I’m very open with my struggles of depression and sometimes anxiety. It’s been part of me since my early teens. Though there is a lot of darkness in me, there is also pure joy and sunlight.
I had somewhat stopped leaning on people due to constant disappointment of them not being able to hold me up during my time of need. When a strong person cracks or heaven forbid breaks, instead of being heard and allowed to cry, I’m always told to “buck up” and “be strong.” That’s enormous pressure to always remain in-tact.
In this digital age, the reach and support one can find is vast. Though I long for a local bestie to binge watch Downton Abbey (which I’m watching as I type this) and other fun shows or just hangout chatting, it struck me that I’ve been longing for the wrong thing. I keep focusing on friends in real life who can come over, but I see now I have made great female and male friends from all over the world thanks to social media.
From DMs, to supportive posts, to recorded messages from peeps in the UK, to sweet cards and unexpected gifts…how dare I say I’m lonely even for an instant!
So, as the musician and songwriter Joe Cocker sang With a Little Help from My Friends, that’s exactly why I’m able to write this with a genuine smile on my face. I thank those of you who always take time to connect with me on some level. It means more than you will ever know.
Thought I would also take this opportunity to share memories of fun times from the high school days through mid-20’s. I always get excited to share pictures from my many, many photo albums and scrapbooks.
I’m strolling down memory lane remembering my very first audition for a musical in May 1990. It was Grease. Over two hundred kids auditioned and only 30 or so were chosen. I was one of the youngest ones in the cast and was a cheerleader. Kind of fitting, huh? I had one line that always got a laugh when I sat on Doody’s lap.
I was bullied a lot in the high school days and never truly fit in. I was “too different.” So why am I bringing this up? Well, it reminded me of a time where I felt a part of something big and special.
I felt accepted.
I felt liked.
I felt magical.
I felt seen.
That’s how I feel in cancerland. I’ve longed to find my place in the world. I never thought I would find this kind of acceptance for just being plain ‘ole ME. I’ve dealt with some in cancerland who are bullies and rude and who tried to bring me down and doubt myself. Fortunately, going through cancer has given me a thicker skin and made me intolerant of bullshit.
There was a time in my life pre-cancer where I didn’t feel like I had any friends. I had isolated myself which is completely against my nature. I wasn’t confident. I had become this anxiety ridden and insecure woman.
I can honestly say my cancer treatments not only killed the cancer, it also killed that insecurity and anxiety that had kept me stagnant from moving forward in life. It’s strange that it took something life-threating for me to realize that I been a walking zombie just going through the motions with no feeling other than despair.
Fast forward to present day, and I feel like the ME who once stepped on that stage in Grease. I’m fostering friendships both in and out of cancerland. I can honestly say I have friends locally to hang out with now, but I also have friends out of state and internationally who I can facetime or Skype with too. They are just as supportive and caring as the few who are here locally.
I feel confident.
I feel encouraged.
I feel loved.
I feel supported.
So, I leave you with the video of the finale in Greaseclick here because that’s how I feel about all the incredible people that keep coming into my life. There is a new pep in my step. My heart is doing cartwheels. Dare I say, I’m actually having some FUN.
I daresay 2018 brought a lot of pain, loss, frustration, negativity, hopelessness, loneliness and so much more. If I focused solely on that as I reflect about last year, I would just curl into a ball and shrivel away. So, instead of focusing on disappointments and what I didn’t accomplish, I decided to reflect on what I actually DID accomplish in 2018. This idea stems from the free class I took with Lacuna Loft called It’s a Wonderful Life: Taking Care During The Holidays!
writing: I truly AM
My blog turned a year old. I am so proud of what I have written. When I reviewed the stats, I could not believe
how many people not only read my blog, but also follow it. I am floored by how
many countries I have reached!
This is truly a proud moment for me. My blog was planted in pain
but grew in love, advocacy and compassion. The comments I received last year
whether directly on my blog page or through social media and private messages
has let me know that not only have I continued to build my voice, I have helped
others discover their own.
