2015. I’m scared for the emotions I will have. I don’t know how that day will go and I don’t know what I will do that day to make it easy. I know that I don’t want to be in Kearney because that will bring back too many memories. I know that I don’t want to be at home, because that will bring back terrible memories of our first emergency family meeting. Which hurt so bad. I don’t think there is anything worse than being in a room where you’ve grown up in, shared family holidays and happy memories and have to sit there and watch the people you love cry uncontrollably. Not to mention my mom and I completely blindsided them with this news because no one was expecting any of this.

One thing I do know for sure is, every year will get easier. Each year I will continue to get through this thing called life with cancer – and each year I will stay a survivor.

If you’re reading this and you are battling – you can get through this too and don’t let anyone tell you that you need to “get over it.”

*Scanxiety: When you have a day of MRIs or CTs and have to [patiently] wait for the news if you are cancer free or not. Will you get back on that treadmill of doctors appointments and treatment? Or will you stay idle again for 3 more months, 6 more months, or a year?  Or perhaps, you will get lucky and be pushed out even longer for your next appointment. 

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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” 🙂

One ticket to Cancerland.

As I keep on plowing through my journey through Cancerland, I keep wondering when I will reach the end. Now, Cancerland is obviously not a very magical place with lollipops, rainbows and unicorns. Though sometimes I wish it was.

Any patient, caregiver or individual that is affected by cancer knows that it is crucial to stay focused on the small victories and celebrate the hell out of them. Its imperative to live in the moment. Just live, my motto, if you will. Also one must never quit battling.

Small Victories: When you don’t have to go to a doctor’s appointment for a straight week. In the summer, I felt like I was on a constant treadmill of doctor’s appointments. It was like I was running out of breath and I couldn’t get off or slow down the speed. I hate running. I couldn’t catch a break, it was a constant battle of at the doctor, call the doctor, talk to the nurse, and of course, repeat.

I’ll never forget my first oncology appointment. I felt suffocated. When I walked in, the words “Cancer Center” were screaming at me. I looked around feeling faint and that I sure as hell did not belong there. When Nebraska Med called the day before to schedule my appointment and to give me directions, they told me to come to the Lied Transplant Building and then to the third floor. So, I assumed I was not going to a Cancer Center of any sort. Boy, was I fucking stupid. I digress. I felt like everyone around me looked different but none of them seemed dreadfully sick it was like they almost seemed okay at the thought of being there. Being THERE, in Cancerland. Ugh. I quickly accepted this was my new life, and this place was soon going to be my new home (some days) so there was no point in getting angry with God or the world. I still feel like that was yesterday, even though it was 9 months ago.

I then laughed at the lavender sheet attached to a clipboard they gave me to fill out.

  • Step 1: Rate your Level of Distress (then there was a nice continuum for me)
  • Step 2: Please check any items that are a problem (feelings of loss, intimacy, rides to appointments, feelings of nervous or afraid, money worries, housing/lodging, changes or worries to work/school, etc)
  • Step 3: Based on the items that you checked, mark what would be helpful: (talk to a staff member, be connected a support group, connect with online resources, be mailed information, emailed information, talk with a chaplain, etc.)

Yes, I have this somewhat memorized because I am still to this day filling out this sheet. That day that I was there, I was in shock I did not want to fill this out. I felt like I was Hazel Grace on the Fault in Our Stars and really just wanted to bust out of Nebraska Med and never come back. I wanted to live in a fake world for just little while long, even if just for a second.

My small victory for that day was that I made it through my important – I laid down for the most of it because I was extremely light-headed and overwhelmed, but I made it. I left feeling like I had one badass doctor. She was willing to take on an unheard of type of cancer that has practically no research. You go Dr. Ly!

Some days, when you are going through Cancerland, you don’t have small victories. You have to start over. You  go back to the start and draw a new card. Why is it fair that someone who spends month’s, maybe years fighting a battle they didn’t pick, has return to Cancerland? Sometimes maybe return multiple times. That is ludicrous. Is it so terrible for survivors to get some fairness in their life? I knew in November something wasn’t right – I procrastinated the phone call to my oncologist because deep down inside I knew the news I was going to get. I wanted to live outside of Cancerland for a little bit longer. I did not want to get back on that damn treadmill again! But… here I am.

I only had roughly two months of “remission” which we later found out had been a total sham as I put it. That’s another story for another day. On a positive note, I am glad that it is not like my cancer continued to come back. Either way, it’s still exasperating that I STILL have the big “C” word. Ha, ha.

