Resting Up

Unfortunately I have not been feeling as good as I have been in the recent past, but I figure this will pass as my blood counts get to normal. Since today is Sunday, I had to get my blood drawn. I used to get my blood drawn two times a week, every week when I was doing hardcore chemo in 2011-2012. Those shot my veins like crazy and they have yet to recover- they are all scarred up. So since I was on heavy duty chemo last week or so, I have to get my blood drawn twice a week again. Luckily, I had a bit of time to hydrate up even though I woke up at 12, which would have been 1pm had it not been daylight savings. My vein was found easily and I got back home without pain (yes, I did use my numbing cream which has lidocaine in it, but with my baby veins it is more of a necessity than it used to be and I really don’t want to go through unneeded pain). When I got home I answered a frantic call from the lab because one of my blood counts was at a critical level. Having gone through this multiple times, I was unfazed. The lady, who kind of had a voice that was a slower version of Youtube’s Glozell, was telling me that my platelet level was 7. I figured the level was low because I have been bruising nonstop. The lady also told me that I should go to the ER (which is never an option for me, as I hate the ER with a passion because it always takes forever and the IVs hurt like crazy) and if I fell or bumped into something that I should call 911. I was a little giggly at hearing this because I have had platelets this low before because of chemo and this was nothing new to me. I think the lab worker really thought that I did not care or did not know how serious the matter was, but luckily for me I do know better than she does. I called my on-call oncologist, which happened to be Dr. Sonali. I told her about my low platelets and the phonecall that I received, and we both laughed about it. She was surprised that they did not contact her after seeing the low number. Since the doctors and clinic workers see low platelet levels all the time, we know this is not an emergency unless I feel like I am going to bleed out or am internally bleeding (which I am pretty darn sure is not happening). We set an appointment for tomorrow to get a platelet transfusion, which will be around 11am. I guess while I am talking about platelets, that I could explain a little bit of why they are so important. Platelets cause blood to clot. Not having enough of them is dangerous because if I were to get a huge cut or get stabbed for whatever reason, then it would be disastrous. My blood would not clot and I could easily bleed out. However, in the foreseeable future I am not planning on getting stabbed or anything of that matter. Staying indoors is going to be all that I do today and needless to say, I am safe here. As much as I am clumsy, I am not THAT clumsy.

So since I was home on Halloween, I got to spend it with my neighbors. I was so excited for my zombie makeup to be done and to look really, truly scary. I also had an idea of having demon teeth/mouth like that of Mileena from Mortal Kombat. I looked up a few designs that I liked and saved them to my phone as a reference.  I showed Tim what I wanted, and he was able to do it with the help of gelatin, latex, and makeup. I have to say, I looked so good when all was said and done. I was more of a demon than a zombie, but early into the night I got into the fake blood so I could fit in really well with the rest of my group of zombies. What my next door neighbors do is so clever- everyone in the family dresses as zombies with flawless makeup. The driveway looks a bit like a mini haunted house, with everyone acting the part of a zombie. Mom, two children, grandpa and fake bodies littered the lawn and the driveway. When people were to approach the door, they are greeted with scary music and fog. To get to the candy, they do not have to knock on the door but to walk under the stoop and to the bench. Before we go to scare anyone, Tim and I are warned if there are any little kids by the grandpa (aka Father Christmas) and we know not to jump out at them. When we do not get the warning, we sit perfectly still and wait until the perfect moment to move and jump at people. We got a lot of screams and scared little kids (this was just from the makeup) however, we were disappointed that hardly any high school kids were out trick-or-treating. I know damn well that I went trick-or-treating up until I graduated high school, and that was only because of my health issues. Who can argue against dressing up and getting free candy of all sorts? What I hate is when people just go out without a costume and get candy anyways. This year, we had a few kids with backpacks to carry the candy. This seemed really rude to me. First, the costume would be nonexistent or done with no effort, then they would hand over the backpack to get candy. If I were the one in charge of the candy, I would send them off without candy. Pillow cases are perfectly fine for carrying candy- I have done that for years, and even that takes a little bit of effort to get the whole pillow out of the case. Using a backpack is just disrespectful. What also alarmed me was that many of the kids did not know the simple rules of getting candy- saying cheerfully “Trick-or-Treat”. Really, not that difficult. So Tim and I had a little fun with this, we would just stay still until someone said trick-or-treat, or I would say it really loudly (and in an annoyed/rude tone) so that they would finally put two-and-two together. This happened with all ages, which astonished me. I know as a little kid and even as an adult that you are supposed to say trick-or-treat. Do not dare just shove your pillowcase, backpack, or basket in my face demanding candy without asking for it. That really irked me. I did have a good time correcting them though, I must admit. It did make me feel powerful that I had the power to not give the candy to someone until they learned a lesson. As horrible as that sounds, it is just one of the little things that make me feel in control of my surroundings (as my health really isn’t in my control) and I have learned to stand up for myself and for what I believe is right. Whether that is demanding a “trick-or-treat” or telling someone that they  need to shut their mouth at a movie theater, I feel it is necessary. Especially at the movie theaters where you pay good money to watch a movie, so there is no point in talking loudly throughout the whole thing (I did this with Susette when we saw The Conjuring in the theaters, since I was super excited to finally watch a scary movie in the theaters and we both are fascinated by the horror genre, and these people in front of us were being ratchet and talking throughout the film… So someone else got tired of it and told them to shut up from the other side of the theater, to which I said “Thank you!”, and in return the group turned around to look at me, and I gladly said “I am sorry, but I am trying to watch the movie” and then they decided to call me a bitch and turned back around. Needless to say, they were much quieter after that. So I won that battle, although I waited good time at the end of the movie to leave just in case they were mad at me.) Okay that story time is done. =P

Panda, my cat, has finally adjusted to me being back home. Thank goodness! I have my partner in crime back by my side, well more of my cuddle buddy considering how lazy we are. He seems to feed off of my energy and is my couch slug when I am watching tv and surfing the internet. Apparently when I was gone or when I am asleep, he bounces off of the walls and runs all around the house. My brother was telling me how crazy he was while I was sleeping. I had to laugh, he is such a weird cat. My brother stayed at my mom’s house this weekend, so we finally got some good bonding time, considering that I did not get to see him during his birthday weekend (he is now 19!). We watched horror movies all weekend and just talked about random things, I am not really sure what it was, but we had really good conversations. I am so glad that I was in a good mood all weekend and did not snap at him like I usually do (he doesn’t do anything to cause it, I guess we do have a love-hate relationship as siblings). We watched Nightmare on Elm Street first- the new, crappy one where Freddy is more of a pizza-faced rat than the original Freddy played by Robert Englund. We were discussing how much we missed the original Freddy- he is irreplaceable. Apparently, Englund says he is too old to play the main character. I am still happy when I see him in little parts in other movies. I just happen to have the original Nightmare on Elm Street (1-4) and Mark has never seen the first one, so I had to put that on for him. He liked it a lot, as I figured he would. The original Freddy is likable in a very odd way because he is funny and a pervert and a total badass. He is basically immortal, except for the fact that he is already dead, and I feel like no human can win when they cannot sleep. I also happen to have Freddy vs. Jason, which I find to be a fantastic and entertaining movie. Jason is shown as a wimp and basically full of emotion while Freddy is his usual self and is witty. However, Freddy is the more evil of the two, especially considering that he was a child-murderer and came back to kill more children because of his evil spirit. Jason accidentally drowned and is seeking revenge. However, when it comes to which one I would rather face, I would choose Jason in a split second. All you have to do to avoid him is not go to Camp Crystal Lake. The end. You live. With Freddy, if you think about him enough and are scared of him (which you should be) then he can invade your dreams and attack you no matter where you are. I mean, you could flee from Jason by going to a different state or even country just to be safe. Freddy doesn’t care and I am sure the time difference does not get to him and he would not get jet lag by going through someone’s dream if they decided to fly to Japan from California (or wherever for that matter). I kind of rant when it comes to horror movies, but I figure everyone is entitled to their own opinion so it is fair to state mine.

Since my car has been upgraded to my Camaro Christine, my mom decided that she wanted to by Helga the Honda from my dad. During this weekend my mom managed to sell both her Mountaineer and Corolla. I was pretty impressed to say the least. My mom ended up selling the Corolla to my dad’s client for their grandaughter’s birthday. It turns out that the client’s wife is a huge fan of my blog, which is cool that it has reached kind of far. They were all really nice and wanted hugs but considering that my white blood cell counts should be really low, we had to settle for a handshake. Turns out that my WBC counts are good, it was just my platelets were low. I guess you never can be too careful though in my situation. My parents are more of hypochondriacs than I am, but I am always aware and take calculated risks.

Egor and Aiyanna came by to visit me since they will be around for about a week before Aiyanna is shipped off to Virginia (I think, it was something like that!) for her orders. I feel so bad about that, but I know they will beat the distance- if you see the two together you would completely understand that their relationship is worth the distance. We all laughed a lot and had fun just talking about life in general. As it turns out, Aiyanna and I have the same taste in reality tv and both enjoy Jerry Springer. This amused me because most people would not admit to loving this crappy show. We also got to talking about how a lot of our classmates from high school are pregnant or married. I know that I would be a great mom if I were in that situation, but I am so glad that I am not a mother given all of my health problems. I feel like you need to focus on the kid, and there would be no focus there. When you feel sick, you don’t to deal with a crying baby. God knows that I get irritated by noises in general, especially when I am sick, so that would not be a good combination for me. I also like having the possibility of dedicating a huge chunk of time to swim again (hey, a girl can dream right?!). Anyways, I got a workout from talking and standing talking to the pair. They both got to admire Christine, and it turns out that Egor’s Lexus sc430 and my car weigh exactly the same and have similar horsepower. I think it would be a fun time racing him, but they did not drive his car down. Egor wanted to take my car out for a drive, and if I were feeling better I would have let him in a split second, but I just did not want the stress or anything like that weighing down on me- although I do trust him with my cars and my life. I guess you could say I trust all of my best friends with my life. I think that is a good thing, I know they would make the right decisions in a sticky situation. I would not want anyone to take a bullet for me, although some of them would. I personally would rather be the one taking the bullet. Shoot, I spend enough time in the hospital as it is and know that it is not scary, I feel like I would handle it ok. That certainly does not mean that I would go out of my way to get shot or anything, I take calculated risks and know which battles to fight (and I really don’t have any battles to fight other than for my own health!).

