WELL BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE,
It's been a while! And let me tell you, blogging isn't quite like the old "riding a bike" analogy. The struggle of starting back up again has been very real. Multiple times I've started writing, edited, erased, tried again, and shut my computer in frustration.
I think my previous attempts at writing this entry have failed because this next chapter carries a new element I haven't fully worked with before - being raw. Not raw vegan, but real, uncovered, honest, fully exposed..
"We all have a part of our story that is hard to write, but that is precisely what needs to be written."
- SO HERE I GO, BEING RAW -
It's funny because I've so often told myself, "Cancer has no hold on me" and "I am a beautiful badass who fears nothing." But I recently discovered all it takes to change that is sitting on a medical exam table, in a gown, open to the back, fully vulnerable, fully exposed.
It was this past Christmas break, the day after my 2 year-since-diagnosis-canciversary and I (for some unknown reason) scheduled myself some "check ups" to kill the celebratory vibe real quick. I was eager about the appointments because if all results were clear I would be able to get my port removed from my chest (what a freeing feeling that would be).
Unfortunately, that was not the case this time. The results revealed new little cysts/monsters growing... in both ovaries.
I'm not sure if it was the Christmas spirit or pure ignorance that led me to quiet my inner voice and carry on with the holly jolly theme, but I did a decent job at convincing myself somehow that I was not absolutely devastated.
The medical instruction was to follow up with another ultrasound in a month, which revealed that the cysts not only remained, but found a way to grow in a short amount of time. I tried to bury the devastation once more, but due to lack of Christmas spirit, it instead came out like wildfire (after a nice family dinner... perfect timing, right?). I felt embarrassed and isolated. I had no idea how much all of this raw emotion was impacting me. Eventually it became too much for me to push down or rationalize with, and no one knew how to help or what to say.
After another month went by, I eventually got around to swallowing my stubborn fears and went to the gynecologist... alone (huge mistake #1). I told myself it was nothing, so I prepared for nothing. I even decided to schedule this appointment before I took a quick cardiovascular pulmonary gastrointestinal pathology exam that afternoon at school (huge mistake #2).
As I sat there on the cold medical exam table, my hypothetically buried fears came to life. The doctor sitting across from me grabbed my shaking hands. She told me this was serious. She confirmed my worst case scenario. She told me I would need to freeze my eggs, remove my ovaries, treat menopause with synthetic hormones, and possibly go up against my second battle with ovarian cancer. From then on the noise in my head became too loud to hear much else.
I remember starring at the floral detail on the wall paper and wondering what my daughters nursery would look like some day or if I would ever have children or if I would live to be a mother, a wife, or a grandmother.
I remember the uncontrollable shake in my hands trying to keep the grasp of hers from letting go because letting go meant leaving the room and stepping out into a reality I didn’t know how to handle.
My "what if's" had become "what now's" and the distant reality that the future is not promised rang loudly, yet again.
- MOVING FOWARD -
When hardship arises life has a funny way of carrying on rather quickly for everyone and everything else around you, so I buckled down to complete the next two weeks of nine final exams and started the very familiar process all over again in my spare time - setting up oncology appointments, looking into fertility, talking about options, thinking about all of the repurcussionss of going into menopause at 23 years old. I went to back to back oncology appointments after taking my neuroanatomy final and turned around that night to study for two more finals the next day. It wasn't easy so I won't even pretend like it was. But I had everything I needed to get through what felt like the most impossible two weeks of my life. I had endless support from my family, to make me laugh, let me cry, and pray with me through the pain.
- THE PLAN -
After meeting with different gyn-oncology departments in Kansas City, we've come to the conclusion we're up against 3 separate but intertwined battles:
- POSSIBLE reoccurance of ovarian cancer
Unfortunately, there just is not a way to win all three. It requires prioritizing one very important thing over another very important thing. Ultimately, my health has to be number one because, without that, nothing else remains an option.
- Pre-op - Monday, May 1st to discuss PET scan results and determine what will all be removed in the open surgery
- Surgery - Wednesday, May 3rd at KU Med Center - will likely involve a 6 week recovery process
- IN THE MEANTIME -
As I work on acceptance, I still have waves of feeling like everything is being taken from me; my position in chiropractic school, my fertility, my chance of having my own child, my womanhood, my youth, and possibly my future. But none of that is truly "mine" to begin with. I am not entitled to any of those "my's." They're all just icing on the cake that gets taken for granted until its in jeopardy. I use to practice gratitude for the "extras" like a comfortable apartment, a cute puppy, or nice clothes, but I'm learning to place value in the ordinary, thought to be guaranteed parts of life we usually deem intangible. I find peace knowing that the organs can be removed from my body, the titles in my life can be taken away, and my days can be cut short - but nothing will touch the foundation of my being: my soul, my relationships, or my faith.
Something everyone asks is how Jeremy is handling it all - To say the least, we've had conversations no young boyfriend/girlfriend want to have with each other. Our decisions range from what to watch on TV to if adoption is something we will be comfortable with in the future. I am overwhelmingly blessed with a man of true character that is, and always has been, the calm to my storm. He has a way of silencing the noise around us with a sense of reliability and genuine love. It has not been easy and we're learning a lot about each other along the way, but we continually do what it takes to keep the joy alive, because each day with each other is a gift and we will not spend them in fear of the unknown that is to come.
I believe pain has a way of teaching us a humble, vulnerable, renewed version ourselves that the mundane will never meet. I've learned that through true devastation, when I hit my knees, something beautiful happens... I am free from all of the unnecessary. The pressure to be perfect is gone because I'm left with no other choice but to surrender control. It is not on my shoulders anymore to guide the path or make the right decisions of what to say, or how to act, or what to do. The petty part of life fades away as whats truly important takes the stage as I realize it's all in His hands, and learning that over again that covers me with peace.
I wasn't sure if I would share my "raw" but I've learned we must expose our wounds in order to heal them. Covering them up, band-aiding them only works for so long until they need air and light and a new way of being. I no longer am bothered by the chance of judgement that comes with displaying my journey at full exposure, because we all have parts of our story that are hard to tell. We all have a part of us we don't want people to see, something that wouldn't voluntarily go on our highlight reels of life on social media. But I want to share that part of me, even if it gets extremely uncomfortable to do at times.
I don't want easy. I don't want structured. I don't want planned. I don't want organized. I don't want everything to make sense. I don't want to chalk everything up with a fake smile. I want this crazy, broken, beautiful life God has given me. I want to feel it all and I want to feel it deeply. I want to shout it from the freaking rooftops that He saves.
Because even though I'm at a fork in the road that evokes a familiar pain and even though there is so much unknown left to endure - I feel even more alive, even more gratitude, and even more in awe of how beautiful the gift each new breath is.
It all became easier when I realized: We're all just walking each other home.
What happens on that walk together is up to us.
All my love,