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!