Thursday, December 12, 2013

You have cancer, now you don' daily roller coaster

So I haven't written on my blog for six months. Well clearly a lot has happened. I think this is the obvious, but on June 28th I finished all my chemotherapies for good. After 2 and a half years 8,067 pills, 744 liquid doses (all not counting "as needed" meds), several IV meds/chemos, thousands of blood draws, 2 picc lines, numerous lumbar punctures and marrow biopsies being inpatient for most of those years its finally all DONE. The day after that felt completely weird. I honestly did not know how to be a normal 20 year old because the past three years my life has been dedicated to my health. I kept a small group of family and close friends surrounding me and missed out on college after many failed attempts and I basically watched everyone around me live their lives while I was fighting for mine. The chemo countdown couldn't move any slower. Then BAM! I am off treatment and back to reality with no direction on what to do or how to pick up where I left off. The first thing I did was apply to college and try to fit some work hours in. It was a good start but life after chemo is not what I expected at all. I thought I would be happy and care free which I am at times, but most of the times survivors guilt kicks in. It has been exactly one year since I lost my dear friend Leah Tepper along with many others and It's hard to keep living life when you’ve seen so many taken away. Leah was the most deserving life. I still can't believe or grasp what the world is missing; she made an impact on everyone. I have not written in this blog for many reasons, that being a major one. It is so hard to put my emotions on here because sometimes I want to forget about cancer all together but then I think about my friends and all these kids at clinic suffering from cancer. I need to keep writing and spreading awareness for them like I promised myself I would. Life after cancer is harder than I even expected. I am reminded of cancer everyday. I still have many doctor appointments, I am still on many medications and I still get biopsies. Biopsies are the worst. I felt safe on chemo knowing it kept cancer away and now I am off it with the thoughts of “will it come back?” There is no set cure, which leaves me thinking about being re-diagnosed constantly. It's quite overwhelming. Even through all of this I try to stay positive and catch every opportunity in life. Anything I can do to speak about cancer awareness I do, even if it is helping a newly diagnosed patient about to endure the three years of chemo like I did. I was not too happy about being a 21 year old freshman at college, but getting into Lasell and going with a positive attitude made it all worth the wait. I currently live on campus with my suitemates who are close to my age and have done all they can do to make sure our suite is clean for my low immune system. I have made friends with all the freshman; they always ask me for advice and it makes class fun being with younger students. I have also done way better this time in school than I have ever done in high school or at Hartford. Going through cancer made me appreciate education; it is what I need to get to my goal: to work in Public Relations for a nonprofit cancer organization. I also have not written on my blog because I never want to jinx myself, especially with three past failed attempts of trying to do college on chemo. I would always end up sick and back into the hospital. I cannot believe I have finally finished a semester of college. In some ways I think things happen for a reason. Three years ago I was immature and had no direction in life, or any appreciation for it what teenager does. Now I am 21; I have goals and I have accomplished some already. After battling cancer I know I can do ANYTHING. I will not let the countless appointments, fears of my cancer, and the side effects of the medication control my life anymore. Since I have last written I have turned 21. I have watched my friend Rachel finish her chemo treatments, finally went to a Kenny Chesney concert not throwing up from chemo, I got to travel on a plane, I visited my best friend and got to celebrate her birthday for once, I spoke for the northeast classic again (amazing organization!) met some patriots players, attended the Red Sox parade where players remembered me and most importantly got to celebrate my friend Jens 22 birthday. We were both cancer free together for once. My life has been amazing, yet it is still so hard to adjust to this new life. Cancer blindsided me in 2010 an now its 2013 and I'm all of a sudden back to being healthy and is quite the rollercoaster. It is very unexplainable; some days I am positive and happy and the next I am crying for no reason. The thought that I almost wouldn't be here today is always reminded. Cancer left the biggest mark on me.
Northeast Classic

Cousin Kait got married!

Finally got to visit my bestfriend in NY for her 21st

Jen celebrated her 22nd birthday cancer free :)

After two years of going to my favorite artist Kenny Chesneys concerts in pain & puking from chemo I finally get to relax and enjoy it cancer free :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Relay for Life! Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

