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 forget...my 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,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy two months Lansing!!

Here's a couple pics of my little one...I cannot believe he's two months old!

Peace & Love,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Round Twelve

Hi there,
Today mom and I went for my twelfth chemo treatment.  We started our weekly ritual by leaving the baby boy with my dad for their "boy bonding day" and mom and I headed to breakfast.  Afterwards we get a HUGE fountain diet Mt. Dew and head to the treatment center.  Today was an unusual day at the facility, typically the 15 chairs are filled with patients and their guests end up standing around their loved one or sitting on the tiny tables next to each recliner us patients sit in while getting our IVs.  My poor mom has resorted to bringing a "butt pad" to sit on one those days because it's a long day to have to sit on a tiny table that's meant for a drink and maybe a snack.  I hate when she has to do that...Today there were only 5 other patients max and I received my treatment in under 4 hours! And mom got to sit in a recliner alongside of me for the entirety!  My white blood counts were lower than usual so they reduced my taxol amounts by a fraction and I got the good ole booster shot that hurts like 10 bee stings but all in all the day was a success, mom and I got to chat about our favorite reality shows we are addicted to and laugh until our bellies hurt...our chemo treat is a small bag of jelly bellies (kid mix).  Post baby, we've been trying not to bring a smorgasbord of candy and treats to help with getting this baby weight off, so we've reduced to a proportioned snack bag and healthy treats.  Hilarious how we are getting this date day to chemo down to a science with only a month left.  I LOVE these days with my mom.  She somehow makes me forget what we are doing and where we are and I can laugh and enjoy my day with my mom.  It's this support that keeps me going, keeps me sane and most of all, happy.  Thank you Mom, you are the best mom a girl could ask for.  Because we got out of chemo early I was able to hang out with my parents for a little while afterwards (usually I race home so that I am at home with the baby before the symptoms start to come on).  I had an awesome surprise when I got to see both my sister Tess and brother Ross!  I hardly ever get to see them and for it to be on the dreaded chemo day was an added plus!  I also got a phone call from my brother Wade while at treatment!

After getting home I started to feel like crap pretty quickly.  I'm so tired and weak.  The shoulder pain is always quick to start, but my toes are starting to ache pretty bad...sounds petty, but when you are trying to relax and if I'm lucky, sleep, this is the most annoying pain in the world.  I'm thinking if I can keep my focus on other things (like writing this blog) I can forget the physical pain.  Like I said yesterday, I'm losing my patience and tolerance of going through this.  I read in the beginning of receiving treatment in some brochure they have lying around at the treatment facility that people have a tough time with chemo in their last weeks of treatment for several reasons, one: the treatment has a cumulative affect, two: (which was surprising to me) because people get exhausted both physically and mentally with the process.  I had imagined that when you get close to the finish line you would get the endorphins to see it through, but I'm learning otherwise.  It's okay, thank god for my husband, baby, immediate family and friends that keep me happy when I'm with them.  Also, we just invested in Netflix and I'm loving it!  I had no idea there was soooo much on there.  Did I mention I've become a total TV junkie (which I HATE) but there is a lot of time to pass these days and I have to find some way to deal with it.  If you don't have Netflix, definitely worth checking it out.  Another awesome distraction I have these days are two of my dear friends are getting married!!!! Brooke and Lauren!!  I get to help them search for decor ideas, dresses, jewelry (my very favorite) while Lansing is sleeping.  I don't get to be with either of them as much as I want to be, so this is my way of feeling a part of their experience and help them in a way that is conducive to my unpredictable life..hope it's helping anyway ;0)

I have a shout out I'd like to give to my BF Leslie, she is giving a presentation on Friday at the Stock Piling Moms conference about crafting and how to get started.  For many of us Pinterest has been such an awesome tool to get creative and get ideas how to do pretty much anything that you want, but in a way that may be a tad (or a lot) better than what you may have come up with on your own.  Leslie is teaching women how to do this and to show you that's it's not impossible for even those who feel craft-inclined to make fabulous crafts for your home, nursery, clothing, hosting a party, etc. while on a budget.   Check out their blogs at: Leslie's: www.jarofvintagebuttons.blogspot.com & www.stockpilingmoms.com.