The light at the end of the tunnel: I keep searching for it and frankly; I am becoming more impatient. I find myself almost looking forward to my liver resection for the shear fact that I want so badly to be cancer free. Duh, who wouldn’t? After my first appointment, I was brokenhearted. 23-year-old glass half full Kayla finally realized that remission is not permanent. I remember looking at my cousin Amy and saying “None of this guarantees ANYTHING. Who’s to say after all this it WON’T come back?” Jesus. How selfish am I? I have had multiple family members go through cancer and some of them who I lost. How did I make it to that age and not realize this? The truth is, I knew that it wasn’t permeant or a guarantee – but it’s different when you aren’t in Cancerland. I was experiencing it from another side.

Reality sank in pretty quick. But, I knew I couldn’t spend my life thinking about the “what if’s” and honestly, I’m still trying to get past that sometimes. I went through a stage of trying to figure out what caused my cancer, what would have happened if I did “xyz”different, what if it was this, or that. I soon realized I was going to beat myself up over it and that there was no test and no answer. There was an imaginary wheel that was spun somewhere and it landed on me going to Cancerland. It may not be the glorious of lands, but I am there, and it is apart of me.

Two Things That Don’t Go Together: 24 year Olds and Razors (Apparently)

Sometimes being a girl is hard. Sure, there are some perks like doing my hair, nails and going shopping (when I can find clothes that fit me). Other times I don’t want to do any of that. I won’t lie; in the summer (especially when I worked at the pool) there would be days I would go without showering. Why? Because I can. I am woman hear me roar! No? That saying doesn’t work here? Ugh.

Shaving your legs is also apparently hard. You would think after 24 years I would have that figured out. Nope. Just another reason being a grown up is slapping me in the face and I just smile every time it does and laugh because these are moments where I love my life and I would not do anything to change it.

I shower at night because I need more beauty sleep in the morning. I thrive off of beauty sleep. What girl doesn’t? I started the shower on a Tuesday night and made sure I started it a littler colder than usual because I knew I had to do the duty of shaving my legs. My rather minuscule water heater in my apartment can’t make more than a 10-minute hot shower, its pretty unfortunate. I sighed as I entered the shower thinking “Damn, sometimes being a girl really sucks.”

So, somewhere between Jake Owen telling me he couldn’t be alone with me and washing the conditioner out of my hair, I looked down and saw a pool of blood. Shit. When I say a pool of blood, I mean like a crime scene pool of blood. This was like the ‘I cut myself shaving but didn’t feel it’ type of cut. It was clearly coming from the left leg so I inspected it and thought “Meh. Pretty puny of a cut no big deal.” I finished up in the shower and it was still bleeding like I had murdered someone with my BiC Soleil disposable razor.

Sweet baby Jesus! There was a lot of blood. Now, how was I going to execute getting out of the shower? I grabbed my towel, dried off my hair and looked over and saw my other towel across the bathroom. Sweet. Just my luck. I was still bleeding husker red all over the white tub making a huge mess. Excellent, I had just added cleaning the bathroom to my list of things to do on a Tuesday night.

I grabbed some toilet paper and started to apply pressure. It was clear that I could not just put a band aide on and go about my night. The first person that came to mind throughout all this was my friend Abby. She always cuts herself shaving so she would enjoy this. However, I was in no shape to text her. By this time, I had blood all over both feet, the tub and now parts of the toilet. How in the hell does this happen from one puny little cut! This was how I was going to die. Not from cancer but from shaving my stupid legs!

15 minutes goes by, I am still bleeding. I start to multi task and I am now cleaning up the shower and applying pressure. I am pretty proud of myself. No band aides have yet have been applied. I grab my phone and send a text to Abby. Abby, being my intelligent friend who is in pharmacy school replies back to my rather dramatic text and tells me to lift my leg in the air above my heart. DUH! I used to be a lifeguard and had learned that in CPR/First aide I should have known that. Okay, Okay, Okay. How the hell am I going to do that? Picture this one: I grab even more toilet paper (I probably used up at least half a roll this night) and go into my bedroom. Take note that I am in my towel wrap. I lie on the floor ever so gracefully and put my leg in the air applying pressure. Again, I think to myself, yup, this is how I die. Loss of blood. Death by razor. After a while I check it, the blood has lessened so I sit up and throw a band aide on.

Thank fucking goodness I can finally comb my hair and put some clothes on. I spend the next couple of minuets getting my shit together and thinking about what a hot mess my life is. I head to my bedroom to get some clothes and finally I can finish up my things for the night. Oh, no, my bloody ankle has a mind of its own. As I’m stepping over blankets, clothes and pillows (it was like playing hot lava) I feel something. Yup. Blood. I look down and think SHIT and run back to the bathroom perfectly missing and winning at hot lava. Score.

