I Made it to See My 21st Birthday

So it has been a few days since I have posted because my days have been chock full of events! When you don’t hear from me for a while, that means that I am feeling really well and that I have been busy and there is nothing to worry about.

On Sunday, my family and I went to my grandma’s house for Early Christmas. That day is probably the only time of the year that I get to see my extended family because all of our schedules are different. I had such a good time there and was talking to relatives and opening our gifts, it was a fun day.

On Monday, I had to get a platelet transfusion because my counts were so low. I was taken with my dad and since platelet transfusions are notoriously short, we had enough time to hang out and get food afterwards. I had to go for my favorite sushi place, Crazy Sushi, in Elk Grove, to get my fix. I always get a baked roll that has scallops on it and it always makes my tummy very happy. We also got chips and salsa from Chevy’s which we ate all of in one night, I was a little sad because I was hoping for leftovers, but nope! I love leftovers more than anything, it makes my day just knowing that I have good food for me to eat later!

Tuesday I had my radio interview with Beth Ruyak for Capital Public Radio. It was an early start to my day as I woke up at 8am so I could be on the air at 9:30. I was pretty nervous because it was a live interview, but I knew I needed to get awareness out and this was a great opportunity to do so. I put on my makeup and a cute outfit because I figured that pictures would be taken, and they were. It took me a little bit to realize that the station is located on Sacramento State University campus. I found a parking spot and got my parking permit so I would not get a ticket, there is no way that I need to have that problem! I walked into the station and was led into a waiting room and met with a follower of my blog, Melanie. She brought me a peppermint mocha frappachino, which was delicious. We talked for a little bit before it was my turn to go on air. I got to chat with Beth Ruyak for a few minutes to get comfortable before we started the interview. She has a way with putting people at ease! She knew exactly what questions to ask and had comments that really fed the conversation. There was never a dull moment in the 15 minutes that we spent on the air. She was such a doll, very supportive and a positive person! I was so happy that she did her research before we talked so that her questions were inquisitive and well put. She mentioned Andrew Rundle and how he had passed away a few months ago due to Ewing’s Sarcoma. I got a bit emotional at that point, he made such an impact on my life and was such a great guy. He is the only person who I get emotional about and mostly the only cancer-related subject that gets to me. This proves how awful the disease is, more research needs to be done when it comes to childhood cancer. I know that other people at the studio who I met were emotional at my story, and I think getting the word out like I am is making cancer personal. You can put a face to cancer now and see what the life of a cancer patient is really like. We have our ups and downs, but that is our life and we cannot change it. So after the radio interview, I talked with Melanie for a while longer and we stayed long enough that lunch was being served in the studio so we had some awesome pork, couscous, cauliflower, and rolls. My tummy was very happy! I got to see a childhood friend of family from the baby sitting coop as he works for the studio and he shared some drinking stories. Once I left the studio, I headed on over to Arden Fair Mall to go shopping for outfits for the UFC fight and for Vegas, not to mention that I would be turning 21 the next day. I ended up finding the perfect dress to wear to the UFC fight as it would show off my scorpion tattoo- I feel like the event is the perfect place to show it off! I got some head accessories (note, not hair, but head) to wear for the winter and to look extra cute. I ended up getting some other things but I got quite some good exercise. I took four laps in the mall. I walked briskly the whole time and I had parked in the Macy’s upstairs. I always have to get my Cinnabon drink before I go, and it happens to be on the opposite side of the mall. So I walked back there and felt the burn! I also picked up a cinnamon roll for the next morning so my stomach would not be growling during my television interview. On my way back home from the mall I stopped by Walmart for groceries. I got so much food that I cannot wait to try! I got home and just sat for a while and then started cleaning the front room and my bedroom because KCRA would be coming to my house to record the interview. The house has not been this clean in a while! I spend most of my time in the front room on the couch so the table was pretty cluttered- I mean I basically do live on that couch. The only time I spend in my room is when I sleep and when I change my clothes, so to me it does not matter how clean it is or is not. Now it looks super nice at least! I watched the Victoria’s Secret fashion show on tv while wearing a facial mask that made my skin super soft. I really liked some of the outfits that the models were wearing and others were not to my liking. I was kind of surprised that some of the models did not have the womanly shape and were kind of boxy, like myself. I guess everyone has a different body shape, and although everyone on the show was skinny, they were different forms of skinny. I just thought that was interesting! I went to bed a while after that so I could try to get some rest for waking up for my interview in the morning.

