This is Me!

This is Me! The good, the bad, and the bald. You get it all! But I have hair now. This spring I'll be rockin the pixie.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Choice

I love to walk beside the ocean and breathe in the fresh air, (unless it's low tide and I am near Birch Bay Village... just saying. Sorry Village People) I love to hike and feel like I am going places and enjoying beautiful trees, mountains and looking out over large bodies of sparkling water. And as you know, I love to run. I don't love the training phase so much, but hear me on this. I am not talking about the interval season where I have to start over and feel like I will never be able to just enjoy a good run. I am talking about the kind of run where I can lube up my feet, put on my cool socks and running sneaks, shimmy into my running skirt which helps to make the look official (not to mention I feel faster when I wear it), and to secure by whatever means necessary the unruly sisters so that there is no, I repeat NO movement, and head out to just enjoy the run because it feels good. Recently I have noticed however, that several of my favorite hikes, walks, and runs all start with a lovely downhill slope. This makes me feel strong and active and good. I can totally do this, chemo or not. I am out moving and exercising and it feels great. And yet on the way back, guess what is always waiting for me on the home stretch... the unavoidable incline. It's always there. Some days I am aware it's there and I enjoy the challenge. I can power through with some extra huffing and puffing and get it done. I feel strong. Other days it feels like work and it burns, but I got it. Then there are "those" days. You know, one of those days where the coffee has run out, the toast you just took a bite of is mildewing, you lost your car keys, and you should have stayed in bed or at last on the couch with a good reliable book kinda days. Some days, I head out thinking "This really is so good for me and I really need the exercise and I will feel so much better when I am done." Then I begin to approach the hill. I would rather not have to go up this hill today. I would like to go around this hard spot not up it. Maybe someone will come pick me up and I can pass jail and go directly to "Go" and collect the $200. But I can't. Not if I want to get back to my car. Sometimes I stop and look around to see what my options are. Funny thing... they don't ever change just cause I want them to. Turning my back on the path back home doesn't make it disappear... it's just temporarily out of my field of vision. And while at that moment, it might feel like a relief, it is not reality. So I turn back around, and move forward. I might be moving a bit slower, but I am moving.

 I am a cancer survivor/fighter. And I realized that for me, being a cancer survivor doesn't mean that I am assured that my cancer will never come back and my future health and wellness journey is a weedless path that is guaranteed to be all downhill, beside the ocean, at sunset, with no low tides. It means that as I walk along the path that is my life, the way in front of me may unexpectedly and without warning wash out at the precise moment that I step forward again . This requires another shift in plans. It means I may end up on another detour that I didn't even realize was there and I have a choice. I can become toxic and poison to all those around me with the the negativity of my circumstances or I can live the day that I am given and do it with a smile on my face. I have made the choice to actively move forward regardless of the hill called cancer that looms in front of me. Chemo is cumulative and each week, recovery is harder and takes longer, and each week I have to choose to walk that route or not. That's what makes me a survivor. Choosing to move forward when it seems like such a long road. I make the choice because it is what my medical team feels is best for me and God has given me peace to trust their decisions. I make the choice cause I have 4 incredible kids, (not to mention all the other amazing kids and young adults in my cheering section). I make this choice because I am afraid not to and this feels like the right direction to go. I make this choice because it is part of pressing on and running the race that is set before me to attain the prize. Who knew my race would be more like doing hurdles in a dress with high heels (I hate hurdles btw).

 My weekly trip to the spa was again made special by a dear friend who brought a bag of pedicure supplies. I sat there taking in my chemo, while my girlfriend gave me a great looking pedi. It was so thoughtful and I have gotten lots of compliments. Going to chemo weekly, for several hours at a time is a drag. The after effects of the drugs are exhausting and wearing, and sometimes quite painful. In spite of these mosquito bite like frustrations, my friends have found ways to make these weekly trips not only tolerable but fun! It is precious time with great friends that is sometimes hard to come by. I am down to 4 more chemo treatments. After that I will have daily radiation for the max treatments which is 7 weeks and a Herceptin infusion every 3 weeks for the next year. Yes, I did say the next year. The good news is that the side effects from the Herceptin should be minimal, the unfortunate news is that's not the end. I am still looking at a few surgeries. Some optional, some not. And then there will be several years of another drug which can be a little tricky. But that is not today. Today is sunny. There's a light breeze and I get to enjoy it. My lips are not so ducky, which is great contrary to the facebook craze of duck pose photos. Tomorrow, I get to go sit with a friend while she has her final infusion of chemo. Again, these are not paths I would have voluntarily sought out to walk and yet there is so much unexpected beauty along the way. Thank you to friends and families that have supported us recently through the garage sale and the walk a thon. With all the trips into town for all the different appointments, I feel like I have a new job.... but I sure don't remember applying for this position.

  James 1:2-4 
 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Feeling Blessed

It's hard to describe how I felt throughout the walk. We walked and walked and kept on walking. And I met so many amazing people, Michele, Pam, Kim, Sheridan, and others who are fighting or who are survivors. I had people come to find me to offer encouragement and received some really special gifts. As you know, I was concerned about how I would feel.  Well I have to say, as we approach the end, the overwhelming emotion is thankfulness.  Thankfulness that I am here and able to participate as a survivor and that my journey continues for now. 

Thanks Jim and Chris for letting us join your team.  I'm lookin forward to next year, even if my feet aren't. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bellingham Relay For Life - We Walk For...

I am a little nervous about the walk tonight... not because I am afraid I won't feel well, or because I think my feet might hurt. And not because I haven't been training or am grossly out of shape. I am nervous about how I will feel. I am afraid I won't be able to control how I feel about this whole ugly word. CANCER! It takes so much from so many. It is no respecter of color, money, status, family, or faith. It doesn't care how far I run, how much broccoli I eat or how healthy I try to stay. And so I am nervous that people may witness my emotions in a raw state and that feels scary. Way too much "feeling" for me I think, and yet there is a time and a place for everything, and I am grateful to be a survivor and so I will walk.

I am also excited! Excited because I am a fighter and I am looking forward to walking with other fighters. I have the strength to put on my comfy socks and tie up my running shoes. I have the courage to put a cap on my newly shaven shiny bald head and go join with the others. I have the endurance to walk along side those who walk with and for me, and for those who are unable. I have a heart that understands how this encourages those who are still in the battle, strengthens those who have lost loved ones to the disease, and gives purpose to those who want to make a difference.

 Tonight I walk for John Knighten, Mike Spooner, Mike Smith and all others who fought until they could fight no longer.

 I walk for the ones who continue to battle and for those who have fought and are now cancer free - Holly, Linda, Cyrus, Mike, Stephanie, Diana, Vonnie, Mel, Wendy, Rachel, Gwen, Denise, Laurel, Pam, Martha, Reese, and Ashley. Cancer reaches out it's ugly hand and touches us all.

 Smack it back by remembering your loved ones and fellow fighters with me. Please add any name that you know of that should be included into the comments.

 Cancer Sucks!!!, but we FIGHT BACK!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

Well, it's 6/12, on the 50 yard line, 50%, half a dozen down, glass half full, and running the home stretch time for this gal. I just completed treatment number, yep you guessed it, 6. I guess if you want to get really technical and count the first 4 nasty ones, then this is 10 of 16. That sounds even better. How do I feel? Well, some days I feel good. Some, I can manage if I take it easy, and some days I am very tired and have very little energy. And then there are days like Sunday when I just want to go back to bed and hide my funny lookin cancer fighten self. I woke up with a horrible outbreak of oral herpes. I didn't even realize before this year that there was a type of Herpes you could get with out being really naughty. Sheesh! How embarrassing. Just one of the many fun side effects of chemo and mine seems to be a constant during these treatments. My lips were sooooo swollen. This is where you all chime in and say.... "How swollen were they?" They were so swollen I looked like I had been hit in the mouth repeatedly and then had a 3 year old do my lips stick in bright red, or like I had gotten a bee sting with even swelling all the way around, or I paid way to much for a really bad Botox job to achieve the very popular duck look. It felt like I rubbed Habenaros on my lips instead of chap stick. So I think you get the idea. I was pretty miserable. It was one of those days were I looked in the mirror and for a moment, I saw myself as truly sick. Bald head, thinning eyebrows, missing eye lashes, plumpy cheeks (and everything else) from steroids, and flaming red fat lips. Not very attractive. As badly as I wanted to go into hiding for the day, I chose not to. I had company here and I had some playing to do. So, I picked myself up by the bootstraps, got out the concealer, the eyeliner, and a cute hat and we headed out to the beach. Once I set aside how I was feeling about how I looked and just dealt with the burning skin I had a good day.

 I do have to share a funny story. My 3 nieces came to visit this last weekend. They got here late at night so the youngest pretty much went to bed. The next morning I went in to see all the girls, laying in a heap and watching a movie. The 3 year old looks up and with wide eyes and clear disturbance in her voice she says, "Whoa! You don't have any hair!" The look on her face was to die for. It was so funny. We were all laughing. We proceeded into my closet to look at my "hair" choices. She had me try them all on and then picked the one that had braids attached. It was pretty cute. She still wasn't too sure about me, and that stung a little in all honesty. I didn't want her to be afraid of me, so the fact that she wanted to help pick a head covering was an improvement. The next day I had on a different wig and about half way through the day, she walks up and says, "Aunt Tami, I like your hair." Bingo! We were good the rest of the time. She still seemed confused by how I could have hair one minute and then be bald at night time again. So confusing. And while no Blizzards were enjoyed this weekend, Edaleen's seemed to do an excellent job of filling in. We all got waffle cones smashed full with giant scoop of delicious, cold creamy ice cream. I even shared my ice cream with this spunky little punkin of a niece, who had already devoured her own.

