Monday, October 3, 2011

Dreams Into Plans

If you kept up with my adventures during the summer, you know that I toyed with ideas about what to do, where to go, and who to be once treatment came to a halt in August. I virtually told you that I felt safe living at home with my family, but that I felt like I was not being true to myself. I have never been the girl who gets scared back into the security net that is my hometown. However, cancer is not simply scary. Losing a job or the ending of a relationship is scary. Cancer is scary. In one afternoon I went from having stitches removed to hearing a head dermatologist question my desire for a family. Boom. Safety net needed!

If you know me in 'real' life, you know my family is outstanding. We share a closeness that can't be found in just any family. We talk often, we share too much about every little thing, and I am pretty sure my mom could sense my sadness no matter how far away she is from me. Honestly, it is a bit eerie. Because I was able to live at home during my 3 months of the beginning of the ipi trial, I healed emotionally and physically. Having my parents take care of me again did wonders. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a lazy bum, but Mom totally took care of me, never making me feel guilty for moving back home. I knew there wasn't another place in the world that she would want me to be. I was able to see the rest of my family whenever I wanted or needed, something I have not been able to do since before I left for college in 2005. Living at home again was honestly the best thing for me. Not only did it help with the ipi trial, the time at home allowed me to finally grieve for what had happened to me. The first few months after I was diagnosed, I was constantly moving. I was either going to meet new doctors, having surgeries, or yet another scan. If I wasn't at an appointment, I was healing from one. I did not have the opportunity to sit back and truly realize that I am now a cancer patient. I was too busy trying to kick some melanoma ass to even toy with too much self pity.

So, while at home, I did a whole lot of crying. It confused me because I had every reason to be happy. Yes, I was traveling back and forth to New York City for the ipi trial, but all of my scans were still clean. To my knowledge, I was showing no evidence of melanoma. Why the tears? I think it all finally hit me. My life truly--excuse my language--went to shit. My relationship was suffering, I had a lot of extra free time on my hands to think and stew about life as I now know it, and I found entirely too much time to browse the internet. Add a few more stress factors in, and I think you will see why the depression kicked in. Some will even wonder why it took so long.

Once my 12 weeks of the strict ipi schedule ended, I knew I needed to make some decisions. I felt like I had two choices. I could stay in my hometown, find my own place, and get a new job. That would allow me the comfort of being surrounded by my family, but I could also build a life of my own. But when I really started to think about living there full time again, it made me sad. Of course I want to be near my family. I love them more than any other thing in this world. Being back on The Shore to live? That has never been what I want for my life....Would I let cancer scare me back into changing my dreams for myself? Or were my dreams different now?

Choice number two was that I could return to Roanoke and try to regain a bit of normalcy to my life. Because I felt like my relationship with Mr. Spots (y'all remember him?) was not over, I felt like I owed it to myself to get back to Roanoke. I knew that had I not been diagnosed with cancer, I would not have left Roanoke. I liked the life I had...After a spontaneous major meltdown on my Step Dad's shoulder, I packed a suitcase filled with enough clothes to last me a week and headed out to Roanoke. I needed to spend some time with Mr. Spots and see if I even wanted to give our relationship that last real chance. As a couple, we have been through so much in the short time we have been together. Some of it could have been handled differently--on both of our parts--but I knew that my heart was still with him. I knew that if I moved back to Roanoke, I would be answering a lot of my own questions. There would be no "what if's" down the road. I needed to see if I was still in love with the guy who--excuse me for being cheesy--stole my heart all those months ago.

While in town visiting Mr. Spots a job opportunity landed in my lap. I took it as the universe sending me a sign. Although I had a job with an amazing boss ( family and I are incredibly thankful for her) that I had taken a leave of absence from, I knew I needed a fresh start. I, as I have said before, am not the same girl that I was a year ago. Jumping back into my old job, my old relationship, the old apartment, it was all too much. The idea of it was just as smothering as the idea of living back home. I accepted the job immediately.

Telling my family that I was moving away from them again was much harder than I had imagined. A part of me felt so selfish for allowing them to take care of me for 9 months, then once I felt strong enough, running back away from them. I was worried that I was not brave enough to live "on my own" again. Another part of me was scared that by leaving my parent's house, I was jinxing myself. After all, while living at home, I received all healthy scans. Would I start living my own life again only to wind up back home due to stupid melanoma? (And yes, I said stupid in a very bratty tone. I hate it.) I could not let that fear consume me. If I spent my no-evidence-of-disease years hiding behind my family, waiting for the next dirty scan, what is the point of being healthy? That is letting the cancer win. 

So, with the blessing of my family, I packed my bags in 3 days and headed west. How did I forgive myself for "leaving" my family again? I realized that I am healthy. Because I am healthy, I am able to have the opportunity to chase my dreams again. Knowing that my family will support me no matter what decision I make in life, I forgave myself. I knew that they would want what is best for me. If being away from them means I am healthy, I believe they would be OK with any amount of distance...

I have been here for 3 weeks so far and I am beginning to feel like the girl I used to be. Sure, my priorities are different, I get tired very easily, and yes, I still have moments of fear, and I have some serious homesickness, but I feel good....In fact, I feel great.

I, for the first time since January 10, 2011, feel like just another 24 year old girl....

....A 24 year old girl with numerous battle scars, more compassion than I ever had, and enough determination to take risky chances and find just who I am supposed to be.


Kelsey said...

I think it is WONDERFUL that you have decided to be as independent as possible and live with no-ifs. I have to share a quick story with you. I am a registered nursing student, and one of my patients today was a middle-aged woman with some post-surgical complications after removal of her lymph nodes from a tumor of...melanoma. She told me her story, and of her wonderful doctors who took a last chance effort for surgery after she had been placed on hospice, and so good! I of course sat and cried like a little baby with her, but when I left for the day, I gave her the link for your blog and told her to read it, that it was very inspiring :) When I checked on her the last time before leaving...she was reading one of your blog entries from several months ago! Your story and strength is traveling far!

Becca said...

So what's the new job? Is it in journalism?

Kate said...

Good for you, Chelsea! It is wonderful that you are trusting yourself and taking chances and making changes to make your dreams a reality. Wishing you all the best!

RBS said...

Hi! i'm the 62 year old guy from the Melanoma board with a now 28 year old daughter also named Chelsea. Congratulations to you, great courage and faith. You continue to give me insights into living well inspite of cancer the thief. Ron