Wednesday, December 14, 2011

champagne and sweatpants

****caution: pictures of post-surgery breasts on this blog post***
5:30am comes real early--morning of surgery

It has been one week since my surgery where I had my expanders taken out and my silicone implants put in. If you have followed my journey you know that I had horrible post-op experiences after my bilateral mastectomy. As a result my apprehension going into last weeks surgery was above average. I also have been in continual pain due to the car accident which really doesn't add anything great to the pot. After my mastectomy I had two recovery nurses who ignored me, were extremely rude, and after I escaped that hell hole I was wheeled into my room, but only to be left there alone for 45 minutes (the actual time escapes me due to anesthesia but it was at least a half an hour) with no nurse, no family, no pain meds. I was a 26 year old who just had her breasts chopped off, pull your shit together people!

lines pre-surgery with my plastic doc

But this time around, what. a. difference. I had great pre-op nurses and I had mom and Scott with me, which definitely helps with the anxiety. Though my anxiety quickly turns into bitchiness, so it was probably more of a benefit for them to have each other to talk to because I tend to go off the deep end quickly with the crazinessand it is usually best if I can just focus on music or meditation (I tend to yell less). I was wheeled off to surgery, with NO tears in my eyes this time, just a belly full of nerves.

Here we go! Off to surgery!

I had a wonderful recovery nurse who was right there when I woke up, answered my drug induced questions and was kind. Kindness goes along way, I think people forget that sometimes. She had a sparkly necklace on and we had one hell of a conversation (or at least I thought I was making sense) coming out of anesthesia is not my strong suit....and the many episodes of Nip/Tuck I have been watching didn't help. There was an episode where a surgeon puts neuticles (testicle implants) in a show dog. Whoever would have thought that would be what came to me in my post-anesthesia stupor....well it did. But instead of telling the storyline I said that my husband had neuticles "you know, fake balls" (as I make a cupping shape with my hand). Awesome. Not my best moment, and the worst part? I don't know 100% if I said it or not, I may have just been thinking about it.......drugs are crazy.

Kerri, Mom, Scott--my immediate post-op crew

So I got wheeled into my recovery room and my mom and Scott where there waiting, my sister Kerri arrived soon after and my other sister Kristi and her fiance Nick later on in the day. I started out in a lot of pain, but once I was able to keep down pills my pain evened out and I ate food, took a walk, and spent time with my family. I had been planning on staying the night, because I worry about everything and was sure that I would end up with a blood clot that would spread to a lung. But by around dinner time I was feeling pretty good and my bed at home was sounding better and better. The less time in the hospital the better, so many germs and your risk of infection goes up, so I decided to be discharged. They called my plastic doc and he gave the OK. So home I went........

family...the best medicine

Oh, but can I just bitch about the hospital's pizza oven being broken?!? I was excited for like a week to have one of their pizzas after surgery when I was given the ok for solid food.........and it was fucking broken! They are the best pizzas and I sulked visibly for what was probably much too long for an adult.....

Me and Kerri--great recovery!

at the plastic surgeon to get my bandages off 2 days after surgery

 So here we are, a week later. I am having a lot of pain on my right breast for many reasons, #1 being that it is up so high in my chest and into my armpit it is putting pressure on my lymph nodes. With all of the scar tissue I have in my right breast left over from radiation the implant doesn't just "settle" in like my left did. My doc cut slits inside my right breast in the scar tissue hoping it will be enough so that the implant can slide down a bit, but there is only so much you can do in this situation. So I have a breast that is very high, like collar bone high, and very uncomfortable. We wait 4-6 weeks to see if it settles down, if not, another surgery. At least it is sweater season, my new girls wouldn't be so great in a tank top right now.

two days after surgery

at the plastic surgeon again, 6 days after surgery

Right Boob-6 days post-op (notice how high it is)
Left Boob 6 days post-op

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

twas the night before surgery

Well tomorrow is the big day. I check in for surgery at 6:00am, with a scheduled surgery time of 8:00am.  I will be getting my expanders and port cath taken out, a wierd chunk of fat/fluid that has built up around my left expander, and silicone implants put in. No, I don't know what size my new girls are going to be, but they will be round, and at this point that is my biggest concern. These square, pointy-ass, expanders have become SO uncomfortable. When I was chubbier it wasn't so bad, the fat cushioned the sharp corners, though I couldn't jog (even with the best of bras) and every once in awhile it felt like I was getting jabbed by an anorexic baby's elbow, but we live and learn.  I have learned that size doesn't matter, it is comfort.................just like the switchover from the ass rubbing thong underwear to the oh-so-heavenly granny panties that cradle your butt cheeks with yards of fabric.  So I did the research and found a study that interviewed women who had breast reconstruction and they chose silicone over saline--the women who chose silicone said their implants were comfortable...............done and done.

I am excited to get the port out--it is about to pop out of my skin and also is uncomfortable. I am just ready to put it all behind me. I understand I may have a few more surgeries in the future to tweak the implants (sometimes they don't turn out so great the first time) but for the most part I will be done.

I also found a lump. Another one. One that feels just like the one I felt over a year ago, on the same side. I know it is probably a cyst, if it is cancer it is some freakishly strong cancer that survived all my treatments...........................  My plastic surgeon is taking it out and it will be sent it pathology.  I am not trusting my intuition all that much, so I don't really know what to say about it. I felt it over a month ago, and told my plastic surgeon at my pre-op.  Time will tell, but the worry will remain.

So keep me in your thoughts tomorrow as I go under the knife.  I will keep my Twitter updated as best I can.  Your thoughts carry me through with grace. Thank you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

scars are sexy

family holiday photo
 Happy be-lated turkey day!  I was fortunate enough to be able to spend it with family, and I remember it!!!! Last year I was assed out from chemo and can't recall what I did.  We started the day off with Scott running the Turkey Trot (which is a Greenaway-Barkley tradition).  Then we had my mom, sisters, Nick (Kristi's amazing fiance) and Austin (the sister's wonderful roomate) at our house.  We eat the "meal" for lunch because inevitably Scott has to work, which he did.  We eat in plenty of time for him to load his plate full and then relax a bit before he heads off to work.  Then we get to spend all day together lounging around. 

My last post was on Thursday the 17th before I headed off to my physical therapy appointment.  On my way to my appointment I was in a car accident.  It wasn't my fault, and my CRV is totaled! The guy may not have insurance so we are meeting with a lawyer on Tuesday to get our things in order. I don't know how much I can say, all of the lawyer business is over my head. But what it comes down to is that I am back to the beginning, plus some, when it comes to physical therapy. I worked so hard to be able to move my shoulder and it is back to where I started, and now my left shoulder is there too.  My entire back is sore, I have trouble turning my neck, I can't sleep and am in an enormous amount of pain and all of it is very frustrating.  I feel like I was pushed back so I thought I would make a list of things I am thankful is hard for me to remember them when I feel defeated.