Since I have been having such trouble with keeping my weight, I have decided to travel back into the magical world of marijuana. Since I still have not figured out the whole smoking thing, I am going to go with a vaporizer since it is so simple. I always manage to burn my fingers with the lighter, not to mention that I do not have nearly as much strength anywhere anymore so it makes using the lighter even harder. I will admit that I really don’t know how to use a lighter well either, which is kind of sad because you never know when you need to use one (really, I had my grandma help me when I was burning the edges of a painting for one of my classes!). I also snagged two lollipops infused with weed because they looked yummy. I haven’t tried them yet, but I do plan on it in the near future. I weighed myself yesterday and I was 121lbs with sweatpants on (baggy sweatpants, not leggings or yoga pants mind you) so that would be probably 120 without them. I love how well I know my weight, I guessed I would weigh 121 lbs while my dad guessed 122, so I won. Around 124-125 is a great weight for not participating in a sport, so that is what I am going to aim for. I took my weed pill, Marinol, which works as an appetite stimulant (and does get you high, after about 2-3 hours after taking the small, round, poop-brown pill). It eventually did work, so I ate plenty yesterday. I hate relying on medicine and pills of any kind to get through my day, but I guess that is something I have gotten used to. I took around 8-9 pills this morning, considering this weekend I get 1 1/2 immune system pills and I have two added ones for antibiotics. Yay! But as long as they help me, I can so deal with it. And when I get my med list lower when I feel better, it feels like an accomplishment knocking out some of my prescriptions. Oh, and I am back on my neupogen shots to help stimulate my white blood cells to grow back faster. They hurt, but I guess you could say that I am not afraid of needles one little bit!

I have also been thinking about a new idea for a tattoo. I haven’t told anyone about it yet, but I have been thinking a lot about it. I want to get a black scorpion (with white highlights) and have a drop of yellow venom dripping from its stinger. Why? Well, I figure that scorpions represent me very well. Tough but pretty to look at, strong but has a soft inside, nice but if you mess with me and you won’t be happy, it kind of looks muscular in a way, they are a survival machine, and they are a little mischievous considering  that they hide in people’s shoes. The yellow venom will represent my cancer ribbon color. Most people consider that a scorpion tattoo is mainly for Scorpios, but my idea has nothing to do with an astrological symbol. I am still thinking about where it will be put, I am thinking of below my neck near the spine. I would totally have it on my ribs on my left side, but that is too tender and broken for that, and I have a smaller idea for that part (Eden drew it up for me!). Naturally, a lot of research will be put into it to figure out where to get it done because I will not be getting an ugly tattoo. No blown out lines for me, no squiggly lines, no bad shading. I figure if you get a tattoo, it might as well be really good and expensive because it is permanent (unless you plan on spending a shitton of money and go through so much pain for laser tattoo removal).

I think that is about it with my updates… Oh, just a small thing, I think it is kind of funny that now I have to sleep in sweatpants otherwise I get too cold. I only use my ceiling fan and one other fan that is not blowing on me to negate the noise of night. I used to have to use a ton of fans and sleep in shorts because I would get so hot that I would sweat in my sleep no matter what. So this is a new sensation for me, it is kind of nice, this is one change that I can deal with happily.

Oh, and I must be honest, it kind of gets on my nerves when people text me “How are you feeling?”. It makes me feel like I make people worry about me and I personally would rather talk about anything else besides how I am feeling. I am never honest with how I feel, my parents can attest to that one. I always say that I feel good, even when I feel crappy. So unless you want me to say what you want to hear, I recommend asking me what I have been doing or if anything exciting has happened, or if I saw whatever tv show or movie that is popular. I prefer those. I feel like when people ask me how I am feeling that they are kind of pitying me, despite what they really feel. If I am doing well, chances are you will find me posting fun pictures on my instagram. If I am doing really badly, I will post about it and so will my mom on facebook. If no one hears from me, chances are that I am being a hermit and am doing just fine. So when people do ask me how I am feeling, I will not tell them how bad I am doing when I am really doing badly, I will skirt around the question because I am sure that they really do not want to hear every detail that I know from the doctors, and chances are they would not understand anything that I say. I never feel as good as the average person, so it is not worth asking how I am feeling. Chances are, it is not as good as you. However, my emotional and mental health is probably better than most people. Even through everything, I keep hope and stay positive about things, which I guess is another thing that keeps me lying about how I am feeling most of the time. So please, just ask me what I have been doing, if I have any fun plans, talk about a current event, or anything rather than asking me if I feel good or not. Unless I am in the hospital for a very long time, I am doing fine! That is a big indicator of my health. Even if I am going to the hospital for a weekend infusion of chemo (or weekday chemo) or weekend transfusion, that still means that I am doing fine. And when/if I do go in the hospital for something serious, someone will make the news public. I promise!

Okay, I promise I am done ranting now… Bye! Now you can look at some pictures from Halloween…

halloween 2 halloween 3 halloween

 

Halloween Video (On Instagram)

halloween 5

The Security of Home

I was so lucky to be able to go home yesterday. Dr. Jolly surprised me with discharge orders after seeing that I managed to keep away a fever for over 24 hours. My dad insisted that I would be going home that day, after the conversation with Dr. Jolly, but I insisted that I would be staying until this morning, but I was wrong! I was so happy that I could get going from the hospital and away from my IV pole, not to be restricted to only being in the hospital and having to rely on the help of others to get me whatever I could possibly be craving at that very moment, and not be woken up during the night to get my vital signs checked. Don’t get me wrong, the hospital is an amazing place to be when I am not feeling good, but when I am feeling healthy (well, my terms of healthy) then I really want to go home. As much as I have so many people who love me right there in Roseville Women’s and Children’s Center Kaiser, it is just not the same as being able to go home at a whim. 

Today I woke up and was not feeling particularly good, mostly because I tossed and turned all night. I was a little upset because Panda decided that he was not going to sleep with me, probably because he is not used to me being home yet! I was really cold too, as I had on my three fans, as usual. It was surprising to me, so I just turned off all of them and went back in to to bed to hopefully snuggle with my cat. He was more into playing than cuddling, and my feet were like popsicles, so I grudgingly rolled out of bed to get out a pair of socks and made my way to the couch. I had made it out of bed before 10am, which is very unusual for me. Then again, I went to bed at 8pm last night, so I guess that makes a little bit of sense. I immediately turned on the tv to watch The Biggest Loser, a guilty pleasure of mine that I did not get to see last night as a consequence of going to bed early. This finally gave me the opportunity to let out a good cry. I cannot tell whether I hate crying in front of people because of the vulnerability, my ego, wanting to be strong for everyone, or a combination of any of those. I just feel so uncomfortable crying in front of people. Even my parents. I feel perfectly fine crying by myself, it is more of a release than anything else to me now. A really needed release. I have read from a lot of people that they feel like they are pathetic when they cry alone, but I honestly feel better. It is a little quirk of bottling things up.

I started to feel physically better immediately after I was able to cry for a little bit, I guess emotional and physical health really do go hand in hand- always good to know. My mood increased and I suddenly decided that I had to check out some music and dance to some tunes, working out slightly and getting my lungs a little stretched out. This makes me a little hopeful that I will be able to compete again, eventually. I have to admit that I do not have a very good lung capacity anymore, which saddens me because I used to have awesome swimmer lungs. I guess it just gives me more to work on when it comes to being a better athlete. I am less likely to give up mentally on workouts when they get hard or when my body hurts now as well. You get a little mentally tough when it comes getting chemo and all of the other things that come with cancer, as that pain is not in your control. When you workout, you are asking for the pain and getting a great physical benefit. Going through chemo, you get pain like no other, no high from endorphins, and the only workout your body gets is a fantastic ab workout when chemo gets your stomach upset and won’t hold anything down. That is the only positive that comes from puking, which I guess is part of my sick humor, when I realize that my first workout in a very long time was not the one that you can press a snooze button or be too lazy to get out of.

Since I was so happy to finally be out of the hospital, I decided that my car had to get driven. Since it is a Camero, it likes to go fast, so I filled up the tank and went down the highway. It made me realize how much I missed driving and the freedom of it. The music blasting from my stereo, the window blowing through the windows, to having the oh-so-satisfying stares from strangers, it was amazing. I feel a little bit fulfilled when people eye my car, as I do the same. I am still not used to Christine- that is what I decided to name my car. Yes, this is based on the Stephen King novel. Christine is portrayed as a slick car, so I thought that it would be perfect to go along with my love of horror films/books. My car desperately needs to be washed, but I still do not have enough strength or stamina to wash it myself, so I deal with having a car that is full of kitty paw prints, and kind of laugh at how small Panda’s feet are. Have you ever noticed how tiny a cat’s footprint is? It is so adorable to me, they look so delicate compared to our own. Now back to the car, I did not get any people who approached me to race me, it is always a little exciting when that happens, although I am only up to racing by accelerating fast and am not into going 100 on the freeway or 80 on the streets, that makes me uncomfortable. I have never gotten a speeding ticket and I am deadly afraid of getting pulled over, so I will save my tears and money by going more near the speed limit. 

I have been craving Popeye’s since I had been admitted into the hospital, so I decided that today I would go out and get it for myself. I saw commercials for the crayfish and I could not shake my hunger for it, so I got that and a huge tub of mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum! It was just what I wanted- and probably what I needed. I can tell that I have lost weight because the rings on my fingers move around freely and annoy me. The diamond constantly moves to the bottom of my hand and get in the way of my everyday activities. I am in no way complaining about the rings on my fingers, just the weight I have lost. I wish I could keep my weight on! I am a little afraid to step on the scale, so I am unsure what I weigh, I am sure it is around 120, five founds light. I think it is a wrestler thing, always knowing and obsessing over the scale. I was not a fantastic wrestler, but you do pick up a few habits from it that may seem strange or unhealthy to others. I was always lucky that I did not have to starve myself to fit into a lower weight class and that I always made my weight easily. I saw the horror of others having to run and diet to be a certain weight, so I was thankful for not having to do so. 

