Friday, August 1, 2014

Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

This was one of the many messages I received when I watched Stuart Scott's Espy speech.  Many people did not know he is battling cancer and has been for years, but his message is incredible when he received the perseverance award.  If you want to watch it, here is the link.  It will start your August off great...

Yes, yes I's been forever since I have updated my blog.  I feel like a broken record when I say,  "I am going to do better."  I really honestly have every good intention of writing in here more often, but well, you all know the answer to that.  I'll say it again...I'll try to do better.

I do know one thing though, I will never give up.  Giving up is failing.  Making mistakes are OK, but giving up is something that is not in my vocabulary.  It has been 4 years now that I have been cancer free (!!!).  FOUR years.  Looking back it all seems like a blur.  I really had cancer?  I really had this awful disease in my body that was trying to kill me?  I really lost my hair?  I really was sicker than I ever believed I was.  But you know what?  I never gave up.  Yes, I had bad days.  Yes, I cried in privacy.  Yes, I screamed and yelled and wished this would have never happened to me.  I never gave up though.  As my Mom recently said, people always tell you, "gee you look good and gosh you are doing great."  Yes, that's great to hear, but we don't always want to hear that.  Mom said it perfect..."sometimes we just need to unleash our anxiety, woes, fears and tears."  Cancer isn't easy.  It's not fun and it downright sucks.  What sucks even more is that it's with me for the rest of my life.  Not physically, but mentally.  I may have made cancer look easy by the way I handled it, but deep down inside I struggled.

Although it's been four years, I still don't think I have completely grasped the fact that I went through what I did.  People view me different than I view myself from what I went through.  I want to see myself as they see me, an inspiration, the strongest person they know and amazing.  To me, it doesn't really feel like a big deal.  Eh, I beat cancer.  I did what only I knew I had to do.  Win.  Failure was not an option, dying wasn't either.  Four years ago I did something that I pray none of you have to go through.  I have no idea why it doesn't seem like it's a big deal, but I am currently working through these feelings with a professional and releasing this traumatic experience from my nervous system.  It's a slow process and I feel like I am relieving the past, but it is something I need to do for myself.  I know in the end when I come to grasps from what I went through I will feel free.  What I went through was a HUGE deal and when I come to realize this, I will accept this feat for what it is, amazing.

August is scan month.  I have to admit I have "scanxiety."  Do I want to feel like this?  No.  Do I want to wake up everyday and wonder "is it back?"  No.  What was that pain?  Why is my leg swollen?  Is it more swollen than usual?  Was that there before?  You can seriously drive yourself crazy thinking about it and playing the "what if" game.  I honestly will not breathe a sigh of relief until I go into my Doc's office on August 27th and hear him say, "you are fine.  Everything looks good."  I truly believe I am fine,  but the mind is a powerful engine and it can seriously drive you into a tizzy.

It does get easier as the years pass, but then you hear cancer come back in people (Mom for instance).    It's honestly my biggest fear.  I recently watched "The Fault in our Stars."  Great flick.  I was warned to bring tissues.  The only part that chocked me up was the part (***spoiler alert***) that his cancer had returned and he was now terminal.  I can play the "what-if" game my whole life, daily and by the minute, but how healthy is that?  I can't do that.  What I can do is live my life, thinking positive and believing in myself and body that I have done all that I can to keep cancer away from me...forever.

So, in the end my message to you all is to not give up.  Follow your dreams.  Life is too short to be anything but happy.  I am pretty sure I have told you all this before, but it seems like lately it has more meaning in my life.  Maybe I am realizing and coming to terms with what I went through.  Maybe it is finally sinking in.  Regardless of what you are faced with in your life, just don't give up.  Promise me that.

Till the next time--


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just keep swimming...

The title of this blog has more than one meaning to me, right now, in my life...

1.  It's getting hot up in here.  We had our first few consecutive days over 100 degrees.  That means pool season is in full effect.  I think I will be able to enjoy my pool a whole lot more this year than I ever have before.  I mean a quick swim is good for a study break right?  Of course that's after I apply SPF.

2.  I'm halfway into my 3rd quarter and technically almost done with my 1st year of medical school.  There is a Q3.5 this summer, but that is only electives that I have to fulfill, all pass/fail courses and definitely nothing like what I have experienced these past 3 quarters.  Not even close.  This current quarter reminds me of Q1.  It's a lot.  Thankfully I know what to do now to manage all the material that is coming out of this water hose and thankfully the material that we are hot and heavy into is most interesting to me!  We have LOTS of Microbiology this quarter and I think our immune system, bacteria and viruses is really interesting.  Midterms are up next week and before I know it this quarter will come to an end so until then, I just keep swimming...

