little by little

I was looking through #quotestoliveby on Instagram tonight and came across three small words.

“little by little”

I’m sure that this is probably a mantra for many, as it could encompass so many aspects of life. It might have been written to encourage people to strive for their goals, to not give up. Maybe to save their pennies, and go for that dream vacation. Or keep chipping away at their education, until they’ve succeeded in their dreams.

I used to love seeing quotes like this. I’d save them to my quotes board on Pinterest. I even contemplated getting some of them as tattoos, so powerful a message they were, I wanted them as a permanent reminder.

But tonight I see these words and they don’t speak to me as they once might have. I see “little by little” as a reminder of my mortality. I see it as my disease chipping away slowly at my body from the inside out.

Little by little my bones grow brittle and break more often.

Little by little my fatigue consumes me to where I wonder if I can get out of bed again.

Little by little my hair falls to the floor.

Little by little the drugs fail and I wonder what will be next if I’ve already tried everything.

A lot of people have commented on how strong I am about my disease, how in control I seem, how optimistic. They don’t realise that this is the mask I must wear, my uniform. Because if I share how scary it is to not know when the end is, then I’m being “dramatic” or “looking for attention”. No one wants to hear when the chronically ill are suffering. It’s a nuisance, something that should be kept to themselves. So we do. We keep it in. We become experts at the “I’m ok”.

But there are days like today, moments where the gravity of everything collapses our resolve. It might be a song on the radio, or a comment someone made at dinner, or that moment when we look in the mirror while washing our hands. Everything we hide from everyone, including ourselves, shatters. We remember what we are going through and how bad it is.

So tonight, when I read those three words, I remembered that little by little my body is dying. And that just sucks.

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Oh, is my hair loss from chemotherapy inconveniencing you?

For those of us who take forms of chemotherapy for our disease, it’s a pretty big deal.

It’s bad enough that we get flak from the cancer community for using the term “chemotherapy” when explaining our biologics, when that’s what it actually is! I get that some of us aren’t on the high doses that cancer patients are on, BUT IT IS STILL CHEMO AND IT STILL HITS US HARD. It’s not a competition to see who’s on the worst drug or dosage.

I’ve been on biologic infusions for a couple years now. That means that I willingly consent to toxic chemicals being pumped into my body in the hopes that it makes me well. Sometimes, they do. I have unfortunately been on the other end of that a few times. The last time my body didn’t like chemo, the backlash consisted of multiple heart attacks and an eight day stint in the ICU.

It’s not a competition, so don’t tell me the chemo I take doesn’t have a toll. I get nauseated and vomit for hours. My body turns to lead and I have to sleep like the dead for up to 20 hours sometimes, just to recoup. AND my hair falls out.

Its gotten better over the years. The first time I went on chemo it came out in large clumps, to the point where I had to cut my hair short to hide the gaps. These days it doesn’t fall out en masse. But it does fall out! I have strands all over my floor, all over my pillows, and all over my bed and sheets. It sticks to my clothes, and it stands out cause I’m a redhead these days. You really can’t miss it.

It makes me very self conscious. You don’t need to tell me my hair is everywhere, I KNOW. No one knows better than me!

Most people are pretty cool about it. Sometimes they pick it off me discreetly, or mention I have a chunk sitting on my shoulder. I blush, take care of it, and we act like it didn’t happen.

You know what’s not ok?? Acting like you’re put out because my hair is in your vicinity. I’d love to not have my hair fall out, but I didn’t choose to be chronically ill, and I certainly don’t love being on chemotherapy. Have some fucking sympathy or compassion. But saying “Ew your hair is everywhere” or refusing to touch things in MY room because the hair “grosses” you out… Like are you serious?

How entitled do you have to be that you shame me for something I can’t control and hate about myself?!?! That shit is not ok. And while in my naivety I may have put up with it in the past, I will not longer.

No one in any circumstance is allowed to make you feel bad about yourself or your circumstance. EVER. That shows their insecurities, not yours.

So that will no longer fly with me. Nor should it for anyone else.

