Thursday, November 28, 2013
I had hoped to wake up this morning to have a different set of circumstnaces to be grateful for, but alas, I don't make those decisions. The decisions I make are what I do with the situations presented to me. So here goes. Today, I am grateful for resilience. The ability to catch my breath again after the wind has been knocked out of me time and time again. Knowing that hard times come, but the intensity of the emotions surrounding them can fade in time. Life can look and feel a little bit more normal then. I am grateful for options, that as much as I could see the pain and sadness in my doctor's eyes, not all was lost and he could offer me more. I hate bad news, but if it is followed by a plan, then I can handle it. I am grateful for love. It manifests in so many ways: through outpouring of support, through quiet tears, through a big tight hug. It is the devotion of a husband who feels like life just isn't fair, but he lives it with me and makes the best anyway. It's in the eyes and smile of a child who has no idea what is happening, but just knows how to love so deeply. It's in the hearts of the parents that keep getting broken and put back together with crazy glue and hope. I am grateful for holidays. It gives me a chance to be with the family I love and focus on something other than this. I am also grateful that I don't play football because my family is crazy, and cancer or not, they would break my fingers to pry the ball from my hand if I played. They show no mercy ;-) I am grateful for faith. It helps me to believe there must be some rhyme or reason to this craziness, especially when I can't see or understand it myself. It pushes me forward and keeps me trying harder every day. It helps me believe that if I don't give up, amazing things will still happen. And it helps me know that I am never, ever alone.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Seriously cancer, what is your problem with me? I don't get what your issue is. Are you pissed that I keep vowing to beat you? You are one fierce competitor, I'll give you that. The crap you pulled on me this week was pretty obnoxious. You play dirty. I need you to understand something though. I am not planning on quitting. I just don't work that way. I am pretty persistent. I just think though it is not right what you are trying to do. Do you realize how many people you are hurting? Please leave me alone so my loved ones stop having heart ache... And to be a little selfish, I'm really over you and your drama. Cut the crap. Suck up the infusion and die. Leave me the hell alone.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
“I, Nicole, take you, Steve, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” 9 eventful years have gone by since I spoke those words, and we still try to live them every day: the good times and bad, in sickness and in health. Granted, we have had a lot of ups and downs and have had to put our vows to the test more than most do in the first 9 years, but we have had some amazing times too. Nine years went so fast, but when I stop and think of everything we have seen and done, we have crammed in some pretty impressive stuff. Here’s the happy recap: • 5 cruises • 4 Disney trips • 1 trip to Aruba and 1 to Puerto Rico with wonderful friends • 1 amazing, beautiful, stubborn child • 1 natural disaster • 3 mailing addresses • 1 mortgage • 7 surgeries (and no, they were not all mine) • Hundreds of thousands of miles racked up on vehicles • 6 vehicles • 3 new godchildren • 1 dream come true in “the Mr Beaumont” • 1 Master’s degree • 2 t-ball seasons • 14 weddings which we attended as guests • 10 baptisms • 7 job changes • 1,000,000,000 laughs • 999,999,999 tears • 1 shared anniversary with amazing friends • 2 wedding solos sung by Steve • 1 anniversary spent in the emergency room watching Harry Potter • 4 Easter egg hunts at the farm • 3 speeches about cancer • 1 big fierce, ongoing, team-effort battle against cancer • Hundreds of hidden Mickeys • 2 best friends, life partners • One love Thank you Steve…. For all that you are, but for mostly, being my home no matter where the roads may take us. And to our wise-ass best man, NO these were not all up north! ;-p
Friday, November 1, 2013
You might notice there was less posting during this October than the previous two. This was somewhat intentional. This year was a little different for me. I still enjoyed seeing the tributes and love to the disease that I live with each day. It does warm my heart to see kids wearing pink on the football field and baseball diamond. I do love seeing the NFL go all out for us pink sisters. There is something special about seeing big tough guys (including those in my family) wearing pink to honor me and the others. That is special, and there is nothing that can change that. However, for me this year, rather than jump in every sea of pink out there, I took a different approach. My strategy for honoring breast cancer awareness month was to just live my life. Live it simply on some days and live it large and loud on others. I want to share with you today what I (a girl with advanced breast cancer, with several organs affected, going through active treatment) does. I went to baseball games with my son because I can. I worked every day. I celebrated my Godson’s and my father’s birthday (along with many other family members. Apparently the fall is birthing season for Briamontes). I was thrilled and honored to learn that I have my third Godchild on the way. I planned my son’s 5th birthday for November and planned a vacation. I traveled for work for the first time in months. I took pictures of 2.5 special people on the beach. I held my beautiful baby nephew and watched him smile. I snuggled with my boy. I traveled and ran around like a nut with my husband. I