I woke up at about 8:00am on Wednesday. KCRA told me that they would be stopping by around 9:30am to 10:00am and would take about thirty minutes of my time. Although the show will only air about one minute and thirty seconds of my story, they needed to get enough footage to get my story across and to be able to edit for the perfect video. The camera man and anchor were both really nice and made me feel at ease. It was nice to talk to them and get the word out about childhood cancer, as well as what I am going through and my perspectives on life. I am not sure exactly what time the interview will air, but it will be on KCRA tomorrow (Friday) in the morning. Which morning news show is beyond me. After the interview was over, I got hydrated so that I could go to get my blood drawn and have them find a vein. I was not prepared for my lab experience. I went to the Elk Grove Kaiser because it was close by, and that was a huge mistake. I normally go to Sacramento to get it drawn because I love my phlebotamists there and they do such a great job there. But no, I was being lazy and did not want to drive as far on my birthday so I drove the ten minutes to Elk Grove Kaiser. I let a student attempt to draw my labs and I really shouldn’t have. He missed the vein in my right arm near the elbow so I offered up my left hand. He proceeded to poke me twice more IN THE HAND and could not get a vein. I have big ‘ol veins in my hands so there is no excuse as to why he had to poke me more than once there. Then, he had an older lady try a big vein in my wrist and she missed it and was pushing it around and it hurt like no other. So she took it out and I started crying. I am not one to cry in public, but when I get frustrated I cry now. It was not about the pain, but I get upset over things that should go one way and go wrong. Tears just streamed down my face and although I was not sobbing or making any noise, I was visibly very emotional and unhappy. I mentioned that it was my birthday and I left with my red eyes from the crying. Luckily, I had made plans with Job to go to lunch and to get my first legal drink. He picked me up at my house probably two minutes after I got back from the hospital. We went to Red Robin as that is what I looked up and decided would be a good place to get a meal. I was put into a much better mood right away and the food helped! I got fried zucchini, a fisherman’s platter, and a grasshopper drink (aka basically an alcoholic mint chocolate chip milkshake) and Job got riblets and mac and cheese and a Blue Moon Beer Milkshake (which was surprisingly good considering that I hate beer and it more of resembled an orange creamcicle). We sat and talked and enjoyed our food for a long while and boy, did I need it after the horrible hospital experience. Job then dropped me off so we both could take naps to prepare for my bartending (YES!) that would happen later in the evening. So I got to rest for about two hours, and I got woken up by my case worker. She gave me the great news that I would not have to get my blood redrawn and that I would still be able to get my platelets without it. I was so relieved! I was going to go get my blood drawn before I would go bartending, but I did not have to do so.

