Monday, February 27, 2012

Ready to KICK Cancer's BUTT!

Quick update, though many will have seen this on Facebook... but I found out this morning that I got into the PhD program in medical science at U of South Alabama! Which means I am on my way to becoming a cancer researcher! So very excited to be able to spend my time and career trying to find something to cure this disease. It is an overwhelming responsibility, but I want it. I know these next four+ years are going to be insane and so so hard but I am looking forward to all that I will learn and all of the people I will meet. It's going to be an exciting time :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feeling Kind of Manley

About a year ago I began searching through my family history. Since my colon cancer was genetic, from Lynch Syndrome, I wanted to see how far back I could trace this gene. Who did it start with? I also wanted to try and see what other branches of my family might not be aware of it... if someone I am related to is at risk for it then I certainly don't want to keep it a secret.

I also began going through old photos and asking family members to look through theirs and I have just loved every minute of learning about the family members that I either never met or only knew briefly due to Lynch Syndrome. Cancer stole a lot of time from us, time that I really wish I could have back. There are so many days that I miss them... even the ones I never knew.

But there was one photo that I found that just got me

SO excited! Before I started doing all of this research there was a "rumor" say in my family that my great-grandfather's mother had died of colon cancer. I didn't know her name, I had never seen her face, but I also felt like she was the "link" if you will to what I was looking for. Well I found this photo... I forget who gave it to me, but the feeling I got from seeing this photo is what urged me to continue looking for more information.

This is my great-great grandmother on my mom's side, Margaret Manley Meredith. This is the first time I saw her and is still only one of two photos that I have of her. I really wish photography had been more common in the 1800s... I would have loved more pictures. Not long after finding this photo, I found a distant relative online that I have never met who was also doing a family tree. She passed along Margaret's death certificate to me. Cause of death: carcinoma (adenoma) of the colon: intestinal obstruction for 10 days, age 62. I hate to say that I was excited about seeing it, but I was. Not because I was glad she had colon cancer or anything, but because I had a definite answer and could now move on to the next generation. Also, in a weird way this whole genetic cancer thing links us... I feel closer to those ancestors than other ones because I feel I can really relate to something they experienced, even though I wasn't there. They also inspires me... if they could go through it so long ago then I should certainly be able to handle it today with modern medicine. It makes me feel blessed.

So far, the last names in my family that I'm searching are Meredith, Manley, Crunk, and Crank. They lived mostly in Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Do you have any info?? Thanks!

Monday, February 6, 2012

All Nerves and Needles

This week is somewhat of crunch time for me. For those that don't know, I have been working my butt off to get into a PhD program in molecular biology and cancer genetics. This has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. In my undergraduate program I studied religion and ancient Greek... a far cry from medical science. Because of that, I am spending this year taking classes and working in a molecular biology lab (we are studying breast cancer) in order to get some experience. It has been, like I said, a huge challenge and honestly one of the most rewarding things I've done in awhile career wise. I've come so far since that first day of class and though this might sound arrogant, I am so proud of myself. Medical school can sound so daunting and when I began I certainly didn't fully realize what I was getting into, and now that I do, I am still so eager to start my degree. I love everything about medical research. There are millions of problems to solve and I just love the idea of picking one and trying to come up with a solution. In my case, I hope to be able to come up with a solution one day that could help cure some type of cancer. The idea of being apart of that is overwhelming to me.

Which comes to this week. *Sigh*. My PhD admissions interview is this week (though there is a slight chance they might move it to next week). I'm trying so hard to prepare for it but how do you really prepare for something that will decide your future like that? I have only applied to one school so my eggs are in one basket. But that is the only school I want to go to. So as I sit here and think about how I will answer their questions I can't help but be nervous about the outcome. I am confident in my ability and I am confident that God has me here for a reason and whatever happens is meant to be, but there will be disappointment no doubt if I don't get accepted. But either way this year of preparation won't be for nothing. It has taught me invaluable information in regards to my own disease... I understand cancer and Lynch Syndrome better than I ever did before and explaining it to others is much easier now. Everything the professors here have taught me will help me in making future decisions about my medical care regardless of whether or not I am able to start my PhD.

Prayers are appreciated as I prepare and complete the most important interview of my life thus far. Not sure when I will hear if I am accepted or not, but hopefully it won't be too long... I might have a seizure from anticipation!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Big Dreams- My Initial Vision for this Blog

When I started this blog I had a vision for where I wanted to go with it. Initially I knew I would just be blogging about random topics, my journey, etc, but there is something bigger I want to do.

I titled this "The Cancer Documents" because I wanted this to turn into a documentary of sorts. One thing I have learned from cancer is that it doesn't discriminate. It hits people of all ages, all sizes, all colors, all backgrounds... it doesn't care who you are. From a 9 year old girl to Patrick Swayze, no one is immune. I have met so many people of all ages and of all cancer types and I'm amazed at how different and how similar all of their stories are. I'm also amazed at their spirits. People can be so amazing... and I think that is something we forget when the world is filled with so much evil and so many tragedies.

I want to show people who maybe don't quite "get it" what it means to be a survivor. How it changes us, shapes us, and drives us. I've made a map and on that map I have marked the cities of my friends and people I've met along the way that are either fighting or have fought cancer. And that map will take me from Mobile, AL to California to Montana to New York and back to Mobile and so many places in between. 9000 miles. 2 cancer survivors (me and my husband). An endless amount of people along the way. One blog. And a documentary in the end displaying what it means to live with cancer and live after it. Life. I think we have a very unique look at life and I want to give others the chance to see what that looks like.

I am hopefully starting med school in late August. I would love to be able to spend my summer doing this. Over 2 months of traveling the US looking for inspiration. I'm throwing this out there hoping that someone might know of a company or several companies that would be interested in sponsoring us. We have a video camera, we have lap tops, and we drive a Prius so we will spend less on gas costs. I am also planning on attending an FDX kayaking program in Idaho in July, which I would like to include in the project. More people need to know about First Descents. What we need is money for gas, a very small amount of money for emergency housing (we hope people will allow us to stay in their homes but there might be times that doesn't happen), and a stipend for food. Any sponsor will get recognition on the blog and the documentary... we could also put a car magnet on the Prius with the name of our project and our sponsors.

I know this is way out there but I really believe it could make a big impact on the community. My hope is that it could also be something for cancer centers to utilize, something that could inspire those who are newly diagnosed. Something that could also provide information for patients... something to let people know about First Descents, Imerman Angels, CaringBridge, Blog for a Cure, different treatment centers, and numerous other organizations (such as Lynch Syndrome International and The Colon Club, both of which have been vital in my own journey). It took me years to find all of those organizations and I wish I had been told about those resources in the beginning.

So... if you're interested, have an idea for me, or would like to talk about sponsoring us, THANK YOU! This definitely won't happen without support... we can't do it on our own. Email me at and I'd be happy to give you more details about the trip. Thanks :)
"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..... 'WHAT A RIDE!'"