Monday, December 8, 2008

I feel like there was something important I was going to say here....

Oh right.  Two years.  Two years and a whole lot of pain.  Two years and a whole lot of anger, frustration, depression, fatigue, drive, motivation, happiness, life.  Two years and life.  Two years and so much growth I don't think I would recognize the person I was two years ago.  Two years and I am still scared.

I found out I had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia two years ago, yesterday.  Two years later and it is almost finished.  Two years later and I am sitting in Starbucks, freaking out because I have so much work to do and I don't know how I'm going to get it all done.  So, instead of doing it, I am blog-posting...  hmm.  But no, really.  I am tremendously overwhelmed right now.  I have been completely and necessarily unproductive pretty much all semester.  I just sort of "got by" because I was in too much pain or uncertainty or exhaustion to do anything else.  And now I have two essays, a poetry portfolio, a final project, and a website to complete in 48 hours.  It's funny how the entire semester has caught up with me in the past week.  Last week, too, I spent pretty much all day, every day, working.  I know most of my friends are in the same boat.  We are all so close to finishing up this semester.  It's like we are standing on the edge of a cliff, literally right on the edge, ready to jump and fly, but there is something, a rubber band, a harness, whatever, something is gripping us around our stomachs, squeezing out our air, holding us back.  We can see the end of all of this, but we aren't allowed to touch it yet.  Frustration-central.

And then my final scan is next Wednesday.  I am praying so hard that it is my final scan.  I spent yesterday eating way too many cookies and convincing myself that the tumor isn't actually gone and the headache I have been nursing isn't because I'm tired or over-caffeinated but is a result of the tumor growing back.  Yesterday kind of sucked, actually.  But today is a new day, and I will get all my work finished.  We all will get everything done; it just happens, somehow.  And in terms of my tumor or leukemia, well, all of this happened for a reason.  I don't know what the reason is yet, but I know there is a reason.  There is a purpose behind my still being here.  Two years ago, I could have not gone into the student health center.  I could have finished my semester, gone home thinking I was just tired, could have slept over winter break, could have come back to school, and then who knows what.  Died?  Yeah, I could have died.  I probably would have died.  Funny story though.  I didn't.  I am still here, for better or for worse.  I am going to keep on being here, and whatever happens, will happen.  Life will happen.  Hell, life Is happening.  So that's something.

Finally, shameless plug:  I actually have mostly kind of finished one of my assignments.  My website.  I am putting up the link - again, for better or for worse - in case anyone wants to follow my photography past and my photography future.  I plan on keeping it up and updated while I'm in DC next semester.  Warning: it's still new, so don't judge too hard.  I guess that's about it.  For all of its completely ridiculous and frustrating complications, life is pretty exciting.  I hope everyone can smile about something today.  Peace from my new home that is Starbucks.

(p.s., the date says it's yesterday because I started this post yesterday.  But today, right now is actually Tuesday.  k, thanks.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sometimes the words just can't come out...

I have been trying to write a new entry for this here b-log for almost two weeks, and I have been unable to put my emotions and abstract thoughts into coherent sentences.  So, right now, instead of writing the essay I have due in a few days, I am going to try and get out some cancer-centric verbiage for your enjoyment and information.

As of this coming Monday, it will be three weeks since I had my last treatment for any sort of cancer-related evil lurking in my body (or face).  Three weeks ago was my last infusion of Rituxan, which was/is supposed to attack and Destroy! the lymphatic tumor that was growing in my face.  So, the good news:  I am pretty positive the treatments worked.  My face doesn't hurt at all anymore; I can just about speak completely normally now; I can hear out of my right ear.  And the best part is that I can actually sing again!  My voice is super rusty, and there is still something taking up space in my sinuses prohibiting optimal vocalness, but it is still much better.  So, the bad news:  I don't have my final PET scan until the middle of December.  I won't know for another two and a half weeks whether or not this damn thing has shrunk sufficiently.  If the scans show that it has disappeared completely or mostly, then I am good to go.  That will be it.  Two years and a whole lot of nonsense, but it will be over.  On the other side of things, if for some reason the tumor has not disappeared or shrunk enough, then, once again, the proverbial wrench will be thrown in to the machinery of my life.  If all is not well, then my doctor and I get to figure out what to do next.  More chemo?  probably.  Radiation?  possibly.  Washington DC?  definitely not.  Like I said though, I feel so much better, and I am positive everything is going as it should in my face.  The reality is that there is a chance this isn't over yet.  Truth.  But, and this is a big but, I am confident everything will be fine.

To that end, the past three weeks have been mildly ridiculous by Caroline-standards.  I spent the first two weeks after I finished my drugs staying up way too late, partying a little too much, and being just a little reckless.  I spent the next few days trying to figure out why on earth I had done the things I did.  And now, after some soul-searching and a few epiphanies, I think I have reached a sort of happy medium.  I am not going to detail the specifics of my actions for fear of reprimand by my mother, but suffice it to say that I was acting like the thing I have so often maligned: a "normal" college student.  I didn't understand for a while why I was acting so seemingly out of character.  Even while I was having an awesome time, it was bothering me.  And then I realized something: I feel healthy.  I haven't felt even vaguely healthy since the middle of July.  I had been in pretty much Constant pain since September, and I was mostly nonfunctional for the first two and a half months of my senior year of college.  And then it ended.  The pain went away.  I could speak again; I could hear again.  I still have a whole lot of leftover mucus that keeps finding its way out, but other than that, I could be any other person.  I started running again.  Just like that.  I haven't run since July!  This past Wednesday, I ran 2.5 miles.  It felt fan-freaking-tastic.  All of a sudden, I felt how I wish I could have felt for the past two years.  I could drink again because I wasn't taking any conflicting drugs.  I could stay up late and wake up early because my energy had returned.  I could think and contribute to conversations and classes because all of my thoughts were no longer focused on the pain in my face.  If you've ever been sick or injured or somehow incapacitated for any length of time, you know how amazing it feels to return to life again.  If you haven't ever felt that, you are super lucky, but please take my word that it is pretty wonderful.

This weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday.  Thanksgiving has, at least for the past three years, been a sort of Caroline-gauge.  My freshman year, I had a really bad cold, and I was struggling with food issues (I didn't want to eat any).  Sophomore year, Thanksgiving was awful.  Refer to last year's post if you need a refresher.  Basically, I was one week away from my cancer diagnosis.  I was So sick, and I was still struggling with food (I think I had a Dr. Pepper and a couple of Doritos on Thanksgiving Day).  Last year I was in a really strange place.  I was back at school; I was eating, thank God.  But I was terrifically unhappy, which I say in retrospect because at the time I thought I was doing pretty well.  But no, I was lost and lonely and struggling to figure out who I was: college student or patient.  So now it is one year later, and once again, Thanksgiving is a pretty good gauge for how far I've come emotionally and all of that.  For the first time in three years, I didn't feel ill on Thanksgiving, which is kind of funny, considering.  Yes, I was mostly by myself on the day itself, although my friend did stop by and bring me a pie she made me (mmm, pie).  I do not, however, feel lonely anymore.  I have come to terms with the fact that I am both a cancer survivor and a college student, although I am more than ready to be not a college student.  I am more comfortable with myself than I have ever been.  Oh, and here's the really strange thing:  I actually feel happy.  I know I've said that for years, but this feeling isn't one I've really ever felt before.  I've never walked down the street smiling just because.  For the first time, maybe ever, I am enjoying my present.  My present has basically sucked for the past two years.  My coping mechanism was to look to the future and ignore the past and present.  But now my present isn't that bad.

