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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Journey to 60 Miles

Here is a movie that puts together the 3 Day experience for the Pink & Plaid Warriors.  Enjoy!

Wrapping up the year

I know it sounds cliche, but 2011 flew by.

February 2011
But in some ways, the early parts of it seem like a distant dream. I didn't finish with radiation until February 17th.  The first week of 2011 found me driving to Escondido each day to get zapped with radiation. Was that really me?   I didn't have much hair, but it was starting to grow back in.

I found a new normal in 2011.  Another cliche, I know.  Of course, there will always be concern about a recurrence. But for the most part, I managed to fall into a routine of shuttling kids around to school and activities, making exercise a priority, church, and continuing my family's menu of organic cooking.

Last year at this time, I resolved to lose the last 10 pounds. Well, that didn't happen. But it will happen this year. Maybe even 15. I have been on Tamoxifen for the past year, and that has caused weight gain in some women. At least I've maintained my weight since then. But I'm not going to use the medication as an excuse. Although I've been working out pretty strenuously 6 days a week, I tend to snack in the afternoons and overdo it a bit at dinner. So I'm buckling down and starting tomorrow will be back to the formula that worked for me to lose 50 pounds in 2009-10:  counting calories. I'm going to cut out all alcohol as well.  I've enjoyed the holiday fare, but its time to get down to business.  If I just control what I put in my mouth, with my exercise regimen, the excess should melt away. Right?? Right!

Another change I'm making that will help me in this area is with a personal trainer. For my birthday last October, Mom and dad got me an introductory 3 sessions with a trainer at my gym. Because the gym kind of spoiled the surprise, they gave me an additional 2 sessions. I enjoyed it so much that I went ahead and bought myself 10  more sessions, (Merry Christmas to me!)  Not knowing this, Eric bought me 3 more!  So I have 13 more sessions and will start seeing my trainer every Thursday.  She knows my fitness goals and I'll have another person to be accountable to.

2012 is going to be the year of the half marathon. I'm going to do my first one at Disneyland next month. Training for that has had me running 4 days a week for about 20-25 miles a week. I would like to do a total of three half marathons in 2012, but I need to get them done before August so I can slow it down to a walk to train for the 3 Day in November.  Yes, I signed up for the 3 Day again. While I did not enjoy the training until we got up into walking 10+ miles at a time, the event itself was an amazing and uplifting experience. I've met several other survivors in the process and the 3 Day community is incredible. Besides, if I'm going to be in the commercials urging everyone to "join us," I had better be there, hadn't I?

I'm looking forward to being more disciplined in my devotional life as well.  Our women's bible study for the Spring is going to start in early January. We are going to be studying the book of Hebrews. I've been asked to do a little bit of teaching and hitting the main points of the weekly lessons. I'm a little nervous about it, since I've never done anything like this. It is definitely going to be a motivator for me to find the time daily to study the Bible and spend some quiet time at the feet of the Lord so I can hear what He has to say.

I've also decided to write a book. I gave a talk to the women at our church last October about my journey with breast cancer. In preparing for it, I had 32 pages of outlined notes! I would like to make part of it into a book that can help other people who are facing similar circumstances. If nothing else, it will be cathartic for me!  Its not going to be a rehash of this blog, though. Stay tuned and find out.

2011 was a much better year for me than 2010, to be sure. I'm looking forward to 2012 being even better. Thank you for caring enough to read my blog and follow along with me. I appreciate you all and wish you a very Happy and Healthy new year!
My boys and I on Christmas Eve

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walker Stalkers

One thing that really blew me away during the 3 Day was the dedication and energy of the "walker stalkers."  These were people who basically spent the entire weekend along the course, cheering us on. We would see them several times a day. They would set up "shop" in one place and do their schtick, then move a few miles down the route and do it all over again.

Their themes varied, from a guy with a camera (whom we saw at least 8 times on day 1), to outrageous men with watermelons in pink bras and wigs dancing to loud music they brought in 80's style boom boxes. Some were a little embarrassing, even. It was nuts!  Dogs were spray painted pink, or dressed in pink tutus. It was a riot.  Many would offer little treats by the side of the road: a sticker; kleenex; or piece of candy.  It was touching to see how much support was out there. As the miles wore on, having that cheering and encouragement was very uplifting.

The stalkers were very energized and that energy would spill over onto the walkers. It would be very hard, I think, to keep that level of energy up all day.  But they did it.

I couldn't help but wonder WHY these people would be doing this. I had plenty of time to contemplate and imagine stories for particular people.  Perhaps a wife was lost to breast cancer?  Or maybe a mother, daughter, sister.  I guess their reasons for doing what they were doing were as varied and similar as the reasons each walker had.

Anyway, the walker stalkers definitely added flavor and joy to the event. I'm thankful that they took the time to support us.  This video will give you a taste of what it was like:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In training

One of the things that helped me journey this cancer trip has been exercise.  During treatment, my goal was to keep exercising as much as I could-at least 5 days a week.  Check. That helped me so much get through the process.  The next goal was a couple of little races in the year. I realized this morning that in 2011, I ran three 5ks and one 10k.  Not bad for an ex-chubby girl who hated running since Alvarado middle school!

Of course, the 3 Day walk was a huge challenge in and of itself. Walking 60 miles in 3 days was no joke. Check.

My next physical goal is my first half-marathon next month.  The Disney Tinkerbell 1/2 marathon in Anaheim, California.  About a week an a half after the 3 Day ended, I started training in earnest for it.
I've got a great app from Runner's World, called "Smart Coach." You put in your goal, a recent race time, how many miles you want to do total each week and out pops a training program. It's great for a newbie like me who has no clue about how to actually train for running.

Smart Coach has me doing between 20-25 miles a week. One long run day (I'm up to 9 miles), two easier days (4 and 5 miles) and one speed work day. That entails either long repeats/intervals, or a tempo run where I run at a faster pace for 3-4 miles.  I do those on the treadmill so I can control the speed.

Today I did my second 9 miler. I did it. It wasn't too bad, except for a hill between miles 6 and 7 that I had to slow down to a walk for .10 of a mile. (I made up for it by running 9.1 before I stopped!)  I've also started running without being plugged into music, at least when I'm on the street.  I thought that would be much harder, but it wasn't. Granted, my pace isn't breaking any speed records. But I'm running the whole thing. That is my goal for this first 1/2 marathon-to run the whole 13.1, even if it's not fast. It will be a PR in any event, right?!  Today I averaged a little over 11 minute miles.

As I ran I thought about other physical goals for the year.  I've been working with a personal trainer for the last month at the gym. The sessions were a birthday gift from my parents. That has been a lot of fun, and something I'm going to continue.  She has  taken me into the "big boy" weight training room to show me how to do some new things. As I told my trainer, my goal right now is just to maintain my weight, and keep my running training on track. Come January, I'm going to buckle down and lose the last 10 pounds that I've been carrying around.  I feel good where I am, but with my short height, I could go 10-15 pounds lower from where I am. I'd like to see what that looks and feels like. But to try and start that  during the holidays is unrealistic. So 2012 it is.  With all the exercise, it should just take some discipline on the eating/drinking side for a month or two to get it off.

And what about events? I've already signed up for the 2012 3 Day walk in November, so that will take 13-16 weeks of training in the fall.  I decided this morning that, God willing, I'd like to do three 1/2 marathons this year. Tinkerbell in January is already set. I've found the San Diego Rock & Roll 1/2 marathon in early June. I need to find one more before mid-August in order to get 3 in before I have to slow it down to a walk.

I still can't believe this is me. As I was running today, I saw my shadow and couldn't believe it. I was over 5 miles into it, and felt great. It's amazing what you can do if you stick to it.  Persistence, perseverance and don't give up. Change will happen. Praise and thanksgiving to God for giving me the strength and ability to do it.

Now if God will keep the cancer from coming back, everything will be great.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Changing changes

Our hot water heater went out last weekend. Of course, Eric was out of town at the time and I had to deal with it over the weekend until he got back. A repair company came in and installed a temporary unit so we could dry out some drywall in the garage and decide what kind of heater we wanted to replace it with. The temporary heater didn't keep water hot for very long, so it wasn't until Tuesday we were able to get a new permanent heater.

What does this mundane household drama have to do with breast cancer?

Because of the water situation, I decided that after my workout at the gym on Monday morning, I would just take a towel and use the showers at the gym. No biggie, I've done that before-especially if I had been swimming laps.

