Beach hair, dont care
This time of the year is rough for me (a Dr told me Cancer PTSD is actually a thing, who knew, so I struggle with things often). Adding on top of the timing and being stressed about getting everything ready in my classroom in time, I mentioned to my therapist I was thinking about going to the beach my last weekend before school started (for teachers) but how I really thought I should stay in Austin to continue to grind it out in my room. Thankfully, after changing my mind multiple times, I decided I needed to take her advice and I'd regret it if I didn't go. So even though I may be cutting out laminating at the beach, I'm still here and know this is where I should be.
A little glimpse of the last 2 years...
2 Years Ago Today...
On this day 2 years ago, I was laying in a hospital bed after a week stay and a few surgeries, waiting for my biopsy results to come back after being transported to the ER not being able to breath. My oncologist walks in and confirms the results that I do indeed have cancer, and not just any cancer, but a fun, rare, and fast aggressive form. Thankfully, these few minutes were one of the rare moments in my many hospital stays where I was alone so I got to absorb the information by myself and attempt to figure how this was going to affect my life. A lot has happened in the last two years. That week in the hospital, and obviously after getting the confirmation of the biopsy results, my life was literally turned upside down and completely taken away from me in every way. Nothing would be the same in my life again.
From losing my job, my apartment, my health insurance, my health and everything in between, everything was gone. These last 2 years have been emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially draining. If you've followed my 2 year journey, you know I literally underwent every procedure possible and nothing ever worked. Until FDA approved Car-T therapy I had no options left to fight and live. Last November, I was one of the first in the US to have Car-T therapy after it was FDA approved. Literally a million dollar procedure was my last chance, but also a huge undertaking. Living in Dallas for a month, on top of everything else that came along with it was obviously never fun. Not to mention this would mean losing my hair for the 3rd time...
A year into my cancer journey I didn't think any hope was left since I had done it all. There were many, many times I just wanted to quit and give up. I have always told my Beachers (students), "No one is perfect, as long as you don't give up and try your hardest that's all that matters". If I didn't live up to my own words than how could I continue to instill this into my students. So, no matter how hard it was, I just did my best. I've literally lost count of how many hospital stays I've had, times I've been poked and prodded, amount of blood taken, the number of iv's and tubes connected to me, the number of bags of chemo put in me, the number of radiation treatments I did, the number of doctors and appointments I've done, the amount of pills I've taken.....well you get the point. Cancer was a 4 letter word for me. The only constant was my amazing friends and family who never left.
I can say, only after being on the other side of it and literally go thru hell and back (multiple times) that cancer definitely changes you. I'll always have my "tiger stripes" I got from having to live on predisone and the many cancer scars from multiple surgeries...but that is my new life. In every workshop or inspirational program I've been to or read, people always say you will never get back to your old "normal", you will have to build a new normal no matter how hard it is. I don't think most people can really understand or grasp how difficult this really is. First, of course, the task of getting your health back, then dealing with your mental and emotional stability after all you've been thru, next coming to terms with the financial burden you will be in till you literally die, and just putting the pieces back together of the ones you can find to try and complete your puzzle as much as you can. Sure, I'll always have some of those pesky pieces missing, but that's ok. It took me literally 2 whole years to finally start putting my pieces back together even after never thinking I'd ever get to this point or being able to complete my picture.
I finally got good cancer results, finally am going back to teaching (after 2 attempts in 2 years), finally mentally and emotionally on the up thanks to my therapist I continue to see weekly (thanks to the amazing Flatwater Foundation), and believing I can now actually plan for A future. Sure, I may never get to say I'm having children now, or getting married, or buying a mansion, or even get to say "I'm in remission".....but I will be able to say, I never gave up and cancer didn't win no matter what it put me thru. I can back up what I say to my students everyday about never giving up and in the end it will pay off no matter how hard it may be in that moment.
Cancer may be a 4 letter word, but I'm choosing to make it a positive 4 letter word now: hope, love, free, grow, give, kind, pure, wise...and maybe a little zest here and there. It's hard to stay positive during Cancer, but coming from someone who has literally been knocking on death's door, I can tell you it is possible to find the light at the end of the tunnel....no matter how long and dark that damn tunnel is. The pieces don't come easy, but if you keep searching and looking you will eventually find them (try between the couch cushions, there's always some hiding there).
I've been asked many times why in the world would I go back to teaching and the stress etc after all I've been thru....well, thats easy, I love teaching, and one of the many lessons I've learned thru cancer is to do what you love! Take vacations, be with who you love, eat the cake, buy the dress you've been eying for months....just enjoy life because you truly never know when its your last day Or another persons....enjoy and cherish everyone around you. Enjoy life while you have the chance.
