17 things I learned in the 17 years since I was diagnosed with childhood cancer.


March 11, 1998.

We never forget the days that change our lives. We never forget the moments that change our lives, as a matter of fact. I had one of those on that day. I haven’t forgotten it. I never will.

I had been walking with a limp for about 3 weeks. I was a totally healthy, vivacious, excited little girl. Here’s a picture!

Age 6. :)

Age 6. 🙂

See? Right? Totally healthy. But that knee pain I had wouldn’t go away.

On March 11th, 7:35am, I was walking to the school bus. About halfway there, I fell down. There was a serious sharp pain in my left knee. I remember thinking I didn’t want to look dumb (classic 3rd grade thought process) and it hurt. A lot a lot a lot. The bus was waiting, and it was a shorter distance to get on the bus than to go home, so I got on the bus. I went through my day, limping along, trying not to walk. I have no idea how I was even moving at all.

We had an appointment scheduled with my family doctor that afternoon. When I walked into the office, he told me that he hadn’t seen anyone ever limp like that. The reason? My femur was shattered. The reason?

Bone cancer.

I was 7 years old. I played basketball and giggled and tried to avoid going to sleep at night.

Cancer?

CANCER?

The next day started 49 weeks of chemotherapy, the removal of my leg and a procedure called Rotationplasty (You can learn about that here.) and way too many sharp needles, anesthesia and brokenhearted moments than I can consciously remember or that I should have had to go through as a human being, regardless of age.

So, in honor of the days that I have lived (happily) since then, I want to share with you 17 things that I have learned since March 11, 1998.

1. Life is short. 
Not in the cliche, “Yeah, people say that all the time…” way, but in the “Don’t wait until someone you love is dead in a car accident before you figure this out.” way. Seriously, it can all end right now, and you need to not worry what everyone thinks of you or feel bad when people don’t like you. Choose the way you want to live those short days and then do that. Live, please.

2. Kids die. 
And it sucks. It sucks way worse than someone who has lived to 80 years-old dying. I’m not saying any one life is more important than another, but I am telling you that burying my best friends (4 of them) by the age of 12 is horrendous and wrong. It’s so so so so wrong. Parents should not have to live all the years their kids were supposed to without them. Which leads me to…

3. There is a pathetic amount of money allotted for childhood cancer research. 
I had 49 weeks of poison (chemotherapy) that potentially ruined my heart, potentially took my ability to have children, and certainly made me throw up burning vomit way too many times. The saddest part is that it’s been 17 years and kids today are still taking the exact same awful drugs. With an 80% survival rate. (Which I would say is definitely much lower than 80.) And they haven’t figured out why a lot of my friends never lived and I did. There aren’t many people who took this stuff and grew into adulthood, so there’s not really a way for me to know what my future related to this stuff will bring. Please help. Follow this facebook page and do what it says: TheTruth365.

4. Haters are gonna hate.
There is a saying that goes something like, “In the world people are going to hate you, and people are going to love you, and none of it has anything to do with you.” People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed. (Thanks, Frozen!) So be graceful and don’t worry too much.

5. God is everywhere. 
You just have to let yourself listen. Even when the truth hurts. Especially when the truth hurts.

6. Illness isn’t terrifying.
Sometimes it is, I suppose, but for anyone who is the friend of someone with a chronic or serious illness, don’t leave said person or family alone. And don’t be upset if they want space or you say the wrong thing. But answer the phone at 2am, expect nothing, give real hugs, and be willing to be whatever they need.

7. You should love yourself. 
There is a complex that tends to come after someone has been through a near-death experience which includes putting everyone else first. And then putting everyone else first until that person is basically dead from never paying attention to themselves. So it’s good to take care of yourself. Paint and laugh and don’t let people use you. You deserve the best too.

8. I am handicapped. 
Lots of people are. In fact, we all are – face the fact. We all have something really wrong with our broken souls. And I think that’s a really important thing to remember when someone can’t help themselves and you have the opportunity to love them.

9. It’s not easy to talk about pain. 
I’m a professional speaker, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to talk through the agony that I experienced. There’s this fine line between people wanting to hear the truth and people thinking you’re asking for pity by sharing what you’ve felt. Pay no attention to those people. If you have pain, talk about it. If they choose not to listen, they lose.

10. People won’t always leave, and they won’t always leave you.
There’s my greatest fear. Now you know that. (Yay vulnerable!) I’m sure this grew from holding my friends’ hands while they died and thinking I would never be fully understood again, but in the years since that and some wonderful people in my life, I have learned that people won’t always leave. And I have learned that some people really really want to stay and love me if I let them be inside my heart. Give people a chance.

