Surviving my first PINKTOBER


October 25, 2013

Well, Pinktober is almost over and I have survived it!  My next hurdle to survive is the first anniversary date of my diagnosis (November 20th).

On September 30th, I remember sitting here at my computer and Pat asking me what was wrong.  I didn’t know how to explain to him that I was dreading “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, how I didn’t want to go someplace and be overwhelmed with all the pinkness, the reminders, etc.  So, I simply said that nothing was wrong, I probably even said that I was just tired.  I should have been honest with him, it might have made the first full day of October easier for me.

I knew on the first that I was quiet, I knew what was bothering me, but, as usual, I tried to keep my feelings inside.  Why spew all my negativity out on the world?  Some people actually like Pinktober.  However, it was that evening that everything seemed to fall apart.  I had taken my IPad into the backyard with B’s new puppy, Frank.  I was scrolling through Facebook, when I came upon a link by Good Morning America of Kellie Pickler’s performance that morning.  I’ve always like her music, and really became a fan of the person (not the entertainer), when she shaved her head in support of her best friend, Summer, a few years ago, when Summer was undergoing chemo for breast cancer.  Anyway, by the end of the video, Kellie and Summer, were both crying, and you guessed it, so was I.  And it wasn’t some 15 minute little cry either.  It was a full blown meltdown on my part, first one I’ve had in a while, and I think it lasted about 3 hours.  Poor Pat, he, of course, never saw it coming, and even after being married all these years, I don’t think he knew how to handle my meltdown, how to comfort me.  But, he did a great job!  One of the many things I love about Pat, is that during this season of my life, he has NEVER said “it’s gonna be ok” or stuff like that, he has just made sure that I knew he was here to help me, to comfort me, to support me.  During my meltdown, Pat asked me what was wrong, and I couldn’t even explain myself, at least not very well.  He tried so hard to keep me encouraged, reminding me how far I’ve come, to focus on that, versus focusing on what was in front of me, gotta love him for that!  Through my meltdown, I was able to say that I’ll never understand what he’s feeling, what it’s like to watch your spouse fight cancer, the same way he will never understand what I feel, what it’s like to actually fight cancer, we have never walked in each other’s shoes.  He may not have walked in my shoes, but he has certainly walked every step he could beside me.

Turns out, Pinktober hasn’t been bad at all.

I even had an attitude adjustment regarding all the pink (purple is still my favorite color).  But, I have learned that I need to accept what all the pink and pink ribbons represent (to me). Hope for a cure and Education for the medical profession.  Think about that, education…it’s not just dr’s and nurses that need this education.  It’s also counselors, therapists, x-ray techs, surgeons, pathology techs, many many many branches of the medical profession that are educated on dealing with not just breast cancer, but ALL cancer’s.  So, for that, I will embrace the pink and the pink ribbon.  My only stipulation is this – IF I am buying something, proceeds MUST go to either the Breast Cancer Research Foundation or the Susan G. Komen Foundation, if the item doesn’t donate to one of those two, then it is gonna have to be something super duper cute!  I want to help raise awareness and help with research, mammograms, treatment, etc.

So, yes, you read that right, I’m going to embrace the pink and the pink ribbon.  You can pick up your chin now.  LOL.  I’m doing it gladly and with a ton of gratitude.

I was concerned that the 15th might be a little tough for me, that was the one year mark of the day I learned my mammogram was bad, thankfully, I breezed right through it.  Sure, it was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t dwell on it.  I just keep saying that I’m very thankful to just be alive!

One of the decisions that I made over the last year was that I wanted to walk in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, 5k.  I’ve known from the beginning how I wanted to cross the finish line, hand in hand with my family!  And I did just that!  I am so humbled that my team (The barefoot brigade) was 21 people strong (including myself).  A friend of mine from the 5th grade (whose older sister is a survivor), walked on my team.  A friend from 6th grade drove about 2 hours with her 2 daughters to walk with me.  As we walked, I listened to the questions her girls had and how their mom answered them, I was/am so pleased to have been a part of this educational experience.  I had not seen either of these friends since we graduated high school in 1986 (that I can recall).  Thankfully to Facebook (who ever says that, lol) we have been able to reconnect and stay in touch!  Both friends have committed to walking again next year!  I had a lot of fun making tutu’s with my friend Wendy, then making them for my daughter in law and one for Brandon’s girlfriend!  I think I did a pretty good job for my first time!  I got ambitious and made a 3 a layer tutu for myself, I’m pretty proud of how it looked, even if it was falling down by the time we were done for the day!

