Tag Archive | double mastectomy

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

 

 

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

DP ~ Transforming My Life

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You have Breast Cancer

On New Year’s Eve 2001, at 1:15pm, the above words were barely out of the mouth of the breast surgeon who had taken 17 biopsies of my lump when my life was forever changed in an instant.  A single piece of paper confirmed the pathology of the lump and my life was immediately mapped out by science and not by me.  All of the plans I had laid with such good intentions went down the drain in that single moment.  My life, my body, my relationships, my future were suddenly not as I’d expected them to be and surprisingly, I was not that surprised.

For you see, I found the lump in November, but between doctor appointments, mammograms and life, the biopsy was not done until the day after Christmas that year.  The day after I hosted Christmas dinner with my husband and our families.  My last non-cancerous Christmas.  And the night before the news was given to me that I had Breast Cancer, I had dreamed that I had it and so when she told me the next day, I wasn’t really surprised.  In fact, I was so calm that she told me I was in shock and that I needed to come back the day after New Years so that she could deliver the future plans of how the doctors would proceed in treating me.  But I was calm, I knew. I heard everything she said and what hit me most was that I was not going to be able to return to teaching.  That’s what stuck in my head.  Not the lumpectomy and subsequent double mastectomy, not the ACT type of chemotherapy which makes all of your hair fall out, not the 6 weeks of radiation to follow.  Nope, it was that I wouldn’t be finishing out the year in my school.  Strange isn’t it what we think when confronted by this type of news?

My life took on a surreal aura after that ~ one that included many tears, much anxiety and a deeper understanding of myself.  I had never been the strong type or so I thought, but when confronted with the possibility of not being around for my boys ages 1 and 3, like an angry Mama Tiger I launched into fighting for my life.  Most of my family didn’t believe I could endure the journey of what I was about to embark on as I have always been a bit weak with pain.  But somehow, knowing that my husband believed I could do it and knowing that he would stand by my side and endure it with me, I was able to conjure up the inner strength needed to live and to supersede all expectations.

It is that priceless gift that my hubby gave me that changed us in an instant as well for this cancer journey hasn’t been easy for either one of us.  The patient has a tough time enduring the treatments, but it’s the spouse/significant other/caretaker who is the silent unsung hero.  It’s my hubby who knows what goes on after all of the family goes home.  It’s HE who holds me when I cry and I’ve just had enough.  He’s the one who understands and it’s to him that I look to for strength when mine is depleted.  It’s HIS face that I search for when I wake up after every surgery (and I’ve endured 15 so far with more to go).

Life goes on for everyone else after time which is good because who wants to be constantly reminded that you’ve endured Breast Cancer?  It’s bad enough to be reminded every morning when I shower and dress or when I have to be tested every 6 months or when I have health complications from it.  Breast Cancer affects life daily after diagnosis ~ it’s in every part of my life ~ even though I try very hard to ignore it.

I refuse to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me ~ there’s been a bit of a scuttlebutt in the breast cancer world recently with that line.  However, I will say that it enriched my life.  It made me dig deeper into my soul.  I can never go back to the girl that I was on 12/30/01, but I don’t think that I’d want to now.  This girl of 8/6/2013 is a better person ~ psychologically, emotionally, spiritually ~ a better parent, a more loving partner and a most grateful human being.  I am still in the process of accepting the new me ~ it’s a challenge some days, but it’s one that I will continue to work my little Tiger Mama ass off in order to triumph!

You have to find the good in every situation.

Who knew ~ sometimes change is necessary!

Shine On!

xo

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Daily Prompt: Everything Changes

Walking down the street, you encounter a folded piece of paper on the sidewalk. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TRANSFORMATION.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/daily-prompt-transformation/

Pink Post ~ Can Worry Change the Outcome?

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Worrying will never change the outcome

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or an illness or have ever waited for an answer that was important to you, then you’ve probably experienced worry in your life.  Be it waiting for test results due to your health or in school or at work ~ be it a job application, your driver’s test, a pregnancy test, a pathology result or anything else, many times worry is our comfortable go-to emotion.

Not that I’m saying that to worry is comfortable.  No way Jose!  Worrying is uncomfortable, but for many of us, it’s the routine emotion that we turn to when we are waiting for the results of something important to us.

Perhaps you are one who worries and thinks about all the possibilities for the outcome of the test.  You can imagine the good, the bad and the ugly result.  You can even go so far as to give yourself the worst result and then plan on how you will deal with that answer, plan how your life will change and how you will live with that change in your life.

Or do you worry, then imagine how relieved you will feel when the result is what you were praying for so that you are healthy?

