I hate that this occasion has brought me back to the blog, but yet…here we are. A little background information: Last week I traveled to Texas Children’s for my ‘two month out’ scans from my clear scans this past March. These would be the scans that would clear me for going to Camp Ozark and tell us that all was well; that there was nothing else to worry about.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. We received news last Monday afternoon that a 1 cm x 1 cm spot in my upper left lung was reading as active on the PET scan, which meant we would need to determine if the cancer was back in this area. My doctor put me on the schedule to have a lung biopsy this Monday, which gave me the perfect amount of time to head back to Baylor for about 5 days, finish my finals, move out of the dorm, spend Mother’s Day at home, and then head back to the hospital for the surgery.
I was a little anxious going into the surgery because of the careful and dangerous steps it takes to remove something from someone’s lungs. The doctors at Texas Children’s are more than amazing and the surgery was completed successfully with only minor bleeding in my lung. All in all, I am currently recovering with a needle size incision in my left side and a soar throat. Thank the Lord above for the current medical miracles that exist in our world today.
I spent the night at Texas Children’s Monday night. The doctor’s wanted to make sure my lungs were functioning properly after the surgery. We headed home without any news from the biopsy on Tuesday morning.
Dr. Dreyer called this afternoon to inform us that the cancer has returned in my upper left lung. With that being said, here are the next steps I will be taking in the treatment process: I will head back to Texas Children’s next Monday for a bone marrow biopsy to test my marrow and make sure it is still negative (just as it was when it was tested a year and a half ago). If my marrow is negative, it will allow for an autologous transplant. An autologous transplant is a process where the doctors use my own bone marrow by removing it from my body, recycling and cleaning it into new and fresh cells, and then placing it back into my body where it would clean the rest of my body from all of its bad cancer cells.
Before we move into starting the transplant, I will start my first day of chemotherapy after the completion of the bone marrow biopsy on Monday. I will be getting one chemo drug called Brentux. This drug is very tolerable and should not cause any hair loss or serious problems. With that being said, I will still be headed to Camp Ozark at the end of May, and then come back about 3 weeks later for one more session of chemo before finishing out my time as a counselor.
The Lord’s timing in all of this has been incredible. Had I learned all these new things just a month ago, I wouldn’t have finished my freshman year at Baylor, and working at Camp Ozark (something that has been a dream of mine for more years than you can count on one hand) would not have been in the picture at all.
My heart is heavy as I head into the next few months, but I will proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness on repeat.
I see God in the people of Texas Children’s. I see God in little brain tumor patients who do nothing but smile as they exit their PET scans. I see God in his timing. I see God in the beauty of the Arkansas mountains, which I am lucky enough to live under for the next month and a half. And finally, most importantly, I see God in those who support me; day in and day out. I see God in the growing support I have received while being a student at Baylor and those who remain by my side through it all. Let the battle come. I will fight on.
The best way to describe life at the moment: a beautiful mess.
In the midst of the mess, beauty endures. In moments when negativity and brokenness seem to creep in, beauty shines through.
On August 12th I learned that the cancer had returned. Located in my upper left clavicle, my friend decided to hang around for a little longer and accompany me on my new adventure called college. After moving into Baylor University (Sic’em Bears) on August 16th, I traveled back to Houston and Texas Children’s to get a new biopsy of the swollen lymph node that I had discovered a few days earlier. The pathology report returned, and we learned that the lit up spot on the new Pet scan was officially Hodgkin’s Lymphoma once again. I began the process of questioning if I would even get to attend school at Baylor and the general “why and what” questions that often circle through the mind of someone with cancer. Why again? Why was I going to have to balance cancer and college? What was having cancer and going to college going to look like? Is this process ever going to end?
I learned about a day later that I would be starting a new chemotherapy treatment process. My treatments this time are both similar and different than last time. I will be completing four rounds of chemotherapy and hopefully a week of radiation during December. Each of my “rounds” lasts 3 weeks and I get chemo on two fridays in a row of each 3 week period (taking a break on the third friday of the round). I have now completed two of those rounds of chemotherapy and I have two rounds until I’m done. This specific chemotherapy process involves less drugs and less days of treatment than the first time around. Side effects that I’ve experienced are heavy nausea for about 24 hours during and after treatment, low blood counts which cause me to feel pretty crappy overall, and bone pain from a shot called Neulasta that makes my blood counts rejuvenate after treatment each round. My new hair has remained on my head and I am getting used to the “pixie cut” look. Being bald was fun, but I’m enjoying having my hair back and experimenting with new hair styles.
