Post-Radiation

I officially completed radiation therapy last Friday. I did 10 treatments total. I had to go in every day for two weeks excluding weekends. Each appointment is very quick. They radiate me in three different areas from the front and my sides. You lay on the table and the radiation machine rotates around you. The whole process only takes about 10 minutes. I explained a lot of the process in my last post so I won’t repeat myself. But, here is a helpful website and video I found about radiation therapy and how it works.

The doctor and radiologist told me that radiation has a cumulative effect. So as the treatments start to compound together, I won’t feel the side effects or benefits until up to 6 weeks after treatment has ended. I still have pain in my back but it’s nothing compared to what I was feeling before when I had to go to the emergency room.

I’m starting a new chemotherapy drug this week that is supposed to help with the bone metastasis. It’s supposed to make me really achy and sore. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. I’ll be continuing with my brentuximab treatments once every 3 weeks probably for the next year.

I start my job on September 16. I’ve slowly been moving my things to Rome. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had. But, the move has been making me and Justin clean out all of our junk, which is good. I’m excited to start working again, especially in the field that I was actually trained for. That usually never happens. It will be sad not being able to run errands in the middle of the day while everyone else is at work. But, still excited! I can’t wait for government benefits and to be off of Obamacare.

For Labor Day Weekend, Justin and I went to Asheville, North Carolina with a few of my friends. We got a nice AirBnb so there was plenty of space for the 5 of us to relax in the mountains. We all arrived at the house late on Friday night so we didn’t do much except play some games. The next day, the guys went on a crazy, difficult hike. Amanda and I stayed back with the dogs. We explored downtown Asheville and walked around a lot. We ate at this popular breakfast spot called the Over Easy Cafe. Everything we ordered was so good. We explored around the Grove Arcade (where I bought fudge) and found a really cute bee/honey store called the Asheville Bee Charmer. We also came across some arts and crafts markets. There’s a lot of people on the street doing live music, too.

Our Uber driver later on in the weekend told us that there’s a law that doesn’t allow any chains in the downtown area. The only chain restaurants that are currently downtown are only there because that’s where the chain started (Tupelo Honey Cafe and Chai Pani). You can’t close down the original. That’s why all of the restaurants are so good!

The people there are pretty nice too. There’s a very young, hipster vibe. All of the restaurants serve tofu and tempeh. Everyone brings their dog everywhere. People are so outdoorsy. And the weather was perfect all weekend!

We hung back at the AirBnb Saturday night and made a steak dinner to watch the UGA game. Go dawgs! Then, we played some more card games and called it a day. The guys were pretty tired from the 7 hour hike. Everyone passed out pretty much before 10 PM that night.

On Sunday, we cooked breakfast and headed out to go tubing. The river was so wide so everyone could spread out and it didn’t seem crowded at all. The scenery was so pretty and the water wasn’t that cold… once you got used to it. We got back, cleaned up, and headed out again. We explored some more of the downtown area while we waited on our dinner reservations at Chai Pani. There’s a lot of cute stores downtown and a lot of places to just hang out. I bought some tea, spices, honey, fudge, books, etc. Support small businesses! Another place we hung out for a while before dinner was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. We didn’t have any champagne. They also had coffee, wine, and other drinks. But, they had so many books and fancy special editions. You could also bring your dog there so there were a lot of cute pups there too. It’d be a nice place to do a happy hour and just relax.

After dinner, we went to Burial Beer Company since Asheville is known for their breweries. We caught some fireworks from the back porch there, too. Then, we walked down the street to the Wicked Weed Funkatorium, another brewery but they only had sours. Have you had a sour beer? It is… sour! Some of the beers were good. Others were way too sour for me. After that, we headed home and played BANG! until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.

On Monday, Justin and I had to head home earlier than the rest of the group. After breakfast and packing up the house, we went back downtown to walk around some more while the other half of the group took the dogs on a hike. The drive was only about 4 hours for us. But, the scenery was so nice we actually stopped at one of those scenic stops along the side of the highway to take some pictures. It was a nice weekend away before more moving and starting the new job.

The whole group in front of our AirBNB.

The whole group in front of our AirBNB.

In other news, I’m doing the LLS Light the Night Walk again this year. Here are some links for that.

To register to walk and be on my team, go here. The walk in Atlanta is at Centennial Olympic Park on October 8. Everything starts at 5 PM and the actual walk won’t begin until the sun goes down. There’s a good chance I’ll be speaking at the opening ceremony too. It’s a two mile walk and it’s family and pet friendly!

To donate to my team, go here.

To buy a team t-shirt, go here. Shirts will only be sold until September 16 so that there’s time to ship them and get them in time for the walk. So there’s ONLY 10 DAYS to order!

Thanks for the support everyone! Hoping for another big turnout this year!

