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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: Chemotherapy – Round 3 – Brutal but Effective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 15, 2019

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Round 1 – Chemotherapy doesn’t care how tough you are!

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Life has a way of shaping you. Situations and circumstances can make or break you. I decided early in life that I wouldn’t let the hardships break me so I developed this deep sense of determination to always overcome. My mother was my grand example. She fought through many years of severe domestic violence to come out standing incredibly strong and successfully raise 4 children all by herself. She worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time, always made ends meet and never gave up despite the fact that I am sure she felt like it numerous times.

Over the years if I have heard it said once, I’ve heard it said many times, “you are tough!” I’ve been labeled a strong woman by many, and I strive to wear that mantle well. Not in an arrogant fashion, but with a quiet confidence knowing that my strength and perseverance comes from a higher source and that there are 6 precious souls that depend on my abilities to always make it through. Being strong is crucial.

On January 18, 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although I wasn’t completely taken by surprise, I knew something was not going exactly right in my body, I found ironic humor in the fact that recent blood work showed that I was healthy as a horse. Everything was in perfect range! I have been blessed for the past several years to enjoy the outdoors and have spent the last two years participating in numerous intense (and sometimes completely outrageous!) adventuring. I have also been very conscious of the nutrition I have fed my body and soul and the end result was a strong physical, mental and spiritual being. I have felt the best I have ever felt in my life! All the while I am out having the time of my life adventuring; little did I know that my immune system was building itself to mammoth strength. I was unaware that it was fighting hard for me to keep the cancer contained in my breast, hallelujah!

When I was given my treatment plan of 6 rounds of chemotherapy before surgery, I determined immediately to keep a positive attitude and outlook. Everyone who heard about the diagnosis and treatment shouted the words of encouragement to me – You are tough! You got this! You will breeze through this! And I believed that with all of my heart. So here I went to the first treatment with the mindset that, yes, I AM a strong women and not even chemotherapy is going to slow me down much less stop me! (ROFLOL!!  I know right! I am always the ambitious one!).

My first treatment was Monday, February 11, 2019. The treatment took 9 hours, whew! But everything went well. My doctor told me that I needed to keep up my exercise through all of this, so I stepped out of the car, went into the house to put up my stuff, and headed out the door for a mile walk. I felt victorious! Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed, I worked each day, and other than feeling like I was a jacked up rabbit on speed that suddenly felt like I could nap for days (totally due to the steroid and nausea meds regime to prevent sickness – which worked!) I felt good. I was conquering this thing called chemotherapy. Then Friday came…and the rude awakening that chemotherapy doesn’t care how tough you are! It does not take into consideration all of your accomplishments, victories, and achieved goals. It doesn’t care if you are a feisty, strong spirited, independent woman. It doesn’t care that you had big plans to hike for the weekend. When it decides to have its way with you, it does, and with a vengeance. These are my lessons learned from round 1 of chemical warfare on the terrorist that is residing in my rebellious boob…

When the chemicals decide they are ready to exit your body…you better have enough Imodium AD on hand to stop 20 elephants. Otherwise you will find yourself becoming intimate with your bathroom and losing 10 pounds in less than 48 hours.

Coconut water is a great source of hydration, unless you drink too much. Then it acts like a natural laxative – which isn’t good if you are experiencing chemo dump! Ugh!

Protein meal replacement shakes are a great source of nutrition when you don’t feel like eating because your mouth has been attacked by the chemical warfare and you feel like you have eaten shards of glass for breakfast. Unless…you are lactose intolerant and they are lactose based. Yeah you guessed it…hello bathroom!

A cold bowl of ice cream tastes so good when your mouth is on fire…again unless you are lactose intolerant and…well, refer to the above statement!

Chemicals exiting your body burn like a forest fire out of control. Thank God I wasn’t throwing up and it wasn’t my esophagus feeling like a marriage of gasoline and matches. ( that is all I will say about that!)

Muscle spasms are no fun! Especially if you are dehydrated from running to the bathroom for two days because of chemotherapy, coconut water and lactose based foods. Except for a cramp in my calf or toe over the years, I had never had a muscle spasm in 49 years and had no clue that something could seize up your whole body make you feel like someone was stabbing a knife into your pelvic bone, all the while pulling your muscles all the way to your chest tighter than a rubber band. Holy freaking moly!

Chemotherapy can cause your mouth to sizzle like you have eaten a bowl full of pop rocks (remember that childhood candy??) And then suddenly, out of nowhere, you can wake up feeling like you have swallowed a desert of cacti. Two words…miracle mouthwash. HAVE IT ON HAND!

No matter how much of a go-getter you are, you WILL take a nap almost daily and you will like it!

Do not, I repeat, do not eat a Hershey’s’ kiss 3 days after having chemotherapy. It will taste like rotten cardboard and you will cry a little because chocolate should never, ever, ever taste like that! (Wait two weeks and indulge in the M&M’s your friends bring you, you will love them as much as you always have and it will be sunshine to your soul!)

Chemotherapy is not fond of hair. That is good news for your armpits and legs,I don’t have to shave for days and days – woot woot!  However that is bad news for your head. Warning, although you know it will grow back eventually, you WILL cry when your hair starts to fall out in handfuls. Thank God and friends for pretty scarves and head covers.

Chemotherapy doesn’t care if your child has the flu. It will not allow you to take care of him and it won’t care that your heart is broke when he has to go stay somewhere else while he is contagious.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bite your lip the night before chemotherapy. Remember that it takes your body longer to heal because your immune system is being annihilated. If you have this protruding sore on the inside of your lip, chances are it will get in your way and you WILL bite it over and over. You will cringe every time that you do and it will get infected and hang around way too long!

Chemotherapy doesn’t bother that you never had had allergies in your life. You will wake up with a new found allergy and your eyes will water at the sight of daylight and your nose will drip constantly like a leaking faucet.

Chemotherapy and Mother Nature are wicked friends when they visit you at the same time…no other words needed.

Round 1 of chemotherapy was definitely a learning experience. I had no clue what to expect and there were moments when the side effects hit that I felt ignorant, ashamed, defeated and as helpless as a new born baby. The good news is I am a quick learner. Perseverance and determination are my lifelong companions. I take note of every little detail and for round two I am much more prepared! Does that mean I will be tougher than the chemicals that are pumping through my veins? Bahahaha…NO. I will just be smarter (and a little more pissed off than I originally was the first time around). My prayers will be that much more specific and I will fight with knowledge and diligence, and eventually, I will win this battle no matter how much chemotherapy doesn’t care.

So, let round 2 of chemical warfare on the terrorist that has invaded my body begin…

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: When God Makes Your Coffee…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Friday Mornings, Mushrooms and a God Who Answers Prayers

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Fridays are my off day from my paying job (with 4 children and 1 grandchild I never have a real day off! Mommas can you feel me??) So as often as I can I venture out on a trail with a hiking partner. Last Friday rolled around and it had been a few weeks since my last adventure. Circumstances prevented a planned outing but my weeks had been extremely taxing and my soul so needed some refreshing. I concluded to set off on my own and enjoy some solo time on a familiar trail. My destination would be Laurel Run Park in Church Hill, a trail with some waterfalls that I had been on once before during the cold weather months and was curious to see in the summer season. With backpack packed, hiking boots on and pole in hand, I put sole to trail and began my day. I chuckled a little as I crossed the bridge and saw a sign that read “Caution, Dangerous Wildlife, Proceed at Own Risk.” I didn’t recall seeing that the last time but perhaps I was too caught up in conversation to notice, and I dared to proceed despite the warning.

The day was over-cast with very little light filtering in through the forest’s covering.  The deeper into the trail I went, the darker it got. After making the stream crossing I was walking along and I began to think about that caution sign…..and bears. My mind began to race. What on earth would I do if I encountered one? Did I tell anyone where I was going today? If one attacked me I would cut him! Fiddlesticks! I left my handy dandy pocket knife in my purse in the car (no I had not been using it on anyone lately) Lord, I know your plan for me is not to be eaten by a bear when I am seeking serenity!  As I think back on it now, I am amused at how entangled I became with thoughts of a bear that was nowhere near. How many times in life do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in worries that never happen? That we let our fears get the best of us? That we focus on the things that might happen versus the things that we know are true?

It wasn’t long until the melody of the stream became the song that I longed to hear. A few more steps and I had reached my destination of the waterfall. All thoughts of anything on the outside world fled my mind and I became entranced with the sights, the sounds, the aromas that surrounded me. I lingered at the fall for about an hour, taking pictures, exploring the different angles, playing in the rushing waters, inhaling the fresh smell of the wet earth and admiring the beauty of my surroundings. I proceeded on up to the top of the falls and found the perfect spot to sit for a spell and talk to my Father about the things that were weighing on my heart. Did He hear me? Would He answer? Would things be ok? I repeated a phrase that I had uttered many times before along my journey called life, “Lord, I believe, but help me with my unbelief.”

The clock was ticking away and it was time for me to wrap things up.  I headed back to the trail and was tossing through my mind whether I had time to proceed on up to the second fall.  After checking the hour, I knew I needed to head back to the car but I put in one simple request before I began my trek back. “Lord, I would really love to see a mushroom! Something curious and interesting!” Literally within two steps I looked down and standing there, illuminated by a single ray of sun that pierced through the darkness was the most exquisite mushroom I had ever laid eyes on! I swear I heard that “ahhhhhhhh” you hear in movies when something magical happens. I knelt down to examine this handsome specimen and was awed by his stance, the way his colors complimented the blanket of green moss he sprouted from. He was magnificent and I was enamored. When I was finally able to peel my attention away from this wonderful mushroom, I saw another one, totally different in appearance but nonetheless stunning. Then another one and another one! How had I missed these beauties on my way up? Had I been too focused on thoughts of a bear that didn’t exist? Did God just answer my prayer and kaboom! They were there? I’m not sure which scenario was right, I just knew I was happier than a fat kid eating cake as I went from one mushroom to another snapping shots and admiring their uniqueness.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat shocked at how quickly my simple request had been answered. Not only did I see one mushroom, but I had been blessed with a showcase in every direction. Thanksgiving couldn’t help but escape from my lips and it was then that I heard the response that brought me to my knees somewhere in the middle of a trail nestled in the woods of Hawkins County. “If I hear you when you ask for simple things and I answer you, how much more do to you think I hear you when you ask for greater things? For your children, your family, those that you love and I love even more?” Psalm 18:6 says “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”  On a beautiful, serene Friday morning the most High God of heaven, the creator of the universe, the maker of the sun, moon and stars, author of my life, my Father and my Friend met with me in the woods. He ministered to my spirit and soothed my soul, reminding me that, yes! He hears my every prayer, every request, whether they are simple or heartfelt cries. He assured me once again that He is always with me, His promises are ever true and His word never fails.

As I headed back to the real world with every step my feet felt a little bit lighter, my stride more joyful and my spirit rejoiced! There were no thoughts of unseen bears lurking in the distance. Instead thanksgiving and praise to my God bellowed out of my gut. I was thankful for His presence, for His assurance, for His voice and for mushrooms.

Some of the other gems I found 🙂

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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