Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mesothelioma Cancer Awareness Day

Hello loved ones,
I have been contacted by Emily Walsh, the Community Outreach Director for a cancer organization known as the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.  Today is Mesothelioma Cancer Awareness Day and sadly, I was unaware of this type of cancer before being contacted by Emily.  With families each day learning heart wrenching news that cancer has entered their lives in one way or another or are celebrating the defeat of the horrible disease, I felt this blog was a great way to raise awareness to a type of cancer that is all around us but little known.  If you could take a minute to read the attached blog to educate yourself and your loved ones about the 8 things you should know about Mesothelioma and spread the word, it would be a wonderful gesture and push to help those who are in need.

As always....
Peace & Love,


8 Things You Should Know About Mesothelioma

8 Facts About MesotheliomaMesothelioma -- a long word you may have heard on a commercial or two, but do you know what it means? This rare and deadly cancer is sadly lacking awareness. In honor of Mesothelioma Awareness Day this September 26, read on for the top 8 things you don’t know about this cancer, but should. Then share them. The key to saving lives starts with education.

1. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is invisible to the naked eye. Once inhaled, these fibers may infect the protective lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, or cardiac cavity.
2. No amount of exposure is safe. Just exposing yourself once could put you at risk for developing the disease later on in life. If you were exposed today, you may not be aware until 2043, as the average latency period is about 30 – 40 years.
3. Asbestos was once used in more than 3,000 consumer products. These include household items, some of which may still be in use. Some of these even include hair dryers, crock pots, and cigarette filters.
4. It can be found in many older homes, schools, factories, and commercial buildings. Homes built prior to the 1970’s, along with a myriad of public buildings still could potentially contain asbestos because of the materials used in the original construction.
5. Asbestos exposure is still the LEADING CAUSE of occupational cancer in the US. Even after 30 years since the United States government issued stern warnings about the continued use of asbestos, many workers who were once exposed are now at risk of developing the disease.
6. United States Veterans are at the greatest risk. For many years, asbestos was used across all branches of the military. Many veterans and shipyard workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos from several different applications. US Navy veterans who served during World War II and the Korean Conflict unfortunately have the highest incidences of asbestos related disease, including mesothelioma.
7. Asbestos is still not banned in the US. Federal law requires the newly manufactured products contain no more than 1% asbestos. Although its use is regulated, roughly 30 million pounds are still being used each year.
8. Mesothelioma can be caused by secondary exposure. Family members of those who were directly affected by on-the-job asbestos exposure may also at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Want to do something to help this Mesothelioma Awareness Day? Our friend and 7 year survivor, Heather Von St. James, needs your help. Check out her campaign and share her message to help educate and save lives. Be a voice for the victims.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

For Lansing

I wrote this to you when you were just 9 weeks old.  Today you are 7 months.

My sweet boy Lansing,
I have to tell you that you have only been in my life for 9 weeks but you have made me and your daddy the happiest two people in the world.  You literally made me see the beauty in every aspect of life.  Your smile lights up my world!  Every little sound you make, whether it's puckering your little lips, sneezing, or cooing, I can't get enough.  When you fall asleep on my chest, I stay as still as possible hoping you'll want to stay in that position forever.  I never thought I'd get to have this experience with you and now all I think about is that I get to spend every day with you for the rest of my life and it puts the biggest smile on my face and makes my heart skip a beat.  I truly believe you saved my life.  You are so incredibly strong and you have no idea yet, but what you had to endure while in the womb, no baby should have to go through.  But somehow, you arrived save and sound, and happy.  I'm so thankful for you and love you more than there are words.  You are my little angel.

Cancer-free! Ring in the New Year!

I just found this post that I had saved as a draft several months's very late but definitely need to send the love, so here it is.  

Hi there,
Baby Lansing you are almost 5 months are getting so big.  You grew 4 inches in just 2 months! You went from the 37th percentile in height to 79th percentile in height in just 2 months.  I know this isn't important to you, but for your mommy, this is HUGE, exhilarating news!  You are so big, strong and HAPPY that it makes my heart soar.  I'm ever so grateful to have you in my life.  I never could have imagined of having a love so strong and to be so thankful for someone...I still have to pinch myself that we made it to this point.

As for the other aspects of my life, it's that time of year that we all feel the need to express our gratitude, but this year more than ever before I have to extend my thankfulness to all my family and friends that carried me through the last 8 months.  I'm getting excited for 2013, I'm looking at it as a total new beginning for myself.  Thank you to each of you special, lovely loved ones that stood by me through thick and thin.  Trust me, I'm over this whole thing, I know you have to be thank you for always sending that text message, leaving that voicemail, sending that dinner, and most importantly for your time to just sit with me and talk.  I'll never, ever forget any of it.  THANK YOU!

It's been a long time since I've been on here, but it's been a month since I've had my double mastectomy.  It's not something that I thought I wanted to share with the "world" per say, but again, this is for my son and if I can help another person, this is my purpose....The fantastic news is that I had what they call a "complete response" to the chemotherapy...therefore, once the tissue was removed, the tumor was hardly noticeable and the lymph nodes removed were clean! I'm officially cancer free my friends!  Obviously, this is the most wonderful news in the world, but I'll be honest with the fact that I EXPECTED those while sedated in the hospital room and my doctor calling me to wish me a happy thanksgiving with the delightful news, I didn't feel that sense of relief I think my husband and parents felt because I KNEW this was what was supposed to happen...otherwise, what was this hell for?  I just want to say, yet again, that taking health for granted at such a young age is something I would have never understood prior to this experience.  I was gifted with about 10 days of feeling strong enough to carry my son and go to the grocery store, get coffee with a friend, or take a walk if I wanted to...something I haven't been able to do in the first 3 & 1/2 months of his life and then to have a surgery that incapacitated me in the sense that I couldn't even hold my child for 3 weeks was the most devastating thing I'll ever, ever experience.  I think I'm finally dealing with the realness of this situation and that I am a cancer patient.  For so long, I focused on my child...please protect my son, etc., etc., it's all about ME! I don't deal well with that.  Anyhow, I'm passed the hump and seeing the light each day. This was my first week back to being full-time mommy...I'm doing more and trying to get into a routine with Lansing, but we must improvise because I'm right handed and that's the side where the surgery was most invasive.  So by the time 5pm hits, I'm counting the minutes until my husband gets home to relieve me...I'm usually strained and swollen by that point and just resting up for nightly duties.  Any new mom will tell you that as soon as you think you have your babe figured out, they change.  But to have to struggle to keep up physically is a whole new dynamic I wasn't anticipating.  All in all, just grateful for the experience. If it wasn't for this crappy cancer, I wouldn't be home with my beautiful son to watch him grow each day.  There aren't only downsides to this disease (at least that's what I tell myself).

My biggest concern throughout this process is to REMEMBER...simply remember and never take a single moment for granted.  Life is seriously too short...keep your heads held high, be confident and follow that dream that you aren't letting yourself follow.  I'm going to promise to do the same.  Merry Christmas to everyone and thank you for all your love and support...I wouldn't have made it to this point without you....I mean that.

Peace & love,
First Halloween!

4 Months old!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lansing Pics

Lansing watching the Presidential Debate 2012

Rockstar Lansing...I picked up Lansing from Grammy's and he was rockin a faux hawk...hilarious!  This is what happens when your mom is a hairdresser :0)

Lansing's baby Bengal swag..Who Dey!

Round 16...FINAL treatment first hurdle down.

