Small Victories

July 2, 2014

Sometime during my “time off work” I saw an episode of the Ellen Degeneres show where she honored a breast cancer survivor (it might have really been the husband she honored since that’s what I remember most) and her husband.  I don’t recall very many things from that interview, other than that husband said that every day was a victory and that he chooses to celebrate the victories in life.

Even though I don’t recall exactly what was said, or even the true context of it, something about celebrating the victories really stuck with me.  And that is exactly what I did today, I celebrated a victory.

But first……..

In 10 more days, it will mark the 1 year anniversary that I finished chemo!  I don’t have any big elaborate plans other than to see my counselor and to take a selfie so I can see the progression that I have made in the last year (I will actually have hair, eye brows and eye lashes in this picture).  There won’t be any ticker tape parades, party hats or party horns, no cake and punch, but inside, I will be celebrating.  I understand that people who have never experienced the joy of having poison run through your body in order to save your life, might not understand just how “big” of a day this is.  Most cancer patients know that once they reach the 5 year mark of no recurrence of cancer, well, it’s like giving yourself permission to breathe, so……1 year down, 4 to go until I can really shake my pink boxing gloves in the air and really claim VICTORY over cancer.

One of the hardest things I had to face during my “journey” was cutting my hair off.  Not loosing it, but cutting it off.  I had spent just over 2 years growing it from a Jamie Lee Curtis style to all one length.  It was beautiful, I loved my hair.  Actually growing it out was an accomplishment for me, not cutting my bangs when I grew frustrated, an even bigger accomplishment – but I did it.  So, the day I made the choice to cut off my hair in preparation for a shorter look before we shaved it off, well, I wasn’t in the best of moods.  From the time I left my house until after the cut was over, I cried.  One of my photography friends, Detta, was there to capture this part of the process, she got some amazing images, caught the tears running down my face, she got the raw stuff as painful as it was.

And then, we shaved it.  That my friends, was less traumatic.  It was honestly no big deal.  I laughed and talked the entire time, and Detta was there to capture it all again.

The way I lost my hair was on MY terms, NOT on cancer or chemo’s terms.  That was the one thing cancer didn’t take from me, I made the decision on how and when I would loose my hair.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it wasn’t long into my chemo that I started taking Biotin vitamins and using Nioxin shampoo to help my hair to grow.  I did miss it, what woman wouldn’t.

And I knew that eventually, I would have enough hair to actually cut.

Today was that day!

Before I could get my hair cut today, I have to tell you that I showed up for my appointment – yesterday!  I was 24 hours early.  Talk about excited!  LOL.

So, there ya go!  I got my first hair cut today.  I still have my curls, but Regeana used her magic round brush and blow dryer to give me a “style”.  It looks nice!  I will try this style tomorrow, so if you see me and notice I have curls instead, well, just know that I gave it my best try and no one gave me a blue ribbon for my efforts!

 

NOW……..onto another, bigger victory!  My gold medal, my blue ribbon – my grandson!

My grandson arrived 3 weeks early.  Everyone told me that I would simply fall deeply in love with him when I held him the first time.  Somehow, I doubted them, after all, I’ve been saying for YEARS that I was NOT ready to be a grandma, no way was I ready.  I should have just taken out a billboard and announced it – I was NOT ready.

But, wow!  Just like that.  A Nana was born.  When my son texted to tell us they were pushing (we were in the waiting room) until we were able to meet our little A, I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I can’t explain it.  I needed to see him, I needed to meet him, I NEEDED TO HOLD HIM.

And yes, I fell in love, hard.  When I held him the first time, I cried, not a lot, but enough that I probably should have been using some kleenex, but didn’t dare take my hands or my eyes off of this beautiful tiny human being.

By the time he was 2 sweet days old, he had some jaundice and needed to be under the blue lights.  I got to hold him for just a few minutes before he needed to lay under the lights again, and when I laid him down, oh boy, did my heart HURT, HURT I’m telling ya!  My sweet daughter in law looked at me and said “Michelle, he’s gonna be ok”.  All I could say was that I knew, I just didn’t want to leave.  And I didn’t.  How could I possibly leave this little thing who had just stolen my heart?  When was I going to see him again?  When could I hold him again?  What if we don’t get to have that super close relationship that I long for?  What if?  What if?  What if?  My arms truly ached from not holding him, not feeling him breathe while he was cradled in my arms.  These are emotions that I don’t know how to explain to anyone else, nor do I think anyone can explain them – you just have to experience them for yourself.