Tomorrow morning I will travel to Texas Children’s for my “halfway through treatment” scans. We are praying that these scans will be clear, and we can say goodbye to cancer for good. My next two rounds of chemo will be “follow up” rounds to complete the process and get rid of this evil disease.
All of this is messy. Life is messy. But, the Lord has never failed me for a single day of my life and he isn’t going to start now. The Lord has placed a new, beautiful adventure in my life that makes all this cancer stuff seem doable.
A seed was planted the first day I stepped foot onto Baylor University’s campus as a college freshman. Cancer seems like nothing when I stop and take a moment on a daily basis to thank God that I am even standing on Baylor soil. Every day that I get walk in the shadow of Pat Neff is a day that brings praise to my God. Every day that I get to attend class is a day that brings praise to my God. Every day that I wake up to the sun or rain outside my dorm window is a day that brings praise to my God. When I first started school this semester the common questions regarding home sickness began to surface from individuals who asked me how school was going. There are moments when I miss home, miss my family, and miss the comfort of understanding that accompanies life before college. But I wouldn’t trade the support and love I have experienced from being a Baylor student for anything. Baylor has been a light through this new diagnosis and I cannot put into words how thankful I am to be a part of the baylor family. Thank you to the individuals who have made this new place a home. You have brought loads of joy and love into confusing and troubling times. I am endlessly grateful for you and for baylor. This plANTED SEED IS BLOOMING IN WAYS SHE NEVER THOUGHT WERE POSSIBLE.
I am currently majoring in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing. The Lord has brought me to discover a new passion of mine over the last eight months, and I am happy to say that I will be pursuing a career in Public Relation for Children’s Hospitals.
Thank you God for Baylor and Cancer.
Beautiful messes come in the most unexpected ways.
It has been a while since my blog has seen a fresh post, but I wanted to take the time to officially update everyone on my Summer and the last few days of my life. This summer I have finished radiation at MD Anderson, gone on multiple mission trips with my church, vacationed in Seaside, Florida with my family, and made the most of my last summer at home before moving into Baylor in two short days.
I wanted to let you all know that the last few days have brought a good amount of stress. On Saturday night I found a swollen lymph node in my neck, similar to the ones at the beginning of my original diagnosis this past January. This lymph node is located behind my left clavicle and is now swollen to the size of 1.5 centimeters. This same node site was the only remaining active site after my previous scans following my second round of chemotherapy in March.
I traveled to Houston on Monday afternoon to have an appointment with my doctor. During the appointment, Dr. Dreyer took a look at the node and confirmed the urgency of completing a PET scan as soon as possible. This morning I woke up early to have my scan and we had the results back by late this afternoon. The spot in my neck is lighting up as active cancer, but it’s the only spot in my entire body that is, so that’s really good news. As far as the treatment process goes, we are not totally sure what the next steps will be. I will have a biopsy of that node sometime this Friday, meaning we will be taking it out completely. I am still planning to move into my dorm at the end of this week and start my classes on Monday. While this news is both hard to understand and seems to have happened rather quickly, I am making it. I have had a few individuals ask me how I am feeling both mentally and emotionally. I would answer that by saying I’m not sure the news has completely become a reality in my mind yet, but I am approaching this diagnosis the same way I handled it in January. This is just another speed bump in the road and another challenge that the Lord has placed before me.
Today, in the middle of my scan I had a moment. I’ve said in a previous post that I often get an overwhelming feeling of the Lord’s presence while laying on the scan table and sitting in silence as this machine takes a complete and vulnerable picture of activity happening inside my body. Today, the phrase that seemed to have been whispered or placed in my mind as my body inched along pause after pause was, “This is not the end, the first time was too easy. You were made for more.” I know this is the Lord’s way of telling me that my job is not done and this chapter is not over.
I am headed into the next few days with a positive attitude and a plead for prayers. I know that God holds all the answers to my current situation. Every hour brings something new and I appreciate the love and support.
Always be kind and take a moment to enjoy where you are.