I am sorry to say that I have no updates for my health. The cultures taken from my blood were all negative, so we do not know what was ailing me. This is an everyday annoyance that I have to deal with, not having the answers that I desire. I get my plans and dreams thrown off by things that I cannot foresee and sometimes do not know the cause of. I have pretty much no doubt in my mind that I will have to wait at least another semester before starting up school again, which really bothers me. I get so tired of my plans being changed or postponed. I cannot keep most of my plans and have to back out of things last minute because unexpected things tend to happen to me a lot. 

With regards to my health, I guess we are all unsure of what my future treatment will be, whether it is going to be chemo or radiation, but I did find out that they cannot just up and take out my whole lung. That saddens me a bit, I was comforted by having the option of just taking out my entire lung in case no treatment was working. I did handle the ICE chemo better than expected, and as my doctor put it, “Better than you should have,” This is not too surprising considering how strong my body is and how it decides to hate me but put up with a lot at the same time. I continue to surprise my doctors with how well my body handles everything, but I am not. I feel like it has always been there for me and has worked well (other than this whole cancer problem) and has always held up no matter what ailment or physical challenge that it faces. I really don’t want to go through chemo again, I hate being in the hospital and I really, really, really don’t want to lose my hair again. I cannot stress it enough, I know that my life is way more important to my hair, but my quality of life is important. I don’t remember if I posted this before, but if I do lose my hair, this time I will wear wigs so to stay away from the hats and beanies- they remind me too much of chemo. However, my wigs would be the colorful wigs that most people only wear on Halloween or costume parties. I would be wearing pink, purple, red, blue- whatever color I can find and whatever style I choose looks good.

I am a little emotionally drained, so I will leave this post a little short today! I just figured I had to let everyone be up to date on my health, basically everyone knows what I know when it comes to what happened recently, which is pretty much no information whatsoever. So until next time!

My Time Spent in the Hospital

Well, as many of you know, I have spent quite a long time in and out of hospitals. If you were to add up the days that I have been impatient, it would add up to around 6 months. Six months of my life wasted. Six months of my life where I could have been out and about in the world. Six months of my life where I could be finishing up school. Six months of my life that I could be spending doing collegiate sports. But, alas, they have been spent in the hospital. Generally speaking, when I am in the hospital I am not feeling very hot. I normally have heavy nausea, have tubes attached to me, have to drag an IV pole with me wherever I go, mostly to the bathroom. I would love it if I could just get up from the hospital bed (which is actually comfortable as you can adjust the angles of it) and go to the bathroom. But, nope. I have to climb over the side and unplug my “buddy” and take it with me. Now with normal people, they wake up to use the restroom about one time- but not me! I am on fluids constantly to flush the drugs out of me and to make sure that my kidneys and liver do not get poisoned by the chemo. I end up waking up about every hour or so to go to the bathroom. I feel bad about it so I hold it in as long as I can stand it, because going to the bathroom includes waking up my mom or dad (whomever is staying the night with me) so they can help me in case I am drugged up and not very stable. When you feel so bad in the hospital, being drugged up or “high” or in Ativan Land or taking Benedryl to go to sleep. In my case, I use all of them as my night time meds. Sure, makes me sound like a druggie, and I guess you would be correct. But these all serve me a purpose. When I take pain pills in the hospital, I get itchy. That is where Benedryl comes in to take away the itchiness to a point. Ativan is just to keep me from puking and makes me go to a happy place and sleep.

I guess I will enlighten my followers on what chemotherapy drugs I am taking, along with their side effects:

Carboplatin: It works to destroy cancer cells by interfering with the cancer cells growth cycle. The most common side effects are nausea/vomiting and low blood counts. Some of the more unusual side effects (which I seem to be prone to) are abnormal liver function tests, low levels of potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium in the blood; anorexia, kidney damage, hair loss, allergic reaction, hearing loss, and numbness in the fingers and toes. The major warnings about Carboplatin is that it may cause kidney damage and can cause hearing loss.

Etoposide: It works in the same way as Carboplatin. Common side effects are mild nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, and low blood counts. Some of the less common side effects include: mouth sores, low blood pressure, fatigue, abnormal liver function tests, and allergic reaction. Also, with Etoposide, blood pressure and heart rate needs to be constantly monitored to make sure one is not dizzy or could have difficulty in breathing.

Ifosfamide: It works at the same level as the other two drugs. Common side effects include: low blood counts, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss. The less common side effects include: blood in the urine, kidney damage, abnormal liver function tests, confusion, and seizures (although the latter two are rare). Since the medicine has been known to cause bladder irritation, fluid intake and urine output are closely monitored. Along with that, a drug named mesna is given to help to protect the bladder.

So yeah, these are some of the things I will go through, I will probably go through all of the side effects, aside from seizures. However, this is a low price to pay considering that it WILL save my life, or at least prolonggggggg it. Why all the g’s at the end? I’m emphasizing how important prolonging my life is. When the time goes by, more research is being done on childhood cancer, including Ewing’s sarcoma. Personally, I believe they need to look more into genes and chromosomes to prevent the body from allowing tumors to grow. Basically, “In all Ewing Family Tumors, a change occurs in a cell to move a gene called EWS on chromosome No. 22 next to a section of DNA on one of several other chromosomes that causes the EWS gene to turn on. No one knows why this happens. It is not inherited; rather it occurs after the child is born. This change can be tested for in the biopsy specimen used to confirm the diagnosis.” (WebMD).

Yeah, I have done quite an amount of research on my cancer. I always want to know the answers to everything, so I am often found looking them up. I am curious in that way, it does not matter what fact or myth I want to look up, what category they belong in, whether it be stalking a guy who my friend is into to make sure that he is not a psychopath, I will find things out. What I also found out from WebMD is ”  It accounts for only 1% of all childhood cancers. Although it can occur at any age, it very rarely occurs in adults over the age of 30.” So I guess if anyone was wondering how rare my cancer is, it is pretty much spelled up above. It is only 1% of childhood cancers, so imagine what it would be if both childhood and adult cancers were included in that study. We would not measure very well. Sure, breast cancer and others have hit more people, but more research has been done on the cancer because of the number of people diagnosed is way above the 250 or so new cases of Ewing’s sarcoma every YEAR. I think that there needs to be a bit more research on my cancer because it generally is more devastating and has a much, much, higher mortality rate. That will never settle with me.

Okay, now to get on with how I have been doing. It has been getting harder to breathe, however I do not need breathing tubes. (Thank goodness!) I do have a lot of pain on my left side, including my shoulder, ribs, almost to the hip, and kind of near the heart I get a pain if I move a certain way. We will come to the bottom of this with a CT Scan on my neck and chest. I am looking forward to having answers. I am also hoping that the chemo really gets going to make my tumors upset. They better, since I will have to be upset when I lose my hair again. I actually have grown attached to it… Oh well, when I go out with friends (like to a party or a bar when I am 21) I will buy cool colored wigs and rock them! Other than that, I will stick with beanies and being bald. That’s how I roll. I am confident even without hair, but it deeply upsets me when people stare at me and give me dirty looks when I walk around bald. I will have a voice this time, and they will feel sorry for staring at me. (Sounds like the start of a serial killer movie, however I am much better with the power of words, and boy have I had a lot of time thinking up my retorts.

I have had a few visitors come to my room. The first people were Katie and Julie Rundle. Their brother/son was my chemo buddy until he passed away. I will always remember his birthday as it falls on the same day as my brother, Mark. That day is October 26th, and I know I will be celebrating both of their birthdays. As Julie put it, we will be celebrating Andrew’s time being with God and being in heaven. It was really good to hear them say these positive things, they made me feel so much better about everything. They also brought me Jamba Juice (two of them!) after they consulted my mom on what flavor I would prefer. They also got me a Jamba Juice gift card to grab some for later. One of my nurses from the clinic, Renee, came to visit me on that day as well during her lunch break. It was so nice seeing her! I feel like it has been forever since I have seen her, since I would only go to the clinic every three weeks for one day, and she would not work on those days. I feel like Renee is another mom to me, I can tell her anything and just feel comfortable around her. It is lovely having nurses, or just people in general who click with you. Renee also visited me today. She brought me a copy of “The Heat” so I could watch it, and man did my mom and I enjoy that movie. Shelly, my caseworker, and Tamara, my nurse practitioner, also visited me today. That was amazing as well, we talk like we are good friends and can joke around about everything. I only surround myself with people who are fun or nice to be around, so they are totally included in that. I believe one of the social workers named Tammy (well that’s the name on my starbucks cup says) went to starbucks and got me a venti iced chai tea latte as well as a glazed donut. I was so happy because I just happened to be craving donuts! My social worker Hillary came by and we talked about getting my SSI as my cancer is considered chronic. I think it is worth it and I know I will qualify. I cannot hold a steady job by any means considering my health can change as much and as randomly as the wind changes direction. I would be working at least in the summer and I might have continued on coaching high school swim later in the season, but nope. My body is a little too unreliable. I find it hard to make plans and keep them. If that makes me a flake, then so be it.

Oh, and I was dating this guy (it wasn’t official or anything) but we spent a lot of time together and I know we were both interested in each other. He was a really nice guy and I felt comfortable around him and was able to show my secret nerdy side (oops, it is out now) and my goofiness. Unfortunately, I was having a bad feeling that something was brewing in me again, such as cancer is growing, so I drew away. After a few days I texted him and said that we could no longer see each other because my tumor is growing and it will leave my life really complicated, and it just wouldn’t be fair to either of us. Maybe if we had been dating for longer I would still date him, but at this point, I did not want anyone to fall hard in with the emotions, especially considering that neither of us are emotional people, we trust each other and are still friends, but it isn’t fair to bring someone who I am newly dating to be swooped up into my journey through cancer. We have always been completely honest with each other, and he is aware of my history. The “breakup” text (since we weren’t official, even though it felt like it) went really well. He totally understood and there are no hard feelings. I mean, there is really nothing anyone of us could do concerning my health problems. What I liked about the kind of “goodbye” text was him stating something along the line as “You are a cool girl and I hope I can meet other cool girls like you. Maybe one day we will run into each other.” And I agreed, saying “Life is funny, it is very possible! The timing was just off.” As it was. But I am glad that I did meet him and ended it well, because I am sure that it boosted up our confidence that there are good people out there who are not clingers or psychos. I will admit that I am gunna miss that kid, so I am sure I will text him from time to time. I am just glad that it was a thing that we both felt good about at the end, because it was not anyone’s fault (aside from my body who hates me). I am glad that I got a bit more dating experience because I have not been known to date many people whatsoever. I guess practice makes perfect for a relationship.