I always knew that my son would be a fantastic father.  Little children have always taken to him for as long as we can remember.  When he became a big brother at the age of 3, he was fantastic even back then; helping with diapers, bottles, bathes, etc.  So, becoming a Daddy would just seem natural to him.  Seeing my first born, hold his first born, take care of his child, well, there are just no words.  This will be an image I take with me until my final second on this Earth.

I have a complete and total understanding that it is by God’s grace that I am here today, that I am here to witness the miracle of my grandchild, to watch my son and daughter in law love, teach and raise their own child.  It’s not lost on me that my story could be very different if I had not gotten my mammogram when I did.  if I had waited, my story would be very different, I could not even be here right now to witness this miracle.  That is something that I think about A LOT.  God’s hand was in my story from the very beginning, it is because of Him that I am here today, and I am so thankful.

My grandson is my reward, my gold medal, my blue ribbon for making it through this past year and a half of 5 surgeries, 16 chemo treatments, 33 radiation treatments, loosing my job, loosing friends, everything that I’ve gone through both mentally and physically – he is my prize!

He is my VICTORY and Nana takes back every single time she said she wasn’t ready to be a grandma!

 

Meeting Robin Roberts and some other not so fun stuff

June 1, 2014

Last Friday night, I had the ultimate privilege of meeting THE Robin Roberts!!!  As much as I’ve talked about it this past week, a few people have actually looked at me with a question in their eyes “just who is this Robin Roberts and why are you so excited about it”.  I proudly tell them, “ya know, she’s on Good Morning America, she had breast cancer, then MDS”, then I see a light bulb go off in their eyes – they remember who she is!  I guess they don’t watch Good Morning America, or ABC news much!  Oh well…..moving on.

When Robin Roberts was battling breast cancer, LONG BEFORE ME, in such a public manner, I admired her in how she handled herself; how she was always smiling, always so positive, always with gratitude – wow.  Fighting cancer with such an amazing attitude – you go girl!

Then she recovered and came back on air, just as if, nothing had ever happened.  I can remember when she decided to take her wig off and show off her stubble of hair growth and silently applauding her, and smiling too; sending her a high five through the TV.  She did it with such grace!  Just like she seems to do everything else.

And I admire her for that so very much.  She had no idea she was becoming a role model for so many other women who would follow in her foot steps, including myself, in our own journey’s against breast cancer.  How does someone even begin to express that sentiment to someone you only know through a morning news program and what the media shows us?

And bam….she became sick again, this time, with MDS.  Not something easy to fight, she needed a bone marrow transplant.  Before she could get the transplant, she had to endure the death of her mom, isolation and MORE chemo – isn’t once enough?  I think so.  But, yet again, how did she handle it?  With grace, dignity, humor, a smile, and of course some tears; she is, after all, human.  Understandably so, one of the hardest things she had to do, was separate herself from her fur companion, KJ.  She describes in her recent book “We’ve All Got Something” just how emotionally difficult it was to turn KJ over to friends, how she cried, how she ached to just pet and cuddle KJ.  I get that, I would be a mess if I had to separate myself from Wall-E during such a difficult time like that.

I had already read her recent book on my Kindle when I learned she would be in Dallas signing copies of it.  There was no question in my mind, I would go get a hard copy and stand in line for whatever length of time it took to be able to have her sign it, but more importantly, to have the chance to tell her “you were my role model while I battled breast cancer” with some other things I wanted to tell her (grace, dignity, humor, etc).  The ONLY thing that would have kept me from attending the book signing was if my grandson had decided to make a very early appearance and we had to go out of town (thankfully, he is still waiting on his own special day to arrive).

The night before, I stood at my closet trying to decide what the wear.  Should I just stay in my work clothes?  Should I take a pair of shorts to change into?  What if we have to stand outside, in TEXAS?  I’ll probably be nasty sweaty, shorts it is!  Now, what shirt?  Do I wear a breast cancer shirt?  A survivor shirt?  A dressier t-shirt type thing?  AWE…….My “Overcomer” shirt!  That’s it!  She was in this video with Mandisa, that’s the one!  And I’m so glad that I did!

I ended up being number 67 in line to meet her!  She was taking her time with each and every person, chatting, taking a photo with them, signing their book.  The closer I got, the more nervous I became.  I was rehearsing in my mind what I wanted to say, praying I wouldn’t stumble on my words – I would probably never, ever get this chance again, I needed it to come out heart felt and eloquent.

