Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

This past week has brought up so many memories. It has now been 1 year since I was diagnosed. Its emotional to think about the awful experience I encountered and at the same time how blessed I am that I survived. The beginning of 2011 was pure hell I never thought I’d make it past each day but they all seemed to somehow add up to weeks, months and now a year. Last Christmas instead of opening presents, I was preparing for chemo. Christmas day 2010 I received my first chemo ever. I couldn’t stop throwing up and felt so helpless attempting to get my chemo down. If someone told me I’d be here today surviving this I would of thought they were INSANE. My body couldn’t handle the chemo and I didn’t know how I was going to get around this. Also on Christmas the tests confirmed that I had M3 AML leukemia, which is so important to treatment. There are all sorts of leukemia and subtypes which tailor what treatment you receive and survival rate. My oncologist came in with our treatment plans, which seemed unachievable. They used so many terms I’ve never heard of explaining what the cancer has done to me and what I will be doing to fight this. There are three phases the Induction, Consolidation, and Maintenance phase. If I even made it to the last phase I would have to be in the hospital for at least 6 months. Reading this on the plan was unbelievable; I wanted to just give up right there. I’m so glad I didn’t. Although this was literally going to hell and back it’s been the most positive/crazy/amazing things I have ever experienced. Its changed my mind set towards everything and I know my family and friends feel this way as well. It makes you appreciate everything so much more. Opening up presents gave us a smile but they didn’t seem to matter as much. This Christmas the greatest present was just being with my entire family from both sides, healthy & happy. I truly feel blessed that it all has changed this past year in my favor. To have a second chance at life is an amazing gift that I will never take for granted! I hope everyone somewhere in his or her life experiences this feeling of realization, just not in the way I had to.

^ My cousins and I this past Christmas Eve! Thankful.

Ps. My next post might be incredibly long. I want to explain the three phases of treatment in depth and also what leukemia is! AWARENESS will bring a cure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The phone call that changed EVERYTHING

On December 21, 2010 was the day I found out I had cancer. My life instantly changed forever from that moment on. I clearly remember the month leading up to it and everything about that day to even what I was wearing. It’s something I’ll never forget as much as I really want to.

December 2010…

I was 18 and a freshman at the University of Hartford in CT finishing my first semester when my symptoms first started. Everyday I had small headaches and thought I could just go on and try to forget about them so I did for about 2 weeks. It became the week of finals and my roommate and I were stressed out to the max. That’s when I figured this must be why I’m having these headaches, right? As time went on I only had more symptoms everyday. I spent almost every hour of the day sleeping I was so exhausted I couldn’t move or wake up. My roommate and I thought this was so unusual and didn’t know what to think. Another few days went by as I was ready to pack up and go home for winter break and my throat started feeling soar that I couldn’t swallow anything to eat. It became so out of hand that I went to the nurse at the university to get a strep test. It came out clear and I just kept on focusing on my last final. At last we were picked up from my dad to come home to Ma for the next month of winter break. Few days passed again and the symptoms only got worse and hard to live with from this moment I knew in my heart that something was wrong; this wasn’t stress or normal at all. I called my pediatrician for an appointment where I was tested for strep once again which came out clear for the second time. There was no way that I was going leave without some answers so my doctor told me that I must have been so weak an feeling like this from having possibly mono and that with rest and time it would go away.

December 19 2010…

 By now all of my high school friends were home and ready for Christmas! My two best friends Megan and Erica and I went late Christmas shopping at Target and that’s when my friends notice this wasn’t right. Walking from the parking lot into the store I was winded and couldn’t catch my breath. We laughed about joking about how college made me out of shape but I felt so dizzy and couldn’t keep up with them at all which freaked us all out. We went on hanging out and I tried eating, sleeping, anything to somehow help.

December 20 2010…

I woke up and called my doctor for another appointment and luckily got one in the afternoon. I asked for anything done so I could have an answer and they said since my symptoms were I not being able to breathe they’d take a few x-rays of my chest and take blood work. As soon as those were done I was out and out the door on my way. I felt relieved knowing id have answers soon. I continued my day with friends and we ended up drinking so my friend Haley and I slept over Megan’s house to avoid driving. My parents and I have an open relationship where they don’t care if I drink, I’m in college so as long as I don’t drive they are fine with anything I do. We got home late, therefore went to bed late also.

December 21 2010…

Waking up that morning I wasn’t prepared for anything about to come next…AT ALL. It was already the afternoon when we woke up and my phone was dead from the night before. I asked Megan if I could borrow her charger to tell my parents I was at Megan’s for the day as usual. Once my phone was charged I had numerous missed calls from numbers I have never seen before, calls from my dad including texts. I had no idea why he would be calling me. He knew where I was, I didn’t have work that day, and I couldn’t think of one reason why I would be in trouble. I was feeling so confused. Once I called him back he told me to come home right now. My friends and I thought how weird this was at the time and now it all makes sense. I got home and waiting for my parents to get there they told me I would need further testing but didn’t tell me anything else. At this point my parents knew what was going on but didn’t tell me and I don’t blame them I don’t know how they could even wrap their minds around it. Since I’m an adult my doctor wasn’t suppose to tell my parents but it was so severe and she couldn’t get a hold of me that she did anyways. I knew something was wrong but I never imagined it would be this severe and literally life threatening. On the way to UMass medical my doctor called me on my cell phone while we were almost there. I cant really tell you from hear on what happened the only thing I remember is her telling me the blood work showed I had Leukemia. I was in denial at first and questioned her saying you know that’s cancer right? She said yes and how id be having further testing to find out specifically what type of leukemia. All I remember was crying on the phone with her as she kept asking me if I’m okay.  IS THAT A SERIOUS QUESTION? From this point on the car ride was silent filled with endless tears. I can’t even describe the aching in my heart it was so unbearable. My life did a complete 360 and I think I was so hurt because that’s the day I felt myself die. That was the last moment of the Sarah I had been for 18 years. That’s the part that hurts me the most. I live everyday hurting as though someone really died because to me that’s how it is, the girl I was since I was born was lost that day and its hard for me to accept that still.

From this day on I don’t remember my first month of treatment its all a blur. This blog mostly will describe the five months in the hospital that I do remember, the countless procedures and rounds of chemo I somehow managed to get through and how although I’m cancer free today I still undergo protocol and receive chemo. Living with cancer is ALWAYS with me. Everyday I’m haunted and reminded of the pain I went through and still am. In September 2012 I will end treatment fully if I still remain cancer free. I know anytime it could come back but the beauty of cancer is that it’s truly made me happier than I ever was, weird right? It’s taught me so much about life and how any second it can be taken away so we really need to live it to the fullest as much as possible. If my cancer was to ever come back I truly can say I’m not scared at all.