~SL

Family Reunions and Tattoos

Since I didn’t have to start radiation until Monday, I decided to head up north to spend some time with my family. I had a trip planned already before I knew I would have to do radiation. Luckily, I booked with Southwest, so rearranging my dates wasn’t much of an issue. On Wednesday, my sister and I flew out from Atlanta to Baltimore. We had dinner and did some Pokemon hunting by the inner harbor. The next day we headed up to New York after breakfast.

Our first stop was my aunt’s house in Yonkers. My mom had filled my luggage with clothes for my grandma so I wanted to make sure I got rid of that as soon as possible. Luckily, my cousins were also there watching two of the kiddos, Leo and Avery, and my aunt was already home from work. My grandma is home all day, of course. My uncle is retired too. So it was already a full house. Three more of my cousins came over as they got off of work and we had a nice family dinner, while watching the boys.

The rest of the week and weekend was spent in Nanuet at my uncle’s house where my other cousins were visiting from San Francisco with their baby girl, Lyra. We hung around town on Friday and prepared for the family festivities on Saturday.

Lyra’s first birthday party was on Saturday and everyone came over to the house. There were so many babies! We had so much food too! My cousin, Vicky, and her fiancee, Ryan, also announced that they are having a baby girl due in January. It’s also my cousin, Victor’s, birthday next week. So, we had two ice cream cakes for him and Lyra. The steroids I’m on make me so hungry all the time so I ate everything… twice. Even after the barbecue, the kids wanted pizza. So we also ordered Pizza Hut… and White Castle. We always get White Castle when my cousin, Trang, comes up from Philly. It was crazy. And I ate everything. It was great.

I also got to talk to my cousin-in-law’s dad about his Myeloma. He’s already beat it once but he’s starting to get back pain just like I did. So we had a lot to talk about. It’s nice talking to other survivors who have similar experiences. He also had to do a stem cell transplant and I got to ask him what radiation was like. Please keep him in your thoughts as he goes through all the testing and processes to figure out what’s going on with his back pain and elevated blood counts. He’s been a survivor for so long and we need to keep it that way!

Since I had so much space in my luggage without all of my grandma’s clothes, I was also able to bring home a lot of food. I brought back 10 bagels for myself from my favorite place in the world, the Rockland Bakery. Best bagels ever! Sorry, Nyack Hot Bagels. I wish I could have brought home more. Ugh and so cheap. My mom also made me haul home 15 frozen baos for her. I got searched at security because of those. I also had 2 dozen of my aunt’s almond cookies that she always makes for me. So good!

Visiting Grandpa and Cau Dung.

Visiting Grandpa and Cau Dung.

Pictures with Grandma before leaving.

Pictures with Grandma before leaving.

I love going home. I love being in a loud, crowded house full of food and laughing babies. Family really is the best medicine. I wish I lived closer to them all the time. But, I know I’m pretty lucky to have such a big, supportive family. Even though they’re all across the country, they’re the best support system I could ever ask for. I can’t wait to go back.

Group picture. Still missing some.

Group picture. Still missing some.

I started radiation on Monday (yesterday). It’s… scary. I think it’s worse for me because of my fear of robots. Everyone at the cancer center is really nice though. I’m definitely the youngest patient there. But, everything runs very efficiently and I’m in and out in no time at all. Yesterday, my appointment took about 30 minutes, which is considered long, because they had to take some more scans and adjust the lasers and stuff.

When I get into the treatment room, they have my leg mold on the table. I just nestle myself into the mold and lay down on the table. Today, I didn’t even have to change into a gown so that cut down on some time too. They line you up with where they’ve marked your body for your treatment area. The first day, they marked me up and took pictures. This is so they know exactly how to set you up when you come in if there are different nurses and radiologists working.

Once they leave the room, the machine starts up. It’s so scary. Also, the room is dark so that doesn’t help. You just see these green lasers. But, those are the ones to align you. You don’t see the actual radiation beams. The machine is huge and it rotates around your body so you don’t actually have to move. It’ll zap me from the top. You know when they’re zapping you because it makes that loud, buzzing noise like when someone buzzes you into an apartment. Then, the arm rotates around and does my right side. Then, it rotates around again and zaps me from my left side. It’s so creepy. But, that’s it. It lasts like a whole ten minutes.

They said since I’m being radiated around my stomach, I’ll have some nausea and more frequent bowel movements. I have to go every day for 10 days, not including weekends. Since it’s a relatively short treatment, I shouldn’t get those radiation burns or skin irritations like other people do with longer treatments.

The treatment area on my abdomen.

The treatment area on my abdomen.

Left side mark ups.

Left side mark ups.

Right side mark ups.

Right side mark ups.

I also got my first tattoo! Not what you think. Once they find the treatment area and where the radiation beams have to go, they tattoo you in those spots so they don’t have to mark you every time. After my first treatment, I got five tattoos. They’re just little dots. I have three on my abdomen and one on each side. I always thought about getting a tattoo. I guess at least these have meaning to them now. Maybe I can make them into flowers when I’m done. But, even just the dots hurt, so I don’t think I could do it.

