Tuesday, January 31, 2012

where is that remote?

I have talked about wishing this time would pass quickly and be but a memory. It's so hard to fathom what it will be like when I am no longer treading water in a pink sea of breast cancer. Will I forget what it feels like now? The fear has lessened a bit, although I anticipate a huge spike whenever I go for a follow up. In a recent session at the CSC, they referred to this as "Scan-xiety". I though that was pretty funny and certainly appropo. I remember reading somewhere about a cancer patient saying how stressful doctor's visits were for them, and at the time, not understanding why. I get it now!
The good news is, I am definitely in a less acute emotional situation than I was a few months ago. I can actually wear non-waterproof mascara most of the time, which quite the improvement. The adreneline has come down, and I am not as cancer-obsessed as I was. I am trying, and doing a somewhat reasonable job of getting back to "normal". Being out of radiation is certainly wonderful as I know longer have that daily reminder every day of what my life has become. And like everything else in life, as time is going on, my radiation burns are healing up quite nicely. Thank you, Silvadene!
Mom is doing great post-surgery. You'd never even know she had surgery... She hasn't missed a beat. She goes to see Doctor Warden tomorrow. I cannot help but be thankful that she caught this. I am so relieved to see that she is going to go through this and be just fine. I don't like that she is going through treatment, but I don't down her future success for one minute. She's got a lot of living to do, so she just needs to clear these upcoming hurdles, and she will be back to kicking ass in scrabble, travelling, hanging with the wade street gang, and showing me how to raise my son.
It will be a wonderful feeling when we fast forward and all is good for us. Sometimes, that day seems incredibly far away, and sometimes it seems like it's within grasp. I am particularly excited for the day when Steven is old enough to realize how special his mom and grandma are.. We survivors are pretty cool after all. Ideally, I am hoping he will be shocked when he learns what we have gone through, because that will mean that he has not been negatively affected by it. That will be a victory in and of itself. And then I want to be there to see him graduate from medical school. Princeton would be nice, or perhaps UPenn like his Aunt Courtney. Hey, if I am only going to have one kid, he sure as heck should get the benefit of the best opportunities, right?
Anywho, things outside of treatment are pretty good. It's definitely strange to not see a doctor constantly. It's a blend between unnerving and refreshing. I am starting a program next week called "Cancer transitions" which is geared towards teaching cancer patients about how to make lifestyle changes to promote overall wellness, and supplement any treatments given. I am looking forward to that. The program director is an absolute gem and has been so unbelieveably helpful to me throughout my journey. Hey if you are ever looking for a place to make a charitable donation, please consider "the cancer support community" in eatontown. They are totally privately funded, and truthfully are invaluable to cancer patients.
Anyway, as far as I can tell, I have a bright future ahead. In the meantime, I am going to do the best I can with what I have. And I will be grateful for the wakeup call cancer gave me. Not everyone has the opportunity to assess their life the way I have. I have a different perspective, and I love that. I've said it before, cancer has changed me... But I believe it's changed me for the better.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

All in the family -- Coping Submission #2

So I received my copy of Coping Magazine today. I am sharing the publication with Montgomery from Montgomery Gentry, cause I'm fancy like that... (he had prostate cancer recently... who knew)

In the package, there was a note from the editor asking if I would be willing to contribute again. Well you don't have to ask me twice. Not sure if they will like it, but here's what I am sending them. Keep your fingers crossed.


There is nothing worse than going through cancer treatment, except perhaps watching someone you love dearly go through it. Cancer wreaks havoc on your world, and takes your entire family on an unpredictable roller coaster ride. So what happens when you encounter both scenarios at once? Well, the answer might surprise you.
I was 34 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Up until that time, we had no family history with the disease. Needless to say, it shocked everyone we knew. Being the first person in my close network going through this was daunting and traumatic. I was blessed to have an amazing support system: an awesome husband, amazing friends and family, but possibly most importantly, my wonderful mother.
Mom was an integral part of my cancer journey. She did what mothers do, not matter how old their babies are. She stood by me as I navigated side effects, cooked whatever foods I could tolerate, helped keep life normal for my 2 year old son, and went to many of my appointments. Her support was unwavering. And because she was my mother, she was one of the few people who knew the whole story. She saw everything I went through: the brutal truth. When I would say to others "oh, I'm doing ok", she knew what was really going on behind the scenes.
You might imagine my horror when she was also diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I finished chemo, and was halfway through radiation. It broke my heart, and filled me with guilt. Knowing that she knew exactly what she was now facing in graphic detail made me feel terrible. It didn't seem fair that one family should have to endure so much, especially in such a short time frame. Wasn't one of us enough? I thought to myself, "if you only get what you can handle, than someone must think very highly of us and our strength". To be honest, I would have preferred not to have received such a compliment.
But in time, I realized a few things. Yes, she knew the bad and the ugly of cancer treatment, but she also knew she could handle it because I did. I believe she learned a lot by watching me. She might still encounter bizarre chemo side effects, but she will know what to do about them because she worked with me as I figured it out how to manage them. She is prepared, and although she is not looking forward to her journey, she knows like anything else in life, there are gems to be found if you look hard enough. Although it seemed a little bit backwards for her to be asking me what to expect, it is special for me to be able to guide her through this. So what if it redefined the typical mother-daughter dynamic? Who said roles had to stay traditional? We are a family, and we support each other no matter the challenges. Just as we got through my treatment together, we will do so with hers as well.
We were lucky enough to have a wonderful relationship before cancer. Now we can keep each other company in this crazy club. And I realized that she found hers early because of me. She gave me life, and I just may have saved hers. There is no sweeter blessing than that!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Living life... and watching the Giants.

