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Conquering Breast Cancer: Transform RN to MD

$1,960 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 21 people in 2 months
FINALLY, after putting my dream of becoming a doctor on hold for 15 years to take care of my family, began to make that dream come true. Then I got hit with breast cancer. I am forging through grad school, and applying to med school in a few short months, however after being without work due to a double mastectomy, having to start chemo, and looking at a mountain of medical debt ahead of me, I will need help to fund my medical school tuition, as I will have exhausted my student loans and savings paying my grad school tuition and debt.   I have come so far, I WILL NOT GIVE UP.  
        I am starting this now, so I will be able to pay for applications, transportation/flights, hotels, housing, etc. for interviews this fall through winter, as well as have deposits and tuition ready for winter/spring of next year into summer. 
        I know this seems like a lot of money, but please remember- once I start school, I will not be able to work, and I will have to maintain GOOD health insurance (I have to continue routine scans, 5 years of meds, follow up visits, etc.), rent, food, and utilities.  Since I am getting a graduate degree now (I am a VERY non-traditional student), I will not have any federal financial aid eligibility left.  

ANOTHER NOTE: I realize that those who do not know me may wonder why I put this campaign under "Education" as opposed to "Medical" and focus more on the expenses related to school as opposed to my medical care and bills related to living. The simple explanation: I could only pick one category. If I could have chosen both, I would have, because they both apply.  The complicated explanation: this is a long-term campaign for a longer-term investment.
      The schools that are at the top of my wish list have programs the are dedicated to communities that are underserved and in need of doctors who care for vulnerable populations, provide community education, and provide outreach in the form of clinics that deliver a variety of services beyond desperately needed primary care services.  I need to get there to become a part of that.  Getting beyond those initial hurdles of money to apply, to get to interviews, to put a deposit for tuition, to pay tuition, all while paying these ever-changing medical bills (which are not astronomical, but when when your regular life bills don't stop and most of your paycheck does...)-THAT is the goal. 
 
     This whole Breast Cancer thing has forced me to learn humility and that even I (gasp) can't do everything without help. I am going to get my boobless, hairless, black bean self to med school come hell or high water, but I am going to need help to do it. So y'all, if you can give a little, groovy. If you can't, no worries. Either way, I would greatly appreciate if you could share this sucker like an anti-vaxxer's kid shares the measles so I can take some of the worry off of my plate.
 
      (and in case anyone is worried about putting good money into something they don't think that I can handle in this condition-I chopped these puppies off, took a nap in post-op, went to my room, opened my laptop, and did my MCAT prep class. Then I got discharged and studied for my graduate program biochem test and genetics quiz which I took in person and on time the day after discharge. AND I've been working 2 jobs in the ED and Cardiology up until the mastectomy-going back soon. It's a good investment-TRUST ME ;)
 
I want to finish killing off cancer, not my dreams.

Below are some pictures of my journey as well as an essay I wrote for myself as well as my friends and family who were very worried for me in the beginning, and a letter to myself that I was asked to write as  part of a cancer patient writing item (warning: strong, real, raw language).  Thank you! :)

 Below: my dog Zeus the day I had my biopsy
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35287594_1545540349963700_r.jpeg35287594_1545540375898252_r.jpeg35287594_1545540396196623_r.jpegAbsolutely the best birthday cake of all time!

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    35287594_1545540453343349_r.jpegIt was WAY funnier with the motion of the GIF

           
                                                                                                Why This Was So Easy

               I know people are wondering/have wondered how I have been so, "OK," with, "losing," the girls. I know this because they've asked, I didn't develop any post-op Miss Cleo powers.  Some think that I haven't processed it yet, either wholly or at all, some think I've put up the Karen Facade and am losing my mind in private, etc. Since I'm a huge fan of TMI and I know the questions are out of concern, I thought I'd write a little ditty and let you know. 

            This was easy because those bitches betrayed me. Even as I write it, I know it sounds extreme, but it's how my crazy ass mind sees it. From the moment I felt that lump I was pre-occupied with, "what-ifs," until I had the mammogram and ultrasound. That healthcare worker damn-that-sucks-for-her face is hard to miss-I have trouble controlling it myself. Then came the, (thankfully), short wait for the biopsy, and the agonizingly long 7 day wait for results that were at my fingertips. I worked the 4 days leading up to getting my results, each day having at least one breast cancer patient. On their left tit. The Universe is a cunt sometimes. 