I am thankful for...
1. Family, my family is above average when it comes to support and friendship, there were times when we were younger (and I was a complete bitch) that my sisters and I didn't get along. In fact, I was a miserable person who just couldn't figure out what I needed and I took it out on my sisters, thankfully I grew up and grew up better.  Now, my sisters are my best friends, hands down. I don't know if I could function without them in my world. They both hold a very special place in my heart. My mom is a champion. She is the woman I want to be when I grow up. She is my world, and many times my compass.  During my bitchy years, she stuck through it and here we are, 10 years later, and she is my best friend. I talk to her daily, if not more.

2.Additions to family: We all know that Scott is pure joy, he is my rock and he puts up with not only my crazy, but he loves me for who I am sans nipples and all.  He fits in the Greenaway family perfect! Nick, my sister Kristi's fiance, is the same. He fits into our family as if he was there all along.  I am so thankful for the men in our lives, the additions to our family. My dad would be proud.

3. Friends, near and far.  It is hard for me when some of the closest people to me live the farthest...(big shout out to Tasia, Brooke, my Goddard lovelies). My new world is a crazy place and I am so thankful to have friends that can anchor me and support me. I would list you all, but it would be too long! Cancer took my breasts, but it gave me a network of support and opened friendships that I didn't even know where there. I am so thankful to each of you, for the strength you gave me, and continue to give me.

4. Women. Whether you have experienced breast cancer or not, you still have breasts. We are our best advocates. I am thankful that women can create a circle of trust and of spoken word where you feel lifted and transformed. I am thankful for the additions of love that women bring to me.  There is something undeniable about a group of women, listening to each other, sharing their stories, raw, full of emotion--it's transformative.  I am thankful that women fight, that we take breast cancer head on and challenge it.  I am thankful to the surivors who read my blog and share my blog.  I am thankful to be a survivor, a fighter, now I am a woman who now wants to support other women taking on breast cancer. 

5. I am thankful to have a new perspective.  I am someone completely different than I was prior to being diagnosed, both physically and mentally. My priorities have changed, and with that comes readjusting the supports I have around me. I have reevaluated many things, and am still working on that. I have a to-do list that could wrap around the world, and I know that it needs to be focused to something much more tangible at some point, but until then, I will continue to dream.  I am still struggling to take care of myself, making the time is extremely difficult. Mentally I am still blocked in many places, but I am working on it.  I find my strength sometimes gets overshadowed by my past experiences and the pressure I put on myself to be "who I was", but to be honest, I would settle for 1/3rd.

6. I am thankful for escape: creativity. I love to write, but I also love to do other crafty stuff, but I haven't let myself do it yet. I am not sure what is stopping me, but on a regular basis I get this urge to paint. I want to paint all about my experience I want to have a gallery show!!! I want women to be able to feel what I experienced when they look at them, I want it to raise awareness and being a conversation. I want people to see them and do a breast exam. I want to touch a new community with awareness.  I want to paint and write all day and have no other worries.  But there is crap in the way....I can't seem to clear it out. I want to paint, maybe I should look into getting supplies.

7. Lucy: my adorable basset child, she is my sounding board and my foot warmer.  At currently she is our child and my mom's grandchild, our spoiled rotten, hound smelling, child.  She keeps me company when days are tough and is always happy to cuddle.  During treatment I was told to stay away from her because dogs carry germs, etc... but I think she slept on the bed with me everyday--she is lazy and loves it when I am too.  She is a great diversion from tears.

8. Stretch marks & scars: They are my battle wounds, they remind me of what I went through in a very physical sense. They will eventually just be small reminders of my past (when the reality of what I went through slowly fades to the background). They are part of my body, part of this body, this incredible body that fought to live, that almost died to live.  I have went from 220lbs (my highest during treatment, bloaty and full of steroids, I couldn't even put my Crocs on) to 165lbs, but I still have the stretch marks and I still don't have nipples, my breasts still have 3 inch scars across them and my nipples are yet to be found. Scars are sexy.

9. Love: pure honest love that comes from friendships, relationships of all sorts, from a small town where I grew up (Okanogan), love that is so raw you give everything you can to someone in need. Where you put your self aside, and reach out to help. Love that doesn't fade. Love that doesn't have requirements or competition. Love that doesn't know selfishness or measure.

10. I am thankful to just be.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If my small toe had a nail, I would hammer it away.

When life makes me tired by 9:45 am, all I can do is work with my diet coke addiction and power through.

It beings in my small toe, the toe that's nail is so small I put a dollop of nail polish on it so it resembles an appropriate appendage.

It dwells there and spreads its way up to my feet, my feet that hold up this body, my feet that have walked my parents driveway, callused and tough, my feet who took me to doctors appointments, surgeries, chemo and radiation, my feet who lost all feeling and still fight for the right to feel.

It spreads like wildfire up to my ankles--where it burns alongside the snuffed out nerve endings, a friendly reminder of therapies.

Shooting up my legs, which ached and broke during treatment, a seemingly never ending pain, like a star across a dark sky, making its to my behind, puckered with cellulite that shows the weight of breast cancer--large with indignation and missed opportunities.

To my belly which bares the stretch marks of skittles and midnight feedings, of steroids and chemo, of pain and fear.

Next my breasts are once again invaded--like an army of ants, everywhere is taken over, it itches and burns, the memories of trauma. My scars are soothed with the dull heartache, a false sense of protection is provided by the absence of my breasts......replacements left empty, yet to be occupied...

travels then... to my heart--and for a brief moment in time, my heart stops..........and then surges to push the tears from my eyes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Creative Healing

A self portrait
Life changing? If you make it. I attended a one day workshop by Liz Lamoreux ( a few weeks ago. If you keep updated on my blog, you may remember that she came and spoke at one of the doula meetings I attend, and she opened up the poetry side of writing for me, which has been shut for a very long time.  This workshop was such a freeing and sacred experience. There is something about a circle of women, all there wanting something, searching for something, coming together being facilitated by someone with so much wisdom and  I went in with an open heart and left with a full heart, and hope.

I was able to weave some things together that I didn't realize would make a tapestry. We took photos on a walking meditation, something about that was so freeing. There was no "right" photo, or making sure that everyones eyes were open, it was just nature and my feet and my view of the world I was in, right then, at that moment. It was beautiful. 

one of the photos I took on the walking meditation

This poem came from a writing prompt from the workshop

"this body knows....":

This body knows whispers of faces accidentally emerged in the center of its being with no invitation.
This body knows a secret silhouette wedged between unknowing and freedom.
This body knows things that would turn your stomach.
This body speaks of a prison that holds quiet innocence pounced on by foreign invaders.
This body knows the emptiness of the human womb, the sting of a hornet straight to the heart.
This body, this vessel, will carry secrets to the grave.
This body is compromised, full of commotion and regret.
This body perceives pain as a threat to vitality, this body is a patchwork display of intrusion and illustration.
This body whispers softly into the night prayers of forgiveness and hate.
This body is wedged between martyrdom and death.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

one of those days

Sometimes it just feels better to lay in bed all day, sure there is no productivity, you probably kill brain cells from watching endless amounts of instant Netflix, and you would rather read something glossy than a hardback. You cry through boxes of Kleenex and maybe vomit a little. These are rough days. The emotions are on a rollercoaster that you are pretty sure you are too short to ride. And for me, the best part? When I wake up the next day “better and refreshed” I am plagued with diarrhea from my emotions getting out of hand the day before…a real one-two punch from my body.

