Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chance encounters.

The road I am on is rapidly becoming more and more interesting.  What began as a shocking and devastating blow to myself, my family and friends has somehow morphed into something that I thank God for everyday.  Being diagnosed with a 'terminal' cancer turned out to be the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.  Allow me to explain.

Through all the white noise and chemo, something has emerged from the dust like a phoenix rising from ashes.  A part of me died on December 17th, a part that needed to die for me to properly live.  I was living a lie and had been since my mother passed away nearly a decade ago now.  I knew what I wanted to do with my life the moment my mother passed away.  I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others who are fighting a terrible and debilitating illness- cancer.  I tried finding jobs in the sector a few times and every chance I had I would attend any type of fund raising event that could help others, especially breast cancer events.  I slowly started turning away from that path as I was being let down by job inquiries and the realization that working in the non-profit sector almost certainly meant a life of little to no money and most likely more closed doors than welcoming entries.

The day I was diagnosed I had two thoughts.  One: I'm not going to make it past 27.  I never told anyone this up until very recently, but I was thoroughly convinced I was going to die at 27.  In my life I have known about 8 people who have died, my mother included.  The vast majority of the others I knew all died at 26 or 27 of different and absolutely random things.  A sprained ankle, turned blood clot that travelled to a heart, a heart attack, a deadly allergic reaction to a prescription drug, a car accident and a suicide to name a few.   The people around me who died at 27 had no common thread in any manner other than me.  None of the people had mutual friends and I knew each person through different groups of friends.  6 of the 8 people I knew personally died at age 27.  I was diagnosed with a mass the size of a baseball at age 27 with 4 months left until my 28th birthday.  The day they told me I had the mass I accepted my early fate and I felt as though my deal was sealed.  I was living in fear from the day I turned 27 and I felt like my diagnosis was my cue card for the beginning of my end.  My second thought was, No.  I am not going to die, in fact I am using this as a springboard to start my new life.  I made it to my 28th birthday and never looked back.

I am now on a road that will allow me to do what I have always wanted, no needed to do.  I have met some of the most amazing, inspiring, motivating and loving people through this.  It is absolutely amazing how many people are in this world that truly want to help other people no matter what the cost.  I was seriously doubting the direction this world was taking and since being diagnosed I have fully restored my faith in humanity as a whole.  You just have to look around and you will find people who want to love and help you.  Sometimes they get blurred away by the evil and darkness the media feeds us, but I assure you they are out there.

Before leaving for Portland I went and had a Vitamin C IV.  Upon entering I saw a couple younger men around my age, which was a shock because I was so used to entering TLC and seeing only older and semi-sick people.  These two young men turned out to be in town just doing an IV as a preventative and health conscious way of being proactive.  One of the men turned out to be an NBA athlete and the other a sports manager of sorts.  We had a long discussion about life, religion and why we are where we are in life.  For nearly an hour we talked and swapped stories.  It was a chance encounter, a 1 in a billion chance encounter that introduced me to two amazing humans.  This is just another example of how the sequence of events leading up to and post diagnosis have given me new faith not only in God, but a purpose for my life.  After their IV's ended they departed, but no before exchanging information.  This morning I received a text and hopefully it is the beginning of another part of something that will help some people who need help at their most fragile time.


I am now on vacation in Portland typing away on my sisters computer.  I never realized how imperative vacations can be for de-stressing.  This is the first vacation I have had in almost a year.  I had to get away from my cancer life, if only for a week it has been the most relaxing and fulfilling vacation I have ever taken.  My nieces and nephew light me up with their energy and my sisters smiles bring me back to my childhood when we all lived in our little 3 bedroom mobile home in Anaheim circa 1990.  The outdoors in Portland are unreal and my brothers have taken me to some amazing places, including an awesome white water river rafting trip.  (COLLLLLLLLLLLLDDDDDD!!!!)

I will be back to real life as of Monday and chemo starts up again on Tuesday, this round will be a milestone as upon completion I WILL BE HALFWAY THROUGH CHEMO!!!!!!!!!!!

This bible verse was sent to me by my new found friend this morning and it resonated immensely with me:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made PERFECT in WEAKNESS."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my WEAKNESS, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in WEAKNESSES, in insults, in HARDSHIPS, in persecution and in DIFFICULTIES.  FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Ryan Coffelt

Can't stop smiling.  60 degree water and rapids!

Friday, June 7, 2013

6 months post op.

On June 17th it will be exactly 6 months since the day they cut open my scalp, sawed into my skull and removed a tumor nearly the size of a baseball; which turned out to be one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer around.  I was told everything under the sun could happen to me and the severity of this cancer was almost notorious for immediate regrowth.  I prepared myself for a road that I had no idea where would lead, buckled down and changed the entire direction of my life in one day.  I guess cancer has a way of doing that.

6 months has almost passed and I went and had another MRI done on Monday.  It was the first MRI I had gone two months in between scans and up until the friday before I was overly excited as I was feeling better than I have since before my surgery.  And then Friday night I started getting the headaches again.  And they seemed to be more severe this time and were almost out of nowhere.  I had a very sleepless Friday night going into an ever more symptomatic Saturday.  Just a little about me before I go any further, I am very 'mental.'  Not in the schizo crazy sense, but I analyze EVERYTHING.  I have been this way since I can remember and having cancer only made it worse.  I am also quite intelligent at times and am very good at finding and recognizing things most people would probably never think twice about.  So once I started getting the headaches again, the only baseline I had for anything like that was my tumor.  So this lead me to believe there was something going on up there that might not be so great.  Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck the next 2 days and during my MRI.

The MRI itself was the longest 30 minutes of my life.  I had to try and lay still while fighting of nausea, heavy breathing and the want to get out of the most claustrophobia inducing machine on earth.  Once the technician let me out I took the biggest sigh of relief and went to greet Natashia.  I told her I did not even care what the MRI said, I was just glad it is over.

So off we go to see Emily, my oncologist to see how my progress is going.  We arrive at her office, wait about 15 minutes and the nurse brings us back to her office.  I enter her office and she sees me first.  She was on speaker phone with another doctor and the second she saw me she picked up her phone and asked the doctor on the other end if he was in his office and if she could go visit with him for a second to go over 'something.'  After another second she hangs up the phone says "I'll be right back."  And she is off.

Emily's office is not very big and I could easily see her two computer monitors of which one was my current MRI and the other was my chart.  Well, panic isn't even close to the right word, but it is the first that comes to mind.  After the longest 10 minutes of my life she comes back in and sits down casually and says, "Lets see how the rest of the MRI looks."  I said wait, what was that?  "Oh that wasn't about you, that was another patient and I can't talk about other patients in front of you."

After a near panic attack, anxiety attack and every emotion under the sun she tells me that!  I pretty much prepared myself for bad news and an inevitable second surgery, more radiation, who knows!  

Well after recovering from that we went over it in depth and my MRI came back absolutely perfect!!!  No new regrowth, no residual swelling and I am actually healing quicker than expected!!  All good news and no bad news, those are the days I love.

Thank you all again for following my progress and supporting me.  It means the world to me and I love hearing stories of people telling me I inspire or give them a little perspective on life, because lets face it, we don't have it all that bad, do we?

"Make your time here meaningful, leave a mark on the world people won't forget for anytime soon.  Even if it is only your family, make sure people know you were a force for positivity and an example to follow.  Who knows who you might influence."

Ryan Coffelt

Finding ways to entertain yourself while waiting for doctors is always a chore.