Tiny dot tattoos. I have two more on the sides too.

Tiny dot tattoos. I have two more on the sides too.

My radiation oncologist said I wouldn’t start feeling the side effects until next week. Right now, I just feel really tired after treatment. Who knew that getting zapped with lasers could make you so sleepy? But, I’m trying to power through because I have a lot to do before I start my new job on September 16. Yay!

I’d also like to give a shout out here to Jason, Amanda, Andrea, and Tricia for giving me rave recommendations for my job interview. You guys are awesome and I couldn’t have done it without you! I’m so lucky to have such supportive friends, managers, and supervisors who really care about where I end up. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm moving!

I’m moving! Holla if you want to send me stuff.

I also have a double treatment day this week on Thursday. I have chemo in the morning and radiation in the afternoon. Sounds crazy. We’ll see how that goes.

One last thing. I’ve agreed to be a story teller at this year’s LLS Atlanta Light the Night Walk on October 8th! This is the largest crowd I’ve spoken in front of since my high school graduation. They’re expecting 10,000 people and I hope to see all of your lovely faces in the crowd! You can donate to my fundraising page here. You can join me and my Remedy for Remedi team on the walk by registering here. I’ll be unveiling a new team shirt design by the lovely Crystal Petersen at the beginning of the month, so be on the lookout for that so you can order yours and represent from wherever you are!

It’s been a crazy few days. It’ll probably be crazy for a while. Let’s do this!

~SL

Radiating

I’m officially past my 100 days post-transplant. The pain in my lower back was getting really bad. I ended up in the emergency room for it. They were finally able to see on a CT scan that there was a tumor growing against my spine. So my oncologist decided it was time to look into radiation. They sent me home with painkillers and steroids.

Today, I had my consultation with radiation. We went over medical history in depth and watched a really boring video about how radiation works and what the process was going to be like. I also met my radiation oncologist and she went over everything with me again. It was one of those nice doctor talks where you actually understood everything she says. I like her.

We did a simulation after that. This is when they put you into a CT machine to take some final measurements of the tumors so they can consult with the treatment team about how to approach the tumors. They also made an air mold of my legs so that I can stay still during treatment. That was weird. Now, when I come in, they just put my mold down on the table and I just get in. The radiologist also marked where they would be pointing the lasers. So, I have 3 x’s on my stomach.

We’ll be starting with 10 treatments, everyday for 2 weeks Monday-Friday. Each appointment is very short though and only lasts like 30 minutes. Radiation is very quick. They said to expect some nausea and fatigue with a bit of a sunburn. Everyone survivor I talked to said radiation was much better than chemo though. I’ll still be continuing the brentuximab too.

My first radiation treatment begins on Monday. So I decided to take a quick trip to New York this upcoming weekend to visit my grandma and spend time with my family before everything gets started up. That’s pretty much it for my cancer treatment at this point.

My sister has been home since she just graduated. We took a family trip with Justin last weekend to Chattanooga. We mostly walked around a lot and ate at some good restaurants. We took a lot of pictures. Chattanooga is so scenic. Everything is so pretty! But, it was a quick drive from Atlanta and it was nice to get away for a bit. We stayed at a really cute AirBNB with a really dangerous driveway.

This past month, I’ve also been interviewing for a job. I had my first interview before I went to Baltimore. I had my second interview when I got back from Baltimore. After getting fingerprinted and passing my background check, I was given an official offer. Starting on September 16, I will be a training and development specialist for District 1-1 of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

It’s been over a year since I graduated. I have been waiting to finally use my degree. Everyone told me I was paranoid about not being able to find a job after going through all this treatment. I guess they were right. But, it’s hard for me to get too excited about this because last time I got excited about graduating and starting work, I got cancer. Fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong.

But, I am excited to start working again, especially in emergency preparedness. It’s exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated. It’ll be nice to have something in my life that doesn’t revolve around cancer.

So, there are a lot of things happening right now. It’s exciting. It’s scary. I’ll let you know how it goes.

~SL

100+

Yesterday, I reached 100 days post-transplant. That’s the safe period where I had to be in isolation and on a neutropenic diet. But, my doctors weren’t too worried about me. My oncologist let me fly to Baltimore for my sister’s graduation from nursing school. I just had to be smart about it, wearing a mask in crowded places and on the plane.

I think traveling went pretty well. I was very paranoid every time I heard a sneeze or a cough. I also got tired really quickly. The Atlanta airport is LARGE. Our gate was all the way at the end of the terminal. We had to get wheelchair assistance for my dad since he’s still wobbly. Our wheelchair assist person walked SO FAST. I guess it was good exercise, but it wore me out just walking through the airport.

