New Year, New Goals, Same Me

So I guess it has been quite a few weeks since I have last posted in my blog, and this time it is because I had a rough past few weeks. I always hate having to report when I am not doing well so I postponed my writing until now- when I can say that I am feeling much better than I have been.

I need to update you guys on my Vegas trip first! So for my 21st birthday present my mom took me to Las Vegas and we went with one of my mom’s ex-coworkers and her daughter, whom I am a day older than and have tons of childhood memories with. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for about thirty minutes, which was much to my annoyance because I really wanted to go and sight see in Vegas ASAP! Luckily, I was able to get preferred boarding due to my cancer so I did not have to wait in line for a long time to board the plane and got some of the front seats. Kathryn and I sat together on the plane ride down to Las Vegas so we could catch up and she could tell me all about her college adventures and plans to study abroad in England. The flight was short, thank goodness! I have to say, the Las Vegas International Airport is very different from any other airport I have been to, and I have been to a lot of airports. The first thing I noticed walking around was that there were lights everywhere, flashing advertisements, slot machines as far as the eye could see, and that smoking was permitted inside. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the other person who sat beside Kathryn was carrying a cat onboard. She was having a cat show and I have to say, the cat was pretty darn ugly- and I am obviously a cat person. I thought it was pretty funny nevertheless. Anyways, we all hitched a ride with a taxi to get to where we were staying, the Paris Hotel. This taxi driver was my favorite of the bunch because he was incredibly friendly and likes MMA and was looking forward to the fight that would occur that weekend in Vegas with Anderson Silva. When we got to our hotel, I was amazed by how big it was! Clearly a lot of money was spent to make this hotel fancy and a place where you want to spend a lot of time (sans smoking). The ceiling had clouds on it and there were tons of slot machines here as well. There were quite a few restaurants and bars in the hotel as well, which was interesting because you could still have a pretty decent Vegas experience just by staying in the hotel, which is crazy. We got all checked in and my mom rented a scooter for me to get around in because I do get tired more easily than the average person and there is no need to spend my energy walking and having to rest all the time when I can get around perfectly fine in a motorized scooter. When we got to our room, which was on the 15th floor, our senses were overloaded with the smell of lemon pledge. Not the most pleasant thing in the whole world, especially when your sense of smell is incredibly good due to chemo. We could not open a window or anything, so we turned on the A/C and were very disappointed with how not-cold the air was. By the end of the trip the air was set to around 61 degrees, but I know for a fact that it was nowhere near that- it was probably around 70 degrees. That, and the stupid refrigerator was not super cold so we did not feel safe eating leftovers (not that we even had a microwave anyways). But our room had a nice view of Vegas and there were two queen beds which were very comfortable, so I was pleased with that. While my mom, Kathryn, and Cheryl went to explore the lobby and the hotel some more, I stayed in the room and rested up and iced my back to make sure that I could function well for the evening because Kathryn and I were on the VIP guest list to the Hakkasan club in the MGM hotel. It was pretty funny how we got on the guest list and decided to choose this club to go to. I had posted pictures on Instagram and tagged “Vegas” in them, and a club promoter stated that Steve Aoki was going to be DJing that night and to text the promoter to get on the list. So we did just that so we would get in for free! But anyways, after I was done resting up, I went downstairs and met up with everyone and then almost immediately went back upstairs to get dressed up for dinner and for clubbing later. I chose to wear my red and black lace dress with an Ariel-red wig for the evening. I figured I might was well have fun and go all out with the wig so I could stand out. I chose the restaurant for the evening (and for the whole trip because I put the time in to research the food to make sure that we had excellent food the entire time) and got reservations for 6:30pm at Mastro’s seafood restaurant, and since I read that the treehouse was a cool place to eat in, I asked to be seated there. I did all of this online! So when we got to the restaurant, I was pleased to find out that we did get a table in treehouse, which turned out to be amazing. It was kind of a wood structure that was hollowed out, words cannot exactly explain it but it was really cool. Every item on the menu was incredibly expensive, but it was a fancy restaurant and we were in Las Vegas, so I figured it had to be good, especially based on the reviews that I had read. Now I told you guys that I would not be getting drunk on my Vegas trip, and that stayed true. I just sipped and tried different things that everyone else ordered. There was a chocolate martini on the menu that I was interested in, so my mom ordered it and I got a sip. Too much alcohol for me to really enjoy, but there was a chocolate covered strawberry on top and I was all for that. On my list for things to do in Vegas was to try food that I had never had before and to get some new taste experiences. I saw that oysters Rockefeller were on the menu and knew that I had to go for those. My mom and Cheryl were pretty against it, saying that if I ordered it then I had to eat it all. They also tried to tell me that they were raw, however, I have seen enough cooking competitions to know exactly what oysters Rockefeller were- and they are certainly not raw. So after arguing, I asked the waiter to enlighten them on it. He, of course, sided with me and told us that they were baked with parmesan cheese and spinach. So needless to say, we ordered that and I felt proud that I could prove them wrong. When the oysters arrived to the table, I was excited to try them- they smelled amazing! Cheryl still was very unsure about the whole thing because she was not a fan of oysters. After Kathryn, my mom, and I all raved about how amazing they were and how not-fishy they were and how rich they tasted, Cheryl finally gave in and ate one. Yeah, needless to say, she really liked them as well. I felt accomplished! There were six oysters for four people, so Kathryn and I got the pleasure of eating two each. We all ordered different food so we could try certain parts of the menu. I ordered lobster mashed potatoes (which was technically a side that is meant to share family style), Cheryl ordered truffle and crab mac and cheese as well as a chicken Caesar