Thursday, May 31, 2007

Beautiful Blue eyes & Cancer

I met the little girl that I will be working with. I must say she is breathtakingly beautiful with pretty blue eyes! Leukemia is an ugly disease and I am saddened every time I must witness a small child endure cancer. It is so incredibly unfair!

Speaking of cancer - In my own cancer story on my blog, I received a question that I have not yet addressed. A woman asked me about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. I must say that every woman I have talked to experiences either some, none or all of the same symptoms. Ovarian cancer is a sneaky cancer because for so many women, they aren't as priveledged as I was, and they didn't discover their cancer until it was too late.

I will say what my signs and symptoms were - but of course I recommend any woman who is experiencing unusual symptoms to see a doctor. Without the proper tests, there cannot be a diagnosis.

I began having my periods when I was 14 years old. Girls will experience irregular cycles for usually a couple of years when they start their cycles. For me, they never got regular. I don't know how long I'd had cancer or if this was some sort of warning sign that something wasn't right, I won't ever know, but I like to mention that because in my heart I feel that it is significant.

My menstrual cycles would either be spotting for a couple of days each month, or I would bleed heavily for 2-3 weeks and begin again a week later. It was truly annoying. I could never wear white and I never trusted myself to be out anywhere without protection. At other times, I would not have a period for several months. I was of a normal and healthy weight, I ate fairly healthy and there was no logical reason for my periods to be so irregular. Again, most women don't experience any menstrual difficulties (in fact, most women are post menopause) This is just my own experience.

I was too embarrassed to see a doctor about it. Like most teen girls, I didn't like to discuss such personal issues (wow, how things change!) When I was about 21 years old however, I started to get pelvic pressure. Sometimes it felt like my pelvic organs were going to come right out of me (seriously) It was annoying and often painful. Again, I chose not to see a doctor. I dealt with it the best that I could. Although it felt like my organs were falling out, in fact they weren't so I just assumed it was a full-time PMS thing. Being adopted, of course I didn't have my mother to compare to as PMS type symptoms can and do run in families. Sometime later, probably age 21/22, I started becoming bloated, so much so that at times I could not fit into my jeans. When you are 21 years old, dating and going to clubs on Saturday nights, that is very annoying. About a year before I was actually diagnosed, the pain began. Even though my cancer was in both of my ovaries, the pain was really on my right side, pelvic area and this was along with the [at this time near constant] pressure, and occasional bloating.

My decision to finally see a doctor about what was happening came after a brief discussion with a friend about the annoying aspects of being a woman. My friend simply said Nicole, you really need to see a doctor. I thought about what I am doing with my life and how I have pretty much dedicated my entire life to taking care of the health of others but I was ignoring my own health. I sucked it up, and the rest as you know it, began my journey of fighting cancer.

That is my story of my signs and symptoms, it's probably much longer than the person who posed the question wanted to know, but I hope that maybe my story may be of help to anyone who is concerned. My motto now is "better safe than sorry" and I will bug my doctors for any little tinge of pain and any little ache. I will never again ignore my body when it is trying to tell me something.

Reality sets in

I woke up this morning really missing my natural family. A lot. The relief at being home has now subsided and I find myself wishing I were back with them all. My brother (Kieran), the oldest of my siblings, is heavy on my mind. We talked on the phone for 4 hours late last night about how the trip was for me. I was able to share some things with him that I have been unable to voice to my 1st mom, 2nd mom and most people that are close to me. He is so easy to talk to.

I was talking to my best friend (Kala) and told her that he is like the male version of me!

She says: Ok Nicole, that is weird - I would never want to meet the male version of me.

I guess it is different when you are an adoptee.. you spend your entire life not knowing your people. People who think and act like you do. You don't know what it is to see someone who shares your DNA, so when you do it is this paralyzing feeling that gives you goosebumps and you feel like you're finally home, after 25 years of being lost.

Kala doesn't really get it. Bless her heart though because she tries. She really tries to understand my POV in this whole adoption reunion situation, but she has memories of growing up around my adoptive parents and looking from the outside in. She has loyalties to my adoptive parents, whether she admits it or not. It's silly though, because when your loyalties to certain people hinder your closeness to others, I call that more like a cult. I don't want to stop the people that I love from loving others. That is not what I call love.

