2016 Year in Review

mauiprettypic

Playing in the rain on my wedding day

2016 was a great year overall for us. We had our ups and downs as anyone does, but we had so many wins this year it made all the crummy stuff worth it.

Some of the things from our family vision board manifested themselves into reality this year. I’m totally into what many refer to as woo woo; I believe in visualization and I look at my vision board every morning before I meditate. In February we traveled to Arizona for a week to check out potential places to live and scope out the local scene. In December we married on Maui next to the ocean underneath the beautiful palm trees, something we had dreamt of for many years. It was such a fun week celebrating with family and friends on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. If you had told me ten years ago all these things I wished for would actually happen, I probably would have told you, “You’re crazy!”. My life was just stumbling along until I discovered and added in some of these success habits and goal setting techniques. I also began writing my future book about my cancer story and how I recovered from treatments, which I can’t wait to share with you!

This year also marked an important milestone for me. 15 years that I have been blessedly cancer free. I feel like that is a reason to celebrate! I have made it this far with no chronic illness besides my hypothyroidism from radiation therapy. It does not mean much to life insurance companies however, they think I will die soon apparently so they refuse to insure me at any cost. It’s quite unfortunate that you get treated like some kind of defective human after cancer. I can’t donate blood either. I’m just going to keep living as healthy a lifestyle as I can so I can live to 100! (My current goal) I’m still thinking about ways I can help and inspire other childhood cancer survivors that being healthy can be accomplished after cancer, I do not like the current statistic that 80% of childhood cancer survivors have a chronic illness by age 40. I want to lower that number.

mycancer

Myself all puffed up on steroids during treatment in 2001

We’ve also been dealing with the toxic black mold situation that has progressively gotten worse the longer we are living here. It’s such a nightmare to try to get out of if you don’t have a safe place to go and a wedding already planned and paid for with non refundable plane tickets. I have read multiple books on minimalism over the past few years and made it my goal to lose the materialism and stuff that doesn’t bring me joy, but I’ve floundered at it quite honestly. I seriously cut back on buying things, but I felt like I couldn’t ever get rid of enough stuff! Well, now we really don’t have a choice. The universe has brought me a lesson on the importance of minimalism and shedding excess stuff. We can bring what we deem safe and the furniture is all going. A new mattress on the floor in an empty room is better than being ill!

Myself now with my family

Myself now with my family

This next year will be super exciting as more things manifest into our lives from our vision board. Currently we are packing, selling and donating in preparation to move to Arizona. I’m immensely excited about this as I have dreamt of moving to a warm climate for a decade now. It’s finally happening! When you evaluate your life and gain clarity on what you really want it can happen. Years of hard work eventually do pay off. When we looked at the current environment we live in (weather included) it was not conducive to the type of lifestyle we’d like to lead, so we made the decision to move across the country. It’s interesting how it all came together in the past few years, as if it were simply meant to be. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed. Have a happy, healthy, amazing New Year!

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15 Years Later, a Survivor 

Happy Birthday to me! October is a special month for me, as it is my second birthday, the anniversary of my autologous stem cell transplant. Something many people do not like to talk about is their medical history. I used to feel the same way, it’s almost terrifying to think that you are different, that there was something wrong with you. In my younger years, I used to pretend that nothing had ever happened to me, that I was as normal as every one of my peers. But, your past has a way of following you around, and it reared it’s ugly head again right in the beginning of my 21st year. I had cancer. It was to me, the worst diagnosis one could ever receive. It meant being ill again, losing my hair again, not being able to have a normal life yet again. The first time, I was 16, and I did not yet have a job or any real responsibility. It was much easier for me to just be out of school and have some homeschooling while I went through my treatment. This time was going to be different. I had a car payment, I had bills, I was in college, I had a job, and a relationship. This time, I had to walk away from everything I had started to build as my whole life came crumbling down around me. I had hoped that I could retain some semblance of a normal 20 year old life, but that didn’t happen. I spent my 21st birthday vomiting, but it wasn’t from a night of drinking like the average 21 year old birthday celebration. I ended up spiraling downward faster than I could blink after I finished my final chemotherapy treatments and my stem cell transplant that October. I would go on to be on a ventilator, in a coma, and hospitalized for 3 months straight.

When I was awakened from my coma, I was surprised by my complete paralysis from muscle atrophy. I cannot even begin to explain how it felt. I had to be fed, changed, and sponge bathed. It was painful to try to move, and I had become so sickly thin from muscle atrophy and weight loss. My parents carried me home, literally, right before Christmas. It would take 3 months of therapy for me to learn how to walk again, and I don’t know how long it took for me to feel normal again. Years I think. It was 4 years before I was able to start working at my job again.

But here I sit, 11 years later, to tell my tale. My message to everyone out there who is battling cancer right now. Don’t give up. Ever. It was the hardest battle I’d ever fought in my life, but the one most worth the fight. I know more people now than ever before who are battling this condition, and I feel for them, because I was once there too, and I know the horrors of the treatments that they are given with the promise of a big ‘maybe you will survive this.’ I am grateful to myself for never giving up, for my family and friends for always being there for me, and to my doctors and nurses, who saved my life.

This year, I have graduated college at the top of my class, given birth to my adorable son, and I have an amazing fiancé. I finally feel like my life is starting to go in the direction it was intended to. Happy Birthday to me, indeed.