We didn’t get to leave exactly when I wanted too the morning of the race, I had told my team to meet us at a specific spot at a set time, well, because of the traffic and all, we were running late.  Thankfully, my life long friend, Melanie, took control and rounded everyone up and met us at a better spot, closer to where we all needed to be!  GO MEL!  I had planned to make sure we all stretched before hand, ha!  That didn’t work since we were running late, but let me tell ya, it was COLD while we were waiting to start!  There were a few times along the walk that I thought about stopping for just a minute, to kinda rest my legs, but I thought to myself, no way, I didn’t stop from the time I learned I had breast cancer until now, and neither would another woman, so on I went.  Pat was incredibly wonderful through the entire walk, occasionally asking me if I was ok (he said he meant physically, but his eyes told me emotionally), holding my hand, being there in a manner I just can’t explain!  Pat is like a security blanket to me, he simply brings me comfort and makes me feel protected.

As we approached the finish line, Melanie took the camera I had to get a picture of me crossing the finish line, I just love her for that!  I was a bit misty eyed at the time, but I didn’t let myself cry!

What came next was amazing.  A much needed potty break!  ok, not really, well, yeah, really.  Next came the Survivor’s Celebration Walk.  We lined up according to the number of years we had been a survivor, the woman I was standing next too had just had her 6th chemo treatment the day before, she looked fantastic and determined.  As we marched in, the Dallas Cowboy’s drum guys played us in (is that the correct phase?), and the closer we got to the stage, the louder I could hear Katy Perry’s “Roar”.  I was scanning the crowd for my friends and family when all of a sudden I heard my name, I turned and saw Melanie, Skylar and Wendy cheering me on.  I remember raising my arms in triumph as I passed by, my way of saying I DID IT, I AM HERE!  Melanie got a quick pic of me as well.  Once we reached the front of the stage, there were a few speeches, a few awards and some music!  The band (Emerald City) played We are Family and I Will Survive.  Both songs had all of us survivors singing and dancing together.  I got misty eyed again, taking in everything around me, the THOUSANDS of people who were there, walking for a cure, for not just me, but for YOU too.  I thought I might cry again, but I held myself together, knowing it would be an ugly cry if I started.  LOL!  When the festivities were over, Melanie and Skylar were still there, waiting for me.  Once again, I almost cried when Melanie and I hugged bye, we shared a few special words in each other’s ears, had to pull away before I started crying, and took one look at her with big ol tears ready to spill over and that was it, I had to turn away!  I will never be able to explain what it meant to me to see my name on their backs, that they were walking in celebration of ME!  Honored and humbled!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from walking in the Race for the Cure, but now that I’ve had time to sit and think about it, I feel fulfilled.  This year was all about walking for ME, next year, it’s about walking for all of you!  Crossing the finish line was symbolic for me, it signified that I survived, I beat cancer, I’m still here to tell about it, I AM ALIVE!

A few nights ago, I asked Pat and Brandon what they got out of the walk, then they asked me, I couldn’t really tell them, cause you guessed it, I started crying.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I learned about the cancer, a lot has happened in this last year, major surgery, LOTS and LOTS of blood taken, chemo, radiation, 2 additional surgeries, the realization of a lot of not so great things in life, and some pretty awesome stuff too.  One of the warmest memories I will have of this time is right after my mastectomy and I couldn’t shower on my own; Pat had to bathe me.  I remember standing in the shower, crying, he thought he might be hurting me, but what he was really doing, was healing me.  His gentleness, well, there are just no correct words to use to explain it.  However, I am reminded of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples , that’s what I thought of.  It was that beautiful.

I have a nice head of hair now, not real sure what color I would say it is, other than dark, with a wonderful skunk stripe.  I’ve even had a haircut since it started coming in.  I’m learning to embrace the gray I have too, I’m not sure, but I MAY NOT color it when it gets long enough to color…..don’t hold me to that, but I may NOT.

I’m doing a bit better each and every day.  I still tire easily, but when I think of all my body has been through and how I did everything back to back, I’m not surprised that I tire easily.  We are still working on my vision, ugh, some days just seeing the text on my phone is a issue.  I’m getting ready to start a month full of dr appointments, which I will gladly do to ensure that the cancer remains GONE, and prepare for my next surgery!

I will have my exchange surgery (getting implants) on December 19th, just 364 days after I had my mastectomy.  I’m ready to have all of this cancer business behind me so I can truly move forward.  I will never be able to forget that I have had cancer, it’s not something that I can just walk away from, it’s a part of who I am now and who I will always be.  I’ve been hurt by some of the things I’ve learned, some of the friends I’ve lost, but blessed beyond measure by the new friendships I’ve made, by some of the things I’ve learned, of the unwavering support of my dearest friends.

I’m a very blessed woman!

I’m so very thankful to be alive!

Plan for next year, October 18, 2014 – will you walk with me?


Here are a few pics from the Race for the Cure, 2013

DSCN0248 DSCN0281 P1020149 P1020158 P1020178


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