I will be calling my 1st mom tonight. I work this morning and get to meet the little girl I'll be working for. I can't wait to hear her voice again. I really miss her. I feel like I'm in those first stages of dating! Only it's better! More intense. Sigh

Life is still feeling really perfect

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Job Assignment

I will still be taking care of the elderly couple but since my shifts are split, I was just assigned to a 4 year old little girl who has Down Syndrome and leukemia - she is in a foster home and she has been for most of her life. I am very excited about this because this little girl is actually the reason I applied at this HCC company - I'd heard about her in school and I really wanted this job. It just keeps getting better and better. =)

Home Sweet Home

I am home! I am so glad to be home where it is familiar and safe, but I will miss my new-found family and I hope to see them again soon! I haven't seen Cameron yet, as he is taking some summer classes this morning but we are getting together for lunch. I still don't have my appetite back -- I am missing that "taste" sense, which is really annoying. I sure hope that comes back soon.

My visit with my natural family was fantastico! My little sister and I baked British scones (with a touch of good 'ol American!) and British tea, and sat down for a tea party. I loved every moment that I spent with my siblings. They are brilliant, beautiful and full of goodness.

I did get to meet my oldest brother and that was a really interesting and intense meeting. We share the same biological father, and I actually believe I look like him the most. It is such a crazy feeling to sit there with someone who shares the same biological ties. Obviously I have never experienced that and it kind of threw me for a loop. We talked for most of the night last night, about everything and anything. I really feel like he's a special presence in my life now. I am finding myself already missing him.

Now for my mother -- what can I say? She is smart, pretty, vibrant and full of kindness and goodness. I am in awe of the person that she is in this world and I now feel as though I actually know the person that I strive to be. She's just absolutely amazing! Of course I knew she would be special, I was taken aback by truly how special she is. Inside and outside, she just defines the word beauty.

The only person who had tight reins on his heart and a little wall around his life was my 14 year old brother. However, he was pleasant and welcoming; he just preferred not to spend too much time with me. I think it's possible that he has some issues of insecurity -- his world as he knew it, with 3 siblings, has changed. I barge my way into his life suddenly and want to become his "sister," it's a lot to handle, especially at that age. So I respected his need for space and time, and hopefully someday we'll get to really talk and get to know each other.

I got to do a lot of different things while I was there and go a lot of places. One place we went to was Build-A-Bear Workshop. I have never been there and I am totally hooked. It is the cutest thing. Being there made me think of all of my tiny friends with cancer and I got a little bit emotional. I made 4 bears that I will hand out when I go to the hospital. 2 girl bears and 2 boy bears. =) My sister made me a bear that I will keep and cherish forever.

I think my emotions are finally beginning to stabilize (maybe, we'll see) It was very difficult, emotionally, to incorporate this entire new family into my identity of who I thought I was all of my life. It is life-altering, but hey so is the original act of my adoption, right? I mean the act of adoption changes who a person is. So I began this life as Sarah, the daughter of Lisa and Eric, but that identity was brief -- one day to be exact. Then I was taken into foster care where I was called "precious" for 6 weeks, until I was brought home by my adoptive parents who made me Nicole.

Thinking back to Erik Erikson's stages of psychological developement, I was in the stage of Trust Vs. Mistrust. Infants are brought into this world with a clean slate. No worries, no cares, and no fears. (Child Life for Families) So what happens when something as major as losing your first mother, then going to foster care and losing that mother, to a new family with a new mother, happens? It makes me start to analyze my life, my insecurities, my fate, my family and even my identity. It makes me begin to try to piece together who I would have been - where I would be - my life would be drastically different. I wouldn't have been raised as an only child, I would have been raised with 4 siblings, in another part of the country. What an incredible and scary thought. It really makes you reevaluate your life and your destiny. It brings up a world of questions and doubts.

Of course there are many routes to take my thoughts through. What if I'd been kept instead of adopted - would my mother have had her other 4 children? Would she be the absolutely amazing woman she is today or would she be resentful that she kept me when it was so difficult on her. Would I have changed her life in a negative or a positive way? The questions are truly endless. I will probably spend the rest of my life with unanswered questions regarding my adoption. For now I will try to wade through the emotional mess that occupies my brain at the moment, one step at a time.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A New Day

I feel much more energized this morning and I refuse to let these feelings of sadness interupt what I have here. I am visiting my natural family! I almost feel the need to pinch myself. Is this truly happening to me? It's amazing, totally amazing.