I've never been self-conscious in a women's locker room about changing out in the open. Most people do, and we're all women. Whatever. Even being overweight, I would just do it quickly and be done with it. But after I got there, I realized that I didn't really feel comfortable being bare chested in front of strangers, even if it was for just a couple seconds.  I don't know if people take notice that I'm uber-flat. Especially at the gym, when I actually like being unhindered by floppy breasts while I work out. But my bare chest still looks like a freak show. I've got huge jagged horizontal scars running from side to side. I can only imagine the reaction it would raise. I don't blame anyone for it...it would be one of those instinctual things that you couldn't control. I mean, I still do it to myself at times when I see myself in the mirror! How could I blame others for having the same reaction?

I handled the situation by bringing my fresh T-shirt into the shower area with me and changing it in the shower.  (I chose one of my 3 Day team shirts that says "Survivor" on the sleeve just in case anyone had any questions.)  Then I wrapped a towel around myself and made it out to the locker area and got dressed the rest of the way. In the end, there weren't that many ladies there, and I probably could have just changed in the open. But still....there was that never before felt element of self-consciousness that I was able to avoid.

It wasn't an earth shattering event. But it did give me pause to reflect on how some things that I took for granted "BC" will forever be different, even the simple things like getting dressed in a locker room!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day Three

I slept pretty well again the second night in our pink tent. The only issue was waking up really early...like 4 a.m.!  I laid there for a few minutes and decided I needed to go visit the porta-potties.  By then, mom was awake too so we ventured out together. Breakfast wasn't being served until 5 a.m., so we crawled back into our sleeping bags. I had taken out my earplugs and they rolled into a dark corner somewhere. No big deal-I wasn't going to sleep anyway. The next several minutes made me so grateful that we had the earplugs at night! The sounds of snoring coming from 2 sides of us was pretty loud. Then we heard the soft sound of....a fart!  Mom and I looked at each other and just started cracking up! Ah, the sounds of humanity!

As soon as we could venture over to the dining tent, we went. It was a little misty, but we were able to get our food without getting wet. Boy, I'm, glad we got up when we did! Shortly after getting inside the tent and starting on our breakfast, it started raining!  But it didn't get spirits down.  In fact, in some ways, it bonded everyone together even more!  One guy stood up and led everyone in rounds of "Rain, rain go away, come again another day!"  We were ready to walk in the rain if need be, but I wasn't looking forward to striking our tent in a downpour.  

Fortunately, the rain stopped falling after about 20 minutes. Mom and I decided to go for it, so we went out and got our stuff together and rolled up our tent. We took our gear and tent over to the gear truck and were ready to get started. Carylee got there and off we went! 

We did about one mile before the rain started coming down again. So we whipped out our ponchos and put them on over our clothes and camelbaks.  It didn't rain very hard, just enough to make you want to cover up. We had all heard stories about 2010 when the rain was so hard that it fell sideways! This was nowhere near that bad.  By the time we reached the first pit stop at a little over 3 miles, the rain had stopped. I folded up my poncho and put it back in my case. It was green, after all, and clashed with all my pink! 

The first part of the day had us wind around Mission Bay. The crowds were out in even more numbers than the previous two days. It was overwhelming. At one place, there was a "gauntlet" of survivors that we walked through. It was amazing the love and support from total strangers.  There were lots of goodies offered along the way: mimosas, jell-o and tequila shots, candy, tissues, stickers, and more. 

As the course led us out of the Mission Bay area and into Old Town, I definitely saw signs of struggle among our ranks. There were a lot of limping people, but they pressed on. I felt pretty good, although I had developed a "hot spot" that I put a piece of moleskin over. There was a pit stop in Old Town, right at the bottom of the "big hill" of the day, Juan Street.  I sat down on a curb, and my body just didn't want to get up! Others were laying down in the parking lot we were in, stretching and resting. 

One poignant memory I have is when we were waiting to cross the street onto Juan Street. One of the volunteers who was there to help walkers cross safely saw a girl with a picture of someone on her shirt. It was obviously a memorial to someone for whom she was walking. The volunteer asked her who the picture was of. The girl replied that it was her grandmother, who had lost her battle to breast cancer. The volunteer was so sweet in the few seconds we had waiting for the light, asking her what her grandmas name was and commenting on how pretty she was.  As we crossed the street, I saw that the girl wearing the shirt was in tears at the concern shown by a total stranger for grandmother. 

Just seeing this made me feel so good about humanity. At least this little pink sliver of humanity that I was a part of. I realized that each and every person walking and putting their bodies through so much pain had a story. They had a loved one they had lost. Or maybe they had someone they knew who was a survivor, but had a tough time of it. (Who doesn't have a tough time with cancer treatment?)  We were all here, doing this thing together, caring for each other, with a common goal in mind. For the first time, the words they had me say in the commercials made total sense. "We are united."  Yes, we were.  (Look for the 2012 3-Day commercials to start airing in January.)

As we started up Juan Street, I ran into one of my "Hollywood" survivor friends, Marcy. We walked up Juan Street side by side. Mom was in front of us about 10 feet, head down, one foot in front of the other.  It was great. I was having a good time. In fact, I didn't want it to end! There was a rest stop at the top of the hill and I said as much. I think we were about 11 mile into the day at that point. I think the adrenaline was keeping me going. 

It got harder after that as we wound our way down through Hillcrest. But the crowds were there to cheer us on. Sometimes along the way, we would see walkers who had stopped to have a drink together and they would shout and wave at us. We planned on stopping as well, but wanted to wait until we were just a few blocks from the finish line.  Lunch was at Balboa Park, and we had 3.1 miles to go at that point. We didn't rest too long-we wanted to have enough time for our celebratory drink, get our victory shirts, and take our picture in front of the 60 mile sign. We had to be all done by 4 p.m. for closing ceremonies. 

The last few miles were hard. Physically, to be sure. But also emotionally. Perhaps it was being so worn down physically that made me more sensitive emotionally. I felt like every person out there was cheering for ME personally. I wore my "Survivor" tattoo with pride.  I was doing it!  I was a part of something huge, something that is going to make a difference.  At Balboa park, there were girl scouts handing out 1/2 boxes of Thin Mints, a group of Chinese dancers with drums and a Chinese dragon twisting by the sidewalk. It was incredible.  

Dad had been done for a few hours and had found a little establishment about a block off the course, the Knotty Barrel. We made our way in, and shared some wine in celebration. There were other walkers and crew in there as well. It was a party atmosphere, even though we were exhausted. It was a strange kind of exhaustion. I was too tired to really think, my body was tired, but not to the point of dropping. It was an emotional exhaustion as well. Those last couple miles were like an end to the cancer journey for me. Sure, I conquered the 60 miles, but I also conquered cancer and lived to do something this physically demanding. Take that, cancer! 

Dad walked with us the last few blocks into the finish line. I walked in front of mom and dad, and just let the tears flow down my cheeks as I walked by all of the people who lined the street clapping and cheering. When we got into the finish zone, there was a huge gauntlet of people who we walked through, high fiving us as we past. As I made my way down the line, I recognized them as fellow walkers. We did it! 

Mom, Dad, and I were pretty overwhelemed with emotion. We did a group hug. I remember telling them that I couldn't have done it without them, and I wasn't just talking about the 3 Day.  It was every single day since June 10, 2010. I saw memories like photographs in my mind.  Among them: 
  • Fathers Day 2010 when we were waiting to find out how far advanced my cancer was, I remember telling my Dad I loved him. We both fought back tears and just acknowledged that we had to keep our eyes on the Lord, regardless of how hard this storm was hitting us. 
  • July 22, 2010-the day of my bilateral mastectomy. Mom and Dad were there all day, waiting. They stayed and took care of me post-op when I went through this intense hot flash. Dad fanned me with a paper and mom wiped my sweaty face with a damp cloth. 
  • The months after surgery, mom came over to my house every single day to take care of me and help with the kids.  She was there when I saw my new body for the first time. She was there when I suffered from a side effect of the pain meds...really bad constipation. Talk about being there for the nitty gritty! What we went through that day was an ordeal, and only she and I know the full extent of it. :-) 
  • The first weekend of December, 2011 when I was suffering from the allergic reaction to Cipro, the worst hives of my life that ended up triggering my lymphedema. Dad stayed with the kids while mom and I went to urgent care. Mom cried with me publicly when they tried to send me away to the hospital emergency room to a 3 hour germ infested wait just a week out of my 6th round of chemotherapy. Our tears at least got the attention of the receptionist, who put us in touch with an advice nurse via telephone that was helpful. Mom stayed at our house that night in case my allergy took a turn for the worse.
  • Mom met me every day of radiation and sat out in the car with Jean-Marc while I went in for treatment.
Just the fact that they both jumped into the 3 Day with me was awesome, sacrificing their time and physical comfort to take this journey with me.  I am so blessed by them both. 

