i love myself too much now

You would think that after going through cancer, I'd have that "nothing can get to me" attitude. You would think that I got over my insecurities.  You would think that I didn't care what other people thought of me.

You would think, right?

During my diagnosis and all the elements that came with it: going through chemotherapy and radiation, throwing up, passing out, and all the mess that comes with cancer, I could care less what people thought of me.  During the process, I was too busy having cancer to worry.  I just focused on surviving - that's what I was supposed to do.  After, though?  When I got to come home permanently, for real this time, did I care?  Damn straight, I did.  Unfortunate as it was, I did care. 

It was hard to be me - the me who had cancer then didn't.  I wasn't who I was but I also had no clue who I'd become, either.  I had gone through this life-altering journey and I didn't know who would be there on the other side.  Yes, it changed who I was, but at the same time I stayed the same. I don't know if I'm using the right words to explain this to you, but I'm trying.  I learned so much about myself throughout the cancer ordeal - things I was proud of and others that I wish would just disappear.

To make those aspects of myself disappear was no easy task.

One of the areas I've always wanted to change is how much I care about what other people think.  I'm the type of person who always wants to make sure everyone else is okay before I am.  That's all wonderful and everything, but when it gives people permission to let them belittle you or make you uncomfortable in your skin...well, not so much.

Since I can remember, I've let people control me with their words and actions.  Even when I was finally recovering, sometimes held up in a hospital, I let their words control my happiness and sadness. 

If they called or sent me a text...
If they graced me with their presence...
If they led me to believe that their story was more important than mine...
If they were happy...or not.

I let them take all the control.  That was my fault.  I let them feed my insecurities until I figured something out.  It wasn't okay.  I didn't need to make them important in my life especially if I wasn't important in theirs.  I didn't need to listen to their stories - stories they felt they needed to tell me to clear their conscience - to make them feel better or better than me.  I was the one going through a traumatic time and I had to make it stop.  I had to let them know that I wasn't putting them first anymore.

I want you to know that it wasn't easy.  It wasn't easy to say, "I can't talk about that anymore because it doesn't do me any good" or "that's okay if you can't be around me right now".  There are certain people in my life that don't hold a place of authority anymore.  People that are supposed to be around, just aren't.  It is a very difficult situation to go through, but it's not harder than fighting for my life. 

If I can fight off cancer...be that warrior I said I would be, well then I would have to fight off negativity in my life.  It was that simple and that hard all at once.  These are people I love, but I had to see the big picture.  It wasn't doing me any good.

Please don't think that this is easy for me - I'm a people pleaser.  If you looked up "people pleaser" on the internet, I'd be the first entry.  That's how much importance I've given to others over myself.  It's been very difficult not to pick up the phone and text them saying, "I'm sorry.  Let's start over.  What can I do to make this normal again?" But it's not me who has to please this time and that's a hard pill to swallow.

So, you would think that all of this standing up for myself would change my insecurities and how people see me.  Well...

That's something I'm working on.  This new person I've been transformed into, the person who went through cancer and saw a new life at the end of the journey, is a slow work in progress.  I still seek approval.  I still apologize.  I still want them to like me.  I still look in the mirror and see flaws that I wish could just change with a snap of my fingers.  I will probably do that for a while.  I hope it's not forever, though.

Because what a waste of this new life, right?  I don't want to waste one more minute putting me second.  I'll still be the type of person who cares and loves a little too much on people.  That's my strength.  That's my super power.  I just need to develop that super power a little bit and add loving on me to the top of the list.

That's the lesson, loveys.  Love yourself first even if it means putting others second.