 There is a part of me that thinks yay, only 6 more treatments to go before radiation begins! And really this is great news. But then there is another part of me that realizes that also means summer will be winking goodbye and the warm days of fighting this disease and healing and enjoying the sun with the kids will come to an end. I know that must sound silly, but I hate wishing away this precious time with them for any reason. So I am enjoying this summer in a completely different and unexpected way with an appreciation for each and everyday, including the rainy ones that simply water my garden and ask me to rest inside. The gift we are given each morning to wake up and live is priceless. I don't want to squander it away wishing it would pass me by.

 A dear friend from high school just said good bye to her husband - a hero to his family and community, and a persistent and fierce cancer fighter for the last three years. Please pray for her and their three daughters as they begin to navigate life without their husband/father. I pray God would fill in the gaps and be everything to each of them and that they would feel his presence.

A friend of a friend just lost her son of 24 unexpectedly. Please pray for the family as they grieve this sudden loss and prepare to say a final good bye.

  2 Corinthians 12:9
 "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. " So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mammograms, Ultrasounds, Biopsies.... Oh My!

Life, as we all know, is a journey. We have a plethora of choices along the way including how we react to what goes on around us and what is happening to us. No one should make these decisions for us. Friends can give input, spouses offer their suggestions, and loved ones can give advice based on personal experience, but ultimately, it is our job to take all of these offerings, consider them based on our own beliefs and make a decision for ourselves. It doesn't guarantee that all choices will be easy. I find it to be quite the opposite sometimes and yet there are times when I know without a doubt that a specific action is what is required of me. Boy I sure wish there were more of the moments of feeling certain. At this point in my pink journey, I have had a mammogram, ultrasounds, a biopsy, CAT scans, MRI's, bone scans, echocardiograms, an adequate lumpectomy and 9 lymph nodes removed, a port installed, 4 rounds of AC chemo, and 5 infusions of Taxol and Herceptin .... for all my HomeConnection buddies, hear me when I shout, I am now "Highly Qualified" to give a few pointers to anyone who may be chosen to follow in my size 10 footsteps. I will try to keep them shorter and easily identifiable. Always feel free to contact me with questions regarding anything I post. I love me a good question. Any tip or suggestion I post has been run through my oncologist and medical team. These aren't my attempts to discover a new method to treat symptoms rather they are things that have worked for me. 1 I will start with the lecture on getting your mammograms. GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS! There you have it! Go get your mammogram!!! Need I say more? Yes, I do need to say more, because really you should begin this process even earlier by constantly groping yourself in the shower. Get very familiar with what normal is for you and your breast tissue. Not all tissue is created equally. Believe me I know. I was fortunate to discover the lump myself, called the doctor and then, the whole process began. Self exams are easy and don't have to be official. Just get in there and get squishin! This is a great way to stay on top of things and be proactive. All women should have a mammogram when they turn 40 and if you have a family history, then get yourself in for the boob sandwich even earlier. It is really not nearly as bad as you have heard from your crazy drama queen friends. Yes, I am talking about "her". We all have one. One that describes the common cold as a near death experience. And "if" it is a horrible experience and they find nothing, great! The worst is over and you have gained some peace of mind. "If" they find something then, good, you now know there is an issue that needs a little more of your undivided attention. Now you can deal with it by scheduling the next steps. And as hard as this is to do, try not to worry about things. The waiting can be one of the hardest parts. Find a good distraction to pass the time, like Blizzards. You didn't really think there would be a post where Blizzards didn't get brought up did you? The next step following an abnormal mammogram is often an ultrasound. The best advice I can give here is do NOT attempt to read either the images on the screen or the technicians face. Instead, take some deep breaths and look for your own pictures in the ink blots on the screen. Who knows you might see the Eiffel Tower, the Great Sphinx, or Michael Jackson! Attempting to self diagnose really isn't helpful. Suck it up and wait til the Dr. gets in to tell you what they see. If this comes back abnormal, you may be asked to have a biopsy. This sounded scary to me because I didn't understand the procedure. They use a small needle to numb up the area before entering with a very tiny probe. The end of the probe has a little slice and dice pie cutter and takes a small wedge of tissue. It can be a bit bothersome when you hear the crunch of the little probe, but actually it is fast and minimally painful. I felt more of a pressure than any real pain. They give you a cute little round ice pack. Keep it!. It is a great size for everything. Keep the ice compress on for a little while and you'll be back to business in no time. Again, the most difficult part of these procedures is the waiting. Keep doing the things you enjoy. Process information as it comes and not before. Ask for help when you need it. Gather strength from your friends and family and stay in the game.