The Chrome Dome is Round!

‘A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

G.I. Jane has nothing on me!!!

G.I. Jane has nothing on me!!!

These words seemed to have fit my life since 2011…Okay maybe since I left High School!  I was always looking for a good way to test myself and I am sure my parents early on in life too with “hot water” - Sorry guys! ;) Turns out even though that water burned me – I survived, grew and became a stronger person; from the lessons I forced to teach myself through bad decisions and a few misconceptions.

It’s almost as if everyday of life is just one test after the other full of others teachings, persuasions and recommendations. In the end you take those, filter them through your own mind, break them down into your own theories and come out with your own end result that may or may not have traces of influences from those around you.  Either way in the end it’s up to you! Your choice, your decision on how you take the wrenches that are thrown at you daily or what you learn from the mistakes you made 15 years ago; even how you process them today.

What does all the above have to do with the “now”, the “today”?  Everything.  I never knew the test I had coming to me.  I flitted through my teens and early to mid twenties thinking that I was untouchable and in a sense I was.  There was no humble pie on my menu. It just tasted bad back then.  It’s funny how taste buds change as we are faced with things we never thought we would never have to deal with.  The things you only heard about from a friend of a friend.

2011 I became that friend of a friend when I was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Melanoma with no primary and then again this late October when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and of course it wouldn’t be done in proper “Cassie” fashion unless there was a rare chromosome mutation to accompany my disease. I tell you, when I do things…I do them right! :)

Right now, I am well. Start my B regimen of Chemo tomorrow. I continue on a monthly basis with two week breaks in between until June! Yowza!

  1. Good news is I get to do most of it from home.
  2. Good news is that I am also on a trial drug to treat my mutated chromosome (Philadelphia Chromosome) in hopes that it keeps me in remission. Good news
  3. Good news is that if I relapse I immediately go for a Bone Marrow Transplant and if my siblings aren’t a match (fingers crossed they are) I already have 50 donors on the registry that are a perfect match – Talk about a lucky lady; some people rarely find a donor.

I close with lyrics from: Phillips Phillips, “Home”

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

XOXOXO

Cassie

 

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Interrupted by….Leukemia?!?!

I don’t know how to say this any other way to anyone, other than…I was diagnosed with Leukemia this morning…

The short of the short is I am sitting writing this from my new home for the month – the hospital.  It’s not bad…some exposed brick framing the windows, recessed lighting and a staff with my kind of humor. Nurse Holly won me over instantly when she left the room and came back with a…six pack…of gingerale. I got excited too re-reading that as I could use a drink with a little extra stiffness.

More to come but in the meantime here are some of the key components to what’s happening:

1.  I have Leukemia (type ALL)

2. I start chemo tomorrow

3. I’m here for a month

4. I have an awesome support system of family and friends!!! :)

5. I’m in good spirits and still making many bad jokes. The difference is that people are actually laughing at them now…out of pity I am sure but hey, I’ll take it.

6. My dear friends Jenny, Natasha and Darren have created a calendar page that I will share the link to shortly if anyone is interested to come and visit or just keep abreast of what’s going on.  :)

7. This is not related to the Melanoma that I was just dubbed Cancer free for 2 years.

8. I’ll be honest…I’m gonna say it….Ready?…This is some crazy shit right?!?! Two cancers in two years that are completely unrelated….WHOA!!!

9. Call me, ask questions or e-mail me.  Don’t be shy.  I welcome it!

10. Everyone knows I love them so we don’t need to get into all of that emotional mushy stuff.

www.lls.org

I guess Leukemia is orange. Really not my best color…hard to match! :)

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A centruy ride brought to you in under three minutes…

Date: October 6

Place: Seagull Century (www.seagullcentury.org)

Mind: Crazy (We know that’s nothing new for me)

Special Thanks:

  • Darren, Kate, Carter for raising money and representing the jersey’s and Melanoma in support of me.
  • Natasha for being my riding buddy and also raising money and representing the jersey and Melanoma. Thanks for teaching me I can push beyond what I think I can do.
  • My Mom, Dad, Aunt Lois and Jenny for coming all the way out to support me by crewing for us and keeping us going and fuled up to push through the 100.
  • Mom and Dad…thanks for helping me to push beyond as well!
  • Leah Otten…you couldn’t ride because of your back but thank you for helping to raise money for the cause and positive thoughts.