went to a wedding with friends and laughed a lot. I uttered the words “I am on chemo and am drunk, I cannot be held accountable for what comes out of my mouth”. I laughed a lot. And I cried some, but less than in other months. I worked on my faith and relationship with God. I went to 2 appointments with my oncologist. I took 33 doses of chemo. I grew my hair back. I got one shot of x-geva (the bone boosting drug to prevent skeletal complications from the cancer). I managed nausea with Zofran and fried rice. I found out what hand and foot syndrome is. I learned I don’t like it but it is temporary and it passes… I got tired sometimes, like mind-numbing, cannot function or stand up any second longer tired. I did not walk in any of the cancer walks this year. I cheered, smiled and supported when I saw my friends who did support the cause. I cheered on my pink sisters in the battles and successes. I spoke in front of 400 people to enlighten them on the amazing organization called the cancer support community. I wore a sexy dress. I proudly work an obnoxious pink wig with my costume for Halloween. I was published in Coping with Cancer Magazine. I sold more copies of my book which means I helped other women. I heard from women who read the book and got great comfort out of it. Here’s the bottom line of how I celebrated Pink-tober…. I lived my life! Cancer be damned. Live Love and Laugh…
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I thought it would be a good time to revisit my very first blog post, “all these things plus one”. During the course of my two and a half year dance with cancer, I have discovered even more cool things about me. So here goes. I am a woman who is not content to sit on my laurels and let others determine my destiny. I am a pretty darn good mother, who is raising a compassionate, bright, funny, healthy and happy child with my husband. I am biased. I am still a woman of faith, who refuses to walk away from my beliefs despite the challenges I have faced. I am proud of my accomplishments, but still suffer with moments of pretty intense insecurity. I am an author. I am a public speaker. I love to read a good novel. I wish I could write one on the caliber of some of the enjoyable works I have read. I am the 2013 honorary Mets bat girl. I love making other people feel good about themselves. I am an HR Manager. I am a pretty decent mediator in the professional setting. I am a calming influence in the office, even if not so much at home. I am dedicated to making the work place better because I am in it. I am not a fan of chemo-induced nausea, but am a fan of fried rice as being better than Zofran. I am ok with wearing wigs, hats and bandanas as need be. I do miss my long straight hair. I am a baseball momma. I am a fierce fighter, and have no hesitation taking on whatever treatment throws my way. I am relentless. I am willing to try whatever doctors suggest if it will help. I have a lot to live for and do feel that I have an obligation to do my part to make that happen. I get angry when I see women being abused or mistreated, even if it’s only on tv. I think every woman should know her worth, her strength and her beauty. I think that women should be treated with respect and not like slaves. I think men who treat women as equals are awesome and men who look down on or degrade women should be kicked in the nuts, and knocked down a peg. I feel that men who abuse woman are scum and should be subjected to the same type of torture, whether it be physical or emotional. I believe in treating others as you would want them to treat you. I love the people in my life and do whatever I can to support them. While my treatments limit me sometimes, I still am wanting to do for others and I get really cranky when I can’t. I am pretty tenacious when I set my mind to a goal. I am not o to give up. I am resilient. I have no patience for people who throw pity parties for attention and most especially when they don’t try to better their own circumstances. This is me. Cancer or not…
Saturday, October 12, 2013
I miss my grandmother every day. Seven years ago today, she earned her wings and left this world behind to join Big Nick and the gang for the perpetual happy hour in the sky. She was beautiful, resilient, funny, amazing, strong supportive, unconditionally loving, amazing soup maker, a true friend, and a role model. Even though the void she left 7 years ago never can be filled, I feel like I am still learning from her, especially in the last 2 and a half years. How much I wish I could have had the understanding of what she dealt with fighting cancer (not breast cancer, but that doesn’t matter) back then. I would love to tell her I really know what it felt like and have had her with me as I walk through my journey. I could have asked her more questions and I would be have been a better friend and support to her… But then again, I suspect that’s not what she wanted. When it came to her suffering, she was so private. And I am of course aware that she would never have wanted to see me go through cancer. I imagine that would be torturous as a grandparent. But I suspect we would have chuckled our way through it anyway. I always think of her saying to me “what else can you do but laugh?” Knowing her, I would guess she have preferred for me to just be a granddaughter, not a sister survivor. I think I did a pretty decent job of that. We both looked forward to our daily chats during my evening commute. It was a highlight of both of our days. I’d tell her about work, and she would tell me about the old bitties in her building. I knew her time was growing short when she didn’t have the energy to talk much anymore. That realization was one of the saddest days of my life. I knew then that my angel on earth was heaven bound. I was selfishly