Even though I won't be back at BCE and miss them more than words can explain, I am beyond excited to finally be back in my own classroom and with my favorite grade. Getting back to teaching was one of my biggest puzzle pieces I was trying to find. Becoming a CASA ad litem is just another piece I am proud to add to my new life chapter puzzle. Finally, my pieces are coming together, it may not be the puzzle of my old life, but a puzzle of my new normal slowly coming together.
Since I know you have all been on the end of your seats waiting (ha) for the 2 things I couldn't wait to share (sorry I forgot to post it here as well):
Accepting my certificate from the
I can finally share one of the exciting things I have been working on after months of 44 hours of training, hours of courtroom observations, writing court reports and looking at several other court cases (and obviously the pre-screening and interview, background check and driving record etc), I was officially sworn in by Judge McClenahan to be a CASA ad litem. I'm actually more proud of this accomplishment than I am of getting my masters (and let me tell you, I haven't done this much "school work", homework, and papers since grad school).
Now I don't share this big accomplishment and commitment in my life to "toot my own horn" but rather urge EVERYONE to look into volunteering. Sure, you may not have enough time to make this big of a commitment, but there are so many volunteer opportunities out there! With that being said, CASA advocates are in severe need in Central Tx. I will be taking cases in Hays, San Marcos, Comal, New Braunfels, and Lockhart and in these areas we literally only have enough CASA volunteers to advocate for 50% of our kids (Travis county has a MUCH higher percentage). That's 50% of kids in horrible life situations that have no one looking out for just them and being their voice, as well as someone they know will constantly be there when their living situations may be constantly changing or parents/family members in and out of their lives. I'd love to give you more info if you are interested!
(I was also beyond lucky and thankful for my forever work wives to come and support me, as well as be a part of this special occasion! Love them!)
"CASA of Central Texas advocates for abused and neglected children in the courts, school, and child welfare system by training and supporting community volunteers."
"Advocates talk with the child, parents, family members, caseworkers, school officials, health providers, therapists, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. Advocates review school, medical, caseworker reports and other documents regarding the child during the year the child is in foster care."
I was dying this time last year 😂
Oh what a year it’s been....I definitely look better with hair (even if it is a mop) 😊
(And Aunties boys are way too big 🤦🏻♀️)
#NeverGiveUp #OnwardAndUpward #CancerSucks
PS: the plant’s still alive....I know, I think that’s the most surprising part too 🤣
A few months ago, I was asked by Texas Oncology PR to write about my experience regarding CAR-T since I was one of the first in the state to get receive it after it was FDA approved and am thankfully part of the 45% success rate (and will hopefully continue to be in that percentage).
With that being said, my first task was to write a blog post for them to post on all social media and their website about my experience etc. My rough draft was 3 pages so the poor PR and web team had to edit quite a lot to keep under the word limit they needed : )
but still happy with how it turned out...
Just a quick update....it's been a crazy and busy last few weeks to say the least!
If you remember, my post 3 month Car-T scan my mass had shrunk and was 2.8 x 2.2 in size.
My latest 6 month post scan was great news...my mass has continued to shrink and is now 2.3 x 1.8 in size!
Fingers crossed the Car-T keeps working it's ninja magic and the mass will continue to shrink or at least stay stagnant BUT I feel great!
In other news, my life has literally made a 180 degree turn and I haven't had this much 'good" happen in years, especially since cancer, and everything is finally looking up!
-I'm FINALLY getting back to work (for real this time). I interviewed at an amazing school (that never has openings) with a full house on the interview team, which didn't help my nervousness, but I ended up getting a call just an hour or two later with the job offer! I am beyond thrilled to not only be getting back to work, but getting to know my new amazing and supportive team. I can honestly say I truly feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. So many signs pointed to this job and when I found out I got it I was ecstatic and anxious all at the same time. I think I am the only teacher in America that is already ready for summer to be over and for August to get here so I can start setting my class up....and my life back up as well.
-Another big thing has happened in my life but I can't reveal that until the 20th...but let's just say I'm more proud of "this" than anything I have done in a very long time, including grad school....even though the work involved was literally at the level of work I did in grad school so it's been a long road.
- Yet another huge deal has come my way that I will also "reveal" and share with you when it's complete...hopefully in a couple weeks
-Other than that, I have finally started "living" again and couldn't be much happier (aside from a one thing, but that's a whole other story lol).