I got back to the bathroom but my rug had not survived. I snapped a picture of it and sent it to Abby. I of course shared a few choice words. Back to laying on the floor it was. At this point it had almost been an hour since the incident. I lay there for another 10 minutes and I am not really sure that was even doing anything! I dug around in my bathroom and was able to find gauze and tape and I wrapped several layers or that and then secured it with a giant band aide. After two hours, the blood had finally stopped. This is when I really should have poured myself a glass of wine. Why did I not think of that earlier? What a perfect reason to drink wine! Not that I NEED a reason…

I seem to always find myself in strange situations like this and I’m not really sure why. I’m beginning to think it’s because I handle them well or maybe it’s because I usually just laugh about it. As this was happening, I was just laying on the floor texting Abby laughing. While I was lying there, I texted her saying she would die if she could see me. I think that if anyone could have, they would have shared a good laugh. Hopefully, since you were not there, reading it gave you the same affect 🙂

My piece of advice: Watch out for those disposable razors – they’ll get ya!

Laughing Off Cancer: (No Research Proven…Yet)

I have always described myself as a laugher.  I can’t even count the amount of times where I randomly start laughing because I think of something that may have happened the day before, an hour ago, or last week. I laugh at myself. I laugh with others. I enjoy laughing until my stomach hurts. If it was possible to have 6-pack abs from laughing, I would.
When I first got diagnosed, I actually wanted to laugh after I cried. For any of you who know my luck of injuries and health problems you can probably imagine why I wanted to laugh. I just had a shoulder repair the October before and I have had 3 hip surgeries. It’s almost like people expect me to have an injury. So, after the initial shock wore off, I did kind of laugh and think to myself “Yup, this would happen to me.”

I then started to think about a movie I saw when I was in elementary school, Bubble boy. Maybe that is what I needed! Yes, a giant bubble. That could protect me from anything. This joke was not original; I actually heard this several times after I got diagnosed. I laughed every time someone mentioned putting me in a plastic bubble. I was glad that everyone else noticed the humor in it all like I did.

I knew sitting around crying about having a rare cancer that no one knew anything about was going to get me nowhere. So, I took light in it all and encouraged others to take light in the situation as well. Of course, when I said or did certain things, I did get strange looks and I had to explain to people that yes, I did have a warped sense of humor. But, really, who is going to judge the girl with cancer?

I think one of the best comments I ever made was a text message to one of my best friends, Kristen. A little back-story, Kristen and I share the same sense of humor with almost everything. She is always there to share highly inappropriate jokes with me and she shares my sarcasm. About two weeks after I found out, I sent Kristen a text and said, “I just got on WebMD and typed in my symptoms, it says I have cancer. Should I see a doctor?” Though we were not together, I laughed hysterically before sending the text. I knew she would find it just as funny and she did. We still laugh about this today and every time it gets a little bit funnier.

This was the moment where Kristen and I started a playful banter of what I will refer to KJ cancerisms. Over the summer, Kristen was in Pennsylvania working at a camp and though she was many miles away, she continued to support me and be by my side thorough my fight by writing me letters and sending me cards. Snail mail is not dead my friends! I would get numerous cards addressed to “Princess KJ” and on the inside there would be cards with the words “FUCK CANCER” all over it. I also once got a card with a letter about fixing my liver with duct tape. We actually texted back and fourth for about an hour planning out how instead of me having treatment, she would come home, do a surgery and tape my liver up with duct tape and magically heal me from EHE. Of course, it was all a joke. Laughter is the best medicine – this is the perfect example!

Then, there was a time we were at DJ’s dug out downtown Omaha. I had come late and it was the night of a Husker game so it was really busy and there was a line. Kristen was making jokes about how I should use the “cancer card” to get in. Which we both know I would never do. She likes to joke about how if I am going to have cancer, I should use it to my advantage. Again, another KJ cancerism. There were 2 people in front of us waiting to get in. Kristen was making up a story about how I should just go up to the bouncer, tell him my story and get us in. We were both laughing about how funny that would be, but I would never have the balls to do it. Well, the guy in front of us was eavesdropping on us! Let me clarify in front of: He was several, several feet in front of us and we were actually not talking that loud. Yes, I know that is hard to believe. I am sure he thought Kristen and I were super attractive (obviously) and he just wanted to know all the philosophical things we were chatting about. Well, jokes on you buddy. Anyway, when the time came to let the next two people in, he awkwardly turned around and said “Sorry girls” and stared right at me. I wasn’t even mortified. Okay, I was a little embarrassed but Kristen just about pissed her pants laughing (I hope she reads this). Again, laughter is the best medicine. I will forever remember that night.

