My Health History, Well A Brief Summary Anyways. Consider this Part One of two, the “two” is going to be the update post about what’s going on now, okay?
Here goes nothing… and I’m sure I’ll forget something. (If I do, someone let me know, will ya?)
Growing up as a kid and teen, it seemed like I was never sick. I remember an occaisional fever, and the time we all got the chickenpox (my mom and all her friends had us all get it at the same time by rubbing us all over my friend Mary when she cropped a pox, clever thinking!). But never “sick.” I swam and ran track in high school, I was a beach lifeguard. I was really healthy, athletic, I was fine. (What a blessing!!!!).
My sophomore year of college, 2002, started off with an emergency appendectomy which lead to the diagnosis of “Crohn’s Disease” and it was all downhill from there. When they did they appy they realized my needless organ was fine, but that my small intestines was inflamed and horrendous, misdiagnosed as appendicitis, and thus the Crohn’s Diagnosis.
Immediately I started treatment for Crohn’s Disease, which was fun, let me tell you. I took steroids, antibiotics, anti-inflamm meds, and immunosuppressants. Tons of meds. I was “sick.” The meds for the Crohn’s didn’t work, things got dramatically worse, and in the spring of 2003 I has a major surgery losing a couple feet of small bowel and a snippet of colon.
In 2004 I battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was actually acquired as a result of medications I was on to treat the Crohn’s disease. All of the immunosuppressants done broke my immune system.
I did chemo (went bald, yes!) and radiation. They also sliced me open a couple times to take out some lymph nodes, put a portacath in there. At one point they hacked into my bone marrow (thank God the cancer hadn’t spread to there) and they did oodles of biopsies, fun times.
Here I am on a news story about harvesting eggs. Yeah, I had my eggs harvested before I started chemo (because of the chance I’d go infertile). Check me out, I’m about four minutes into the video clip: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=617776n&tag=mncol;lst;8
The Sorority I was in raised money for my treatment. The entire Greek system at my school did, really.
It was an intense time… coming from a Stage III Diagnosis and back to health all in one year. But it was also formative, powerful, inspiring. Clearly it changed me, and I think much for the better. I had an AMAZING support system. My doctors and cancer team was all at the Mayo Clinic, and they were pretty serious (duh). My family was incredible. Driving up to Jacksonville to take turns going to treatments and appointments with me. The guy I was dating at the time was a lifesaver, literally, as well as all of my friends. It was just incredible the literal physical love that embraced me. Strangers and people I was close with all teamed up to save my life. It’s such a hard thing to put into mere words. Thank you, is as close as I can get. Thank you for my life everyone.
My overall ability to appreciate life increased tenfold – at least. Ever since I’ve been happier, kinder, more grateful. My faith is God was solidified (my testimony of God coming to me in those days is pretty awesome) and my trust in humanity restored. As hokey and bullcrap as it sounds, I’m grateful for having had cancer. It changes your perspective on everything and after having gone through it, everything is better.
The day I was diagnosed I pulled into Publix after leaving the hospital to grab a couple things to eat. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself after leaving the hospital, knowing I had cancer. I pulled into the parking spot and I’ll never forget what happened next… the spot next to me was occupied by a van. I saw a mom get out of the driver’s side door and walk around to the other side… and a special door slid open: it was a wheelchair ramp. Out came a child, maybe four or five years old in an electronic wheelchair. I have no idea what illness that child had, but I just remember seeing scrawny, twisted legs… and a HUGE smile. The mother talked to her kid as the wheelchair lowered down, using big smiles and a happy tone, clapping once the chair made contact with the ground. These two people were so happy. This child who would probably never walk was smiling, and here I was: 20 years old and getting sick now. I’d had an untouched childhood, full of running around and doing “normal” kid stuff… (now seriously, don’t anyone get all politcally correct on me for my retelling of the anecdote. I’m not saying this child wasn’t normal or that I’m special because I’ve never been in a wheelchair…. that’s NOT the point, okay?). I saw this child who would never run a lap or be on the swim team in the same easy way I had experienced. I had about nineteen years of flawless health, and so many many people don’t even get half that. Nineteen years! (I got cancer when I was twenty, but I started getting sick when I was nineteen). From that moment on I decided never to ever feel sorry for myself. In the grand scheme of things: I have had everything to be grateful for and not a thing to feel sorry about.