While standing in line, there was a couple behind me, we chatted as we were standing there, they were kind enough to take MULTIPLE photos of me (with my phone) with Robin when it was my turn. while the staff used my little lame, point and shoot.  I’m so glad I had them do this, since my regular camera photo is blurry :-(.

Oh goodness, when it was my turn, I was so nervous with excitement.  I try so very hard to not place people to high on a pedestal, because, when they fall, who gets disappointed?  Us – those who placed them there (something else I’ve learned the hard way through life).  She is afterall a human, just like me and you!  We (including her) make mistakes in life, that’s just how it goes.

As I walked up to where she was sitting, the first thing she said was “Are you an overcomer” as she reached out to hug me (EEK, Robin Roberts just hugged ME).  I replied that yes, I was an overcomer (the shirt has the pink breast cancer ribbon on it), for 17 months now.  I proceeded to tell her how she was my role model during my journey, and insert stumble upon words, how much I admired her for how she handled herself, for the rest of us to see.  I honestly, don’t recall exactly what she said to me as she signed my book, kissed me on my cheek and told me to be blessed.  Y’all, she was just as gracious in person as she is on tv.  It was several HOURS before my heart stopped beating so fast, I was texting the photo of us to practically everyone in my phone, I was seriously, just that excited.

I am aware that she is meeting tons and tons of people on her tour of book signings, but I can only hope that something will trigger a memory of our brief meeting and she will smile with gratitude, knowing that what she does, what she’s been through, has honestly made a difference in just one person’s life – mine.

Maybe one day, I will sit down and write her a letter and include the photo of us together; more for me than anything else.

As wonderful as that moment was, I must switch gears and get back into what the purpose of this blog is really all about, the journey of breast cancer; the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly.

Because my cancer was estrogen fed, I am scheduled to be on some type of hormone suppressor for at least 5 years.  There are 3 drugs in this family that I can take, the most well known being Tamoxifen.  Since I was already on a drug that was working for me and known to work with one of the others, my oncologist put me on Femera with a warning that I would most likely experience bone/joint pain.  I did, but it was a rare occurrence and when it hit, I would often times have to just sit and “be” because my hips knees and ankles would hurt so dang bad.  But I was experiencing extreme fatigue.  While I was still off work, it was normal for me to take a nap, and still be able to go to bed no later than 10 and sleep all night.  I often found myself drinking up to 4 cups of coffee during the day.  It wasn’t long after I started my new job that I realized this fatigue was really worse than I realized.  Many nights, I was struggling to stay awake until 8pm before crawling in to bed.  When I called Dr. O about this, she didn’t hesitate to take me off of it for a total of 6 weeks before starting me on the next one – Arimidex 1 mg (the lowest dose).  I asked what I should expect in terms of side effects (I still do my best to not research stuff related to my cancer so it doesn’t freak me out any more than I need to be) and was told bone/joint pain and hot flashes.  The bone/joint pain can often times be crippling and I hate to add more pills to my daily intake, but would if I just had to, but the thought of increasing hot flashes, well, that just wasn’t very appealing since we had my hot flashes under control while on the Femera. I had taken a total of 3 doses when the pain hit, my feet hurt so badly, they felt like needles were sticking into my toes, and my ankles joints were just plain painful, they actually felt like both were badly sprained.  Thankfully, my hubby rubs whatever is really hurting the most to help give me some relief when I need it the most.  I’ve now only been on the Arimidex for 10 days and I have to tell ya, I’m not as fatigued as I was on the femara, but when it’s time for bed, I’m more than willing to get there, and I sleep like no one’s business.  Two comments were made to me last week that made me stop and think.  My husband asked me if I was mad at him (which I wasn’t, not even a tiny bit) and a dear friend said she didn’t understand why everything she said to me was making me angry.  My wheels started turning on those two statements (this was last Tuesday night).  Wednesday, during the day, I noticed that many things that were being said, and various people were really aggravating me, and I was feeling weepy.  So….Thursday morning, I called Dr. O’s office to see if mood changes were part of the side effects of this drug, cause this bites!  I played phone tag with her nurse all day Thursday and decided Thursday night to go straight to the Arimdex website and look at what it had to say about side effects.  Yep, you guessed it – mood changes.  This now has me really thinking.  But before I explain, let me publicly apologize to anyone who has thought (this past week) that I was aggravated, irritated or angry with you.  Chances are, I was not and didn’t realize that my attitude and reaction to things were different than normal.