sad for me. I was losing my Gram who I loved so dearly. Who right until the last week of her life was a part of my daily world, even though I lived an hour and a half away. I am glad that I took the time in her remaining years to invest so much in our relationship. It is a blessing that I don’t feel like I wasted a minute. And when that last week came, I was with her. Not in her last moments, but in her last days, and she knew how much I loved her. I wonder if she knows how much I miss her. I tell her all the time. I hope she hears me. In the meantime, I remember her and smile. The costumes, the photo albums, the pasta Sundays, the laughs, the sewing, the road trips, laughing on our DC trip in the cab ride back to the hotel at Chris, the colored easter eggs, her sitting on the couch every Christmas morning waiting for us to get up, the old Italian music, dancing around being silly, visits with her and Aunt Jo and Nanny Grace, The old apartment in Secaucus, the lego building, “eye in the sky mildred”, the doot-dah-dos with her and Aunt Betty, the way she said certain words (bottle, seattle and Tylenol), the card that simply said “i’m proud of you kid” when I got my master’s degree, shopping for “tops”, the stories, all of it. I can still hear her laugh. So many amazing memories. I am blessed to have had a best friend like her. Just wanted to share a few lyrics that make me smile and think of her from “everywhere I go”… There are times when I look above and beyond There are times when I feel your love around me, baby I'll never forget, ma baby… Always been a true angel to me now above I can't wait for you to wrap your wings around me, baby Wrap them around me, baby… Everywhere I go, every smile I see I know you are there, smilin' back at me Dancin' in moonlight I know you are free 'Cuz I can see your star shinin' down on me…
Friday, October 4, 2013
This is my third go-round for breast cancer awareness month. Each year, it has a little different feeling. This year, I wish I wasn’t as aware as I am, but as always, I’ll take the opportunity to share what I have learned through this experience. First things first, breast cancer is an oddly random disease. It’s sneaky and seems to pop up out of the blue. Especially in the early stages, it doesn’t make you feel like you are sick. Which is why there is so much preaching of early detection. Mammograms are probably the best way to catch the disease before it gets out of control. Unfortunately for me, they don’t start doing those screenings until the age of 40. Do not assume breast cancer cannot happen to you. It can happen to anyone. This is not meant to be a scare tactic, but rather just an opportunity for you to be aware of your body and any changes. It’s also a reminder to speak to your doctor and be proactive. Do not wait and say “it’s nothing” if you find something. Take care of it. Time is so important in the world of cancer. That is the general message that goes out to the majority of people regarding breast cancer awareness. Then there is the awareness of what it is like on the other side of the mammogram. For me, this will be a life-long journey now. I will walk with cancer. I will be in some form of treatment likely for the rest of my life. I am learning to live with that and not live looking too far ahead. I used to say we will do this or that when I am cancer free. The reality is, that may or may not happen. I have no idea. What I do know is that it has changed me in many ways. Aside from the physical stuff, I have changed emotionally as well. I try very hard to not let cancer interfere with my life, but truth be told, of course it does. It’s cancer. I have my good days and my bad days. Sometimes treatment is no big deal. Other days, it consumes me almost entirely. It’s hard to predict when and how that will happen. I am learning the pattern of my latest treatment to help get this under control and manage my side effects. I’m sure in time I will get it under control. So, what is a day in the life of a chronic breast cancer patient like? Well, to be fair, every day is different. Some days, it is no different than the day in the life of someone without cancer. I have my daily routine and do the best I can to maintain normalcy where possible. Other days, I am ruled by nausea, fatigue, weird finger issues. There are times when I feel so very loved and supported. And then there are times when I feel isolated from the rest of the world, like I am on the outside looking in, and that no one can understand what it is like to be in my world. Having this disease forces me to look at life differently. It sometimes limits me, which I hate. Other times, it shows me I am capable of doing so much more than I ever thought I could possibly do. Cancer has helped me to live for today and focus on not waiting for “someday” to come. I has made me wrestle with the idea of control. For a person who is very much used to being in control of my life, it is very difficult for me to surrender and know where the line is that defines what I am in control of and what is out of my hands. I struggle with this a lot. I want to believe that I can fix this by eating right, exercising, doing everything my doctor tells me and praying. But the truth is, while it might help with my overall wellness and allow me to withstand treatment better, I do not have control over this situation. But I will keep doing what I can, and learn to let go of the things I cannot control. The thing I want people to be most aware of is to enjoy your life. Do not take a single moment for granted. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Don’t waste energy on petty details. Focus on what matters. And realize that your life can potentially change in an instant. And if it does, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.