Tag Archive | chemotherapy

Begin Again

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A friend gave me a magnet awhile back in anticipation for all of the changes that were in store for my future.  At the time, I didn’t want to Begin Again as it was daunting for me to think about all that would be changed.  Regardless of how much I didn’t want the changes, they happened anyway, out of my control.  Instead of accepting that my life would dramatically change in all ways – divorce, moving, financially, health-wise, etc., I fought like a tigress to remain in that stagnant limbo of wanting no change, all while change happened anyway.

Finally, I surrendered.

Broken, exhausted and drained, I surrendered.

It’s not that I didn’t agree that the changes were imminent and necessary.  It was that I was fearful of how I would continue on in this uncharted territory for my journey and the journey of my children, for it wasn’t where I wanted to be.  But when I stopped fighting against the rising tide and began to doggy paddle to keep afloat, I received help through the transition.  Angels disguised as friends and strangers reached out to me with kindness.  I began to see the future as a new chapter in my life, a new book on which to write my story and a fresh clean slate which I controlled (for the most part) of how I am the captain of my own life’s ship.

I began planning what had to be done and like a sergeant, began the transition with what I hoped would be military precision.  But alas, I may have had a plethora of military family members, but precision has not been a characteristic blessing unto me.  And so it was, I surrendered.  I did my best daily, fell asleep on my pillow with a bone tired body and rose up the next morning to do it all again.  And finally, it was accomplished, through the help of my angelic human angels.

Now we begin again, in a new home with new challenges.  Regardless, I have surrendered what was and I embrace what is and I plan for what I would like to be.  To Begin Again requires letting go of the past and staying in a peaceful present and allowing a hopeful future to blossom, petal by petal.

I am grateful for the peace within now.  Although transitions are often fraught with wiggles and compromises, I knowingly stand with peace in my heart, grateful for the lessons and learning which have come with the experiences I’ve endured.  I’ve learned so much about people, about myself and about love.  Life lessons have been tough at times, but well-worth the growth that came out of them.  Sure, it’s easy in hindsight to feel this way, but I guess I wanted to share with you so that you can remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  We just have to keep walking towards the light.

I’m here for you if you are going through any transitions as I’ve been through a bunch of different ones:  cancer, multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, divorce, selling a house, finding the right rental, starting over at 50, death of family, family with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, etc.  If you need a friend, here I am, with my arms wide open for a hug.

Shine On!

xo

 

 

Pinktober

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Well, we’ve almost made it to the end of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I’ve yet to write anything about my struggles, my journey or my on-going dance with cancer.  Perhaps today it’s time to update from a survivor who was diagnosed on New Year’s Eve of 2001.

I’ve spoken to many people, sharing my story when I thought it would help and connecting with them when I knew they needed someone to simply understand the devastation that we feel when life turns upside down.  I’ve been a Reach to Recovery Volunteer, helping those who want to find a new normal and who are looking for a way out of the labyrinth of grief which many times surrounds us when we are hit with a cancer diagnosis.  For everything changes in our lives when cancer hits.  Life, relationships and health all change and we suffer until we can find our equilibrium.  We grieve, we mourn and we endure what we previously thought unthinkable.  We can stagnate in that pool of darkness or we can reach out for the light.  As a survivor for so many years, I try to be an inspiration and to shine my heartlight so that others can find theirs and begin to move on in their lives.  I know it’s not easy, for I have been there, done that and still struggle with the aftermath of cancer.  It seems I am never fully out of its grasp as it rears its ugly head in my life from time to time as a pointed jab and a reminder that life is a gift and everyday we must be grateful for this moment in time.

With breast cancer in particular, we suffer the indignities of losing our outward signs of femininity (breasts, hair (chemo)) and many times our ovaries which help keep our feminine hormones going.  Sometimes we can even lose touch with ourselves as we struggle to come to grips with a body which many times in clothing looks good, but in our birthday suits, is riddled with train track-like scars and missing pieces.  It takes a strong woman to get up every morning and to continue to strive to be the best person she can be when her heart is breaking.  I admire those women who can be vulnerable and yet be strong, who can laugh, but still cry, who can feel even when her body is numbed by surgery or can remain peaceful while hearing careless comments from those who say they love them.

We all have a story to tell when it comes to surviving breast cancer.  Each of our personal stories is a bit different, but the fundamental grief and subsequent healing of body, mind and soul are similar.  Today’s post I dedicate to those friends and family who have gone before me, those who are presently enduring breast cancer and to those, like me, who are still here, somewhere in purgatory, never quite released from its icy grip, but still hopeful that it never quite fully returns.

Shine On!

xo

Why Me God?

