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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: A Year Ago Today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is exactly what we did.

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2020 in breast cancer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incredible outpouring of love and support!

The prayers, positive words and encouragement.

The cards, phone calls, messages and visits.

The pampering visits and dinner dates with friends!

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

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

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

The strangers who have asked me to pray for them!

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

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

The absolute best family and friends ever!

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

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

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

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

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

June 3, 2019

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

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: My Journey, in Poetry, through the Eyes of a Friend

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If there is one thing that I am blessed with in life, it is the treasure of great family and friends! There is no way that I would have ever been able to make it this far in my journey of life as a whole, much less this adventure through breast cancer without the love and support of all who surround me. I covet every single gesture of love, support and encouragement, each prayer muttered on my behalf, every phone call, text, message and visit; every single card, note and gift.  I am honored when someone takes a moment to share with me how something I have said or written touches their heart and inspires their soul. Yesterday one of my dear girl friends carved time in her day to come and fellowship with me during my incarceration (aka…recovery time from my double mastectomy surgery – this girl was not made to stay immobile and locked inside! Yikes!) Not only did she bless me with much needed conversation and fellowship, she came bearing gifts. She had a pillow made with the above picture on it and wrote me this poem. WOW! I do not have sufficient words to express how deeply this touched my heart!

This journey has been a mixture of  beautiful roses and ferocious thorns. There have been times when I have felt like a complete and total failure as a woman (it can be challenging to your femininity when you lose your hair, your eyebrows, your eyelashes and your boobs!!), as a mother (what mom can’t take care of her children when THEY are sick??), a momsy (do you know how hard it is to tell your precious grandchildren you don’t feel like playing??), a daughter (I am thankful for a momma who takes care of me no matter what age I am!), a sister (that moment when you can’t muster up the strength to go to a family get together) a companion (ah the adjustments and grace it takes to cater to a sick girlfriend!) and a friend (I am so not used to being on the receiving end of needing help!).  In those moments of struggle, I can be my worst critic while fighting through the darkness and depression. I would think “me, positive? strong? victorious? yeah right! more like exhausted! weak! defeated!”

And then, there are those golden moments, when God sits you down and allows you to look at your self through the eyes of someone else. When He calls for a ‘pause’ in your self criticism and saturates your soul with words of reassurance. A moment that refreshes the core of your being. I share this poem with you,  this priceless gift, written for me and about me. I do a lot of writing and sharing about myself and my journey but what a gift to see myself through the eyes of someone else. As I heard the words, I sat in awe, speechless, and weeping at the goodness of a caring God and the obedience of a loving friend who was willing to be a conduit of His grace. I sat with my heart overflowing with thankfulness for those intimate moments shared between two women, with our hearts laid bare before each other. I sat there blessed, refreshed and renewed.

By Joyce Weldon, my dear friend and anointed poet

She knew her cancer would be like risking a difficult climb.
After all she was a mountain thinker
Not a valley sinker.
Her thoughts were used to soaring to new heights
She knew the value to flee or to take flight.

Now will this journey choose for her the mountain of the small place?
Will she just be satisfied with the fertile lowlands, plushes,
ready-made she face?
Throughout life she had been a friend of struggle
Maybe every once in a while to have with it a few snuggles.

But even in her broken body she continued to smile
Instead of looking back toward the valley she looked upward to the mountain with a whisper, “in a little while.”
Thinking small was not her style.
No small dreams.
No small outlook.
No small aspirations.
No small faith and no small vision.
Just a new decision.

She took the flavor of God’s spirit enhanced
Whatever lives it touches from the depth of her mind to the depths of her soul.
She let it go.

From the perspective of the heights
She gave cancer new sight
No matter the outcome to remain in steadfast, unyielding,
Unmovable, unshakable, and useful for flavoring other lives
That be sprinkled into the world cries.
In the shadow of the mountain where bushes once burned
And voices thundered and the finger of God was carved in granite
the direction of where freedom lies.

Life lives…

July 18 2019

 
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Posted by on July 19, 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: The Anatomy of a Selfie

 

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

April 11, 2019

 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 15, 2019

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

 

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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 cacti.  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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