CATE'S BLOG

CANCER: THE BALANCE OF CANCER AND CATIE

                              The Many Rants, Raves, and Rambles of Catherine

                                      THE BALANCE OF CANCER AND CATIE

                                

When I was diagnosed with my cancer in July of last year, I kept the information very quiet. At first, there were only a very small handful of people who knew of my situation. As time passed, in November of 2015 I came out of the "cancer closet" and announced my diagnosis to the world. Explaining my condition in that way was easy. I was able to tell a large amount of people about what was going on and why my life was the way it was without having 50 trillion questions, having to say the same thing over and over again, and without having to deal with peoples reactions because I had the comfort of announcing it from a controlled forum.


But with that, when I was diagnosed, I no longer lived in the Brigham City area, so while people now knew I had cancer, I still never had to see anyone. In a way, it made it easier at the time. Not having to worry about what people thought or how they would treat me now that I was "sick Catie." In a way though, I created a whole different issue that I didn't even realize existed til a month or so ago.

I began getting invited to things at home: farewells, homecomings, parties, and other social events. I soon realized that because I had chosen to isolate myself from those back home, I was terrified to go to those events because I had no idea how to act. I had no idea how anyone would treat me. Would we talk about cancer? Because if I'm going to a wedding I definitely don't want to take attention from the happy couple and have people focusing on me because of my disease. Do we just act like everything is normal? But how do I not mention the cancer when people have asked me how I've been and what I'm doing. I don't want the pity eyes and the questions... but I also kind of want the questions because what I'm going through is hard and I want to be heard and understood.

I missed a lot of events because of the social anxiety that my diagnosis brought, and honestly, looking back on that, that makes me very sad. I missed lots of good friends weddings and other events that I could have been making memories with, but I let my diagnosis keep me from them.

In August, I decided enough was enough and decided to force myself to attend an event in my hometown of Brigham. It was an emotional roller coaster for me honestly... The night before I got so much anxiety that I hardly slept. In the morning my dad had to literally talk me out of bed and to get into the shower. As I was driving, I almost turned around several times and cried. I parked my car and sat there for a solid 10 minutes and then finally got myself to go to the event... and guess what? It was fine. I'm not going to say it was great or fantastic, because honestly, I was still an anxious mess the whole time, but my friends were all still perfectly kind to me. Some who I had not seen for several years told me that they knew about my diagnosis and to let them know if I needed anything. A few asked me some basic questions, and the rest of the time it was just pleasant small talk.

A few weeks later, I decided to brave it once again, and went to the county fair. And guess what? Once I got there my cancer diagnosis was completely forgotten by me. I didn't feel like "that cancer kid" or "the sick girl", I was just Catie enjoying the fair and rodeo with some friends. I'm sure some people saw me that I knew, and knew about my situation, but I'm really proud that I took the steps to overcome that social anxiety.

I'm sure I'll still get nervous whenever I go to things in my hometown, just because not many 20 year olds are accustomed to their peers having a potentially terminal disease, but I'm not going to let that keep me from attending the things I want to, and making memories with those I care about.

If you see me at these events: It's okay to talk about the cancer, it's not a secret. If you ask me how I'm feeling, I probably will just say decent as decent as good as we get these days. Some days I'll be wearing fake hair, some days I'll probably be rocking the fuzz... Don't worry, I love both and won't get offended if you stare. All in all though, I'm still me, so please don't feel weird or uncomfortable about approaching me. I love talking to people, I love knowing people care. I'm still the friendly sassy Catie I was before, and I refuse to let cancer diminish that.

CANCER: MY POSITIVE SPIN ON CANCER & MY DOG JADE

The Many Rants, Raves, and Rambles of Catherine

My Cancer "Attitude of Gratitude"

It's that time of year, November, the time to think about all the things you're grateful for. As I was contemplating my list of things, I decided that I wanted to share a "spin off" version of my gratitude. I want to share the things that my cancer diagnosis has given me an extra "dose" of gratitude towards.

Insurance:
Holy crap... if you guys didn't know, being sick is freaking expensive. I'm incredibly grateful to be on an insurance plan in order to get the level of care I need. I'm also grateful for the clauses in the affordable care act that the Obama administration passed making it possible for me to stay on my parents insurance til I'm 26 and that I can't be discriminated against for pre-existing conditions (which if you didn't know, the list was already long and complex before the cancer dx, so SUPER grateful for that.)

Modern Medicine:
50 years ago, my cancer never would have even been caught, and I would have been dead by now. I'm grateful for the technology to have my tumor and its growth carefully monitored regularly. I'm grateful for all the scans that exist now days in order to monitor how each medication affects not only my cancer, but the functionality of my organs. I'm grateful for medications that exist that help treat my condition, but also help treat all the crappy side affects. Not only am I grateful for the medicine itself, but for those who have chosen to work in the field of health care. I've been so blessed to have some amazing members of my care team, who genuinely care about my well being and are constantly looking for ways to improve my quality of life while going through this.

