Worst Nightmare

These are the words of my mother. She told me she is not good at writing so I asked her questions instead and documented what she had to say. If it is all over the place, that is because sometimes my mom is. I love her words in this, it is organic and totally 100 percent her. Take a look and read this to hear from the perspective of a parent dealing with their child going through cancer…

“It is every parents worst nightmare to find out your child is sick. Any time your child is sick it is upsetting, but it was heart wrenching getting the diagnosis. From the very beginning, before knowing anything, I would lay in bed at night and just pray that the tumor was pre cancerous, because why should my child have cancer? At least if it was pre cancer it wasn’t actually cancer.

Getting the diagnosis it was heart breaking, I thought I got punched in the gut and had the wind knocked out of me. BUT I also felt a little bit of relief having that diagnosis. Now, at this point my husband and I said “what is the next step and how do I make her better”? Angela always looked healthy to me but in my head I thought chemotherapy was going to take Angela out for the count. I pictured my daughter as frail and to lose her long hair right away…

I would ask myself sometimes, why does my child have cancer? What did I do? 

We had support from the family and the town got involved. The support from our family lead to getting Angela’s amazing doctor at Dana Farber. 

But meeting Angela’s doctor, Doctor Crombie, made me feel a sense of ease with her soft spoken voice and kindness. When we sat with her the first time I felt like Angela was her only patient even though she was most definitely taking care of a lot of other sick cancer patients. 

Angela’s first chemo was the hardest. Watching my child have poison put into her body was tough pill to swallow. Getting her better meant getting worse at the same time, which still makes no sense to me.  The set backs Angela endured were chronic like neutropenia (when the chemo kills the blood cells that fight off infections making cancer patients extremely weak and susceptible to any infection) and a horrible lung infection from one of her chemo drugs. 

Seeing my daughter in the hospital three times was nothing but heart breaking, but the worst time was for her lung infection in October. 

My daughter could not breathe. I was scared, so I could not fathom how she even felt. Angela was in the hospital for nearly a week because of the lung toxicity. The chemo drug had taken over 85 percent of her lungs, leading to her not being able to breathe. THEN needing to remove this drug from her chemo regiment meant another two rounds of chemo for my daughter. Before this infection… she was supposed to be done in September… now? Late November. It all seemed unfair, my kid is only 23 years old, she is bald, and extremely sick? I was pissed. 

However when we finally got to the end of Angela’s treatment, I could finally breathe again. I actually felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. BUT the best feeling was hearing my daughter was in remission from her cancer, put simply it was pure joy. 

What gave me hope throughout all of this was seeing Angela handle everything with grace and her never ending strength. I tried to be as positive as my daughter was, almost as if I was imitating her. If she was feeling good then so was I. 

Cancer has changed my life. I can’t sweat the small stuff, even though I still do. But I try not to let small things ruin my joy. I simply believe that you need to be kind to everyone because you never know what people are going through. 

Angela taught me that she is unbelievably strong, positive, can handle anything with grace and kindness, but she still always contained her sass and spit fire attitude. She is my rock star. 

What I want to say to other people going through any hardship or adversity is to never give up hope. Pray every day. Stay positive. Surround yourself with family and friends who support you.   Everybody’s cancer journey is different, but I hope people can see Angelas journey and hold onto it to have faith that they will overcome their cancer.”

I hope you all gave this a read. It is important to know that not only just a patient is going through it, but so are their loved ones.

Jack Attack

Heroes can come in all shapes and sizes. My hero is Jack Callahan, the toughest three year old I know. Jack was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor located on his pelvis February 8th, 2019. The germ cell tumor was a result of an infection in his leg called toxic synovitis. Jack was unable to walk from the pain of this tumor for weeks, until his diagnosis.

Fortunately, milestones have been reached by my friend Jack as he finished high dose chemotherapy in early November and his PET/MRI scans seem hopeful to his doctors. However it is still a long road ahead for Jack, as he has to undergo additional cancer treatment called proton radiation which started on January 9th which will target his pelvis with advanced technology.

As for the high dose chemo it caused Jack to have permanent hearing damage which caused him to have to wear hearing aids. BUT any adversity is no challenge for Jack as he remains smiling and happy.