Mulling Over A Dream

It was quiet when my eyes were closed. It was when I could be at peace despite my world falling to pieces. I could be in the middle of a crowded room, or in busy store, or even now, as I lay on this cold bed in the middle of the local emergency room… With my eyes closed, I could shut the ugliness of the world out, maybe even pretend I was well again.

Not even a week had passed of 2018, and here I was with an IV in my arm, my mom sleeping next to me in a cold hospital chair. As per usual, no one had any idea what was wrong with me. A fate I had grown accustomed to. Leaving five hours later with a prescription for painkillers I’d never fill, and a suggestion to “get some rest”.

My problem is I can never get enough rest. Not if I want to attempt to have a life by any standards. I can’t sleep my life away afterall.

So in that hospital bed I lay with my eyes closed, waiting for no news. And in that quietness I fell asleep, mulling over a dream. A dream I’ve had many times. One that I know now will unlikely come true. Not so much a dream, but more of a memory…

The last memory of my other life.

The life I had before this was all I knew.

A life that wasn’t filled with medications, cold hospital rooms, and the constant threat of more pain, more fatigue, and a new diagnosis every six months.

Furthermore, a life where I would find someone who loved me for me. Where they wouldn’t look at me and see broken. Where they would marry me no matter how many years we may have together. A life with choices, and maybe children.

It was a good dream. But eventually I woke up and opened my eyes… Back to the cold hospital bed, to the doctor telling me she could do no more. Back to my reality.

I slept for a long while that day, once I had climbed back into my own bed, and my mom departed for the long trip home. I was used to this aftermath of hospital visits. Used to the bed rest, dehydration, and exhaustion that inevitably followed. Used to the loneliness, the unbearable loneliness that came with my disease.

But this time something new followed, I was not so alone. He came with food, and hugs, and the support I needed to get through it without falling apart. And in the days that followed, I realised his love allowed me to mull over a new dream.

We’ve still got time

For the last two years I’ve lived on a clock.

A clock that has been ticking away the moments to where I meet my end. My illness eating away parts of me that are unseen.

Because of this I’ve adjusted to a “come what may” attitude towards life. I’ve been living free and fearless, feeling that this was the only way for me to live my life to the fullest.

But I have recently come to realize that this may not work for my anymore. I can no longer live in the shadow of my disease.

I have people I care about and friends whom are important to me. The ‘come what may’ philosophy only worked for me when I had nothing to live for and therefore had no fear of what happened to me.

This is no longer an accurate representation of my life.

Maybe it’s that 2018 is in quick approach and it makes us all think about what is important in our lives.

Love. Family. Friendship. Truth. Fun. Happiness.

No I don’t suddenly fear death or the end of my being, despite that always lurking.

No, I don’t fear the clock of life.

I fear the loss of the important things.

People go through their entire lives not being truthful to themselves and others. Life is short, no matter what time clock we are all on. Cherish the time that is given. Share your feelings. Tell your friends they are important to you. Tell your loves what they mean to you.

Instead of being fearless, respect the time you’re given and use it wisely. It’s not to late to be truthful to who you are.

One year ago 

One year ago, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop with my mom, drinking delicious lattes from ceramic cups. Despite the intense summer heat in Hawaii, I was always in the mood for a Brue Bar latte. That day was extra special though, a significant moment in my medical history. It was the day I received my approval letters from Social Security. 

It had been just under two years since I had filed for federal disability. Two years, that to me, seemed like a lifetime. I still shudder at the thought of how broke I was during that time, how desolate. I lived with two sets of generous friends, who allowed me to stay in spare bedrooms for months on end as I waited. I lived on a very small state disability income of only $248 a month. That had to cover bills, medications, transportation, and incidentals. I became the queen of budgeting. Even my pain therapist said I could draw oil from rocks.

