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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: A Year Ago Today…

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(I dedicate this blog to my dear friend and soul sister Brooke West who took me to all of my doctor visits, who sat with me through every minute of chemotherapy, who endured me on steroids…whoa! who laughed, cried and prayed with me, and who sent me the most powerful text message early one late December morning that inspired these words.)

They say time flies when you are having fun. I say time has a way of creeping by and flying by all at the same time whether you are having fun or not. It is hard to believe that just one year ago today I was getting ready to embark on the most challenging personal journey I have ever faced in my life. I have definitely been through some rough times in my 49 years, heck my early childhood was enough to make anyone tremble a little (but that is another blog for another time). I have lost family, friends, a marriage, a spouse. I have had my heart broke by people who were supposed to be my friend. My family has experienced the tragedy of senseless violence, we have suffered the consequences of not-always-the-smartest choices (a nice way of saying I have done some stupid stuff in my life!), and we have had the proverbial rug pulled out from under us on many occasions. I could go on and on, but I think you catch my drift that life hasn’t always been a piece of cake. The hard times have shaped me and my faith has produced a stubborn resilience that refuses to let the hardships get the best of me! However, in January of 2019, life was getting ready to throw me a hefty kick to the gut, on the most personal level, which would require me to dig deep, trust wholeheartedly in my faith and endure with the strongest determination I could muster up.

On November 21st, 2018 I went for my yearly mammogram. After receiving a bad scare in 2015 and having to go have a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound to determine density in my right breast, I had kept up my mammograms on a regular basis regardless of the fact that I didn’t have health insurance for years (kudos to the local health department for a grant that covered mammograms for uninsured women). On November 28th I went for a complete physical with my primary care physician. I hadn’t had one of those in years and felt it was a smart move since I now had health insurance that covered such things, and I hadn’t been feeling quite like myself here and there. The good news is that my physical results were fabulous! All of my blood work came back perfect and my doctor said I was one of the healthiest women she knew. The bad news is my mammogram came back showing some questionable areas in my right breast, and once again, a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound was ordered. I would like to say that I was as calm as a cucumber, but I won’t even try to downplay the fear that ravishes a woman’s heart when she is told further tests need to be done. Not to mention that over the course of 2018 I had noticed a change in the pea size mass that was diagnosed as density in 2015. It was now about the size of a nickel but according to google it was nothing, (seriously, of course I googled it!!) but deep down inside, I was scared. On January 3rd 2019, I went in for my testing. It wasn’t anything I was unfamiliar with, but this time the atmosphere seemed a little more intense. The mammographer appeared a little more serious and the ultrasound tech took an extensive amount of time checking out my right side and under my right arm. Finally, she called in the radiologist so that she could sit down with me face to face, eye level to eye level, and tell me ever so gently that it was expedient that I go for a biopsy.

I left the office feeling overwhelmed and as I drove back to work, I cried a little and prayed a lot. My thoughts rushed to my children and I had no I idea how I would tell them that their mother may have breast cancer. I spent the next week praying profusely and diplomatically telling God why I DID NOT need to walk through breast cancer at this time in my life. No just NO! Of course I didn’t want to have to fight the battle, but my reasons weren’t selfish ones, first and foremost I did not want my children to have to suffer through another parent having cancer. Please Lord, not at this time in our lives. Give us a little more time to grow, to heal, to enjoy life. I am strong in my faith and firmly believe that the God I serve can work miracles and remove anything out of my body that He chooses. Yes Lord, work a miracle on my behalf, after all my God moves mountains, right?!?

A year ago today, on January 10th, 2019, I was dreadfully waiting for the sun to rise as I rose out of bed early to get ready to go to my scheduled biopsy. One of my most dear friends and soul sister’s was taking me so that I didn’t have to go alone. I made my coffee, read my devotion, prayed and again recited to God at what a testimony it would be and how I would so praise Him if He would just remove these freaking lumps in my breast (yep, ultra sound showed two!).  I opened my Facebook and the first thing I saw was a memory from my ‘Dear Christy from God’ letters on January 10, 2018 (exactly one year prior) that said:

“Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what?” ~God~.

I knew in that moment what the outcome of the biopsy would be before they ever pierced my skin. I knew in that moment that my life and my children’s lives were getting ready to change drastically. I honestly didn’t know what all it would involve, but I knew from this moment on that my life would be on a different time table – you know, like how we measure time as BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini – the year of our Lord) – now for me it would be “before I got breast cancer” and “after I survived breast cancer.” I sighed deeply and read the memory again:

Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what? ~God~.
Dear God, well, I guess we climb the dang mountain, that’s what. ~Christy~

And that is exactly what we did.