I have 4 siblings - they are 21, 14, 12 and 10 years old. I won't meet my 21 year old brother until tonight because he's coming in from Oregon. He lives in Oregon with his best friend and he is in his 3rd year of college. I suspect we will have a lot in common. My 3 youngest siblings are all still children, and, anybody who knows me, knows the intense love I have for children. I always marvel at how simple and open they are. Children will love anybody who is kind to them. Last night I had some girl time with my 10 year old sister. She's so funny and silly, and I believe I know all of her "BFF" by name. My 14 year old brother is at that age where it is much harder to get into his world, maybe in time I will earn that. My 12 year old brother was very welcoming and warmed up as soon as I let him teach me some of his video games. :-)

My mom's husband is also very welcoming and I enjoyed watching my mom interact with him. I think they have a very peaceful and loving relationship, which is very different between the dynamics of my adoptive mom and dad. In my adoptive family, my parents are constantly on guard with one another and ready to argue at any given moment when the smallest thing goes wrong. I've never believed that they love each other, I think they became used to one another and stayed together for the sake of the kids, which in my mind, is completely the wrong thing to do. Kids know when unhappiness lingers, probably more so than adults do.

I am missing Cameron (I guess it's love) but we are emailing and talking on the phone. He's genuinely happy for me and supportive of this road I am traveling. I haven't sat down and talked to my first mom about the cancer yet, but I will. In time....

For now, I need to go grab a shower (my port will come out next week, along with more labs to monitor where my numbers are at) and get ready for the day. I'm anxious to meet my oldest sibling and make the reunion a complete circle.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Different World

I was able to set up my laptop and here I sit in a room that may have been my own bedroom had I never been given up for adoption. It's a strange feeling - I look around and notice all the things that would be changed, the funky pink floral wallpaper certainly wouldn't be here. The bed would be pushed up against the window for late night stargazing. The 5 foot book shelf that sits at the entrance of the room would not be nearly big enough for all of the books that this avid reader grew up with. There is not an ounce of dust in this room - until I arrived here yesterday, no signs of life. It feels cold and lonely.

I met my first mom yesterday at 5 pm. In so many ways it was just like the scenes on television reunions. I knew her instantly and we hugged for a very long time with tears flowing. It felt good in my soul. I could have stayed in that moment for a long time - just holding each other, smelling her hair and whispering how much we love each other.

Moments like those can't last forever of course and before long, we were in her car and driving to her home. No matter how much I'd prepared myself for this, I stumbled upon every word. Either nothing came out how I meant it to or nothing came out at all. Fortunately she found some humor in it and we were able to laugh it off.

I'll go into all the details of our first evening together at a later time. For now I want to focus on the intense feelings that have arisen. I am in shock that I am here and I am feeling all of these things that I didn't anticipate. Some people told me to try to read about adoption reunions and prepare myself for what I will feel - I should have listened.

I find it ironic that I survived chemo tx without [too much] complaining. I stared at death in the eye and played the life and death game with cancer, but I sit here wondering if these feelings can be fatal. Will they subside? And how does one actually move beyond them? I feel a sense of profound loss. I realize what was taken from me the day that I was born. It goes far beyond what I've always thought that adoptees like me experience. It changed the person who I was. That is a really intense reality for me.

I feel like a little kid ready to stomp my feet on the ground and scream out at all the unfairness. I am not the big sister that my siblings will come to, my first mom is not the mom that I feel comfortable bringing my worries to, this is not the house that I will come "home" to and visit. She will not ever be a "nana" to my children, because I can never give that to her.

If you're kept instead of placed for adoption, does everything change? Your whole destiny would be different. Does this mean I would never have had cancer? Never have had my female reproductive parts taken? Who would I be today? Where would I be today? I feel cheated out of my destiny.

I pray that these feelings subside and that I will be able to enjoy my time here without all these painstaking questions and doubts.

She asks me how my life was and questions about my relationship with my adoptive mother. How can you be honest when the truth isn't pretty and flowery?

