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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles – One with the River

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a cancer recovery retreat in the Lake Logan North Carolina area hosted by Casting Carolinas. Casting Carolinas is a non-profit organization that offers one-day and three-day retreats for women surviving all types of cancers. They use their own unique F.L.O.W. program that combines fly fishing instruction with medical education and mindfulness, teaching survivors skills to help them deal more effectively with the emotional effects of cancer and survivorship. 

To say that I was extremely excited for the retreat is a gross understatement. I had originally been chosen to attend in October 2020, but due to unforeseen circumstances of a pandemic, the retreat had to be cancelled indefinitely. Sigh. I would remain on the waiting list to be contacted when things opened back up. When the email came through in June stating they were opening up registration again for an October 2021 retreat, I was so thrilled that I set an alarm to remind myself to sign up first thing! The anticipation over the next few months stirred in my soul as I felt this time away was going to bring many blessings. I am a nurturer at heart and I spend the majority of my time, at work and at home, taking care of others. This 3-day weekend, however, was going to be a time of focusing on me and for once in my life I didn’t feel selfish about that.

The day had finally arrived, the weather forecast for the weekend looked fabulous, I was packed and headed out. I had my windows down, some praise music on, the leaves were already wearing autumn attire and the two hour drive quickly passed. I caught myself smiling from ear to ear as I drove up the gravel road to the retreat center, pulled into a space, took a deep breath, and stepped out of the car to spend 3 days with complete strangers whom I shared a common bond with – survivorship. All of our lives had been uprooted by a cancer diagnosis, some more than once, yet we were all here, ready to embrace what was in store for us.

Laughter and peace permeated the atmosphere as I stepped up on the porch of the cabin. I was greeted by several volunteers that made me feel welcomed immediately and directed me inside to the registration table. All the ladies that hosted and served at the retreat were so full of life, joy and friendliness and made you feel at home immediately.  Once I checked in I was to come back outside and be fitted for my river waders and boots for the fishing trip on Sunday! Wait. A River. Moving water. Insert anxiety. Was I ready for this part?

My mind wandered back many years, to a moment in time that had forever seared itself into my brain. I was 6 or 7, at the lake with my family and my father was trying to teach me to swim. He stood at a distance, chest deep in water, swearing to me that it wasn’t over my head, and promising that if I started to go under, he would save me. Little did I know he was standing on a stump that lifted him up a good 3 feet.  I attempted to swim, face down in the water, arms stroking back and forth. I was making some progress but suddenly, I began to sink. The water overtook me, I was thrashing left and right, eyes wide open, surrounded by the murky water and bubbles created by the oxygen that was leaving my lungs. My feet desperately searched for the bottom and it was nowhere to be found. I screamed but no sound came out, only gulps of water rushing into my mouth. Where was my father? I needed him to save me! Whether this lasted 5 seconds or 5000 years, for me it felt like an eternity and  I just knew at that moment I was drowning. Finally, a hand reached down and pulled me out of what I thought was a near death experience, and as soon as my feet could touch ground, I ran out of the water, coughing, spewing out water, and terrified. I sat there on the shore crying, wanting a hug or reassurance that I was okay, yet what I got was belittling laughter. I was a worthless crybaby, a chicken, a coward, a sissy. My dad demanded that I get back in the water but all I wanted was to run away in fear and I didn’t care what kind of punishment I would get for refusing his demands. A whipping would be better than dying, right?

From that moment water became my enemy and at the age of 51, I still cannot swim. I can climb a 500-foot mountain, stand on death defying cliff edges, leap a tall building in a single bound – okay maybe not that extreme – but I can handle getting my feet wet in stream crossings. However, if the adventure involves any part of my body above my knees being immersed in water, you can guarantee that anxiety rushes in. There I stood on the front porch of the cabin, getting fit for boots and river waders and in two days, I would be standing in a mighty rushing river holding a fly-fishing rod. Oh Lord, what had I gotten myself in to?

The next couple of days were amazing! The heart of the retreat is a mindfulness program developed by the hosts of Casting Carolinas, called F.L.O.W. It focuses on taking a deep breath, calming your spirit and being aware of what is going on with your thoughts, emotions and reactions. We had several group sessions where we all came together and spent time connecting with ourselves and each other, learning, and growing. We shared lots of laughter, life experiences, and shed heartfelt tears. I felt incredibly honored to be in the midst of so many strong and powerful women. We also spent time learning about fly fishing! We learned about the river and the different aspects of it. What kind of insects the fish eat. How to put a fly-fishing rod and reel together, tie on the flies, and how to cast. We even got to make our own flies! Saturday evening, we were entertained with a time of live music, dancing and singing, oh and not to mention that we ate so much delicious food I thought I would bust.  My heart was overflowing with joy and gratefulness as I laid my head down on the pillow Saturday night, closing my eyes in anticipation of Sunday morning’s river adventure. All that we had learned about fly fishing would be put into action as each woman would have their own guide and get to spend almost four hours on the river fishing.

The sun rose quickly the next morning, and decked out in our boots and waders, we all gathered at the cabin for a closing ceremony. Whew, what an emotional hour! 🙂  We then made our way to the dining hall for breakfast and to meet our guides. My guide for the day would be Rick, an experienced fisherman who cut his teeth fishing in the Gunnison Valley of Colorado. We enjoyed small talk over bacon and eggs, got group pictures and then headed out to the Pigeon River to hopefully catch some fish! As we made our way down to the river and stepped in, I was entranced by the melody of the moving water. Rick took some time to educate me on a few things, observe my newly learned casting skills, find a nice spot to steady ourselves and then it was time to fish. I admit it was awkward at first feeling the difference between fishing with a spin cast and spinning reel versus the fly rod. I was used to having weights on my line and the fly-fishing line seemed weightless. After a bit of practice, I got the hang of it and I was casting, getting bites, losing fish, and yes, I finally caught some.

My catches included a brook trout, a rainbow trout and a brown trout, which earned me the badge of what fishermen call a “grand slam,” catching one of each type of trout.  Go Christy! It was so fun being played by the fish. The water was crystal clear, you could see them just hanging out underwater and watching as my fly would float downstream right in front of them. Then those little buggers would jump right out of the water in front of you just to show you who was the real boss! As we were walking upstream to fish in another spot, I noticed a brook trout hanging out in a little pocket of water to the left of the river. I said to my guide, “hey, there’s a fish right here!” He said, “see if you can catch it?” I said, “with my bare hands?” Yes! So, I took a deep breath, raised my hands in the air and breathed out, “I am one with the river.” I was being silly, but hey it worked! I knelt down, slowly put my hands in the water and very gently eased them under the belly of the fish and bingo! I raised him right up out of the water! My guide let out a huge belly laugh and I was proud to be his first student to catch a trout with their bare hands!

