17 Years of Living

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. 
In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, 
what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 
-Maya Angelou 

17 years just passed since the day I was diagnosed-Friday, December 4th, 1998.  So hard to believe!  There have been more years with cancer and its effects in my life than not, which comes with its blessings and its challenges.  I have seen some other cancer survivors reflect on their journeys recently in tangible terms of number of treatments, etc. and decided to explore mine that way for a change...

-Many surgeries including: 2 intense Askin's Tumor removals (egg-sized around top of spinal cord and small Nerf football between heart, lung and spine), gall bladder removal, many port surgeries in and out, entire right lung removal (1 rib removed, 1 repaired with metal), window installation (2 pieces of rib cut out and open cavity created), closing window/moving around chest muscles and tissue and reconstructing my chest (another rib removed)...

-Other treatments: autologous stem cell transplant; 2 separate protocols of radiation (6 weeks and a few weeks); 3 separate regimens of intense chemotherapy-1 year, 6 months and a few months; 1.5 years and counting for mycobacterium treatment, stem cell harvesting (at least twice)...

-Endless types of medicines and ways of administering: shots (thighs, stomach, backs of arms), pills, IVs, PICC lines, central lines, ports, catheters, medicines that dissolved under my tongue, ones that went up my nose...

-Many strange reactions and side effects to said meds including: all my skin and nails peeled including intestinal linings, red man syndrome (red rash all over body), hallucinations, extreme hunger, no appetite...Medicines that have gross tastes (metallic, salty, etc.) in my mouth but went through the IV, multiple kinds that turn my urine red, ones that can damage organs, and ones that made my hair fall out (3x).

-So many procedures and ways to measure things in my body that I can't remember them all: MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, bone scans, ultrasounds, MUGA scans, hearing tests, echos, pulmonary function tests, sputum samples, physical therapy, broncoscophies, colonoscopies, bone marrow aspirations and bone biopsies etc.

-Things I can't count how many times I've had taken or been asked: swabbed with alcohol or Betadine, blood tests, blood pressure, weight, temperature, pain scale, talk about bowels, urine tests, pulse ox levels, etc.

-Some odd medical facts about me: Through all the meds, only 1 allergy has ever been found and even that isn't really a big deal (don't even consider it a true allergy) although I do have preferences like a strong dislike for IV Benadryl; I had never made a trip to the ER until 2 months ago when I was out of town; I have never ridden in an ambulance and I have never fainted.

But somehow amidst all that I'm still here doing my thing and I normally don't dwell on all of the above.  My body and mind are resilient.  I was honored to marry the love of my life.  I've met incredible people throughout these years-a lot of them because of cancer.  I've traveled many places including places worldwide speaking and sharing my story.  I received multiple degrees.  I continue to remain active and work out.  I give back when I can.  I am surrounded by an amazing husband, family and friends who are like family.  I am truly blessed and while some might be depressed about all this, I truly try to make the best of it.  Some days definitely aren't easy but overall I'd rather be here continuing the fight than the alternative.  Here's to 17 years and counting of living!



Bev said...

Oh Rachel - what an inspiration you are to me, every single day of my life. I feel so blessed to have you as part of my family and part of my life -- thank you for your optimism. You truly are an inspiration to many!
Love you lots, Grandma H.

Keasi Tora said...

I learnt from an impaired friend recently whom I invited as a panelist, "Disability is something imposed by society, Disability is caused by people around me, or my physical surroundings. Allow my ability to come out and shine!”

What an enduring blessing you've been through the 17-years Rachel. Most of us look at our situation and question God's purpose for our lives without realizing we're self-imposing these limitations on ourselves. Life was meant to be appreciated and to be enjoyed to the fullest, whatever we have of it. Let's do that.

As always, warmest regards from Fiji.

Obsessedwithlife said...

Thanks! Love you too!

Obsessedwithlife said...

Great insights and thanks for your encouraging comments-always appreciate them!