The grief process…

Someone recently asked me how I deal with the anger that comes with being dismissed for so long with rare disease.

So you just got your diagnosis. It’s hard to know how to feel, right? Thankful that you have answers? Angry that countless times you were told it was in your head? That you couldn’t POSSIBLY have that, only to have EXACTLY that..

Pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma are considered a very rare disease. The diagnostic process is a bit different for rare disease patients, and it comes with a different set of emotions when the diagnosis is finally delivered.

I’m going to talk a little bit about how I personally cope with the emotions that come from diagnosis, and what I do with the anger that comes along with it.

Of course no one wants to be sick, but with the untreated symptoms wreaking havoc on your body… honestly, by that time we are often praying for a diagnosis. Without a diagnosis, there’s no opportunity to heal, to take control back. To do something! It’s a strange dynamic, praying to be told you’re sick. Then the moment it’s confirmed.. we will give anything to be told we’re ‘fine’ again.

My first diagnosis came as a complete shock, I was 19, I’d understandably never heard of pheochromocytoma before. I never actually thought I had a 1 in a million tumor, not once did that run through my mind. I just thought I was just having sporadic attacks that made me feel like I was going to die every day. I was also relieved. I was relieved that I didn’t have to argue anymore, to prove myself to anyone. I was finally going to be able to take control over my body, and get treated. Or so I thought…

My second diagnosis was different, it’d been 4 years since my first Pheo, and I’d never been symptom free. I still dealt with the daily attacks from the adrenaline, and was being told that I was fine all over again. It was like I was stuck in a time warp that would repeat itself every day for years. I was continuously being convinced that I was ‘just’ anxious, that my blood pressure machine was wrong, my blood sugar is probably just low, etc. I heard it all. I still hear these things every day from people around the world.

My second diagnosis was a different experience, because I knew I had the disease, I knew exactly what it was, I just needed the proof. And then by the time I got proof, it was considered terminal. I was now terminally ill at 24 years old. Tough pill to swallow. How am I supposed to feel this time?

There’s no right or wrong feeling. The first time- I felt shock and then the fear of uncertainty quickly set in.

What will my future look like? Will I be able to go back to work? Will I have a normal love life? Will I always be in pain? Am I going to constantly have to be worried about it coming back? Am I going to be treated differently? Do I want to be treated differently? Am I different?

The second time- all I felt was numb, and then anger set in. I was so angry. My husband was angry. We were outraged that this could be able to happen, only… I’d find out later that it happens more than I think

I think I can confidently say I hear at least 1 person per DAY that is going through this. With this specific disease. This incredibly rare disease. It’s been six years since my diagnosis, so that’s a lot of people.

I’m generally a very happy, positive, bubbly-type chatty person. I don’t like feeling so negatively for extended periods of time. Holding onto anger. But I also know now that it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, so that you can work through them. Toxic positivity isn’t a better solution, being positive and hopeful needs to come from a place of true belief. That way the negative emotions don’t become pent up little balls of anger that burst at any given random time.

I initially channeled my anger into taking my control back, my plan? Getting a new medical team. One that would hear me, and be specialized. I needed a miracle team. I felt like if I could regain a sense of control.. I’d be able to feel different. I didn’t know what emotion I was looking for, I just needed to get past anger. I didn’t realize that I’d be holding onto that toxic feeling for longer than I’d like to admit.

It’s similar to the process of grief, you’re grieving your old life, your sense of normalcy, your old self. The ability to do mundane tasks, to relate to others in your circle, in your age group, the feeling of not knowing the importance and impact of living. It’s a hard dynamic for me because I was always so young, and I felt cheated out of a lot of opportunities I KNEW I would be amazing at. We all have things to grieve, it needs to be done.

So let’s talk more about how I regained that control. 48 hours after my diagnosis, I had arranged to see a new specialist, a whole new team. I knew I needed the best, I was 24 and given a poor prognosis. Honestly? I was dying, and they weren’t shy about telling me so. You don’t mess around when it comes to your health, you do anything and everything to change your circumstances.

Securing this new team… it made me feel I had purpose, that I was capable, I felt proud. These emotions are a lot better than anger, am I right?

As I rebuilt trust with these new doctors, fragments of anger would slowly chip away. My fear of not being heard, was slowly diminishing. Time. It takes time.

But what if we don’t have time? I’m terminal, I don’t have time to go through this long process.

Terminal illness isn’t a ticking time clock, it FEELS like that at the beginning… believe me. But I am here to remind you, eventually, with this precious time, your mindset changes.

I decided I needed an outlet for the fear, anger, and acceptance I so badly needed.

That’s when I started my blog, as a way of channeling these feelings into something good. Something with purpose. I wanted to know my experience meant something. I wanted my diagnosis to be an example for health care practitioners around the world. I wanted my story to be told to EVERY single pheochromocytoma patient.

I wanted my words to live on forever knowing they were making a difference.

Channeling your fear and anger into helping yourself? That’s a beautiful feeling.

Channeling fear and anger into helping someone else? That is when those fragments become whole again.

But let’s back up, I’m not saying everyone has to start a blog. What I am saying is that it’s important to get your feelings OUT, write them down somehow. Whether that be a journal, a support group, a diary, or a video blog. Even if you just talk to your camera and never share it! Whatever you feel comfortable with, it’s important to let your story be heard. Even if it’s just for you, this type of therapeutic action is something that for me, changed my life.

I’ve recommended different types of journals, diaries, gratitude practice, all different sorts of ways of expressing feelings to many people over the years: I’ve never heard someone say it didn’t help them in some small way.

Here’s the hard part: forgiveness. Eventually, down the road… I forgave everyone who I was still holding onto anger towards. This is NOT an easy step, I won’t sugar coat it. To get to this point, it’s a lot of work. Self discovery, trauma healing, mental health practices, growth. However, actually doing it? Meaning it?

It’s so unbelievably freeing.

I know I probably don’t need to remind anyone of this, but forgiveness is not for the other person. It’s for YOU. It’s so that you’re not suffering with those toxic feelings all your life, those fragments that are making you feel broken, while they are out in the world not even giving it a thought. You don’t have to personally forgive them, you do it however you want to. Whatever makes you feel safe.

It can be through prayer, you can again write it down, or just sit alone with yourself and say it aloud. You can role play with someone you trust.