So I finished chemo, and on the assumption that I am finished forever, I started living in the present and having a grand old time.  This whole business isn't quite over yet, and I still have a sore throat, but Monday brings a new month and a new set of possibilities.  I have a Ton of work to do before my semester ends, work that I really do not want to do.  Somehow, it will get itself done, and I will be finished with class, and life will be pretty much freaking awesome.  And right now is pretty damn good, too.  Alright, waaay long post, but thanks for reading, and I hope you can enjoy your RightNow because, most of the time, it is worth it.  I love you all; thank you for supporting me the past two years.  Peace.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rain in Boston and other seemingly random, but actually not, happenings

Well, hello b-log world! Have you missed me, thought about me, wondered if I'd died yet? I have not, in fact, kicked the bucket. I have, however, been too busy with school and work and face tumors and more school and have not had the time or the concentration to update the b-log. That being said, I apologize to everyone who has been wondering what happened to me. I certainly did not mean to worry anyone, and although the past almost three months have been an absurd combination of positives and negatives in my life, I have generally been doing splendidly.

Okay, so, the last anyone heard from me, I had just returned to Boston from my vacation in Canada. I was on the radio for a Jimmy Fund fundraiser, and I was getting mentally prepped for the upcoming semester. I was also battling the sickness. You know, sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches, wracking cough. Same old stuff. The school year began, and I was thrown headlong into my senior year of college. I began this year a completely different person from the me who had returned to Boston last year after my semester off. This year, yes, I was still getting some chemo, but I was so much stronger, literally and figuratively. So good, grand, I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I was also still contending with the Sickness. I was actually a sick mess. My doctor put me on antibiotics, and those cleared up my chest congestion and cough, but then my sinuses started giving me grief. So my doctor put me on different antibiotics, and wouldn't you know, my sinuses got worse. And worse. And then pretty much the entire right side of my face started hurting like woah. On September 10, my doctor finally said I should probably get my head scanned. I scheduled a CT scan for the 13th. He called me on the 15th, said there was something a little odd but not worrisome in my scans, and he wanted me to meet with an ear-nose-throat doctor. Okay... So I call the ENT for an appointment, which was scheduled for two weeks later, September 23. In the meantime, I was in an extraordinary amount of pain. Basically, I started shutting down. I could barely sleep; my appetite disappeared; I gave up on being social or even trying; and I was popping Tylenol like it was nobody's business. I was still working at the gym and going to class, but that was just about it. So, okay, September 23 rolls around, and I meet with the ENT. She sticks a lighted camera up my nose and into my face and confirms what the CT scan suggested: there was a fairly large mass in the pharyngeal area of my face (behind my nose ish). The really fun part is that it was sort of coated in mucus (mmm), which is what I had been curiously hacking up for a few weeks. Her suggestion: a biopsy. Woah now. She floated the word lymphoma... She also said it might be some sort of infection or fungus. I hoped it was a fungus.

After that, I really turned off. I had no idea what was wrong with me, and all sorts of worst case scenarios kept running through my head. I finally pretty much stopped thinking about it because I knew there was nothing I could do until after the biopsy when we knew what exactly my face tumor was. On September 30, two days before my 22 birthday, I went in to the hospital for a biopsy of the tumor in my face. I had to wear a hospital gown and blue non-slip socks. I kept the socks. The best part was they knocked me out for the procedure. The anesthesiologist came over with his tray full of various vials of drugs and happy things and was like, So, you're a college student, I assume you drink? me: Yeah, a bit... him: Okay, well, think of this as drinking three of four beers all at once. I was like, oh please. Felt nothing... Felt nothing... And then they started wheeling me off to the operating room, and it hit me. I looked around and everything was sort of shifting and wavy. And then I blacked out. Good times with narcotics. Anyway I'll move on. The biopsy happened, went well I guess, and I went home with bloody snot and a prescription for vicodin.

I didn't go to class that week, and I spent my birthday slightly drugged and sleeping. I canceled the bar-hop I had planned, and some friends came over to my apartment instead with cake and laughter, and we watched the vice-presidential debate. My college experience certainly hasn't been like anyone else's. But we all already knew that. One week later, they scheduled me to meet with the ENT again to go over the biopsy results. I showed up, and wouldn't you know, the results weren't in yet. She once again suggested lymphoma, a little more definitively this time. She also said they were sure it wasn't a fungus. Wasted appointment, although she did prescribe me Tylenol with codeine because the vicodin hadn't been working for my face. Oh, p.s., at this point too, the right half of my face had gone numb, and I couldn't open my jaw much anymore. The ENT doc did explain that though: I guess the tumor in my face was growing through a crack in my skull up towards my brain and was pushing on the nerves that controlled my face. Hooray!

One more week, and I was scheduled for a PET scan, which, I think, scans for lymphoma-type oddities. Finally, on October 15, more than a month after the first CT scan showed the mass in my face, my doctor had an answer for me. It wasn't leukemia, which they had been worried about. It wasn't quite lymphoma either. It was something called Lymphoproliferative Disease, LPD. Apparently, it isn't that uncommon in transplant patients and people with rheumatoid arthritis, but I was the first ALL patient he had seen with it. Basically, it is a proliferation of B-cells in the form of a tumor. The Epstein-Barr virus is related as well. I think the tumor was an inflammatory reaction to the presence of the virus, but I am not quite sure how that works. Something about immunosuppression as well.

In short: it isn't cancer, and it is treatable. The treatment consists of a weekly infusion of an antibody called rituxan, which is commonly used to treat lymphoma, although it isn't chemo. So for the past three weeks I have been getting this infusion. This coming Monday will be my last one. My doctor hopes/thinks that it will only take four infusions to make the tumor go away completely and for good. I hope he's right. I am pretty sure the treatments have been working. I have started functioning again. The feeling is almost completely back in my face (yeah!), and the pain is substantially less than it was. Actually, last night was the first night in a long time that I've slept through the night without taking any of the painkillers. (Oh yeah, my doctor eventually prescribed me oxycodone because the tylenol + codeine wasn't really doing anything either, although it kind of worked when I combined it with the vicodin...) The other thing is that because of all this, my doc decided to stop entirely the rest of my leukemia chemotherapy. So I am technically done with chemo!! Funny how that works out.

