Monday, April 30, 2012

Reframing monday

Of course, not many people love Mondays. Myself included. I have that usual feeling of wishing the weekend was longer, not wanting to get up and out of bed. But then I thought for a moment. I am lucky. I am well enough to get up and go. It wasn't so long ago that I was on disability. It wasn't do long ago that there were days that I couldn't stand long enough to make a pot of macaroni. Now, I am well enough and blessed to still have a job. So I'm not going to whine that it's Monday. I'm going to celebrate the blessings in my Monday. I started To up my commitment to exercise last week. My goal is to meet the ACS guidelines of 150 minutes per week. I exceeded that goal and and 240 minutes! I'm proud of that. I will hit the gym again today at lunch and have every reason to believe I will hit my goal again this week. Taxol two for mom today. She definitely is having a better experience with this drug. Please keep the payers coming!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm alive, and well...

"And today you know that's good enough for me. Breathing in and out's a blessing can't you see..." (2 bucks to the person who names that artist).

I will refrain from Verizon bashing since they changed their minds on denying Steve his vacation time. Now we have something wonderful to look forward to in the near future... I can't wait to be out on the open sea breathing in the caribbean air. ahhhh

The American Cancer Society announced new recommendations on diet and exercise today based on additional research. No shock that they are recommending more exercise and fruits and veggies as a way to improve survival rates. Here's the article

As such, In addition to my morning trip to the gym with my treadmill buddy Jami, after we had dinner and managed through the latest fun of potty training (We are 98.5% of the way there only one accident in two weeks... of course, it happened to be today), I went out for a jog. 150 minutes per week of exercise is going to be a challenge, but it's an investment in my future. 

My goal is to really shoot for that. I've hit 90 for this week which isn't terrible. I should be able to get the rest in by the weekend's end.

Here's the deal peeps. I am going to keep kicking cancer's ass... I am not going to let it come back. I am still fighting like a girl to keep it far far away from my house. I take this seriously, and I am determined. I am grateful for the life I live. I love my family (my little one and my humongous one) (by this I mean my little family - me, Steve and Steven and my humongous family, my 86 thousand awesome cousins... Not my little steven and humongous steve... I was not calling you fat!) . I love where I live. I (mostly) love my job. I love my Mary Kay business. I love life. I am going to get more and more of it. 

My scans are coming up too. I am praying for good results. Oh that reminds me, I need to call and find out how my tumor markers and vitamin d levels came out. I know I say this a lot, but please keep me in your prayers. I am not cured of cancer... I just treated it really harshly and am hoping and praying that it never returns. In the meantime, I will do my best, but being a woman of faith, I want to keep nudging God so he remembers to keep me well. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The illusion of security

I know what pisses me off the most about cancer... The lack of control. I really didn't consider myself to be too much of a control freak. Although, of course, I had my moments where I wanted to be in control of everything in life. But I don't think I was obsessive about it and it certainly wasn't all the time.

However, the loss of control was a huge blow for me when I got cancer. I thought I had more say about my health than I actually did. I thought I had more ability to steer my life boat so to speak. I thought that I was doing good things for my health, and was hopefully destined for longevity. I lived in and loved that dilusion. I loved the thought that I had control over my body.

I had a conversation with someone at CSC recently about this topic. She pointed out to me that really, none of us have total control over what happens to us, anyone could get stuck by lightning tomorrow. I know that and have heard that many times, and probably have even said it myself. She said that even though it feels like I now have lost that control, I never really had it to begin with. But it comes down to that "illusion of security" that a friend of mine once explained to me. He told me that computer systems are never really secure. There are all these programs that create an illusion of security, but if someone really wanted to they could hack into most systems. Not very comforting. But I suppose it's true.

The same applies to cancer. There is nothing that guarantees us a cancer-free existance. I never smoked. I exercised several times a week. I was a veggie pusher (just ask Steve). I didn't drink excessively. I created the illusion of security against cancer for myself. I believed in that illusion. So when it came crashing down a year ago, nothing made sense. In some ways, it still doesn't really make much sense. It's just life.

But despite this, I still work very hard. Hitting the gym multiple times a week, sometimes even twice in the same day. I am getting my fruits and veggies in and try to do a vegetarian day or two a week. I take every vitamin I am told to take. I took every possible aggressive treatment offered. Perhaps it's my desire to regain the control I lost. Perhaps it's because I want to be able to rest easy knowing that I have done everything I can to prevent recurrance and spread, and now whatever happens is up to the Big Guy upstairs. It's the old "work like it's up to me, and pray like it's up to Him" approach. At this point, that's the best I can do.