As fun as it was catching the fish, my favorite part of the day was reading the river. I loved observing how the different sections flowed at different speeds. I learned what lanes were and began to identify riffles, eddies and pockets. I discovered that you begin fishing the river in front of you and slowly progress across the stream so that you don’t spook the fish. At one point I even told my guide that he was more than welcome to fish while I just stood in the river being mesmerized. For the professional record…he did not fish! :). At one point I was standing in moving water that was almost chest deep and I could feel the weight of the current against me. Wait, I was standing in water ALMOST CHEST DEEP!  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and realized that for the first time in my life I was surrounded by water and my mind was not consumed with anxiety.  In fact, all morning I had not given one thought to anything other than the delight I was feeling as the river had wooed me like a new suitor and captured my undivided attention. 

Twelve thirty rolled around quickly and it was time to head back to the dining hall for lunch, our graduation ceremony, to tell our fishing stories, say our heartfelt goodbyes and head back home. Some folks had caught tons of fish, others a few, one had caught waders full of water as she took a tumble, and me, yep I told the story of how I caught that brook trout with my bare hands! The weekend had written so many great stories yet I knew that the greatest story of all was that, on this wonderful Sunday morning in October, I was no longer a terrified little girl, a crybaby, worthless and a coward. I was also a strong, powerful woman, and in those few passing hours I had made a new friend and the river and I had truly become one.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2021 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Cancer and Cicadas

A few days ago as I was walking out to my car for work, and I walked around to the passenger side to put some things in the front seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something brown and green on my bus tire. When I took a closer look, I discovered that it was a cicada that was molting out of its shell. Now, in my neck of the woods, it is not uncommon to see the cicada shells stuck to just about anything, however to actually catch one in the process of molting, well that is just a rare occasion for me.

My Marlee Jayne is fascinated with science, flowers, bugs, snakes and nature and she loves collecting the cicada shells and leaving them all over my house for me to find!  I knew capturing this process on film would tickle her fancy so I took a few moments to sit down with my handy dandy phone camera and begin filming.  Wow! What an incredible process I was observing. Before I get into describing it, let me share a few facts that I’ve since learned about Cicadas.

Cicadas begin their life in the egg stage, laid in a groove of a tree limb. When its ready, it will crawl from the groove, bury itself in the ground and dig until it finds roots to feed on. Nearly all of them spend years of their lives underground as juveniles, from 2 to 17 years. They will emerge as nymphs and find a vertical surface and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. When they are free of the old skin, their wings can begin to inflate with fluid and their skin will harden. Then they are ready to begin their adult life and serve their purpose of reproduction. Cicadas are mostly known for the song they sing on warm summer evenings.

Now back to my story. The adult cicada was half way in and half way out of the shell. If you looked close enough you could see It gently trembling as it was making its way out of the skin that had enclosed it during its juvenile days. Its shiny green skin was such a contrast to the old brown casing it was coming out of. The detail in its new body was intricate, delicate and beautiful. The thing that amazed me the most was the size of the adult body emerging versus the old shell it was coming out of. I said out loud, “Lord, how did that big ole cicada fit into that little shell? Even if it wanted to, It could not have remained encased or fit back into that shell!” And that is when I heard that still, small, familiar, comforting voice say to me, “its not meant to fit back into its old shell, and neither are you.” So, what began as a science lesson on a warm summer morning ended in a life lesson that penetrated to the core of my soul.

Life is a beautiful gift; however, it can be troublesome at times. At some point we will all face challenges, circumstances and situations that, after we come through them, we are different. I have experienced great loss, heart aches, disappointments, job changes, relationship changes, lost friends, family challenges – goodness, at times I felt as if it was just one unfortunate event after another. With every event came new growth, stronger faith and wisdom gained. However, the greatest challenge I have faced so far in life is my battle with breast cancer. It wasn’t something going on around me, or something happening to someone I love (although I do love myself!), it hit me personally. I am a nurturer at heart and when someone I love struggles, I wrap my arms around them, comfort them and assure them that everything will be okay. When someone has a need, I go boldly to the throne room of grace to petition the God who provides all things on their behalf. I step up, show up and do whatever is necessary to see someone I love make it through their situation.

This time it was me that needed held, comforted and assured. It was me that needed prayer warriors to petition heaven on my behalf.  It was me that needed friends to step up and show up. It was my body that was being attacked by a disease, and in turn saturated with chemicals in the name of healing.  It was my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows that fell out, leaving a cancer patient to greet me each morning in the mirror. It was me that was struggling on the trail, being the last one to make it to the top. It was me that laid in the bed, too weak to do my normal routine. It was me that had my body altered and my femininity modified. It was me that would never be the same again. It was all me.

I shared my journey on my social media pages and my blog for many reasons. One reason, or course, was to have the comfort, encouragement and support that is necessary to make it through such a battle, we cannot face something like that alone! Another reason was to have a reference to look back and reflect on when my focus wasn’t just survival. I love the Facebook memories that remind me of all the struggles I overcame, however sometimes when the memory is something ‘BC – before cancer” I wallow in my vanity and lament a little. Goodness at the difference in my physical body! Two years later I am slowly gaining back my muscle tone but the strength just isn’t there yet. I remember a body that was fit as a fiddle, that didn’t ache when I rolled over or spasm when I stretch, and oh! one that didn’t struggle with hormonal weight gain! I grieve a mind that didn’t fear a reoccurrence every time there was a weird feeling or pain; the anxiety can be overwhelming at times, or a heart that didn’t pound a little faster with each check-up. The physical limitations that once weren’t there can be downright disheartening and piss you off all in the same moment.

Sometimes, for various reasons, I want the old me back! However, on a warm summer morning while staring at a bug on my bus tire, I am gently reminded that, like the cicada, I am designed to embrace change. I lived along time in my juvenile stage of “before cancer” and regardless of how good things may have been, enduring my battle has transformed me, strengthened me and better prepared me to fulfill the purpose I am created for. I had to dig deep in the dirt and find the roots that would sustain me until the appointed time had come for me to emerge from the darkness. The new me, although full of battle scars, is intricate, delicate and beautiful and will never fit back into the old mold, and I should not long to.  Just like that cicada, I have a song to sing – a song of hope when things seem hopeless, of perseverance when I may be weary, of a faith that doesn’t fail, of new mercies that come every morning, of a grace that is sufficient and strength that will get me through. I, like the cicada, may have trembled through the transformation, but I am confident that today, as I sit here on this side of the battle, I am much better now than I ever have been and for that I am truly thankful.   