11. Healthy food isn’t just a fad. Tubing 2
Having a life threatening illness was pretty awful. But it also benefited me in great ways. Because I don’t like toxins because of that experience, I avoid them. And I am pretty particular about taking care of myself with what I put inside my body. And I know I live a more full, happier life because of it. Eat less Doritos and more broccoli. It’s worth it!

12. Downtime is not wasted time.
I laid in my bed for a really long time when I was sick. Like, about a year. And it’s clear that that time has not been wasted, even though I was doing nothing for 49 weeks. You’re human. Slow down. Life will come to you.

13. Sometimes hope just doesn’t feel real. 
There will be times in your life where you can’t hope. Where you realize that the thing that you have been hoping for for so long just isn’t going to happen. And that’s okay. Give up, cry, get mad, do whatever you need to do. Just because we don’t think there is hope doesn’t mean there isn’t. And it doesn’t mean that the days won’t get brighter again. They will.

14. Tie your brain to your heart. 
If you want to do something that really helps people, don’t just dream. Figure out what skills you need to tangibly do the work. For example, if you want to travel the world and feed homeless, start learning languages now. If you want to start a business, learn how to start a business. And then put your heart into your intellect.

15. Don’t take boredom for granted. 
I remember being 15 and telling my parents I was bored. But then I realized that I may be bored because my life is just okay at that time. And it’s not falling apart. And that means there’s goodness – and that’s not boring at all.

16. Bad things can still be bad years later, but they don’t have to rule you. 
I realize that there are some things from cancer which totally left me with PTSD. That’s the reality for my life, and I’ve accepted it. That’s pretty lame, but so are tsunamis, and I haven’t been through one of those. And some other people have to accept them in their lives. So it’s okay to not like things that happened to you. But that doesn’t mean they are in your now, or that they will take you down. Nah, there’s always healing, and always growth. And you’re good now. Just learn and live.

17. Jesus loves you. Jesus
I have tried this one out. I have searched the depth of my heart and society many times. I have watched people die, kids without parents in hospitals, and kids around the world who have no medical care and die just because of that. And there is still love – and love is the currency we should really use. Jesus is the only way to God, and there is one God, and He is Jesus’ father. And you know what? Whether you know it or not, He loves you. And He’s going to come back. Don’t wait to talk to him until your life doesn’t make sense anymore. Someone will always, always love you.

Here’s to 17 more years!

Love to you all.

…because love wins.

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Why ADHD is not a disorder.


I love my boyfriend.

A whole lot.

When I met him, he talked a lot. I was really depressed and that was totally annoying to me because I couldn’t handle anything. Once, we went to lunch and he talked for the whole hour straight. I couldn’t make more than 3 sentences fit together, but he struggled to be able to make 3 sentences make sense together. I used to talk a lot too. (Haha. I still do sometimes.) So I kind of understood that. I had just gotten out of a relationship, as had he. So, we had lots of learning to do. And this clearly was not a good place to start another relationship. But there was something cool about that guy.

A couple months passed and we talked here and there. He was loyal, passionate, a dreamer, compassionate, and lively. And that’s awesome. Everyone loves that. He loved that too. And I love that. After a while, I could see that his mind always ran in 100th gear. I asked him if he ever thought of ADHD being a thing in his life. I knew a couple people with it before, but he managed really well. I could just see how tired he would get listening to his head go so fast.

So I started doing some more research. Yeah, totally could be it. I had just been treated for my depression and therefore found it hard to not be researching mental illness and how to be healthy. Fast forward a long ways, some more meds for us both, some new learning, some work and school adaptations, and here we are.

We’re not perfect by any means. We’ll tell you that. But we do understand each other pretty well. And we understand grace in new ways now. Ray can focus better, and learn things with more silence in his brain. And pay attention to me. And I’m not breaking down because he struggles to give me attention. And I have learned to be able to recognize when he does his best. And he, my best.

But the point of this post is to express that I don’t think “Attention Deficit  Hyperactivity Disorder” should be called a disorder. As I look around at the adults in my life, I see an awful lot of them that exhibit the signs of adult ADHD. They speak without thinking, they spend foolishly, they can get confused, and sometimes they can just be mean because they’re overwhelmed. And that’s pretty interesting to me. Because obviously in this society, we aim for order. And peace. And straight lines. But, that’s not always what everyone is.

Energy is suppressed rather than re-directed. They’re misunderstood and disliked because of the way they state things. They probably don’t understand some key life pieces because they couldn’t learn them when they were little. But that doesn’t mean they’re broken. That just means they’re different. So maybe people need to draw a picture rather than read a paragraph. Or maybe they have incredible insights into the world to share. That doesn’t make them broken.