Before I take the time to deliver some of the most amazing news I have ever received in my life, I want to paint a picture of where I am sitting in this exact moment. I am sitting on the balcony porch of a house that my family has rented for vacation multiple times before. The house is located in a small town in Oklahoma called Broken Bow, which sits smack dab in the middle of Beaver’s Bend State Park. My view includes a beautiful picture of the woods surrounding the house that go on for about a half mile before they meet the road. The sky is slowly fading from a light blue color to an orange, and lastly a faded white aligned with the setting of the sun. There is a slow rain falling that is softly hitting leaves on it’s way to the ground. In front of me, on a glass table, sits my wig.
My wig. I realized as I was writing this, that I haven’t talked about my wig on the blog very often. I guess I just assumed that people who saw me in public or saw my instagram knew that I wore it pretty often, but that I didn’t mind venturing out into the world with my shiny bald head every once in a while. Recently after I received the results from my final scans I slowly started to become more discouraged about the fact that I still don’t have any hair. Dealing with eyebrows that are completely gone and eyelashes that still seem to be hanging on somewhat, has not been the most ideal experience. I have to continue to remind myself that the hair grows back and the scars will fade; wise words once written by the great Kate McMordie. Sitting beside (and I mean literally next to) your hair is a weird thing to think about. But, the fact that I have the choice to take off or put on my hair is reminder to me that hair is a temporary thing. Yes, most all of us have it, and yes, hair is a large part of the way we define ourselves when it comes to image, but I’ve said it many times and I will say it again…I wish for just a moment of your life, you had the chance to look in the mirror at yourself minus the quality that you believe makes or breaks your appearance. That quality is beautiful and God made you exactly the way he planned to all along, but I pray that you try your hardest not to get caught up in this one part of yourself. Little do you know, God looks at every single part of you, and says to himself, “This is beautiful…this is good.” So embrace the bald head or the long toes or the big ears. Bubbles of weakness may get you down, but don’t ever let them stop you from understanding the Love that the Father has for us.
The rain. People who know me well know that I love the rain. I love the sight of rain, the smell of rain, and the way concrete feels when it’s wet from rain. Just recently, I realized that maybe the reason I love rain so much is because it causes me to sit in awe of God as it falls from the sky.Rain awakens all of my senses, causing my eyes to watch, my nose to smell, my ears to hear, and my hands to touch the sight, smell, sound, and feeling of rain. Some people may think it is cliche to say that the Lord’s presence can be felt the strongest while sitting amongst nature, in the middle of the woods where all you can hear are the birds chirping and the trees swaying…but, how often do we truly stop and take the chance to simply sit? Life is so busy that I rarely stop and make myself say “wow God, that tree is beautiful and was created by you.” While on the subject of the creator and back to talking about looking in the mirror, it is just as easy to look at a flower and admire its beauty as it is to look at yourself and admire your beauty. Because when it all comes down to it, God created us and shaped you and that flower, in his hands, to be perfectly crafted the exact way he wanted. So yes, dance in the rain and take a deep breath of that fresh air the next time you’re walking to your car and it happens to start sprinkling. Breathe in the creation. I promise you won’t regret it.
Home. Just a few nights ago I was having dinner with some friends and my good friend Maddie said something that made me reflect on my five month long cancer journey. She said, “Home is the people, not the place.” We both decided that this saying was probably written down somewhere else, or said by someone else in some other form of words, but in that moment, Maddie’s words caused me to stop and think. Home is most certainly the people and not the place. Let me say that I love where I live, and I love my community. But, what makes my home, home is the people who surround me where I live and uplift me amidst my mountains and valleys. Sitting on this porch tonight, on the outside of a house filled with a large part of my family, I can recognize that this spot, right here in Broken Bow, Oklahoma for the last couple of days, is home. Over the last few months my mom and I have traveled back and forth from Round Rock to Houston a total of 10 times. When I am in Houston, surrounded by the amazing doctors and nurses that I now consider close friends and almost family, I am home. While sitting across from Connor laughing about something, crying about something, or simply enjoying each other’s company, I am home. While spending time with my sweet friends who I will be parting from soon, I am home. While spread out in our enos surrounded by woods and the Ouachita Lake giggling with my camp friends, I am home. And lastly, as new people come into my life in a new city, at a new school, I will be home.