60 miles, in the bag!
Nancy, Me, and Sharon
We got our victory shirts. Walkers (Mom) got white. Crew (Dad) got grey. Survivors (me) got pink.  We stood in line to get our victory picture. 60 miles, we did it!

After our picture, they started trying to get people organized for the closing ceremonies. Survivors were to gather on a grassy hill at Petco park, so I made my way over there. I was so happy to run into 2 of my other "Hollywood" friends, Nancy and Sharon. I hadn't seen Nancy all weekend!  We compared notes about the walk and our teams. As we started walking, Nancy linked her arm in mine, and I linked my other arm into Sharon's.  We made our way through the cheering street towards the closing ceremonies together.  Along the way, I saw Eric and the kids. That was neat. Jean-Marc ran out to join me, but I had to tell him I'd see him soon. By now, the rain had started again. But it didn't matter. Let the rain come, so what. 

As we walked in, I saw the shoe salute. All of the walkers had taken off a shoe and saluted us as we walked in. That made me start crying again. So much love and support, it was amazing. 

Honestly, I don't remember much about the closing ceremonies. We were right by a circular stage, and when it was over, they started playing some song. (Was it "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang?) Nancy grabbed me and we rushed up onto the circular stage to dance in the face of breast cancer, with the rain sprinkling down on us. It was great.  We were all hugging up there, dancing, celebrating being alive, all bonded together by a common experience. It didn't matter that we hadn't met each other yet-if you were in pink, you were a sister and this was one big family reunion!  

All too soon, it was over. I somehow managed to find the parking structure where Eric had parked.  We all piled into my Honda Odyssey and went to meet my brother, sister in law and nephew for dinner.  It was surreal for it to all be over. Dinner was fantastic, I ate every single morsel of taco and rice on my plate. I was ravenous!  

As we drove home up Interstate 5, we passed by Mission Bay, La Jolla, and then back to Del Mar, where Dad's car had been parked all weekend.  My goodness that was a long way!  And we walked it! 

The 3 Day was an amazing, triumphant experience. When I started training, I felt like I would just do it this year. You know, to cross it off my "to do in life" list. But the event itself made every mile of the 500 training miles I did worth it. 

So much so that I signed up to do it in 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day Two

Our home away from home
Mom and I slept pretty well in our pink tent. It took me by suprise, actually.  Usually when I'm in a new environment, the first night is not very restful, especially when I'm camping. I was concerned that the little camp pillow I borrowed from Olivier wouldn't be comfortable. On top of that, we were literally right next to our neighbors. Mom had brought some earplugs and they did the trick!  We woke up around 5 a.m., met dad for breakfast and then were ready to get going!

Having been at the back of the pack the day before, we wanted to get an early start and be in the front. Our third teammate didn't camp with us, so had to arrange to meet. The route opened between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Carylee got there before 7, but needed to stop at the medical tent to get her ankle wrapped.   By the time we got onto the route, it was 7:15 a.m.  Right smack dab in the middle. That was fine with me. At least we weren't in the back.

We had heard rumors that Day Two was the hardest. The theory is that on Day One, you are pumped with adrenaline. On Day Three, you are almost done. But on Day Two, you just have to walk. And walk. And walk.  The mileage on this day was actually a little less than the day before.

The route that morning led us though parts of Mission Bay, Ocean Beach, and Point Loma. It was a really fun route. It took us through areas that I was unfamiliar with. I particularly enjoyed Point Loma and some of the custom homes that overlook the Pacific Ocean.

Like the previous day, we were met with hundreds of supporters along the route. Many were in costume, but others were not.  Even some trainers from Sea World were out in their wetsuits to take pictures with walkers and show their support!

On the route, there are rest stops every 3-4 miles.  They all have porta potties and water/sports drink. Actual "pit stops" have these amenities as well as a medical tent and snacks.  In between these stops, we increasingly ran into tables set up by everyday people who would offer us all kinds of things, from stickers, kleenex, candy, to mimosas (or "mamosas" as they were called).  As the day wore on and we walked through Mission Beach, we ran into tequila shots and Jell-O shooters! 

One of the bright spots of the day was right before lunch when some girls from Isabelle's girl scout troop had a cheering spot. We had just crossed over a bridge from Mission Beach to Mission Bay and there they were!  I had purchased some pink cammo rubber bracelets from a lady who had set up a stand in Point Loma, so I gave each girl one. I gave her leader, Nicole, a "survivor" tattoo like the one I had put on that morning.  Nicole was the first woman in my circle of friends to be diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago. After she fought it, then I was diagnosed.  We sat down on a little wall and the girls gave us shoulder massages! We were definitely envied by other walkers as they went by us. Many even took our pictures! 

At the end of the afternoon, we stopped at the last pit stop. We were tired, but we also had gotten separated from Carylee, who had stopped to check something out along the Boardwalk in Mission Beach. (There was a LOT going on there!)  After we started on the last mile and a half, I saw a familiar face among the crowd of people cheering us on. A friend of mine, Donna, was there with her daughter's brownie troop. I got a burst of energy and ran to give her a big hug. It was so neat to see a familiar face! It really meant a lot that they came down to cheer us on. As Donna and I were talking, I saw another familiar face sitting about 10 feet away.  I had to do a double take....it was my dad! He had walked out to meet us and walk us in. I didn't recognize him at first because he had a hat on!  It was nice to finish the day up with the fourth member of our team!

At dinner, I was happy to run into a survivor friend, Marcy, whom I had met doing the 2012 3-Day commercial shoot.  I still had to find Nancy. Other than her, I had seen or talked to everyone that I met that exciting day.

We took a seat next to the charging stations. I was hoping to be able to plug in my iPhone as well as my Garmin GPS watch. Unlike the night before, every single outlet was taken. But unlike the other walkers, I had an in with the crew! Dad took my devices and charged them off the battery of the gear truck he was in.

We watched a little bit of the Saturday night show. I learned that the national spokeswoman for the 3 Day, Dr. Sheri Phillips, not only is a breast cancer survivor, but she lives with lymphedema like I do. They introduced a man who was walking ALL 14 of the 3-Day events this season. San Diego was his last. I honestly don't know how you can get your body to withstand this 14 times. But he did it. Not only did he walk all 14, but raised the minimum amount of $2,300 14 times. Wow.  They also introduced us to a group of teenagers who had been around helping, the Youth Corps. They were volunteers, but had to raise $500 to be able to work! I was blown away. Each kid introduced themselves and told us why they were working. When one girl introduced herself, she said that her mother had been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I swear, I heard everyone draw a sharp breath inward all at the same time. Her mom was there, walking with us.

We didn't have it in us to stay up for the dance party. We went to the shower trucks, took care of business, and went to bed. 40 miles down, 20 to go.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day One

I've been pondering how to blog about my experience on the 3 Day. I knew right away that it deserved more than one post, because if I tried to do it in one post, it would be, as my kids would say, "epic." So I'll just start at the beginning and try to put into words my first day. But I warn you, words really fail to express what it was like. The unity, the camaraderie, the depth of feeling that permeated every step.

My team, "the Pink & Plaid Warriors" consisted of my mom, my friend Carylee, and myself. My dad was also on the team, as part of the crew. He was assigned to the tents and gear area and drove a gear truck between the opening ceremonies and the campsite.

Opening ceremonies were at the fairgrounds in Del Mar. Walkers were to arrive between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. As soon as we got there, mom and I dropped our duffel bags off at the truck labeled "F" which corresponded to our tent assignment of F-63.  I was amazed at how efficient the process was. From there, we followed the dozens of other walkers into the fairgrounds. It was a lively and fun atmosphere. Before we got all the way into the grounds, I ran into someone I met during the commercial shoot up in Hollywood. It was a crazy scene with literally thousands of people waiting to get started on the 60 mile trek, television trucks, loud music and funky costumes.

