• When I was two years old, my father was diagnosed with his first cancer. He had Stage IV Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He endured chemotherapy and was cured, but it left him slightly immobilized; the lower portion of both his legs were left slightly numbed (he told me they were kind of tingly when I was a kid), so he could no longer run or jump. He never lost his hair, though!
• Immediately following his cancer/chemo, my dad contracted Lysteria Meningitis, a serious bacterial infection. Doctors believe he was susceptible because of his lowered immune system from the chemo. This is actually my earliest memory. I don't know if I was still two or had turned three, but I remember holding my mom's leg and watching as the paramedics lifted my dad out of bed and onto a stretcher and put him in the aid car.
• When I was nine, doctors found Renal Cell Carcinoma in my dad's right kidney. He went in for surgery and they removed the entire kidney. Cancer gone!
• 12 years old - my dad has a spinal stroke, which is an extremely rare type of stroke (and actually the best kind of stroke he could have had, which sounds strange because a stroke is still a stroke...) Strokes usually occur in the brain, but I think his stroke was technically in his brain stem, so it didn't affect any of his cognitive abilities or his facial muscles (very lucky!). Unfortunately, it did affect the right side of his body, particularly his right leg. He spent a long time (I actually don't remember much from this time... probably some kind of brain protective-mechanism) at an in-patient recovery/physical therapy center. Since the stroke, he has had to wear a leg brace and walk with a cane.
• When I was 13, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with Lung Cancer - I actually don't know any of the details on this. He lived in Texas, so my mom and I went and visited him. While we were there, he went into hosipice care in his home. He died while we were visiting. I had the opportunity to hold his hand, tell him goodbye, and witness his passing. I think this experience changed my outlook a bit, as it would for anyone who can say they've watched a person die.
• At the age of 15, a friend of mine who was also only 15 committed suicide. It was very sudden and shocking. She had been a very close friend to me in middle school, but in high school she started hanging out with a different crowd. We had stayed in contact and actually reconnected a bit right before her death. I think I will probably have a post dedicated to her in the future, there's too much to talk about here. This was probably one of the most important and defining events in my entire life. It changed who I was and how I thought about everything.
• A year later, when we were 16, another very close friend attempted suicide. I played an important part in saving his life. He is still one of my oldest and best friends.
• In the beginning of 2009, even though my boyfriend and I practiced safe sex, I became pregnant unexpectedly. This is probably the biggest secret I have, actually. Most definitely the hardest thing to talk about and write about, and I know it will be controversial. I have never publicly revealed this, and even though this is an anonymous blog, I'm not even sure I want to post this. But I'm going to. I was not at a point in my life where I felt that I could properly raise a child; not financially, not emotionally, not in any way. I chose to end the pregnancy through a medication abortion. It was an extremely difficult decision, but I know that it was the right one at that time.
• About a month later, my dad had another suspected Renal Cell Carcinoma on his only remaining kidney. A laproscopic surgery was performed and they removed a small portion of his kidney. Cancer gone, again! Now he only has one partial kidney.
• October 2010. I was 23. My dad had just turned 71 in September. Diagnosis: Stage IV Lung Cancer, inoperable. This is cancer number four that he's had to face in his lifetime.
• January 2011. After a family meeting with a doctor, hospice care is suggested. Hospice is end-of-life care, meaning no more treatments and they just try to keep you as comfortable as possible until you die. My dad enters at-home hospice care.
And that leads us up to now. I think it's also worth noting that I've struggled with clinical depression throughout a lot of this... I had a brief bout of depression when I was 12 (lasted about 6-9 months after my dad's stroke) and then from ages 15 to the present I've been battling against it.
I've never written anything down like this before. It feels very strange to have it all out of my head, and to see it all laid out chronologically. Plus, it looks long. My hope is that having all of this out in the open will make writing easier for me, and that readers will be able to understand my experiences and perspective when I write in the future.
~ ~ ~On a lighter note, I woke up and checked my blog today and was thrilled to see that I had my first comment and first follower! A humongous thank you to Melissa and Kevin! It's nice to know that at least someone is reading! It's also a little scary... But hopefully there will be a lot more fear and excitement in the future.