Tag Archive | family

The Words…

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's dog dogs wiener german shepard stage 3c young kids family miniature dachshund summer jeep

Last ride of the summer with the boys & my pups…

I’m going to try something new here.  Rather than focus on a premeditated topic, I am just going to write.  Crazy, huh?

You could say writing was an activity I once loved, but this wouldn’t be altogether accurate.  Sure, as a child/teenager/young adult I enjoyed it on a level that seemed foreign to some of my peers.  Was I passionate about it?  Of course.  But it was more than this.  Writing was almost akin to eating or taking a breath for me.  It was something I had to do to survive.

I know I sound like an idiot.  Obviously you can’t live without eating (though God knows I’ve pushed these limits in the past) or taking a breath.  Not writing can’t possibly be as perilous for one’s body as trying to survive without food or oxygen, of course.  But it was my soul that would cling feverishly to this outlet.

What I’m trying to tell you is that writing was something I needed to do.  It was strangely painful to not write.  It was as if the words needed a place to go and if I didn’t let them out, they would build up inside me until I felt emotional pain.  Physical distress.

Writing was my coping mechanism.  My escape.  My salvation.

I needed to write the words that flowed from my mind, my heart, through my once capable young hands.  And, equally, the words needed me to set them free.

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's young Salvador Dali tree museum tampa florida wish young stage 3c IIIc ribbons

The Dali Wish Tree: “This wish tree, streaming with ribbons, carries the wishes of our visitors and community. We invite you to contribute a wish to the tree, and to be part of the cultural tradition that extends back to Hindu and Scottish rites. In all its forms, the wish tree invites and holds our fond hopes.” [Photographed during our lovely visit to The Dali Museum in Florida (with & thanks to jme & bryan), just before we added our wishes, our words, to the tree’s hope-laden branches.]

But somewhere along the way, this relationship changed.  Life changed.  My desire/need (or whatever it was?) to write is not like this anymore {or that’s what I like to tell myself, at least}.  At some point, writing became an obligation, a job, a necessity of another sort.  And the words that once needed to break free from my mind, my soul, were trapped inside.  Bottled up.  Locked away.  Dusty and hidden, but not quite forgotten.

I hadn’t thought about this in ages.  Until just a few minutes ago, that is, when I found myself once again thinking about stopping here to read your kind words and to tackle one of the tens/hundreds of cancer-y topics I have swirling around in my brain, topics that I feel should be addressed in these “pages” because of their importance.

And, once again, I thought about closing my blog tab in an attempt to forget about writing until the next time I’d find myself in front of the computer screen.   Yes, the next time, when I could once again procrastinate and put off tackling the weighty topics I know should be addressed, topics that I will likely continue to attempt to deal with despite the gnawing pain that emanates from the words trapped inside my soul, the words that long to be set free.

Doing Something a Bit Different This Mother’s Day…

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's fundraising walk fundraiser mother's day support advocacy breast cancer coalition of rochester family

Hello Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for welcoming Morgan so warmly and for encouraging his writing.  He was so pleased to be able to share his thoughts with you — and was even more thrilled to see your “likes” and read your comments.  Definitely a self-esteem booster!  He smiled from ear to ear when he read such kind words from you.  Thank you!!

Well, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before here.  And something that I wasn’t sure I should do — I’ve been going back & forth in my mind all afternoon!  In the end, though, I decided to just post this because it might help an organization and people who I feel are deserving of support…

A very ambiguous way to let you know that the boys & I have decided to use our Mother’s Day to do something a bit different this year.  [Since I have such a bad headache that I’m having trouble forming a coherent thought, I think it would be best if I just pull from something I wrote earlier this afternoon to explain so I don’t make this any more confusing!!]

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I’m a bit late to the party (okay, very late!) — I thought/wished/hoped I’d be visiting my family & new baby niece this weekend in VA (but sadly, we couldn’t go) so I didn’t register for tomorrow’s breast cancer walk until today — but hopefully we can still make a bit of a difference with your help!  Every little bit helps…

My sons & I are celebrating Mother’s Day tomorrow by walking in the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester’s (Mother’s Day) Pink Ribbon Run & Family Fitness Walk to raise funds for an organization that helps women (and men) cope with a breast cancer diagnosis through support groups, educational programs, evening seminars, special events, advocacy, and more.  They strive to ensure that no one feels as though they are facing this awful disease alone.

As you surely know, this is a cause that is very dear to my heart.  Diagnosed with a very aggressive inoperable Stage 3C breast cancer when I had just turned 34 and my twins were in kindergarten, I felt completely overwhelmed and as though the rug had been pulled from beneath me.  

And I’ve heard this sentiment time & time again from women (and men) — young, old, and every age & stage of life in between.  When you hear the words, “You have cancer,” many people feel overwhelmed, scared, etc.  And then they are sent off to make (what may even be life or death) decisions about their treatment & their bodies & a disease they may not know much about…  

The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester does their best to make sure no one feels alone at any point after their diagnosis — whether they were diagnosed that day or 20 years past.  And they seek to educate patients, survivors and the public about this insidious disease and to advocate for all of us (and future generations) not just locally and statewide, but nationally as well.  They understand the importance of being a voice for change and seek to educate lawmakers & elected officials about this disease and its causes & the devastating toll it can take on women/men & their families.  And they work with citizen and environmental agencies & organizations to increase awareness of environmental hazards related to breast cancer & other public health risks to protect & educate current and future generations.    

Please help the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester continue to provide their vital services, advocacy and support.

Remember, every little bit helps!  There is no amount too small.  Even $1 or $2 can help.  But since the minimum online donation the site can accept is $10, please don’t be discouraged.  If you’d to give a donation under 10 or if you’d like to pay with a check or cash — please send me a quick email to make other arrangements for your donation. [CancerInMyThirties@yahoo.com]  Thank you!  

My boys and I will walk tomorrow to honor all of the women (and men) who’ve ever heard those life-altering words — “You have cancer” — and who are still here with us, and we will walk to remember and pay tribute to all of the loved ones this horrible disease has taken.  If you’d like us to add a name (or names) of someone special to you to our shirts, please send me a quick email by 5 a.m…

Thanks SO very much!

Leisha & family    

If you’d prefer to send a check / or to give cash / if you have questions or if you’d like to contact me, please don’t hesitate to email me:  CancerInMyThirties@yahoo.com   Thank you!

P.S. We couldn’t decide on a photo so if you scroll through you’ll see some photos where the boys (and I) are actually looking at the camera!    🙂

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If you’d like to visit the fundraising page I just set up through the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester’s event:

Leisha’s Family & Friends Group

You can read more, make a donation, etc. there

And if not, no worries!  No pressure at all!  The boys & I are happy to simply participate. Plus the weather should be nice ( and I think some of their/my friends will be walking with us), so “the walk” should be a great way to spend the day and to honor women & mothers along the way…

Wishing you & your families a lovely Mother’s Day…

All my best to you, always… 

*****

Cancer In Many Languages by Morgan (Leisha’s son)

breast cancer 30s thirties 30's stage iiic 3c mastectomy dogs kids family life

This is me with Kevin (our big dog), weenie (our little dog), and puppy (my nanna’s dog) pretending to play xbox with me  🙂

This is Morgan, my mom’s son.  Thank you for your comments and nice messages and likes on my last post.

