"My name is Stephanie Violet -- welcome to my little spot on the web! I'm a 27 year old stay-at-home-Momma to the cutest boy I've ever seen and he fills my heart with sheer joy and strips my nerves to the bone, all at the same time. My husband Dustin and I, along with baby Roman, reside in Northern California, about 30 minutes from San Francisco and we love it here. We have the world at our fingertips, fresh and local food everywhere we look and we're spoiled with the best friends and family. We live a blessed life, for sure!"
I was born in Santa Cruz, California -- a little beach town in the South Bay Area. My parents moved us to a tiny podunk town (it wasn't even a town at that point) called Oakley when I was three years old, and there I had a sweet little childhood with my two siblings and herd of dogs. My parents had a dog addiction. Not like Hoarders or anything, but damn.. we had a lot of dogs!
When I was 11, we found out that I had Osteogenicsarcoma or cancer of the bone in my right leg. It was scary and traumatic, more-so for my parents and siblings I think, but everyone took such good care of me. After hard-core chemotherapy, an attempted bone salvage (they took out the diseased bone and replaced it with a metal rod), almost succumbing to infection, eventually having an amputation, followed by more chemo, I was done with treatment and was thrust back into "normal life". I wore a prosthetic leg and went about my life as anyone would, hiding my leg and not talking about my past. The doctors told me that after five years of "clean" cancer-free scans, I was considered cured.
I hated middle school with a passion. I struggled to find a place because I was different and was ditched by most of my grade-school friends. It was rough. ROUGH I tell you! I survived, though. We all did.
High school was great! It wasn't like a 90's teen movie where we were all dressed perfectly with flippy hair and I certainly wasn't popular, but I made friends and found my spot as the "quirky/weird" girl. I had long, curly hair and hung out in the art room and eventually found Dustin. We met in Study Hall at age 16. He was hot and I had had my eye on him since 9th grade. He wore his sunglasses inside when he could get away with it and wore TOOL shirts and was into computers. He had streaky hair and killer eyebrows. Oh, Lord, I stalked that boy like a cheetah in the Sahara. Seriously, I did. When I want something, I will bust ass until I get it, and after a few weeks of stalking, my hard work started to pay off. I remember the first time he warmed up to me - we talked on the phone from 9p.m. until 4 a.m. and only hung up because my phone's battery was dying. After that, we hung out with one of his friends and one of mine. We had mini double dates and enjoyed the freedom of being sixteen and a half. We almost kissed, for the first time, in front of a claw machine at the mall. He came up behind me and put his chin on my shoulder. It was one of those slow motion moments, I turned my head to see what he was doing, our lips were THISCLOSE, our hearts swelling up with anticipation, and then either he or I pulled away - I don't remember who. It was one of those moments in life you never forget. :)
We shared our first kiss a few days later in the back seat of his friend's (Matt, who is much talked about on here) tiny red Saturn. Dustin kissed my chin! It was another slow motion moment, but it was sweet and silly and I still poke fun at him for missing my lips. We were together all the time after that, every chance we got. We wrote letters to each other daily and we both still have a few of them. I went back and re-read one recently... Gosh, I was a perverted teenager! Oh my. Hormones. I blame the hormones.
After High School, we went to college together and it was one of the best times of my whole life - we discovered love, being "young adults" and many other things together. Our love is the kind of love that you see in movies. It's the magical kind of love where you just KNOW. I wish so badly that everyone could experience the kind of love that we have and the happiness that comes with having a one-and-only. Endless love. True love's kiss.
We were married in 2004 at the age 20. I had my first sip of alcohol the week before our wedding. We were good kids. Two months after we were married, we finished our A.A degrees and moved to Washington to start a new adventure with some friends we met through an Online game. Nerds, I know! We were there for about six months when the coughing started. I had pain my chest and lung and neck and had no idea why. After a horrible, long day at a new doctor's office, I found out that I had a huge mass in my right lung. I remember calling my Mom on my crappy little cellphone and crying about "a mass' and not understanding what it all meant. After that, things moved at whirlwind speed. My Mom flew up from California and was with us for a month. I would open my eyes and I'd be in a a dressing room, putting on a gown for a scan. Close. I'd open them again and be in bed crying my eyes out with pure fear dripping down my face. Close. Open and find myself in the middle of Micheal's buying random art supplies with my Mom, anything to distract us. Close. Open them again and I'd be laying on the bed in the recovery room after having a needle biopsy confirming that I had cancer again. Close. Dustin and I would be laying on the floor of our apartment listening to I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You by Colin Hay and crying together, holding hands, terrified of what lay ahead of us. Close. Open. Close. Open. Close. Gosh, we were so young.
Both of us freshly 21 and scared shitless, we moved back to California -- me first, then after a few months of dealing with an asshole boss who who would work him only enough hours to pay for our medical coverage and nothing else (we saved the $0.00 checks), Dustin followed.
I moved into my parent's home and he moved into his. He spent his days working long hours as a bottom-of-the-totem-pole-grunt at a new job (that, by the grace of God, gave us immediate, EXCELLENT medical coverage). I had chemotherapy and they removed my whole right lung. Then I had chemo. Then more chemo. I spent time with my family. We lived for the weekends when I was out of the hospital. After seven rounds, I was done. And we waited. We had a close call that turned out to be an aggravated thyroid, but it turned out to be nothing. And again, we waited.