This is a ridiculously long post, and maybe you've read the whole thing? A whole lot of other stuff has happened over the past few months, not the least of which is I sued my landlord, went to court, etc. I also applied and was accepted to BU's Washington DC journalism internship program for next spring. Praying all goes well, I will be photographing in DC next semester! I also had my brand new computer stolen a few days ago. I know it sounds like my life has kind of been the pits this year, and I'm not saying it has been amazing. Strangely though, I really am doing pretty well. I am so glad to be in Boston with all my friends who have helped me immensely through this. I love all of my classes, even if I haven't been doing all the work quite on time for them... And I have so much to look forward to. Also, I am just happy to be me, to be here, right now. Face tumor be damned, I am still alive, and I am still doing what I do. I hope everyone out there is keeping on as well, and thanks for reading if you have and thank you to everyone who has expressed their concern as to how I am. I am good. Peace.

p.s., word, yo.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Apparently I have a lisp?

For all you loyal readers who have ever wondered what I actually sound like in person (and didn't hear the Globe audio), I was on the radio today, and the convo was posted online! Like I mentioned a few days ago, I participated in a Radio/Telethon fundraiser for Dana-Farber earlier today. It is an awesome two day event that raises a ton of money for Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund. Sadly, I was not on TV. A few sports bigwigs received that honor this afternoon, but I was still interviewed for the radio. It was pretty exciting even if it was only 7 minutes long.

Anyway, so, I am posting the link for everyone to click on and proceed to laugh at my lisp (gross) as well as my routinely idiotic comments about life. Haha, whatever, I think it's hilarious. That's about it for now. I got chemo yesterday, woke up for work at 5 this morning terrifically nauseous, and wandered around BU most of the afternoon with my camera. So much for resting. I also got antibiotics and an inhaler from my doctor yesterday, so the sickness of death will soon be no more. Have a wonderful Friday and weekend, and, I don't know, enjoy life. K, thanks. Pax.

Caroline on the Radio, online!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

oh, hey...

So... Remember that one time I disappeared for two months and everybody stopped checking the b-log looking for an update? Yeah, me too. There is good news, though, for anyone still maybe somewhat around. I am not done here yet. After last semester ended, I pretty much crashed. I read a whole lot of books, biked a whole lot of miles, started running again. Basically, I did everything I could to try and turn my brain off. I needed a complete mental break, and now I feel much better. Classes resume in three weeks, and I can't wait to begin my (hopefully) final semester in Boston. I have much going on and much to look forward to both academically and extracurricularly (is that a word? it is now). But first:

Cancer. Cancer is a terrible, smelly, mean jerk, and I hate it. I hate that I had cancer, and I hate that people continue to be diagnosed with different types of cancer. Every time I think about it, I get angry. I do not want anybody to have to go through what I and millions of others have gone through. I am thankful for the advances in diagnosing and treating a lot of forms of cancer for a lot of different types and ages of people, but we still have such a long way to go. These past few months, I have met so many wonderful people who are committed to eradicating cancer. I have gotten involved in a few different fundraisers for Dana-Farber, and I have done a number of different things unrelated to Dana-Farber but still raising cancer awareness. Every event that I attend or speak at or even hear about reminds me how much I want to help make this disease go away. Luckily for me, a number of people have invited me to be a part of their events these past few months, and hopefully I can continue to help.

All the way back in June, I spoke at a major conference for a national group of doctors. The group, Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), basically leads a huge number of national studies and clinical trials that are all helping improve cancer care and quality of life for patients and survivors. The theme of their conference this year was "survivorship," and my doctor from Chicago had asked me a while ago if I would be able to come and give a speech about my experiences as both a patient and a survivor. I said of course and talked about what it's like being a young adult patient/survivor because that's what I know, and it is an important topic. I only spoke for maybe 10 minutes, but I feel it is significant that the doctors even asked me there in the first place. I couldn't speak about any of the technical, medical details. Instead, I offered the reality of what it was like to be 20 and a patient stuck in a hospital room. (The reality is that it bites). At this point, I can only hope that what I said will have some influence even in how the doctors think about their young adult patients. Possibly I'm being idealistic, but it's nice to think that maybe I made some small difference. Baby steps as we young adult survivors become more vocal and more involved in our care.

Which leads me to the next major event where I spoke. The Mark Ungerer Memorial Golf Tournament is an annual event that raises money for Dana-Farber. This year, all of the funds raised will be donated to the Adolescent and Young Adult program at Dana-Farber, which is pretty much amazing as this tournament raises a tremendous amount of money. Once again, I spoke to a large crowd of people with whom I have very little in common aside from our desire to fight cancer. That is enough though. Besides, I managed to get a rise out of the primarily middle-aged male golfer crowd when I cracked some joke about how I used to sit in my hospital room wishing I could just be one of the masses again getting wasted on the weekend. My mind continues to be blown by the realization that my words and my experiences can actually have a positive effect on people. I am also continually amazed by the generosity and support of people. Every once in a while, I hate people, but most of the time I am reminded that we are all pretty generally decent.

So, okay life, let's go. I am yet again at a bit of a crossroads of my life. So many ridiculous things have happened this past year, and I am just trying to take them all in and grow from everything. I am doing an okay job so far, but I am still working on it. I just got back to Boston from a three-week vacation in Canada and Chicago. I was SO thankful to be able to go up to Canada this year since I missed last year. Unfortunately, I also got wicked sick up there, so all is not exactly peachy. The sickness of death is nothing new though, and I know it will eventually (maybe) go away. The good news is that I am mentally ready to attack this upcoming semester and all of the exciting things that are pending. First on the list, the Jimmy Fund Radio/Telethon this Thursday and Friday. Check out NESN or sports radio 850 AM around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday if you want to hear yours truly speaking my bit and urging people to donate to the Jimmy Fund. Woo! I'm sure I'll get to meet some cool people, and at the least, I get to go to the Red Sox game that night. Anyone want to join me?

Alright, so I am set and ready to go. Good luck to everyone this week with any and everything you may be working on or challenging yourself to. My challenge is to go on a date... Seriously. That is all, and check back soon. I promise I'll update. Peace and homefries!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

18 months and 200 posts later...

By sheer coincidence, I am writing my 200th post 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer. That December day seems so long ago. It was long ago, kind of. But it also feels like everything just happened a few days ago. And as I sit here in the Pro Shop, handing out towels and Lysol-ing rock climbing shoes, a small part of me feels like nothing ever happened, nothing changed. I know I have written this before, but the past year and a half feels like some sort of weird time-warp. It still blows my mind that I actually had cancer and that I am still getting chemotherapy.

