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Thursday, June 30, 2011

balance? you mean like a beam?

Spokane bound for Hoopfest
Stress starts at my collar bones, it tingles...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 call.....here 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.
 
Surgery
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" scenarios...as 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 appropriate....it 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."


2am

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: lumpsandlipstick@gmail.com

Monday, June 6, 2011

cancer made my hair angry

First it began to drop off in sections....the house was full of long strands mixed in with dog hair.  Then we shaved it.......then lost it, then it made me look sicker than I felt, now it is a mix of thick crazy locks and an old school wave.  I am having trouble working with it--so much so that I wore my wig out dancing, which was a poor decision because it was like 100 degrees dancing and there were many times I was tempted to just pull it off and set it in a corner, I restrained myself, but it was very difficult.

So my hair is angry, I get it, I still am too.

One year ago, this month I was diagnosed with cancer.  I can't believe everything that has happened in a years time, it seems unreal, like watching a lifetime movie, where they have to bleep out lots of cuss words, and boob pictures......so maybe it should actually be on showtime.  Either way, here are some snapshots of the past year, Enjoy!!



Cancer Sucks


Yep, they were mine


Surgery Day

from breasts to grenades




I heart Nordstroms

fertility treatments

needles and drains

Chemo Sucks, Parties Don't

ER vists........lots





"oh shit"

pre-hospital



sexy port




crazy baby hair

super big!!! hospital stay


more to come.