About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Welcome November

I'll be glad tomorrow when it's November.

The end of "my" first Pinktober. I'm ready for all of it to be gone.  Don't get me wrong.  It's good for people to be aware of self exams, lifestyle factors that can contribute to breast cancer, early detection, and all of that.  But I am tired of all the pink everything.  There is something a bit crass about companies that have products that contain chemicals that can actually cause cancer slapping their product in a pink package to "raise awareness."  The biggest thing I can say to ALL WOMEN, REGARDLESS OF AGE AND FAMILY HISTORY...get checked out.  Insist on a mammogram, even if you are under 40.  My tumor was 3.5 centimeters large by the time I was 40.  Breast cancer KILLS YOUNGER WOMEN because they are not screened and it is found at more advanced stages.  That is my big message as Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2010 comes to a close.

Halloween will be over then too.  Like I mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan.  It, too, has gotten out of hand. It's gone beyond homemade costumes for the kids to one of the biggest money making "holidays" of the year. Plus, I'm not too keen on the celebration of the occult either.  But it is fun to let the kids dress up and have fun.

With November, it will all be about fall.  Thanksgiving, and the holidays.  I'm looking forward to the holidays--December 3rd is my last scheduled chemo date.  I look forward to a Christmas with that behind me.  What a difference a year makes!!  A year ago, we were anticipating moving into our new house.  This year, I'm anticipating radiation and what my hair might look like when it starts growing back in the spring.

In any event, I am in a good mood.  It was a good day.  I was able to go back to church after 2 weeks' absence.  I missed it!  I was able to finish a fantastic book on my new Kindle, and my family and I are going to see some friends at a party in an hour or so.  We are blessed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One less thing to worry about

I got a call from the gynecologist I saw on Monday.  My uterine biopsy came back negative.  So I don't have uterine cancer.  Because tamoxifen may increase my risk of it in the future, I plan to be screened for it for at least the next five years.

But for now, that is one less thing to worry about.  Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Encounters

I had a really neat encounter today that I don't want to forget.

I had been at the gym earlier in the morning. I was in sweaty gym clothes with a wet bandanna on my head. But we needed to get some groceries and it had been a week or so since I had been to Trader Joe's.  (I can't seem to find one store that has everything I like, so I alternate between TJ's, Jimbo's and Sprouts).  Anyway, I was there with my two year old sidekick, Jean-Marc. We were loaded up.  I had picked out 2 large pumpkins at the beginning, and then the rest of my groceries were piled up around them in the red Trader Joe's carts.

As I cruised up to the checkout stand, I noticed a friend of mine ahead of me pushing her elderly grandmother out the door in a wheelchair. She was just a bit too far away for me to yell out, so I just went ahead to the checkout.  I was glad when she came back for a grocery bag and I was able to say hi.  She was kind of rushed because of her grandmother, which I understood.  But she said she would be back because her grandmother would want to meet me.

I knew already from another encounter with this friend over the summer (that time it was in Target), that her grandmother was a breast cancer survivor.  I seem to recall her saying it was 40 years ago, although my memory could be faulty on that point.  

She brought her grandmother back in, and the lady took my hands and looked me squarely in the eyes and told me how she had been praying for me.  She told me how "life goes on" and that I was going to be okay.  I was blown away.  First of all, that this person who didn't know me at all had been praying for me.  I know that there are many out there who are, but to meet someone "in real life" who is was amazing.  She had been there and knew what I was going through. Not only that, but I can imagine how much more difficult treatment and side effects must have been when she was going through it.  She has to be one tough lady!  She asked me about my treatment, and I told her about having 4 rounds of chemo over with 2 to go.  She asked about my recovery from surgery and if I could move my arm much.  She remembered the broom stretching exercises and I brought up the "wall creep" ones and we chuckled about that.

This gracious lady was a sister in more ways than one.  Not only is she a breast cancer survivor, but she told me a couple times about how good our God was. I told her how He had been helping me through.  I definitely  know that she is a saint and that we are sisters in Christ as well as cancer experience.

I was glad I had so many groceries because we were able to have this conversation while the Trader Joe's guy was ringing me up.  As they left, my friend said how her grandmother had been talking about me recently and that it was good that they saw me.  I'm convinced it was a "God" thing, that she was sent to give me encouragement and blessing.

She certainly did just that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting strong again

I took a few days off of serious exercise since the last chemo round, but today I'm back in the game.  It was tough, but I did what has become my Wednesday routine-Jillian Michael's "No More Trouble Zones" circuit training workout.  I walked yesterday with my friends and did a 30 minute light cardio workout on Monday, neither of which are that challenging.  Today was different

I like this DVD because it incorporates some weights. Jillian's circuit training style was what helped me lose 50 pounds over the past year, so its a proven workout for me.  I also think its good for me as I process the latest batch of poison because while it does get your heart rate up there, it isn't as intense of a cardio blast as other workouts are.  I'll save a cardio blast for tomorrow.

It wasn't easy though, and I had to modify the pushups to the "girl" version on my knees.  There were times when I felt a little dizzy, and I attribute that to the Cipro that I started taking yesterday.

It is important to me to feel strong.  I realized this morning during the workout when I felt like I was going to poop out, I would just imagine the word 'CANCER' in my mind and my energy was renewed.  Before cancer, I would imagine Jillian yelling at me like she does her contestants on "The Biggest Loser."  Now cancer's voice is much stronger than hers. As I do the harder workouts and really push myself, I can feel myself actually beating this demon disease inside of me.  It is certainly a motivator.

My little lion
Today has been a good day.  San Diego's weather returned today. It is a bright and sunny day, even a little too warm.  It was wonderful. I took Jean-Marc to his weekly "Moove & Groove" class which he absolutely loves.  (Hi Miss Amy!)  The kids came in their Halloween costumes. I'm not a big Halloween fan, but toddlers in costumes sure are cute!  I put Jean-Marc in Olivier's first costume that he wore when he was about 15 months old--a lion. I didn't think he would go for it, but he really enjoyed the costume and kept it on the whole time.  I went "in disguise" too...I wore my wig and my foobies! Undercover cancer patient, that's me!  Although my compression sleeve may have raised some suspicions...