3.  I relate this phrase to my Mom's journey as well and I tell her, just keep swimming.  She's almost to the end of this nightmare.  Since I wrote last, she completed her 1st 3 rounds of chemo and then had about 4 weeks off before she started 5.5 weeks of radiation (28 treatments!).  She went to the same place at the same time M-F for 5.5 weeks.  How monotonous does that sound?  Come last Thursday Mom was ever so happy to NOT visit that place!  She has now successfully completed radiation.  Another milestone reached as she gets closer to the finish line.  What's next?  3 more rounds of chemo.  I can only hope her side effects are better and definitely not worse than they were the 1st 3 rounds.  Some neuropathy (nerve pain in her lower extremity), extreme weakness/fatigue,  fuzziness, an "out of it" feeling,  nausea, hot/cold flashes (no, it's not menopause!), chemo cough and well just a really bad hangover for a few days was what she experienced in a nutshell.  (Hope I explained that right Ma!)  Chemo is no joke I tell you.  It is definitely NOT fun.   I am sure she is more than ready to put these next 3 treatments behind her and get her strength back.  Although she rocks the bald head as good as I did (and maybe better) I'm pretty sure she's ready to have some hair back on her head too!  But, what better time of year to have a bald head...  So Mom, just keep on swimming, you are almost there!!!

The last few weeks and months have definitely had some high moments and some lows but at the end of the day I am ever so fortunate to be here and I remind myself daily to never take anything for granted.  And with that, I will keep on swimming....

Till the next time--


PS:  Here is my Mom's radiation graduation certificate!!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

On break and catching up!

Hello all!  It's been a couple months since I last wrote, please excuse me, but when in school I feel like that's all I do!  I keep telling myself to write in my blog, but I tend to just look at my mountain of school notes instead.

So, how are things?  I am doing GREAT.  I just finished my 2nd quarter of med school and improved over last quarter.  I got the B I wanted in HUBI!  I'm stoked!!  This upcoming 3rd quarter is my last quarter for HUBI and things get interesting classes get changed up.  It'll be nice to move on...

Mom is doing great!  She has finished her 1st round of 3 chemo treatments.  She handled them like a champ (she may not agree) but like anyone going through chemo she did have her ups and downs.  The one symptom she complains about the most is the lack of energy.  If you know my Mom she's one that likes to say busy but she keeps running out of steam!  It's no wonder that happens when your immune system gets kicked to the curb!  She's a trooper though and keeps marching on.  This week she is getting scanned and such to begin radiation next week.  She will go through 6-7 weeks of radiation and then she will have a final 3 rounds of chemo and hopefully this nightmare will be over FOR GOOD.  Please continue to keep her and my family in your thoughts.

Right now I am on break and although it began with a bout of a stomach bug, I am happy to report I am feeling better and enjoying my time off.  I have spent more hours on the couch these past few days than I did all last quarter.  I am 4/4 on naps and it's a great feeling to wake up and having nothing to do!  

That's the update from here.  I hope you all are enjoying the beginning of Spring!  I feel like we had no winter and have an extended Spring here in AZ!

Here are some pics of my amazing Mom as she lost her hair (and yes it was hard watching her go through that!)...but isn't she beautiful?!

Till the next time...

Love, Erin

Monday, February 3, 2014

The "C" word strikes my family again....

Cancer has made its way back into my family, this time visiting my Mom...again.  You would think facing cancer once would be enough, but twice?  Really?  I don't get it.  BUT, in true Ellis fashion my Mom  has beat it once again.  She is cancer free.  Many of you know already about her recent battle, but in case you haven't and want the details, here you go.  (Hopefully I don't confuse the crap out of you!)