Or are you the one who just can’t get past the what if’s and can’t even go to to the next step of imagining how life would go on if the result were bad?  Your mind continues to run round and round, thoughts whirring and repeating in your head until you can’t even think straight?

Or do you acknowledge that you are worried about the outcome, but then hands the control over to God/Universe/Life and goes on about the day knowing that no amount of worry gives us any more control over the situation than non-worrying?   Practicing telling the family the dreaded results or the happy ones still doesn’t change the situation at all for the moment.  Without knowing the result, this is all just busy mind conjecture and doesn’t do anything, but drive us into a frenzy at warp speed.

Do you relate with any of the above situations?  Are you a worrier?  Do you know someone who is?

Well, join the club my friends for I’m a worrier too.

I grew up surrounded by worriers.  ‘What if’s’ ruled the roost, cocka-doodle-dooing from morning to dusk growing up.  In fact, it became so ingrained in me that my first instinct if I’m not careful in my thinking goes right back to the ‘what if’s’ and to the worst outcome and how I will live with that result in my life.

I remember my father used to tell me that I needed to check my breasts to make sure that I didn’t get breast cancer.  His own mother had died from it when he was studying for his last exam during his senior year in college.  I don’t remember if he annoyed my sister with those same worries, but I clearly remember feeling pestered by him.  It almost felt constant although it surely wasn’t.  However, it was his constant worry that made me flippantly tell him that if I did get breast cancer, I would simply get my breasts taken off and get new ones.  I’d be the perkiest 80 year old on the beach due to non-saggy implants if that happened.  And off I’d go, on my merry way, feeling smug in having told him and gotten him off of my back, stunned into silence by my bravado.  And more than 14 years later ~ his worry came true and so did my flip answer to him.

Now I’m not blaming his perseveration of worrying about me getting breast cancer is what gave it to me, but I am saying that we need to watch our words and what we choose to put our attention to in this life.  My smug retort came true ~ I did end up with breast cancer and with a double mastectomy.   In fact, I have endured 3 separate reconstructions of those perky boobies.  So I ask you, what are the odds that his worry, my response and what happened are all related?

But back to worry ~ it’s easy for me to tell you not to worry ~ and believe me, I’ve counseled many people (not to mention myself!) to not worry about what may happen ~ I’ve even gone so far as to tell them that worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair and expecting to get somewhere ~ you can rock and rock all day long, but you’ll still stay in the same place.

I’ve offered to help people pack up their worries and give them to God/Universe or even to hand them over to me for awhile, knowing that I’d keep the bundle safe for them and that they could have it back whenever they chose (of course, I was going to drop that bundle into God/Universe’s lap as soon as I got my hands on it!)  No way was I burdening myself with their worries!

It’s amazing how people react when I tell them that I’ll take their worries.  They don’t want to give them up ~ they think because they have their pile of worries, they are in control of the situation.  It makes us somehow feel more in control when we hold our own worries, we’re greedy misers who don’t want to Let Go and Let God.  We believe that we hold the key with our worries.  Sometimes, we don’t even realize how stressed and how tightly we are holding on to the ‘what if’s’ and the anxiety which uncertainty brings to our lives.  We just know that if we can be left alone to worry, to agonize and to perseverate on the matter, we can somehow make it come out as we want.  We believe that we have control.

Well, my darlings, guess what I’ve learned?  We don’t have control over everything.

There, I’ve said it.  Whew ~ do you believe me?  Do you think you have special control powers?  Do you believe that you are different?  Because I did too for a long time.  Now I’ve just learned that I need to go with the flow, do my best, be as healthy as I can and just keep on living, loving and breathing.

Sorry for the long post and I apologize to whomever I copied the above image from on Pinterest.  It was so perfect that I just had to use it.

Thanks for reading today ~ I would love to hear how you feel about worry.

If you are a worrier, how are you dealing with worry in your life?

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

Miss America’s Mastectomy?

http://todayhealth.today.com/_news/2013/01/11/16463704-miss-america-contestant-gets-hate-mail-over-mastectomy-plans?lite

Dear Miss District of Columbia,

You don’t know me, but when I saw the article on you yesterday, I just knew I had to write to you.  Please accept my deepest sympathies as I am so sad that you lost your mom, your grandmother and your great-aunt to breast cancer.  My heart goes out to you for the difficult decisions you have to contemplate at the tender age of 24 in order to reduce your risk of enduring breast cancer.  As an 11 year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 34, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this decision is for you.  My heart goes out to you.

Although my story is different from yours, I wanted to share in hopes of letting you know that there are those of us who understand.  My journey began with a lumpectomy.  Originally I had wanted a bilateral mastectomy instead of the lumpectomy, but my surgeon denied my request, citing his philosophy to save the breasts and keep them intact.   However, when the pathology results revealed there was further breast cancer invasion to the lymph nodes and outer margins, I was scheduled for a second surgery which was to remove only the cancerous breast.  And that’s when I started listening to myself ~ just like you are doing now!