Baltimore was very hot. My sister took us to places that were either outdoors with fresh air or large so that we wouldn’t be on top of other people. Her graduation was pretty quick, which is always nice. She ended up being the very last person called because she got out of her seat and they wouldn’t let her back in. She officially has her Bachelors of Science in Nursing, not officially a registered nurse yet. Yay!

We also had a quick stint in Washington, DC because my dad really wanted to go to the Air and Space Museum. We never do things that dad wants to do. So we did it. We also went to a Viet shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA afterwards for some lunch. It was a quick trip, but it was good.

My cousin, Nick, also visited me the weekend before we went to Baltimore. He said he just needed a getaway. He knew I couldn’t do much. We just hung out and went Pokemon hunting. All of my younger cousins are becoming so grown up! I feel so old. But, it was nice to have family in town. He also drove us everywhere, which was a plus because it’s so uncomfortable having a port with a seatbelt across your chest.

Other than that, I haven’t been up to much. I’m excited to be able to go out and do things again. I miss grocery shopping. It’s not the same making a list and having my mom go for me. I can’t wait to eat raw sushi, soft cheeses, and soft serve ice cream again! I can’t wait to go to Target! I miss Target. I think those are on the top of my list.

I have my 3rd cycle of brentuximab next week. My sister is also coming home for a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll be going to New York for a week to see my family, the new babies, and celebrate Lyra’s very first birthday! August should be a good month. Things are looking up! Yay!

I will leave you with some pictures of me and my sister in Baltimore.

Pokemon hunting on top of Federal Hill with a view of the Inner Harbor.

Pokemon hunting on top of Federal Hill with a view of the Inner Harbor.

Following dad around the Air and Space Museum.

Following dad around the Air and Space Museum.

~SL

Recovery Recap

This week has been rough. However, compared to my first ICE treatment, I think it has gone a lot better. My doctor adjusted my pre-chemo anti-nausea meds so I didn’t get as sick this time around. By the third day of chemo, I was still feeling pretty horrible. They gave me the really strong stuff, Phenergan, on the third day of chemo and on my fourth day of fluids. I was knocked out the entire time. Phenergan is good because I just fall asleep the whole time. But, then I wake up all drowsy and disoriented. I go home and sleep for hours. It takes forever to wear off. And when it does, I just feel nauseous again. Plus, the neulasta shot burns so badly when they stick me with the needle. I guess that’s the trade off with the Phenergan. I’m so drowsy that I don’t feel the pain as much.

The bone pain from the neulasta shot kept me up last night. But, I just popped some pills when I woke up and it was manageable for the rest of the. I really think that bone marrow biopsy last time was a big part of my pain. Thank goodness I didn’t have any of that again. Bone marrow is still clean! I don’t know if I mentioned those results last time.

I had an awesome caregiver team this week. I totally forgot to bring lunch on my first, long day of treatment. Lucky that my best friend, Kelsey, came through and didn’t let me starve. And, of course, her mom took me home twice. My line sister, Holly, drove all the way from Lawrenceville and took a half day from work to take me home from treatment. I was feeling well enough to grab lunch with her and she even bought me cheesecake. Yum! My grandlittle, Jaleesa, and little, Tracy, took me to and from my fluids treatment right after Tracy got in from New York. Then, I got greeted by 3 more of my sorority sisters from UNCC after I got done with getting fluids (GGlil Pamela, Camarin, and Ann). I felt so bad because I was so drowsy from the Phenergan. They all wanted to get pictures with me. I felt like a celebrity! Definitely a lot of love this week.

I should be getting a PET scan in a couple weeks. If the tumors are small enough, I’ll be transferring my treatment over to the bone marrow transplant center. If they’re not down to a good size yet, I’ll have to do one more 5 hour ICE chemo session. I haven’t scheduled the PET scan yet, but fingers crossed!

I’ve already been bouncing back from treatment, which is surprising because it’s only been a few days. I think it’s really good because I’m keeping active. I slept a lot on Friday, probably 80% of the day. But, I went on a fun double date on Saturday night with Christine, JR, and Justin. Tacos, gummy bears, and Black Mirror. What more do you need for a fun, yet relaxing, night? Yay! Glad I got to see JR and Christine before they left for Vietnam!

I got to finally explore Ponce City Market today with Justin. I was a little tired and sore from the neulasta. But, walking around and getting fresh air makes me feel better. Good thing he was there to pull me up the stairs and keep me from falling. That’s always good. It was very windy, so we literally went into every store just to keep from freezing. PCM just reminded me of a wannabe Chelsea Market with a wannabe Eataly and everything. But, I guess that’s the New York City snob in me. Still a nice addition to Atlanta.

