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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 went 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: 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 appreciate 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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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy Round 2 – Knowledge is Power

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The unknown is always a tricky place to be. The first round of chemotherapy on February 11, 2019 was like delving into the dark pits of uncertainty. I had read entirely too much information, had talked to others who had been through it all before me, and was even informed by my wonderful medical staff of what to possibly expect (and I mean that sincerely, they really are awesome!). I went in with a positive attitude, a strong mind set (which is immensely important!) and just knew that I was going to handle the treatment like a boss and not let it wreak havoc in my incredibly healthy body. Bahahahaha, I know right, you have to love my ignorance and stubbornness. Yes, there are some common factors that come along with chemotherapy, however until the chemicals are pumped through YOUR body, you honestly do not know what is going to happen. (Refer to previous blog entry for all the gory details!) After round one gave me a rude awakening, I went into round two with a completely different mindset.

Round two came on March 4, 2019. I still walked into the treatment with a positive attitude and a strong mind set, but I also walked into it with something else that I didn’t have before – knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is power! As I said in my blog about the first round, I am a quick learner and I took every lesson in with me into the treatment room.  The side effects came, however this time I had gained my own personal experience of what might could and would happen and I was much more prepared for the next few weeks that would follow. These are some of the lessons I learned:

Biotene Mouth Rinse is a God send. Have it on hand and RINSE! RINSE! RINSE! 3 times a day, daily, beginning as soon as you get home from treatment. Do not wait until you wake up feeling like you’ve swallowed a desert of cactuses.  It is inevitable that your mouth will become raw and develop these annoying little sores all over, and some of them might be right on the pressure points of your tongue where you swallow. It can also make your throat very raw, which puts a strain on your voice to talk (I didn’t hear anyone around me complaining about me talking less 🙂 ). Preventative maintenance will make it bearable instead of overwhelming.

No matter how regular or irregular your bowel movements were before chemotherapy, they absolutely will not be regular during this season. Have plenty of Imodium AD on hand and absolutely take it just the way the doctor tells you too! She is the professional and she knows things! Used to I could take 1 Imodium and not go for a month. Now I’m lucky to not go for 5 minutes after taking 8 in one day. Insert…my apologies for talking about BM’s if it makes you uncomfortable, but another lesson I learned quickly is that BM’s become a common topic of conversation and you have no dignity in this matter during treatments especially if you have only one bathroom in your house. You will be knocking the door down with intense urgency if someone else is there when you need to go! I have told my children and others that a successful day on chemotherapy is when you don’t use the bathroom on yourself. I don’t always have successful days…but following the rules will make those unsuccessful days less few and farther between.

Bland foods are a must during the first week or two after treatments. Nothing you crave will taste like it should. Even your beloved coffee! Yikes!  Mashed potatoes, soups, jello, pudding, yogurt (non-probiotic kind!) applesauce, and my new favorite food – peaches with vanilla parfait on the bottom – will become necessary staples in your pantry. Banana popsicles and frozen cokes are heaven sent and are so soothing when your mouth is sore ridden and on fire! Whatever you do DO NOT eat General Tso’s chicken – negative, no, nay, never, ever when your mouth is on fire!

God moments are everywhere! Sometimes you think that something is for you (referring to the pink wig in the picture above bought for me by one of my awesome friends!)  but it turns out to be for others too. It’s always a good feeling to bring joy and sunshine to people and put a big smile on their faces. Always be on the look out for God moments!

