Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Just like everyone else, almost!

Last week I went to DFCI for a 6 month follow up visit. I'd had a mammogram in November that proved that all was well. This was my last hurdle before joining the typical ranks of cancer survivors - graduating to the once per year visit.

I'm happy to report that all looked good, and I do not have to return to see my fabulous oncologist, Dr. Michael Hassett, until this time next year!!

I'm training for that TRI that I promised to attempt this year. A big piece of that training is learning to swim. There's nothing more humbling than literally standing at the edge of the deep end with my toes at the incline. I'm doing it. It's not easy.

I did not get a bib for Boston despite desperately wanting to. Initially I was very sad and disappointed, but shortly after my IT band acted up and I realized it was for the best. I am, however, volunteering to clock watch at the 5k mark and I'm excited to be a part of such a great milestone. I'll be cheering on many of my friends! I'm proud that I'm able to run way farther than I ever anticipated, and I'm still enjoying it!

I'm also starting to really enjoy rowing, and am considering trying to join a local crew of breast cancer survivors - but, I need to conquer that swimming thing first :) Stay tuned on that one...

On a sadder note, my marriage is dissolving after 21 years. Rob and I have managed to be very adult in the process, and our family seems to be thriving now that we are all learning how to navigate our new normal. We want what's best for our children, and we hopefully will continue to work toward that goal. I'm disappointed that we ended up at this point after having tried for so many years to build our future. We both will be happier in the long run, of that I have no doubt. And, if I've learned anything over the past two years, it's important to be happy. Rob deserves that as much as I do.


I continue to benefit greatly from the love and support of my co-workers, family, and friends. I've got the most amazing village a girl could ask for.

2016 is going to be a great year. I won't have it any other way!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Life, it's for living :)

Almost four months have passed since my last post. That's a long time and a short time. It depends on how you look at it, quite frankly. If you are living each day as it passes and truly thinking about all it has to offer, that's 120 some odd chances to make things count. If, on the other hand, you are just getting by and wishing your life away, trying to move to the next "thing", then it's one big clump of time that you can't really sort out in your mind.

For me, it's a long time - and for that I am extremely grateful. As in unicorns, rainbows, and glitter happy! I have done so much since my treatment trailed off to one time per three week infusions of Herceptin. Let's review:

1. I ran a successful 5k for the Jimmy Fund and raised thousands of dollars thanks to generous supporters.

2. I went skydiving and lived to tell. (Thankfully that was the case. It would certainly be ironic if the cancer survivor died jumping, right?)

3. I continue to run, train, and plan to try to do a TRI next year. Stay tuned on that one!

4. I spent an entire glorious summer with family and friends and never said "NO" to any request to get together, have fun, or drink wine in the sunshine. It was the best summer I've had in YEARS!

Now I am back to work and loving my teaching job, as always. I'd do this even if I didn't get paid. Shhh... don't tell anyone!

Next week, I will drive to Dana Farber for my last Herceptin treatment. I'll book an appointment to have my port removed, and then I'm in "active surveillance". It's kind of difficult for me to wrap my head around that, but I gladly will.

So, the elephant in the room becomes, WHAT IF IT RETURNS... If I was in charge of the world, it wouldn't, but alas... I've learned that I'm not in charge.

I'm at the final stages of planning who I am going to be post treatment. I've just about tied it up with a bow. I'll post again when I have it all wrapped up. Rest assured knowing that I won't be a victim, and there's certainly no pity party planned here. Life, it's for living!


Friday, May 8, 2015

It's been such a long time...

I've not posted in a long time. That's because I'm living my life as it should be... without thinking about cancer! I have to continue Herceptin treatments through this summer, and I hope to have my port removed in September. My hair is growing back, and I'm feeling AMAZING. I trained for, and successfully ran my first 5k - raising money for the Jimmy Fund. I continue to run and enjoy it immensely. For those who are just being diagnosed, or already in treatment, there is a light at the end of your seemingly dark tunnel. Just one short year ago, I was living your hell. Now, I've risen from the ashes and it is a beautiful thing. Hold tight, bring your friends and family closer. You can do this! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

No evidence of cancer - baby!!

I'm shouting from the rooftops! I just found out today, after receiving report from my lumpectomy and axillary lymph node dissection that I have NO EVIDENCE OF CANCER! I'm beyond ecstatic, elated and any other happy "e" adjective that you can think of!

I still have to finish out treatment but it certainly is a more positive outlook knowing that as of now I am well on my way to putting all of this in my rearview mirror!

Yay, me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thank you, Cancer!

Yes, you read it correctly. I am, in some ways, thankful to have received this diagnosis. All of that predicates on the fact that I am heavily counting on it never returning (or at least not for a very long time). If I have a recurrence (which could happen) then I reserve the right to delete this post and revise it to be "FU Cancer" with lots of reasons why it is evil.

For now, let's be positive, shall we?

Not necessarily in priority, or who I care more about order. So, let's keep it a no judge zone!

1. I have amazing skin. Soft as a baby's bottom, blemish free, sparkly like I'm pregnant - glowing skin. Thank you chemo. I am wearing make-up, fussing over myself and enjoying trips to Ulta to buy the latest shadow, gloss etc. It's fun being a girl!

2. No daily shaving. Again, thanks chemo (hmmm... few more of these and I may have to change the title of the post to that). Yup, it's awesome! Smooth legs, arms, and pits. I love that, especially in summer.

3. Amazing nails (thanks chemo??) like seriously strong, fast growing, salon worthy nails. This one is interesting because before diagnosis, my nails were actually kind of disturbingly thin, ridged and chipping. Maybe my body was trying to tell me something?