Tara and I walking the survivor lap at relay for life in Medway, Ma

I have gone to many relay for life events in my lifetime, starting when I was young. Usually we would go in my father’s hometown of Medway to meet up with my aunts, uncles, cousins and my Grammy. My memories of it are always a night of fun, packed with a lot of people and tents set up for the 24 hour relay. The night was brightly lit by the candles in the luminaries bags. We would always buy one for my grandfather with his picture on it. To me relay for life was always an inspiring day that I never thought would impact me more directly later on in life….okay well maybe not too much later, but at just 18 years old. Being diagnosed changed my world. I never thought at 20 I would be a part of relay, or better yet be walking in it as a survivor! Never ever did I think I would have to add another family member to my luminary bag or add names of my jimmy fund clinic friends, all who are under the age of 20 who have passed away from this disgusting disease. I use to hear the honorary speaker when I was younger and sure, I felt inspired by their stories, but this relay I listened to my close friend Tara Daniels speak about her journey and felt many more emotions along with being inspired. As I sat and listened to her talk about her journey, all I could think about was how much I could relate, how we’ve lost so many friends, been through so much hell yet still somehow wouldn’t change our cancer because it made us who we are TODAY. I couldn’t be more proud of her. Since being diagnosed I went to a relay last year but felt weird walking the survivor lap and didn’t want to alone. This year I proudly walked with Tara and even Jerry Remy was by our side with so many other survivors that I felt an immediate bond with. It was my first relay for life survivor lap. As we started walking, everyone was cheering for us along the track; so many emotions got to me. I was proud but also shocked still that I have been battling cancer for almost three years and what made me more overwhelmed with tears is the fact that some of my clinic friends couldn’t walk the survivor lap with me. Instead cancer took them away at such a young age; it is not fair at all. I missed them immensely while walking that survivor lap and they were all I could think about. They inspired me to keep walking that track. 

If anyone is reading my blogs I want them to know one thing: events such as relay for life do SAVE lives, the money raised is going to where it needs to be and every year it is helping for there to be more survivors like me. I know we all see fundraisers or donation boxes at restaurants/banks/stores and you might not know what it is going towards but I DO. It is the reason I’m here; it is the reason for more research leading to new medications and options for patients. Please next time you pass one just put a simple couple of quarters maybe even a dollar or two each time because it does add up and it can make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t want another person in this world to suffer from cancer, either being diagnosed themselves or someone they love being diagnosed. Relay for life is an amazing event that gives you an instant new outlook on life. In honor of Kaylee, Nahge, Leah, all the rest of my Jimmy Fund family, and my grandparents Frank and Barbara, I will continue to live for them and continue to walk in events like these for the rest of my life. And you can assume that these wonderful people I have lost through Cancer will live on in my memory, evoking my emotions every time I walk that survivor lap.

My cousins & I at the relay for life

I only have 11 more days of chemotherapy! June 27th is my last day followed by a bone marrow biopsy on the 28th!!! :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My new Youtube channel documenting my 100 days left of chemotherapy treatments! Feel free to watch & follow :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tackling Chemo

Sunday January 13th my friend Jen and I went to the Patriot’s playoff game against the Houston Texans! We met through clinic and past jimmy fund trips. She invited me to go with her and even though I just had a procedure and was starting a new chemo cycle, I said yes. I know how awful I feel during my two-week cycles but nothing was stopping me from first row in the end zone of a playoff game! In the past I’ve gone to many bruins and red sox games on chemo so I knew to pack my puke bucket and a ton of meds to get me through! Regardless of how bad chemo side effects are I try not to miss opportunities like this and I’m so glad I didn’t miss this game! When we arrived to Gillette stadium we were lucky the weather was nice, for January at least. When we got to our seats we couldn’t believe our view, every player was right there it was incredible! We took plenty of pictures that I’ll share throughout this post. Jen and I didn’t feel too sick during the game, which was a miracle.

              During the last quarter of the game a man came down to our seats then started talking to us. The Jimmy fund gave Jen the tickets so he asked which one was Jen and he introduced himself. We then find out it was former Patriots player Joe Andruzzi! Jen immediately also introduced me and told him how I’m also a cancer patient at Dana Farber with her. I think he wouldn’t have guessed because how much my hair has grown during my maintenance chemotherapy! He thought it was cool how we met through clinic and became friends because of our cancer diagnosis. In 2007, Joe himself was diagnosed and treated at Dana Farber and now has a foundation helping other cancer patients. He signed picture for us and even let us wear his super bowl ring, and those things are heavy! Since my phone died I asked if he would send me the pictures we took that day. Later on that night I texted him letting him know that not only was it awesome for us to meet a Patriot’s player but also, more importantly, another cancer survivor. Being a part of the Jimmy Fund provides me with opportunities to meet so many different well-known people but nothing compares to just meeting other cancer patients/survivors. The instant bond is unforgettable. Joe Andruzzi texted me back saying, “I’m glad I had time to get down and meet you both. Remember to take it 1 day at a time and stay positive. Keep smiling. Laughter is the best medicine. Stay Strong. God bless you both.”  He was extremely nice to us and made our day! He’s dedicated to his foundation that provides financial assistance for patients and their families, as well as funding pediatric brain cancer research. I hope everyone can look online and check it out! Donate if you can :)