I was going to write a book about it. I was going to write about how my mind was blown and my life was changed when I was diagnosed with cancer at age 20. I was going to combine my blog posts, journal entries, and personal reflections into some sort of strange memoir. I had a literary agent in New York who was willing to take my story and get it published. I was working on a title; I had my chapters figured out; I had someone to write the foreword; I had even started my text. And then I realized that I do not want to write my memoir-ish right now. I am not ready to try and sort through and explain my experiences and sum them up for a neat and tidy inspirational 250 pages. As much as I have changed and grown, and as much as I have learned about myself throughout all this, I am still weathering this storm. Yes, it has already been 18 months, but I still have six more. I need to be totally free of the drugs and the nausea and the constipation and the drugs for a little bit before I can step back and figure out the moral of all this. I do still want to eventually publish my blog and my story. These past nearly two months of communicating with the agent have reassured me that one day I will be able to publish this. Now would be a great time to do it, I realize that, but I can't commit myself to this project if my heart isn't in it yet. Also, I just finished classes. I need to be deadline-free for a bit. I desperately need to de-stress.

So I have been working at ye olde Pro Shop, doing my awesome internship thang (I'll have photos in the next issue!!), and I have been biking a lot. I am actually even trying to start running again, which is kind of fun. I hopped on the treadmill the other day, and to my surprise, did not die. OH! I almost completely forgot the most ridiculous thing that happened to me since I last blogged.

Nearly two and a half weeks ago, specifically, the night after I last blogged, I found out that my two-person apartment had a few extra occupants. And by a few, I mean a lot. And by occupants, I mean bed bugs. And by found out, I mean freaked out like woah. I had suspected for some time that there were bugs, but I had tried to ignore it and hoped the problem would disappear. Instead, it got worse. In short, I finally bailed on that infested hole of an apartment I lived in. I put up with the smoking neighbors, with the slanted floors, with the mice and the pigeons who roosted directly outside my window. I dealt with the grime and the cigarette burns in the carpet from the previous tenants. I had accepted that the curtains were broken and the landlord was not going to replace the two missing screens. But bed bugs I could not handle. Not when they were eating me and taking over, and especially not when my immune system was about to be knocked down by the chemo devil. To his very small credit, my landlord sent over an exterminator. The exterminator, however, only sprayed my bed and the baseboard in my bedroom, no where else, and he only did it once. Now, I'm not bug expert, but I did my research, and I know that is not enough to get rid of a bed bug problem. So I left. I, somehow, lucked out and found an apartment on craigslist directly below the one I am moving into in September. This place is huge... Hardwood floors, and bed bug-free. The shower is a little gross, but I can clean that. I am so much more comfortable knowing there aren't little brown bugs crawling over me and stealing my precious blood. So that was the unpleasant stressor of my past few weeks. Who knows what is next.

And that is my life. Long post, hooray! I hope everyone is enjoying their June so far and staying cool if you're in the oven that is Boston right now. Thank God for the sun though. Alright, stay happy and, as they say, don't let the bed bugs bite. Pax.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

If you give me a pint of lemon sorbet from Trader Joe's, I will eat the Entire Thing.

I swear, this stuff is like crack. Only cheaper ($1.99!) and much more delicious. I will be on a sugar high for the next 15 minutes before passing out on my couch. I am fine with that.

So I've been sitting here on my couch in my apartment, trying to figure out what to say about Jon Lester's no-hitter yesterday and Senator Kennedy's diagnosis with a brain tumor. There has been a ton of media coverage on both today in Boston, although Lester has been overshadowed by Kennedy. The two stories are nearly diametric opposites, and I am not sure how I feel about the extent and slant of the media coverage of either. Lester is being lauded for his amazing athletic achievements, which are all the more amazing because he is a cancer survivor! And he's only 24! And he beat cancer! The stories about Kennedy, meanwhile, are focusing on life expectancies and the treatability of his tumor. They are more like obituaries, highlighting Kennedy's achievements throughout his lifetime.

The more I think about it, the more I get uncomfortable with the stories about both men. It upsets me to watch and read the reactions to Kennedy's cancer diagnosis being played out by the media on a national scale. These reactions are typical of many people when they find out someone has cancer, and I find it jarring to see it all so publicized. "How long do they have?" is often the first question people want answered. Or, "How bad is it?" How depressing to think that most people automatically assume the worst. I am not saying Kennedy's tumor isn't awful. It is; I am really sorry for the senator and his family. I just hate that it seems like everyone is already preparing for his funeral.

The other side of this, as with Lester's case, is the amazement that people have when someone who had cancer accomplishes something outstanding. Lester pitched a no-hitter. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times because he's ridiculous. This woman ran a marathon. That man sailed around the world. I feel as if there is almost an unconscious disbelief that someone can have cancer (gasp!), get over it, and move on with life. Those accomplishments are all amazing, but they are amazing for their own sakes, and not necessarily because the person had previously had cancer. I don't know. My emotions and thoughts are all muddled over this. I didn't mean to get off on such a tangent.

I did mean to talk about a few of the things that have happened in my life these past few weeks, but I fear that might be slightly hypocritical... Oh well, I'll do it anyway. This is still my b-log, after all. First and foremost, I finished school. Oh my God, am I relieved to be finished with this past year. Somehow, I ended up doing (fairly) well in my classes. Ironically, the class in which I had to ask for my first college essay extension was also my first college class in which I received a solid A. I didn't see that one coming. And now, I am a senior. I am a college senior. I still don't believe it, and I still get giddy when I think about it.

I am now also a photo intern at the Improper Bostonian, a fairly large and well-known magazine here in Boston. I actually got a summer internship for photography! That fact also still makes me giddy. I don't know how many other people applied for the internship (3? 50?), but for once my photos made the cut. It isn't hard news photography, but that is fine. I'm going to learn so much working with professionals and learning all about acquiring, editing, and publishing photographs for a magazine. Oh, and my own photos will hopefully even be published! Woooo! I am on my way, baby.

Otherwise, I have had a sore throat for about two weeks now. Oh well. I also go in tomorrow for my drugs. I am more prepared for this next week, so hopefully it won't be too bad. Thank you all again for putting up with my mildly incoherent rants. Hopefully someone's still reading here because I still plan on writing. Anyway, enjoy the rest of the week, and I'll think happy thoughts for you all tomorrow as my nurse shoots me up. Peace and delicious, delicious sorbet.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is tomorrow really the last day of classes for this semester?

I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and there will still be six weeks left. I feel like I am just barely getting comfortable in my classes, and I couldn't tell you what I was supposed to have learned over the past three and a half months. I am also sorry I haven't blogged more. I have grown tremendously as a person this past semester, and I'm not sure how well that has come across in my blog posts. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult and rewarding this semester has been. You all have been privy to some of the bigger events and challenges I have faced, but you may not realize that not one day goes by where I don't think about cancer and what it has done/is doing to me.

