Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Toast

"Do you have a special toast in mind yet for Thanksgiving?"
~One of my blog readers

I have been staring at this screen for 54 minutes. 

I have typed a few paragraphs...

          I have deleted a few paragraphs...

How do I explain why I am thankful 
when the very fact that
I am alive
is reason enough?

If you had forced me into a corner and asked me in January if I thought I would be alive to see another Thanksgiving, I would have quietly told you no. When this roller coaster of craziness began, I was hit over and over again with bad news; news that seemed impossible. The mole that they removed was not huge or deep. In fact, if it had been just a tiny bit smaller, they would not have done the sentinel node biopsy to see if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Not only was the cancer in my lymph nodes, it was in 2 separate lymph node basins on completely different sides of my body, and possibly in another lymph basin. Did I tell you that there was only a 10% chance that the cancer would be found in my lymph nodes? Did I tell you that some oncologists would consider me to be stage IV since melanoma was found in basins on both sides of my body? So, yes... Had you forced me to answer the question, "Do you believe you will see another holiday season?" I would have told you no.

Here I am, only 10 months into Hotel Melanoma, still alive, and showing No Evidence of Disease. Despite my brave smile, my positive attitude, and my fighting spirit, I have shocked myself. No, I am not cured. As you all know, melanoma is not a curable disease. I will be fighting this battle until the day I die. But I am in a stage where all melanoma warriors want to be: I am showing no sign of the disease. 

If asked to give a Thanksgiving toast, I would never get through it. I would simply say this: Thank you for letting me be here to thank you in person. 

Thank you, God, for allowing me to get through these 10 months, alive and well. I am still trying to discover religion in my own way, but I do believe that there is a man upstairs who listens. (If not, I talk to myself way too often.)

I thank you, my beautiful family, for providing me with unconditional love, support, and forgiveness. I know that when I am scared, I am not an easy person to be around. You ignore my grumpy mood swings, hold my hand, and get me through the day. I will never be able to fully explain the love I have for each and every one of you. I am who I am because of you.

Although she is included in the list above, I feel as though my beautiful mother deserves a special thank you. I will never forget calling her in St. John, telling her that my mole was melanoma, but not to worry because they would just cut it out and I would be fine. Since the beginning, she has been next to me. She makes me laugh while I am chugging the nasty scan juice. She gets an attitude with the grouchy doctor who tries to tell her Interferon is a "fine" treatment plan for her 23 year old daughter. She knows when I need space and she knows when I need to cry. Never has she let her own fear get in the way of supporting me. She is, without a doubt, my rock.

I am thankful for my boyfriend, Mr. Spots, for still making me feel like the most beautiful girl in the room...even when I look like Mrs. Frankenstein. When I was recovering from both surgeries, I became incredibly self conscious. I felt like I looked like what I was: sick. Cancer or no cancer, a girl wants to feel pretty. Scars and all, he made me feel like I had no reason to hide. And when being the tough girl act becomes too much, Mr. Spots is the one who suffers through my tears. There are days in the shower--the one place that I can cry--where I will just sob into him. Most men, especially a fairly new boyfriend, would run for the hills. Although melanoma has put our relationship to the test, we found our way back to each other. For that, I am especially thankful.

I am thankful for my friends. This cancer has allowed me to truly see who I need in my life. There are certain people who take an extra minute to send me an uplifting text. They randomly drop a card in the mail. They treat me no different than they did before I became The Melanoma Chick. That, the treating me like normal, continues to make me extremely grateful. When the going gets tough, my friends wrap their arms around me and protect, protect, protect. I have said this before, and I will say it again, I have the best support system.

I am thankful to the strangers who have entered my life in the form of doctors, nurses, receptionists, and people in the waiting rooms. Because of you, even the scariest of moments are bearable. To the nurses who joke with me about the hot doctors, thank you for realizing I may have cancer, but I am still a 24 year old girl who appreciates Grey's Anatomy looking doc's. To my beautiful surgeon, Glinda, for treating me like a friend, not a number. To my own real life Wizard, my oncologist, for knowing that he has to reassure me time and time again. I am thankful for the folks who are a lot smarter than I am who are working their hardest to find therapies that will help us melanoma patients live longer lives. I am thankful to the patients in the waiting room who give me silent smiles, who randomly say "I will pray for you" as I am called back for a scan, and the ones who inspire me with their positive attitudes.