Oh, to be free. Finally. The moment we all prayed for. A short five months lived and lived well. On May 29th at 8:40 pm I received news that I was officially cancer free. There were many tears and I am so thankful for the journey that I have had the opportunity to embark on. January 25th seems like years ago, but it also seems like days ago. This whole time period has forced me to grow in ways that I never imagined I would have to grow at the age of 18. God has taught me that no matter how hard I try, I have no control of how my life looks now or how my life will look years down the road. Most people ask me if this time period has felt like it happened in the blink of an eye. Most of the time I answer that question by saying, “on the hard days, the last five months felt like they would never end…but God gave me so many other good days that caused me to thank him for the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had. I will honestly say that I do feel as if I’ve just lived through 5 years rather than 5 months. To some people that may sound crazy, but I feel I have been taught things that some adults never come to understand, and I have literally been forced to do things that were originally out of my comfort zone, making me a stronger person all the more.
So, what are the next steps? I will be headed back to Houston tomorrow for a radiation simulation where I will get a CT Scan to survey the area that I will be receive radiation. I will also get measured and marked for all of my upcoming treatments in order to ensure accuracy and prevent healthy tissue from being radiated in the process. We learned last week that I will only be receiving radiation to my neck and chest (no abdomen!!! woohoo!!!). I will complete 14 days of treatment at MD Anderson hopefully starting mid-June, and should be done around the beginning of July. My “Ring the Bell” ceremony is planned for early July and I am so ready to ring that bell loud and proud! Cancer, you have been beaten.
There’s something about endings. Whether it’s the end of a book, the end of a moment, or the end of a chapter in life. This coming Thursday I will be headed back to Texas Children’s Hospital for my final day of chemotherapy. What a special sentence.
Things to celebrate from the last few weeks: A little over two weeks ago I was crowned Prom Queen at my High School’s Prom. Needless to say, I felt like a Princess. The constant support from my school and my peers has been unbelievable. If you are a student at Round Rock High School and I haven’t had the chance to say “hi” or “thank you” for your support in the last few months, I want to say it now. Tye, thank you for making dancing in front of hundreds of people not too scary and so fun. It was a night I will remember forever. Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to serve with my church in the community at a weekend event we call Collide Impact. We started off the weekend with a night out at the Round Rock Express Baseball Game where I had the honor of throwing out the first pitch! The whole night was dedicated to cancer awareness and everyone was encouraged to show their support for those fighting cancer, those who have survived cancer, and the amazing doctors, nurses, and people who have dedicated their life to cancer research and oncology. A special thank you to the Almendarez family for their constant support and love through this time. Team Jana Forever. Last Wednesday night, I participated in my last ever high school Choir concert. In the Dragon Choir family, we have a special tradition where the President of the Choir gets to direct the last song of the concert titled “Not One Sparrow”. Some of the lyrics of the song are “Not one sparrow is forgotten....even the raven, God will feed. And the lily of the valley from his bounty hath it’s need.” We sing the song to honor the seniors that are graduating and moving on to new things. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to direct this song in front of my choir’s varsity ensembles and alumni members. It was a special, tear stained cheeks moment.
A medical update: As far as my health, activity, and spirit, things are going wonderfully. With each treatment I feel I have grown stronger as a girl with cancer and just as Rylie. I have been responding to my latest treatments with minimal side affects (nothing out of the ordinary) and I’m looking forward to my official last day of Chemo this coming Thursday. A little over a month ago, after receiving the results of my scans after round two, the doctors discovered a centimeter by centimeter mass located on my thyroid. We were encouraged that this was not a serious matter, but that we would follow up with further studies to make sure that the function of my thyroid was remaining normal. After completing an ultrasound and blood work tests on my thyroid, they have determined my function to be normal. Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to have a needle biopsy done on my thyroid to test for any cancerous tissue. We know that if this mass is considered cancer, the area is not active due to the results of my last scans. I will be going into the biopsy tomorrow with my head held high and nerves low. I am not concerned about this little speed bump in the road. My final scans are scheduled for May 29th!! These scans will follow the completion of my fifth round of chemo and will determine further plans for radiation. We have already learned some exciting news regarding radiation that was determined by my previous scans, but we will know all details for sure after the completion of Round 5 and my final scans.
This journey has been an exciting and scary time. I remain at a loss for words when it comes to the many emotions I have experienced over the last couple of months. I feel that I will never be able to truly express how much Cancer has changed my life for the better. I am thankful for this small chapter that I have lived through in the novel of my life.