I am so thankful that my friends get me. Of course, if they didn’t I probably wouldn’t be friends with them. They understand my warped sense of humor and they feed it right back. For instance, when I was at dinner with my best friend Abby. She asked to have drink of my water and then she said, “I hope you didn’t spread your cancer germs on it because I heard that shit is contagious.” I was so proud of that quote that came out of her mouth.  It was like I have taught her so well throughout this journey. That was a solid KJ cancerism.

There have been so many other things that I’ve had to take light in. For example, the time when I finally had to accept the fact that I have indeed lost about 35 pounds and that my body had changed drastically. I went to Victoria’s Secret to get fitted for a new bra and I explained to the nice, bubbly sales associate that I had lost about 35 pounds and that I had no idea what size I was anymore. I knew shit was going to get awkward real quick. She looked at me with this big smile and said “Oh my gosh! Congratulations!” My Mom looked at me with this awkward smile and I shot her a look like, just go with it. I had learned by this point that it’s much easier for me to feel awkward than making others feel bad. I was not about to tell her it was because I have cancer and make her feel like she was congratulating me on cancer. So, I said thanks. Then, I started thinking crap any normal girl is going to ask how in the hell did you lose that much weight. Go figure. Classic girl move, she did. I was not going to make this innocent, dark haired girl feel bad. I told her that I had just been feeling under the weather and luckily she didn’t press. I tried to imply I had mono. Close enough, right? That’s about how most of my shopping experiences go. People are confused why I am trying on a plethora of sizes, and I explain I have lost a lot weight and they think it is a huge accomplishment. I do laugh about it though, because it is so awkward how could you not? I should really come up with a better story. One that is almost bizarre to believe but people don’t want to question it because they would look like total jerk faces if they did. I tried really hard to think of an idea to insert here and I currently have nothing. I am also a terrible liar so that would never work.

The other day while trying on pants at the Loft I told my Mom that I felt like Jared from the Subway commercials when he holds up his fat pants. I am pretty sure there were other people in the fitting rooms while I was doing this. They probably thought I was bat shit crazy. But, yes, that is how all pants fit me. I have to make my shopping experiences fun somehow.

There are so many more KJ cancerisms I could share, and maybe someday I will share more. They have given me a lot of laughs and brought a lot of laughs to my friends and family. I am sure a lot of people have questioned if there is something else wrong with me, which I don’t know, maybe there is? If that something is I have a problem with laughing and maybe taking things too lightly, then yes. Like I said before, sitting around being sad about the cards I got dealt was not going to do anything for me. I knew from day one I need to be positivestrong and laugh off the cancer. Which is exactly what I have done (with the help of my doctors) and I’m going to continue to do!

Settle: accept or agree to (something that one considers to be less than satisfactory).

Recently, the puzzling question in my mind is why I would ever want to settle for less than what I deserve or less than what I want. I reached a point in my life where I thought to myself, “Is this the kind of life I REALLY want to live? Is this the kind of life I really deserve?”

Now, the question becomes why do people settle? I firmly believe that everyone who is reading this blog deserves a breathtaking life full of passion and excitement. Yes, YOU.

I think that people settle because it’s easier to keep their expectations low to avoid getting hurt or rejected. Because, the truth is rejection sucks. Not just when you are 8 and get picked last for the kickball team, but when you are a grown up and don’t get the job you want or maybe when your 21 and you get broken up with. Rejection continues your entire life, and unfortunately it never gets easier.

I hate to admit it, but I recently found myself as a settler. When I first realized that my life was on a path of boring same old going to work, coming home, doing more work, and not having much of anything else, I knew I needed to make a change. Was I settling? I could not be a settler! I am (or I like to think of myself as an) exciting person. When did I become a settler? I wanted to be a “doer” so to speak. I had learned the hard way that life was too short to sit around wasting it away.

So, why do people settle? I am a poster child for thinking I don’t deserve something great. It’s okay to think that. I mean it’s not because EVERY BODY DESERVES SOMETHING GREAT. Though, I feel like I can say it is normal that a lot of people feel they don’t deserve something “great.” You find yourself making excuses of why it’s okay to settle, or why you deserve what you already have. I, myself, always want everything to work out how I have it planned inside my head. I constantly overlook things, ignore red flags, and make excuses because I want to continue with the plan. Not anymore. When I realized that I do in fact deserve a life that is electrifying, I changed.