Oh, and I have been sleeping all day long basically, ok, well not all day long, but I slept through the night pretty well for having to go pee every hour or so. I feel not as tired as I have been lately. I have not been doing much other than playing on my phone or watching whatever is on tv, but I love getting the visits from people, they break up the day and make me feel loved and worth their time. *hint hint* Having people visit me also can help with an idea of what I am going through, and I am sure will make others feel much better about their lives and stop and think before causing self harm.

Oh, and I thought I would like to add something here in the end. I have been looking up foundations that are for pediatric cancer cures, and found a few good ones that are actually legit charities, with most of the money going to research, which is such a relief to me.

http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=d6821102d3ebc210VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD&vgnextchannel=3c9213c016118010VgnVCM1000000e2015acRCRD&fnl=WTHWS4

Above, is a link to St. Judes Research Hospital. They do spend most of their money on the treatment for kids as well as researching looking for better treatments and cures. So I recommend donating here for childhood cancer in general. (They are also doing a clinical trial for Ewing’s sarcoma. So please look into this and donate. =]

http://sarcomahelp.org/team-sarcoma.html

Basically this is a site that focuses on sarcomas, and 95% of the donations go to the research. Another great thing about it- you can specify what sarcoma you want to fund. This made me happy.

So either of these websites could help lead us to new treatments and cures for the deadly disease of cancer. Personally, I would want someone to donate to sarcomahelp, specifically to ewing’s sarcoma. Please, of course, do your research about which sites (even other ones) and choose one that feels right to you. That is all I am asking, oh, and another thing, if we can spread my blog out as far as possible by my readers and followers showing it to others, I would be thrilled. And I think all of my chemo buddies would appreciate it too, because although we might not always look sick, our bodies have a lot of damage done to them. This would help spread awareness and give people a little bit more knowledge about what we go through on a daily basis. Also, I am hoping that the more people who get educated that kids can get cancer (and be bald) that people would stop being as critical about us and the staring would come to a halt.

I am done for tonight, I am currently on hydromorphone(delotted) and ativan, and soon to be benedryl, so I am getting a little loopy, so my writing needs to stop while I can still see straight. Hehe

Love always,

Lauren McCullough (instagram: swimchicklauren) and (twitter: swimchickLM) and if you want to find me on facebook, well I just gave my first and last name. I just want childhood cancer and ewings sarcoma as much press as possible so that it is not unheard of.

So goodnight all =]

 

Bad News

So, I had been planning on writing this for a while and had exactly the words chosen already. I was going to say that I had a scare- and no it’s not that I am pregnant, that would be the least of my problems. I was hoping to report that my pain was caused by pneumonia, but alas, it did not go that way for me. My tumor in my left lung is growing. I am thankful that it has not spread to anywhere outside of my lung, but it is still such a hard-hitting blow to find out that the chemo I was on was no longer working. After getting such positive results from my X-Ray three weeks ago, I was sure that nothing could have come up in that short amount of time. Well, I was wrong! However, it could always be worse and it does not hurt as badly as it did during 2013 Swimming State. That was just awful. But I am glad we have caught the cancer before it got any worse. As nervous as I was for the results, I needed to know and there was no way or no good reason to put off telling the doctors, especially considering my history.

Basically, on Monday I got a chest X-Ray right when I got in the clinic so my results could process. I already had a very bad feeling about what it was, especially considering how well I know my body by now! Once we got the results back, Tamara told me that my tumor was growing and was able to show me the difference in scans, just how it was done to show my progress. Now, the difference is not that big, but it has made me uncomfortable and pretty painful. I am so grateful that it has not spread yet!

So I got admitted to the hospital at around 4pm, got hydrated, and started chemo at about 1am. You could say I was pretty tired, but I needed to start the process of killing the cancer right away- this is one place where I will not procrastinate! I have three heavy duty chemo drugs: ifosphamide, etopocide, and carboplatin. The term they use for this regimen is ICE. I have already have the first two I described and they were bad enough, however I heard from a nurse that carboplatin is the worst one. Yay me! I am not looking forward to feeling sick all the time again, but if I went through it once, then I will get through it yet again. I am going to be a miracle baby. I need to be a miracle baby.

So unfortunately, my hair is going to fall out again and I am very upset about that. The first time around, I did not even care that I sported no hair. Now, after having lost it, I have a new appreciation and attachment for it. So you know what I did with my hair that is not going to be around for much longer? I dyed it all teal. I love it! It actually gave me something to smile about! I have always wanted to be daring with my hair, so now I have the chance. I feel like it would be best to dye it so I won’t have any regrets about it. Someone told me that it made me look like a mermaid, and that was just so cool!

I am feeling a little tired today because of how little sleep that I got, mostly because there was such short notice given to the hospital staff. As long as I was not really nauseous, I could not complain about the wait for getting hydrated and getting orders sent into the pharmacy.

I did have a few visitors today, I think I needed them here, therefore we all feel better about what I am going through and what the Rundles are going through. Katie and Julie Rundle came by to visit as promised, and they brought me Jamba Juice upon Jamba Juice. They are pretty much family, we all feel so comfortable around each other. My nurse Renee from clinic also visited me today. I was so happy to see her, it has been a while. She was there for me when I felt awful, she helped me through my crying from frustrations,and we laughed at other patients who were total brats (oops). We just connected and I know she (as well as the whole Kaiser family) cares about me a whole lot. I also love all of them back. I got to see most of my in-patient nurses who have taken care of me through my worst problems. I loved that, I needed an excuse to see them, but this is not quite the way I wanted to see them, but oh well! All of my cancer nurses are amazing, my oncologists are amazing in the ways that will not let me give up- they always have some thing or another that they can look into other possible cures. They do work so hard to get not only my cancer taken care of, but everyone else who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer. If anyone were to ask why I love my hospital, it is because of all the nurses and oncologists, childlife specialties, radiologists, etc. There are numerous reasons why I am where I am. I feel safe with every single one of my nurses. etc. If I need something, whether it be meds, a blanket, food, an extra milk, ice cream, or whatever they will look for them. I would much rather stay at home and not be sick, but if I have to be sick, I am glad it is here so I get my medication on time by people who know what they are doing.

I think this is all for today, I have been in Ativanland the whole time I have been writing this, but it had to be done!

Love,

Your favorite blonde who is not so blonde anymore- Lauren McCullough

teal hair

hair dying

Wind in my Hair So you should click that link to see a pic of me blow drying my hair with a fan!

The Wedding Video! (Finally)

 

Warning: This video may invoke tears, so have a tissue or someone close to hold you. I can’t even watch it more than once because I don’t like seeing the emotional side of me. But it is a beautiful wedding ceremony, everything was perfect. Which is hard to say when you have 3 weeks to plan it, 2 from the hospital. It strengthened my friendship bonds with my team, coaches, the Kaiser team, family, old friends, new friends, my best friends, and my crew. It just means so much to me that they went through all the trouble to make my wedding wish come true. I have to give major props to Joel Kling for shooting and producing the video, which is good enough quality for tv. So I guess I should post it to youtube at some point or another. =] Happy watching!

How My Life Has Changed

As anyone can imagine, my life has changed with being diagnosed with cancer. Not only has my life changed once, its been changed twice. Every time someone gets diagnosed with a life-altering disease, their way of life goes out the window. We end up finding a new “normal” every time. Now, this might sound weird for those who are looking in on the life of a cancer thriver, but this is our reality. As much as all of us would love it if our lives were not touched by the disease, we do not have much of a choice but to grow to meet the challenges of change.

I guess I will start out with the changes on the outside. With certain chemotherapy drugs, hair loss is a side effect. Once you feel like an alien and are judged based on your appearance for something that you cannot control, this changes your outlook on life. When you do not have hair to hide behind, you figure out how amazing your other features are. Whether it be bright, blue eyes, a button nose, a shining smile- you find out how truly beautiful you are even without hair. At the same time, without the hair we feel vulnerable and can feel the stares of those unaware of anything outside of their lives, and it hurts. Whenever I have talked about my problems being a baldy, people are always astounded by my tales of the looks I get and the reactions I would get. “How dare they!” They remark. “How insensitive,” Others would say. And I totally agree. As much as childhood cancer is not really thought about- I could never imagine that it would affect me personally- I believe it is not anyone’s business if someone is bald by choice or health. I guess this is another reason why I want to get the awareness of childhood cancer across- it affects us in ways that others cannot imagine.

We come up with many defense-mechanisms to get through our daily lives. Everyone does and everyone has their own reasons to do so. With cancer, I guess our defenses are up higher than the average person’s. We have to put on such a shell that we are strong and are doing okay, that it often transforms into barriers. Barriers meant to keep people away from us, to keep them away from the agonizing truth about how hard being diagnosed with cancer is. Sometimes, we feel awful and have to put a smile on to make others not feel uncomfortable. Or we just laugh about our problems, make a joke out of things to not feel sad about them. A great example of the joking around to hide the pain is when I was bald and would openly talk about it. I would say things like, “Well, my hair never tangles and it takes me no time to get ready in the morning, as well as never having bad-hair days. I just have no-hair days.” I guess it was to make people think I was comfortable being bald. Which, I guess in a sense was true. I got extremely used to being bald and would be okay in small groups of people. In crowds, I would feel more alienated. But in small groups, I feel like they could understand what I was going through.

