Monday, February 4, 2019

Screw This Cancer Mess

Once again, it's World Cancer Day.  A day I've come to know quite well over the past 6 years.  And usually I'm this positive, upbeat person who tries to give hope to everyone.  But dammit, I am not always that person.  I debated writing this for some time today.  Given the timing of the day and everything, but I promised to be real.

So here it is guys.  Pay attention.  I am NOT cured of cancer.  My cancer is NOT in remission, please look up the word for a clearer definition.  I still have Stage 4 lung cancer that I take many medications for every single day and will do so for the rest of my life.  The side effects aren't pretty.  There are some things I've lost that I'll never get back.  One of those being time.  But, to know it, you have to live it, or be close to someone who does, and even then, you can't always get the full effect.

Recently, a fellow lung cancer survivor messaged me.  I guess I've been naive or have been in denial.  The stages of grief are crazy.  But, after 18 years, his lung cancer returned.  He, like me, had forgotten he even had scans that week.  I've always looked up to him and now I was encouraging him.  He's a fighter and I'm sure he'll come out on top.  And once he began getting things right in his head...things began to go wrong in mine.

I'm 6 years out from this diagnosis and still on my first line treatment.  Yes, I'm blessed.  But am I happy all the time?  NO.  Today is one of those days.  As my friend put it, "going so long being cancer free and then unexpectedly it's back, knocks you back into day 1 of diagnosis". 

I know I should feel blessed since I am...but it's so hard sometimes.  For instance once he got back on that saddle, all I could think of is, "this is going to kill me unless something else takes me out first".  What a way to live.  But I'm alive...that's what everyone says I should be happy about.  It's hard, losing friends and living in purgatory with one foot in this world and the other just waiting to step into the other. 

To all those that have gone before me, I miss and will always love you and so do your loved ones and may you continue to rest in peace.  To those who are still fighting, don't let this pity party girl get you down.  I'll come out of this funk.  Always do. 

I just need people to know, that for us, it is never over.  There is no cure.  To us, every ache, pain, cold, EVERYTHING is cancer returning.  This is as good as it gets for me.  This freaking pill that won't allow my hair to grow, gives me rashes, makes my skin dry out, leaves me fatigued constantly, and many more things I will not mention, also keeps me alive.  So, I don't know.  I'm here for Karley and the rest of my family and friends.  Without you guys...I would want to go ahead and hit up those pearly gates.  So, I'll keep struggling with my mortality, up my antidepressants, and maybe my next post will be sunshine and rainbows.

Thank you all for your continuous prayers.  I think I need specific ones for peace and strength right now.  And thank you for always praying for my friends.  They are so grateful.  God bless you all.

Karley turned 14!

Side Effects

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Results and Lung Cancer Living

Well, this has been probably the longest amount of time I've gone without blogging.  So, of course at the end I will send you into picture overload.  I feel like the holidays where a whirlwind.  One day, I want to just relax and enjoy them.  I've been so busy since November, my body is literally done.  It says "no mas, you must rest". 

So, since my last blog, one of Karley's best lifelong friends, Bella, moved to North Carolina.  They reunited with the other part of their trio, Lydia, and had a sleepover and a pizza party to send her off.  She'll be back, but now Karley's trio is spread out so far.  They will be forever friends, I can tell.

Karley and I went to Atlanta Christmas day to visit with my family.  Josh joined us for an evening of fun and entertaining times as always in our crazy household.  My sister got me the pants I needed, don't worry, I'll post a picture.  I know you guys are dying to see them.

I found out an old friend's son died in a car accident 3 days before Christmas, her only child.  She's my age.  I'm so glad Amanda and I could be there for her and were able to plan the services and perform them ourselves.  A special thanks to Jennifer Shaeffer, Big Ron, Ashleigh, Conner, and Kat for all the help you gave Dawn, Amanda and me.  My mind can't go to where her's is at now.  I'm praying for her strength and peace.  No parent should have to bury their own child.  It was one of the saddest holidays. 

My friend Jennifer came down for NYE.  We went a little to hard the night before so watched Bird Box and some other shows on Netflix and were out by 10 pm.  We think we can do it again the next night every time.  I keep forgetting we aren't in our 20s.  I'm so glad she was able to visit and we will do much more when she comes again.

Finally, my baby girl turned 14 on the 1/15.  We celebrated by taking her to her favorite sushi restaurant.  We may have totally different worlds, but John and I will always be there together for Karley and I'm so glad each of us is dating people that understand that and love Karley too.  I'm grateful we all get along so well. 

And oh yeah, I totally forgot, my scans are still stable.  Now I'm able to go every 5 months instead of 3!  I can't thank you all enough for your continuous prayers and emotional support.  It's a roller coaster for sure, but I'm enjoying the ride until the end.  Please pray for a few lung cancer friends with some difficulties as of late, my friend whose son passed, and another friend just diagnosed with breast cancer.  Cancer sucks.  Losing a child...I can't even.  Please continue your prayers for our family too.   They always mean so much.  Thank you Lord for all of my blessings.  Also having a double sleepover this weekend.  Prayers appreciated!

Oh yeah, pretty sure my sister is a spider monkey...picture below to prove.

Time for pic overload

Karley turned 14!

Bella's Going Away Party and the Trio

Sitting in the same order

Catching up with Old Friends

Christmas 2018

Gage's Celebration of Life - So young

Scan Pleasantries

And....my sister, the spider monkey and her husband.  They are so cute!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lung Cancer and Antidepressants

Well, I've had a hell of a week last week.  And on top of everything, the traveling, pure exhaustion, headaches, I ran out of antidepressants.  I didn't notice for the first few days.  But, now I know who I am without them.  It's been awful.