So, one year ago, when I received the letter telling me I was going to finally get enough money to live off, money that would help pay for rent, groceries, medical supplies, and more, I was quite overwhelmed. I cried, right there in the coffee shop, in front of my mom. My mom was probably the only person on the planet that understood the significance of these letters to me. She took a picture of me from across the table, one shaking hand holding the letter, the other wiping tears from my eyes. I was still very overweight from the continued steroid use at that point, and I was heavy in the face. It’s probably one of the most memorable and significant pictures of myself that I have. 

One year ago, I received Social Security benefits. A lot had changed since that day, and I’d like to think that it had to do with the positive effect this has all had on me. I’ve dropped a significant amount of the steroid weight, and I recognize myself in the mirror again. I’m in a new county where I’m finally getting really good medical help. My moods have changed, and I’m more often happy than not. 

One year ago I received a letter that would change my life. It did.

Don’t ever assume “I can” means “I will”


Inigo Montoya shared this line with us in the cult classic The Princess Bride, one of my favorite and also least favorite movies. You may wonder how someone can love and hate a movie at the same time, but it’s not much different than how we love and hate other parts of our lives… I love tomato soup but hate marinara sauce. I love the beach but hate the sand.

For me, this line is indicative of how I feel when people offer support or help, but don’t follow through on the promise. It’s in fact one of my biggest pet peeves. The best memory I have of this annoying occurrence is through the actions of a certain ex-boyfriend of mine. He would constantly make promises to me, and then never follow through. For example, on one Valentine’s Day, he told me that my gift was that he wanted to take me to this old black & white theatre in town that played old movies, kind of like an old fashioned romantic date night. I was overjoyed by this idea, reveling in the thought of how romantic my man was. I told all my friends about the lovely date he proposed, finding such satisfaction in the idea of my “gift”. But then time passed, and he never initiated the actual date he had told me about. This was when I first realized that he was one of those people that thought that stating the idea/plan/date was enough, and that initiation of said idea didn’t need to happen, so long as he felt generous enough for just offering. God, that got old real quick…

I actually use this irritating ploy as a way of gauging the authenticity of people I come across now. I no longer accept offers at face value, concluding that an offer isn’t real until followed through on. Alas, since falling ill four years ago, there is no offer made more than the promise of support. And this is where I want to invoke Inigo Montoya every time.

What exactly is your biggest pet peeve, you may ask? Hearing this:

“Please don’t ever hesitate to call me if you need help.”

“I could help drive you to the doctors office if you ever need.”

“Call me if you need help picking up groceries or running errands.”

There are more versions of these statements, but I think you get the picture. But they are always, always followed by “It’s no problem at all, I’m just glad I can help.”

Grumble grumble. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, “This girl is ungrateful. These people are just trying to help her, and she’s complaining.” Oh, if only that were true, but if it were, I wouldn’t be regaling you with this story now would I?

In the early days of my disease, I was always so grateful to hear these promises of support. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone, that I had so many people that I could count on. That is, until I attempted to collect on the offers…

Now at first, I thought I must always be catching people at the wrong time. That of course must have been the reason they turned me away. So I started to ask for help here and there when I thought the time was more convenient. But even then, my request to take people up on their initial offers of support, were often met with short responses in clipped agitated tones. Or even worse, comments dripping in disdain that sounded like they were answering a smelly homeless person, asking for an extra bucks change, as opposed to me, a friend they’d known for quite some time.

Like I said, it took me awhile…

Eventually I figured  it out, these people were just like my ex-boyfriend, and they fed hungrily on the feeling of being a benefactor from just the offering of help. For them, the offer alone was enough to make them feel like they had done a good deed. They’d offered someone in need their help, and that in turn made them feel generous and kind. Hurtling their karma in the right direction, and allowing them to feel philanthropic. But if the person in question turned around to collect on that offer, instantly they would feel annoyed and pressured, irritated that they would have to now make time to do something that they themselves offered in the first place. This annoyance that they felt entitled to feel, could then allow them to take a step back from the friendship. They could now tell themselves that they had been generous, and that it was being taken advantage of. While in reality, they hadn’t done anything but make themselves appear petty and untrustworthy.

