Sunday, November 8, 2009

Appleton, WI

"There is no future.
There is no past.
I live this moment as my last.
There's only us.
There's only this.
Forget regret,
Or life is yours to miss.
No other road.
No other way.
No day but today."

Life has been a whirlwind as of late. No news really on the medical front. My next appointment with my oncologist is in December to find out my current status and make a plan of action accordingly.

I am currently on my way home from Appleton, WI. A few months back I got an email from someone I had only casually spoken with on a Rent website ( Knowing my story and knowing how much Rent means to me, she wanted to do something for me. She offered to pay for me to see Rent with her in Appleton twice. I was shocked. At first I wanted to decline the offer just because it seemed like too much. I've never been good at accepting gifts. After talking with Michael and Brad, though, I realized that I needed to accept. She was doing this because she wanted to and there was no reason why I should feel guilty about it.

So, her and I saw the show this Thursday and Friday and it was amazing. Not that I had any doubts there. But still... I am in awe that the cast can still give 150% every night. I don't know how they do it. Every time I see it it blows me away. Every time I see it I turn into an emotional mess. Every time I see it I am reminded to live each day as if it's my last. No day but today. Forget regret or life is yours to miss. I know I've said this before, but I am going to repeat myself. The show truly is my therapy. The melodies, the lyrics, they take me to another place. They give me the will to keep fighting when I am having a weak moment. Trust me, this week was a weak moment. I was so close to just giving up on Monday. I couldn't take any more. I needed something, anything, to go right for me. Seeing the show the past few days was just the revitalization that I needed!

Spending the past few days with her was truly a blessing. She is a sincere, genuine, caring, loving woman. The kind of person that, unfortunately, seems to be lacking in this world. I was sad to leave her tonight but I know we'll see each other soon. She only lives about 45 min away from me.

Ok, I have to make a random paragraph here that is going to sound a little more fangirl-like than I'd like it to. But, I have to be open. Back in 2007 I made a point of going to NYC to see Rent because Anthony and Adam were back in the show for a couple months. I knew it would be my once in a lifetime chance to see them in the roles live. I left NYC completely satisfied, thinking that was it for my Rent experiences. If you had told me then that today I would not only have seen them in the show 11 times and counting, but that I would have actually held conversations with them, that they would know who I was even, that Anthony's significant other would become someone I consider a close friend of mine, I would have told you that you were certifiably insane.

Sometimes I sit back in just pure awe at the path my life has taken.

The fact that a silly online game would bring me to Chicago and (through a series of events) to the man who makes me happier than anyone ever could. The people I've met. The places I've travelled. The things I've done. It really does astonish me sometimes.

Along that vein, it was six months ago today I got my diagnosis. I was told then that I probably wouldn't live to see the year's end. They gave me about 6 months. Yet, I am still here and healthier than ever. Yes, I am still battling cancer. Yes, I still have a long road ahead of me. But, I went from a distraught person who wanted to give up in May to a person who is confident she will beat this. That she will be a survivor. She will not be a statistic. I will not let this take me. This I know for certain. As more than one person has told me, I am too stubborn to die. They say that in jest but I think it's true. The moment I stop fighting, the moment I lose hope, I will die. I need to be stubborn in order to be strong.

Well, I think I made up for my lack of updates by posting two in one day.

Here is a quote from Rent I am going to leave you all with.

"You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends - but it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones," as said by Maureen at Angel's funeral. That's what I aspire to be. I want to be the kind of person that gets things like that said at their funeral. Perhaps that sounds too morbid for some of you but truly, I look up to the character of Angel. Angel was sick and dying yet still put everyone before themself. Truly selfless and loving without stipulations. The kind of person we should all aspire to be.


I couldn't do this without you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Boston in July

"To days of inspiration, playing hooky,
Making something out of nothing,
The need to express to communicate,
To going against the grain, going insane, going mad."

I know I waited far too long to update this blog. A lot has been going on and I've been tired. I'm totally gonna play the sick card as my excuse for just being lazy.

My Boston (and the surrounding vacation in Cleveland) trip was amazing, moving, heartbreaking.

I flew to Cleveland on Wednesday. On my way to my sister's house, I stopped at my grandmother's house. Seeing how heartbroken she is over my diagnosis brought me to tears
. It was a very emotional visit but much needed. I felt loved and appreciated and that is something I have rarely felt within my family. Don't get me wrong, my family has always meant well. However, their way of showing it left something to be desired (and then some). After I left my grandmothers house, I picked up my sister at her place and we went out to our mother's house. I can't tell you how happy I was to see my dog (and how happy he was to see me!). It's been six months now since I had to take him back to Ohio. Six very long, saddening months. But that will soon change. Our friend, Missy, took in one of our cats so I can have my dog here (stupid 2 pet limit at the condo here!). I want him here. No, I need him here. Soon enough...soon enough... Anyway... back to the recap of my trip. :)

