Friday, December 5, 2008

12/5/2008: Thankful List

Thanksgiving marks some difficult moments in my life, such as when my grandmother passed away and when I found the tumor under my arm that resulted in my cancer diagnosis. It was only a year ago that before going to bed I rolled over on my left side and felt a sharp pain in my armpit. I knew at that moment that something was seriously wrong with my body, but I never expected it to be cancer. It is hard to believe that I have been sick and fighting for my life for over a year. It is overwhelming, even now.

My friend Bronwyn said it best when she texted me on Thanksgiving morning and told me to try and celebrate how far I’ve come and all of the Happy Thanksgiving memories I have made in the past. Despite the difficult moments in my life, I took this holiday to relax and truly reflect on all the wonderful things in my life. If you know me, you are aware that I am not one to mope and be negative, especially with so much yummy food beckoning me. So on Thanksgiving I ate, drank, watched football, texted my friends Happy Thanksgiving, laughed as our tiny Yorkie, Abigail Marie barked at herself in the fireplace and curled up in my parent’s big comfy chair while my Mom played with my hair.

I decided to make a list of the top 10 things I am thankful for in my life. I shall not leave you in suspense any longer for this list is quite epic.

10. FaceBook: I know, being thankful for an online social network seems ridiculous in theory, however FaceBook has brought so many good friends back into my life or simply gave me access to their pages where I can stalk them for hours at a time. Either way, it has been entertaining, consuming and satisfying. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for creating FaceBook from your Harvard dorm room.

9. Dancing & Singing: I have attended weddings, birthday parties, going away events … you name it, and I have done it over the past few months. I have even gone so far as to sing for four hours straight and lose my voice playing Rock Band at a party. I belted Tina Turner ‘Private Dancer’ and ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ from Evita karaoking. I have been out with my girlfriends dancing until 4 a.m. and even breaking it down in my underwear in the living room by myself. I have a new lease on life and I am partying like a rockstar.

8. Traveling: I can’t sit still for too long and being grounded in Northern VA during treatment and surgery was painful for me. Not that I don’t like it here, but I get bored easily and require a change of scenery. I blame it on being a Sagittarian. One weekend in November I visited my sorority sister Nicky in New York City and the next I was in Los Angeles with my friend Bronwyn. These trips reinforced that I am not a victim, but instead am a survivor. I was renewed, although I came home and got a terrible sinus infection. It was totally worth it!

7. Yoga: I started taking yoga about three years ago with my friend Marisa and never before has it been such an important part of my life. On days when I could barely walk or talk, I would lie on my yoga mat and follow some simple breathing and stretching exercises. I was able to meditate and from time to time would even cry during the sessions from letting negative energy and thoughts go. I was focusing solely on healing my body, empowering my mind and strengthening my soul. It made me feel better and for those moments I was able to leave cancer behind and connect with myself.

6. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches: I didn’t realize how bad my taste buds had become from the chemotherapy and all the testing. Everything had this weird vegetable-like taste or metallic flavor. It wasn’t until the afternoon I arrived home from New York that I had my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich in years. I drooled down my face as I relished in the powerful texture and sweetness that the sandwich possessed. I know it sounds stupid, but imagine everything tasting like brussels sprouts for six months and then all of a sudden you can taste a PB&J. It was amazing! I have had seven PB&Js since.

5. Jurassic Park: Now I know this seems completely absurd and especially listed over PB&J, but Jurassic Park heals all my wounds. If you know me well, then you know that I am psycho for JP. “Clever girl” gets me every time and although I have watched the movie 50-some times; I still sit on the edge of my seat and yell at the TV for the kids to hide in the kitchen while being stalked by the velociraptors. Without Jurassic Park, I don’t know where I would be. (Kori, Lord of the Rings is right behind JP. I am psycho for it, too.)

4. Hair: I HAVE HAIR … and just in time for winter!!! Although I believe that I look like a fourteen year old boy, I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have soft, thick, dark brown hair. I have about 2.5 inches of hair now and it is growing really fast! Not only that, but my eyelashes and eyebrows have returned and although they are not as thick and long, they are so much better than having nothing. The vanity issues are finally resolving themselves and I am so thankful.

3. Friends (laughter): It’s like in the movie ‘Sex and the City’ when Carrie is certain that she will never laugh again after her saga with Mr. Big. “You will,” Miranda assures her, “when something is really funny.” Although not as dramatic, my inner comedian lay dormant and I wondered if she would ever come back. Oh, she certainly did. There were a couple of times that I even tried to fight it, but laughed so hard I piddled. (Yes, piddled.) Like Carrie, my friends brought me back to life with their quick wit, making fun of me unrelentingly and holding my hand every step of the way … even when I was too proud to grab for it first.

2. Family: How can I possibly make this list without including my family? I am thankful for my Cheerleader (my father) who has been at every single appointment (except for the boob ones, because that’s just too weird). I am thankful for my Rock (my mother) who from day one assured me that “it’s ok” and even on days when it wasn’t, she made it feel like it was. My Sweetness (my brother) who always told me how beautiful I am even with a bald head, no eyelashes, swollen face, five drainage tubes and the ugliest bra you’ve ever seen. My peanut (Abigail, our Yorkie) who kept me entertained while in my darkest of hours by stealing my glasses off my face and hiding them throughout the house. My family is my everything and with their love and support we beat cancer.

1. Being Cancer Free: It is one of those things you really cannot understand unless you have lived through it. Hearing the word “remission” and knowing that death had you in his grasp and you fought like hell and won is the most incredible feeling. Cancer is the worst thing I can possibly imagine. And it isn’t simply what it did to me physical, psychologically and emotionally, but how it affected my family, friends, work, school … my entire life. Cancer pulled the rug out from under me and without my team of doctors, a strong will power and endless support … I would not be here today. I am thankful and truly blessed.

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