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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

ourpaths

As a woman who endured breast cancer many moons ago, October or Pinktober becomes one of those pink, swashed in your face reminders of all that happened to us.  Maybe for you it doesn’t, but for those of us with a long history, it’s a stark reminder for an entire month.

I don’t often share that I endured breast cancer because my medical past isn’t obvious.  Well, maybe it’s obvious in certain situations, but for the most part, you’d never know if you met me on the street or in the grocery store unless I shared that bit of information with you.  I’m grateful for that now.  The bald tell-tale sign or the hairless eyebrows and lack of eyelashes aren’t there anymore.

It’s been a long time since I was diagnosed and I’m grateful to still be here to help others who walk this path.  If you want to read more, just type breast cancer in the search button on my blog and you will see that I’ve written about it over the years.  I learned much from my experience with breast cancer that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had the disease.  Endurance, strength, compassion, kindness, faith and connections have helped to enrich my life and my will to survive other obstacles that have arrived at my doorstep.  While I would have never chosen to endure this disease, I am grateful for surviving it and for the ample opportunities for insight and growth that came from it.

While it hasn’t come back with a vengeance, the threat continues as I live out the rest of my life.  However, most of the time it is pushed to the back of my mind where it belongs.  I am vigilant in my checkups and as any cancer survivor knows, I spend a few nervous days after they test my blood, waiting to see if my tumor markers have decided to go wacky and scare me.  In the past they have, which brought fear to the forefront again in my life, but luckily for me, they were false positives.

I can’t say that same experience happened for many friends and acquaintances of mine.  Sadly, many of them lost their battle to the disease as it metastasized to different areas in the body.  Survivors guilt after bonding with others saddens me.  The question of why I am spared and they are not, continues to be a mystery.  In honoring their sweet memories, I try to live the best life I can, for I know how quickly life can change.

I am an alumni of a club to which I never wished to belong.  But in this club, I have found warm, loving people who are united in ways that others may never fully understand.  To this day, I still help other women who are enduring breast cancer.  I know that for me, it helped when someone else understood the night time terror thoughts or the twinges of pain that we knew weren’t normal.  It helped to receive a sisterly embrace from someone who ‘got it’ and who willingly connected with me.  So I give back when I can.  I pass along the compassionate connections which were offered to me and greatly appreciated.

In honor of those who lost their battle to breast cancer, to those who are currently in the throes of cancer’s siege on their body and to those who, like me, are labeled survivors, I send up my prayers today.  My prayer is that we live on in the hearts of our loved ones and that someday, sooner rather than later, the cure will be given to all who need it.

God Bless.

Shine On!

xo

 

 

 

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Dahlia Trademark

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When I saw the Daily Prompt Trademark, I knew I had to write about it.  My trademark for a long time (if there can be such a thing for a simple blog) has been a pink dahlia which a friend took a photo of and then allowed me to use.

Why?  Because pink is the ‘color’ for breast cancer awareness and I love flowers!  Easy peasy answer!  Also, there’s something warm and inviting about the petals in a dahlia.  For me, it looks like they are reaching out in all directions for connections and you know, that’s what I love to do – to connect!

It’s just like the Shine On! xo that I use to end my posts.  Maybe that’s a trademark too?  I began using that awhile back.  It just seemed to evolve as my blog has as well.  I like it because it makes me smile and I hope it makes you smile too!

How about your trademark?

I’d love to hear why you use what you do in your blog as well!

Shine On!

xo

Find The Sunshine

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Breast cancer Awareness month is ending and I want to end it on a positive note for those who have endured the disease, for the family members who have witnessed their loved ones’ trials and tribulations and for those who have passed away.

Breast cancer took away much from my life mentally, physically and emotionally.  But the experience gave me even more than I ever expected possible.  I’m not making light of the hellish experiences those of us with the disease have endured or the worry and caretaking that our families gave to us during those hard times.

For me, it showed me so much insight that I would not be the woman I am today if I hadn’t endured the disease.  Even though I wish I could have never endured what I did or the fall out that changed my life forever and changed my relationships eventually, I stand firm in not regretting the experience.

I cannot blame my breast cancer for my divorce, but I can say that it put undue strain on our marriage.  How could it not?  But I will forever be grateful to my ex-husband for the love and support he gave to me during those hard times.  Part of the reason I am here was because he believed in me and that was a precious gift for which I am ever grateful.

