Thursday, June 23, 2016

6 Years of Fighting

{The love of a family is life's greatest blessing}

Looking back on my Facebook memories today brings back some bittersweet emotion. 

It's been 6 years. 6 years since that morning when the doctors brought their chairs into my ICU room where my mom and I were sound asleep in my hospital bed, and bubba was right there next to us on the cot. They came in and pretty much just laid it all out there. Jessica, me, at the ripe age of 18 years old has GastroIntestinal Stromal Tumor. GIST. Cancer. Woah. We began a journey right then and there that has forever changed who we are. I don't think you could ever be the same after hearing that. After seeing a doctor be angry because you wanted to be moved to a cancer hospital and have her tell you to make a bucket list.. At 18 years old you haven't even thought of why you might NEED a bucket list. But we trekked on..

MdAnderson Cancer Center's GIST specialist took me right away. Dr.Trent. He was so awesome. He always admired my cowboy boots and talked about normal things, but then would doctor me as I needed, tell me what to do to make it through the next phase. Gleevec became a household phrase around my house.. "How are you feeling?" Was something I never went a few hours without hearing.. Because you never really knew within the next couple of hours how I may feel. I'd be so nauseated at times that a ride in the car wouldn't be complete without a vomit bag or two. (Gross I know) But even with unrelenting nausea, pancreatitis, blood count drops, and transfusion, we never stopped having fun.

After starting the first chemo, and it only working for a little while, I started another, and then another, Sutent. Oh Sutent.. I can't believe I can loathe a medication like I do. It kept my tumors from growing, yes. But it had me in the emergency room countless (and I MEAN countless) times. Bleeding. Whether it was internal bleeding causing horrible writhing pain in my abdominal cavity, or internal bleeding that found it's way out however it could, it was happening about every two weeks. We lowered my dose of Sutent after a couple months of it and then it was a "manageable" once a month hospital stay with the bleeding. After several cameras down my esophagus to cauterize the bleeding area, an embolization gone wrong causing nerve damage in my spleen, finally they found this "Fibrin Glue." I stopped taking Sutent and had the procedure done by a sweet doctor who made sure to tell me he's going to do this every single time that needs to be done. He even wore his lucky elephant tie that day, and the day after.. (it was a two part procedure) After 100 units of blood and all that, that glue put a stop to it.

All of this on top of switching oncologist due to Trent relocating was a lot. But was a learning experience. Since then I've traveled to Philadelphia for treatment for a while and came back to where I belong. I've only received about 3 transfusions since my fibrin glue procedure. And I'm sure that switching medications has helped, but it's been nice. I'm on my 5th oral chemo now and am doing well. I have to see a iron specialist once every 6 months because my body won't really retain iron well. But that's pretty simple, I just do some iron infusions every once in a while.. Also, my thyroid shut down last year and caused some weird side effects, and a lot of my hair fell out, so I cut it. Pretty simple. I'm on a medication to help that balance out and I have to change it up sometimes to keep my levels all normal. Again, it's pretty simple.

But life is good. I've got the best treatment I could have. Not only from my friends at Md Anderson, but my sweet Mama.. She's the best caregiver there could be. She made me whatever food I felt like eating when I was nauseated all the time. And if I couldn't eat it, she made me something else. She held my hand and walked me through the hospital when I could hardly move from pain. She sat beside me and laughed as we talked about all the trials and tribulation we have gone through. We have bonded in a way that not many others can because she has bathed me when I couldn't lift my arms, she's helped me walk when I was unable, she's been the one to rub my legs when they feel tingly from the medication, she's washed my hair, she's helped me through all this in a way only a mother could... My whole family really has been the reason why all this hasn't made me bitter or a hollow shell of who I once was. How could I when I've got people so great? And that man that God put in my life just after all this began.. He's been right there with us. Not many would stay in a life like that.. But he's been there. Packing bags, washing clothes, bringing food, being someone to give us a laugh because he gets lost or forgot what he went for.. whatever we needed when we needed. I am happy and productive because of my "people," they keep me sane, and help me to continue on the road I'm headed down. Only because of God and those people am I able to do that. 

With everything that has happened these last 6 years, I can't help but be so thankful for all the wonderful things God has done in my life.. He's taught me that what matters most is love. Those you love will be there for you in the hard times, in the easy times, and in the crazy times. Thank you all my loved ones for being with me through all this. I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Cheers to 6 years of fighting this cancer, and to the lifetime I've got left to fight it some more. 

{Me and my sweet Mama <3}


  1. Love you Jess! You are such a strong woman, hard to believe it has been 6 years. You are an amazing inspiration to have such a positive outlook in spite of all that you've been through. God truly made you special!

  2. Awesome post, Jess! So inspiring in so many ways. Love you!

  3. I've gotten to know you through your mom's facebook posts over the years and have always admired your positivity. Your post is beautiful - honest about the hard times but upbeat nevertheless. Congratulations on your six year anniversary and here's to at least sixty more!