When I signed up for treatment I didn’t realize how much my life would change. How I would rethink everything and everyone in my life with a balance scale. How much energy does it take? What do I get in return? I don’t want an ulcer, I don’t need comparisons and exasperation. I need encouragement, strength, and love. I want to be engulfed in things that make my heart sing, surrounded by people who hold my hand and don’t squeeze too tight. So on those days where I wake up and start my day, just to end up back in the safety of my bedroom that I dislike so much, where I escape only to get coffee or a diet coke, when I bring Lucy on the bed to relax in luxury all day while I sob next to her, when I am too overwhelmed to sit on the couch or to start a fire, so I barricaded us in the bedroom with a heater, wrapping myself in a blanket to wander into the kitchen to fill up my water, when I am watching American Gangster through blurry eyes, my nose so raw I bypass the Kleenex and use one of Scott’s t-shirts, when I have used the TV remote so much that the fucking batteries die and I do a house-hunt of any electronics to scavenger so I don’t have to get out of bed to change the channel, when I spill a cup of hot tea on the ground next to the bed and use my snotty t-shirt as a makeshift towel. When I cry so much that I hate myself for allowing the self-loathing.

When I wish it happened to anyone but me, why me? Why us? Why my family? Why now do I have to rethink and rework everything? Why can’t I be one of the people who float through life on a cloud? Where nothing goes wrong, and their bad day is probably one of the best I would have had in awhile! Things happen for a reason, I guess I have worked some of those out, but not enough to tip the scale in my favor. While I sit on the sea of flannel sheets and pillows I wonder what people would say. Everyone asks how I am doing, they look at me and I physically look better, little do they know the minefield in my head. On those bad days I feel guilty for not having a good day. I am alive (but that isn’t enough). I look at Lucy and wonder if I should just come to terms that she is going to be our child and that maybe our lives are going to shape up much differently than we ever thought. I don’t get the mail because I don’t want to see the bills that we can’t pay. The insurance company that paid our claims over a year ago, that has now decided they won’t. Those days I try to get lost in anything but the reality of my life. Those days I can see and understand how people can get lost in an addiction to something that lets them let go of their reality. On those days I struggle just to be.

On those days the pain gets worse, everything is amplified, I don’t want to shower because it hurts to raise my arm. Those days the nerve medication isn’t enough, my whole body aches as if the flu has taken over. When I get anxious I get nauseous and those days they are hand-in-hand. Those days I don’t want to answer the phone when Scott calls to check-in, those days it breaks my heart to tell my mom that I am having a bad day and I don’t feel like talking (when we talk daily for a long time) when I can hear it in her voice that she is worried about me. When I lie to Scott and say I am fine and that I have been doing stuff, when in reality I don’t want to open the bedroom door. Those days when the anxiety is so bad I turn off my computer, just so that I don’t feel that I need to blog about what I am feeling. Those days when I hold so much anger in,  my throat hurts and my muscles and jaw are sore. Those days where it feels like my world is collapsing and there isn’t enough prayer or positive thoughts in the world to lift it up. Those days make it hard for me to want to wake up the next day, for me to try and start another day off with a smile.

Yesterday, was one of those days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

welcome home.

the labyrinth I walked...where I let go a bit

I attended a 3 day Breast Cancer Retreat at Harmony Hill last week.  I am still processing a lot from that, it was the first thing I have done that was breast cancer related. I have never went to a support group, a therapist, or anything.........I think as a result, I placed a lot of expectations on what I would experience and though some fell flat--I believe the experience was transformative for me.  It is taking awhile for me to workout exactly how, but I can feel it coming together, so more about that to come.  I walked a labyrinth for the first time. The tree in the center was amazing and many of the people who had walked it before me left things in the bark of the tree.  I have had a worry-stone that I took with me from the day I went to the doctor when I felt the lump, to every surgery, every chemo, and it is always in my purse (just in case). I brought that stone with me and held it while walking the labyrinth.  And then I placed all that pain and worry that has been absorbed and rubbed into that stone, in the bark of this beautiful old tree, allowing it to take on the weight of the stone.  Then I walked back through the labyrinth with tears streaming down my face.

the view from the dining area at Harmony Hill

Harmony Hill--healing surroundings
While at the retreat we were asked to write a letter to ourselves, and then it would be mailed to us sometime in the future. I chose to not have my card mailed, I think it is something I need to read daily....and as usual, I bare it all, and am sharing it with all of you:

Dori. Well you survived, that is an accomplishment. I understand you now feel broken and are on a path of searching for how to fix it. When the tears come you are unaware of where they begin--how are you able to heal if you can't find a starting point? You are a big talker, "taking care of myself" making the time to be "healthy" ...bullshit. You can use the exercise bike all you want but you can't pedal away the tears. That gut-wrenching fear of your past and the unknown. You seek answers to questions you don't even know yet. You pray silently that your life will fall back together. Reality is that this is your life now--you need to figure it out. You faced death for the first time but you will face it again--move on!! Procrastination is for healthy people--you no longer have the luxury! Find your heart center, where is your spirit? How do you compromise money and spirit? Make a list, check it off--napping doesn't solve problems. True, that there is always tomorrow, but tomorrow may come with more shit than today. Make meaning in everyday. Explore healing with vibrance and spirit, enjoy the transformation that can happen when you tip the triangle of spirit, mind and body. Meditate daily, not to find answers, but to find yourself. The thoughts that get caught in your chest and bring tears to your eyes need to be processed--alone. Are you doing what you can to live life? Keep trying until you feel right-you will not be the same, but you can still feel like you. Embrace opportunity and relish in solitude. Personalities change and people come and go, surround yourself with love and support. Passion & Peace   Create a mantra and live the life you fought so hard for, don't "do" because you have to, "do" because if you don't your heart will break. Reduce the stress and worry--you will give yourself an ulcer. And you have had too many problems already. Life can be cruel, as you know all too well, you have to be motivated to create changes that will continue to sustain your body, mind and spirit. Finish that damn to-do list you have had running in your head for years--come on! Why do that to yourself? It is as though if you complete it there would be nothing to look forward too, that is a lie and as a result you are stuck with an extreme guilt that you bring on yourself--fucking ridiculous.  Get it done and move on to create a new to-do. You can have bad days, hell, I think you have earned a bad week or two, you have PTSD, you have anxiety mixed with bouts of depression, you are sometimes not in control--roll with it.  You were given a second change to view life through a lens most others will never see.  You have a bonded partner in life that most others don't. Surrounded by love and support you have the opportunity to heal and create. You have the safe-space to find the new you and get to know her, love her, and treat her mind, body and spirit with honor and respect. Life isn't about a clean house, check-marks on a to-do list, the amount of money in your bank account or what you do daily--life is a gift of spirit that can be taken away at anytime. As a result people fear change. In reality this change has created the gifts and space you needed to be the "you" that has always been within. Welcome home.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I can always start again, tomorrow.

