A couple of years ago I made the decision to go back to school. I was miserable at my current job and couldn’t see the light of what a new job could be like. I felt like I was in a huge rut! I went back to DMACC to finish up the correct associates degree in order to become a social worker.
I started therapy in 2014 with Paul, a licensed social worker. He was able to provide me with a little insight as to why I was feeling a certain way. He helped me understand myself a little more and I found a need to give back. Mental illness was on my radar! I remember his words, “The best social workers aren’t trained, they’ve lived it.”
I finished the Fall term at DMACC and had started a second term when I was diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t going to give up because I was passionate. I would not fail in life or in school. I continued to take classes full-time and work as much as I could handle. After the treatment was finished I was happy that I could focus just on school once again.
I went in for a scan after being told I was in remission in August. I was super nervous but determined that I was going to be clear. Unfortunately, I got the news that I had spots in my lungs and they wanted to do a biopsy. More tests, more hospital, more stress. I wasn’t happy (as you could imagine).
I went in for the CT-needle guided biopsy and had an unfortunate experience with the surgeon and team. They didn’t get enough of the spots and what they did get was contaminated. I was also being watched to see if they had created a pneumothorax (otherwise known as a collapsed lung). If something weird was going to happen, it was going to happen to me.
During this process, a nurse wheeled my gurney to get a radiograph of my chest. One machine wasn’t working so she made me walk across the hall to another room. I was a little shocked as I had just completed surgery not long before that. I remember holding onto the radiograph plate and waking up on the floor with about three people looking down at me. I had passed out and I was going to bruise pretty easily from the impact.
I was the lucky contestant for a collapsed lung and the surgeon’s bedside manner made me want to strangle him. In went a chest tube to ensure my lung would inflate again. I spoke with the nurses and they got me through. I just wanted to go home.
Later on I had a patient coordinator talking to me about redoing the biopsy with the same surgeon. I gave them a big “hell no” and told them to get me the best surgeon they have if I have to go back under. They looked a little stunned but they listened. I went back a couple of weeks later for an endoscopy biopsy. (He was excellent and I didn’t have any problems).
I told them I would not want my results until I came back from my trip to New Orleans so the doctors were okay with it. My appointment was on February 19, 2016. My dad and I were sitting there making awkward jokes to fill the silence until the doctor came in. He looked at me and his eyes darted away quickly. We both knew that this wasn’t going to go how we wanted it to. It was cancer, again.
At this time, I was at DMACC still and was in classes I couldn’t afford to mess up. I refused to drop out. My math instructor was very understanding and I was able to keep up. I can’t thank him enough for having the patience to work with me. I went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion because of all the bad past experiences with my other provider. I’m glad I did. I have the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be here with you all today.
Treatments were once every three weeks, sometimes they were drawn out longer depending on my neutrophils. I made it through my classes and even passed an online statistics course (just barely). The next item on my list was to apply to the University of Iowa School of Social Work. I was accepted later on! (Hurrah!!!)
I went in for a scan after three treatments with Mayo. It was June 9, 2016. I was nervous and I was expecting the worse…we would get results the following day. Mom and Steven tried keeping my spirits up as they knew my mind was elsewhere, scared to death. We went in the next day, when the nurse walked in she could tell I was a nervous wreck. She said, “Morgan, I don’t know how this happened…” I looked up at here and with a blank stare, thinking…oh shit, here it goes.
June 10, 2016 I was told I was NED (No Evidence of Disease). She told me the scan was completely clear as if it had never happened. I looked at Mom and Steven. I could see the relief but there was a catch. I was going to have to complete three more cycles of treatment to ensure they got ALL of the cancer cells. (Drats!!!)
I was looking so forward to starting school in the fall at the University of Iowa so I powered through as best as I could. August 12 rolled around and it was my last chemo! Mom and I made a little sign and I got a big congrats from the nurses. They even gave me a “Celebrate Life” pin in my precious teal color. I felt happy but exhausted.
Classes started and I just knew I had chosen the correct field. I was at home and felt like my cohort was family. Learning came easy and I was able to erase some negativity out of my life. September was a busy month and I was looking forward to participating in a couple of cancer related walks but my body had different plans for me. I ended up hospitalized for five days due to an intestinal blockage. They threatened me with surgery if I didn’t poop. My neutrophils and platelet counts were way too low to do that…luckily that B.M. came at a good time.
Where things got easier in school, they got harder for me at work. I had to make a choice to either continue school or continue working but I couldn’t do both because of how much time it demanded from my schedule. Unfortunately, it took me longer to recover than any of us wanted. It got frustrating!
October rolled around and I gave my notice. It was time for a change. I took a much-needed trip to Seattle to see my godfather and I’m glad I did. It was refreshing and just what I needed to reset. I got the job offer from the new place but I decided I wasn’t going to officially start until December. I wanted just a little more time to heal.
I’m going into my second year as a Bachelor in Social Work and I’m serving on the National Association of Social Worker’s board as the BSW representative. I had a moment of reflection today thinking of how far I’ve come and how validated I feel for making the transition to social work.
I am an advocate for social justice and I am an advocate for education. I advocate for who needs it and I get to advocate for me (and several other women like me, too). I found social work AND Cervivor at the right times.
Life is kind of funny sometimes. You always end up where you’re supposed to.