Hi, I'm Casey!
At the time, all I was thinking was: Shit, I have work to get done.
Anyways, so we walked over. Walked right into the exam room despite a waiting room full of people. (Should have been the first red flag, but I was oblivious.)
I still didn’t think it meant anything. The internist sent me to the ER, for the quickest way to get results for a blood sample, x-rayed my back, and all of that. At the time, I was thinking: Okay, cool - let’s get this done. I can at least have answers and I can get back to work. I remember them saying “We need to give you a blood transfusion," too.
I still didn’t think this was abnormal.
I was in denial of how sick I really was.
So they hooked up the IV, did the blood transfusion and fluids. Then, the doctor handed my husband a paper that said more or less said we suspect this is cancer, but we can’t confirm it yet. In a panic to my husband, I asked my husband what it said. He said:
The doctor then told me I was being transferred to the main hospital. All I could focus on is the word “children”. I immediately, and seriously asked if I was going to the children’s hospital or adult hospital.
The doctor looked at me kind of funny and simply said “adult”. I replied: “Good because my husband can’t be within 100 feet of children.” My husband just facepalmed. It was funny to me at the time, but honestly? I deflect how I feel with humor. As I’m being wheeled into the hospital, I’m still making jokes. (Keep in mind it was valentine's day.)
I vividly remember joking to two women there saying “I guess they don’t make Valentines’ day cards saying ‘Happy Valentines’ Day, you have cancer." But anyways, that night I was admitted.
I didn’t expect to stay there long. But, that night turned into 28 days.
My dad came into the hospital that night, and I couldn’t say the word “cancer” to him.
I made my husband tell him.
I couldn’t even say the word for almost a year.
Later, it was confirmed via 3 bone marrow biopsies that weekend that I did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Which, as a 31-year-old, was really rare. Nearly unheard of. So rare I was pretty much a specimen in a teaching hospital for treatment. There were always about ten people in the room for rounds every morning. Overwhelming, to say the least.
It felt like I was on a rollercoaster I couldn’t get off of.
I felt exposed - they were all young, attractive, smart people. And here I am, smelly because I haven’t showered in 3 days talking about my bowel movements... all while they run test after test on me.
It was honestly like the cast of Grey’s Anatomy in my room every day (young, smart, attractive humans). But, every day, I was numb & in constant pain. I just remember thinking that if these people can make me feel better, it’s worth it.
Pretty much right away, I began Chemo.
When the chemo started it still didn’t hit me.
When they told me I’d start losing my hair, it didn’t fully hit me. I was like okay but it’s just hair, no big deal, right?
When I got in the shower and I pulled out a giant clump of hair, it had Finally fully hit me.
I fell to my knees sobbing on a disgusting hospital bathroom shower.
My husband knocked on the door asking: “Are you okay?”
I replied: “No, I’m not okay. I have fucking cancer.”
It was then that I truly realized I had cancer. This was my life now. I never in a million years thought that I would get cancer, let alone at 31 - but here I was. Even then, it didn’t hit me how much my life was going to change, or for how long. The entire beginning of the cancer was such a whirlwind.
"Test here, test there, move here, move there. We think you have this, but you might have that."
I didn’t have time to even think about everything yet.
It felt like I was watching a TV show with myself being the main character.
Between coming to grips with cancer, and starting Chemo, I was bedridden for quite a few days. My husband and father visited every day, but on this particular day, my husband was pacing outside my room. He saw a (probably) 70-year-old man flying around doing laps around the floor I was on.
He told my husband to get me out of bed and to get me to start walking. I’m a pretty goal-oriented gal, so I took up the challenge. The first time walking around the floor, though, took me literally 20 minutes.
This was my first lesson on never giving up.
That was truly the lowest point for me in my journey.
I was in a coma for a couple of days.
It left me temporarily paralyzed on my left side, so on top of going through treatment I was in rehab 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, learning how to walk and use my left side.
My husband had to bathe me, he had to help me go to the bathroom. It was incredibly humbling. I frequently cried of embarrassment. Though I was heavily medicated and pretty numb.
I knew I still had to keep my head down and focus.
I had to get back to being independent like before.
I felt like I had just been put in time out. My entire life was just at a standstill for months. I had simply tried to survive for months.
Then I was just told, “Okay, you can live again”.
I had a lot of rage to work through. Because of all of this, and going to work way too fast, I had a mental breakdown.
I came home from work, dropped my bag on the kitchen floor, fell to my knees, and started crying. I hated my life. I was truly miserable.
I grabbed all the pain meds I still had left (which was a lot) and locked myself in my bathroom.
Simply stated: I couldn’t keep living this way. My husband called my dad and his mom. They both came over.
Eventually, he broke the bathroom door down and forced the pills out of my hand. I just couldn’t comprehend how I was so strong during treatment, but failing at living life again. I felt broken, like a failure. Afterward, I was pretty much forcefully locked in a room. My dad was over, and I was just facedown crying into a pillow.
I couldn’t handle the mundane nuances of normal life.
I couldn’t stand the constant complaining from people about shit that didn’t really matter.