This has prompted a wonderful conversation in my online support group, where, well, frankly, no topic is off limits, we are free, welcomed and encouraged to share ourselves, how we are feeling, what are thoughts are, etc, and a more meaningful conversation with my husband.  When I see Dr. O again on June 20th, I want to have a very frank discussion with her regarding the chances of recurrence on vs off of a hormone suppressor and my quality of life, whatever time I have left on this Earth (i’m personally praying a many years).  I don’t want to walk around feeling irritated/aggravated by everyone around me, as well as feeling weepy.  My sweet husband looked at me Friday night, as we sat in the parking lot at Wal-Mart (which is where we had this discussion) and he said to me something that I will always cherish.  He said he knows what I went through, but he doesn’t TRULY know what I went through, what I felt, what my body experienced, what I was thinking, the pain I was experiencing, that only I know that – BUT, he would rather see me have quality of life versus a multitude of side effects.  God Bless this man.  I can’t tell you how it makes my heart SOAR to hear someone say all of that.  I love that man.  He and I both trust my oncologist with every fiber of our being.  When we learned that I had breast cancer, we went to work searching for an oncologist who specialized in breast cancer and was ranked high in our metroplex.  I simply wanted the best that I could get.  It turns out, that the more survivors in my area that I talked to, the more I heard ONE name – Dr. Joyce O’Schaughnessy.  When I researched her, I was not disappointed at all.  Then I found out, she has to accept you as a patient, thankfully, she accepted me.  Dr. O has served on the board of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, among many others.  She is a researcher, is often the keynote speaker at conventions related to cancer, treatment, etc.  Yeah, she knows her stuff.  She is on top of all things breast cancer and you can tell that when you ask her a question; I love that about her.  And she also maintains that you shouldn’t read stuff on the internet about cancer, treatment, etc UNLESS it comes from these website – The National Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, Komen, or Chemocare.  The rest are not considered trusted sites and we (cancer patients) should avoid them – and I sincerely try too, because, well, they still have the power to scare me.  Several well meaning friends and family have said that I should increase my vitamins, get on Zeal, Spark, Herbalife, try juicing, try fasting for days, cut red meat from my diet, add only fish, do this, do that, stand on my head and drink green tea that is precisely 72 degrees (ok, not really, but you get what I’m saying here, right?)  I KNOW everyone means well, and everyone wants me to be healthy, happy and to live a long life, but unless Dr. O blesses one of these things, no way Jose am I trying it, she knows what’s best for me and I trust her a bazillion percent, and I start by staying off the internet sites that can scare me senseless.  The ONLY one I visit on what I would consider a regular basis is chemocare.com, whether it’s for me personally, or for someone who is about to undergo treatment, I prefer to not be freaked out by what I read, living with the potential (regardless of the percentage) that cancer could return is enough knowledge for me.

And now, there’s this.

I have sought out counseling.  Let me be the first to say, HALLELUJAH!  I had my first real session with my counselor yesterday (who is also a breast cancer survivor) and she helped me figure a few things out.  We mostly concentrated on the anger I had in the very early days following the call that my mammogram was bad, in how it protected me from falling apart and not being able to get back up, how having something else to focus on was actually good for me – but now it’s time to let go of that anger, accept the person who caused it for who they are and continue to distance myself from the negativity that they bring to my life.  Anger and stress are known to feed cancer and who wants that?  Not this girl!  She gave me a few things to try to help me move forward, to let go of the anger that I will try before I visit her again.  I told her that I wished that the anger (the story behind it) wasn’t such a big part of my story, and how I don’t want to include it when asked to tell my journey.  She told me to INCLUDE it, that I never know how telling my story, every single piece of it, could help someone else, for them to know what I went through, and how I overcame it, could help them.  Then she said something that surprised me – she said I should write a book, WHAT?  Me?  A book?  No, I don’t think so.  This blog and my personal journal are enough.

She also helped me to understand (without even knowing it) why I feel no desire to really pick my camera back up – I’m afraid.  Afraid that I’ll get back up on my feet good in my photography world and business and BAM will have that yanked from me again with a recurrence of cancer, and yep, that’s just the truth, that is exactly how I feel.  I was in such a wonderful place in my life when the cancer was revealed, the fear is more in control than I realized.  Finally, a piece of the puzzle fits, a BIG piece of the puzzle, what else is my fear keeping me from enjoying?  I’m sure many things, we will tackle my fear (and still work on the anger) in the coming sessions, and for that, I’m so very thankful.

There is no way that you, my friends, my family, or you, the follower of this blog, can ever truly understand what I am feeling, what I am experiencing because you have not lived MY life – the same way, I can’t fully understand the things you are going through in your own life.  No two journey’s are the same and that is what makes us all unique.

