Tag Archive | Christmas

Warmth — Weekly Photo Challenge & Thoughts Of You…

 

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

 

I can’t believe I’ve allowed so much time to pass — again.  It just happens.  It’s so easy to let this happen.  And yet it is so difficult.  So difficult.

I’m doing it here.  I’m doing it in my life outside of this blog.  I’m doing it everywhere.

Pulling away.  Distancing myself.

And I don’t want to do this.

It just happens.

There is so much to tell you.  So much I should have shared with you about everything that has been going on.  But…

I’m just so tired.  So tired.  So tired of feeling awful.  Of being in pain.  Of being tired.  Of feeling sick.  Of vomiting.  Of everything…

And I realize how terrible that sounds.

I should be grateful to be here.  To be alive.  And I am.  But there is a part of me that feels as though maybe that just isn’t enough anymore.  That maybe quality — and not just quantity — of life is important, too.

Of course this is a complicated topic.  Even my own point of view changes throughout the day and as I lie awake at night often feeling too sick or in too much pain to sleep.  There is no easy answer where all of this cancer and cancer treatment “stuff” is concerned.  On the one hand, I (like so many) have been driven to do everything I can to survive.  But on the other hand, I never really considered how much collateral damage there would be.

Who really does?

For many of us — and for many of our oncologists — the goal really is survival and/or life extension.  Sure, there are consent forms and there’s a bit of discussion about the risks of our treatments, surgeries, etc.  But how many of us fully appreciate what the cost (and I’m not even addressing the financial toll…yet) of these sometimes Herculean efforts will be?

I’d venture to guess that the answer is “not too many.”

There is so much I want to say.  So much I want to tell you.  There are so many topics I’d like to cover here.  Questions I want to answer.  And I know I need to try to do better here.  To be present more.  To give this platform the respect it deserves.

In the New Year I hope to do better.  To tell you more.  Because there is so much to tell.  And to address the questions/issues/etc. that so many of you have written and asked me to address.

I will try…

For now I will say “hello again” and tell you that I’ve missed you and that I hope you are doing okay and that you had a nice holiday.  And I will thank you for continuing to stand by me, to check in, to care.  And I will tell you that you are appreciated more than you know…

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And for old times’ sake I’ll leave you with our Christmas card and some photos that illustrate The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge topic—  “Warmth.”  — for me.  {If you would like to participate in the challenge, just click on the link above.}  In the Christmas card you’ll see two humans and two pups who warm my heart.

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

And in the fleece photos, you’ll see a literal example of warmth.  My boys (and one of their special friends) were asked to do a service project for school.  They chose to volunteer their time at one of my cancer centers, a place that is very dear to my heart.  They helped to prepare fleece ponchos to gift to new patients set to undergo radiation.

I’m not sure who first thought of the idea, but I know these warm ponchos will provide a bit of comfort for patients who will appreciate them, I’m sure.

The Cancer Center’s social worker was kind enough to give the boys a tour of the radiation suite that I once visited daily while I was undergoing that phase of my treatment so they could see where the patients will be wearing the ponchos.

Thank you, friend…  Sending my warmest wishes to you during the holidays and as we head into the New Year…  xxx

 

 

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Lone Jellyfish, Candy Apple Redhead, Happy Holidays, and a Weekly Photo Challenge

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In a tank full of jellyfish, we watched as this lone jelly moved gracefully away from the others

It has been far too long, but I am popping in to wish you all a very happy holiday season.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or warmest wishes for whatever holiday you might celebrate.

The boys and I celebrated a lovely (but exhausting!) Christmas together.  They both made special cards and scoured the house and found items to wrap up and place under the tree.  Picture that scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  [If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.  My sister and I loved it so much as kids that we watched it more times than I’d care to admit.  As a result, we can recite the script verbatim, complete with accents and inflection, also something I only admit sparingly.]  Aunt Edna arrives at Clark’s house with two gifts.  One box is leaking and the other is meowing.  Old Aunt Edna doesn’t have much money (and is a bit senile) but still wants to give gifts, so she has wrapped up jell-o and her cat.

