Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2nd BMT Birthday!

So today is my 2-year BMT birthday! I'll share some exciting things that my dear friends have done for me the last few days, but first I'd like to share this picture I took yesterday afternoon. 

I was sitting outside the Goodyear Polymer building, waiting for my friends to pick me up. There was a brisk wind blowing, which was almost cold. It lifted my hair, and blew it into my face. I was just so immensely thankful at that instant. This was my own hair. It's been forever since I've had to wipe hair out of my face. I felt the wind, and all around me I was reminded that spring is nearly here. A new season for living things is about to begin.  The greenery is visible once again.  The sky was so. very. beautifully. blue. 
I remembered back to two-years ago; I could only see this teeny little patch of sky, by craning my neck out of the window.  My world had been reduced to four drab walls.  Eventually, when I moved to Seidman I had a gorgeous view of the sky, and could see the sun setting over Cleveland every night.  But I still didn't feel the wind.  The air was always still, always tainted with the nauseating smells of food, or the metallic odors of the medications.  The only movement was the air forced into the room, from a vent atop my bed.  I remember the day I was discharged; even though it was early May, that day was close to 90°F, which to my struggling body was the perfect temperature.  I remember sitting out on the labyrinth in front of Seidman, and just feeling the gentle warm breeze cover my bald head. 
Yesterday was a perfect day.  I have two huge tests this Friday, so by perfect I do not mean easy.  I still had all my classes, got back a quiz, turned in five different homeworks, and studied for my tests.  I think I just felt so thankful for where I was.  Thankful that I had tests to study for.  Thankful that I was able to complete all that homework.  Thankful I had been able to be in class when the pop quiz was given. 
My friends Annie and Jake invited me to grab some food at our friend Cody's house, before our thermo class.  I'm so glad I went with them, and with our friend Craig.  I had my first green eggs, and delicious green waffles.  After class, Annie, Jake and I paused up on the 5th floor, by the window and looked out on the campus.  In that moment I was so thankful that I was flanked by two amazing friends; I had been so scared for thermo, as it is known to be hard, but even more scared to face it without knowing anyone.  Having Annie and Jake with me in that class has just been the most incredible thing, as we study and work together.   

After thermo I headed to my normal Tuesday evening Bible study. I was surprised to see my friend Ean there early, as he normally doesn't arrive till later. But we were just chatting, till Sharon called. As we spoke, I suddenly saw a big bunch of balloons coming down the long hallway, and I knew it was her. She had driven all the way from med school, bearing cupcakes, balloons, and Reese's, to surprise me for my 2-yr! She had been in communication with Ean, who had also notified the Bible study group. In that moment, I was so surprised and overwhelmed by my friends. Two years ago I was friends with Sharon but not very close. I knew Ean, but we weren't really friends. I would never have dreamed that Sharon would be like a sister to me, or that Ean would become such a good friend, or that I would be blessed to have a whole new group of friends through a Bible study!

 Two years ago I remember being in a hospital room. Probably puking my guts out as usual. The chemo for the week prior to my BMT was incredibly hard. Every day they were trying to wipe my entire system clean, and I felt it. I remember thinking about what would happen if the BMT didn't work. There was only a 50% chance that it would. I've met people for whom it hasn't. It was a Sunday then, and I remember wondering if I would ever again be involved in church; would I ever play an offertory again, or accompany a congregation. I remember the team who came to give me my BMT. My PA Linda, and nurse practioner Kristen, plus my oncology floor nurse, and an extra nurse. While Linda and Kristen concerned themselves with the actual administration of the cells, the nurses assisted me, as I was retching like never before, or since. They had wet washcloths, and tried to make me comfortable. My child life Angela was there, and read to my siblings from a book about BMT, and then took them to get snacks, games, and generally kept them occupied.
Two years later I'm sitting in the computer lab as I write this. I just finished three classes this morning. Next to me is Neil, my best friend Sharon's youngest brother. I was so sad to lose her to med school last fall, but Neil has become a close friend and confidante, as we travel the waters of college together, through both the ups and down, joys and sadness in our lives. I'm halfway thorough my halfway semester of college. I'm overwhelmed by how far God has brought me, and his amazing mercy and grace in preserving my life for Him!

 Pictures Milestones

100 Days!

1-yr BMT

January 2015


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come!

I know it’s been quite a while since I posted; Thank you to the many people who pray and encourage me, and I know I owe you an update. Also, this is like the fourth time I've come to edit this post, so I guess it’s time to just post it. So here it is.