I guess another way that I have changed in a bad way (I promise the next one will be a positive change!) is that I have become kind of cold. I get a little too annoyed when people complain about their little problems. Such as in swim, when people constantly complain about shoulder problems or that they cannot do a workout, it deeply upsets me. In my opinion, if I am able to complete a workout with all of my problems and not complain about being tired, then ANYONE can. When you have cancer (or any other sort of debilitating disease) you do not have a choice on whether to quit or not. You just have to put on a brave face and endure the pain. I feel like if everyone were to be able to just put up with a little more pain of a hard workout, they would accomplish more in life. I guess that is expecting the world from some people, but that is just my opinion. So beware- people who complain about PHYSICAL problems will more often than not get no sympathy from me. I do get certain physical problems and understand that people have the right to complain every once in a while. It is warranted to happen after an extremely hard workout without quitting or giving in. If someone sits out every other lap in swim and then complains, that will make me upset. But I guess that is why I don’t hang around people who complain about everything. I am more than happy to listen to personal problems, though. Pain is just another part of living with cancer. It is something that only those who have seen cancer up close and personal, or have had it themselves, can understand. I can imagine it is sort of like fibromyalgia, you cannot exactly understand the pain unless you or someone else goes through the pain. I also feel like the pain of someone having their immune system being attacked, such as those with AIDS, would understand it as well. Those who suffer the most end up the strongest. I have heard that those who get the hardest cards dealt to them (or worst cards, if you are a little bit cynical) are the strongest people. I truly believe that now.

Okay, now onto the ways that I have changed for the better. I truly have a positive outlook on life. It may not seem like it based on what I have posted, but I always manage to find the positive of every situation. When I lost my hair, I truly WAS glad that it took me no time to get ready and that my eyes and smile shone through my hairless appearance. I believe with my relapse, the people who have gotten to know me realize that life can always be worse and to appreciate every moment. I now appreciate the little things in life, such as finding a new food that I love, waking up to my cat every morning, the cute little texts that my friends send me. Since things have been extremely hard for me lately, I realize that I am a stronger person and can handle a lot- I have the ability to touch many people’s lives. I feel the need to spread my positive attitude to everyone. Everyone should try waking up and deciding to have a good day, because honestly, it is mostly a mental thing. If you want to have a good day, just start to look at the good things in life. When I was first diagnosed in 2011 and went through arguably the hardest chemo drugs, I learned that there are good things in the bad. The chemo may have made me lose all of my hair, but I had baby soft skin. My immune system may have been compromised and my healing processes slowed, but I got to spend a lot more quality time with my family. I have gotten to meet amazing people. It is a blessing and a curse to have cancer. Although you have been dealt some less than pleasant cards in life- you just need to appreciate the little things. Appreciate that you have family, friends, people who truly care about you. I have gained family and many friends throughout all of this. Maybe my life has been put on hold for 1 1/2 years, and more time may be taken away from me, but it is never put to waste. When you spend a lot of time on the couch or in the hospital, you get a nice dose of putting things in perspective. Suddenly, friend problems or accidentally dropping $10 on the ground and losing it is no big deal. Not doing so well on a test is not as big of a deal either. I mean getting good grades is important to me, but you learn that other things are more important and that one bad grade will not end your life.

With my whole change of perspectives, I have been given the gift of realizing what is worth putting my time and effort into. I refuse to waste my time worrying about how fantastic I look or if I do something embarrassing. No biggie. So what if I walk around and have a big ketchup stain on my shirt? So what if I have lipstick on my teeth, those things aren’t permanent and do not deserve a second thought other than “Whoops!” and moving on. I also get to see who my real friends are- those are the people who have stuck with me through the thick and the really thin. I mean, everyone has problems, it is just how you deal with them. I am certainly not perfect, and neither are my friends, but I feel like we are perfect for each other. That is what I believe life is all about, spending time with people who you care about and who care about you back- including the flaws. Whether you have 50+ years left of life or a few hours, they need to be spent with the right people. Not those who take advantage of you and not those who you take advantage of. Stick with the friends who are more like family. I can say truthfully that I have the best friends anyone could ever have. I am comfortable around them and can open up with them. They can open up to me, it is all about giving and taking. My friends have taken the time out of their days and have spent money on gas to visit me in the hospital when I felt my worst, just to support me. They have shared in my achievements and disappointments. In return, I love them without judgment and am there for them when they need it. I will in turn go out of my way to rescue them or to be with them. All about give and take.

Now for a little update with how I have been doing. I have been getting out of the house pretty much every day- it is a good feeling. I feel like I can accomplish more things and have more fun if I just get out of the house. Now all I need to do is muster up the energy to spend a week or so in the bay area and go visit Susette in Santa Cruz. I also need to get together and go to a party or just hang out with my crew, I miss them. I need to Skype with DeAngela. I need to Skype with Egor and Aiyanna. I need to get over my social anxiety and hang out with my swim buds, because I miss them so much and I never get to see them anymore (although that will so change in the spring and I am excited for that).

On Saturday was the funeral for Andrew Rundle. I have to say, it was a wonderful ceremony. It represented him as a person and as a man of God. It showed a little bit about how giving he was. I got to catch up with many of my nurses and my chemo buddies. I also got to meet some people who have been reading my blogs and looking out for me. I felt so much love from everyone there- we all cared so much for Andrew and he was such a nice guy. I will admit it, I was pretty darn emotional for once in my life and I cried quite a bit while Eden held my hand, while Eden’s younger brother Mason held my thumb, while Kevin rubbed my back, and while my mom held onto my leg. I got to feel some closure from the service and was so glad that I got to see the Rundle family. We have spent a lot of time together during the worst of times, so you could say we all got really close and comfortable with each other. We shared chemo tips and the agony of getting bad scans, but we took everything in strive together. They are a part of my family now, my Kaiser family. My nurses, caretakers, chemo buddies, doctors, and all those who touch me through cancer are my Kaiser family. We all consider each other family, which is a bond that will not be broken by death. That is one thing I am sure about, Andrew’s legacy will live on through me, the Kaiser family, his family, his friends, his church buddies, as well as random others who have shared part of their lives with him- not to mention those who follow him religiously to eat up his kind words of wisdom. I am so glad that I got to meet Andrew- I believe anyone who has ever come into contact with him is a better person because of it. I know I am. I will continue to see his family as they are my family now as well, like I said before death will never change that.

http://fox40.com/2013/10/12/hundreds-gather-for-19-year-old-gone-too-soon/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04GC4CLMLfI&sns=em

Please share these videos with anyone you come into contact with, we would all appreciate it! You will see how fantastic of a guy Andrew was.

I got back into the pool on Monday and did maybe 30-40 laps I would say. I have to admit, backstroke is still my best friend. I get to breath much easier while on my back and am more comfortable with it. Sure, the flip turns aren’t the most fun, but it is doable. Being in the pool felt great, but it was still frustrating at the same time. I know what level I would and could be at if I did not have all these obstacles and health problems. I need to give myself a little bit of credit, but I will always pressure myself. I guess the pressure is good for me to keep getting better and moving forward. Yes, I am clearly at a disadvantage for swimming. I am overly aware of this. However, I have never let my disadvantages get the best of me before my health problems, so they certainly are not going to take over now. To begin with, I will never reach my full potential for other reasons. One of them is completely in my control. That is the fact that I need a social life in order to swim. I cannot dedicate my whole life to swim. I can accept that because I would not be a happy person if all I ever did was swim. I need balance in my life. Another disadvantage is my need for sleep. I take after my dad, so you could say that I need 10-12 hours a day of sleep to fully function. This means no 5 a.m. practices. It is hard enough to get me to morning practices that are at 7! I wish I did not need all of that sleep, but I do. Then again, I love sleep! I am not 6 feet tall, so my height is a problem with being a fantastic swimmer. But it makes beating people who have the height to be a great swimmer all the better. I may not have the height, but everyone will agree that I have the shoulders to be a swimmer. That is one of the first things anyone notices about me. I like them because they really do propel me through my water. Now I have what I call my janky leg. It is much tighter than the other one due to radiation, and it gives every once in a while. I can deal with that, it is just slightly weaker and not as flexible as the other one. I also have my bad lung now, but I plan on strengthening it as much as possible and I will be given prescription steroids to help my left lung to be stronger. I need as many things as possible to try to get myself on a level playing field as the other athletes. I may have to work harder than the average person, but this will make me stronger in the end.

I think I need to put myself out there more and make contacts with people who are known in the world of cancer to spread the awareness. Also, I have been asked by someone who spreads awareness about the prevention of mesothelioma to help get the word out, and I will do just that. I believe we all need to help each other in the end, whether we are on the giving or receiving end. Emily Walsh, from Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance wanted me to share this for my followers.

Did You Know Facts

 

Oh, and I went to a Diablo Valley College girl’s water polo team game with Kevin, which was against Sacramento City College. We won. Yay! So, go DVC Water Polo!

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Here is Andrew Rundle at my wedding.

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At Hell’s Kitchen

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To Have Loved and Lost

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!

 

I Found Love in the Kitchen

Again, I am sorry to have not written in quite a while, although I have been up to a lot more than I have been! I have had a crazy amount of opportunities that I have gotten to experience and am totally grateful for having them. I have a lot to report on, so this will be an incredibly long blog, so be prepared to dedicate a nice chunk of time towards reading about my escapades! 