The opening ceremonies got us going. Crying, that is.  They were talking about who was walking and who they were walking for. They mentioned mothers and daughters, and of course, I started bawling. Not only becuase I was sharing it with my mom, but I thought of Isabelle and how I hoped she would be spared from this disease.  I also started thinking about how I wanted to be around for her growing up and how cancer was a threat to that. But here we were, thousands strong, united to do something about it. It was very moving.

Here are a few minutes of the opening ceremonies to give you a taste of what it was like:

We were ready to get moving after that. We had been told to go into a corral and those closest to the stage would be first on the route. Like good little girls, we did that. As it turned out, that wasn't the case. By the time we were out of the ceremony site, there were only a few dozen people behind us. But even as we filed out, we walked between rows of people cheering us on, giving us high-fives, and saying thank you. I saw one woman holding a sign that said, "Stage 3 and Kicking Cancer's Ass." That one got me, because last year, I was that woman. I saw her several times over the next couple of days. I was so touched by the outpouring of support and love by total strangers. One woman looked at us and reminded us to just stop mentally and take the moment. Remember it.

Day One was a mixture of fun and frustration.  The atmosphere and people were amazing. San Diego PD and San Jose PD officers rode bikes all along the route, sporting pink tutus or other silliness. Many had music players attached to their bikes that would bring us some tunes as we walked.  We got our first glimpse of the sweep vans, that patrolled the route all weekend to pick up weary or hurt walkers and take them to the next pit stop. They each had a theme. One was a hippie van. Mom liked that one because they played 60's era tunes. There was the "Titty taxi" and "Hookers for Hooters."  (Not so sure about the hooker part, but the women inside were funny and the music they blasted put a bounce in my step.). There were the hula girls who wore long t-shirts with a cartoon of a bikini. They would jump out of their van periodically with music blaring and dance. It was pretty funny to see the fake bikini images on the T-shirts shaking their booties.

All along the route, the public came out to cheer us on. I'm going to do a whole post about this aspect of it, because it was truly amazing.  This event brought out the best in everyone: the walkers, the crew, and the public. I'll talk more about this in a future post.

The frustration came because we felt like we were bringing up the rear,and we were!  Our late start put us behind. Even though we all knew it wasn't a "race" we still wanted to be at camp before dark so we could make sure our tents were set up, check out the vendors, and relax before dinner. I also got frustrated at having to wait at all the red lights. There were so many for the first 5 miles or so. I liked it much better when we hit Torrey Pines and were able to walk without interruption. My team and I had trained on hills, so we ended up passing a lot of walkers at that point.

By the time we got to lunch at La Jolla Shores, mom's cappillaritis had begun to flare up. She had this condition while training, especially in the heat.  She went off to the medical tent for some ice. Carylee was having trouble with her ankle, so she also went and got some treatment from the medical staff. The medical staff, by the way was amazing. At every pit stop, there was a medical tent with staff that were able to wrap legs, joints, and take care of whatever issues had arisen for the walkers.

The afternoon went by pretty slowly.  We were still getting used to the whole flow of the event. The sights, the sounds, and just the physical sensation of walking all day. We found ourselves around many of the same walkers most of the day. From time to time, a police officer would ride by with some music and we would all boogie down the road. There were also some awesome volunteer motorcyclists who helped us cross the streets. In one neighborhood in La Jolla, school kids had made signs that were attached to the trees to encourage us.  Many houses in the neighborhood set up tables and were giving goodies out to us. One table even had tequila shots!

20 down, 40 to go!
Dad met us about a mile outside of camp.  He had been waiting for us most of the afternoon. In fact, when we were at lunch, the first walkers were already coming into camp! He was an angel for us and set up our tent, blew up our air mattresses and encased the tent in plastic in case of rain. (The weather reports were threatening rain all week!)  He walked with us into camp where we were met by huge banners, music blaring, and a general party atmosphere.

Coming into camp, you walk through a path lined on both sides with supporters as well as flags that, if you think about it, really bring up some strong emotions. On one side, they would identify people who we were walking for: "My Mother," "My daughter," "My friend," "My sister," and so on.  There was even one that said, "My Self."  On the other side, they expressed traits and events, like "commitment," "love," "adventure," "graduations," "weddings," etc. Things that breast cancer has tried to rob from us. 

What struck me that first day, as well as the entire weekend, was that every single person out there had a story. Had a reason to be putting their bodies through such an extreme testing. It may have been a loved one lost. I saw plenty of shirts with smiling faces, or with names. There was even one team the "T.A.G. Team" that held a sign all 60 miles with the picture of their loved one lost to breast cancer. (Her initials were T.A.G.)  What impacted me about the sign that they held was that it had her birth and death dates. She was born on October 9, 1969.  Just a few weeks before me. And she had been gone for a few years already. Man, breast cancer sucks!

We had dinner at camp, and just tried to recover from the day. We were tired, but glad to have part of the journey behind us.  Mom and I took showers in the shower trucks and I tried to do some manual drainage on my arm. That didn't work too well since it was chilly and I didn't want to expose my skin to the cold air. I just put on my new velcro sleeve and hoped for the best. We went to bed pretty early, hoping to get some rest for the day ahead of us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Like so many other holidays, dates, and anniversaries this year, I cannot help but compare it to a year ago. Not just reflecting on the differences in my life on those days, but all of the things that have happened since.

Last year, I still had one round of chemo to go. I was bald, but I was feeling pretty good. I was far enough into the 5th cycle that I was feeling somewhat like myself, although my taste buds were definitely off.  All things considered, it was a good Thanksgiving.

After Thanksgiving, I had my 6th round of chemo, developed a severe allergic reaction to the prophylactic Cipro, which in turn triggered my lifelong struggle with lymphedmea.  I also had yet to begin my radiation treatment. Considering how long chemo took, radiation seems like a blip on the screen.

Those are the bad things.  But a lot of good things have happened in the past year as well on the physical side that I am so thankful to God for.  My hair is growing back. It's past the stage where it is obvious that it is growing in from bald. People who don't know me would never know that I was bald a year ago.  In the past year, I've completed three 5k races as well as a 10k. I may not be the fastest runner out there, but my times aren't bad. Especially when I consider where I was a year ago.  I also just completed my first 3 Day, 60 mile walk.  That left my body tired, but satisfied that I was able to complete such a huge goal-I made it every single step!

I'm also thankful for the support of my family. They went through so much with me. They are co-survivors, and don't get the credit that they deserve for what they went through. I can't imagine how hard it had to have been to witness the whole mess I was. Mom and Dad not only supported me through the treatment, but they jumped into (or should I say, stepped into), the 3 Day experience with me. Mom spent countless hours training so she could do it. She battled seeping capillaries in her legs during training and during our walk. Dad slept in a truck last weekend and schlepped heavy bags of the walkers. He met mom and I every day and walked with us the last mile into camp. The three of us ended the 60 miles together, with tears in our eyes. Not just for the accomplishment of the 60 miles, but also of overcoming the struggles of the past year and a half.  Eric did a fabulous job of being a single parent for three days while I was walking. He hasn't even balked at the hints I find myself dropping about doing it all again next year!

Nancy, Sharon and me on Survivor's Hill
Marcy and me

I'm thankful to have met so many amazing and wonderful people in the past year. Fellow survivors have become new friends. It is such a deep bond that we share. Common experiences, common fears, and the common desire just to live and be healthy. I am thankful for all of my new survivor friends and look forward to a long friendship!

Of course, there are so many other things I am thankful for this year. I thank God for all of the blessings He has showered me with. I pray that He gives me the opportunity to use the experience of breast cancer to glorify Him and help other people in the process. I know He works all things together for good, cancer included.

Thank you for being a part of my life. I am grateful for your support and prayers as well.

Let's move forward and have a joyful holiday season. Don't let the little things get you down. Focus on the big picture and be happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011


This is what victory looks like. Here is my team, the Pink and Plaid Warriors. We made it all 60 miles, despite hurt joints, oozing capillaries, and potential blisters.

The event itself had a huge impact on me. I will do my best to convey it all over the next few blog posts. There is no way I could do it in just one post. I've got so many pictures, its going to be hard to choose which ones to post.

I'm grateful to God for giving us the strength to get through, my team for making the commitment to such a huge endeavor, my parents for jumping in and making it a priority for their lives, my donors for their financial support, and my prayer warriors for their intercession. Without all of you, this photo would not be possible.

Praise the Lord!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On your mark....