It took eight viciously long days for the doctor to call and ask me to come in for my results. Tom Petty nailed it on the head when he said “the waiting is the hardest part!” My dear friend and soul sister went with me to hear the results and we all had to chuckle a little as my doctor recited again that I was one of the healthiest women she knew…but…the biopsy showed that I had breast cancer.  My first reaction was “well hell” and after listening to what the next few weeks of my life would be like with all the doctor visits they would line up for me, Brooke and I both agreed on one thing; My God, the one in whom I believe in and love wholeheartedly, the one who loves me more than I can imagine, the one who flung the starts into place and measured the depths of the seas in the palm of his hand, the One who is good all the time, He was not at all surprised by this diagnosis. The bargaining was over, the course had been set and if He wasn’t going to move the mountain, then in no uncertain terms He was going to have to show up and help me climb it. On this side of the battle I can say that not only did God show up, but He showed out!

I have spent the past year of my life climbing this mountain called breast cancer. I have gone through two port surgeries, 5 months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 25 radiation treatments, and reconstructive surgery. I lost my hair, my dignity, my hot, muscular beast of a body I had worked so hard for (okay, maybe I wasn’t so hot to start with but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it! J). My battle isn’t quite over yet as I am still doing immunotherapy infusions every three weeks. I am getting ready to take a preventative pill for a year and then another preventative pill for five years. Hopefully I will only have one more surgery left to complete reconstruction. All in all, it is safe to say that it has been a wing-dinger of a year! I have felt strong and I have felt weak. I have felt empowered and I have felt helpless. I have been brave and I have been scared. I have been challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. I can say that being on this side of the battle feels much better than where I was one year ago and, despite all of the losses and struggles,  I have experienced some pretty awesome things through all of the madness. I have been surrounded by the most wonderful support system of family and friends, saturated in prayers and positive thoughts by a countless number of people and received more acts of kindness than I deserve. I have met some of the most precious folks along the way who had fought this same battle, strangers who became friends almost instantly because of the special bond we share. In the best of times and in the worst of times, I know without a doubt, that I have not been alone in this struggle for one single minute.

By the grace of my Almighty God, I was not only able to continue to work full time, I was also able to do my job with a passionate fervor and reach and exceed the goals that were set before me. I have traveled to more states this year than I have in all my life and I have watched the sun rise and set on the east coast and the west coast. I was able to experience a sweet beach vacation and a grandiose out west adventure, celebrating my 50th birthday watching the sun come up over the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Utah. In the midst of fighting cancer, I logged 3,284,177 steps and I was on the trail 83 days, only missing  a handful of adventures due to treatments and side effects. The most difficult year of my life has also been the most glorious of adventures! And I give all praise, honor and glory to the God in whom I gave my heart to so many years ago. His joy IS my strength!

Some would argue that if He was such a good God, why didn’t He move the mountain like I had begged him too? Oh my, as I type this I shudder at the things I would have missed if He would have done things my way. Am I saying that I am thankful for cancer? NEGATIVE GHOSTRIDER! However,  had I not walked this journey, I would have missed the recognition of His mighty hand weaving the strands of my life and guiding my every step. In 2012 God sparked a desire in me for the outdoors, and after my first hike in June 2013, a passion for hiking and adventure was birthed in my soul. I can name 3 things that tried to divert my passion through the years, but God in His goodness would always just redirect my steps and lead me to another place til eventually I found my Tribe. From 2016 through 2018 I spent weekend after weekend on the trail and with each step God was with me, honing my heart for maximum strength, honing muscle and sinew to perfection, building up every aspect of my body, strengthening my mind. healing my soul, and preparing me for a battle that would inevitably attack it all. He knew that on January 18, 2019 when I received the news that I had breast cancer that I would need to be in the best physical, mental and spiritual shape that I had ever been in to endure and come out victorious. Insert that I worked for 13 years without health insurance, and in August 2018 I was hired at my new job that offers incredible benefits, my health insurance kicked in on October 1, just 3 short months before my diagnosis.