Happy 28th Birthday to me!

I had made a plan in my head that September was going to be the jumping off point to change. I was going to be more nurtuing to myself and to Scott. I was going to try and tame the crazy (HA) and really get down to business. Well, I realized that putting restrictions on things makes me anxious and I have made September one hell of a month, I am where I want to be, and I don't need a least not right now. I met with my new doc at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I love her. I don't just love her, I love all of it, the care, the plan, the honesty and the knowledge. I don't feel like I have to Google everything she says to be sure it is true, she is a breast cancer oncologist--there isn't a better place for me to be.

I have been holding in so much pain and terror that I wasn't even realzing. It was a heaviness in me that I felt, but wasn't sure where it orginiated from. When Scott and I left SCCA I was in hysterics, shaking, crying, blubbering up a storm, Scott had no idea was what going on (again with the crazy) and I continued to do so all the way home and all day long, until I took enough sedatives to finally drift off into a sleep filled with nightmares and heavy sweats. My body let go of some of the heaviness, I can feel some of it is gone. That is the first step. I am at a place where I will be nurtured and supported with my continued fight. The trauma of my diagnosis, the trauma of my care, the trauma the word cancer imprints into you. I have been left searching for something, I am just not sure what it is yet. Searching for more dedication and happiness, for more time and love with family and friends, for more time to relax and breathe. And if today is a bad day, I can always start again tomorrow.

I have now celebreated my canceranniversary (yep, I am making it one word), my 4 year wedding anniversary, and my 28th birthday CANCER FREE.  I know that I have to take small steps, I continually get frusterated when I try to leap and I land on my face.  I am still struggling with having to approach life differently than I did a year ago, it contains a frustration that you will never be able to understand.  It enhibits me from moving forward, it puts me in bed in tears--a daily battle that I can't wrap my head around, in a way I am forced to re-learn the world and my place in it--talk about heaviness.

I started Effexor for the mood swings and crazy business. I have been on it for over a few weeks now and I have stopped having the dramatic mood swings where I tended to lash out verbally, which I think has made Scott a happy-camper.  I am still struggling with adjustment and we are going to up my dose, which should also help with the hot-flashes, which have now increased due to my decrease in taking Gabapentin (the nerve medication I am taking for my ankles--it is really good news, because that means physical therapy is helping, but reducing the Gabapentin, which was masking my hot flashes, has made them come back and they are a bitch). 

In the midst of all this craziness Scott has went back to school and we took our PRIDE training, which is the first step in the foster-to-adopt process and Team Lumps and Lipstick did another 5K!!! Once again, I make the promise of writing more often, I will put it on my to-do list.

on our way to our foster parenting training class

me & my mom getting ready for last weekends 5K

Our "road baby" sign

Tacoma Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K

Team Lumps and Lipstick

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's not you, it's me.

Well I have officially been married for four years, according to Scott, they have been "the longest four years of his life, but well worth it."  Which struck me as odd because I thought other than this 1 year cancer business we were doing pretty good, his response "you would think that."  I love many things about Scott, his humor and being able to put up with my crazy are probably two of my favorites--not to mention he isn't bad to look at.  We were on our way to the fair the other day and were talking about our "primes" and I told him that I had a prime once, and that he was lucky that he met me then, and he said "I must have caught the tail-end".  Also, probably true.

For two people in our late 20s we have been through more than I could have ever imagined. I couldn't imagine someone else I would want by my side, or kicking my butt up a hill.  We are two peas in a pod, we may need some repair, but we are always better together.

This past weekend I celebrated my 28th birthday, even though my actually birthday is Thursday (22nd).  I forgot how fun it was to invite people into your home, to be surrounded by love and laughter. It was fantastic, and thanks to everyone who traveled and came and got stuffed like sardines into our house due to the rain.  It means more to me than you will ever know. 

There is no secret that sometimes I like to celebrate a little too much, and as I get closer to my thirties I have realized that is somewhat ridiculous and have definitely held my drinking celebrations to major holidays (which are birthdays, weddings, and other holidays that could involve anything called hot buttered rum or cocktails).  I am ridiculously proud of my birthday celebration, other than a few bare "breasted" chest bumps (sorry Tony and Cliff) I held it well.  I want to soak in all the love and laughter. It may seem like common sense to you, but when it has been a long while since your brain worked right, revelations like this hold a lot of weight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

believe in healing

at Jamie & Tony's wedding--4th of the summer!
 I almost cried at the physical therapist today, not because it hurt (it did) but because of the continuous thoughts that have begun to take larger chunks out of my brain.  I told my mom the only reason I don't think I am going crazy is because I can recognize when I am acting crazy. Poor Scott doesn't know what hit him (words, not fists) and I just freak out, for little reason.  That is just a small, small portion of it.

The real crazy part is what is going on 'inside'.  I am anxious over everything--I have always been a worrier, and I pretty much tackled that with meditation and exercise, now I can't control it--and I know it is irrational. I worry about things that aren't happening for weeks, or just that I won't get far enough on my to-do list.  My acupuncturists thinks that a lot of it is the Tamoxifen and that sometimes with menopause you have crazy ups/downs like I am having.  I am hoping that it has to do with my brain functioning more than before--I may be crazy, but at least I can react now! I have moved past being numb to everything and holding it all in phase of recovery. I embrace that (but really there aren't enough words to express the crazy that is going on in my head). I am curious if other survivors have experienced the same thing after treatment? Or with Tamoxifen?

SO I was laying on my back having my foot worked on at physical therapy and I started thinking about a fence Scott had started to paint and how I wish my shoulder was better so I could help more--I almost had a melt down, I just pinched my hand hard to distract myself enough to calm it down, yep, pure crazy.

Tacoma Zoo adventure

September is a big month for me. I particularly love Fall, it begins the holiday season and with that comes decorations (a personal favorite). I turn 28 on the 22nd of this month. Last year my birthday consisted of something chemo related I am sure, as did the rest of the holiday season.  On the 15th of September, 4 years ago, I married Scott.  We have never really had the time/money to ever celebrate our anniversary with a fun getaway or anything, but to celebrate while healthy is better than any vacation. New age, new leaf.

I have my first appointment next Monday with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance--I am planning to transfer my follow-up care there. That is just the first step in many I have made this month for the better part of me. I am using this month to restart some stuff. I need to get back to the basics of focusing on myself, hoping that if I turn more inward I will feel less pulled apart; hoping that if I turn more inward I will find direction; hoping that if I turn more inward I will embrace vulnerability; hoping that if I turn more inward I will "honor my intuition and take the journey back to self".