A few weeks ago I applied for a Cancer related scholarship whose essay question involved explaining the lessons I have learned through discovering my diagnosis and the new goals I have set for myself as a young adult experiencing cancer. The following words were a portion of my answer: “As a teenage girl with cancer, I have been forced to learn a valuable lesson that I believe most people never truly grasp. Cancer brings confusion and concern. Cancer uproots our most inward emotions and pushes us into a reality that is experienced by many and feared by most. Through having cancer, I have learned the value of patience. I have learned what it means to set goals and have plans, but to be prepared for all of my plans made to be washed away in an instant. A personal goal I have for myself in the future is to take full advantage of every moment I am offered. I hope to take in every sunrise and every “windows rolled down hair (or bald head) blowing in the wind” moment. I have gained a new perspective on what it means to give everything I have to everything I do. I am stronger because of cancer. And yes, sometimes moments are stolen from us and goals aren’t met...but I am looking forward to the day that I get to share my story with the little girl sitting across from me who was recently diagnosed with this scary disease and has no idea what comes next. I’m looking forward to hearing about other people’s stories and the lessons they have learned. I look forward to making an impact on a specific community that has invited me in with open and loving arms. I am looking forward to meeting goals and making new ones, because cancer cannot stop me from pursuing a life for Christ and focusing my days ahead on loving others and loving Him.”
Here’s to an end. Not the end, of course…but an ending of a moment. Here’s to the end of a chapter that I never saw coming. Here’s to the light that has only grown stronger. As I complete the last few pages to this chapter, I remind myself of an important lesson I have learned in the now. My life is in His hands. My God holds all things. No matter how many times I wish that I had control, I have been forced to trust him in knowing that he is working for the goodness of his love through all things. I have learned that everyone has a story and that the world is loud. There are times when we must simply sit in the silence in order to fully understand God’s plan. I now consider the last four months of my life to be the loudest lived, for they will remain some of the biggest struggles I will ever have to endure. But, I know now that I could not have made it through this chapter without simply drowning out the overwhelming noise and chaos. I know now that the Lord’s voice and plan are ever present in our daily walk. All he asks of us is to sit, quietly, and listen.
A while back I promised to write a whole post devoted to the day I was diagnosed. My flip day. My hard-to-breathe, remember-for-the-rest-of-my-life day. In honor of being back in Houston for the eighth time and for finally coming to peace with this chapter of my life, here is my cancer day. The day that would lead me into a new family. A day that would grant me new supporters, new friends, and new soldiers, fighting right alongside me.
So here goes...January 25th, 2018. 4:43 pm.
The day started out like any other day. I woke up that Thursday morning feeling especially high on life. The wednesday night before held many little blessings that the Lord brought me to recognize as I laid in bed before hearing news that would change everything. As I have said before, the week of my diagnosis was a “jesus working” week. but, it wasn’t until that Thursday night that I completely understood why God had wanted so badly for me to feel his presence in the moments that I danced around with friends, laughed in the hallway with a teacher, and stood on stage in front of a congregation of young teenagers as a representation of the Lord’s love for us...even for just a moment.
On the morning of January 25th I headed to school around 8:45 am with my brother Preston, and we parted our separate ways as I went to Choir and he went along to his class. In all honesty, I don’t remember a lot of details about that day other than that I was happy. I wasn’t concerned about my lymph node biopsy and I wasn’t thinking about the pains in my abdomen. I was focused on day 5 of being 18 years old and the importance of stopping to enjoy the pink flowers scattered across from my newly painted parking spot that I had recently finished just about two weeks before. I went to my classes that day and went to lunch with friends. I spent time with my PALS and worried about passing yet another Stat test (raise your hand if this is you at the end of every unit in any class haha). That Thursday was an especially long day at school because it was a day that I didn’t have an off-period, meaning I got out of school at the normal time (4:20pm), instead of on my early off days at 2:30pm. Little did I know, those two extra hours meant my dad beating me home. Those two extra hours meant my parents getting the opportunity to cry in each other’s arms before having to hold me as I sat staring straight ahead. I left school with my windows down, music playing loud, and pulled into my driveway around 4:40pm to see both my parents outside looking oddly uncomfortable and upset. I soon realized as I pulled my car past them that something was wrong. I didn’t know in that moment that it was because of my biopsy results. But as soon as my mom was standing at my car window before I even had the chance to open my door, I knew it was bad. I opened my door to a shaking hand and both my parent’s tear-covered faces. All I remember my mom saying was “you’re going to be okay. we’re going to beat this”. and then the word no one ever wants to hear: “it’s cancer”. the c word. “lymphoma”. Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I couldn’t do anything but stare at my lap and say nothing. Talk about a life changing moment in a matter of seconds. We talked a little more about the details as I sat there and sobbed, verbally expressing my “what the hell” statements of “why me” and “how”.