I am enjoying my first week being out of treatment. It's exciting and unnerving at the same time. There was so good news last week. My liver function test results and my tumor markers were all deemed "perfect" and yes, that's a direct quote. That's not a guarantee of anything, but it's a good first step.

Radiation was a little more interesting that I expected. I am managing the burns now. It's pretty gross, but at least I am done. Nothing Silvadene and some non-stick guaze can't help. Makes me really appreciate any firemen who have ever been injured. Burns are not fun... They are gross and painful.

So, we are in the midst of a very short break in my family. Mom's surgery is Thursday. So therefore, we enjoy a full 9 days out of cancerland before we head back in for round two. Please keep us (really her) in your prayers this week. Pray for Dr Warden, that she does what she's awesome at and is on her best game on Thursday.

On another note, Go Giants... (not sure if they will still be in this by the time everyone reads this or not. time will tell)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Out of Active Treatment

If all goes well today, it will be the end of the long road called "active treatment". A huge milestone for me. It's the end of all those things that were rattled off to me in May, when I swallowed hard, and said "full steam ahead"! A double mastectomy, 4 rounds of AC, 4 rounds of Taxol, 28 rounds of radiation.... As of 1:45 this afternoon, they will all be checked of my to do list!

What an amazing feeling! I alternate between wanting to dance and and wanting to cry. It's been a rough road for my family, but we made it. As much as I hated treatment, I am grateful to God that they exist. They saved my life! I am blessed.

So now what lies ahead? I have no idea. I do intend to make a mark on this world. To do my best to make God glad he gave me the opportunity to be here. I don't intend to be overt about it, there are quiet ways of making a difference, and that is what I plan to do.

I am not going to lie, I went through a lot. This has been a crappy road to have to walk. But there have been moments of grace through it. I know that God was never far from me, and I know that I was blessed. I am lucky that I was healthy enough to receive the most effective treatment plan available for my disease. Some people aren't. I am lucky that my disease is treatable. Some people don't have that luxury. I am blessed to have the best support system a girl could want. Not everyone does.

As much as I want to forget the last 8 months, I know that I won't. They are a prominent part of me, and have changed me. I just will do my best to make sure that the change is for the better.

For today, I am just happy to say "it's over!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

this too shall pass.

We all know how odd life can be. The truth is everyone gets their times to be put through the ringer. I used to prefer being the supporting cast in such a story rather than the lead. However, now knowing that mom is going to go through her ringer, I'd go through it all myself all over again to prevent her from going through it. Before you think I'm noble, I have to admit it's selfish. It's no fun going through the physical crap that comes with treatment. But it's ten times worse watching someone you love go through it.

But the truth is, this too shall pass. Her time through the ringer will come and go. And when it's over, she will be fine and strong. I cannot tell you how many times in life I have said I wish I had the fast forward button. Whether it was while me or my friends went through the heartache of a breakup, or me getting through chemo, or plowing through school when I was burnt out. There are so many moments of our lives that we want to wish away. However, we can't. Those days are here to shape and effect us for a reason. Perhaps, it's to teach us true love when we see it or to teach us not to take things for granted. Whatever the struggle, there's always a lesson to be learned.

Time does heal all wounds if you let it and are patient enough. I was noticing my surgery scars after treatment today and realized how beautifully they are healing. I will never look the way I did before, but I am ok with that. My scars a precious and they are here to remind me of what I have gone through and of how strong I am. I don't hate them. They are a natural tattoo, the result of a rite of passage I had to go through. Perhaps I had to go through it to lead my mom through. I don't know. All I know is we will get through this.

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.” 
― Robert Frost

In other news, weather like this makes me grateful for hot flashes. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

dreaming of chemo brain and radiation

I found it pretty funny when I woke up yesterday morning and realized I had a chemo brain dream. Picture it: I was in a school-like setting and it was halloween. I was getting my costume on when I realized that  when I had shopped for my costume I must have had chemo brain. As I started to take the components of my costume out of the bag, I realized that they were a mish mosh of items. I had a grey shark hat (complete with teeth), a Giants jersey (no doubt inspired by their big win over the weekend), black evil looking wings, and leg warmers that look like chicken legs.

I laughed to myself in the dream and "remembered" that I had a few ideas when I was shopping and must have gotten distracted at the store and bought a little of each idea. I shrugged, and put all the craziness on, and strolled on out. In my dream, I got the looks you might have imagined, but I didn't care. If people asked what I was dressed as, I just replied "chemo brain".

Radiation is going along ok. I have 7 more treatments to go and am very much looking forward to being done. It's just a big hassle. My skin is getting pink and itchy now. It's normal for being this close to the end, but it's annoying none-the-less.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Some of you may remember an earlier post (waaaay back in the beginning of the nonsense) that talked about my horoscope that predicted a "shedding of skin". That guy has always had a ridiculously uncanny ability to post insanely relevant predictions under Pisces. Well, I thought today, you might get a kick out of his prediction for the month of January. 

"If only a tiny fraction of the dreadful things that some folk expect from 2012 ever come to pass, what will we do? But that just goes to show how easily we can unnerve ourselves. None of those disasters will occur. Just as none of the problems in your own life, even the ones that keep you awake at night, are as serious as they seem. There is only one resolution you need to make. It involves freeing yourself from fear. " 

Well, damn... 

I cannot help but laugh at Jonathan Cainer's ridiculousness. Ahh, well, I guess if it can't hurt to take up that friendly advice. At the end of the day, fear has been one of the worst side effects of this whole ordeal. Being free from that will be the best gift. I have done my best to have faith, but fear does cloud that from time to time. To live cancer-free and fear-free is my goal.