relentlessheart

taking things day by day

Thank You Cards June 30, 2016

Filed under: Family,Perspective — Courtney @ 11:41 am

“Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don’t know how far we can go.” –Bernard Malamud

In the past few weeks, I have lost two great uncles who were both Veterans. I didn’t have anything to write this when it came to my mind, so I rewrote it the best I could. 

I dedicate this poem to my Uncle Jerrell and my Uncle Lee. 

I wish I could send you a Veteran’s Day card

As I’ve done only once in the past. 

I would have sent you so many more 

If I had know the first would also be the last. 

You served our country and made sacrifices you didn’t have to make.

Some things you did, I cannot even fathom.

So that you could fight for freedom

So people like me could have them. 

What I would do to share one more laugh or hug with you,

Even though I know that it wouldn’t be enough.

Because when you come to mind,

I think of much more than just a family member I love. 

You remind me of honesty, respect and loyalty-

just to name a few. 

You even served in the Vietnam War,

So I think of bravery, too. 

I wish I could tell you thank you again, 

But this time I wouldn’t just send a letter.

I’d cry in your arms and tell you I love you,

And I would cherish that moment forever. 

Thank you to all of our Veteran’s. 

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Seven-Year Survivor. May 21, 2012

Alright, so I wrote this whole, long thing on my Facebook May 13, 2011, which was six years from my cancer diagnosis. Well, it’s been yet another year, and I still love what I wrote last year, and decided to share it on here with a few small edits. Enjoy!

Reader’s Digest Version Of My Diagnosis:

I was fourteen and in eighth grade. I wasn’t myself. The bones in my chest hurt when I would breath. It was my mom’s fifty-fourth birthday. I was listless after walking from the house literally across street from my own. Tried to play basketball with my dad, but I wasn’t playing the way I normally did. Went to the local Pri-Med and they saw spots on my lungs, but they couldn’t do a CT scan there. They sent me to a hospital about twenty minutes away where I took CT scans and other tests. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. After midnight, I was at the Children’s Hospital. More and more blood work. Early, early on the morning of May 13, 2005, we found out I had biphenotypic leukemia, which meant I basically had ALL and AML, two main leukemias. There was no protocol for that diagnosis because it is such a rare disease. The doctors didn’t know how to treat me. Dad asked what my chances of seeing fifteen were; they said thirty percent (And now I’m twenty-one!). Mom later found out the survival rate for BAL is eight percent! Then, about two weeks later, my numbers changed dramatically after receiving treatment for AML (which is super, super toxic chemo), and I was getting better more quickly than expected. They decided to change my diagnosis to ALL with AML markers. Meaning, I’d receive ALL treatment and hope that the AML treatment I had been getting was good enough to solve the AML problem. The treatment is much longer but not as tough. My family knows that it wasn’t a misdiagnosis, but the Hands of God healing me. I was in the hospital the entire summer and released in August and made many, many visits back. I was “homebound” my freshman year of high school, which really meant I taught myself everything because my homebound teacher was use to having students with different assignments than mine, and she did not know how to do much of it. Went back to high school two weeks into my sophomore year. I went from about 100 pounds to 75 at one point from throwing up so much. Blah blah. A few surgeries, thousands of pills, and hundreds of shots later, I received my last chemo treatment on November 17, 2007.

Some of my friends who supported me and visited me throughout my tough times. (From left to right: Heather, me, Katelyn, Jeremy, and Katie.)

This is to show you how crazy skinny I got. We are at a baseball game in one of the suites. Unfortunately, I’m not really close to them now, but I’m thankful for what they did for me back then. (From left to right: Emily, Amber, Heather, Jeremy, Me, and Tyler)

Ways That Leukemia Saved My Life:

