Goal of this blog:
To tell the story of my cancer life that is so often missed in mainstream society. Young people think they are untouchable– Well we are not. We do have cancer. (narrated under the Living with Cancer menu). I do not see myself as overly positive, inspirational, and in denial. Realism is how I view society, life, death, and everything in between.
To adequately share my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer (chronicled under the Peace Corps Service menu).
In May of 2010 I accepted an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania. I gladly packed up my life and left. I blindly entered a world so unknown and deep. Along the way I stumbled and picked myself up again and again. I made the most agonizing decision to end my service and return back the United States after a year in Romania. The extreme highs of foreign service also led to extreme lows. I knew I had complete control over my decision, but in the end I did not have control over the behaviors of an organization and other people.
My flight landed in Minneapolis, my home of record, a small tear formed as I finally felt at peace. I spent time readjusting to American way of life and applying to grad school. Summer of 2011 was filled with Minnesota fun, travel, and suburban loneliness. I anxiously waited my start to a new life as a Master’s Candidate in Washington, DC.
Fall of 2011 was the beginning of my much-anticipated life. My expectations did not disappoint. Independence and passion filled every hour of my life: eating, sleeping, and breathing Sustainable Development consumed me. Along the way I managed to reconnect with an old friend, and he seems to have found a little spot in my heart. Lucky us, we decided to cohabitate around Thanksgiving ’11.
I was on my perfect little paved road with a move to India for 4 months on the horizon, a partner to return to, a busy social life, and good grades. I submitted my last paper, had dinner with some good friends, and went to bed in peace on December 22, 2011. Throbbing pains in my chest and one swollen arm awoke me in the middle of the night. My stable life became not so stable at 25.
Frequently Ask Questions:
Where do you go to school?
I am Master’s Candidate at World Learning SIT Graduate Institute in Washington, DC. I will obtain my MA in Sustainable Development: International Policy and Management. This is now a distant dream that I will gladly pick again when my chemo brain dissipates and finances aren’t so messy.
Why did you go to Romania?
I did not choose Romania, but I accepted an invitation from the Peace Corps. Peace Corps choses applicants based on skills, availability, and ‘right fit’ for placement in all country posts. They have specific criteria for each opening making it a very selective process. I was originally nominated in the sector of Youth Development in the Asia Region. After actively seeking new skills to better my chances of placement, I was called immediately after completion of my Graduate Certificate for TESOL and asked if I wanted to leave in 5 1/2 weeks and my thoughts on Eastern Europe. I received the coveted blue Invitation Package days later for the TEFL Sector in Eastern Europe.
What type of Cancer do you have?
In January 2012 I was officially diagnosed with Mediastinal Large Diffused B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I was diagnosed at Stage 4. I have/had a Mediastinal Tumor spanning the width of my chest. If it had not been my random fat arm my mass would have grown and the cancer would have spread even more. That random fat arm also led to 4 hospital ventures in 4 weeks. Hospital Stay 1: The George Washington University Hospital, Washington, DC. Hospital Stay 2: Cedar Park Regional Hospital, Austin, TX. Hospital Stay 3: The Mayo Clinic/St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester, MN. Hospital Stay 4: North Memorial Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN.
“Mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma. This is an aggressive form of DLBCL (see above). It appears as a large mass in the chest area, which may cause breathing problems or superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS), a collection of symptoms caused by the partial blockage or compression of the superior vena cava, the major vein that carries blood from the head, neck, upper chest, and arms to the heart. Mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma is most common in women between the ages of 30 and 40, and about 2.5% of people with NHL have this subtype. It is treated most often with anthracycline-based chemotherapy, and most patients also receive rituximab and radiation therapy to the chest. Although radiation therapy has traditionally been considered a particularly important part of treatment for mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma for some patients, this is no longer certain because the use of rituximab has improved treatment, so radiation treatments may not be necessary.” Turns out this description is pretty spot on, but radiation is still very important.
As of January 2013 my mediastinal mass that was so huge is gone! On the other hand we were given the news not so long ago that the Large Diffused B-Cell Lymphoma is recurring in masses around my sternum spreading upwards between the skin and sternum. Therefore, my cancer is now considered ‘non-curable’. We’ll see about that!
What is Sustainable Development?
Needs of the future without compromising now.
What type of job can you get with your degree?
I will let you know.
Why do I use the word cancer all the time?
I am a realist and cancer is real. I don’t like to shy away from it. Rather I embrace it and use it to generate the reality that young people will and do have cancer. In the last year I have heard over and over again, ‘oh you’re young, you are lucky.’ This is true when it comes to the health side, but societal norms tell me different. My new normal is everything opposite than I imagined. I will foster and create a world that I love and thrive in, but this road is not widely shared with others.