Tanna Niemeier - How to Be a Warrior

How to Be a Warrior

As I approach the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, I remember that night like it was yesterday. I was 29 years old, 27 weeks pregnant with my first child, recovering from a surgery and thinking the hardest part is in the past, and now it was time to really get ready for this baby. My husband Zach and I answered the call Wednesday evening, Feb. 24, 2016, with the most terrifying news someone could receive. My OB doctor, Elizabeth Wilson, called, which I thought was odd. But then again, I thought maybe she was checking up on me. I answered, and she told me the news that my pathology came back positive for cancer.

I remember asking, “Is that bad?” She told me, yes, that it is bad and that this cancer is very aggressive and that I would need to be seen right away. As she went on, I got quiet, trying to process what I just heard. She then asked if she should talk to my husband because I had stopped answering. I handed over the phone and just sat there in shock.

After we hung up the phone, 50 million things went through my mind. How? Why me? I’m pregnant — what will happen to my baby and me? Am I even going to live to be here for my husband and baby? Seriously, this has to happen while I’m pregnant? Like I’m not emotional enough? My hair is my best feature, and now I’m going to lose it? What did I do to deserve this? There has got to be a mistake….

Hearing the “C” word is scary. No one wants to hear that because you immediately think: This is it; I’m going to die. We had an appointment the next day at Missouri Cancer Associates, where Dr. Elangovan Balakrishnan confirmed everything and started thinking of the best plan of action. I respected everything he said because he wanted everyone involved. He was pulling out all the resources to ensure both me and the baby would make it. After meeting with multiple doctors and coming up with the best treatment plan, Zach and I decided we were not going to fear cancer — we were going to beat it.

Zach and I thought a lot about this journey we were about to go through. Calmness came over us, and we became at peace with it. We already have it (cancer), and there is no going back, so the real question is: What are we going to do to beat it? Here are some tips that helped us through this emotional roller coaster ride.

1.   Positive attitude, positive mind

We started this whole crazy journey with a smile on our faces. Yes, I was about to start chemotherapy, but that wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying life and my first pregnancy. I was still going to experience all the joys of being pregnant and becoming a first-time mom. We were serious about the treatment but took it with a grain of salt and enjoyed our stay in the hospital. I had to be admitted for five days straight and did chemotherapy 24/7 during my stay. We treated it like a mini vacation.

2.   Stay active

We were stuck in the hospital, and there were not many places we could go, but I wasn’t going to stay cooped up in my room. I was hooked up to my chemo drugs, which were attached to a tripod. Zach and I would take walks through the hospital. Half the time the nurses couldn’t find us because we were out on our strolls. I even joked that we could give free tours of the hospital. Instead of staying in our rooms, we got out and played cards in the lobby, listened to good music or walked to the café in the hospital for coffee. We did anything just to keep us moving. And a lot of the time, I forgot I was hooked up and being pumped with chemo drugs.

3.   Be strong, and have a good support system

If you get down and start feeling sorry for yourself, you will get sucked into a downward spiral and end up in a dark place. I had my down days but remembered I am still here, I am breathing, I am alive. I want to be here, and I have a family I’m going to grow old with. My support system always had my back. They made sure to cheer my up and keep my spirits high. No one pitied me and acted like I was dying — because I wasn’t! I was just living and fighting and taking in each day with a smile and high hopes that I would see tomorrow.

4.   Laugh — and laugh a lot! They say laughter cures everything. Well, that might not be proven, but it certainly helped me. Laughing made my days easier. Zach learned to juggle during our “mini vacation,” and watching him go through that was very entertaining. Friends and family would stop by, and it was like we were just hanging out, which made me forget about the real reason I was in the hospital. Remember to laugh, and do it often.

5.   Accept it

Accept that you have cancer. Realize that your physicians know what they are doing. The health field has changed so much, and so have the treatment plans. Know what you have, and just accept it, and move on. Figure out what works best for you, and do it! Don’t quit on yourself. It takes courage and strength. Believe in yourself, love yourself, and know you can do it!

6.   Stay away from the internet

The internet is full of so much information. If you do not know the correct sites, you are going to feed your mind with so much useless information and only make your situation worse. Why Google and cause yourself more stress? You’re already fighting the most difficult battle. Trust your physicians; they went to school for a long time, and they know what they’re doing. If you don’t trust them, then seek a second, third or fourth opinion. Just stay away from trying to diagnose yourself because, in the end, you’re only going to drive yourself crazy with worry and doubt.

7.   Be happy, be a warrior

Just because you’re diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. I realized something about myself going through this process: I am a warrior. I want to live! I wasn’t going to let cancer ruin my life. I am going to smile, and I am going to be happy, and I am a badass warrior. I am going to live to tell my story to my daughter.