This is a great blog and very true
This is a great blog and very true
June 3, 2015
I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog update since the end of January! Wow! I’m going to have to sit down and really think about what’s been going on in my life to update you all.
First, I can say, that I am still healthy, still no signs of cancer and at my last oncology appointment I graduated to seeing my dr every 6 months now – this is big news in the world of cancer!
So, what about the tears? I have been doing some reflection here lately, some good, some not so wonderful, and one of the things I thought about was how just a year ago, I was in counseling, trying to work through all of my emotions related to my breast cancer, trying to heal emotionally as well as physically. While I learned many things in counseling, I was able to release the tears I had kept bottled up inside, it doesn’t take a whole lot to get me crying now!
It used to really make me angry to cry, angry at myself, I found it as a sign of weakness in myself (me, not you, or anyone else, just me), and by golly, I’m tough and strong and badass, and all types of crazy things. However, since I have learned to cry again, and given myself permission to do, I am finding a way to release emotions in a more healthy way; sadly, my eyes would disagree since when I cry, I end up with big fat huge swollen eyes – it’s not a pretty site.
These tears have come in handy this past year, for many reasons, but I want to start with the most recent one that I care to share publicly.
About 15 years ago, when I started a part time job here in town, I met a woman, who served on our board of directors, the more I learned about her, the more I got to know her, the more I admired and respected her. Bev and I developed a friendship that evolved over time, discovering things about ourselves that we had in common, etc. Bev and I would soon face our own health crisis a few short months apart. She, however, had a harder road to travel than I did.
When Bev was 19 or 20, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, the older she got, the more advanced the disease became. Never did she use this as an excuse to not do something, never did she use it as a excuse to get attention – NEVER did she ever let it get her down, never, simply never. Bev often kept how sick she truly was to herself, not letting people into that world, she always put others before herself. I remember walking into the waiting room following a mammogram and saw her sitting there filling out paper work. I stopped to chat with her and discovered she was there because her dr thought her lung was collapsed. I don’t remember now if it was or not, this would be a repeat procedure for her over the years that followed. Bev found out just how bad her health was when one of her lungs collapsed and she found herself in the hospital for about a month, it was then that her dr’s told her it was time for her to go on the lung transplant list, it was time, her lungs were just that bad. In true Bev fashion, she was upset that someone would have to die in order for her to live; always thinking of others first.
Bev agreed to go on the transplant list, she would find herself in and out of the hospital a few more times before her good lung collapsed and she was put in the hospital with no release date in sight. Her dr’s had no intention of releasing her from the hospital until she had a new set of lungs. Do you think she let this get her down? Nope! If my memory serves me right, she was there about 30 days before receiving her new set of lungs. Oh, how glorious this was! When I received the call that she was out of surgery and breathing on her own, with her new lungs, I couldn’t help but rejoice. She had some significant setbacks before finally being released from the hospital, but she was doing well, she looked fantastic, and was able to slowly return to life as normal.
And before we knew it, I was diagnosed with breast cancer (it was actually 6 months after her transplant). We started sharing our dr’s visit updates, would we both be at the dr at the same time? Could we meet for lunch? So many options. If I wasn’t checking on her, she was checking on me; we gained strength from each other while we continued to build our friendship. I learned so very much from watching her, she taught me what it was like to fight for your life with so much grace and dignity, if I could muster up just half of that during my fight, I would be doing well.
Long story short, Bev went into chronic rejection and was never able to fully recover before she passed away a few weeks ago. The day her husband called me (from the hospital) and said she was asking for me and explained just how bad she was, I found the tears flowing before I could even try to stop them. Seeing just how upset I was, my husband drove me over there and waited in the waiting room so I could go spend time with my sweet friend, the last time we would end up having together. She held my hand the entire time, couldn’t lift her head to see me, but told me how proud she was of me for beating cancer, that she loved me, she asked about my grandson (I tell ya, always thinking of others); we talked about the song Stronger by Kelly Clarkson, I quickly tried to find it on my phone (I didn’t have it) and silently let the tears fall down my face knowing that I was most likely telling her goodbye. As we held hands, I told her that I was going to go, she needed her rest, she had family coming, she told me she didn’t want me to leave, to stay. I stayed a few more minutes, before kissing her hand and telling her how much I loved her and that I would be back on Friday.