To illustrate my point, sort of, I got my monthly chemo shot one week ago. When I started my maintenance therapy, I had no idea what it would be like. Last week was my fourth injection, as I only get them every four weeks, and they began in January. Way back in January, I was under the impression that the maintenance therapy was not going to affect me at all. I thought, wrongly, that this semester I could get back to being busy and working too hard. It wasn't until the end of March and beginning of April, when my body essentially mutinied, that I was forced to rethink and reorganize my expectations. Now, you may say, Caroline, in March, you had only had three injections, and even if they are only once a month, you are still getting deadly chemical drugs pumped into your system. It is understandable that you wouldn't know how you would react, and it is absurd that you expect yourself to be able to ignore the fact that you are still getting chemotherapy. And I would agree with you, now. But I was, I still am, so eager to move on from chemo and cancer that I ignored and even completely denied my limitations. All I wanted was to be a student; I didn't want to accept that I was still a patient.

I don't think I have written this yet this semester, but it needs to be noted: I started seeing a psychologist back in January, and we have met maybe six or seven times over the past three months. It was hard for me to enlist the help of a professional in trying to make sense of myself with cancer, but it has been probably the best thing for me. It has taken me a while to get comfortable with my doctor, but she is one of the primary catalysts in my realization that it is necessary and okay to accept my limitations. Haha, I think she was pretty happy when I told her I broke down and asked for that paper's extension. Sort of a, maybe there's hope for me after all, type of deal.

But like I said, I am still learning. I realized (maybe better to say that I accepted) the other day that I am no longer a student. I mean, technically, yes, but not really. The student mentality of invincibility and actions-without-consequences doesn't exist in me anymore. I almost died; I can break. And a few months ago, maybe even a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to admit that. Even this past week I was forced to sigh and accept certain fun and unpleasant bodily reactions to chemo that I had previously tried to ignore. Briefly, I have been having some wicked intestinal issues in response to the drugs. Yes, it's gross, but that's what you get. The injection dehydrates and plugs me up, and yet the steroids I take make me want to eat All the Time. And while I want to eat All the Time, I was strangely craving mostly pizza, All the Time. Now, pizza is wonderful, but greasy cheese is probably not the best thing to eat when your organs could use a roto-rooter. So these past few days I have been trying to find some sort of balance between eating, drinking water and pooping, all while my stomach is contending with gut-wrenching cramps. Haha, it's awesome! And you wonder, I'm sure, how I thought I could just get on with my merry life.

But again, I am slowly learning and accepting and growing up, growing far beyond anyone I thought I would ever be. The best, or worst, part is that it's only (almost!!) May. I still have seven more months of this, but I think I will be able to handle them a little better than I have the past four. Thank you all for reading, and I will try and update with a bit more frequency during the summer because Internship?! Book deal?! Biking?! There are many things to share. Stay tuned, and stay in tune with yourself. Peace.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Boston is a-bloom!

It has been a while since I've uploaded any of my mediocre nature photographs, so I thought I would brighten everyone's day and share what I've been shooting recently. I do have photos of people, some of which are pretty good, but I think I'll just stick to the pictorial photos on here. As my title suggests, spring has finally come to Boston. I haven't experienced a Boston spring in two years, and I forgot how beautiful the city becomes. There are tulip trees everywhere, and they are all bursting into pink and white flowers. The sun is shining, new grass is finding its way up, and everyone is outside, this weekend especially.

I went for a walk down Newbury Street (a popular street downtown with upscale shops and restaurants) earlier today, and it was jam-packed. I couldn't figure out why there were so many people, but then I started looking around: Most of the people were wearing or carrying Boston Marathon gear. Ah, that's right. The Boston Marathon is this Monday, and there are activities and conventions and conferences all weekend for the thousands of runners, many of whom are not from Boston. They are all wandering around, checking out the city before they have to run through it. There is also a Red Sox home game tonight, so a good half to three-quarters of everyone outside is wearing some peice of Red Sox gear. I saw one girl wearing a Sox jersey, hat and dangling logo earings. That right there is dedication. Oh and also: the Boston Bruins are trying to give the Montreal Canadiens a run for their money, and the sixth playoff game in the seven-game series is tonight in Boston. So there are a few people running around in Bruins gear. I think there is also a Celtics game tomorrow... Baseball, basketball, hockey, running, sun: spring fever has taken over, and I am so thankful to be here experiencing it. Not like a year ago when I wanted to come to Boston for the Marathon and was too sick to make it. Thanks, kidneys.

I have been doing pretty well. The way my schedule works, I only have five actual days of class left - BU finishes classes on May 2. I have a major photo project to do, as well as a big English paper, and then I only have to worry about finals. This year has gone by so quickly. The past eight months are a blur in my memory. Maybe one day someone will be able to explain to me how I did everything I did, but right now, I have no idea how I survived. It isn't over yet, either. My final final is three weeks from today. Once I ace that, then I can breathe. But I am still amazed that I have come this far. I can barely believe it, but I feel almost (knock on wood) healthy. I feel so much better than I did even a week ago. I am trying to start running again, finally, and I am back on my bike. I get my chemo again this coming Wednesday, which will leave me feeling unpleasant for about a week, but I can deal with it.

So that's it. Super busy, feeling good, feeling stressed; it all sounds about right. I hope you all can get out and enjoy the sunshine if you have it. Life, in general, just seems a little bit better when it is 70 degrees and sunny. Oh, and happy Patriot's Day. Peace.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The sagas continue.

Oh, so many sagas. College student, young adult, cancer survivor, female, motivational speaker, coughing, musician, photographer, hungry... Pick your poison or pleasure. I like to think that no person is truly one-dimensional. We all have different sides, multiple stories and uncommon experiences. I am fortunate to be able to share some of my stories with anyone who cares to click on a link and start reading.

So as I was saying, the sagas. It kind of cracks me up how many different definitions there are of who I am, and yet I am still just one person. Yesterday and last night are great examples of that. I'll begin in the wee small hours of yesterday morning, when I went to bed. Now, I am really not a hardcore partier. I like small, informal gatherings with friends and food. But I am still a crazy college student! and every once in a while, I do stay out past my bedtime. Friday night was one of those nights. It wasn't even that crazy of a night; it was just late. But that's fine. We all need to relax and hang out sometimes. During the day yesterday, I met up with my fellow editors on the Brownstone Journal, BU's undergraduate research publication. We are finalizing our issue for this year, and right now that means editing 10 to 20 page research papers. Worth noting, perhaps, is that I am a bit of a nerd and (kind of...) enjoy copy editing. I will destroy your comma splice, if it kills you and me together. After our editing extravaganza, I had to book it to the Logan Airport Hilton hotel, where I was one of the featured performers/survivors at the Golf Ball, a benefit for brain-tumor research and the Jimmy Fund.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, I went from frazzled college student in frayed jeans, lugging my messenger bag, camera and guitar, to a young professional in a cocktail dress with heels. The Golf Ball itself was great. The auction raised a ton of money for the Jimmy Fund, the food was Amazing! and everyone was there to support the eradication of cancer, which, of course, was the best part of the whole evening. Oh yeah, and I guess I did okay with the whole guitar-sing-say a bit about myself thing. I am going to be a bit immodest right now but only because I think it's funny. I love defying people's expectations of me. I am not a terribly conspicuous person. I carry myself well when I want to, and I can hold an intelligent conversation if I need to. But I am not self-promoting, and I try to keep a low profile. I met a few people before I played, and I'm sure they all thought I was a nice girl, good story, etc. But then I got on stage, did my Caroline-thing and showed them that there is a lot more to me than meets the eye. I love being on stage. I love singing, and I love playing guitar. I also occasionally enjoy dressing up a bit. I was so happy to be able to combine all of those things in support of such a great cause. Yes, I am a cancer survivor, but I am so many other things as well. We all are. Every one of us who is fighting something, it doesn't matter what, cannot be typecast by that one fight. I think, I hope, last night I did my small part in illustrating how we all live our lives our own way, and it is pretty awesome.