I can't help but laugh sometimes at situations. One of the other moms in the class, who is quite pregnant and kept busy by her almost-two-year-old, made a comment to me that she can't remember the last time she did her hair.  Without missing a beat, I said, "me either!"  She laughed and hi-fived me. Her mom dealt with chemo, so she wasn't offended.  Later on when I was picking up Isabelle, a friend came up to me and asked me what "that" was.  Now she is much taller than me--I'm only 5'1 on a good day.  So she was looking down as she asked, so it really did look like she was looking at my chest, at least from my perspective. My first thought was my foobies!  At least I asked "what?"  That gave her the chance to point to my arm.  I told the group I was with that I almost said something about "wearing my boobs" today.  Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

My prayer requests:

  • Healing. That this chemo be effective.  I would hate to think that all of this is for nothing. I don't want to live with cancer forever. I want to beat it once and for all.  
  • Mental battles. Along with the idea of "beating it once and for all" is a fear that it won't end.  That cancer will come back and I will have to do it over.  I know that happens to a lot of women, I've met some of them.  Many fight the rest of their lives with it. I admire their strength and willingness to fight.  But gosh, I am afraid of becoming one of them. I know that my health is all in God's hands and I should not be fearful.  But it is scary and my enemy knows this weakness-and he exploits it. I need to be physically strong, but spiritually and mentally as well.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy birthday to me

I'm 41 years old today.

One of my survivor sisters on Sunday (at the Charger game) mentioned that after you are diagnosed with cancer, you never look at birthdays the same way again.  I suppose that is true.  Although I am in the midst of heavy cancer-treatment overload, so its hard for me to think much about it at all.  I'm sure I'll have deeper thoughts about it next year when treatment is in the rear view mirror.

I am doing better than I was yesterday.  Yesterday, I felt like I was stuck in a cancer swamp.  Or quicksand.  Everything I did and experienced came back to me having cancer and feeling bad.  Mentally, physically and emotionally, I was a mess.  My right arm is bruised from the IV for the first time.  Both on my forearm and inside my elbow from last weeks' blood draws.  I went to bed in tears, just hoping that the next day would be better.  I was a little disgusted with myself, throwing myself a pity party just a few days after having blogged about how "joyful" I should be, even in the pain. I couldn't even stick with that for 48 hours.  Woe was me.

There are times I wish I could just flip a switch in my head and stop thinking and talking about the various aspects of this disease.  I feel like a one track wonder. I mean, isn't there anything else in my life?  If I'm not talking about chemo, I'm talking about the insurance aspect, or lymphedma, or whatever.  Blah, blah, blah.  I can imagine how boring I can get to my acquaintances.

Anyway, today is my birthday and I am feeling better.  I got dozens of well wishes on Facebook.  Three flower deliveries-how neat is that?  I can't remember ever getting one, much less three in one day!  My family blessed me with an Amazon Kindle and I love it. I'm reading "Pride and Prejudice" on it and loving it.

I was hoping to enjoy food today, but it wasn't to be. That is a strange thing for me with chemo in the first week. I'm not nauseous.  Instead, food just has no taste. Or its metallic. I'll think of something that really sounds good and will make it.  I'll go to the store and spend time on it and everything.  Then when it comes down to eating it, it is just blah and unsatisfying.  It's kind of a bummer you your birthday.

But I am glad to be here for this year.  I did have a good birthday, as good as it could be at this point in my life. I thank you all for your prayers and love.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A fish out of water

I had another doctor's appointment this morning.  This time, it was with the gynecologist.  Dr. P referred me for what I thought was a routine GYN exam.  It had been about 2 years since I had a pap test, so I was okay with the referral. Might as well screen for cervical cancer while I'm fighting breast cancer, right?  

The OB/GYN department is a place full of excitement and expectancy.  Pregnant ladies sit in the lobby massaging their bellies. Mom and Dads to be sit there waiting to hear the latest about their baby's growth. Everyone is happy and anxious.  

Then I walk in.  

It's my "tired" day (day 4).  I knew I would be tired, but who needs to be peppy for a pap test, right?  I walk in with my black scarf covered bald head into this place of warm fuzzies and hopeful expectation.

I was definitely a fish out of water.  Whenever I walk into the room in my cancer patient look, I get stares.  I'm used to it. I didn't hide my condition today. This is life.   At least mine.  I know others in the room at seeing me feared that one day it could be theirs as well.  

Fortunately, I was called in pretty quickly.  But even felt like a odd ball with the nurse, who is used to checking pregnant ladies weight and having them pee on sticks.  (By the way, the scale in that department is definitely off!) When we went into an exam room, she checked out my medical record, which goes on and on and on.  She asked me what medications I was on.  I had to laugh out loud.  I told her, whatever it says on the chart is accurate. We just went over it on Friday when I had chemo.  She asked if I was going to need a pap. I told her yes, since it had been a few years.  She told me to undress from the waist down, since my oncologist was the one monitoring my breast exams.  I thought to myself...what breasts?   It was okay with me.  I didn't need to have another medical person tell me how "good" my scars looked. 

The doctor came in and asked about my irregular periods. I explained how since my diagnosis in June I had been irregular, which I chalked up to stress.  But then last month was strange with a few days of spotting and then a week of heavy flow.  She said we should do a uterine biopsy to rule out any uterine cancer, since heavy bleeding is a sign of uterine cancer. She asked if I had had any vaginal births. Sure, I told her I had two.  She said the biopsy would take about 15 seconds, but could be uncomfortable.  Alright, bring it on, I thought.  

She did the pap first, which I didn't even feel.  As she started the biopsy, she asked me about my births. Well that will get me talking! We talked about VBAC and before I knew it she was done. I didn't feel a thing.  I got dressed and was shown to her office. 

From what she saw in my uterus, she did not think I would test positive for uterine cancer. There was not a lot of extra tissue there, which she said can indicate abnormal tissue. I'm not that worried about it, but I'm glad to have a baseline, especially since I expect to be on tamoxifen in the future and that may be lined to uterine cancer. Lovely, huh? To avoid a recurrence of breast cancer, you may increase the risk of uterine cancer. 

I asked if there was any screening test for ovarian cancer. If so, we might as well check that out as well.  She said there wasn't any really good test for that. Later on, depending on whether or not my periods returned after chemo, we may want to either remove them or permanently stop my periods with medication in order to decrease the chance of ovarian cancer. By that point, I wasn't really listening all that carefully.  It is my foggiest day, and I heard her say lets take care of the breast cancer first and then we'll deal with any other issues.  Besides, the chemo drugs I am on are very likely blasting my ovaries as well. If there are any cancerous cells there, they are getting zapped.  

Frankly, I'm at the point where I'd be fine with having my ovaries and uterus just taken out.  What's the point, anyway?   Maybe its the chemo talking.  But at least I wouldn't be worrying about other cancers. 

