Many of you are aware that one of my dear friends and chemo buddies, Andrew Rundle, passed away on Friday, October 4th after a long battle with Ewings sarcoma. This has me hurt so deeply, as we had gotten close between the many hospital stays and chemo days. He was the type of guy who always saw the positives in everything and always had a smile on his face even when he was not feeling well. He was the best person I have ever known- he always found the good in everyone no matter how deep that good might be hidden. He was very forgiving, more so than I ever will be. It might have been that he was naiive, but that’s what made him so special. We pretty much balanced each other out with our different personalities, but we always managed to laugh about the same things. One of those was “Ativan Land”. If anyone knows what we talked about the most, it was probably the joys of Ativan Land. It was the drug that made us feel so good when we were so sick from the chemo and made us forget all of our problems. We would just have this look on our faces when we were not mentally there, and we would know that each other were happy and not in pain. Ativan is basically a drug that offsets nausea and anxiety- which is a must in the world of cancer. We have had many drugged up conversations which just made us laugh even more. I would make fun of people or show Andrew some funny pictures I found on the internet, I always shocked him with my bluntness. He was blunt in a way too, it was more eloquent than my way of being blunt. Andrew had an amazing relationship with God and that always kept him going no matter how dire the situation. I have always respected and have been in awe of how dedicated he is to his religion. I believe his religion made him the amazing person that he was- always forgiving and always someone who made you feel like a better person than you were before. I will truly miss him and he will always have a place in my heart.
I have a new fire burning inside me because of Andrew’s death and I want to spread awareness about pediatric cancer and just how devastating it is. Those who have been diagnosed with a pediatric cancer have not had the chance to live at all and haven’t been able to go through the experiences that an older adult is able to go through. We haven’t bought our own houses, had children of our own, or even finished college. What is even worse, is that there are children younger than Andrew and I, as we have both been in the presence of toddlers and even babies who are cursed with having cancer. They really have no life experience and are being robbed of precious years of life. I have been lucky enough to have been diagnosed at an age where I truly understand what is going on and what I can do to make my life as full as possible. The children who get diagnosed with cancer often (or almost always) have a worse prognosis than those who get cancer later on in life. We also end up having worse problems that will affect us later in life, including heart problems from some of the chemo drugs, brittle bones do to radiation, a better chance of getting cancer again, and even being infertile. I did the research on Ewing’s sarcoma, and basically we only have a 20% chance of being alive 20 years after being diagnosed. Sure, there are not too many children being diagnosed with cancer, but we are supposed to be the future of the world and we are already at a disadvantage. Little money is spent on childhood cancer research, and even less goes to sarcomas. This angers me like nothing else. Everyone is always focused on breast cancer. There is breast cancer awareness month. EVERYONE is aware of breast cancer. There are pink products for purchase everywhere. It has become a fad it seems. A fashion statement. Guaranteed most people are not aware that September is Children’s Cancer Awareness month. Why is it that breast cancer is seen as one of the worst cancers? I am not bashing it in any way possible, but there needs to be more awareness on the part of childhood cancer. With breast cancer survival rates around 90% (I am not positive, but look it up just in case) and mine with less than a quarter percent chance of me surviving, which is more important? Those who are diagnosed with leukemia can kiss two years of their lives away. They have about one year of chemo and then another year of isolation. One of my good friends throughout this journey is Eden, a leukemia survivor. She was only 13 when she was diagnosed, and she had to skip not only her 8th grade year, but also her 9th grade year. She is starting high school as a sophomore and is entering life again in one of the most stressful points of someone’s life. High school is full of judgement. It is full of bullies and people who do not understand what it is like to go through a life or death situation. We cancer survivors (or as I say thrivers) end up so much older mentally. We have to grow up so fast going through treatment and looking death in the face. Suddenly, being popular or pretty goes on the back burner. We focus on living and just getting through the day. So if you could please, please, help me in making pediatric cancer more well-known, I know of many people personally who would appreciate it, as well as many others who I have not met or those who have passed on.
I guess I will have to tell everyone how I am doing. So I got some xrays done, and wow, I am a miracle baby. I have about 80% lung function in my bad lung, and the tumor is either hard to see and is tiny, or nonexistent. I am not exactly sure, but the images don’t lie. My lung may never fully expand because of scaring, but I can deal with that. I mean, I swam one race at state with a collapsed lung and did not do as terribly as I should have, so I have hope that I will get even better times next year. My stomach and diaphragm have also moved up because of the space left by the lung not fully expanding. All that this means for me is that I will have more heartburn. Um, pretty sure that is no big deal considering everything I have been through. That is a small price to pay for living. I will be able to go to school next semester and swim and I am so stoked for it. Especially with the good news and results that I have been seeing, I can say that I am in a good place mentally. Physically, I can breath pretty well, although I do get winded easily. A little bit of working out will change that!
On Sunday, my family and I went to a masters swim meet. Well, we actually swam in it. I swam 50m butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle. We also participated in a family relay. I have to say, I was impressed by how well I was able to swim. I did not have to breathe every three strokes, although I was so tired by the end of it, it was so worth it. It makes me have so much hope for my future in swim. (By the way, I really want to be captain… Like, really bad. I was robbed of it in high school so I will try to earn it in college). Our family relay was a medley relay. I started out with backstroke, Mark did breaststroke, Dad did butterfly, and Mom freestyle. We were ahead by about a lap until my mom had her turn. But we did win by a touch! I cannot blame my mom as she has never swam competitively in her life and did not know exactly what she was doing. I was so proud of our relay because we all did our best strokes and worked well together. We got to appreciate what the others go through as far as physical challenges.
I also went to one of my best friend’s AA meetings on Thursday. I needed to support him because he has supported me through thick and thin. It was my turn to support him through the thin, and we got to understand each other more this way. I needed to see what he is going through and what helps him through everything. I get to see that he is trying so hard to get better. He knows I love him with all of my heart and will be there for him to the ends of the earth.
Oh, and my dad got me my dream car. Yes, I am spoiled. I will so admit it, but at least I respect my parents and am not acting like the kids from “My Super Sweet Sixteen” when they cry about not getting a $10,000 necklace. He admittedly got me the car because he thought that it would get me out of the house more if I had a hot car. I will be honest, it is working. I got a 2013 Camaro, California Edition. It is white with black stripes and amazing black rims. I believe I got the best car on the lot. I am loving having a car that is more of my thing, more of my personality. I am very thankful for that one!
I also got my wedding pictures and wedding video back. Wow, both are fantastic! Joel Kling of EdgeFog Films made a video that was TV quality. And that is not just being complimentary, it is really that good. I will post it in a second!