I have gotten to meet some amazing people along my journey with cancer, one of them being Chef Deneb Williams. My mom once worked at the Firehouse Restaurant in Old Sacramento, and Chef Deneb was working there at the time, and still is. I believe the story went that Deneb read my blog and contacted my mom, hearing that I had wished to cook in an actual working kitchen. Deneb ended up offering for me to cook in the kitchen beside him and to learn the ways of the kitchen. I was thrilled! We were going to be making a duck dish, along with a sweet potato gratin and plum chutney. I was incredibly nervous for this experience, as I had never in my life worked or even cooked in a kitchen besides the one in my own house or in the houses of friends. In case one has never heard of the Firehouse Restaurant, it is a fine dining restaurant in Old Sacramento, which resides in an actual old firehouse that was turned into a restaurant. The inside of the Firehouse is like a beautiful, Victorian home with huge portraits and chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. The dining room is filled with tables and chairs, that although are placed close together, is more than plenty of room in the quiet atmosphere. After my adventures in the kitchen (which I will get to in a minute or so), my mom, dad, brother, and I came back to the restaurant for a dinner service. I had never been to a fine dining restaurant in my life, so I was very excited for the meal. To my surprise, on the bottom of the specials menu, was my name. Guest Chef Lauren McCoullough. Yes, they did add an extra “o” in the beginning, but this was an honor. Never had I imagined that my name would be on the menu, right beside Executive Chef Deneb Williams’ name. I hadn’t worked in the kitchen, slaving away and spending so much time and effort to make my way up in the kitchen as a career, to earn my name on that menu. The dinner menu was amazing- it did not have too many things to choose from, which was a relief as all of the items on the menu looked delicious. As much as I was tempted to get the duck that I had helped prepare earlier in the afternoon, I ended up ordering the beef carpaccio and the the stone crab tomato bisque. I knew that I would not be nearly hungry enough to eat a whole entree of the duck, so I went for two starters instead. They were both amazing- I was truly impressed, this made me glad at what I had chosen to eat.

Now to get to when I was working in the kitchen. It happened to be Western weekend, or something of that sort, in Old Sacramento, meaning that there was now dirt roads instead of the pavement, and a ton of traffic, as there was no street parking on the dirt roads, or even cars on the dirt road for that matter. My mom and I arrived at the Firehouse at probably 2:03, which was a few minutes late and I felt guilty about it, especially since I had not yet met the chef who made this all happen for me. We slipped into a door for employees only and were quickly joined by Chef Deneb. He was a tall man with curly, brown hair. He greeted me and then showed me around the kitchen. I was very overwhelmed- this was way out of my element and I was quite frankly, terrified. Deneb showed me the enormous walk-in fridges, one was for more of dairy products and produce, and the other was filled with what he called “mison plais” which is translated along the lines to “everything in its place”. These are the items that have already been prepared, such as a salsa or some meat that had been butchered and ready to be cooked, and even pureed garlic. There was another room that was meant for the spices, as well as some sugar and flour- baking essentials. Then we made our way into the kitchen, which was huge. There was an entire station that was for baking, a place for butchering meat, a place for frying food, ovens, and everything else you could possibly think of. Chef Deneb got me right to work, getting the ingredients for the gratin. We got some eggs, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, pepper, and heavy cream to make the base of the gratin. When combining the ingredients, I decided to get fancy and attempt to crack an egg for the first time in one hand. To my surprise, it was an easy success. Chef Deneb was impressed that I was showing off. To be honest, I was impressed as well. This was something that I had seen on TV before, but had never actually done it myself. I then got to use an immersion blender for the first time of my life, and was so excited! I have seen these in cooking competitions, and wow, I loved it! It made everything easier, but it was kind of scary because the blender stuck to the bottom of bowl I was mixing in, and surprised me. Chef Deneb then got to using the mandolin to peel some sweet potatoes. I decided that I was not going to try this, as mandolins are incredibly not user-friendly, making it easy for someone to slice a piece of flesh off of their hand. That, and my hands and sometimes whole body get twitchy, I think it is because of the medications that I am on, mainly methadone. Chef quickly got all of the sweet potatoes sliced. He then showed me how to lay the sweet potatoes in order to keep them neat. Basically, one row gets put down going horizontal, covered in the dairy mix I had earlier made with the blender, then another row of sweet potatoes are put on vertically. This is kind of like I imagine cross-stitching is. It was quite a labor of love, making sure everything was neat and well-distributed. This made sure that there was an equal amount of dairy and sweet potatoes, to make sure that the gratin was neither dry nor runny. Then we got down to make the chutney. We got out some plums, as they are in season and are nice and fresh. To get off of the skin easily, instead of boiling the plums- which takes quite a large amount of time, we quickly fried the plums. It sounded weird at first, but if you consider the logic behind it, it makes quite a lot of sense. As long as the oil in the fryer is hot enough, the skin gets cooked quickly and cracks a little. If the oil is not hot enough, it takes a long time for the skin to crack, which makes the plum sap up the oil, making it greasy. Since the oil was hot, the plum was not greasy at all and the skin was wiped clear off of the plum when rubbed by a washcloth. We added a few ingredients to a frying pan, along with the plums, to make the chutney. Chutney is basically a sauce- but what it has to have to be considered a chutney is any fruit or vegetable, sugar, and vinegar. That’s it. Chutney 101! Vinegar takes away the richness of something to make it a bit acidic, because the duck dish is so rich as it is, it needs to be cut by the chutney. I was so tired by the end of just making the two components, I opted out of helping with the duck. I had been in the kitchen for about an hour and a half, and was already tired. Deneb told me that in one day, a chef walks about 7 miles, just walking to and from the fridges and different cooking equipment. After my time in the kitchen, I totally believed it. Everything is so fast-paced, I broke a sweat in no time. I can honestly say that I am not cut out to be in the kitchen, well in restaurants that is. I am perfectly content being in the one at home! I will admit, in the pictures taken, I was not nearly as smiley as I normally am. I was under so much pressure that I put on myself, as Deneb was nice and teaching me the “why’s” of the kitchen, and going at a nice pace. I was just out of my element and was nervous. But I had such a good time there, it was amazing. So you guys should go and visit it as well!

http://www.firehouseoldsac.com/

 

One of my photographer friends, Gabriela Michanie, who photographed me to make me feel like a model, set me up with a helicopter ride. Yeah, you read that right, a helicopter. She did all of the communication for me on that, as I do get a little bit of social anxiety now, mostly on the phone, and I truly believe she understood that. She asked me what time I was available, and set up a time for me to go on a two-person helicopter ride. This was through Cutting Edge Aviation, based on McClellan Airfield in Sacramento. Turns out that the owner of the company, or a pilot, fund-raised to get me the ride. I do not quite know the details behind it. I will be honest, I got very nervous because I did not know exactly where I was supposed to be. I called, and then was quickly told where I was supposed to go, which was so nice! I saw how cute the helicopter was, and was so excited immediately. The pilot was so nice- he even let me drive the aircraft for a little bit. I can honestly say that I believe if I were in an emergency situation, I would be able to fly the helicopter. It was difficult to steer, as there is only one lever to control the helicopter. One lever, which determines the direction the helicopter goes in, the altitude, and turning it. That took quite a lot of muscle! When I was operating it, I went about 75-80 mph, and when the pilot was driving, he we went up to 100 mph. It was interesting, the higher the altitude, the slower the speed, and vice versa. We went over Sac State, Folsom Prison, and the American River. We got to ride for about 45 minutes, which was really cool. We had to talk through headphones because the helicopter was so loud. It was a fantastic experience, and at the end of the ride, when we were starting back on the runway, I believe he shut off the engine, and we dropped quickly, which made me jump and scream (he did warn me though) and then we slowly went down the runway and hovered until the helicopter dropped. I was so happy that I was able to experience this- it made for a great photo op, and great memories as well.

I decided that I had to visit my friends and coaches at DVC. I ended up leaving for Walnut Creek on Sunday night. I woke up at around 9 on Monday morning, headed over to DVC and stopped on the way for Krispy Kreme donuts. The guy working there hassled me for only getting one donut (although I did order two iced mochas) but I stood my ground and only got one. He then proceeded to hit on me- I was annoyed by then because he took forever and then said “Well, here’s a funny story, when I was getting the milk…..” and started talking about my car. Clearly he did not see my wedding ring, which I use as a quick excuse to decline offers of a date. I don’t care that I am single- but the ring is such a great thing to have to keep creeps away- sad as that is to say. Then I drove myself to the Diablo Valley College parking lot, and took a spot. I was walking and suddenly came across my buddy Steven. We hugged for quite a while, and he said he was so glad to see me. I was really glad to see him as well, I missed everyone so much, of course including him, as I consider him one of my close friends. We then ran into Alexa, and I handed her one of the iced mochas I had ordered, as I had gotten it for her. Man, it was good seeing her and Steven, and everyone who I came across. We walked together to the pool, where I got to see coach Rick. Boy, he was so glad to see me. I told him that I planned on coming back to school for the spring semester- and swim as well. He quickly took me away to take me to see the Athletic Director to get me going to start school and to swim. Since I was supposed to have 24 units between swimming each semester, I will have to petition to be able to swim without those units in between. I have to say, I have a pretty darn good reason for not having those units in between. However, I do plan on having the 12 units during swim season (the minimum amount of units needed to play a sport) so that I do not have to file another petition to not have the units for swim. Everyone was on my side, and are offering to help me in any way possible. I am so thankful, because I am going to need a lot of help. This will be a huge transition. I will still be doing chemo for who knows how long, to keep my tumors in check and to keep them from spreading or growing- and possibly making them shrink. Because I will still be going through chemo, I will be incredibly tired during my chemo weeks, and my teachers will be informed of my health problems so that they will be able to understand a little bit of what I am going through. This will help both them and myself deal with things that can possibly come up during the season. Everyone is so supportive of me, it is really amazing and heart-warming. I also noticed that a lot of my friends and teammates still have their “Lauren Strong” keychain things still on their backpacks or swim bags. Yes, I saw them you guys, and boy, it made my heart scream! I feel so loved and supported, I honestly had never realized how much everyone cares about me, and that they are proud to show it. It truly made me appreciate the teammates and friends that I have, and even in this quiet way, they are always supporting me. I notice every little thing that happens and just don’t say anything, but trust me- I notice when people support me. You guys know who you are, and I hope you know how much I realize and appreciate what you guys do for me. It helps me through my days when I am not feeling good at all, when my PTSD is really bad, when my emotions get really bad- I am reminded of how much I have to be thankful for in my life. I have the best support system I could ever wish for. I felt so at home back at the pool, although I did not step food in it, I just felt back to normal. I got to see everyone, I will try to name everyone in no specific order: Courtney, Steven, Alexa, Jose, Caitlin, Nadeen(M), Ella, Dom, Michael, Nick, Charlie, Peachy, Colette, Andrew, Emma, Emily, Hannah, Caroline, Eduardo, Lee, Melissa, Megan, Mitchell, Monty, Riley, and Victoria. I did miss some people, mostly because I missed my alarm and woke up really late on Tuesday.

