Galen and Taylor - Living with cancer as young adults
AYA members/sorority sisters share their stories
Today, we give you a look into the lives of Galen and Taylor. Both are connected as not only TCU sorority sisters, but cancer patients and members of the Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA) program at Cook Children's.
Galen Storey is a 21-year old student at TCU. She was diagnosed with cancer in December 2014. She has allowed us to use one of her blogs to give an inside look at her fight against cancer and then Taylor, who is 18 and also at TCU, gives us insight into what the AYA Program has done for her with a video blog.
Each year about 70,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 39 learn they have cancer. Here are two young people who have allowed us to share their stories.
Fighting cancer with Grace
The day I went in for my first chemo treatment at Cook Children’s, the doctor had a meeting with me to prepare me as best as he could. For my cancer there is a certain protocol/regimen that consists of treatment different chemo meds, 42 treatments of weekly chemo, and radiation for about 6 weeks (starting at week 15).
The doctors can go over every side effect in the book and then some but there are some things they can't prepare you for. My friend Grace said it best when she said, "There is no guidebook to cancer" and it's so true. Shout out to Grace for being my built-in therapist. One day people will have to pay her to tell them how they feel and I won't.
I've thought about this post for a while and about certain things that have happened that I wasn't fully prepared for. I've decided I could make a booklet filled with these things but instead I have narrowed it down to a few I will share with y'all:
If they could also give you a step by step plan on how to tell someone you have cancer that would've been sooo Gucci because let me tell you, it is awkward. Grace and I kinda laugh about it now because she's had to break the news to more people than I have.
There's no easy way to do it. It's a bomb, a word bomb and you kinda just have to say it, "I have cancer" and the people we're talking to more times than not gets an awkwardly sympathetic, but at the same time terrified look on their face. But I have to remind myself I wouldn't know what to do if someone dropped that bomb on me.
He told me I would lose my hair. I knew I would lose my hair, but I still wasn't prepared for how it felt when I pulled a chunk of my own hair out of my head. Buzzing it off still feels like a surreal experience and sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm bald. (That's for a whole other blog post though.) They also don't tell you that you will lose your nose hairs … like what? ... But y'all nose hairs are important. I miss them. Not having nose hairs means your sinuses get super dry and irritated and you get the most annoying headaches. Be thankful for your nose hairs people!
They tell you that you will feel weak and sick and have no energy, but other than that they can't explain how it will really feel. Thinking about it now, it's hard to explain myself. The days after chemo feel like a nasty hangover … minus the fun night before. The weakness is from a mixture of nasty meds and weight loss. The other day I got a pan of brownies out of the oven and could hardly lift the thing. I think the strength I had to get it out was fueled by my chocolate craving. Having no energy is really hard for me. Not that I was super active before cancer but being so tired that I get out of breath walking from one end of the house to the other is hard. I see people on runs outside and I get jealous. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be jealous of someone running.
They don't prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that you involuntarily get in line for the day you are diagnosed with cancer. They say "you will have good days and bad days.” They should tell you that bad days begin when you wake up from good dreams to remember that you're sick. On bad days you will want to hide under the covers and cry. On bad days you can't eat or sleep or even walk. Bad days will drain you. Good days will fill you up again, with visits from friends and good weather and pizza and a simple trip out of the house. I cherish the good days and try to find joy in simple things like cheese fries
Needles. You'd think I'd be used to them by now … Nope.
Lastly, I wasn't prepared for the support I have received. I wasn't prepared for you, you people reading this and praying for me and keeping in touch with me.
From day one I was overwhelmed by the texts I got from people … most of which I forget to respond to, I'm the worst texter … I'm sorry! But a simple text is one of the things I find joy in. I am amazed every day by the people that reach out to me, people that don't even know me, people that have been affected by my words or affected by cancer themselves. I have a drawer full of the cards that I've gotten and soon that drawer won't be big enough.
If beating cancer was a sport it would be a team sport. I don't think anyone can truly do this alone and I am so beyond grateful that I don't have to.
Taylor Helland, 18, has undergone colon cancer three times since the age of 14. She explains why the Cook Children's Adolescent Young Adult cancer program is important to her.