In closing, when I look at the ones I am connected to via that little pink ribbon, I count my blessings to know that many have walked before me, including Robin Roberts, who have helped researchers, like Dr. O know they need MY specific tumor tissue to be able to design the course of treatment that will be most effective for MY cancer treatment.

I am blessed to still be alive, to still be able to laugh, love, smile and experience all the beauty that is around me; and I hope that you feel blessed too.

Oh, one last thing.  Did I tell you that I met Robin Roberts?

Here are a few pictures!

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Counseling

May 19, 2014

i believe in counseling for various times in our lives, there are just some things we need help sorting through, someone to help us figure out what we are feeling.

when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I knew I should have gone to counseling, but I was just so damn angry, so terrified, so numb; I had shut down. I think I focused on my anger instead of the fact that I had cancer.

When I knew I wouldn’t be able to return to work, I knew that money was going to be a serious issue for us, so I didn’t pursue counseling, looking back, I wish I had since our insurance pays for SIX counseling sessions before a co pay becomes part of the equation.

well…….I finally made the call, got a list of potential counselors, did my research, picked the one I liked best and made my appointment.  It was tonight. For the most part, this session was a history building session, building the bigger picture of who I am, helping figure out where we need to start.

We talked about the things I felt I had lost since my diagnosis; things like my identity, my desire/passion for photography, friends, my job, my hair, to name a few. We touched on how we would focus on helping me fund my way back to these things via our sessions, homework, activities, journaling, etc. I even let a few tears fall, just a few though before I quickly pulled myself back together. Just one more thing we will work on. I didn’t get a chance to tell her that we are expecting our first grandchild in a few weeks, and how a friend helped me understand that I need to get these tears out BEFORE I hold him that first time, or it could possibly be an ugly cry, which would be BAAAAAAAD news!  So, if you are reading this, and you are a praying person, please pray that I can quickly process what ever these emotions are, that I can cry and let them out before I meet my grandson in a few short weeks.

I won’t promise to share every part of my counseling sessions, but we agreed that when I go back, we will simply start at the beginning, with the call that my mammo was bad, and the hell that transpired after that; the ugly anger.

with that, I truly believe that when someone is facing cancer and treatments, they should truly look into counseling, if not for them, for their care giver. I’m very blessed in the fact that my care giver, Pat, was more than supportive.  I do believe he needed someone to talk too, someone to vent to, share his frustrations with, etc. instead, he kept his chin up, kept on loving me, supporting me, and in some of the most tender moments, cherished me when I needed him the most (if you’ve been following my blog, think back to when he had to bathe me after my first surgery).

Anyway, ive done it! I’ve sought counseling, I’m going to do my best to let my walls down, to experience the pain of all I’ve been through, and….cry.

 

Facing the Music

4-24-2014

Sigh……the time has come.  I MUST face the anger and the emotions of being diagnosed, having 5 separate surgeries, 16 chemo treatments, 33 rounds of radiation, fighting for my life, and WINNING.

I am a strong person, mentally.  But, I do have my low moments, and over the past 16 months, I have refused to let cancer have the upper hand in this part of my life.  I was (and still am) determined to keep the upper hand when it comes to fighting cancer.  Well, it’s now time to face those emotions, the anger, and everything else I just can’t describe.

Why now?  Well, because a friend of mine started a breast cancer scrapbook for me after my diagnosis, and I’m now going to finish it, I’m going to tell my story, in my own words, with my NON crafty mind.  I have bought scrapbook supplies (which was nauseating and overwhelming at the same time) I have organized all of my stuff from my first surgery through today, I have all of the beautiful cards that I have received in one envelope, pictures of my doctor’s in another, organization at it’s best.  Now, what excuse do I have?  Truly, I don’t have one.  Oh, I’d like to just hand everything to someone else to put it together, to tell my story, finish it, then hand it back to me.  That just isn’t gonna happen.