I had to make another paragraph for my bartending adventure! I was given the opportunity to bartend at a restaurant/bar in Sacramento on my birthday! I had just turned 21 and I was about to experience something fantastic. The restaurant is Vallejo’s on O St. I had never been there before that night, and I can tell you I WILL be returning. I got to meet the owner and all of the staff as well as the bartender. They were all so welcoming and told me that I was now a part of their family. I was put immediately to work by Sonia, the bartender. She taught me how to make margaritas like a pro, pouring with both hands (two drink components) at once. I also learned how to pour a good beer (after a little trial and error) that did not have too much of a head. I also made some blueberry lemon drops and watermelon lemon drops, poured shots, made rum and cokes. It was such a cool experience! I learned really fast and learned the counts for the drinks, and I got to taste test the drinks. Oh, and I had some teachers from Laguna Creek High School come out to help me celebrate! I was so happy with my Laguna support! Someone bought a whole round of the blueberry lemon drop cocktails as shots and this bar regular wh0m I had just met made a toast for my birthday as we drank our bright blue shots. They tasted so good! I was proud of myself for learning so fast and getting things down, I mean I did spill a bit at first but I got the hang of it. I think it would have been a very good possibility that I would bartend if I were to be going to college. The owner of Vallejo’s promised me that we would do another fundraiser at the bar for childhood cancer. By the way, did I mention that Sonia let me keep all of the tips? I made $372 that we will be donating to St. Baldrick’s. I would love to do this event again and get the word out so that they will be even more busy and raise even more money next time! Oh, and the staff set up banners with my name on them as the guest bartender on them. Seriously! I felt so special and like I belonged there. All of the regulars were super nice to me and welcoming, one even gave me this absolutely adorable cupcake ornament! I made drinks for the babysitting coop, and boy there were a lot of them there to help me celebrate! They are basically family and I have known all of them for my whole life, so I was happy to see all of them. They always get together and drink and have a blast, so this was perfect! I was also nominated to make the drinks and be bartender for our babysitting coop Christmas party this year. I would love to do it! As much as drinking alcohol or even thinking about drinking alcohol makes my stomach upset (crazy, but yeah) I am fine with making drinks. It was so much fun for me to make the drinks and I now have a new skill that I can show off! My friends ended up coming about twenty minutes after I decided I was done bartending and was sitting down to eat. I was so happy that they all could hang out with me and help celebrate my 21st birthday. I met some new people who were incredibly nice and were gushing about how inspirational I am and whatnot, so that was interesting for me! My group of friends and I got to talk and hang out and goof around. At 10ish we left the restaurant, and while all of my other friends went to Job’s house to hang out afterwards, I was way too tired to go so I just went home. That was the best choice for me because I was seriously pooped! It was such a great 21st, especially considering that I did not think I would make it to see this birthday a few months ago. In June/July, when my prognosis was three weeks to three months to live, my end goal was to somehow make it to my twenty first birthday. I made it to my birthday and I now plan to make it to my 22nd birthday. I will fight with all I have, I have never given up hope. I mean, I had accepted the fact that I was going to die in June and July, but that has changed. I was doing so badly in the summer that I felt it was best to accept my fate (not happily) so that I could be at peace and not be angry for the rest of my days. Well, now I am just going to keep going and hoping for the best and fighting like no other. I do not think about the possibility of not making it, but I am still going to live every day like it is my last, because I really don’t know what each and every day has to offer me. Nothing is given to me and my health is so unpredictable, so I am living each day to the fullest and am doing everything to be happy. I am more vocal now (I am sure you can tell because of how I write in this blog) and do things that I enjoy. No time is wasted! I refuse to do that, I will spend my time with my family and friends. I need to get awareness out and spread my story and that is now my job. I am not working, swimming on a team, or going to school, so this is what I need to do. This is my passion, and if/when I do go back to school, I am going to change my major to journalism. I believe this is where I can accomplish the most and do the most good. The after effects of my treatment has made my hands incredibly shaky, so I could not be a nurse. There is no way that I could hit a vein well with being so shaky! So with journalism, I can get the word out about childhood cancer and really make a difference. I could work for some sort of childhood cancer organization or work somewhere in that field. I think it is a great plan for me!