Now I’m not saying all people are like this. I do have wonderfully supportive people in my life. People who have gone above and beyond to help me, to support me, to love me. I am eternally grateful for their kindness. Although, I do find it amusing that the most generous people are often not whom you might normally expect. But that’s okay. Their generosity and support make me realise more now than ever, that sometimes the family that chooses you, the ones that come from all walks of life, are the ones that make the most impact in yours.

But on the path of never ending life lessons, don’t ever assume “I can” means “I will”.

I wish you would

I wish you would see the real me, the me that no one sees.

I wish you could see through the denial of what I have in your mind.

I wish you would see the me that struggles every day.

I wish you would see how hard it is for me to maintain this vision of wellness that you expect me to project.

I wish you could see how hard it is for me to live with this pain day in and day out.

I wish you could see your own fear that you push onto me when you tell me to get over it or just push through, like it’s just a bad day and not the disease that is killing me.

I wish you would believe me when I tell you the truth of what is happening to me, and what my doctors are telling me.

I wish you could see that I need you more than just in name, in title. That I need you to actually be a parent, a supporter, a friend.

I wish you would stop being passive aggressive when I tell you I don’t feel well, and not brush it off like I’m being lazy or dramatic or not willing to give my all.

I wish you would help me financially as much as you help yourself.

I wish just once you would ask me if I need help, if there’s anything you could do for me.

I wish you would see how scared I am.

I wish you would see how frail I am.

I wish you could see that deep down inside I’m just a girl who never asked for this, never wanted this.

I wish you would accept me for who I am, all of me.

I wish you could accept that even though my body has changed I’m still me, and that I didn’t want to look like this. It was out of my control.

I wish you could see past the weight gain, see past the medications, and the sickness, and just love me.

I wish you would love me as much as you love everyone else, and treat me as an equal, not an outcast.

I wish you would stop pretending to the world how great you are, how supportive you are, and show how really cold you are.

I wish you would tell everyone that I asked you for help and that you told me I didn’t earn it.

I wish you would tell everyone the truth, that you have not given me even 10% of the support I really need, even though you are one of the people I need it the most from.

I wish you would love me like everyone thinks you do, how you tell everyone you do. I wish it didn’t feel like a lie.

I wish you knew how hard it was for me to get out of bed today, how painful it was just to grip the sheets and pull back the covers.

I wish you could understand how hard it was to have someone help dress me, how hard it is as a 35 year old woman, to have someone else help me put my underwear on.

I wish you could see how I struggle to do even the simplest things, like pour myself a glass of water, or even lift the glass to my lips.

I wish you could see the real me, the one that is in pain every day and just wants this to end.

I wish you would treat me with the love and respect that I deserve, and give me the support you tell everyone you give, the support you have deluded yourself into thinking you give.

I wish everyone saw the truth of what is happening to me. I wish people truly understood and believed me when I tell them I am dying. I am truly dying. It could be a year, it could be ten. But the truth is I will probably go before almost everyone I know, including my parents.

I wish you would all just understand how hard that is for me to process. How hard I struggle with my mortality. How hard I struggle with everything.

I wish you all knew how little I have in this world. How I am close to bankruptcy, that I have bills piling up, and that I’m about to lose the roof over my head. I wish you could understand how many people I have in my life that could change my circumstances in a minute, keep me from homelessness, truly take care of me, but choose to do nothing. People who lie and tell everyone how supportive they are of me and understand how ill I am but would rather spend money on trips, shopping, eating out, and material things. If only they could look inside themselves and see that if they sacrificed one present to themselves, I could be housed for a year, or for life.

I wish you could understand how little and terrible they make me feel when I ask for even the smallest amount of help. I wish you could understand that they told me I didn’t earn their love or their help, and that they don’t need to take care of me.

 I wish you could understand that this is my reality. It has been since before I was sick. That this is what I’ve dealt with for years.

I wish I wasn’t dying. I wish I could be happy. I wish the world I knew wasn’t the world I live in.

I wish a lot of things.


My last trip to the hospital ^