Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Eight Year Milestone

Just eight years ago today I never thought my life would change forever.
On May 5, 2001 I had just finished my Spring semester at UCO-my first full year of college. I really did all of the things my first year of college that I shouldn't have done such as skip class, partied, ate dinner way too late, worked three part-time jobs and made my social life a priority. Never in a million years did I think that I would be faced with an illness that I would have to deal with for what feel like forever.

Two weeks prior to going into the hospital I started getting a burning feeling in my stomach and my neck started to swell. It looked like I had severe strep throat(which is super normal for me) but my throat never hurt. I went to see my doctor (which I will never recommend to anyone) and he sent me home with amoxicillin for my "tonsils being inflamed" and my blood count being at 21.000. (normal is between 4,000-10,000)
I lived with two of my sorority sisters at the time in Edmond and I remember my roommate Brandy kept telling me that my neck was getting bigger and bigger.
Finally, May 5th I started throwing up blood. I called my mom and she made me come to Jones to stay the night. As soon as I walked in her house she told me that we were going to the ER.
After several hours of testing, the doctor along with 3 EMT's came into this tiny room and told me that I had a form of Leukemia. All I could think about was "My cat had Leukemia and died!"
They also told me that my blood count was 57,000 and that was the highest white blood count that they had seen on someone my age.

Honestly, I really wasn't too scared at first. For some reason I knew that if my mom couldn't make it all better (she usually does that) then God would for sure be on my side. The first time it really hit me was when I had to call my boss at Chilli's and share my news. That was the first time I said, "I have cancer."

On May 8th, Dr. Mahmood (another one of my lifesavers) came in to do the bone marrow test. Let me just say, that was the worst pain I have ever had. The needle was at least 2ft long and we won't go over just how thick it was. In order to do a bone marrow test they have to jab that needle in your hip bone over and over. There was with a numbing agent on my hip, which barely worked...now, I hear they actually put you to sleep for that darn procedure...and they should!
Dr. Mahmood diagnosed me with Non-Hodkins Lymphoblastic Lymphoma which later turned into Leukemia in all of my bone marrow. This type of cancer is rare but treatable. He also thinks that it was hereditary (thank God since I am adopted!)

The worst part for me was losing my hair. I remember lying in my mom's bed and turning over and my pillow had clumps of hair on it. Or taking a bath and my mom washing my hair and all of it would be in her hands. I refused to shave it but I did wear hats every single day. We got a wig but it looked ridiculous on me plus it was hot and I had hot flashes like every other 4 minutes. No joke.

If my mom wouldn't have been by my side the first 17 days I was in MWC hospital I guarantee you that I would have not made it. My mom was lucky enough to have her police officers donate time off to her at work so that she could be with me.
Once I got home I was barely weighing 80lbs. and could hardly walk. The chemo really made me sick and made every inch of me hurt.
I ended up in ICU with a severe infection after a few days at home and my heart wasn't beating right so they ended up giving me some very strong medicine and watching me very closely.
After my six months of chemo I started maintenance pills. I took 26 pills a day for 2 1/2 years. Oh, I forgot to mention that I went back to school the following spring semester after getting sick and pushed my way thru the day. It was hard to walk up stairs or even make it to my 2pm government class-I haven't decided if it was the chemo or my lack of interest in government. But, I wasn't going to let this illness set me back on getting through college.

Throughout the years a lot has changed about me. I learned to always tell people how I feel each day, you are never promised tomorrow. I also learned that my mom was my best friend and that she has done so much for me, I know I can never repay her! I learned that God had a plan for me and God has so much in store for me. Lastly, I learned that life wasn't about parties, doing poor in school, working my life away or making everything about me. Once I got to school I changed my major to PR. My ultimate dream was to plan walks for the Cancer Society or even the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I also made time with my grandpa and talked more with him. I got to know him and he became one of my best friends. Family became a priority in my life. I started to straighten up! partying occasionally =)

Now, I see my oncologist every 6 months and its a way for me to have piece of mind on my health. I often worry too much about anything that is wrong with me, can you blame me? And, I also nag at everyone around me to go to the doctor (not the one I went to) if they are sick. I never want anyone to go through what I did but I know someone will...what I do want for them is to survive and have a story to tell like I do. I celebrate every May 5th now and have so since I reached my 5 year mark which is considered a cure.

I don't attend meetings for hope or counseling or anything of the sort but I do believe in reaching out to other young adults and sharing my experience. I do want to help kids with cancer..I just have a hard time not crying. Last year I walked in the Light the Night walk in honor of myself and raised over $1200. My friends came out to support me and that meant so much to me.

I want to thank everyone for everything they did during my battle with cancer. Jones HS did a blood drive for me, Mrs. Young's first grade class colored me pictures, I received cards from several friends, to my sorority & Melissa Mann who did the Light the Night walk for me, my family & friends stood by my side and got me out of the house and on my way to recovery, my friends visited me in the hospital and claimed they would shave their heads for me (I'm glad they didn't!), Carolyn did several fundraisers for me to raise money, the numerous people who donated money and my mom for everything she did to pay my bills, waited on me hand and foot and never let me give up, she kept me alive. She is the strongest person I know.

I hope that there is a cure for cancer one day. I am so thankful that God wanted me to be here much longer than 20 years! I am also thankful for my friends and family and all of their prayers throughout the last 8 years! I celebrate this day every year-What a milestone!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice, Tabbi. I am going to forward this page to another cancer survivor, my mom. Congratulations again!