76342527_God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. ~ C.S. Lewis

Many of us who have endured tragedy, illness and trauma have asked the question, “Why me God?” and I am no exception.  I asked because I thought I didn’t deserve the breast cancer that riddled my body.  I raged because I believed the punishment of cancer was unfair.  I pitied myself.  I cried.  I was depressed.  I stomped around my house when no one was looking.  I was bald, in pain from surgeries and swollen by the amount of steroids and chemotherapy that were killing the cancer cells along with healthy cells.  I threw myself into a heap on the bed yowling in pain physically, emotionally and mentally.   I didn’t do this often, but when I did, it was like a child’s temper tantrum towards his parent (God).  My ultimate was when I gathered myself into a small ball and snuggled into the strong, protective arms of my husband like a child, sobbing into his tear-stained chest wishing he could just carry me for awhile and I could just melt inside of his chest.

But because I was a Mom of 2 little ones ages 1 and 3 years, I couldn’t do that often.  For the most part, I smiled, I faked how I felt.  I tried to make their lives as normal as possible while my tired body wept at night or in the shower.  Luckily for me, they were young so they didn’t really understand the magnitude of what I was enduring and what they were witnessing.  Now when they look back at the family photos when I was not wearing my wig, they don’t remember clearly when I was bald.  They are surprised a bit by what they see.  But as young children, bald or wigged, I was still Mom.

Still me.  That’s one of the important lessons I learned from enduring breast cancer.  No matter what has happened in my life, I am still me.  I”m still in there somewhere amidst the layers of pain.  My core of being that gal who sees life through rose-colored glasses, who sees the glass 1/2 full, who loves hugs, flowers and my beautiful life still shines brightly.

Sure, I’ve lost touch with that gal from time to time, but something always brings me back to her because that’s who I am.  Sure, I can say I’ve endured breast cancer.  I’ve endured many things in my life.  But at the heart of who I am, breast cancer just made my life richer.  It added layers of life changing events which made me dig deeply inside to find inner strength that without those low points in my life, I’d never have known I had ~ without being tested, I would have never had the opportunity to find my light, my inspiration, my blessings, my Presents of Presence.

So the next time you ask “Why me God?’ in a fervent voice, know that somewhere down the line in this journey of life, you will realize your answer ~ it’s because you can.

Shine On!

xo

My heartfelt thanks to one of my favorite bloggers from whom I took the quote above and made it my own.  Thank you Chalkboard Quotes ~ you inspired my post today!

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http://chalkboardquotes.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/hardship/

Be the One that Did!

10981605_All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ In The Sun,

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done…

But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All Ran Away And Hid From One Little Did. Shel Silverstein

Talk is cheap ~ how many times have you heard that phrase?  Probably more times than we’d like to hear it, right?  Well, I’m learning that the hard way.  I’ve been wanting to expand my life for awhile now.  I’ve been floating and not really doing anything substantial with my life.  I know, part of you may think that I’ve been really busy which I have and part of you may think that I’ve not done enough.  Well, you are both right.  But now things are about to change for me.

I am embracing change and facing some fears ~ and it’s not easy.  It’s uncomfortable to step outside of your comfort zone.  In fact, it’s darn scary.  I feel like I have elephant-sized butterflies doing the samba in my stomach.  That’s what happens when I get scared or nervous.  Does that happen to you?  It’s like I feel like I”m going to throw up ~ I get that nauseous ~ but lucky for me, I never actually throw up because it’s the one thing I hate to do.  In fact, I hated it so much that I only threw up once during 6 months of chemotherapy when I was battling breast cancer!  I can be a really determined and stubborn gal when needed. 🙂

Anyway, last week I mentioned the idea of  IHU and many of you wondered what in the world I was talking about!  Click here to read it!

IHU ~ Inner Hotshot University

I created it on the fly, the name just popped into my head!  But I’m thinking that perhaps some of us could brush up and strengthen our inner hotshot and allow that sparkle to shine again in our lives!  Embrace that uniqueness that is you!  Be the light in the darkness ~ use our strengths and develop our weaknesses!  Do what scares us and stretch out of our comfort zones!

Let those butterflies enjoy a mambo number without falling to pieces!

What do you think?  I mean, we could sit here and talk all day long about the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s or we could try to find one thing that scares us and do it every week!  Would you do it?  How about if I double-dog dared you?

So my idea is that once a week, we post a challenge to ourselves to stretch out of our comfort zones.  You can just comment below and tell us or even just commit to doing one thing if you don’t want to reveal what it is.  But the key is that you must be honest and let us know if you did it by the next week!  And if you did, how about sharing how it went?  How you felt after you did it?  What do you think?  Is anyone interested?  Perhaps we could cheer eachother on?  Hold hands while we all jump off of the diving board into the crystal clear pool of life!

You have the power to Be the One That Did!

But wouldn’t it be fun to be the ONES that did?

Let me know if you’re up for the challenge!

We’ll start soon!