I personally did just that, all of the ways. I had a lot to get off my chest, a lot of years of trauma and forgiveness. I only recently got to this step, after 6 years. Everyone’s time line is different, and that’s okay. Even if you decide, “no, I can’t possibly forgive someone who did this to me”

That’s okay too.

This is YOUR healing process, and you do with it what you decide. I can only let you know what I did, and what helped me. Made me feel whole again.

I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say “I could never do that”. I’m with you, I’ve been there. I said that repeatedly in the beginning, then it shifted to “one day, I think I’ll be ready” and then one day, I knew I was

So as you can see, it takes time, no one situation is a one size fits all. However we are all still very similar, and much closer than you think. That’s what being part of a community is. No matter what type of diagnosis you’re receiving, it’s going to change your life. It doesn’t have to change you, the person you are inside.

Your ‘fabulous’…

“Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your positivity, your willfulness, your vitality, passion, excitement, beauty, laugh, and how you share it!” – Pheo VS Fabulous

I’d like to send out a personal acknowledgement to everyone surviving and thriving today. Being national cancer survivors day, I thought this would be the perfect time to share this incredibly important article.

When people hear cancer survivor, they think past tense, someone who’s ‘beat’ cancer and is alive today.

A survivor is someone who’s been diagnosed, actively in treatment, in remission, and someone like me, who’s a mix of all of the above. Someone who’s surviving every day, never having the time where they can say it’s in their past. But they can say –

I’m a survivor

Happy survivors day zebras 🤍🦓

Pheo VS Fabulous

Let me re-introduce myself…

can·cer

ˈkansər/ – disease; causing the body and mind to adapt, overcome, and embrace change.

Quality of Life: 

What do these three seemingly simple words mean to you? 

Someone who is living with a permanent illness which will impact their ‘quality of life’ will hear this phrase from time to time. For someone like me, who is considered a ‘palliative care patient’ (which is a polite way of saying my disease will eventually kill me) this term gets thrown around a lot. But do we ever stop to think about what it truly means? Being 30 and terminally ill, I have to think about often. 

I used to just see it as a phrase. I actually used to see many things as just phrases, words put together to fill silences in sterile rooms to allow for some sort of relief from the inevitable uncomfortable points of cancer. That is, until you live them and you are intimate with each word. You get to know what each one will mean to you; you get to appreciate what kind of quality you’d like to live, and start to live it. I am going to share my perception of these words, and hopefully they will not just be words to you either.

Before I do that, let me introduce myself. My name is Miranda, I’m a 30 year old with a rare form of terminal cancer called pheochromocytoma. I’ve been living with this disease in some way or another since I was about 17-18, and officially diagnosed at 19. After my initial surgery to remove a large ‘benign’ tumor, I was misdiagnosed with anxiety for 4 years, which led to my eventual terminal cancer diagnosis.

I vowed two things in that moment: one being that I would do everything in my power to prevent this from happening to someone else by sharing my story and learning how to advocate further for rare diseases. I didn’t realize where this vow would take me, eventually filling a large gap for a rare disease that should have never had the opportunity to be terminal. And two, I vowed that cancer would never take my FABULOUS.

I wrote this mission statement when I first started my blog: 

“Pheo VS Fabulous was born from the promise that I would never let this disease take away the one thing I could control, and I’ve labeled that my fabulous. When I became ill I realized how much we take for granted, and it started with how day to day tasks are so challenging when you’re battling an illness like pheochromocytoma cancer, that’s when I decided I wouldn’t let it take that away from me. It’s more than just looking a certain way, it’s about BEING fabulous, strong, and positive when you have every reason not to be”

You’re probably wondering, WHAT IS pheochromocytoma? I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s essentially a tumor or tumor(s) that secrete or produce adrenaline. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are hormones that we actually need to function as the trigger for your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. These hormones prompt higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate and a boost in other body systems that allow you to react quickly with a burst of energy. *Think, lion attack!* A pheochromocytoma ultimately makes you overdose at any given time on these hormones, without warning, which we pheo people like to call ‘attacks’. Think: lion attack… with no lion? Essentially your tumor is attacking you with your own stinkin’ adrenaline! This causes your body to suddenly react with high blood pressure, increased heart rate and palpitations, and a whole lot of other deadly symptoms. I say deadly because if uncontrolled or untreated, these attacks are life threatening. So not only do I have cancer, but I have a cancer that tries to kill me multiple times a day with it’s poison IN my body. Fun, right? I also don’t just have one, I have metastatic disease and have anywhere from 30+ at any given time. (This is reduced greatly!)

Being so young and considered terminal, I’ve had to learn a lot about the phrase, ‘quality of life’. It’s meant to bring a sense of comfort, a sign that no matter what the cancer is going to take from you, we are going to do our best to keep you comfortable while all of these changes take place, and most importantly, just keep you who you are.

We cannot simply continue to live our pre-cancer, ‘normal lives’…right? Well, I kinda thought I could. I think we all do in some respects, and that’s normal. The difficulty is realizing where you need to adjust your expectations. I didn’t say give up there, did I? Time to ADAPT.

So here comes the hard part, once YOU start to change, no one but you can prepare you for this. The next time you hear “You’re so strong!”, don’t shy away from it. Think about what it means to them, what it means to you, and how you have truly earned it. So, you start changing, and this ‘quality of life’ thing everyone keeps talking about, seems like a very far away ideal at this point.

“How am I supposed to have any sort of Quality of Life when this disease is doing nothing but take take take?”

“I don’t even have a LIFE anymore, how am I supposed to have a ‘quality’ one?”

“Everything I am doing is supposed to ‘provide me with better quality of life’, but after every procedure I’m left feeling worse and can do less.”

“How am I not supposed to lose hope?”

My disease moves quickly, sometimes it seems like I can blink and not recognize myself physically, or suddenly go from walking around seemingly ‘normal’ to being completely bed ridden for months and needing a wheelchair the rest of the time. THAT was the most surprising, and still is… the uncertainty and element of surprise. 

Did I tell you how wonderful it feels to simply be a little more kind to yourself?