My sister and I had decided we would leave early Thursday morning for Boston, arriving there late Thursday night. Our father and brother decided to surprise us and meet us at Elizabeth's house to bring us coffee and breakfast. I think it was hard for my dad to see me bald. He is not one to ever show emotion, he likes to pretend he's tough and hard. But, I know I saw him almost crack when he saw me in my current state. It was hard for me to see him hurting. I've not seen my dad cry often. I can still remember David's funeral like it was yesterday. For those that don't know, David is my cousin. Him and his girlfriend died in a car accident when we were all 16. My dad stood there outside the funeral home a complete mess repeating over and over "That could've been my daughter. That could've been my baby." And now here he is, potentially facing burying his daughter. His baby girl. Truth be told, I was dreading going home for this very reason. I didn't want to cause my family pain in seeing the reality of my illness. We got past the emotional state though and my sister and I started our journey.

We had made plans ahead of time to stop and visit two of our cousins who were vacationing in upstate New York for lunch. Our lunch ended up being about two hours long but it was so worth it. It had been a long time since we'd seen Sherri and Marie and it was lovely to get to catch up on a few years of our lives. The rest of the drive to Boston was rather uneventful. Just long. Really really long. It was around 10pm when we arrived at the hotel and Rachel arrived shortly afterwards. Timing couldn't have been better really seeing as we were coming from different directions and all. I introduced Rachel and Elizabeth, we all chatted and caught up and then eventually passed out knowing we had a busy day ahead of us on Friday.

Friday, during the day, was spent wandering around Boston, navigating the public transportation system, seeing the Science Museum and taking lots of pictures. Then, it was time for the main reason we were there. Rent.

Michael had said he'd meet us by the theater so we were waiting in the general vicinity. Michael had a few of his friends with him. It was nic
e to put a face to the names of people I'd heard about. Brady, Brady, Tori, Elizabeth, Rachel, Michael and I all did our introductions and said hi and what not. Then we went into the show and they went off to do their own thing. Oh, I should go back and say that my sister had never seen Rent before this trip in any form. (Though she did watch the movie countless times on the 12 hour car ride to Boston so she knew the story by the time we got there.) Rachel had seen the movie but never the live show. The show was amazing and that's a complete understatement. I should break out my thesaurus so I can use more appropriate adjectives. I felt so blessed to have had the chance to share the experience with my sister. Given how dear it is to me, I wanted her to know it too. After the show we chatted with Michael while Anthony signed autographs at the stage door and then started our adventure back to our hotel.
Saturday morning we awoke and debated what to do when I was offered two tickets to see Rent that night by a friend who obviously loves me very much. So, we bought Rachel a ticket too and then the three of us wandered around downtown until it was time for the show that night. We met up with Michael again briefly before the show and then chatted with him after the show while Anthony did the stage door thing again. Rachel took a picture of Michael and I because I always fail at remembering to take pictures of anything.

I have more to say but I'm going to make it another post as this one is long enough already!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've been slacking

Sorry, I know I'm behind on updating here. Well, my family all knows now. It's been interesting to see their reactions. I've also told a good portion of my friends. Now, I kinda want to hide. I love all my family and friends dearly and I'm grateful for their well wishing. However, the questions, and even the concern they show towards me, get overwhelming. I have a good 30 messages on facebook and in my email that all need a response. I've been ignoring them all. So, if you sent me a message, I'm sorry. I will respond eventually. Just not right now.

Otherwise, I've been doing ok. Keep on keeping on. I had a bunch of tests a week ago. So far, the results are looking good. The cancer hasn't spread. It also hasn't shrunk at all but that's ok. Without any treatment, it surely would've spread so that means my treatment is working. We just need to fine tune it so it works a little better. :)

I'm on vacation next week and going to Boston to see Rent and some friends out there. I can't even express to you how excited I am. I've seen Rent many a time live (and countless times on DVD). But, there's just something special about seeing it live. My friend Rachel is meeting me in Boston too. Rachel used to be one of my closest friends. Her and I lost touch due to a series of events that don't need to be talked about. In retrospect, it all seems so trivial. We were able to pick up right where we left off though which I think is amazing. I'm thrilled to have her in my life again. I'm also ecstatic to get to share Rent with her. She's a fan of the musical too. I don't know if she's ever seen it live though. If not, she's in for a real treat with this company! The cast is amazing, they give 150% every night.

I also get to see my friend Michael while in Boston. I met him on a Rent forum a couple months back and he's been there for me a lot in the time I've known him. He's listened to me rant about my illness, he's listened to me rave about Rent, he offers his words of encouragement when I'm having a bad day and also knows when to just keep his mouth shut and let me talk. I truly am blessed to have met him. His boyfriend is in the Rent cast so he travels to a good number of tour stops himself.

My roommate has also been amazing with what I'm going through. I know I've not been easy to deal with. I have my moments of severe depression. Wondering what my future holds or if I even have a future. He's still learning how to best react when I'm having those times but he does a pretty darn good job most of the time.

To sum this up. I'm doing ok. Getting by. My family has been great and my friends all the more awesome.