None of you should settle for a boy, a girl, a career or a life for that matter.  Will you at one point in your life? Probably. Have I? Yes.  I know it’s hard. It’s really damn hard. You make excuses. You try to justify for a person, for yourself. Don’t lose yourself in trying to settle for something less than you deserve.

If it’s a relationship, tell yourself that you are fucking catch. I’m serious, I know you are laughing but it’s what I tell all of my girlfriends. But, it’s the truth. You are a fucking catch. If you don’t think you can tell yourself that, I WILL. *Sorry if I offended anyone with my f bomb*

If you feel like you are settling in a career and you are unhappy, find a part of it that will make you happy or start looking for something that will make you happy. There was a point in my career where I questioned if what I was doing was the correct path for me. Was I settling? Was I meant to teach? I searched for answers for two months and while I am not certain I will stick with straight teaching forever, I do believe that I found parts of it that have confirmed I meant to work in the field of education. It is okay to question if you are settling.  I can honestly say it helped me fall in love all over again with my career.

Each and every one of you reading this has a beautiful soul and I know that because you got this link because you know me or knows someone who knows me. You are smart. You deserve to be happy. You deserve the best. You deserve to NOT to settle.

There are no pamphlets.

Well, here it goes. The first blog post! I never saw myself as a blogger. I’m still not sure what I am doing here right now. Or what I will blog about? One thing I do know is it will keep me busy this spring. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, so if you like what I have to say (or ramble on about) let me know!

So after my last heart felt post on my caringbridge (if you want to read it, let me know and I can get you the link), I had another thought that came to my mind. When you go to oncology appointments or really any other doctors appointments you can find just about any pamphlet or flyer on any disease or sickness right?  “Pregnant and Breastfeeding: What Women Need to Know.”, “Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age.”, “Irritable Bowl Syndrome: Everything You Need To Know”, “Protect Yourself Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases”. Like, my goodness, there is everything under the sun right? Not to mention most people would not be caught dead reading a majority of those. I invasion some people sneaking an embarrassing brochure into their coat pocket or purse and then bringing it out to do some late night reading. Okay, not really but do people ever read those? I have been to my fair share of doctors appointments and hardly ever see people reading them.

What there isn’t a pamphlet for is how to tell your best friends you have cancer. When you first get diagnosed that is the worst word in your vocabulary. My friends knew I had some weird stuff going on because I was going back and fourth to Kearney a lot but of course everyone thought it was nothing. Why would anyone think that a normal 23 year old (at the time) had that awful word, cancer?

After I had the biopsy, I remember going to dinner with my friends. I took the moment in. Thinking to myself how lucky I was to have them. That no matter what happened or what the results were, they would be there. They would be there to make me laugh when I was weak, to send me text messages of encouragement, and to take me out for lunch when I needed it most. What I didn’t think about was how would I tell them? About two weeks after that I sat in a small, cold boxed room with my doctor that I have known since I was about 7 and heard the words I didn’t want to hear.

I drove home with my mom in absolute shock still not thinking about my friends who have been by my side through heart breaks, late night studying, and some of the best memories of my life. I knew I wanted to tell them in person. As any other person does, I turned to my mom for advice. I was angry that there was no book, no damn pamphlet at the doctors office telling me how to tell my friends that I had cancer. Damn that stupid word! That was all I could think about. Was that word really going to have to come out of my mouth…forever? Was it going to be apart of MY life?

I knew that I would not be able to tell them in person because we were all in different places and  busy beginning our summers. I remember it being like word vomit. Texting was not the way I would recommend anyone going through this to do it, but you have to do what you have to do. I wanted to tell my friends right away because I had to. My friends and I have an ongoing group text, so thats how I did it. I laid on the couch and anxiously waited for replies and worried for them. All I wanted to do was to drive to all them and hug them and tell them that we were all going to be okay. That I was going to be okay. In fact, I did tell them those things. I told them that I would get through this with them. That I loved them.

Because, that is all you can do when you tell people you love you have cancer. That you love them. Tell people everyday that you love them. Tell people every time you see them that you love them. That you appreciate them. Don’t wait for a tragic life event to happen to start doing that. Start now. It’s a hard habit to get into, and sometimes I find myself getting out of that habit. Send someone a text right now and tell them you love them, appreciate them, or thank them for something. It’s so very important and something I have learned on my journey.

So, a few times since that moment my friends and I have joked about how there is no pamphlet or no book. Honestly, there is no wrong or right way either. You tell them how YOU want to tell them. That is why there probably is no pamphlet. If there was a pamphlet would I have read it? NO! I would have probably been more mad. So, I guess there is no easy way.