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A Milestone Worth Celebrating!

I’ve been NED (no evidence of disease) for one year.

I had cancer in my heart, brain, lungs, shoulder, and legs and I’ve been clear for one year.

I’ll say that again. I had melanoma tumors in my heart, brain, lungs, shoulder and legs and I’ve been clear for one entire year.

Yep. July 23rd, 2019, I was introduced to NED. I sort of debated if this was worthy of celebrating, but why the hell not!? After being diagnosed with stage IV melanoma, any time free from disease is worth celebrating - so certainly an entire year qualifies for a party!

Milestones like this really have a way of making me reflect on things. Last July was one of the most miserable months of my life despite getting good news about my cancer. I was in a perpetual state of anxiety and tears. I was mega struggling to navigate life post-cancer diagnosis and treatment. The trauma associated with my diagnosis and treatment was absolutely crushing me.

If I’m being completely honest, I still struggle to navigate life post-cancer. The best way I can describe it is, “misunderstood.” But, reflecting on where I was last July and comparing it to now, sure has given me a lot to be grateful for.

I’m grateful for my personal support system. For starters, my fam bam is the very best. They are genuinely the most supportive family ever and I love them to pieces. I’m also immensely grateful for my boyfriend, Dan. His unwavering support this last year while I figured out (and continue to figure out) my shit is remarkable. He is arguably the most patient person I’ve ever met and I’m so lucky to have his support. I can’t imagine going through this past year alone. I am beyond grateful to have the most wonderful people in my corner.

I’m grateful for my therapist. She is one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. She’s cried with me, she’s laughed with me, and she’s helped me in more ways than I can even describe. Deciding to go to therapy was easily one of the best decisions I’ve made. Talking through things is how I process things, and it’s so wonderful to have an unbiased person helping you sort out your feelings.

I’m grateful for my self awareness. I knew something was wrong last July and I didn’t feel myself. Everyone told me I had a million and one reasons to feel the way I did and while that helped justify my feelings, it didn’t do anything to help manage them. I’m learning that my awareness of my own feelings is one of my strengths. It has been a process to figure out how to handle the trauma of a cancer diagnosis, but I’ve worked super hard this past year to try to heal myself. It’s a never ending road, but I’m very proud of how far I’ve come.

I’m grateful for my body. I have a love/hate relationship with my body. It failed me mega hard nearly two years ago and I’m still pretty bitter about it. But at the same time, I’m also so, so proud of how it responded to treatment. Somehow, someway (ahem, science) my body survived a death sentence. There was a war inside me for quite some time, and this body of mine carried me through it. It’s capable of SO much!

I’m grateful for my medical team, science, research & immunotherapy. Because of the brilliant doctors, nurses and medical staff at the Mayo Clinic, I’m here. Combine that with the advancements in science and they’re the ultimate reason I’m NED. There is SUCH a long way to go in terms of science and research, but I’m grateful to be a part of the success stories. Personally, I’m such a big fan of Nivolumab (my treatment drug) that I named my new dog after it!

I’m grateful for all my fellow melanoma warriors. This disease is awful and kills far too many. But I am so, so grateful to have found a community of melanoma warriors. When I was first diagnosed, I was constantly searching for success stories to give me a glimpse of hope. It’s both heartwarming and oddly rewarding to be able to be that sense of hope for others. It’s sort of beautiful to see such a bright light from something so dark.

I have another set of scans coming up in a couple of weeks. I always try not to put too much pressure on scans in general, but this set feels so significant. I plan to bring this gratitude with me and hope that NED is still here. Cheers to some more time with him, cause he really is the greatest.


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