Find your purpose...
Sounds like a tall order doesn't it? Purpose...what is purpose to a cancer survivor? I definitely believe its something much deeper than most people could ever understand. Actually, I am not going to limit that to cancer survivors. Anyone who experiences a traumatic experience in life can appreciate what it means to find a purpose behind it. Those answers might not be so clear at first while your asking yourself all of those whys, but find it. It is there.
My best friend sent me this the other day. It was a bad day. I've had a few of those lately while I have been obsessing over these little pains as we do so often. It came at the perfect time and I did exactly what it said...and right now I want you to do the same thing. Put your hand over your heart...its beating isn't it? If your reading this, the answer is yes. Its beating for a reason. God hasn't given up on you. Don't give up on yourself. Find your purpose.
I know how difficult this can be when you are going through a hard time. Whether its a divorce, an illness, an unhealthy child, cancer...it is so hard to focus your attention on anything while you are consumed in those present emotions. But think about it...you spend so much time (and I know you do because I do) worrying about what the future holds for your health, in love, in life...why not focus that attention on something that has a purpose? You cannot change what your body is going to do, or what lies ahead in life. That's in God's hands. So why not focus that energy on finding something that will bring you a more positive outlook on your current situation. This too shall pass...no matter what it is.
When I was in treatment, I had a million different ideas for what I wanted to do when it was all over. I will tell you, none of those ideas ever formulated in to a plan. Truth was, I didn't know what I would be capable of doing when it was all said and done. I didn't know what I was in for emotionally but as time has passed...I am slowly beginning to direct my attention towards a few things that I have found passion in. I love my photography business but its not my purpose in life. In speaking to a friend the other day...out of no where I said, "I hate that breast cancer happened to me, I would never want to go through that again...but I also have never felt like I had a real purpose in life. Breast cancer has given me a purpose, for the first time in my life...I feel as though I have a true purpose." I said that with borderline tears because it was such a revelation to me.
I know writing in this blog inspires other women, and I am thankful for the gift I've been given to put my feelings on paper in the most honest way possible. Writing in this blog, for me, has begun to define that purpose for me. No one HAS to tell me that I am inspiring to them...and that is the highest of all compliments that I can receive. It makes me feel so happy inside, that even if for one second, I brought someone comfort in their own journey. I know what that first chemo felt like, I know what it felt like to face the fears of having my breasts removed, and I know what all of this post cancer bullshit feels like, as well. With that being said, I cant change the world. I cant take away your journey from you, I cant erase what it is you are going through or make it go away...but I hope that I can make it a little easier for you. Right now, in this moment...that's my purpose. Providing comfort to someone else who is following in my footsteps. I am certainly not creating world peace but finding a purpose doesn't have to be some grand adventure.
Recently, my mother taught me how to sew pillows. I will be working directly with my plastic surgeon to drop off care packages with these cute pillows and a matching bag for their patient's post surgical drains. I have plans and hopes of getting involved with the local media to bring more awareness to this disease. As more time goes on, I am learning that my passion is being directed more towards bringing awareness to young survivors. This is NOT an old women's disease anymore. Something needs to be done and I am a small duck in a very large pond but I will do anything and everything to this regard. I believe my story is the perfect example for why younger women need to advocate for themselves and follow what their bodies are telling them. Being turned away by a doctor and following my instincts, saved my life.
Right now, this little bit of purpose that I have found within myself, has brought me hope and happiness. It has made me feel good about what's to come. Though I still have my fears, that some days will just rule my world, feeling as though I have a purpose brings me comfort. Some peoples purpose in life is to be a mother, others is to save lives as a doctor, or a father's purpose to teach his daughter about love and life. We all have a purpose here on earth and some of us will never be fortunate enough to really understand or discover that purpose. Some people will float through their daily lives not truly appreciating or caring why they are here. My purpose might change tomorrow but for right now, this is what I have discovered. This is what brings solace to my days and I will take what I can get. This simple little message, has been engraved in my brain for the time being.
My hand is on my heart...my heart is beating. I have a purpose. You have a purpose. It doesn't have to be huge but just know that it is there, acknowledge it, and embrace it. You are alive for a reason. Don't EVER give up! I hope that after you read this blog, you will find encouragement and peace in your journey. I want to inspire you, but I also want you, personally, to feel good about yourself and who you are and only you can engrave those thoughts in to your own mind.
I know its been awhile since I have gone backwards in my journey so today...Im going to take a step back. Lets just call it a Flashback Friday!! I wanted to write this particular blog because I think its important for patients to be aware of some of the things they never tell you. Also, this is the reality of chemo. This is what it did to me. Please don't read this and think the same things will happen to you. Some people float through chemo with very little problems. And all in all, it could have been much worse....I guess.
As happy as you see me in this photo, was about as happy as I was to be at this 2nd treatment. Its hard now...to even look at that picture because I know what this all felt like for me. This post isn't the easiest because I am going back to a very horrible time for me. Though I didn't experience too many side effects from my first infusion, I was aware that they would be accumulative so I wasn't sure what to expect this next time around. Little did I know...I wouldn't even make it past the first hour without experiencing one of the crazy side effects, I believe most doctors don't tell you about. I do not want to scare anyone or bring any negative thoughts to those who might be starting chemo soon but, again, its important that I remain honest.
