All of my 365 t-shirts from 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

T-shirt #101: LIVESTRONG

To me this shirt (which I got for my birthday last year), the bracelet (which my friend Andy gave me almost 6 years ago), and sneakers (not pictured, but I have on and were also a birthday present last year) mean trying to stay positive through life’s most challenging struggles. People often ask me “How did you do it?” when I am telling them my cancer story. It was pretty simple, and I think it can be applied to things other than cancer. Here is what I did that helped me get through my cancerous brain tumor:

  1. Stay close to loved ones…my family and close friends were there for me from the initial diagnosis to my last hospitalization. I actually think my cancer was easier for me than it was for my family. I had no doubts I was going to beat it, while I’m sure they were worried and praying every day. They supported me by not only helping me stay positive, but by making sure they did not show any fear or negativity in front of me.
  2. Keep laughing…throughout my treatment, I embraced humor whether it was by joking with my doctors or watching a funny movie. I think I watched “Fletch” about ten times while beating cancer. The chemotherapy may have ravaged my body, but thanks to my hilarious family, friends, and movies like “Spinal Tap”, my laughter still was able to go to 11.
  3. Think it, and make it so…before I started chemo, my neighbor (who was also a doctor at UMass) Dr. Bob visited me in my hospital room and told me that he had read studies that showed patients who visualize their treatment killing the cancer had higher success rates. So, every time I got my rounds of chemo, I shut my eyes and pictured them traveling through my veins, up into my brain, and attacking the tumor. After originally telling me I would need chemotherapy and radiation, the doctors said “We don’t know why, but you don’t need radation…the chemotherapy got rid of it all”.
  4. Keep doing the things you enjoy…As much as my body would let me, I kept playing hockey, cheering the Bruins on (who SWEPT The Hated Habs that year!), going to Red Sox games, seeing concerts, hanging out with my family and friends, and doing all the things I enjoyed.
  5. Vent when you need to…Yes, I tried to be positive, but there were some days I needed to get angry. I used these times when I visualized and thought of my chemo viciously attacking my cancer. And again, my family was just as supportive during these times.
  6. Keep in mind those less fortunate than you…no matter what you are going through, chances are there is someone who is worse off than you are. Being thankful for what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have (or what is going wrong) is key here. I had cancer and it did suck, but my battle was a lot easier and took less time than many people who have cancer.
  7. Ask questions…I think I was lucky to have gone through cancer before the age of internet everywhere. I asked my doctors a lot of questions, but didn’t have access to the mass of information (good and bad) that a lot of cancer patients look up when they are diagnosed. To be honest, I don’t think I would have wanted to know that stuff anyway. To quote Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds…”
  8. Be nice to those who are trying to help you…to me while in the hospital, this mostly meant the nurses. And am not trying to discredit my oncology team, but nurses do a lot more work with patients than doctors (More on why I love nurses with a future t-shirt). I have had hospital roommates that aren’t very nice to the nurses…I just don’t get it.
  9. As much as you can, do not let cancer (or whatever) change your plans. My doctors and family both thought I should take the first semester of college off (my last round of chemotherapy came my first weekend of my freshman year). I said “I am not letting cancer tell me when I start school”, and I went back to school after my last round of chemo. Yes, there were days just walking back from class made me so tired I napped until dinner time. Yes, I did miss about two weeks of class after needing to be hospitalized after the medication gave my body one last ass-kicking. On the funny side, when I did return to school after that last hospitalization, my RA had left me a few notes wondering why I had missed hall meetings and why I he hadn’t seen me and I needed to go see him. “Yeah, I was in the hospital because of cancer” was the reason I gave him…the look on his face was priceless. Although looking back I think starting college while in treatment wasn’t the wisest decision, I wouldn’t change it…I did what I needed to do, and I made it.
  10. Believe that everything happens for a reason…this is the hardest part to think of while you are going through the challenge you are facing, but it is something I have the luxury of knowing (as far as my cancer anyway). I have a job that gives my cancer a reason and allows me to share my experience with others going through cancer. Granted, it took me over 15 years to find this reason, but I did. Even if I didn’t have the job at Hope Lodge, I would not want to take my cancer experience away. Maybe college would have been easier for me if I didn’t start it the way that I did, but oh made me who I am today and it gave me a perspective that is priceless…

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