1.)     It introduced me to so many great people (This bullet is more for those who are written about, so you can skip it if you want). Because of this experience, I met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met at Children’s Hospital. Dr. Crawford– Delivered the diagnosis and chose the protocol. Thinking of him makes me cry. He moved to a different state, but he is still in my family’s heart. He bonded with my family unlike any of his other patients. We were different to him somehow, and we all noticed this. He really cared for us. When he told us that there was no protocol for my condition, my mom asked him to do whatever he would do for his son (who was about my age), and that’s what he did. He made every decision based on what he would do for his family, showing us that he truly cared about my health. He is an awesome guy who God used to help save my life. Pat– My nurse practitioner. She helped my mom through every moment. She was so patient with our family which was full of terrified and confused parents and grandparents. My mom knew and still knows she can call Pat for anything, and she’ll always help us out. She is a part of my family for all of the hard work that she put into making us happy. We all love Pat so much. Lauren– Child Life Specialist. Wow, Lauren is one of the happiest and bubbliest people that I know. She always has a smile on her face. She could just come in the room, and I’d already start feeling better. No matter what mood I was in, she always put a smile on everyone’s face with her wonderful personality and big heart. Whether she was playing games with us in my room or walking me around the hospital, she was always doing what she could to be a friend to me. I consider her one of my best friends still. The Nurses of 4-Tower– I wish I could name everyone, but I know that I’d leave someone out. There were so many great women working there. I loved them all! I especially grew close to Foo, Angela, Beth, and Nicki because those were the nurses who treated me the most, but all the nurses there mean the world to me. We could never thank them enough for all the things they did for us. Nicki brought me Olive Garden once, Beth fed me my pills in my ice cream because for some reason I couldn’t do it myself, Foo put up with having to cut me new pills a hundred times before I was able to take them, and Angela helped me with my peeling skin and even visited us at my house, showing that I was more than just her patient. Judy, Meg, Alison, and Kelly (now a clinic nurse) were some other nurses that I had often. And there are so many more, and I can’t name them all. All the nurses put up with having to count to three and pushing fluids in slowly. I’m sorry for all the tears I cried in front of them. I know they were trying to make me better, but I am still terrified of needles, even after having been stuck with them hundreds and hundreds of times by now. Every time I go for a check-up, I have to visit 4-Tower and hope to see someone I know and give them a hug and let them know how great I am doing! The Many Doctors Who Treated Me– Besides Dr. Crawford, I mostly saw Dr. Hilliard, Dr. Watts, Dr. Buckley, and Dr. Howard, but there was also Nicole, Dr. Fowler, Dr. Castleberry, Cole, and so many others. These doctors were always taking care of me and running around the place trying to figure out what the best move is for me. Dr. Hilliard is my doctor now, and she is awesome. A while back, I saw Dr. Howard, and he didn’t even recognize me until he saw my mom. It’s crazy to think how sick I was when I knew these people. I wish they could all see me now. I miss them. The Nurses of Clinic 8–  I may not have gotten as close to them as I did my other nurses, but they still had a lot to deal with. Some that I still see down there are Jill, Kenna, and Candy. They were sensitive to my feelings about needles and wanting to stay in a patient room instead of the treatment room because the coffee smell made me feel sick. They helped out in every way they could. They are so wonderful down there. I appreciate all they did and still do for me. Everyone else– That I may have forgotten. The woman who delivered breakfast was always a sweetheart. I loved me some Jessica, one of the CAs on 4-Tower; she was always smiling and happy. The triage nurses in Clinic 8 were always awesome. The many visitors from churches and other groups who brought me blankets or stuffed animals always put a smile on my face. The other nurse practitioners that I met who helped us when Pat wasn’t able to. The Junior League who worked the game room. The nurses who held my hand before my knee surgery because my family couldn’t be in the OR. I don’t know who else, but I know there are plenty others I’m forgetting.

Mom, Dr. Crawford, and me and on my last day of chemo treatment! Thanks for everything!

Pat and Me when my hair was finally growing back! Love you!

Lauren and me after Mom and I went to lunch with her this past winter! We still keep in touch! She’s seriously amazing.

Beth and me when I was SUPER sick all thanks to that red bag in the top left. Miss you!

Foo, my nurse for the longest time. Sweetest thing.

