Claiming the title of Survivor

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So yes another cancer post. I promised this blog wouldn’t be all about cancer but it is definitely going to play a part. Cancer has played a part in my life but does not define it as a whole.

A few days after a CT scan revealed a tumor in my abdomen I began my “cancer journey” at MD Anderson. The experience of entering the hospital and being surrounded by so many sick people was surreal. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

Around the hospital, signs read “You became a survivor the day you were diagnosed.” It was a catchy slogan for a cancer hospital. Good branding, but not really something that I gave much thought to in the chaos.

Fast forward through finding out that my tumor was, in fact, pancreatic cancer and having four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the damage the initial surgery caused.

I returned to daily life wondering how exactly I was supposed to navigate this world as a “survivor”. I certainly didn’t feel like I earned it. I was a whiney difficult brat through most of my treatment. My misery radiated around me and I made a difficult situation worse with my poor attitude.

Inspiring cancer survivors are supposed to have remained hopeful through their treatments. They do things like dance during chemo and run marathons shortly after. Good cancer survivors don’t spend months wallowing in self-pity and dealing with severe bouts of depression. I wasn’t one of those people.

I also didn’t want to be labeled “that girl who had cancer.” I wanted to be known for other things, not some illness I didn’t handle well. Meeting new people, making new friends, and dating all presented new challenges. Should I mention it and if so when?

I still don’t have a great answer on that. It doesn’t seem right to start a Tinder date off with “Hi I’m Paige and I had cancer.” All I can picture with that is the amusing image of boys running for the hills. Not that I wasn’t good at chasing boys away before but this would be a new level, even for me.

For a while, I stuck with almost a “No New Friends” attitude. It was Drake, me and only our day ones. I felt like a different person and that scared me. I only wanted to be near people who knew me before so that they would know I wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t a great policy but it was where I was at during that time.

I’m more open to new friends and possibilities now. I have met a lot of great people in the past year or so and I am grateful for those relationships. Looking forward, I am excited to meet new people. I promise I’m friendly now guys! Please contact me if you want to talk about anything!

While I still don’t open conversations with the whole “I had cancer” line, I have been trying to embrace my status as a survivor a little more. I am more comfortable with it now. I don’t like keeping secrets. My illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Realizing that took longer than I’d like to admit though.

I am also learning to forgive myself for the way I acted in the midst of the worst period of my life. I was drowning at the time and I handled it as well as I could. While yes I could’ve been a little less grumpy it isn’t the end of the world. There is no manual for being a survivor. There is no formula you have to follow to be one. The only thing you have to do is survive, which I am lucky that I did, even if I was downer while I was in the process of fighting it.

So now I’m trying to be more open and let people in a little bit. If you have challenges you need to talk about I would encourage you to share your story. You can share with your friends, you can message me privately, or you can utilize social media to create an internet community around you. Speak up, there are people out there who listen and care.

With Love,

Paige

PS: If you or someone you know is a young adult cancer survivor (Diagnosed between 18-39) definitely look into First Descents. It is a great program and really helped me process things a lot. Here is the link https://firstdescents.org/out-living-it/

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What I’m doing instead

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Shirt: Urban Outfitters Location: Keene, New York

So yesterday I decided to publicly state that I am not going to college this semester.

It kinda feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders honestly. They say honesty is the best policy and it’s true. It is a relief, to tell the truth.

Part of the reason I was so reluctant to make this decision, however, was trying to figure out an answer to the question “What are you doing?”

Frankly, I don’t have a perfect answer for you but here’s my list of ideas so far. Worst comes to worst this post will help me perfect my listing skills so I can write for Buzzfeed.

  1. Working- I am currently working at J.Crew part-time as an associate and love it. My coworkers are nice, which is great. Also, the discount is my life. I could say I’m doing this to make money and while that is kinda true it’s mostly just to fill my closet with more J.Crew and Madewell. I feel fairly certain I will be blogging about my J.Crew and Madewell addictions very soon. The world holds its breath, I know!
  2. Travelling- If you have known me for a while or have scrolled through my Instagram you will know that I love to travel. In fact, I have studied abroad in twice already and might aim for a third when I return to school. That’s cool right, Mom and Dad? Anyways I definitely plan on using this time to visit my friends around the country. It’ll be like that Big and Rich song “Comin to your City”. I am already booked on a flight to LA this weekend to go see one of my best friends and I am pumped. I will also be trying to return to Georgia at least once to catch a game between the hedges. You can take a girl out of the SEC but you can’t take the SEC out of the girl. Go Dawgs! I will definitely be posting about these trips a lot and may even try to post some travel guides.
  3. Blogging- You’re here so duh. I definitely intend to be trying my hand at blogging and posting regularly. Let me know if there is something you’d like me to write about!
  4. Recreation- And no I don’t mean recreational drugs people. Tomorrow I am scheduled to go horseback riding for the first time in a long time. I can’t wait. I am also going to try and rock climb some by joining a climbing gym here in the Houston area. Other than that I will be looking for other ways to get active in a fun way. I may also try playing the piano again since I was a brat as a child and didn’t practice enough.
  5. Volunteering– I haven’t decided where exactly I will be volunteering but I am exploring several opportunities at the moment. I will definitely update once that is decided. If you have any suggestions let me know!
  6. Getting Healthy- This is the less exciting part. I will be going to doctors appointments and working to get answers and find solutions. My mom wants to go vegan together. I’m not really down for that plan but I do realize I may need to alter my diet depending on the results I receive. I love food so that will be very tough. That is another thing I will be eating! I am hoping I can eat my way to maybe a little extra weight and a little extra energy. I also would like to work out a little to try to gain some flexibility and strength. I could use a lot of improvement in both areas. Tips in this area would definitely be appreciated too!
  7. Learning- You don’t have to be in school to learn. Reading will be something I’m going to try to prioritize. Maybe I will even try to read War and Peace this fall? Has anyone managed that feat? Is it worth the read? I just want to make sure that I keep mentally active so I can stay sharp when I do return to school.
  8. Resting- While I have a lengthy list of things I’d like to do, I am also going to prioritize resting this semester. Resting is important. Self-care can only help both my mental and physical health. I hope I get to do a lot this semester but I am also going to try to be gentler with myself. If I need a break I am going to allow myself to stop and take it. I am not going to beat myself up over a few days spent just relaxing and allowing myself to feel refreshed. We need rest to heal and grow, so I am not going to deny myself of it.

Much Love,

Paige