My mom has been sick with infections for a while and is very tired & not feeling well so i thought i would write another post for her.

This time I thought I would write a post so you could see what the word cancer is in languages around the world.  In English, it is CANCER.  Cancer is “a malignant growth or tumor resulting from the division of abnormal cells.”

“Cancerous tumors are malignant, which means they can spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. In addition, as these tumors grow, some cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumors far from the original tumor.”

This is CANCER in other languages:

KANKER

KANCER

السرطان
ԽԵՑԳԵՏԻՆ

KHETS’ GETIN

XƏRÇƏNG
РАК

RAK

ক্যান্সার
Kyānsāra

RAKA

CÀNCER

KAINSAR

癌症

RAKOVINA

KRÆFT

KANKER

KANSER

KHANSA

 KANCERO
syöpä
καρκίνος
kansè
סרטן
KRABBAMEIN
AILSE
CANCRO
癌
GAN
암
AM
Vėžys
KREFT
سرطان
RAK
câncer
рак
cáncer
โรคมะเร็ง
Rokh marĕng
KANZER
ung thư
CANSER
umdlavuza


 ❤   🙂

There are more lanaguages and more words for cancer but i’m tired and my mom says i have to go to bed! But this should be enough to show you that cancer is such an important and major thing that there’s a word for it in every language. Every part of the world knows about cancer. It’s everywhere! Cancer doesn’t care who you are or where you live or what language you use. It’s a horrible disease!

Thank you for reading my mom’s blog and for supporting her. I know you mean a lot to her. I know she’ll be back and write again when she feels better. Shes been really tired but shes been on a lot of strong antibiotics for 6 or 7 wks now so i hope she’s better enough to write soon.

Thank you! Goodnight! from Morgan

❤     🙂       ❤      🙂      ❤     🙂

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…

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 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

 

 

On a Dark and Winding Road

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's illness twins lymph nodes bilateral mastectomy stage 3c boys family stonybrook park life

This is where I have been during my absence.  On a dark and winding road.  It has taken me nowhere good.  It has been fraught with pain and stress and painful, stressful days.  And weighty revelations that come when you feel as though you just can’t handle one more thing — until one more thing comes and you begin to tell yourself that you can’t handle one more one more thing.  But still I walk this thorny path.  Or drag myself along its rough terrain.  And I wonder what choice I have.  Or if it is even a choice at all.

But I am here.  My twin boys are with me.  And though it doesn’t “feel like” summer in our world most days, summer is here.  My favorite time of year.  The little break we have from snow and cold and grey is here.  And it means more time with my growing boys and dogs.  And for that I am grateful.

I am grateful to you, too.  For continuing to “visit” even during my silence.  For continuing to leave messages or send emails.  I feel fortunate to have you.  I hope you know how fortunate…  Thank you…

p.s. My youngest sister (21…well, she turned 22 days after getting off the plane) just returned home from Alaska with her greyhound mix, Gracie.  So that is a good thing, too.  We’ve missed her and hadn’t seen her in a year and a half — and now they are living in my house!  Here’s a photo —

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's illness twins lymph nodes bilateral mastectomy stage 3c boys family stonybrook park life

A fun afternoon with my littlest sister & the boys

Thank you all…  I hope life is being kind to you…

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

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Hello Dear Readers,

Thank you for the comments and notes you’ve left and emailed in the weeks since my last post.  The boys and I are doing okay.  I have much to tell you and hope I will soon have the opportunity to do this…

While longer and more meaty posts are difficult at the moment, I thought I could at least visit you with a Weekly Photo Challenge post.  The latest challenge, An Unusual Point of View, brought to mind a special opportunity the boys and I had to visit a camp for children who have been touched by cancer.

Camp Good Days and Special Times is an amazing organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges through summer camping experiences and year-round events and activities.  Founded over three decades ago by a father whose 8-year-old daughter, Teddi Mervis, was suffering from a malignant brain tumor, the camp was meant to give children who are dealing with cancer — either their own or a parent’s or sibling’s — with a chance to just be kids and forget about this life-threatening disease.

We were fortunate enough to go through a special weekly support program during one phase of my treatment, and then to attend a retreat weekend at the Camp two years ago.

The boys were treated to crafts, an egg hunt, tasty meals, fishing, and other special experiences with me and the four other families who attended.  Like my boys, the other children each had a parent with cancer.  I was one of three moms and a dad with cancer.  My boys were the youngest of the kids, but all of the children seemed grateful to have a weekend with children and families who understood.

It was a wonderful weekend and one I will always be grateful for.  So when I was invited to serve as the speaker for a fancy fundraising event held that summer, I happily accepted and sang the organization’s praises.

I am filled with warm memories as I think back to each of these opportunities and to the amazing people who volunteer their time and talent to make Camp Good Days and Special Times the organization it is.

These photos, taken during the retreat, are of a memory garden in a wooded meditation space at the Camp.  It is a peaceful little place where campers are taken to reflect and to remember those who have been affected by cancer, both living and dead.  We were asked to write our names on a stone and then place it in the garden.  You will see close-ups of a turtle painted on a stone, my stone and one of the boys’ stones, and wider shots of the memory garden.

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Thank you for continuing to hang in there with me.  I hope to return with more than a photo challenge post soon.

Until then… xo

I DO NOT LIKE WASHING MY HANDS!

FROM MY SON, M.  He thought this was important and needed to be shared with my readers:

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s handwashing infections kids twins healthy eating

my mom is always telling me to eat my vegetables and wash my hands.

she said a  million times that ” I have a higher chance of getting cancer because my mom got it when she was so young.”  so I have to make healthy choice’s so I don’t get cancer.  That means I need to eat my vegetables and fruit.  I know I shud.  But I dont like to.  My Mom doesnt want me to get cancer when Im her age.  

AND

my mom makes me wash my hands a lot.  espeshally after i come home from school.  my mom makes me yous soap and hot water.

some times it gets annoying but I no why she she make me do these things.

i have to wash my hands because her white counts are really low.  and she gets infectshuns really easy.  and fevers easy.  she had to be in the hospital a long time for infectshuns.

So I wash my hands because i dont want her to be sick.  and i dont want her to go to the hospital.

i dont like to wash my hands or eat my vegetables but i love my mom!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge topic is change.  

There are few days as representative of change in a woman’s life as her wedding day.  These photos are from my lovely sister’s wedding.

 

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's wedding young bride

The Beautiful Bride & Groom

 

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's wedding young

A rainy wedding day… Two of my sisters & me…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's wedding young

The Wedding Cake

 

As always, thank you for visiting.

If you would like to participate in a photo challenge, just click one of the links below:   

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/weekly-photo-challenge-change/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

Iced Coffee for a Quarter! — OR — Why I Haven’t Slept in a Week

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's iced coffee burger king young freebies hot deals

photocredit: firstcoastnews.com

Of course I’m trying to be humorous with my title — the coffee isn’t the reason why I haven’t slept, but it hasn’t helped!  It’s too good — and cheap! — to resist!