Tonight, and every night, I am thankful to those of you who have donated your time, money, and support which have allowed my family to provide me with the best medical care on the East Coast.

I am thankful for the internet because without it I am pretty sure I would have spent way too much money on therapy. The internet has allowed me to "meet" friends, my own mole mates, who have helped me in ways no doctor ever could help. They take their time to explain medical information to me, they interrupt their own fears to build my confidence back up, and they cheer the loudest when I receive good news. As I have said, I hate the cancer, but I love the people I have met because of it.

Tonight, more than anything else, I am thankful to be alive.

....and now, I am emotionally drained.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends.


Jill said...

What an amazing spirit you have and it shows through your writing. Happy Thanksgiving to you!!

Joy said...

You are one of my heros! What a wise(in one so young)soul. You are a blessing to so many, even if we've only met thru your words! May the peace that passes understanding fill you as it does me when I read your blogs! "Heres to you, beautiful lady"!

Carol Taylor said...

Happy Thanksgiving Chelsea! What a wonderful way to start the day, by reading this. You speak for us all and I am grateful.

NancyGM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becca said...

You are mature beyond your years, and I felt deeply every word you said. Melanoma sucks, but the gifts I've been given this year outweigh the bad. Thanks for being such an inspiration. :)

The Path Traveled said...

I am thankful you are here writing such a beautiful post and that I came across your blog which has given me a blessing...getting to know you, a perfect stranger, a sister in Christ!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Kim said...

Thanksgiving blessings to you Chelsea. I enjoy reading your blog and am inspired by your spirit. As a fellow Melanoma warrior I gain strength from your words and send prayers toward you for strength, peace and healing. As a daughter of God, I know He is right beside us through it all. Keep on smiling and writing girl.

RBS said...

Chelsea - thank you. I'm halfway into the 1st month of Interferon and horribly sick. We (family and I and onc dr) have decided to stop. I'm also 7 years into concurrent prostate cancer so we've been living with cancer for a while.

This post captured so much of what I'm feeling. Our youngest son is in the Peace Corps in Kenya and sent some new pics last week and I just sat at the computer and cried because I felt so sick and missed him so much. Your blog helps me stay in today and to make sure that I'm not pushing the people i love away cause I'm scared. Thank you so much for putting yourself out there in this blog. Grandpa Ron (and the other Chelsea's dad).

Kayla said...

Here's to be alive! :)

Last year, in October, I was told I'm finally in remission and done with Interferon, every holiday is VERY celebrated now.

Rose said...

Chelsea as I sat tonight and read your heart felt feeling I must agree that Life is the most wonderful thing. God gave that to us to cherish and he wanted us to help others. I believe you are doing both. God is with you and you just have to find a way to completely accept him in your life. Not like Melanoma that weaseled its way into your body. God wait for us to accept him. I pray for you daily and you are growing in strength daily. Keep fighting it’s the only way. Happy Thanksgiving

Rose said...

Chelsea as I sat tonight and read your heart felt feeling I must agree that Life is the most wonderful thing. God gave that to us to cherish and he wanted us to help others. I believe you are doing both. God is with you and you just have to find a way to completely accept him in your life. Not like Melanoma that weaseled its way into your body. God wait for us to accept him. I pray for you daily and you are growing in strength daily. Keep fighting it’s the only way. Happy Thanksgiving

Jennifer Childress Martin said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Chelsea! I am thankful for your blog and YOU. You are one of the very first blogs I found after Steve was diagnosed. You write beautifully and have helped me more than you know. <3

Anonymous said...

God has placed you in my life for a reason and I am so thankful be did. I say a prayer for you every single night and I believe that your future is bright (I have a sixth sense ya know) ;) you are so dear to my heart.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that was me Tara!

Light Skinned Mother said...

Love this. It made me tear up, but in a good way. Here is a toast to us both- to live long enough to get a full head of grey hair that will will frequently cover with dye, to wear house "shifts" out of the house and wander aimlessly in the grocery store because we are in no rush to get anywhere else, and to be able to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the beautiful "young" ladies we were, but be so grateful that we got to see what beautiful old women we have become. Happy Thanksgiving an entire year later my friend!!