I ended up hanging out with one of my great friends, Job, because he was going away for Army training for a month. We had a little party, we got to drink and cook, and just have a good time. Alex, Abe, Karina, Luke, and others were there, and we did have a great time! I loved hanging out with them and just eating and whatnot, playing a few games, rapping, and laughing.

Last weekend, I got my wish fulfilled by Dream Foundation, which allowed me to go to Los Angeles to be at a filming for Hell’s Kitchen. My mom, dad, and I drove down to LA on Friday at around 4. We got to the W Hotel at about 10pm, and the nightlife was just getting started. The W hotel is generally where rich people go to stay, as well as celebrities, so I felt like a queen when I went there. There were people dressed all fancy in the lobby, sitting at one of the many seats that were available in the extravagant hotel. When we got up to the room, we were surprised that we were greeted by champagne, chocolates, and a few personalized cards for me. So, I had a sip of champagne to celebrate, while my parents enjoyed a little bit more of it, and went to bed, as I was incredibly tired and normally go to bed earlier than that. On Saturday, I woke up at around 10, which again, is earlier than normal for me. But it was well worth it, as we went down to the lobby to eat breakfast/lunch. I got a huge burger and truffle cheese fries. The fries were absolutely amazing! After that, we all went up and got changed to go to the pool. I only put sunscreen on select areas, mainly my face, so after two hours in the sun I got absolutely burnt. But being outside felt so good that I did not care too much. We all got ready for our dinner with Gordon Ramsay (well at Hell’s Kitchen) and went downstairs to be picked up at 3 to get to the filming. We were significantly early, but sat down outside until we were let inside a sitting area. We then met Dawn Reid, who was there to accompany us to dinner. She was sent by Dream Foundation to represent them, and boy was she nice! Of course, you never know what to expect when you first meet someone who you know nothing about, but I was nervous for no reason! She ended up being a pretty, blonde lady with more freckles than I have, and was tan- so I saw a bit of myself in her. She was well dressed and so nice, she laughed a lot and was funny, but she did warn me that she had a bit of Jersey in her, and she could tell that I had a bit of attitude to me as well. We all got along right away! Gordon ended up coming through the lobby, and greeted some kids from Make A Wish- there were about 3 kids who you could tell had gone through treatment. I guess you could say I did not fit in with the group, especially because of my age- not to mention that you cannot tell that anything is wrong with me at all. I have a nice amount of hair now, it is nice and blonde and I have bangs again, I guess I keep coming back to those, I used to have them when I was a little kid and had them for the longest time! I have freckles from being out in the sun, have a bit of a tan, and am not sickly skinny anymore. I am finally bright-eyed again, and laugh a lot. At first, Gordon did not recognize me, until my mom spoke up about Skyping with me. You could then see in his eyes that he recognized and remembered me. He took me into another room so we could speak with a little less background noise, and asked me how I was doing, and said that I looked absolutely great and healthy. We spoke for a while, and then he had to leave to go to the kitchen. After about 10 minutes, everyone was led outside to walk on the red carpet to go inside the actual restaurant- which was actually a building that was made to look like and to be used as a restaurant. Inside was beautiful- and we were not allowed to take any pictures, phones were not even allowed in the premises. When we went inside, there were cameras littering the floor, videotaping us from every direction. This was exciting, there were maybe 14 or so video cameras capturing our every moves and our food orders. I ended up ordering the lobster risotto, beef wellington, and the olive oil cake. Wow, I have to say my favorite was the lobster risotto, which I ate up so fast- there were huge pieces of lobster, with nice salty, saffron risotto. I didn’t even give my parents any of it, I ate it so quickly that there was nothing left for them. The beef wellington was so huge, that I was not even able to eat one of the medallions, which I have to say, it was way bigger than just a medallion! It was so tender, and the puff pastry/ filo dough was fantastic. But my favorite part of that dish was the parsnip puree. It was so buttery and tender, I need to make it myself! I had to order the olive oil cake because I had heard of it more recently, and apparently it was supposed to be good despite what it sounds like. And boy, was it delicious!!! I was so impressed! I ended up trying my parent’s panna cotta, which was absolutely amazing as well. Dinner and appetizers were the best, as well as the bread and butter too. I was very happy- they even gave us the choice of sparkling or still water, and of course I went with still water because I hate carbonation. We were constantly waited on, which was nice so we never had an empty glass of water (or wine for everyone else). After dinner, all of the people who were invited because of their respective charities (being Dream Foundation and Make A Wish) we got to go into another room to hang out with Gordon after the service. Gordon saw the Make A Wish kids first, and sat at their table to present them with chef’s coats with his and his sous chefs’ signatures on them. I was pretty happy that I did not get a chef coat, as Chef Deneb had given one to me when I cooked in the Firehouse. After a while, Gordon came over to my table (just my mom, dad, Dawn, and I) and sat down. We all chatted, and he presented me with a mint condition, autographed, cookbook with a huge metal case. It was only one of one thousand that had been produced, so he told me I had to be careful with it. We talked for a while, especially about how well I was doing and my plans, and then we also talked about how he is competing in the Iron Man in a few weeks in Hawaii. He joked around and told me that he wished I could be there to coach him for the swimming part, as that was what he is worst at. I told him a few tips, like keeping his head down, which makes you float and keeps your butt up. He also plans for us to Skype again in about a month so we can talk after his Iron Man has been completed. I was already thrilled that we were talking again, and I am honored that he enjoys me as a person, and likes talking to me. He also said that he would like me to come down for MasterChef Kids and be in the audience, or be at the filming, something like that. That would be pretty darn amazing for me. It was such a great experience for me, I could not be happier with how everything turned out. We all hugged, took pictures (Dawn got her phone back after the filming) and then said goodbye. I was so tired after the event, that I just went to bed and relaxed. The next day, my family and I went to a restaurant that had crepes (which is what I was craving) and then walked down Hollywood Blvd. to go sight seeing. We got to see many things like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, the Chinese Crest Theatre, and the stars. We took lots of pictures, and we were all so tired. After we got back, we ate a big slice of pizza and I went to rest. When I woke up, I realized I had a voice mail from someone in Florida. I listened to it, and realized that it was Robert Irvine, whom I had left a note for (he was 4 doors down from me) earlier the day before. Of course, I did not realize the message until the day after, and was ecstatic that he had taken the time to not only call me, but he said he was going to be in the lobby for around 10 minutes to meet me, however I did not have my phone on me at the time. It was nice that he was willing to talk to someone who had left him a note (which I felt made me a little bit creepy, but I was being sincere) and just be a great guy. Later, that night, my parents and I stayed downstairs in the lobby and snacked a bit, as we had heard that there was going to be a Project Runway Emmy’s afterparty in the hotel. My dad and I watch that, so we were both thrilled. However, we did not end up seeing anyone we knew, so at about 9 or 10, I left because I was tired. Although there was nice jazz music being played live, I just got tired. My dad stayed out until 12, and said that he still did not see anyone- so I was relieved that I did not end up staying up that late. On Monday morning, we went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles because it is a staple. I was soo happy with what I had gotten, and the waffle was so fantastic, but the best was the chili cheese fries that my mom had ordered. I ended up not feeling too fantastic, probably because of exhaustion, so we ended up heading home after that. I was relieved, because I was ready to go home.

On Tuesday, I went to visit Andrew, as I have been putting it off, because I have been so nervous about it. I decided that I had to show him the pictures that I had taken in LA and that since he had visited me when I was really bad, it was only fair to do the same for him. Andrew was completely coherent, and I got to see his mom and Katie too. I stayed for 30-40 minutes I would say, I did not want to wear him out. He was happily munching on the Habit burger, and was asking all about what I had done and all of my experiences and my health. We shared a bit, and then I decided that it was time, so that Andrew would hopefully have the time and energy to go outside in his hospital bed again. I know he appreciates the sun as much as I do, so i figured a little Vitamin D would do him some good. He is so inspirational to me, and he has been amazing, keeping hope and being a nice, genuine person like he always has been. I am always amazed at his attitude, and will try to see things that the way he does no matter what!

Ok, so I have been writing for about 2 and a half hours now, and I am pretty tired of writing! I will add pictures a little bit later, but I need to take a break and I believe that everyone deserves to hear how well I am doing.

P.S. I was taken off of hospice a little over a week ago I would say.

My First Summer Vacation! ( unless you count my weekly stays at the hospital)

I guess I have a lot to catch up on in these past two weeks to fill everyone in on how my life has been! Seeing that I stopped after I announced that I would be visiting my “husband” in the Navy in San Diego. Well, I went! It was an awesome trip to say the least. I drove up there with DeAngela and my brother Mark. We first stopped by Egor’s house so that his mom would give us some homemade Russian pastry- the outside looked and tasted kind of like a donut while the middle of it had lamb and cilantro. Needless to say, it was delicious! Once we said our goodbyes to Egor’s parents, Mark started out driving. As anyone who has driven with me recently knows, I am extremely anal about how others drive. I am by far the worst back-seat driver you will ever find. It happened very abruptly to me, and suddenly I get more nervous when people drive. Then again, I really am not used to being around people as much as I have been in the past. Somehow, I think I just need to learn how to behave around people again- something I never thought I would have to do, considering that I am judgmental of how I act. I think something just kind of clicked this time in my head, making me scared of potentially getting in an accident and dying. I think it is something that is subconscious in my brain that just makes me nervous when other people drive. So, yes, I do order around people when they drive instead of me.

Ok, so after four hours of driving, Mark and I decided that he would pull into a Jack In The Box so we could get some food in our starving tummies and so that I could take over driving for the last four hours of the trip. And boy was I wrong when I thought the drive was only going to take 8 hours. It took 9-10 hours to finally get to the Navy base in Point Loma. I blame LA for all of that traffic, boy, it was miserable! I decided right then and there that I would never live there. (If so I would need to have a chauffeur because there is no way I would have the patience to drive there myself). But luckily, we did get to San Diego all in one piece, and only had to fill up once- but I am very sure that my amazing 2012 Honda Accord (Helga) would be able to make it there without having to fill up. That was extremely convenient so we did not have to waste any of our time driving and could spend it on visiting. We did have a few navigational issues, but we did get there nevertheless.