I am still battling the cold-demon. I am still procrastinating on my stupid paper. I am still forcing myself to not go to every event in Boston to take photos because I need to focus on getting well right now. I still play guitar; I am still writing songs. And I am still surviving. Last night was one opportunity for me to help others find a way to survive as well, and I can only hope I will have more chances to advocate others' survivals. Life is so ridiculous. No one should have to miss out on any of the sagas that their lives have in store, no matter how difficult some of those sagas may be. So, as I've said before, I am fighting for survivorship now. Last night I guitared a bit and joked a bit and shared my story. This coming week, I am speaking to a women's health class at BU, and I am also going to be on a panel discussing "college and cancer" at a young-adult symposium downtown. Oh yeah, and I might finish my paper, maybe. The sagas continue, and I will continue to chronicle them. Enjoy this week, the last day of March and the beginning of April! Hooray. One month of school left. Peace.

oh, p.s. Once again, if you don't want to comment on the b-log but want to say hi or tell me I need to eat more red meat and less Starbucks iced chai, feel free to drop me an e-mail:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dear Lay's Sour Cream & Onion potato chips:

You are so bad for me, and yet, you are so delicious. I am not even hungry right now, but I can't help but eat you. Thank you for adding a little bit of hydrogenated sunshine to my otherwise unsaturated world.

In other news, I have had a mostly unpleasant past four weeks. Why is that, you ask? Well, I will tell you. Four weeks ago tomorrow, I received my monthly chemotherapy injection. At the same time, my doctor upped my pill-chemo just a little bit. Two days after my injection, I started to feel a bit under the weather. Six days after my injection, I got a fever and was certain I was going to kick my bucket as I was curled up in the fetal position under all my blankets and two sweaters. One week and two days after my injection, I found out that I tested positive for Influenza A. Hooray! Worth noting is when I was tested for the flu (a nasal flush. not as fun as it sounds), I found out my white cell count had plummeted. I was not neutropenic, but I was immuno-compromised to the point where I was advised to stay away from people and their germies. Also, and this conclusion I drew myself, I could not fight any viruses! I know this chemo stuff is supposed to make me all better for ever and ever, but, I swear, it is only making me sicker.

I have tried to stay away from ranting in my blog. There is nothing constructive about complaining, especially when it is to a general audience that probably doesn't want to hear another person's gripes and moans. That being said, this past month has been terrible, and today was sort of the tipping point. Also, this is my blog, and, snap, I do what I want. So today, I was forced to concede that I cannot do everything, and every once in a while I need to ask for help. Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of experience doing that, so I sort of mucked it up, which only made things worse in my mind. You may possibly be wondering what I am talking about. I am talking about how earlier this afternoon I asked one of my professors for an extension on a ten-page paper we have due this Thursday because I haven't been able to finish the damn thing on account of my being so sick and exhausted. I have never asked for an extension on a paper in college (that I know of, and my incompletes don't count). I absolutely did not want to do it now, but I know that if I had tried to finish the paper these past few days, I would have only exhausted and stressed myself out more, which probably would have made me sicker, which would have most likely been not a good idea. The worst part of all of this is that I didn't explain this to my professor. I just sort of walked into his office awkwardly, asked him for an extension, and when asked why, responded, "well... I've been really sick lately... and I'm going to the doctor's tomorrow and will be sicker for the next week or so... I just need until Tuesday." I felt like such an idiot, but I didn't want to explain everything to him. I don't want cancer and chemo to be my fall-back excuse. Chemotherapy is kind of a valid reason, I guess, for an extension, but I am proud. I don't want to admit when my treatment debilitates me. Anyway, who knows if he believed me or not. He granted me a week extension for the paper, which is ample time, but I still feel like an idiot. I seriously left his office and burst into tears, which I then had to wipe away because I needed to work on another assignment, and then I had to go to his class and take notes about shield laws for journalists.

In summation: chemo is the devil because it causes your immune system to crash, which in turn causes your body to pretty much have a constant cold (or flu), which in turn exhausts you, which, when added to the standard pressures of college and mounting pressures of the last six weeks of school, makes for a lot of stress and a long few weeks. Phew. And that is my rant. Thank you all so much for humoring me; I feel much better now. Well, mentally. I am still hacking up pleasant green goo. The good news is that it is almost Spring... It's so close I can taste it. Things can really only get better with the arrival of warmth and flowers and abundant sunshine. To everyone suffering with me through these long, wet and cold days, take heart: you are not alone, and these days are nearing their end. That is never all I have to say, but that is all I will say today. Peace.

Friday, February 29, 2008

How often does one get to blog on February 29?

Every four years, actually. I suppose it is exciting, but, quite frankly, I am looking forward to March.

I know I have been lax in updating this b-log. I have been super busy with school, and, medically, there hasn't been much to report. One of the things my mom always brought up when we were discussing my blog was, "What is your purpose in writing?" I've been thinking about that: My purpose used to be to share what my life was like living with cancer. I wanted people to know that it is scary, but it isn't unmanageable. Drugs, more drugs, oh, I suppose there were some drugs, but finally the cancer was Destroyed! So now what do I have to talk about? I am still getting a bit of treatment but neither frequently nor with the same degree of toxicity as my old stuff. Now, I am more concerned with passing my classes than clearing my chemo (although the former is proving to be a wee bit trickier...) Here's the thing though. I have a whole bunch of upcoming cancer-related activities. Well, more survivor-related activities. Ever since the Globe article came out, and even dating back to the BU Today piece, I have been in touch with various people and groups about becoming more active as a young-adult survivor.

I don't want to stop writing, especially as I do have a ton of things to do in the near future. So I am revising my purpose in blogging. My purpose is no longer only to share what it's like to be 20 and living with cancer, although there will still be some of that. Now, I want to write about what it's like to be a vocal survivor as I share my experiences with different groups of people.

