Signing Off

Hey everyone!

Here we are, August 19th, 2014. One year ago I had my surgery. Has it really already been a year?

Yesterday, I had my one year check up at Mass General. Everything already feels routine. Sonogram. Appointment. Blood. The usual. Since I still have thyroid antibodies that are distorting my blood levels, I have to wait a few weeks while all my samples are sent and processed in California. Either they go well and my mom and I drive back in to Boston in a year, or they don’t and we start some more testing sooner. Regardless, I’m optimistic about my future both in and outside the hospital. Hearing him read over my report is similar to watching an old movie in my mind- the one you unintentionally memorized. Splashing my diagnosis with descriptions such as “extensive vascularization” and “double the normal dosage” reminds me that this is something I’ll always subconsciously monitor.

I’ve gone through all four seasons, all holidays, and some major life events with these little constant reminders of where I started from.  I’ve made friends, lost friends, and ultimately found myself climbing upward everyday through the storm and the sunshine. I have sought out a really wonderful network of supportive figures both near and far away. I hope those I turn to for my pillars of strength feel just as valued and appreciated. Alex has been more than wonderful. He was one of the few people who help me had and said “what’s next and how can I help?”. He kindness, patients, and acceptance encouraged me to keep living my normal life and continues to nudge me on my path to ultimate self acceptance and true happiness. My senior year and my courage through cancer would be much different without his warm presence.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

I decided to end this blog, today, one year ahead. Just the perfect amount of time to digest everything, but not long enough to begin to overanalyze. Things happen in life and its important to mark their importance, remember them, and appreciate how that have changed us- but leave them in the past as we continue to live out our lives. I appreciate all of the followers who witnessed such a profound change in one young girl. This blog was my outlet which helped me find my true voice. Blog topics would formulate during a lecture, yoga class, or even just in conversation. It was nice to eagerly analyze my interactions and emotions not only with my cancer, but with myself and others about cancer and my changing views of the world around me- and the changing opinions about myself. Through all the things I’ve been through and the perspective I continue to gain everyday by actively participating in my own life, I’d like to leave you all with something I’ve been working on in my own heart and have come a long way with: Don’t dwell in the past, for it will only leave you with regret. Don’t fraught about the future, for your heart and your head will be crowded with apprehension. Live in the present and enjoy all the beauty it brings, and all the ways you in turn can make it beautiful.

Thank you all for accompanying me on this journey <3

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Not all battles are easily seen.

Day 365

Hey everyone!

Saturday was my one year anniversary of my diagnosis. Can you believe that? One whole year since I received the phone call that motivated me to change my life.

So how did I acknowledge this? Well, I celebrated the best way I know how! I competed in my first ever spartan race! Why not compete in a race that makes you feel empowered and alive?! I mean, isn’t that what life is all about?

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It was so much fun! I can’t even describe how invincible I felt. I was pretty nervous I wasn’t going to be able to do many of the obstacles and you know what? I only missed four!

I think the best part was the team. It was so great to be together and cheer people one! Even better? My dear friend Lisa was there with me. She has really been amazing through out this journey and it was so nice to have her there as we battled these tangible (and intangible) challenges to reach the finish.

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The course was crazy! Well… we climbed 8 foot walls, threw a javelin, jumped over fire, ran up hills, struggled through mud, walked a muddy log, swam under walls, crawled under barbed wire, carried a bucket full of gravel, climbed up a 25 foot structure, tried to pull a wicked heavy bag up 15 feet in the air (that one I struggled with), and a few other harrowing feats of strength. I actually had to fight back tears when I reached the finish line. It was just an overwhelming sense of accomplishment both at the event and for my own personal growth- I was just so damn proud. I loved it so much I plan on participating in many more to come!

It’s really weird that a whole year has come and gone and I feel like I’m looking at a stranger when I flip through my college career. That kid that went to Roger Williams? The one who decided to stay up late at night? What motivated her towards the path that I have taken over? Fittingly enough, my DailyQuote App appropriately chose this quote (I think “coincidence” hardly covers it):

“In life, the things that go wrong are often the very things that lead to other things going right.”

Ariana Huffington

My one year appointment is August 18th, and then I’m off to Vermont to try and become a real post-grad adult with a job and bills and somehow start my life.

Hands Up

Hey everyone!

I just finished up my week at Camp Sunshine!

For those who don’t know, Camp Sunshine is a volunteer based camp for families dealing with a child who currently has/has survived/has died from a life threatening disease. It’s a really beautiful program that has flourished over the past 30 years to help families all over come for a few days of normalcy. It hosts all sorts of diseases and gives parents, patients, and siblings a chance to reach out to one another in a stressful and emotionally exhausting time. I found out about camp when I was in high school and have been going since I was 16. Over the years I have made some really fantastic friendships with both volunteers and families. I look forward to the week every year. The session I usually opt for is Brain Tumor week- high grade, low grade, remission and other depending on my schedule. I haven’t had a chance to try out any other weeks because of school and such, but I hope to go back for maybe a winter session or their pumpkin festival near Halloween.