Change is constant, and I need to be willing to accept that although my life is very different, it’s mine. The fact that I wake up every day is a beautiful thing. Understanding that even the smallest victories are worth celebrating, simple joys are to be found and appreciated every day, because these ‘small’ and ‘simple’ things… probably mean the world to you. I now go through life dreaming that everyone could see it through my eyes. Living with cancer has shown me what a gift life is, the complexity of it all becomes so simple.

Embracing change

Throughout most of my story, I’ve chosen to share personal aspects of my life to help others come to the same realizations and places I have, but hopefully avoid a lot of suffering along the way. I’ve experienced surgeries, clinical trials, treatment after treatment, finding the “best” doctors. I’ve been labelled palliative at 25 years old old, terminal, metastatic, aggressive, all the things you don’t want to hear. I’ve been confined to a bed, a wheelchair, and at times lost my sense of independence. I lost my voice, my ability to share, and my hope. I never thought I’d get through it.

But we did. Because cancer makes you ADAPT and OVERCOME.

I say ‘we’ because my husband goes through all of this with me, from the very beginning. Since my first diagnosis, he’s been by my side. He’s my voice when I don’t have one, and he’s my biggest supporter when I do. He is my caregiver, my everything. And our loved ones go through this journey just as much as we do. 

I want to share with you a glimpse of what my life looked like a few years ago, when I thought I only had a year to live, what led me HERE today. 

When they first introduced the idea to set up a bed in my living room to improve my quality of life, I thought, “now!? I’m only 25 years old, I’m not putting a hospital bed in my living room, that will never go with my decor!” (priorities, jeeze…).

Remember those simple joys? Small victories? Well THIS was the greatest joy, a godsend, a MASSIVE victory! I could see out a window, have LIFE fluttering around me, I can see my husband cooking in the kitchen, I can see my dogs run around the house, I could go and choose a very pink blanket for my new bed (ha!). I can actually walk to the kitchen and serve myself a drink or snack when I’m feeling well, I can drift off to sleep right in front of my fireplace.

That’s what quality of life is. Those aren’t just words, This is MYlife.

You too will be able to adapt to your new changing situation, overcome your new challenges, and embrace the changes as they come. You just have to remember… your new life is exactly that, a new life. You must explore the beauty it has to show, the joy it has to give, and the blessings it has to offer. Just remember, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to your life. As long as you’re the one who’s smiling at the beginning and end of it!

The most incredible part of this story? I’m 30 now, and after going through all of that, supposedly having a year to live, I’m still here sharing, thriving, and learning more every day. 

I’m no longer confined to a bed, I no longer live in constant fear, I have accepted that I’m living with cancer. THRIVING with terminal cancer. I have continued to adapt and overcome and change my circumstances through hard work and advocacy. My quality of life now is a direct result of the information and research we have put into figuring out how to improve my treatments and symptom management, always taking the chance, and fighting so so so pretty. 

I have learned how to forgive but not forget in order to continue to help others with this cancer, help them not only live but hopefully thrive. The best part? I never once lost my fabulous.

Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your positivity, your willfulness, your vitality, passion, excitement, beauty, laugh, and how you share it! I can’t wait to share it with all of you, and hopefully have you share with me. I’m so grateful to be part of an incredible community of fierce thrivers. I look forward to seeing YOUR light, smile, and beauty! 🤍🙏🏼

– Pheo VS Fabulous 

I am Rare: 2021

If you had asked me six years ago what I was going to write in 2021 on rare disease day, I’d have told you I wouldn’t be here to share.

I’d have told you what they told me, I maybe have a year left.

I’m writing this to explain specifically the importance of rare disease awareness, not just a day, but every day of my life. I’ve dedicated every ounce of energy I have into sharing my journey, the ups, the downs, the discoveries. In hopes that someone would learn something from my experience.

I’ve always been a dreamer, but this was much bigger. Before I even really understood the impact of awareness, I truly believed that if I shared enough… I could make a difference. The type of difference that could prevent someone from hearing the words “it’s too late, it’s now terminal”. Like we did.

I believed deep in my soul that if I shared enough, I would finally be heard. Someone who needed it would hear me, fate would allow them to gain the knowledge they needed to push for a diagnosis.

I wasn’t even considering the fact that my experience could potentially better inform healthcare workers, and trickle down… creating a knowledge that would never be heard unless experienced by people like me living with the disease.

My first pheochromocytoma was missed because of a lack of knowledge about the disease, it wasn’t the fact that it was too rare to be considered, it just simply wasn’t thought of at all.

My second was different, the knowledge was there, but it was considered too rare to come back. It was overlooked because of the odds. The literature didn’t support what I was experiencing, so it couldn’t possibly be that.

Four years after my first one, I was finally diagnosed with a recurrence. It was misdiagnosed for too long, it spread all over. It’s terminal. I was told I’d have 1-5 years to live max, ‘based on the literature available’. The literature, the incredibly vague and unreliable literature. So little to reference and gain the knowledge needed to empower the patient or even the doctor.

This is when we realized it would become vital to my outcome for us to learn for ourselves. We had to take control of my situation, we had to look for the most knowledgeable doctor to treat me.

We didn’t want to accept my odds. So we started down a new path of self advocacy, learning, and sharing.

I started my blog, documented every treatment, feeling, reaction, change, anything.

I figured, if I’m going to die, I want to leave behind the gift of information. I wanted to re-write the literature. There was such a gap of information at that time, I wanted to help fill a small part of it.

As I shared, I started to connect with more and more people. I was learning more every day. So I kept sharing what I learned.

This new wealth of information would impact my treatment decisions, my ability to strongly advocate for myself, and be part of all decisions regarding my health.

That’s the thing with awareness for rare disease, it’s not just a cute buzz word. It’s life changing. The information we received from others was what kept me alive. It’s what allowed me to bring up my own suggestions, and avoid doing things I knew wouldn’t work for my situation.

Each new step of my journey, I would share with others, and the cycle would continue. The wealth of information and knowledge keeps growing, and we keep changing outcomes. We keep improving quality of life, and we help healthcare professionals better understand us. Leading to proper care and diagnosis.

Of course I can dream so big that if we become less rare… it can lead to a cure. And yes, it can. One day.

But for right now, I’m focusing on preventing it from getting to my stage in the first place. Where it’s incurable. If we can share enough, if we can continue to become less rare, it will be diagnosed earlier and able to be treated.

For those of us who are past that stage, like me, becoming less rare means proper treatment protocols, better treatment options, symptom management, improved quality of life, and the knowledge to be treated effectively in emergency situations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked…

“well what do YOU normally do when this happens?”

The knowledge we share will continue to educate all parties involved, making situations like this happen far less often.

I actually never dreamed of a day where I’d hear “because of your blog”…..

That’s the power of sharing, the impact of awareness.

It shouldn’t fall entirely on the patient, but our experiences are how we all continue to learn.

I am still here today because of knowledge, because of awareness. Plain and simple.

Each new mind that hears the word “pheochromocytoma”, has the ability to share that with someone else, and so on. You can never know how this will impact the person hearing it.

So keep sharing while you can.

I know I will.

The most suffering I ever experienced was not being able to use my voice. Not having the ability to share.

I hope you will help me continue to share my message, my story, my journey, my experience, and my dream.

Pheo VS Fabulous 🤍🦓

Sending you unicorn kisses, love, and pixie dust✨

Follow my everyday journey:

Instagram: @pheofabulous

TikTok: @pheofabulous

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The Mighty Article

Yesterday I shared a very personal blog that I felt could relate to a lot of people going through similar times.

Not even necessarily sick people, just people who have had fading relationships for multiple reasons after changes in their lives.

It seems it was really relatable because The Mighty approached me to publish my article!

If you missed it, here is the link !

Please take the time to read and share, maybe it can help someone more than you know.

Pheo VS Fabulous 💖

“Couple speaking out after psychologist coaches husband to try and kill terminally ill wife”

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/mobile/couple-alleges-psychologist-tried-to-talk-husband-into-killing-terminally-ill-wife-1.4667916

Zebra or Unicorn 🦄

If you have been in the “rare disease” world with us, you may wonder what the reference is to the zebra.

When you hear hoofbeats, we are trained to think horses, not zebras … 🦓

This means that in a world full of thinkers where the first answer is always to rule out the “obvious” answers first, us “rare” zebras often get misdiagnosed because it’s just too bizarre or too complex to possibly be real. Right? Wrong. We are real, we are rare, but we’re there.

NOW, imagine living in a world where you’ve only JUST started to find ways of settling in becoming a zebra, but now….. you’ve become even more confusing that even that doesn’t fit – Shall we say….. exhausted? Now you must be a unicorn 🦄

As much as I LOVE unicorns, it’s not something I wish to be health wise. However, we don’t always get what we wish for…

Or else I wouldn’t be a continuous medical mystery. A zebra, a unicorn, stomping my hooves as loudly as I can to no avail… A very complicated, extremely complex little unicorn. So desperate to be figured out but constantly misheard, misunderstood, and continuously misdiagnosed.

I was able to begin discussing this journey when I began to regain my mental stamina a few days ago here, thanks to my amazing specialists who are working towards figuring out what I am now referring to as my puzzle 🧩

With so many pieces (symptoms), and crisis’ happening – it’s proved difficult to sort out another compounding diagnosis when already living with such a rare disease.

Does that excuse make it okay for our hooves to be ignored? No. It clouds what is potentially a more potent and dangerous lurking enemy. So, what does one do? Well I’m not going to lie. It’s been a hell of a ride, it’s been isolating, I’ve felt ways I can’t begin or want to describe right now, but what I’m here to say right NOW is that we are still fighting. 

I’ve said it now and I’ll say it again, if you don’t fight for yourself… who’s going to fight for you?

It’s the unfortunate truth.

This is your life. It’s yours to save.

We have come to realize this through a series of challenges I’d prefer to have not had to endure, but change is the only constant so we are now looking ahead to the journey we are choosing to see as a positive one. Because that’s how you get through this, often we talk about ‘fighting it’ but we don’t talk about how to beat it. 

We have to, because to us we see it as an opportunity FOR change, for answers. We just want answers. No matter what they are. Going back to basics and feeling helpless is certainly not the answer.

Going backwards when you have already been robbed of the ability to move forwards is one of the most helpless feelings to have in the world.

We are coming on 3 weeks in the hospital, with the help of my incredible team I am functioning at a much more tolerable level so far – so that I can actually do plenty of testing in order to get these answers. This journey is tough, but we are fighting our hearts out. I hope you will be alongside with us, because I have a feeling we might just need that little extra bit of prayer and pixie dust

🌎✨🌈

Remember that gold standard Gallium-68 super amazing impossible-to-get fancy scan I got in order to get accepted to this clinical trial a while back? Well…

My amazing husband Doctor cupcakes was able to get me in AGAIN directly from the hospital on a day pass to get that super amazing scan today. What would normally take 4-6 weeks, took 48 hours, so a huge huge huge thank you to everyone in Sherbrooke, QC. You guys truly were my angels and we are so grateful for everything you did for my situation. Thank you for understanding and extreme considerations 😭😷

My heart is so full of gratitude, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share that.

Here’s a little glimpse of our radioactive day pass mission, a day in the life of a hospitalized unicorn 🦄 😂

https://youtu.be/AHerMoNa9AY

Pheo VS Fabulous

XOX

I will try & update as much as I can, (on my good days) 😘

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Create your own Fabulous

Instead of running around for last minute gifts, decorating the tree, attending fabulous parties…

The tradition we have manufactured the last three years is driving through snow storms hours away, telling each other everything will be okay, waiting for treatments that will dominate the rest of our year to come… and hoping the magic of Christmas will just somehow make everything better.

Each year I watch the first snow and it’s my symbol of hope…

I imagine that snow falling on me and just washing away everything I’ve been through in the previous year, starting anew.

Each year I wait for Christmas to allow those new beginnings; a new chance for me to heal, be in less pain, for my husband to suffer a little less.

…Back to reality

Like clockwork, my cancer always progresses to its worst state in the months following up to the end of the year, until I can’t take it anymore, and we are forced to take action. Most likely because I’ve done treatment all year long, and it’s my body’s way of saying enough is enough … or hey, why did we stop?

Either way

All of the tests, pain, investigations, right before Christmas.

“Do I really have to travel now? we’re days away!”
“We also need to know what’s wrong with you, and we’re not taking any chances, your condition has been too bad lately”
“I know. It’s just so frustrating how this happens every year”

True. I’ve felt awful as of late. Actually, Awful can’t sum up how I’ve felt.

This year is a little different…

I’ve done a year of (P.R.R.T) treatment that’s made my cancer worse.

That was a hard one. ⬅️

This IS the time to go and figure out what to do, where to go from here, there could be NO options for me, but I simply don’t believe in that 💫🙃

…There’s so many quotes out there

“Create your own happiness”

“Be your own sunshine”…

Well, I say Create your own Fabulous.

There’s ALWAYS something else, the question that always remains… are YOU willing to fight?

The answer is always yes.

The days leading up to my appointment…

I made a choice; my body had been fighting me hard, new chest pains, breathing trouble, my tumors alternating between pain crisis and adrenaline outbursts every hour.

….I was done

Which led me to my choice, do I abandon who I am, use the one opportunity I have to leave my house in weeks and go out looking as shitty as I FEEL?

Why should my outside match my insides?

Do I say F you Pheo and try and feel like my normal self as much as I know how? As much as every part of my body is telling me I can’t, what’s the point, just go like you are, it doesn’t matter.

The ‘normal’ me that brightens up those cold white walls, the me that regardless of the dark cold stormy weather, I bring that sunshine, the me that laughs off anything because I’m ready for everything?!

THAT is MY cancer.

Being prepared for just about anything..

Being fabulous despite the odds

I created.my own.fabulous

Why?

Because morale is everything.

Cancer is still going to be there despite the way I look, but it makes me FEEL a heck of a lot better when I don’t look like I have cancer 💋

So the next time you’re dreading those cold white walls surrounding you, you’re anxious for that inevitable news, you don’t want to get that scan…

  • Don’t take that extra hour of sleep
  • put on that darker shade of lipstick
  • curl your hair
  • throw on a bit of mascara
  • gurrrl contour and bake that face if you feel up to it

Go all out! 😂✨💖

I didn’t forget about my guys!
  • Give yourself a nice shave
  • wear that new dress shirt you were saving
  • gel your hair
  • put on a light (hospital friendly) cologne 😅

Do whatever it is that makes YOU have a bit of extra confidence & less sicky feeling 😉😷❤️

Most importantly, remember….

“Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your positivity, your willfulness, your vitality, passion, excitement, beauty, laugh, and how you share it!” – Pheo VS Fabulous

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Merry Christmas my loves ❤️

This is Cancer.

How do you tell the ones you love… something you can’t begin to explain yourself”

I moved into my dream home 22 days ago

Twenty two days of contemplation and careful thought of how I was going to share this, or whether or not I would. I’ve always said I would share the good, the bad, and the fab.

I thought I would have so much to celebrate with my move, my clinical trial finishing… so many triumphs.

…But Cancer doesn’t work that way.

I couldn’t write this.

I want you to see what we live through in between treatments, not just during, I want you to see the hope, the pain… the before, middle, the after.

This is why Pheo VS Fabulous exists.

 

 

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I never want anyone to have to feel what I feel – Pheo vs Fabulous

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I am rare – Rare Disease Day

Although I would like to think that I use every day as an opportunity to make this disease a little more exposed, february 29th 2016 is rare disease day.

A day to remind the world that although rare… diseases like mine do in fact exist, and because they are rare, they don’t get any attention, and as a result – we suffer.

We suffer through misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and lack of information when dealing with our rare conditions. We suffer through painful surgeries, lack of treatment options, and invasive trials, with no cure in the end. We suffer in silence.

February 29th is our day to make our voices heard, help me get a little bit louder.

I have pheochromocytoma cancer, adrenal insufficiency, I’m 25 years old, and I am rare.

Rare disease day, 2016

#mirandastrong #pheochromocytoma #netcancer #ai #zebra #rarediseaseday #pheovsfabulous

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It can only get better…

WELL I CERTAINLY HOPE SO.

I keep being told it will be worse before there’s a chance of it getting better… I’ve had quite a bit of proof of the first portion of this statement, now I will have to practice my patience and good faith for the second.

MIBG, NOT my favorite treatment.

So far we have not gotten along so well you could say… I’ve been meaning to update everyone since my last appointment and share what I know so far. Except I really haven’t been well, and I had a pretty big dose of reality lately.

As much as I like to share when things are on a positive note … Well, the reality is, living with this disease is often dark and all consuming – although I AM bright and try to find the good in everything despite this constant torment, there are times when I must be candid and speak through my pain and suffering. I’ve actually been telling myself, “I’ll wait until I feel better to update, I’ll wait until I have something good to share” until I realized… That isn’t how MY life works, I wish I had the luxury of blocking out all of the bad and fast forward until I had something good to hear, or skip over all of the parts where I suffer and wait until I feel better…

I also know that nobody else expects that of me, so here I am, sharing the in between with you, I may even throw in an f bomb if you’re lucky. That’s how angry my pheos are, yes I’m blaming any profanity on the tumors, they’re really being assholes. MIBG has got them all kinds of angry… Let me just tell you. Ok, where do I start?

So it’s been 22 days since I had MIBG radioactive iodine injected into my blood stream, 22 days of radioactive pheo cancer hell, 22 days of worsening symptoms, and every day is a new adventure. Rather than get better, I get worse. See how fun that is? I thought the idea was that you get better as the days went on, most people do, NOPE. My symptoms get stronger, more aggressive each day, it’s super awesome. I like the spontaneity and danger of it all I guess, who wants to wake up and be normal for a day? How boring. (I would also like to be excused from any and all sarcasm, I’m going to blame the excess of Catecholamines (adrenaline) being made by my angry tumors, thereby making me very sarcastic… I think too much epinephrine and norepinephrine makes people very sarcastic) Science. YES! Science.

We went to my last appointment with some expectations and no expectations: I’ll explain.

Some expectations meaning… We thought we were going in to do a day of tests, and meet with my pheo Doctor, and have an idea of how the treatment was working so far. Since I was doing another MIBG scan, 2 week blood work, we were under the impression that we would be seeing how the treatment was taking.

What I meant about having no expectations? Well, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so when nuclear medicine told me I would be having a MIBG scan 2 weeks after my treatment to see how I was doing, I didn’t want to get too excited about results, so I remained neutral, and said to myself “I’m going to go in with no expectations, that way I can’t be disappointed”

It was the first time I had left the house since treatment, it was an incredibly hard day. We drove out normal 3 hours to the hospital. The scan was long, painful, with the way I feel it’s so hard to do just about anything…Being scanned for 2 hours is not ideal, Laying with my arms above my head for 52 of those minutes isn’t at the top of my list. Then I gave blood, and then I waited to see my doctor to discuss the results of my blood, and maybe the scan.