Breast cancer opened doors for me into learning.  It gave me the platform which has blossomed into The Presents of Presence for in the beginning I felt driven to help other women to find the grace in the experience.  My spirituality soared afterwards and continues to grow with each passing day.

There is always a new dawn and with that sunshine comes possibility, hope and renewal.  Putting the past behind us, we can face the new day with glory, gratitude and happiness.  I know that some days it feels impossible to be upbeat because with breast cancer there are surgeries, recovery, chemotherapy, radiation and a plethora of other painful reminders of the reality of enduring the disease.  But what keeps me going is the knowledge that every day is another chance to live life to the best of my ability, to shine my heartlight and to connect with all who cross my path.

Shine On!

xo

Enduring Breast Cancer Survivor

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This may be a controversial post, I’m just warning you.  Maybe not, depending on how you view what I feel.  I’m a breast cancer survivor although I abhor the badge survivor.  Yes, I survived breast cancer and have for almost 16 years, but I am not one of those who go to the Pinktober or Breast Cancer Walks with pink frilly enthusiasm.  It’s just not me.

I think it’s nice that people unite for those walks to raise money for research, but in the sixteen years since I was diagnosed, there have been a few strides, but not many.  So where’s the funding going?

There are thousands of items bedazzled with the pink ribbon during Breast Cancer Awareness month that are for sale.  While I appreciate it, I also feel the superficiality of it.  For enduring breast cancer isn’t all pink ribbons.

It’s grueling surgeries, treatments and fear-induced sleepless nights.  Like all life threatening situations, it requires bravery to face our inevitable death, with the threat of it coming too soon.  I was 34 years old when I was diagnosed out of the blue, having found an M&M sized lump in my breast.  Complete shock overtook me on that New Year’s Eve in 2001 when the diagnosis was delivered.

Fast forward to 2017 after having endured countless surgeries, chemotherapy (ACT) and radiation, not to mention a double mastectomy, two implant replacements and then a radical replacement of my breasts with my own fat tissue instead of implants because my body kept rejecting them, I’ve been through the ringer like many people have in my situation.  I’ve lost my hair, been in menopause since 2003 and aged faster than my friends because of the illness.  I have lingering effects from the cancer which include chronic fatigue which I battle daily.  The funny thing about the chronic fatigue is that most people just don’t understand what I experience because I look normal (or as normal as possible).  But that’s a whole different post.

However, the word survivor when applied to my breast cancer experience sticks in my craw.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I merit the word survivor.  Victims of the Holocaust merit the word survivor, people who survived horrendous experiences merit the word survivor in my book.  But for me, no.

Me, I endured breast cancer.  While its aftereffects still play a role in my daily life, I am gratefully still here.  Sure, I have had more threats to my health than I can count anymore.  I am tested routinely due to other complications and I have endured countless uncomfortable tests and more sleepless nights than I want to remember.

The term survivor to me is having lived through something awful and to be able to go on afterwards.  Maybe that’s how some people feel about their diagnosis in the breast cancer world.  For me, it’s not a been there, done that, wear the pink sparkly t-shirt and smile.  It’s still enduring the illness in whatever shape and form it reemerges.

The Presents of Presence emerged from my journey with breast cancer.  In being present with my feelings, acknowledging the gifts in this moment and in taking the time to be mindful, spiritual and experiencing all that presence allows, is how I live my life now.  I am still a work in progress.  I thank you for reading my post today, for holding my hand when needed, for your kindness and connections and for showing your heartlight as a beacon of hope for others.

Shine On!

xo

 

 

I Won’t Back Down – A Survivor’s Song

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A few years ago, I wrote this post about my friend Jenn with whom I endured chemotherapy when we both had breast cancer.  Jenn lost her battle with the disease as you can read here.

October always reminds me of her smile and fighting spirit.  Her anthem was Tom Petty’s song, I Won’t Back Down, so I thought it was fitting on so many levels to pay a tribute to her during Breast Cancer Awareness month and to Tom Petty who passed away yesterday and even to those who lost their lives at the concert in Las Vegas.

I’m crying this morning for so many reasons.  I’ve been listening to Tom Petty’s song for Jenn and for everyone else.  The grief is real on so many levels for me.

Hold your loved ones close today.  Love with your whole heart everyday.  Be strong and stand up to evil.  Show kindness to all with whom you meet.  You never know what type of battle we are silently enduring.  Keep your heartlight lit for all to see.  You are a vital part of this world.

