Shout Out!!!

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Guys!!!!!!!!!

I had to get on here and brag about my new clothes.  I ordered two tanks and a pair of socks from my friend, Erica, who started Living Life with Cancer with her son, Wylee.  I cannot express enough how much I adore these guys as they put their heart and soul into everything they do.  They live their life with purpose as all people should!  (Their passion shines through).

If you get the opportunity, order their book.  It’s good for kids of all ages!  While you’re there… check out the full shop!  There are so many great designs and styles!

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BUT…. that’s not all!  Erica and Wylee are open to custom designs (they did one for me).  You all may know by now how obsessed I am with donuts.  It makes sense!  The very thing that tried to kill me (my lovely cervix) happens to look like a donut.  Look at this adorable tank:

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They even designed these adorable MATCHING SOCKS! Whaaaaat?!

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Aren’t they sweet?!  The products are high quality.  The designs are great!  The tanks are soft and comfy.  I can’t get over how nice everything is!

Check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/livinglifewithcancertoday or check out their website at Living Life With Cancer.

Can’t wait to see you at CancerCon, my friend!

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Bucket List

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I’ve had a Bucket List on my Pinterest boards for awhile now.  It’s time that I put them down in writing so I can keep track and focus on what I want to accomplish.

::The Small Things::

::Things I could probably do, soon::

  • Get my Masters in Social Work.
  • Go to a drive in movie.
  • Stomp grapes.
  • Make someone less fortunate smile at Christmas.
  • Pay for a stranger’s groceries.
  • Leave a note in a library book.
  • Send a message in a bottle.
  • Watch a meteor shower (I always fall asleep too early).
  • Learn sign language.
  • Write a song.
  • Write a book.
  • Learn self-defense.
  • Become more flexible (yoga starts up again).
  • Learn to tango (or any other dance).
  • Tie messages to balloons and set them free!

::Slightly Larger Things::

::You know, some that may take some time::

  • Get tickets to go see Ellen OR Jimmy Fallon. 😉
  • Ride in a hot air balloon, helicopter, and go sky diving.
  • Go zip-lining.
  • Go sailing and/or parasailing.
  • Ride in a horse and carriage.
  • Ride a double decker bus.
  • Ride in a limo (sounds really funny, but I want to at least once in my life).
  • Eat at Hell’s Kitchen.
  • Eat at places featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives.
  • Own a classic car
  • Name a star.

::For My Love & I::

::When I find you, of course!::

  • Slow dance in the rain.
  • Kiss at the top of the ferris wheel (I know, super cheesy…but I like it).
  • Go on a breakfast date.
  • Go on a star gazing date.
  • Have a romantic balcony or rooftop dinner.
  • Adopt a child.
  • Grow old with you. (Awe, I know!) 🙂

::Travels::

::Go somewhere new at least once a year::

  • Travel first class (once).
  • See the Northern Lights.
  • Visit Niagara Falls.
  • See the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
  • Go to Italy (eat lots of pasta and drink plenty of wine).
  • Spend a night in a tree house.
  • Visit Australia.
  • Go to France (eat macarons).
  • See the Grand Canyon.
  • Explore a castle.
  • Visit Canada (especially where my ancestors were).
  • Ride a gondola.
  • Go to Hawaii (and learn how to surf).
  • Try to visit ALL 50 states!
  • Visit Amsterdam.
  • Visit Denmark.
  • Go on a mission trip.
  • Visit where my family originated in Ireland.
  • Visit Scotland too.
  • Go to Germany.

To My Young Self…

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Dear Younger Self,

As Alanis put it, “isn’t it ironic?”  Do you remember being around 14 or 15, arguing with your mom that you were never going to get the Gardasil vaccine?  You were scared because you heard the rumors about how it hurt and somehow you just knew you were NEVER going to get that cancer.