Every time I was sick or in the hospital- I would think of my buddy Jack. He was and is my first beacon of hope enduring this disease. His mother and father, Emily and Mike, are perfect examples of what staying positive and down to earth during something which most would say is the worst thing to happen are. I am so grateful to have come in contact with such an amazing little boy and family.

Thanks for giving me constant hope and strength Jack Attack, you are beyond amazing. The link to Jack Attack’s GoFundMe will be linked down below.

I’ll leave you all with this: Although he may be small, he is so very mighty. Keep on fighting hero.

Jack’s GoFundMe Link:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/qsrc6-help-jack-beat-cancer?fbclid=IwAR2-FKATaL_vTZpvD6hMbKD7X29W1bgwstKsBnQzcdH5n52SrAdkRDWDL_E

April showers, bring May flowers

April into May were two of my favorite months I had ever had in my short life time. My last semester of college, it was full of new friendships, pure happiness (the kind of happiness you see little kids have when they get to eat ice cream after dinner), and magic. Or it all seemed like magic. 

Life was so simple and easy because through every Sunday to Saturday I made every day into a new adventure. It was my last days of college and I wanted to take every inch and foot with a grain of salt. Which is what I did. It is easier to find the simplicity and beauty of being in the same place with all of your favorite people when you know it is coming to an end. Therefore, I saw every day I was given as something entirely brand new. That is how I think you should view your days as you near the ends of your college odyssey. 

May 19th I graduated from the perfect little school Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. There are fascinating things about the little school by the sea I got to go too. It stretched as far as the community of people I met, not knowing if it was going to snow one day or be a heat wave of sun, or going downtown on a random Tuesday after class at noon and drinking mudslides with everyone. Like I said, the days were easy and simple. 

I am sure it was a random Tuesday, or even a Saturday night? In all sincerity it could have been any day of the week I found the tumor on my neck as I was trying to perfect contouring my cheek bones to go out with my friends. The second I noticed the abnormality on my body, I knew deep down there was something wrong. But. I did not care because I was not going to let the unknown golf ball laying above my collar bone stop me from having another fun night out with my friends. Besides 22 year olds do not get cancer, that goes against the laws of the world!

(Small game: see if you can find my bump!)

Unfortunately, some laws are broken. I looked at my friends and said “Have you guys seen this bump on my neck?” They all had a puzzling look on their face and exclaimed “Well you have been sick all year right? It’s a swollen lymph node… you’re good, you’re fine!” Being the space cadet I am, I just took another sip of my cranberry vodka I had probably been nursing for an hour and ignored my worries.

The only reason I truly found out what was going on was because of my mom. She set up an appointment with my doctor the Monday after graduation. With what should have been an hour long appointment turned into seven. Scans and copious amounts of blood work is what that Monday after graduation was. Sitting and waiting on the bleak and freezing cold doctors office bed, I abruptly said to my mom “It is definitely cancer”. After what seemed like two hours of waiting my doctor slowly came back into my room and to explain how I needed further “testing”. OK??? So you mean like a biopsy which will solidify me knowing that I do have cancer in my body? I called it.

I found out I was living my magical fairy tale life with a cancerous tumor only ten days after I graduated. “You have the good cancer! Hodgkins lymphoma we do not know the stage or treatment cycle yet, but it is the good kind!” Here is a piece of advice to people who do not have cancer and say “you have the good cancer” to a Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient, DO NOT SAY THAT. I know people say it to most likely make us feel better, but you honestly sound like an idiot. The news of my cancer did not scare nor worry me, I was pissed off. I am 22 years old and I have to lose my hair? My freedom? My summer? And go through seven months of poison entering my body? Sure thing! That seems fair. 

However, being negative about my situation would only make it worse. Now, I was never over optimistic and cheerleader positive, but I saw my cancer through realism. I knew it was treatable and eventually I could be cancer free. I took every day of cancer with a grain of salt. I continued to smile every day like I usually do and wanted to find new adventures. This was the only way to maintain normal Angela again. Cancer was not going to be a sob story of anger and pity for me, it was my newest odyssey.

Why I highlighted my senior spring in the beginning of this little story is because of the pureness and simple joys it taught me. Cancer was not going to taint my existence, it was going to teach me more about life and how to live it. 

In a weird and ironic way, cancer has showed me how strong I am, I have not stopped fighting and growing. So whoever got to this part of my story, I leave you with this when my cancer brings on showers, I continue to grow like a flower.

My last day of chemotherapy!