Change Starts Today

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Monday night in class we had a great leadership lecture! It sparked a fire inside me and I’ve done some thinking.  Actually, a lot of thinking.  Today is the day that I start becoming a better advocate for women and their health care. Today is the day that I start learning of more ways to educate women AND men about the risks of HPV.  I have a lot on my plate already working full time and going to school full time but….

I’m tired of sitting back and saying “Oh, one day I’ll do this. Or, I better wait to do this.”  I am DONE waiting around. I have spent two plus years fighting for my life and I think that’s enough waiting. I have made the decision to attend the Cervical Cancer (Cervivor School) in West Palm Florida in June. It’s true, I don’t have and won’t have a whole lot of money but this is the opportunity I have been “waiting” for.  I need this for my leadership skills more than anything and it is only going to improve my skills in the near future when I start working with the oncology field.  It is my goal to become an licensed oncology social worker who provides therapy to cancer patients and their families.

I spent some of my money I had set back for bills for the registration fee. I’ll probably have a panic attack later, I usually do, but I’ll get over it because I will be rewarded being in the presence of hundreds of cervivors and hearing their stories. It is through networking that we gain more experience! I look forward to this school!  If you will consider donating a couple bucks to help my journey to leadership, I would be forever grateful and will be giving back to the community ten fold.

https://www.crowdrise.com/donate/project/cervivor-school-florida/morgannewman

World Cancer Day

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Tomorrow marks two years since my first diagnosis.  Tomorrow is World Cancer Day.  I sit here looking back at the last two years and what I’ve been through.  Today, I had my follow up scan and I have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to get my results.  I’m nervous as hell, I’m not going to lie.  In order to keep my mind off of things I’ve been doing homework, watching Netflix, and pondering making a new bucket list.  Regardless of the outcome, I will go forth and I will conquer anything that falls in my path and that is a promise!

More Odds & Ends

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This post isn’t here to boast about myself, it’s more of an awareness of what I’ve accomplished while being sick.  Right before I was diagnosed I had decided to go back to school for social work because in September of 2014 I was diagnosed after years of struggling with anxiety and depression.  This was a really defining moment in my life because up until that point I was always so dependent on others to go out and enjoy things.  I was basing what I wanted to do on others.  I started going to therapy and was able to branch out by myself.

This ignited a passion behind mental illness.  I started volunteering at Orchard Place to be a mentor.  I am beyond grateful that I was able to do this.  I learned a lot about myself, how others succeed while suffering, and it reassured me that I was going into the right field.  When I started chemotherapy, I gave up the volunteer work to really focus on my health.  I wanted to get better in order to be able to continue on the path of social work.  I must confess, I haven’t been back because I haven’t been well enough.  It’s taken a great chunk of my time in order to battle this disease.  It’s so frustrating!

During my first round I read a book called “Cancer Schmancer” by Fran Drescher.  This book helped me more than you can imagine!  I remember growing up and watching “The Nanny” reruns and I loved Fran!  I had NO idea she fought ovarian cancer.  Her memoir was so beautifully written and it had the perfect balance of seriousness and hilariousness!  Maybe that’s why I’m able to talk about it so openly.  She showed how much of a human being she was.  She talks about being terrified, her doctor’s appointments, her relationship with her husband, her dating life, family life, etc.  It truly amazes me and I highly recommend it.  When you’re reading it you can just hear her words in her voice!

I was a full time student while receiving chemotherapy and radiation in my first round with cancer.  I never once gave up my student status.  I had some pretty amazing instructors at DMACC that worked with me when I needed it the most.  I maintained a really great GPA except my last semester at DMACC when I had to take statistics (haha…we all know how much I LOVED that class).

It wasn’t the first group of people to support and work with me.  There are so many of you out there that I can’t name you all.  It’s overwhelming how much support I got during treatment and even to this day I’m still feeling it.  I would not be where I am without the support of each and every one of you!

