Young Adult Survivorship / FDX

Thursday I had received the call I’ve had marked on my calendar for months. I have been formally added to the First Descents FDX to New Zealand in January 2018! Not many details have been released, other than the description on the site. I will post more information when I have it!

we’re setting our sights on the magnificent mountains and rivers of New Zealand! The name of our game this time around is primarily hiking and kayaking, both on the river and on the sea.

During my oncologist appointments last week, I found myself standing in front of a woman my age who was pregnant. She complimented my purse. Very conscious that we were two of three people in the room under 50 (Blake was on the other side of the room), I asked if she was there for herself or something different.

She was having a C-section tomorrow and needed to do final blood work to make sure things were in line. I eventually asked what her history with cancer was.

Five years ago, they removed a tumor from her ovaries that was larger than any of the kids she’s had. When they found it, everyone thought she was six months pregnant.

We moved from the waiting line, to the infusion waiting room, and gushed so openly and so bluntly about the details of our diagnosis, surgeries, the unpleasant complications, like we were old friends catching up.

I told her that her initial doctor’s recommendation of a hysterectomy, through her journey to being on the eve of her 4th child, gave me hope that I haven’t been robbed of my chance of having kids.

At 1:59, she had to leave the waiting room to run across the street for an OBGYN final check up. This round of appointments lifted my spirits much more than I had anticipated!



I continue to surprise myself in 2015.

I was accepted to grad school. Even applying was an achievement, considering the steps it required: studying for tests, gathering portfolio pieces, and obtaining recommendations from professors and professionals. I already have done so much in 2015: I am now ordained and have wed some of my best friends, I left the country on a cruise, I’m in the middle of building a garden in my back yard, I’ve discovered my new favorite brewery in Kansas, I’ve been admitted to grad school. I have already planned two big trips across the country with friends.

And I accepted a new job a Swanson Russell.

After Tuesday, I will be leaving the comfort of the Wick alumni center walls and enter the world of advertising agencies. I have never been drawn to demanding lifestyle agencies portray, but surprisingly, I’ve never felt more comfortable about it.

Only two months ago I had a conversation with a friend about the reasons I wouldn’t switch jobs for another three years. Between my health uncertainties, my endless medical bills and deductibles, and being solely responsible for my mortgage, it’s scary to think about stepping out into the unknown.

The events leading up to my acceptance are nothing short of fate, and as I’ve learned, coincidences don’t happen. I believe there are greater forces as work, if you are open to seeing and hearing the signs. From the timing of the first contact with me, to the following weeks of anecdotes driving me to evaluate my professional status, I was continually guided back to this position. I consulted friends who had worked with my future coworkers. Conversations with unknowing colleagues answered questions they didn’t know I had. One in particular was initiated by me sharing an update about my garden. Their response was a story about a patio project he finished, only later realizing he needed to switch jobs for a fresh perspective. I asked if he thought he made the right decision. He answered, ‘with out a doubt.’

These things I thought I’d push off for years are coming so easy to me right now.

A couple of friends know how I’ve been obsessing about a recently purchased CD, spurred by a concert I went to. I will listen to it repeatedly for hours at work, and every trip I take in my car. I realized that the lyrics are echoing my recently found philosophy, with some of my favorite lyrics being: the thought of arriving, kind of feels like dying  |  If we get to see tomorrow, I hope it’s worth all the wait  |  Gathering new strength from sorrow, I’m glad to feel alive  |  construction getting louder, paving over yesterdays  |  I pause and take a breathe and bow and let the chapter end

Not only this, but the title of the CD has become my 2015 mantra: YES! <<check out some videos>>

The very beginning of this year, I was consoling a friend who has been feeling lost in life. My advice was to start saying ‘yes’ to opportunities, and trying things out. Even if he hates it, he is still one step closer to finding what he loves.

Some of the biggest hesitations I still have about switching jobs really boil down to the benefits I receive. Particularly, the retirement plan. After the initial offer, I called my friend to soundboard my thoughts, and realized that I can’t make my decisions on where I visualize myself in 40+ years dictate where I am right now. I reopened this conversation yesterday with her husband, with him echoing this thought: there is so much life you will experience between right now, and in 20 years when I am his age. So say yes, jump in, and start trying it out now.

One of the stories from cancer camp that has stuck with me, was from a friend whose son died of cancer. Two weeks prior, he purchased new climbing shoes. He lived life 100% until it was taken. Sometimes, you have to make choices for yourself, no matter how unorthodox or nonsensical they may be. You do them for you.

Maybe I will learn that I love the agency life. Maybe I will learn how much I hate the agency life, and realize how special my time at the alumni association really was. Either way, I will be making a step to a new perspective on myself, where I came from, and where I’m going. I will be one step closer to finding where I should be.

2012 was my year of tearing myself down and exploring who I am. 2013 was my year of learning to advocate and testing my strength. 2014 was my year of practicing contentment and being at peace with who I am.

2015 is a year of advancing who I can be, and saying ‘yes!’ to new experiences.

My cancer-birthday story

I haven’t really felt like blogging lately, I’m not sure why. Maybe my mind is (almost) at ease with everything as I get closer to being done. Maybe I’ve just accepted this bizarre lifestyle as my norm for awhile, so I have nothing new to report.

I received notification that someone I didn’t know commented on a post. He just finished round one of FOLFOX. When I saw that I remembered that I hoped someone in a situation similar to mine would find this blog and find comfort – you’re not alone, there are a few of us out there.

That encouraged me to do something productive today. So let me tell you a story that happened to me on my birthday the year I had cancer.