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1 year old Eli. Eli is the older fraternal twin who was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few months ago. He is so sweet and loves to snuggle when he’s sleepy!

This whole cancer joinery I found myself longing for a support group and optimism that only Camp Sunshine can bring. I kept my cancer to myself, since it’s about those families and not me, but it was just nice to be able to hang out with people with a silent understanding and appreciation of their fearlessness. I’ve begun to adopt the saying “if it’s not funny, it’s just sad” and watching a girl show us how she learned to blow bubbles from her tracheotomy tube was a visual representation (I’m serious. She’s pretty good at it too). I always feel humbled to be allowed into these families lives for just one week. My hope is to be able to bring them a bit of peace while we are all together.

I’m still trying to deal with this inner battle. I thought maybe camp would justify my lonely feelings, but I still find my inner voice questioning whether thyroid cancer has been a big deal or whether I’m just making it a big deal for no reason. Say you just learned how to ride a bike and you’re so excited to share this milestone with everyone you know. And you work so hard to get to this point and assume that the people who love you will be too. But once you started telling them you hear “so?” or maybe “Well I learned how to do that a while ago” or “I can already do tricks on mine”. And that flame just flickers out and the pride is gone because what you’ve done isn’t so special anymore. That’s how I’ve been feeling this entire time. I finish school, I dealt with my cancer and even if people don’t flat out say it, a lot of the time the facial expression reads “So what?”. And then I go to Camp Sunshine all excited to be with kids who can relate on a fundamental basis of being a cancer patient and you know what? I didn’t get that feeling at all. I didn’t even feel comfortable sharing my story because I never went through chemo, radiation, seizures, surgeries for shunts and ports, and weeks in the hospital. I’m fortunate enough to have been older and stronger when I was diagnosed and had the hind site to keep myself healthy for school. I mean don’t get me wrong, camp is a magical place and I will continue to go for as long as I can, but I know in the future it is not where I can seek solace for my invisible cancer journey.

So, if camp did not meet the high-than-usual expectations I had for it, then why am I still writing my blog? Because maybe, just maybe, someone out there is listening and if you are, I hope that my story brings you laughter and courage. Sometimes its hard to pull yourself up, but it’s always worth it to see the sunlight at the top.

Little Moments

Hey everyone!

Last Friday was my 4th of July road race! It was so much fun and I even had my two cousins with me. We had some family friends up and ate a ton of food!

Their 5 year old daughter and I were playing when she hopped up on my lap and said “Oh no! Someone scratched your neck!” and pointed to my scar. It’s just a small little comments, but it’s kind of a big deal- it’s the first time an outsider has asked me about my scar. I don’t expect a lot of people too, but its the first. I kind of stopped in my tracks. What do you tell a 5-year-old girl? When is the appropriate time to tell a child that there is a monster scarier than the one under your bed?

I also noticed my mom’s face. I try to imagine it from her or my dad or Alex’s perspective. I’m charging straight at the bull, but what about the people running behind me? What is it like to hear me tell my cancer story from someone else’s ears?

Sometimes it’s the little moments that make the biggest waves.

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Finding God

Hello readers!

The other day I went on a 5 mile run and had a nice long contemplation about life.

In times of crisis, many people look to or even seek out God. Whether it be a natural disaster, sickness, death, changing your ways, or trying to dig yourself out of a deep hole. I notice a lot of families at Camp Sunshine have found God and even a lot of people in my everyday find comfort from His presence.

As for me? I guess I never really looked for Him. This whole cancer thing- even just though out my life, I’ve never felt the need to. I believe in Karma and the “Just World” hypothesis (that actions and events always end with a fair consequence or reward). It certainly feels like some people’s karma is long over due, but that’s their trouble- not mine. Somedays, I need to remind myself that through all of the obstacles in life I have found my reward for my hard work through the lessons and meaningful experiences I’ve created. The true kindness of honest strangers and the uninhibited love from people who really do care about me and accept me as I am and hope to be. All in all I guess I would really define myself as spiritual. Over the past few years, I’ve really begun to explore the world around me through all sorts of religious perspectives and have come to incorporate little things here and there into my everyday.

So, as for the big guy upstairs? I’m not too sure about that. I guess I’ll figure that out when the time comes.

If I didn’t find God, then what have I found. I guess the real question would be: Taylor, did cancer make you feel like you needed to search for something to hold on to? The funny thing about looking for something is to first feel the sensation that something is missing and the courage to start figuring out what that something is. Interestingly enough, I’ve had this weird feeling inside myself that’s been there for quite a while, and I could never really quite place it. I’ve never really felt like I fit in with the crowd. Somehow, I always felt a chapter behind the rest and it really bothered me for a long time. All through high school I really felt separated from my classmates. I had no desire to do what they were doing. Even into college, I still had no desire to keep up with the masses. I think that’s why I didn’t like college- I thought I didn’t get it. But finally, with a cancer conscious, I started heading in the right direction.