This girl.....she, needs to learn to arrive differently.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"I could do 3 more"

Sometimes I surprise myself.  For instance...........signing up for a 5K just a few days before, asking my sisters and Scott to join Team Lumps and Lipstick (making impromptu t-shirts), and walking--for the first time in my life, a 5K.  It isn't that I didn't think I could walk 3.1 miles, it is that I never would have wanted to.  I would have had to sweat in front of other people and push myself out of a comfort zone that I felt pretty comfy in.  But I did it.  The 5K benefited Northwest Hope and Healing, a Seattle based organization that supports women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer--it just seemed right.  And I can tell you, this was the first of many.  I am shocked how much I enjoyed it! I look forward to being able to jog one, once I am able to start to jog (I have to be cleared by my physical therapist).  A year ago I was laying in bed bloaty and crazy with chemo, today I walked a 5K.

I am hoping that taking this step will help instill something in me that I am strong enough to do this, because sometimes it is hard to remember.

front of our shirts

back of my shirt

Team Lumps and Lipstick
best sisters ever

I was nervous and had to pee a lot before it started

good thing there were tons of honey buckets

I was faking, see the coffee in my right hand...

"this girl"

Greenaway Girls

Thursday, August 25, 2011

grieve the dream.

Today would have been a Herceptin infusion. BUT IT ISN"T!!!!!!!!!!!! I am done and done.  And loving it!  I have some great photos to upload, but my camera is being stubborn, so look for those this weekend.  I am making a promise to myself to post more often. I love writing, but hate the days when I feel like it is something to check off my to-do list, so, like with most things on that list, I avoid it.  Here are a few entries that haven't seen the light yet, thought I would share them.  I will do an update when I post photos this weekend. 

Grieving the dream.
This girl, still overwhelmed.  I am struck by the amazing amount of work it is to do daily activities and then try to add something extra to the pot.  My work life is great, done and done. But it is the running of the house, the trying to organize things, change things up, getting ready for a new chapter--I just feel like I am always legging behind.   I jumped in and was going to start my book proposal, but I got overwhelmed and dropped it.  I can't seem to grasp onto something long enough to commit myself. There are days when even the laundry seems too much.

This is crazy.

"the grieving of the dream is just as tough" shut. the. front. door. There it is, that is what I am doing! I can't remember where I heard it, but I sent myself an email to remind me.  I am grieving for what I was able to do before. I still want to be that person, I want to be where I was, I loved the me from a year ago.  In certain situations I feel like her again, I want so badly to be that version of me.  But I am not, the dreams and plans I had before have all changed, they all have different ways now to attain them if they are even still available.  I feel like I am drowning trying to figure out how to do them, which to do,or if I even want to do them.

I feel like the last puppy of a liter, everyone gives lots of love and attention when they are there, but in the end the puppy is still alone. (wow...I am not sure if that could get any more sappy or 3rd grade, but it came to my mind so I am putting it out there).  Read: no one can change the mind games I play with myself, there is no one who can give me the energy that I lack, no one that can tell me which direction to go...except maybe Dr. Seuss. 

It will suck the life right out of you.
My bedroom was a happy place. I loved taking naps, that usually involved a bed, there enters the bedroom. Lots of great things happen in a bedroom (yep, that is one of them, move on), you close your day by saying goodnight, you greet each morning, it should be a safe place, a place of relaxation and comfort. Mine makes me sick to my stomach. I have been sick for almost a week now with a horrible cold, and have been stuck in bed for the first time as a "healthy" person. I was brought back into that helpless feeling. The romance has been pulled from the room, the safety-net ripped away, and even the walls remind me of cancer.

Some of my life has become a struggle to let go of the past, so I can shape the future. But I feel like I am being hindered by objects--and the feelings attached to objects. I want a serene room where I can nap, where I can feel relaxed and where I can do other bedroom type things. The feeling I have in the pit of my stomach remains there. I spent a majority of the last year staring at the fucking dresser, the walls, the ugly curtains, and trying to get comfortable with these fucking pillows. A year. And now I am expecting it to all of a sudden be this place of comfort--come on! This process is like walking in mud, well more like drowning in it.
I am in a holding pattern. I have this continuous thought stream where I ask myself what I want to do for the rest of my life. Not just what do I want to do for a living--but for my life. I think people who haven't been forced to face death view life as something they are just given--there aren't words to express how terrifying it is when you are dealt the card that can take it all away in an instant. I may not live to see 90, and there are so many things I want to do, this internal struggle is like a cancer. I feel pressure to succeed and do everything I can and do it all NOW, because I don't know how long I will be able to do it. I know this is ridiculous, but it is another one of those internal head games I am getting so good at playing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

this girl, done with infusions

Today was my last Herceptin infusion! That means NO MORE CHEMO for this girl. No more infusions in my port, no more, no more no more.  All I have left is my great Tamoxifen for the next 5 years, but people have popped pills for worse.

Last night I had my soul recharged--I was able to see some lovely ladies (and a tiny one) that I haven't seen in too long. I was fortunate enough to listen to Lix Lamoreux ( and recharge my roots. It was a great 'herceptin eve'. We wrote some poetry using word lists and the prompt "this girl, she...". 

Here is my soul, recharged:

This girl, she...
has been disected, ripped and turned into a disaster.

This girl, she...
has filled her veins with poison in the name of health.

This girl, she...
is endlessly reminded of death due to the scars near her heart.

This girl, she...
finds dizzying comfort in a dinner plate.

This girl, she...
says thanks for the dark times--
leaving room for the light.

This girl, she...
thirsts to recognize the girl in the mirror.

This girl, she wants to be whole again.
This girl, she tries not to escape grace.


This girl, she...dove into a pit of winter and hot iron, teasing the bubbles from the ruby with her dark fingers crossed behind her back.

Unremarked peonies telling of stories of endless medicine.

Snails profound, she dramatically writes of death--
she, this woman, closes again--unconformed, undetermined, and unremarkable.

Crossing into panic she examines conversations and takes shelter in the light.

This girl, she is latched to the familiar, knotted to the ground--

yet is denied comfort.


This girl, she....bounces.

knotted for thirst, she recognizes the faith in a cowboy.

she crosses in conversation until someone breaks a dinner plate.

she is boxed and loved--burnt by the iron of rest and rejuvenation.

she is subtle medicine, telling of health and regrets.

she is skeptical of examination, yet so familiar.

she is a soul surging with thanks and bisected emotion.

she is comfort, dizzying in identity.

this girl, she is me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

rock, meet hard-place

I was so fortunate to be able to spend the weekend with my mom and my sisters!! I have to update with some new photos and some fun stories................but it is late and I am sleepy.  I wrote part of the blog below a week ago or so, but was too emotional to post it...I thought I should, because it was very therapeutic to write, and I dislike not sharing it......

"I guess this is what I get for saying I can't write "good" posts anymore because the emotions just aren't flooding over................well, flood. gates. have. opened.  But it isn't what I thought, and it isn't what I needed.  I am jealous, I am angry and I am stuck.  I still have everything else compartmentalized in neat little boxes--I imagine them with fun bows and polkadots, maybe some colored twine and raffia bows, big huge boxes, like the kind you hide behind the Christmas tree, because it looks too tacky in the front. 

(maybe that is why I am having trouble losing some of the weight--I am full with these damn boxes!)  But that is actually true, in a sense.  I am stressed and not really experiencing much of these "happy" emotions, so I am sure it is harder for me to lose weight.  The stress hormones are going crazy--as are my own hormones=worst cocktail ever.