To get your 25 cent iced coffee, just visit a participating Burger King (I think most are participating — I’ve only found 1 in our area that isn’t).  Ask if they have the small iced coffees for a quarter.  If so, choose from these flavors — unflavored, mocha, vanilla or caramel.  (The ad says no flavors included, but my BKs have given flavors every time without question.)

http://www.bk.com/en/us/fresh-offers/index.html

As far as I can tell, there is no quantity limit.  To test this — and to get a bigger cup of coffee — we’ve ordered 4 at a time.  That’s $1 for 4 iced coffees!

All of the flavors are pretty good.  I would recommend mocha — I think it’s delicious, smooth and creamy, kind of like a cold hot chocolate.  But for a quarter each, you can try them all!

Now through March 10th.

Enjoy!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge subject is:  Home

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/photo-challenge-home/

These images represent HOME for me…  Thank you for taking the time to visit…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s twins winter home

My Boys

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's twins fishing home

Fishing in the Living Room

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog mattie carole allison

My Aunt & Cousin with My Boys & Our Miniature Schnauzer, Mattie

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog

My Mom & Aunt

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog young

My Mom & Mattie & the Boys

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog young

Mattie in the Window

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog young

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancer thirties 30s 30's twins dog young

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenges, click here:

Weekly Photo Challenge

FREE Papa John’s Pizza!

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's young free pizza papa john's

Photo Credit: Papa John’s Facebook Page

My bucket list adventure post is a work in progress, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist this opportunity to pass along an opportunity to win a FREE pizza.

I have neglected the “Freebies & Special Deals” section of my blog, so I hope this post makes up for that a bit!

Here’s the deal:  Papa John’s is giving a FREE pizza to everyone who guesses the outcome of the Super Bowl coin toss.  This gives everyone who enters a 50% chance of winning a pizza!

And since they allow up to 4 entries per household, this means that as long as you live with someone, your house is guaranteed to win a FREE pizza!

It’s simple to enter.  Just visit:

http://www.papajohnscointoss.com

Then fill out the entry form.  Be sure to NOT select the “yes, please send me offers and spam” boxes if you don’t want to receive future texts and emails from Papa John’s (or check them if you do — who knows, maybe there will be more free pizza offers for you?).

Make sure you select Heads or Tails at the top.  If you want a guaranteed pizza, make sure the 2nd entrant chooses the opposite side of the coin.

Remember, you & your housemate/spouse/child/dog must have different email addresses or you will be disqualified.  I read that up to 4 people per household could enter, but we just did 2 to play it safe.

Be sure to enter TODAY by 11:59 p.m. PST.

“Winners will receive a promotion code good for a FREE LARGE 1-TOPPING PIZZA, which can only be redeemed at papajohns.com. The promotion code will be emailed to winners on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 by 11:59 p.m. PST.”

As a bonus, after you complete your entry, you will see a code worth 50% off a large pizza that you can use now.  We priced it out to be $6.48 including tax for a large cheese.  Not a bad deal!

ENJOY!

*If you have any questions, just post them below.  And if you enjoy non-cancery posts like these & would like me to do more of them, please click the LIKE button.  Thanks!*

My 1st Bucket List Adventure

If you’ve left me a comment or sent me an email recently and if I haven’t ‘liked’ or commented on one of your posts lately, it’s not because I’ve been ignoring you…  And not because I’ve been in the hospital (usually a plausible explanation!)  🙂

I’ve listened to your advice and mine, and I have decided to grab the bull by the horns and make Julie proud.  I am on my first bucket list adventure!

You may recall that Julie (who died when we were 31) was one of my 2 very best childhood friends.  I have mentioned the other (who was also best friends with Julie)…and I am happy to say that she is here with me.  We are seizing the day together!

It has already been quite an adventure — or misadventure, if you add up all of the things that have gone wrong! — and I am looking forward to telling you all about it.  But since I technically don’t have internet access, it will have to wait.  In the meantime, I want to thank you all for giving me the extra push, the courage to ‘just go for it’ and make Julie proud…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

Messed Up

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer death kids children family life loss marriage
You’ve won another argument
because I have given up
I swore I wouldn’t fight back anymore
But I gave in this time
I engaged, I didn’t just let it go
Until I came to my senses, that is
But it was too late
How do you stop a freight train that’s barreling down the tracks?
You are unkind to me
Your words are bitter and seering
You have hurt our children
inside and out
You prefer things to people
but you turn on your charm so no one will see through your facade
And facade it is
It is not real
You are not real
But this is all painfully real
You are selfish
manipulative
indignant
Lies roll off your tongue
like raindrops off rooftops
Yet you will outlive me
You will see our children grow
And hold their children in your arms
And you won’t care
How could the universe have gotten it so wrong?

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!

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

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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

A collection of photos for the changing seasons:

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer winter photo challenge changing seasons illness

Fall Becomes Winter
“Winter Through the Window”

cancerinmythirties.wordpress breast cancer weekly photo challenge changing seasons swan

Winter Becomes Spring

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer breast cancer changing seasons beach bald

Spring Becomes Summer

cancerinmythirties.wordpress breast cancer weekly photo challenge changing seasons leaves stoneybrook park autumn

Summer Becomes Fall

If you would like to take part in the challenge, please visit:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/weekly-photo-challenge-changing-seasons/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

Thank you!

$50 Straws AND How Cancer Changes Everything

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer mastectomy  hospital port

A different day. A different place. In a less hospitally-looking reclining chair at the Cancer Center.

This will probably seem like an odd post, but I’m going to present a snippet of my afternoon from two different perspectives for no other reason than “just because.”  Thanks for indulging me.

Scenario 1:

Across the room, a girl sits in a recliner with a small table beside her.  She is sipping a large cup of tea.  The tea bag tag dangles gently over the edge of her cup. The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  What is she thinking about?  Perhaps she is remembering a lover from her college days?  Maybe she is picturing a basket of puppies?

Wait… judging from a frame most would describe as thin and a belly that is unmistakably large and rounded, it’s clear that she must be pregnant — she must be thinking of the baby growing in her womb.  Yes.

Her eyes light up as she thinks of the “baby duckling yellow” paint color she and her husband chose for the baby’s room this morning.  “It’s not too masculine, not too feminine, and it will be easy to paint over if we decide to change it when the baby gets a bit older.”  She bites her lip as she wonders how she is going to wait for the next three months to meet her new baby.  She has slipped her calendar out of her purse and is making a list of baby names now.  It’s the same list she and her husband have been coming up with every night before bed.  But she thinks she might have a revelation and “the one” might pop into her head today.

She continues her list.

She is mostly alone as she relaxes in the large open room filled with beds and curtains and chairs just like hers.  Mostly.  She has a number of visitors over the course of the next hour.  Each one stops by to chat briefly with her.  She laughs and talks with them individually.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.

She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea. Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her grandmother.  Her hands are full, but with what?  It’s hard to say.  The visitor dressed in white sits across from the girl and then leans toward her for an unusually long time.  She holds what looks like a long, shiny pin or needle in her hand.  Odd.  But when she stands up to walk away, her hands are empty and she and the girl are both smiling.  She now has something pinned to her chest — a flower perhaps?

Just as her name is called she looks at her list.  She is clearly pleased with her accomplishment and is excited to share this new name with her husband.  It was her grandmother’s name.

She slides gracefully out of the chair (well, as gracefully as a pregnant woman can) to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk happily down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling and walking again.  The girl is stroking her belly, as if to comfort the baby inside.  She returns to her chair as the lady in white brings her a cocktail with one of those cute little paper umbrellas poking out from the rim of the glass. She relaxes for a bit longer before rising from her comfy chair, bidding adieu to her friends and walking out to greet her waiting husband.

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cancer in my thirties cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer 30s cartoon

Cartoon Credit: chibird.tumblr.com

Scenario 2:

I am sitting in a large, sterile room.  Across the way, I see a girl…or a woman, really.  She looks biologically young, but I can tell she has been weathered by experience.  Something tells me that she probably still thinks of herself as a girl in the quiet morning hours when everyone else is asleep.  So I will indulge her and call her “a girl.”  It’s the least I can do.

The woman, uh, girl, is sitting in a reclining hospital chair.  Beside her is a small table where alcohol swabs and some medical paraphernalia sit. She holds a large, lidded Styrofoam cup, the largest one I have ever seen, in her hands.  Dangling on the side of the cup I see a tea bag tag.  She looks at the bit of wisdom the tag has to dispense, rolls her eyes, and takes a sip from her straw.  Odd that she is drinking hot tea through a straw.  Maybe she’s one of those women who don’t want to stain their teeth so they drink their tea and coffee through straws?

Just then a nurse walks over to her and asks her to sign a form stating that she understands the risk of drinking this tea.  WTF?

Well, it’s not your average tea.  It’s tea that has been infused with a radiocontrast agent.  Is it radioactive tea?

The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  She is thinking of a sandy beach in a warm place far away.  “If this is more cancer,” she thinks, “I am moving to that beach.”

She puts her hand on her protruding belly and secretly hopes one of the nurses will ask her if she is pregnant when she signs the next consent form.  It’s an odd thing to hope for, almost masochistic, really.  She pictures what she would say in response to the question.  “Of course I’m not pregnant.  I’ve been gutted.  Every part that makes me a woman (except the “V” one) has been stolen from me.  I am empty inside.  Dead inside.  And, oh, this?  It’s edema.  My belly is swollen with fluid.  No baby.  I’m here to see if it’s cancer in here, not a baby.  My fate was sealed at 33 when those lumps in my breast were written off as nothing.”

Of course no one asks her if she is pregnant.  They all know the answer.  They all know why she is here.

And she wouldn’t have the guts to say what’s on her mind, anyway.  She wouldn’t want to hurt or bewilder anyone.  She wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s day.  So she thinks about what she would really say.  “Nope, just fluid.”

She snaps out of her daydream when a second nurse asks to see the port in her chest.  They’ll need it later.

She slips her calendar out of her purse and tries to recall the appointments she has scheduled for next week.  Her fuzzy chemobrain has made it impossible for her to remember much these days.  She soon finds herself drawing seagulls and starfish in the margins.  “Oh, to have my toes in the sand right now and to be anywhere other than here,” she dreams.

She shifts gears and makes a list of everything she needs to do when she leaves.  Her 3rd graders — twin boys — will be waiting for her.  It will be dinnertime.

She is mostly alone as she sits in the large open hospital room filled with curtains on tracks and not rods, hospital beds and hospital reclining chairs just like hers.  Mostly alone.  A number of nurses stop over to check on her progress with “the drink” or to ask her to sign a form.  She smiles and makes small talk with each of them.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.  She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea.  Through a straw.   That’s probably so she doesn’t spill the giant cup of lukewarm possibly radioactive tea on herself.

Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her long deceased grandmother.  Nancy.  Her Nanna was one of her most favorite people in the world.  She watched her die a painful death from cancer when she was 8 through 9 years old. “My kids are 8, too,” she thinks.

The nurse sets up a tray with everything she needs to access the girl’s port.

She holds a long shiny needle and asks if the girl likes to hold her breath or if she applied the EMLA cream in advance to make it hurt less.

The girl laughs, “No, no need.  Just go ahead.”  She has been poked and cut so many times it’s not even funny.

The needle punctures her upper right chest skin and enters her port.  Now they will be able to push the intravenous radiocontrast agent through her chest.

The nurse dresses her port with a tegaderm and gauze.  With the little yellow butterfly clip sticking against the transparent tegaderm, it almost looks as though the girl has a flower pinned to her chest.  An ugly flower, but a flower nonetheless.

Just as her name is called, she looks at her list.  She is already tired, but smiles at the thought of being able to sit down with her kids when she is done.

She drags her body from the chair to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk quietly down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling faint smiles and walking again.  The girl is doing that thing she does — looking dizzy and as though she is going to hit the deck.  She strokes her sore belly.  The nurse asks her to lie down until she feels better and says that people who receive the contrast through their ports need to wait 10 minutes for observation before they can leave anyway.  The nurse brings the girl a drink.  This time it’s plain cola.  Nothing added.  The nurse puts a bendy straw in the Coke.  The straw wrapper bears the name of a famous medical supplier.  “Yikes, a straw from a medical company!  It probably cost $50,” she thinks.

When her 10 minutes is up, she is so ready to leave that she walks out in her disposable drawstring hospital pants and stuffs her slacks in her bag.  It’s time to go home.

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So I was sitting in one of those recliner-type hospital chairs drinking oral contrast in preparation for my CT scan when I started thinking about perspective.  Of course the “girl” above is me…

Thanks for reading… Your comments and “Likes” brighten my life…

PLEASE stop eating PLASTIC!

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young plastic

Please Try a Sandwich Instead!

After hearing yet another “young” person’s cancer story, I feel absolutely compelled to write this post.  It’s too late for me to prevent my cancer, but it may not be too late for you or your mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife, husband, son, father, aunt…

I am writing today to urge you to limit your intake of the harmful chemicals found in plastic.  Because the dangers of plastic use have been largely ignored by the powers that be, you probably ingest more chemicals than you even realize each and every day.

As a breast cancer patient diagnosed in my early thirties, I am literally sick cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic mastectomy bpa fda garbageover this.  I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t posted about this topic sooner because it is something I think about every day.  Until I was aware of the danger (at some point after my cancer diagnosis), I ate and drank from plastic packaging at least as much as the average consumer.  I used plastic water bottles and those plastic travel coffee mugs all the time.  I left water bottles in the hot car and drank from them without a thought.  I consumed soups and other foods from cans, used plastic food storage containers, plastic wrap and plastic bags, and I didn’t think twice about handling store receipts coated with BPA (bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical often found in plastics and register receipts and linked to cancer, obesity, heart disease and other diseases).

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer awareness pink ribbon mastectomy illnessCan I blame my cancer on my exposure to the chemicals in plastics and other products?  No, probably not entirely.  But do I think this played a role in encouraging my illness?  Yes, definitely.  As a young person with no family history and no risk factors for breast cancer, I feel pretty justified in pinning some of the blame on an environmental cause, especially since I am in a segment of the population that has seen an increase in breast cancer rates since plastic use became so widespread.

Plastic is EVERYWHERE.  Food, drinks and personal care items like lotions and cosmetics are packaged in plastic more often than not.  This makes chemical exposure almost inevitable.  I have tried to eliminate plastic from my life (and from my children’s lives) but have determined that this would be far too costly and time consuming for tired ol’ me.  In the world we live in today, plastic exposure is virtually unavoidable.  So I have refocused my energy on limiting our plastic use.

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Some of my favorite ways of reducing our plastic exposure:

-We drink from glasses and mugs whenever possible.  I have recycled most of the kiddie cups that once filled the shelves of my

cupboard (and I wish I could take back the years I used plastic sippy cups for the kids).  We make a concerted effort to use non-plastic drinking vessels now.

-I reuse my empty glass Snapple bottles.  I fill them with water (and other beverages) and carry them in lieu of a plastic water bottle.  I  usually keep one or two with me and have a couple in the fridge so I can just grab them and go.  Of course you can do this with any glass bottle.  Not only will you be making a healthier choice for yourself, but you’ll also be making a good choice for the environment.

-We store food in glass and never in plastic.  At first this was really difficult because I just had a few glass storage containers.  cancerinmythirities.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic bpa glassI made makeshift containers by putting plates on top of bowls as lids — not a good use of space!  But I have since asked for Pyrex for Christmas and birthdays and my little collection is growing.

-We have reduced our use of canned foods.  BPA is often found in the lining of food and baby formula cans.

-I avoid leaving cosmetics, lotions and other liquids packaged in plastic in the car.  You may have heard the warning about not leaving water bottles in the car for the same reason — heating plastic encourages the release of toxic chemicals.

-We don’t use “steam in the bag” foods like frozen vegetables.

-Whenever glass is available (for food, beverages, personal care products), I’ll choose it over plastic, even if it costs a little bit more.  We are on a REALLY tight budget, but I think it’s worth it. cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic carcinogens chemicals Unfortunately, though, it’s not usually a choice — glass is often hard to find.  Even the organic hormone-free milk at my grocery store comes in a plastic container!

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Why am I publishing a post like this?  It is not because I’m having a bad day and need to vent (that’s just a coincidence!).  It is not because I am trying to blame someone for the hell I have been through in the past few years.  It is because I want to save someone else from the pain and the loss I have experienced and will likely continue to experience.  It is because I want to save YOU.

While I realize you may not be able to nix plastic from your life entirely, I hope you will please do your best to cut out as much plastic exposure as possible.

And PLEASE ask your friends and family and everyone you care about to do cancerinmythirties.wordpress.org breast cancer squirrel nuts plastic carcinogen bpa fda mastectomythe same.  If you are worried about sounding like an alarmist or a nutcase or a conspiracy theorist, take comfort in the fact that there is enough evidence to support the cancer – plastic link to validate your plight.

You can also consider joining an email writing campaign to urge companies to use safer packaging.  Or sign a petition urging the FDA to ban the use of packaging that contains carcinogens.  Here’s one asking the FDA to ban BPA, a carcinogen found in cash register receipts, in many of the plastics we eat and drink from, and in the bodies of more than 80% of Americans!  It will just take a minute and could make a big difference:

http://www.change.org/petitions/fda-get-cancer-causing-chemicals-out-of-all-food-packaging-now

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I googled “breast cancer plastic” and at the top of the list of search results (other than images of plastic ‘breast cancer awareness’ items — that’s another blog post!), I found an article that was featured on one of my favorite go-to sites for breast cancer information and support — breastcancer.org.  While I love bc.org and think the article is great for creating awareness, I do disagree with one section.  It lists “safe” plastics, but based on my research, it seems there may be no truly “safe” plastics.  Plastic = Chemicals.  Right now the focus is on BPA which was long considered “safe” by the FDA (we’re talking half a century here!).  I believe it’s just a matter of time before more of these chemicals are studied and deemed carcinogenic.  In the meantime, here is the breastcancer.org article:

http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic

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Of course I hope you will share this post with everyone you know and I hope you will work to reduce your chemical consumption.  But I know that’s a lofty dream in today’s world.  So, please do whatever you can.  Whether you do one of these things or all of them, know that I am proud of you.  

If we can prevent even one more person from getting sick, we’ve done something good.

*************

If you have an idea for a way to reduce plastic use, please share it with us!   Thanks!

DP Challenge: I Wish I Were… Going to Live to See My Kids Grow Up

 

breast cancer thirties 30s motherhood death dying

I’m a little late to the party, but I just discovered The Daily Post and the blog’s weekly challenge for bloggers.

This week’s challenge is to finish this sentence:  “I Wish I Were…”

Thirty years ago I would have said, “I wish I were a farmer or a doctor or a scientist.” Twenty years ago I would have said, “I wish I were destined for greatness.”  Ten years ago I would have said, “I wish I were someone who could change the world in a positive and enduring way.”

Today I would say, “I wish I were going to live long enough to see my twins turn eighteen.”

Of course I know it is still possible.  “They” say anything is possible.  I just don’t think it is very likely.  No, I’m not one of the women on those TLC shows about ladies who have their first baby at age 70.  And, no, I’m not someone who believes in the Mayan Calendar doomsday prediction for next month.

I am just a mom in her thirties who was diagnosed with Her2 positive Stage IIIc breast cancer when her little boys were in kindergarten.  I now realize that to these young boys, I am a doctor, a farmer and a scientist.  To these little boys, I am great.  And if I can just stick around long enough to help them grow, I will be changing the world in the most positive and enduring way possible…

breast cancer thirties babies 30s death dying love

*If you’d like to take the challenge yourself: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/weekly-writing-challenge-i-wish-i-were/

Halloween Deal — 2 Kids Eat Free at Chili’s

 

October 29 – 31

For anyone who needs a night out with the kids, Chili’s is offering 2 Free Kid’s Meals with the purchase of 1 adult entree…  (Don’t forget the coupon! — Link Below)

Dine in, or I’m told this offer is often good for To-Go meals, too…  (Check with your Chili’s first about “To-Go”.)

So if the deal is valid for To-Go in your area, what does this mean?

  • A:    You can enjoy your meal at home, your favorite park, in your car, etc.
  • B:     If you don’t have kids — or if you have them but need a dinner without them — you    can order 1 adult entree and 2 FREE kid’s meals and eat them all yourself (or share them with someone) if you’d like!

Here’s a link to the coupon:

http://campaign.chilis.com/spookyforthekids/

Enjoy!

FREE Kids Meal at OUTBACK plus FREE Steak Dinner for your next visit!

Today’s The Day to visit Outback Steakhouse for you free kid’s meal and free steak dinner coupon. Happy Halloween!

WANT to MAKE HALLOWEEN 

SPOOKTACULAR for   

THE whole FAMILY?

[And get a free steak dinner for your next date night?]

Help your little ghosts and goblins fill their tummies before the Trick-or-Treating begins on Halloween!

ON HALLOWEEN:  Get a FREE kids meal with an adult entree purchase…

*Don’t feel like dining in?  This offer is also valid for CURBSIDE take-away!*

But there’s a special TREAT if you dine in…  Hidden in the beverage book on your table, you will find a “You Have Found the Treat” picture.  

TELL your server — and you will get a FREE STEAK DINNER good for your next Outback Steakhouse visit!

The Fine Print:

Free Kids Meal valid at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants with purchase of adult entree on October 31, 2012 only — while supplies last.  Kids Meal is for children ages 10 and under.  Offer not valid in conjunction with any other discount or offer and has no cash value.  Valid for curbside take-away and dine in.

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*If you want to see more posts like this one,

please LIKE it below!*

Free LEGO Halloween Event at Toys R Us

This Saturday (10/27/12)  Toys “R” Us will be hosting its annual LEGO Bricktober Event.

Bring the kids to help build a LEGO Monster Fighters Spooky City and then take home a

 FREE LEGO Monster Fighters Accessories Pack!

12 – 2 p.m.

Need to find your local Toys “R” Us:

http://www.toysrus.com/storeLocator/index.jsp?csm=395724041&csc=2295269&csa=395875271&csu=2298242&camp=CME:EM102412E%2520LEGO%2520Bricktober%2520Event%2520Email

*In-store only. Event intended for children, ages 5+. Parental supervision required at all times. All giveaways and event materials available while supplies last and distributed to participating children only. Limit one per child. Quantities limited; no rain checks.

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If you’d like me to highlight more deals/events like this one. please CLICK the LIKE button below.  Thanks!

FREE Kids Meal at OUTBACK plus FREE Steak Dinner for your next visit!

WANT to MAKE HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAfor   THE whole FAMILY?

[And get a free steak dinner for your next date night?]

Help your little ghosts and goblins fill their tummies before the Trick-or-Treating begins on Halloween!

ON HALLOWEEN:  Get a FREE kids meal with an adult entree purchase…

*Don’t feel like dining in?  This offer is also valid for CURBSIDE take-away!*

But there’s a special TREAT if you dine in…  Hidden in the beverage book on your table, you will find a “You Have Found the Treat” picture.  

TELL your server — and you will get a FREE STEAK DINNER good for your next Outback Steakhouse visit!

The Fine Print:

Free Kids Meal valid at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants with purchase of adult entree on October 31, 2012 only — while supplies last.  Kids Meal is for children ages 10 and under.  Offer not valid in conjunction with any other discount or offer and has no cash value.  Valid for curbside take-away and dine in.

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*If you want to see more posts like this one,

please LIKE it below!*

I Want Out… Right?

As we were driving home the other night, I kept replaying the gas station scene from The Bridges of Madison County in my head.  You know, the one where Meryl Streep’s character is sitting in the car while her husband is pumping the gas.  She sees Robert Redford, the man who has asked her to run away with him.  Redford is also the man with whom she has had an affair and with whom she could have a completely different life.  She reaches for the door handle, almost prepared to pull it and to run out on her life to begin anew.  Almost. She can’t do it.  With tears in her eyes — because she knows what she is giving up — her hand drops from the handle when her husband returns to the car and they drive away.

It has been a long time since I last saw the movie and there were parts of it I didn’t agree with like, um, the adultery…  But that scene in the movie has stayed with me.  For me, though, Robert Redford would not represent a man I’ve slept with (because there haven’t been any since my husband), but he would represent an opportunity for a new beginning, a different life.

This is an odd topic for me to write about because I would never have expressed these thoughts before.  It’s kind of comical, almost like I expect angry black crows to fall out of the sky and to begin attacking me or that I think a fiery explosion might wipe  my whole family out in an instant, simply because I’ve allowed myself to wonder what it would be like to have a life that isn’t so difficult and, dare I say it, painful.

I never had these thought before.  I grew up in poverty and was teased for it right up until high school started.  I experienced important and traumatic losses at early age.  I grew up without a Dad — after living with a Dad who was abusive and drunk most of the time.  And blah, blah, blah…  The point is, I have never been a stranger to struggle or compromise or death or pain or loss.  But I never questioned my life or my choices or how other people’s choices affected my life.  I never looked at any of it with regret or disdain.  It was my life, for better or worse.  If there was something I didn’t like about it, I would work hard to change it.

I didn’t have any real regrets…  Until I was in the midst of a chemo combo that made me feel like I was inches from death.  I was so sick and needed to be nurtured and cared for and needed a partner to hold my hand — or, at the very least, someone who didn’t feel the urge to fight and argue with me or the kids all the time.  And then when I had the bilateral mastectomy and the hysterectomy, I tried to pretend these surgeries didn’t bother me and that I could roll with the punches.  And I did.  I just handled the pain and the immense sense of loss that accompanied losing these body parts, especially to cancer and especially at such a young age.  But inside I longed for a spouse who would hug me and tell me that I was still pretty, still a woman.  I needed someone to tell me that he loved me.  I kept thinking that for years I had weathered all of the ups and downs of our marriage, his deceit, his mood swings and so much more — and all I really wanted were a few kind words and to be hugged.  But I guess some things are just too much to ask for…

So as we drove home the other night and I thought about how stressful the previous 36 hours had been because of his bad temper and his unpredictable mood swings, I looked at the door handle and thought, “I am done with living this way and I want out.”  I wanted out with all of my heart…well, almost all of my heart.

But I couldn’t do it.  Especially when the only place I wanted to run to (other than Hawaii) was my home… to change the locks.  Now it would be just plain silly to jump out of my home-bound car to run home.  Right?

So I am still here…

With the same locks…

With the same husband…

Thinking about what it would be like to be dealing with cancer if I weren’t married to someone who was rooting for the cancer to win instead of me.

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Looking for an Affordable Dinner Out? 2 Kids Eat Free at Chili’s

October 15-17

For anyone who needs a night out with the kids, Chili’s is offering 2 Free Kid’s Meals with the purchase of 1 adult entree…  (Don’t forget the coupon! — Link Below)

Dine in, or I’m told this offer is often good for To-Go meals, too…  (Check with your Chili’s first about “To-Go”.)

So if the deal is valid for To-Go in your area, what does this mean?

  • A:    You can enjoy your meal at home, your favorite park, in your car, etc.
  • B:     If you don’t have kids — or if you have them but need a dinner without them — you    can order 1 adult entree and 2 FREE kid’s meals and eat them all yourself (or share them with someone) if you’d like!

Here’s a link to the coupon:

http://campaign.chilis.com/octoberkids/

Enjoy!

 

 

Happy Waving Guy

Easter Cupcakes 2012

Coming home from an oncology appointment one day, we were driving down the busy main street of our town and I noticed a man walking by the road.  He kept a good pace and carried his head high.  He was tall and slender with a shiny bald head, but the first thing I noticed about him was his smile.  He bore a gigantic grin, one reminiscent of Alice’s Cheshire cat, and he waved to us as we drove past.  My return wave was a reflex.  I looked at my hand and could feel a smile pulling up the corners of my mouth.  Here I was waving at this strange man who was obviously a crackpot.  And I’m sure that I, waving and smiling with my shiny bald chemo head, looked like a bit of a crackpot, too.

The weeks went by, and after each appointment or long day of chemo, I looked for “Happy Waving Guy” (as I affectionately named him).  And I almost always saw him.  I began to wonder who this man was and if he spent his days walking back and forth down the road cheering up the passersby.  You see, it wasn’t just me he waved at.  It was EVERYONE.  Every car that passed along the busy road would get a smile and a wave.  And, to my surprise, it wasn’t just me who returned the wave.  It appeared that most everyone returned his wave or honked their horn or did something of that sort.

It came to be that I expected to see him after a crappy day at the Cancer Center  or the hospital.  I expected his smile and happy wave to give me a little lift.  So one day when I was terribly sick and felt like I couldn’t make it through one more treatment, we pulled into the parking lot “Happy Waving Guy” was walking by and I shouted to him.  I remember thinking, “Who’s the nutcase now?”  But I didn’t care.  I wanted to meet this man and to thank him.

He was so pleased that we stopped and that I was grateful for what he was doing.  He was out there every day, walking and waving and smiling, and trying to bring a bit of happiness to everyone who passed.  He wasn’t crazy, he wasn’t a crackpot.  He was a humanitarian.  He said that not everyone was as fond of his activity, but that the people who were made it worthwhile.

It has been 2 years now since I first met “Happy Waving Guy” a.k.a. Bill.  He continues to elicit smiles from many of the people who drive by him on his daily walks.  We keep in touch via email and he has shared a copy of his book with me and has even invited us into his home.

I believe it was one of my kids — they don’t hold anything back! — who asked him if he was always happy.  While I don’t recall his words exactly, his response went something to the tune of ‘if you act like you are happy, you may just get there’.  I know I’m paraphrasing and I may have it all wrong, but there is a lesson in there.  If you exude positive energy, some of it is bound to stick — or to come back to you, at least.

I try my best to live by this philosophy and recently read the post of another cancer patient who is trying to do the same, so I know I’m not alone in my desire to be happy despite the pitfalls of life on this slippery slope.  As I await the results of the MRI I just had, I am trying to be positive and have vowed to continue to do my best to see the joy in each day, come what may.  Of course having a positive attitude doesn’t always help or work, and some days I think the theory is a load of crap.  But most days I think it is certainly worth it to try.  At the very least, it doesn’t usually make things worse — and some days that’s good enough!

April 13, 2010 a.m. – Today is the Day

I have my appointment at the breast center this morning.

My sons’ birthdays are tomorrow.  (They are twins.)  I am thinking about a dear friend who died 2 days before the boys’ first birthdays, so five years ago yesterday.  She treated me as a daughter throughout my awkward younger years and until her death.  Her actual daughter was one of my two very best friends, so she often shuffled us from here to there and picked us up from school when we needed a ride.  This was almost every day for a time because her daughter and I ‘stayed after’ for numerous clubs and activities and sometimes just for a chance encounter with the boy we both liked.  [I am smiling as I recall this last bit and how silly we were!]  She never complained about having me in her home or minivan so often.  She said she enjoyed talking to me.  And I felt the same way.  She became close friends with my mother—they were the same age and both warmhearted gardening Englishwomen with gardening English mothers who were displaced from their homelands.  We remained very close.  I even lived with her for a year when I left college.  Oddly enough, the first house I bought was a side-split almost identical to hers–and just around the corner from her–and was a place where she planted some of the lovely lilies she bred.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40’s.  She was forever changed by it.  And not in the good way people sometimes talk about, but in a way that makes my heart ache for her.  It was painful and traumatic.  And at her young age, isolating, I’m sure.

We should have been celebrating together at my sons’ first birthday party as planned that Saturday five years ago.  Instead, I was at her funeral.

I glanced at some of the silk ribbons hanging on the closet door on my way downstairs this morning.  She had earned the awards for her prize-winning rabbits.  I could hear myself asking her to help me handle whatever happened today.

April 7, 2010 — Pink Bunny Cupcakes & Good Samaritans

This Sunday we celebrated Easter.  I’ve often heard it referred to as a time of renewal.  I think I will remember Easter this year as a time when my faith in human beings was renewed.

On Monday I called to the breast center where I had the mammogram a few years ago and told them that I was having trouble getting a referral for my breast lumps.  My call was transferred until I reached a woman who told me that I could go to a local health clinic that helps uninsured and underinsured people receive basic medical care.  For just $5 – $15, I could receive a manual breast exam.  I immediately called and scheduled the appointment.

I just returned home after a whirlwind visit to the health clinic.  First off, I have to say that it is staffed by remarkable people.  They squeezed me in at the end of the day, so I was the only patient when I arrived.  With no wait, I was brought back to be examined.  It wasn’t long before I was told that I would need a diagnostic appointment at a breast center.

Sensing my concern, the nurse told me that they would find a way to help me with the fees.  Fortunately, there are programs to help women in need receive free mammograms.  Unfortunately, these programs don’t exist—at least in our area—for women under 40.

They told me not to worry, though, and said they would do what they could to help me get taken care of.  The rest of my appointment was spent signing papers and waiting as they assembled and faxed paperwork to a program—Cancer Services (formerly the Women’s Health Partnership)—that pays for diagnostic exams for uninsured men and women with (suspected?) breast, cervical or prostate cancer.  They said that because of my age, they would need to complete extra paperwork, affidavit(s), etc. and then get them sent over right away to make a plea for help with the diagnostic appointment.

It was after 5 p.m. and they were working collectively and without complaint to coordinate everything for me.  How surprising it was not to hear “call back tomorrow” or “we’re closed” or “we can’t help you”.  I didn’t even have to ask and here they were doing their best to rally for me.  So refreshing and heartwarming, especially after the past week.

When I left, they hugged me and said they would do their best to help get me in to the breast care center where I had been seen for my past lumps.  So now I wait…  But I am waiting with a renewed faith in the medical community—or at least in the volunteer medical community.

[Because I love baking and decorating cakes and cupcakes, I thought I would leave you with some photos of the cupcakes I brought to Easter at my sister’s on Sunday…  Thanks for reading…]

April 3, 2010 – They Don’t Have a Frequent Flier Card for This

K & the Easter eggs

Companies and business with “loyalty programs” seem to abound these days.  Purchase 11 large pizzas and get your 12th for free.  Pay full price for 10 haircuts and get the 11th free.  Fill up your gas tank 5 times and get a discount off your 6th fill-up.  Fly x amount of miles and earn a free airline ticket.  Buy 12 donuts and get your 13th free.  These businesses are encouraging loyalty and rewarding you for your repeat business.  The concept makes a great deal of sense—both the business and the patron benefit.  I wish my gynecologist’s office worked the same way.

I’ve been looking for a way to get a screening at least partially covered.  I started with my OB/Gyn’s office.  They said they would charge me full price for an office visit and a breast exam.  I explained my insurance situation and explained that I had already had a manual breast exam less than a year ago and that this was for the same lumps, now larger.  It didn’t help.

So I asked if there was any way I could speak with my doctor and maybe just get a referral to have a mammogram or an ultrasound—I figured this would at least eliminate one charge.  She told me that I could not and said that I would have to come in for a breast exam before I could get a referral.  She  added that the facility where I would have those services performed would charge me a separate fee for their exam.

I assume that if I go in and spend a couple hundred dollars, I could hear the “You’re too young” explanation again, but judging by how much the lumps and my breast itself have grown, I believe I would be sent to the breast center.  Then I would also have the burden of paying for that (much more expensive) visit.  When I asked the office’s gatekeeper if she knew of any resources for obtaining assistance with diagnostic visits, she said there weren’t any the office was aware of.  I told her, ‘thanks anyway’ and said that I would pass on the office visit and on getting the manual breast exam because paying full price out of pocket would be too much for me.  She said okay and added a “Good luck to you.”  That was the end of the conversation.

I hung up, feeling defeated.  Now, it is not that I expected them to give me a free office visit.  I understand that the doctors need to be paid and that the facility has an electricity bill.  But I have been a loyal patient for a long time.  I had good insurance before, so it’s likely that my doctor and her staff have been fairly compensated for any services performed on me in the past.  I have been here many times over the years for my regular check-ups and for issues I’ve had along the way—like multiple bouts with mastitis while I was nursing.  And I was seen there and in the hospital quite a few times during my twin pregnancy—at least until the doctors collectively decided I was too ‘high risk’ to continue with their group and moved me over to the perinatology group at the hospital.  But after my babies were born, it was their office I faithfully returned to.

I have shared moments of joy and sadness, hugs and tears with my doctor.  I encouraged all of the women in my family to change gynecologists and move over to this practice, for goodness sakes!  I have been a very loyal patient.  Shouldn’t that count for something?  Though I don’t expect a free visit, I thought the office might offer some kind of discount or just refer me directly to the breast imaging center to save the expense of an office visit and manual breast exam.

After regrouping, I began calling organizations like Planned Parenthood.  They were friendly enough, but no one was able to assist me with getting a mammogram or ultrasound at a discounted rate.  Or with getting the referral I need so the breast center will see me.  There ARE programs out there to help, but not for someone “as young as me.”

I will still pursue this, but it is Saturday now, so it will have to wait until Monday.

In the meantime, today we are headed to an Easter egg hunt or two with my boys and with my sister, brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew.  This should be a nice distraction.  My little ones are so excited to spend the morning with their cousins.  I guess they aren’t exactly little ones anymore.  They are 5, so they aren’t that young, but since they are only in the 2nd and 3rd percentile for height and weight, they are still physically small.  But something tells me that even if they were 6’3”, they would still be my little boys.

I am looking forward to a special day with the kids.  But in the back of my mind I am concerned.  What will I do if this really is something?  And by something, I mean “the big C.”  Having no insurance makes you feel like a leper of sorts.  A leper with cancer, now who is going to take that on?  I’m trying not to get ahead of myself.  These are likely just benign lumps—statistically, they should be “nothing”, so I am probably okay.

But what if I’m not?  They don’t have a frequent flier card for this.  If my own doctor won’t work with me when I have a true medical problem, why would a doctor who doesn’t know me?

April 1, 2010 – Only One Pink Line

My breast has been leaking fluid—now enough to wet the inside of my bra cup.  At first I wasn’t too alarmed, but the amount is increasing.  I did buy three more pregnancy tests from the dollar store, just to be sure.  I took the final test this morning.  When I saw only one pink line again, my heart sank.

If I’m not pregnant, there is definitely something wrong.  The fluid is translucent and pale yellow/brown.  If I squeeze my breast a little, more emerges.  There seems to be no end to it.  This can’t be normal.  Could it be an infection?  I know it’s not.  I’ve had plenty of antibiotics for bronchitis and sinus infections in the past year and they haven’t affected the breast at all.  And I have been feeling really ill and fatigued for months.  I’ve lost almost 15 pounds without changing my eating habits.  This can’t be good.

I’m scared now, but I haven’t told anyone what is going on.  Why haven’t I cared enough about myself to get this checked out again?  If this were happening to anyone else, I would say, “WTF (and I don’t swear… well, not that much anyway…), it is not nothing.  You are NOT too young.  Get yourself to a doctor.  I’ll take you right now.  The money is not important.”  Why haven’t I done this for myself?

Hopefully it is nothing and I’ll feel silly when this is all over with.

But I know it’s not nothing…

Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient

As you’ve probably assumed from the title of my blog, I am a cancer patient.  I first found the lumps when I was 33.  I was diagnosed exactly a month after my 34th birthday.

It sounds so simple when I say it like this.  But this experience has been anything but simple.

I know there people out there who have faced cancer and who have claimed that they were grateful for the disease.  I’ve even heard it referred to as “a blessing” by a select few.

I will tell you right now that I will never be one of those people.  Ever.  From my first real encounter with the disease (as a child watching her grandmother suffer and waste away from brain cancer), I knew that I hated cancer and that I could never see it as a blessing.

That being said, I cannot say that facing my own cancer and dealing with the aftermath of my diagnosis has been all bad.  Yes, the disease itself and the treatments, side effects, surgeries, fear, complications, etc. have been pretty awful.   I could downplay how rotten these things have been, and I certainly have done this plenty in my “real life” to make it seem like I’m fine and like it hasn’t been as bad as it has at times.  But I won’t do that here.  I don’t think trivializing these elements of my experience will do anyone any good, so I will do my best to be honest with you.

What I mean by “not all bad” is that I know there are amazing people I have met or gotten to know better and experiences I have had that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t heard those horrible words two years ago.  And that my children are better AND worse off because of my diagnosis.  Better because they have been embraced by people who love them and who will be there for them if I happen to not be here one day.  And worse because, well, having a mother with cancer is really crappy for a kid on so many levels.  And because they might have to bury me when they are still children — and there’s just no way to put a positive spin on that one.

One day I will tell you about some of the incredible people who’ve touched my life along the way.  About the amazing people who have rallied around me (and my boys) when we’ve needed support.  About the friendships that have been strengthened by cancer, and the relationships that didn’t survive.  About my sons’ best preschool friend and his parents, who went above and beyond for us.  About my children’s kindergarten teachers and a classroom full of parents who showed up on my doorstep with dinner for my kids or who took them to Chuck E. Cheese when I was too sick from chemo to do it myself.  About a school and a school district that came together to make sure my “little” ones had presents under the Christmas tree and that we never ran out of toilet paper when I was struggling to manage these things on my own.  And about nurses who’ve been my caretakers and my friends.  And people who made me feel like I’m not alone despite what could easily be an extremely isolating and lonely experience.

I will also tell you about tragic losses.  And despair.  And fear.  And sleepless nights.  And hot flashes.  And night sweats.  And dreams shattered.  And about how this disease has changed me.  About doctors who have been wonderful.  And doctors who have failed me.  I will tell you about my treatments.  About serious infections.  About what it’s like to be a young woman who takes pills that suck the hormones out of her body.  About what it is like to lose almost all of the parts that make you female by the age of 35.  And what this does to your body and your self-esteem.    About where the cancer was.  About how I found it.  And why it took months for me to have that crucial mammogram.

And one day I will tell you about my life “before” cancer.  About the people who helped to shape me.  About my family and my oldest, dearest friends.  About the things that made me “me” before this disease.  About the things that still make me “me.”

And so much more…

This is my story, for better or worse.  I plan to make it an honest account of what it is like to be given a life-threatening diagnosis at an age when your own death shouldn’t feel so imminent.

At the time of this first writing, I feel that I have so much left to share with my children and so much more to teach them.  So, more than anything, what you are reading is meant to provide a written record of my life for my children and a way for me to help them know and remember me and our story if, one day, I am not here to share in their lives.  But a part of me hopes it will be more than that and that maybe it will bring someone who is going through something similar a sense of comfort or a bit of virtual support.  Or that maybe it will serve as a cautionary tale and that someone, somewhere might pick up the phone and schedule that appointment they’ve been putting off.

For whatever reason you are here, I am grateful that you are.  Thanks so much for reading…