I started finding myself.

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The Daily Grind

Hey everyone!

I realize it’s been a while since my last post- I’m sorry for those who have been waiting! I actually thought my last post was going to be the finale and then I realized I still have some things coming up related to my cancer that maybe you all would like to hear about!

As of now, I’m working at my summer job at home and training for upcoming races and such. I’ve decided my new life goal! I want to do a road race in every state! Realistically, I’d like them to be 10k or more. So far I have Vermont and I’ll be crossing off Massachusetts in August! Kristin and I bought a giant US map and I’ve already started thumbtacking and labeling my completed races. I’ve also found a cool way to display all my racing numbers! I’m addicted!

 

See the VT thumb tack?

See the VT thumb tack?

I also had my annual physical and was telling my nurse practitioner about how my social circle shrank and I felt neglected by many people. She made me feel better in my ongoing struggle of seeing my cancer journey as something that really is a big deal. She basically said “Cancer in general is a big deal. Just because you cancer has a very high survival rate doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Many people have a lump removed and that’s that. Others go through chemotherapy and are on meds for a few years and then hopefully go into remission and are all better. It takes a lot of effort for you to get your energy levels up during the day. Not only do you have something for the rest of your life, but your thyroid partners up with a lot of things you know have to keep an eye out for.” It was so nice to hear a professional validate me, instead of “don’t worry, this is a good cancer and your treatments is minimally invasive”. It has been (and I think will be) an ongoing struggle for me to come to terms with my cancer as being a very big deal in my life. Having other people stamp out its true intensity and emotional toil really impacts my views on the size of this hurdle. The again I notice this as a pattern in a lot of accomplishments in my life and have begun trying to prove my cheerleading squad right instead of proving the nay sayers wrong.

No updates in the job front. I did however have an interview with a woman who is renting out a room in her house for a year while she goes through a divorce. Oh. My. Goodness. This lady is so sweet and seems to have some really fun and positive energy. The whole interview process went really well and she even took me back to see her house after our coffee date!

I’ve been keeping my zen on with my new “daily yoga quote” app. Thought I’d share a few good ones with everyone.

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Keep ya’ll posted!

What I Have Learned

May 18, 2014 was the day I officially graduated from college and I won’t lie, it was really hard to get to this point.

I was recently telling someone that “Cancer sucks. There isn’t much I can do medically, besides take my pills, exercise, and go to my appointments- there is no reason to sit around and mope if there isn’t much I can do about it. The real thing that sucks about cancer is the constantly changing emotional and social support”. I have a really fantastic family, a good group of friends, and a supportive boyfriend- but holy cow did I not see the drama coming. I really felt offended by the way some people responded to my cancer. I know, I know. It’s a scary thing to hear and people respond differently to bad news. It was just interesting to see what kind of person you are based on whether you took in the cancer news as my tragedy, your’s, or our’s.  It’s not like I could really plan the “perfect moment” to tell people. Cancer sits with me a lot. I feel lucky enough to be young and healthy when they caught it, but really freaked that it had been inside me growing for years.

My apartment wasn’t much of a home. Too much drama, but instead of getting into how two people see and appreciate the world on a whole different spectrum, and the serious lack of respect some people have, I’ll sum it up as this: I can sleep at night knowing that each day I work hard to be a good person. I make choices and listen to others, but I’m also learning to listen to myself and do what’s right for me and those who I respect. I have my strengths and my weaknesses- but I accept them as my whole, imperfect, unique self. I don’t feel like I need to win a popularity contest and I certainly don’t think it’s right to always have to be the best. Everyone deserves to bask in their own personal victories without someone else feeling the need to overshadow them. My senior year might not have been my favorite college year, but it was very insightful experience on dealing with people who do not and will not ever try to see the world through any perspective but their own. It’s been very tough on my patients but I am happy to leave this apartment knowing what kinds of people I need in my life and the kinds of people I am very ready to let go of.

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On top of that, my social circle has been constantly changing. People are in, people are out, people up and quit. I’m glad I know who my true friends are but it stinks when you thought you knew someone only to have them blindside you with something completely out of character. “Everyone will eventually disappoint you, forgiveness is based on whether they are worth it or not”. I thought some people were worth it and wanted to give them a second chance- guess I wasn’t. It stinks, but its life.

