November 16, 2017: Three Years Post Mastectomy

About three years ago, I had a double mastectomy that would be quickly followed by 6 months of chemo and several breast surgeries to reconstruct my breasts. On the days leading up to a double mastectomy, I don’t remember having the chance to think about what life would be like three years later. Life seemed to happen in fast forward back then and more normal-like these days.

The Best Thing:

  • “No sign of disease” – great words to hear!!

The Good Things:

  • I had an amazing female breast surgeon (Dr. Mary Brian if you’re in the DFW area) and a fabulous plastic surgeon (Dr. Rumalla). They did great work; therefore, I have pretty great looking fake boobs.
  • I had a legit tattoo artist. I didn’t think nipple tattoos would make a difference physiologically. I was wrong. Great decision.
  • We developed the Recovery Tee that has helped so many other women get through a mastectomy a little kinder and gentler.

The Bad:

  • I still have to check in once a year to get these boobies pressed and prodded. There’s always that lurking fear they will find something, and I’ll be right back where I started.
  • I’ve become somewhat of a touch-me-not. I’m not all about the hug that I once was, but if you’re struggling and need comfort, I’ll sacrifice for you.
  • Running isn’t as fun as it used to be. Like not at all.

The Ugly:

  • The nagging pain that never seems to go away. Thankfully, I’ve found an amazing chiropractor, Dr. Danielle Hawkins. If it wasn’t for all her help, I think I’d have a broken shoulder or be so miserable doing life would be torture. I don’t know what all is wrong, but she’s fixing me.
  • There’s an uncomfortable part to having fake boobs. I don’t think I was prepared for always dealing with these foreign objects in my body that just don’t feel or behave naturally. They might look real to others, but they are just weird to me.

All in all, I’d say I’m in a great place. Even with some of the negatives, I think I’d do it all over again if I could go back in time and make the decision again.

My hope is that with more and more research less and less women have to have mastectomies.

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October 31, 2017: When October Ends . . .

When October ends, the pink ribbons will come down, the commercials will stop, and the feel good stories won’t air on your televisions; but breast cancer will still be looming. On November 1st, someone will be told they have breast cancer, someone will start treatment for breast cancer, and chances are that someone will die from breast cancer. Cancer doesn’t care what month it is.

As November turns into December and everyone is headed out to do their holiday shopping or off to a party or family gathering, someone is fighting cancer. It’s not the thing we’d like to think about, but it is true. Cancer is hurting someone right now. It will destroy a family tomorrow. And the next day, a new person will receive their diagnosis. We don’t think about it unless it is us that’s in the middle of the fight or on the outside knowing what the ring was like when we were fighting there. We’d rather all that pink stuff go away, so we can ignore it all.

On the other side, all of us that have been diagnosed love to hear “cancer free”, but the truth is – you’re never cancer free! Cancer haunts you like an unfriendly ghost. It pops up in your mind and makes you tremble for absolutely no seemingly good reason. And then it sits there heavy-like on your chest and fills your mind with frightful thoughts. And then you hear the news of another who has just found out or one that’s earned their angel wings, and once again you find peace in your own remission. You’re thankful for all the “one more days” you’ve been granted. You heart breaks and mourns for those who aren’t where you are and it celebrates greatly when someone says their tests are good – “No cancer”. No cancer!

I wish when October ended, it would take all the cancer with it!

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October 22, 2017

This past week my class read the poem, The Road Not Taken. It had been a bit since I’d reflected on that work of poetry. We talked about how our choices create us into the people we become, so that’s why it’s important to make wise choices. But then I began to think about the choices that are forced upon us. The ones we would have never chosen for ourselves if we would have been given the choice, yet taking them back would have created a different person we might not recognize today, and so that path way back there is just a “What If” while the path in front of us is the life we’re living.

Three years ago, such a choice was forced upon me. I had to walk down the path of cancer. There were many forks in this road. I chose surgery, chemotherapy, and opted out of radiation. But every road was one I would have rather not traveled down, yet they created a new person inside of me.