Dustin and I went on with our lives. We had help getting back on our feet with a huge hand from his parents. We bought a condo (that turned out to be a HUGE bust), he got promotions and I started taking classes again. Fun things. We fought. We made up. We had friends over and I made dinners and went grocery shopping and dreamed of a baby. We got two sweet dogs, Widgey and Fonzie. We had normal. It felt off though, and I couldn't put my finger on it. And we scanned. And we waited.
And we scanned.
And on the very last day of May in 2008, they found a tiny mass in my left and only lung. I can still remember the moment that Dustin, told me after he got off the phone with my Mother. I can't imagine how he felt telling me. After we hung up, there was this bit of optimism in my heart, this tiny bit that clawed and tried to rationalize with my self what this "mass" might be. I knew though. I knew exactly what it was. The whirlwind started up again. The doctors wouldn't do chemo since it obviously didn't kill the cancer in my body the first two times. Dustin and I changed our diet, trying to kill the cancer more gently. I tried so hard ot put my faith in that, but it wasn't the miracle I was hoping for and I was so sad because I felt SO restricted. I ended up going to UCSF and had a cutting edge treatment called Cyberknifing done. Dustin took the week off and we made an adventure out of it. Gosh, we loved each other so much. I finished the week-long treatment and then we were done. And again, we waited.
Two weeks later I had this intense pain in my stomach, right under where my ribs met. I couldn't eat. I was in terrible pain. Dustin and his Mom convinced me to got to the E.R. and there began the worst night of my entire life. THE worst night. Of my ENTIRE night. I try not to think about it. I think my body blocked out all of the events and emergency roommates and noises and smells and people and screams. I think my mind blocked out most the entire next week to protect my sanity. I can honestly say that I know what it feels like to not eat for 6 days in a row, not because there was no food, but because I wasn't allowed. I think my mind tried to block out the time they had to hold me down, stick a tube and a camera down my throat and into my stomach and into my intestines and see what was there while I was half way conscious, gasping for air and gagging like I was being chocked. This was all because I had a tumor almost blocking the entrance of my intestines. The cancer had spread from my lung. After we knew what was wrong, I was sent home and stayed with Dustin's parents. They took such great care of me. My love for my In-Laws grew like a sprout in the warm, warm sun. So did the tumor. A month from that night in the E.R and I was still at home waiting for my surgery date. My condition grew terribly perilous. It got so bad that I couldn't eat anything. Everything that I tried to consume sat in my upper intestines all day until I vomited it up in the evening time. That was including water. I was constantly nauseous. My sweet In-Laws let me live on their couch, let me choose the movies and even cooked outside on a camping stove so that the food smells of their meals wouldn't make me puke. I mustered enough energy to play Roller Coaster Tycoon every night. I made a will and still have it. I was constantly lightheaded, starving and dehydrated all at the same time. Slowly dying and my doctors told my family to prepare for my death.
I was admitted back into the hospital and that was another week that my mind has mostly deleted to protect my sanity. I was barely alive, guys. I didn't take any pictures during that month either -- it was all so surreal. I knew that I would live, but at the same time I knew that I would die. It was like I was living and watching some one else's life. Someone else's death. It was a mind fuck, I tell you. By then, it was the end of August and my surgery date finally came. I had a Whipple Procedure and wrote all about that experience here. The recovery was hard, but I was so damn hopeful. I was alive. ALIVE, damn it! My poor parents. Dustin still had to work to keep our coverage and my parents alternated days and night with me in the hospital. Mom would help in anyway possible - I remember opening my eyes and seeing her sitting there next to me crafting some little artsy trinket, her boxes of supplies strewn about the room. She knew how to make the best out of every situation. I grew to love my Daddy more than I thought possible. I got to see his gentle heart, this heart that I'd either never taken the time to see or he had hidden under the layers of his life and being a man and all that. I was never alone for more than an hour or two while I was in the hospital. I was so lucky and the best was that I GOT TO LIVE.
It's been three and a half years since I've had any sign of cancer. In 2010 I had a miscarriage at 9 weeks. My heart was entirely broken and we were devastated. We grieved and picked our selves back up. Life went on, slowly but surely. Dustin was recently made manager at the job that he took when I was first re-diagnosed. From Grunt to Route Driver to Manager. I couldn't be more proud of him!
On June 19th, 2011 our son Roman was born. He is the light of our life! HE is the reason that I never stopped fighting and the reason that my will to live was so strong, even thought I didn't know it at the time. He was meant to be. The love that Dustin and I have for each other is like nothing that I've ever seen. Our struggles have strenghtened our love and toughened our skin. At 16 we just "knew" and we've been loving one another ever since.
I don't know if I'll ever completely heal from my miscarriage and I know for damn sure that my soul will always be a little sad and a little damaged because of all of my cancer expediences. I have my moments when I'm scared shitless and terrified that I'll die soon, but you know what? I am living. If I could pick one thing, the most IMPORTANT lesson that Motherhood has taught me it would be to Let Go and Let God. I used to say that all the time and wanted to believe it, but now I know it. I feel it. I breathe it with my one lung. It was a lesson that cancer, four times over, could not teach me. While the rain pours on the roof above my head as I type this out, my heart is content. My heart is full. My heart is sure that whatever is meant to happen in my life will and whatever isn't, won't. Worrying about getting cancer again won't make my life, in this moment, any better. If I'm meant to die in June of this year or Augugst of 2076, I will. I refuse to live with constant fear in my heart anymore - I'm done with that. God's got my back. God gave me my son, this precious little boy that was created out of love with the man that I love the most, and through Roman, God's given me the greatest gift of all:
He's allowed me to allow myself to have peace in my heart for the very first time.