So today I got two units of platelets because my counts are still really low. I am bruising like no other and bleeding very easily. Even with playing with Panda, I have kind of blood blisters (not blisters, but blood vessels are showing on the surface) which I would never normally get because Panda is so gentle when playing. He never broke the skin, but I have red marks where he put his claws or teeth on. Weird, right? I met up with Michelle (the one I met on Tuesday) and Katie Rundle (Andrew’s sister, whom I absolutely adore) to hang out with them for getting the platelets. I was surprised but happy to get the two units so I do not bruise as easily. I will also be needing a blood transfusion next week because I have been bleeding more easily with the low platelets. My hemoglobin dropped two points since Sunday, so I know I will be getting it next week. It was not low enough today to need one for tomorrow, so I am glad that I do not have to rush around! I also had a great idea right when Katie was leaving, since Beth Ruyak wants me to come back and talk on the radio again with an update in January, I figure that I can bring Katie to speak too, because she has another perspective on childhood cancer. She lost her brother to the same cancer that I have, and she is such a great advocate as to why we need more research done for childhood cancers of all sorts.

Tomorrow I will be attending the UFC fight weigh-ins with Job and I get to meet the fighters. I am so stoked for this, because I appreciate MMA so much. I know how hard they work and how beat up they get, I have mad respect for them. I have always wanted to do some sort of martial art, but I never got the opportunity. I was looking into Brazilian Ju-jitsu (I don’t know if I spelled that right or not) at the end of my senior year right before I graduated, but then I got diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma for the first time. I never got the chance to do it, and with my lung issues and stuff now there is no way that I could, but I love watching the sport either way. I love the unpredictability of it and the different styles. It takes so much discipline to be really good at MMA that I would not have been great at it, it would have been more of for the experience. I will admit that I could not fight in it, I would just do the workouts and learn the moves, that would have been good enough for me. So with watching the fight (which is on Saturday, and I get floor seats with Job) I figure that I will be able to learn how to do certain moves and obviously never use them, but I love learning new moves that look cool and actually work. I am glad that I am going with Job because he appreciates MMA as much as I do and knows more about it and knows who the fighters are. Not to mention that I feel safe being with him and I know that no one would dare mess with me (they don’t as is, but it is nice having a little bit of security knowing I am with someone who can hold his own in a fight and defend me/himself). I am also going to get a behind the scenes tour of the weigh-ins. I cannot wait!

I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that I have been given and I cannot believe the amount of things that I have been able to accomplish at 21 years old. I have learned that sometimes I have to speak up and speak my mind. I never used to do this, but I figure that by saying something everyone around me is benefiting. When something bothers me, I let someone know. That way misunderstandings are aired up and feelings aren’t hurt anymore. I also apologize when I have done something to hurt someone and when I have said something that I did not mean, or if I give attitude for no reason. It happens to everyone! Apologizing and meaning it is such a big deal. It is so important to say “sorry” and actually mean it. I have had people apologize to me for things that happened way in the past and if I know they mean it, I accept it. That is how life should be, we all learn from our mistakes. Everyone has a misunderstanding or mis-communication at some point. I have had my fair share, and talking it out helps you understand what the other person is thinking and where they are coming from. These misunderstandings are often not a big deal at all! I am also more apt to accept an apology from someone who was not friends with me, because it is not like they back-stabbed me. If we were not friends to begin with, they really have not done anything wrong by talking about me. Sure, I don’t like it when someone talks bad about me, but it is way worse when a close friend does it. That is something I do not tolerate! At least with people who aren’t friends, there is no real harm done because they do not know your inner most thoughts and motivations. At least that is how I feel. I only apologize when I mean it and I know when someone else means it, so of course I accept the ones that are heartfelt. That is just the way to be, we need to be forgiving to those who deserve it. There is no reason to hold a grudge to someone who does not know you and who you do not know anything about. That is my thoughts for the night!

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So I have a bit of the steroid chubs going on right now! My face is a bit fatter than it normally is, but it is more swollen than anything because of the steroids. I wish that my cheekbones were more apparent but they will soon enough after the drugs have been completely tapered off. I also have a bit of a bulging tummy compared to what I normally have, but this is all temporary and is something that I can deal with. There is nothing I can do about it and I am just glad that I am not insanely skinny and on the opposite end of the spectrum. Also, with my one side being bigger than the other, I think it might be because my organs are off place now. Since my lung cannot fully expand, my diaphragm has moved up and my stomach has moved up. So my insides are a little out of place, but again, it is something I can deal with. I am so happy that it does not hurt, and although it is obvious that I am lopsided, no biggie. It is just another side effect of my treatments. It is survivable. I just have one side that has a womanly curve to it, a more hourglass shape on one side, and then my natural, boxy side. Just one of those weird things that happen in my life!