Mom slowly backed away as my dad explained what it meant to have lymphoma and what the next steps might be for me. I just cried. He asked if I wanted to step out of the car and I’m pretty sure I just sat there for 15 minutes or so. Not being able to move and even process the moment in the first place. When I finally got out of the car I couldn’t walk. It wasn’t even like lymphoma was keeping me from moving. It was the shock of knowing that things would be different, and the feeling of a stomach flipped upside down. I made it into the house eventually and crawled into a corner in our living room as I attempted to process the whole situation. I can honestly say that in that moment we were lost and confused. We had no idea what the next steps would be, but that period of grey did not last long. The next few hours of that night brought overwhelming feelings of love and support. We immediately had people of all ages rallying around us and comforting us. I have never felt so loved.
When I think back to that night I can’t help but be thankful for life and the people who continue to hold me in their arms. When I first got to Texas Children’s, one of my nurses explained that this whole journey would feel like a roller coaster in the beginning. And let me tell you, it was been a scary one. But as I sit here in the exam room on day 8 of my 4th round of chemo, I cannot imagine my friend cancer NOT having come into my life. I can’t imagine having not walked through the gates of my “Cancer Disney World” to get on this roller coaster called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Believe it or not, I can confidently say that I cannot imagine my life without cancer.
I know that January 25th changed my life forever and I’m dang glad it did.
Lying in bed the night of March 29th, I was having trouble focusing on the morning. Focusing on that “12 hours later” period where I knew I would feel somewhat back to normal, and I could finally breathe without getting a throbbing pain in my chest, or walk without my legs giving way from under me. As I continue this treatment process, I have learned what methods work for me, what methods don’t work for me, and how my body will react to different medicines and scenarios. I have learned that the pain is temporary. I am confident in knowing that just as the Lord commands the sun to rise each morning, he has equipped my body with the strength and endurance to continue fighting this disease.
This past Thursday (Round 3 Day 8), I headed to Houston to finish off Round 3, see Dr. Dreyer’s smiling face, and face a new challenge. On the 8th day of each round, I receive two different infusions that both have pretty immediate side effects. One is Vincristine, which I also receive on the first day of each round. Vincristine effects my joints and causes a good amount of muscular pain. In the beginning of this process, Vincristine only caused me to experience some bad pains in my jaw, but this past time, I started having some bad leg pains and couldn’t walk around at a normal speed, let along stand up for very long at all. The other drug I get on my 8th day is called Bleomycin. Bleo and I, man…we had some struggles. Normally, Bleo is a “fast reaction” drug, meaning if you are going to react to it, your reaction will occur within about 2-4 hours of your infusion time. The first couple times I received Bleo I did not have any awful reactions, but this past Thursday, I began to understand what it means to feel the wrath of Bleomycin. About 2 hours in, I began to have an awful headache and slowly developed a throbbing pain in my chest. I was already experiencing some chest pains from earlier in the day because my Port Access didn’t go very well, but regardless…this new pain was unlike any pain I had ever felt in my life. Bleomycin is supposed to cause a spike in fever and trouble breathing. I have decided that the reason my chest hurt so bad for that 8 hour period was because the drug was attempting to attack my lungs, causing them to stop working, and my lungs simply responded by saying “Oh heck no. We’re not gonna stop that inhale, exhale process. Bleomycin’s got nothing on us.” So my wonderful, beautiful lungs continued to work hard, harder than they should have to, which made my chest throb uncontrollably to the rhythm of my heart beat.
I told someone last week that in those moments when I know my body is “under attack”, I wish I could individually talk to my organs and tell them “good job”. Tell them to keep fighting, and maybe even give them a high five or a hug, as if they were a person. Talking to my organs makes me think of the Disney movie “Inside Out”, where each emotion inside the little girl has a personality and a voice. Ironically, the little girl in that movie is named Riley. Yes, spelled differently than how I spell my name, but still pretty cool. I remember when that movie first came out, my mom and I thought it was so weird to hear my name said out loud on a popular Disney film because the name “Rylie” (however you spell it), just wasn’t that popular. Maybe the little girl was given the same name as me so that I would have the ability to imagine myself communicating with my organs as they lead the fight in this battle. It’s silly to think about stuff like that, but I can’t help but be thankful for something as small as the name of a character in a movie.
