A Year in Review

My last post title is so funny looking back at it. I’m back? HAH.

I just check to see when I last posted and the time stamp says AUGUST 2017.

THAT’S A YEAR AND FOUR MONTHS SINCE MY LAST POST.

I’d apologize for not writing more, but the truth is, I’m not. I’ve been out living a little instead of writing. However, I am sorry if reading my blog was something you regularly enjoyed reading (hi mom).

Since it’s been such a long time, let me bring you up to speed on my life:

  1. I’m a super senior in college getting ready to graduate in May (No. I don’t have a plan yet. Please don’t ask.)
  2. I’ve stage-managed three productions, house managed for two, artistic directed a Fringe Festival, assistant directed for a main stage production and created my first lighting design.
  3. I have a billion things on my to do list before the end of the semester.
  4. Number three is a lie, but I still have a lot on my list.
  5. I took a spring break trip to Colorado it was life changing.
  6. I performed for the first time in two years this summer and it was my own writing.
  7. I’ve had five or six oncology appointments since the last time we’ve chatted and I am better than ever. My oncologist told me in my last appointment that it was like the cancer wasn’t there in the first place.
  8. I can put my hair into a half pony tail now!
  9.  I am working in the scene shop at my university and it is by far the best job I’ve ever had.
  10. I had to put down two of my doggos this past month, so I’ve been pretty sad. But they’re in a better place so it’s okay.
  11. I’ll be getting to work as a Props Artisan on a professional show in January.

And this is just a small version of what I’ve done in the last year and a half. There have been really big ups and downs across the board, but that’s just life. My time has been filled to the brim and since this blog is something I do for fun, there hasn’t been any time for it.

I didn’t realize how much time I had to myself to be creative when I was undergoing treatment. I had time to heal, write and be creative as I could in my waking hours. However, the real world doesn’t work like that. You don’t always get that kind of time to pause and reflect. Even now, I don’t have time. I have four projects and a show I should be working on, but I wanted to give myself a moment to pause and talk with you.

I’m okay with being busy. I’d rather not have time. When I was undergoing treatment, it was like my whole life was on pause and the only way to make it move forward was if I filled it with something because I was forced to stop doing all the things I loved. It was infuriating to say the least.

And because I wasn’t doing anything, I saw the world was still moving without me. It was hard to watch. I felt like I wasn’t needed.  I know I’m wanted, but I felt as though I wasn’t needed and that was one of the most difficult sensations to overcome. But my dad reminded me of something that his teacher once asked him:

What are all the things you want to accomplish in your time on this earth?

Of course I have a list for that: write a play, direct, love, explore, travel, do all the other things every blogger on this platform talks about.

But then my dad’s teacher asked another question:

What would this world be missing without you in it?

The cynic in me says nothing would be missing. The world would keep moving as it does and eventually someone else would come up with whatever I created or contributed to society.

But that’s not true. If I weren’t here, the world would be missing an optimist. A writer. A lover. A friend. A sister. An explorer. And everything I am to become. Look at what I’ve done in the last 22 years alone! Who knows what I can do next! Without me in the world, we would never know! That’s one “What If” I don’t want to live with.

So now my life has been un-paused and it feels like it’s fast forwarding to make up for lost time. And I have a lot left to do. Get ready!

I’m hoping to write a little more than before, but I can’t guarantee anything. If it’s been a while, just know that I’m out living to bring back stories for you!

Thank you for waiting for me to live a little.

 

Until Next Time,

Dana Qualy

 

The Last Chemo Session

The last chemotherapy treatment is DONE! I have so many thoughts and feelings about it that I don’t really know where to begin. For starters, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this whole journey. More specifically, on my first day of chemo.

I was terrified. Who wouldn’t be?

Of course, being me, I put on a brave face for my mom, the chemo nurses, for myself. I’m sure it didn’t matter how cool and calm I thought I sounded. They could all see right past it. There is no way to quiet the fear in your eyes when you feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs about to get a painful shock you can’t get away from.

I remember being scared that the needle going into my new port was going to hurt. I remember my oncologist looking surprised at my mermaid colored hair. I remember thinking that receiving chemotherapy was going to physically hurt me. I remember thinking “Get in. Get out. Be done.”

Of course, it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple even for an easy case like mine. I remember a lot of the fear from that day, but I didn’t process any of it at the time.

I didn’t process those awful things because a lot of good came from that day as well.  I remember my sisters coming into my chemo room with a big gift bag filled with stuff from friends and family to make my chemo treatments easier. I remember all the love and support my friends sent me through messages and snap chats. I remember being excited when I found out getting a needle in my port didn’t hurt at all!

I remember a lot of joy from that day and I am so grateful for it. I have met some of the most incredible people on this little side quest of mine. They are truly amazing. There’s this one person, one man, I met only briefly on the last day and he may have been the most significant person I met. I’m not someone who believes in aligned stars or fate, but I met this man and his family and had one of the most important conversations I believe I’ve ever had.

While my mom and I were in the waiting room (the last time we were waiting for chemo!), a man sat in the rocker next to my mom. He was in his late 70s, early 80s. He seemed to be nervous. I got up to go sign my mom and I in for our session and as I did, he began to strike up a conversation with my mom. When I returned, so had his wife and daughter. I sat down and joined in on the conversation. I learned that the man was about to go through his first chemo session. I looked at his daughter and she seemed to be incredibly nervous. She and I swapped some medical stories and hospital horrors before she asked for advice on how to combat chemo side effects on behalf of her dad.

My first thought was, “Hah! You fool! I know nothing. I haven’t done this enough to know anything about combating these side effects. You should ask literally anyone but me.”

And my second thought was, “Dana. You’re an idiot. You’ve been doing this every two weeks for the last six months without a break. You have no hair. You’ve combatted extreme nausea this whole time. Your skin is probably more white than a ghost. You know at least something.”

So I told them what worked for me and explained that all cancers are different, so to are chemo side effects and that they should find something that works best for them and stick to it. Most importantly, they shouldn’t let this disease overpower their minds. Then the nurse called me back for my last session, I wished them well, and went on my way.

As I sat in my chair receiving my concoction of various toxins, a horrifying thought came over me as I was reflecting on the conversation I’d just had:

Cancer will never end.

I’m not saying that I’m going to have cancer forever. I’m done (thank goodness). I couldn’t be happier to have that portion of my life be over.

But cancer didn’t start with me. It didn’t start with my friends and family who survived their cancer and those that didn’t. It didn’t start with the strangers that sit in the waiting room. And it’s not going to end with us either. And that is what is so terrifying to me.

This needs to end.

So my cancer journey isn’t over. I am going to take some time to recover and then do anything I can to help find solutions. Whether it be volunteering or fundraising or something in the middle, I will be there helping others find their cancer freedom as well.

I walked into Marshfield Clinic with fear, but I can assure you I left with determination and it because of that man and his family and I don’t even know their names.

So here’s to cancer freedom! May I have it for life and may many others get to celebrate theirs real soon!

 

Until Next Time,

Dana

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