            I went to get my results alone. I had someone to go with me, but they didn't wake up and I didn't call-I'm not sure why THAT is the part that I wanted to do alone. The radiologist could tell that I wasn't surprised. I Pulled Dr. Colfry's name out of my ass, and as far as I'm concerned that was divine intervention. I drove around for an hour changing destinations 3 times before ending up at Target (where else can you emotionally shop AND get ice cream?). Cried in dog food aisle. Got pissed off about crying in dog food aisle. Bought a bunch of crap, including my unicorn ice cream and alcohol, went home, drank a bottle and passed out for 15 hours. Woke up, still had cancer. Let me say that again, because I had to think it a million times: FUUUUUUCCCKKKKKK!!!! I have FUCKING CANCER!!! I wanted to punch myself in the tit where the tumor was, but I figured that was a bad idea, and I was still in pain from the biopsy. 

        Now I've got to figure out insurances, leave from my jobs, school and my MCAT course, plan of care, finances, etc... all while STILL working and going to school! If I thought work while waiting for the biopsy results was bad, work after them was worse. That weekend my mind was not all there. Not as in crazy, but as in somewhere else. I would do stupid shit. Nothing dangerous, but shit that made me realize that I shouldn't be working-I was going to make a mistake and possibly hurt somebody. 

       I had my appointment with Dr. Colfry, who agreed I was done working. We discussed all the fun aspects of my tumor and treatment options. Genetic testing, pre-op, yada yada. It's settled-they come off. I would not subject myself to radiation daily for 6-8 weeks and chemo and the rest of it. I had always said I would never do that, and when I was actually put in the hot seat, I stood by that position. At this point, TMI alert, I was already avoiding the shower like the fucking Cucuy was in there. I was terrified of finding something else. Every time I was in there, I had to re-live finding the fucking thing and I had to touch it. Every time I got undressed, I had to look at it. The sight disgusted me.

        My chesticles, which I once loved, which had graced many a birthday album and had seen the light-of-day in many a city, were disgusting to me. Speaking of birthdays, let's not forget that it was October by now. My birthday month. The ONLY day, as you all know, that I absolutely LOVE, is my birthday on Halloween. I live for it. I count down to it daily. This year, I didn't give a shit. I tried. I tried to make myself get excited about Halloween. That statement right there would have worried most of you if I had said it at any point in the month of October. Y'all would have put me on a 5150. 

       Now here I sit on my ass, because just going to class yesterday to take a test wore me out. I can't even snuggle with The Basterds because they can't be here- it's too dangerous with the drains and fresh wounds. Y'all know I hate to sit still. I hate doing one thing at a time. I have a 5lb limit for at least 4 weeks. I can't even change my fucking trash bag in the kitchen.

Let's tally that up. Because of those insidious motherfuckers, I:

Lost:
• Money (ongoing)
• Grades (putting a stop to that shit NOW)
• My sanity (regained)
• The ability to bathe like an adult and not a child scared of the dark (regained)
• My job working with patients that I LOVE (on hold)
• My beloved puppies (just for now...)
• My independence (short term)
• My birthday (this is the only one you get fuckers)

Gained:
• Fear (perhaps the one I’m most pissed about. gone.)
• Worry (it could come back. I have to watch for lymphedema FOR-EV-ER.)
• Ugly crying (ugh, definitely gone.)
• Swollen and numb armpits that will stay that way for months to years depending on how my nerves heal (if ever) (ongoing)
• Spirit knockers that will act up creating itches I can't scratch and pain I can't alleviate, because it's not really there (ongoing)
• 5 years of an estrogen receptor blocker, which means... (at least 5 years)
• I'm going to have to get a hysterectomy because of my endometriosis, which I now cannot treat (...)
• All of the symptoms that will come with the aforementioned drug and surgery: hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, nausea, insomnia... (...)
• Having to coordinate insurance and time off for that goddamn surgery (...)
• The additional risks that come with the meds and surgery (...)
• Let's not forget the possibility of losing what little hair I do have (...)