My very dear (and incredibly wise) friend, Karen, told me that the scrapbook would be good therapy for me, it will allow me to work through my emotions as I go, I know she’s right, she’s right, she’s right, she’s right.  But man, I just don’t want to do it.  I know as I look through the stuff to get started that I will cry, I hate to cry.  Just sitting here after getting everything organized, I feel nauseated.  I know this will be emotionally hard for me, I won’t be able to pretend this never happened, I’m going to see everything with my own eyes.  Yes, I know how very silly that sounds, it sounds ridiculous for me to say that I can’t pretend this never happened, after all, look how vocal I’ve been.  I am having a hard time expressing my emotions, putting them into the right words.  Karen (or as I call her, Dr. Karen) had a session with me last night, we talked about the healing benefits of crying.  I did my best to explain how I don’t like to cry, how it makes ME feel weak. (and NO, I’m not saying that crying is a sign of weakness for you, or anyone else, it’s just how *I* feel).  I haven’t had a chance to chat with Karen since I got home to let her know that I sat down with some of the cards that I’ve received, read them, and yes, I cried.  Not a lot, but I allowed the tears to flow, I didn’t try to stop them, until………Wall-E noticed I was crying and started licking my face.  I love him so very much, the comfort he brings me is amazing.  Karen has been such an amazing friend to me during this time in my life; I’m pretty sure that I’ve said it before (in my blog), that she kept things normal for me.  We chatted daily, and when we did, it was about normal stuff, our kids, life, what was on tv, books we were reading, crafts she was making, what we were having for dinner, stuff on Facebook, etc.  simply normal stuff.  I don’t think she will ever know how much that “normal” has meant to me.

And if Karen wasn’t already smart enough, here’s another thing from our chat last night.  We were talking about the next book I should read; should it be the next book in the Alex Cross series (Pop Goes the Weasel) by James Patterson, or Gone Girl?  Karen’s suggestion……The new book “Everyone’s Got Something” by Robin Roberts.  Dr. Karen felt reading more about Robin’s story (and she know how much I already admired RR prior to my diagnosis) would help me get through this season of my life.  I downloaded the ebook on my kindle, read the forward and put it down; a) I knew that I would stay up late reading, and b) I knew I would cry.   I’m telling y’all, she’s a very wise woman.

Knowing I would be facing all the stuff for the scrapbook, as well as the emotions, I started preparing myself by reading some of my previous blog posts, and wow, talk about anger.  There were some that I read that were packed full of anger.  While I was reading them, I was also realizing that I still have some anger, and other emotions that I haven’t dealt with.  Why?  That’s a good question, and I’m guessing that by not facing it, I could continue to pretend that nothing happened, that the last 16 months were just a bad dream.  So…..I realized it was past time that I tried a support group again.  I called my cancer center (where I had chemo and where my medical oncologist is located) to ask about their support group, I had a lot of questions because I didn’t want to have a repeat performance of the previous support group I attended – total waste of time.  What I learned has given me hope, and I will attend this meeting THIS Saturday, in TWO days!  No turning back now, between the scrapbook and the support group, I really will be facing the music of my emotions.  As long as it’s not a great big ol ugly cry like the night I was diagnosed, I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok.  No, wait!  I KNOW I will be ok!  I’ve made it this far haven’t I?

My physical scars have healed, I’m taking baby steps to my emotional healing, I think I’m headed in the right direction.

 

Now….for something a little more upbeat!

I freaking LOVE my new job!  I just can’t explain how happy I truly am!  I have work that is challenging to me as I learn the ins and outs of how things work.  I have a boss who I feel trust me enough to give me projects and put in charge (not the right phrase) of things related to our department.  I’ve only been on the job since the end of February, and I got a plant and lunch for Administrative Assistant’s Day, really made me feel great!  I hope I will always be this happy!

I had posted a while back about our oldest dog, Chrissy not doing well, that we thought that she had taken a turn towards her downhill slide.  Well, she sure showed us!  Chrissy is doing great, just like her old self!  Which is fantastic!  We just aren’t ready to let her pass over the Rainbow Bridge.

I’m still trying to raise the remainder of the money I need to be able to walk in the Komen 3Day, I’m really struggling with it.  As much as I’d like to walk those 60 miles for ME!  I’ve accepted that it just may not happen :-(

Two years ago, I photographed a Special Ed Prom and I simply had a blast!  They asked me to do it again last year, but wasn’t able to due to being in chemo.  However, THIS year!  It’s ON!  I may not pick my camera up again until that night, but, at least I will be forcing myself back into photography!

We only have about 10 weeks left before our first grandchild will arrive!  I’m excited and still in shock, all at the same time!  How did they get old enough to have a child?  I’m still 29, right?

I guess I’ve stayed on here long enough, the things I need to do are still staring me in the face, crochet a baby blanket, watch the Big Bang Theory, read my book…..and then there’s that scrapbook.

As always, thank you for following me on this journey, allowing me to share my story, encouraging me, supporting me and reminding me just how strong I truly am!