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

The Christmas Doll

It was a rare occasion to find myself at home on a Friday evening. Usually I was either already on the road to Western North Carolina or gearing up to get on my way for an adventure-filled weekend. However, work schedule changes for my significant other created a shift in my normal plans, so here I was, sitting at home in a quiet house with time on my hands. I decided I would take advantage of my time and tackle some cleaning and household projects that had been on the back burner. I moved furniture, swept down dust bunnies, moved some pictures around on my wall and cleaned out a cabinet. Next thing I knew, I found myself up in my attic going through boxes and totes, not really looking for anything in particular, just sorting, organizing and purging items that no longer added any rhyme to my reason. I opened one tote that had several Boyd’s Bears in it I was saving for my grand-daughter, and there in the bottom of the tote, I found her – my Christmas doll. I picked her up, looked into her dreamy eyes, and for just a few moments, as a rush of emotions consumed me, I traveled back in time almost 40 years.

Growing up in our house was not always the most pleasant of occasions. My father was a troubled man who had come from a very poor and violent upbringing. In appearance, he was strong in stature, handsome, and if you met him on a normal day, you would say he was quite likable and funny. When I see pictures of him as a young man, dressed in his military attire, I can see why my momma fell in love with him. What a looker! However, my father was also an abusive alcoholic and when he drank, the portals of hell could not compare to the evil rage that came out of him. The demons he wrestled with wreaked havoc on any one in his path, and most of the time that was my momma and us children.

I am the third child of four children, and other than the fact that I look more like my momma than the rest of my siblings, I was just like any other ordinary child trying to grow up in a hostile world. In his drunken rages, my father made no bones about the feelings he had towards me. He despised me, detested me, abhorred me, loathed me – heck, he downright hated my stinking guts! I endured many beatings for simple things like looking at him the wrong way or laughing too much. I still recall the piercing sting of the steel rings of his thick white belt all over my back, sides, stomach and legs as he beat me for laughing at my sister while she was in the shower.  I was 5 years old. The physical beatings were painful, yet the things I recall that hurt the most were the words he would spew out of his cigarette and liquor ridden breath. I heard often how I was such an ugly child, so stupid, nothing but a cry baby and if I heard it once I heard it a thousand times how he wished I wasn’t his and how he didn’t even want me to call myself by his last name. He always called me by nicknames, which to him were amusing, but to me they were degrading and made me feel less than human. I was 33 years old before I ever heard my dad say ‘Christy’ and it shocked me so much that it took me a minute or two to respond to him.  As a young child, I did not have the ability to process that these things he would say weren’t true, I thought a father’s words was the gospel!  Nor did I have the wisdom I do as an adult to understand that these vicious demons belonged to him and had nothing to do with any shortcomings on my part. The aftermath of his destruction left me wounded, bleeding, literally and figuratively, broken, fearful and confused. I had no identity, no value in myself, I just knew that I was disgusting, unwanted, worthless and unlovable.

Needless to say, Christmases in our house were not the joyous occasion they were intended to be. I honestly only remember just 3 holidays that were significant for the first 13 years of my life. One was when I was in 5th grade and someone from the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program came to our house and met with my mother to get a wish-list,   clothes and shoe sizes for all of us children. I was ever so proud to wear a brand new outfit on our first day back to school from holiday break. I felt like a runway model as I sported those baby blue corduroy pants and a blue and brown plaid button up shirt. When my momma was finally able to break free from my father, get a restraining order and file for divorce, she was able to go to work at a local department store. That year we all had a brand new pair of house shoes under the Christmas tree! The third occasion I remember was the following year when we were picked to have a Christmas shopping spree at the department store where my momma worked and that is when I found her, the Christmas doll. The moment I laid eyes on this doll I knew that I had to have her. She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen and she looked like someone straight off of my favorite TV show, Little House on the Prairie. I coveted Laura Ingalls Wilder, her simple life with a daddy who loved her and her family ferociously and worked hard to take care of and provide for them. There was a deep longing in my soul for this doll, and I chose her as my Christmas gift.

Fast forward almost 40 years, to a grown woman, sitting on the living room floor, holding this doll that I had kept for so many years. Through nine moves, two states, broken relationships, a wonderful marriage, a hateful divorce, unspeakable heartaches, terrible loss, shattered dreams and life-threatening disease. Through years of healing, helluva hours of counseling, renewed hopes, incredible transformations, perseverance, and self-discoveries. Through hard times, good times, joy, laughter and tears. Time and again  I had set her out on beds, put her back in boxes, set her back out in chairs as decor, only to put her back in boxes to safely store away and move again.

 When I saw her so many years ago sitting on the shelf in that old department store,  I had no understanding of the depth of why I not just wanted her, but needed her so badly or why I would keep her for so many years. Yet finally, on a rare friday evening that I found myself home alone, the answer flooded my soul like a dam break. This Christmas doll – she was beautiful, she was valued, she was wanted and she was loved. She was everything that I had yearned to be as a child and everything that I had fought to become as a woman.  I was her and she was me. 

Alone on the floor in that quiet house, I rejoiced because I am no longer that lost, broken child searching for love, significance, worth and acceptance. As an adult woman, I know that my wounds have healed, my scars, although still a part of me, have faded and I am fully aware that sometimes in life we are the victim of someone else’s battle. I can honestly say that I do not hate my father, I feel he has hated himself enough through the years for the mistakes he made and the devastation my tender heart suffered at his hands. I pray he has found the healing, peace and forgiveness in his own heart that I have embraced for myself and that we all desperately need. I breathed a slow, heavy sigh as I placed the doll back into the safety of her tote and laid my other keepsakes around her. One day, when I am long gone from this world, my children may find her and wonder why their momma kept such a simple, old doll stored up as a treasure. 

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles – Life After Active Treatment: The Quest for Normalcy

10 months ago I finished up active treatment for Breast Cancer. 17 months of my life spent dedicated to eradicating the terrorist that had invaded my body and threatened my well-being.

18 weeks of chemotherapy involving 2 chemotherapy drugs and 2 immunotherapy drugs.
17 immunotherapy infusions.
5 surgeries including a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
25 radiation treatments.
Completed. Done. Finished. Over with. Sigh. Hallelujah.

Being the hope filled, positive-attitude-kind-of-girl that I am, I had noble aspirations that finally life could go back to normal after everything was said and done, right? Yeah, I know, I love the way I crack my own self up sometimes but a girl can dream, right?!?