salad, Kathryn ordered Salmon and a side of asparagus, and my mom ordered the sea scallops and a side of scalloped potatoes. We had so much food to go along, it was insane. My favorites were my mashed potatoes, the scallops, and of course the oysters from earlier. We had quite a lot of food leftover, so we did get the bang for our buck in the end. Also, the waiter knew that it was both Kathryn and my birthday present, and out came two exquisite cakes with writing in chocolate sauce that said, “Happy 21st Birthday”. Wow was I impressed! I was not hungry for dessert, but once I saw their infamous butter cake, I knew I was in for a treat. I was not in the mood for chocolate cake, which was the other cake we got, so I went all for the butter cake. It was the best cake I have ever had, and I have had a lot of cakes. It was super moist and dense and rich, and I ate bite after bite of that. Everyone decided that the butter cake was their favorite, and I felt so bad that I could not finish the whole thing because of how good it was. So after dinner there was enough time for us to walk around the mall where the restaurant was located so we did a bit of window shopping. The mall had so many expensive stores in it and although I have the money to buy the brand name items like Tiffany and Georgio Armani, I refused to spend my money on something like that. I couldn’t justify spending my money like that, it would kill me. The most I have ever spent on any item was $128 on a Michael Kors wallet- it was the first time that I had ever just blindly shopped for something. I needed the wallet for my Hell’s Kitchen trip, and this would be fancy enough and hold my cell phone in case I needed it. So I can totally justify that purchase! Anyways, back to Vegas. So eventually it got late enough to where Kathryn and I were going to go to the club (by ourselves, which was more of an experience for Kathryn than it was for me, because I have done my fair share of clubbing and she has not) so we took a taxi over to the MGM and found our way to the club. Turns out that it is really easy to get on the VIP list, but we did not care because it meant getting in the club for free, even if it did mean that we had to wait a long time in line. Kathryn and I were approached by two Asian guys who were also in the VIP section. They basically asked if they could be our “dates” while in line to get in the club. They were completely harmless and nice, so I did not have a problem with that and we talked to them for quite a while. They were definitely into us, which was super flattering, but I wouldn’t have hooked up with anyone, no matter how good looking they were. I have a few too many problems at this point, and not to mention I had the wig on which could prove to be a little awkward. It was pretty funny, the guy who was into me asked me, “So Lauren, are you happily married or happily engaged?” and I have to say that I laughed and kind of awkwardly said that it was a long story and that technically, no I was not. Once we got in the club, we separated and Kathryn and I only stayed for about twenty minutes because there was absolutely nowhere to sit. No stools at the bar, no loveseats, only booths that you would have to purchase. This was not going to work with my bad back and low stamina! Kathryn’s feet were hurting because of her stripper heels, while I was comfortable in my black heel-boots which are nicely worn in. So for some reason, instead of taking the taxi back to the hotel, Kathryn wanted to take the monorail back because it would cost less. I really wanted to take the taxi instead, but I did not vocalize it. So we walked a really long way to the monorail and then had another long walk to go from the monorail to the hotel. I regretted not speaking up because I was hurting so badly. That night, I felt the pain of overdoing it. I had already had a cough before I arrived at Vegas from overworking my lungs and irritating them, but this was different. I was coughing nonstop all night, and it was really hardcore coughing. I was hurting so bad and needed ice a lot, and it turns out that when I was sleeping (finally) I was moaning in pain after every exhale. I did not realize this until my mom asked me how I was doing, and I had to complain that I was not feeling very great! No sleep and coughing up a lung, no fun for Vegas! So the next day, I was in a ton of pain and had to call the on-call doctor from the hotel to see if there was something we could do about the pain. I told Dr. Jolly that I felt like I had collapsed my lung again (that is how bad it hurt) and by describing where the discomfort was, we were able to determine that I did not collapse my lung. Instead, we figured out that I had either broken a rib or torn some cartilage. He told me what pain pills I could use and how often, based on the pills that I did have on me for the trip. So we finally got my pain under control, but I had decided that I would stay inside the hotel room all day up until the evening- when I would be seeing the show “O”. My mom stayed with me the entire day and we watched tv and had good mother-daughter bonding time, which was really nice. Kathryn and Cheryl went out exploring and shopping some more while we were in the hotel, and I don’t feel like I really missed out. Luckily, since my mom ordered my scooter the day before, it was already in the room when it was time to get out of the hotel. I was mobile and it was such a relief having that scooter, I would not have been able to go anywhere without it. So I have to say, watching the performance “O” was amazing- the acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers, dancers, everyone was so talented and athletic. I have no idea what the story of the performance was or if there was any, but it sure was entertaining! So after that we went and gambled a little bit (I spent $10 overall on the slots) and found out that I do not like it. I would rather spend my money elsewhere. I enjoyed playing the slots on my Pokemon games, but this is with real money and I was not down to lose very much of it. So then I went and bought some shot glasses and a really pretty t-shirt from a shop that was in the hotel. Then my mom and I went to a restaurant where I ate some amazing fish tacos. This place had really good food and was cheap- especially for Vegas. My mom spent less on her margarita than she did on my lemonade, which is crazy. Then we went back to the hotel and got some sleep so we could spend our last few hours in Las Vegas (on Sunday) and be well rested. We packed up and got ready and were out of the hotel at probably 12pm. I cannot complain about that! We went to this French restaurant that was close by (and I had staked this one out too) and we got a nice table outside. I ordered a corned beef hash with a poached egg (which was soooo good!), my mom got a lobster roll (again, really good) and I do not remember what Kathryn and Cheryl got, although Kathryn spilled her mimosa on herself and was not too pleased, I personally would not touch alcohol early in the morning

