Stop telling me that everything will be okay.


Now that I’ve got your attention, seriously, stop it. 

You don’t know that. I don’t know that. My doctors can’t guarantee it. 

Sure, positivity is important and a mindset which needs to be embraced when dealing with cancer. 

“Fight the good fight, you are a warrior, a positive attitude can change everything” blah, blah, blah. 

Stop.

I get it, trust me. I’ve had that dead horse beaten in front of me more times than most people, I guarantee it. 

Let’s get something straight - mortality is a part of life. One that most people are too afraid to talk about. The fact is, most people don’t face any form of mortality until a loved one passes or when they themselves are faced with something later on in life. We all will encounter it at some point. 

Dying can mean immense loss, but it also can be a way to experience unimagined beauty and love. Embrace it.

(Just to be clear, death is not on my schedule anytime soon.)

I am sick of the stigma attached to cancer as being a weakness.

It’s not. 

In fact, I have personally become stronger from cancer. Maybe not physically, but mentally I am ready to conquer anything. 

Cancer at such a young age is both an eye-opening and life-changing experience.

Your life can go from something seemingly average into one where you see things completely differently. Most 20 somethings are contemplating career decisions, marriage, buying their first home or planning the next vacation they will take. I’m figuring out the next steps of survival.

There are days where I wake up and forget cancer is part of my life. It doesn’t even phase me. However, there are an equal amount of days when I wake up out of breath, coughing and remember there is a war being ravaged inside of my body. 

Regardless, life goes on. I am still me. I have the same ambitions and passions, just with a new label.

Although it’s a label I didn’t ask for, it has given me a platform and a way of recognizing, and hopefully sharing, that life is too short to not live your dreams. 

The expectations I had for my life prior to diagnosis were foggy. My direction was skewed. Cancer has given me a direct focus on the important stuff.  Although cancer does not define me, it has given me a sense of clarity about love, family, friends and an appreciation for the little things. The idiosyncrasies that make us all human. That’s what it’s all about. 

It’s unfortunate that something bad had to happen for me to come to this realization, but if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm, right?

Everything will not be okay and that is fine. That is what makes life worth living. Not because you might die tomorrow, but because you are living and breathing right now. Change your way of thinking. Not tomorrow or the next day, do it now. I promise - the sooner, the better. 

 

MOVING FORWARD

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for listening. I’ll jump off of my soapbox now.

It’s been exactly one year to the day that I’ve been on the cancer journey.

Besides continued hospital visits and relentless anxiety - life is good. Over the past month, I’ve been pretty busy with treatment plans and Air Force related business.

I had a biopsy on January 28th which confirmed the presence of cancer in my chest yet again. Back to work.

After reviewing my treatment options, we have opted to try radiation as the next step. Patients with my particular type of cancer have responded very well and have even had their disease eradicated from radiation.

I keep finding it ironic that I got stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The fact that the Mayo Clinic is here in Phoenix has been a miracle.

I was able to be their first CAR-T patient which worked wonders on killing off most of my cancer. Now, I get to use their proton beam therapy facility. This treatment is only offered at a handful of hospitals across the United States, I am fortunate to have one essentially down the road. What are the chances? 

Proton beam therapy is a new form of radiation that is more precise than conventional radiation. There are supposed to be less short and long term side effects. Only time will tell.

My radiation schedule will be extensive. At two treatments a day, five days a week, for three weeks, it will be a long process, but obviously necessary. 

I was outfitted for the treatment by getting precise measurements taken on my body so that I am in a specific position for each treatment. This consisted of a mask being made to hold me in place and four, small tattoos. One on my chest and abdomen, and two on each of my sides. Cool, huh? This is all due to the complexity and proximity of the tumor in my chest to my heart and lungs, we want to minimize any unnecessary exposure. 

We are getting the treatment started ASAP, but the planning process is tedious to ensure accuracy.

I am officially going through a medical evaluation with the Air Force to hopefully let me out sooner than later. This will allow me to be back home with family as this cancer process continues to unfold. I’m not holding my breath on any specific dates as things of this nature take time to do correctly, but hopefully early this summer Rebecca and I will be back in Michigan for good. 

Keep your fingers crossed.

More updates to come.

In the meantime, stay in touch, visit again and witness cancer through my lens and keyboard.

Until next time…


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