I cried all the way home, and the next day at work as well. Knowing I was about to loose this precious person who meant so much to me was hard to take, someone I admired and respected was going to leave us. This just wasn’t acceptable in my world.
I didn’t get to see her that Friday, she had rallied and was doing fantastic, she was going home. I made plans to stop by to see her on my way home that following Tuesday, which was her 3 year transplant birthday, but texted her to change our plans so she could spend the day with her husband and extended family, she felt that was best, she was feeling rather fatigued. We agreed to touch base on Saturday morning and I would come over. I have kept that text.
Saturday never came.
On Thursday evening, May 14th at 8:34 pm, Bev’s husband called me to tell me she was back in the hospital and simply just wasn’t going to make it. We talked for a few minutes, he told me where to find them in the giant hospital. I told my husband what was happening, texted the kids, got in touch with a few people from work and headed to the hospital, coffee in hand knowing it was probably going to be a long night. During my drive to the hospital, i chatted with Bev’s sister in law, Christy, who is also my friend, she kept me up to date as things changed. When I was in the parking garage headed towards the hospital, she texted me and said to hurry. I started running through the hospital halls, coffee splashing as I went. Christy met me at the elevators and brought me back to where Bev was. As we rounded the corner, we came upon a large gathering of her husband’s co-workers, church pastor and family members. He was telling everyone that she was basically gone. We were then able to go into her room, and of course, my tears were flowing. She was still in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator, but was basically not with us any longer. I did what I knew to do, hold her hand, tell her I love her and cry. After a while, I stepped into the hall and started making a few phone calls to let others know what was happening.
It was after midnight when we all left the room and the machines keeping her alive were turned off. Her amazing husband (and I do truly mean AMAZING) stayed with her through that final moment, taking care of her – it was beautiful, and loving, and heart breaking all at the same time. We were all allowed to come back into her room, where we all took turns standing beside her bed, holding her hand, talking to her, telling her our goodbye’s.
Her funeral didn’t take place until the following week, and for me emotionally, it was pretty brutal. Her story wasn’t supposed to end up like this, she was supposed to be healthy and live a long life with her new lungs. I was having a very hard time understanding why God didn’t heal her. For the first time in my life, I found myself angry with God, felt very selfish and hated to hear the standard “I’m sorry”, or “she’s in a better place”, etc. Those things were not helping me, even though I knew them to be true. I knew she was breathing with lungs at 100% capacity, that she had met her donor and was probably already on a beautiful beach in heaven (something she had to give up following her transplant).
In the days following her funeral and my final goodbye, I continued to cry, I continued to seek out answers, to make sense of what had happened. I was the one with cancer, a disease that kills, she had gotten a new set of lungs and was supposed to be healthy. I was angry. And then I realized what I was feeling (besides sadness), survivor’s guilt. If either of us was supposed to loose a fight, it was supposed to be me from cancer, not her – never here.
Bev passed on May 15th, and I still find myself with fresh tears over all that I lost in this extraordinary friend, this beautiful human being, this person who was nothing but good. I have found myself troubled by things and wanting to pick up the phone and call or text her, just to hear her positive attitude, making me realize it would all be ok, whatever it was that was bothering me, it would all be ok.
And so I cry, tears of sadness over loosing this precious person, but also tears of joy for having known her and been a part of her life. I received a rare gift at her funeral from a stranger, it was very personal and very profound that I have only shared with one person, as soon as I was able to get to my truck, I opened the notes feature and wrote down every detail so I could remember it always; I thank God for the message He knew I needed at that exact moment in time.
I’m learning that tears are good.
Other than the loss of Bev, the only other times that come to mind that brought me to true tears was this past Christmas and the birth of Andrew, my first grand child almost one year ago.
