Cancer is one of the most common and one of the most dreaded words of this century! We think we can escape this deadly disease by being a little cautious about our lifestyle and nutrition. But the shocking thing about cancer is, you never know whom, when and how it can attack anyone! Even the people with healthiest of lifestyles are seen to be affected by cancer. One such heart-warming story of a young girl being attacked by cancer multiple times has been brought to us by Cassie Sheets. Cassie is a coffee addict who happens to be a wife and a mom of two adorable cats named Mac & Cheese. She decided to take her love of chasing life’s adventures, combine it with her love of writing, by starting a blog.
Story of Adrian A Brave Cancer Survivor
At this point, I have tried to sit down and write Adrian’s story three different times. Each attempt left me staring at a blinking cursor for what felt like hours. Writer’s block wasn’t the problem. You see, Adrian beat cancer……TWICE! She’s amazing! After two-plus hours on the patio at Cafe Intermezzo and several delicious iced coffees later, I had her journey recorded on my phone. The good, the bad, all of it. My problem was I had no idea how I was going to find the words that would adequately display her bravery, strength, humor, and determination. Strap in as I give it a shot. While I will share with you the pain she experienced, the treatments she endured, and even one instance of her cat Elvis being smuggled into the hospital I think it will be very clear that she was always so much more than “the girl with cancer”. Guys, meet Adrian.
It is her sophomore year of high school and she’s sitting in Math which happens to be her first class of the day. She feels a lump near her clavicle, that wasn’t there the day before, and the word cyst immediately pops into her head. She asks the boy in front of her if he can see a lump. He responds with, “Yeah, but don’t worry it’s not that noticeable, your hair will cover it!” (Boys! Am I Right?) By fifth period it had grown. Thankfully the school nurse was a little more concerned than the boy in her math class and instructed Adrian to call her mom. With zero symptoms other than the lump, Adrian told her mom she would be fine until the end of the day. However, the nurse encouraged her mother to take her to the doctor immediately. Along with the possibility of it being a cyst or cat scratch fever, the doctor listed cancer. She never in a million years thought it would be cancer. The next day the doctor gives her a CT scan. After she completed the test, Adrian and her mother were given the okay to head home. As soon as they open the door to their house, the phone rings. The voice on the other end, tells them to come back. Once she returned to the hospital the doctors performed a biopsy. The results showed it was in fact cancer, Stage four Hodgkins lymphoma. It was everywhere. In her bones, spleen, and her entire lymphatic system. The doctors wasted no time. She was immediately admitted and underwent surgery to be given a port, which is a small device that is implanted under the skin to provide easy access to the bloodstream. Once she was out of surgery with her port in place, they began chemotherapy.
This all happened in a matter of two days. Were you scared? Was it hard? How did you process it? These are all questions she said she gets asked all the time. She didn’t have time to be scared. To quote her, “It was fight or flight and I chose fight”. Can you imagine that? One day you wake up and head to school and the next you’re receiving chemotherapy from a nurse who is covered from head to toe in gear that will protect them from the chemical they’re shooting straight into your aorta. Five rounds of chemo, with seven different drugs being administered each round took an immense toll on her body. She lost all of the hair on her body. Her eyelashes, eyebrows, nose hair, all of it was gone. When the hair on your head falls off, it doesn’t fall off gracefully. It hurts. Adrian described it as the sore feeling you get after putting your hair up in a really tight ponytail. Except ten times worse, and all over. As if losing your hair wasn’t already bad enough. Despite the constant hardships cancer was giving her, she continued to go to school as much as possible. While her world was being turned upside down, she wanted some sense of normalcy. Her school rallied behind her. There were posters plastered down every hallway in school that said “Pray for Adrian” and a giant banner on the football field that said, “We love Adrian”.
During one of her hospital stays, her family snuck her cat Elvis in to brighten her spirits. They put him in the wagon and laid a blanket on top of him. My cats would have probably lost their mind so I wanted to give a special shoutout to Elvis for being there for Adrian when she needed him the most. Plus, LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS! To make the story even better, Adrian was on pain medication and kept asking for Elvis because she wanted to show him to her nurse. In an attempt to keep their cover from being blown, her sister spoke up and said “I’m Elvis. That’s her nickname for me!” It would have worked if Adrian hadn’t said, “No you’re not. I’m talking about the cat!” The nurse’s eyebrows shot up. Thankfully before she could question it anymore her sister threw Adrian a stuffed animal cat that she had in the room. It worked! Elvis remained incognito until they took him back home later that day. While the treatments were absolute hell, her body responded well to them. After just six months of treatments, she was in remission. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last for long.
A few months later, her mother notices a very small lump on the opposite side of where the first one was and decides to take her to have it checked. Once again, the doctor suggests cat scratch fever. When Adrian told me that my jaw was literally on the table. I couldn’t believe her doctor would suggest that so nonchalantly after she just beat Cancer a few months earlier. While she and I laughed at such a ridiculous statement, it actually upset her at the time. She underwent another CT scan and the results made her doctors take her seriously. Her chances weren’t looking good. The doctors said it was abnormal to relapse so soon. They wanted to perform a biopsy just to be sure. With the first time being so rushed, the doctors decided to slow things down. They took more time to come up with a plan. This time they would bring her in for a biopsy, get the results while she is still under anesthesia and if the test came back positive she would wake up with a central line hanging out of her body. A central line is used to administer chemo into the bloodstream. They put her under. When she woke up, she saw the tubes hanging out of her body, she broke down. There was no doctor or family member breaking the news. The tubes were there because her cancer was back. She asked the doctors and nurses to keep her family out of the room until she finished crying. An act that can only be described as pure strength. Treatment this time was five days a week 24/7 chemo.
Constant Chemotherapy. After 4 rounds of that Chemo, she received salvage chemo and underwent a stem cell transplant. The entire process was extremely painful. First, she was given a high dosage of chemo to kill off her bone marrow(salvage Chemo). When her bone marrow was gone so was her immunizations. She described it as being like a newborn baby. She had to be revaccinated and kept in a special unit as she was extremely susceptible to getting sick. She had to bathe twice a day, moisturize three times a day, and brush her teeth four times a day with a sponge. A normal toothbrush would have brushed her gums off. The lining of her throat was so burned from constantly vomiting that she couldn’t even swallow her own saliva. Her food was given to her through an IV because she wouldn’t have been able to keep it down from a feeding tube. Her body constantly felt like it was on fire. Her mother would use cold coke cans to rub the bottom of her feet for relief. She was in too much pain to sleep, eat, or even sit up. She continued to fight. After a month-long stay in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit, she was released. The transplant was successful and her cancer was gone. She had beat the small odds she was given.
What is she up too now? She’s enjoying life. While she is currently cancer free, she is still at high risk for developing other types. She refuses to live in fear. She loves to travel and she’s always down for an adventure. She’s extremely passionate about the environment and would love to educate people about the importance of recycling. Traveling to other countries to help people and serving as a volunteer on Project Cleanup to help eliminate the many trash islands are just a couple of her dreams. Adrian, thanks for caring about our planet and the people on it, the world is a better place with you in it. When you finally decide to write that book, I’ll be one of the first to buy it. My fellow weirdos, I hope her story inspired you to put fear on the back burner and to soak up all that life has to offer.
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