Kicking Ass Part One

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After having a couple days to myself (which I highly recommend to anyone) I put on my shit-kickers and was ready to get this thing over with!  I had NO idea what this was going to entail.  The first step was to undergo an exploratory surgery to see how far the cancer had spread and to verify that the staging he gave me was correct.  We found out that the tumor was a little smaller than he had originally anticipated, however, I had three lymph nodes involved in my cervical area.  This news was chilling to me.

In those first couple days to myself I cried, a lot.  I had just recently lost a friend to cancer as well as my aunt.  My grandpa Wilson had passed in November when I was dealing with unnecessary pain and unusual period patterns.  Years before that I lost my grandpa Bill to lung cancer (he was a heavy smoker for years).  When I heard the ‘C’ word, I thought for sure it was going to result in a death sentence for me.  It really (excuse my language) fucks with your head when you lose so many people and have to endure the deadly disease yourself.  When I heard I had lymph node involvement it scared the dickens right out of me.   I never knew what strength I could potentially have…

It was that moment when my aunt Billie had passed away that her daughter Kim posted a photo of a beautiful red cardinal in her backyard.  She stated, “I know mom is okay.”  It wasn’t long after that I started seeing my own cardinals and took it as a sign.  I remember getting ready to have some testing done and I stayed the night at my dad’s the night before so I didn’t have to get up so early.  Jodi had commissioned a painting from a young gal trying to learn how to paint and sell her artwork.  All she had told her was that she wanted something with red in it.  I got a phone call asking where I was at as I was pulling up to the apartment.  I walked in and they uncovered the beautiful painting that young gal did.  It was a cardinal sitting on a branch looking back at what would be the tree.  I cried tears of joy.  I remember asking myself, “How can this be?!”

Many of you might know that I struggled in believing a faith as my family were never church goers.  Sure, I had my time at bible school and I’m thankful that let me make that decision.  I had always questioned my faith and it wasn’t until I heard the story about my grandpa Bill passing that I really kind of believed in something after life.  When he was passing away with my uncle and my dad by his side he started calling out to “Scrappy” which ironically was his name for my uncle’s dog that had passed away a month or two prior.

Now, that painting wasn’t the only artwork I received that evening from my dad and Jodi.  Jodi’s mother, Joan, had given her a framed cardinal photo from an Iowa artist to give to me.  Both of these pieces of artwork are hanging in my dining room to this day.

After having my exploratory surgery they scheduled me to have my port placed.  It is a bulky item for my small frame but I am beyond happy that I had it because my veins would all be blown out from the needles involved!  The procedure didn’t take long and my surgeon was amazing!  It was at this time that I signed paperwork donating whatever left over tissue/ blood samples I had to cancer research.  If you ever have to go through such a thing I would hope you would do the same.  You could potentially save someone’s life someday!

The plan was set into place that I would receive five chemotherapy treatments and six weeks of external radiation along with two weeks of internal radiation.  I still remember the first chemotherapy I had.  The machine they were using was Cardinal Health brand.  After the first treatment I came home and laid on the couch.  I felt ill and slept a lot.  I think this scared Steven more than I’ll ever know.  It was from then on that I stayed at my dad’s apartment right after treatment.  I was trying to protect our relationship by doing this.  The radiation I received Monday through Friday for about fifteen minutes.  The machine was designed to work around all of my other major organs and I didn’t receive as much scatter radiation.  It was really interesting to watch the machine work!  Radiation didn’t make me sick but it did make me tired and it dried out my skin more than winter usually does.  The staff at this office were phenomenal!  (One of the best things was I would get a quick nap in or I would stare at the beautiful, colorful light fixture they had on their ceiling).

After finishing the external radiation I was scheduled for a surgery to place a small piece to hold the radiation filament in my cervix.  I would have it surgically placed, receive a dose of internal radiation, and then have a dose the next day.  It would be repeated the following week (except having it surgically placed as it would already be there).  The radiation was not a bad experience but when they took out the contraption that held my organs out of the way was the worst.  The first time they did it without pain medication because it hadn’t been ordered for me.  I distinctly remember the nurse asking me if I had had kids before, if I had given birth.  No…. “Well this is a lot like child birth.”  Great…and I had to do it without anesthesia?!  The next time they allowed pain medication.  Even while trying to relax it hurt like hell.  I hope to never experience such a thing again.

It was shortly after I finished the internal radiation that I went to Maine with my mom and my aunt Kim!  What a beautiful experience that was!  I decided when I got diagnosed with cancer that if and when I made it through treatment that I wouldn’t put my plans on hold and that I would travel as much as my pocketbook would allow me.  Medical bills were stacking up due to a high deductible policy.  I must say I have some of the best friends a gal could ask for because of everything they have done for me.  Brother Trucker, a local band and close friends of my dad and I’s, donated their time slot at El Bait Shop in order to fund raise money for my medical bills.  I love these guys with all my heart!  They helped me raise awareness of this awful disease.  If you’re reading this, I hope you KNOW how much you guys mean to me! ❤

I had a final scan after all treatment was done.  It was August 10, 2015 and I received a phone call stating that my cancer was gone and I was officially in remission.  I was over the moon considering towards the end of treatment they had noticed an irritation in my lung but they weren’t convinced that it was cancer.  They thought it was irritation from radiation and the chemotherapy drugs.  That night was celebrated with my dad at Hessen Haus with a beer and some delicious food.

