RSS

Tag Archives: cancer free

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!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Life With the Noobies

Some blogs are easier to write than others. There are times when the words rush out like a mighty river, times they flow gently like a summer breeze, and then there are times they stay dammed up in my soul like waters stored behind a secured fortress. I have learned over the years that until the words are ready to come out, it is senseless to sit down and try to force them onto paper. It just doesn’t happen. Writing about the ‘noobies’ has proven to be one of those stories that has stubbornly refused to release itself from the portals of my soul…until now.

If you have followed me over the past year, you are familiar with my recent journey through breast cancer. In January of 2019, at the age of 49, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. I had two tumors, one was Her2+ and one was Her2-, one at stage 1 and one at stage 2. Within a few short weeks of the diagnosis, my treatment plan began: 6 chemotherapy treatments over an 18 week time span, 1 year of immunotherapy, 25 radiation treatments and a double mastectomy with 2 reconstructive surgeries, and not to mention two port placement surgeries. It has been a rigorous 17 months, but well worth the promise of having many more months and years to spend living and enjoying this beautiful life that I am blessed with. I have been writing for years, it is a form of therapy for me that always brings healing and a deeper understanding of the seasons of life. When this phase of my life came into fruition, it was just natural to pen my thoughts, my experiences, my accomplishments, my victories and my struggles. After spending years in a ministry spotlight, I’ve learned that the ability to be transparent is both intimidating and freeing all in the same breath.  I am a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of girl, no one has to guess who I am or what my thoughts are, and I express myself in the same manner when I write. I wear my emotions on my countenance like a favorite outfit. I have been accused of being raw, painfully honest and too authentic, yet I embrace all of those accusations with boldness and confidence saying yes! That is exactly me and I have a beautiful peace with who I am.

During my treatments, I relished in sharing the blessings that came my way and I felt no shame in sharing the god-awful side effects of the chemotherapy on my body. Dignity became a by-word and conversations about uncontrollably crapping my pants became the norm. I freely shared about the fatigue, insecurities, weight loss, hangry-ness due to the mouth sores that prevented me from eating, the struggle with my emotions, my fingernails looking like I had went all gothic with the dead black skin underneath and  my feet swelling like elephant trunks just to mention a few. It took me a little time to be able to share the emotions over losing my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, simply because it was difficult looking in the mirror and seeing a cancer patient staring back at me. Now, here I sit, 7 months after my reconstructive surgery (wow! time has flown!!)   ready to share what life is like with the ‘noobies.’

Having reconstructive surgery is different than having breast augmentation, or what many just refer to as a ‘boob job.” When you have a breast augmentation, the implants are placed in your breasts to ‘enhance’ what is already there. The implants fit inside the natural breast pockets, and have breast tissue covering them, leaving the new breasts looking and feeling natural.  However, when you have a double mastectomy with reconstruction, all of the breast tissue is removed during the mastectomy, leaving only a thin layer of skin covering your chest muscle.  In order to make room for an implant, the pectoralis chest muscle must be separated from the chest wall and tissue expanders are placed under the muscle. Office visits follow to have the tissue expanders gradually inflated with sterile fluid to stretch the skin and muscle, creating a new pocket for the soon to be placed implant. Once the expander is fully inflated, and the skin and muscle are stretched to the cup size desired, another surgery is required to remove the expanders and place the implants. The process to stretch the chest wall is somewhat unpleasant. The expanders feel like concrete blocks stuck in your chest, they have no ‘give’ to them,  no matter what size they are, they’re constantly getting in the way and sleeping with expanders is a task! When you lay on your side you feel as if they are constantly pulling and are going to come right off your chest, but when you lay on your back, the weight of them can feel as if you are smothering. Lying on your stomach is not an option! It only took 8 weeks to stretch me out to a B cup (sorry folks, no Dolly’s here!) but I had to carry those babies around for 3 extra months due to having radiation treatments.  Needless to say when November 25th rolled around, I was more than ready for the surgery to have the expanders removed and the implants inserted. When I awoke after surgery, I immediately felt better – as if the weight of the world had been lifted off of my chest, no pun intended. The implants were squeezable (of course not too hard right after surgery!) and except for the numbness from having my nerves cut through again for the second time, I was hopeful that I was on my way to feeling natural and normal again.