She was diagnosed just before Thanksgiving with adenocarcinoma of endometrium, which is basically uterine cancer.  Uterine cancer is a silent cancer and most women don't even know they have it.  This is why it is so important to get your yearly checkups with your doctors.  Get blood work done, do everything possible because you really just never know.  Uterine cancer is common and very curable.  To rid her body of cancer once again all she needed was a full hysterectomy, which she needed anyways.  So, she was not only removing her female parts, she was removing the beast as well!  Her doctor, Doctor Wingo performed the surgery (mid-December) and everything went just great.  The surrounding lymph nodes were not affected and she believed she rid my Mom of cancer.  A long healing process ensued for my Mom (probably a good 3 weeks of decent pain), but soon she was back on her feet and to her old self again.  It wasn't until the follow up with Dr. Wingo that she received more bad news.  We were told originally she most likely would not have to do chemo because she got all the cancer, but after talking with Dr. Wingo and going over her pathology,  it seemed that chemo would be the best option to make sure this cancer would NEVER come back.  If she were to not choose chemo and cancer reared it's ugly head once again it probably would be all over Mom's body.  SO, the pros of going through chemo outweighed the cons so beginning tomorrow Mom has her first treatment. For now her protocol is 3 treatments, then some radiation and a possible followup of more chemo (that is to be decided).  

So, how does this make me feel?  Well for one, it makes me mad.  I don't want to see my Mom go through what I had to.  It's not fun.  Everyone is different so how she will react to what is pumped through her veins tomorrow is unknown.  My Mom is the strongest person I know and I know she will do just fine, but I just wish this wasn't in her cards.  Will she lose her hair?  Her papers say yes, but a google search I did said "thinning."  Like I said everyone is different.  Who knows.  We won't know until she begins and that day is tomorrow.  I'm sure she will rock baldness as awesome as I did.  :)  Her chemo is totally different than mine.  She won't have a port inserted and she actually has to be in the "chemo room" for many more hours than I was!  6 hours of chillin' there tomorrow is what she's up for (at least they have WiFi)!  UGH!  Her time spent there in future treatments should be less.  Although it sucks really bad she has to go through this, knowing that she is eliminating the chances of this awful disease coming back into her body I am able to live with it.  And since my Mom is a fighter she has this in the bag and once again will come out a champion.  :)

This leads me to tomorrow.  It is a really bittersweet day.  For one it's World Cancer Day.  It's also the start of Mom's chemo AND it's my 4 year anniversary of the day I was told I had cancer.  I can't believe it's been 4 years.  I will never forget the time or place when I got the "news."  Although it was not the news I wanted, nor ever expected to hear, at least I finally knew what was going on in my body and I could start the fight.  4 years ago my life changed forever.  I know for a fact I would not be a student at SCNM if I didn't go through what I did.  Cancer truly is life changing and I am so thankful I am here to experience life and just like me, I know my Mom will fight on and continue to spread her powerful messages of being proactive with your health and be the amazing person she is.

As you rest your head down tonight, please say a prayer for my Mom and pray that she makes it through her chemo treatments without any hardships.  I am confident she will do just fine because she is the strongest person I know and she has the support of all of you, Team Ellis behind her.  You got this Mom!  Love you!!

Till the next time and thank you in advance for all your support--

Love, Erin

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A week of firsts...

Hello all!  So far I am already doing better writing in my blog.  I have a few topics that I'd like to discuss in future posts too, but for now I'd just like to reflect on the past week I had.  It was ah-ma-zing.  I had a week of firsts.  Well, 2 first.  2 big first in my life.  The first was all the hard work I have put in, the miles I have ran (122+ to be exact) since October and the pain my body has been through was put to the test one week ago at the PF Chang's 1/2 marathon.  I can now proudly call myself a half marathoner.  I DID IT!  I made it to the finish line.  Did I doubt that I could do it?  Heck no.  I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I also knew if I put my mind to it, I could make it happen and it sure did.  The last 3 miles were pretty painful, but all that pain was soon forgotten when I crossed that finish line and got my heavy metal of accomplishment.  I still can't believe I really did a 1/2 marathon.  Thank you to everyone who donated.  Our team raised over $11,000 for Phoenix Children's Hospital.  Your generosity not only made me finish the race but it will save a childs life, somthank you. Now I am left with such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, 2 blisters, a bloody toe and now a toenail falling off (sorry for the gruesome details).  I have also never been as sore as I have been in my entire life, but once again all the pain was a sign of an accomplishment.  Now what's next you ask?  A full marathon?  I think I need some new shoes first....

I also put my mind to something else as I started the new year.  If I want something bad enough and I put my mind to it, it will come.  I realized this week my mind is finally cooperating with me!  I got my first B in HUBI (on a major test!)!  I know that doesn't sound super exciting because I'm sure you (like me) are hoping I get A's but if you have read any of my previous posts, med school ain't easy.  And, it's a testament to myself that I am even "good" at school again!  I am just relieved and happy that the adjustments I have made are paying off.  So far so good and I am going to stick with my new routine.  Some powerful messages from classmates have been emailed/posted tonight about our reason for being where we are now.  I know without a doubt that I am where I supposed to be.  I know without a doubt I am supposed to be a doctor.  Of course I have some moments of doubt, but when I come back to reality and really think about my purpose and reason for doing so, it is exactly where I am supposed to be.