I feel chaotic inside, there are so many things going on I can't get control of any one in particular.  I keep thinking that when I wake up, the next day will be better--but it isn't.  I paste a smile on my face, and then lash out at Scott for no reason, spend the afternoon crying or sulking, and telling myself that if I just did ________________ (insert one of the thousands on my to-do list) I would feel better, and things would begin to come easy again.  But I am not able to even get myself to do that one thing. 
I am doing 2 types of physical therapy--one for lymphedema and the other for my right shoulder, which as become extremely painful to do anything with.  It is constantly achy and tight--from a combination of surgery, radiation, swelling, and the compression sleeve.......................but the bright side? The physical therapist I am seeing has a laser that they use on clients post surgery to increase healing, etc...and they are using it on my ankles, I will have my second treatment tomorrow, to see if it will help with the nerve pain.
As a mental health professional I am very much aware that I am a text-book case of situational depression and my anxiety is based in the fact that I am afraid to start my life again because I don't want it to be cut short or sidelined with cancer.  I have this irrational thought that if I get things going again (because I was in such an amazing place in life when I was diagnosed, really the best of my 27 years) that it will happen again.  I know it makes no sense, that is why it is 'irrational'. 

So I need to become the tamer of the chaos. Another thing to add to my to-do list."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"It's okay, I can't feel it"

My inner world crumbled a bit the other day.  It has been hard for me to get the passion to write a blog post......I go back and read the posts I have written when my emotions were just spilling off me, the drama and emotions were just so raw and intense,  I couldn't help but share. Now my world is at somewhat of a standstill, I am having a great time, feeling better, but to be honest I feel a bit numb. It is like the world is spinning around me, I am taking part, but not really feeling it.  I don't have the joy.  I guess I can't even remember when I lost it, but I did.....  So I am finding myself trying to do things over-the-top to get some sort of feeling, but I am still left flat.  I know I am doing it to protect myself--it is impossible to get hurt when you aren't feeling things to begin with--and my life has been unusually cruel, so I now seem to be guarded to the world.

I am floundering and can't seem to commit to a decision, especially professionally.  I was at a gathering, where I go on a monthly basis, I am surrounded by like-minded people and get to discuss birth.  For over a year it has been the place where I soaked up the energy these women give off, their extraordinary ability to serve and support others, their knowledge and experience, to witness their pure bliss of doing something they love.  I was one of them..........

One woman said that she told her clients "I have felt your pain" and that was a portion of why she could support them during their birth.  My world broke a bit.  I kept nodding in agreement and listened to others share but inside I was crumbling.  I won't feel their pain, plain and simple--I won't experience anything that they are going through.  Oh, I have experienced pain, the pain of knowing your life will never be the same, the pain of surgery and recovery, the pain of burns, the pain of seeing your loved ones at a loss because they can't help, the pain of being stuck in a body that isn't your own.  I have experienced the chaos in a medical setting, the mistreatment of patients and the serious determent that a lack of voice can have to your medical care.  I understand the innate feeling of wanting to be a mother, that achy feeling you get when you want something so bad you can taste it.  The jealousy towards others that are able to have my dream, and the anger at those who waste it.

I don't know what I want to do anymore.  Every time I try to make a decision, or steps to creating a practice I shut down.  I was there before cancer, I was well on my way to taking care of Scott and I. All my education and experience was finally paying off.  I was living the dream...then cancer woke me up.  Now, I am in a holding pattern of disappointment and jealousy.  It is really hard for me to think that someone may not want my assistance because we haven't shared a similar experience.  It is the truth. It will happen. It is understandable--and if the situations was reversed I can't say I wouldn't do the same.

I just miss my 'honey hole' (shout out to the Swamp People) of safety. The place where I knew everything was heading one way and I was on board. I miss easy. I miss "next steps" that just come in life. I miss a lot, including my ability to think about things rationally.  I feel bulldozed by emotion and it is hard to make sense of it all.  So I package it inside, within a layer of numbness.  I am living in a controlled chaos because I can't figure out how else I want to do it.

I feel like maybe that meeting isn't the place for me right now.  I feel like I want a do-over.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

balance? you mean like a beam?

Spokane bound for Hoopfest
Stress starts at my collar bones, it fades its way into my chest and rests on my heart.  It makes my chest heavy, it makes me want to hide under the covers, it makes me angry, it frustrates me (like trying to get a pickle from the bottom of the jar without getting the nasty pickle water on your fingers), it breaks my heavy heart. I get so overwhelmed that it is hard to get up, hard to fold clothes, hard to do much of anything.  I do my best to push it aside, to set goals, to create, to live.  This time last year I wasn't doing so well, it was the beginning of a long battle that I wasn't sure I would win.  So here I am, now faced with reality and the choices I need to make. The choices Scott and I have to make to create our new life together--a new beginning, our fresh start.  How do I feel? I feel like there is lots of fucking pressure, I feel continuously weighed down, that I just can't do enough, that I am letting Scott down. That there isn't enough opportunity, that I have let some opportunities slip through my fingers.

enjoying daylight--and some nature!

Balance--not only am I uncoordinated--but lets review: I once fell down the stairs after getting a cortisone shot in my foot, had to go to the ER and wear a neck brace; I have fallen down the stairs just because (multiple times), so many times that Scott wants to get me one of those emergency "I can't get up" buttons; I trip on a regular basis, if I slide in socks on the wood floors there is a high likelihood that I end up pulling an important lady-part, and I sometimes get stuck when putting a shirt on......but after a whiskey or two I can dance, or at least I think I can....
on a hike, yep I am hiking now!

But I need balance. I need balance between self-care, work, advancement, rest, writing a book, planning a future, making any plans, daily activities, fun, laughter, tears, creativity, family and friends.  Right now the stress is taking over and I am struggling to find that balance. Though this summer is already 100% better than last, I am still wading my way through the shit-storm, trying to find the best path out.
Hoopfest 2011

I have made goals: new boobs my Christmas (and 30lbs lighter), honor rest and recovery, create a family, pursue my career, embrace creativity, give myself a break, enjoy daylight, dance, celebrate, smile, and try not to take things so seriously.  My main goal is to survive, and everything else just needs to fall in place around that and if I need to eat handfuls of candy to get there, so be it.  And maybe champagne and french fries for dinner every once-in-awhile.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

my ritual has changed-Happy 1 Year Anniversary

One year today. One year today I received the call that changed lives. How am I celebrating? I am getting a Herceptin infusion, wah-wah-wah. I actually don't even mind the Herceptin infusions anymore, I am getting close to the end of them and am thankful that I have been able to continue them the whole time and my heart hasn't given up.  Today I remember who I was, and who I am.  Below I copied some of my earliest blogs, I began writing the day I received the phone is just a glimpse of where I was then:

nights are getting harder

I shower at night, always have. I now cry in the shower, alone. My bedtime ritual has been stolen from me, and replaced with streaming tears, and gulps for air while my chest rapidly rises as I try to calm myself down. It is quiet in the shower, just the water running down my body, a body which is now foreign to me. I look down at my breast, swollen and bruised, yellow and dimpled like a pear and my arm pit, so sore that I can't wash my hair with my right hand and the tears come without any thought. I grieve in the shower too. For my husband, friends and family that are forced to go through this journey with me. For the woman I have lost-now hidden inside me, and for the woman I have now been forced to become--detached from her body, afraid, and numb.