one year

Today marks one year.
One year ago today, I was laying on a hospital bed and the attending doctor at my local hospital held my hand and said, "Mrs. Soriano, you have Acute Myeloid Leukemia."  (AML)
Moments before that statement, my husband was sitting at the foot of my bed, looking at me with so much love in his eyes.  He already knew something was wrong.  They had told him the night before - a night that he didn't sleep, but only did research all night long.  A night where he was alone with that information because I had already been admitted from the emergency room - a night where he called my nurse every hour to make sure I was okay, still breathing, still alive.
Before the doctor gave me my diagnosis, I thought everything was okay.  I'd been in the hospital before, for various reasons, since I started motherhood.  After having a child, it seemed like my body had changed on me.  Before having my oldest, I never even stepped into a doctor's office, let alone an emergency room.  To be admitted for observation to the hospital really didn't seem like a big deal.
See, I was pretty ignorant.  When my ObGyn said my lab results had come back and she wanted me to see a hematologist, I didn't think much of it.  I didn't know what a hematologist was.  All I knew was that I'd had an abnormal period, my mouth hurt, I was extremely tired, and that the bruise I got two weeks before hadn't gone away. When I was rushed through ER and then admitted overnight and an oncologist came to ask me some questions, it didn't even sink in then.  I don't know why.  I guess I just had faith that this was just routine and I'd go home the next day.
The next morning, seeing my husband's face, my children sitting on a little sofa on the side, and the doctor saying those words, I can't remember what I responded.  I think it was "ok" and tears started to fall.  That doctor, though, was so smart.  She knew the magic words to get me through - she showed up for me.  She said, "The people who survive this are the ones that stay positive. You have to."
And I did.  If you followed my AML journey, you know I did.  From that moment, I made sure I was my own warrior.  I had to - for them...for my babies.  My husband walked out to the hospital garden to tell them. Miah (12), Lucas (10), and Annika (8 months) came back to my room and hugged me.  The strongest little faces, holding it together for their mama.  They were a force to be reckoned with and I made sure that they knew I wasn't going anywhere.
It's been one year since that diagnosis.  It was my most trying year of my life.  If you have ever read anything in this space, you know I've been through a lot since I was a little girl.  But 2016 was really rough.  I didn't know that my body could break down on me like that, scream at me as if saying, "that's it! I'm done!" But I had no problem screaming back! I wasn't going to let cancer end me.  I've been through way too much in my life to just give up like that.  All I can remember is that I had to fight for my kids...for my husband.  I couldn't leave them.
The oncologist that visited me the night before my diagnosis had pulled my husband aside that night.  In a hospital conference room, he stated pretty bluntly that I may not make it - he asked if I had stated my wishes. The oncologist asked if I had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on file.  That was what my husband thought about all night.  Hey Mr. Negative Oncologist, bite me!  I'm still here - alive and kicking! You were wrong!
In the days and weeks to follow, I was transferred to my insurance's home hospital where they did my first bone marrow biopsy.  From the results of that painful procedure, the doctors from City of Hope took my case.  It turns out that I had a special mutation within the AML. I went through multiple treatments of chemotherapy.  I had a seizure, fevers daily, and delirious episodes.  I don't remember a lot of it, but the chemo started working.  Once the chemo brought my blood levels/numbers down, I started getting platelet and blood donations.
Can I tell you how blessed I felt with those donations?  One person told me that she was donating at the donor center and heard someone say, "Please have my donation go to Renee Soriano." The nurse said, "Oh, you too?"  It turned out that half of the room was donating platelets and/or blood to me.  I've kept every yellow tag that said Designated Donor to remind of the love and support you all gave me.  I have every card, every gift, every text message you sent me.  I will keep them forever.  A symbol that I was never alone in this journey.
On August 23, 2016, I was blessed with a bone marrow donor match.  A 22-year-old girl (I overheard a nurse say she was on the east coast!) that I have never met saved my life.  I prayed for her from the moment I knew she had been asked until this very day.  As of today, I am almost nine months in remission.  My prayers were answered.  My positivity in the face of cancer worked.  I could do hard things.
I always knew that, though.  See, I had this army behind me each and every step of the way.  Not only my husband and kids, but my extended family and friends were there.  You were there.  People I had never met, people that were there day in and day out, sending me their positivity, love, prayers. People like you stood beside me, behind me, around me, and made up my #sorianostrong army.  I will forever be in your debt.
During the preparation of the transplant process, I didn't know if I could go one.  Eleven treatments of radiation can really put a toll on a body plus the continued chemotherapy, you can imagine.  I would lay there in bed and pray.  I would cry up and tell God to give me strength and that I would leave it all in His hands.  His will be done.  Those moments were the hardest, but I persisted to get better.  There wasn't any other way but to survive.
It's been one year since the diagnosis.  I'm here!  I'm in this space yelling from my mountain, "I am the warrior! I will not be defeated!"
One year.  Yes!
A special thank you to Tausha Wierlo for taking the photos on this post.  The photos taken here were from just days following my diagnosis.  They remind me how far I've come.  #blessed