We arrived to a full parking lot at 7:00am Saturday morning. This was to be expected as the event hosted over 7,500 riders.  I thought leaving my house at 4:00am (ugggggg) would alleviate some of the crowd but it seemed everyone had the same idea.  We took about thirty minutes to unload the bikes and get ourselves ready for the what lay ahead.  A short walk through the Salisbury University Campus and we reached the start line.

Natasha and I – Pre-race, which, is why there is still smiles on our faces

It was pretty amazing to see so many riders in one place; all with the same goal in site…to ride 100 miles.  This was more than just a ride, this was a journey.  A 100 mile campaign to raise awareness and funds for Melanoma.  A disease that shook my world just a year and half earlier.   We departed the starting line around 8:00am and had a great pace going the first 20 miles.  It was great to see the support from fellow riders on the road.  Many of them asking about the origin of The Melanoma Mountaineers and complimenting the jersey’s.  There was a total of four rest stops along the way each one between 19 miles and 24 miles apart.  I decided to make this my strategy.  Break the ride down into four – twenty some odd mile sections. It was clearly the only way I was going to get this done.  Just when I thought I could not go another mile, I would reach a stop and would immediately be greeted by my crew (Mom, Dad, Aunt and friend, Jenny) as well as the fantastic snack set-up the century provided.  I can say I have never loved orange slices so much in my life.They were my saving grace as Natasha and I both seemed to have lost the will to shove another cliff bar down our throats.  With a few moments rest I went from I can’t go another mile to alright…I am ready for another 20! Let’s do this! Before you knew it, We made it through all four rest stops, some heavy head winds for about 30 miles that seemed to want us to not ride it’s stretch of road, through the tunnel and across the finish line in under seven hours. Okay, okay…Natsha made it in 6hrs 34 minutes and I trailed about 15 minutes behind.                                                                                        Natasha and Cassie at the finish…

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Goodbye Couch, Hello World

Back on top!

I began climbing three years ago and immediately became obsessed with it. It’s an awestruck feeling to have adrenaline and a profound sense of peace pulsing through your veins at the same time.  From the instant you touch the rock you commit your blood, sweat and sometimes tears to the wall.  It was something that always provided me the motivation to go beyond what I thought my body and mind could do.

My world was rocked last January when I was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma. Between the surgery to remove the cancer and the yearlong treatment, my doctors were adamant that it was in my best interest to move on to a sport other than climbing. Not climbing was not an option for me. Why would it be, it was part of who I was. The commitment and discipline that I inherited from climbing would have to translate now more than ever. There were no ifs.  I MUST recover. I HAD to. There was so much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t realize I wanted or needed until I was faced with the possibility of losing it.

There is something to be said for pulling yourself out of a passion, a community, a family for six months to be on the mend.  That something is “Oh my god, get me off this couch!” That’s exactly what I did; I got off the couch and began making my way back into the big, wild world of activity. Now, seeing as I was twenty-five pounds less and most of the less was made up of muscle mass I had to start slowly. I was already on the couch for six months; moving quickly and injuring myself would just be…for lack of a better word, idiotic! I started with a bike. You know the old saying, “It’s like riding a bike?”  Well…it’s true.  After not being on a bike in ten years, not bad, I could do this.  So I started with three miles; an exhausting three miles! High fives all around! I was officially off the couch and on my way to saying “Look at me doctors! I’m going to climb and become stronger than I was pre-cancer!”

That’s what I did. I am four months post-treatment and I am climbing close to the level I was before I left. Now, for those of you with injuries don’t take this as get on the rock or your bike or whatever it is you do and push as hard as you can for as long as you can.  This took time. Months and months of being frustratingly patient (maybe some tears) in building myself back up.  Three miles every few days has now turned into 60 mile rides and small bouldering sessions have turned into planning excursions to climb the Grand Tetons in July. Did I mention that I am now cross-fitting?  Something I never thought I could do. It’s an amazing thing to go into something nervous and saying “I can’t do this!” and then walking out of the class saying “Wow, I can’t believe that my body and mind is capable of that!”
I think…that we are all capable of that. We are all capable of saying I don’t want to lose these possibilities in my life or I don’t want to miss this chance to be the best I can be.  My advice to you…Get off the couch now! Don’t wait another minute. Plan that trip to climb El Capitan or that trip to Nepal. Go see the world!  Go to that cross fit class you never thought you could survive. You may surprise yourself.  And remember; always tell your friends and family you love them.

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