I let the tears and snot run down my face. I give myself this time, my ritual has changed and I am working to embrace it. Maybe I need this time--I hold it together pretty good during the day--I am sick of tears and the panicky feeling I get when I think of what is to come. I need to wash it away before I go lay down for the night, before I try to close my eyes and quiet my mind of the racing thoughts that run a marathon of their own nightly. Water washes it all away, no kleenex to make my nose red and flaky (though it has begun to resemble my nipple quite nicely). It is gone down the drain--I step out and wipe everything away.

I am good for a period of time to be determined. I am good until I lay down, then the panic begins to come back. I feel it rise in my body like the temperature of water set to boil. As I write it is working its way through my stomach, soon to my chest--where a tightness takes over. I fight this tightness until my swollen, sore, weary body gives into sleep.
 Today Scott ran his first full marathon today in under 4 hours! He is my rock, my strength and the person who I turn to at night when the tightness in my chest takes over. I am so proud of you babe! Love you.

crazy sexy cancer
I spent the evening with some of the inspiring women I am lucky to call friends (and all of them are amazing doulas or self-proclaimed "birth junkies"), I shared a bit of what is going on with me and left with the amazing feeling I always get--comfort, joy and a full sensation of love that is like the best pie in the world...
 My last post was a bit bleak, but lets be honest here, none of you are reading to get the rosy-glow of what cancer does to someone. You are reading because you love me, because you know me, because you know someone who knows me, because you know someone who has cancer, because you have breasts, because you are thankful it wasn't you, or your mother, or your sister--or because it is you, your mother, or your sister. You are reading because you want to sort through all of the bullshit, you want to help but don't know what to do. You want to know I am not falling to pieces and that I am not my breast cancer. But I am a straight-shooter, I cut through bullshit and won't be feeling optimistic all the time, we are multidimensional and cancer throws a wrench in the whole damn thing.

I had a bone scan, they found a spot. Breast cancer likes to spread to the bone and the lungs and some other internal organs I can't remember. I will have an MRI on my femur to gather more information. Nothing changes really, if it is cancer........I will still have chemo and then possibly radiation on that spot on my leg. I met my surgeon today, my other surgeon is on vacation--wouldn't that be nice. I like my surgeon, I am waiting to hear from the office tomorrow to schedule surgery--about damn time.

Tonight I danced in the shower, A LOT. I danced for all the tears that I have cried in the shower, for the joy I was feeling, for my breast full of cancer and that I am a day closer to getting it removed, I danced to remind myself I can, mostly, I danced so I wouldn't cry... I wish I could tell you that things were getting better, that I was so positive in my thinking that I could heal myself with my mind. What I really feel like doing is lining up a bunch of melons and hitting them with a hammer, not sure what it would accomplish but I sense I would gather some sort of satisfaction........I will keep you posted if this comes into fruition.

Thank you to those who shared with me tonight, to those who are thinking about me now, and those who keep me filled with positive thoughts from miles away. I am not the woman who keeps her mouth shut, I never have been the quiet type, but in person cancer is a scary cloud over conversations and it brings tears along with gratitude to the well-wishing of others, so I stumble over my words...

Tonight I watched the trailer for Crazy Sexy Cancer--a woman I inspire to be, I am in awe and in solitude and as the heavy feeling of anxiety and the unknown washes over me while I lay down to sleep I hope that a bit of her will rub off on me... I am learning to be brave in my beautiful mistakes.
Well, there is no more basking in the denial centered movie reel that has been playing in my head. No more "hurry up and wait" much as I wanted surgery to come, it jammed a rock so far down in the pit of my stomach I feel a gaping hole, exposed, and insecure. My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, yep, next Wednesday--three weeks to the day that I received the call that I had breast cancer. It hasn't even been 3 weeks and I feel like I have aged a year or more and have created a footing where I am balanced, unnerved and forcibly realistic.

Now that reality has smacked me across the face I am trying to find the path back to denial. It is was lovely there. I mean, I knew I had cancer, I was making appointments, putting my body through a battery of tests, taking notes, doing research, asking questions, crying, laughing, and dancing in the shower. But I didn't have a date, there wasn't a "beginning to an end" if you will. Now I have it. I am terrified.
 Not only will I wake up without my breasts, these lovely ladies that have been with me through it all--but I will be minus 20+ lymph nodes. I am crossing my fingers I won't wake up as terrified as I will feel when I go under. I am working on ways to relax prior to surgery--coming to grips with it, feeling centered, "being in a good place." All the somewhat condescending therapist crap I would use on a client, but when you tell yourself that in the mirror it doesn't seem near as professional, supportive, or seems like a cruel joke.

I know that surgery is the beginning of a road I don't want to walk down. But if this is the road I have to walk, (what a shitty, shitty road) then I guess I better get my ass into gear and prepare for the journey. There have been thousands upon thousands of women before me, paving the way. I have an entourage on this journey, a pulse to my emotions--an entourage of support that will keep me steady when I begin to fall, or give me a push when I begin to hesitate--after all "drinking wine and thinking bliss is on the other side of this."


I can't sleep...thoughts are swirling and whirling in my head, even with my pain medication, sleep eludes me. As I lay in bed staring blankly at the television I debate on whether or not to wake Scott up. He has been my rock, well more like my boulder...that has went with little sleep these past few days. We watched a cancer documentary in bed and then he drifted off to sleep, leaving me wide awake and anxious trying to hold back tears and put out the fire of jealousy I have that he was able to fall asleep so quickly. I debate with myself if I should wake him up to lift the laptop onto the bed, my arms are not up to that task and at the present time my right arm and hand are tingly and unreliable to say the least. I decided that it was okay. After all, I can now get myself out of and into bed which means he can sleep without interruption for the majority of the night--this is a tiny exception.

I have to remain in an upright, sitting position while sleeping. I am a belly sleeper! Though my belly is so swollen at the moment that I don't know if I would be able to lay on my belly--it could possibly be like trying to balance on a ball. Either way, I miss sleep. The sleep I had prior to three weeks ago, prior to having the knowledge that I have cancer, prior to surgery, prior to anxiety and tears. I miss sleep that wasn't stressful, there was light at the end of the tunnel--sleep that didn't bring on pain. My sleep now consists of the knowledge that I will be waking up in pain--lots of pain. My chest gets stiff, my arms tingle and fingers go numb, my legs and feet are so swollen they ache, even when I don't move them. My sanctuary of a bed is now a torture device, and you can't get comfy in one of those.