Hope to keep up with the daily posts so that I can keep track of this experience.  Even though it's not always as cheerful as I'd like for it to be, I feel a ton of weight lifted off my shoulders after writing.  I am getting my need to be creative again which I'm soooo happy about.  I even made my girlfriend Jess a pair of earrings for her birthday, something that I haven't been able to do for months!  Things are slowly moving in the right direction.

Peace & Love,

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 2012

Hi there,
It's been awhile since I've had a chance to really sit and think on what has happened over the last 6 weeks.  I am a full blown mommy in every sense of the word and loving every moment of it.  I can't believe how much Lansing grows and changes every single day.  It's amazing to watch his awareness of his environment enhance...to watch him smile more frequently, see his little arms and legs move vigorously as he coos and looks around the room, and to see him notice the pups for the first time, all of it is priceless.  He loves to sit in our lap and look over our head to stare at a painting on the wall above our couch.  Robert and I wonder what it is that he sees and to think about how that single painting must change for him each day.  I'm sure every parent wonders what it is our little ones are thinking about, dreaming about, experiencing at each moment.  It's one of the biggest thrills of being a mommy.  Lansing is getting more active and getting better at showing us his likes and dislikes, although that too changes rather quickly.  One day he doesn't like his swing, the next day he'll only be happy in his swing.  It's so neat to watch this little being grow into his own person in such a short amount of time.  I can tell he is already familiar and very comfortable with his Grammy's and Grampa G.  I love when they say, "yes that's your mommy, but I'm over here."  I never dreamt that we would all be vying for the attention of this little 9 pound boy who carries all of our hearts in this tiny little hand.  Lansing, you will never know the joy and hope you have given to all of us.  Without you, my world wouldn't be as bright as it is and I would never have the strength I do to carry on with the perseverance that I have.  I'm truly the luckiest woman in the world and wouldn't change one second of it.

As for chemo, I've been receiving treatments on a weekly basis.  Wednesdays are dooms day, but I'm getting through it. Only 5 weeks left.  I've been receiving a booster shot (what I call it anyway) that boosts my immune system/white blood count to ensure I can stay on schedule with my treatments each week.  The shot causes flu like symptoms and makes my bones ache the first couple days after treatment.  I pretty much stay feeling tired, cranky, and nauseous.  I'll be glad when this is all over.  I'm starting to lose my numbness to the grind of it all.  For a long time I just went through the motions doing what I was told trusting it was the best and only option for me.  Now, I still trust it's the best and only option for me but I'm tired of being sick and tired.  I hope when this is all said and done I bounce back very quickly so that I can begin living a full life again.  I feel like a prisoner in my own life and taking care of my little one is my only, wonderful, distraction.  I am losing my patience with myself too.  I think being pregnant I was easier on myself with the things that I didn't like or would make me uneasy because it was for the greater good "to ensure I had a healthy baby."  Now that Lansing is here, I'm not too easy on myself.  I hate having this weight to lose (that won't budge while getting chemo) and although my hair is starting to grow and fill in, it's not fast enough for me.  I'm thinking that if I lay out my feelings, I'll recognize how foolish I'm being and put things back into perspective.  It pains me to feel like I don't recognize the person in the mirror and am not totally sure I'll ever see that person again.  I just wish I could so that I have the second chance to be much nicer to that girl...I was always so harsh and critical of myself.  I know I'm not the only one, we all do these things to ourselves.  But take it from me, until you lose things about yourself that are out of control, only then do you really start to appreciate what you had.  Unfortunately it's true, you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone...I'm going to do better from now on.

I use this forum to vent and in my mind I pretend I'm the only one who will ever read this but the reality is, I hope others do read this and can in some way relate to me and take away something that will add positivity to their lives.  If you are reading this, I ask of you one thing, please ensure you are giving yourself regular breast exams or getting your annual mammograms and urge your loved ones to do the same.  In the last 2 weeks someone very dear to me discovered they too have triple negative breast cancer, stage 1 (thank god).  It was only through the mammogram that she was able to find the cancer and treat it immediately.  We all know someone who has suffered from this stupid, retched disease, so please help you or a loved one catch it early and fight it!

Peace & love,