When faced with cancer, the biggest choice I made was to cling to God. He granted me a peace there are no words to describe. Still to this day, I live in this peace bubble when it comes to cancer. It’s an amazing gift from God.

I stopped worrying so much. Yes, I still stay up waiting on my child to get home regardless of the hour he is to arrive. I still check on all their well beings and pour prayers over them. I’m still a mom. But I don’t worry about everything like I used too. I used to be a constant worrier, and now I am far from that.

I have a confidence I lacked prior to cancer. I know that sounds crazy because breast cancer has a way of stripping that from a woman. But in my case, I gained it. I became a voice for others like me. I sought out ways to help others. My heart says this needs to end, but until it does, let’s at least take care of one another and pass on all we’ve learned to the next ones.

I’m dreaming again. In the fight, you are just fighting. But now, I’m dreaming. I long for vacations again. I love planning our future with Jonathan. I can see past this moment and that’s a wonderful place to be.

On this day three years ago, two paths diverged. I took this one and I look back knowing that it has made all the difference.

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June 18, 2017: What I Miss About Chemo

Today marks the 2nd year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. Eighteen days of my life were spent in a beige, leather recliner underneath a chemo pole. What could I possibly miss about the entire process? People! Yes, I miss the people. I miss the nurses. It takes a special person to work in oncology. We come in looking healthy and leave looking sick, yet they have faith that it worked and was worth it. I loved their positive attitudes and the majority were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I miss this old man that came with his wife. He looked like Santa Claus without most of his teeth, but he was a joy. He was always passing out something. What a sweet man. I miss this lady that always had her grandkids with her. Sometimes one of them but often both of them. I loved how they were just present. There was a teacher who graded papers. She taught math. She would grade until the stack was finished or until she went to sleep. Chemo seems to make many of us a sleepy. She made me thankful for my team at school that took care of all the school stuff while I was away. Melissa was a part of that team. She was my constant cheerleader and a vital part of my support team. Thank you. I miss the pharmacist that apologized every time Jon picked up my meds for me. He knew better than many just how much of a finiancial burden cancer could be. He was kind. I loved that my husband was there. It was boring to sit up there for hours and hours surrounded by others sitting beneath the bags of cocktails and chemo, yet he came time after time. I never sat alone. I never had to do chemo by myself. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. I actually miss that the most about chemo. The hours and hours of time spent together. There’s nothing that can ever take that precious time away. The keenness he always had. His care and kindness. His passion for protection over me. He was my Prince Charming. Exactly what you pray a husband will be but without the cancer, chemo, and almost dying part. I don’t think anyone dreams of that!

 

So what do I miss about chemo? People. What you do makes a difference. Be kind!

Summer 2017

Summer 2016

Summer 2015

Summer 2014

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May 21, 2017: Faith in God’s Timing

Today’s message at church was on strength and faith in God’s timing when you’re going through the tough stuff in life. It reminded me so much of a conversation I had with God. I had just been told I had cancer. I remember sitting across from the breast surgeon. I listened intently for the fastest way to get away from cancer. Oh, how I hated that word. Cancer was a curse and I didn’t want it, yet here it was. 

 

I walked away convinced a horrific surgery would take it all away and that would be the end of it. No chemo. No radiation. No years and years of medication. Not for me! I remember praying for the cancer to be gone. No chemo. No radiation. No long term medication. God said to trust Him. 

 

The CT came back, pathology came back, and genetic testing came back. Everything went back on the table. A port was inserted days after surgery and chemo followed shortly there after. I was NOT happy! This was NOT what I signed up for at all. I even remember telling God something along these lines. He said, “I’m here for you. Trust me.” I did. 

