Cancer Freedom, Fundraisers and Fun!

 

Hi all! How’s it going? Hopefully well because I have lots to tell you so make sure you stick around until the very end. The first bit of news I have is a little old but still really amazing:

I AM CANCER FREE.

You did not misread the last sentence. That’s right, folks! Dana Qualy can no longer be pushed around by cancer and its sidekick, chemotherapy. Mind you, I still have one more cycle of chemo to go, but that’s it! Then I’m done!!

Here’s why I still have more chemo:

Way back in November at the start of this little adventure, my oncologist told me I’d be receiving 4-6 cycles of treatment. After the third cycle, I would go get a PET scan and its results would determine exactly how many cycles of ABVD chemo I’d get.

Three months go by and it is now the beginning of February. Time for the scan. I have never been so nervous for a test in my life because I knew that if I were to “fail” this test (aka large masses were still present in my chest and neck), then the treatment would only get more aggressive. It was also more likely that the cancer would come back within five years and I’d live in the never-ending cycle of treatment and hospitals.

So I do the scan on a Thursday afternoon and wait four agonizing days to hear the news. The cancer was gone. Any large growths that were there three months ago are nowhere to be seen. However, because I had started with so many large growths in my neck and chest, it was decided that I was to continue with all six cycles of chemo and no radiation to make sure the cancer would stay gone. Between you and me, I’d take an extra cycle or two of chemo over radiation any day.

As cheesy as it sounds, that PET scan was the ticket to getting my life back. Before the scan, my family and I stopped any and all long term planning. There were no summer events, no birthdays, and no future. Sure there’s stuff we wanted to do and MAYBE we’d get around to it IF I was feeling okay, but as far we could tell, chemotherapy treatments and hospitals were the main source of our future. Possibly for life. But it wasn’t.

That PET scan proved that cancer wasn’t going to be my family’s future. My family got to start planning again. I got to start planning again.

I’m going back to school.

I’m going to get a job.

I’m going to celebrate every event and holiday.

I’m going to celebrate the people I love even more.

I’m going to celebrate my birthday.

Which leads me to my second topic: birthdays. I have one coming up in May and for once, I’m very excited about it. I decided to donate my birthday to the American Cancer Society and do a fundraiser. It’s called $2100 for 21 Years. You can read more about it in the link, but basically I want there to be more birthdays in the world and I want to do my part to make it happen. And in celebration of my birthday, I want to help more people.

Over the next month or so I’ll be sharing more about the fundraiser on My Bright Corner. If you can, please consider donating or sharing this fundraiser with anyone and everyone because everyone needs more birthdays with loved ones!

Thanks!

Until next time,

Dana

I Never Knew…

 

(DISCLAIMER: This is my experience with chemo side effects and is not the same for all who undergo treatment)

I never knew that I wanted to be tired. I wanted to feel that drag in my step after pulling an all nighter working on homework. I wanted to feel the pull in my eyelids as I chugged a coffee and trudged to my morning class. I am a night owl and I always have been. I thrive in the evenings and late at night when my mind can wander and expand on its own accord. I could spend hours working on one project or another and never lose steam until the sun rose. Once I completed that all nighter my second favorite activity was coming: dreaming. I love to dream. To know that my subconscious is still trying to surprise me around every corner of my own mind is an incredible thing. And when I wake, I will still be tired but satisfied and ready to go. That sensation of tired meant that I worked hard and I accomplished my goals I set out for myself. That sensation meant that I would get to sleep really well the next night because I earned that sleep.

I never knew that I was using the word “tired” wrong. No. Not wrong. Too lightly. I never knew that there was a spectrum of tired. There’s the tired that you want and then there’s a tired that exists that you can’t control. It is so extreme on the spectrum that it hangs precariously off the edge of the tired scale. Any little puff of air will push it right over. This is how I feel every other week. Uncontrollable exhaustion. I never knew that there should be a new word invented that is stronger than “fatigue” or “exhaustion.” Exhaustion is not strong enough to describe the sensation of needing to sleep after chemo (or I assume any other medical treatment). The sleep after chemo is empty for several days. There are no dreams or knowledge of time passing (even though you’ve been out for almost 19 hours). You can’t focus. You’re unmotivated. Your body is weighted down so heavily you’re unsure if you will ever leave your bed again. Being awake for more than a couple hours is a challenge. I never knew how badly I wanted to be awake. I never knew.

I know now.

I know now that it’s important to take care of yourself. To listen to your body and give it what it needs even if it isn’t what you want. If that means sleeping for 22 hours or stretching out sore muscles, then that’s what you do. Maybe it means you have to take some cold medicine to prevent the sniffles. Whatever it may be, listen to your body. You can’t ignore symptoms of illness because that cough could be a lot more than a cold. I know that when you take care of yourself, you will feel better. After a few days of intensive sleeping after the chemo, I become a functional human again and I can be awake and do what I want to do again. I don’t know what would happen if I were to push my body past its limits and I don’t want to know. That’s dangerous. Not just because of chemo but because a person’s body can only take so much stress before they collapse.

I know how to prioritize now. I know that my body and health come first. Resting and healing is more important. My education can wait. This blog can wait. It’s not that I won’t get to them, it will just take a little longer than normal. But I will get there.

I know that whatever it is you’re trying to push through isn’t worth the risk. You only have one body. Pushing through illness and exhaustion is not worth it. Go and rest. You won’t perform your best when you’re feeling sick. Go and take care of you. Everything else can wait. You will get there too.

 

Until next time,

Dana