Good morning, blog friends!
I hope you are all having a fabulous week so far–I will share with y’all what on earth is happening in my world this week. Just wait for it LOL.
Anyways, after a conversation I had with a girl I met yesterday at the Starbucks on campus, my mind started racing (like always-thank you, chronic anxiety!!)
She is a first semester freshman and was asking me about my major, clubs I am a part of, my job, and just typical questions like that. She was so lovely! But, I did not start thinking until like an hour after our conversation (this happens to be in the middle of lab where we are talking about Hydrogen bonds for the MILLLIONTH time……. I swear, y’all, my child will be named Hydrogen Bond or something. I do not know why that topic comes up so much in my classes! So weird.) Anyways, I started thinking about that girl I met in line at Starbucks and how she’s just not starting this brand new journey and her canvas is BLANK. It’s a beautiful thought if you think about it enough. She is an English major so our interests weren’t similar, which is okay. I think I was still able to offer her some pretty solid advice/tips I wish someone had give ME my first semester freshman year.
And, that brings me to the point of this post. My college journey, personally, has been TOUGH. And not necessarily in an academic sense, but like in my personal life. I’m just gonna lay it all on ya! I don’t like to talk about all this too much, but when the topic arises and I feel like I can share this stuff without seeming like an attention-seeker with self pity then I will gladly share my story! Whew, here we go!
When I say my first semester started off terribly, I literally mean it STARTED TERRIBLY. I remember this day so vividly. I was wearing a University of Nevada tshirt (my home state!) with skinny jeans and sandals because I didn’t know what to wear. Should I go for the cute, dressy look? Or the “I am in college and can roll out of bed” look? It was a tragic decision at the time, LOL. That day, I also was starting a new “big girl” job as I like to call it. I still currently am employed there and have worked my way up a little through the years. Any who, during all of this, my dad was in the ICU on a ventilator. He fell off an incredibly high ladder at work a week prior and was in rough condition. The doctors were not optimistic. My mother is handicapped due to a whole other story, so I was definitely the head of household throughout this time. I have two little brothers, and an older sister. My sister still lives and is a teacher in Nevada. So, as you can probably imagine, being 18, about to start college, a brand new mature job, a critically ill dad, and a house to run was stressful.
Part of me wonders, still, if attending that first day of school and work was the right decision. I really did think long and hard about it at the time. I wanted to spend all the time in the world next to my dad’s bed, but I remember whispering to him (I talked, talked, talked to him the whole time though I didn’t know if he could hear me) asking him if I should go to my first day of college/new job or just email the professors and my new boss. My dad, on a ventilator and unable to open his eyes, talk, communicate, squeezed my hand three times which lead me to dig deeper and ask, “does this mean you can hear me?” and he squeezed my hand again. So, I said, “daddy, do you want me to stay here with you or do you think I should go to my first day at school and work? Squeeze twice for me to stay here, and three times for me to go.” He squeezed three times. This was his first time communicating with any of us, so that moment is so special to me. My dad and I have always had a very close bond. So I spent that first week in school and training at my job now. All I could think of was my dad, though. I was constantly texting family members and asking for updates.
Four days later, my dad was sitting up, watching football and asking for beer! LOL! It was insane and the ICU staff all told me it was a miracle based on all of his labs and such from the days just before. He made such a sudden comeback!
haha, just kidding.
But honestly, this next story is one of the books. This also happened my first semester of college Freshman year. My family’s been through the ringer. There is so many more stories I have, but I’m keeping this post restricted to just me and my college bumps in the road. (the very beginning of that road lol). HERE WE GOOO!