According to Webster’s dictionary normal is “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.” “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” I am sure that at some point in my educational plight ‘normal’ had been a spelling word that I had to look up the definition for. I was in fact the spelling bee champion for many years throughout my elementary and junior high years (hey, we all have to be good at something! I just so happened to thrive at memorization!) and I have always had a love for words, their meanings and the way you can scramble them together and write a beautiful story. Anyways…

I was ready to be ‘normal’ again. My healthy, active, adventurous happy world had been rocked by the diagnosis of breast cancer. I had sat week after week enduring treatments that, although the ultimate goal was healing, came in like a wrecking ball and transformed my fit, strong body into a caricature of weakness. I worked hard during the off-weeks of my treatments to keep myself built up, knowing that the next round would inevitably wreak a little more damage, bring a little more fatigue, a little more muscle atrophy, and a little more transformation to the woman I saw looking back at me in the mirror. I don’t despise the treatments that were successful and have given me more years to live my life, but I won’t pretend that I enjoyed those suckers one hairy bit! They were a dastardly yet necessary task and I would be just fine to never, ever, ever have to endure them again! I was ready to begin the process of rebuilding without the task of being tore down again.

I was ready to be normal again. To not have to undress in an open room and lay bare chested on a table while nurses chatted casually as if I wasn’t present. At times I didn’t even feel human as they lined up the fire-breathing dragon machine to zap any cancer cells that might be lingering in the shadows of my chest area formally known as my breasts but now a cavity with muscles separated from the chest wall and stuffed with concrete filled expanders.

I was ready to be normal again. To get up, get dressed, put on my face and not have to worry that throughout my day my painted-on eyebrows would get rubbed off and I would be walking around looking like Pinky after his horrifying eye-brow shaving bathroom scene. (referencing Pink Floyd’s ‘live action/adult animated surrealism musical The Wall Movie’ that was popular in the 80’s. The majority of you reading this blog may have no clue what I am talking about, and if you don’t, it’s okay, don’t watch it.  You will forever be traumatized any time you hear any of the songs from the soundtrack. Just googling the album cover is enough to scar you for life!)  

After 17 months of fighting a disease that was sent to take me out, I was ready to be normal again.

9 months later, I can say to you that normal is:

A setting on your dryer.
A temperature of 98.6.
An average statistic.
A blood pressure of 120/80.
A man not asking for directions.

However, normal has nothing to do with how you feel after active treatments are over.

Don’t get me wrong, physically, for the most part, I feel great!

My hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes have all grown back and I look pretty much like myself again (except for the natural hair color. No more Clairol! 😊)

On most days, my energy level is fantastic. I can now work again until I am done – not until my body says whoa…you have used up all of your energy cells today and I am shutting down…at 11 am.

I am starting to rebuild muscle tone – it’s a slow process but hey, it’s a process!

I can wear tank tops now without being self-conscious of a port bulging out of my chest like a third eye.

I am no longer referred to as a cancer patient – I am now a cancer survivor! whoop whoop!

There are SO many positives and for each and every one I am thankful.

But am I normal? Of course, some would debate that I was never normal to start with, right but zip it!

My point is I have discovered that going through cancer changes you. There is no such thing as going back to normal. It not only alters your physical body – noobies and nice new boobies are not the same! Trust me! My whole entire upper body has been restructured; I have shoulder aches, I have noobie muscle spasms (OUCH!), I am constantly aware of the discomforting tightness on my right side, blah blah blah – For more information you may read a previous blog about the new girls. 😉

There are some days, for absolutely no reason at all, that I am unusually tired and I have to have a zero evening.

My hair that was so nice and thick growing back is now thinning due to the medication I have to take daily.

I am depleted of estrogen as a preventative to keep new cancer cells from growing back. My body went from pre-menopause to post menopause, which is normally a several year transformation, in 8 seconds.

In spite of all of the physical changes I have experienced, I can honestly say that the thing I have found most challenging with surviving cancer is the way that it affects your mind set. Yes, I feel great, I take care of myself, I eat healthy, I exercise on the daily. I feed my body, soul, and mind daily with positive energy. I am religious with my check-up appointments and I even google my bloodwork to make sure things are, yeah you know, NORMAL! UGH!

However, any woman (or man!) who has had cancer knows that there is a constant nagging forethought of reoccurrence. Any odd feeling. Any abnormal pain. Any unexplained fatigue. Time for a check-up? Count on some anxiety. Time for yearly scans? They call that nervousness ‘scan-xiety.’ Even on the best of days, the thought of reoccurrence can creep up like an ex-boyfriend showing up at the same restaurant.  The timetable of your life is now forever associated with and referenced to “before cancer” and “after cancer.” Will this course of thinking change with time, perhaps, maybe, hopefully, please Lord!

So, is life after active treatment perfect? Nah? Am I back to normal, double-nah. It is a futile pursuit and I have given up the ridiculous notion that there is such a thing as me and normal in the same sentence. Nevertheless, I am certain of one thing as sure as my name is Christy. I endeavor to enjoy every single day of life after active treatment that I am blessed with and to live to the absolute fullest. I also know undoubtedly that I am much better now than I was when I began this journey many months ago, and for this I am forever thankful.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2021 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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Piano Man

I met this man the other day
Along my way.
His face was tired,
His shoulders slumped,
His countenance, shy.
He wouldn’t look me in the eye.

It was a business call. I was there to help.
Yet I made chatter
About small matters,
I noticed a keyboard in the hall.
“Do you play piano?” I asked.

His shoulders squared,
Hope rose in the air.
He turned his face,
His eyes met mine.
Oh! The shine!

“Yes, I do,” he replied.
A moment of silence.
I could see on his face
He went back to this place.
A young boy, at six of age,
Where he found his song,
He discovered his stage.
The chords,
The keys,
A sweet melody.
Harmony. Passion. Soul.
His heart was whole.

I met this man the other day
Along my way.
His shoulders steady,
His face was kind,
His countenance, aglow,
He looked me in the eye.

It was a business call. I was there to help.
We said our goodbyes,
“Thanks for your help, will I see you next time?”
I smiled, “Of course!”
I shut the door.
The tears, they came
As I walked away.
I wondered just who had helped who that day,
When I met this man
Along my way.

January 2021.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Why Not Me?

Life, it is a precious gift. It is also full of tragic moments.  Every minute of every day someone’s heart is ripped out of their chest with news that seems impossible to bear.  According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States alone, 4,950 folks are diagnosed with cancer every single day, and 1,650 of those will be a fatal diagnosis.  Heart disease, accidents, respiratory diseases, strokes and other numerous diseases and circumstance crushes the lives of hundreds of thousands per year.  Tomorrow is always hoped for but never promised.