anyways, especially since I am not a fan of alcohol to begin with. When we were finished with our brunch, we went to retrieve my scooter only to find this Asian girl on it. Rude much! So I had a warm seat when I got back on my scooter and was still in shock that someone would allow their 12 year old child to sit in someone’s scooter, that is just unheard of. So naturally, I loudly complained about how rude it was and went on my way. Our group got to go around and visit Caesar’s Palace and visit the stores inside, which was cool and took up our time before going back to the airport. What was cool about Caesar’s Palace is that the ceiling changes colors and stuff, which I had never seen other than in a Harry Potter movie. On the streets, it was very awkward because there were these men constantly snapping cards to get peoples’ attention and give them a card for an escort. So you could say many cards with hookers’ contact info were scattered on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, when it came time to leave, our flight was again delayed. This time it was delayed for probably an hour, which pissed me off because I was tired and in a lot of pain and wanted to get back home as soon as possible. Again, I got preferred boarding, but this time only my mom was allowed to board with me so we got nice seats. When we finally got back to Sacramento, I noticed that Chad Mendes, a UFC fighter from Sac was on our flight. Clearly he had gone to Las Vegas to see the fight that was going on during the weekend. That was neat, I did not go up to him because I was tired and cranky and I figured he was probably tired as well.

On Monday, I noticed that I had major bruising along my ribs due to my coughing. I knew I had done some damage! Now I will tell you about my New Years.

