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 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!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Audition Day

About a week ago, I got an e-mail from the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure. They were looking for individuals who were interested in being cast for commercials for the 2012 3-Day for the Cure. In particular, they were looking for survivors with children, survivors who had recently completed treatment, or husbands of survivors who were going to be walking.

I replied, since I fit 2 of the 3 categories. I sent them a quick, one-paragraph background about myself, along with the picture that is at the right of this blog.

A couple days later, I learned that they wanted me to appear in person for an "audition."  That took place this morning. I wasn't nervous. If this happens, it will be fun. If it doesn't, its no big deal. The meeting was in La Jolla, about 40 minutes away. They had scheduled potential cast members every 10 minutes all morning. My slot was at 10:50 a.m.  I did this on purpose, so I would have time to get in a short training walk this morning!

I was in a bit of a quandary about what to wear. I didn't want to look like I had dressed up.  I wanted to look like myself. Casual, not dressy. In the end, I wore the pink San Diego Charger T-shirt I got last fall from the American Cancer Society when I went to the Charger game and participated in the NFL's "Crucial Catch" awareness program. It says "SURVIVOR" on the back.  Along with some black capri pants, I thought that was a good look.

When I walked into the building, I saw a group of 3 women. Two of the three were in pink. I figured I was in the right place. It was pretty amazing. I walked up to them, and it was like we had known each other forever. The two women in pink were also survivors.  One woman had already done her audition, the other was scheduled for after me. As we talked, I learned she was a middle school P.E. teacher and an almost 5 year survivor. We talked about how epidemic breast cancer seems to be. This lady even had a student IN MIDDLE SCHOOL diagnosed with breast cancer! 

Anyway, as people came out of the audition room, she would ask them if they cried. Most of them said yes. I thought to myself...uh-oh. I don't *think* I will lose it in a room full of strangers. But maybe? One woman walked out with her daughter, who wore a shirt that said, "Fight Like a Girl."  Hmm.  Maybe I should have brought my kids?  As it was, I had a couple of pictures of them.

As I went into the room, the guy who came to get me drew my attention to a paper taped to the wall with 4 phrases on them. I was supposed to pick one, memorize it, and be ready to say it during my audition. I chose a short one: "You can do this."   The room was dark. There was a screen with a small stool in front of it that was for me. There were lights, and a camera set up on a table. There was the camera man, then two women at the table he was at. Closer to me on another stool was a lady who was going to ask me questions.

She asked me why I was doing the 3 Day.  I was able to talk about how last year I was in chemo and made doing the 3 Day a goal of mine. She dug deeper. But why that? There are lots of things you could do. I confessed it was the physical challenge. Especially at a time when I was being weakened physically.  She asked if I had kids. I talked about how hard the process was on them, how they are survivors too.  The closest I got to crying was when I told them about when we told the kids about my diagnosis. Isabelle had donated her hair to "Locks of Love" a few months before. The first thing she said after she found out about my diagnosis was, "I want my hair to go to you."  They thought that showed what a sensitive girl she was.  We talked a bit more about how cancer affected our family.  They asked me if I was excited about the 3 Day. I really am.  Training has been very time consuming, but being around other survivors this morning was really neat. To imagine being around thousands at the same time all weekend is going to be really awesome.

Then they asked me to say my chosen line into the camera.

"You can do this."

Then she said, "Say it like you are talking just to one person."

"You can do this."

Then they asked me to say, "I will never give up."

Easy! "I will never give up."

It was a fun experience. We'll see if anything comes of it. If I am chosen, I'll have to go up to LA in a couple weeks to shoot the commercial. If not, I'll save some gas!