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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hear, hear.

Every day, so many people receive cancer diagnoses.  Very few of us have any sort of widespread public recognition, especially to the extent of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I thank him for speaking out against the stigmas of cancer, particularly leukemia.  We are all fighting those stigmas and doing what we can in our own ways, whether it be blogging or donating to a foundation or speaking at events.  We put ourselves out there for others to see that we are OK, normal even.  My favorite quote from that article is, "'My first reaction was to deal with it, make that fight for my life.'"  

We are all dealing with it, however we can.  And by humanizing these diseases, all of us are hopefully making it easier for someone else to deal with it tomorrow.  So thank you to everyone who is taking their illness and using their experiences to prove that life does and will continue to go on.  It is still scary, but cancer should no longer be the unspeakable, lurking menace that it once was.  

And that's today's bit of cancer news.  Even basketball stars get cancer.  Even basketball stars.