Friday, April 8, 2011

24 Candles.

This time last year, April 8th, I was struggling to accept the fact that I was turning 23. Oh, I know what you will say...23 is nothing. I am still young enough to do everything I want to do, I know. However, I remember being 18, imagining life at 23... I was certain I would marry my college sweetheart, land the perfect job, and have a baby by 26.

Oh, my little 18 year old self was determined to rush through my life!

So, "23" was bittersweet. There I was, living in Richmond, a recent college graduate who spent her days applying for a ridiculous number of jobs, working the late night shift at a bar, and partying with my friends until the very early morning hours. I was disappointed...where was my dream job? Why didn't Richmond feel like home? Why was I working my butt off just to pay rent in a beautiful, beautiful apartment I never hung out in? It was not what I had pictured for myself when I was 18.

When I turned 23, I had no idea how dramatically my life would change. "23" was the year I met the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with. "23" was the year I moved to a place I can call home. "23" was when I gained a second family I adore...including a kiddo who is determined to teach me all I need to know before having one of my own! ;-) It was the year I met my boss who respects me and challenges me to think outside of the box.

And then there was the other half of the year...Medically, "23" was the most painful, emotional, life changing year of my life. For three months I suffered from severe pain due to endometriosis (Thanks to the lovely doctors who--instead of treating me for what they suspected-sent me for thousands of dollars worth of tests, scans, and a surgery.) Then in November, my personal McDreamy finally "fixed" me. Weeks after recovering from that surgery, I was thrilled that I could avoid anything in a lab coat for a while.

That was about the time I found "the" mole...

          ...and life as I knew it crashed.

I do not know how to describe to people the shock, fear, and anger I felt when I learned I have melanoma. Oh, and when multiple lymph node basins were positive for melanoma? Well, most people would have had an emotional breakdown. (I probably should have allowed myself to one...) I went from joking with my boyfriend, planning our evening, to hearing I needed surgery, treatment, possible radiation that may harm my reproductive system, etc.

In the words of one doctor, "It will not kill you...right now."

Instead of falling completely apart, I have held my head high. I have joked with my sisters about having my babies for me. I have flirted with the doctors while they checked my fashionable drains. I have my Medical Power of Attorney completed in case--God forbid--something happens. I have taken matters into my own hands. Why? Those things I have control over...Melanoma, I do not.

There is a plus side to hearing I may or may not survive my 20's. It has challenged me to truly look at what I want out of this life I have been granted. Do I waste days fighting with my boyfriend over the messy kitchen? Not anymore. Do I have an awkward relationship with my Step Mom? Thankfully, no. Do I argue with my parents when they are being overbearing? ...well...not as much! ;-) Do I go without telling the people I love how I feel about them? Heck no. Will I waste time on people who will not "waste" time on me? Psssh. Forget it.

Life is too short.

This year, instead of fretting about my life not going as planned, I am grateful. I am excited for "24" candles on my birthday cake. I am thankful my support system continues to allow me to receive the best medical care possible. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who truly, truly love me.

And really....when it comes down to it...

I am just thrilled to be alive.


Kira.House said...

Beautifully Said. I felt every word in my heart!

Anonymous said...

Your outlook is just beautiful! Just like you! Happy birthday, Chelsea! Have a FABULOUS evening (x2) and CELEBRATE!!!!!! :)

Kathy said...

My Chelsea,
My name is Kathy. I am an oncology nurse and founder of I have been following your blog and found this post very inspiring. My site is cancer survivors helping newly diagnosed survivors cope with a diagnosis through stories. Would you be interesed in reposting this post on my site? I think your words are very profound, especially for such a young woman. By posting your story, I think we could continue to bring awareness to melanoma. Especially as we approach the summer. Please
contact me through e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you. P.S. I wish you
many more birthdays!