 

 

 

 

 

Searching

4-12-2014

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves searching for things – our lost car keys, the tv remote, our eye glasses/sun glasses, our purpose in life, or in this case – closure.

I can’t explain what it is I’ve been feeling the last few months, but I feel as though I’m searching for closure.

Cancer came, I fought the tough fight, I won and now, well, now it’s time to move on.  I wish it were that easy, something to seems to be missing from the puzzle of moving on, of finding that closure and I just simply have no idea what it is.

I don’t always look back at my life over the last 16 months, but when something triggers a thought, a memory; I think to myself how I can’t believe that was really my life, that I truly had cancer, that I went through 5 surgeries, 16 rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation, so….why do I feel this emptiness?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad, I’m not depressed, I’m happier than I’ve truly been in a very long time; I just have this unknown feeling floating around that I can’t put my finger on.

There are times that I wish I hadn’t been so open about my diagnosis, treatments and all that my body endured; was I too open and honest?  Did I make fighting cancer seem easy glamorous? But, I do know, that because of my honesty, several women had their mammograms done, some for the first time, some that were late, some through Komen for a lack of insurance.  Then there are the renewed friendships I found, even a new one, and one that became stronger through this process.  I learned how to let things go, I found my laughter, I learned just how much my husband loves me, how proud my parents are of me, and even how some people have come to admire me.  And for those things, I’m happy I was so honest.  Yet, I still find I need something, and closure is what continues to come back to me time and time again.

I look back over everything and it all still seems very surreal, as though it didn’t happen in MY life.  All I have to do is look at my scars, look in the mirror at my short hair (as compared to the long hair I had at the time), see my thin left eye brow, feel my aching joints, take a handful of medicine each night and all the other things that cancer left me with that others don’t see to remember that all of this really did happen, but yet, there’s just that something I can’t seem to find. Something that is holding me back from fully healing.  Is it my deep fear that cancer isn’t finished with me? Is there another life lesson waiting to be learned?  What is it?

The ocean and beach have always been something that calms my soul, it soothes me.  Pat and I made a quick trip to Galveston before my first surgery so I could walk on the beach, clear my head, soak in all that was about to happen.  I wish I could say that the beach was calling my name again, that taking that walk, staring out at the ocean, listening to the waves crashing is what I’m hearing right now, but I’d be lying if I said that; because, honestly, the beach calling me is something that happens on a daily basis.  Water must be my cosmic energy, or whatever it is called.  My soul needs to be soothed, I need to find a way past this.

I know that breast cancer, or cancer in general, will always be a part of my life, it’s now part of the new me, it’s part of my new normal – daily hormone suppressors, extra doses of vitamins, regular visits with my breast surgeon, my radiation oncologist, my plastic surgeon and my medical oncologist; it’s my new normal.

And, here I sit…..searching for something I can’t find, something I’ve lost and don’t know where to look.

I wish I knew how to explain this feeling I have.  Wish I knew how to understand it myself.  Wish I knew the magic answer.

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Headshot by Shantel

Training, Survivor Style

4-9-14

when I got home from work today, Pat said “let’s go for a walk”.

so……after he woke up from his short nap, we left the house and headed for Cedar Hill to walk on the nature trail.

we were almost there, when he mentioned walking the trails in Cedar Hill State Park. I asked him if he had his state park pass with him, he said “yes”. So, in we went.

we pulled up to the entrance, Pat gave the woman his pass and drivers license. His pass expired on March 31st. Strike One.

we drive in down the street and parked in the Cedar Hill Autobahn park so we could walk the “nature trails”.

so, let’s make sure everyone is caught up.

Pat wanted to go for a walk, help me start training for the 3Day, he picked where we were going to walk, AND he was the leader, Strike two.

this little walk on the nature trail, was actually a HIKE! Yes, my first training walk was a HIKE! Have you seen me lately? Do you know how out of shape and overweight I am?  Did I mention that Pat has issues with directions? Strike Three.

we made it to the top of the trail, it was a beautiful view of Joe Pool Lake. We rested for a few minutes (it was a steep climb) before starting on the trail that would lead us back DOWN the trail, WRONG!

Did I mention that Pat has issues with directions?

we ended up at someone’s back yard, not sure what to do, or where to go (I wanted to climb over the barb wire), my walk leader said we should turn around and go back the way we came. Yeah right.

we walked in circles for a while. I was pretty sure that Brandon would be sending a search team for us, hoping they could use the pings from my cell phone to locate us.

somehow, I don’t even know how, we came back across where we had climbed up Mt. Cedar Hill…..decided that it was best to go back down the way we came, surely we could find our way back, right?

there were a few forks on the trail where we had to decide which way to go the choice was not always the right one.