My crew had decided a little last minute to through a New Year’s Eve party, which had me excited because I really wanted to hang out with all of my friends. I had an outfit planned out, a black kind of lacy corset and a new pair of jeans. For my hair, I went with my favorite wig- blonde on top and pink on the bottom, it was long and soft and really pretty, which is amazing considering how cheap it was! I looked pretty darn good if I do say so myself. So I drove myself to the party and said my hello’s to my friends who were serving as the bouncers. When I got inside and turned the corner, Egor immediately saw me and hugged me and that was right when a bunch of pictures were being taken of the group, of course I had to get in on them and Egor insisted (not that I needed any convincing). For some reason, this asshole of a kid told me that this was a “family picture” and that he had known all of these guys since 8th grade (which I know is not true) and that since I am not in the family I could not be in the picture. What?! He smirked and was feeling all proud of himself and I was just astonished. I stood up for myself (but did not get in any of the pictures because of that asshole). I said, “Excuse me? Are you serious?” really loudly to make it known that what he had done was not ok. Egor then came over and I explained what had happened, to which Egor told the guy that I was in the group longer than he was and told him off. The asshole then apologized and hugged me, although I am sure it was not sincere. I just could not believe how rude he was! Egor ended up explaining it again to him later that what he had done was wrong. That made me feel good, but I wish I had said more to that kid, as we had met before, at least twice, and that I actually hang out with the crew way more and actually know them as people and do not just party with them. Last time I checked, we have hangouts, go to the beach, eat dinner, and just hang out- the asshole (who was wearing a very questionable outfit) does not. Anyways, I got to see all of my friends and hang out with them for a little while, all of them were happy with how healthy I looked and did not recognize me at first because I had on my wig. DeAngela also came to the party and we hung out the whole time, we were both sober the whole night and kind of watched what was going on. There were some kids who really should not have been there who were overly drunk and annoying. Go figure, they were people who had just graduated and who do not know their limits with liquor. They were falling over and being sloppy, and there was almost a problem between myself and one of them- if that chick would have hit me on my bad side, and she was sitting to my left, but luckily she moved before she could hit me. I did warn her that my left side was my bad side and that there would be problems if she bumped into it! She did not exactly catch what I was saying and was incoherent. Another kid who had just graduated passed out on the couch and landed right on Aiyanna- and she felt the same way that I did about the girls, she would have hit or pushed someone who drunkenly fell on her. We both were confused that this guy had suddenly decided to lay on her, but it turns out that he had just passed out. So naturally, people drew on him and took pictures of him and with him. Another reason not to get out of control drunk! Aiyanna and I were sitting on one of the two couches up until the point where a drunk girl decided that she could not hold in her liquor and puked in between the gap of the two couches. I could see it happening and I wanted to give her a cup or something, but I didn’t react fast enough and I was afraid that she would have puked on me. So Aiyanna and I ended up smelling the puke and decided to get up immediately after that. I wish I got to hang out with my friends a little bit more, but it was hectic and everyone was doing their own thing. I just stayed on the couch for most of the night and observed things, and I was not bored! I enjoy watching drunk people, they do the funniest things and say the funniest things, and besides, I am normally the sober one at the party so this was nothing new to me.

Two days after New Year’s was when I was scheduled for my next chemo. I got an echocardiogram and was cleared for my three days of chemo (but 5 days in the hospital) because my heart was doing well. I also got an xray which did end up showing that I broke my rib. Imagine that, breaking a rib because you are coughing so hard! So I was in quite a bit of pain, and it took too long for me to get my meds when I went inpatient, so my pain got out of control and it took quite a few hours to get it back under control. My body got flooded with fluids and I was really out of it when I was in the hospital. I am sure that it scared my parents, because I would say something in my sleep (well my passed-out state) and then wake up. I would say weird things and act out my dreams, I was not very coherent during my entire stay in the hospital. I was on a lot of pain meds and was also on Ativan and who knows what else. My body just did not react well to having so many fluids in it, as my body absorbs them like a sponge. I also had fevers almost every day and was in the ICU for a day because I was doing so poorly. I was on tons of lasics (basically to make you pee out all of the extra fluids) so I did not get much sleep and since I was so out of it, it was hard to walk to the bathroom. In the ICU, I had to use a portable toilet that was right near my bed. Even with the toilet right there, I still managed to pee myself (only once, and it was right before I made it to the seat). Yeah, embarrassing to admit, but it is just part of my life. That is the power of lasics working and also me being pretty out of it did not help my situation at all. Once I was out of the ICU (someone needed the room more than I did) I still had my fevers. The highest it got to was 102.9, which is crazy high! Also, I cannot remember most of what happened when I was in the hospital. I was in for 6 days and most of what I did I cannot account for. I do not remember who visited me or what was said for the most part, except that I met my new hospice nurse, Bev, and I really like her. She actually sees me as a person and is fun to talk to and she is genuine, unlike my last hospice nurse. I also remember something that brings tears to my eyes still. This guy who reads my blog and follows me (I think his name is Rob) came to visit me at my hospital room. It was about 8pm and I got a knock at the door, so my dad looked out and here was Rob, holding a teddy bear and a card to give to me. He had offered to take me sky diving but that isn’t possible due to my janky leg and the radiation that it has had, but he just stopped by because he thought I could use a smile and he definitely made my day. I just thought it was so thoughtful and nice that someone who does not know me would go out of his way to come see me. Little things like that are the best, and it is just the sweetest thing in the world. I finally got to go home on January 9th at about 6pm. I was so glad to be home, but I still was not out of the woods. I was still kind of out of it and dizzy, but that went away probably a day later. I just do so much better when I am at home! I recovered very fast once I was home. I also lost a bit of the steroid chubby cheeks because of the steroids, which was nice. But it did take a few days before I got back to eating normally. I went into the hospital at 137lbs, which is by far my heaviest, which can be accounted for by steroids, and a week later at home I measured at 127lbs. Crazy, losing 10lbs in a week. That proves how bad I was feeling and how little I was eating, but at least I never puked! I am thankful for that!