So if you want to listen to my radio interview, go to http://www.capradio.org/ and search for my name (Lauren McCullough) it will be under news or something I believe.

Also, here are some organizations to donate to for childhood cancer research!

http://www.stbaldricks.org/

http://www.stjude.org/stjude/

http://esarcoma.com/

http://www.sunbeamfoundation.org/cms/index.php

http://www.childrenscancer.org/

And of course, you can follow me on my social networking sites!

https://www.facebook.com/thenotdyinggirl

twitter: swimchickLM

instagram: swimchicklauren

email: shashimi1992@yahoo.com

7 thoughts on “I Made it to See My 21st Birthday

  1. Happy Birthday Girl!! Yes — you are Anna Quindlen (humorous and real) and Maureen Dowd (succinct and like a knife) all wrapped up in one person. Yes!! You have the talent to be a leader in an industry that sorely needs honesty and straightforward reporting. You could certainly be a food critic without any further training. You are my most fascinating person of 2013. Anyway, here at LC we are getting ready for Christmas with our office potluck at the end of next week. It is always fun to eat lots of sugar and laugh til i wheeze. It’s exhausting but so healing for the soul.

    I am personally making my own version of “Rich & Charlie’s Salad” — an institutional favorite of my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. I use red, romaine, iceberg and butter lettuce with marinated chopped artichoke hearts in an oil-and-vinegar-based dressing with thin-sliced red onions, pimentos, and parmesan cheese. I will add some yellow, green and red peppers for color. I will chop all the ingredients the night before and put the salad together to marinate and settle before our 11:30 lunch time. I’ll serve it in an oblong vessel that will easily fit in with all the other dishes on the table.

    Do i sound like you talking about food? I’m afraid of all the foods you eat — maybe that’s why i’ve fought my weight my whole life — because I’m scared of sushi and all those tapioca drinks and frappucinos and mint drinks. BLACK AND HOT, BABY, that’s how i take my morning Joe.

    Love to you and your familia. Viva Lauren and Viva Las Vegas. Can’t wait to see your next post. Love, your Gigi from Laguna. xoxoxoxox

  2. Sharing your story is such a wonderful and brave thing to do! Good for you for getting the word out for childhood cancer and what it really is.
    I too have a disease. It’s fairly rare. It’s called sarcoidosis. There is not a lot of funding for it. I’ve often thought of doing what you are doing. To rase awareness…. But it’s a little scary…….
    Keep up the good work!! :0)

  3. Hi lauren
    Congratulations on your birthday and I wish you all the best. Stay strong and keep on fighting even in those blue days. My son Jehan went through treatment last year at Roseville and know vicariously how hard it can be. Thinking of you and sending you good thoughts, vibes and everything./ gayathri

  4. Happy Birthday! It’s wonderful that you made it to 21. I go to chemo with a girl who was diagnosed at 24 and now she is 28. She isn’t getting chemo now, just fluids and antinausea – she has no cancer and has been in remission, but the preventatives are hard on her. It’s just great to have watched her get a little older and while I may not be around for her 30th birthday, I bet she is!

    I love Crazy Sushi too! I go to the one on Arden. I can’t eat much but their Tsukemono is so fresh and flavorful, I crave it sometimes.

    Nice to see a fellow Sacramento cancer blogger, although I wish you were another kind of blogger. *hugs*

  5. You make me put things in their rightful place! You encourage and motivate me by your tenacity. You have become a part of my life. So, you go girl, please, you live each moment,

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