My Service Dog Jade:
If I hadn't gotten sick, I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to get Jade. Because of the complexity of my diagnosis', I was offered a spot in a service dog training program. Whenever I have appointments, my adorable puppy gets trained to help me in my every day life. She has been a life saver physically (monitoring my blood sugar and being able to pick things up for me when my neuropathy. Keep others at bay during panic attacks and PTSD episodes) but also mentally. I live in Salt Lake by myself in order to be closer to my treatment center. Jade's company keeps me sane. She also ensures that I still "live" as she requires regular exercise and socialization. I'm beyond grateful for her little spunky attitude and that cancer brought me my best friend.

Nature:
Before getting sick, I liked the outdoors, but I didn't truly appreciate them. I'm grateful for the power of nature and the therapeutic impact it's had on my life. I'm grateful that the mountains have given me a place to run away from my life for a short amount of time and forget about all the crap that's going on in my life. I can go from a complete melt down, to feeling centered and at peace after a brief hour or two in the beauty of the earth. I'm also grateful that the outdoors showed me how much I enjoyed my amateur, new found hobby of nature photography. I love being able to capture the beauty that I'm surrounded with and I'm grateful to be able to capture the images and share them with my loved ones.

The YA cancer community:
This time last year, I had my diagnosis but I knew no one in real life that was a young adult with cancer. Fast forward to this year- I now have met at least 50+ young adult cancer survivors, and the young adult cancer community brought me two of my very very best friends Mellissa and Sierra. Not only have I made great friends, but I've felt so much understanding and support from others who have experienced a situation that is very hard to comprehend if you have not endured it yourself. My favorite part of this community is that you can find someone else, and even if you've never met in person, this community has your back 110%. When I had pneumonia I had several of my online YA cancer peeps messaging me offering to get food delivered to me and all sorts of other favors. The young adult community is unique and incredibly supportive in all aspects of my life.

My Physical capabilities:
The 2 years before my cancer diagnosis, I was sick with various things and had several surgeries, because of that, I was on bed rest often and didn't exercise much. I'm happy that cancer made me re-discover how much I am capable of. For the last year I've gone to the gym around 5-6 days a week. I can't always do a lot, but I'm always able to do at least a little something. I'm proud to say that in the last year I've lost 20 pounds. and I've overcome so many mental hurdles about my physical capabilities. I CAN lift weights, I CAN run, I CAN hike, and I CAN push through the pain and exhaustion. I'm grateful that cancer gave me the courage and the mindset to push myself past my comfort zone and to push my body to its limits when it comes to physical activity. Not only have I enjoyed the physical changes, but its been an amazing way to work through a lot of my mental anxieties and anger that comes with my diagnosis. I'm grateful that exercise has brought me more balance and given me a healthy outlet for my frustrations.

My support system:
Obviously I've always listed my family and close friends on my gratitude list, but since getting cancer and going through chemo, I've learned who is really there for me 100% no matter what, and to say I'm extraordinarily grateful for them and their loyalty through this time is the understatement of the century.

To my mom- I'm so grateful for you. Thank you for listening to me cry at all hours of the night whenever my pain is bad or I'm having a melt down. Thank you for always broadening your horizons and looking into other alternative ideas for how to help me through this disease. Thank you for respecting my space and independence when I need it. I have no idea how I would have made it through this year without you.

To my dad- Dad, thank you for being my #1 fan. For always questioning the doctors and keeping them on their toes and making sure that the treatment I'm getting is the best possible treatment. Thank you for working long hours to make sure that my medications and appointments can be paid for. Thank you for going out of your way to spend time with me on my hard news days, and taking me to lunch whenever I'm down. The gratitude I have for you is beyond words.

To Justice- Thank you for being my very best friend for the last 3 years. You've never known me healthy, and you've definitely seen me at my worst. Thank you for still sticking beside me, and always being there for me. Thank you for taking the brunt of my anger and frustration about my situation and caring for me anyways, I'm so grateful for our friendship and the special bond we share.
To Kyra- Ky, you've been so good to me. You always check in on me and know exactly what to say to me when I'm down. Thank you for being here for me for the last 17 years. You're a life long friend and I'm so grateful to have you in my life.

To Mel- Mel... Oh Mel. To think you've only been in my life for a short 7 months is beyond mind blowing since I feel like we've been friends forever. Thank you for letting me constantly moan to you about how much our situation sucks. Thank you for being my ER drive call buddy, and my Harry Potter nerd. I love the hell out of you and I've told you this 100 times but... I wouldn't trade cancer because it brought me you.