So, yeah, I rolled into that OR with a fucking Caesar Romero-playing-The-Joker smile on my face.

      Are all of my updates, etc. just bullshit humor, like spraying the bathroom after dropping a deuce and creating a metaphorical shitrus? Negative, Ghost Rider. I am who I am, you fuckers are well-aware of that. I've been through some shit in my life, and above all else, my sense of humor has gotten me to this point. Shit happens. You can't change when shitty things happen, but you can dictate your response. Before I even had the mammogram and ultrasound I was already working on a list of Pros if I was to find myself in this very position and I keep working on it. If you've read this far, you won't mind a little more  ;)

1. No more bras. No more $50-60, underwire, digging in the shoulders, 4-6 hook, uncomfortable-as-fuck bras.
2. Tank tops. Now I can wear them.
3. Nipples. I ain't got none. Now I don't have to worry about making sure the expensive-ass bras noted above are lightly padded so as to not give away the fact that I am always fucking cold
4. I can buy scrub SETS. No more buying one size up on the top, which means $$$ saved.
5. Boxing. Once I get clearance, my jab and cross just got a whole lot more range
6. Weights. More than a few sets will not have to be modified now...
7. Boob sweat. Ain't gonna happen. EVER AGAIN. Bring it on South Louisiana Summer
8. No more layers under my scrubs to make sure my tit doesn't pop out with all of the bending over, etc. at work
9. TATTOO EXCUSE. When I finally figure out what I want (and can get it-it'll be years, but it'll be worth the wait), (ideas graciously accepted), it is gonna be awesome!
10. I was smart enough to buy Critical Illness and Hospital Indemnity Insurance (if you don't have it-GET IT. It wasn't a ton, but it was enough to live off of and pay my rent/car/some bills for 3 months off of work-we all know SDI isn't nothing, but it isn't a whole lot)
11. I have a wonderful current work family at The T**** and extended former work family here in Louisiana, California, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and, well, y'all know I've been around  ;P I know every one of these nutballs will support me because whatever faults I do have, not being there if someone needs me isn't one of them
12. Putting "TI" on the right and "TS" on the left and going topless to a festival next summer-and NOPD can't do shit about it
13. Scored 2 additional drawers in my dresser getting rid of the bras
14. Lost 10lb overnight
15. I come up with new ones almost daily, which is pretty groovy

     So, don't worry about my mental health y'all-I have contemplated the fuck out of all of this. I am GLAD those bitches are gone, because so is the toomuh (you know you read that in Arnie's voice). Those treacherous beasts are off in a lab in a jar somewhere and I'm already thinking about all the cute tanks I can wear to the gym when I get clearance. I told you-I am bad fucking grass, you can't kill me.

“Smile; have a sense of humor, and accept the things you cannot change.” Jeanne Robertson  one of the gems I've found on NPR  ;)
 
35287594_1545445512320946_r.jpegD-Day- Caesar Romero Smile

35287594_1545540560697587_r.jpeg35287594_1545540582422456_r.jpeg35287594_154554063875981_r.jpeg
Bless that man, he brought up saving the tattoo before I even thought to ask. 

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OMG, those drains. and I only had TWO. Will I ever get reconstruction? HELL-TO-THE-NO. I'd love the free tummy tuck 'cause lawd knows my chunky butt could use it, but noooooo. Those drains are the devil. I legit told him if he didn't take them out I was going to have an unfortunate trip and fall accident where they got caught on something and pulled out.
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Finally found a use for the S-pen on my Note 8

35287594_154544800097096_r.jpegDemon bird holiday humor

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And, considering that people are rude as hell and like to act like they have no home training when you try to go to the Walgreens and get some gum, I've decided I ain't wearing no damned scarves. I'm gonna continue my unsolicited community teaching and MAKE these mofos uncomfortable. It could be your sister, your auntie, your mama, YOU- act right!

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You've seen the "normal" pic...

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Gotta keep that sense of humor :)

Final item, I promise.  I was assigned to write a letter to myself that I wish had been written to me at the start of all of this cancer crapola.  This is the final item of my crazy story here. If anything, I hope it has given you a better perspective the next time you come across anyone, friend, foe, or otherwise, who has been dealt the aces and eights of a cancer diagnosis.