We met Egor and Aiyanna, his girlfriend, at the Starbucks across the street from the Naval Base. I will be honest, I was a little mad to see that he had brought her with him right away, I was hoping we (DeAngela, Egor, and I) would be able to hang out by ourselves the first day, but that didn’t happen. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I met Aiyanna. I found out that she is actually really pretty- she just isn’t the most photogenic in the pictures of her (yes I stalk people, that is normal and necessary lol). She also was in shape and very down to earth, so I was happy that Egor had picked such a nice girl.

We were told to follow behind Egor to get onto the Naval Base because of security reasons. When we all got in, we went to the lobby to get our room. By the way, it was $59 a night for a 2-room, 1-bathroom. The bathroom had so much space!!! It had one sink at either end of the bathroom, and had mirrors for each sink, it was all so nice. Now there was only one bed, so Mark had to sleep on the couch. He was under the impression that the couch was a futon, but that was not the case. So I gave him one of our many extra pillows and gave him a blanket that was originally on the foot of Dee’s and my bed. The bed that Dee and I got to sleep in the whole time was an amazing queen sized bed, which was perfect because we never ended up kicking or hitting each other during the night, even though I apparently have an evil laugh in my sleep and play with my hair. I believe it too! Lately I have been sleeping with my mouth open, so it is very possible that I talk and make weird noises, I do normally wake up from them though, when I am in the car. Oh, and this bed was literally the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in! I really need to see what mattress they use, because I would fall asleep a lot faster in one of those!

So once we figured out our room, put stuff in the refrigerator, opened our windows to let the heat out, found there was no thermostat in the room at all, our group  needed to figure out what we should eat for dinner. I was really craving agedashi tofu (deep-fried tofu) and sushi, so I heavily suggested that we go to a hibachi bar. We chose one that was only a few miles away and that was not super expensive, even though I was tempted to go to Benihana’s, I was responsible for feeding Mark and DeAngela, so that would come up to be way too expensive. But we all did enjoy our stay at the hibachi bar/grill. We did not have seats up at the grill because the wait would be too long, so we got a nice booth for the five of us. Tons of sushi was ordered, rice was ordered, miso soup was ordered, and my brother ordered the only thing he would eat on the menu- steak. And even though I had tons of food leftover, I ordered chocolate mochi ice cream. It was pretty darn good! Aiyanna was not too happy with it, she was confused about the mochi and did not like the feeling of it. I was happy eating it though! So once we paid our bill, we were driven back to the hotel by Egor. I offered my car for all of us to use during the trip because not only does it get great gas mileage, it also has enough room for all five of us. I let Egor drive my car because I trust him with my life, and know that he is a competent driver and he knows the area better than I do by far!

We then got ready to go to this country club called Stampede, where we would spend the rest of our night. Well, we got there at 11pm and left at probably 12:30am because we were all getting tired (especially me!) and Mark was moping around, and not to mention that the line dancing ended up getting harder and harder up to the point that I could no longer go with the flow and try to copy the dance moves of the experienced line-dancers. 

On our way back, only Egor and I were awake. Clearly, they were all pooped. I was not going to fall asleep because I never let the driver be the only one awake at night- I feel the need to keep them occupied so they don’t get too tired. So we talked and kinda caught up some more, which was really nice. I hadn’t seen my best friend in like a month! But (SPOILER ALERT!) Egor and Aiyanna are going to be visiting Elk Grove for a weekend next week. I am so excited, and by talking on the phone with Egor’s mother, Irina, she is extremely excited that he is going to visit as well.

We had a late start to the day on Saturday. We had to sleep off the dancing and all of the time spent in the car. Our plan was to go to the beach, because we all know I need my sun, especially since I am not really able to swim anymore. We left at around 2 to go to the beach, and to our dismay, there were no parking spots whatsoever. So Egor ended up dropping of Dee and Mark and I so we could get a spot. He and Aiyanna would be driving together to try to find a spot. We had no idea how long they would take- and boy, did they take forever. We all sat on the beach tanning for maybe 30 minutes before I decided that DeAngela and I should go check out the beach shops. And boy, did I score!!! I got this adorable bright pink tummy-showing shirt, a cute beach hat to make sure I don’t get sunburnt, a cute pair of earrings, a mug for my mom, a shirt for my dad, a shirt for me, a shirt for my brother, a shirt for Dee, some lime coconut patties, and my first lighter. Everything was so amazing and so cheap, I could never get bored in San Diego!!! Eventually Egor called us and told us to meet him outside the store, so then we made our way back to the beach. A few minutes after that, three of Egor’s friends came to join us. I had just met them prior to us leaving to the beach, so it is not like we were true strangers. The guys played football for a while before heading out into the water. I am not a fan of cold water to say the least, so I only went down to about my mid thighs. Everyone except for Egor’s friends went farther than I did, so I ended up getting to know these fellow military men. They were all so nice and funny! I did not feel awkward around them at all, and one of the guys was pretty darn cute to me… He was wearing glasses, had a Florida tattoo, and happened to come from Florida- which is awesome to me! I love Florida more than any other state, so I was a little jealous.

Eventually we all left the beach because it was getting cold. We all stopped to get something to eat for dinner. I ended up going to Panera Bread and got some pasta and a really nasty lemon orzo soup. Gross. Once we returned to the hotel room, everyone took a shower and was ready for a relaxing movie night. Egor brought over his PS3 so we could watch movies in the crazy big screen in our room. We first started with The Evil Dead (my request!) and then Dark Skies (which I had already seen). By the end of Dark Skies, Aiyanna and DeAngela were passed out. So Egor took her to her dorm and then came back to finish the movie. Once it was done, we all went to bed.

I was extremely tired the next day (Sunday) and I decided to stay in the hotel while the others went rock wall climbing. Yeah, my little muscles would be so pooped that I would fall asleep on the floor after it! I made the right choice, because I wanted to be well-rested before going out and walking around Old Town San Diego. It was full of Mexican heritage, which was actually really cool! I got a cool scorpion necklace to put on my mirror on my car, a cute bobbly turtle which reminds me of the ones I had when I was little. I also got my dad another shirt, it was such a good looking shirt. We all walked around the town and saw many booths and cool stores, as well as beautiful restaurants. We sat down at a cute restaurant and chose to sit inside, as it was getting a little chilly and windy outside. Or as I put it, nipply. (my swim teams would so get it). We all ordered enchiladas while my brother ordered tacos. I was not pleased with my enchilada at all, as it tasted pretty sour, and I made that same dish when I was a freshman in high school and executed it much better! But the service was absolutely spectacular!! Our waiter was so nice and always made sure that our glasses were full. And at the end of the dinner, he took off everyone’s’ drink orders off their bills. He said that he never makes those in the military pay for their drinks. I thought that it was so nice, and he was actually sincerely nice, unlike those who are being fake about it. So that was nice!

We then went back to our hotel room and watched some tv for a long while, and then Aiyanna and Egor left so we could all get some sleep because I wanted us to leave at either 8 or 9 sharp in the morning. I really did not want to get into the traffic from last time! So we all had to say goodbye to each other, even though I will be seeing them in another weekend, but we just had a great mini-vacation. It was much needed! 

I started out driving (after I got starbucks) and only drove for two hours until I was so tired that I could hardly even keep my eyes open, so I had Mark take over the wheel. Eventually, after a long while at the wheel, we went to a McDonald’s so we could fuel up and go to the bathroom. And there was the rudest Asian lady ever there. Like, ever. She would always push by people and not say excuse me or apologize, and she was blocking the entrance to the door in the beginning because she did not know what the hell she was doing. After all the eating was done, I had to ask Mark to continue on driving because I was shaking all over. This was probably due to morphine, or lack there of. Either way, he was not a happy camper, but there was nothing he could do about it. We dropped DeAngela off and then went home. 

I will be honest, I did absolutely nothing during the week I got back from my vacation, I needed to rest from all of the activities that we had done.

However, it was one of my swim friend Matt’s 23rd birthday, and I was invited to go, so I had to go especially considering how many other swim friends would be there. I was soo excited to be going, because, I will be honest, I never get to see them anymore and I miss them. But that night was so much fun! Got to see a lot of the swimmers, played water pong and miserably lost (I did get two cups though!) and just kind of hung out and talked to my friends who I haven’t seen in a while, and I was so used to seeing them every day. I finally got to catch up with Katie, as she moved to Florida with her husband, and I needed to be filled in on the details of moving and living in Florida. I also got to catch up with Blake, who was unable to go to my wedding as he was in Chicago. I also got to see Dom, Michael Billey, Shannon (my bp partner), Erin, Ella, Aly, Charlie, Colette, Julio, and Cheyenne. We all went inside so that water pong could be played much more easily. Luckily for me, I reminded Steven to come to the party, and he came, much to everyone’s delight! We ended up having a really deep conversation, and I will be honest, I have not had one of those in a really long time, it was nice! Then we all went back inside (we were just chatting in my car) to join the rest of the group. After a while, it started dwindling down, and the people who stayed ended up watching the worst SciFi movie I had ever seen. The graphics were god-awful. The Yeti thing was basically looking like a sorry excuse for a yeti- it had the body of a big gorilla and had the face of a rat, with horns of mountain rams. It was so ridiculous, but we just had to see what happened in the end! So once that was done (at 3am) I drove back home. I was craving some Wendy’s, but found out it was closed. Then I found out there are no 24 hour fast food restaurants anywhere near my house- and there was no way I was going to go to Wendy’s. I ended up scrounging for food at my Grandparent’s house. I stayed with them and chatted for about an hour before I hit the road to go back to my mom’s house, I was not going to deal with traffic, and I did not.

So basically all of this week I haven’t been doing anything, but I will go out and walk my dog tomorrow and hopefully cook something nice… I need my exercise and one of my dogs needs it too.

So it is pretty darn late, so I am going to leave you with some pictures!

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ImageImageImageMy chemo drink sucks!Image

 

 

 

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