To all my extended family- Thank you for all the prayers, fasts, and kind messages you've sent to me and my parents. Your love has not been unappreciated. I'm so grateful to have family who loves me, supports me, and cares for me. Thank you all for the many favors you've extended and for all the offers. I'm grateful to have such a wonderful family of amazing, strong individuals.


But all in all...

I am grateful to be living, and not merely alive. I existed before my diagnosis, but I was in a place of complacency, as I had never had to contemplate my mortality. I was told this last September of 2016, that while I'm stable on chemo, that if I go off of it, I only have 3-5 years, and that shook me to my core. Cancer has made me appreciate every little moment. Each sip of goodness that passes my lips as I sip my favorite peppermint tea. Every little puppy kiss. Cancer has made me appreciate every moment I can spend with my loved ones, and to treasure those encounters, however uneventful they may be. Cancer has made me become more real, has given me a backbone, has taught me to speak my mind and that the thoughts I have are important. I do not feel like I'm 20 anymore, I feel "old." But I am grateful, for I believe cancer has given me a perspective on life that I wouldn't trade for the world.
I am grateful for cancer, for cancer has made me into the woman I am today.

CANCER: HOW I CAME OUT OF THE "CANCER CLOSET"

The Many Rants, Raves, and Rambles of Catherine

The balance of cancer and Katie

When I was diagnosed with my cancer in July of last year, I kept the information very quiet. At first, there were only a very small handful of people who knew of my situation. As time passed, in November of 2015 I came out of the "cancer closet" and announced my diagnosis to the world. Explaining my condition in that way was easy. I was able to tell a large amount of people about what was going on and why my life was the way it was without having 50 trillion questions, having to say the same thing over and over again, and without having to deal with peoples reactions because I had the comfort of announcing it from a controlled forum.

But with that, when I was diagnosed, I no longer lived in the Brigham City area, so while people now knew I had cancer, I still never had to see anyone. In a way, it made it easier at the time. Not having to worry about what people thought or how they would treat me now that I was "sick Catie." In a way though, I created a whole different issue that I didn't even realize existed til a month or so ago.

I began getting invited to things at home: farewells, homecomings, parties, and other social events. I soon realized that because I had chosen to isolate myself from those back home, I was terrified to go to those events because I had no idea how to act. I had no idea how anyone would treat me. Would we talk about cancer? Because if I'm going to a wedding I definitely don't want to take attention from the happy couple and have people focusing on me because of my disease. Do we just act like everything is normal? But how do I not mention the cancer when people have asked me how I've been and what I'm doing. I don't want the pity eyes and the questions... but I also kind of want the questions because what I'm going through is hard and I want to be heard and understood.

I missed a lot of events because of the social anxiety that my diagnosis brought, and honestly, looking back on that, that makes me very sad. I missed lots of good friends weddings and other events that I could have been making memories with, but I let my diagnosis keep me from them.

In August, I decided enough was enough and decided to force myself to attend an event in my hometown of Brigham. It was an emotional roller coaster for me honestly... The night before I got so much anxiety that I hardly slept. In the morning my dad had to literally talk me out of bed and to get into the shower. As I was driving, I almost turned around several times and cried. I parked my car and sat there for a solid 10 minutes and then finally got myself to go to the event... and guess what? It was fine. I'm not going to say it was great or fantastic, because honestly, I was still an anxious mess the whole time, but my friends were all still perfectly kind to me. Some who I had not seen for several years told me that they knew about my diagnosis and to let them know if I needed anything. A few asked me some basic questions, and the rest of the time it was just pleasant small talk.

A few weeks later, I decided to brave it once again, and went to the county fair. And guess what? Once I got there my cancer diagnosis was completely forgotten by me. I didn't feel like "that cancer kid" or "the sick girl", I was just Catie enjoying the fair and rodeo with some friends. I'm sure some people saw me that I knew, and knew about my situation, but I'm really proud that I took the steps to overcome that social anxiety.



I'm sure I'll still get nervous whenever I go to things in my hometown, just because not many 20 year olds are accustomed to their peers having a potentially terminal disease, but I'm not going to let that keep me from attending the things I want to, and making memories with those I care about.

If you see me at these events: It's okay to talk about the cancer, it's not a secret. If you ask me how I'm feeling, I probably will just say decent as decent as good as we get these days. Some days I'll be wearing fake hair, some days I'll probably be rocking the fuzz... Don't worry, I love both and won't get offended if you stare. All in all though, I'm still me, so please don't feel weird or uncomfortable about approaching me. I love talking to people, I love knowing people care. I'm still the friendly sassy Catie I was before, and I refuse to let cancer diminish that.