I wanted to end this post by asking everyone who is reading this to keep a new friend, Christina, in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow. I met her a while back in Athens when we were out with friends. She is also 26 and recently diagnosed with cancer. She begins her first chemo treatment tomorrow. She is so positive and so strong. Talking to her this past week has even given me the energy and strength to keep fighting. Her attitude is just amazing. Another young, cancer survivor beginning her battle and I’m so happy that we have found each other for support. So, please send her some positive vibes tomorrow. She already has such a massive support system behind her and seeing all the love just reminds me of how lucky I am to have my support system behind me, as well. Her hashtag is #IStandWithTeena or #WeStandWithTeena.

Until my PET scan, I don’t really have much happening. So there may be a lack of updates. But, you all will be the first to know once all the PET scan stuff happens! Thank you again to everyone who has been checking in with me and making sure I’m ok. I really couldn’t do it without all of you! Love, love, love <3

~SL

Post-Holiday Coma

Christmas and New Year’s went by so quickly this year. Maybe it was because it was like 80 degrees in Georgia. Christmas is always small with my family. I miss being in New York with the extended family. Now, everyone has babies and I’m missing out! We didn’t do much. I made my traditional Christmas morning breakfast for everyone. We opened presents. Then, we watched Inside Out, Divergent, and Insurgent. We refused to let my mother make us watch another Lifetime Christmas movie. My sister made a nice Christmas dinner and that was it. My mom took us shopping the next day because she didn’t actually get us any gifts. She claims she doesn’t know what to buy for us.

Christmas with the Family

I spent New Year’s Eve with my friends. We had a chili cook off. There were 5 competitors and a lot of food! I think we all wanted to take a nap afterwards. But, to make it to the countdown, we played a card game called Werewolf. It’s basically like a fancy version of Mafia. I didn’t make chili. But, I made a peach cobbler for the first time. I didn’t get to try it but I heard good reviews. After I got home, I spent some time on the phone with my drunk, long distance best friends. It was a good way to end the night.

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NYE with the gang

I spent these past couple off chemo weeks catching up with a lot of friends who were in town for the holidays. I’m so glad everyone was willing to make the trek to my side of town to hang out with me. I know I live kind of far from everyone. So thanks to Sunny, Hudson, Christian, Pam, Sean, Nicole, Josh, my Rhos, grandbiggie and family, my Doc Fam line, and Justin for spending time with me during my good weeks. Sorry if I missed anyone. It was a busy couple weeks.

My sister was also in town for a couple weeks. We did a lot of stuff. We went to another sip and stroke class, ate lots of sushi, hung out with her high school and college friends, went to the giant Sweet Hut in Duluth, and probably a lot more.

Our New Year's paintings.

Our New Year’s paintings.

She left on New Year’s Day and took my grandmother back to New York with her. Grandma has been having more dementia episodes lately. I literally had to pick her up on the side of the road one day. She left because she said she had to walk to some office so “the people” would take her to redo her dentures. She also threw a plastic bag of pine straw into the bushes before she would get into my car. Later when we got home, she was going crazy looking for that plastic bag because she said there was money in it. My sister and I went back to find the bag. It was just filled with pine straw. So, she’s back in New York with my family there for a while. I wonder if she’ll come up with different stories up there.

I start my second and final round of ICE chemotherapy tomorrow. I’ll have chemo on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I’ll get my neulasta shot and probably some fluids on Friday. I hope this time will be better since I don’t have a bone marrow biopsy right after. I also hope that they’ve increased my pre-med anti-nausea meds so that I don’t feel so crappy.

My hair has begun to fall out so much more than the first time I did chemo. The entire left side of my head was basically bald because that’s the side I sleep on. I spent 30 minutes each morning lint rolling my pillows because the hair was everywhere. I didn’t even want to wash my hair because it just made a huge mess in the shower. So I finally gave in today and had my aunt shave my head. No more clean up! Now, I just need to get some more hats and maybe another wig, just because wigs are fun.

New year, new hairstyle. Or no hairstyle?

New year, new hairstyle. Or no hairstyle?

I’m so glad that 2015 is over. It was definitely a very difficult year for me and my family. Not only was I diagnosed with cancer, but my dad was in the hospital for 3 months, my foster grandmother passed away, and my mom was robbed at gun point at work. It has been crazy! But, there were also a lot of good things that happened. I got to see Alton Brown live, Kelly Clarkson, PTX, and Boyz II Men. I graduated from my MPA program. I saw two of my sorority sisters get married (one of which I got to be part of the bridal party). I ran my first 15K and half marathon. I still got to go to New York at least once for my spring break. I went to Minneapolis twice. I planned my last DPhiL National Convention. Despite all of the craziness, there were still a lot of great memories made. Best of all, I’m still alive. Still fighting, but still alive and that’s all that matters.

Happy New Year! Love you all!

~SL

One More Time!

It’s time to celebrate!

I had a wonderful pre-chemo weekend. When I left the LLS office on Wednesday, my supervisor advised me to spend the weekend having fun with all of my friends and family before I had to start treatment again. I would say it was a success! I love my friends!