One of the greatest lessons I learned in round one is to say yes when people ask if they can help you. I have spent many years of my life being the caregiver, the one reaching out and taking care of others. I am a mom, that’s what we do. I am also a very independent soul and I am use to taking care of myself. Yet, so many friends have reached out to me wanting to help me during this season of my life and I honestly can’t tell you how wonderful it is! Little things mean so much! These are just a few of them:
Dinner that others bring to you for you and your family so you don’t have to cook (and they always come at just the right time!)
Your daughter cooking dinner for everyone, and cleaning up!
Cute hats that others who have walked this journey give to you.
Hats that your TRIBE orders for everyone for your support.
Cards, letters, messages, phone calls, random visits, words of encouragement, songs, and scriptures sent to you always brighten the moment!
Hand and foot spa treatments (oh yes!)
Not charging you for shaving your head when your hair is falling out (that experience will be another blog).
A listening ear when I need to vent, cry a little or talk about how I don’t want to talk about cancer all the time. A strong shoulder is wonderful, especially when it’s attached to a handsome face with the prettiest blue eyes ever 🙂
Care packages – some that have come from as far as Florida and New Hampshire!
Again, So many little things mean so much!

The other great lesson I have learned going through round one was a much needed reminder that I read on a precious friend’s blog who is going through Breast Cancer also. In one of her entries (quote, unquote) she spoke about how we are quick to refer to the treatments simply as ‘chemo’ leaving off the ‘therapy’ part. Do you know how many times I have done this already? When we do that, it is easy to focus on the negative aspects – the dreadful side effects – the awful things the chemicals are doing to our bodies. However these treatments are made up of two aspects – chemo (the drugs and chemicals used) and therapy – therapeutic medical treatment of impairment, injury, disease, or disorder. This chemotherapy is more, much more than toxic chemicals that are pumped through my body. It is a treatment used for the eradication of the cancer cells that is attacking my health. It is intended for good on my behalf and Praise the Lord, it is working already! I can physically feel one of the tumors already reducing in size after two treatments! Can anyone say hallelujah?!? And when it is all said and done, I am banking on the prognosis of being cancer free just like the doctor has told me I would be and the chemotherapy will play a huge part in that outcome. I will settle for nothing less! So thank you Cindy for that much needed reminder, you helped me tremendously!

While finishing this blog, round three is complete! I am halfway through this part of the journey, woot woot! I feel positive, strong minded, and much more knowledgeable which makes me more powerful and focused.  The chemical warfare has been launched, now let’s eradicate those little terrorists! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, this too shall pass and soon I will be better than I am at this moment.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: When God Makes Your Coffee…

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Do you ever have this sneaking suspicion that something just isn’t right? You hear your intuition talking to you and you try your best to acknowledge it and ignore it all at the same time? Last spring through the fall (2018), there were moments I just did not feel like myself. Times, especially on the trail, that I would feel fatigued more so than I thought I should with no reasonable explanation. With having several diabetics in my family, I too have struggled some with regulating my sugar over the past few years so I would just always reason it out as being that, and perhaps some moments that was truly what was going on. However, there was this deeper gnawing in my gut that would throw these ridiculous thoughts into my head. I would shake them off and think…what the heck Christy? I would pray, rebuke (yes, I was raised charismatic! Lol), and go about my business. Then, around July or August, I started noticing a lump in my right breast changing. In 2015 I had a mammogram come back questionable, went for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound and thankfully the diagnosis was just density. It was a scary moment, scary enough to make me cautious and I kept my mammograms up from that point on, even when I didn’t have health insurance. (Kuddos to a grant at your local health department. Check it out!) Always, it showed up, always it came back as density. In November of 2018, I made yet another regular mammogram appointment, went, received the same diagnosis and was scheduled for yet another diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound for January 3, 2019. This time seemed a little different than the last, the concerns a little more pressing, more care taking during the examination and I somehow knew that a biopsy was on the menu. Now I am a faith filled woman who believes in praying about everything, I had already been talking to God about the possible outcomes and reasoning with him why having something wrong with me would not work at this stage in my life.  My biggest concern, my fear, my pleas…My children, Lord, please don’t make them walk this road again. My children lost their dad to colon cancer in 2011 and needless to say it has been a very tragic and painful road for them. Please Lord, not for my sake, but for theirs, let everything be okay.

I shared the news of the upcoming biopsy with a few close friends to have them pray for my outcome. One of my girlfriends, you know the kind that have been intertwined into your being and became an essential part of your life?  She agreed to go with me to the biopsy, just in case, for comfort and support. And thus it was scheduled, January 10, 2019. I got up that morning standing somewhere between confidence, faith and agitation. I really didn’t have time for all this. I opened my phone to Facebook and my memory from January 10, 2018 stared me in the face: “Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what?” Lamentations 3:21-25. (FYI: My Dear Christy series is a whole other blog!)  I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. I had been fervently praying for God to move the mountain I anticipated in the distance, and it was at that moment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, inevitably, me and my children were going to be facing a mountain not of our choosing. Emotion consumed me and I let out a huge sigh. I admit I was a little pissed off at that fact that my children would again have to walk a difficult journey that they had no control over. I was fearful of what the news would do to their precious hearts. My mind full of anguish over the terror that would be piercing to their souls when I had to tell them the news that their mother had cancer. I’m a fairly persistent woman so again I pleaded with my Lord, please; do not make them walk this journey.  Please. Not this mountain, Lord. I said nothing to my children and settled within myself that I wouldn’t say anything until I had something in concrete to tell them.

Fast forward to January 18, sitting in the doctor’s office with my soul sister again by my side. The diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. Two places, Stage 1 and 2. I scheduled an appointment with the surgeon and left the office in a fog, trying to figure out how I could get through this diagnosis perhaps without even having to tell my children. I just knew when I went to the surgeon that she would tell me that I would need a simple surgery to remove the lumps and all would be well. ROFLOL right?  I‘m so ambitious.

On January 22, a normal Tuesday evening, I asked all my children to join me for dinner at our house as I had to share the news with them. The next year of our lives would involve months of chemotherapy, surgery, more protein chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgery.  My heart broke as I saw the look in their eyes and heard the gasps escape from deep within. They were devastated and they had every right to be. Why Lord? Not why me? Hundreds of women a day hear the same news, if not worse, but my question was, why them Lord? Why again?  What on earth do you have for them to do that requires all of this suffering and growth at such an early age?  I know this journey will be different from the last one, but why, Lord? My heartfelt prayer was simply God give them grace, peace and strength for this journey. Make your presence known to us Lord. We have to know that you are with us every step of this way Lord. We have to.

Over the next several days, we talked, we cried, we talked more, laughed a little, cried more and prayed much. As the moments passed, I sensed a peace that passes understanding envelope us all. Sunday evening rolled around before my first treatment and I was busy trying to get everything prepared for the next morning. Bag packed with goodies and things to occupy the time, clothes picked and laid out, snacks, water, and oh, before I lay down, let me get my coffee pot ready so that I can just hit the button in the morning when I am ready to brew. No need to turn on the timer, I will just have it ready and it will be one less thing I have to focus on. The clock flashing 12:00 am.  Prayers. Goodnight.

Morning rose and so did I, like a warrior, ready to face what was before me. I showered, dressed and prayed fervently again for God to make his presence known to us today in a mighty way. I was collecting my things and remembered my coffee, time to turn it on! I walked into the kitchen and to my surprise there in my coffee pot sat a freshly brewed pot of coffee. It was finishing up its last drip as I flipped on the light. I was a little puzzled as how this had happened. I distinctly remembered NOT turning on the timer to set it, so I looked again at the clock and it was flashing 12:00 am as it had been doing the night before. No one had been up in my house yet, no one had been stirring except for me and God.
God? Did you make my coffee for me?   Did you really turn my pot on for me and make my coffee?

The same God who spoke the worlds into existence, and separated the day from the night. The same God who holds the stars in their place and calls them all by name. The same God who formed the mountains and measured out the seas. The same God who stores the treasuries of the snow and releases them in due season. The same God who gave his son for a ransom so that I could know Him by name. That  very same God had showed up in my quaint little kitchen on a rainy Monday morning in February and turned my coffee pot on. True story! Yes, yes He did! The same God who had walked with us so far in this journey of life is the same God who was saying to me loud and clear, I am here, I am with you, and I am going to take care of you.

I know there are a lot of unknowns that I will be facing over the next year. Lots of ups, downs, surprises, irritations. After making it through my first post-chemo week I have made new discoveries about my body that wish to never have became acquainted with.  I have been dished a rude awakening to just how unbiased chemotherapy is, it doesn’t matter how tough you are, chemo doesn’t care! Did I mention I am a little pissed off about the whole thing and what subjecting myself to chemical warfare is going to do to this rock star body I have worked hard to have? (insert a little laughter – a merry heart does good like a medicine). To even say that I am excited about this journey in the physical sense is absurd. No, I am far from excited. Yet in a few short hours, days and weeks, I have been showered with so many blessings, covered in abundant fervent prayers, received overwhelming support and love and have made connections with women that will be forever set in stone. Do I have a feeling this is going to be one of the worst times of my life? Heck yes!  However I face it head on, with courage and know that it will also be a season coupled with one of the best times of my life.  When the God of all creation cares enough about me and my children to show up and make my coffee for me, what other grand things is he going to do through this journey? This is my story, stay tuned….

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Summits, Storms and a God Who Works Suddenly

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In May 2015 for my youngest son, Oliver’s 13th birthday he asked me to take him hiking. Well of course I was elated with the request and happily obliged. Our first mother, son hike was to Grayson Highlands Park in Mouth of Wilson Virginia to take in the two Pinnacles. The weather was perfect, the skies were amazing and the company simply out of this world.

As winter 2015 began to dissipate into Spring, the topic of another birthday hike arose. Where to this year? I knew the answer immediately and shared with him that I would like to take him to one of my personal favorites, Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge. I couldn’t talk enough about how mesmerized he would be with the landscape and the views the gorge had to offer so plans were set for the 2nd annual mother/son birthday hike.

Well, May came and went with busy schedules, rainy weather, baseball season and other obstacles that seemed to constantly put off the planned hike. However, finally in August (yeah I know…way belated!) on a busy Tuesday, Oliver and I loaded up the pack and headed towards the Linville Gorge. Like an efficient mom/hiker would do, I checked the weather and saw it was only a 15 – 20 % chance of rain so I figured we should be good. Partly cloudy conditions have a way of painting up the blue sky and creating stunning views over the gorge and I was beside myself that we were finally getting to go.

The drive over was a little sketchy as we were greeted with gray skies upon entering North Carolina. By the time we reached the trail head a steady drizzle of rain was falling. “Surely it won’t last long,” I thought, and with Oliver being a willing trooper off we headed up the trail. Silently I prayed for the Lord to please stop the rain and clear up the skies for us, I so wanted Oliver to behold the views from Hawksbill, but the further up we went, the more it rained. By the time we reached the top of the trail we were completely drenched from head to toe. Oliver got to experience a white-out condition for the first time and I admit my heart sunk a little as we stared off into the thick fog only to see nothing…absolutely nothing. No tree tops, no mountains, no Table Rock, no Chimneys , no  Camel in sight. No Wiseman’s View, no Linville River down below and no Shortoff Mountain in the far distance. With our eyes pierced and searching we came up empty! Everything I had excitedly shared with him for months was hidden before us as we were engulfed by the storm. I was sorely disappointed and felt like my prayers had fallen on deaf ears.

The white-out view from the top of the Spine and the Summit

We carefully played around for a few minutes at the top of the spine of Hawksbill, getting a few shots for keepsake, but after my feet slipped completely out from under me leaving me lying flat on my back in a spot that I have stepped on several times, we decided to retreat from the spine and head on up to the summit. I am a persistent little bugger at times so I continued to pray that the Lord would PLEASE let the skies clear up for Oliver to see what marvelous things surrounded him. The rain lingered, the fog thickened and my heart sank a little more with each step. We reached the summit, grabbed a few more photo ops and decided to call it a day and head back down. As I was gathering my pack Oliver pointed out a patch of blue in the skies above us. It was a small patch but nevertheless a patch of blue!! We agreed to wait for just a few more minutes and our decision seemed quite futile until suddenly…boom! The fog dissipated, the skies opened up and one by one the magnificent wonders of the gorge came into view. Oliver’s reaction to the glory that laid before him was filled with awe exactly as I imagined it would be. I shouted out loud praise and thanksgiving for an answered prayers! (okay – really they can classify as constant desperate pleas under my breath the whole way up and there). For almost an hour we carefully played and took pictures. I emphasize carefully, taking into consideration the tons of rain, slick rocks, summits, and death worthy plunges into the gorge with one false step. The rain drenched trip suddenly turned out quite fabulous and mom and son took time to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together at 4020 feet above sea level.

 

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Jumping for joy on Hawksbill Mountain

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Suddenly everything changed!

Heading back down the mountain I pondered in my heart the overall conditions of the trip and how suddenly things changed for us. One minute the sky was covered in heavy gray fog, the next minute it seemed as if the heavens had opened up and poured its glory upon us. I was so thankful that we endured with patience and waited just a few more minutes or we would have missed out on so many marvelous moments. After stopping a few times to collect some cool mushroom shots, we made it back to the ole Honda and we were headed back to the homestead. Later on in the evening as I was kicked back and going through our pictures, I observed the incredible difference that just a few moments made and again let praise and thanksgiving escape my lips – “thank you God for answering my prayers!” It was then I heard His response, “By the way, I heard you the first time you prayed and I answered you, it just took some time for the conditions to be right. First, I had to move the storm out.” Wow, I let that sink in a little….

Yes, as soon as the conditions were right on the mountain there was a sudden change! It went from not seeing 10 feet from your face to seeing clearly to the end of the horizon.

Not immediately. Not quickly. But suddenly everything changed. Insert another life lesson from the trail:

Is life kicking your butt? Do you feel like your prayers have fallen on deaf ears? Suddenly…

Do you feel like you are wondering around blinded by all the chaos around you? Have you slipped a time or two in familiar territory falling flat on your back in failure? Suddenly…

Are the storms of life engulfing you? Suddenly…

Has your faith been dimmed by the lingering fog that envelopes your senses and leaves you feeling hopeless? Suddenly…

Have you been praying for something/someone relentlessly and things seem to only get worse? Suddenly…

Are you weary? Discouraged? Downhearted? Feeling like it’s time to give in? Suddenly…

At this moment I share with you the same thing the Almighty God of Heaven shared with me. His word assures us over and over that:

He absolutely hears our prayers. (Psalm 66:19-20, 2 Kings 20:5)

He is constantly working on our behalf. (Romans 8:28) (Psalm 68:28 NRSV)

He is our warrior and fights the battle for us. (Exodus 14:14)

He is on our side and if that is so, who can oppose us? (Romans 8:31)

He renews us and strengthens our weary hearts (Isaiah 40:31)

I am so thankful that we waited just a few more minutes on the summit of that mountain. Had we left 5 minutes earlier we would have missed what was in store for us. What are you waiting for? I can personally tell you that for the past few months I have been walking through one of the most difficult parenting seasons of my life. There are times that I think my mothering heart can’t take one more iota of aching. Times that I lay before the throne of God and weep and plea for Him to do something. Times I question whether He even hears me. Times I wonder if He is truly going to come and work on our behalf. I want Him to do things immediately! Quickly! Geez Lord hurry up! Times I am weary from the climb and drenched from the storms. But I am reminded on this day that there is a “suddenly” on the horizon for you and for me. There is an appointed ‘suddenly’ that will change everything. Keep climbing that mountain, keep enduring that storm because suddenly God is on His way.

(scripture references of God working suddenly:

On the Mount of Transfiguration: “suddenly” Moses and Elijah were seen conversing with Jesus (Matthew 17:). The Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost “suddenly” (Acts 2:2). “Suddenly” a light blinded Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-4). When he and Silas were imprisoned, a severe earthquake came “suddenly” (Acts 16:25-26). There was Sirach. “For it is easy with the Lord suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor man rich” (11:21-22).

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My Oliver overlooking the Gorge from Hawksbill Summit

A few mushrooms found along the way 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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