We, as a family, postponed our Christmas gathering this past year due to a stomach virus running like a mad bull through the house, we wanted everyone to feel better before we got together. As I stood in the kitchen preparing what ever it was we were about to eat, the 4 grown kids were all in the living room playing with Andrew, it was a beautiful sight. I wish I would have been able to sneak a picture so that I could capture that moment in time, for me, just something to remind me of how lucky I am to still be here. I was able to hold back the flood of tears that I wanted to release that day, and instead replaced them with a big smile and a gracious heart, along with a silent prayer of Thanksgiving to God for bringing me healing from my cancer.
The other time that I experienced true emotion, true tears, was when Andrew was born. I was very overcome with emotion when I held him the first time, I surprised myself seeing how I had been telling everyone I wasn’t ready to be a grandma. Those were tears of joy to witness this miracle, to watch my son with his first child, my heart was so full and I again, was very grateful to still be on this earth to be a part of it. The flood gates of my soul re-opened a few days later when it was time to return home, I was already so head over heels in love with this little guy and I couldn’t stand to leave him in the capable of hands of his mommy and daddy, I wanted to stay too. So, what did I do when it was time to leave and head home? I cried! A lot! I cried so much that I probably could have ended the drought in that part of the state just a year ago! LOL….seriously, it was rough and I’m sure no one understood my emotions, but I did.
You see, I’ve lost 3 of my 4 grandparents to cancer, one of which, I was very close too. I also lost my step mom to cancer. Watching someone you love loose their battle isn’t easy. When I learned I had cancer, we had no idea how bad it was, if it had spread, nothing. We had to wait until my surgeon did a frozen biopsy of just one single lymph node during surgery to know if it had spread even that far; it had in fact spread. Now, we had to wait again for the final pathology report to learn the other nodes were also positive for cancer. In the cancer world, when it’s in your nodes, it can and will spread to other parts of your body, this is a very scary thing. I in some sense, had to come face to face with my own mortality. My oncologist ran tests of my body, head to toe, to make sure it hadn’t spread, thankfully, my cancer was contained to my breasts and lymph nodes. Does that mean I’m healed, no, it doesn’t. When I’m 10 – 12 years out with no signs of cancer, then and only then will my Dr consider me healed. I have 10 years left.
Facing cancer, facing my own mortality has taught me so much about life, about myself. I don’t take the little things for granted any longer. I don’t pick up my camera to capture a moment like I would have before, instead, I’m sitting back, letting life happen and enjoying it so very much as I know my story could have very easily turned out differently. I’m also aware that at any given moment, the roque cancer cells in my body that COULD be laying dormant could decide to wake up and invade my body again. Because of this, I will soak in each and every moment, I will cherish the times I have with my family and close friends. I may hug you a little tighter, a little longer. I may tell you that I love you, or appreciate you more than I did before.
I will probably bug you senseless to make sure you are taking care of your health, getting your mammograms and in honor of Bev, ask if you are an organ donor.
Next week, my son will get married to the one God has chosen for him. I will be there, front and center, taking it all in, thanking my Heavenly Father for allowing me to be here and maybe, just maybe…..
Not because I’m sad, but because I’m happy and so appreciative to be in this moment in time.
I’ve learned that tears are a good thing and I won’t hold them back any longer.
January 28, 2015
The last couple of weeks have been somewhat trying for me, for some of the things that have come up, I’ve bit my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself, but then there are a few that I didn’t. Ok, not really a few, but you understand.
Last week, I was having a particularly hard day with my joints, my hips and the bottom of my feet were hurting pretty badly; my guess is that even though I thought the neuropathy was gone, it isn’t, so I posted on Facebook as to what I believe are some misconceptions regarding people who have had, or currently have cancer. I got some negative feedback on that post; one person even said I was using cancer as a crutch and then proceeded to post elsewhere about women missing the attention when they were in active treatment, I took that as a jab at me, and yes I spoke up. I was very aggravated by this comment, and there were some who saw the comments and felt the same way that I did, attacked and aggravated.