Once we came across a recognizable sign, I took over leading our walk.

we finally made it back to the truck as the sun was going down, it was a nice adventure, one i don’t really care to repeat, but we made it out alive and together.

we decided to stop at Braum’s for a grilled chicken salad, I thought about taking the banana split from the guy in line beside us.

Here are a few pics from our stroll

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Taking a New Direction

March 21, 2014

I’m looking forward to taking a different direction in my breast cancer journey, one towards total health, a long life, oh and maybe, just maybe, my first born grandchild this coming Summer!  I plan to be a awesome, fantastic, fun, playful, goofy and role model Nana when that sweet little boy arrives!

As much progress as I’ve made since my diagnosis 16 months ago, both emotionally and physically, no medical under taking of mine would be complete without some type of setback, hiccup or issue.  That’s just how I operate!

I had my final surgery on March 11th, this was the surgery to create my nipples and to remove skin and fat from under each arm, giving my new breasts a nice round silicone implant type of shape.  I saw Dr. Chen (plastic surgeon) last Monday for my post op.  He took a quick look at me and said my right breast/nipple looked red (which is also the cancer/radiated side) and NEVER welcome news in my new world; however, thankfully, I handled the news well and didn’t freak out thinking something horrible was wrong, like cancer again.  Dr. Chen said the redness could be caused from the gauze covering the incision and being held in place by my bra.  But to be safe, he put me on 10 days worth of antibiotics, plus to keep using the triple antibiotic cream, sigh…….

Yesterday when I came home from work and changed clothes, the gauze pad on my right side came off and there was a little teeny tiny bit of blood on the gauze.  I got in front of the mirror and started CLOSELY examining this new nipple, saw where the blood was coming from.  What I thought was dried blood, or a scab, is actually very dark skin (makes me think perhaps its dead skin, but hey, the left side has the same coloring), that LIFTED away from the rest of the nipple when I was cleaning it with an alcohol wipe 0_o  I got the skin cleaned up really REALLY Super duper over the top REALLY clean, got out the cream and bandages and covered that thing back up.  Thankfully, this morning, I thought it looked better.  I’m anxious to check it again before going to bed, but am resisting the urge to peek ahead of time.  I don’t want this to lead to my nipple actually drying up and falling off!  LOL.

In my semi panic mode yesterday, I sent one of my pink ribbon sisters a message asking about her recent nipple reconstruction, she shared a photo with me of what hers looked like after surgery.  We talked a while, then decided how we NEVER in our pre-cancer lifetime did we think we would ever be talking to other women about boobs and nipples!  It made me laugh, as most things do these days.  But seriously.  You should hear/see some of the conversations that take place between cancer patients/survivors who are members of our support group.  It’s very comforting to have a safe place to ask questions, regardless of the topic, or to just vent.  We are all united by that pink ribbon, and as much as I hate that it’s cancer that brought us together, we help each other out, we have become friends, we check on each other, we pray and celebrate, and sometimes, we even cry.

I know I have to get past this one last hurdle (the broken nipple) before I can feel like I can finally move on, to say that it’s all behind me.  But while I wait, I already have my eyes set on my next goal, my next item on my list.  Last year I walked in the Komen Race for the Cure.  That race came just 1 year and 4 days after I got the call that my mammogram was bad.  I crossed the finish line, hand in hand with my husband and our kids.  My hair had already started growing out, I was feeling good, I looked good, life was good.  Now…..I still plan to walk in the 5k, that’s something I want to continue to do, along with my family and friends again.  Having them walk with me is emotionally fulfilling, to have them there, continuing to support me, just by walking is something I will forever cherish.  But…….now I’ve committed to walk in the Komen 3Day.  Before I can walk, I must raise a total of $2300.00.  I’ve already raised a little bit, and I still need to raise $1541.00.  I’d like to have this done by the beginning of June, so that I can concentrate on becoming a Nana in July!  I’m attaching the link to my donation page in case you feel led to donate, even a little bit.  Just make sure you check to see if your employer is a matching contributor when you do!

Everyone deserves a lifetime, so let’s save lives together!  Donate today!

https://secure3.convio.net/npt/site/Donation2?idb=1028852119&df_id=4661&FR_ID=1861&PROXY_ID=7321419&PROXY_TYPE=20&4661.donation=form1