Did you know that the Gardasil vaccine would have prevented you against strands 6, 11, 16, and 18.  It didn’t mean much to you then but it sure does now.  Strands 16 and 18 happen to be precancerous and cancerous cells while strands 6 and 11 are the only known cause for genital warts.  Did you hear that they improved the Gardasil vaccine (now called Gardasil 9) to cover more known HPV strands?

You graduated college in 2011 as as dental assistant and went out into the work world.  You got your first “big girl” job and stayed with it for 5 years.  You started disliking it and found a new passion but, in order to succeed in this role you’d have to go back to school.  You were 24 and were considered a nontraditional student.

Along with school, you started to go out and try new things.  It was then you met and fell in love with a boy.  You were on top of the world!  Things were really starting to heat up but there was something kind of odd.  Your annual Pap arrived and you were given results a few weeks later.  Your first abnormal Pap, ever!

Back to Planned Parenthood you went.  You had been going there since you were 14, remember?  You’ve never had the best luck in the gyno department.  Periods always seemed so bad, maybe this was just another symptom?  You underwent a colposcopy to remove those dreaded precancerous cells.  You weren’t as concerned going in because basically all of your friends had been through something similar and they were fine now.  The pain you endured during that procedure was far more than unusual.  Don’t you remember the look on the provider’s face? How could you forget it?

A referral was handed to you, gynecologic oncologist?  You were definitely a busy bee between working full-time and school full-time.  You managed to squeak by in your evening class (thankfully the instructor was so understanding).  After that visit with the oncologist you found out you had cervical cancer. Yep, the ‘C’ word….shit.

Regardless of your situation, you remained focused and in the end, I think it saved you.  You insisted on continuing a routine to remain as normal as possible.  It worked!  You excelled in school.

It happened again about a year later.  Metastatic disease rocked your world.  How in the hell did you end up with cancer, again?  You were really hard on yourself, trust me.  Once again, you took school as a distraction and used it to your benefit.  You were accepted into the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work and you haven’t given up once.

If cancer taught you anything, my dear, it would be that you are unstoppable in anything you want to achieve.  I’m thrilled to see how it has changed you for the good.  How it makes you advocate for others.  Because of school, you have had several opportunities presented to you.  You handle anything life throws your way with grace and with ease.

Keep up the good work!

Love Always,

Me

Decisions, Decisions….

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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.

Embrace it.

Xoxo,

Morgan

 

A New Bucket List

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  • See the Northern Lights
  • See a Broadway Play
  • Have a romantic date under the stars
  • Visit Australia
  • Spend the night in a tree house
  • Put a secret in a balloon and let it fly
  • Go to a drive-in movie
  • Grow old with someone
  • Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • Go somewhere no one knows your name
  • Visit Ireland
  • Name a star
  • Slow dance in the rain
  • Have a pillow-filled, truck and stars date
  • Make a call from a London booth
  • Say ‘yes’ for one whole day
  • Travel to Italy
  • Get tickets to Ellen
  • Visit the Walk of Fame
  • Stomp grapes
  • See the Grand Canyon
  • Change someone’s life
  • Eat at Hell’s Kitchen
  • Own a classic car
  • Slow dance in the rain
  • Ride a gondola
  • Explore a castle
  • Eat at places featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
  • Trace my family history
  • Go to the airport and buy a random flight ticket
  • Let go of a floating lantern
  • Leave a note in a library book
  • Ride or pet an elephant
  • Learn sign language
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Ride a helicopter
  • Throw a dart at a map and go there
  • Visit Paris
  • Go on a no-destination-road trip
  • Write a book
  • Ride in a horse and carriage
  • Go zip-lining
  • Finish a scrapbook
  • Learn self-defense
  • Watch a meteor shower
  • Send a message in a bottle
  • Marry the love of my life
  • Go on a breakfast date
  • Become more flexible
  • Kiss at the top of a ferris wheel
  • Dedicate my life to helping others
  • Learn the tango
  • Create a time capsule and open it years later
  • Ride a double decker bus
  • Write a song
  • Pay for a stranger’s groceries
  • Travel first class
  • LIVE AND NOT JUST SURVIVE

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