 

In retrospect, I’ve wondered why. Why didn’t I argue with God? That’s who I was when my dad had cancer. In today’s service, the preacher was talking about a conversation between two men. One man had cancer. The other man stated something along the lines of fearing he wouldn’t have the grace to deal with cancer like the man with cancer had. And the one with cancer said something like, “Of course not, you don’t have cancer.” When we are walking with God, He grants us the strength and grace we need when we need it. I also found He granted me patience when I gave up control and allowed Him to do things His way instead of my way. It wasn’t always pretty and it was far from easy, but I look at the growth that came from it. 

 

In a few days, I will have tumor markers done, blood drawn, a CT scan, and several doctors’ appointments to ensure I haven’t had a reaccurance. The results to these tests often come 7-10 days after the tests are done. The waiting can be exhausting. But regardless off the results, I know I’ll have the strength needed because when I am weak He is strong. 

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May 6, 2017: Hey, Cancer

Hey, Cancer. It’s been a few months since I had much to say to you or even about you. Lately though, you’ve been on my mind. That’s the crazy thing about you people who’ve never had you probably don’t really understand. To be honest, I don’t understand it much either. I had hoped once you were dead and gone, I’d forget about you. Unfortunately, you’re a really hard thing to forget. Every 3 months, there’s blood drawn and office visits. And now another CAT scan. Each visit, prick, loud noise, or X-ray brings a major increase in my anxiety. And guess what, Cancer? I blame you! I started making plans for my future, so don’t even consider messing them up. I’m beginning to go at least a week without someone calling asking for money I don’t have. No one looks at me anymore with that pitiful look people give other people they think are dying. I haven’t missed you at all. You know that, right? You’re not my friend nor are you welcome back, so just stay away! Yet, whenever I drop a few months, a bruise shows up I can’t remember how it got there, when my chest hurts or the back of my shoulder makes me want to saw off my entire arm, or when my breaths are labored for any reason whatsoever – I fear your back to torment me. And then, then, I remember, that I’m not in control. But you aren’t either. And life is just too short to worry about your next move or even if you’ll ever move back in again anyway. So adios, Cancer. You aren’t welcome here! Out of sight, out of mind, and out of body! 

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April 6, 2017: I Am Complete

About a year ago, I underwent my last cancer surgery. I had felt as though I was a small sliver of the person I once was. But what is life like now? 

 

  • I no longer exist. I live life to the fullest!
  • I can rise before the sun and stay up until midnight and still function the next day. 
  • I’m not sickly. 
  • I sleep most nights. 
  • I roll with the waves of life a lot better now. 
  • The sun can turn my skin red in less than 30 minutes with or without sunscreen. 
  • I take a hormone blocker every day. Chemo in a pill. 
  • I’m still in remission. 
  • I live between a 2-4 pain rating every day. I’ve adjusted. I’ve learned to cope. Some days I’m numb to it all. Other days, it takes every ounce of determination I have to get out of bed. It’s my new “normal”. 
  • I have hair long enough to put in a ponytail. This is a good, good thing especially during this icky hair stage. 
  • The scars and unnaturalness no longer freaks me out or takes me by surprise. To be honest, two tattoos changed my self conscious. 
  • My memory is returning thanks to brain games and a daily structure to reconnect all the wires inside my brain. 
  • I’ve started to slowly, let me stress slowly, lose some of the weight I packed on while on chemo. 
  •  Nothing warms my heart more than hearing from other women about how Courage to Conquer Cancer’s Recovery Tee helped them through their journey against breast cancer. These words alone help me see why I went through what I did.
  • I’m not perfect. I never was. I never will be. But “…we also find glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance:perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). I could have quit. I could have taken an easier way out. Instead, I’ve praised God through the months and years of storms and in return He’s shown me beauty in the ashes of a life not destroyed but restored! He asked me to have faith. He asked of nothing more from me. My journey has been a miraculous trek from believing I was in control to having a desire to be a faithful servant. 
  • I am complete. 

God had a plan. It saved my life in every sense of the word!


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