I have been very vocal in regards to my diagnosis, surgeries, chemo, radiation and hormone suppressor treatment; partly because it has helped me to deal with what I have and am going through; then on the flip side of that coin is my desire to help others who are facing the sea of pink, whether they are a cancer patient, a care giver or a support person.
You see, breast cancer is about more than a pink ribbon, after all the surgeries are over, the hair has grown back and the radiation burns have healed – the average (or in this case, me) person is not done, they don’t get to go back to their old life pre-cancer, life becomes a new normal, so let’s talk about that briefly.
First, there is the emotional toll that a cancer diagnosis takes on you, both mentally and physically. I was a mess, and I do a complete mess from the day I learned my mammogram was bad until a few days after I received my diagnosis. I shut down. The only way I would talk to someone was via text, email or Facebook chat. I would go to work and that was it, I wouldn’t cook, do laundry, etc. I shut down in a serious fashion. I went through a lot emotionally in that month of not knowing and it took it’s toll on me.
Second, I had 6 different surgeries related to my breast cancer. SIX! That’s six times of being put under anesthesia, six times that I had to recover, six times I fought through the pain because I didn’t want to give into the pain pills (I’m stubborn like that); six times we seriously scrubbed surgical tape and glue off my body, with the last time leaving me with a horrible reaction and burn from the surgical tape, I was more miserable from that than the actual surgery.
Third, 16 rounds of chemo. The first 4 rounds went like this: Every 3 weeks I went in and was pumped full of steroids before my chemo was administered; I would come home and be awake for a little over 24 hours before being able to sleep, which led into my 5, yes, FIVE day chemo crash, or as I called it, chemocoma. I literally slept for 5 times straight with a rare times of being awake long enough to use the bathroom and eat something small. Repeat in 3 weeks. Long term effects of chemo…….compromised immune system and chemo brain (memory loss).
Fourth, 34 rounds of radiation, which I started exactly 6 days after finishing chemo. I ended up with some very nasty burns on the side of my breast, I did give in and take pain pills, just so I could sleep. The burns were deep, I had big blisters, the skin was just about black and finally peeled. Because of the radiation, I now have to massage my breast daily to keep scar tissue from building up and the implant drawing up and becoming smaller. I am told this is very painful if it happens and cuts down the chances of having the implant replaced. I recently learned that because of the radiation, I am now at a higher risk for skin cancer. I’m having a small spot on my chest looked at this Friday by a dermatologist for what Dr. Google and I have diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma.
Fifth, hormone suppressors. I am now on the last of the 3 available drugs I can take to keep my hormones from turning others into estrogen, once this last one stops working, or I can’t handle the side effects any longer, I have to start all over (Femara, Arimidex and Aromasin). Each one has it’s own side effects, so it became the lesser of two evils, what can my body handle best……right now, we are going with bone/joint pain and neuropathy.
Sixth, I will forever have a compromised immune system. I recently had a upper respiratory infection, the fatigue was horrible. When I asked my oncologist about it, she said that isn’t unusual. This concerns me, what will happen if I get really sick, say with the flu, or even pneumonia. I can’t imagine the fatigue that will come with one of those.
So, you see, the average person may look at me and think I’m all better now that I’m finished with everything, when in reality, I’m far from it. I’ll never be 100% better, and that sucks for not only me, but for my family too. I can’t begin to count, or try to grasp the number of times I have had a conversation with them, then turned around and asked the exact same question because I don’t remember the conversation that we JUST HAD. Can you imagine just how frustrating that is for me, and them too?
The memory loss is just as frustrating for me, personally, as the bone/joint pain is. Both things hold me back. For instance, if something isn’t a repetitive thing, I forget unless I write it down, or more seriously, put it in my phone with an alarm. I don’t know how to make others understand what this is like, it’s not something I choose to have in my life, or use as an excuse, it’s MY truth, my absolute truth.
I wish to God that cancer had never came into my life, but it did, and I am damn proud of how I handled myself. I fought hard to get where I am now. I have often times wondered what my purpose in life is, and I think being there to help others navigate this sea of pink is my calling. I’m going to dr’s visits with one friend who is a breast cancer survivor with mets to the bone, I’ve been asked to reach out to someone I’ve never met after they were diagnosed, I’ve been contacted when a mammogram comes back bad, I’ve been asked how someone can help someone they love through breast cancer; and I’ve been called when a routine test showed something abnormal.
Yep, I use cancer as a crutch.
It is my hope and pray, that my story, my being so honest and vocal will help another woman through, gives her someone to talk to that understands. It is my hope that I can help a care giver, loved one or support person understand what their loved one is actually going through, you see, it never truly ends and to insinuate we (I) use it as a crutch or dwell on it is really a slap in the face.
My advice to you, unless you are living inside the cancer patients body, experience their thoughts, feelings, pain; are in the surgery rooms, hear word for word what the oncologist says, takes those hormone suppressors and experiences the side effects – don’t pass judgement, don’t take jabs, try to understand; cancer is hard enough to navigate with out negativity being forced on us when we are doing our best to remain positive.
I am one hell of a fighter, I’m strong willed, I’m determined and I never back down from a good fight, I kicked cancers ass after all! But what I won’t tolerate is being judged when someone doesn’t truly know the situation.
I know my circle, and I know my truth – God and I know and that is all that truly matters. If you don’t believe me, I’ll let you ask him when you stand in judgement.
Letting go of my anger over this now.
Carry on and remember – it’s about more than a pink ribbon
PS – if you want to follow someone who really talks about breast cancer, look up Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer on Facebook and the web, watch her feed then tell her she uses it as a crutch, let me know how that works for you.
January 8, 2015
I bet you thought I was gonna say TEXAS! Uh nope, not this time.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had my genetic testing for the BRAC gene, I had to gather as much family cancer history as possible. I already knew that 3 of my 4 grandparents died from cancer.
Maternal Grandfather: prostrate and bone
Maternal Grandmother: breast and lung
Paternal Grandmother: colon, skin and stomach
Doesn’t look so great for me, huh?
Anyway, what does that have to do with being deep in the heart of???????
Well, lucky me, my oncologist gave me a 2 year deadline to get my first colonoscopy (BEFORE I turn 50) done. My deadline is up in July. As much as I dread the prep part of the procedure, I dread the time frame I have to wait to hear “all clear” more. Those seconds will probably feel like weeks, those minutes like years. This will be my first “big test” since completing all of my treatments. I can admit to feeling anxious about the whole process, in the “cancer world” this is referred to as scan anxiety.
As I drove home from work today, I was thinking that I might need a xanax to calm my nerves going into the procedure, but then I remembered the dreaded clean out and how it probably won’t stay in my system anyway. Oh the joys! This is gonna be super fun! I’ve only been on my new job a month and I’m so thankful that my boss didn’t even flinch when I told her I needed to take the day before off, she is 100% aware of my cancer and everything related to it, she knows about my blog and encouraged me to continue it when I was thinking about taking it down. Too bad this is just a contract position cause I’m really enjoying the people I work with and what I’m doing, not to mention I get to ride to and from work with my husband!
Well, there it is, the next part of my cancer journey. As much as I am scared, no, terrified, of those few seconds until the dr tells me that I am indeed NOT full of you know what and that I will remain cancer free, I really must say that I wish my boys would be here to receive the payback of the gas leaving my body for all the times that they have “blessed me” with their own. Of course, I’m sure they would find a way to make fun of me for it since they know how much I hate it, picking on me is what they do, but that’s ok, I know they love me and I’m just thankful to still be here to be picked on!
Deep in the heart of…………TEXAS!
January 1, 2015
When my journey started, I quickly realized, having cancer changed me. Not in many ways I can explain, as I’m still learning myself, but it changed me. I hope by sharing this little bit about myself that it will help others to understand the transformation that cancer patients go through. Some of the changes are very noticeable, while others are very subtle; some changes are physical, while many are emotional changes.