The day has nearly arrived! After signing up over 10 months ago, walking over 480 miles in training over 148 hours, it is the eve of my first 3 Day Walk. It is surreal, actually. After all the preparation to have the event finally here is like a "pinch me" moment.

We have had such amazing support from our friends and community.Yesterday, as I dropped Jean-Marc off at preschool, I was met with this sign that they kids and teachers made. I couldn't help but cry a bit at that. How sweet! When I went into the room, the teachers included me in their morning prayers and we prayed together. It was really nice. I hung the poster up in my garage as a reminder of how amazing people can be.

After that, mom and I went on our last training walk of the season. A little 5 miler just to keep the blood flowing. 

Toasting the end of training!

Am I ready? Physically, I'll admit that in some ways I don't feel like it. Maybe it's because we have tapered off on our mileage.  I know I can do it, though. It's funny how mental this can be. If I think about my left foot hurting, it starts to hurt!

I am really excited for the experience, though. The camaraderie that I've been a part of so far with this community has been amazing.  Last night, I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep, I was so excited! It was like being a kid on Christmas Eve!

One question mark is the weather. Well, at least for some. I am convinced that it is NOT going to rain. Weather reports at the beginning of the week predicted rain all weekend. Then it started to change to say just Sunday. According to weather.com, there is a 20% chance on Sunday. That means an 80% chance of NO RAIN! If it does, we'll be ready. Mom and I did 10 miles in some pretty heavy rain a few weeks ago. We've got ponchos, extra socks, and plastic bags for our feet if it does. But we won't need them!

Besides mom and me, a friend of mine, Carylee Stone, is walking on our Pink & Plaid Warrior team. Besides being a great realtor, she's a graphic artist. She designed the coolest team shirts! I can't wait to wear mine and take some pictures to post on the blog. They are so pretty!  P&P is going to rock!

Carylee is going to be picking us up at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. We have to be at the Del Mar Fairgrounds between 5 a.m. - 6 a.m. for opening ceremonies. I think we actually start walking around 7 a.m.

I'm nearly packed-I have a few more things to stow away. Everything needs to be wrapped in plastic in case the bag gets wet, and it can't weigh over 35 pounds! That's the challenge.

Please pray for us! Pray that our bodies hold up, that God would strengthen us for this journey. That we would be lifted up on wings like eagles, that we would walk and not grow weary!  Pray that my lymphedema stays under control. That GOD be glorified in our doing this.  Pray for Eric and the kids as they are alone without me this weekend.

If you are interested, you can follow along on our journey online on the Living Route.

Thank you for your prayers, your moral support, and your financial support. By the way, if you would like to support the Pink & Plaid Warriors with a tax-deductible donation, you can by clicking here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blowing up

I continue to struggle with my lymphedema. I'm fairly certain that the swelling is a result of my training for the 3 Day. Last week, I logged over 47 miles. Last weekend, I did my first "back to back" which consisted of 15 miles on Friday (in the rain) and then 18 on Saturday.

Everyone swells when they walk. Next time you walk for an hour or so, check out your hands-your fingers will probably be a little puffy. So part of it is normal. For me, the swelling isn't going down.

I'm not freaking out about it. I know how to handle it and what to do. Although I am swelling, I am doing all I can do to keep it under control. I'm actually enjoying the accomplishment of walking double digit distances, even if swelling is a byproduct of it.

I ordered a custom sleeve-a Circaid Juxta-Fit. It came in last Friday and I had been using it ever since. It is so easy! You just slide the sleeve on, and then wrap the criss crossing velcro straps around the arm. It takes about 2 minutes.  But my physical therapist warned me that it wasn't as effective as bandaging. It's a tough thing, because bandaging takes a long time. Not only putting it on, but rolling it back up to be ready for the next time. If you are pressed for time, or tired at night, the Juxta-Fit is better than nothing. I decided to order the sleeve because I didn't want to be messing around with rolling bandages during the 3 Day.

Maybe I'm not putting the Juxta-Fit on quite right. I probably need to schedule an appointment with my physical therapist to have her train me further on it.  I could probably benefit from her expert manual drainage massage as well.

Today I did 5 miles. After I showered, my hand and arm really seemed to be swollen. I took the time to do some manual drainage and then put on the bandages. I put some foam on the back of the hand and on the inside of my forearm and bandaged over it.  I've been wearing the bandages all day. Tonight, I'll do another manual drainage session and put the bandages on for the night. I plan on wearing them as close to 24 hours a day as I can for a few days and see what happens.

It is a real pain to be bandaged from my fingertips up my arm. Especially when you like to cook for your family and have everyday chores around the house to do.

Despite all of this, I really am excited about the walk. I didn't enjoy training at first. It still isn't as efficient as running, and I look forward to getting back to running later this month. But once I got over double digits, it really feels good.  It is amazing to think...I walked 18 miles today! Seriously? 18 miles! For you locals, we walked from Carlsbad Village to downtown Encinitas down the coast. It is incredible what the human body can do with some practice.

I'd appreciate your prayers about my arm. I'm doing all I can do for it, and it is frustrating to feel like its not helping. I have to keep thinking....if I wasn't doing all of this, what state would my arm and hand be in??

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pushing water uphill

I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with my lymphedema arm.

I'll admit that over the summer, I slacked off. I would go for several days without bandaging. Sometimes I would even take a few days off of manual drainage massage. But when I noticed the swelling, I got back into a pretty good discipline of nightly massage and bandaging. On top of that, I've been wearing the compression sleeve and gauntlet most of the day.

I decided to order a custom fit sleeve that I could wear at night that just velcros on. The impetus for this was the upcoming 3 Day walk. I just don't want to be messing around with rolling and wrapping bandages after having walked 20 and 40 miles.  Since it was a custom fit, I got into my discipline a few weeks before I was to be measured for the sleeve. When I went in for the measurements, I was disappointed that while there were some changes, I was still "over" my limit at some measurement points.

Back in January, I had my physical therapist recommend ideal "maximum" measurements at each 5 c.m. point that we measure at. I also have been tracking my size since then, so I know what this arm is capable of. What I've seen is a slow creep upward.  This is despite working at it really hard over the past month. I've switched things up on some nights, adding foam in parts, or adding an extra layer of bandaging on the upper arm. But to no avail.

I pondered the situation. What was I doing differently that may cause the swelling?  I had started taking a Body pump class at the gym. It's a weightlifting class with lots and lots of repetitions. It's an hour long, and we would work different muscles for each song. Imagine-a 3-4 minute song of just bicep curls.  Or squats. Or chest presses.  You get the picture. Ouch. (But a good kind of ouch!) All while holding a weightlifting bar that we add or take off weight plates. I'll admit that I had increased the weight and was pushing my limit. Could walking long distances be causing it? I wear my sleeve, and even my bandaging sometimes, while walking.

I decided to take some time off of the Body pump to see if it made a difference. It didn't.

Friday, I get to pick up my custom sleeve. I'm excited to have something that is more convenient and faster, although my therapist believes that bandaging is more effective. Who knows? Maybe the change will confuse my arm and make it go down?

Its not physically painful. It's just an inconvenience and annoyance. Just another way that life will never be the same.  I think after the 3 Day I will make a series of appointments with my physical therapist for some intensive work on the arm.

I'd appreciate everyone's prayers about it. It is very frustrating to work so hard at something and not have it make a difference. On the other hand, imagine what my arm would be doing if I wasn't working so hard at it? Maybe I would be swollen up like a balloon?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Take home points

I had the pleasure of sharing some of my testimony yesterday at a Women's breakfast at Calvary Chapel of Escondido. In preparing for my talk, I went through this blog and re-lived my journey with cancer.  It was very good for me to step back and look at this experience in a compressed period of time. There were three main "take home" points that I shared with the ladies.  Since most of my readers were not present, I would like to share them here. Plus, I kind of ran over time (okay, by a lot...like 30 minutes!) I am going to expand on what I actually said so it may make more sense.

Keep in mind my entire story as you read this. It may sound flippant if taken out of context. But I've come to this after a longish road of trial and walking the walk. I continue to be concerned that it is not really over. I live in persistent concern (I don't want to use the word "fear") of recurrence. This is what I've learned so far:

"Joy" is not dependent on your relative circumstances. Joy does not come from having things, or being comfortable. Sure, it can make you momentarily happy. But a deep, abiding joy only comes from knowing the Lord. It's hard to describe if you don't have that. But even in the midst of cancer, in my darkest moments, I can say that I had the joy of the Lord. Not even cancer could take that away from me. In fact, having cancer actually made me realize what a gift I have been given in Christ. That the Creator of the universe, my Lord, has been by my side helping me get through this entire ordeal. Maybe some would be angry that God let them get cancer in the first place.  Honestly, I've never thought this way. Trials happen to everyone. I see this as an opportunity to be refined. Yes, it hurts. But I am being brought closer to my Lord. I can find joy in that.