Today has been a hard one and I've been feeling a little sorry for myself.  Ever since the biopsy, I've been a little sore and spotting. I'm tired, and just wish I could fast forward a few days.  I know tomorrow will be better.  It had better be...it's my birthday.  But even without that, I usually start to trend upward after day 4. 

My prayer requests:
  • That the biopsy comes back as normal.
  • That I bounce back tomorrow. It's my birthday after all.  I don't want to be depressed and gloomy. 
  • That I be able to "deal" with stuff.  I have lost that ability today.  I must be emitting stress vibes because it seems to be making Jean-Marc more fussy and difficult than normal. I need to be able to be patient and chill.  I don't like feeling the way I do today.  
  • That my energy level comes back tomorrow.

A crucial catch

Yesterday was the big day...I got to be a part of "A Crucial Catch 2010."  I was invited with 29 other breast cancer survivors to participate in a Chargers pre-game ceremonies.  It was a gorgeous day in San Diego.  Too bad the Chargers couldn't hang onto the ball!  But the game was not the reason I was there.

I met the other women at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the American Cancer Society.  Even though I had never met them before, I felt like I had. Many of the other ladies knew each other from their volunteer work with the ACS.  It didn't matter that I was new-I felt right at home with everyone and very much welcomed.

They gave us these really neat Charger shirts that had a V-neck and said "SURVIVOR 10" on the back.  Another survivor there had little pink ribbon tattoos that we all put on our cheeks.  After they gave us our tickets (field level seats), we piled into vans and carpooled over to Qualcomm.

On the field during practice
They wanted us to be there by 10 a.m. for a run through and practice.  There were three different things they wanted us to do.  First, they got us out on the field and arranged us in the shape of a pink ribbon.  I was near the top at the arch.  They would do some presentation about breast cancer awareness while we were standing there.  Then we were to go to the sidelines and line up by the Charger girls to welcome the team on the field.  Then we had to run to the middle of the field for the national anthem.  As we did that, a sorority brought in the biggest American flag I've ever seen, as well as a huge pink ribbon and held it behind us.  It probably took 40-50 girls to hold these things.  After the anthem, we were to run off the field and back up through the tunnel.

After practice, we had about 90 minutes to kill.  They had some sandwiches and food for us, which was nice. The best part was just being able to hang out with these other women and get to know them.  I was the "youngest" survivor.  I learned that you count your "survivor" age by the date of your diagnosis.  So I'm only a little over 4 months out.  There were women there with years-one even 25 years out. I had felt a little strange calling myself  a "survivor."  After all, I'm still in treatment.  But I have survived surgery and 4 rounds of chemotherapy. So on some level, I suppose I have earned the title.

I had chemo 2 days before, so I was a little paranoid about the sun.  I've found myself to be extremely sensitive to the sun with chemo. I wore my compression sleeve on my left arm as a way to shield that skin from the sun.  I had my 30 spf sunscreen with me that I reapplied several times.  During the game, I went and got a hat to shield my face.  Thankfully, by the 3rd quarter, the sun had moved on and we were in the shade.  The lady I sat next to during the game went at half time and came back with a frozen lemonade for me. That tasted soooo good!  The lemon really cut through the metallic blah taste in my mouth. She totally blessed me with that, and when I asked how much I owed her, she told me it was on her. It was one of the best parts of the day.

The reaction we got from the public was interesting. Many people would high five us, or shout out "Yeah, Survivors!"  Sure, some guys who had been tailgating for a few hours would make comments about loving that body part for which we were there to raise awareness. But for the most part, it was respectful and encouraging.

video
The atmosphere got more and more exciting as game time approached.  They led us down to the tunnel and gave us some hot pink pom poms to wave.  We got out to the sidelines and watched the Charger girls get introduced.  Before we knew it, we were being told to "go, go, go!" So we ran into our positions as the human survivor pink ribbon.  It all went so fast.  But it was amazing to be out there on the field with so many people.  I had my iPhone with me and snapped some video of the Chargers coming on the field. It was pretty exciting, even though I had no clue which players were "good" or not.  I figured I'd shoot as much video as I could and then let others tell me what I saw later!   The most awe inspiring part of the ceremonies for me was during the National Anthem.  I was on the 50 yard line, and we were facing the team.  I sang along and thought about my brother Jared, who at that moment was coming home from Iraq.  As it got to the end of the Anthem, "land of the free, and the home of the brave" there was a flyby with 3 jets-FA-18's I believe they said.  The BOOM was huge and it was amazing.

Then they led us out and it was over. Just like that!

We had pretty good seats in the end zone.  We were in the "super fan" section. People who really took their Charger football quite seriously.  Two guys at the front of the section who had their heads painted with bolts. Many spent a good part of the game on their feet.  I was pretty clueless--both teams were wearing white and navy blue, so half the time I didn't know who was who!  The 4th quarter did get interesting when they nearly were able to come from behind and tie the score after being woefully behind the entire game.

I couldn't help but be amused at the reaction of the fans after the game as we were exiting the stadium.  I saw tears and angst.  In the bathroom, one girl was sobbing, "they just play with our emotions!"  I just looked at her with a smile and thought to myself, "Honey, it could be so much worse.  You could have cancer!"  It's interesting how things in life are put into perspective when you are dealing with something like that.  What's a football game in the end?  A few hours of amusement.  Not something, in my humble opinion, to get all worked up about.  But then again, I'm not a superfan.  I'm just a survivor.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Pink Wig Dance



Three thirty something warrior sisters (breast cancer survivors) united forever, have come together to celebrate our love for life on the battlefield of breast cancer as young survivors. Armed in pink wigs and hopeful hearts we aim to raise awareness that breast cancer affects women of all ages. Prancing cancer out of our lives one dance at a time!


Keep your eyes open and you'll get a glimpse of me and my survivor team!

Being joyful

How am I feeling today, round 4 day 2? I'm a little tired. I can feel the "chemo fog" moving in. I have one more day on the steroid, which is giving me energy that I need to be careful not to tap too much into.  It's a fine balance, because I don't want to stop moving altogether and falling into a pit of lethargy. For me, it is important to do something physical every day. Mentally, it reminds myself that I am strong. Physically, it releases endorphins and helps with fatigue that chemo brings on.  But there is a struggle not to give into feeling sorry for myself or gloomy, waiting for the ax to fall as it were.