As far as the cancer goes, I am now approaching 2-years since my BMT (March 18th, 2013)! While I'm so grateful to be cancer free, there are many other issues that I'm currently dealing with. This summer my sugars, which tended to be high when I was on steroids, suddenly skyrocketed. I'm currently on insulin and medication to hopefully bring those numbers down. Also, I've been having some breathing troubles, which are definitely NOT helped by the record setting cold temperatures here in Cleveland as of late. The breathing issues definitely make me much more tired, which just makes school harder.
In February, I was in the hospital for 2 days, due to numbness in my hand; the doctors originally were worried about it being a seizure or stroke, but thankfully it was probably just a pinched nerve. About a week later, I went to the ER with severe abdominal pain. The current thought is that it is liver/gallbladder issues, post-chemo.
Upcoming appointments during my spring break:
  • 2-yr post-cancer scans!
  • 3rd round of vaccines
  • GI doctors, for liver/gallbladder issues
  • Endocrine for sugars

In school I'm currently starting my 5th of 10 semesters, so nearly half-way through! This has been my hardest class load ever, as I'm hitting the hard core engineering classes. Sometimes it gets discouraging to not see my grades as high as I'd like them, but I know this is where I'm supposed to be. This past fall semester was extremely tough, but this spring has been going much better! I'm excited for the friends I've made in classes. Please pray that I'll be able to get good grades this semester.  I'll also be taking classes this summer, and fall, as well as spring 2016, going for a total of 5 semesters back-to-back, so I'd greatly appreciate your prayers.
Other stuff...
Written on a rough day early this semester. Thought I'd just include it.
In other words...
2014 was a really tough year. Sometimes I thought it tougher than fighting cancer. With cancer, there was a definite, attainable goal in sight: beat it. I knew what I had to do, each day, every day. People were there for me. I felt supported and strong, and knew what I had to do.

This past year was really, really different. I had a fantastic spring semester. And then I started my 2nd summer internship with Swagelok; again, another great time. But through the summer different health issues came up. I thought that I was done with cancer. Great! I'm done with all treatments and medications! Not true. My sugars started acting up, my skin was scarily dry, my stomach started being weird. So many different things that were stark reminders that I wasn't the healthy person I thought I was.
The fall semester was incredibly tough. It was a difficult course load, but also done without my awesome friends. It was rough not knowing ANYONE in the class. I didn't really have the confidence I used to have to make friends. All the kids were there in their freshman cliques, and I didn't fit in. One girl even went so far as to ask me "aren't you older than the rest of us?” It hurt to see other kids making friends with random people, exchanging phone numbers, forming study groups, while I was all alone.
Continuing on to finish the story from earlier...I wasn't looking forward to 2015. The last year that I made a concrete set of New Year's resolutions, and was fully committed to fulfilling each one, was in 2012. I was initially diagnosed 10 days later. Again in 2013, I had my 2nd diagnosis to look forward to. In 2014, I was super sick all of Christmas break, so just being able to go to school was accomplishment enough. This year, I was just too discouraged to even think about making resolutions or setting any goals for myself.

In January, on my 3-yr diagnosis anniversary, I attended The U, a monthly gathering for young adults. The message that night was that "this is God's year to act (Luke 4:18)". Pastor Josh Pancher said "you either approach the year with faith or fear. Faith approaches the possibility. Fear approaches the problem." I realized that I was approaching 2015 with fear. Fear of not doing well in classes, fear of getting cancer again, fear of all the side effects, fear of not making friends, fear of so. many. different. things. Pastor Josh went on to say "for every problem, find a promise." I've gone back to the promise God gave me when I ended my first cancer's treatments, from Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I realized that God's promise to prosper me, and to give me "hope and a future" were still true-the best is yet to come. That message ended with 5 things to do.
  • Encourage often
  • Honor always
  • Give generously
  • Serve faithfully
  • Live boldly
While I could think of things that I were doing in most of the categories, I realized I wasn't living boldly. I was cowering under the weight of what might happen, not living boldly in the promises of all the good that God has allowed to have happened.
Just to list out a few things God has allowed to have happened in this New Year...
  • Made an awesome new friend, who is in a lot of my classes- Annie <3
  • Made wonderful friends through the U on Campus Bible Study
  • Been able to share my testimony at Standpoint, the college group at Parkside Church, which has also led to new friends...
  • New friends, and prayer partners through the Cancer Support Group at Parkside Church
  • A warm and loving church family
  • Been able to again be involved with BEST Medicine Science and Engineering Fair
  • My hospital stays have not had anything major come up
  • Been able to manage in my classes
  • Got a dog :)
  • Will celebrate 2-years from my BMT on 3/18/15!
  • A scholarship to attend CancerCon, a conference for young adult cancer survivors!
A verse that's been encouraging me, and the one from earlier...
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen-Ephesians 3:20-21
And as always, to close with a song; this one has been running through my head almost daily since I heard it at a conference...
You stood before creation
Eternity within Your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
Carried the Cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So Ill stand with arms high and heart abandoned,
In awe of the One who gave it all
So Ill stand, my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

~ Hillsong