First example: One week from today, I will be spending the weekend at my high school Culver Girls Academy, in Indiana. A while ago, I was contacted by the Dean of Girls who asked me if I would like to be the keynote speaker at the girls' school annual Celebration of Women Convention (CWC). I will be speaking about my experiences both at Culver and post-Culver, and I am sure my cancer experiences will play into that somehow. I am nervous to be speaking to these girls, some of whom were freshmen when I was a senior in CGA. The strange thing is, I am so much older than when I graduated from high school almost three years ago. If not in age, then definitely in maturity. College, in general, matures people, and I have had one hell of a college career so far. A lot of the women I graduated with are amazing and are doing wonderful and noteworthy things with themselves. Compared to many of my classmates, I am pretty average, but I am sure I will be able to find something compelling and (hopefully) snarky to share with the girls. I know I wouldn't have been asked back to speak if I hadn't had cancer, especially if I hadn't responded so positively to cancer, but that's fine.

Much of what I will be doing over the next few months stems not from my having had cancer but from my blogging about it and being so open about what I've gone through. I want to share my insight with others. I don't want to have gone through so much and then just relegate cancer to a distant past. There are no more leukemic cells hanging out in my marrow, but cancer will always be a part of me. So I am writing about it here; I wrote a piece for a Dana-Farber patient publication (to be printed in April); I am participating in a fund-raiser for Dana-Farber and brain tumor research (check out their Website!); I somehow find myself continuously photographing events for either Dana-Farber or, this coming Sunday, the American Cancer Society. Like I said, cancer is still a huge part of my life, but now I am focusing my energies outward instead of wholly inward. I think it is a natural and good progression. So stay tuned, because there will be many more updates and events and scary public speaking engagements.

Again, thank you so much for everyone who has and may still be reading this. Be safe, be happy, and enjoy your extra day of February. Spring is so close! Peace.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Well hello there.

Fear not, those few of you who may still occasionally check to find a new post, I have not gone away. I just haven't had terribly much to discuss, and I have had even less time in which to discuss it. Three weeks into this second semester of school and I have been nothing but crazy busy all the time. I am still getting chemo every four weeks, and I still have a nagging head cold (I've given up on that ever going away). The interesting thing, to me at least, is that I am also still learning how to maintain some balance in my life. I still struggle with how much is too much.

This past Monday, three major presidential candidates campaigned in Massachusetts. John McCain spoke in downtown Boston in the morning, and Barack Obama held a rally here that evening (Hillary Clinton was not in the city). I planned, ambitious photographer that I am, to photograph the McCain talk in the morning, do my day activities, and then find my way to the convention center to photograph Obama. Worth noting: the night before, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl. I wasn't particularly upset by the loss, but I did watch the game, and it was still a late night. So Monday morning, I was a bit frazzled, a bit late, and a lot tired. I grabbed my camera, a long lens, a spare battery, and headed out the door. I invested in a bagel and chai tea at my local bagel shop, desperately needing food and caffeine. I suppose it is also worth noting that I had received my monthly chemo the Wednesday prior, and I was definitely still feeling it, not to mention not sleeping. Anyway, so I hustled onto the train downtown with my bag, my camera, my tea, and my bagel. Then, disaster struck.

As if in slow motion, the train started to move, jolted into motion. Look down, camera between my feet. Between my knees, my tea. Shake; bounce, and forward falls the tea. Spills on the top of my camera. (#$@!) Spring into action: I grabbed my camera and immediately began to wipe it off, but the damage was done. My camera, my baby, my expensive piece of equipment that I take great care of, no longer worked.

I'll turn down the verbiage and just sum up the rest. Most likely, I short-circuited the electronics in the camera body. I sent it to Canon on Wednesday, and I pray they can fix it soon. I did end up shooting the McCain event because I happened to have an extra body at my apartment. I did not, however, photograph the Barack rally, and here's why: I would not have wrecked my camera if I hadn't been so emotionally all over the place. I was unnecessarily stressing myself, expecting way too much. I realized I needed to stop trying to do so many things. I wish it hadn't happened, but Monday was a wake-up call for me to calm down, right now.

As much as I wish I could, I can not do everything. Bad things happen when I try. So this whole week I have been consciously telling myself to slow down. It is so hard for me though, when I really want to put fatigue and sickness and everything behind me. It's funny that despite everything I have gone through so far, I haven't learned. You'd think getting cancer would be like, oh hey, yeah, maybe you should be a bit more receptive to the idea that it is okay to not do everything... But no. It took my camera short-circuiting, which, I suppose, says a lot about me. So that's what's going on in my world. Every day is an adventure. I have lots of updates about upcoming activities and ridiculousnesses, but you'll have to wait for those juicy details. Slow down; enjoy your day. Peace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Let's talk about what's awesome.

"As of now, I feel pretty much back to normal. As in, no pain, no nausea, appetite's normal, energy's high, strength is high, all that fantastic stuff that usually means you're healthy and most people just completely take for granted. Heck yes. Cancer: you can kiss my skinny butt. The only sad thing is that BU starts class tomorrow. I guess most people are sad because they have to go to class. I'm sad because I'm not. But, best not to think too much about it. I'll be back sooner than it seems."

I wrote that one year ago today. January 15, 2007, I was in Chicago, lamenting my presence in Chicago while my friends and classmates were lamenting their return to class. January 15, 2008, I am in Boston, overjoyed that tomorrow I have class along with every one else here at BU. I find it so interesting to look back at my old blog posts. I can see exactly where I was and what I was thinking one year ago and compare it to where I am and what I'm thinking now. My situation certainly has changed. I find it funny, too, that I wrote I felt "pretty much back to normal." I think, in reality, I was trying so hard to tell myself that I felt normal. I desperately wanted to be normal. I had just finished my first inpatient onslaught of chemo, the initial barrage that killed most, if not all, of the visible leukemic cells. I survived with flying colors, barely sick, and eager to get on with some semblance of a life. I never thought, oh, this isn't fair, why did this happen to me? I more thought, oh, this is stupid; there isn't anything wrong with me; stop treating me like a sick child. I think it's fair to say that for a very long time (months...) I was in my own form of denial about having cancer. Maybe that was a good thing. I am certainly irreverent when it comes to talking about it, or I was. Cracked jokes about my catheter, my hair, my pills, everything. It's how I got through it, I think. Well, that, and the prospect of returning to school.