My nighttime routine has also taken a horror movie twist. I get my drains drained. My husband lifts up my moomoo (yep, big zippered pjs that fit over my swollen body, chest, and 4 drains), and empties each drain into a cylinder, then records the amount of fluid. I can only imagine his impending excitement when he will begin to inject my belly with hormones prior to egg retrieval.........foreplay is definitely out the window. Our bedroom is now a partial medical facility and I am the only patient.

Life has changed. Not just in the removal of my breasts, a battle with cancer, swollen limbs, exhaustion, anxiety and bouts of anger directed at whomever is in earshot, but internally. I am different. My internal processes are changing, my view on many things in life and my overall expectations I have of others are shifting. Life altering experiences are unrealistic. You can't plan for what I am going through, your reactions, feelings, and outcomes. Positivity comes with a price, a price I am willing to fork over cash for. Positivity comes with planning, this is a dangerous element when you are unsure of how your future looks.

So I brace myself, and try to harmonize my thoughts and feelings. Not only of today, but of yesterday and tomorrow. This fight is going to take a lot out of me, but I am going to do my best to get the most out of it. "Everything happens for a reason", blah, blah, blah. I believe it, I hold onto it, but sometimes it's what keeps me awake.

Happy Anniversary.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

to fight or not to fight?

A year ago this week I received the call that flipped my world upside down, and not just my world--the world of many others whose lives I am part of.  Early last summer Scott and I were trying to start a family, then cancer hit.  This summer we are celebrating 1, then 2, then 3 mile walks, sleeping through the night, laughter, each other, and being able to watch a movie without having to worry about germs (nasty theater popcorn, welcome to my belly)!!!!!

Take a minute, close your eyes, and imagine what you would do.  Not if cancer fell in your lap, but if something stopped you dead in your tracks, you had to reevaluate every priority you could think of.   I have powered through the past year because there was no choice--well one choice--to fight or not to fight?  The day I found a lump, I felt like I was punched in the stomach, I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I sat against the cold bathroom wall (little did I know that would be a familiar place for me in the coming months) and cried hysterically.  The odds of it being cancer were unbelievably small (again, little did I know) but I had a feeling--and I was going to fight.  Everyone reassured me that it would be nothing, but I wasn't believing it. That day my life changed, and has continued to change every day since. I am not the person I was a year ago, I remember her like recalling a dream, the things that I took for granted, things I did without a second thought, the path I set out for my life and how it veered so sharply I almost lost myself.

But I found me. 
Here are a few things I learned along the way.....

1.  life happens, whether you are in it or not
2.  love can cure anything, or at least hold your hair back and help you with the potty-business
3.  not all mammals have nipples (case in point = me.)
4.  vacuuming should be a celebration
5.  there is nothing wrong with cheeseburgers at 4am when it is the only thing you have ate in days    (also okay to wake someone up to bring them to you)
6.  if your partner is a heavy sleeper, get a spray bottle, and squirt him in the face to wake him up so he can carry you to the bathroom (I really wish I would have thought of that months ago!!)
7.  insomnia can be a time to reevaluate what is keeping you up at night
8.  food is over-rated
9.  nature is beautiful (yep, take that!)
10.  you can't thank people enough, ever. (do it daily, for anything)
11.  you find out who your friends are
12.  your world view changes
13.  "bloaty" has got nothing on a chemo belly (my stretch marks are proof--I gave birth to a new, cancer free me!)
14.  hair is a security blanket-no matter how tough you think you are.
15.  it is okay to hide under the covers (as long as there is something to coax you out at some point)
16.  positive thoughts of others go directly to your heart
17.  people need a voice
18.  lady parts aren't all they are cracked up to be
19.  appreciation for everything, and not in a rose-colored classes type of way, just pure solidarity in appreciation
20.  my wit is an acquired taste, like smelly cheese or 2 buck chuck
21.  when you try to hold back tears, your eyes burn, it isn't worth it--let 'er rip!
22.  family is the fuel for life--and mine gives me a kick in the ass when needed!
23.  coming from a small town is the most unexpected gift I have ever received
24.  sweating is a right of passage, no matter how you look at it
25.  meditation is the opportunity to find the self you lost

Thursday, June 16, 2011

broke hope

I am coming up on my one year anniversary and have had the stark realization that though my health is better life is harder than I thought.  The dreams that I had a year ago are currently not in reach, in fact most of them are buried under debt and worry.  I am working part-time, doing my best to focus on my health, healing, recovery, survival.........but today I looked online for another job.  Life has a way of slapping you in the face, but I feel like I already took a good punch, so it needs to back the fuck off.  Scott and I balance money well, we never vacation, we don't shop, we hardly ever eat out, and we are just fine with that.  We were able to buy a house much earlier than expected and did our best to wade through the shit-storm cancer threw our way.  But nothing prepares you for this.

I am so thankful for all the donations, fundraisers and monetary support we received during my treatment.  Each person and organization that helped us out literally kept the roof over our heads and clothes (or Scott's old sweats) on our back.  Now I am back to working again (it isn't at the same high stressed job I had before, and I am no longer on-call=all good things for recovery, not so much for the bank account) but it comes down to we just don't make enough, there is no other way to view it, to pay the medical bills.  For the rest of the year our bills will always be more than our paycheck, thanks a lot cancer.  I am not trying to bitch about money, thank God we have insurance, I can't repeat that enough.........but every time we have to talk about finances I just get angry all over again--angry that cancer keeps getting to kick us while we are down, and while we are trying to work our way up. 

We just bought tires for my car and it bankrupted us--better than driving a death trap though.  How do I find a balance between being able to live, heal, and pay our bills?  I haven't went to my naturopath in over 2 months because we can't afford it, I haven't went to other alternative therapies for the same reason.  The system sets people up to fail, it is cheap to be unhealthy (at least in the short term).  And because I am able to work, there is no support set up for people in my situation--how do you dig yourself out of a hole when dirt is continuously being thrown at you?  Scott tries to tell me not to worry about it, but he has tears in his eyes when we talk about money, so I worry.  And I am a worrier.  I get wrapped up in worry, it becomes overwhelming and then I retreat--or I go into overdrive and have to fix everything now.  I could be making a lot more money than I am now if I was using all my other training (similar to before my diagnosis) but that wasn't a life of healing.  So I am torn between trying to take care of myself and trying to take care of bills.  Next year will be easier........but we are just half way through this one.

I could never have imagined that I would be more stressed after cancer treatment than I was in the hospital or when I was up all night hysterical with fear.  It was easy to get wrapped up in the cancer-world, easy to block out everything else, I had (still do) great support and they shielded me from the worry of bills, money, or the reality of my health situation (looking back, and at photos, I can't believe how close to death I looked).  Now I am priding myself on "getting back to a normal" (a great new normal!!!) and am wanting to take my part of the burden back from Scott.  He has had to deal with this for a year, while doing his best to shield me.  It is my turn to help, I just wish I knew how. 

And lets not even talk about adding a kiddo into the mix...our savings is non-existent at this point.  Our plan and goals that we had worked so hard for were pulled out from under us. 

our new reality is a bitch, brought to us by cancer.  Any ideas? email me at: