Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All these other things besides one

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 can see you star shining down on me

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

Breast Cancer Awareness.

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.