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

A zebra can be a unicorn

Pheo VS Fabulous 🚨 Coming to you live from the comforts of her 15×25 hospital suite 🏥

It’s incredible when the mental fog begins to clear just a touch and you’re able to begin to make the smallest of revelations.

Such as, did I just type a sentence?

Or spell revelation without going into one of my “coma like states”?

Or the bigger ones…like, it truly has been exactly a year since I fell off the planet. But did you guys really think it was by choice 😐 ?!

Warning: things may get a bit sassy while my brain function is working, I’m not letting this opportunity waste ⚠️

Do you think I would devote my entire personal life to opening up about this disease and then suddenly withdraw that responsibility unless it was for the fact that I was too sick myself? …

I made a promise, a vow if you will, and I HAVE every intention of keeping it: to not let this cancer take my “Fabulous

….Then, what good is it if there’s no one to share it with? PheoVSFab was started for others like me, and others like me seeking guidance for the ones who SO desperately need it. My greatest devastation over the last year has been losing the ability to communicate, not knowing why, and being so confused all the time that I didn’t know how or where to even begin.

Yes, that’s right, updating a status, sending a text message, menial tasks sent me into a 🆕 full “crisis” mode. Eventually leaving it impossible to do just about anything. Depressing much?

You’re telling me.

I’m just beginning to talk about menial tasks that have to do with blogging, but that was my direct connection with the outside world, also my outlet. I’m not even skimming the surface on how it’s felt to lose further mobility, forget the days of bathing yourself, most recently even the bathroom became a hot date between my husband and I, sometimes even breathing was a chore. When you can no longer sit on your couch, or touch your legs at ALL because you’re in so much pain, when your facial “flushing” is so bad that you feel you’re in an actual oven because your skin literally comes off like an inside out sunburn 🥵 , you start to question WTF IS HAPPENING TO ME!

This isn’t Just MY disease anymore.

This can’t be happening.

This can’t be happening.

This can’t be happening.

This disease, my already very weak body, and what will be known as incredibly sneaky symptoms are responsible for yet another impossibly long road to a complicated diagnosis.

But before I get into any of that..

I just want to share one very important thing, without support we are nothing, and over the years I’ve come to have such a massive family throughout the PHEO VS FAB network. YOU guys have kept us alive, and full of hope.

It has killed me every day to not be able to actively participate in helping others. Without being able to do this, I had never felt so isolated. This isn’t me.

I would never distance myself like this by choice.

So, if you DO know someone who’s sick, do everything you can to adapt to them, with them, and for them. Even if it seems they don’t want to, or can’t, they do. They maybe can’t tell you, like literally physically cannot tell you, but they need you. Everybody needs someone. No one can do this alone.

Most importantly, never ever ever ever, give up hope. No matter how bad it gets. Hope is one of the scariest things to have – but it’s the only thing worth holding onto, and when everyone & everything else is gone, it will be the only thing you have left.

Hope is something no one can take away from you. Not even cancer.

This disease can change your sight, your mental capacity, your ability to walk, it can put you into so much pain you can no longer move, it will even change who you are as a human being via a shit load of foreign hormones everyday that don’t belong, but it can’t change deep down who you are in your soul. Who I will always be is fabulous – Broken, scarred, bruised, but fab AF and ready to say F you to whatever this new chapter is going to be.

That’s the thing when you come after a fighter, eventually they WILL find a way to fight back.

Although we are still very early days and don’t have answers just yet — the fact that I am finally in my “super hospital” surrounded by my angels, being taken care of by my specialists, being HEARD, contributing, they’ve already given me the ability to write this blog post.

I’ve been in the hospital now (2018/11/30) for 2 weeks and we are slowly on a road to a very complex and delicate recovery, yet also a diagnosis progress.

Yes, you heard me. A diagnosis. What? Don’t you already have 17 diseases some may ask?

*insert laughter attempt here*

I thought I had enough as well.

WELL Apparently not.

This is what I’ve been getting at.

Some may be thinking, how come no one helped sooner?

WELCOME TO THE DANGERS OF BEING RARE

I have never been sent home so many times to die in my life.

That part was a little depressing.

One year, a lot of Dejavu, endless suffering pain, new fun attacks and a long- but -urgent -semi -coherent drive to Montreal in the end of it all ➡️ …..

…. We are now safe in the Montreal hospital, where they are amazing, and actually treat their patients 🧩

Thanks to MY own personal doctor cupcakes. My Superman. Who I think hasn’t slept in the last year in order to keep me alive and also smiling every day despite the screaming in between.

If you’re going through something similar, whether you’re in early stages of diagnosis, newly diagnosed, or like me, being diagnosed again, and again, and AGAIN.. remember this one thing – no matter how difficult, or how unexpected, eventually… things WILL come together, and when they do, only YOU have the ability to decide what you make of the rest of your story.

Through my suffering I’ve been able to reach out into so many people’s hearts and lives:

Through my pain I’ve been able to see humanity like you wouldn’t believe. Through all of the trial and tortures I’ve been able to treasure other people’s proper diagnosis and the removal of suffering.

Through the tears I’ve laughed harder than I’ve cried, and seen more beauty in darkness than I can ever describe. There is so much in the world that is to be discovered through these miracles, we just have to be mindful.

https://youtu.be/9LJGcxTB4u0

I love all of you more than I could ever describe my beautiful zebra unicorns 🦄✨

Read my other pages for more information or visit my Facebook to say hi & sometimes quick updates 💋

📸 @pheovsfabulous

THE Unicorn 🦄

I turned twenty five

A day to celebrate magic

A night to let go of all fear

Your birthday has come, and you’re still here 

You’re so full of love, your sparkle is bright, how can we forever encapture this night?

With every obstacle faced, we now can revel in the win of this fight

Never over, never far, but not out of reach… when your Fabulous is on guard 

I turned twenty five, and it was just as sweet as I imagined it would be. Getting older is an indescribable gift, it is recognition for all of the hard work that goes into treating me.

My birthday gifts were filled with adorable home decor items, unbelievably soft robes, the pinkest of pink pillows to help me travel to and from my appointments, sexy ‘houndstooth’ gloves to keep my little hands warm and fashionable, Ralph Lauren towels to wrap myself in after a nice hot bath, an apple TV so I can watch all my favorite shows from the comfort of my bed, you see the trend? Fabulous pink, purple, and soft comforting items.. anything that brings warm and comfort to my life.

The gift that I was most grateful for? The unusual amount of energy, stamina, and excitement I could carry through all evening.. to enjoy this beyond amazing evening my family prepared for me.

Being around more than a couple people at a time when you’re ill is extremely difficult, but my family knows how to keep things comfortable, even my seven year old nephew became the ‘miranda police’ and would deliver citations when people were speaking too loud, or too close to me, it was the most adorable thing I have ever seen.

My mother made my favorite feast, homemade chinese food, which my bestfriend and I ate twice (no judgement on your birthday) and that’s what a birthday should be. Eating too much, laughing uncontrollably, making memories with family that I will hold so dear in my heart forever.

Happy Birthday, to everyone who is living moment to moment, keep sharing your fabulous, I know I will!

My Memories – 25!

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My 'lucky elephant' from my 7 year old nephew, he is a heart breaker

My ‘lucky elephant’ from my 7 year old nephew, he is a heart breaker

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Half of the fam who braved the cold

Half of the fam who braved the cold

I can't take a picture with my sister without making her laugh uncontrollably, and I wouldn't have it any other way

I can’t take a picture with my sister without making her laugh uncontrollably, and I wouldn’t have it any other way

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FEAST! Mother's homemade chinese food <3

FEAST! Mother’s homemade chinese food ❤

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Squad goals

Squad goals

My amazing mother, who will do anything for her daughter to get me through this time, she is mama soldier

My amazing mother, who will do anything for her daughter to get me through this time, she is mama soldier

My bestfriend, and my dad, we always need one picture that isn't 'pretty'

My bestfriend, and my dad, we always need one picture that isn’t ‘pretty’

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The cake that exceeded perfection... <3

The cake that exceeded perfection… ❤

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My bestfriend

My best friend in the whole world

My strength

My strength, my love, my fabulous! ❤

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Remember, there is something good in EVERY day. You just need to open your heart and find what that good is, and share it with the world!

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