Here I am, one year later, like a kid before Christmas. I am excited; I am nervous; I am not looking forward to the massive amounts of homework I just know are headed my way. Maybe I can pretend my homework doesn't exist either, and it will go away like my cancer. That would be freaking sweet. It's just so strange to me that I have been cancer-free for one year now, and yet I have just barely finished my initial infusions, and I still have one year of maintenance therapy. I am not done yet, but the cancer is so far gone. Yes, I am back at school, working, running, eating, whatever. A stranger would think I am that awful word, "Normal." But I am in-between cancer and not-cancer. I am a survivor, in remission, still receiving therapy, had cancer. What does "normal" mean, anyway? I wrote I had a "normal appetite." I can say for sure that now my appetite is hugenormous. I love me my foods. Is that normal? Seriously, I do not know what the word means anymore, and I do not want to know. I am me, and I am frequently absurd, mostly unexplainable. The best part is, by "normal" standards, I'm not even healthy right now! I have a raging cough and my nose hasn't stopped running in five months. For real. So yeah. I am here, in my apartment, in Boston, ready to start my spring semester at BU. I am me, whoever you think I am plus whoever I know I am: I am abnormal awesome. And although it took me longer than I expected to move forward to where I am, I did it. I did it, and so can you, if you need to. Anyway, that's all. Happy Tuesday, sad toad. Peace.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

You know what's lame?

Smoking is lame. It is even worse when it is happening in the back stairwell directly behind my bedroom door. My dear, darling apartment-neighbor was standing in the fire stairs, smoking a cigarette. I walked into my room and started freaking out a bit because I smelled something burning. I figured it might have been their food, but then I opened the door in my room that leads out the back, and there was the man, looking at his phone, nodding his head when I asked him if he was smoking. Super lame. I have since opened my window, and my bedroom seems to be airing out decently. This is my first apartment anywhere, much less in Boston, so I am pretty pumped to be here. I am, however, struggling between my love of my apartment's location and rent and my distaste with its sub-par cleanliness. I've killed two mice in the past week, although I think (hope?) that is the last of them, and the neighbors, blah blah, they'd better not burn down the building. Oh well. I just really don't want to have to move.

In other news, my first round of maintenance chemotherapy didn't go quite as I had expected. I was expecting a quick injection, a few pills, a nice chat with my doctor, and presto, I would be good to go, worry-free for four weeks. As I wrote last week, that is just about how things went down on injection day. What happened in the days between then and now has caused me some concern. Basically, the chemo, the one little injection and the few pills, took over my body. It made me lose my appetite and taste buds, it sapped my energy, and it allowed for my waning cold to regroup, strategize, and resurge. I tried to battle the effects by running (ten minutes straight! making progress, alright), but I think the exercise might have depleted my energy even more. Oh, and the best part are the steroids. I get to take them for five days every four weeks. These 'roids won't make me hit record numbers of home runs, but they will completely disrupt my sleeping patterns as well as give me crazy, lifelike dreams. Hooray! It has been a week now. My taste buds have come back, and my sleep is returning to normal, although I don't like thinking about the dreams I might have. They're not scary, just disgruntling. But anyway. I'm not sure if I will be thusly affected every time I get the chemo over the next year. I certainly hope not, but it is too soon to tell.

Otherwise, I've been working at the gym, reading some Salman Rushdie, and trying to mentally defeat my cold. Classes resume in one week, and I am ready for this semester to begin. I don't know what will happen, but I hope good things are in store. Enjoy the rest of the week, and find something to smile about tomorrow. Solid goal, I'd say. Pax.

**late addition! This is my first post of 2008. My adventures in the blog-world have officially spanned three years. Ridiculous.**

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back to the daily grind.

January 2nd, and the holidays are all but behind us. Barely one day after the holiday that is New Year's Day, we are working and stressing and forgetting that last week was Christmas and the alarm was silent. I, for one, woke today at 5 am for my 6 am shift at the ProShop. It was fine though. I had my coffee, and there were only a few die-hard regulars during those early, dark hours. After that, I had my first session of maintenance therapy at Dana-Farber, only four months later than planned. Meh. As I've mentioned, I am not finished with treatment yet. I am just through with the heavy and frequent pills and infusions. Now I only have to go in every four weeks for a chemotherapy push, equivalent to a shot. I have to take a few more pills too: steroids every day for five days, low-grade chemo daily, a different chemo pill once a week, and, of course, the antibiotics. There is also a bone-marrow biopsy scheduled every six months. All in all, not that bad. My counts will probably remain below normal levels, but not so low that I won't be able to do anything. All this lasts until two years from my initial diagnosis, or December 8, 2008. Then I will be completely free of all chemo nuisances.

A refresher for new and old readers: this here b-log is meant to be both an account of what I'm going through (or went through), and information about ALL and certain chemo realities. I am mostly just relaying what I learn, see, hear, feel, think, wish, and anything else I deem appropriate. I sort of have this vision in my head that somewhere, some newly diagnosed someone has stumbled across my b-log and is grateful for the witty (?) commentary and frank explanations. So there.

Here's what I learned today: Cancer survivors in remission sort of tout the five-year mark as the "all clear" date for their disease. I talked to my doctor today about recurrence and its likelihood in me. He told me that ALL usually comes back during treatment or during the first two years following treatment. His ballpark was that usually we are "all clear" after four years. I think five is just a nice round number with the extra year as a little safety cushion. Which is fine with me. The point is that my cancer didn't come back during treatment. At last biopsy, my marrow was clean and sparkly and lacking any nasty cancerous cells. Now I've just got two or three more years of mild doubt or fear, supposedly. Really, the fear never quite goes away, but hopefully the cancer will for absolutely ever.

I also learned about fertility, rather, infertility. According to the professionals, I should not be infertile. My doc's information was that survivors of childhood cancers, especially ALL, carry the same risk of infertility as any other person out there. Radiation may cause it, as well as bone-marrow transplants, which apparently affect the pituitary (sp?) glands, which in turn affect the ovaries, but luckily I didn't need a transplant. So while I don't even really plan on having children, it is a valid question and good to know that I don't need to worry if I eventually change my mind.

Third fun factoid of the day: Human Papilloma Virus - a nasty little bugger that can potentially lead to... more cancer. More cancer is probably the last thing I want, anywhere, ever. Perhaps then, the HPV vaccine is something I should look into. Once again, according to my doctor, this is a smart inquiry. He is not, however, too sure about the efficacy of the vaccine while I am still immuno-compromised. Vaccines work because basically a dead or harmless virus is injected into your system. Your body is able to produce antibodies to the virus which would hopefully kick in if ever you were exposed to the actual virus. No studies have been done on female cancer patients to see whether they could make the antibodies to the virus, in part because the vaccine is so new. It is a good idea to get the vaccine as a precautionary measure, but my question now is, when? I will have more on this issue in the future after I've done some research and talked to my doctor more.

Finally: (sorry, this is a long post. I enjoy typing while listening to crazy flamenco, awesome guitar). Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has read the Globe article and responded to me, whether by e-mail or here on the b-log. I can't express my appreciation for your support and your stories. No one is alone in their fight against the beast that is cancer, so I thank you all for your kind words. Keep on fighting, whether you have, have had, or do not have cancer. Life is pretty amazing regardless, and we are all in it together. ALSO! I would love to hear from you personally. If you don't want to post comments on the internet, please feel free to e-mail me at If you want to say hey, share your story, tell me I'm really not as witty as I like to believe, whatever, it's all good. So thank you again, and enjoy the week! Peace.