A year ago today breast cancer was my diagnosis but it was never my destiny! It is just a path to another purpose and I hold fast to the peace, joy and thanksgiving that fill my soul. Today, on January 10, 2020 I open my eyes to a new day, a new year, a new decade and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am better, much better than I was…a year ago today.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2020 in breast cancer

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Radiation and Vacation

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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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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy and Losing Your Hair

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I will began this blog by saying that it has taken me 4 ½ months to be able to complete and post this blog. I began writing it shortly after we shaved my hair off on March 4th, yet every time I sat down to pen my thoughts, I would either draw a blank or would be so overcome with emotion that I just couldn’t finish. Losing your hair isn’t just a physical side effect of chemotherapy, it is an emotional one, one that reaches down into the depths of your soul and touches the heart of your identity. It’s visible evidence that something isn’t quite right in your body. Hair loss isn’t limited to just your head either. Eventually you lose your eyebrows and your eyelashes (I miss them!) and your body hair (I won’t complain about not having to shave my legs for months!! ) It changes your appearance and it takes time to get used to it. Months later I have grown accustomed to my bald head. I’m much more comfortable being without a head covering around my family and friends, letting that bald, round head shine – especially when it’s blazing hot out and I am crawling up the trail, literally! I am able to look in the mirror and most times I don’t even bother with the fact that I have no hair. I discovered that I can take naps without having to worry about messing my hair up. I can drive with the window down and let the wind blow as much as it wants to. I can take showers at night and not have to fool with fixing my hair in the mornings, thus getting to sleep later. The perks have been many. So as I post this today, I am thankful for the progressive adjustments. I am thankful for those who contributed to my hat fund and collection and allowed me to look fashionable these past months. I am thankful that I am 3 weeks post-chemotherapy and I have a nice little layer of baby hair growing back already. I am thankful for all of the positive words and encouragement to boost my struggling self-esteem and keep me smiling. Most of all, I am thankful to finish this blog and finally get the words out of my soul that have been churning on the inside for so long. And I am thankful for YOU for sharing my journey with me.

Rebellious Boob Chronicles – Chemotherapy and Losing Your Hair

One of the things I dreaded most about chemotherapy was losing my hair. Even before it was confirmed that I had cancer, I had nightmares about being bald.  Once I received the diagnosis I would catch myself standing in front of the mirror, holding all of my hair back, trying to imagine what I would look like bald. My kids would walk by and be like…mom what are you doing? (Insert a strange look on their face)

Once the news was out and I started chemotherapy, everyone knew it was inevitable. I have the best of friends and every one would do their best to console me. “It will grow back!” or “Ah, It’s just hair!” they would say. The truth is, yes it will grow back, however to say that my hair is just hair is quite an understatement. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my hair since it started growing 49 years ago and it became a part of who I am, a part if my identity.  I’ve had long hair, at one point it was blonde and curly.  However, the older I got and the more I began to discover who I truly am deep on the inside, the shorter and darker my hair got until finally, I found MY hairstyle and it became my icon. People who didn’t know me personally would recognize me by the infamous red streak that I wore forever. My children’s friends would say, “oh yeah, your mom is the one with the short red hair.”  Strangers would stop me and compliment me on how much they liked my hair. Well most strangers were in my favor. I remember once a man stopped me in the grocery store and felt the need to tell me that most men didn’t like women with short hair. I come a frog’s hair of letting him know that most women didn’t like men with short …., but I refrained and just told him it was okay, that I didn’t like most men and went my merry way without cutting the fool. So without much ado about nothing, I think you get the point. My hair was an important part of me.

At my first visit with my oncologist, my doctor was gracious enough to talk to me about the most common side effects of chemotherapy and how long it usually started for them to show up. Hair loss usually occurs 10 to 14 days after the first treatment. Wow. I thought I would have longer than that but I began to mentally prepare myself for the loss that was coming.  At first it was just a hair or two here and there that I would find or would stick to my hands. However, the second weekend after my first treatment, I was getting ready for an adventure and when I went to fluff my hair glue through my hair, I brought my hands down and they were covered in my dark brown locks. Ugh! Day after day the same scenario until I came to the conclusion that the inevitable was happening and it was time to take control. Thus I planned an “Ode to my hair” head shaving party for March 4th, the evening of my second chemotherapy treatment.

My kiddos, my hairdresser, and my grand babies were present and some of my awesome girlfriends came bearing gifts of wine, appetizers and desserts. I parked a chair in the center of the kitchen and the party began. The buzz of the clippers hummed a somber melody. We shared lots of laughter and a few tears were shed.  We made videos and took selfies. My oldest son, whose hair was way down his back, shaved his head also in honor of his momma. I was surrounded by tons of love and support and it made such a bittersweet event and that first glance in the mirror a little more bearable. It was done. My hair was gone. I was bald.