Published on the following websites and publications:
Rethink Breast Cancer
Humor Beats Cancer
Chronic Love Club
connection:Francesca from Elon
A surprise connection was made through Stupid Cancer on Facebook
with the pre-med student Francesca. She reached out to me about a study she was
doing on young adults and the fertility conversations with oncology providers.
The timing was perfect because I was in full out grief over not
being able to have children due to my cancer treatments. I had been processing the
lack of compassion by my oncology team during active treatment, and then how
compassionate my oncology team (2nd opinion) was during my post-treatment.
I underestimated the mental and emotional toll having a
hysterectomy/oophorectomy while single would have on me. Then, enter the
fabulous Francesca from Elon University with her study. Many of you will
remember me posting it in the cancer support groups I belong to because I felt
it was so important that our voices be heard.
I never dreamed what would come next…
Francesca asked if I wanted to be co-author of two abstracts that
were to be submitted to two major medical conferences. There was no hesitation
in saying, “YES!” I helped with editing and formatting the questions in a way
that would speak to the young adult cancer community.
American Psychosocial Oncology Society
Our abstract titled, “You don’t really have a say in anything…like you don’t have any options”: AYA Cancer Survivors’ Perspectives on Fertility Preservation Conversations with Healthcare Providers” was accepted, and we will give a podium presentation at the 16th Annual APOS Conference in Atlanta, GA on February 28 – March 2, 2019.
Society for Adolescent Health
Our abstract titled, “The struggles of fertility are more difficult than
the struggles of cancer”: Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors’
Perspectives on Fertility Preservation was accepted for a Poster Symposia II: Sexual and
Reproductive Health oral presentation at the 2019 Annual
Meeting of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine Washington, DC on
March 7, 2019.
Plus, SAHM will publish our
abstract in the supplement to the February 2019 issue of the Journal of
and I will finally meet in-person next month after talking on the phone,
emailing and texting. She is an amazing and ambitious young woman with so much
compassion and determination. Super excited!!!
My job:I’m working!
It has been a rocky road on the career front. Instead of
focusing on the stress, I am going to reflect on the fact my brain is
professionally razor sharp again. When I had to take part of 2017 and early
part of 2018 off to just heal, it was a blow to my ego and finances.
Chemo brain is no joke.
Fatigue is no joke.
I made the tough decision to completely leave the TV and
radio industry because my stress level in this “new un-normal” couldn’t handle
that kind of fast pace anymore. I took a lot of temp jobs in different
industries to see where my skills and new mindset could fit.
In the end, I am a marketing project manager in the staffing
industry. There have been a lot of ups and downs at this job, but for the first
time ever, I spoke up about the managerial issues. I never would’ve had courage
to do that pre-cancer. Of course, I was professional about it, but also did not
let up until real change was made.
I ended 2018 by receiving a Spirit Award nomination. People
in the company (80+ markets) nominate those who embody spirit, confidence and
enthusiasm. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received the nomination in the
mail during the holidays. I haven’t even been there a year, so it’s nice to
know I’m making an impact.
My joy:My cup runneth over
Though I’m often raw and dark in my posts, I’m super bubbly and a tad “extra” in-person. I love wearing fun hair accessories. I’m dramatic. I love to laugh. I love my cat Nathan (Natey) Edgar Chase.
I rekindled old friendships and sparked new ones.
I was able to visit my college after 19 years in October. I have ah-mazing memories from my four years at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Yep, a GA girl went to college in one of the coldest places on earth. LOL It was like no time had passed. I saw and reconnected with old friends, old haunts and my favorite professor, too!
Most of all, I have found love and acceptance with my tribe
of friends, near and far.
All of this to say, there were beautiful moments in 2018. I’m still alive and pushing through the pain of this “new un-normal.” I have a feeling 2019 is gearing up to be pretty darn special and exciting.
Thanks so much for continuing to ride this cancer train with me. Cheers to 2019!