Karen,
 
         I won't tell you to not freak out. Freak out. Do it. You should. You need to. You done? Good. Felt good, didn't it? No, it didn't change anything, but that's not the point.  I won't tell you that you will be fine, plenty of people are going to do that. Be gracious, they mean well. They don't know what to say. Think back to the last time you were on the other end of that conversation. It's almost reflexive.  And hey, they may be right. And yes, they may be wrong. Accept help. People are going to offer it, I guarantee you. Whether it's food, or rides, or toiletries, or dog sitting, or chores, accept what people are offering you. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need help when you're going through this craziness, and I'm gonna tell you right now, you won't be able to do any of it alone.
         It's not so weird, having no breasts. I guess not having to deal with all of the cons that came with a large chest makes it easy to forget what it was like. The boredom will kill you, forgive the bad pun. The feeling of uselessness those first few weeks will be annoying as hell, but it will pass. You'll feel ridiculous when you re-conquer small things like taking your own trash out. And woo-woo when you get to put a piece of clothing on that isn't a mastectomy shirt and sweatpants! Ah, yes, and the drains. Those blessed drains.  A necessary evil.  Don’t forget the phantom pain-it's not just for arms and legs.  Yes, you will "feel" your nipples get hard when the cold hits you. It is a crazy feeling that nobody tells you about before any of this begins. They also don't tell you about the itches and shooting pains, you get to find out about those the hard way too.  Just roll with the punches girlie, because there are A LOT of punches coming. Because guess what? Now comes the chemo.  Again, your well-wishers will say, "maybe your hair loss won't be that bad," or something to that effect.  Sorry Honey, you gon' be bald, get over it.  If you need to freak out again, do it, and move it along. This is one of those times you need to remind yourself you can be bald and alive or dead with a full head of hair. Yes, that's straight up, but cancer doesn't care about your feelings.  Shave your head.  Not shiny like a marble, just super short. Get used to it. Take control of the situation and own it.  Make it YOURS. You don't have to live the nightmare people think of when they hear chemo: waking up to a handful of hair on the pillow with a huge bald spot on their head while they ugly cry.  Find the proverbial silver lining in every aspect of this whole mess.
         Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying blow sunshine and bunny farts out the back end all day every day- that would be ridiculous and discount every right you have to be mad as hell about all of this (and you DO have that right)- but don't wallow in self-pity.  Just like the well-needed, well-justified freak out we talked about in the beginning, IT DOESN'T CHANGE ANYTHING.  Of course it feels good to get it out, to vent, to yell at the top of your lungs, "why in the hell is this happening to ME?!?!?" Get it out, and get along. Don't try to drown it with anger, alcohol, sex, acts of stupidity, or giving up and lamenting; In the end- YOU STILL HAVE CANCER. Do something about it doll, even if saying, "I don't want to fight it, I want to live what life I have left," is what you do, DO SOMETHING.  Just make sure you heart and your mind are both at the table whenever decisions are made and reactions are let loose.

And for fuck’s sake-have a sense of humor.

Love you, mean it. 
 
 
 
 
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"boob" shot! scars from mastectomy FINALLY healed, just in time for my first shift back tonight
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So I have been told by my fabulous charge nurse that I will NOT be without a face mask for a nanosecond while at work, and of course I must do things my way. Or as a floor nurse on one of my travel contracts once put it: I bring a little glitter to the world :)
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I got recognized and re-tweeted!

Background: I had posted about the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery Program in October. They provide rides to cancer patients to all diagnosis-related appointments if none are available/possible. I have been volunteering with this as well.
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Funny, just two days ago the notorious RBG cast her vote from her hospital bed after having a partial lobectomy for cancerous lung nodules and apparently has been bugging her personal trainer about when she can get back to the gym. Now, I am NOT putting myself on her level, believe me, but it gives me the giggles that I see myself there. I've been bugging my surgeon about when I can start lifting/exercising since I had my consult. And of course, just when I was starting to get into my groove and do some shadow boxing and such, here comes the port placement and I'm back on restriction, but still bugged him at my week 1 follow up :)
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$1,960 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 21 people in 2 months
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