My activity today was to take Jean-Marc and Lucie (our dog) on a 1 hour walk in the neighborhood. There are several hills, so it was easy to break a small sweat. While walking, I was listening to a sermon from a church up in Carpenteria, CA called Reality. The topic was on overview of Phillipians. I've always loved verses from that book, so I thought why not listen to the sermon?  Some of my life verses are:
  • 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, New King James Version)
  •  13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  
    (Philippians 4:13, New King James Version)
There are lots of other great and empowering verses in the book.  As an overview, the pastor mentioned that the book is about JOY.  Having joy in Christ. These verses from chapter 4 kind of skip over a fundamental truth that is revealed earlier in the book:  that joy and its power comes after you are in Christ.  The apostle Paul was writing this book from prison in Rome.  He wasn't living an easy life at the time-he was in bondage.  Yet he was filled with joy and expressed it in this letter to his friends. It is easy to blow off someone who sings about sunshine and lollipops when their lives are all rosy and fine. Perhaps we take a closer listen when that person is not in a place of comfort.  It gave me a lot to think about on my walk. 

About 30 minutes later, I was taking Isabelle to her horse riding lessons. We pass a small church on the way that has a little message on their marquee.  Today's message was, "Be joyful, even when it hurts." 

That is what I want to be. Joyful regardless of my relative circumstances. Even when it hurts. These circumstances I am in right now are temporary, whether they be good or bad. To many, my circumstances are grave. I suppose they are.  I'm in chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer.  But for the most part,  I am joyful throughout it.  When I am not, I realize it is because I am straying from God in the "busy-ness" of life. Everything is temporary: health; financial security (or insecurity); plans for the day/week/year; activities; the comfort offered by friends and family.  Don't get me wrong, I am joyful and thankful for so many things, I can only begin to enumerate here:
  • The medical care I've been receiving at Kaiser has been excellent. My doctors and nurses are smart and caring and I trust them.  (Even though their administrative side is screwed up right now!)
  • The concern and support from Eric. This cancer diagnosis has been hard on him too. I think it hit him harder back in June than it did me. It wasn't something that he could "fix." For me, I just had to put my head down and fight. This week he is especially stepping up since my mom is out of town. He's also going the extra mile because my birthday is next Tuesday. He has spent the last week having dents and scratches on my van repaired, plans on having it detailed (he can fix that). I am pretty sure I'll be the owner of an Amazon Kindle soon. But he's also stepping up to help with Jean-Marc so I can rest. 
  • The support I've received from my family. My mom has yet to meet her second granddaughter, Kathryn Marie,  who was born last June because she needed to be here to help me get through surgery and chemo. I know that was hard on her and my sister, but they sacrificed that time for me. The prayers I know they are offering up on my behalf daily. It brings joy to my heart and gratitude that I can't even begin to express. 
  • The support from my family in Christ. My church family, not only those in North County, but spread out around the world. I know I am on several prayer lists from friends and family in places far and wide.  It's not just prayer either. On Sundays, its comfort, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, encouragement and friendship. 
  • The support from my friends. People have helped in so many ways: bringing meals; giving my kids rides to and from activities; asking about how I am doing; and expressing a willingness to do anything I need. 
  • The opportunities this has opened for me to learn about breast cancer. To meet other survivors. To do things to raise awareness of this disease so the impact may be lessened in the future.  That was a door that God has opened for me in the past few months. 
From a relative world-point of view, I have been blessed-even in the midst of breast cancer.  I am immensely grateful for it all.  I know it all is a gift from God.  (All good things are, you know).

But there is something deeper when you talk about being "joyful." It isn't dependent on the immediate circumstances.  And that comes from knowing Christ.  He will never let me down. He has been with me every step of the way in this journey.  I remember having the biopsy back in early June. They had me topless lying on my side with a wedgie underneath my left upper back so they could get to the lymph nodes. The ultrasound tech was on my right, the radiologist on my left with a huge needle.  The doctor knew the one site was a lymph node, but had nothing but questions about the mass on my left breast.  I just closed my eyes and felt the presence of Jesus holding me in His Hand.  And he kept repeating to me "I know the plans I have for you. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope."  Over and over. I was able to block out the big needle that was plunged into my side digging out chunks of my flesh to send to the lab.  I had a peace that passed understanding.

I have other examples that come to mind throughout the past several months.  In the midst of that pain, that is joy.  To have the comfort of God. The only one who really knows where I am at any time-not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.  The only one who can minister to me perfectly through His Word and presence because of that intimate knowledge of me.

The temporal things of this life may come and they may go.  People, even those closest to you, can let you down. You can't find that kind of joy in any human relationship.  But the joy from the relationship I have with Christ will last forever. To live truly is Christ and to die is gain. (Phillipians 1:21)  Yes, something will kill me. It is the same for you, too.  10 out of 10 people will die.  It may be breast cancer. Or it may be getting into an auto accident next week. Only God knows the number of our days.  That will be sad for those left here who care for me.  Thinking about that makes me want to cry.  Imagining my kids growing up without me tears my heart out. As for me, I will be face to face with Christ and still have my soul and spirit. I will know and be known to all of those in heaven.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  (1 Corinthians 13:12, New King James Version)

I hope I don't come across as a Pollyanna.  Like Paul, I am in an uncomfortable place right now. But I can be joyful because of who Christ is and what He has done for me.  I urge everyone out there to be as well.  If you don't know Him, He is just waiting for you to open that door to your heart. He's been standing there knocking.

God bless you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Round Four ... done!

I just got back from my fourth of six rounds of chemotherapy.

This one took a little longer.  I am now a frequent visitor of the lab at Kaiser.  I had a bit of time to kill between dropping Isabelle off at 8 a.m. and my chemo appointment at 9 a.m.  So I went to Discovery lake for a quick walk/run.  I ended up running 2 laps and walking 1 as a warm up/cool down.  Not bad for 30 minutes, I thought.  I broke just a light sweat and remind my metabolism not to plummet, which was all I wanted to do since I had to go have chemo.

I was stretching out a bit by my car when I got a call from the chemo nurse. Apparently, the blood draw from yesterday they missed doing a liver function and creatinine panel. They only did a CBC. Great.  So I got myself over there quickly and was back up at the lab for another poke and another $10 co-pay. (Yes, that tangled mess of insurance just got another twist in it).  I was on time for the chemo appointment, but had to wait about an hour for the results to come in.  Time for some Angry Birds!!

Because of the snafus this week, I had a complete blood count done 3 times this week. One a week ago (10/15), one yesterday (10/21) and then today (10/22). The nurse let me look at the results of my CBC's after she mentioned that my white count was pretty high.  She asked if I had been taking the prescribed steroid, which I had. 3 doses before this morning's draw.  A week ago, my WBC was at 2.0, which is low. Yesterday, it was back up to 5.8. This morning, it was at a whopping 11.5! The nurse said it was because of the steroid. A high WBC count indicates that your body is trying to fight off something.  If it hadn't been the jump between yesterday and today, I would have thought maybe it was the flu shots. But that impact should be waning, and this was double over 24 hours!

The counts from last Friday are all lower. She said that was probably my "nadir point," which basically means my lowest point. On that day, even my red blood cell count was marked as low, just under the low end of the range. I asked for a printout of it and there is a lot of data on this sheet.  Abbrevations that I'm going to want to look up just to see.  The bottom line, though, is that as of today I was okay to get the chemo.   Oh, and the liver and kidney functions were normal too.  Sigh.  What's another poke, anyway?

Bring it ON!
Treatment itself went without incident.  I watched some news, read some Psalms, and played more Angry Birds. I drank 3 thermoses filled with water.  As I sat there, I couldn't help but overhearing other patients. It could be so much worse. The lady next to me was discussing with the nurse about how she has to go in every 3 weeks for chemo until next MAY!  And she had been going since last May. Granted, she was out quicker than I was.  But still. She will be doing this for months after I am done.

Chemo puts you on this life-cycle where you no longer think of life by the normal calendar. Every time you get a new event, you think....okay. Where does that put me on the chemo calendar?  Will I be at risk of infection?  Will I have taste buds? Mouth sores?  Eyebrows?  Life is just revolves around that chemotherapy wheel.  It goes around, around, around.  Chemo today, Cipro on Tuesday, wash your hands, wash your hands, round and around, blood draw, oncologist, round and around.

I want to share a quick verse I read this morning while taxotere was dripping into my veins. I may have shared it in the past, but it was so spot on while I was actually having chemotherapy:

Excerpts from Psalm 37
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.  (vv 1-2)

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more. (vv. 9-10)

The whole psalm is great, but these verses just brought comfort to my heart like nothing else. This cancer will be cut down like the grass and DIE. For a little while they are here, but if I am patient and wait, they shall be no more. We will look for them carefully later (scans, blood tests, etc), but they shall be no more.  I'm going to take this promise to heart and rest in it.  Thank you Lord for ministering to me this morning!

My prayer requests:
  • That I cope with the after effects of this round of chemo without too much discomfort, fatigue, etc. I would like to have more patience with my family for the next few days. I have found myself to be kind of impatient and nasty. I don't want to be that way.  I want to reflect the patience and peace of Jesus. 
  • That I have the energy on Sunday to do the event with the Chargers. Even though I don't know any one else, I'm really looking forward to it.  
  • Travel mercies for my family.  Jared is spending his last night in Iraq tonight and will be coming back to the USA tomorrow. Mom and dad are on their way to Georgia as I type this. God is good!

A Psalm for going into chemotherapy

 1 Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;
         Fight against those who fight against me.  (cancer cells)
 2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
         And stand up for my help.
 3 Also draw out the spear, 

(the cytoxan, taxotere, and Your mighty power)
         And stop those who pursue me.  (cancer cells)
         Say to my soul,
         “I am your salvation.”  

(Thank you Lord, no matter what, I know I am saved)
      
 4 Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
         Who seek after my life;
         Let those be turned back and brought to confusion 

(I love the image of these cells being confused into destruction!)
         Who plot my hurt.
 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
         And let the angel of the LORD chase them.
 6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
         And let the angel of the LORD pursue them.
 7 For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
         Which they have dug without cause for my life.  

(Yes, cancer is trying to kill me, has been for awihle before I knew it)
 8 Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
         And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
         Into that very destruction let him fall.  

(Yes, but we have turned it around on them..we cut out as many with the surgeons knife, and now we are after them with poison. Thank you God for the medical team and technology that You have allowed to be developed)
      
 9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD;
         It shall rejoice in His salvation.       

(Yes, regardless of the trial, I am able to rejoice in the Lord. His joy is my strength)
 10 All my bones shall say,
         “LORD, who is like You,
         Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
         Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”
      
 11 Fierce witnesses rise up;
         They ask me things that I do not know.
 12 They reward me evil for good,
         To the sorrow of my soul.
 13 But as for me, when they were sick,
         My clothing was sackcloth;
         I humbled myself with fasting;
         And my prayer would return to my own heart.
 14 I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
         I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.
      
 15 But in my adversity they rejoiced
         And gathered together;
         Attackers gathered against me,
         And I did not know it;
         They tore at me and did not cease;
 16 With ungodly mockers at feasts
         They gnashed at me with their teeth.
      
 17 Lord, how long will You look on?
         Rescue me from their destructions,
         My precious life from the lions. 

(Yes Lord, rescue me from this disease if it is Your will. I know you are in control and able.)
 18 I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
         I will praise You among many people.
      
 19 Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies;
         Nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause.
 20 For they do not speak peace,
         But they devise deceitful matters
         Against the quiet ones in the land.
 21 They also opened their mouth wide against me,
         And said, “Aha, aha!
         Our eyes have seen it.
      
 22 This You have seen, O LORD;
         Do not keep silence.
         O Lord, do not be far from me.

I cannot imagine going through this without You near me Lord. You are always there. When I cannot feel you it is because I have wandered away. But you are faithful to wait for me to come back with open and loving arms, my Abba.)


 23 Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication,
         To my cause, my God and my Lord.
 24 Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness;
         And let them not rejoice over me.
 25 Let them not say in their hearts, “Ah, so we would have it!”
         Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
      
 26 Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
         Who rejoice at my hurt;
         Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
         Who exalt themselves against me.
      
 27 Let them shout for joy and be glad,
         Who favor my righteous cause;
         And let them say continually,
         “Let the LORD be magnified,
         Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” 



(This goes for all of you on my "team." Be glad all you who are favoring my cause through prayer, practical help, and kindness.  There are so many "little" things that people have done for my family and I since June. I am so thankful for you. Keep it coming, we aren't through this yet. But through this time, it is my prayer that the Lord will be magnified in your heart and that you can see Him working in this situation.  Anything good in it is a gift from Him. He is in control, on His throne. I trust Him with everything.  Do you?


 28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness
         And of Your praise all the day long. (Psalm 35, New King James Version)  



Amen!  We are not "rightous" or "good people" apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Only God is good to begin with.  And he sacrificed on the cross (Read Psalm 22) so to give us that gift. Thank you Jesus for bringing me into your grace so I may call myself your child. I will praise you all the day long, even with an IV stuck in my arm!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An interesting mix

I did something interesting at the gym today. I played my "purchased" playlist on shuffle. I never knew what song was coming up next. One song would be a contemporary worship band like Kutless singing "We Bow Down" the next would be a bizarre bluegrass version of "Auld Lange Syne."  (That was from a free iTunes holiday mix I downloaded last year!) Add some random Madonna and Lady Gaga (when did I BUY those??) and it made for a fun workout.   And I KICKED BUTT at the gym today.  It is strange the day before chemo. My heart rate is slightly elevated, even though I feel normal.  Even more strange, the elevated heart rate does not transfer over to my perceived exertion. So my heart rate reads at 150 (which is about 80-80% of my target heart rate zone), but I feel like I'm at about 135 and could run forever.  So I kept upping the speed on my running intervals. It felt great. I sweat so much that I had to change my bandanna because it was dripping! Ick! But cool. Very good for my pre-chemo workout. I left feeling stronger than ever. Thank you Lord for that blessing!

The rest of the day was an interesting mix as well.

I had a bit of a stressful time in the car dropping kids off this morning. We had to take the dog because I was going to drop her off at the groomer before I went to Kaiser. Lucie HATES the car, so she was whining and barking. I couldn't wait to get her out. We drop the middle school boys off and start to go over the mountain on Twin Oaks Valley Road to drop Isabelle off at her friends. My low fuel light had gone on last night, and there aren't gas stations between our house and the middle school. So I needed to make it over the hill, and preferably get kids and pets sorted out first. But it was a big hill and I kept getting stopped at lights. So I started stressing out about running out of gas. Just as we reach the peak, Jean-Marc chimes in from the back seat saying "pee pee!  pee pee!"  Oh my goodness! What next? I didn't have the little potty in the car with me, but he was in a pull up. So if he had an accident, it would be a bummer, but not the end of the world. After dropping Isabelle off, I decided gas was more critical than getting the dog off first, so we went to the gas station with the dog barking and Jean-Marc chirping "pee pee! pee pee!" I was glad to be able to get out of the car to pump the gas!  When we got to the groomer, I asked if they had a bathroom we could use.  My little guy had stayed dry through all of that, and it had been at least 10-15 minutes! I was so proud of him!

We met my mom in the parking lot at Kaiser next. She was going to hang out with Jean-Marc while I did my pre-chemo day stuff.  She took him to Wal-Mart where she got me some really cool bandannas that I can wear to the gym. I love them!  

The lab visit went as expected. They drew blood for a CBC (complete blood count).  Then I had an hour to kill.  I have this new game for my iPhone called "Angry Birds" that a friend got me into. (You know who you are!) I found a big chair in a corner of the building and played that until it was time for me to see the oncologist, Dr. P.

The visit with Dr. P went without incident.  I was surprised to find out that my Vitamin D levels are very low. Imagine that, living in San Diego.  He told me to supplement 1,000 - 2,000 units daily. The blood counts were good, so I'm on for chemo tomorrow.  Round 4, here I come.

You know your administrative nightmare is bad if it is easier to work out a problem with the DMV!  I'm still in beauacratic hell with Kaiser over my deductible status.  Every lab visit, pharmacy pick up, and doctors appointment makes the mess more difficult to sort out.  They want the co-pays according to what their computer is telling them. Unfortunately, the computer is wrong!  I just paid the $10 at the lab and the $9.75 at the pharmacy. But when it came to the $70 for Dr. P, I tried to explain to the receptionist about it. She was really nice about it and gave me a financial responsibility form to sign. She suggested I go down to member services and talk to the boss in person. I thought that was a good idea.  I'll go down looking like a cancer patient and see if that motivates them to figure it out. This is the last thing I need as I go through this treatment!  I did get a voice mail from someone I spoke to on Tuesday and she said they are trying to sort it out and will call me on Tuesday or Wednesday. Lovely. I just hope I'm out of the chemo fog by then.  I had so wanted to get it worked out this week before then. Oh well.

As for the DMV, my license is set to expire next Tuesday. I sent my renewal in the 3rd week of August and they cashed the check. This week I spent 45 minutes on the phone trying to sort it out. As it turns out they put a "hold" on my renewal so they could run me through some national database to make sure I wasn't tagged for something that they could withhold my license for. Why did I get tagged for that? Anyway, that department is "backed up" and I was given a number to call.  A number that was perpetually busy. I finally got through this afternoon and talked to a person.  She lifted the hold on my license, but said it would take 4-6 weeks to get my actual license in the mail. What??!  My choices were either to have her issue a temporary and send it out today or go into my local DMV office.  Guess which choice I made?  In any event, it is apparently taken care of. Thank you Jesus for taking that off my plate!

I'm all set for chemo tomorrow. Eric is going to take the morning off to be a daddy since my mom is going to be on her way to greet Jared home from Iraq. (Thank you Jesus for that too!)  I'm actually looking forward to having 2-3 hours to myself, to read, listen to music....or try to bust through a few more levels in "Angry Birds."

My prayer requests:

  • That chemo go well.  That I tolerate it as well as I have the first 3 rounds. That it does what it is supposed to do...KILL CANCER CELLS! 
  • That I don't get totally wiped out this weekend.  In addition to the normal mom stuff, I have the Charger game thing ("A Crucial Catch") this Sunday and I'm hoping that I'm not completely wiped out on Monday. If you have time on Sunday, check out the Charger vs. Patriots game--especially the pre-game stuff and the anthem. I'm going to wear something pink and plaid on my head! 
  • Travel mercies for Jared and my parents. They are going to Savannah, Georgia to greet him. We aren't sure exactly when Jared gets in--probably late Saturday night or early Sunday. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Preparations, again

This Friday will be round #4 of chemotherapy. I find myself getting into "preparation" mode again on several levels.

It actually started last Friday with a visit to Kaiser. I got my blood drawn for a Vitamin D test and got my flu shot on the way out. (At Dr. P's recommendation). I was a little miffed to get my "results" of the blood draw online and see that they seemed to have made a mistake and drawn blood for a liver function panel and creatinine screen, but no Vitamin D results. That made me wonder if my lab appointment for this Thursday got switched and instead of the pre-chemo tests they would just do Vitamin D. That would potentially delay my chemo. That prompted a call to the lab this morning, which is no small feat. First, you have to leave a message and then wait for them to call you back. If you don't happen to be by the phone to catch the call, it's phone tag and you are IT. You get to start at the beginning and leave a message for them. I realized as I was taking Isabelle to school this morning that I had left my cell phone plugged in. Sure enough, by the time I got home, they had called. Fortunately, the second time was a charm and I did catch the call. As it turns out, they did draw for Vitamin D, the other tests were overkill and will be done as planned this Thursday before chemo.

