Monday, January 28, 2013

This One's a Fighter

Today was the big day: the official START of the transplant process.

Yes, it was just my first day of radiation. I have 3 more days of radiation, then I'll be admitted to the hospital to receive my 2 days of strong chemotherapy inpatient, and have one day to rest. second birthday.

Yes, one week from today, Monday, February 4th, 2013, I'm going to receive my sister's stem cells, which will implant in my bone marrow that was wiped clean of cancer cells by the radiation and chemo. In just one week, I will officially be able to say that I have no more cancer in my body.


As positive as that is, I am still going to be fighting for my life after my transplant, every single day. See, I'm moving to the official "bone marrow transplant floor" rather than being on the pediatric floor like I was before. Instead of spending days lying in bed and only walking twice during the day, I'm required to be out of bed at least 10 hours of each day. I also have to do a whole hour of exercise every day; walking on a treadmill or through the halls, pedaling on a stationary bike...whatever gets me out of bed and moving. Now, that probably seems like NOTHING. There is a comfy chair in my room I can cuddle up in (as long as my body stays upright), so technically I could take naps in it or watch TV. However, when you're sick, tired, weak, and nauseous from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I know first-hand that all you want to do is lay in bed all day. Most days right after my previous chemo treatments, getting out of bed even just to go pee was the hardest thing in the world and took all my strength. However, back then I could simply crawl back into bed and curl up again. Not on the transplant floor. The reason for having to be out of bed so much is completely valid and for my own good: fluid can build up in the bottom of my lungs if I'm laying down too often, and if bacteria enters that fluid it can give me pneumonia. Tons of studies have shown that patients are much, MUCH more likely to develop pneumonia if all they do is lay in bed.

Why is this at all relevant to anything?

First of all, I wanted to give my supporters a heads' up about what's going on with me now! Second, I want to illustrate that the time after transplant is going to have to be my time to fight...and I need prayers and support as I've had through my chemo treatments to get through this. While I am definitely still a tough cookie and I have no doubt that I have the strength to get through the next few months, the fact is that it's not going to be an easy road. I'm going to have to push myself beyond my limits. Think about the last time you were really, really sick. What did you do? Take off work? Stay home from school? And what did you do in your free time? Most likely, you lay down in your cozy bed and slept or watched TV. When the human body feels sick, what it wants most is rest. But, in my case, I have to be up and exercising even when I feel sick as a dog. It's not what my body is used to doing, so I have to mentally push past my body telling me over and over to get into bed and instead obey my doctor's orders. Another example of my situation: when you get a bad stomach ache or feel nauseous, what do you do? Avoid food? Lay down? Maybe you even have to throw up sometimes to make your stomach feel better. However, since the radiation and chemo causes me to be nauseous most of the time, I have to make myself eat, exercise, and do my best to maintain my weight.

I'll be totally honest with all of you reading this: I DON'T want to have to go through this transplant. I don't want to have to lose my hair a second time just as I was getting my eyelashes back. I don't want to lose what I've built up since being so weak after my last chemo. I don't want to have to deny my body from laying in bed all day, and I certainly don't want to walk on a stupid treadmill when I feel like absolute crap.


I am a FIGHTER, and I've fought so hard already to get to this point. I remember when I first got sick, my cousin played this song for me a lot, and I think it's gotta be my "theme song" for this whole journey: The Figher, by Gym Class Heroes. Here's a link if you haven't heard it! (Warning: there are two words in the song that some may find inappropriate, so if you're showing this to younger kids or something check out the lyrics first OR find a clean version on youtube! :))

"Give me scars,
Give me pain,
Then they'll say to me...
There goes the fighter
Here comes a fighter
Then they'll say to me...
This one's a fighter."

I was thinking about the lyrics to this song as I was making a mix CD to use during my radiation sessions. All I could think is how this song has summed up this entire journey and continues to have great meaning. I'll have two big scars on my chest from the "ports" they use to give medications and draw blood 24/7...I've been through more pain than I would have ever expected I'd have to go through in my life...but, the fact is, when all of this is over and I'm healthy and well, I'm going to be able to get through ANY obstacle in my path in the future. See, while right now I'm much weaker than I used to be physically, in all other aspects I am many, many times STRONGER. Having made it through all the twists and turns that come with such a horrible diagnosis, I've learned things I don't think I'd ever learn otherwise, and one of those lessons has been about being willing to fight for myself. When I have to be on that bone marrow transplant floor, and I have to get up every day and exercise instead of staying in bed, every day that I get out of bed and make my feet hit the floor will be a little victory. A little victory against the brick wall in front of me that's crumbling down more and more: Cancer. And very soon, I'll be able to say that that brick wall is torn down, gone, just a memory. Yes, soon...I'll be a SURVIVOR.

Everyone faces obstacles. Unfortunately, I had to have cancer standing in front of me...but what's your brick wall? If there's anything good that comes from this measly blog post, I hope it's that the people who have heard my story know that it's the story of a fighter; a fighter who never gave up. In the same way, I want to encourage all of my supporters to identify brick walls they face and break the walls down rather than running the other way. If I can get through chemo, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant, you can get through that crazy research paper or find a job somewhere. Sometimes, it just takes the will to get out of bed and force your feet to hit the floor.

Well, there's a little wisdom for ya I guess...take it or leave it! I'm not trying to sound preachy, but to be honest? I don't want my experience with cancer to be the worst thing that ever happened to me. I want to see it as a learning experience, even if it's an experience nobody wants to have to learn. Because I still have such strong faith that there's a reason and a purpose even for my horrible diagnosis, I choose to see my glass half-full. I choose to fight for my life. Although challenges are coming up quickly, I'd rather just get them all overwith so I can be healthy again and get back to the way my life used to be: school, an apartment, friends all around me. However, I can promise you I myself won't necessarily be the same; to quote Wicked (as my sorority sisters and I did all through recruitment), I've changed "for good."




  1. Oh, Sarah...This is beautiful and so awesome! The Holy Spirit must really be moving within you. :) Also, in terms of inspirational music, this is one of my current favorites:
    (Just imagine he's saying "daughters" instead of "sons". :D
    I love you SOOOO much, and I'm storming Heaven for you as much as I can.
    Wuv oo!

  2. Great post. I love it.
    Thanks for the wisdom.You must undergone extended care recovery. You are a fighter.

  3. Absolutely loved this post. You need to make this into a video with Dan. You are a true inspiration. I've said this to you before and to your mom, you should be a motivational speaker. You are amazing. I will play this song during the month of February to remind me of your struggles and journey this month. I am so impressed with you. Stay strong...this is the start of a brand new you!