The weekend started with our Friendsmas potluck. I made a really good apple crisp. I also brought a box of assorted alcohol for my white elephant gift. It was stolen once, so I consider that a desirable gift. Win! I also won one round in Cards Against Humanity. That’s also a win for me because no one ever picks my cards.

Everyone at our Friendsmas Celebration!

Everyone at our Friendsmas Celebration!

The next day, we went to do some holiday volunteering at MedShare, a non-profit organization that takes surplus medical supplies and ships them to third-world countries. It was tiring because we were on our feet the whole time. It was cool because we were sorting catheters. It sounds gross, but it’s interesting to me since I have one inside of my body at all times. That sounds weird too. We even found the surgical trays that the doctors actually use to place my Power Port. I wonder how they became surplus. I was very amused to see what they used in my surgery and what’s inside of me. Creepy! Oh and then we had Korean BBQ afterwards. I ate a lot considering how low my appetite has been, which is good.

This is what I have inside of me! I have this booklet.

This is what I have inside of me! I have this booklet.

Power Port surgical kit.

Power Port surgical kit.

This morning I had coffee with one of my old high school friends, Sarah. I love catching up with her because we always have so much to talk about, even after years of not seeing each other. She’s always checking in on me still. She and her parents parents have been so supportive of me throughout everything. They are all around amazing people.

Then, one of my favorite couples (JR and Christine) took me out for Italian food at one of our favorite restaurants, Provino’s. They have these crazy good garlic rolls. I brushed my teeth and rinsed with mouthwash, but I can still taste the garlic. So good. We ended the meal with this delicious panna cotta too. Nom. It was like my last supper before chemo wipes out my taste buds.

Not only did I get to hang out with a bunch of my friends, but I was super productive. Since I have no income, I made a lot of my Christmas gifts. So, I finished all of those. I also finished all of the actual Christmas shopping that I had to do. I finished all of my financial aid applications, which makes me feel like I’m in school again. I mailed some gifts. I fixed the Netflix app on my Smart TV that my dad bought me in preparation for my post-transplant isolation. My mom and I also did a test run on getting to my cancer center since she’s going to be dropping me off in the mornings. My cancer center is on her way to work, but she’s not that great of a driver so we had to do a test run so she doesn’t get lost.

My line sister and her husband (Amanda and Michael) gave me this adorable card wishing me well on my next round of treatment. One of my other sorority sisters mentioned me in one of her YouTube videos, which prompted a bunch of strangers to donate to my new GoFundMe page. The new page was set up by my best friends to try to ease some of the financial burdens for when my deductible starts over in the New Year. Stem cell transplants don’t come cheap! My best friend, Kelsey, volunteered to take me home from treatments over her lunch breaks. Her mom also called to remind me that she’s also available to help out, too. So nice! And my little bro, Josh, volunteered to take me to my Day 4 appointment for my Neulasta shot. So I’ve gotten lots and lots of support over the last couple weeks, which I really need because starting this new round of chemo is still super scary. Thank you to everyone who has been reaching out. It is much needed and appreciated.

One last thing before I go. The other day I came across someone on Facebook who had posted a status that deeply offended me. This wasn’t the first time she’s posted something like this either. It said something along the lines of illnesses, such as, cancer, diabetes, and obesity are caused by a poor lifestyle and eating habits so people should just eat better and take care of their bodies in order to avoid getting these diseases. Yes, that is true in some cases or specific types of diabetes and types of cancers. But, there’s not just one reason that something happens. There are genetic pre-dispositions and environmental effects. Some causes are still unknown, even to the best doctors and researchers. For you to just roll everything up into one simple solution just because you got your degree in dietetics or nutrition or some shit does not mean you’ve found the cure all for every disease.

Yes, people should take care of their bodies. But, don’t you dare tell me that I brought this upon myself. I have had my fair share of kale breakfast smoothies, salads, salmon and black bean quinoa burgers. Yes, I indulged in fast food sometimes. But, I wasn’t eating cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and milkshakes for every meal every day. I was playing tennis, going to the gym regularly for yoga and weight lifting. I was running. And let’s be for real. No one likes running. I think in the past year I’ve run at least two 5K’s, one 10K, one 15K, and a half marathon, plus all of my training. Even all of my doctors were shocked to find out that I had cancer because I was so healthy.

You can’t oversimplify the cause of a disease. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t be sick! Don’t you dare tell me that this is my fault and that I didn’t take care of myself! I think people should do a little more research or specify when making such assumptions that can offend people. You’re not a doctor. You’re not an oncologist. You have no idea what it is like to be a cancer patient. You have no right to oversimplify my disease and make it sound like it was self-inflicted. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Day 1 of my 3 consecutive days of ICE chemo starts tomorrow. It’s going to be a very long treatment (5-6 hours). Wish me luck!

~SL

Round 5

I am so tired.

