Tag Archive | radiation

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

 

 

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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

Cancer Connections

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You gain strength, courage, and confidence

by every experience in which you really stop

to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself,

“I lived through this horror.

I can take the next thing that comes along.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Sitting in the oncologist office waiting room, I had some time to look around at all the other people there waiting patiently for their names to be called.  I’ve done this before and I seem to do it every time I’m there.  I smile at the others in the room, because I figure if you are here, then we’ve got a connection.  Because let’s face it, there are plenty of other places to sit in this big ole world and I bet you wouldn’t choose the oncology waiting room to hang out in if you didn’t need to be there.  Or if your loved one didn’t need to be there.

Cancer evens us out.  Strange to say, right?  But I find that those of us who have endured cancer find it easier to simply connect with someone else who has been in the same boat.  It’s that common ground that we search for when we connect with someone else.  By simply being in the same doctor’s office, we can pretty much bet we’ve got or had the Big C and we’re hoping to get better and stay healthy.

Cancer isn’t choosy.  It doesn’t discriminate between races or genders.  Old or young, it matters not.  It comes in changing the lives of its patients and those who surround them.  Cancer bonds people.  Cancer breaks people down.  Cancer divides. Cancer unifies.  Cancer conquers some people and yet, there are others who conquer cancer.  It’s an equal-opportunity disease for which there’s no cure, yet.

Cancer connects people in ways that they might not necessarily connect.  The fear of death and the horror of cancer treatments, etc.  give you a bird’s eye view of what you are truly made of and there’s no place for sissy’s with cancer.  No matter with whom you talk, we’ve all had sleepless nights filled with worry and repeatedly question at every tumor marker test, if cancer has returned.  Many of us have endured surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, blood tests, needles, being poked and prodded by countless professionals and staff.  We’ve lost our hair, body parts and our dignity.  But I’ve learned that we don’t lose our loving hearts, nor our need for comfort or our precious souls to cancer.   It’s given me a new outlook on life.  Sure cancer has weakened parts of my life, but it also strengthened me.  It’s given me lessons on human nature that I would have never understood had I not endured the cancer.  It’s made me appreciate the little things and be unafraid of dying.  It’s changed my life in good and bad ways, but I try to concentrate on the good in my life at every turn.

What has cancer done in your life?

Shine On!

xo

Daily Prompt ~ Standing Out in Confusion

76020927_I admit, I am different.  There.  I said it.  Many times I feel like I’m out of place ~ and sometimes when I speak, my hubby has to translate what I’m saying.  It’s not that I’m speaking Spanish or any other language at the time.  It’s just that sometimes, I think differently than others and it doesn’t quite translate when I try to explain myself.

For example, like today, I enjoy getting one of those emails that has a goofy gobbling singing turkey ~ and I like to send it along!  Mind you, I try to only send it to those whom I think will giggle at the gobbler, but sometimes my giggling gobbler is met with annoyance.  For as much as I’m busy throughout my day and enjoy getting a giggle break, there are others whom do not find it amusing.  And I feel sorry for them.  By the way, I don’t do it often either so it’s not like there’s a barrage of stupid emails that I send out!

Then there’s when I want to say something that I think is really important and the words simply and suddenly elude me.  So I’ll start strong, speaking fluently and then just stop.  Dead stop.  And I can’t think of what I am trying to say.  It’s so frustrating to me and it’s frustrating for whomever I’m speaking with!  I know, I get it.  But it’s more worrisome to me than it is to my listener as it reminds me that after 15 surgeries, there are some definite brain cells missing that haven’t found their way home and probably won’t at this point.  Which could make me sad, but instead, I try to look on the bright side ~ I will survive ~ I can speak, I can understand and I can tell those closest to me that I love them!

I’m aware of my goofyness ~ I’m aware that I think differently than most people.  I’m most definitely aware that my body is scarred and not the form that most women are ~ and that bothers me too.  It’s hard to be a 40 something year old woman who has the skin, the hair, the body of a much older woman due to breast cancer and all that it involves.   It’s difficult to not feel most parts of my body due to being numbed by multiple surgeries.  It’s not a blessing to feel this insecure about how I look even though I try to pretend that I’m ok with the reality.

For the record, I’m not ok with it.  But I can’t go back so I just keep inching forward.  It’s all I can do really.

I’m not saying this for pity’s sake. I’m just telling you the reality of the disease.  Chemo packs a punch to the system, changes our skin, our hair and our bodies and minds forever.  Radiation does this as well.  Not to mention the foremost physical part which is damaging mentally and emotionally as well which is the removal of our breasts and the huge scars that are left in their place.  The loss of feeling, the loss of intimacy.  There’s a lot to it.

But nobody talks about those things which always surprises me.  When Angelina Jolie had her breasts removed prophelatically, people applauded.  But the reality is that her breasts were removed, the feeling in parts of her breasts was removed as well and that was never mentioned once.  I don’t mean to start a firestorm here because I too had both removed and only one had cancer at the time so I understand her motives.  I’m just saying that it’s not so easy.

Whew…how in the world did I get on this vein of thinking today, I’ll never know.  Perhaps there’s a reader out there who needed a little bit of understanding and camaraderie.  So if there is, then this one’s for you and my post in not all in vain.

Be Yourself.  Love Yourself.

Shine On!

xo

P.S.  Want the Gobbler Giggle?  Click here!

Let me know if you sang along, I Will Survive!

Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion

Tell us about a time when you felt out of place.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONFUSION.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/daily-prompt-confusion/

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 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