"When an affliction happens to you, you either let it defeat you, or you defeat it.." - Rosalind Russell

December 1, 2015

It's a celebration!

There it is. I made it 5 years cancer free. Things have been tough, really tough, but at least I have my health. I am grateful that I made the choice to make the most out of life and live it to it's fullest. Thank you everyone for reading and letting my share my story. I am hoping that this will be my last post :)

March 30, 2015

SSI Disability

I went to the neuropsychologist for testing and was diagnosed with Neurocognitive Disorder- Moderate. The whole process was fascinating, because I have studied cognitive psychology and recognized a lot of the concepts. I helped conduct reseach experiments while in school, and so it was interesting to actually be the one taking the tests!

My results and comments were as follows:

- Attention: my encoding score was low- encoding being the range of new information that someone can take in at one time.
- Executive Functions. This refers to skills that are important for goal- directed behavior and problem solving. This includes skills in planning, the ability to use organized search strategies, to monitor performance and correct errors. Also the ability to resist the impulse to respond to irrelevant information when completing a task. The tests showed that I'm generally disorganized in daily life in terms of problem solving- due to being unable to plan ahead and stop and think about problems at hand. This is a gross understatement. I simply cannot and do not plan anything.
- Learning and Memory. I have no problems encoding verbal information, but have trouble with retrieval. I had very delayed recal abilities, even when given clues of previous information. I will never be on Jeopardy.
- Language/ Verbal abilities. I have low performance in the ability to quickly and accurately retrieve and apply language, colors and numbers, and overall fluency.
- Visual/ Spatial and Sensory Motor Functioning. This number was in the low range, suggesting that when given multiple visual information, I have difficulty distinguishing similar shapes.

Overall, I have encoding issues, mild processing issues, and executive function difficulties. This suggests that I struggle with processing information the first time I hear it. This can influence comprehension, especially with boring tasks. Learning is a problem, because comprehending new information is more time consuming. I also struggle with resisting impulses and considering consequences before I act. Moreover, planning is a problem because I consistently underestimate the time needed to complete a task and it's level of difficulty. I may have good ideas but be unable to express them adequately. I also have problems keeping information in active/ working memory- something that is needed to sustain attention. This causes forgetfulness and becoming overwhelmed by large amounts of information. Finally, I have problems with initiation, i.e. getting started. While intentions are good, this puts me at risk for being labeled lazy and unmotivated.

* apparently my Perceptual Reasoning skills were superior, meaning that I am excellent at solving non verbal problems and working with visual information such as designs and pictures. At least i have some good results!

Everything the neuropsychologist found reconfirmed what I already knew- I have a hard time with reasoning skills and learning new concepts. These are two things which are essential to being an effective and safe medical provider. I will need more time to process results and make diagnostic decisions. This is almost impossible to do with the current standard of 15-minute appointments. No one wants to hire someone who is so slow at their job. Plus, medical information is always changing, and so it will become increasingly difficult to keep abreast of all that new information.

With these results, I beleive that I have a good shot at getting disability. I told my doc exactly why I was doing the study and she wrote my results summary to reflect how I am unable to do the job that I went to school for due to chemotherapy. Now I just need to start applying- a daunting task that requires some skill in "initiation"

On another note- my latest CT was negative!

August 13, 2014


I found an interesting Blog about chemobrain that I wanted to share. It has been 4 years since I had standard chemotherapy, and I still am feeling the effects. I have a horrible time with word retrieval, processing new information, and reading maps. I also have a hard time computing simple math problems and just focusing on anything in general. My ADD and attention span had gotten much worse, making it hard to get anything done. Basically every mental task takes twice as long and I get really frustrated with my broken brain. I don't feel like I can be a safe nurse practitioner anymore. Not only do I have to relearn everything I forgot, but it is also really hard to acquire new information- which is problematic as clinicians are constantly having to adapt to new practice standards and guidelines. I find myself more interested in positions that only require physical skills- jobs where I use my hands and not my slow brain. So after all that schooling, the positions I have been pursuing of late are in the fields I was in before graduate school- bartending and gymnastics. I think that this is because I feel comfortable using skills I have already developed, rather than having to constantly struggle with learning new tasks. It's a waste, but sometimes it just takes too much mental energy to try and learn something new. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to concentrate on the task at hand, which is then followed by the struggle to comprehend the information and put it into memory. I feel dumb a lot of the time, and embarrassed by the length of time it takes for me to figure something out that other people find so simple. This is especially hard for me now, because I have acquired new friends that only know the slow me and not the intelligent and knowledgeable person I once was.