I was on the drive home the other day and the song "Livin" by Dierks Bentley came on and I literally just stopped and listened and realized I was meant to hear that song at that particular time (cliche, I know) anyways this was from my facebook post the other day for those that didn't read it:
For almost 2 years I haven't wanted to do anything, talk to anyone, or see anyone (no matter the person)
Some people didn't get it or understand it but sometimes when you're going thru things you really can't explain it to anyone
Some people stay, some people go, but that's the true test of any friendship or relationship
FINALLY things are on the road to getting normal and I realize after going out and talking with people after so long of "not living" that that's exactly what I needed
There's a time to have your own pity party and feel horrible about yourself....then things eventually start turning around (even if it does take 2 years)
Talking to and seeing people I haven't in forever (bc of me), getting back to work, having great CT scans (and other things)
"And it hit me, It's a beautiful world sometimes I don't see so clear" and it's time to start "living" : )
Blue's a little bluer up in the sky
You're high's a little high
You feel that fire you've been missin'
As previously mentioned, my first post PET scan that was 3 months after my CAR-T infusion showed my main mass in my chest has shrunk. Hopefully, the ninja cells will continue to keep fighting and my next PET scan (hopefully in May contingent on lovely insurance of course). Cancer wise I feel sooooo much better than anytime period since being diagnosed. Unfortunately, those darn kinders gave me something fun in February and it transformed into chronic infections which have been horrid. After 3 different antibiotics, different prescription nose sprays and steroids (my body literally laughs at any medicines any nothing ever works) the last round after months of crud has finally made a difference. My immune system is just gonna take a while to build back up again even with the help of monthly IVIG infusions. My last oncologist appointment showed my levels were all still looking good. I've loved being back in classrooms subbing and getting back to teaching english to students in China online again BUT can't wait to start interviewing to finally get back to teaching in my own classroom this next school year!
Confession: I can't paddleboard....well, I've actually never tried BUT just the thought of falling off and not getting my big butt back up is a sight no one (including me) ever needs to see.
I was so honored when Britt made this post to make donations in my cancer journey honor to the upcoming Flatwater Foundations "10th Annual Dam That Cancer"! I wanted to share my experience with this awesome foundation and encourage you, if able, to donate to such a great foundation.
I should start by admitting I didn't want to go to counseling after my cancer diagnosis. This is NOT because I don't "believe" in counseling/therapy etc, in fact I am the complete opposite and think everyone should go to and/or would benefit in some sort of counseling in their lives and I myself have been to therapist multiple times in the past. I was a hot mess before cancer so after being diagnosed you can only imagine how lovely I was then.
Why didnt I want to go to counseling then when I obviously needed it the most? Well, in my head and thinking going to a therapist and talking about your bad day or bad break up etc was far different than 1) opening up about how you're feeling about cancer 2) in all honesty no one can understand how you are feeling because they haven't been thru what you have OR if someone has had cancer, everyone's journey is completely different. and 3) talking about it isn't the easiest.
After my 6 months of intense chemo didn't work (when I was told would be the answer and I'd be done) and then after radiation was a failure I literally had 3-4 of my doctors (on different occasions) bring up the suggestion of me going to a counselor. When it gets brought up by one dr is one thing, but when multiple doctors bring it up you can only imagine the lovely state I was in. My first thoughts were 1) the last thing I want is to go talk about this on top of the going thru it 2) adding one more appointment to my already crazy dr schedule was not very appealing and finally 3) I obviously couldn't financially pay to go see someone no matter how bad I needed to or not, I mean I can't even pay my monthly bills/student loans/cancer bills as it is.
The turning point was after one of my doctors again brought the topic up and mentioned that the Texas Oncology social worker could do all the leg work AND it would be covered by a program called the Flatwater Foundation so I financially wouldn't have to worry about it. I was now out of excuses so I folded and the next week I started seeing a counselor that I was set up with and have been seeing her every week since! Best decision ever and I wish I wasn't so hard headed in the beginning and started sooner. Life is hard in general, life with cancer is a whole different ballgame, especially when all treatments available were failing. My counselor on more than one occasion has mentioned how amazing the foundation is and how easy they are to work with. I am beyond appreciative of this foundation and encourage more cancer patients to look into it AND for others to donate to them if possible, you truly will be making a difference.
I also encourage you to sign up to paddle board if you're more physically inclined than me (which doesn't take much) or to even volunteer for the event with me!
I will be cheering Britt and all the other paddle boarders on from the sideline while volunteering and appreciate all the supporters! I have attached Britt's donation page for his paddleboard team and also the link to the Flatwater Foundation for you to read more about it!
This week I did my "follow up" CT scan since an active spot (different from my original mass) popped up on my post CAR-T 3 month PET scan, so they could see it better and get more info etc. The oncologist office called a few days later and said they think it's ok (so who knows what it was). My original mass measured 38x51 in August 2018 at one of my many scans after chemos etc. Now my original mass is 22x28, so yes it's still there BUT it has obviously shrunk. Fingers crossed the CAR-T continues to show its ninja skills (assuming that's what is finally helping it shrink).
Also, I am finally half way done with my monthly IVIG infusions (3 of 6) so hopefully my immune system continues to get stronger...although this time of year has not been the easiest to not get sick! Just now getting over whatever loveliness the kinders gave me weeks ago.