Chemo #5 went pretty smoothly. It felt like it flew by, but I think it was because I was asleep the whole time. It was my last treatment in Athens. The nurses said they would miss me because I’m always laughing and I have “sassy hair.” My blood counts were lower than usual though. Maybe that explains why I’m so hot and dizzy all the time. But, no problems with my port this time. Yes!

I’m not sure if I’ll miss getting treatments in Athens. They don’t allow visitors. My nurses were nice though. I didn’t really get to know many of the other patients because they were all so much older. We all kept to ourselves, except that one loud, obnoxious dude. Maybe there will be younger people at my new cancer center. But, that’s kind of sad… more young, cancer patients. Who wishes for that? Me! I want a friend…

I felt so tired afterward. I had been in the hospital with my dad for the past ten days before my treatment. He was doing well recovering at home until yesterday. He started vomiting a lot so I took him back to the ER this morning. He’s in the ICU now. They’re trying to get his pancreas inflammation under control… again. He’s got 3 IVs in him! That’s crazy…. and gross. I hate medical things. Hopefully, he’ll be out in a couple days and not another 10. Fingers crossed.

My friend, Tariq, and I improvised some plans for the 4th of July. We went to the park to watch our town’s 3rd of July celebration. On the 4th, we had dinner at Tokyo Bay for my boo’s (Christine’s) birthday. It rained that night, so I just stayed home… on my favorite holiday of the year.

This post is all over the place. I blame chemo brain.

This is also my last week in Athens. I’ve got the moving truck reserved for this Sunday… and no one to drive it. I don’t know how I’m going to move… I have a crew in Athens ready to help. I’ve got a crew in Kennesaw ready to help. But, how to move the things from Athens to Kennesaw…? I’ll be driving my car full of stuff. And even if I did drive the truck, I’d need someone to drive me back to Athens to get my car. I’m just thinking out loud because I don’t know what to do. Help me. I’m so tired.

I think the side effects are getting worse and worse. Or maybe it’s because I’m stressed with my dad being in the hospital, having to move, and other work that I volunteered for. My body hurts so much… everywhere. My mother wanted to go to the mall last weekend, so I drove her and my grandmother to go shopping and left my dad to rest quietly at home. I was moving so slowly. My legs hurt so badly. And I was getting light headed just walking around.

My taste buds are changing. Everything tastes like crap, even my beloved mac and cheese. I tried! It makes me not want to eat anything. My skin is getting so dry. And my mouth. And my fingernails look disgusting, like they’re rotting. I told my sister I’m killing myself to save myself. She said that should be the name of my autobiography. I’m sure it’s already taken though.

I drove straight home after a one hour nap after chemo. My dad had a doctor’s follow up the next morning and no one else could take him. I couldn’t make it the whole way. I stopped halfway and my amazing lil sis, Jessica/Inertia, took me out for dinner. We sat there talking until the restaurant closed and kicked us out. It was great!

My lil bro, Josh/Dumbbell, treated me to dinner this week too. He let me choose So Kong Dong, but I don’t think he even likes tofu soup. My littles are the best. (You too, Anthem!)

I sound fucking crazy right now. Probably because I was at the hospital all day on 4 hours of sleep. Kelsey picked me up from the hospital to take me home on her way home from work. I met my mom at home and she drove us both back to the hospital. I had to test her to see if she knew where she was going. It was so scary. If you know my mother and her driving, you understand.

Our awesome neighbor stopped by yesterday. She said she noticed our grass was getting crazy and that my dad looked really thin. I told her what had been going on so she had her lawn care people take care of our lawn too. How nice!

My cousins sent me a care package. I think my favorite thing in there is this horse hand puppet. He’s so cute! I should name him.

I got my largest medical bill so far. It was for over $3,000. I don’t even think it was for chemo. I think it was for the echo I got back in May before I even started treatment.

I didn’t even bother to organize this post. Now, you can really see how crazy my brain is on chemo. This is how I think. Except, I can’t really remember things. So it takes me longer to type one sentence because I forget what I’m talking about.

Let’s see what pictures I have from the last time I posted.

2015-07-08 11.10.58

Chemo #5 selfie.

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3rd of July beer while waiting for fireworks. I don’t think I’m supposed to drink. But, I self-imposed a 2 beer limit on non-chemo weeks.

I’m so tired. Good night.

~SL

Oh and I just listened to this Kelly Clarkson song that made me feel better. I thought I’d share.

“No one hears silent tears collecting.”

Farewell, 2014! Hello, 2015!