We then saw my doctor, and at this point we realized there was a misunderstanding, the scan wasn’t being done to see how the treatment was working. It was actually being done to take advantage of how much MIBG radiation was in my body, and the MIBG scan was being done at this time to find any MORE cancer that’s potentially in my body that otherwise would not be picked up normally in regular circumstances with trace amounts of MIBG. NOT what I was expecting…. Good thing I had no expectations LOL. We went from thinking we would hear how the treatment was working, to hearing they were looking for MORE cancer.. So, not in any rush for those results. Moving on!

So once we got that misunderstanding out of the way, we then of course asked when it would be that we would find out if the treatment was working or not, since it was clearly not now. It turns out it won’t be for a while, it’s a long process, a few months. We will revisit this in a couple months, maybe at that point we will start having an idea if the treatment is lessening the output of adrenaline the tumors are having.

The main priority over the next few months is just constant monitoring of all of the other complications that could potentially happen from the treatment itself, and making sure my bone marrow doesn’t deplete, I don’t get any infections, my tumors don’t kill me from all the adrenaline they are producing, and we control all of the worsening symptoms and side effects being caused. Easy peasy.

It’s a long process, I will be feeling like this for a long while. I knew that, but it’s hard to know what to expect until you’re in the situation. Surgeries are the most difficult things I’ve had to endure, but I’ve known what to expect once they’re done, this is so different, because not only is every day a surprise … I also can’t know if it’s even worth doing in the end.

It seems like every couple days we are increasing all of my medications to try and control my vitals, to keep me out of the hospital, and despite these efforts… They’re still out of control. I literally have left the house once since I have been back, the stairs are a danger zone, getting up too quickly is a danger, going to the bathroom is a danger, showering is a HUGE danger, breathing too hard is a danger.
It’s not as if I am doing anything at all to provoke these episodes, I cannot cut down my activity level any further… Existing is and breathing is all that is left lol. When you are told to stop showering, because it is a danger to your health, it is quite frustrating.

I can be sitting in bed doing nothing at all, and when these new “MIBG spikes” is what I’m calling them – happen, it feels like my heart is being dredged in cement suddenly, and it takes everything it has to beat… It hurts so much, each beat is accompanied by a very unique pain, and my head is filled with pressure, so much that my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of my face, my chest is filled with pain, and it feels like I am having a heart attack. This lasts for a few minutes, and then I’m so very fatigued… And nauseous, I feel I could sleep forever. Except then I am plagued with insomnia later at night. I’ve had plenty of pheo attacks, I still do, except this is above and beyond those, it’s the effect of my blood pressure sky rocketing while my tumors release a dangerous amount of catecholamines from the MIBG treatment. The problem is that … my medication continues to be increased, which should lower this, except this continues to actually go higher and higher, NOT supposed to happen. So I will continue to do nothing, relax, and just endure this vicious assault MIBG has on my body, because what choice do I have? It’s scary knowing that every time this happens, thinking about the damage it has on my body, I try not to think about those parts, I try to remain naive to that, you can only do that for so long though.

I will continue to be closely monitored, AND I decided while writing this…. The good I am taking out of this so far, is … My bone marrow is good so far!!! (YAY) for strong marrow results, that’s good right? SEE, I knew I’d find a positive in there, f*ck you pheo. I also found an f bomb, HA. I will continue to go every 2 weeks to do blood, make sure I’m alive, check my cell counts, make sure my thyroid is functioning… And all of these other great and scary things. SO MANY COMPLICATED FUN PUZZLES! So….. Let’s hope I can stay out of the hospital between then, yes?! Today was A SUPER CLOSE CALL, crisis level was high in the Simard house, Doctor Serge to the rescue as usual, formally known from now on as doctor cupcakes (lol) – when in doubt… Just prescribe cupcakes. Words to live by

Hm what else…. Oh! The taste of eating batteries has calmed down a bit also, that has been a welcome change! It’s not quite as strong. Yes yes more good news! See, as I continue, I find more good. So yes even though the adrenaline, heart, blood pressure, vital elevation attack side of things are worsening …. The taste of batteries has decreased and my blood work was okay so far, SOOOOO there’s a bit of a bright side. Now we just have to make it through the next 6 months or so of this, and we are smooth sailing.

The last time I put on makeup was Christmas, a random thought I know, but it is strange not physically being able to do anything.. Especially things that were once just an everyday routine for me, now they are a “luxury” Now since I am barely allowed to shower – or closely monitored when doing so because it is my most dangerous activity, (you should see the calories my Fitbit claims I burn just by breathing) 😂 I’m gonna get really crazy and say… I really would love to be able to be normal and plan a vacation, or EVEN just go out for dinner one night, or actually just do anything at all.. At this point I’d like to just be able to walk up or down the stairs without my body imploding. I would like to be able to go a day without my body attacking itself while doing nothing. So I will say this, I’d like to be able to soon be well enough to just .. Have a day where I can feel good enough to just leave the house, change my surroundings, and feel like my normal fabulous self for even just a few hours. This is me being realistic with my expectations, I will find a way to be FAB… I always do 😉💋

Day 22, I pray this disease will become a little more manageable – because nobody should have to fight this hard.

I promise to update as my body allows, but for now…. It is tired xox

Pheo VS Fabulous

Remedy for the Rare – MIBG

Well this is awkward… I think it’s been 12.. days, I don’t even know quite honestly, I’m completely disconnected from the world right now.

I kind of left all of you hanging, I apologize for my absence. I was just having MIBG radiotherapy, no big deal, my tumours haven’t been very happy with me that I turned on them again, and my body doesn’t like that I injected it with a radioactive foreign substance that seems to be making it feel all sorts of nonsense. Basically we’re in a fight, or rather a war, my body and I, and my tumours, I think they may have even joined forces and are ganging up on me it seems… because their wrath, WELL, excuse me… it’s not something I was quite prepared for, even in my best attempt: MIBG you can read here how prepared I thought I was (ha!)