Throughout some very trying times and realizations, it’s nice to know I have a lot of people still in my corner. Apart from my amazing family network and the ever supportive neighbors, I just want to acknowledge some of the amazing people who have helped me out in getting to where I am today:

  1. Allie and Jamie: The best two roommates!! I had so much fun living with you two! I was really lucky to make respectful roommate relationships that turn into good friendships.
  2. Stephanie: You are an amazing person. You come here without a winter jacket and you’ll leave here with all new friends, memories, and experiences. I was so impressed by your sense of adventure and your fearlessness to explore your new home. You are bright, respectful, and so passionate about the things you love. I loved taking you to your first yoga class! You came into my life at a very perfect time. I don’t think I could have made it another semester in my apartment without your kindness.
  3. Lisa: It was really cool how you handled everything this summer. I came to you looking for a day of normalcy and you are the one person who responded with the kindness I needed. You have really become a pillar in my support team and I appreciate you and all that you have been through. I’m super excited to do our Spartan Race together and to keep in touch always. “Friendships are like stars, your don’t always need to see them to know that they are there”.
  4. Jess: Out of all the friends up here in Burlington, it makes me feel really great you’ve been reading and staying on this journey with me.
  5. Alex:  I was really afraid to call you this summer. I wasn’t sure if telling you I had cancer would scare you away, make you feel sorry for me, or bring you closer to me. You stepped up and really helped me out. Researching my surgery and my treatments, making sure my fever went down before bed, and propping up my pills when I couldn’t sleep. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come back to school without you. Whenever I had  rough day, it was nice to know I could come find you and you’d make me feel better. You have been an amazing friend and when I describe you to others I always tell them “I need more friends like him”.
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Alex :)

 

I would like to consider myself a “learning enthusiast”. Not so much acidemically speaking, more about the world and life in general. Through my adventures and relationships I have learned plenty, but the following seem to have more merit:

  • True friends can take what they dish out, get mad, forgive, and still be there for you. They respect you when you stand up for yourself and still have your back even when they don’t agree.
  • Don’t forget the small victories.
  • It’s important to tell people your limits. Whether they want to recognize you’re only human is their problem.
  • Feeding yourself is sometimes the best thing you can do.
  • Wool socks and layering are essential for a Vermont winter.
  • It’s better to live with someone you don’t know or hardly know, as opposed to a good friend. There is a risk for some weird habits, but at least there is a mutual respect. If you live with a close friend, its harder to speak your truth without backlash unless they really understand and respect you.
  • Always go to class even if you don’t take notes, you might have a cool surprise guest that leaves you with more knowledge than the entire semester.
  • Some people feel the need to establish their dominance in order to feel important. They need you to feel smaller than them in order to get through the day. Try not to take it personally.
  • If you force respect to your face, you’ll never get it behind your back.
  • Every once in a while its okay to to feel sorry for your self, but once you start throwing pity parties several times a week no one is going to feel bad for you. They’ll probably just end up avoiding you.

 

I think the biggest lesson I have learned and hope others learn is:

Always receive others with kindness, for we are all struggling with our own private battles. Whether it be depressions, classes, finding yourself, or even thyroid cancer. If you treat others with kindness, who could make someone’s day and encourage them to keep going.

As for what’s next? I don’t really know. Looking for jobs, looking for myself some more. I’m nervous but I’m not too worried.

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The Last Exam

Just wanted to share another life event with you all!!

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For some reason I decided to take this exam a week and a half after my final college exam. Of course Vermont decided to have 75 degree days of sunshine. I would look out longingly from my room or the library. But I did it! 

I also signed up for the Bridgton, ME Fourth of July road race- hope to see some Webber-Carlson-Gulbrandsen action. 

Graduation is Sunday!!! 

 

 

 

 

Closing Bell

I got my semester grades back! Image

Yay! Academically this was actually a pretty good year. I told my parents I really wanted to graduate with a 3.0, and I’m leaving here with a 2.99. I’m not even kidding. But… I think I’m just going to round up so shhhh don’t tell anyone!!

 

Crossing Off the To Do List

So…. I’m officially done with undergraduate college? I bought my robe, cap, gown and stole thingy. My finals are all completed, and I’m not too concerned about the grades. As for now, I’ll be studying for my personal trainer exam- May 16th. I have to take it in Boston and then race right back up to graduate.

It’s funny to hear people reflect on college and read Facebook posts that sum up the experience. I know everyone has their own success stories or fundamental growth periods, but I feel pretty out of the norm. I guess maybe it’s because I wasn’t exactly excited to go to college in the first place. It wasn’t because I was scared, I just didn’t think it was for me. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m totally glad I came, but there was a big part of me that felt very different from everyone else. I’ve kind of chalked it all up to “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”. In this case, I didn’t know what I wanted, so it was a pleasant surprise to see what I’ve gained!

My blog has gone international! That is so awesome! Thanks to all my new international friends for being a part of my journey!

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This is from a week ago

Now that I’ve finished my last ever exam for college, I should probably find a job.

Wish me luck!