I get tired sometimes, emotionally tired. Tired of thinking about cancer. Tired of being scared. Tired of working on how to be extra positive to overcompensate for the damage that cancer did to me emotionally. Tired of balancing my normal desire to plan my life and my fear of what if.

I know this post is not my usually upbeat type of post. But the purpose of the blog was not to wax poetic on the beauty of cancer all the time. The purpose was to share my genuine feelings, unapologetically (although sometimes I do apologize when I'm being a debbie downer).

On another note, please continue your prayers for mom. She started taxol yesterday. She's doing well, God love her. Please continue to pray for me as my journey continues. Also, a special prayer request, I have a friend who has had enough strife in her life who is going for a biopsy this friday. Please pray that she gets good results and that it is not breast cancer.


Monday, April 23, 2012

we laughed.

So, Dr Waintraub wants me to go for a few tests. One of which was suppsoed to be an MRI. So we scheduled it... Then I got a call today from one of the nurses saying that I can't get one because tissue expanders have metal in them and since MRIs are driven by magnets, it could "pull" them.

That lead to a lovely mental picture... I'll leave you to enjoy that laugh too.


Today I was back in the 4th floor infusion suite at the John Theurer Cancer Center. This time, I sat in the visitor's chair, as Mom took her first round of Taxol. The good news is, AC is done! Hurray! Let's hope we don't experience the likes of that ever again in this family. Walking around the suite was nothing short of surreal. The sounds brought so much of it back. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here to sit next to Mom as she did so many times for me. I can never repay all that she did, but perhaps if I can give back a little, that would be good.

Yet it's weird. I think some of the nurses recognize me, although I look a little different than I did. Walking around and not being the patient is a pretty strange feeling for me. It's nice on one hand, but it's sad on the other because of course, now I watch Mom go through the same things I did. That part really sucks. No family should have to go through any of this, nevermind twice. I could tell when the Benedryl IV was kicking in for her. I remember that feeling very well. She hit the point where she just needed to rest. She was nicer than I was about it. The first time it happened to me, I told poor Steve "ok, stop talking, I'm tired" and passed out.

My appointment with Dr Waintraub went ok. He would like to do some scans soon which I think will be good. I am praying they bring good news which will be a huge weight off my shoulders. Unfortunately, my surgeon got busy and that appointment got pushed, but that's cosmetic stuff, so it's not a huge deal. When that gets done, it gets done.

Sometimes this all feels like a very strange dream. It treads that fine line between making perfect sense and making no sense at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It was almost a year ago that I met with my doctor and she told me she was going to send me for a bilateral mammogram because of the lump that I found. She told me not to worry, but that she wanted to be sure. Looking back, I was a different person then. I was optimistic and had very little fear. I was convinced that this was my foray into the world of benign issues. It's interesting to go back and look at where things were at that time. We were planning on moving forward on the addition to the house. Rick and Courtney's wedding had just passed and they had just returned from their honeymoon. Work was busy but moving along nicely. We were considering having a second child. In fact, when I told my boss that I had the doc appointment, I said "not pregnant, don't worry". We were planning a Disney trip for november. I was excited about several Mary Kay parties I had scheduled. It's so strange how quickly life turned on a dime.
In an instant, life changed. We no longer needed the addition because instead of pregnancy visits to the doctor, it turned into oncology visits. My career got somewhat derailed temporarily. The Mary Kay parties were scrapped. Poor Courtney went from new family member to medical consultant in the blink of an eye. I probably single-handedly killed their "honeymoon phase". The Disney trip got cancelled. Essentially, all of the plans we had in place were for naught. Life wasn't going in that direction. Rudely, cancer shoved me onto a different path. Catastrophe struck!
Next week I go to see Dr Waintraub and Dr Cohen for my follow up appointments. I am assuming there will be a need for scans sometime soon. I will start to make plans for my exchange surgery which is the next step in my reconstruction. I have to admit that planning things are very difficult for me now. Call it post-traumatic stress, but it is very scary to think long term about what comes next in life for me. It's like there is this veil that hangs in front of my future. It will only lift as I get through the next phase of appointments. I feel like I can't look far beyond the next time I see my doctor or the next time. I feel like I need him to tell me it is ok to look forward. I know that people say think positive, and I have tradiationally been an optimistic person... But what you don't realize is the impact that cancer has on your mindset. It stops you cold in your tracks, and makes you hesitate when you think about looking ahead.
Don't misunderstand me. It's not gloom and doom. It's more extreme caution. Think of it this way, if you walked out bearfoot in the summer and stepped on a bee and got stung, you would likely be very hestitant of walking around barefoot again. You would exercise caution. On a grander scale, the same thing applies to cancer. In someways, you learned that there is only so much control we have over our lives and our future. The truth is, everyone has this same limit, but until you experience something so traumatic, you don't realize how little control you really have. I really personally loved that little land of dilusion that I lived in prior to May of last year. I loved believing that I had control over my health. I loved believing that I was in control of the choices in my life and of my future. I guess I needed to be humbled a bit by cancer, and it is accurate to say that I certainly was. The truth is, the cancer experience doesn't end when chemo ends. It stays with you for a long time. As much as I would like to say life has gone back to the way it was, the truth is, that would be a big lie. It's one of the lesser known secrets about cancer. People just assume that once you finish treatment, that you are done, cured. That's no really how it works. There is a certain amount of post traumatic stress that comes along with it all.