My family has had its share of personal tragedies. My children lost their father to colon cancer in 2011. My son’s friend was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was only 14, and is still fighting 7 years later. Friends have committed suicide and others have lost their lives in car and motorcycle accidents. Just this month I had a good friend go in for kidney stone surgery and never returned home due to sepsis, leaving behind a husband and three children. Moments like these make us question what good there is in this world! Early one March morning in 2018 my family was devastated with the news of a senseless act of violence that forever robbed us of a beloved friend. Our hearts were shattered to find out that someone very close to us, someone we loved dearly, a young man that had become ingrained in our family structure and more so in our hearts had been violently shot. It was as close as I could come to losing my own child. Not a day goes by that we don’t somehow feel the sting of his loss.

While attending his funeral, one of the speakers made a statement that resonated deep in my spirit. As she was talking about the enormous hurt and loss that we were all feeling, and how at moments like these we are moved to ask…why me? She stated that what we really needed to ask is…”why not me? What made any of us different than the hundreds of mother’s who lose their sons daily, or the grandmothers who lose their grandsons, or brothers that lose their brother, or friends that lose their friends?” The statement seemed downright cold and harsh, nevertheless it was true. Loss; tragedy; hurt; these are all common things that we as human beings will experience multiple times in our lifetime. The thing that we have to do in moments like these, as difficult as they are, is not ask “why me” but decide how are we going to face the devastation before us? How will we cope with the pain? How will we let it define us? These are hard questions to ask ourselves, but they are necessary for our survival.

Those powerful words of the speaker kept playing over in my mind when I was going through the process of determining whether or not I actually had breast cancer. As many times as I prayed for the diagnosis to be in my favor, as many times as I pleaded with God for my children to not have to walk through this diagnosis of cancer again, as many times as I laid out why it wasn’t a good time for me to fight cancer, during the moments I had to hear my doctor confirm it was indeed breast cancer, during the visits with the surgeon, the visits with the oncologist to get my treatment plan, even when I had to sit my children down and tell them the news, never once could I question why me? Research shows that one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, 325,010 women per year, 890 women per day.   All of a sudden, my reality included me in those statistics. I am not a rarity, I mean I know I am unique, and awesome and fabulous :), but I wasn’t facing anything that so many other women hadn’t faced before me.  To be honest, I didn’t have time to ask why me, I had to focus on how my children and I were going to get through this journey together as gracefully as possible and come out victorious. I knew that it was going to take facing each day with a positive attitude, grit, determination, perseverance, lots of prayer, lots of support and above all else, the faith that could climb the mountain that wasn’t being moved for me. 

I had to focus on what was and not what could be. I was in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape I had ever been in in my life. Had this hit me 6, 7, 8 years prior, I would have been in a mess! I had a personal relationship with the God of heaven, the maker of all things, the ruler of the universes, the one who flung all the stars in their places and strategically placed the planets in position. Not just a God who I had read about in the bible, but THE God who has proven himself, his love, his faithfulness and his power to me over and over again in my life. My God who was not going to leave me hanging but would continue to walk each step with me through thick and thin! The God who promises in his word that he will “make all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” (that’s me!!) (Romans 8:28). I don’t by any means want to make it sound like fighting cancer was a walk in the park. On the contrary…it freaking sucked raw eggs and maintaining a positive attitude didn’t mean that everything was okay all of the time!

There were times that I felt like crap on a stick. Times I had to laugh hysterically or cry profusely. Times my body rebelled against me. Times I was so tired that I didn’t think I’d make it eight steps to the bathroom without fainting.  Moments I missed with my children and grandchildren, family and friends, because I just wasn’t up to getting out and doing anything. Times I just couldn’t’ do the hike or climb. I lost my taste and smell. Times I couldn’t eat anything – I got soooo tired of smoothies! Times I got hangry (its a real thing!). Times I struggled with depression. Times I cried out to God for mercy and grace. Times I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I had lost my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes (well, one eyelash held on for dear life and we celebrated each other daily!). My nose hairs were even gone! My fingernails all turned black from the skin dying underneath them. I lost my dignity more than once. My muscle tone said see-ya-later.

The picture above was right after my double mastectomy. Staring in the mirror at the ace bandage covering the place where my boobs – a significant part of a woman’s femininity – lived carefree for years, were now gone forever.  My oncology nurse, whom had fought breast cancer herself, had told me at the beginning to take lots of pictures throughout my journey, even when I didn’t feel like it. This was one of those that I didn’t feel like taking, and one I thought I would never share.

However now, over a year later, I can look at this picture and see just how far I have come. I don’t just see a feeble cancer patient that had been robbed of so many parts of her. I see a woman, who despite the circumstances, chose to face the bull manure life was throwing at her and fight back with vengeance.  I see a woman who stood in faith, endured the pain, won the battle and is victorious and cancer free! Am I happy I had cancer, NO! Do I ever want to walk that journey again…HECK NO! But I am thankful that when I look in the mirror today I see a woman, who is much better now than she was before the journey began and I understand…why not me?

I close this blog saying that I don’t in any form or fashion want to make light of anyone’s struggles. Life hurts and sometimes the pain can be so overwhelming that it can feel as if we just can’t get through it. I do want to say that you do not have to get through it alone! If you are hurting today, regardless of the circumstance, please reach out those who love you and support you. I would have never made it through my journey without God’s strength and mercy and all of the love, support, prayers and encouragement I received from so many. If you don’t have anyone, please reach out to me. I will listen; I will pray for you, I will fight through the darkness with you. It won’t be easy, but we won’t give up until we overcome!

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Radiation and Vacation

The Subway

A diagnosis of breast cancer is something that no woman ever wants to hear, however, on average, one woman out of 8 is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States every two minutes. On January 18, 2019, I experienced those “two minutes” and my doctor informed me that I had invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. Suddenly I became the “one in eight.” The good news was there are 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, the cancer had been discovered in early stages and I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life, which gave me a running start at what my body was getting ready to endure for the next several months. My treatment plan included 6 rounds of chemotherapy, once every twenty days, and then surgery to remove the affected breast tissue. The bad news was…I had freaking breast cancer and I was getting ready to embark on the most challenging year of my life.

After my diagnosis, things moved quickly. I had my first MRI on January 24th, first Echocardiogram on February 1st, had my port put in on February 4th, and my first chemotherapy treatment was February 11th. For the next several months I had more doctor visits than any one human should have and my body experienced many hardships and changes. I had my last treatment on June 3rd (hallelujah!) and went to my follow up MRI on June 17th to assess how effective the treatments had been. On June 19th around 11:45 am, I received the call with the results, “No evidence of residual malignancy in posterosuperior and upper inner quadrant areas of the right breast or elsewhere.” The tumors were GONE!  The chemotherapy had worked! The prayers had worked! All the support and encouragement had worked! All the moments of fighting against the terrorist that had invaded my body had worked! And last but not at all the least, my God had worked on my behalf and we had won! This stage of my battle was over and my next stage would be surgery scheduled for July 8th, 2019.

After careful consideration and consultation with my oncologist and surgeon, I chose to have a double mastectomy instead of just having the right rebellious boob removed. No cancer had been present in my left breast, yet I wasn’t willing to take the chance in having to fight this battle again if ole lefty decided to rebel against me in the future. Plus, the aging process is a reality in all of our lives and what woman really wants one boob that says “hello there!” and one that is saying “see ya later alligator” as she ages?? So, a double mastectomy with complete reconstruction beginning during the same process was scheduled. I am happy to say that surgery was a success and healing came swiftly. Perhaps it was the resilience that my body had already proven time and time again; the many prayers; my stubbornness; or all of the hiking I was able to enjoy while on medical leave. I was back on the trail 12 days after surgery and enjoyed 7 trail days, a beach trip between July 20th and August 4th and I was able to return to work August 5th.  My conclusion is that it was a combination of all the above! My surgeon had said that I could return to my normal activities after about a month so within one month and two days after surgery, I was back on the rock, climbing carefully, but nevertheless climbing! We even climbed one route completely blindfolded! Booyah!

Needless to say, despite all the hardships this year had brought so far, I was living and loving life! My follow up consultation with my surgeon brought unexpected news. She only had to remove 3 lymph nodes, which came back crystal clear, however one of the cancerous tumors had rested so close to my skin margin, and because she didn’t have a whole lot extra to work with (her kind words referring to my size B!) she recommended radiation to make sure there was nothing microscopic lingering around the tumor area. I would probably be okay without the radiation she said, but if I chose to have the radiation, she was confident that there would be no cancer left behind. So of course I chose to proceed with a radiation consultation and the next step in my journey would be 25 treatments, one a day for 5 weeks. We opted to allow the plastic surgeon to complete his process of stretching my muscle cavity to make pockets for my new implants before we started the treatments and this put us on a close time table. I had told my doctor during my consultation that I had to be done by October 17th because I flew out on October 18th to Utah for a much awaited out-west adventure that had been in the makings for almost a year. They weren’t that happy about the time restraint, nevertheless 2 days after my consultation my first treatment was scheduled.

Radiation began on September 12th and I had 26 days to complete 25 treatments! The first treatment was somewhat overwhelming as you walk into this huge room, a nurse stands behind you holding a hand towel to cover you up as you undress, you lay down on a table and they wheel you under this huge concoction of a machine that lines you up and shoots a radioactive beam straight to the targeted spot. After I got over the reluctance of taking my top off and standing naked in front of strangers, bearing my scarred chest that looked like it had two cement filled softballs crammed in it, the process itself was painless, a little dehumanizing, but painless. Each treatment lasted less than 15 minutes to show up, undress, lie down, get zapped, get dressed and leave. I began to get some minor skin irritation after 18 treatments, but I only had 7 to go and then I would be done and my body could enjoy a much needed 10 day vacation while healing.

On Wednesday October 16th, I completed my 25th treatment. Needless to say I was elated as I walked into the office to see the doctor and say goodbye. Treatments had gone well with minimal side effects and it was time to heal. The doctor looked at my skin, frowned a little at the irritation and then informed me that radiation side effects were about 10 days behind and I could expect more irritation. I would have to watch carefully and treat my skin with a special salve 4 times a day to avoid cracking and possible infection. When I explained to him I was going on vacation and would be hiking and camping, he explained to me that there was no way I needed to carry a backpack for at least two weeks. Yeah right, bahahaha! Inside I was screaming…what the heck! Why do you always have to rain on my parade! I am going out west and I do not have time for irritation and infection. Insert some major eye rolling and heavy sighing as I left feeling my stubbornness rising up from the pit of my stomach and as rebellious as the boob that had gotten me to this point in the first place.

Friday came and we were on a plan to Salt Lake City Utah. To make a long story somewhat shorter, we enjoyed 10 days of the absolute best adventuring a girl could have. The scenery was overwhelmingly beautiful! Mountains bigger than life! Incredible monoliths that didn’t even look real! Rocks, canyons, rivers, waterfalls! We put 1700 miles on a 15 passenger van, and almost 140,000 steps on my Fitbit. We visited Bridal Veil Falls in Provo, Utah; camped in the desert of Moab; visited Arches National Park and  Canyonlands;  watched the sunrise over the Mesa Arch as we rang in my 50th birthday; visited Mule Canyon and the House of Fire; drove through Natural Bridges National Monument and down the Moki Dugway (whoa what an adventure!); went through Mexican Hat, Monument Valley and Navajo Nation; stayed the night in Page, Arizona and visited Horseshoe Bend; drove to Bryce Canyon for a night of camping and exploring; and ended our trip with 3 days and nights camping in Zion National Park right behind The Watchmen. We hiked the Subway (thank the Lord and Jeremy for getting the permits!) and Angels Landing and finished up our last night at the Canyon Overlook trail. WOW!!! Needless to say the entire trip was beyond amazing. I have inserted pictures for your viewing pleasure :).

I somewhat followed the doctors’ orders and spent time treating my irritated radiation skin in a cold van in the desert of Moab and in campgrounds at the National Parks. I only had to wear a pack twice the whole time we were there (thanks to my David for carrying everything!). By the time we returned home, my skin was almost all the way healed and ready for the consultation with my plastic surgeon on November 12th. The next stage of my journey would be scheduled for November 26th – surgery #2, the removal of the concrete softballs on my chest I had been carrying around since July and the insertion of new implants. Goodbye softballs, hello noobies!

This year of my life was almost over and the hardest parts of my journey were coming to an end. As I reflect back I must say it sure has been a challenge. There were days I felt like a victorious warrior and days it took all I had within me to fight through. Through it all I’ve lived, I’ve learned, I’ve loved, I’ve collected priceless memories and have been surrounded by the most precious people. I’ve discovered I am stronger than I thought I was but yet I don’t have to be strong all the time. There is a time to persevere and push on and a time for rest and healing. I’ve learned that no matter what life throws at you, with a little faith and a lot of support, you absolutely can make it through anything. It may not always be pretty and you may not always like it, but you will prevail. I’ve learned that during the struggles, if you keep on keeping on, the day WILL come that you are better than you were during those moments.