4. Weight loss (um, okay, chemo). I am not trying to lose. I promise. I eat healthy and some days eat less because it tastes icky. But, I also am working with my trainer, Julie, and walking 15-20 miles per week. I know, hands down, that this is going to be a huge part of trying to keep recurrence at bay. I now have made a solid commitment to myself and my family that I will continue to maintain weight and exercise. No more yo-yo diet / weight gain for me. This is important and I need to have resolve.

5. I've met amazing women along the way. Some who have taught me so much about how to be a cancer patient and not let it become my life. Others who, with quiet and dogged determination, are in their second or third recurrence and still putting one foot in front of the other. And some who I've been able to mentor and share with. That feels really good. I also value my new friendships and wouldn't have them had it not been for cancer.

6. I've learned that despite having been healthy my whole life, shit happens and it's going to be okay. This one is huge for me. And, I've learned that I'm not chicken shit when it comes to medical procedures, medicine, and having to face the unknown. I've found my inner bad ass and I like her!

7. I've been blessed with amazing care at Dana Farber / Brigham and Women's combined with access to cutting edge, kick ass, expensive chemo and targeted therapies. A top notch infusion nurse has made all the difference, combined with an amazingly smart oncologist, and a brilliant surgeon who soon will practice her magic on my right breast and lymph nodes. I'm lucky to live where I do and to have health insurance that has paid for my care, leaving my family with little to no worries about finances.

8. I drink water now. Lots of water. I never kept myself hydrated before. So silly when I think back. Why didn't I take better care in that department?

9. I have a stylish new wardrobe (see number 4). Sure, it's cost us a bit, but I feel so much better about myself because I am no longer trying to hide my assets. It's been fun picking out new outfits and shoes and so on.

10. No hair actually rocks. I look good with a buzz cut (those few strands I'm managing to hold on to), and I've been fortunate to have been able to buy a beautiful human hair wig. I actually, surprisingly, prefer to go commando / topless. It's so liberating!!

11. My family always was my priority, but now I am more deeply connected. I let small stuff go (cliche I know, but true). And, I think they appreciate me more now too. We've deepened our commitment and love for each other.

12. Friends old and new who've been there each and every day. Food, companionship. No request refused. You are all so wonderful and dependable. I couldn't do it without you!!

13. I'm not saying no anymore. I am really trying to live an authentic life that will be full and passionate no matter how long I get to continue to have it. I want to be sure that it counts and that I have no regrets.

In twelve short weeks I've become the best me that I can be. Seriously the most self-actualized adult who is happy, stress-free (for the most part and it did take time), and thankful for everything, every day. Who knew?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Look Good Feel Better

Such simple words that are so important when going through cancer treatment. It is such a challenging time keeping up with treatment schedules, managing side effects, and trying to live your normal life as much as possible.

About a month ago, I signed up for a Look Good Feel Better class sponsored by the American Cancer Society that is free of charge for women who are in treatment. It's an amazing experience that comes with a lovely (giant) bag full of cosmetic goodies! The woman who showed us make-up tips was lovely inside and out. She had great tips that I'll share below. Another person who was helpful was the gentleman who showed us wigs and hair covers  and explained how to tie scarves in some cute ways.

It was also nice to meet some other women going through similar challenges. Even though I was the young one in the room, that was quickly forgotten as we bonded during the class.

Tip time:

1. Did you know that the "skin" around your eye area is actually tissue? That's why special eye cream is needed to keep it youthful. Regular moisturizer is too thick/oily for that area. Make sure to gently massage the area under your eye in wavy motions to the outer edge. It will remove the puffiness and send it through your lymph system.

2. Stipple on your foundation. I found out I had been using the "wax on / wax off" method - HAHA! and that's why I would get lines.

3. Using contour and illuminating powders can make your face pop! (In a good way :)

4. Don't be afraid to use brighter lipsticks. They can really brighten up a chemo face that needs it.

5. Brow pencils need to be used in short motions to create the illusion of small hairs.

This class is fun and totally worth your time just for the cosmetics alone. I received brands such as Chanel, Lancome, Kiels, Avon, Estee Lauder and many more. I'm so grateful to those wonderful companies and the volunteers. It was such a wonderful experience!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Putting on my oxygen mask first...

Any time I travel on a plane, I always pay close attention to the safety information given just before take off. While everyone else is checking their emails or chatting, I actually listen with the cardboard instruction sheet in my hand. You may assume that I am an anxious traveler. Actually, I'm not. I just believe that knowledge is power. I also do not swim very well, which makes me feel like I need all of the information I can get about how to unhook that life vest from the seat - just in case. That said, I've always been tripped up by the instructions about how adults need to put on oxygen first before assisting children. It seems so counterintuitive to me - help myself before my kids. Yet, intellectually it makes sense to keep myself safe so that I will be able to help my kids.

Now that I'm dealing with breast cancer, I've been forced to realize the importance of "putting my mask on first". There are mostly good days, but sometimes I'm tired, cranky, or have tummy troubles and I've needed to put myself first. It's not easy for me to do, however, I'm doing it.  I want to be around for a very long time and that means taking time to care for and heal myself.

Don't get me wrong, I've got great kids. But, let's face it, they're kids. I don't want them tippy-toeing around me,  anticipating my every need and constantly asking me if they can help out. While compassion and empathy are important for them to learn, I don't want them to feel like I need to be coddled like a new born chick. So, for the most part, I like that it's business as usual around our house.

I will admit that the other evening I lost my sh&t. In a moment of exasperation, I shouted out to my family: "I've got cancer you know!" when no one seemed to be treating me with the respect I thought I deserved. I immediately felt foolish, but in that moment it felt good to put it out there for everyone to consider.

I've learned that "putting on my mask first" isn't selfish after all. Now if I could just get my kids to empty the dishwasher without being asked...