So, I'm going to get my refill today but they've been out of my system long enough to not be so good.  My headaches are still there, even though I had an MRI that was clear, praise God.  But the sadness...it's debilitating.  I need to go get groceries, work, clean, take a freakin shower.  I just can't right now.  I keep crying about everything.

Driving home Saturday, I heard that song "Good Old Days" by Macklemore featuring Kesha.  The lyrics literally had me in tears. 

"I wish somebody would have told me babe
Some day, these will will be the good old days
All the love you won't forget
And all these reckless nights you won't regret
Someday soon, your whole life's gonna change
You'll miss the magic of these good old days"

I immediately called my best friend from high school and we reminisced some.  And she brought up "The Office" when Andy says, "I wish there were a way to know you're in the good old days, before you've actually left them."  So true!

Maybe I wouldn't feel this way if I had my antidepressants in my system or didn't have Stage 4 Lung Cancer.  The good old days, we had no cares.  Now, I wake up wishing I was that kid again.  They say ignorance is bliss.  Well, it is so true.  I'm so thankful I didn't know what lay ahead.  And to all those missing loved ones or going through hard times over these holidays, don't be ashamed to ask for help.  You aren't alone.  I'm just throwing it out there.  I NEED these antidepressants to feel normal, to be happy at times.  It wasn't until this cancer that I needed them, but now I know for sure I can't run out again.

So, this is me, off antidepressants for the moment and completely miserable.  It'll take a bit for them to get back in my system.  Meanwhile, I may post silly stuff and smile, because it's what I do.  And maybe I'm in the good old days and am just not appreciating it.  I don't know much lately.  I just know today.  And today, I'm miserable and praying for peace.  Thanks for listening and your continuous prayers.  The storm doesn't last forever.

Jennifer Shaeffer and me...approximately 21 years old

Friday, November 30, 2018

Jessi Cowell

On December 3rd, 2015, Jessi Colwell was merely 33 years old.  The same age I had been when diagnosed.  She had a seizure on this day, at first thinking it was a stroke.  She was immediately taken to Rockdale Medical Center.  The doctor ordered a CT scan and found a mass on her brain.  Wow, this is sounding awfully familiar.

The doctor returned and told Jessi and her family that the hospital was not equipped to handle her situation.  They made calls to Piedmont, Emory & Kennestone Hospitals on her behalf.  Whichever returned the call first was where the ambulance was to take her.  She was terrified.  Piedmont was the first hospital to return the call (still familiar).

She arrived at Piedmont Atlanta late on a Friday night alone.  She wanted her husband home with her son Avery (13 at the time).  Her best friend from middle school and younger sister were waiting in the room for her when she was taken in.  The hospital immediately started her on Keppra for seizures and a few various other medications.  She got very little rest that night, knowing she was on the oncology floor, but not yet knowing why.

The following morning , her neurosurgeon came in and spoke about her options while awaiting brain surgery and gathered her insurance information. 

After a discussion with the neurosurgeon, it was decided it would be best for her to wait there to have the surgery and the neurosurgeon would work her in to his schedule ASAP.  The urgency stemmed from the tumor, benign or not, it had to come out or her seizures would continue until her untimely death.

While waiting for the surgery, she had numerous visitors, phone calls, and text messages.  She also went through physical therapy to help her begin walking with a walker due to weakness on her left side caused by the tumor pressing on her brain.

A few days later she had the brain surgery successfully removing the tumor.  Unfortunately a sliver of the drill bit remained in her skull afterwards.  This was confirmed by a CT scan and was removed the next morning.

Like many newly diagnosed patients, she didn't remember anything about the second surgery.  Pathology and other tests were done which led to the worst conversation she could imagine.  She was given the diagnosis of Stage IV NSCLC.  A few days later, she left the hospital to return to her "new normal".  This was just the beginning of her hard journey. 

She then went trough radiation to the brain as a precaution.  During this time she fell in the shower and broke her collar bone on the left side but was thankful it wasn't her head, which was still slowly healing. 

After learning she had lung cancer, she got her hopes up that part of her lung could be removed to remove the cancer, leaving her cancer free for as long as possible.  She had a PET scan and with her husband, Johnny, she went to meet with a cardio thoracic surgeon at Emory.  This is when she learned the cancer had metastasized not only from the lung to her brain, but also to her lymph nodes and right arm making her an ineligible candidate for surgery.  She was absolutely devastated.  While reeling from this new information, it was decided that she would need to go on conventional chemotherapy.

After having her part placed and two chemo infusions, her oncologist ordered another CT scan which showed progression.  It was at this point she and her husband frankly asked the oncologist how much time she had left.  By this time it was April of 2016 and she was told she had 1.5 - 2.5 year approximately. 

It was at this time she began to get her affairs in order.  She had to prepare for the worst case scenario.  She did her advanced directive, banking paperwork, and let her loved ones know of her final wishes. 

After the chemo failed, she became a candidate for Opdivo, which she has been on ever since and feels like it is saving her life.  She said she knows that when God is ready for her, she will understand that, she just isn't in a hurry to get there.  She has her family to live for. This December 3rd will be her 3 year cancerversary.  And, although she speaks of the experience in first person, she humbly says it was "we" who are enduring this, her family

Jessi and Avery at Relay for Life

Jessi Today

Jessi and Johnny 2001

Jessi, Johnny and Avery 2015