This month I meet with a neuropsychologist who can hopefully point me in the right direction. Most of the reason I wanted to meet with her was to get cognitive testing and see if I qualify for disability. My symptoms negatively affect most aspects of my life, but I don't know if the federal government will actually recognize chemobrain as a disability. I ultimately would like to discharge my student loans. Plus I want some validation of my worries that I am too damaged to work in medicine. I need some sort of explanation or excuse to why I never found an ARNP job. I feel worthless and stupid talking about it, and when people ask me about my career or what I went to school for, I don't even mention nursing school. Last weekend at a music festival a girl asked me what I did, and i actually forgot that I worked as a nurse in biometrics. I don't get called in to work many shifts, so I guess that's understandable. However, I surprised myself that I only answered that I was a bartender. It's like the whole nursing part of my life never existed. I am  back in 2006, bartending and coaching gymnastics- only with $100,000+ in student loans. 

Well that's my rambling for the time- being. I also got a CT scan last week and still haven't heard the results. It was only a CT because obamacare doesn't find PET scans very necessary for cancer follow up :/

July 19, 2014

RIP Adam Oliver

I was following my friend Adam's blog since I met him at the cancer center. I noticed that he hadn't updated his blog in a few months. The last post was about his clinical trial had been failing... Two days ago I was browsing Facebook and came across his page- the top post was an "I will miss you," along with a picture. This was back in May. .. I didn't know him all that well, but I often thought about him and checks his blog every few weeks or so to see how he was doing. He was actually the one who gave me the idea to start this blog. He was a really nice guy. I remember talking to him about how his cancer had also returned- his reaction had been nothing but anger and frustration. I went to see him in the hospital during one of his treatments, and it was long and had made him so sick. I see why he was angry. The cancer had stolen his way of life- he loved ultimate frisbee and the cancer was in his leg so he couldn't run. Cancer made every part of his life a struggle, even in the end. I am grateful that my treatments weren't so bad, and that I am currently in remission. I'm just so sad for all the people in my life that I knew who died. It's still a horrible struggle to mend my life after the cancer, but at least I am healthy enough to try. Rest in peace Adam. You will be missed.

A link to his obituary is below:

November 6, 2013

The Dream

Awhile ago I had a weird dream. I had this itch and a sharp pain coming from the left side of my groin. I don't remember any other details, except that these sensations turned out to be originating from a huge bloody spider bite on the area.

Waking up a little frazzled, out of curiosity or instinct I put my hand on the area to feel the imaginary bite. Instead I found an enlarged lymph node. I was a little taken back, especially after I felt several more nodes along the inguinal chain. What the hell? Why had I not noticed these before? There were none I could feel on the right side, but there had been metastases in those nodes and some had been removed. Did this mean that my cancer is back and this time spread to the left lymph nodes? Shit! Now what?!?

All these thoughts swirled around in my head, but I kept focusing on one thing- that eerie dream. Was this just a coincidence, or was that dream a sign to lead me to discover these lumps? Fate may have guided my diagnosis before- I believe that I was meant to go to nursing school to be conveniently surrounded by medical professionals, AND to be studying women's reproductive health at the time of my diagnosis. Without that knowledge and community support, I don't know if I would have recognized cancer's red flags, nor  investigated the cause of my symptoms. I'm also pretty sure that I would have put off going to the doctor for a long time.

Luckily, I had that appointment with my new oncologist within the next few days. I didn't mention the dream, but I quickly pointed out the nodes during my visit. The doc told me his hesitations about routine PET scans, but agreed that an exception should be made to check out these lumps. I didn't want my family to worry, so I waited for the results of the scan before I  wrote in this blog or told anyone about the dream or my concerns about recurrence.

Thankfully, my PET scan was normal, and the lymph nodes were unremarkable. Yay! No more cancer. In fact, I am officially in remission. It's been 3 years since my last recurrence. Doc says to come back in 4 months for a check up. This may have been my last PET scan for awhile. Thank god, a day without carbs is hell!