So how can you find joy when you are in the middle of something really hard? When I was having a difficult time during treatment, I found it very helpful to count my blessings. Yes, I know that sounds corny. But it worked. Here was my list from about a year ago, when I was in the middle of chemo:

I'm thankful that:
  • I found the lump under my arm when I did. 
  • My family supported me throughout this trial.
  • I have a wonderful family in Christ that has lifted me up in prayer continually
  • The advancements in breast cancer treatment make a diagnosis not necessarily a death sentence. I'm also thankful that I have access to treatment.
  • That I am the one with cancer, and not one of my kids.
  • For having the Lord by my side at all times, giving me the strength to press on.
What if the worst was to happen? What if I die from cancer? I know where I am going-I'll be with Jesus in glory. While the temporary separation from my loved ones would be hard, ultimately the ones I love that also are in Christ will be with me for eternity. We can't even conceive of how amazing this is going to be!

I did not know that cancer was coming. But God did. He knew all about it before I was even born. We all will face various trials in our lives. They may be physical, spiritual, or mental. We need to be strong physically and spiritually so that we can meet these trials head-on.  We need to be good stewards of what He has given us.

In my case, I am so thankful that God planted the desire to get into physical shape before my diagnosis. I was at the strongest I've ever been in my life when I was diagnosed. Having that outlet of exercise has not only been good for my prognosis, but helped me get through treatment. It would have been a much different story if I was not in shape at the outset.

So why not make efforts to be healthier now?  It can't hurt. Exercise helps with a range of physical problems. It also helps prevent so many health issues. God made our bodies to move and exert themselves. Our lifestyle in modern America has made it so we don't have to move much to provide for our immediate needs. Unfortunately, in so doing, we aren't providing for our bodies' need for movement. I urge everyone to do what they can to get some exercise every day.  Eat more vegetables. Eat less processed food. Cut out sodas. Eat organic as much as you can, especially the "dirty dozen" fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues on them.

You don't know what is coming your way. It could be a physical trial, like cancer. Or it could be spiritual one. Be a good steward of your body and be in God's Word. No matter what, it will equip you for whatever is coming. God willing, nothing "bad" will happen. In that case, you will still feel better and be stronger and healthier than you were before.

God knew this was coming and He got me ready beforehand. He "flipped the switch" in my heart to want to lose weight and get into shape. We made changes in our insurance coverage just a month before my diagnosis that were more advantageous to us financially to pay for my treatment. Even Eric took it upon himself in the year before my diagnosis to learn about cancer.

I made it through my treatment fairly well. Yes, there were hard times. I don't want to make light of it and make it sound like it was a breeze. It wasn't. It hurt. It was hard. But I made it through.

Here's the thing. It had nothing to do with me. It had EVERYTHING to do with the Lord. HE is the one that showered me with blessing and grace. It was all HIM. The Bible says, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I'm in awe of how God has worked in my life in the past 18 months. I don't believe in luck or coincidence.

In the end, there are higher purposes at work in everything. God promises that He will work out ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)  In my cancer, there are purposes in all of this that He wants. Those that are for my own good. To make me better, more like Him. I don't understand what these are, nor should I. His ways are higher than mine.  All I can do is trust in Him. I've experienced His love and grace throughout this time to know that He is for real. How can I not trust the rest of what He has promised? He has not failed me yet, nor will He.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You Ought to be in Pictures!

Yesterday was the big day for the commercial and photo shoot for the 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.  The organizers asked us to be at the studio (in Hollywood) between 8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Having lived in LA in the past, I knew traffic could be pretty bad. I left my house at 5:30 a.m. It wasn't too difficult-I'm an early riser, and they were going to be doing my hair/makeup. I just made sure my crazy, curly locks weren't sticking out before I left.

I got to the studio right on time. It was on Sunset Boulevard-right smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. I used to live in LA, not far from Hollywood during law school. I didn't think I would get excited, but I'll admit that it was a bit thrilling!  I pulled into the small lot and a man asked me what shoot I was there for. He told me to pull my car onto this ramp thing that would eventually elevate my car so they could park another car underneath. The ramp was at a 45 degree angle. I drive a Honda Odyseey minivan. I tried, but knew there was no way I would do it successfully. I'm a bad parker, remember? He offered to do it for me if I left my keys. As I got out of the car, another man came up and offered to detail my car for $20 while I was at the studio. I checked my wallet and told him I didn't have any cash. He said a check would be okay. He was really nice, assuring me that he was legit and I could ask "Brandon" to check him out. Sure, why not? My car has never been detailed and $20 was a screaming deal.

In the parking lot, I recognized a couple that I had seen at the auditions in La Jolla. The wife was obviously in chemo, since she was bald. The three of us went in together and were met by very friendly people. They led us through the studio rooms and up to the green room. They had a breakfast spread all out for us. In the green room, I recognized a lady named Marcy, whom I had also met down at the auditions. I helped myself to some breakfast and sat down. One of the women working on the commercial made a comment about how she felt she already knew us. They had been watching our audition tapes!  They said this was the largest cast they had ever had-17 of us.  

After more of my fellow cast members showed up, the director came up and introduced himself. Then he took us on a tour of the studio and briefed us on what we would be doing that day. First, was wardrobe. It was just a little curtained off area-almost like the triage in an emergency room. Directly across from wardrobe was the hair/makeup station. They had two artists there to work on us. Then there was the studio where they would be taping us. He said in the morning, they would be doing interviews where he would be getting us to talk about our stories and say certain things, but in our own words. In the afternoon, they were going to get a little more "Hollywood" and have the camera mounted on a train track and have it move around us. Then he led us into another room where our still shots would be taken.

Well, we had PLENTY of time to get to know one another. As they got started, they would call a person or two at a time to go to wardrobe/hair/makeup. Then they would tape their interview, get a tattoo on their cheek and then be sent to photography. So I waited. And waited. And waited. It wasn't a waste though, I met some really amazing people throughout the morning. Women that I had an instant bond with. Who understood the little things. Like hot flashes in the night with a bald head. Hat on/hat off/hat on/hat off. Or like not being able to hold your baby after surgery. Or the fears that we aren't really done with it at all. A few women had their daughters with them. There were two married couples. Everyone had a story, and we had plenty of time to get to know them.  Most everyone there had already done the walk before. I think I was one of only two first-time walkers. We got advice from the veterans and heard about how the walk was. All in all, it was a lot of fun getting to know everyone. It made me pretty excited for the walk next month.

 By lunchtime, I still had not been called, nor had a handful of others. We decided since the caterer had set out food, to eat. It was so yummy! They had a wonderful salad with all kinds of good veggies in it, grilled veggies, chicken picatta, a mushroom ravioli, and a beef dish I didn't get to.  They really fed us well!

After lunch, we continued to wait. Others had already filmed and done still shots. About 5 of us still were in the state as we where when we arrived. At one point, one of the workers came and asked who drove up from San Diego. He had us put our name on an envelope, and then handed us a smaller envelope. There was $140 in it. Yeah! That will definitely pay for the gas, and then some. None of us were expecting to get anything out of it, so we were pretty delighted.

Finally, I heard my name! I had to scramble to give my iPhone to someone to take a "before" shot of me. Geez....with all of the wait time, you'd think I would have taken care of that before!  I grabbed the bag that had my foobies in it and left the green room.

Before wardrobe/hair/makeup
Getting made up

Another survivor and I made our way down the ramp to wardrobe. They had already decided what we were to wear. There was a rack of clothes with a picture of each person on a hanger with a top already on it. (The pictures were dreadful!) I was a bit dismayed to see a plain grey T-shirt on mine. The other lady was also disappointed. Her top was light pink, a color she did not think suited her.  My grey shirt was actually from the Gap. They added a pink running ribbon on it to make it look more "Komen-y."  I decided to wear the foobies since the plain grey T-shirt tended to the masculine side. It looked too boyish with me being flat. What was worse was the pants. They needed everyone in grey, since black pants made everyone look like they had no legs at all against the black background. She handed me a pair of long sweat pants that turned out to be too baggy. I asked if they had a smaller size, but since we were nearing the end of the wardrobing, there wasn't much choice. Besides, she said they were only going to be shooting from the waist up.
In the end, I was okay with the grey shirt. Pink tends to make me look more flushed, and after makeup, I think they grey was just fine.
Before the photo shoot

Makeup was fun. I just sat there and followed directions. Close your eyes, open them, look at me, look down. Easy enough! I was a bit bummed she didn't try to do anything with my hair. Some of the ladies with longer hair got a neat style job. She just sprayed it a bit and said I was done.

After that, I took a seat on the couch downstairs along with my new survivor friend Michelle. She was in the same situation as me. We hadn't done anything, and by now, some people were completely done and being told they could go home. By now it was around 3 p.m. We were wondering if they weren't going to be doing interviews with us, since it was our understanding that in the afternoon they were going to be doing the moving camera thing. Whatever, I figured. I could do everything and then have it all end up on the cutting room floor. Besides, I had the same "experience" of the day that everyone else had, and nothing could take that away.

Michelle and I were told to go for the photo shoot. We sat on a couch and looked through a binder of photographs that presumably had been done at the studio. Quite an impressive collection! Lots of magazine covers, lots of celebrities had been here doing just what we were about to do.

Pretty soon, I was told to go in. The photographer asked me my name and put it onto his laptop. Then he led me over to the area where he would be taking the pictures.  This part was fun. I didn't have to say anything. He would tell me to look a certain way, cross my arms, smile, etc. One of the hardest things was when he would say "look proud." For that, I just imagined myself beating cancer. Literally, physically punching it in the face. Conquering it and moving on. Take that!

After the photos, I went back and sat on the couch to wait for my turn for video.  By then, another new friend, Nancy, had come down. We sat there and sent friend requests to each other on Facebook while we waited. Nancy wasn't too pleased about her hot pink polo shirt they had her in. (She really did look good, though!)   As we waited, we said "see you later" to another set of new friends-Tom and Jennifer. They were the couple that I had seen in the parking lot. They are newlyweds. She was diagnosed a few weeks before their wedding last Spring. As Tom put it, reception place cards didn't seem so important after that!

Then I was called. I went into the area where there was the camera mounted on a train track.  The wardrobe lady followed me in and tweaked my T-shirt. Sure enough, they weren't going to be asking me for my "story." Oh well.  Two camera guys and the director climbed on the moving contraption. I was told to stand on some tape outlined like feet on the ground and look ahead at an "X" on the curtain in front of me.  I was supposed to look ahead the whole time, but shift my focus from either the "X" ahead of me, or the camera lens as it rolled in front of me. He said we were trying to capture the spirit of the 3-Day. The movement of thousands of people coming together for a cause. As they filmed, he would feed me lines and have me repeat them. He would have me say things in different voice tones. Soft, louder, to almost shouting. Some of the lines were:  "Together we will end breast cancer forever";  "Join us" "It's a movement of thousands" "Join us so no one has to go through what I went through." "What I went through." It really kind of fun, but sometimes I had to fight off smiling. After all, I was supposed to be this tough, driven person.

Pretty soon, it was over. I was probably doing it for about 10 minutes. I got hugs from the director and a lady from Komen that organized it all and was told I could go home. I went back into the waiting area, changed back into my own pants (they let us keep the tops), and said "see you later" to everyone. Most everyone there will be walking in San Diego next month.

I found my car, which looked fabulous. I went back inside and gave the lady at the reception desk money for the car detailer. I later felt bad that I didn't give him a huge tip. $20 to detail a van is a gift. But I was stressed about the traffic getting home and didn't think about it.  That guy blessed me, to be sure. He did his good deed for the day.

The commercials are supposed to start airing on January 1. They will run on TV as well as be used for the promotional material on the 3-Day website. It will be interesting to see how they put it all together.  One guy told us they would send us the ad before it ran. I can't wait to see it. It will be even more impacting to me, since now I know so many of the personal stories of the women who are in the ads.  I sure hope they leave a snippet of me in. But even if they don't, it is going to be good because the cast was an amazing set of people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

They want me!

It had been nearly two weeks since my audition for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day commercial. From what I understand, it is going to be a national commercial to promote the 3-Day walk in 2012. (Even though they are not through the 2011 season, they are taking registrations for 2012.)  When they first e-mailed, that they had mentioned that they were going to be filming sometime next week. Not having heard from them, I figured that they had not chosen me. Oh well, easy come, easy go, right?

Today while I was waiting to pick Olivier up at the middle school, I checked my e-mail on my iPhone. There was a message from the Komen representative in all caps:

I called right away and left a message. My opinion of the results began to change, needless to say. After all, I figured they wouldn't be contacting me if it were bad news. A couple hours later, while I was in a girl scout meeting with Isabelle, she called back. 
They chose me for the commercial! 

How fun is that going to be!?  She is going to send me a mail with more information, but this is what I know as of now: 
  • The shoot is next Wednesday, October 19th. Wait a minute, I can hear some of my Facebook friends and family thinking. Isn't that Jean-Marc's hernia surgery date? Well, it was. But the surgeon was a bit concerned about his runny nose. I called Kaiser and was able to move the surgery back just one week. (His surgery date happens to be my birthday now). It will give him time to get over this cold, so that should be okay. The surgeon did not seem to think it was urgent. If that's not the case, they'll let me know.
  • The filming will be up in Hollywood. Gower studios on Sunset Boulevard. 
  • They will be providing professional hair and makeup. Yippee!! I'm curious to know what they will do with this mop of curly, funny hair!  
  • They will be "taking care" of me as soon as we get there and she assured me that it was going to be a great experience. Breakfast, lunch, and anything else we may need.  They will reimburse me mileage. Eric's first question was, "Do you get paid?" Sheesh. I didn't even think to ask.  To me, that is not really the point. But, I digress...
  • She said if I had any Komen pink wear to wear it, but if not, they have plenty of things to wear. She asked me what size I was in tops and pants. I didn't think to mention it, but my shirt size changes depending on whether or not I wear my foobies. Hmm.  Now I have a decision to make. To wear or not to wear? I didn't wear them for the casting call.  At least I can take them on and off...they are portable! I can always stick them in my bag if I decide not to wear them!
It should be a fun experience. I don't know how many others were chosen from the casting call. I will need to arrange things a bit with Eric as far as getting the kids to and from school. We haven't discussed that part yet. Hopefully he won't mind too much having to step into my driving shoes for a day!  I'm sure I'll have a lot to blog about after next Wedensday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

It was that time....

It had been 6 months since I last saw my oncologist, Dr. P.  I made the appointment a few weeks ago and since then have been anxiously awaiting today's date. 

It is so easy to psych yourself out about recurrence. Every little ache, pain, twitch or sensation sends your right into the "what if" zone.  I've had a little stitch in my right side off and on for the past few weeks. Is it just something from working out?  You know, a sore muscle or a stitch like when you are running? I wouldn't say it causes me pain, but it was something I noticed. Is that what Dr. P meant 6 months ago when he said to come back if I felt pain?  Should I tell him about it? Or maybe just not mention it, and hope it was nothing?  Oh the bliss of being like an ostrich with my head buried in the sand. But what if it was something and I didn't say anything. In 6 months it would be much worse, right? But then again, any recurrence for me means that I've gone to stage IV, which is incurable. Would 6 months really make a difference?

All these things were swirling around my head today as I waited in the exam room in the oncology department at Kaiser. The place where on the wall there is a folder for hospice referrals and information. I did my best to read my Kindle and keep my mind off of these questions as I waited.

Dr. P came in. Except for a new beard, he looked pretty much the same. His nurse had asked me at the intake if I exercised. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is a standard question? Or perhaps my blood pressure indicated something? (I'm hoping in a good way)  Anyway, had told her that I exercised 6 days a week. She asked me for how long each time. Gosh, that's pretty hard to say. Training for the 3 day means 3+ hours of walking some days. I told her on average 1 1/2 -2 hours a day. That's a fair estimate. So when Dr. P came in, he mentioned that I was good and active.  We chatted a bit about the 3 Day, and I told him about my goal of a half marathon in January.  I asked if he would order a Vitamin D test, which he entered into the computer on the spot. (Have I mentioned I love Kaiser's electronic medical records?) 

He asked if my periods had stopped. Yep. Haven't had one of those since a year ago September.  In another year or so, he said we would do some blood work to make sure my ovaries were no longer producing estrogen and if that was the case, switch me from Tamoxifen to another drug that has even better outcomes in preventing recurrence. Sounds good to me.  ( A little voice in my head is saying...can we just take out the ovaries and switch me now?? I'm only half joking when I say that!)

He did the typical exam. He checked the lymph nodes in my neck, listened to my breathing, my heart, and pressed around a bit on my abdomen. He said everything looked good.  I still had not mentioned anything about that pain sensation in my side. I asked him what I should be looking out for. His quick response was, "a long and happy life." Yeah, okay. You bet. But in the pain department, what should I be concerned about?

His answer was that pain was usually in the central torso region. In the back of the ribs, or sometimes in the hips. I described to him what I was feeling. It was out! Would I regret this? He asked me a few questions. Does it come and go? Yes. Does it slow you down? No. In fact, sometimes I think it may just be a muscle cramp. But, you know, I'm a "survivor" so I am paranoid.  In the end, he told me he was not concerned about it. If I wanted to have some blood work done (liver function, CBC), he would order it.  Since I was already going to get poked for the Vitamin D, why not?  So I'm off in about an hour in between picking kids up at the middle school and elementary school to get some blood drawn.

You'd think that I would be relieved after all of this. In a way, I am. I was honest with the doc about what I had been feeling, and it did not raise any concerns for him. I won't have to go back and do this for another 6 months.  But I still have bouts of the "what ifs."  Perhaps with time that will ease.

When I do have those moments of terror (and sometimes they ARE terrifying, especially in the middle of the night when there is nothing to distract me from my own thoughts), I try to remember something very simple. Or actually, someone. Jesus. I am instantly calmed. One night a few weeks ago, in fact, I actually had this running back and forth dialogue with the evil voice in my head that was freaking me out. It was almost like those cartoons with the little angel on one shoulder, and the devil on the other.  A hot flash had woken me up. The bad voice would say something like, "Cancer" or "Recurrence" and an image of me wasting away in front of my kids would pop into my head. My heart skipped a few beats, my breathing got rapid, and continued to sweat. (The hot flash had gotten me started). Then the good voice (which I believe was the Holy Spirit) would say simply, "JESUS." I would feel calm, protected, and loved. Then right afterwards, the bad voice would say it again. Then the Spirit would again reply, JESUS.  This went on for several minutes. Talk about a spiritual battle! 

I must always remember that my life is in His hands. Only He knows the number of my days. Being anxious and nervous does nothing to add to them. In fact, it diminishes the quality of life that I do have.  My job is to trust in Him. That gets easier to do as I reflect on how much He has actually been with me throughout my life, and particularly on this chapter of it.

May you feel the love of Christ in your life today!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Making Strides

Last year, I participated in the American Cancer Society's event, "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer."  With everyone's support, I managed to become a "pacesetter" and raise $2,000 for this organization. I'm hoping this can happen again.

39 other survivors and ME on the field
During some of the scariest times of my cancer journey, the American Cancer Society (ACS) was there. They matched me up with a mentor/survivor who called me before my surgery and chemotherapy. It was so helpful to talk to someone who had been there, done that. They also provided me with numerous little support pillows that were a huge help to me after surgery. I don't know how I would have ridden in the car or slept through the night without those pillows.  If I had needed a ride to treatment, they would have provided it. I so appreciate the help this organization gave to me at a very difficult time.  They also provided me a very bright spot in the middle of chemo by allowing me to participate in the pre-game program last October 24th when the San Diego Chargers played the New England Patriots in the NFL's "A Crucial Catch."  I was 2 days out of my 4th round of chemotherapy that day.

Participating in this annual event is a way for me to give back. I know I have already solicited the world on behalf of the breast cancer cause with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. If you have already donated this year, I thank you. Don't feel obligated.  However, I know there are folks out there who would prefer to donate to organizations other than Komen for various reasons. Here is your chance. :-) 

Just click on this link and donate to your heart's content.

Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Under attack!

I'm going to be speaking at a women's ministry breakfast later this month at my church, Calvary Chapel of Escondido. (October 22nd for you locals).  I've known about the event for some time, but had been putting off preparing for it. Of course, that started to stress me out when October 1 rolled around.  Last week, I sat down and started to think about what I would share.

One reason for putting it off, frankly, was that I knew it would force me to go back and re-live the past 18 months. I also was afraid that I wouldn't have anything to say. I didn't want to sound lame, you know?

The first day I worked on it, I was very anxious. Re-living June 2010 just added to my sporadic bouts of paranoia about recurrence. It definitely put me into a funk.  But as I continued to work on it, my mood changed. Initially, it was because I was making progress and it reassured me that I wouldn't be doing it right before the event.  Not only was my talk taking shape, but I could see how it was going to go beyond just my testimony. I have a message and an exhortation that I want to give as well.  Besides, I've never been much of a procrastinator. But it went deeper than that. Going back and looking at this blog and re-living it in a compressed period of time was actually helpful to me. I could see how present God was throughout the whole thing.  Living it day by day it was easy to miss HIM in the whole thing.  How the Lord would send me a Word at the right time to help me get through. I actually began to enjoy working on my talk.  It also helped calm my paranoid anxiety about recurrence. God is in control!  I just needed to be reminded of that.Things were going along just great.

Several things have cropped up since last weekend that I feel like are part of an attack by the enemy.

  • First off, my foot. It still is giving me trouble. I did a 6 1/2 mile training walk earlier this week, and by the end, I was feeling it. Yesterday in bible study, we were talking about pride and how it says all over the bible that pride will bring you down. I realized that not taking time off of the walking training was a form of pride for myself. I could boast about how far I walked, regardless of an injury. That was just going to make it worse if I kept it up. So I decided to take a week off of the walking training. I'm still able to do low-impact things at the gym (bike, elliptical, etc). So I'll keep working out. But I want to give my foot a rest. But it has been a source of anxiety for me. I need for it to heal so I can walk in the 3-Day!
  • Secondly, Jean-Marc has an inguinal hernia. He had one as an infant, so when I saw the tell tale bulge on Sunday night, I knew right away what it was. We went into the pediatrician on Monday and, sure enough, I was right. We have an appointment to see the pediatric surgeon down at Zion next week. I'm not looking forward to this at all. We've been through it, so I know what to expect. But now he will be asking questions, wanting to eat the morning of the procedure, and I dread the moment when I have to leave him alone with the nurses and doctors. Not so much for me, but I know he will be scared. On top of all of that, I'll be back in the pre-op area of Kaiser. Last time I was there was for my mastectomy in July 2010.I know the sights, smells, and sounds will trigger stuff for me. I'm not looking forward to that.
  • Finally, in the middle of the night, I awoke with a pain in the middle of my back. I got up at 3 a.m. and tried to strech, but nothing helped. I took 3 Advil and laid flat on my back. Fortunately, I was able to get back to sleep. But the pain was pretty bad. Of course, that sent my brain into, "Oh my gosh...what if it is a recurrence and I have cancer in my bones?"  Being in the dead of night didn't help any. It was still bad this morning. I called my chiropractor and was able to get in first thing this morning. I was a little fearful of going in, becuase I could just hear him say that from his point of view, nothing was wrong. (Hence, the cancer was back.)  But I went in anyway. As it turns out, I have a muscle in my back that is all inflamed and spasm-y. They ultrasounded it, which felt good. Then he adjusted me and advised that I continue with the anti-inflammatories. That should be good for my foot as well. I'm glad that its not cancer, but it still hurts. 
  • I go back to see my oncologist, Dr. P, on Monday. It's my first 6 month check up. I'm a little nervous about it.  Its just adding to the anxiety. 
I know that I should be anxious about nothing. This morning, I prayed that verse from Phillipians. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests be made known to God, and the peace that passes understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Anxiety is a common battle for me these days. To have all these other anxiety-producing things going on, it just feels like these are the arrows of the enemy. Aiming at my peace. Aiming at my faith. Seeking to kill and destroy me if I let them. Seeking to distract me from what I know is true. Perhaps even to derail me from the course I'm taking with my talk later this month.

In any event, I'm glad I recognized all of this for what it is. As I should have done all along, now when I have a momentary freak out, I can just look to the Lord. He will provide me with strength to get through it, as well as the peace that passes understanding.

I appreciate your prayers on all these fronts!