Shine On!

xo

Recipe for Enduring Breast Cancer

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In order to survive Breast Cancer (and any other illness, tragedy, trauma) it’s necessary to collect all of your essential ingredients in order to endure the situation at hand.  A great dose of support is also needed as back up when your ingredients run low and you need a refill.  A quick jog to the store won’t suffice.  You need a team, a village, to count on and that’s where the internet, blogs, websites and support groups can wield a mighty sword to help you combat your ills.

A hefty dose of the above helps:

Hope

Strength

Power

Belief

Courage

Honor

Determination

In addition to a heavy handed sprinkling of

Humor, Love, Presence and Support.

Which is all fine and good as words, but how do you go about stockpiling these main ingredients when you’ve just been blindsided by your diagnosis and news?  I wish I could say it is easy, but it’s not.  That’s where your determination comes in.  You have to set your own mind to believing that you have the courage, the strength, the hope, and the inner power to endure.

You have all of this inside ~ you simply have to tap into it.  You must do the work.  There’s no way around it.  It is your mind that needs to have its power harnessed to heal your life.  Humor, love, presence and support may come from the outside from which you can receive the stores from others.  But you my friend, must believe that you are ready and worthy to battle and must prepare your mind, heart and soul to overcome the obstacles that are placed before you.

So how do you do this?  You harness your mind by feeding it positive thinking.  You eradicate negativity from your life, like removing rose petals from a rose, you gently pluck the negative thoughts from your heart and in place, you add the essence of the rose ~ the inner beauty and strength that comes from a rose simply being a rose.

Is this making any sense to you?  Do you need concrete examples?  Are you thinking I’m too pie in the sky for you?  Too Pollyanna and yippy skippy?  Not down to Earth enough?

Watch for it.  In the meantime, you need to get yourself ready.  Enjoy this day.  Get outside and look up to the sky.  Breathe.  Take 3 minutes to just listen to the wind, feel the earth under your feet and reconnect with nature.  Find a bit of inner and outer peace in being present.  You don’t have to do it for long.   Just feel the peace.

I’m holding  your hand.  You’ve got a friend in me.  Take your time.  Allow the grief and the healing to come to you and welcome it with your arms open wide.  You can do this!

Shine On!

xo

Tips to Survive MRI Breast Scan From Someone Who Knows

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It’s hard enough to have questionable health issues, but to endure testing to find out the results is an added necessary burden.  Have you ever had an MRI?  You can have them for all different health problems.  I have endured MRI’s for brain and breast scans, neither of which are fun.  But then, no test is fun, there I said it.  I feel for you.  I’ve been there.  I don’t know what’s harder, the test itself, the wait time for the answer or the dealing with whatever the result is.

But below are a few tips that may help you or a loved one in case you need an MRI, in no particular order:

You can’t have any metal on you when you are in the MRI machine.  Watches must come off because they will be stopped by the machine.  You can probably keep your gold jewelry on, but the technician may tell you to take it all off and put it in your locker where your clothes are because you’ve changed into that fashionable hospital gown.  You know the one, right?  Lucky for us, they will probably give you two like they gave me.  First one opens in the front, second opens in the back so there’s no peek-a-boo affect!  Oh-la-la!

Go to the bathroom right before you have the procedure.  Remember how your Mom told to you to go pee-pee before you left the house?  Well, you will be in the MRI machine, not able to move for a bit so better to try to go again before you get strapped down for at least 30 minutes.  Because, it’s so uncomfortable to have to resist the urge to stop an MRI because you need to go.  You know how it is, if you need to go and you are strapped into a loud cranky machine and aren’t allowed to move, your mind will fill up with thoughts of the bathroom and it will be hard to stay calm and not move.  And you can’t just get up, run to the potty and finish the test.  Nope, you have to stay there, from start to finish in the same position.

When they put you in the machine, you will be asked to NOT MOVE for the entire time.  So make sure you are as comfortable as humanly possible before the professional leaves the room.  I’ve had MRI’s where I had to be in a certain position that was very uncomfortable in order to have the test.  Sometimes you just have to be in that position no matter what, but occasionally, you can have the position adjusted BEFORE the test begins.  The key here is BEFORE because you can’t change position once it starts.  It never hurts to ask.

Make sure they give you earplugs ~ the machine clanks LOUDLY and you are in a tube which makes the sound reverberate.  Earplugs don’t seem to help, but it’s even worse when you don’t have them.  Years ago, they didn’t give you earplugs and it felt deafening to be in the machine.