That October was Steven and I’s first anniversary!  We had made it through some of the shittiest days!  We traveled to Chicago for the weekend and went on a Prohibition Tour.  It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced and I was so happy I could do it with the one I loved.  I think we ate and drank ourselves silly, or at least I did!  My emotions from everything and my anxiety disorder got the best of my drinking “abilities” that weekend.  No, I didn’t have anything catastrophic happen but I did get a little too drunk and ruined an intimate moment that hadn’t happened for nearly a year. (It’s the truth, there was nothing sexy about that moment and I’m sorry it’s taken this long to apologize.  I just know how I feel about these moments now that I’ve had the time to reflect back).  If I’m not open and honest about how everything was and is, how am I going to get past and heal from it?

Three months would pass by and the next scan would take place but what life would bring us next would be unfathomable.

Photo by: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cardinal-love-kristin-elmquist.html

A Shower Before the Storm.

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So much has happened in the last couple years it gets difficult trying to figure out where to start.  I had such a bad relationship prior and was getting back into the dating realm.  I finally met a guy that I was just crazy about the moment I laid eyes on him.  A mutual friend of ours tried getting me to attend a poetry slam put on every month for almost a year or so.  It was 2014, I was working on myself, going to therapy.  I had just started and decided it was the perfect opportunity to go meet some people and do something by myself.  I was always so used to relying on others to go out and do things.  I took a chance.

I was selected as a judge, thank you Kevin, for the very first time spectating a poetry event.  I loved everything about it.  Actually, it brought me back to when I would write in middle school.  (I dropped it as soon as I went into high school because it wasn’t “cool”).  I forgot how much I loved it.  This was a style that I had never experienced before!  I met a cool gal (Justice) and we were similar in our anxiety, however, she blew me away by getting up on stage and performing a piece of her own!  Next was the guy I had been eyeing since I got there.  He had such a beautiful smile!  He looked preppy (a button up shirt with an argyle type vest over).  There was just something about this guy I couldn’t shake.  I HAD to get to know him.  I noticed he had a little grey patch in his hair and it just intrigued me more.

The slam was over and I was fighting myself over an over again.  Should I go talk to him?  Nah, I’ll just do what every other person would do… add him (as well as many others from the slam) on Facebook.  My plan worked as he was super friendly and reached out.  It was from that moment on that we basically became each other’s.  I went on vacation with my girlfriends to Colorado and California.  It was such a liberating time for me and at the same time it was terrifying.  I was working on my anxiety and depression and falling in love with traveling all in one.  This handsome guy and I talked for a month before we officially met in person.  He invited me to a workshop held at the Des Moines Social Club for the Des Moines Public Schools.  I was thrilled to experience such a thing and terrified to let my guard down.  After the workshop we spent hours talking…this is something I never thought would come easily.

Steven and I became inseparable and started seeing each other officially.  Things were new and exciting but something was happening with my body with me not knowing.  It was November and an annual emergency room visit was in the forecast.  I remember the excruciating pain I had trying to urinate and how I laid on the floor holding my stomach and crying until my dad came to pick me up and take me to the emergency room.  Turns out I had kidney infection!  I refused the CATscan they were recommending because I was a cheap ass and was scared of falling behind in the financial department of my life.  I was put on an antibiotic which turned out that I was allergic to. (Oh joy!)

I rescheduled my pap smear from November to December because I had the kidney infection and some unusual bleeding.  It would come back negative and then I would have to make another trip in. (Right?)  Well, I received both a letter in the mail and a phone call from Planned Parenthood stating that there was an abnormality in my smear.  I went back for a leep procedure and they were unable to accomplish such a task as I was bleeding profusely and it hurt like hell.  This is when they referred me to an oncologist.  The word oncologist didn’t mean a damn thing to me at that time.

I went to this appointment after much waiting and had a pelvic examination.  It was February 4, 2015.  Dr. Christie gave me the news that I had a tumor covering all but a small section of my cervix and it had been there for a greater part of a year.  He walked me into a conference room where he delivered another article of news, “Miss Newman, you have cancer.”  I was alone at this appointment because I believed that it wasn’t anything serious.

How foolish could I have been?  Cancer?!  (He said cancer, right?!) He explained the staging (Stage 1, B3).  I was in shock and all I wanted to do was cry.  I had left work early that day to go to this appointment and now I had to make the phone call that I would not be back for the afternoon.  Thank god for the support I had at that time!

I made phone call after phone call but the one I was worried about most to tell was my new boyfriend.  We had talked about a future and what we kind of wanted out of life.  We had discussed wanting children at some point in our lives and now I had to tell him the possibility of adoption being our only option.  He came home from work and saw me curled up on the couch.  He then knelt beside me as I poured out the words as best as I could.  His eyes looked so full of pain but it wasn’t the first time he has ever felt it.  Even though I delivered this awful news he stood his ground and was by my side.  I couldn’t thank God enough for a better partner to be by my side as I fought cancer for the first time.