So I do the best with the hand I have been dealt. I focus on making this world better for me having had cancer. I'm down with that part of the plan. I am working on the walk and making it a spectacular event. I am lending my experience to every new cancer sister that I come across. There is only so much a girl can do, and that's the frustrating part.
On the upside, last night I was pleased to celebrate a 5 year post-treatment anniversary of a sister from group. That was a beautiful and hopeful place to be. It's wonderful to see how that can be. She is in her 60s and went zip lining last week. How amazing is that? I cannot imagine how invigorating that must be. I am not sure which is more exciting, the zip lining or the 5 years post-treatment part?

Friday, April 6, 2012


We all have our crosses to bear.
On this Good Friday, the most solemn day in the Christian faith, it is hard for me to ignore the subject of crosses. Crosses are the very heart of the Christian faith. Today, we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is the day that lead to the weekend that changed the course of religious history. Essentially, if it were not for Good Friday, Easter would have no meaning. We all know the story. We have heard the Passion many times. But how often do we reflect on it, and what it means to be a Christian?
Some would like to believe that having faith keeps you free from harm and stress your whole life. Not so. The bible does not claim this. The truth is, all people suffer in their lives. If you were to look at the beatitudes, it talks about the very concept that people suffer in this world, and that those who suffer are blessed in their own right. The promise of Christianity has nothing to do with freedom from trials in this life. Rather it is the promise of paradise in the afterlife to those who take up their crosses. When we think about it, everyone in this world encounters grief, hard times, and stress in their lives. And there are experiences that are at the root of these feelings.These experiences, per Christianity, are our crosses. In my case, of course, the cross is breast cancer.
I didn't get to chose this disease coming into my life. I am certain that given the choice, I would have asked to NOT have experienced it in my life. However, the truth is that if I had a how laundry list to choose from, what would I have picked? I haven't the slightest clue. I assume that is why the choice is not up to us. Because really, how does one decide between our own illness, the illness of a loved one, poverty, violence, abuse, or any other cross for that matter? We simply can't. So we are all given what is selected for us, and we are tasked with making the best of it.
I do not claim to be Christ-like, for none of us are that divine. But I do claim to be a follower, which obligates me to do the best I can to live up to the values of my faith. These include love, compassion, respect, honesty, hope. I do believe that my cross is something that I can use to help others. I continue to live that mission. I am on the committee for the Cancer Support Community walk for wellness. Our walk is on June 3rd which is Cancer Survivor's day. From my perspective, being on the committee is a great way to help further the mission of this wonderful organization, celebrate those survivors who continue to bear their own crosses every day, and perhaps raise funds to help bolster the program even further. I also continue to regularly encounter new breast cancer patients... A new one joined the ranks this week. So I continue to try to help them, giving them hope, love and support as they muddle through those hazy early days.
At the end of the day, I don't really know what I am supposed to be doing here, but I am interpreting the teaching of my faith and applying them the best I can. I do hope I am doing a good job. I believe that I am.