We’re normally too busy going about our business to stop and think about how amazing the human body is. How strong we are, and how beautifully we are crafted together to form something incredible. With that being said, I’d like to send a little message to the organs that continue to amaze me every day. Hugs to my Heart. Smiles to my Lungs. High five to my Legs (or just all of my muscular strength in general). Hang in there Stomach. And though this is not an organ, keep shining head. Bald is fun.
From the inside out and the outside in, Rylie Elizabeth
As many of you know, this guy is special to me and he has been for a long long time. Connor, I can’t help but travel back in my mind to the early morning chats and hidden glances of California when I stare into your face. You are extraordinary. I’m going to spend a little time bragging about how much I love this guy. If all this lovey dovey stuff isn’t your thing, feel free to keep scrollin’ my friend. But if it is, man...allow me to share a few reasons why I think our love story is one that deserves to be told for many many years to come. Connor Lancaster loves me with the power and the strength that I know God, my father in heaven, loves me with. He smiles at me when I say stupid things, speaks my language, and fights for me in the moments when my words just don’t quite make sense. He is so wise. He speaks only when he needs to, and he helps me understand what it’s like to be confident in my faith and my spiritual path. He is his own person, and never completes any task in hopes that it will benefit only him. He is selfless. I believe that God probably smiles down at us when we, his children, do silly things. I know that The Lord holds my hand when I cry and the chemo infested tears roll down my face, just as Connor does here on our temporary home we call Earth. But dang. Connor Lancaster is a beautiful, and small representation to me of what it would be like to be held by The King. To be assured that there was life beyond this place we call home. To know a little glimpse of what standing at the gates of heaven will look like for me one day, and for all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We have our struggles, and we’ve also had plenty moments of weakness accompanied with regret. But, through this whole season of friendship and love I have learned that God placed Connor Lancaster in my life for a HUGE reason. & that reason was to be healed and loved with The Lord’s physical hands, through him, until I alas come face to face with God at the pearly white gates of Heaven. In this moment, I would like to give a little shoutout to my friend Cancer. Stupid Cancer. Nobody wanted you and no one will ever want you. But let me tell you, Cancer, you sure put things into perspective. You remind me there is so much more to life than stupid arguments and moments of stubbornness. Now sitting here nearly 3 months later, I will say that I cannot imagine my life without Cancer. & I also cannot imagine my life without Connor. This was God’s plan all along, Connor was God’s plan all along, and Cancer will continue to work miracles in my life for a long time to come. So there you have it, my favorite love story. I hope you come to realize that I just talked about two different love stories, and combined them into one to make my own. One being my relationship with Connor Lancaster, that I look forward to growing through every single day, and the other being my relationship with the Lord, as he reveals his love for me through the hardships and the individuals around me. Take a moment to remind yourself that YOU are loved by the CREATOR. THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS. God loves you every single day that you wake up and for the rest of time. He knows you are the coolest ever. Thank you for allowing me your time, and for letting me share.
What’s your love story? And by ‘love story’ I will always mean a description of the ways you might feel the Lord’s love, just in everyday life or in the moments we pray hardest to feel Him near.
p.s. I plan to blog another post soon with a medical update, but for now I thought a little story would be nice.
March 20th is known as the International Day of Happiness. Though it is now March 21st, I was scanned on March 20th to receive news this morning that is more than just happy news! It is praise Jesus news! Jump around and dance news! Read on for some exciting reasons to walk outside and say to yourself, “Today is a good and beautiful day.”
there are times when I question the Lord’s presence but, it is in the moments where I lay still on the moving table of a CT or PET scan, thatI know he is with me. Iknow he is with me as the contrast from a CT scan rushes through my body, giving off a warm and comforting feeling. I know he is with me as I sit across from Dr. Dreyer and listen to her talk about her passion for my story and my life, not just my cancer and my sickness. I know he is with me as I tap my fingers slowly on the side of my leg during the loud ringing that occurs during my scans. 13 seconds. 13 seconds until the ringing stops and my body inches forward to a new spot, scanning a new area, providing a new moment of relief and moving me towards that moment where I am told that the CT scan shows a decrease in all tumors. That’s right friends!! A decrease in all tumors! Take that, cancer.
