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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: A Year Ago Today…

twin towers

(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

The Subway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next step – say hello to the ‘noobies!’

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Delicate Arch

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Landscape Arch

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Sunrise at Mesa Arch

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Canyonlands

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The House of Fire

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View from Moki Dugway

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Looking back up Moki Dugway. We drove down that!

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Sunset in Monument Valley

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Horseshoe Bend

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Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon

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Welcome to Bryce Canyon

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Welcome to Zion National Park

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Front view from Campground

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The Watchman

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along the Subway hike

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Hiking up to Angels Landing

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Canyon Overlook

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Going up the Wiggles

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Our total number of steps…Whoa!

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The crew at The Subway

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The Subway

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

 

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

north ridge3

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incredible outpouring of love and support!

The prayers, positive words and encouragement.

The cards, phone calls, messages and visits.

The pampering visits and dinner dates with friends!

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

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

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

The strangers who have asked me to pray for them!

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

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

The absolute best family and friends ever!

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

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

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

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

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

June 3, 2019

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

 

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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 Day I Cried for Me…

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Hearing the words that you have cancer is nothing short of devastating. No matter how much faith you have, no matter how strong you are, no matter how healthy and active you are, no matter how positive you are, no matter how much you have tried to prepare yourself for the worst, it is still quite unsettling to be faced with that worst. When I first felt that something wasn’t quite right with my body, I immediately began to pray. Hebrews 4:16 tells me to “come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain and mercy and grace in a time of need. So, boldly I went to the throne. Not only did I pray, but I petitioned my Lord, with many reasons, why I needed Him to fix whatever was wrong in my body. I know He listened intently like He always does, and somehow I know that because He is sovereign and He knows the end from the beginning, He grieved a little at the prognosis I was getting ready to face. All good fathers hurt when their children go through hardships. Nevertheless, because of His great love, He had prepared me for this journey in so many ways, and for that I am thankful!

On that dreadful day in January when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for my children, who I love more than life and the fact that I would have to tell them what was going on with me. I cried for the fear I would see in their eyes and the sadness that would grip their souls when they had to hear that their mom had cancer. I cried for the memories that would rush back in to their minds from the journey they had walked with their father just a few short years ago. I cried for the moments that they would lay awake and wonder why they had to endure so much in their lives at such young ages. I cried for the moments they would see their mom weak and hurting and not able to do for them like I always do. I cried for all the tears they would shed silently.  I cried for the sacrifices they would make to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I shared the news with them and proclaimed with courage and assurance that, when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

On that dreadful day in January when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for my grandchildren, so young and innocent who would have to watch their Momsy struggle with a disease called breast cancer that they would have no understanding of. I cried for the moments that they would want me to play and I would be too tired and would have to say no. I cried for the times they couldn’t come see me because they had a simple runny nose or a belly ache. I cried because at times, I wouldn’t be able to hug them and comfort them when they felt bad. I cried for the moments that I couldn’t kiss them because I would be toxic and full of chemicals. I cried at the confusion I would see in their eyes when they would look at me and I had no hair. I cried for the tears they would shed silently. I cried for the sacrifices they would make to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I would somehow have to share the news with them and proclaim with courage and assurance that when this was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and Momsy would be better than I was at this moment.

On that dreadful day in January when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for my family who are so near and dear to my heart – my mom, sisters and brother, as I would have to share the news with them. I cried for the pain they would feel and the dread I would hear in their voice as no one wants to hear that their daughter or sister has breast cancer. I cried for my mom and the hurt that would fill her mother’s heart for her daughter as she was suffering. I cried for the moments that fear would grip my sisters heart as they wondered if the same prognosis could be theirs also. I cried for the moments they would all feel helpless in helping me. I cried for the tears they would shed silently. I cried for the sacrifices they would make to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I shared the news with them and proclaimed with courage and assurance that, when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

On that dreadful day in January when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for my David, my companion, my adventurer, my partner whom, because of his closeness to the situation would have to hear the confirmation that yes, our fears were correct and I had breast cancer. I cried for the moments that would be different because I wouldn’t quite be at my best. I cried for the patience, compassion and grace he would have to possess as he watched his girlfriend change in appearance and stature. I cried for the moments that I would need from him far more than I could give. I cried for the moments he would have to endure as I fell apart at the seams in front of him. I cried for the moments in his life that would change because he chose to be mine. I cried for the tears he would shed silently.  I cried for the sacrifices he would make over the next year to stand by my side and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I shared with him the news and proclaimed with courage and assurance that when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

On that dreadful day in January when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for my friends who are precious to me and the deep sighs that would escape their souls as they heard that their friend had breast cancer. I cried for the moments they would hurt because I was hurting. I cried for the efforts they would make to go out of their way to provide for me and help me. I cried for the moments they would need me and I wouldn’t know it. I cried for the tears they would shed silently. I cried for the reality we were facing together and the sacrifices they would make to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I shared with them the news and proclaimed with courage and assurance that when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

On this dreadful day in January, when I heard the news, I cried for my employers and coworkers whom I have grown to adore, as I would have to share with them that I had breast cancer. I cried as I thought about telling them that this person who they had put their trust in to achieve and be successful would be challenged over the next year. I cried as I felt disappointment in my own heart that I would somehow let them down. I cried as I sat in front of them and vowed to continue to work with diligence for the program and position that I was so passionate about. I cried for the tears they would shed silently. I cried for the sacrifices they would make as they chose to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried as I shared with them the news and proclaimed with courage and assurance that when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

On that dreadful day in January, when I heard the news, I cried. I cried for everyone that I loved and the changes that would come.  I cried for the sacrifices they would make to stand by me and support me and love me through every moment. I cried each time I shared the news and proclaimed with courage and assurance that when it was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and I would be better than I was at this moment.

But one day while driving across the mountain, oh on this day, I cried for me. Finally I allowed the tears to fall for me as I faced the news that I had breast cancer. I cried for the sacrifices that I would make as I would walk through each moment of this journey. I cried for the moments that I wouldn’t feel like myself and my strength would wax and wane. I cried for each time I would feel myself struggling and hurting, having no control over what was happening due to the chemicals that were working for me and against me. I cried for the moments that I would look in the mirror and see the weakness in my own eyes and the changes in my appearance. I cried for the moments that I just wouldn’t feel like doing what I wanted to and I would have to surrender and rest. I cried for my body and how hard it had already fought and would have to fight to see me through this battle. I cried for the parts of me that I would inevitably lose. I cried for those moments when I couldn’t take care of my children as I always had for 23 years. I cried for the changes that would take place in me, knowing that I would never be the same again. I cried as I embraced the news that I had breast cancer and I prayed for courage and assurance that when this was all said and done, and this journey was complete, that everything would be okay and that I would be better, much better, than I was at this moment.

So on this day, I cried and I cried for me.

March 3, 2019.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2019 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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I Am Not Afraid

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I am not afraid of change,
mistakes or failure
But I am afraid of giving up and not trying
I am not afraid of climbing high
or crawling low
even if it makes me tremble inside
But I am afraid of letting fears control my life
of constraining me
of making my soul grow stagnate
I am not afraid of being bold
adventurous, silly
Of pushing the limits
to live life to the full
But I am afraid of the mundane,
Of not putting forth an effort
Of lying down at night feeling empty and stale
I am not afraid of being alone
But I am afraid of being somewhere
that isn’t right for me
of losing myself because others don’t approve
I am not afraid of silence or solitude
those moments with just me and my thoughts
But I am afraid of being in
the midst of company and
feeling lonely, inadequate
unheard and insignificant
I am not afraid of love
of heartache or of pain
Of losing and starting over again
But I am afraid of growing cold and bitter and weary in a world that takes so much and gives so little
I am not afraid of adversity
difficult times or the storm
But I am afraid of the parched pale sky
That never gives me an opportunity
to dance in the rain
I am not afraid of the passion burning inside of me
Nor that you may never understand it
or embrace it
But I am afraid of never fanning the flames
Of letting the embers fade to ashes
that quickly blow away
I am not afraid of being me
or of you not liking it
but I am afraid of looking in the mirror
and loathing what I see
I am not afraid of being human, finite
of some day coming to an end
But I am afraid of dying inside
while there is still blood in my veins
I am not afraid to face my fears
To challenge them
To conquer them
To allow them to make me better
Of that I am not afraid

(picture credit: Brandi Baldwin taken on the MST in the beautiful Chimneys of the Linville Gorge)

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 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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