Thursday, November 12, 2009

One down; Four to go.

I realized today that Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of the last drug infusion I received for any cancer-related evils.  According to my doctor, that date, November 10, 2008, is the date from which we begin counting down until five years after treatment finishes.  After November 10, 2013, I will be completely and absolutely and totally finished with Everything cancer-related.  No more PET scans, no more labs, not nearly as much grief.  As I mentioned, I have already (somehow?) survived one year.  Fittingly, today was both an awesome and a God-awful day.  I wish, wish, wish that I was sharing this time with my friends, but they all seem to have scattered across the globe.  Instead, I'll highlight what I do have and what thoughts have been running laps around my mind-track all day.

Awesome: I went for a run today.  I have talked enough about how proud I am of myself that I can do this.  One year ago, forget it.  The resiliency of our bodies will never cease to amaze me.  Respect them!

Also awesome: the cute guy at the gym knows my name!  Granted, he works at the check-in desk, so I should hope he knows my name, but I will take what I can get.  He still said, "Hey, Caroline," with his cute smile, as I walked in.  score.  Too bad I look like a total scrub at the gym.

God-awful: the Chicago Bears.  If you follow football at all, I need not say more.  Either way, I won't say more.  What a disappointment.

Now the other dingy thoughts...  

I think one year ago was the beginning of a bit of an emotional free-fall for me.  I ignored and now have had to deal with a lot of post-treatment issues.  Identity, body image, self-worth...  All problems young adults struggle with, but problems that I could no longer address separately from cancer-specific issues like blood counts and suspicious masses and such.  Everything got rolled together into one big "cancer survivor" blob.  I stuffed the blob away for a while while I was in Washington, DC, but after that whirlwind semester, I was left with a lot of time on my hands and not too many answers.

I have gradually been able to sort some things out.  I am certainly in a better place than one year ago.  I probably won't be spending the next three weeks going to bars instead of doing my homework and dating a crazy, hippie Berklee student instead of, well, doing my homework.  Haha, immediately after finishing treatment, I tried to cram two-years worth of college-ridiculousness into just about five weeks.  For a brief period of time, I was the fearless, feckless college student I secretly wished I always had been.  And then it was over, and I was too busy in Washington to have time to feel cheated of anything.

So I have spent the past few months working through some latent psychological issues.  I'm nowhere near at peace with myself and my cancer, but it has only been a year.  A pretty busy year, but I am in a good place right now to keep moving forward.

This b-log was and is still about the experiences of a 20 year old cancer patient, now survivor (me).  I don't really have any more medical updates, since I finished the majority of that business One year ago.  Hopefully, I will never, Ever have any more major medical updates.  What follows the physical treatment is the hard part though.  Dealing with chemo and all of its associated side-effects stinks, but it is pretty straightforward.  You get a drug; you get sick from the drug; you feel better, eventually.  There are no real precedents for sorting out life as a college graduate/cancer survivor/woman/journalism major/cancer survivor.  People have been through similar situations and prevailed, and I look to them for support and guidance, but they can't necessarily tell me where to find the strength to face tomorrow.  Only I know that (it's in my toes, actually), but verbalizing my struggles still helps me tremendously.  Maybe one day it will help another 20 year-old leukemia patient.  I hope this whole narrative is still somewhat (...?) relatable, if not at least mildly engrossing.  (Although, actually, if it has ceased to be either, please tell me to keep it all to myself.  I'm sure my print journal would appreciate your honesty.)

Otherwise, hooray long post!!  That's what's been on my mind.  I am cancer clean, baby.  Let's keep it that way for a good long while.  Happy weekend to all, and to all a happy weekend.  Peas.

6 comments:

Bernadette said...

Your words reach more than just 20yo leukemia-student-...
I'm the mother of a 15yo girl-brain tumor-student-awesome-beautiful-... and have been following your blog since the beginning.You have a gift for putting feelings in words, and amazing frankness.Our deadline is July 2016.Keep posting, the medical part of an illness is straightforward, the emotional issues are much harder to deal with and you are doing a tremendous job of helping others.

Cathy said...

I am a mom of a 21 yr student with ALL. We got the news in August while he was home on summer break. Your blog has gotten me through many nights in the hospital and I thank you for that. It helped me to know what to expect every step of the way so far. STAY CANCER FREE!!!!!! PS - You look beautiful in your new picture

Mark said...

Pay It Forward...
Any of us that have fought through life threatening disease/surgery have a gift to be shared.
However, not everyone is able to find words which chronicle their little voice inside as thoughtfully as you have.
I believe that the greatest feeling next to waking up healthy each morning is to wake up and know that that you have taken your experience and paid it forward to ease some of the fear, dread and anxiety that those who follow us will face.
Look at it as the 21st century version of taking a bowl of warm soup to the sick neighbor next door. We can use our challenges to warm the body and soul of the next generation that puts on our shoes.
Earlier this fall I "coached" a young lady from Tennessee through her open heart surgery. At this moment, that same young lady is sitting in a surgical waiting room comforting another family whose daughter is going through the same surgery. Sometimes you never know how much your simple words mean or how far your example can spread to bring comfort to others.
Like I have said before, the Doctors can use their needles and knives to cure the body but we need to look to each other to heal the spirit.
btw...the towel guy at the gym is an incredibly lucky young man!

Em said...

FRIDGE:

You are doing a beautiful and powerful thing right here: putting yourself out there, raw, uncensored. Telling the truth. Not hiding from anything. You are doing an amazing thing for yourself, those who come after you, and those who love you (including me!)

Look at the way your words are touching people you don't even know: it's a great gift.

Sorry about your Bears; but WOOT! on the cute guy from the gym. I am sure you look smokin' while you are working out.

Love you, sweetie. Keep the faith.

Caroline said...

Bernadette, I am so sorry we didn't get to meet up this summer, but I hope everything is still going well with you guys! I think of you all often, and my prayers are always with you. :)
Cathy, Good Luck to your son! And to you as well, and thank you so much for reading/posting.
And Cheesesteak, well, I pretty much look like I'm on fire at the gym. No, really, like, all red and super sweaty and everything. It's great. haha, but like my running coach said, at least I don't have to worry about watching how much I eat. hahah, but thank you nonetheless. Awesome.

Megan/Yuping said...

YAY YAY YAAAAAAAAAY

keep writing, please, because it's the only way I get to hear what's going on with you since you're always "sleeping" on skype. 加油 from Taiwan!