Hi there,
Today was my 16th and final chemo treatment.  It has been a day full of every emotion possible.  I woke up with adrenaline running through my body with a childlike excitement.  All I could think is, this is it! How is today October 3rd? The day I have been looking forward to for almost 6 months. A day that seemed so far off into the distance that I wasn't sure it would ever get here. Today is the last time my Wednesday will be consumed with being hooked up to an IV receiving a cocktail that will make me ill and having the distinct reminder that I have cancer.  Today is also the last day that I will get to see the fellow patients who are also in my shoes, fighting this same fight.  Sharing in our first moments of learning the terrible news and how we felt and where we are today, how many treatments are left, what's next...complaining about how crappy food tastes and the aches and pains that only we understand, giving each other props for getting the damn shot that hurts so bad without flinching... how we manage our daily lives, work for some, me having a newborn at home, sick relatives, etc.  Having to pretend that I'm a tough cookie that doesn't mind the sticks, pokes, blood and IV bags that really make me so queasy that inside I want to scream or giggle to the point I'm out of control because I HATE it! The last time I will chat with the wonderful nurses who are so incredible, I will truly miss them...Jenna, Peggy, Debbie, Karyn, Deana thank you for taking such good care of me.  To the sweet ladies working the front desk and taking my vitals and CBCs, scheduling my many appointments every week, I will miss you!  Thank you to my wonderful Doctor Brian Mannion for making me better and for being patient with me. The last time, I will get to have my weekly rituals with my mom.  A day spent eating all the jelly bellies I want.  The last day I will have to put the smile on my face and act like my new "job" is getting chemotherapy. I actually said to my mom at breakfast, "when we get finished with work can we stop by Kohl's?" I guess it has been my way of making the treatment a priority and responsibility, yet again taking the emotion out of it. But all in all, I DID IT! I'm so proud of myself for putting one foot in front of the other and making it through the hardest thing I will ever have to do. Ever.  I'm so grateful to my family and friends for your support.  Without my husband, mom, dad, Lansing, siblings, family and friends I couldn't have done way could I have done this without your constant love and support, prayers, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  Thank you just doesn't seem like enough.  THANK YOU!

Because it was my last day, I did expect everything to be a smooth as possible.  Last week my numbers (blood counts) were the best they've been and I didn't even have to get the nepogen shot (immunity booster), by numbers were lower than they've ever been and I had to get the shot and go back tomorrow for another one.  It's been really difficult the last week. I can tell my body is more tired than I've ever felt before.  I feel sick, consistently, good days weren't such a thing last week, so with these dumb shots (although I know the purpose is good) make me feel terrible and I've never had to do two back to back.  I guess it wouldn't be right to go out without a bang right?  So now I have to recover, get back to being ME! Healthy me.  Next up, double mastectomy.  Not scheduled yet, will be before the end of year for certain, but that's all I know for now.  As much as I want to scream from my rooftop that I am a tough ass and completed 16 rounds of chemo while pregnant, I am scared out of my mind that it's over. I'm terrified I'm going to turn into this freak who is worried every second of every day that it's going to come back.  It's the strangest thing that while you are getting treatment you have this comfort that you are kicking the cancer, but once it's finished, you're out there on your own. The sane, practical part of my brain knows that I have an excellent team of oncologists that are going to see me through this for the rest of my life, but the irrational, scared little girl is thinking otherwise.  I'll get through this, it's just strange to me that I'm feeling the whole array of emotions today.  I can't even tell you how many times since I've been home today that I've broke out in tears, happy tears I think.  Tears of relief, tears of fear....maybe it's just the release of me hypothetically holding my breathe for what feels like an eternity.  Whatever it is, it's finished...I'm done.  I've finished my first MAJOR phase of kicking cancer's ass and it feels good....real good.

Here's to Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Cheers! There's so many articles, tv shows, walks, products supporting the cause.  It's really comforting to see all the pink and awareness especially during this time. One thing that I read last night explained that doing the typical "formal" breast exam isn't necessary BUT you should KNOW and be familiar with the physical anatomy of your breast, your body in general.  If you know yourself, you'll know if and when something requires your attention and to seek help from a doctor.  Please love yourself, know yourself and take care of yourself!

Peace & Love,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cancer knocking at our door...again.

I've had several eye openers lately in a time when I would think not much else could shock or shake me but never say never I've learned. Several weeks ago while hooked up to my IV getting my chemo treatment, my mom's cell phone rang (who was sitting on a stool beside me) she answered the phone call, my grama was on the other line. The conversation was short but one that I'll never grama too has been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. I'll never forget that moment. I can't get over the idea of my mom sitting beside her daughter receiving chemo and getting a phone call from her mother with the same diagnosis. That just shouldn't happen.

Fast forward three weeks, my grama has had a successful lumpectomy and a clear pathology report and will receive radiation...she will have this nasty chapter behind her very soon thank god!  Both my grama and I are going to continue the genetic testing (beyond the usual genetic test to check for breast and ovarian cancer genes which we both tested negative for).  My grama has received documentation from her genetic counselor that the women in her family (daughters, grand-daughters) need to begin mammograms at 20 years old.  I'm so relieved to have this in writing to help with my sister and cousins to get in front of this nasty disease so that we can continue healthy beautiful lives together.  As we receive results to our genetic tests, I'll make sure to post, again to keep track of this process, and hopefully another family will be able to take something positive away from our experience.  But most importantly, this makes me so strongly urge every woman to continue monthly self exams and to please urge your loved ones to make sure they are doing the same.  For those who are of age, please don't forget your mammograms regularly. This stupid stupid cancer is unbelievable and can so quickly creep into anyone's life in a moment, please don't take your health for granted.  If you feel this doesn't apply to you, think of someone so dear to your heart and do it for them!