My brain is kinda foggy right now. Unfortunately, it usually is. Which leads me to the link I'm going to leave you with. I advise everyone to read the article posted after this link. It's extremely well written and explains very well what people going through chemo have to deal with. This is a side effect of chemo not often talked about yet it's the hardest side effect to cope with, in my opinion.

“Through the Fog” (Katie Brennan)
That link apparently doesn't work anymore, so here's another link for the piece Katie wrote. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Final Connection

I finally told my dad. I had been putting it off and putting it off but I knew I couldn't postpone it any longer. In my dad's typical fashion, he got angry first. He was upset I hadn't told him sooner. I pointed out to him that I tried to tell him sooner but he was refusing my phone calls and calling me names all because of a very petty reason. He admitted that he'd been a jerk to me. I love my dad dearly but he's always had his jerk moments. I've never heard him admit to one before though. That blew me away. Then dad started to get emotional. He hates to show emotions or any vulnerability so he tried to hide it. But, even through the phone, two states away, I could tell he was getting choked up. I'm his baby girl. I'm his first born, will always be 5 years old in his eyes, baby girl. And now his baby girl may be dying.

I'm really glad to have gotten everything out in the open. However, that was definitely one of the hardest phone calls in my entire life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Follow up to last post

Ok, so I totally chickened out at the mere thought of telling my father and grandmother. I am hoping to phone them tomorrow. We'll see if I follow through.

My sister told me that she told our brother the news. She said he's just confused. He doesn't really understand. That's the best that can be expected really.

My mind is racing right now and I can't think straight. Not a good time to be posting really. So, I'll leave you with a quote I read today.

"If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell." --Lance Armstrong

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Halfway there

I finally started to tell my family my news. Some of you might wonder why in the world I didn't tell them as soon as I got my diagnosis. Truth is, you don't know my family. It would take too much time to give a proper explanation. Suffice to say, I'm accustomed to doing things on my own and this was no different.

However, various friends of mine convinced me that perhaps I should be telling them all. So, I started with my cousin/pseudo big sister. Her and I grew up together, both living with Grandma (my dad's mom), until she went off to college at 18 (I was 8 at the time). Then, I told two other cousins. At this point, I figured I should tell my immediate family before they found out by way of family gossip and then hung me out to dry for not telling them first.

I tried calling my sister to tell her but kept chickening out and instead asked how her daughter and the family was doing every time. So, I tried my mom. I told her everything. She was disappointed I hadn't told her sooner but she seemed understanding too. She said she was proud of me for being so strong to face this and that she was proud to call me her daughter. That made me speechless. Twenty seven years I've been waiting to hear her say she was proud of me. All it took was this. She's been calling me almost daily to check in on me. Another miracle coming from her. It's amazing what a little perspective will do for her.

Mom then told my sister for me. My sister was rather ticked off I hadn't told her sooner, especially given that we talk almost every day if not multiple times a day. I hope she can understand why I didn't tell her sooner. I didn't want to worry her or stress her out.

The only main people left to tell are my little brother, my father and my grandmother on my father's side. I don't know how to tell my brother. He's 13 years old. While he's rather mature for his age, he's still only 13. I don't know what all he'll be able to grasp. My father is not speaking to me right now due to his own petty, immature issues. So, that poses it's own problem about me telling him. Telling my grandmother will be very difficult emotionally. I know she's gonna take it hard and that's gonna be hard on me. But, tomorrow, I will tell them all. I just hope I have the strength.

I still have a good 492 (only a slight exaggeration!) cousins, aunts and uncles that I haven't told. But, I'll let the family pass the info along to the rest of them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Will I"

I was given the idea to make a blog just about the journey ahead of me. I don't know if this blog will end up just being about my current situation. But, I'm sure it will be the primary focus for sure. I wanted to start off with the song that inspired the title for this. "Will I" is a song from the musical Rent. The characters are at a meeting, a group therapy session if you will, and are talking about their concerns and fears given the medical crisis they are facing. It's a song that resonates deeply within me.

"Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?"

It's a simple chorus that is repeated a few times through. That is where I am right now. I'm worried about losing my dignity. Worried about being alone, about people not caring. Worried about seeing this through to the other side.

Now, to explain all of this.
I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma about a month back.

I am almost 27 years old, losing my hair from chemo, and fighting for my life.

I have the strength I need to get through it because of Rent. When I am having a bad day, and feeling down about it all, I listen to the soundtrack. The music touches me in ways I can't even begin to explain. The lyrics and melodies take me to a place that makes me strong. It also reminds me to live each day as though it may be my last, to love everyone completely and to cherish what time I do have. But most importantly, to never stop fighting. The song "Will I" resonates deep within my soul. I never thought my love of RENT could get any stronger but I was mistaken. It went from being a musical that I was a huge fan of to a story that gave me the will to fight.

As such, you will probably see me quoting a lot of songs from the musical here along with giving random updates as to my health and status and whatnot.