Dr. P recommended the flu shot for everyone just to keep potential illness out of the house. The injection with the dead virus for me 2 weeks after chemo (which was last Friday). The kids got the nasal mist today. Yeah, I know some people don't agree with immunizations and particularly flu shots. If that works for you, cool. But I'm going to go with what the oncologist recommends. He's gotten me to this point pretty well, so I'm going to go with what he says. Please no comments second guessing this decision, okay? :-)

I'll go through my now-familiar Thursday pre-chemo routine in a few days. Blood draw at 9 a.m., pick up the refill of Cipro and a visit with Dr. P.

The insurance situation with Kaiser continues to be a mess. Kaiser re-coded policies and put me in a "new" plan as of September 1. A couple weeks ago, they had not carried over my out of pocket accumulations to the "new" plan, so I was being told by the providers that I had a huge co-pay. (I have a high deductible plan, but have more than met the family deductible this year). Last month, they told me to call back if I got a bill. Sure enough, I did. My concern is that the services I am being billed for since September 1 are not being adjusted correctly. Is Kaiser billing me as if I had not met the deductible? I can't figure it out from the statement. So I called that department today to check. It is so confusing that the woman I talked to had to have her manager look at the account to figure it out and will call me back tomorrow. What a pain!

There are other preparations I'm making this week as well. I want to get the dog groomed before Friday. She smells bad! I'm making a huge pot of "Chicken Magic Mineral Broth" from "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen." I've planned super nutritious meals for this week full of veggies, legumes and protein so I'm not nutritionally deficient on Friday. I'm doing my higher intensity workouts at the beginning of the week so I can take a day or two off later on. Working out also keeps me feeling strong, keeps my metabolism up, and keeps those happy endorphins flowing good and strong!

This round will be different because my mom and dad are going to be out of town. Mom has really picked up the slack for me at chemo time. It's good they are going--it means my brother Jared is coming home from his 3rd tour in Iraq!! But that means Eric will have to pick up my slack. He is going to take Thursday and Friday morning off so he can hang out with Jean-Marc while I'm at Kaiser getting treatment. I'm most concerned about Monday the 25th. Monday after chemo (day 4) has been my worst day each round. Last time, I rested Sunday afternoon. It helped, but I was still "blah" and foggy on Monday. This Sunday I have the Charger game, and I'm not planning on missing that!

Speaking of the Charger game, yesterday at the "Making Strides" walk, I was going into the area where the flagship sponsors had tents. We had to show a special wristband to get past some ropes. Anyway, the guy manning the rope said, "We'll see you next Sunday!" Turns out, he was from the American Cancer Society and is organizing the event at the Charger game. I was surprised he knew who I was when we hadn't been introduced.

Anyway, I'm feeling good and will be glad when I get to Friday. Then I will definitely be over the hump. 4 down, 2 to go.

My prayer requests:

  • That I be strong spiritually. I've had a few instances in the past few days with fear. I ran across some stupid "tools" online for cancer survival. I should have just closed the page, but instead I put in my stats "just to see." I did not need to see survival statistics/mortality rates for people in my situation.  It freaks me out to think of myself as a statistic. I go along most of the time feeling like I'm going to beat this and then BAM! The possibility that I may have recurrence, metastatic stage IV, years of treatment pops into my head. I know that this is a form of spiritual warfare that the enemy is using on me. 
  • That God would eradicate any cancer cells in my body. Just make them disappear. I was reading Psalm 29 this morning. In it, David is marveling at God's mighty power. He can certainly make cancer cells disappear if it is His will. 
In closing, I wanted to share one of the Psalms that I read this morining during my devotional time.  I found out later that part of it is set to music, "This is How We Overcome."

Psalm 30
 1 I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
         And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
 2 O LORD my God, I cried out to You,
         And You healed me.
 3 O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
         You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
        
 4 Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
         And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
 5 For His anger is but for a moment,
         His favor is for life;
         Weeping may endure for a night,
         But joy comes in the morning.
        
 6 Now in my prosperity I said,
         “I shall never be moved.”
 7 LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
         You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
        
 8 I cried out to You, O LORD;
         And to the LORD I made supplication:
 9 “What profit is there in my blood,
         When I go down to the pit?
         Will the dust praise You?
         Will it declare Your truth?
 10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me;
         LORD, be my helper!”
        
 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
         You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
 12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
         O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Psalm 30, New King James Version)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Strides!

Today was the day! We joined about 20,000 other San Diegans this morning in a drizzly Balboa Park to walk to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  It was a little overwhelming to be in a sea of pink. There were walkers there in all shapes and sizes. Pink wigs, pink tutus, bangles and beads.  Everyone there united in the same cause...to find a cure for breast cancer.

Isabelle and I at the starting line

Before the walk, we walked around and there was a table where you could fill out a sticker of who you were walking in honor of. Mom said to Isabelle, "Hey-lets go get a sticker in honor of your mom!" That kind of got me going and I started to cry a bit. I had been feeling emotions welling up a bit as we neared the park, but that did it. We hugged and they got their sticker. I saw another survivor walk by with a sticker that said "I'm walking in honor of MYSELF." I decided, why not? If it hadn't been for MY diagnosis, I wouldn't have been there. So I had Isabelle get a sticker for me too.

It got kind of frustrating before the walk because there were just SO MANY PEOPLE. You couldn't get from point A to point B because they were just milling around, or going in different directions. At least when we walked, everyone was moving in the same direction! I had several people come up to me and wish me well. A couple of them were survivors. One told me how "brave" I was to be out walking the event. Brave? I don't know about that one. What else would I be doing? In a way, its not so brave to be out there with 19,999 other people who are supporting you and hoping for a cure for the very disease you are fighting. It was kind of a big pep rally.

My nephew, Caleb and I

It was hard to see some of the signs with pictures of women who had lost their battle. Or shirts that referenced the walk being "in memory" of someone. I don't like to think about that fact. But it is true. Some women do not beat this disease. Thank God for the advances that have been made in treatment over the years. Thank God for the awareness that has been raised so more cases are caught early. I wish mine had been caught earlier. 3.5 centimeter tumor and 5 lymph nodes is not exactly "early." But it could be worse, I suppose. I want to be a survivor. I want to beat this. With God's help, I can. But it is all in His hands.

