When I started this whole journey I was introduced to and met some amazing people, including some new friends from all over the world. Obviously I have yet to meet a lot of them in person, but we often chat via e-mail or text. The young adult cancer community is quite a bit smaller than the rest of the cancer communities and finding people to relate to what you are going through is often hard. I have only met one other AYA cancer fighter who has the exact same thing as me, she is alive and thriving well over 5 years out! But through this journey I have met some amazing AYA's with numerous types of cancer, one of which was a friend named Tiffany.
I 'met' Tiffany when I was diagnosed and we somehow became friends on facebook. She had been fighting a different form of cancer for quite some time when I began my road and she was always an inspiration to me. She was married and lived in Tacoma, Washington and had the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. We often traded cancer secrets and recommended both healthy food options as well as what our newest 'therapy' regimen consisted of. She did a lot of the same things I am currently doing and we joked about how much our doctors hate that we pursue 'alternative' therapies instead of just sticking with the toxic chemos and radiation that have never shown any proof of healing our cancers, simply prolonging life. She was a fighter and she never let on that anything was wrong. We both knew she was sick, but she never once said how bad she was.
I spoke with Tiffany a month ago, we did our usual check-in and happy and well wishes. She said she was trying a new therapy that was kinda 'rough,' but other than that she said she was doing pretty well. Not even 3 weeks later out of nowhere it seemed, she passed. She was an amazing fighter and though I never met her, I felt like a small part of me left with her as well.
The bond that we share as cancer fighters is something I have never experienced before. When you are facing a potential early departure you tend to attach yourself quite easily to other people going through the same thing. We had a connection that was on a different level than any other friendship I have ever had. The loss of my third friend in as many months to cancer was a bit much and I think I let it get to me a little more than I should considering I am now running and organization that will be dealing with people who for the most part might not be living long lives. The loss of Tiffany, financial stresses and having to try and figure out why my blood counts will not regulate began causing quite a bit of stress. When I am stressed the first thing that goes is my appetite. Then the headaches started coming back and within a couple weeks I was feeling pressure, and having balance, coordination and mental issues I have not had since the tumor was still in my head. Obviously with all the symptoms the first thing that comes to mind is the tumor is back, which only builds on the anxiety already there.
After stressing about this for a couple weeks I finally decided I couldn't do it anymore and I was getting so anxious that I felt like I was about to have a mental breakdown, and to be honest I kind of did. I finally called my doctor and asked to do a scan so I could appease my mind and at least have a resolution regardless of what the outcome at least I had an answer. He ordered a stat scan and I went in and had it done. When I looked at the scan on the screen after it was done the lady said, "You can look at it, but I can't say anything and I don't know what your baseline looked like anyways." Don't worry, I might not have proper schooling in reading them, but I have seen enough to know what a tumor growing looks like so she showed me my scans. The second I saw the scans I felt like a 500lb weight lifted from my shoulders. It was a feeling I have never felt before. It was like the biggest ball of anxiety was at once unravelled and released into the air. Confirming that all my symptoms were not related to my cancer was to say the least, one of the best things I have felt in my life.
I have never really let myself feel sorry for myself and really aside from the day I found out I had a tumor I never really let my emotions show in anyway- not because I think I am tough, I really just don't feel sorry for myself. But when I walked out of that room I felt like I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I was bottling up so many emotions for so long I think my brain just couldn't handle it anymore and I finally let myself have a moment to feel sorry for myself. It was only a couple minutes, but ever since then I have felt like a new person.
I talked to my doctors more and conferred with my doctors from UCLA as well, we were still trying to figure out what was causing all the issues because the headaches made sense due to stress, but the rest of the symptoms suggested there might be something else going on. So I called another doctor who deals in primary care, just so I can do a checkup and make sure there is nothing else going on and sure enough within two minutes of my exam I come to find out I have a pretty decent sinus infection going on- hence the pressure, mental and balance issues coupled with the headaches and pressure.
This all happened on Friday of last week, which was also my lovers birthday. This was the best news I could have ever received because I could now celebrate Tasha's birthday with peace of mind instead of stressing and freaking out the entire time!
We had an AMAZING weekend filled with dinners, a pool day saturday with amazing friends and beautiful people and a relaxing sunday where my sinus infection decided to peak (I feel 1,000 times better waking up this morning). It was the best possible way to end the summer and I could not have asked for better people to spend it with. I decided that Saturday, just for one day I was going to pretend like I didn't have cancer. I wanted a day to relax, clear my head and have foods that I shouldn't eat, drink beers that I shouldn't drink and pretend that for one day I am healthy again. It was exactly what I needed and the memory of that day alone was worth whatever ramifications may or may not come from it (if any.) I have been so strict with myself that I sometimes forget to just have fun. Sometimes having a couple beers to relax and de-stress is more healthy than the strict regimen I have set in place.
I have enlisted another 'doctor' into my cavalry whom I will meet with today to help deal with the stresses I endure through this. I am hoping he can help me find a better way to deal with all the anxieties that come with this game because whatever I am doing now is certainly not beneficial to myself (or anyone around me at times.)
I decided when this summer started that I would make this summer the best summer of my life. I traveled a bit, I saw my family as often as I could, I made new friends and revisited old friends. I smiled and laughed and enjoyed everyday, as summer ends I can honestly say that this summer WAS the best summer of my life. I hope it was as good for all of you as it was for me.
|Tiffany - We will meet for the first time one day down the road, until then...|
"Try not to forget why we are all here. We are not here to build fortunes or create empires; We are here for a small time to share a piece of ourselves with the world and pass our little piece onto everyone we encounter."