Now came the rush of fears. Would people look at me different? Would my boyfriend struggle with having a bald girlfriend? Would my friends avoid being seen with me? And of course, my greatest fear about it all was how would my children and grandchildren  react to having a bald momma and Momsy. I know, it sounds silly to even say that out loud, but every day and especially through this whole ordeal, they have been and always will be my greatest concern. It wasn’t long after we finished with the new hairless style that my phone starting blowing up with notifications. My children had posted some of the selfies we took on their social media. Yikes! I admit that at first I was a little shocked. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for thousands of people to see me with no hair! However, as I began to read their proclamations of love, support, and encouragement and the sweet, positive responses from others,  my heart was flooded with gratitude. They were proud of their momma, hair or no hair, and they wanted their world to know it! I was overwhelmed and the fears I had melted away. I was thankful. I was blessed beyond measure. I knew in those precious moments that no matter what I had to face through this journey that I would be okay, and more importantly, I knew they would be okay.  I knew that someday soon, I would be better than I was at this moment.

March 4, 2019

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My Kaley

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My Olivia

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My Kaler

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Getting a haircut!

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The party crowd!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Round 5 – The Emotions of Chemotherapy

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We all are pretty familiar with the fact that chemotherapy wreaks havoc on the physical body. The chemicals are effective in attacking the cancer cells, with the purpose of shrinking them and ultimately killing them. Chemotherapy targets cells that grow and divide quickly, like cancer cells, however it cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and other fast growing cells such as those of the skin, hair, intestines and bone marrow (red blood cells producer). Thus it attacks them also and the side effects, as I have so willingly  shared, can be quite brutal. The physical body shares in the benefits of the drugs along with the misfortunes of poisonous chemicals being pumped through your veins.

The mind is a powerful tool that can get you through the worst of scenarios. One of the most beneficial things you can do throughout the process of treatments is to maintain a positive attitude and outlook. I strive daily to focus on the benefits while fighting through the hardships. It has not been easy and I will not for one moment pretend that is has been. The first four treatments were a shock to my physical body, but the fifth treatment brought some struggles with it that I wasn’t quite prepared for. My physical body has been pushed to limits I would have never imagined that any human should have to endure. The sore mouth, the ridiculous weight loss each time, the achy joints, the loss of appetite, the inability to eat even if I am hungry, the incessive stomach cramps and diarrhea, the skin rash, the hair loss, the eyeballs burning like you are pouring fire and gasoline in them, the loud and random ringing in my ears, my feet and legs swelling up like tree trunks, neuropathy in my fingertips and the skin under my fingernails and toenails dying, muscle spasms from Hades. I’m sure I have left some things out, but the one that has annoyed me the most, that one side effect that I have wrestled with more so than any of the others…the fatigue, that chronic fatigue, that shut-your-body-down-where-even-sleeping-wears-you-out fatigue. When your body is beyond tired and you can do absolutely nothing, there comes a point that the fatigue begins to play on your mindset. You go from being supermom who takes care of everyone and everything to the mom who barely has the strength to take care of herself much less anyone or anything else. From the momsy who is fun and adventurous to the momsy who can’t even walk outside to watch you do your tricks on the trampoline. From the friend who is always there doing for others to the friend who needs others to do for her. From being the girl who tried the hardest climbing route just to challenge herself to being the girl that can barely climb in and out of bed. From being the ambitious, adventurous soul to being the one who has to lag behind and wait while everyone else completes hikes that you just can’t handle. During those moments when I am lying in bed day after day, I am too exhausted to get up and too exhausted to sleep and all I can do is think, my mind becomes very vulnerable. Darkness wraps itself around me and my thoughts become clouded with all the things I cannot do…

I hear my grand babies outside playing and I can’t even muster up enough strength to get up to hug them.

I can’t even remember the last time I cooked a good meal for my children. (let me insert that I am so very thankful for the friends who participate in the meal train and have cooked for us!)

It’s Friday and I normally drive over to see my sweet boyfriend but I can’t even drive 5 minutes from work to home without needing a two hour nap.

My friends are going hiking and I can’t even walk to the bathroom without feeling like I am dying.

I try to participate in outings and be my sunshiny self, but inside I am dying because at any given moment I feel like I am going to pass flat out.

I want to go eat with my friends but I am afraid I will have an ungodly crap attack before I make it out of the restaurant so I just stay home…again.

My son has a baseball game but I have to sit at the car and watch him because if I walk into the stadium, I won’t have the energy to walk back out and drive home.

My dog wants to play tug of war but I can’t even hold the rope because my arms are too tired.

I long for the company and fellowship with friends but I’m so tired I don’t even feel like carrying on a conversation.

So many things I want to do, but can’t. Little things that mean a lot to me.

So I lay there exhausted. I feel weak. I feel useless. I feel worthless. I feel insignificant. I feel ugly. I feel stupid. I feel lonely. I feel lost. I feel disconnected. My fears, those ones I don’t dare speak out loud, overtake me. I cry.  I just want to be held. I need someone else to be strong for me, just for a little while. I just want to feel like myself again. I feel ashamed. The darkness overwhelms me. I don’t want anyone to know. I am so tired. I pray. I quote scripture. I speak positive. I turn on praise and worship music. I pull myself together. I close my eyes. I tell myself that tomorrow is another day and I fall asleep.

I wake up, exhausted, yet determined to face the day.

I pray, I focus, and although I am struggling with the lingering darkness, I remind myself of all of the things that I have been able to continue doing despite the fact that I am fighting a vicious fire breathing dragon that is healing  my body while at the same time breaking me down and wreaking havoc upon me (don’t you just love the dramatics??)…

Every three weeks for 6+ hours I have gotten to enjoy time with one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world. It may possibly be against the law at how much we have laughed and cried and carried on while I’m sitting in a chair getting poison pumped through my veins (more dramatics!)

I have been able to go watch my grand babies play t-ball.

I’ve been able to go to all of my son’s baseball games (except last week when I was out of town), even if I do have to cheer him on from the car. And he scored two home runs in the last game!

I’ve continued to work full-time through this process and have only missed two full days of work.

I’ve traveled twice for work related training’s, and it rocks when your training is in sunny Orlando Florida! (AND I got to spend precious time with a dear long distance friend and her family! Woot woot!)

I got to see the sunrise over the ocean’s horizon! Breathtaking!

I’ve spent precious time with my children and enjoyed their company and help.

I have only missed 3 full weekends in the woods out of 16 (and some of those were just rainy days) . The odds are in my favor!

I’ve hiked 23 times since my first treatment, including 7 off trail gorge hikes: Dellinger Falls, Piano Rock, Crevasse Point up Pinchin (what the heck fire was I thinking??), Ziggarut  (not to mention I led the first known ascent and stood on top!), Bug Out Point – twice, the Linville Crag area and the Castle and Cracker Jack Point. I’ve rock climbed 4 times. Seen 9 different waterfalls and went kayaking with my son. Thank you Lord for your grace to continue to do the things that feed my soul!

I got to see the most beautiful sanctuary I have ever laid eyes on! Quiet Reflections Retreat near Burnsville, NC is a must to go see. Thank you David!

I’ve enjoyed special times with family and friends on random occasions and planned occasions.

I’ve been held by the strongest of arms and wrapped up in peace and comfort.  Again, thank you David!

My doggy has snuggled with me during those moments that I needed him most.

I have the best Tribe ever. They are always willing accommodate me and structure hikes to my level.

I’ve met so many people that have struggled with cancer and have been inspired by their stories and friendship.

I’ve had the privilege of praying with strangers in grocery stores.

I’ve made new friends that have already become very dear to me.

I’ve been touched by so much kindness that my heart overflows.

I’ve had so many ‘God moments’ where His presence has just been incredible.

I’ve been showered with so much love, support, prayers, encouragement, and thoughtfulness sent my way daily!

I’ve been blessed beyond measure!

So, although I fight the darkness at times when exhaustion overtakes me, I wake up each morning reminding myself that it’s a new day, with new mercies, sufficient grace and strength for the day. I encourage myself that this too shall pass and one day soon I will be much better than I am at this moment.

Slay the dragon. Seize the day. Conquer the darkness. Be the light!

May 6, 2019

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and God. Psalm 42:5 The Living Translation

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy Round 4 – Me versus the Brick Wall

Round 4 of chemotherapy got off to a smooth start. The Thursday afterwards I was feeling energized and the sun was shining, so after work I decided to work out in my yard weeding, blowing leaves and mowing. I was supposed to wait on my son to get home to help me, however being the ambitious soul that I am, I began without him. It felt so good to be outside being active that I got carried away. I worked for 3 ½ hours and even proceeded to mow my front yard (at sloth speed I might add!) but nevertheless I got it done and felt quite accomplished.

Friday came and I was a little tired but still felt pretty good so I headed to North Carolina for a weekend of adventures. Saturday morning was a different story. We had a hike planned and I was excited to get out before the rain settled in. Our destination was English Falls, a short but moderately strenuous pull back out of the falls. I had done it once before and knew it would be a small challenge but nothing that I couldn’t handle. As I was getting ready that morning, I felt tired and struggled with standing long enough to get dressed and ready. My ambitious heart once again threw caution to the wind and urged me to proceed. We got to the trailhead and as we headed down the steep trail to the fall, I sensed that I was in a little bit of trouble. My legs were becoming very fatigued and I had to even stop a couple of times heading down. The coming back out of there was a complete struggle! What should have taken a quick 15 to 20 minutes became double that and there were moments I found myself getting as low to the ground as possible and almost crawling out. My legs were on the verge of completely rebelling against me, my heart felt like it would explode out of my chest and I became very dizzy each time I stood straight up. Suddenly concern was on high alert yet I was bound and determined to make it up out of there and not become the chemo poster child for the next Search and Rescue call!

When I finally made it to the guardrail at the top of the trailhead, my body went into complete rebellion. I slumped over and dry heaved for several minutes before I could make the short distance to the truck to fall into the front seat. Whew! What was I thinking? I just knew however, that after a bite to eat, I would feel fine again…hahahaha! For the rest of the evening I was completely useless. The recliner and I became best friends and I lay for hours doing absolutely nothing. Easter Sunday morning came and I had to drive back home from North Carolina to make dinner for my family, which I was highly looking forward to! The hour and a half drive that I have done hundreds of times before felt like a cross country extravaganza. I had to call a girlfriend and talk to her the entire way just to ensure that I made it home without any mishaps. Changing gears in my car felt like doing 400 pound leg presses. I was exhausted and it wasn’t even noon. When I made it to Kingsport, instead of going straight home, yeah you guessed it, ambition took over and thought it was a great idea to go ahead and head to the grocery store so I wouldn’t have to run back out.

I struggled pushing the buggy, walking around to grab the few items that I needed and I felt faint and self-conscious that everyone I passed could tell I was about to fall in the floor. Suddenly I hit a mammoth size brick wall, I knew I just couldn’t finish the task and I called my youngest daughter and asked her to come to my rescue. In just a few short minutes she and her boyfriend arrived to finish shopping and I went home and straight to bed. My oldest daughter came to the house and they proceeded to prepare the family dinner for me that I was looking so forward to cooking. One of my passions is cooking and hosting my company, but on this particular Easter Sunday, fatigue had overcome me and I could do nothing. 5 o’clock came and I was able to get up and sit like a knot on a log with everyone and fellowship. I felt terrible and could barely even get up and fix a plate of food that I wasn’t going to be able to eat, thanks to chemotherapy mouth. However I felt even more terrible that my family had to see me in such a comatose state! I hadn’t experienced this kind of fatigue since I started treatments! After everyone left, I retreated back to my bed while my daughter and her sweet girlfriend cleaned up my kitchen for me. I got up long enough to spend some time with my David, as he drove from North Carolina to see me, and after he left it was bedtime, again for the umpteenth time that day. I laid there knowing that when Monday morning came, I would feel much better! Insert another hahahahaha!

Come Monday morning, getting up and walking 8 steps to my bathroom felt like an unconquerable task. I was so weak and became dizzy to the point that I didn’t think I would make it back to my room. I was able to manage enough strength to get my youngest son to school but had to come straight back home and lay down again before I could even fix my smoothie for breakfast. Sleep an hour, get up and fix my smoothie. Lay down an hour before I had enough strength to even drink it. Drink it, lay down another hour before I could muster up the strength to shower. Lay back down an hour before I could get dressed and head to the doctor for labs and fluids to see what the world was going on with my body. My oldest son was gracious enough to take the day off work to take me to the doctor or I would have never made the trip on my own. 5 hours at the doctor, labs that showed low potassium and low red blood count, fluids, exhaustion and back home to the old faithful bed. For several days it was a struggle to get up and make it to work only to come straight home and retreat back into my bed. It became a humorous question when my kids would get home and say, ”hey mom, what are you doing?” and my answer was “absolutely nothing!” I am never one to do absolutely nothing! I am use to working until I’m done, not until my body says no. However for several days, my body refused to do much of anything and I had to succumb to the exhaustion and lay down more than I wanted to!

As the week progressed and the weekend came, I began to feel a little better and regain some energy. My appetite started to come back and I was finally able to eat something besides protein shakes and soups. Saturday came and I spent the day taking family pictures for my daughter, prom pictures for my son and then drove to North Carolina to spend the night and attempt a very easy adventure for Sunday. We ended up hiking to the Chimneys and setting up top ropes to do some climbing with our Tribe, however I didn’t even take my climbing equipment. My goal was to set up a hammock, take some pictures and just soak up the spring sun and fresh air.  Let me insert how hard it was to just sit and observe! Inside my ambitious heart was dying to get on the rock, but for once in my life, I listened to my head and not my heart and opted to not exhaust myself and get back in the shape that I had experienced over the last week.

The next week was a great week of recouping and eating all the stuff I had been craving while lying in my bed exhausted and hangry the week before. Work went well, Friday came and I had decided to take a vacation day to enjoy a three day weekend before the next round of chemical warfare. I was able to enjoy a day of climbing, a Saturday of waterfall chasing and a Sunday hike on one of my favorite trails. It was an adjustment for my mind to follow the much slower pace that my body demanded, but I am determined to continue to not only seek my healing through the chemicals I am relying on to zap the cancer cells, but to also continue saturating my soul in the healing powers of nature that I have grown so fondly of over the past several years. In order to do that, it is necessary for me to listen to my body, to slow down, and to succumb to the rest that is beckoning me. I have to be wise on how I spend my energy, knowing that it is limited. It isn’t easy by any means so I face the battle with prayer for my mindset and to not begrudge that rest that my body desperately needs. No matter how weary my body grows, and how big the wall seems at times, I must keep my eyes on the prize of being cancer free and remind myself that one day soon, I’ll be better than I am at this moment.

Up next…round 5.

April 15, 2019

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: The Anatomy of a Selfie

 

My hair is gone.
My eyebrows and eyelashes are thinning.
My cheeks are puffy.
The toxins are breaking my skin out.
I’ve lost weight.
My feet are swollen.
Some days I look in the mirror and I scarcely recognize myself.
I see a cancer patient.
I dig deep.
I hear the inner voice.
I pray for grace.
I pray for joy.
I find strength.
And I remember.
I am Christy.
I am a fighter.
I will prevail.
I will be cancer free and I will be better than I was before I began this journey.
And I smile.

April 11, 2019

 
 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy – Round 3 – Brutal but Effective

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Round three of chemotherapy was by far the harshest so far. After my treatment on Monday, I woke up with the beginnings of cold/allergies on Tuesday morning. I usually get one cold every 3 to 4 years at the most and never deal with allergies, yet this is the second cold I have had in a month. It lasted for two weeks (and the allergies are still lingering) and sucked the sap right out of me, ugh! Let me insert I also never take any over the counter cold medications but after drinking my apple cider vinegar/honey and lemon water for days to no avail, I resorted to some Alka-Seltzer plus severe cold (to no avail I might add). I missed another weekend of adventuring and I was nonetheless unhappy about that and I found myself feeling angry.

The second thing I dealt with was the mouth issue again. Thankfully using the Miracle Mouthwash at night before going to bed and the Biotene religiously throughout the day, although my mouth was raw, I was able to maintain enough where I did not get any sores. However, the metal taste was so prevalent this time and I spent two weeks not being able to eat anything. EVERYTHING I ate and drank, even water, tasted like metal, and I used plastic silverware! I survived on protein smoothies, jello and pudding for two weeks.

The little bit of food I was able to choke down stayed on my stomach for about 5 minutes and then it was the familiar mad dash to the bathroom, which I seldom won. I had some of the worst stomach cramps I have ever had in my life. I do believe I picked up a stomach virus for a couple of days upon the beloved back door trots side effect of chemotherapy. Yay me, right? Have you ever thrown up so much that you had nothing left in you and the dry heaves come? Well, I didn’t throw up but experienced the same effect on the other end of the spectrum. Hello fuzzy!  And that is all I will say about that. After a few days I found myself frustrated, exhausted, 12 pounds lighter and ‘hangry.’

For someone with my background, the state of being ‘hangry’ is something that I have never been able to quite understand. Why would people get mad when they are hungry? To me, food has never been a source of pleasure or satisfaction.  From the time I was 13 until I was 33, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia. I could go for days without eating but a morsel of food, and when I felt like I did overeat, I took measures to rid my body of what I looked at as my enemy ASAP. It became a lifestyle for me, a second nature so to speak. The only time I was conscious of eating right was throughout my pregnancies, but as soon as my babies were born, I fell right back into the mindset. After coming to terms with the struggle and making a lot of changes over the years, food became a source of maintenance for me. I rarely crave anything and seldom sit down and really enjoy what I am eating. I eat to be healthy (except after a big hike and then I may eat the heck out of a pizza or a big ole burger, fries and cheesecake or pie!) So for me to be hungry to the point that I was angry about it was an extreme. Nevertheless, I was angry.

I am thankful that the week I was in Fort Lauderdale for training, food finally began to taste good again! Every morning I ate the biggest Belgium waffle you have ever laid eyes on and enjoyed every minute of it. One of my fellow trainees even commented on how I seemed to enjoy my waffle each morning, lol. After I told her my dilemma, she completely understood and celebrated with me and my ability to eat. I believe when this season of my life is over, I will actually appreciate the ability to sit down and savor a good meal much more than I ever have.

I experienced nosebleeds for the first time ever in 49 years. I woke up several mornings with the inside of my nose hurting so bad I could hardly touch it. I assumed it was just from the drainage from the cold however, when I went to put some Aquaphor in it to ease the pain, I noticed I had sores all on the inside of my nose and it was blood raw. Ouch! Oh, and all the nose hairs you have in your nose…gone…without a trace.  I blew my nose carefully, 5 minutes later I had a nose bleed that did not won’t to stop. Can someone say angry??

My face broke out like I was a pubescent teenager and I started noticing some small sores on one of my elbows. I developed a pin size rash on most of my body and might I add it itched like a mother cracker! Bruises from hiking and climbing lasted for weeks, and a simple nick on my skin while cutting my toenail turned into an infection by the next morning. Other simple cuts on my finger and a scratch from a cat briar from hiking bled for two dang hours! WTH! My body just seemed to be falling apart more each day. Can someone else say angry???

One morning while getting ready for work, I noticed my eyelashes and eyebrows were thinning very noticeably and my left eyebrow has this bald spot that refuses to be filled in with an eyebrow pencil. Even though I lost 12 pounds, my face felt like it was puffed up like a blowfish and, at times, when I looked in the mirror, I scarcely recognized myself and I struggled to see Christy staring back at me. I found myself, yep you guessed it, angry! and yes, I cried a little.

There were more days than usual that I felt tired, struggling to get through my work days and evenings to the point that I didn’t think I had the energy to drive 6 minutes to get home.  When my friends and family would call, text or message me to encourage me and remind me that I was ‘one of the strongest women they knew”  I wanted to scream and cry because strong was the last thing I was feeling and I somehow felt like I was failing them all. For the first time through the process, I was not just pissed off, I was angry at all that my body was enduring from the side effects of the chemicals.

I would close my eyes at night and thank God that I had made it through another day and when morning rose, I would pray for sufficient grace to make it through the day and for new mercies to find me, and they always did.

One thing I have always been is real, open and honest and, well, the truth isn’t always pretty. In fact reality can be quite harsh at times but I have always found freedom and healing in authenticity no matter how raw it looks sometimes. When people ask me how my treatments are going, I tell them the truth – brutal but effective. Why do I say brutal? This process that is working to save my life also robs me of my dignity at times. It’s a little embarrassing at work when I have to tell my co-worker that works our front desk that I have to run home and change clothes. It robs me of my confidence at times when I look in the mirror and I see a stranger looking back at me. It robs me of my motherhood at times when my children have to take care of themselves when they are sick or when I am too tired to cook a simple meal. (Let me insert – they have been more than understanding and wonderful to help me and take care of me when I need it!) It robs me of my joy at times when my grand babies want to play and I don’t have the energy. Chemotherapy is brutal yet effective and the tumors are shrinking significantly already and for that I am very thankful!

So as I gear up for round 4 today, I will be 2/3’s of the way done with this process. Insert a big Woo flipping Hoo! I remind myself that this process is working to save my life. This process is going to give me many more years of love, adventure, joy and fulfillment. Although this process is brutal it is actually on my side and rooting for me. I prepare myself as I draw strength from the One who holds me in the palm of His hand. I take with me every prayer, positive thought, word of encouragement, phone call, message, card, text, support and love that is so generously being poured out to me by so many, I am beyond blessed! I clothe myself with a warrior spirit ready to fight this dragon called cancer that has invaded my body. I will fight with a vengeance and I WILL win and I WILL be cancer free! In my near future when I am standing on the mountain top again, I will not forget those moments when it felt like that very mountain was crushing me (thank you to a wonderful friend for those words!). I will be thankful and I will be better than I am at this moment.

It is time…Let’s do this! Round 4, here I come!

 

April 15, 2019

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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