Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One year ago today, my life changed in a matter of seconds. One second I was a busy student/nurse/wife/daughter/friend, and the next, I had ALL. I went into survival mode. The weeks following my diagnosis are still a blur, going to countless appointments and getting countless lab tests. While it's all a blur I was never alone. On 11/12/12, not only was I diagnosed with cancer, those I am closest to were as well. I never went to a single appointment alone. Actually, I never went to treatment alone until I was on maintenance.

Telling people you have cancer is surreal. I remember thinking, “how exactly do you tell people?”. Still to this day it’s something I struggle with. Well, here are some words of wisdom: 1- Remember, everyone is different. 2- Most importantly, remember everyone responds differently. I distinctly remember saying to my friend, “we are going to do this without crying”. She said to me, “who, you or me?”. Funny thing is, she’s been my shoulder to cry on (or laugh with when I couldn't get into my jeans!) throughout this whole journey. Some people don’t know what to say and that’s understandable. Even today, I still can’t believe I’m telling you I have cancer.

After going into survival mode and doing reproductive endocrinology, I quickly started treatment. I still felt like I was on candid camera and I would be told, "haha the jokes on you, wow Katelyn handled that really well!".  I went from leading this crazy busy life to being homebound. While I was home I was never truly alone, I always had Subie by my side. She’s been the perfect partner in crime because she loves to nap J.

While I would love to pretend this journey has been easy, it hasn't. At one point, I didn't want to see food never mind eat I was so nausea. Eating was a chore, and my weight quickly demonstrated this. To top it all off, around this point in time, my neuropathy got worse; double whammy! Cancer taught me a lot about who I am, neuropathy taught me to not take things for granted. To not be able to do normal activities of daily living is truly life changing. It’s something that words can’t explain. There are MANY good days, but definitely some bad ones. A wise woman told me, “there are many hills and valleys on this journey”. Plain and simple, some days are valleys and they are not fun.

Throughout all the craziness of ALL and neuropathy I managed to graduate with my MSN and pass my boards to become an APRN. I’m living proof that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve your goals. From day 1, I said I was going to walk across that stage at graduation. It may not have been the prettiest walk, but I did it.

While this isn’t the journey I ever imagined having in my lifetime, and probably wouldn’t have chosen it if you had asked me before, I wouldn't change it for one second (well maybe on some of those valley days J). ALL has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people I would have never met. I have an amazing team at Smilow that have seen me at some of my lowest points. They are people that I’m proud to call my friends. They’ve supported not only me, but my family and friends. My APRN is someone who I truly admire. She’s been a perfect example of someone whom I’d like to be in practice, someone who always goes above and beyond. In addition to my Smilow team, my first physical therapist is someone I still stay in touch with. She showed me that with a little determination and hard work I could get stronger. She gave me such a strong foundation to work from. I still text her with my little victories. I also still stay in touch with my APRN from reproductive endocrinology. She too is someone I admire. She was constantly available when we were going through the process and was even holding my hand at retrieval. There are many other people who have come into my life since my journey began and I’m grateful for each and every one.

In addition to allowing me to meet all these people that have changed my life, relationships in my personal life grew stronger. I'm pretty sure that 2 years into marriage you don't expect to shave your wife's head because she has cancer, or spend countless hours at Smilow. Chris has never wavered for a second. Our lives were turned upside down and I couldn't have asked for a better partner on this journey. We truly took our vows, "in sickness and health" seriously.

My parents have also been in the front seat on this crazy journey. My mom and I have always been close. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t speak at least three times a day. Over the past year, my relationship with my dad has changed; he became my treatment buddy. At one point my APRN even asked if he was retired, a big sign that you’re spending way too much time at Smilow! We even discovered that we’re twins when I shave my head - - the resemblance is uncanny. Through it all, my parents have been by my side. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch your child go through something like this. Good thing they only have one of me, because I sure gave them a run for their money this year!

Like I said before, there are really no words to describe the past year. Even those who have been by my side day in and day out don’t understand it at times; they’ve experienced their own journey and have their own version of the story to tell. While I’m not the best storyteller, this is my story. I’ve had one crazy year, but in the end, I SURVIVED. I’m definitely not the same person I was a year ago, cancer changes everything, maybe for the better…

Till next time…KMS

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