Last Radiation: I’m a Survivor

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On July 21, 2016, it was my last day of radiation. That’s it folks, I am officially cancer free. Of course this was one of the most exciting days of my life! I feel like I’ve been waiting for this day for the past nine months since I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer last October. I decided this day had to be perfect and I wanted it to be a celebration! I had the whole day planned out from what I was gonna wear, to baking special cupcakes for my radiation and oncological team. I played music that motivated me to be in a good mood, and I even had family and friends meet me at the hospital for the iconic ringing of the radiation belt. Oh yes and for those of you who follow me on snapchat… Izzy (My pup) and I also had some fun prepping throughout the day. Basically, this was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life… Hello, I am alive!

Surprisingly, although I was so excited and looking forward to this day, it was also filled with a lot of mixed emotions. There was the extreme excitement I had to no longer have to go to the hospital daily for treatments. There was also the happiness that I have overcome one of the biggest obstacles I have ever been faced with in my young life thus far. Then, there were those uncertain feelings I would say. The feelings of curiosity about what am I gonna do next. The feelings of abandonment in a away and what am I gonna do with all my time now. The big uncertainty for me has to do with getting back to work, what if it takes me too long to get my energy back. I even had the feeling of what if my doctors actually made a mistake and I do still have cancer but treatment is ending what will happen to me.

Although this day for me was exactly what I’ve always dreamed of celebrating life, celebrating love, celebrating the end of the chapter to this very long journey thus far. Despite my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my cousin unable to attend, they were all there to text message, face time, and spirit- thank you modern technology. I n’t think it truly hit me until I walked out of that radiation treatment room with my pink high heels on signifying the fact that my life is going to start over being a new me!

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My day began with extreme excitement. Im pretty sure that whole morning I literally was on cloud nine! I woke up and got ready. I wanted the perfect outfit, beautiful makeup, and of course a fabulous pair of shoes! I decided on a black outfit, because who doesnt look good in black… And what more perfect than PINK heels! So, the story behind the heels. My besty and roomate from college, Zip Zap sent me a care package when I was going through treatment with a kazillion of my favorite things. At the bottom of this very large box was something pink and sparkly… Omg a pair of heels. Sidenote: Zap is one of the onlyyyy people in my life that I can share shoes with so all through college I put her little piggies through “girly girl boot camp” and yes, that meant shoving her feet in amazing heels! So, getting a pair of heels from her just made my day, and I saved them for a very special occasion… What more special of a day than the start of my new cancer free life?!

I decided early on that because I didnt get a chance to celebrate my last day of chemo because it ended unexpectedly due to allergic reactions, I was going BIG with my radiation party. Technically they say you are cancer free after surgery, aka. my mastectomy had clear margins and they took lymph nodes until they got clear ones… However, the radiation played “clean up”, so any little cancer cells left behind are ZOOM ZOOM ZAPPED away now, thus making me cancer free! I decided to invite close family and friends to celebrate in the hospital then have a “Cancer Free Celebration” on the weekend following for everyone to join!  I didn’t think the hospital would really approve me having 100 guests in the radiation waiting room… however, perhaps that can be a new career venture for me, radiation party celebrations!

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What is a party without refreshments? I decided to make a few different treats and since I’d be in the hospital, I decided to celebrate by sharing with my chemo and radiation team! Cupcakes ans brownies for everyone! With pink sprinkles, duh!  Throughout my treatments I would make the staff multiple treats, side note: I LOVEEEE to bake, so it works out for everyone.

As time got closer and closer to my final treatment sooooo many things were going through my mind but mostly excitement for the party ahead! John and I headed to the hospital early, first we met with the research nurse who needed me to sign my life away for a new study I am in.  After answering numerous questions and deciding this study would be good for me, we brought treats to the chemo nurses! It is so crazy going back to the treatment rooms. Walking in there is such a thick air about them. Although the nurses always have such smiles on their faces, you look around and see patients burried under heated blankets, hiding their bald heads with wigs, scarfs, and turbans, and connected to endless lines and bags of poison! It literally breaks my heart, and it was in that moment that in a way… I felt bad for celebrating being cancer free. I felt bad because I remeber feeing like crap sitting in one of those recliners under a pile of blankets. I remember dragging my IV as I peed out pink because of the adriamycin. I remember wondering if I would make it…

After expressing my sincerest thank you’s to the chemo team, and sharing a friendly smile to the patients, to radiation I went! Did I mention… This is my last day, session 30/30!!!!! John and I got there and his parents were already in the waiting room. We laid out some of the treats then Davey (my brother in law) and Greg (my BFF) arrived! The rather small waiting room began to fill and all Johns cousins hadn’t even arrived yet! Not soon after, the Haseleu gang arrived with signs and selfie frames in hand… I literally had a smile from ear to ear!