The morning I received the call that my mammogram was bad changed me, I became scared, an emotion that I don’t experience very often. I will never be the same.
The morning I received my official diagnosis of breast cancer changed me, I truly feared for my life. I learned that I had cancer, no one knew how bad it was, how advanced, what would happen, we knew nothing other than cancer was alive in my body. I was terrified, something I don’t recall ever experiencing in my life. I will never be the same.
Waking up after my double mastectomy to learn that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes brought a new level of fear. Had it spread? Was I going to be ok? Was I going to die? I will never be the same.
Having my husband bathe me in the days following my mastectomy was truly beautiful, he served me, he honored his wedding vows and he demonstrated the depths of his love with each tender touch. I experienced his pure love in those days. I will never be the same.
Loosing my hair allowed me to experience the raw me, it allowed me to look past my hair and see ME. Being bald was freeing, it stripped away the outer layers that we see and allowed me to look inside at what makes me, well me. I will never be the same.
Having memory issues has changed me. It’s the little things that leave me frustrated. If I don’t do something on a regular basis, a repetitive nature, or do it at the exact moment I think of it, I forget. Those things might as well of never entered my thought process, it’s like they never existed to begin with. It’s very frustrating when it’s pointed out to me, or by pure luck, I realize what it is that I forgot. There are basis tasks that used to be no big deal, but now I struggle with…basic math being one of them. I have trouble understanding and making sense of simple things, it’s very frustrating and I will never be the same.
Every time I opened my mailbox and found a card, a small gift, a act of love allowed me to see the kindness of people that I might have never seen had it not been for cancer. They reached out to me from the goodness of their souls. I will never be the same.
Each time I go to the dr now, have lab work done, a physical (chest) exam done, causes me to pause, hold my breath and wait for the all clear results. Going to the dr now means I will never be the same.
Waking up to a new ache/pain makes me question, is the cancer back? Is it in my bones now? Why does this hurt? Having these new phantom pains means that I will never be the same.
There isn’t a day that goes by that cancer isn’t somewhere in my thoughts, there are reminders e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. Reminders include the achy joints in my knees and ankles; the additional medicines I now take (vitamin e, biotin, aromasin, gabapentin) on a daily basis; the scars I see on my chest when I change clothes; the daily massage of my radiated breast with vitamin e oil that I must do to keep the scar tissue/skin from becoming too tight; each time my eye lashes break off, my very curly hair that I didn’t have prior to cancer; not being able to find a bra that actually fits properly. These are just a few of the things that serve as reminders of having cancer and this journey I have gone through. I will never be the same.
Although there have been many changes in my life, they are not all bad. I fear dr’s appt.’s when I never did before, but walk out rejoicing each time I get the all clear. I have learned to celebrate ME, when in the past I always put my husband and kids before myself, I’ve learned to make myself a priority. I’ve learned to stop and appreciate the beauty around me, the beauty that has always been there, the beauty that I was too busy living life to stop and see. I’ve learned look deep inside myself and discover what is truly important to me. I’ve learned to accept apologies I will never receive. I’ve learned to step away from the things/people that don’t fulfill me, that don’t bring warm fuzzies in my life, that don’t nourish my soul. I’ve learned to let things go when in the past I would have spoken my mind. I will never be the same.
I’ve learned to fully trust God. I will never be the same.
I believe that we can all go through life transformations, and we will probably never understand what others are experiencing, feeling, etc. My transformation came in the form of a pink ribbon and I don’t expect anyone to fully understand the changes I have gone through. All I can say is that I am a changed person and I will never be the same.
December 20, 2014
Two years ago today, I arrived at our local hospital at 5:30 a.m. for the first of six surgeries related to my breast cancer. This surgery was to perform a bilateral mastectomy, remove and test lymph nodes and put in tissue expanders for my reconstruction.
I don’t remember too much about that morning other than it was stupid early, I wasn’t scared for the surgery, I knew the surgery and recovery would be fine; it was the unknown. Would I wake up cancer free? So many questions that would need to be answered.