2.)     It brought my family and me closer to God. Definitely the thing I am most thankful for. I was already a Christian, but I had no idea who much Faith I had in God until the moment I was diagnosed. See 1 Peter 1:7, as quoted by Dr. Chase in House. I am thankful that I passed the test. I kept a journal for some of my time in the hospital, and I when I looked back at it along with my xanga site at the time, I saw that I had more Faith than I remember even having. I would write that I knew God was taking care of me and that I wasn’t worried. Of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. My entire family became closer to God though. Not that He needed to, but He really proved himself to my family. I know that because of His work in me, miracles happen.

(3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, (5) who through faith are shielded by God’s power untli the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (7) These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (8) Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (9) for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (NIV)

3.)     Showed me I’m stronger than I thought. I am a cry baby. Let’s face it. Not that I didn’t cry nearly everyday, but I learned that I am strong person (of course, that’s because I had God on my side). I am most definitely a weakling, but my Faith and Spirit is strong as can be, and that’s good enough for me. I take small things for more than they’re worth and blow off the big ones I should be worried about. I cried over shots but didn’t care about having my knee cut open.

4.)     I learned to appreciate my family more. I really took and still take my family for granted. They did everything in the world for me. Walking to Taco Bell several blocks away, satisfying all of my cravings, watching ABC Family all day long, being strong when I needed them to, and every other tiny thing they ever did for me. I owe my dad, mom, Grammie, and Papa so much more than I could ever give them. I love you all so, so, so much.

Mom and me after cutting my hair to make losing it less dramatic. Thanks for being so strong for me. I know it was almost harder for you than for me.

Dad and me at the house with my short hair. He was always taking pictures, so I don’t have one with him in the hospital. Thanks for helping me with my mouth wash by telling me your fun stories.

Grammie and me early on. Thanks for your patience through everything!

Papa and me in early May. Thanks for walking just about anywhere I wanted to feed my food cravings.

There so many people I still want to thank for all that they did for me. My teacher and counselors at the high school who did everything they could to make sure I received everything that I needed to. My friends who continue to support me and are there for all my struggles. The rest of my family. The rest of my friends. Chris, for listening to all the crap I talk to him about it and letting me cry sometimes and understanding. Everyone. And most of all, God.

 

Relay for Life! May 2, 2012

In case you didn’t know, I’m a seven-year cancer survivor. My diagnosis anniversary is May 13, and I’ll dedicate a post to that soon, but I wanted to give you the heads up so you can realize how important Relay for Life is to me. Relay was a few weeks ago on Friday, April 20. The event lasted from 6PM-6AM! I somehow managed to stay up ALMOST the whole time. I feel asleep for about forty-five minutes around 430, but I think that’s acceptable.

I was a member of an awesome team, Cohort C. As a team we raised $687 for the American Cancer Society, and I personally raised $287 of that. My team consisted of a classmate in my education “cohort” Ashley, her boyfriend Brian, and six of my wonderful and supportive friends. Ashley and Brian stayed until around two or three, and Jessica left shortly after. My friend Zach’s girlfriend Courtney came for several hours and the two of them left around three as well. Me, Alex, Chris, Ian, and Justin (the guy who literally walked THE ENTIRE NIGHT without stopping!!!!!) managed to stay the entire night though! (Although Alex and Chris left for about an hour because Chris had homework.) Regardless of how long they stayed, I am so thankful to have such a great group that did this event with me. I am also thankful for Ashley and another classmate Catherine for asking me to be apart of the event!

I was not sure how I would be affected by the ceremony emotionally. For the most part, I was having a blast. Laughing, walking with friends, Zumba at one o’clock in the morning, coloring, and winning a scavenger hunt. Of course, there was time spent stuffing my face and relaxing, too. There was also time I spent reflecting on how far I’ve made it and the group of great friends that I had there with me. Relay always has an “Luminaria ceremony” where people can decorate a small paper bag dedicated to someone who has survived, is still fighting, or has last their battle with cancer. It’s a quiet moment to honor those people. Candles are placed inside the bags which line the walking track. During this walk, two of my best friends, Alex and Jessica, were linked at my arms, and we walked together, the guys close behind us. As we walked, I closed my eyes and thanked and praised God for being with me along my journey and for pulling me through it. I also thanked Him for blessing me with such an awesome group of friends who would stay up all night to join the fight against cancer. It was a touching night, and I can never say thanks enough to God for helping me come this far. Thanks American Cancer Society and Relay for Life for your efforts to help cancer patients have more birthdays!