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The radiation nurse called my name and I was walking into my very last radiation treatment! I handed the team my heels to sign as my treatment began. As my arms lay stretched over my head and the buzzing of the radiation machine went on and off, I became teary eyed and a little bit choked up. Many things crossed my mind but the most important was how these last few months not only affected me… But also my family! I was just so so gratfeul.

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After a few minutes they said over the intercom for the very last time in my life, “Meghan you can put your arms down, you are done”!!! Sayyy whattttt! I hopped off that table so quick, and hugged the nurse! Thats a freakin wrap! I asked to take a pic with my radiation mold because… Why not, and I switched into my pink heels to take a walk into the waiting room the see my family!

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As I walked into the waiting room, everyone was cheering, John was playing Destinys Child “Im a survivor”, his cousin handed me a pink sparkly hammer to ring the heck out of the bell with, and even other patients were joining into the celebration! I walked up to the bell and gave it a ring a ding that I will never forget! And yes, I hope the whole hospital heard!!!!

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As I looked out to my husband I saw tears in his eyes thinking “we did it!” I walked away teary eyed and crying but moreso because I was so excited! I gave lots of hugs, and took a kazillion photos until the nurse told me the doctor had to see me.I will never forget that feeling of walking into that waiting room after treatment and the emotion I felt by everybody that loves me, even patients that I’ve made friends with along the way. It was as simple as ringing that bell that I realized this shit is over!I can finally start my life as a 27-year-old woman, newly married, has a crazy puppy, and I’m ready to get back to my normal everyday life .

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My radiation oncologist Dr. Trombetta obviously messed up his schedule and decided to go away on vacation on the biggest day of my life… How dare he make such a mistake! Knowing this ahead of time, I didnt think it would be fair for him to miss out on the celebration, but all kidding aside I met with his partner and it was all fine. He checked my skin and that was a wrap! I scheduled a followup for 2 weeks (of which Dr. Trombetta BETTER be at) and we will get to celebrate again;)

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Thank you to my fabulous Radiation Techs!

It is so crazy to think about every single thing that I have been through. From fertility and IVF, chemo, surgeries, and finally the last stop of radiation; I am cancer free! Though this journey is far from over and it really isnt that easy to just jump back into life, heck actually it is going to take a very long time for me to get even just my energy back, I am just so happy that one of the hardest times of my life is passing. Though this journey was long, exhausting, and many tears were shed… I have realised how wonderful my family is, and without cancer, my family wouldnt be what it is today.

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I want to take this time to thank a few people…

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Firstly, John. My husband and love of my life. A few years ago when you met the long blonde hair, carefree girl in a club with a hoochie skirt on… Never did you ever imagine one day she’d be bald and sick, that you’d have to pick her up to go to bed not in a sexy way but because she doesn’t have the strength to make it up the steps alone. It really isn’t fair that you were thrown into my messy life, but you never ever left my side. You decided to propose to me way before cancer, but you decided to marry me knowing that I had cancer. You promised that day in front of all of our friends and family to love me in sickness and in health, and I must say… You have proven to me and my family a kazillion times over how you are going to honor your promise. You went to countless appointments, you cooked, you cleaned, you woke up through the night to give me medicine, you sat by my side through treatments, and you held my hand through my allergic reactions. You never gave up, and you never let me give up! I don’t even have the words to describe the thanks that you deserve for being you. You are an incredible man and I am so blessed to have you in my life!

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To my parents.  Though you both  have always supported us Franz girls through everything we’ve ever done in our lives thus far… I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve both done for me over the past couple of months.  I knew it was going to be hard when I texted you both “I have cancer” hahaha and I will never know exactly why I decided to break the news to you both in that manner, BUT you pulled our family together, supported John and I, and did anything and everything to make sure I would beat this thing!

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Mom, you spent weeks at a time in Pittsburgh away from your home and even sacrificed your job for me!  You cooked, you cleaned, you brought me shopping to make me feel beautiful, we did nails and makeup, we took selfies, you were by my side on some of my very sickest of days to rub my back and make the pain a little less.  You sat in that chemo room on my best, and sadly my worst days however I am sooooo blessed that you were there on those days because duh, your my mom and I wouldn’t have known what to do without you!  From you making me boil leaves to keep me from catching a cold, to using a essential oil for any ailment I may come in contact, I don’t know where I would have been without you here.  I love you mutter xoxoxo.