Shine On!

xo

Pink Once A Week

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Lately I’ve been just going with the flow in my life, but I’ve been dabbling in writing a book or two as well.  It seems to me when we breast cancer patients finish treatment, we are sent out into the world with less than nothing in order to rebuild our lives.  As an 11 year survivor, I’m finding that there are so many women out there who are asking as I did, “What now?” because quite frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming.

First there’s the simple grieving process of being diagnosed, with the subsequent surgeries ranging from a lumpectomy to a full double mastectomy which is enough to depress the happiest of souls followed by the reconstruction surgeries which may or may not take place at the same time.  Most times we endure chemotherapy which as the meds designed to kill cancer cells, slowly changes our body chemistry as well, we endure hair loss including baldness, depression, nausea, aches, pains, weight gain and hot flashes, none which are sexy or fun.  Afterwards, we may have radiation treatment daily which tires us out and gives us a mean sunburn among other things.

And then, we’re set free ~ off to a world filled with pink ribbons and we are handed a survivor sign to commemorate our cancer journey.

But what about the new normal that we’re trying so desperately to find?  It’s a hard road to get used to implants or being breast-less or multiple surgeries.  It’s a process to accept our new bodies with the restrictions surrounding them.  Self-esteem, self-confidence and self-acceptance need to improve so that we can feel good about ourselves and that’s simply NOT just a breast cancer thing either!

So that’s what I’m writing about ~ I want to give a class on it ~ I want to help women who are looking for a friend  to hold her hand as we travel along this road together.  It’s the beautiful thing about women who’ve endured breast cancer.  None of us have wanted to join this group, but since we are all here, we bond.

You can meet a stranger who has breast cancer and instantly, there’s a bond of knowing and understanding which forms quite literally in moments.  We’ve been there and we understand each other.  Have you found that happens to you?  I think it’s human nature to bond with others of similar circumstances.  I know I’ve bonded with others who’ve been grieving over the loss of a parent since my dad passed away last year.  It’s when we open up and connect with each other that healing can take place.

So if you’re interested, let me know because I’d like to write a bit more about it here on my blog.  But I’m testing the waters first because many of my readers aren’t breast cancer survivors ~ but since we’ve all experienced sadness in our lives (at least most of us), I thought it could help others as well since I like the glass half full approach!

What do you think?  Would you appreciate just once a week breast cancer help? 

Please let me know!  Just click on the Poll below!   Thank you!

Shine On!

xo

Daily Prompt ~ Changes!

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Change is beautifully inevitable

Daily Prompt: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You need to make a major change in your life. Do you make it all at once,

cold turkey style, or incrementally?

For me, changes have never been subtle in my life.  They’ve arrived cold turkey style and left me scrambling to start swimming in order to not drown under the tsunami of change.  Many of the changes took me a long time to come to terms with as some of them were life altering as many changes can be.  Take for instance being diagnosed with an illness such as cancer ~ or being told of the death of a loved one.  Those changes are life altering in and of themselves and they are changes which do not allow for a u-turn in the road of life.  You just have to keep swimming with the tide afterwards.

So I have turned to the cold turkey style of change as my comfort zone in life even though it may take me baby steps in time to allow for the adjustment that the change brings so in that case, I guess my answer is both incrementally and cold turkey!  The change itself, is cold turkey style, but the adjustment which occurs after it, is incremental.  Does that make sense?

For example, when I had my double mastectomy due to breast cancer, even though I was reconstructed in the OR so that I wouldn’t awaken without some type of mound on my chest, the change was most definitely cold turkey style.  There is nothing like falling asleep with my own soft breasts only to awaken with hard, unmoving and cold lumps called tissue expanders under the skin where previously there was warmth.  It took me a long time to be able to change my thoughts, my feelings about myself and find a new normal in accepting my new body, life and scars.  And I won’t say it is easy because it’s not, but I will say it is do-able and this gal who I am now, has a much richer life than before she was diagnosed in 2001.

Even when I was losing my hair due to the ACT chemotherapy that I was taking, I opted to cut off my own hair cold turkey and then incrementally go bald!  Once my hair began coming out in clumps in the shower which is an emotional roller coaster ride even though I knew it was going to happen, I decided to take control over my life and in turn, over the breast cancer that riddled my body.  With a bottle of champagne in one hand and my hair festooned with pink ribbon pony tails, my husband and I celebrated my taking control over my cancer.  Celebratory swigs bonded us as I carefully cut off the pony tails to my scalp, holding the clumps of hair by the pink ribbons.  I remember with the first cut that I couldn’t’ stop giggling because what woman in her right mind takes a pair of scissors to her head and chops off a clump of her hair?  I mean really?  But I did it and it was freeing!  Oh so freeing!

I took off about 10 pony tails (which I still have 2 of my original hair) and looked into the mirror.  All was fun and joyous until I realized that I had big clumps of missing hair on my head.  My gentle and sweet husband to whom I am still so grateful to be married, kissed and held me and then proceeded to cut my hair into a really short pixie style a la Mia Farrow.  (Thank goodness he wasn’t drinking as much champagne as I was that day!)

When he was finished, we looked into the bathroom mirror together and he held me ~ cradling me with his love ~ and he told me that ‘this too shall pass’ for which I believed him.

The next morning, my pillow looked as if a cat had slept on it as it was covered with my pixie short hairs which broke my heart.  So that night, my husband buzzed my head so that I wouldn’t have to awaken with the sadness of looking at my pillow and it was better for me.  Done ~ cold turkey ~ and I felt as though I could move on with my wig, my scarves and my hats.

I have walked through hell and have kept walking for which I am so grateful and I believe that’s why I write my blog ~ because I want to inspire and be inspired by all of you.  For you see, change is inevitable in our lives, so we have to keep evolving, keep flowing with our lives and keep taking baby steps forward.  We can change our course of direction at any time, but we can’t go backwards.  We can only stand still when we need to rest and then begin again.

What makes the changes easier is when we allow ourselves to connect with others on this lifetime journey.  Taking hold of a hand which is offered to you eases the transition of change.  It’s in those moments when we realize that we are all connected here and that change can be beautiful.  Keep smiling!

Shine On!

xo

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/daily-prompt-changes/

Come Join the Celebration!

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Congratulations!

February 1st, 2002 was the date that I had my bilateral mastectomy due to my breast cancer diagnosis and the pathology report which read that after my lumpectomy, I still had breast cancer in my body.  It’s also the date that marks the fact that I finally took hold of my own health and my life and decided to prophylactically take the non-cancerous breast as well, much to my surgeon’s chagrin.  I can happily report to you, that I still stand by my decision as it was the right one for me.

There is so much I have learned in the last 11 years since that day that I walked into the OR by myself, sobbing after being taken away from hugging my supportive husband who still stands by my side.  In the wake of having had those breasts reconstructed with silicone implants twice since then and then after having one of those implants rupture last year, beginning multiple surgeries to create what I now have for breasts which is body tissue taken from other parts of my body to make new, real, soft fleshy breasts which are mine and not artificial, hard, painful implants which I had endured because I had no choice, I am celebrating!

Since my breast cancer diagnosis on New Year’s Eve of 2001, my life has changed so dramatically that words fail me in trying to explain how richer my life has become.  I have endured much suffering, but I have also reaped many blessings.  I am grateful for each and every day when I arise from my bed to greet the world.  I am thankful for life’s blessings, the big and small ones and I know firsthand the meaning of the preciousness of time.  I practice being present in my life ~ enjoying The Presents of Presence ~ meaning actually being in the moment and enjoying what that moment offers.  My intent to cast worry from my shoulders is an ongoing trial in my life, but I accept that it is a work in progress.

I know I am blessed with a loving family and much support in my life and I rejoice in the fact that I can continue to send out love on a daily basis through my blog, my FB page The Presents of Presence, my SendOutCards business and my actions.   I have struggled through the grief of losing my breasts, fighting the disease through multiple surgeries (more than 10 and counting), ACT (chemotherapy), radiation, the loss of my ovaries at age 35 (salpingo oophorectomy), multiple needles, shots, medications, tamoxifen, arimidex,  the loss of my hair, my self-esteem, my confidence as a woman, the sad passing of friends from the same disease and the mortal fear of reoccurrence.  This is not a pity party by any means, so please don’t mis-understand me.  It’s actually a celebration of triumph!

My mother-in-law texted me this morning, “Have an especially happy day!” and I knew exactly what she meant for I knew that she remembered ~ and I knew that she would be there with me celebrating this momentous event.  I’m still here!  I have no painful implants anymore!  I have come full circle today ~ from having my God-given breasts, to having them removed due to dis-ease, to having them reconstructed not once, but twice with implants, to having been miraculously restored and reconstructed with breasts again which are of my own flesh and blood.

I am not sure that if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon that you can imagine how incredible it is to be here 11 years later celebrating so many wonderful gifts that my life has brought to me.  It is with heartfelt tears of joy, of gratitude and of above all, love that I write to you today.  However, knowing that we all carry burdens while we endure our journey on this earth, I feel like this is OUR CELEBRATION TODAY!  So please indulge me as I invite you to celebrate love and life on the first of February (don’t forget to say Rabbit Rabbit)  as well as family, friends, miracles, faith, joy, laughter, tears, gratitude, blessings, health, compassion, friendship…I could go on and on!

Celebrate Today my friends…Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future…

Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the Present!

May The Presents of Presence

Be with You Every Day!

Shine On!

xo