Next step – say hello to the ‘noobies!’

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Delicate Arch

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Landscape Arch

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Sunrise at Mesa Arch

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Canyonlands

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The House of Fire

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View from Moki Dugway

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Looking back up Moki Dugway. We drove down that!

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Sunset in Monument Valley

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Horseshoe Bend

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Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon

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Welcome to Bryce Canyon

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Welcome to Zion National Park

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Front view from Campground

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The Watchman

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along the Subway hike

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Hiking up to Angels Landing

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Canyon Overlook

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Going up the Wiggles

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Our total number of steps…Whoa!

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The crew at The Subway

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The Subway

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2019 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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Some Days…

October 2017 after a 5 hour off trail hike to the Sphinx and then climbing 350 foot Mummy.

Most days I laugh and smile
And count my blessings with a heart overflowing with gratitude.
Most days I am a warrior and face my oppositions with the fierceness of a hungry lion on the prowl.
Quitting is not an option and being strong is the only choice.
Some days I get a little quiet and my heart feels a little heavy.
I look back on my journey and all of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome
and I sigh.
I rest a little in my thoughts and I lay down my sword for just a few moments.
I allow myself to cry a little.
On those days I miss the woman that I was before I had to fight for my life.
She is not much different than I am right now, yet she has changed so much.
It’s hard to explain yet I wonder if it is even supposed to make sense?
It’s like asking the butterfly if she ever misses being a caterpillar?
I am not bitter.
I know in the end of this journey I will be better, stronger, wiser and more resilient.
When those some days come I remind myself that life will go on and I will live every single moment of it with passion and perseverance.
And one day, I will be much better than I am at this moment.
Most days are many and some days are few.
And for that I am thankful.

Written on October 8, 2019 while reflecting on the picture taken October 2017

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Surgery – Out With the Old, In With the New!

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Boobs have never been something I have put much thought into over my 49 years. I was never over endowed but I didn’t feel like I was underendowed either. Mine just seemed to fit my body size and I was okay with it. They served their purpose when I had my children and didn’t seem to endure too much aging damage over the years. Breast augmentation (a boob job!) was never something that crossed my mind. I’m definitely not judging any woman who has chosen that route; it just never seemed to be a practical choice for my life and lifestyle.

However, things changed for me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2019. My treatment plan would include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation if necessary. The cancer was only present in my right breast so I had the choice of having just the right one removed and keeping my left one or having both removed. Seriously though, what woman wants one boob standing in attention boldly saying hello while the other one looks as if it’s a little tired and trying to sneak out of the door unnoticed? After much thought and consideration, I chose to have a double mastectomy and total breast reconstruction. Surgery would be scheduled just a few weeks after my last round of chemotherapy on June 3rd, 2019.

The thought of major surgery intimidated me more so than the thought of having my breasts removed. The only surgery I have had so far in my life was having my port put in (twice, by the way, because my body rejected the first one and stopped it all up!) so I had never been put completely under.  I am a deep sleeper and I have very vivid dreams, sometimes nightmares – I didn’t want to be put to sleep! It scared me a little and I experienced all kinds of anxious thoughts running through my head: What if there are complications from the anesthesia? What if I don’t wake up? What if I have a bad dream while I’m under and I can’t wake myself up? What if there are complications during surgery? What if my body was too weak to handle the surgery? What if my heart rebels against me? Whew! Those what if’s will drive you a little crazy so I had to pray for peace of mind and believe that everything would be just the way it is supposed to be!

On June 5th I went in for my follow up appointment with my surgeon, had my consultation with the plastic surgeon on June 20th and my surgery was scheduled for July 8th. My body had 4 weeks to prepare for the most major event of its life so far (well besides enduring 18 weeks of chemicals being pumped through it!). I decided to throw myself a “Boob Voyage” party the Sunday before surgery and have friends and family over to help me celebrate my victory of the cancer tumors being gone, and to help me say goodbye to the rebellious boob. We had a big time filled with lots of laughter, a few tears, tons of food, corn hole, kids running everywhere, wonderful fellowship and more love and support than I could have ever hoped for. When I finally laid down in my bed, I was ready – mind body and soul to open the next chapter of this journey.

Monday morning came and the sun arose in the sky just like it should have. I didn’t have to check in until 10 am, but I woke up early, did my devotion, prayed and got up to shower. Before getting dressed, I looked in the mirror a little longer than normal. This was the last time I would see my body as it had always been. The next time I would look in the mirror, I would be changed, different, scarred. I had talked to several women who had been through a mastectomy, each one having their own experience and I wasn’t sure what emotions would rise up in me when the time had come. But here I was, looking at myself one last time and at that moment I wasn’t afraid, angry or sad, I was just ready, ready to get through this process and begin my recovery. I took my hands and I held myself for just a few moments and respectfully said goodbye to my rebellious boob.

My David, my Kaley and my momma all went with me to the hospital. We sat in the room together as I waited on the nurse to come take me down, we talked, we laughed and their presence calmed my spirit. When the nurse came in around 12 to get me I was so excited! It was the same nurse that took me down when I had my port redone. That day, on our way down to the surgery room, she stopped and prayed for me and I felt such peace. I was hoping she would be my nurse again and boom…there she was. I welcomed her prayers on the way to the surgery room again. Surgery took a little under 3 hours. Not only would I have my double mastectomy, but the plastic surgeon would come in right behind the general surgeon and place the expanders for the reconstruction process in before they sewed me up. Everything went great! I was back in my room by 4 and was blessed with family and friends stopping by to check on me, love on me and bring me gifts (thank you Pam for the socks! and Brooke for the aprons!).  I was released the next day around lunch and I was ever so happy to get back home to the comfort of my own surroundings.

The month after recovery went well. I took it easy for a few days but thankfully I was back out on the trail in no time and back on the rock in just a little over a month!

July 20th we hiked Bald Knob Ridge off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell.

July 21st we visited Roaring Fork Falls and Set Rock Falls.

July 22nd We finally made it to the Emerald Forest on Unaka Mountain.

July 24th I reunited with a great friend and we headed towards upper Sill Branch Falls on Clarks Creek.

July 25th I took my oldest daughter and my grandbabies on a hike to Lower Sill Branch.

July 27th We hiked from the Jonas Ridge trail head at Rhododendron to Hawksbill and down the Ledge Trail.

July 30th was a camp-out in the bus with the grand babies (well momma Kaley slept in the bus with them, I was still having to sleep in the recliner!)

August 1st – 4th David and I took our first beach vacation together and had a blast!