Oct. 10 (I remember the date exactly) I felt severe pain in my right side. I had experienced that pain before but never sought medical attention because it would normally go away. But on that particular day, I knew something was wrong. For about a month before, I had dreams multiple times of me ending up in hospital elevators or doctors offices when I was trying to go to school. Blurry faces would say “Erin, you need to go to the doctor! Follow us!”….gives me chills still thinking about it. I had a hunch and went to the ER that evening. There was a lot of “fluid” in my belly but an absurd amount. So, they admitted me and the next day started running every test in the book. They decided to go in and do an exploratory laparotomy because my levels and symptoms were all just weird. Weird is seriously the only way we could word what was going on.
After being put under anesthesia, my surgeons made that first cut, got a look at the inside of my belly, stitched me up IMMEDIATELY and sent me by ambulance to Northside Hospital in Atlanta (about 30 mins from where I live). I was referred to a world-class oncologist there because they found hundreds of tiny tumors ALLLLLLL around my abdomen and they said it also looked like there was some sort of jelly alongside those tumors. Sorry if that’s TMI, but it just adds to the rareness and strangeness to this story!! I met my wonderful surgical team that I still thank God for everyday and communicate with, actually! But, they ran even more tests and diagnosed me with pseudomyxoma peritonei. Super, super, super rare, y’all. We scheduled surgery, I withdrew from classes for the semester (I was devastated because I was doing so well in all my classes), and I started on the treatment plan the team designed for me up until my surgery! Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared. I really, truly wasn’t. It may have been shock, but I like to think it was my relationship with God. I always pray for peace and I felt peace. Nobody else did, but I sure did, even though I was scheduled for a ten hour major surgery with chemo to follow just that following month.
This post is incredibly long so I won’t go into all details, but, my surgery ended up going SO WELL. I was the talk of the hospital because they took samples of the nasty concoction of Lord knows what, and sent it off to pathology who came back during surgery and said it was BENIGN. Yes, my cancer miraculously was benign. It was not before as they ran extensive testing before my surgery, but I didn’t have cancer!!!!!! I had an extremely rare disease that we didn’t find out about until a month after the surgery. The surgeons sent samples off to premier research hospitals all over the country. Like I said, my surgeons were world-class surgeons and had never seen ANYTHING like what those tumors/jelly was. Path came back a month later, right in time for my post-surgical complications where I once again was hospitalized for three weeks. I was so sick. I had an NG tube that entire time and lost nearly 20 pounds from that second visit alone. I ended up okay and was discharged, yet had follow ups at the hospital so often.
This photo was about two weeks after my huge surgery. They took the tubes out and there is a McDonald’s sweet tea right next to me!! My first request 😉 Those flowers were sent from my sister’s sorority at the University of Nevada!
This was about a month after the second time being admitted for the post-op complications. My parents surprised me with Lucy!! I was very lonely and very depressed during that INCREDIBLY LONG medical leave of absence from school and work. She was so calm and cuddly which was perfect because I couldn’t having her jumping on that fresh incision!!
That whole medical fiasco put me behind a year in college. I had to withdraw and focus on myself and my health. I am doing great now, I have a “Frankenstein scar”, I like to call it. It starts at the top of my rib cage and goes vertically all the way down my stomach. I am so proud to wear this scar.
On my last day at Northside, my surgeon was discharging me and everything and we were just chatting (we grew very close) and he hugged me and said, “Erin, my dear Erin, if there is something in this world that you dream of doing, you better do that because God kept you here for a reason. This case is the reason I continue to believe in God. He has plans for you, my dear.” He hugged me, hugged my parents, and off I went. That was such a HUGE moment for me. I can just hear those exact sentences coming out of his mouth word-for-word.
I often think of that moment when I am struggling with school and second guessing why I am doing all this- full time school, full time job, etc. It’s exhausting. But, I know it will be worth it. I know this post was long but I wanted to share some of my life’s story with you guys. I love this blogging community and feel comfortable to talk about all of that with y’all.
I hope I didn’t bore you to death!! I hope this gave you some early morning Thursday motivation! Shit happens, but if you want something bad enough, you make it happen, guys. Feel free to email/comment/reach out to me!! I love chatting with you guys! Don’t be a stranger 🙂