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And Papi, where do I even begin.  Im pretty sure we all thought you were going to go off the deep end in the beginning, and even though at times, your still in denial over this whole ordeal I want to thank you for being strong for me:)  You came even though you really hate hospitals, to many of my appointments (whether you sat in the waiting room or the car) it really meant so much to have you there with me.  I don’t think I will ever be able to repay you for throwing me the most magical of all weddings, helping to make our house beautiful, and for making sure we didn’t miss out on a getaway for a honeymoon!  Without you, i’d be broke and possibly living under a bridge:) okay maybe not that bad off but I truly appreciate every single thing you’ve done for John, Izzy, and I over this past year.  Although all the google research you do drives me insane, without your persistence life would be boring.  Thank you so much for being you, and I love you!

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My lovely Inlaw Kozys. Wow, where do I even begin.  I remember the day after I got my biopsies coming to your new home with ice packs in my shirt and explaining that I found a lump and they were just checking to make sure everything was alright.  The next day you both planned a fall festive weekend of events for us to forget about reality and just enjoy some good ole family time.  That Monday morning when I received the call, Momma Kozy was there to hug me and wipe my tears exactly how my own mom would have done.  You both have sacrificed sooooo much for John and I.  You helped us throw an amazing wedding that we will never ever forget, you’ve taken us out to dinner so it was one less thing we had to worry about, you even took Izzy on walks to wear him out so he was less of a psycho for us to deal with.  You both came to appointments with me from chemo to radiation and never ever missed a surgery– even though you just sat in a waiting room for hours at a time, you were always there!  Thank you for treating me like your own daughter, I love you and couldn’t have been more blessed to be a part of your family!

To my little sister Jill (aka. Bean). From the very moment I told you once again through text, “I have cancer”… i’m pretty sure your first response was “WHAT?!” then maybe something like, “no way”, but then I’m pretty sure I remember your positivity and encouraging me that everything would be fine.  You drove up that night and spent endless weekends from then on bearing that 5 hour long drive to be by my side.  From coming to my appointments, reading to me during chemo to relax my nerves, and even yelling “NURSE” when you though I was dying and couldn’t breath during chemo… I don’t know where I’d be without you, literally.  When I couldn’t stop crying over losing my hair, you threatened to shave yours and then did!  Who does that!  Even though it was entirely uncalled for, and I loved you hair and really didn’t want you to do that… It meant the world to me that I didn’t have to go through looking like a Q-tip alone.  Your amazing and I owe you my life! You have supported me, texted me, sent me gifts, and provided me the positivity I’ve need since day 1.  I love you, and I am so thankful that you are my sister and my best friend<3

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Samii, even though we fight about 99% of our lives, I don’t even have the words to thank you for dropping your life and coming to stay with me for a few weeks when I was first diagnosed.  You literally left your life, your work, and reached out to every contact you had to be sure I 1. had a wig, and 2. had a wig made of my own hair to make me remain beautiful.  You helped me so much when I needed it the most through encouraging me and teaching me techniques that will forever make me beautiful.  I owe you so much for encouraging me to share my story, heck— without you, there would be no Sparkle On blog!  You came to Pittsburgh, waited for me while I got my port placed and told my story!  I got out of  surgery, you did my makeup and I was off to a wedding!  You gave me memories of feeling beautiful before, during, and after cancer and I am so thankful! xo

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Davey, I knew you before I knew your brother and I can bet a million dollars that you never in a million trillion years ever imagined me to be your sister with cancer.  I remember when you first found out about me you came over just to sit with John and I… then when we found out about Izzy you rushed right over once again to sit with the three of us.  You have been at every one of my surgeries and whenever we were in a pickle juggling my appointments and Izzys, you always helped when you could!  When we wanted to get away for a weekend of our Honeymoon, you were the first one to volunteer to watch our crazy troll of a pup, and we are so so thankful.  I am so thankful to have a brother like you, and even though we can yell and scream at each other when we (or I) get mad… i’m so happy we can make up and be the best of friends!  I promise now that I am cancer free… I won’t be as boring as the site you once had with cancer 😉

And a shout out to a few very special friends. Cindy, Dustin, Greg, Amy, Jen, Kathleen, Kera, Zap, Aubree, my MU family, my extended family, and Pittsburgh Loves— Thank you soooooooo soooooo sooooo much for everything you all have done to help me and my family survive these past couple of months!  From fundraisers, to driving the 5 hours to come visit, to sending texts, mailing me surprises, even a simple phone call truly meant the world to me.  Without all of you, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to SURVIVE!  I have THE most wonderful friends and I am ready to get back to being me… hey, anybody want a Lemon Drop?!

Basically, my life is filled with a million fabulous individuals.  I am so blessed and cherish every single one of you for being a part of my life and journey.  Without CANCER, I would not have the opportunity to share my story and to touch the lives of people in the way that I have.  I feel that because of cancer, I will now be able to use my experience of being a patient to make me a better person and of course occupational therapist!!! Look out world… Meghan is BACK and CANCER FREE!!!!

XOXO Meghan

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