You’re never quite prepared for the level of rare you experience when having a treatment administered into your body that could have so many different outcomes. It’s not as if it’s done every day, you are unique to to the medical field, and it’s you who will keep everyone on edge for the next two hours. You are no longer rare, you are literally a spectacle, a performance of medical fascination that is mixed with a nervous anticipation, and an uncertainty that can only be eased with time… and patience.

It’s a good thing I like to be centre stage 😉

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It may be intimidating for some to have 10-15 physicians watch as the radioactive solution enters into your blood stream, watching from behind a special radioactive barrier. (As shown above) in the room with me was… my radioactive solution dripping into my blood stream, my IV, my blood pressure machine timed perfectly to measure my vitals every 15 minutes, my  second IV for fluids, maybe some other gadgets… like my laptop, where I tried to watch saved by the bell and ignore the commotion of what was happening to me, but other than that I was completely isolated of course. If I didn’t have 10-15 of the best and caring physicians in the entire world watching over me through my radioactive shield, maybe I would have had a little more concern… but throughout the administration, I felt rather peaceful. I was okay with everything happening, and I love my nuclear medicine team, that kind of helps. I knew that if something were to suddenly go wrong, they’d come running, and I’d be in expert hands… so there’s that. The administration of the liquid was pretty uneventful, we all kind of thought I was going to implode or something, I was in pain and had to urinate REALLY quite badly… but other than that, it went rather well. I showed up at the hospital for 8:30 – treatment was late being administered around 3:30 and finished around 5:30pm on the 20th of January.

Part 1 – Success ! 

Easy – what were we worried about? This is nothin’. Can I go home now? Since all the fun is over, everyone is leaving, bye bye doctors! I’m fine, I feel great, that was fun, maybe we can do it again sometime soon.

Okay, perhaps I spoke too soon. It only took half an hour and I was starting to feel unwell,  I had felt worse pheochromocytoma adrenaline attacks in my day… so I said to myself, okay, if this is the worst of it… it’s not THAT bad! I can deal with chest pain, tightness, heart palpitations, and uncontrollable shaking… this isn’t TOO bad. Suck it up Miranda. It means the tumours are getting the treatment, they don’t like it, but that’s a good sign…

10:00pm – fairly certain I’m not being over dramatic when I say this is going to be farewell, everything is happening, I can’t do this, I’ve never had this many symptoms hit me at once, my body can’t sustain this type of attack… for this long… this can’t be happening, someone help me …

Isolation…

That first night of radiation … was one of the worst nights of my life.

I’ve had to endure a lot of pain, uncertainty, and physical trauma with this disease… but that night… it really had to be in the top three. I won’t give it a definitive placing because my surgeries for this disease, well, they were PRETTY brutal, so I’ll leave it as a ‘top’ placement. When you go from feeling a certain type of ‘normal’, going into treatment I didn’t feel perfect, but it was my norm, so I went from feeling ‘normal’ to all of a sudden being hit with EVERY single symptom I’ve ever felt in my life associated with this disease… all at ONE TIME. By 10 o’clock I was full blown being physically assassinated, and it was NOT pretty.

My blood pressure jumped up making me feel super unwell, my chest was tight and physically hurt, my heart hurt, it was pounding in my ears and I could feel my still fresh jugular wound pounding out of my neck from my heart rate, my neck glands were swollen and creating more pressure in my head, my headache felt as if my skull was actually growing inside of my head… my eyes felt like they were going to pop out of their sockets, all I could taste was metal, and blood, from my gums bleeding suddenly, (yes, when things start bleeding out of no where on your body, it’s incredibly alarming) then the nausea… oh dear the nausea, game over. Just kidding, who just kicked me in the back? No one, that’s just my bones, oh, all of them feel like that now, amazing. And…. now I am completely drenched in sweat, and can’t stop sweating, and won’t stop sweating, it’ll never stop. I also can’t stop peeing.

I know this seems like an insignificant detail, but when you’re in this much distress, and your bed is high, and your hooked up to EVERYTHING, and you must unhook yourself from said machines EACH time you have to go to the bathroom, and then re-hook yourself up to EACH machine properly once you make it back into your giant bed by yourself… it’s literally a process, and a debacle, and it makes you want to cry with frustration each time. Now not only do you have to do all of this when you’re not thinking straight, not walking well, you’re dizzy, and confused, and you’re fairly certain your body is going to explode at any second, every time you unplug your IV, it beeps at you constantly, and won’t stop, and your poor night nurse has to come in and expose herself to your radioactive room and self to come fix it, and this happens over ten times… and each time takes time to fix, so the beeping alone is enough to drive you out of your mind. These details, I swear… they are everything when you are completely alone, when you have nothing else to focus on – when you have nothing but a silent room, your pain and suffering, and a loud beeping assaulting you and your already unfortunate circumstances.

Night one, you know exactly where you can go.

In the meantime, would you like to see my beautiful isolation suite I had? It really was quite nice, minus the tumours imploding part and feeling the worst ever.

Over the course of the next few days in my lead isolation room behind my special radiation screen I showed you above, everything I described to you above repeated every day, just not with the same severity as it did that first night. Nothing could ever hit me as hard as it did that first night, but it was close. Every day was awful, and is still is as I am writing this. However, since I am incredibly obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping everyone up to date and also sharing my journey for the sake of awareness, I don’t like falling behind too far. So with my little burst of insomnia energy, I am laying my soul out for the world to read once again.

I thought waking up each day I would feel a little better, but it was just an exact replica of the day before, sometimes worse than the day before, which I had not anticipated… I thought things got better as time went on, but it seemed the opposite for this treatment. I guess it takes a bit of time to settle into your cells, and once it does, the more havoc it causes in your system. Having radioactive isotopes injected directly into your body is completely different then any other ways, it becomes apart of you. YOU are completely radioactive, which is why I had to be in such an isolation setup, in fact I still am… even though I am at home I still am following strict protocol to be sleeping alone, not within a certain amount of feet of people, I still cannot kiss or touch Serge, there’s so many restrictions still, and will be for a little while. It’s crazy how potent it is.