Maybe a little self-centered, but I'm walking in honor of ME!
They had a "Survivor" tent but I didn't really feel comfortable going over there. I really do feel like I am going to beat this and be a survivor. I read in Kris Carr's book, "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips" that the minute you are diagnosed you should think of yourself as "a Survivor." But somehow, I don't really feel like I have earned that title yet. I'm a warrior, a fighter. I WILL be a survivor.

After the walk, we hung out for a little while, but the rain started coming down harder. I had brought a couple of umbrellas, but left them in the car earlier. So much for that. We had a nice lunch at the Claim Jumper where mom, dad and I celebrated with a Mimosa!

It was a great event, and I am very glad to have participated. A big huge thank you to all who financially supported my walk. I was the second biggest fundraiser on Team Cymer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
My support group!
Isabelle, Mom, Laura, Dad, Caleb, and me

Starting line

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One more day!

Isabelle & I yesterday living life to its fullest! Singing songs with the girl scouts in the rain!

One more day until my first "cancer walk."  I'm going to do a 5k with the American Cancer Society (ACS) in their "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" event in San Diego.  Yeah, 5k isn't a huge deal.  Heck, I could probably run most of it if I wanted to.  But the event is to raise awareness as well as funds for the disease and to help an organization that has already helped me out a great deal.

When I was first diagnosed, my doctor gave me a registration form for the ACS.  They sent me an organizational tool for all of my records.  It was a expandable pocket with different tabs under subject headings (lab reports, insurance information, etc).  Those who know me know I am at a loss if my papers aren't organized, so this was a great tool for me.  I merged it into a system that I had started on my own and its great.  I can find pretty much any piece of paper related to my situation in seconds.

ACS provided me with a free wig and one of my favorite hats.

ACS sent me to a program called "Look Good, Feel Better."   I have an entire post dedicated to it from June. But in short, it was a seminar where they gave us a big bag of free name-brand cosmetics and lotions. We went through a little makeup session where they taught us things like how to draw on your eyebrows after they are gone.  They also gave us tips on what to cover our bald heads with.  I'm using these tips daily.

ACS sent me several small pillows that I used after my surgery to cushion my chest while sleeping and driving.

ACS also has paired me with a "mentor" who is a breast cancer survivor.  She gave me tips before my surgery and chemo.  It is helpful to talk to someone who has walked this road before. I'll be talking to another mentor as I get ready for radiation treatment.

There are lots of other services ACS offers that they would give me if I asked.  If I needed transportation to my treatments, they could arrange it.  There are numerous classes and support groups that they host as well.

ACS uses a large portion of its funding for breast cancer. I'm grateful for the progress that has been made in treating this disease in the past decade.  Of course, there are other great organizations that fund research and treatment for breast cancer.  The Komen foundation comes to mind.  (I'm planning on doing the 3 day next year).  But for now, I'm happy to do this 5k tomorrow to give back to an organization that already has given me a great deal.

If you have a little bit of extra cash, even $5, I would be very grateful if you would click on this link to donate to a very worthy cause.

Blessings to you all!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No regrets

I have this amazing gift of flexibility now that I did not have before.  I can choose to have hair.  And not just "hair" but hair that looks salon-perfect. Or I can choose to wear a scarf on my head. Or a hat. Or a cut up T-shirt made to look like a turban.  Do I have a headpiece to match this outfit?  If not, I can just put my hair on in seconds.  I just have to glance in the mirror to make sure it is on straight.

Even better is that I can choose to have breasts or not.  Let me tell you, it is very nice not to have them when I am exercising!  (Or when I step on the scale for my weekly weigh-in!)  Do I feel like wearing a bra today?  It has been very easy getting used to the feeling of freedom that going bra-less provides.  It never bothered me before to wear one-it was just one of those things that you get used to as a woman.  But a few months without having to wear one makes a big difference.  I pointed out to my friends this week that I wasn't wearing my "boobs" that day before our power walk.  It was the first time they said they noticed I was flat. Maybe they were just being nice.  But people don't seem to notice the ironing board look that I sport most days. It could be that the hair/no hair/hat/scarf thing gets the most attention.

In any event, I am enjoying having choices in how I look.

As I thought about it, I realized that it gives me another reason I have no regrets about choosing a bilateral mastectomy rather than a single.  Then my choice would be "lopsided or not?"  I would feel uncomfortable going without a bra, so I would end up wearing the prosthetic most of the time. I know others have made different choices and that is fine.  We all have to live with our decisions and I'm DEFINITELY not knocking a woman who made a different one than me.  I'm just saying that I'm happy with my own personal choice.

Speaking of living with the consequences of mastectomy, there is an amazing exhibition in New York this year called The Scar Project. Its a series of large scale photographs of young women who have had the surgery. Some are in various phases of reconstruction. Some have had bilateral, others unilateral. There is even one woman who is pregnant after a bilateral mastectomy.  If I was in NYC, I would go in person.  But you can check it out online as well.    The website has this quote from the photographer:

"Although Jay began shooting The SCAR Project primarily as an awareness raising campaign he was not prepared for something much more immediate . . . and beautiful: “For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”


It is brave for them to be photographed for public exhibition like this. I'm glad they did, so we call can see what this disease does to women.  Like the poster for the Exhibition says "Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon."  It's a good reminder this month of October.  It may be fun to sport pink ribbons and talk about mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But it definitely leaves a path of physical destruction in its wake.  Thank God that treatment has increased survival rates.  The scars will be there forever, though. Yes, breast cancer is not a pink ribbon. (I still will put one on my car, though!)

I don't know if I could pose like that, even for my own personal use.  I have thought of taking pictures at various stages of recovery, just to document.  But I haven't done it yet.  My scars still look like Frankenstein. It reminds me of being at ICAN conferences where women would photograph their cesarean scars. I never did.  I never wanted to.  I still don't like to touch that darn scar, even though I've come so far and grown so much since that day in 1999.  It is similar, but not exactly the same with my mastectomy scars. I can touch them-I massage Vitamin E oil into them daily.  It is an interesting thing for me to ponder, and I don't have answers right now.  Both scars deal directly with my femininity and womanhood. I didn't plan to write this-it just came out as I was typing.  Maybe I will blog more about it later when I have some answers.  Right now, the more I think about it, the more questions I ask myself.