Another HUGE and I mean H U G E victory to celebrate: I have just received news from my PET scan reading that all remaining tumor is dead (that’s right, dead!!!!!!!) except for a small portion in my lower neck. Pet scans inform us whether the tumors still present are Active Tumors or dead Tumors. Dr. Dreyer says, "this news is truly amazing and remarkable. Way more progress than [she] could have expected." I cried many happy tears. All I can say is that the Lord is good. The power of prayer is good. Today is good.
Some of you may be asking what all of this means. We have learned from my CT scan that all tumors have decreased in size. We know that all remaining tumor tissue is dead except for a small part of my lower neck/upper clavicle area. The remaining (dead) tumor tissue in my chest and abdomen will continue to diminish in size over time. We also learned that the Fluid around my heart and lungs is completely gone. My five rounds of treatment will continue as planned, and I am excited to see the progress my body will make in the months to come.
God is working in all of this. I feel him in everything. I cannot thank you enough for the continued prayers and support.
The fight is not over, but I am one giant step closer to the end of this chapter.
It’s been a crazy two weeks. I am currently sitting in my favorite “writing” chair in my living room, happy to be feeling LOADS better than I have been for the last 12 days. After my first few treatment days of Round 2 (an updated and stronger amount of Chemo than before), I was nervous for some new side effects and the way my body was going to handle the new, “first time” infusion. When I returned home from Day 3 of treatment, I was yet again bombarded with the large amount of medication that I am responsible for taking during the first week of every round. For the last week I have continued to have non-stop stomach pains, bad acid reflux, and a constant headache. My sleeping pattern has been pretty irregular, but it is improving as the days go on. I officially have a Port, and have now gotten it accessed twice. Something exciting!! I am scheduled for my second PET Scan and CT Scan on the 20th to find out how much improvement my body has made since my diagnosis. I am both nervous and excited for this news, and I’m looking forward to sharing the success of my treatment with everyone!
A little update on some things that have made me smile since I last posted:
I haven’t talked about my boyfriend Connor Lancaster on here a lot, but he deserves a ton of praise. He has been there for many high and many low moments of this whole journey, and he continues to do so with a smile on his face and a happy heart. We’ve been out on a few little dates since my diagnosis, trying to keep things simple, and he makes any time of the day even more special than the next. Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on and my person, I love you Connor Lancaster.
To My parents…oh my beautiful wonderful parents. Not only have Jay and Heidi York been my constant rocks through all of this, but they have continued to love me when I have my “hardest to deal with” moments, and thats saying a lot because I can get pretty crabby hehe. Mom & Dad, thank you for laughing with me. Together we have learned thatsome moments come where all you can do is simply laugh. Moments where there aren’t any more tears to cry, and the skies look a little brighter. Moments of love and support, moments that I will cherish forever. Jay & Heidi, I love you.
My friends have continued to be huge blessings in my life. Thank you for loving me so well.
To my community, thank you for your support and care. I wish that I could thank every single person who has had a hand in my journey, but I figure that my written words on here can do close to that.
I have been enjoying school through the HomeBound curriculum, and my teacher, Mrs. Wren is wonderful. Due to only having school twice a week for a few hours, I have had the opportunity to support my Choir at their UIL competition, which they rocked, and cheer on my sweet Water Polo team in their first tournament of the season which they named the “RYE Spring Opener”. Needless to say, life is good, and there are few days where you won’t find me with a smile on my face.
My love for Texas Children’s continues to grow. The hospital continues to feel more and more like home as I have memorized the hallways, elevator system, and the places where I receive my infusions. I cannot say enough about the staff. Dr. Dreyer continues to be a huge light in my life and one of my new favorite people. I found out last week that one of my night nurses from when I was in-patient, Kate McMordie, will be transferring to the clinic (where I receive my out-patient infusions) sometime in the next month. Y’all! Kate is such a joy, and I know that God placed her in my life with perfect timing on nights that I needed the reminder to keep fighting. God is shining through her, and I am excited to get to see her more often for the rest of my treatment process.
Yesterday morning I sent my brother Preston, Connor, my close friends Gracie, Kylee, Amy, and the rest of my youth group at First Baptist Georgetown off on their next greatest adventure. They will be serving in different parts of London for Spring Break and I am so proud of every single one of them. Please keep them in your prayers this week. I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for their hearts, and the hearts of those who call London home.
A little something to make you giggle: I have loved being bald. To some people, that statement might sound crazy, but there’s something about being able to stand in a room full of people and confidently say, “I have no hair, and I am perfectly fine with that.” Power to no hair. All my love, Rye