I worked as much as I could (when I wasn’t ill).  It was hard to face people the first time around.  People knew I wasn’t feeling good but didn’t know what I was going through.  The first round was something that I could hide because I got to keep my hair.  The second time around was a rude awakening.  I started losing my hair, then my eyebrows, and my eyelashes.  I was bald and when I couldn’t stand the cold I would wear headscarves, caps, etc.  I was drawing on my eyebrows…people could tell.  They would ask me and at first it was so hard to be open about.  I kept asking myself, “Why are you making this so hard on yourself?  Why are you so ashamed?”  That’s when it really hit me.  I should never feel ashamed for being ill.  I was fighting a deadly disease, what was there to be sorry for?  This was my chance to spread awareness.

I became a little bad-ass.  I kicked cancer’s ass once…I’ll do it again, right?  To be completely honest, I was terrified what was going to happen to me when the recurrence took place.  All I could think of was the people cancer already took from my life.  It hadn’t been kind, after all, my aunt had passed away just days before I was diagnosed the first time around.  That was a tough pill to swallow.  I kept thinking death was at my doorstep.  I kept seeing those magnificent red, sometimes brown birds and I knew everything was going to be alright.

It was the little victories like waking up and facing the same battle every single day mainly to prove to myself that I could do it that i’ll never forget.  It was the mental game I had to fight and figure out how to release so many emotions that kept building up time after time.  I feel so blessed to still be on this Earth, my work isn’t done.  I promised that to myself, the friends I have lost to the disease, and the big man upstairs looking over me.  I think this is it for tonight, thanks for reading guys!

XOXO,

Morgan

Putting the Pieces Together

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You are all going to have to forgive me as there are bits and pieces that I left out as my memory hasn’t been the same since I’ve undergone chemotherapy.  Chemo brain is a real, unfair thing.

One thing I forgot to mention was the first round of cancer was a time where I needed to decide whether or not fertility was absolutely important to me.  I remember as a teenager I was so set on adoption.  I was scared of having my own kids, scared may be an understatement.  I was absolutely terrified!  I was stupid at that age too because I had unprotected sex a couple times…contradicts how I felt about getting pregnant, right?  I’m going to bleed my truth out to you little by little.  Honesty will help, especially to some of you scared to end up in the same situation.

The thing I didn’t realize was adoption could be my only option from now on.  Radiation does a number on your reproductive system especially when you have a woman specific cancer.  I didn’t know whether or not I was going to lose my reproductive system in this battle.  My oncologist referred me to the fertility clinic to see if it was something I was interested in doing.  Freezing my eggs could be beneficial in the future.

This visit was so overwhelming and terrifying.  I went by myself (dumb idea).  I filled out paperwork to receive more information about financial help from LIVESTRONG.  I got the information along with a yellow bracelet which I wore through my treatments.  I did not go through with freezing my eggs because I did not want to give myself multiple injections each day and the time frame between then and chemo was not long enough.  I just wanted the cancer to be gone.

There are days where I’m absolutely sad that I may never be able to have my own children and then I face the facts…what if I never want to have children?  And to me, that’s okay too.  Children are not a necessity to a happy life.

Another aspect that really bugged me was trying to plan a future with my loved one and there was a fear that I wouldn’t be there.  I must say there is a lot of guilt behind loving someone so much, wanting marriage and a long life together yet you can’t promise that you’ll be here for them.  I have to stress this, as I have learned, WE ARE NEVER GUARANTEED A TOMORROW.  It is true.  I have seen what a couple of my classmates have endured with their relationships.  They had a great future planned out and in a blink of an eye their futures were taken from them.  I respect and admire these two women as they have been through hell and back more than once.  Just know that God has a plan, a wonderful, beautiful plan for the both of you, Mandi and Trish.  You are resilient women!