I don’t love ADHD. Neither does he. But, we do understand it. And we do know that it’s a part of our life. The sooner we stop hating the person with the ADHD, the easier it is to work with and around the ADHD. Because I’ll tell you, ADHD means that that person has been through a lot in life…simply dealing with their own minds. And that means that they understand people beautifully. They may be right on the verge of helping someone else…or reaching their full potential. But they just need someone to pay attention long enough to show them how to pay their own attention.

My boyfriend doesn’t have a disorder. He’s got different abilities than I do. And he knows Jesus in a new way because of that. Because Jesus is still the king of all.

…because love wins.

Words.


We all carry some pretty powerful weapons on our lips. The same lips carry band aids for the the soul. 

Words. 

Sometimes words are the most exceptional of things. I myself am a lover of affirmation. So I am a lover of positive words. 

But there have been words that have wounded me deeply. Because they hold the same power when they are terrible as well. 

Words. 

Quick. Slow. Quiet. Hopeful. Lies. Truth. 

The thing about words, is that they represent something more. They represent a person. And I’ve learned something. From God, from my mother, and from my father. Words should not be said unless you mean them. If you say something positive, you best follow through. Or else your words will quickly mean nothing. If you say something negative, you need to realize that those words carry on. They carry on to the trust that someone has for you later. They carry on to the trust they have for others. 

Do you really need to use that name? 

Do you really need to express your anger while you’re angry? 

Is it really their fault? Or are you calling them what you should be calling yourself? 

Words are powerful. They can make people stay. They can make people cry. They can make people laugh. And they can also make people leave. 

Here are some of my favorite songs about words. Today, and every day, think long and hard and choose them wisely. Think about what you would feel being talked about that way. And what you would feel if you said those things to someone. They can change everything. 

What are Words: Chris Medina

Words: Hawk Nelson

…because love wins.

Why it’s important that you’re healthy.


Today’s challenge in the 40 day challenge is to use something that God has blessed me with to bless another. I’m not a painter, so I’m not going to paint, but I really do love to write, so I’m going to do that. Hi. 

I lived a lot of my life depressed. I’m not exactly sure when I got depressed, but I know when my first real bout of depression came in. I was 16 and my whole life flopped on it’s head with breakups and deaths and cancer. And I thought I had it all together. Haha. No way man. So I basically fell apart. 

I knew that I was depressed. I got out of it. Started biking hundreds of miles per month and eating everything that could possibly help. I was in the sun probably way too much, but I made it. I’ve been aware since then that it’s something I needed to pay attention. I kind of survived college, though there were quite a few days where I thought International Finance 440 was going to be the death of me. Not sure if that was the reality or the depression, but I digress. 😉 

But, living years with depression even though I knew that I had it changed some pieces of me. Namely, my understanding of relationships. I was blessed with many healthy friends, but I also tended towards very unhealthy people. People who had enough issues that I could either a) try to fix them and feel needed and therefore not lonely, or b) know that I was going to feel okay because at least my issues were inside and no one could see them. (thanks, depression.) 

Fast forward to now. I was treated for my depression in January of 2013. It’s changed everything. I can sleep well, I can accomplish things, I can get places on time. And I can catch my brain when it goes off the deep end. But there are still those things that I need to re-learn. 

This is a time of health in my life. Attaining good balance, learning what healthy relationships look like, and mostly, demanding how I should be treated in life. There were plenty of people who manipulated and used me because I allowed them to in my life. They didn’t intend to – they were ill, but I was needed and it filled my emptiness, so I let it happen. But then all of a sudden a person (that’s me) wakes up and decides that they don’t want to live a stinky life like that anymore. 

So now here I am. People obviously aren’t going to be perfect all the time, but if you don’t demand that you treat yourself in a cherished way, and also demand that of others by not allowing them to abuse you, then it’s always going to be that way. You have to stand up for yourself. You have to know that where you are weak you cannot allow others to punch you in the heart and make you bleed. You have to know that this is your life and it’s so important that you’re healthy. You are alive, and therefore are allowed to live a beautiful, happy life. And not everyone will suck. 

Also, if you’re anyone who has someone who allows you to call them names or yell at them or immaturely deal with issues in your life and they’re not standing up for themselves, realize that you’re probably unhealthy too. And it’s time for you to get help as well. 

Here’s to being healthy, and being healthy making other people healthy. Just because other people are hurting doesn’t give them the right to hurt you. And just because you’re hurting, it doesn’t mean you can hurt other people either. 

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…because love wins.