Reflections on Being 12 Years Cancer Free (+ Giveaway!)
I nervously get into the passenger seat of our Ford Edge at 7:40 AM on a Friday morning and buckle myself in. I tell myself over and over again that I shouldn’t feel so nervous, that there is no reason to worry, that this is my 12th year of going through this process, but I’m still shaking a little bit. It’s hard to listen to logic, sometimes, when there’s trauma telling you otherwise.
Dustin drives. He talks about the plans for the next Jeep project and I try to focus on the words as much as I can. Slip Yoke Eliminator. Rear Leaf Springs. High Pinion Danna 30. All projects he wants to tackle this summer before we take out next trip to Moab, and all things that will make our rig more capable and powerful. I try really hard to visualize the drive train of the Jeep and how the new parts will fit in there. I’ll hand it to myself, I’ve really grown when it comes to learning how that thing works. But today I’m having a hard time focusing in on exactly where that Slip Yoke Eliminator will fit underneath the Jeep. I keep drifting away and anxiously counting down the seconds until we get to the doctor’s office.
I check in on Instagram stories and let everyone there know I’m on my way to the appointment. Seems kind of silly, but it’s important to me, to be honest and transparent with the people who follow me there and to remind them that not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes, we have scary doctor’s appointments and sometimes, we’re nervous about them. I want them to know it’s okay to be scared, but I’m also looking for a little extra boost of reassurance – someone else to tell me that it’s going to be fine and that I don’t have anything to worry about.
We pull into the parking lot, park, and walk in. The first thing I see as I walk through the doors almost takes me to my knees: a frail lady with paper-thin, pale skin, leaning over the counter to sign a paper. Even though it was forecasted to be in the 90’s that day, she’s wearing sweatpants and a large fleece pullover. She has a purple bandana wrapped around her head but even with it on her head, it’s clear she’s bald. Even though she’s older than me, it’s like I’m staring at my reflection in a mirror I stored away 12 years ago. All the memories come flooding back in an instant – the bandanas and the empty eyebrows and the sweatshirts in the middle of summer because I was always so cold. The threats of being put on a feeding tube if I didn’t get a few pounds back on my body. The long days of nausea and body aches and the pain from the tumor trying to take over my body. The fear of falling asleep and not knowing if I’d wake up. The trauma of listening to feet run down the hall outside my hospital room door and wondering which friend of mine was dying. All of it. All of it comes rushing back and even though I feel like I’m drowning, I feel Dustin put his hand on my back and gently guide me to the front desk to check in and say my name in a voice that doesn’t sound like mine: “Chelsie Carr? Here to see Dr. Chandramouli.”
We don’t wait long before we are brought back for blood work. It’s quick and the nurse sticks me the first time and I think about my nurse back in Boston and wonder how she’s doing. Her name was Marney and she was so, so petite and had such thick, curly black hair. I hope she’s well. I hope she’s happy. I hope she knows how much I loved her during that year she stuck me with needles and hooked me up to my chemo. She helped save my life and I don’t think I ever thanked her properly.
We get put into our room and wait for my doctor to come. I feel the tears come instantly when I realize suddenly that I won’t be seeing Doctor J – my oncologist in Boston who kept me alive for 10 years. He’s in Chicago now with his family and making huge strides in pediatric cancer research and I’m in Utah, so I have a new doctor to follow my case. My new doctor is nice enough, but he’s not Doctor J. He didn’t sit by my bed and ask me about playing the flute in the high school band. He wasn’t there when the chemo pooled in the bottom of my foot and created a blister the size of a slice of bread. He wasn’t the one who made the call to overnight a new medicine that hadn’t been approved yet by the FDC that would save my life. He wasn’t the one who wrote me the most beautiful letter of recommendation to my number one choice of college. That was Doctor J. and realizing at the moment that he wouldn’t be there feels like a blow to the gut. How do I do this without MY team? Without MY doctor? But before I can really wrap my mind around it, my new doctor bustles in and I pull myself together because when you are in the thick of these kinds of things, that’s what you do.
It’s a brief appointment, which is strange since they usually are so, so long. It worries me, at first, how fast we’re speeding through everything – because I don’t want anything to be overlooked. I have to remind myself that this is 12 years out from chemo and that there isn’t anything that we need to dig deep into. “Blood work looks solid. Immune system will always be weak. Let’s get a chest x-ray to make sure your lungs are clear. Other than that, there’s no reason to be concerned. You’re good for another year.”
And then we’re walking out and getting back into the car and we’re done. I’m officially cancer free for the 12th year in a row and it’s time to get to work and continue on with my day and my life, like any other day.
Except it’s different this time around – because I realize as I drive back to my office that earlier that week I’d been stressing over Instagram followers. INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS of ALL THINGS! I’d been worrying about not being good enough for people to keep following me, or not being funny enough, or not having enough money to stay on top of all the trends. I was so upset about being stuck at the same amount of followers on Instagram for a year that I had actually SHED TEARS earlier that week over it. I was so caught up in such a meaningless number and so hung up over an APP on my iPhone that I forgot why I started blogging in the first place – to make 16-year-old me proud and to show her that the fight was worth fighting and that life is worth living. I walked into that doctor’s office that day and was reminded of the day I walked into the Jimmy Fund 12 years ago and was told that I had cancer. That I might die. That I had to get ready to fight for my life. I remembered that day and here I was, 12 years later, freaking out about Instagram followers. If I had walked into the doctor’s office last Friday and they told me “it’s come back” is that the first thing I would have been bummed out about? That I didn’t hit 25K on Instagram before my cancer had come back? No. I would have been bummed out that I didn’t get out of my house more, that I didn’t read more, that I didn’t spend as much time walking my dogs or exercising or eating healthy.
So that’s how I’m greeting each day now – reminding myself what it was like to be giving a life-altering, earth-shattering diagnosis and asking myself what would I be bummed out about if I was given that diagnosis again? Let me tell you – it would not be Instagram followers.
So here I am, on the other side of year 12 and I am feeling ON FIRE. I mean, I’ve been on fire for a while now, but I’m really raring to go. I saw a reflection of myself when I was sick and was reminded of every single step through Hell that I took to get to where I am today. Some days, I want to forget about those steps because I don’t want them to weight me down or limit me from living a vibrant life. But I’ve realized that it’s so important to remember them for the mere fact that I TOOK them. I walked through Hell and I made it out to the other side. I fought the hardest thing in the entire world and I didn’t let it break me. I made it out alive and I am going to continue to prove to cancer that I am here to stay.
So, here we go, year 12. I’m ready to continue to survive, to live a vibrant second-chance life and to share all the good, bad, and ugly every step of the way. I hope you’ll join me and cheer me on because I’ll do my best to cheer you on as well.
Now…it’s time for a fabulous giveaway!
I’ve teamed up with an amazing group of bloggers
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a $1,000 Nordstrom Gift Card, just in time to shop the Anniversary Sale!
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