Below is part of a letter I sent to my grama and grampa.  I realize this is very personal, but I want to document this experience and to be as real as possible so that I can always remember these moments.  This experience to me is so prominent in my recovery, and I want my son to know how much my grandparents have always meant to me, taught me and encouraged me.

I love you grama & grampa and thank you for letting me share your story.  You are my inspiration.

You are the most beautiful (inside and out), strong, determined woman I know.  Grampa has told me on several occasions throughout my life that I look like you...I can't tell you how much of a compliment that is to me because not only do I think you are so beautiful, but I know how much Grampa thinks you are, so to me, that compliment meant the world to me and still does.  To be compared to you in any respect is something that I take much pride in.  My mom has these characteristics that I've described for you and it's because you and Grampa instilled these qualities in her and I'm so thankful she instilled the strength in me.  It's because of your strengths that you will rise above and conquer this Grama.  You will come out even stronger in the end.  I have admired you my whole life.  You have a way about you that when you walk into a room you light it up just by your presence alone and you put a smile on the face of someone just by talking to them.  Your laugh is so contagious and is something I recognize in a room full of people and remember your laugh from when I was a tiny little girl.  Robert has told me that I have your laugh and I love it!  In fact, Robert has told me that my laugh is one of the things that drew his attention to me all those years ago when we first met. 
I'm describing you in the way that I see you because for one, I should have told you all these things many years ago just because (and I'm sorry that I didn't) but I need to tell you that I think you have been faced with this to help others see what a truly happy person is like and to learn from you.  When you begin receiving treatments you are in situations where you meet so many different people all dealing with so many different challenges and unfortunately most of them don't look at life the way we do.  They choose to be negative and focus on the problems or challenges they are faced with instead of being grateful for all the things they can control and continue to enjoy their lives and all the beauty within it. I believe with all my heart that you have been placed in this situation so that people can see you and Grampa and the beautiful love you have for one another, your beautiful outlook on life and I know you will inspire these people you encounter to be like you and to be happy...truly happy.  I believe this inner happiness is what makes people healthy on the inside.   Let's face it, some people won't get to come out on the other side healthy, but if we can help them to enjoy this life that we are given, no matter how long or short of a time we have left, it's all worth it.  I don't want you to feel pressured by what I'm saying to you, I just want you to know that by you just being yourself and for the other patients to just be in your presence, it will inspire them.

Peace & Love,

Anniversary Celebration with Friends

Hi there,
This past weekend was spent celebrating with good friends their 10 year anniversary and mine and Robert's four year wedding anniversary and 15 years together!  It's crazy to me that this year marks the time that my life now has been spent more with Robert than without.  I guess this phenomenon is not so crazy for those who are high school sweethearts, but for me, it helps me to put into perspective just why we are best friends and why we seem to overcome the bumps that life throws our way.  As crazy as this year has been, it's been the worst yet best year of my life.  I've been given the opportunity to look at my life and really appreciate all that I've been given and even through this awful process dealing with cancer (I almost wrote c-word but I want to own it), I've been given the chance to take advantage of telling friends and family I love them when maybe I wouldn't have before or squeeze a tighter hug when before I would have felt stupid.  Life has a funny of way of making things work themselves out, but I can tell you what may have felt like a simple day out with friends and my husband was one of the best days I've had in soooooo long.  I needed it to my core.  I needed to just breathe the fresh air, laugh and do something I've never done before....all which were accomplished this Saturday.  So before sharing some fun pictures of our great day out, I want to thank Jen and Eric for letting us celebrate with them on their very special day and for allowing Robert and I to celebrate with them!

Elk Creek Winery & Shooting Clay Pigeons
Robert & Me 
Jen, Brooke, me & Jess

Take us to Belterra! 
Eric & Jen, Me & Robert, Jess & Matt, Brooke & Chad

Peace & Love,