And Brodie continues to live his best rockstar life...his cancer scan/surgery follow up is in May. This is his "I love you, I surely don't mind being your example picture for my cousins Dr. Suess day craft" : )
Brodie update: He had it rough for a few weeks but has bounced back like a champ...
Well, this time last year I obviously wanted to go back to work (for many reasons), got a teaching job....then several weeks after found out my cancer was back (or never really gone) and treatment didn't work. There goes that job (not happy).
This year I finally physically felt better and have done all treatments (and then some) so I desperately wanted to get back to work.....again, for MANY reasons. Same situation, got a teaching job (which is far from easy being a teaching this time of year may I add), called social security to end my disability that we had started (which with Cobra, didn't even cover all my monthly bills) and was told there was a new rule put in place that if you return to work within a year of receiving disability you have to pay the entire amount back. This literally would mean I would have to pay back around $15,000 (but don't worry, he said he could put me on a payment plan....haaaaaaaa). He then told me my "year" would be done in February so I just couldn't make over X amount for February and then I wouldn't have to partake in the new rule (that no one may I add was notified of).
After a mini break down and going thru ideas in my head how I could avoid this (because there is obviously no way I could ever pay that back), I contacted EISD HR which were beyond understanding and helpful and basically figured out a way to get around it...which entailed me getting sub pay for all days worked in February and then having to take a few days "off" so my gross total wouldn't be about the X amount. Ok, crisis averted thanks to admin and HR but then I was still confused and unsure of the whole ordeal and again talked to the SS worker. He then backtracked and said actually my "year" wouldn't be up till June (which made more sense because I was still working February of last year so shouldn't of been on disability). Great, all the help EISD had done for me was now useless and I've basically completely wasted the districts and schools time.....beyond embarrassing.
So last year cancer hindered me from going back to work because I physically couldn't. Fast forward to this year I'm finally feeling good and I literally can't work because social security would rather pay me disability. If you can make any sense of that, please let me know. Not sure why the government would want to continue to pay you money versus you getting back to work. So my advice to anyone on disability due to whatever cause, cover all your bases before attempting to build a life back. Although, I would've never thought social security of all things would be one of my bases I had to cover. So, I am now having to apply to be a sub in several districts, go to orientation, then hopefully start subbing...but still making sure I don't make over X amount and I can go back "full-time" next school year.
While all this fun is going on, I also had my first PET scan set for 3 months after CAR-T to see if it worked/helped etc. Literally the same day I found out I couldn't work is the same day I found out my PET scan results. So, my main mass did shrink in size, however is still there and active....and now there is a new spot showing up. Lovely. So my oncologist wants a CT scan to get more information on it. So there's that.
Whats the new spot? No clue. How could I get a new spot when my other main mass shrunk? Ya, still no idea. The only other issue was my blood is still on the anemic side (which it has been since car-t) so I may have to have another blood transfusion if it still doesn't improve next bloodwork.
It's been.....a week.
Now I have the task of unloading my car back into storage of all the classroom things I had just spent days going thru boxes to find and use in my classroom. Guess they'll have to wait to see the light of day until August now.
Next time you think you're having a bad day...think of me, I'll trade you lives
First, if you don't have a dog you might as well stop reading now. Secondly, if you have a dog but also have a kid (with 2 legs) you probably won't get it either.
Brodie has been my baby for a third of my life, actually I can't really remember life without him. He's always been there. Especially during my cancer journey.
Last week after I got home from my IVIG infusion he wasn't doing good...at all. My parents brought him to the emergency vet who after some tests and x-rays found a mass in his chest and fluid in his lungs. Sound familiar?! Yes, its exactly like what happened to me. He got his lungs drained and some medicine to help internal bleeding since they found blood in what was drained. They then sent the scans to get read and the next day my mom got the call that it was more than likely a cancerous tumor. He then needed to be brought to a special vet oncologist in San Antonio who did a cat scan and later confirmed it was cancer....literally the same spot as mine. He is going back tomorrow for surgery to hopefully remove the tumor...if it's possible.
Brodie IS my kid so I don't expect anyone to understand or relate to thinking your kid having cancer when mine just has 4 legs instead of 2.
To be honest, I only did my million cancer treatments, procedures, medicines, hospitals etc FOR HIM. Why? People know you died and will eventually accept it and move on...animals think you just left them, didn't care and never came back. Do I care about my family and friends having to go thru me dying....of course....but I could never just leave Brodie and never come back and he think I left him.
So yes, it might sound crazy to most that I care more about a dog than anyone else....but unless you've had a pet that's been your "child" for 13 years I don't expect you to understand.
What are the odds my dog and I would end up having cancer together in the same spot?
Just so we're clear, I'd pick him over me any day.