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Our awesome team! Thanks for the support, friends =)
Justin, Zach, Chris, Alex, Ian, Jessica, (Yoshi!), Me, Ashley, and Brian!

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Pictures from our scavenger hunt that won us food for five at Chipotle!
Ashley and Catherine at the far right are the ones who got me involved; thanks guys!

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Survivor! That's me!

 

Smiles & Good Friday April 7, 2012

Filed under: Perspective,The Word — Courtney @ 2:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been thinking about a few things recently, and I thought I’d share with you!

I don’t even remember the store I was at anymore in this particular instance, however it happens often, but that is irrelevant to the story anyway. Wherever I was, when I checked out, I was being pretty friendly (having a job where I deal with unfriendly customers sometimes has made me a much friendlier customer). My cashier, on the other hand, was not. She never smiled at me or said anything like “How are you?” or “Have a nice day.” As my “I Am…” states, I love to smile. “Smiling is my favorite,” as Buddy the Elf would say. I always feel a little offended in some way when I don’t get a smile back. I left the store thinking she was rude because she wouldn’t smile back at me. Then I got to thinking. Maybe something bad has happened to her recently and smiling is just too hard for her right now. Maybe, even though she was unable to smile back, my smiling helped to brighten her day a little. Or maybe, my first thought was right, and she was just unfriendly and just doesn’t like to smile. Either way, I’m going to stick with smiling. Hopefully my smile can help someone who really just needs a smile.

Then, there was yesterday. Yesterday was Good Friday, in case you didn’t know. The day that represents Jesus dying on the cross to forgive our sins. 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” What an amazing feeling. But I didn’t come here to preach to you (although, there is nothing wrong with sharing the Word). I came here to tell a story about yesterday. Chris (my boyfriend) and I went to Wendy’s, my favorite fast-food restaurant at the moment. Our service was terrible, the cashier was rude, and they had to re-do our order because they messed things up. I left the place angry and annoyed about it. Then I thought about it being Good Friday, and what that day represents. I realized what had just happened to me there that annoyed me was nothing like what happened to Jesus who didn’t even complain. I must admit, thinking this didn’t instantly change me attitude, although it should have; however, I am still human, and it took me thinking that for a while for it to finally make me realize that my “bad” experience at Wendy’s is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for me.

So, next time you have an unfriendly cashier or waitress or the next time you feel like you’re having a bad day, remember that someone is going through something much worse. If you can’t think of any normal scenario that is worse, then think about what Jesus went through. It may sound lame, but it may help you to have a more positive attitude, which is something I strive for. I’ll be working on this myself. Let’s take this journey together. We need a new perspective.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to smile 🙂
Can't tell you how thankful I am for these guys!

 

I Still Haven’t Cried. April 2, 2012

Filed under: New Things,Perspective — Courtney @ 3:01 am
Tags: , , ,

If you know me, then you know that I’m a cry baby. About everything. I mean, seriously. No need in trying to tell me different, because I know the truth. My mom is sensitive, my dad is sensitive, my mom’s parents are sensitive. I was doomed to be sensitive. And I am.

Saying that, I didn’t cry when I had over nine inches of my hair cut off. And I didn’t cry the next day. Or the next.

And then there was today. I can still say that I haven’t cried. But my eyes not watering at all was true til about and hour and a half ago. It seems so silly to be upset over hair, but I can’t help it. Naturally, I told my mom about how I was upset about my hair and didn’t really like it at the moment. Then my mom reminds me about what good I did for someone else (I donated the hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths for women with cancer). However, even though she was trying to make me feel better, it only made me feel worse. I thought about how there are some people without any hair due to chemotherapy treatments, who I use to be, by the way, and then I realized how selfish I was being. That’s why I did this in the first place, so why am I getting upset about something as small as my hair cut? Perspective.

Top Left: Pre-hair cut
Top Right: Post-hair cut
Bottom: The nine inches of hair that was cut that I'll be donating