I am grateful that my incredibly persuasive husband found a way to see me in my isolation suite, even if it was through the special protective glass. Had it not been for him… I don’t know what I would have done. He was able to come in and stay a certain amount of feet away from me after a certain amount of days, and bring me foods that I could actually not want to vomit looking at, so that was a welcome change. Just seeing him was enough to make me want to get better enough to go home, I wanted to be better, to look better, to feel better, for his sake. I am grateful that we have so many people incredibly supportive people behind us throughout the hardest times of our lives, we can’t thank each and every one of you enough times for the outpouring of love and prayer and support we receive when we need it most. I am grateful that although I am fighting this disease with all I have, and it is rare and awful and relentless… I have a medical team who doesn’t give up on me and is matches my effort and is unique to the medical world, they are superior and I am so thankful.

I do not feel it is appropriate at this stage to have any ‘expectations’ so far, as it is a complicated disease and even with positive results… it is impossible to know how long that can last, and with negative results, we can try again. So I will reserve my opinion on my expectations for now, and just wait for once. I will be going for an MIBG scan soon, to have my whole body scanned and see how the treatment did. I will reserve hope and pray that I can find some relief eventually, so that I can enjoy some precious moments… because that’s what life is all about.

I really base everything off of how I feel, right now I feel awful. I am told I will feel this way for a number of months because of my pheochromocytoma cancer and adrenal insufficiency combination, and of course my pain level that just… is part of me. There’s elements that can’t go away no matter what we do, but there’s hope that we can make me a lot more comfortable, and that’s really the main goal, that’s my expectation, is that I can just be a little more comfortable, and perhaps enjoy a little relief here and there… a vacation perhaps? 🙂 OMG, a girl can dream… this girl needs some serious R&R

We are completely exhausted. I am depleted, hurt, scared, I have zero energy, nauseous, I am still radioactive, I can hardly have the energy to shower, I still have daily adrenaline attacks, I sleep all the time.  We are having to keep an eye out for infections and horrible things that will make me have to go back into the hospital, I am overwhelmed with the amount of new symptoms on top of the old, and I am being honest when I say there is nothing fabulous to report this time around just yet.

The only Fab around here is all of the love I have received… and I am giving it back in the form of honesty, and updating you all so that you can know what’s happening to me and know you are in my heart, and what’s keeping me going.

Follow me to find out what happens next

Pheo VS Fabulous ❤

instagram: @mirandasimard

#pheovsfabulous

Soooooo tired, goodnight loves.

Perfect days…

It seemed as though I was having a rough time for a little while, getting all of my recent results, putting a date to my radiation, having issues with my adrenal insufficiency, and meanwhile I was just praying for some special moments of time before radiation.. I wanted to do some Christmas baking, see my best friends for a day, decorate my Christmas tree with my husband, wrap gifts, and of course eventually spend Christmas with my family.

These tasks were honestly beginning to seem impossible, especially since all of my energy was being spent in the hospital, and what little was left was recuperating at home. Until one magical day when my new medication started working, and my prayers and hopes and fairy dust seemed to have been answered. My being tired of tomorrow finally turned into “I can do it today!!!”

So not only did I bake cookies, I BAKED COOKIES. I had my mother over, and God bless her, she did most of the work, because let’s be honest… I can’t possibly be mixing hard dough with the condition of my poor massacred abdomen, but still, we made so many cookies and treats!!! It was the most amazing day. I may have slept until 4:30 in the afternoon the following day, and felt like I was run over by a vehicle, but I didn’t care, it was so worth it! 😁🎄🎅🏻

Second on my list of must dos, was seeing my best friends before Christmas. What do best friends do? Eat, laugh, talk about old times, laugh more, eat more, take photos and laugh while taking photos. It was fabulous, as you can imagine. So I had my husband, my two best friends, the fresh air of one of my favorite parks, and my absolute favorite restaurant to follow, like….. Heaven!

These things may have taken months to do, literally, we’ve been trying to set this day up for months, but as I always say – quality over quantity. We had the perfect day, and that’s what counts. I may not get to have a great day every week, but when I do have one, it’s perfect. That’s what best friends do, they patiently wait until you’re ready, and when you are they are at your side – making every second with you count.

I still have some things to achieve on my perfect day list, but understandably I’m exhausted 😂 – so I’ll highlight you on the two big activities I’ve done so far, in photos, because photos are just so beautiful… I feel like you can see every bit of happiness I experienced those days with me, and since I make you go through every emotion with me here, I will give you a break this time and let you have a moment of pure joy 😄

Christmas Baking Day:

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 And… Our perfect day in the park:

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You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them. (Literally)

Pheo VS Fabulous ❤️

Normal

November, the month we all start to feel the holidays creep in, the parties start, the snow starts trickling down, Christmas is everywhere, and the thought that another year has passed finally hits you.

Normally by this time, I would be finalizing the details of my work Christmas party, I would have chosen my gown for said event, baked dozens of holiday treats, planned my vacations for when it’s too cold to stay in Canada, and I would have looked at my planner and not known where am I possibly going to find the time to do anything except be this very normal busy person during the holiday season, as we all normally are.

Normal.

Such a painful word, I look at that word as I write it and I feel a resentment, a certain envy, and a bit of sadness.

As I await what’s to come, I can’t help but to be reminded of what used to be my normal. My busy planner is still full, but not with parties, work, and holidays. It is full with hospitals, tests, results, procedures, more tests, more doctors, alarms every couple hours for medication, and bed.

Normal is being twenty five and your biggest concern is when you’re going to find time to do all of your Christmas shopping. It’s getting upset that the venue you chose for the Christmas party changed your menu at the last minute. It is choosing which dress to wear to your work gala, spending all day finding the perfect shoes to match. It is setting daily goals to be a better version of yourself, it’s having a clear vision of exactly who you want to become and how you will get there, because you have your whole life ahead of you to achieve it. 

Normal is being twenty five and my biggest concern is whether or not I’m going to find the time to have a Christmas, if I will instead be locked away being pumped full of radioactive isotopes that will hopefully shrink the spreading cancer in my body, and what kind of impact this will have on my body that doesn’t seem capable of handling anymore pain. It’s getting upset that my cancer changed it’s mind and decided to spread even more making it more difficult to treat, more so than it already was. It is still setting daily goals to become a better version of myself, and attempt to use this unfortunate situation I am given to become a stronger person, it’s having a clear vision of who I want to be and how I will get there, because I know I may not have very much time to achieve this greatness, so every day has to count. 

Pheo cancer can take away my normal, but it still won’t take away my fabulous.