I’m not a big birthday person. I try to make the effort for others, but when it’s my turn I’d prefer to have all these nice words and thoughts spread out to me over the year.

So this year, I kept it low key. A small group of some of my best friends in Lincoln went out for dinner at the new tapas restaurant downtown. It was perfect; I had people I cared so much about together. After the food and drinks were consumed, I was on the hunt for a dessert. Not satisfied with the options at the current restaurant, I picked another restaurant to try.

One waiter greeted us upon settling into our booth, and recommended the Irish Car Bomb pie, but would be right with us. In the meantime another waiter came to greet us, and recommended the same pie. His wrist was hidden under more bracelets than I could count, and he wore a necklace with a turtle and another with a mini harmonica. Because I was a little nervous about the prep since I’m avoiding alcohol, I pressed him about making sure I was in the clear. He assured me, “you’ll only be drunk with love for the pie.”

A couple minutes later, he returned to our table. “I’m sorry, I just have to ask, why are you avoiding alcohol?” I roll my eyes and made contact with my friend; I’ve already dropped this depressing reality bomb on a couple people this weekend, making them feel like jerks.

I just shrug and responded, “I’m just dealing with some medical issues.”

He pressed further, “what issues? I’ve dealt with a lot of medical issues in the past.”

Fine guy, back off. “Well, I’m undergoing chemotherapy. I was diagnosed with cancer this spring.”

He responds, “I thought so. I saw the scar on your chest and it looks like one I have. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma five years ago. I have scars all over my body you can’t see. I just wanted to check that’s what was going on and wanted to tell you that you look really great.” He then zipped off to work.

Throughout our dessert, he popped in occasionally and him and I would compare surgery, chemo, and treatment stories. I explained to him how it is possible to live without a colon, he detailed his experiences with chemo. I congratulated him on hitting his five-year mark.

Towards the end he told me, “I don’t believe in a God, but I believe in fate. I wasn’t supposed to serve your table. I picked it up to make up for another waiter who helped me out earlier. Of all the restaurants in downtown Lincoln, you came to this one.” I laughed, as I’ve always said, there’s no such thing as coincidences.

My birthday pie was on the house. My friends heckled me to leave my phone number on the tip. “Just go get coffee with him, you guys have a lot to talk about.” I got them off my back by ensuring if I felt like I missed out later that night, I knew where to find him.

As we were getting up to leave, he slid down on the booth beside me. “I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, because I have a girlfriend. But, I wanted to give you this before you left, since I think we were supposed to meet tonight.” As he took off one of his bracelets he said, “my best friend gave me this when I was diagnosed. It was his grandmas, and I have no idea if the gold or stones are real. But it helped me get through these five years, and I hope it will help you too.”

I thanked him, and we left.

The bracelet is pretty, though it reminds me of something I would wear when i was 10. But I’ll wear it, every day in hopes that in 5-7 years I’ll be able to pass it on to another person in the midst of their fight. It’s my reminder that we are not alone, even in the midst of strangers there is love and compassion.

My cancer-birthday is one I won’t forget.

December 21, 2012 is the end.

Can’t stop listening to this today.

For almost a year now, most of us have been looking toward Dec. 21 with caution, though I doubt most people believe the world will really end.

I think people like to believe, as it unites strangers. Now a days, faith in something other than religion is almost impossible. No, the world won’t explode, but that day everyone will think twice about “what if.”

To me, this day so near the end of 2012 is a snapshot of how so much of my year was spent: throwing cation out the window and indulging in what I wanted to. YOLO, Carpe Diem, Live Like You’re Dying, whatever the phrase, that was my mentality.

In another view, life without consequences.

December has been daunting this year. I am anxious for it to come, only because I am anxious for it to be over. December 2011 left so many bad and distinct memories: the nights in New York, saying “goodbye” at the Amtrak station, going through the motions during Christmas, spending most of New Year’s night locking myself away in a bathroom.

After December, so much of the details were lost as hollowed myself as a person. I remember major things, but the timeline, the effects, the general progression is unclear. I don’t really want to remember. The unforgettable good memories are just colorful pieces that occasionally reveal themselves from the grey spiral shit show of things that were wrong.

I guess I’ve come to the conclusion, that all these coincidences lately are just a sign I’m on the right path. I’ve applied meaning to life again. Things that happen aren’t just isolated instances, that happen for no reason. I saw “The Life of Pi” over the weekend, and one of the few lines that stood out were, “Does it have to mean anything?”

It can if you want it to. Back then, I didn’t want it to.

After Doomsday (coincidentally exactly 8 months prior to Dec. 13 – the last big milestone of 2012), concerned friends asked me repeatedly, “Are you sure you’re okay?” Some recommended talking to police. All I could do was shrug. There was no point. There was no greater meaning in my mind, other than things happen. Looking back, I let things that happened that night of lesser importance, overshadow the things that happened to me. I didn’t mind, at the time.

One of my Tarot cards was Death; as my reader put it, the falsely “most feared” card. He told me, death doesn’t always mean a physical person dying. It can also mean the end of a period of time, or a personality.

December 2012 is the death of the person I was in 2012. I spent a year, running and hiding, being selfish, and living without consequences.

I started REALLY blogging on June 22 (6 months prior to the day AFTER the end of the world). I was marking that as the start of rebuilding myself. I feel like by the end of 2012, I will be there. Will I keep blogging after that? I will just have to wait to see.

I want to leave 2012 as I entered: alone. There is no better way in my mind for me to give 2012 the finger than to gracefully take a bow, in the same position I was brought into it in, but so much stronger.