Love

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I can’t help but cry lately

It won’t turn off. 

I love him so much,

But does he feel the same?

There are days I just can’t tell

If he is just as happy 

Or just living in my little hell.

I just need to feel the love we had before…

The illness was diagnosed,

Before it took control of my body

And it brought me to my knees.

I love you, baby…

But do you love me?

I’m pleading that if the answer is yes,

Please tell me, tell me

For my anxiety is toxic and 

My depression is hiding around the corner

Ready to pounce in hopes I run out of air.

Suffocating me slowly to ensure the pain is surely felt. 

Heavy Lungs

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One more test down…It’s February 19, 2016.

One year has passed since I was last diagnosed.

Nerves from anticipation

Awkward jokes to fill the void. 

The Doc walks in, 

His sympathetic eyes glance towards me and they dart away just as quickly. 

He delivers the somber news, 

Cancer, again…

Everything goes quiet for a minute.

All I can see is the hurt in my father’s eyes. 

Blue seas of sadness and distress, but I’m thankful I wasn’t alone this time.

It isn’t what we wanted to hear.

Please tell me the results are all just lies.

Recurrence of cervical cells, heavy lungs,

a feeling of drowning in myself trying to find the answers to questions long unsettled.

A strong front, trying to remain emotionless, until we walk out the doors of the medical complex.

A sharp gasp for fresh air and tears come flooding out, I lose all control.

A dreaded feeling comes over me as I reach for my cell phone.

So many calls to make…my heart aches, 

It breaks.

When will this nightmare ever end?

Heavy lungs as I rendered up the courage to make the first call.

Line after line the sound of sadness and disappointment of loved ones overwhelms me. 

The all too familiar game of win or lose ignites the question:

Am I strong enough to survive a second time? 

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).

One Step at a Time

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I had my first chemotherapy treatment for the second round on March 17, 2016.  It involved Carboplatin, Paclitaxel, and Avastin.  I was weighing in at a whopping 112 pounds and was still trying to gain my weight back from the first go-round.  Prior to this I was on Xanax and Celexa for my anxiety, depression, and mood disorder.  Dr. Weroha had informed me that I would have to step off of my Celexa because of the effects from the chemotherapy drugs.  Not only did we have concerns regarding my medication, we had concerns about my white blood cell count.  I was still very low from my previous treatments.  I had persistent leukopenia.  If levels got too low, I would not be able to receive treatments or I could go into neutropenic fever and that could end in death.  (Wow, what was going to happen to me?!)

The first treatment made me very nauseous and I threw up a couple times.  I was given a script for anti-nausea medication and in all honesty, it didn’t do a damn thing for me.  In order to not be as nauseous the next time we discussed taking the anti-nausea a couple days prior to the next treatment.  If it did not improve they offered a steroid taper but I didn’t like the sound of that.  My hair decided to start falling out after just one treatment.  I remember it was April 1, 2016 and I decided to take a shower.  I made the mistake of looking down and my hands were covered in clumps of hair.  It was a moment of complete shock and I cried until I was angry.  I called Amy, Rachel, and Kylie to come over and shave it off for me.  This was something cancer was NOT going to take from me.  I can’t thank these girls enough for coming over at like 8:30-9:00 at night to do this for me.  They kept my spirits up and made sure to let me know that I came out looking pretty fierce with my new buzz-cut.  It was on to my second dose of chemotherapy on April 8, 2016.

My hair started falling out to the point that I was losing my eyelashes, eyebrows, leg hair, EVERYTHING.  Joan Peterson is a saint and made me some beautiful headscarves!  I was rocking those in no time!  I’ve kept them all to look back at how fortunate I have been!  I received so many thoughtful gifts from family and friends…sometimes complete strangers!

On April 29, 2016 I had anticipated my third chemotherapy treatment however my neutrophils and platelets were too low.  I had begun bruising easily.  My sister’s wedding reception was the following week so we pushed it out to May 13, 2016.  After that appointment I would receive my first PET/CT scan for evaluation of chemotherapy effectiveness.  My doses of chemotherapy still remained at full doses.

May 12, 2016 came around and I had my blood drawn that morning.  They received the results at the Mayo Clinic and my numbers still were unacceptable for chemotherapy.  We had to delay chemotherapy for another week.  It was so frustrating!  It was then we discussed the Neulasta shot I would be given after my next treatment in order to keep my numbers up.

May 18, 2016 arrived and my blood was drawn.  My neutrophils recovered to 1.4 and I was able to receive my next chemotherapy treatment and discuss the PET/CT scan.  When June 10, 2016 came around, I was expecting negative results with the way treatments have been prolonged and my body was so run down.  The scan showed a complete interval response to therapy.  What did this mean?!  The scans were completely CLEAN! OH MY GOD!  I was thankful to have my mom and Steven with me at that visit.  I cried so many tears of joy and they were soon followed by tears of fear because I had to continue until the sixth dose of chemotherapy.  It has never been proven that stopping after three treatments would benefit anyone. (Damn it, so we continued with my fourth treatment).

We pushed chemotherapy off until July 15th, 2016 because my cousin Nick and I were flying out to Maine to see my cousin Mathew.  My ticket was bought before I got diagnosed the second time.  There was no way that I was going to let this trip go to waste!  (It was all worth it: the beer, the Fenway game, the food, the exercise, and the cardinal sightings almost every morning during my quiet time).  I was ready to get these last two done, however, my numbers were not good and I was delayed another week.

July 21, 2016 was the day I got my blood drawn. I was crossing my fingers that it would be okay to get my next treatment.  I had made a couple different recipes from a chemotherapy dietary cookbook that were dedicated to neutropenia.  YUM! I also was successful and was able to receive my fifth cycle of treatment.

August 5, 2016 arrived and mom and I went to the Cage the Elephant concert and decided we were going to get up early to get to the Mayo in order to complete my LAST treatment.  Unfortunately, the lab back home read the results wrong to the Mayo Clinic and we made the trip for nothing.  Mom knew I was super upset and she did everything she could to keep my spirits up.  We did a little shopping but I grew tired easily.

Treatment was pushed out another week. On August 12, 2016 I received my last dose of chemotherapy!  If all went well, September 2nd would be my next PET/CT scan!  We went ahead and had the scan and it came back clean as well!  Two consecutive scans that came back clean was such a good sign!  There was no evidence of the disease left!

Three month checks were in my future. (To be continued) …

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…)

 

 

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.