I can't write any more at the moment. I'm going to go take a shower and try to do something with these reddened eyes before I come out and pretend everything is OK again.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My job!

I almost forgot - I got a job :-) It's probably only going to be for the summer and it actually begins tonight. I'll work for 2 hours for an elderly couple. Beginning as soon as I get back, I'll be working 26 hours a week (same couple)

Yeah! (Money - gotta love it)


Tommorow is the day!

I just got back from children's hospital making rounds and visiting the oncology floor. There are a few names I want to mention so if anybody reading this will add these children to your prayers for peace and strength for their families and healing for these children. I will add a list with their names to the right of my blog.

Now, tommorow is my day! YEAH! I can hardly believe it. It has taken so much strength not to pack my bags after school last Thursday. I lost so much weight recently that I have very few pieces of clothing that fit and I'd end up unpacking them to wear them throughout the week. Ha! (I'm dying to shop but hoping to put on a few pounds first) I talked to my N-mom last night and made our final plans, although I will be speaking to her this evening too. We have planned out some of our time together and I can't stop thinking about how wonderful this is going to be.

I will definitely try to post while I am there if I can get my laptop hooked up. I actually talked to my doctor yesterday and asked him for a refill on ativan because I am so incredibly anxious about this trip. Fortunately he obliged (gotta love him)

I have put together some small gifts for my family. Basically just a little album with some pictures of me growing up and some more recent stuff from college, for my N-mom and I have a small gift for each of my siblings. I also have a small "book" that I've written for my N-mom about my journey to find her (I still promise to post that sometime soon) and the feelings that I've felt throughout that journey along with those since we found eachother.

My flight leaves at 12 tommorow. I'll post more this evening because for now, I'm going to go pack! :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For my fellow students

Click on the cartoons to enlarge them.


Wow I can't believe how much more intense my feelings of nervousness is becoming with each passing hour. The countdown to meet my biological family is on and it's driving me crazy with anticipation.
In order to distinguish which mother I am referring to, I will be using the labels Nmom (natural) and Amom (adoptive) from here on out.
I talked to my Nmom this morning and I mentioned how incredibly cool it is that I am meeting blood relatives for the first time in my life. She responded with, "It is the second time you will be meeting me." That threw me for a loop - I'd never thought about it that way, but she's right. The difference is, she remembers and I do not.

There are so many things about her that I am totally crazy about. I absolutely cherish our moments on the telephone and if I had my way, they'd never end. We can talk endlessly and it's not awkward - there has yet to be any moments of silence...Maybe it's because we have 25 years of catching up to do.
Another thing I totally love is her laugh. When she laughs, it makes me get goose bumps. I can hear myself in her, and it's more than just the tone resemblance, it's the way she talks and the things she says. Sometimes it's eerie knowing how many similiarities we have to one another.

I was thinking about my boyfriend and although I truly feel like I am in love with him, when he says something or touches me, I don't get all bubbly inside like I did when we first began dating. He's become comfortable to me. Sometimes I am afraid that the same thing will happen with my Nmom and me. Like we will someday find "normalcy" and be so comfortable with one another that all these new feelings of utter happiness and excitement will dissapear. I guess in many ways maybe that's a good thing. But I love walking around with a smile on my face and bumping into walls all the time. I love that jumpy feeling I get when the phone rings and those pangs in my heart when she hangs up the phone because I miss her already.

Who knows? I sure don't. I don't know the adoption reunion rules. I don't know if there are any "predictable" reunions. All I know for sure is that for the first time in a very long time, I feel a genuine happiness and hopefullness, that I'd thought cancer had taken away from me. Just coming off of my chemo regime, I feel like I'm in ninja mode - ready to fight for the things in life that make me happy. I'm determined to make this reunion journey a happy one.

Ok, I've gotta run. I have a resume to drop off for a possible home health job. What a funny thought - me taking care of someone else. I feel like everyone else has taken care of me for so long, that it kind of makes me giggle at the thought of the change of roles just like that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Current Test results

No evidence of cancer!
This means no chemo and that means THANK GOD. Unless I decide to do a maintenance chemo, but probably not. Have I beaten it? I certainly hope so! I've seen so many women get whiplash from turning their head too quickly after this news so I stand on guard, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

For now normal life resumes again....... what's normal?