Something I would like to address is that once someone has gone through cancer treatment, their body is different. I have many more scars than I started out with (luckily I already had many due to being active) such as my one inch long port scar, a dot above the port scar, scars from needles and IVs, my biopsy scar on my leg, quite a few scars along my ribs, and more. I am also super shaky, especially in the hands, because of my treatment. I can no longer sneeze (sounds crazy, but it is true) but I still feel the urge and painful tickle that I need to sneeze, but radiation in that area has caused me to no longer have that amazing ability to relieve myself with a nice sneeze. My left lung no longer fully inflates, so my stomach and diaphragm have moved up on that side, which has led to me having scoliosis that is pretty noticeable. I already had one shoulder higher than the other that was obvious from the back, but now I look crooked from any view. I have heartburn just about every day. Once you are done with cancer treatment, you figure that all of your problems are solved. But everyone gets their own set of post-cancer problems. Of course we would take these problems any day over having cancer, but you just don’t expect to have more issues to deal with after everything is done with. I know that with me, and I am sure with others too, that every time I got an issue, had muscle pain, or was ill, that the first thing on my mind was that my cancer was back. It is always in the back of our minds. Before, I would never have worried about a sore muscle or any weird symptom, but now it is very worrisome. It was in the back of my mind in May when my lung was bad, although I was giving every excuse in the book as to why it could not possibly be that my cancer was back. Most of the time, the worries are for nothing. In my case, unfortunately it was my worst nightmare. So next time you see someone who has dealt with cancer, please realize that there are still things going on with them and give them a little bit of a break if you are quick to criticize what they are doing and why.

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6 thoughts on “New Year, New Goals, Same Me

  1. Thanks for your amazing and inspiring stories.. May you have many more life experiences and I pray for a miracle to touch you and cure you from cancer….love and prayers

  2. Thanks for your stories, your pictures, and your most beautiful smile. If I were ill, your smile would make me feel well! I am so sorry that you go through so much. You are a herione, in my eyes. Loved your Vegas trip stories. Keep writing when you can. You are very good at it. My best to you! God bless you, all day and every day.

  3. Thanks Lauren for such an amazing post. Your strength and positive attitude through all of this is incredible. You are making a difference everyday by sharing your story and being such an wonderful advocate for childhood cancer. Thank You!

  4. Lauren I haven’t met you but many years ago I met your mother. One of ny best friends, Laura Simon, brought your mom to my bachelorette party in Palm Springs 100 years ago!
    My son had a bad head/brain injury this summer and I told Laura about caringbridge to follow updates on him. She already knew of the site because of you. I started to follow you then, and have since. I know you’re not religious but I still say prayers for your recovery and have you in our thoughts. You are doing a wonderful job shedding light and heightening awareness for childhood cancer. Thank you for all your updates. You have lots of people pulling for you.
    Lori McMahon

  5. Thank you for sharing you life and insight with the world– you are a truly inspiring person for your accomplishments and honesty about who you are and what you feel. Your posts brighten my day and your strength is admirable!! Keep on keeping on, we’re right here cheering for you!! God bless beautiful! ❤

  6. I love reading your stories!!!keep them coming…’I find so much inspiration in you…all though I don’t have cancer but I deal with a very rare autoimmune syndrome and it helps anyone dealing with anything to see what others are going through!!!YOU ARE A TOUGH COOKIE..KEEP IT GOING….!!!!!!

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