7 months later I am still waiting, and I have this gnawing in my gut that feeling ‘normal and natural’ is not much of an option for a breast cancer survivor. I have adjusted to the fact that the structure of my ‘noobies’ will always feel a little different due to the fact that my implants are underneath my chest muscle. We don’t realize how many movements we actually make that flexes our chest muscle, until we can feel every. single. one! Rock climbing is an adjustment and push-ups are humorously challenging. My right side will always be higher and tighter than my left side due to the side effects of radiation. Insert making sure my shirts aren’t too clingy in photo ops! Double insert rolling my eyes at even worrying about it! My surgeon’s assistant informed me that the numbness never really goes away and since I chose to have 3-d nipple reconstruction (still waiting for tattoos – like, what woman wants to go indefinitely with half of her noobies finished??? thank you COVID 19!), I look like I’m cold all the time, if you catch my drift, so I am forever mindful of what I wear.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some ‘perks’ to having brand new, always standing in attention even after 4 kids, noobies at the age of 50 and I did have the best, top-rated surgeon in my area take good care of me. 🙂 I will eventually get used to all of the differences, which on most days are just distant after thoughts, and for the most part, I have peace about my new normal. During those fleeting moments of humanness, when I struggle with the insecurities, I get alone with myself, I cry a little and then I remind myself that every day I am extremely thankful to be alive, to be on this side of the journey, to be healthy and cancer free, to be able to do all the things that I do and I rest in the assurance that today I am much better than I was when I began this journey.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 19, 2020 in breast cancer

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: I Wish…I know…

Some mornings when I get out of bed and my feet first hit the floor, I wish I never knew what it was like to have cancer.
I steady myself as I feel the fiery sensations  on the soles of my feet
I slowly straighten up
I hear each joint whisper a sigh of discomfort
and I whisper back, I know, I’m sorry you ache
But we can do this!
I began to walk and I know that this day is a new day
With new mercies, sufficient grace and strength to make it through.

I know that my burning feet will carry me everywhere that I need and want to go
and on some days they will hike miles, scramble through creeks and over rocks
bushwhack through briars and thick rhododendron
and climb glorious mountains.

I know that my aching joints will sit down, rise up, make coffee, embrace my babies and grand babies, throw dog toys, cook dinner, do the laundry, take out the trash, do yoga, vacuum my house, mop my floors, mow my yard, drive my car and when the day is said and done, we will lay down together and silently weep accomplished tears.

Some days I look in the mirror and I wish that my body wasn’t altered, scarred, weak, different.
I miss my strength, my form, my endurance,
The definition in my arms and back from countless hours of climbing.
The firmness in my thighs from relentless, exhilarating adventures over the hills and through the valleys.
I gaze at the swelled areas of my chest,
I long for the day that I can stand in front of the mirror and look and feel like a woman again instead of a cancer patient.

Then I take a moment and a gaze a little deeper…
I run my fingers through my silvered hair,
I gently trace the scars where my breasts use to be
And I know that my body has been through hell and back
Fighting like a warrior
Enduring each poke, prod and knife against its delicate skin.
It armored up through chemical warfare, standing bold and courageous all the while suffering from the friendly fire coursing through its veins
destroying the terrorist that was attacking us.
I know that we are working in harmony for healing and victory,
We are stronger because of our battle
And I know deep inside that I am more of a woman than I have ever been.

Some days I struggle for the right words to say when my granddaughter asks why I shaved my head?
Or why can’t I jump on the trampoline with her?
Or what is cancer momsy?
My heart aches and I wish I never had to explain to her, or any of my babies or grandbabies, about this hateful disease.
I wish that they would had never had to see me tired, weak, sickly, bald.
I wish they would never have to experience hurt, fear, shame, or injustice in this broken world.

I pray and I know the right words will come.
I also know that actions speak louder than words!
Silently they are observing what grace and grit and determination look like.
Soon enough they will see with their own little perfect eyes and pure hearts that life isn’t always kind,
But we can be.
They will know that God is always on our side.
He is faithful and just and
He will never leave us or forsake us.
They will know what a firm foundation of faith looks like in certainty and uncertainty,
And they will know that  with the love, support and encouragement of family and friends
A person can make it through even the most difficult of times,
And even broken things have beauty to behold.

Some days I wish life was different
But I know that no matter the situation, the circumstance, the season or the struggle,
Life is a gift to be treasured
To be lived to the absolute fullest
Today and everyday.

March 27, 2020
Ramblings of a quarantined survivor, thriver and lover of life
#coronapandemic2020


 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 27, 2020 in breast cancer

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,