Ready to meet my natural mother

At some point I will post my journey of searching for my natural family. I recently located my natural mother who ironically was searching for me at the same time I was searching for her. We had road blocks put in our way that prevented us from finding one another. Fortunately with help from a 3rd party, we were put into contact.

I had to finsish up this semester of school before we can meet. We live quite a distance from one another and I was also hoping to grow out my hair as much as possible so that I would look somewhat presentable. Fortunately my hair is now just long enough to have a bit of style and I don't look so much like a chemo patient. Not that anything is wrong with that, I just want to appear strong and healthy, which is how I feel inside at the moment.

I'm nervous and scared. Will I be what she expects? Will I be good enough? Will I look like her? Will we have as much in common in person as it appears we do over the phone? What will my siblings think of me? Will they like me? Can I be myself and will that be good enough?

So many questions........
4 more days and counting...........

It's a crazy life

Well here I am making my attempt at blogging. I know that somewhere in this crazy life there is a book to be written. Writing it down, letting it go, not letting the craziness consume you. Does it work? We shall find out! One never knows what life will throw at you. Just when you begin to think you have it all figured out, you stumble across yet another road block.

My cancer story began 2 weeks into my dream of nursing school. I was managing a very hectic schedule of working as a nursing assistant combined with 11 hours of school each day. For a couple of years I'd had symptoms which I'd just pretty much learned to live with, until a friend of mine convinced me to see a doctor. Determined not to let a medical issue progress to ruining my new career path, I made an appointment and my life forever changed that day.

My doctor decided I needed to see a gynecologist and that it couldn't wait for an appointment. I found myself sitting outside the office of the gyn waiting to be squeezed in. A million thoughts were going through my mind, and I began to wonder what could possibly be this urgent? I was now late for class. I'd probably end up getting that dreaded pelvic exam, they would find nothing - because truly what bad things happen to a 24 year old's body? Here I was, physically fit, 5'5" 125 lbs, athletic, early twenties with absolutely no significant medical history, or any that I knew of anyway, I am adopted.

Finally I get called in, the gyn doctor is extremely thoughtful and personable. She asks me about a million questions, so many that couldn't even answer due to the fact that I am adopted. It's the most frustrating thing in the world, being adopted and being asked about your mom, dad, grandparents and siblings. You want to scream out "I don't freakin know!" but instead you just shrug your shoulders and say again and again, "I am adopted." She asked when my last normal menstrual period was. I replied, "Normal?? what's that? " the truth was that I don't believe I'd ever had a normal period.

Of course I was given the dreaded pelvic exam (ugh, still hate them) She narrowed down the pain to my right ovary and decided to draw up some labs. I found myself walking to the lab with my little form in which all these boxes are checked titled "Tumor markers." They took my blood, and I went back to class.

The next day I received a call from her office. She wanted to talk to me but wouldn't talk over the phone. My heart sank. I felt it inside, I knew something was wrong.

There I was back into her office in selective listening mode. In nursing school we are told that patients hear the word cancer, nothing before that and not much else after that. That is pretty much what happened for me. I was told that my tumor marker test came back above 2,000 over normal.

I was back a week later for a laprascopic biopsy. She told me that she would try to preserve my fertility but of course I signed the consents for a possible abdominal hysterectomy. When I woke up from surgery, I knew immediately that they'd opened me up from the pain. There was my anesthesiologist, my gynecologist and a new woman who I would later find out was a gynecological oncologist.

My fears confirmed. Although the pathology report wouldn't be back for few days, they were sure it was cancer. They'd removed my uterus, fallopian tubes, 30+ lymph nodes, and ovaries, both of them. The tumor was in both ovaries and evidence that it was in adjacent abdominal structures as well. Oddly enough, I was being unofficially diagnosed with cancer but all I remember thinking was that as an adoptee, they just took away the only chance I will ever have to have someone genetically related to me. I was devastated.

I can recall certain other aspects of that time in the recovery room, such as holding off on nursing school, and the fact that I'll always be able to adopt children, and how much I had to live for, and how they would fight this aggressively, and they would fight for me, and get me through this.

I don't think I cared too much about any of that. The most devastating thing at that moment was the loss of my fertility. I felt raped and robbed.