2014. What can I say? It was filled of weddings. I went to a total of 7 weddings this past year. I was originally planning for 4. At least they were all spread out. I was part of one wedding party officially as a bridesmaid for my best friend. I did the reading for my cousin, April’s, wedding. And, of course, with any family member, you’re always involved in planning and helping out the day of. My sister and I also did rap remakes at the receptions for our cousins, Amy and April. Amy and Chris got a remake of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. Too bad there wasn’t a video for that one. April and James got a remake of Baby Got Back. Shital’s wedding was my first Indian wedding. Since I was a bridesmaid, I got the whole package with henna and all of the Indian outfits. It was basically a three-day wedding. Very cool! I also went to my first Kenyan wedding. There were also a lot of interesting, cultural traditions. And yummy Kenyan food! Also went to my first Thai wedding. They do a water ceremony for blessings on the new couple. The outfits were so regal! It was nice that all of the weddings I went to were so different and unique. Next year, I only have one wedding lined up so far. I’m excited because I have the honor of being a bridesmaid. Yay!

Going to all of these weddings not only made me super poor, but they also taught me a lot about love and the kind of love I want for myself. I think the most important lessons about love and relationships I learned is that everything is a two way street. Relationships can’t work if one person is giving more than the other. There has to be compromise and mutual decisions and understanding. Relationships matters should only be kept between the two people involved. Everyone outside of your relationship should just think that everything is great. Problems should be resolved amongst the two of you without involving everyone else. Not only does that make other people think negatively about your relationship, but it doesn’t help the two of you become stronger in solving your own problems. Luckily, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve accepted that I will probably never get married. So, I have nothing to worry about!

I feel like I didn’t get to travel that much this year. I still went to New York four times. Twice for family weddings. Once for my cousin’s bridal shower. Once for Thanksgiving. I went to Orlando four times. I only flew once so I got really used to that solo 7-hour drive. At least I don’t have to do that anymore. I went to Miami for my best friend’s bachelorette. It affirmed my decision that I hate Miami. But, I still had a good time with the girls for her send off into married life. I also took a weekend trip to Oxford, Mississippi to visit my line sister. There’s not much to do there, but we had a good time together. I took two cabin trips, one in the north Georgia mountains and one in Helen, GA. The one in March for my sorority sister’s birthday was my first! I also went to Chicago for the first time for my sorority Convention. It was great! I want to end up there one day.

I didn’t get anything crossed off of my bucket list. I did run my two 5K’s and my first 10K in preparation for my half marathon in February. Shout out to my running buddy, Hudson, for helping me stay on track and train with me! Such a bad idea. I suppose I didn’t focus much on my list because I was busy with weddings and school. I think I mentioned this before, but in graduate school, full-time is 9 hours. This entire year, I took 15 hours both semesters. I completed my disaster management certificate. I also completed my Community Emergency Response Team training and joined UGA’s Medical Reserve Corps. I interned with the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation, The American Red Cross, and the Northeast Health District Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. I got all A/A-‘s. I also exceeded my goal of raising $250 for the American Lung Association for my 25th Birthday Fundraiser!

I received and accepted an offer for a one year fellowship program with the National Nuclear Security Administration that starts after I graduate on June 1. So I will have a salary, benefits, and not be homeless after graduation! Mission accomplished… contingent upon my federal security clearance. Fingers crossed.

There were also some rough moments of 2014, expectedly. The end of a relationship I thought would have lasted longer. The loss of an old high school friend. The loss of a close friend’s mother. My costochondritis during my 25th birthday. Injuring my ankle and having to take a few months off from running. Managing volunteers, data applications, and public financial management. My first maymester class for geographic information sciences. But, no home robberies or car break-ins this year!

2015 has a lot going on already. I’ll be turning 26. I’ll be graduating from school. I’ll start my new job on June 1. I’ll be celebrating the marriage of my two dear friends Amanda and Michael. I also want to plan an overseas trip for the weeks between graduation and starting the fellowship. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll also be going to Las Vegas at some point and going on a cousins trip somewhere. I’m excited that I’ll only be taking 9 hours during my last semester. I feel like I’ll have a lot of time and 5 days weekends.

As for resolutions, I have one that kind of encompasses everything I want to do. That is, to take better care of myself, mentally, emotionally and physically. That includes eating right, exercising more, not letting people’s opinions get to me (especially my super judgmental parents), not losing myself in an unhealthy relationship, not wasting my time on useless and mindless activities, etc. I didn’t blog as much this year either. So, I guess I could resolve to do that more. But, I don’t know how interested people are in reading about my life. Maybe I’ll just keep my own, handwritten journal.

As for the 2014 resolutions I made, I think I did a good job with them. But, I think they can still be improved upon. I did take more pictures of people than food. I was actually struggling to find enough food pictures for the introduction of my recap video. I also did a better job of taking more videos of things, hence why my recap video is longer this year. I wish I did take more videos of things. Either way, I hope you enjoy my video recap of 2014! Let’s see what excitement 2015 will bring!

Shout outs to Jessica W. and Michael L. because I stole pictures from you both for the video. I think those were the only two people…

Cheers!

Cheers to 2015! And to a successful hand at a bold eye with a nude, matte lip.

 

~SL