Heck, I needed to get back to work to rest! 🙂

And if you are wondering, yes, I looked. I looked at myself in the mirror after surgery. It was a few days before I could take the bandages all the way off, but finally, after all the drain tubes were out and the bandages were off, and I had a wonderful long hot shower (you forget how great they are until you can’t take one for several days!) I stood in front of the mirror and I looked at myself. I looked at my now flat chest that sprouted at a young age and carried part of my femininity for years. I looked at the scars that now graced the area where my breasts once were. Although I grieved the parts of me that were gone, I was not sad. My body was different but I was not ashamed. More so I was proud of my body and my scars were a beautiful testimony. Before I even knew anything was wrong, my body fought against this terrorist called breast cancer that was lurking in the shadows and kept it contained in my breast versus spreading to my lymph nodes or other parts of my body. For the past 7 months it fought a long, hard battle through chemotherapy and surgery and we survived. Together we fought, we struggled, we endured and we overcame. As I stood there and looked at myself, I knew there were parts of me that were forever lost and my body would never be as it was before. However, as I stood and looked at myself in the mirror,  I smiled and I cried. I knew that I was more me than I had ever been in my life and I was much better at this moment than I had ever been.

Next step radiation and reconstruction!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Rebellious Boob Chronicles – Chemotherapy Round 6 – Victory on the Horizon

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When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer on January 18, 2019 life as I knew it suddenly changed. Beginning February 11th, I would spend the next 18 weeks in chemotherapy, a treatment every 21 days with a total of 6 treatments. I remember walking into the first treatment bold, extremely positive and a little anxious facing the unknown. After experiencing the first round of side effects I felt like it would take forever for this season of my life to pass. Fast forward to June 3, as I walked through the doors of the treatment center, I was more than ready to receive the last and final round of chemical warfare. I had made it! I had physically and mentally endured the side effects and changes that the chemicals had wrought on my body, mind and soul. I had lost much, gained much and learned much. I was ready.

From having endured the previous 5 treatments, I knew the side effects would come. Somehow though, knowing it was the last time I would have to deal with them made it less dreadful. The 6 or so hours of sitting  in the chair while chemicals were being pumped through my body was filled with conversation, laughter (I thought we may get called down at times!) and tears with my faithful friend, who had brought me to every single treatment.  A friendship that began 20 some years ago in the flower beds of a church yard; a friendship that was woven together by the very hand of God; a friendship that has endured loss of spouses, divorce, relocations, loss of contact at times and many broken hearts. A friendship that seems no matter where life always takes us, it always brings us back together to see each other through the moments of life’s devastation. Before my first treatment, another friend had shared with me that statistics showed that women who were facing cancer and had that ONE girl friend who went with them to every treatment had an extra 40% higher chance of healing and survival on top of the statistics of their treatment plan. My friend, my soul sister, my +40% had endured this season of my journey with me, she had diligently stood with me, fought with me, checked on me, cried with me, prayed with and for me and sacrificed her time for me.  If anything good came out of those times of being bound to a chair and hooked up to chemicals, it was the wonderful time we got to spend together and I am forever grateful for her!

After the treatment, I felt great! I went home and worked outside for a while, planted some pepper plants, went to work the next day and made it all day (heck yes!), went to the grocery store, cleaned out my refrigerator and cooked dinner (can anyone say hello to my ambitious self?!?). As the days passed, I kept anticipating the side effects hitting but I think my body was as darned excited as I was about this being the last time it had to go through this cycle. It had fought so hard over the last 18 weeks and been changed so much, yet this time, it rose up like a valiant warrior. My mouth did not get as sore even though my taste buds were in rebellion, the fatigue came but didn’t put me under as long (or maybe my ambition and stubbornness was is control). The bathroom episodes weren’t as tragic or frequent. The worst part I dealt with this time around was the skin under my fingernails dying. On most of my fingers my entire nail bed looked bruised and my nails became dry and brittle. Overall, the few weeks following the treatment were manageable and there was no dread of another one coming. We were able to get out and enjoy waterfalls, kayaking and climbing without me dying of exhaustion!

I had my follow-up MRI 14 days following the last treatment and on June 19 my doctor’s office called with the results – “No evidence of residual malignancy in posterosuperior and upper inner quadrant areas of the right breast or elsewhere.” The tumors were GONE!  The chemotherapy had worked! The prayers had worked! All the support and encouragement had worked! All the moments of fighting against this terrorist that had invaded my body had worked! And last but not at all the least, my God had worked on my behalf and we had won!

It took a few moments to collect myself after the phone call. To try to explain the emotions that were coursing through me is impossible. I had spent the past 5 months in the fight of my life, for my life and sweet victory was mine. I couldn’t wait to tell my children, my family, my David, my friends, my support system! We had won! The victory we had fought for, stood for, prayed for, hoped for and longed for was ours. My “someday” had come, this part of my journey was over and I knew at this moment that I was truly on my way to being better, much better than I had ever been.

I am not thankful for cancer. It is a horrid, hateful disease that has no prejudices or discrimination. It attacks with a vengeance and destruction is its priority. I never want to deal with it again in my life. I am thankful, however, for all of the blessings that I have experienced through this journey…

The incredible outpouring of love and support!

The prayers, positive words and encouragement.

The cards, phone calls, messages and visits.

The pampering visits and dinner dates with friends!

The unexpected care packages and gifts! and poems! and M&M’s! and hand made pottery! and prayer shawls! and blankets! and pictures!

The dinners made for my family! and the help cleaning my kitchen!

The strangers who have stopped whatever they were doing, wherever we were, and prayed for me.

The strangers who have asked me to pray for them!

The connections made and bonds formed with those who have walked this journey before me.

The time I have been able to spend with my children as they supported me through every moment of this journey! You ALL are the BEST! The strongest, most courageous and awesome 4 people that I know! I am blessed to be your mom and I love you BIG!! (Insert…I have the most amazing grand children this side of the universe ❤️)

The absolute best family and friends ever!

The sweetest, kindest, most generous and supportive boyfriend on the face of the planet. (Insert…he has some awesome shoulders to cry on and stunning blue eyes that slay me every time! 😊)

The un-explainable (spell check tells me that I may have made that word up!) God moments! God will make your coffee! He will shine his glory down from heaven and saturate YOU in the midst of 12000 acres! He will send the right word at the right time! He will schedule meetings just so you can spend time with a dear friend who lives 12 hours away!

So many blessings and I am beyond grateful for each and every one.

I am thankful this part of my journey is over. Now it is time to prepare myself to say good-bye to my rebellious boob…out with the old and in with the new…to move on to bigger and better things (no boob pun intended!)

My next step – surgery! See you on the other side of the knife!

June 3, 2019

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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