Thankfully the boys did not giftwrap the dogs this year.  [Yes, they wrapped the little one up last year.  She did NOT like it.]  They gave me chocolates from the cupboard, one of my favorite winter scarves (which was a relief because I thought I had lost it, but it was under the tree the whole time!), and a few other special items they found.

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“One of these birds is not like the others”
The photo doesn’t do the vibrant red hue of this red-crested cardinal justice. What a beautiful bird!  [What is a photo of birds doing in this post?  Trust me, there is a reason.  Read on…]

They gave their dad some things we were able to procure together, like a nice Columbia fleece and some of his favorite candy.  They also made homemade ornaments with their photos on them and special cards to accompany their gifts.  And they wrapped up a handheld showerhead we had gotten a few years ago for their bathroom.  Their current cheap showerhead leaks so much that their is minimal water pressure when they shower.  It takes them forever to rinse their hair.  So we acquired the new one from our struggling kitchen and bath supply business.  It’s lower quality than what we normally sell, so we decided to keep it for ourselves and figured it should solve the boys’ bathroom dilemma.

The only problem is that my husband hasn’t installed this unopened self-proclaimed “easy installation” faucet in the three years it has been sitting next to their bathroom door.  You are probably wondering why I haven’t just done it myself.  Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind a thousand times.  But I can’t manage it because I can’t lift my arms over my head thanks to the bilateral mastectomy & axillary lymph node dissection surgeries.  [Of course it would have helped to have continued my intense physical therapy sessions instead of failing to show up one day because I was too tired.  In my defense, I did call them to tell them I would reschedule when I felt better.  That was 2 years ago, though.  Woops!]

The boys thought that if they wrapped up their new showerhead and some of the other home improvement items that have been gathering dust, the jobs would get done.   I even caught them wrapping the curtain rods from their bedroom windows!  I had been really sick for months when we decided to remove the curtains, rods and their anchors so we could paint the boys’ room (ocean colors with freehand waves and plans for ocean creatures).  I had just started the painting when I had to go in for biopsies on both breasts and lymph nodes. The biopsies confirmed the doctor’s cancer diagnosis 24 hours later, and the diagnosis and more biopsies and scans were immediately followed by my first lymph node and powerport implantation surgery and intense chemo until I was ready for the mastectomy and full-blown lymph node removal surgery 5 months later.

Needless to say, I could not reinstall the curtain rods because of the “not being able to raise my arms thing,” so the twins still have no curtains up in their room.  Part of me thought, “good for them for wrapping up their curtain rods!”  But they know their father all too well.  They said they were sure they would have to wrap all of those things up again next year because (I’ll paraphrase, but it was something like this) “Dad doesn’t care about our curtains and showerhead and smoke alarm batteries and blah blah blah… because they are not the internet or a video game.”

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I know, I know. You are saying, “WTF, another bird? What does this picture have to do with the holidays?”

We had a quiet Christmas Eve.  I worked on finishing Christmas cards between appointments.  I’d been up until 3 or 4 a.m. for the few nights before, writing personal notes on the cards (and reapplying for health insurance).  I mailed a stack each day for those 3 days.  So when I was finished with my appointments at the hospital, my husband and the boys came to get me and it was a relief to stop at the post office to mail out the last stack of cards.

I was glad to be heading home after a long day.  I was tired and had a lengthy to-do list that had to be finished before Christmas the next day.  But my husband’s bad mood won out and when something set him off, he decided to punish us by parking the car and refusing to take us home or to relinquish the keys.  We sat for over an hour like this.  Luckily, I keep warm blankets in the car (it’s really a minivan) during the winter, so I gave the boys a couple each and they alternated reading and playing DS (handheld Nintendo games), while I worked on the Christmas cards that didn’t need to be mailed and finished my insurance paperwork.  It was 17 degree F and snowing but I dared not challenge him too much because I’ve learned that it isn’t worth it when he is in one of these moods.  And I honestly didn’t think he would keep it up for that long.

We sat until the kids and I couldn’t wait to go to the bathroom.  So the boys and I got out of the car and walked to a nearby grocery store to use their restroom.  When we got back in the car, the boys insisted that we go home.  We were going to Christmas Eve Mass at 7:30 (which they were not looking forward to earlier in the day, but were now begging to go home for) and we were still 30 minutes from home and had to eat dinner and get ready to go.  So he reluctantly drove us home.

We barely made it home to eat, and I didn’t have time to change out of my wet clothes (a byproduct of a day full of hot flashes — a gift from my hysterectomy) and then ended up getting to church late.  For as often as we go to church (not often at all!), I don’t think we should walk in late.  We hadn’t been in weeks and filing in while everyone was seated and the priest was watching us walk in the door was not a good way to return.  But the service was nice.  And we ran into my aunt and uncle (and my cousin and her boyfriend), so that was a good surprise.

Christmas was nice.  I was up until about 4 writing long notes in books and special cards for the boys and helping Santa get things ready (he left notes for the boys and personalized their stockings, etc.).  Comet even left a note and explained how he was sorry for leaving a bit of a mess on the front step — he left some chewed up carrots from the plate we left out for the reindeer and some droppings that looked a lot like raisins that had been soaked in warm water to plump them up.  [Yep, reindeer poop.  Since the kids had been questioning the Santa thing all of a sudden, the big guy had to step the proof of his existence up this year!]

And then the boys were up and ready for Christmas morning at 6:30.  Thanks to the kindness of a family at church who “adopted” us, and to the generosity of the boys’ teachers and school, we had gifts to put under the tree.  There were even gifts for me, including several giant packs of paper towel, toilet paper, Lysol wipes, and laundry detergent.  Such amazing angels who knew exactly what we needed.  Despite the events of the day before (and so many days before it), I couldn’t help but feel thankful for the good people in my life.  Such a stark contrast to my marriage are the relationships I have with other people.  Thank goodness, or I think I would have given up a long time ago.

We rounded out the day by going to my aunt and uncle’s to spend the afternoon with my family.  We hardly ever get to see them, so it was good to be together.  And then we moved on to Christmas dinner and dessert with my husband’s mom and dad.  It was a busy day and we didn’t get home until late, but it was really nice.  And I was glad we were able to have our own little Christmas in the morning and then have time for both sides of the family the rest of the day, so Christmas felt complete.  And I know the boys enjoyed the time spent with family.  They fell asleep on the way home, though they were up again at 6 a.m. to build their new Lego sets!

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Hmm, I was hoping to have this post serve double duty as a photo challenge post, but this week’s challenge topic is “Joy” and I think this post is just not joyful enough to qualify.  So I will improvise.   While I missed The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for last week, I might as well show you the photos I would have designated for that post.

Titled “One,” the challenge asked that we show:

“photos that focus on one thing.  Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash.  Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation.  Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.”

So now you see why I have a photo of a lone jellyfish and two oddly placed bird photos here.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Here’s one more:

Easter cupcakes pink breast cancer thirties 30s 30's thirties kids twins mom motherhood loss art show bird one daily post weekly photo challenge mastectomy

And I promise to come back with the JOY photos from this week’s challenge.  Full disclosure — I’ll tell you that I’m in a “Tell it like it is” frame of mind so I can’t promise that the text will be overtly joyful.  But I can promise you honesty and I hope that’s good enough!

Until then, thank you for reading and for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts, light and dark.

My warmest wishes and appreciation for you all…

p.s.  If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here for a list of challenges or here for the current challenge, “Joy.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: “The Sign Says” I Have Cancer

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*WARNING:  The last image on this page is pretty disturbing — and gross — so be careful as you scroll down the page if you don’t want to see it.*

I am writing this post in response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic “Signs.”

While I know this isn’t what Sara at The Daily Post had in mind, taking the post in this direction is what feels right to me.  Rather than compiling a handful of hysterical sign photos (I do have a few!), I have decided to abandon my first inclination and leave funny at the doorstep.  Instead of happy and light, I’ve opted to share a few photos that capture my physical state just months before my diagnosis of Stage 3C breast cancer.

Now, before you run off in the other direction, I’ll tell you that I won’t go as far as posting photos of my breast with its visible lumps.  But I will post more benign shots that really were not benign.

I was 33 in these photos and had lost about 10 – 15 pounds without changing my eating or exercising habits [I didn’t exercise].  It may not show, but I was thoroughly and completely exhausted.  I had been tired before, but this was the first time I would hit a wall where I couldn’t, regardless of how hard I tried, force myself to keep going.

I was so sick.

I had infection after infection.  Bronchitis.  Pneumonia.  Eye infections.  Etc.  Etc.

My lymph nodes were swollen.

My skin was dull and grey.  I was breaking out in rashes and developed acne-like bumps.  I had sores in and on my mouth.  My lips were peeling and cracked, swollen and often bloody.

I had been growing my hair for ages so I could again donate to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs for kids going through cancer and chemo (and other serious illnesses). But I was afraid they wouldn’t accept it this time because it was so dry, dull and lifeless.  And it was falling out.

And I was falling.  On one of the occasions when I blacked out and fell down the stairs, I hit my back and head so hard that I ended up in the emergency room.

I was experiencing a constant tingling throughout my left breast, similar to the “let-down” feeling I remembered from nursing my twin boys.  But the pain in the breast, from the surface to somewhere deep inside my chest was just as concerning.  The pain in my armpit was also making me wonder.

And there was more.  But why bore you with the details?

I knew something was gravely wrong.  And I knew that if I didn’t find out what it was soon, it would kill me.

And I was right.

While these photos are not pretty or well done, they are real.  They may not look like much if you didn’t know me before all of this, but for me these photos illustrate clear signs that cancer had engulfed my breast and lymph nodes and that it was trying to go further.  I just wish I had recognized them for what they were.  I wish I had paid attention to the signs sooner.

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The two photos that follow were taken on Christmas Day, 2009, just under 4 months before my diagnosis.  I was so ill and had been for a while.  And other than pneumonia and very swollen and sore lymph nodes and these recurrent infections in my mucous membranes, etc., no one knew what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t leave these infections and illnesses behind.  These were two of the rare photos I was in that Christmas:

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Just a warning:  the disturbing photo is coming after the photo below.  Last chance to turn back!

breast cancer thirties 30's 30s infections young illness death stage 3c

You probably thought I would share a photo of my breast or axillary lymph nodes here, but I promised I wouldn’t do that to you!  The disturbing photo I am sharing is of my eye, my skin, and my swollen (and bloody — though you can’t see the blood here) lips.  Both of my eyes looked like this quite often near the end.  They were as painful as they looked and were infected over and over again.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me because this wasn’t normal.  But no one sought to get to the bottom of my symptoms — I’m sure having no insurance at the time had something to do with this lack of action.

breast cancer thirties 30's 30s young eye infection infections red bloodshot lips

Thanks for making it to the end.  Even though this photo montage isn’t pretty, I think it is important to my story and I appreciate everyone who was willing to see it through.

And I promise that the next photo challenge post I do will be filled with beautiful images of people or places I hold dear…

If you’d like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here.

Update: Received My Cheap Holiday Cards…

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Photo Credit: blackcollegereunion.com

Hello dear readers,

Just a quick update on my “Procrastinator’s Unite” post…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer kids mom thirties 30s Christmas holidays deals freebies freeI received the “test card” I had mailed to my address and was not expecting much when I opened the envelope.  In fact, the deal on the cards was so spectacular — $0.24 per custom photo card including a FREE 1st class stamp!!! — that I was expecting less than ‘not much.’  I was expecting cardstore.com to close up shop in the dark of the night after I placed my order.  I was expecting them to disappear, papers blowing in the wind, tumbleweed rolling by their empty office building…  I was expecting that they would vanish without a trace, their pockets overflowing with my $13.03 (for 55 photo cards and stamps!!!).

But that’s not how things played out.  I opened the card envelope (complete with a FREE 1st Class Stamp) and…the card is lovely!  The cardstock is nice and is a sustainably sourced paper (bonus!).  And the print quality (on both sides) is quite good.

Now I just hope their prices stay low enough to make my next order a great deal — because I will be back!

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer kids mom thirties 30s Christmas holidays deals freebies free

Procrastinators Unite! Photo Cards — Printed, Addressed, Mailed w/ FREE STAMPS for $0.25

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties young kids mother motherhood mom 30s Christmas

My Boys — Christmas Card Photo

Still need to order your holiday photo cards, greeting cards or invitations?  Here’s an amazing deal:

Place your order before 11:59 p.m. ET on 12/17 and you will not only receive FREE Standard Shipping (through USPS), but you will also receive 70% off your photo card order.  AND, like I did, you could choose to have CardStore.com address, stamp (with a 1st class stamp!) and mail your cards on your behalf for no charge (THE STAMP IS EVEN FREE)!!!

This is a PHENOMENAL deal!  I ended up paying $0.24 each for my 4″ x 8″ holiday photo cards — printed, addressed and stamped!  All for less than the cost of a 1st class stamp (did I mention that the stamp was free?)!

Of course I did order a “value” design (because “Value” is my middle name — well, not really!) and didn’t have the 1,000 card choice options I’m accustomed to each year, but for $13 for 55 photo cards, stamped and mailed, I didn’t mind.  And even if you choose to class it up a bit more with a Signature or Premium card, this is still a terrific deal!

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Not really our holiday card — but a quick mock-up! Our personalized text is missing and the pic is pixelated in this one.

My cards were also so cheap because I ordered 55 and received a quantity discount.  I’m not sure how many cards push you into the “quantity” range — and I’m too tired to test it.  But the prices are still low, even without an added discount.  The drawback?  They say that the cards should reach my recipients on or before 12/22.  A little late by most people’s standards, but still before Christmas.  And had I found the deal and ordered sooner, this would have been a non-issue.  But I’m so exhausted all the time & we just got our tree this week & didn’t take our traditional “under the tree” photo until Thursday, so I’m trying not to chastise myself too much!

Celebrating Kwanzaa?  Their Kwanzaa card selection is also governed by the same deals.  Season’s Greetings cards, too.

And, hey, these are such a great deal that you could make New Year’s cards or invitations and be an early bird with them!

Here’s the breakdown of my order: 

55 “Value Design” 4″ x 8″ photo cards (flat)

  •  Each card is Printed, Addressed (my return address and the recipient’s address), Stamped (FREE) and Mailed to my individual recipients!

Cost:

Cards:  $1.09 each  LESS  quantity discount   LESS   70% off ALL Holiday Photo Cards, Greeting Cards or Invitations  =  $0.24 each!

Stamps:  $0.00

Shipping:  $0.00

Grand Total:  $13.03 including 55 stamps!

So, design away!  Just be sure to place your order before 11:59 p.m. ET Monday night to take advantage of all of the discounts.  I’ll include some links below to help you get started.

P.S.  They even include a fancy schmancy Excel spreadsheet template you can use if you don’t want to individually add addresses on their web site.  Login, go to “All You” and click “Address Book.”  Fill in your addresses and when you are ready to order your cards, just import the spreadsheet and, voila, you’ll see all of your addresses there.

P.P.S. I am in NO way affiliated with CardStore.com.  I just found them this morning and am using them for the very first time (in lieu of spending more and ordering from “big-box” stores like I usually do).

P.P.P.S.

The 70% off Holiday Cards code:  CCP2147 — Be sure to enter it at checkout!!!  Expires 12/17 11:59 p.m. ET

Free Standard Shipping or Free Stamps code — There isn’t one, just order by 12/31

Christmas Value cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/christmas/cards/bargain

Kwanzaa cards link (No “value” option):   http://www.cardstore.com/shop/kwanzaa

New Year’s cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/new-years

Season’s Greetings Value cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/seasons-greetings/bargain

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Happy Holidays!