I called my surgeon back and scheduled a double mastectomy even though nobody agreed with me, least of all my surgeon.  But I know me, and as I began listening to me, I  knew in my heart that it was ME who was going to inhabit my body, day in and night out and it was my comfort level which had to have first priority.  There were shady calcifications in the other breast which to me, would eventually lead to breast cancer again, so I wanted that out of the equation in my life!

It’s been a rocky road for me with the reconstructions, but I have never once regretted my decision to take both of my breasts and I can happily tell you that I feel that I am here because I really listened to myself.  I think our bodies know what we need to do and it is just a matter of our listening to our own bodies which helps to heal and not hinder our lives.

I am very proud of you for listening to yourself and to your body and for having the courage to stand up and speak about it.  Please don’t let anyone else’s opinion sway you because it is YOU who has to live in your body everyday and it will be your healing or your fight in the end and nobody else’s.   It is not easy to live without your breasts and it is a painful decision to make ~ however, I stand firmly beside you ~ for it is YOUR rightful decision to make and no one else’s.  Surely your mom, your grandmother and your great aunt proudly applaud your courage as do the rest of us.

I love your quote, ““I’ve been thinking how powerful that might be to have a Miss America say, ‘I might be Miss America but I’m still going to have surgery. I’m going to take control of my own life, my own health care,’ ” she said. “So I guess it’s up to what happens on Saturday night.”

May you continue to be a shining example of  light, of hope  and of taking control of your own life,

your own healthcare to the millions of women and men in the world!

Shine On Miss District of Columbia!

Long May You Reign!

xo

Love You? Love Me?

“The most important thing in life is to

learn how to give out love,

and to let it come in.” Morrie Schwartz

I think that for me, giving out love is easier for me than receiving it.  Is that the same for you?   My gravatar and my chosen career is SendOut Love…I send out love through my blog, through my cards and through my connections to others.  To me, it comes easily and I love the enjoyment that comes with giving from the heart as it brings happiness to others as it in turn, brings me a wealth of happiness.

Multiple times a day I say, “I love you” to my family, friends, loved ones, 2 sweet kitties etc…and I mean it from my heart.  I am a very affectionate person by nature ~ spontaneously hugging and kissing my family daily.  I love that human connection and have more than once, reached out to a stranger that I felt needed a smile and a hello which have sparked many conversations much to the chagrin of my family who want to get going and not start talking in the grocery store to others.  But I get that ‘feeling’ and I just go with it.

Self-love on the other hand, in the scheme of things, is usually on the lower end of my ‘to do’ list.  Yes,  I love me, but somehow I feel it’s selfish and ego-istic to say that I love myself…at least that’s what I used to think.  Nowadays, I am finding that the more I love me, the more I love others.  As I’m beginning to take better care of me, I am finding that it’s changing the dynamic I have with others ~ for the better!

I’ve shared how routines can truly get us in a rut and it’s hard to break free when we’ve been so out of tune with ourselves.  I’m the first to admit I’m guilty of this, especially this year as I’ve been bombarded with crisis after crisis.  I felt like I was a chicken running around without a head, but no more.

I’ve told you about You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.  Louise is a big believer in self-love and has many exercises in which you can bolster the love you have for yourself so that you can love others.  In fact, I highly recommend Louise’s book as it changed my life!

I remember when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and BAngel gave me Louise’s book.  Dutifully I opened it and began to read.  Immediately I scoffed at the idea that my cancer was a dis-ease in my body and that with self-love, affirmations and a shift in thinking, I could help myself to heal.  At that time, my mind immediately turned off ~ what sort of hocus pocus was this book ~ I had CANCER!  Not a head cold or something that didn’t matter.  I was fighting for my life!  What was BAngel thinking?  And she was someone whom I’d known for years and respected…had she gone off of her rocker with this type of thinking?

So I went on with my life, lumpectomy, double mastectomy, chemo…until one day while laying in my bed after chemo, with my darling cat purring next to me on the bed, I picked up the book again…it had been a few months since I had tossed it by the wayside.  I started to read it in the quiet of the afternoon and it was as if a light began to grow inside of me.  The theories Louise explained so simply in her book grew inside of me like a small seed of hope.  Her ideas made complete sense to me and I felt like I spent the rest of the afternoon nodding my head in agreement with her.

I won’t take away the joy you will find in reading her book, but I will leave you with a link to get it!  You’ll know when the time is right to read it ~ when you’re ready, I”ll be here ~ we can have fun together knowing that YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE!

xoxo