I woke up to learn that the cancer was indeed in my lymph nodes and this changed everything. I remember laying in my hospital room, just Pat and I, crying. Learning the cancer had spread was devastating to me and I was suddenly very scared and overwhelmed.
Despite how scared I was, I found myself surrounded by my friends and family, I took so much comfort in knowing they were literally right by my side. I wasn’t able to use my arms due to the drains coming out from under each of my arms, which meant I couldn’t take care of my very basic needs on my own. I had to depend on others, something that I’m just not used to doing.
In the last 2 years, so many things in my own life have changed. I have sadly lost friends, and while that still bothers me, I know I am better off for it. Things and people change, that includes me too. I too have changed, cancer will do that to a person.
I have recently talked with a friend about the time I was bald, I explained it as having the opportunity to see the raw me, the bare, raw, naked me. I was out of work, sitting inside my house day in and day out, people had stopped calling and coming by, I had nothing but time on my hands and thoughts in my head. That is not always a good combination; but in my case, it turned out to be something wonderful. I learned things that I never would have learned had it not been for having breast cancer, so for that, I am thankful for the role that cancer played in my life.
One of the things that has changed in my life is that I no longer will chase after people, keep the communication alive. I’ve learned to step away and let others come to me; I’m no longer going to be the sole communicator in any relationship that I have. That is a big deal for me, huge for me to let go of. But for my own peace of mind, I had too.
I’ve learned to accept an apology that I will never receive, but will always long for. While I’m still working on the forgiveness part, I’ve been able to move away from the hurt that was caused.
I’ve learned that I truly am a strong person, I have a very good heart, a desire to reach out and help others. I’ve learned to use my voice regarding breast cancer, to use it to tell the world that breast cancer is about more than a pink ribbon.
I’ve learned that fear of recurrence holds me back, mostly from photography. Although, I have a true desire to go photograph some beautiful Christmas lights that I will hopefully get to do next week before they are gone until next year; I’m getting there.
I’ve come to realize the depths of love my husband has for me; it was all there all along, I just couldn’t see it; feel it. I was blinded by past hurts, but thanks to breast cancer, his love blinded me and I am so very thankful for that.
I’ve learned to laugh, really laugh.
I’ve learned to let things go, let them roll off my shoulders and not get stressed out over things I can’t control. I can still negotiate with the best of em, but I’m just not going to get all stressed out anymore; nothing in life is worth that, especially my health and happiness.
I’ve learned to see the beauty in all things, the smallest of things. I’ve learned to stop and look around, to slow down.
And I’m learning to take steps back towards my camera, to fall in love with photography again, I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
In the mean time, today, I celebrate being cancer free for 2 years. Two glorious years! I had a quiet day at home, my favorite cake made by by favorite baker (Honey’s Boy Desserts) and a beautiful card from my sweet hubby.
I don’t expect everyone to understand why I make a big deal out of the day, and that’s ok. However, the best way I can explain it is this: Every time I have lab work come back clean, that’s a victory over cancer. And each year that goes by that I remain cancer free is one more year closer to truly beating cancer, and that my friends, is a damn big deal!
Celebrate your victories in life! I surely am going too!
December 10, 2014
I’m a big Garth Brooks fan, or as some use to say, I’m a “Brooks Believer” at least I think that is what fans used to calla themselves, I’m drawing on my chemo brain to remember, so if you really want to know if that’s true, look it up, then let me know. LOL
One of my favorite songs by GB is The River, We Shall Be Free, Mom (new single) and The Dance. I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog post and what I wanted to write about since last night, even asking the question on Facebook; several suggestions were posted, but my heart was drawn to this song. I started thinking about the lyrics, and landing on the chorus over and over and over again. The chorus spoke to me about my life, my journey, these past 2 years.