That night I knew something had to change or I was going to kill myself.
I started on my healing journey the very next day.
Googling: “Cancer treatment ended, now what?” with a grand total of zero results. I knew I had to figure it out. Little did I know what awaited me.
What I didn’t realize at that time was that what served me so well during treatment was NOT serving me well after. But, that wasn’t the end of everything, either...
The doctor said it had a “97% cure rate” and they were confident it would work out for me...
It turned out I was the 3%.
Because it came back, again. I subconsciously knew, but I was still devastated. All of that work for nothing.
Completely wasted time and resources just to do it all over again. I was putting my family through all of it again. I even started to feel like I had the flu about a week before I wanted to admit I wasn’t feeling so good because I knew in my gut it was back. Eventually, I got the blood work officially done again.
The results came back - it was confirmed. I remember the moment I found out. I was at work.
I went into my boss's office, and just crumbled to the ground and said it’s back. I left the office and went straight to the hospital. We went back over the options.
Chemo wasn’t an option because my body became resistant to the treatment.
My choices were either:
- A clinical trial to go on.
We chose immunotherapy first because it was the less aggressive route, knowing the trial was still an option. The Immunotherapy failed, almost sending me into a coma. So, I put in for the clinical trial.
Only issue? It shut down one week before I was supposed to start it. So, we didn’t really have options.
We could do nothing but wait. I was in the hospital for 68 days before they finally let me go home right before Christmas after spending my Birthday, Anniversary, and Thanksgiving in the hospital.
I planned my funeral, cleaned out my closet, and enjoyed Christmas as if it was my last.
Things started to slowly but surely get better.
I had my third and final battle with cancer.
During my blood work, I was told it had returned again for a third time. It had caught me so off guard. This time I didn’t feel off, they had caught it earlier. I figured for sure I had beat it this time. I wasn’t physically, mentally, emotionally ready at all to hear those words.
It felt like a complete sucker punch.
When the nurse and doctor left the room, I don’t know how long I sobbed to my husband.I just kept saying “I don’t think I can do it again”. As I cried my husband said: “We’ll do whatever you decide.”
Then I thought about my dad. I knew he would kill me if I just gave up. So I made a deal with myself, literally.
I said to myself:
Okay, one more time and that’s it, but this isn’t for you, it’s for your family.
I looked up to my husband and told him: "Okay, one more time." The doctor decided to go back to immunotherapy again. I went through four rounds of that, and it worked like a fucking charm. I’ve been in remission ever since. Going on 4 years now.
Like I said before, remission is where the healing truly starts.
In fact, I left out a conversation I had with my dad after my first remission. (And, I think you’d get something from it.) He was over at my place. I had just learned the cancer was back. As I’m holding back tears and I turned to him and said: “You know I might die, right?” He just said in a matter-of-fact type of way:
“I know. Sometimes we don’t all make it to the end.”
I beat cancer 3 different times. But yet, I just kept thinking: When is it coming back again? What’s the point of trying to live life if it is? Most importantly: (Which many cancer survivors wonder): Why did all this happen to me?
I just kept holding my breath thinking:
- “Yeah, it’s gone – but for how long?”
- Even though it was over, I was a mess.
- I had survived what had felt impossible.
- I got therapy and everything.
On top of that?
Not one survivor I talked to ever talked about the fear or anxiety they had when treatment ended, so I felt broken for having it. I felt even more alone than in treatment. I blamed myself for allowing my family to go through it.
Simply stated: I had survived the unsurvivable, yet I felt even worse than before having cancer.
I was the definition of survivor's guilt. My family spent over $100,000 just to keep me alive. I felt lost. I had beaten cancer, but what was I supposed to do now? Just go back to life after all of that? How do you do that? I could hardly sleep. I was always on edge ready to hear that cancer was back.
Nothing about what I was thinking or doing said “I am a survivor”. I wasn’t proud, rather embarrassed, feeling defeated by life. I mean...
How do you rebuild after that? I was completely fucking lost.
You know, trying stuff like:
- Reading self-help after self-help book
- Talking to “experts”
- Going on healing retreats
- And beyond (you name it I probably did it...)
That was when I truly realized...
Remission isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.
It took me years to understand this. It took me countless therapists. Trying X, Y, and Z. You’ll never be “normal” like before. You’ll forever be different. But, that’s not a bad thing - You’ll be stronger than before. Life can go back to normal, just not the old normal. It will be the new normal. Yes, believe it or not...
A Happier Healthier You Program
It was a first of its kind: A program specifically dedicated to helping women cancer survivors thrive after cancer.
A program designed to take all the pain women experienced during cancer and turn it into a positive.
A program designed to not only make women stronger, but help them find their new “normal” after cancer, and find genuine happiness again.Learn More
Book Your Free Call
My "A Happier Healthier You" program has helped countless women, and now I’d like to help you.
The process all starts with a phone call, so I can learn more about you and your journey.
Worst case scenario, you walk away in a better mental space than before you started the call.
Sound good? Book your call now.Let's Talk!