Today marks three months since I left the hospital for the last time – hopefully ever. Three months since I had the PICC wires pulled out of my arm. Three months of hair growth. Three months of freedom.
Just in time for Thanksgiving. This year, I have SO much to be thankful for. It’s been a wild ride so far, 2016. When I take a step back and think about everything that happened, it still feels completely surreal. Like, did that REALLY happen!? Did I seriously get cancer? Did I really have a growth the size of a grapefruit in my chest? Did I actually go through 600 hours of chemotherapy this summer?
‘Kale’ no it can’t be true – that’s just cray cray. Crazy talk. But no. For real. It really happened. All I have to do is look in the mirror.
It was actually a year ago Thanksgiving weekend that I got the first clue that something was off – that my malaise was more than just fatigue and low energy. That it might be more than stress and insomnia. I got a massage, and afterward I felt an odd ache in my chest. It didn’t go away the next morning. Was my chest somehow bruised? That’s what it felt like. I went to the doctor. My vitals were perfectly healthy and I wasn’t experiencing tremendous discomfort – just slight. It was likely just pleurisy (a mild inflammation of the lung lining). Because what doctor would jump to cancer in a 30 year old patient who has otherwise been healthy her whole life, experiencing just mild symptoms during cold and flu season? What doctor wouldn’t just prescribe rest and hot tea when the patient reports exhaustion and stress?
Neither of us could have guessed what was actually happening inside my body.
This year was rough. Really rough. And that’s probably a bit of an understatement. But, in some odd, perhaps divine, twist of fate, it just might be the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me. Well, now that might be a tad bit of an overstatement. But when I take that step back, I can also see that a lot of exciting opportunities have opened up for me.
I jumped back into life after I left the last round. It’s taken me nearly the whole three months until now to feel like I’ve fully regained energy, but the whole year leading up to diagnosis I was low energy and stressed and in a massive sleep-debt, so I’m feeling a million times better than I have in a REALLY long time. Chemo brain is definitely a thing, but it has slowly improved, day by day, and I finally feel like my mental faculties are operating on a normal level.
And much has happened in the past three months. I turned 31. I went on my first ever yoga retreat. I went snorkeling and scuba diving in crystal clear Caribbean waters. I started a writing course. I started a health coaching course. My sister got married – twice. I visited with family from all over the country – many of whom I rarely see. I did two photoshoots. I got two articles** published on a legitimate site other than just this little blog right here. I visited my Nana in Boston, friends in Philly, and more friends in LA and San Diego. I attended a transformative health coaching conference in San Diego. I met up with three different London friends passing through NYC on four separate occasions. I went ice skating. I caught up with a bunch of other friends. I went dancing and went to yoga and barre classes and a 900 person yoga workshop. I have made new connections with so many wonderful people I now call friends, reconnected with friends both local and distant I’d lost touch with, and deepened my connection with friends who have stood by me for my entire adulthood and the better part of my life. And of course there was also the less exciting stuff like coursework and homework and testing recipes and testing out a 14 day cleanse – there’s been so much focus on food after months of a crazy relationship with food. Because food heals. And it’s so damn good.
In the midst of all this, I had my follow up doctor’s appointments and blood tests and, of course, my follow up PET scan.
And of course I found out I’m in remission – nearly two months now, officially. I’m still pretty sure I was good to go after round three, but hey, ya can’t mess with this stuff.
I’ve been on the path of healing since day one of diagnosis. Pre-diagnosis, technically: since I found out there was a ‘growth’ in my chest the size of a grapefruit. Since before the 600 hours of chemotherapy – my summer of chemo. I’ve done a lot of healing work: physical, emotional, psychological. I’ve been working on putting the pieces of my life back together so I can focus on the future.
I weaned myself off the anti-anxiety meds in September and now I sleep through the night. As of a nearly a month ago, my white blood cell count was finally back up to the normal range (well barely – 3.7, and normal is between 3.8-11… I should be comfortably in the normal range by now!). A few weeks ago I took myself off the daily anti-Virals and 3x/week antibiotics (shhh don’t tell my oncologist!). I’m officially off ALL medication!
Life has been turned upside down… but now I’m standing up straighter than ever before. In fact, I went to my mom’s yoga studio a couple times this past month while she was away and took class with the same instructor both times. She went to his class yesterday morning and asked if he remembered me – he knew exactly who I was, but said, “She’s tall, right?” I guess I stand tall in all 5’2” of me. Because I kicked cancer’s ass.
My hair is back – and back in a big way! All over, in fact… I hadn’t really noticed that even my arm hair had fallen out until it started growing back. My upper arms were bumpy for a bit, but now they’ve smoothed back to normal as my the fine blond hairs have come in. Too bad – I was quite fond of not having to shave my legs all summer! My eyebrows are basically back to normal, my eyelashes are pretty much back, and fingers crossed they’re all here to stay. My head hair seems to be longer and thicker by the day.
Most importantly – I’m alive.
So I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving – excellent doctors, healers, family, friends, life. And of course, my tremendous community of supporters and cheerleaders who stood by me throughout the whole ordeal. I couldn’t be more grateful for my life today. And I’m very excited for what’s to come!
**Here are the links to the articles I got published.
Second article, published just the other day. Please look past the title.