So, as you know from my first chemo treatment, they give you lots of premeds to avoid many things from happening. One being the nausea, the other being an allergic reaction. I had no idea an allergic reaction was something that could even happen. I would soon find out after all of my premeds were done being injected in to my veins.
So here comes that wonderful bag...You know the one with "TOXIC" written all over it, the one that gets delivered to me by a nurse covered in head to toe, the poison? I remember actually feeling pretty optimistic because my first 2 weeks weren't too bad. After the chemo infusion began, that quickly changed. I am not sure how I was able to determine that something was wrong as fast as I did. I guess you just know when something "isn't right" and that's exactly what I said to my husband. I don't think he really understood what I was trying to tell him but I asked him to get the nurses as fast as he could. When they finally came over, my heart was racing, my blood pressure sky rocketed, I remember saying that I just felt really funny. I had no idea what was going on at the time. I was also having a hard time trusting my nurses at that point. They wanted to give me meds to counteract the reaction and I didn't want any more meds. My husband encouraged me to just trust them and let them do whatever it was they needed to do...and so I did. I am pretty sure they gave me Benedryl and Adivan and who knows what else. This concoction would become a part of every single treatment from here on out. In addition to that, we learned that I did better with slow infusions. My nurse thinks the reaction I had was because my "drip" was too fast. The rest of the infusion was a blur to me as I was knocked out from the cocktail of crazy drugs I had been given.
I never really felt terrible on the days that I had chemo. In fact, I cant honestly say that any of my side effects were ever consistent with ones from the time before. For some people, side effects are cumulative. For me, they definitely were. I remember my nurse saying to me..."It's like a boxing match, you just keep getting knocked down...you get back up and then we knock you down again". So essentially...you are in the fight for your life. That's how I interpreted that. Within 2 days of my treatment, I would understand why chemo was so hard. I was exhausted. I was tired. I didn't want to do anything except for sleep. I, personally, could deal with the nausea, and the lack of appetite, the headaches, and the body pains. There were pills to help cope with all of that. There was no magic pill that would take away my fatigue which made it the worst side effect I would experience. I always felt tired. For the first 2 months while I received the A/C cocktail, all I wanted to do was sleep. There was also no magic pill that was going to keep my hair from falling out. These were all just really shitty things I had to deal with so that my life could be saved from this stupid fucking cancer.
Another odd side effect was from my Neulasta shots. I received Neulasta 24 hours after every single infusion. I sometimes believed that most of my side effects came from Neulasta and not the actual chemo itself. Neulasta is used with certain chemotherapy regimens to lessen the incidence of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, thus reducing the risk of infection. The drug works by stimulating the bone marrow to produce new granulocytes. This stimulation of the bone marrow often leads to some degree of bone pain. I am so thankful that my nurse suggested for me to take Claritin and Aleve the day of my shot and the few days following. Though I am not exactly sure how much this helped but I have to imagine to some degree it did.
My infusions were always on a Monday, my Neulasta on Tuesday and by Wednesday I was down for the count. The pain associated with the Neulasta shot was nothing short of the worst flu like symptoms you might ever encounter. I would stay in bed and sleep for the 3-4 days following this. There would be a point during every cycle...where I would finally make my way out of the bedroom and do my best at functioning somehow. It was usually by this time, that I would become very sad and depressed because I was quickly reminded of everything I was incapable of doing anymore. As my treatments continued...this just got worse. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for everyone else to watch me go through this because for me, this is when reality set in. This was when I started to "feel sick". At times I had wished I never even found my cancer because I didn't feel sick before any of this. This was when my fatigue became incredibly difficult for me. Some days, I felt like all I could do to stay alive was remind myself to keep breathing. I think that sometimes, I just wanted to sleep because I was so depressed. I just wanted the bad days to go away. I wanted to get to the next infusion so that I would be that much closer to the end of it all.
I don't plan on writing too many more posts about chemo. Its hard for me to go back and remember how horrible it was for me. Its partly why I become so anxious and depressed at times. I fear ever having to go through this again. I sometimes wonder if I could even do it again which makes my brain spiral out of control. I believe this to be true for most. Sure cancer is a really scary thing. Even though it sounds like a death sentence...it's not. But the chemo can feel like death at times and I fear ever having to go through that again. Fact of the matter is I fear lots of things that come along with this.
So with that being said, I want to end this blog on a positive note. I am teaching myself to acknowledge these challenges, these bad days, and these fears...but to figure out a way to end those thoughts in a positive way. So here goes...Today, I am thankful that I have my health and the hair on my head. I am thankful that I was able to start working out again this week. I am thankful that this weekend, I will be picking up my camera again for 3 amazing photo shoots. I am thankful that I have today.
I found this screen shot on my phone the other day. I found it a few days after I was diagnosed and I always try and refer back to it during those tough moments. I hope maybe during your rough moments, you can read this and remember to live in the present. The past is the past and it does not in any way predict your future.