TELL the professional if you are a claustrophobic.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!  Some tests will allow a relaxing medicine (prescription from your doctor before you go to the MRI) to be taken 30 minutes prior to help with the phobia and there are cases in which you can request an OPEN MRI which would help immensely if you are indeed claustrophobic.

For the breast scans, I have gone by myself before and since I know what to expect, it’s not as bad.  Ok, it’s not great either.  Breast scans have the patient laying face down (like the photo above) so you can see nothing except the sheet that covers the platform on which you are laying.  Your arms are above your head so that the radiologist can see your breasts.  I will tell you that for me, it is terribly uncomfortable to have my right side that way.  In fact, my back muscles went into spasm once and I called to the technician.  She came in and helped me to reposition myself and made sure I was still in position for the best possible test results, but I was able to have my arm oustretched to get into the machine and then under her supervision, was able to bend my arm against the machine so that it was comfortable once I was fully in the machine.  It made a world of difference for me.

The object here to get the test done in the shortest amount of time with the best results while you are as comfortable as possible.  To get all 3 pieces is a huge win-win.  Your technician is a big help in this because they want you to have a good experience and they need to get the job done. 

Working together is key here.

You are not alone in the MRI machine.  You have a ball in your hand to squeeze in case you need help and your technician (who is in the next room) will respond.  There is also an audio whereby you can hear the technician tell you what to expect  ~ test for 8 minutes, the contrast is now starting, etc. and you can respond verbally as well.

You can have an MRI with and without contrast.  Without getting too technical, with contrast means that you will have an IV inserted before you go into the MRI machine room.  Once you are settled into position in the machine, the technician will connect your IV to the contrast for use later as the first set of MRI images will be without the contrast.

My advice is to drink water before you go to the test and to drink water afterwards to flush your system of the contrast.  Drinking water before hydrates you (hence take the potty break right before) and allows your veins to be nice and plump so that the IV is inserted quickly, easily and pretty painlessly.  If you don’t hydrate, then it’s harder to find a good vein, the prick hurts more and veins can get blown, which means you have to get stuck again in a different vein.  That, my friends, is never fun and I’ve had a ton of experience with that piece.

When the technician tells you the contrast is coming, you will feel it in your veins.  You may have felt something already, a little bit of cold fluid which is the saline solution to make sure that all flows properly.  You will know the contrast is entering your veins because you will taste a metallic ink in your mouth and may even feel a warmth in your body.  You may even feel like you’ve (ahem) peed yourself (for lack of a better term), but don’t worry.  It’s simply the sensation because remember, you’ve already gone potty before you got into the machine.  Once the contrast is delivered, the machine will clank again as it repeats the same imaging as before, only this time with the contrast in your body.

So what do you do while you are waiting for the whole episode to be over?  It’s loud in the machine and time for me, feels like it stops completely.  I have tried to sing songs to myself ~ made up rap songs to the rat-a-tat-tat of the clanking machine ~ I’ve tried to find a mantra to say along with the rhythmic clanging ~ I can do this…I am healthy…All is well…God please be with me…etc.  I have tried to pray the rosary even, but as my mind has a hard time focusing I only almost prayed 2 mysteries.  But perhaps you’ll find something to do to make the time go by easier.

I have had techs who have been diligent in telling me, “Ok, this test is for 8 minutes…now this one is for 10” and so on…and I have had others whom I thought had left the building as I hardly ever heard from them so I guess it’s just the luck of the draw.  My favorite line from any of them has always been, “Ok, the test is over.  Stay still, I’m coming in,” as I drew a huge sigh of relief that it was over.

I’ve been woozy afterwards with all of the fears now over, the test now over and I am now having to stand up after being face down for 45 minutes.  Take your time.  If you feel light-headed, TELL the professional as if you faint, the EMS come and it’s a big deal.  If you can take your time and simply stay calmer, it helps.  I know that those of us who are fainters (yup, me too) don’t always have any notice that they are going down, but if you do, please tell them.  Believe me, you don’t want the EMS there because you fainted because the test was finally over.  You want to do a happy dance that it’s over and get out of there!

I hope you found a tidbit or two to help you through ~ I have been there, done that, so if you have any questions or want to share your experience below, please do!  I am here for you if you need a friend.  I understand ~ here’s my hand, hold on.  We’ll get you through this together!

Shine On!

xo

P.S.  Thanks to my sweet readers who shared their experiences below and gently reminded me about the contrast sensation.  You rock Rhonda and Cordelia’s Mom. ♥