Anyways… I could ramble on and on about my cancer experience… chemo sucked, radiation was worse. One night a sorority sister of mine cried because she had gotten a bad haircut. We were all going to a concert together, and we met at a frirend’s house first to eat dinner. This one girl, A, came into the house just in tears. She’d gotten what she considered a bad haircut. A cried, huge tears rolling down her face. And I just sat there, bald and gobsmacked. She really had the audacity to cry about a bad ‘do while I was sitting there bald? At the time her insensitivity made me mad. I remember being pretty annoyed. Looking back it just gives me broader perspective. Next time you think your mop looks ugly, just be grateful you even have a mop!
In 2006 I had an inguinal hernia which needed surgical repair; it was done openly (as opposed to lap surgery) and I had some mesh put in there. They used the same scar as my bowel resection and just extended it. In 2008 I had some skin cancers cut out, they were Melanoma, which is annoying because I can’t say “cancer-free since 2004.” Ugh!
Backtracking for a minute… In 2007 (after a crazy series of events and symptoms) I was diagnosed with porphyria. Porphyria is a blood disease that has a whole variety of symptoms – for me the most notable is GI problems. Tummy aches, digestion problems, nerve cell death in my GI tract, they can all be blamed on the Porphyria. My doctors actually think now that I don’t even really have Crohn’s Disease, that it was the Porphyria all along. Even though I was officially diagnosed with this genetic blood disease in ’07, I’m just now learning about it. But that’s a post all on it’s own.
In 2009 they cut me open to get out scar tissue that had grown in me from all the times they had cut me open before. “Lysis of Adhesions.” The irony never ends.
I’m the “sick girl.” I guess. It’s weird. As sick as I am, I’m also not really sick. The most I’ve ever spent in the hospital was a couple weeks. I have both arms, both legs, I can walk and talk. I can even run more days than not. I’m honestly okay, and I enjoy a fabulous quality of life. I’ve never spent a minute feeling sorry for myself.
When I moved out to Hawaii I had never felt better. Duggs and I quit smoking (I know, a cancer survivor who smoked = as ungrateful as it gets, I KNOW). I got back in shape. The only med I was taking was my thyroid pill (when I had radiation for the cancer they lasered my thyroid to death, oopsies!).
As I was feeling so awesome and healthy, we decided to strike while the iron was hot, and we conceived. We found out we were pregnant right before Halloween and I would have been due ’round the 4th of July. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or felt better in my life. Honestly. It was the best.
I miscarried around Christmas. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced. Matthew was deployed and in Afghan when it all happened. On December 17, 2010 I had a regular appointment, when I got there they couldn’t find a heartbeat. They gave me some meds and sent me home to take care of business on my own. I bled for almost a month; starting cytotec on December 19th and not passing the “products of conception” (my precious baby-to-be) until fifteen days later. (If I could go back in time I would have done the D&C a million times out of a million times. Cytotec should be illegal).
I’m so glad those sad times are over. I don’t know what else to say about all of that except that if you’re blessed enough to have a baby yourself, give them a little smooch for me, will ya? I know I’ll be a Mom someday, when God’s timing for me is better.
So I’ll end my “brief health history” there, and pick up Part Two with my 2011 Health Round-up in a post all it’s own.
I thank God for my health every day. Despite everything that I’ve been through, I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure and more fortunate than 99.9999% of people on this earth will ever be. I’ve had great care, good doctors, nice hospitals, and excellent treatment the whole time through. Too many people who are sick can’t say the same.
Thank You God, for the health I have today and always. Please bless every doctor, nurse, tech, and friend who’s laid a hand on me, cared for me, thought good thoughts for me, and been there. Please bless them all. I pray that you continue to bless me with a healthy body, heart, and mind now so that I may keep growing and bettering myself to do good things and help others. I want to be healthy enough to pay it forward and take care of those who are sick. For all those seeking better health and comfort, I pray. Thank you God for your endless love and mercy. Amen.