As the week concludes I hope to continue this "high" into this week and weeks to come.  I am excited to get back into the gym this week and do something else other than running!  So, as we start this new week just remember to relax, enjoy life and don't sweat the small stuff.   I'll leave you with a quote I posted on Instagram earlier this week that I truly believe in.  "If you are depressed, you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present."

Till the next time...

Love, Erin

PS:  Here are some pictures and a song from PINK that I LOVE.  It just seemed fitting for this post.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A New Year, A New Quarter...

Oh my I am horrible at writing in my blog.  Maybe I can do better in 2014?  I really do enjoy it and when I write in it I always feel better, so why don't I do it more often?!  Who knows...I suppose my excuse could be my new medical school life.  So how's it going you ask?  GREAT!  I passed my first Quarter of HUBI (Human Biology) with flying colors and I got an A and a B in my other classes.   I have to admit I was a little stressed out, ok maybe a lot stressed out.  It.ain't.easy.  I have never studied so much in my life and yet I still felt like I didn't know everything at the level I needed it.  There is just so much information!   Studying for finals was intense.  Full 12-16 hour days of studying with few, small breaks.  By the time I was into the 2nd half of the 6 hour final my brain was ready to explode.  I was so happy it was over with.  Then, the waiting game began.  We waited 8 days for our grade.  EIGHT!  That was EIGHT days into my break that I couldn't fully relax because I wasn't sure of my score.  Silly me though, I had nothing to worry about.  Whew.  I haven't done a happy dance around my house like an idiot since I beat cancer, but the day after Christmas I was dancing around here like a fool.  Frank and Heidi thought I was crazy, but I didn't care, I PASSED QUARTER 1!!!

So now what?  Well, I just enjoyed a glorious 18 days off.  I worked 2 catering jobs, slept, went to a Sun's game, slept, celebrated a few times, attended ASU graduation, spent lots of time with family, hung out with friends, slept, relaxed, played lots of games and slept.  Yes, I slept...A LOT.  Upperclassmen told us we would sleep a lot and I didn't believe them because I was proud of the fact that I was able to get at least 8 hours of sleep almost every night during the quarter.  I didn't think I would be tired.  But man was I wrong.  It took me 4 days to finally feel human again I was that tired.  I would sleep at least 10 hours a night and still feel groggy and lazy.  Goes to show you how much of an effect all that studying with a side of stress does to your body!  The quarter was so busy I didn't even decorate one bit for Christmas!  I know now if I don't do it over Thanksgiving break I won't get it done.  So I decided that if I didn't decorate I wasn't going to send out New Year's my friends and family I apologize that you will not get the yearly photo of me with the pups.

Quarter 2 begins tomorrow.  I am no longer the new kid on the block.  There are about 30 new kids coming in as Q1's that will eventually meet up with us Q4.  It feels so great to move on.  I am so excited to get back at it tomorrow and to have a clean slate.  I know now what to do to succeed Q2.  I am so much more organized and more than anything I know what to expect.  I wasted a lot of time last quarter doing things I didn't need to do because they were already done for me.  I was unorganized in the beginning and tried different ways to take notes.  Now that I know what works for me I feel like I am ahead of the game and I'm ready to punch HUBI in the face again!  I can do it!!

Aside from enjoying my glorious break I am 2 weeks away from running my first 1/2 marathon.  I still think I'm crazy for doing it because I really hate running.  I thought maybe once I kept doing it I'd like it, and I do kinda, but still I would rather take a spin class or lift weights.  This running for 2 hours at a time is ridiculously boring.  I couldn't imagine training for a full marathon or even those crazy athletes that do Ironman's.  Geez.  I ran for 2 hours today and I feel paralyzed from the waist down.  It hurts...why do I put myself through it?  I guess to show myself I can, just like everything else I embark on in my life.  Another thing I can cross off my list and pat myself on the back for.    Oh, it's not too late to donate to the sick kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital.  Any amount helps, so if you'd like, feel free to donate!  Thank you!!


My batteries are recharged, my brain has rested, I have a new outlook and I'm more optimistic.  Quarter 2 I am ready for you!  Bring it!!

Chat with you all later--I hope it won't be as long.  :)

Love, Erin

Here are some pictures of some medical school friends and some fun over break...