My relationship failed because we couldn’t communicate correctly.  Where we both loved each other dearly, we couldn’t make it work and it’s okay.  I would much rather have him in my life as a friend than not at all.  Steven, you were there for me when I needed someone the most.  I can’t thank you enough for sticking by my side.  I wish the best for your future and hope someone will love you just as much as I do.  You are such a talented, smart, and handsome man.  Even if you don’t read this, I hope someone tells you what I wrote about you.  I am so happy that you branched back out into poetry scene.  You WILL succeed and I believe that with all my heart!

I will continue to write as I feel and I hope you all keep with me, leave me feedback, questions, etc.  I need to stay connected.  So much love to my readers!  I’m staying strong and moving forward one step at a time.

(Photo by me).

Hard to Breathe

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The three month scan that took place showed that irritation in my lung had grown.  There were at least three spots in there now. Shit!  The not so concerning spot had become an issue.  The next step was to get set up with the Chest, Infectious Diseases and Critical Care Associates.  Dr. Westerly was a fantastic man and he wanted to get to the bottom of this.  A CT Guided-Needle biopsy was getting scheduled so we could figure out if it was a fungal infection or the same cervical cancer cells.

The CT Guided-Needle biopsy was performed at Mercy.  The procedure was quicker than I thought it would be, however, it was botched.  They were concerned with cross-contamination of my biopsy and on top of everything else, I had a lung collapse.  This was an extremely trying time for me.  I remember after the procedure was done, a nurse had wheeled me in to get a chest x-ray.  The one room she took me into wasn’t working correctly so she had me walk across the hall to the next machine.  (This didn’t seem like a good plan to me as I was still coming down from the anesthesia).  She had me stand up and hold onto the machine in order to get the x-ray.  She disappeared behind the lead wall and the next thing I knew was a group of three nurses shouting my name.  I had blacked out and fell.  I had some nasty bruising.  I was unimpressed with the doctor’s bedside manner who had performed the procedure and I was most certainly unimpressed with how things were handled after the procedure.

Dr. Westerly had called me and asked if we could redo the procedure only this time it would be a camera esophageal biopsy.  I agreed only if a different doctor could perform the procedure.  He agreed to get me one of his best colleagues.  We set up a time, the procedure went smoothly and he was able to get the biopsies we needed. (Hurrah!)

I would not get the results until I got back from a trip.  This trip had been planned for well over six months.  Steven, Jake, Krislyn, Erin, and I were going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras!  That would have been early February.  I told them all I was going to have the time of my life while we were down there in case I came back to bad news.

February 19, 2016 was a day that I will never forget.  My dad and I were at Dr. Westerly’s office and were getting super anxious to get the results.  We were making awkward jokes back and forth in order to fill the everlasting time.  He walked in and his eyes darted away from me so quickly that I knew it was going to be bad.  “It’s cancer, isn’t it?”  He said, “Yes Miss Newman, unfortunately they are the same cervical cancer cells.”  My dad and I were devastated but I’m so thankful that I wasn’t alone at that appointment. We got out of that building and I broke down.  I started making the phone calls necessary.  Here we go again…

We, as a family, talked about options and after much consideration I decided to get a second opinion from a different oncologist than the one I had my first time around.  That’s when I looked up the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  I requested an appointment with their gynecological oncology team.  It was within hours that I heard from them.  They asked if I had a cancer diagnosis and we got all of my records including my scans and biopsies to their team.

It was two weeks later, (March 3, 2016) that I got my consultation with Dr. Weroha.  I was so incredibly scared as to what he was going to tell me but the thing that amazed me most was that he spent a great deal of time talking to us about my previous experiences and assured my dad and I that we were in the right place.  He couldn’t promise to rid the cancer but he was going to do his best.  He went over scans, possibilities of different treatments, and even mentioned a clinical trial if I would qualify.  (I didn’t end up qualifying for the autoimmune clinical trial due to having colitis).

I felt confident in the treatment he had laid out and was amazed when he personally called to check on me after our appointment.  Their staff goes above and beyond for their patients.  I knew I was going to be in good hands… (To be continued…)