On December 20, 2014, I will PROUDLY celebrate being 2 years of ‘no evidence of disease’ (cancer free). While some may not understand the importance of that, let me try to explain. Every time I visit my oncologist (every 4 months) I have lab work done, if anything was to be abnormal, we would start the testing to see if my cancer had returned anywhere in my body (most likely, bones, lungs, brain). Everytime that Dr. O tells me that my labs look great, it’s a victory, and each time I can celebrate a milestone, like a year marker, it’s a HUGE DEAL, that just means, I’m one year closer to being able to say that I truly beat breast cancer. I know that is not the definition that Dr. O would give, but it’s what I choose to believe. I don’t remember what my magic year mark is, I can’t ever remember to ask; so, for the rest of my life, each time that December 20th rolls around, I will celebrate.
On my first anniversary of being cancer free, the family and I went to see “Saving Mr. Banks” and then friends joined us at Cheesecake Factory for lunch, and of course, red velvet cheesecake! I forgot to take my candle with me last year, so, of course, I had to bring a piece home so I could blow out the candle, right? This year, my very dear friend, Alonzo (also a baker, look up Honey’s Boy Desserts) is making me a cake. I have told him the flavor I would like, and that it just needs to have 2 pink ribbons to celebrate my 2 year birthday. Whatever he creates will be perfect and spectacular! Alonzo knows me so very well and every cake he has ever customized for me has been superb! I may be the only one who eats the cake this year, and I may be the only one who celebrates this victory, this milestone, and that will be ok (I guess); however, I will PROMISE you this: when Dr. O tells me what my magic year is (I’m planning to ask in February when I see her), and as long as I’m still cancer free, I plan to have a P-A-R-T-Y!!! Consider this your formal invitation now.
What does this have to do with Garth Brooks? Stay with me, I’m going to try my best to explain!
The last 2 lines of the chorus of The Dance are what speak to me the most;
Our lives are better left to chance
If we could plan out every single detail of our lives, how many of those things would we regret later on? Would we have married our love interest we had in junior high when we thought we were so in love? What about when we thought our lives were ruined when we did something stupid and were embarrassed because other people saw us when it happened? Honestly, I’m glad that none of those things came true for me, if they had, I wouldn’t have met my husband, fell in love, got married and had 2 amazing sons. My life was better left to chance, life happened and I’m so glad that it did. It may not have always gone the way that I wanted it too (obviously, I’m writing about my breast cancer journey), hence the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance.
I could have missed the pain
Oh the pain, the last 2 years for sure, there has been pain (mostly emotionally). There is a saying that says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” really? Who even came up with that? I feel like at this point in my life that I should be able to bench press a hummer! The pain of learning your mammogram is bad, the pain of fighting a family member for their supposed breast cancer pathology report, learning you actually have breast cancer, learning it’s in your lymph nodes, learning you will loose your hair, loosing your job (really a blessing in disguise), learning that your friends, really aren’t the friends you thought they were after all, living with a emotion that you just can’t figure out that finally drives you to counseling, being unable to pick up your camera, the thing that once brought so much joy to your life. Lastly, finding out that your ideal job (company) turned out to be a horrible experience, without the pain, I would have missed the dance.
But I’d of had to miss The Dance
And what a beautiful dance it has been. You must be thinking that I’ve lost my mind, how can breast cancer be beautiful? I think it’s how I chose to look at it, to experience it, to live it. I got a rare opportunity to examine myself, my raw self; to learn how to let things go, to see people truly for how they are. I have met some AMAZING people, renewed old friendships, deepened friendships, experienced the depth of my husband’s love for me (I may have never known, really known, had it not been for my cancer). Part of my dance has been my curly hair, walking in the Race for the Cure 5k as a Survivor, using my voice to talk about breast cancer, how it is more than a pink ribbon, experiencing the birth of my first grand child, seeing my youngest son get engaged, and now, helping other women navigate these pink waters.
I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance; all of these things are possible because of breast cancer!
I don’t know what my future holds, I can only promise myself that I will appreciate everything that comes my way, both good and bad, except the lessons that are given to me and continue to dance.
I hope you will too.
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance