Tag Archive | life

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting — “Not Enough Time”

I know my response to last week’s photo challenge was far from pretty.  But I appreciated the comments I received and I was grateful for everyone who encouraged me to continue to share the truth of my story.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of The Daily Post posed the theme “Fleeting” for the current Weekly Photo Challenge.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to the fleeting nature of life itself.  I got to thinking about how we are on this earth only briefly, and of how we have such a limited time before our bodies turn to dust and the memories we spent a lifetime making soon begin to fade.

So for the challenge this week I’ve decided to tackle the fleeting nature of life.  But to make it far less morose, I am going to focus on childhood and how quickly those precious years pass.  I say “far less” because I am still going to sprinkle a few cancer-y photos in the mix.

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As always, thank you for visiting.  And if you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click here.

In Memory of Julie (Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved)

*This is a repost of a story written months ago in response to a Weekly Photo Challenge. I’ve never reposted any of my posts before, but I was compelled to do this with this one because Julie’s birthday was this month… And because I reread this post and realized that I am already losing sight of my “resolution” and need a nudge… Thank you so much for reading…*

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Julie (left) & Me

I missed last week’s photo challenge, but when I saw this week’s topic, I had to pull out my old photo albums.

The photos you see here embody my New Year’s resolution for 2013.  What is it?

***To appreciate that life is sometimes too short — and to fulfill some of my bucket list wishes.***

The photos I’ve chosen are from a defining point in my life.  Why was this little window of time, this blip in my life, so special that I feel the need to highlight it here?

Because the girl in the photos with me is my friend Julie.  She was one of my very best friends growing up.  I loved her like a sister.  We laughed together, cried together and reached many a milestone together.

These photos of Julie and me are from a once-in-a-lifetime trip we took together.  I know, I know, people say “once-in-a-lifetime” but they don’t always know that for sure.  Sometimes they just say this to be dramatic.

But I am saying it because I know it is true.  I know that Julie and I will never take another trip together.  In fact, we will never laugh or cry or meet another milestone together again.  Ever.

Because Julie is dead.  She was killed in a car accident 5 years ago when we were just 31.

It still takes my breath away when I remember that she is really gone, but I often find myself smiling as I think of the time we spent together.

Though Julie’s death was tragic and horribly sad, her life was the opposite.  Julie exuded warmth and beauty.  She was positive and sweet and lived her life to the fullest.  She was courageous and didn’t let anything stand in her way…

…including me.  You see, I didn’t want to go on that trip.  I had never done anything like that before.  I wasn’t adventurous.  I didn’t think I deserved the opportunity to get on a plane.

It was about a month before our high school graduation when Julie proposed the idea.  Her exchange student for our senior year, now like our new sister, would be returning home to Mexico just after graduation.  What if we went to Mexico to stay with her over the summer?

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I was not the adventurous type and I opted to stay home and work until we started college in August.  Plus, I needed to be home to help care for my little sisters.  And I had never done anything just for me before.  How could I start with something so drastic?  No, I would not go.

But it wasn’t really up to me.  Julie would not listen to my protests.  She jokingly threatened to unfriend me (we had been very good friends since we were kids) if I didn’t commit to going.  She said she knew what was best for me (and I admit that she often did).  So, on one of the many evenings I spent at her house, she made a final plea.  Again I refused.  We were munching on her delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies when she picked up the phone and called the airline (this was before you could use the internet to book your tickets).  She pretended to be me and booked my tickets while I stood in her kitchen.  Though I halfheartedly protested and though I feigned anger, I was secretly delighted.  I knew I would enjoy this special time with Julie.  And I knew I was going to miss Judy (her exchange student), who was now a dear friend and that this was my chance to see where she lived and to say a real goodbye.

This was going to be my first real adventure, my first and last hurrah before heading off to university (20 minutes away – another story!) in the fall.

So we graduated from high school, Judy left for her home in Mexico, and we embarked on our adventure 8 days later.  Before stepping off the plane in Tucson (and driving the 4 hours across the border to our friend’s house), I had been a shy straight-A student who hung out in the teachers’ lounge after school because I could always relate better to people older than me.  Between sophomore & senior year, I took every single Advanced Placement class (and there were a lot!) our high school had to offer — and aced them all.  I was voted “Class Introvert” and could get A’s on Calculus tests without studying.  I thought A.P. Physics and Chemistry were fun.  I had been babysitting since I was eight and got my first “real” job the moment I was old enough to get a work permit.  I balanced school and mountains of homework with two afterschool/weekend jobs.  I volunteered a ton — you name a volunteer activity and Julie, jme and I signed up for it.  I had a resume filled with achievements.  I had a full scholarship to Cornell University and scholarships to a number of other prominent schools for Engineering or Biochemistry/Pre-Med waiting for me and I had every intention of continuing to be that people-pleasing, old-before-my-time nerdy girl…

I thought that maybe before college I would do something crazy like cut my long hair or start wearing lipstick.  I had no idea how this trip was going to change me.

It was an incredible 3 weeks.  Because Julie and I were staying with Judy and her family, we “lived” in the heart of a non-touristy part of Mexico where I was the only person with blondish hair for many, many miles.  We got a taste of what it was like to grow up there.  What an amazing way to see another culture.  Our many adventures included a 28 hour (total) roundtrip escapade on an old, steamy, smelly, jam-packed bus.  We were headed to see another friend (Juan–also a former exchange student) in Mazatlan.  The bus trip came complete with dirt roads, middle of the night stops by gun-toting “bandits” in the midst of nowhere, and people who were so scary that we slept in shifts because there had been a number of recent American kidnappings on buses just like ours.  As the only Americans who had probably set foot on our bus in a very long time, we figured we were targets, which made it that much more exciting for my friends (and nerve-wracking for straight-laced me).  When we stumbled off the bus, though, I realized that it was all worth it.  The area was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  The days were amazing — swimming in the ocean, drinking pina coladas in the pool, parasailing and so much more — things I never dreamed I’d be doing.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie parasailing in Mazatlan

And the nights were even more incredible.  More things I never dreamed I’d do.  All of a sudden quiet, shy me who hadn’t really dated much was dancing on tables at these gorgeous open air bars, forgetting about all of the responsibilities waiting for me back home, and getting kissed by older guys in their 20s (Mexicans & Americans alike) who could have stepped off movie sets or off the pages of GQ.

On the bus ride back to Judy’s city, I felt like a new person…  All of a sudden I had gone from being a cornerstone on the math team to someone who had 25 year-olds competing to spend a few minutes on the dance floor with her.  It was fascinating and exciting.

Our next stop was a lovely little town on the Gulf with mountains in the background.  Here we had more adventures with sangria, late-night swims, and mechanical bull-riding.  Then Julie’s older brother (who was in a band & lived in San Francisco) asked us to take a couple of days out of our Mexican adventure to come to see him.  Julie hadn’t seen her brother in a while and she had a huge crush on his roommate, so it was a quick yes from her.  All we had to do was drive to San Diego & he’d have tickets waiting for us at the airport.  Along the way we stopped to visit Judy’s cousins in Tecate (right next to the Tecate beer factory) for another wonderful night filled with yummy food & drinks and happy people.  No matter where we went (with the exception of on that bus to/from Mazatlan), I never heard a word of complaint or saw a frown.  Regardless of what everyone did or didn’t have, the people we met/lived with were warm, welcoming, generous, and positive.

Even the drive up to the U.S. was an adventure.  And then we were off to San Francisco, a place I had always wanted to visit.  We didn’t do anything too exciting, but even a trip to the grocery store was fun with Julie.  And, as it happened, the roommate guy she had a crush on actually “liked” me.  Julie was very gracious about it and happily let me have my moment with him.  He was 25 and an engineer on a big naval ship — the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  Though he was quite handsome, he was nerdy like me & we were instantly drawn to each other.  It was odd for me to realize that I had spent my teenage years feeling awkward and burying my nose in books — and all I had to do was take my hair out of my ponytail and throw a pair of jeans on (and talk to people 7 or 8 years older than me!) and voila…  Eric and I stayed up all night every night talking.  And then we all spent the days together seeing the sights.  It was a total departure from the “me” I knew, someone who had only had a few high school boys show any interest in her.  [Eric continued to send letters & call me (and my mother!) for years after this trip.]

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Julie in Spain — wasn’t she lovely?
(I didn’t take this photo — I never made it there)

Before I knew it, Julie, Judy & I were flying back down to San Diego and driving back into Mexico…  And shortly afterward, we made the long trek back to Arizona to catch our plane.  Judy’s family had a condo near the airport, so we spent one last night there — the 3 of us girls — laughing, talking & drinking more sangria in the hot tub (I hadn’t even been in a hot tub (or a condo for that matter!) before).  It was a wonderful way to end our trip.

That summer was — and remains — the best of my life.  After that I started college as a new person.  Still the old nerdy straight-A student who loved math on the inside, but with a new look and a newfound confidence on the outside.  I was always so grateful to Julie for that and so many things.

That trip was the last time I saw Judy… Until 5 years ago — for Julie’s funeral.  Julie was killed by a drunk driver in Spain, a country she loved so much.  The special young man she loved survived, but he was seriously injured — and he had lost the love of his life right before his eyes.  I was no stranger to loss or tragedy, but this was beyond anything I could wrap my mind around.  When jme, who had grown up with Julie from the age of 3, phoned to tell me what had happened, it was an absolutely heartbreaking call.  Jme got on a plane to come back home from Seattle.  And Judy flew from Mexico to stay at my house so we could be together to bury our dear friend…

Though her life was short, Julie’s impact was great.  She made everyone feel special and she touched lives here and across the Atlantic in deep and lasting ways.  The world was a far better place because she was in it.

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Julie (rt.) and me
Early morning somewhere in Sonora, Mexico

So, this year I resolve to be more like Julie.  I resolve to check some things off my bucket list (and to make a bucket list).  I resolve to just “go for it” more.  I resolve to work on living my life to the fullest (I’m sure it will take me a while to get there, but I vow to work on it).  And I plan to honor her memory by trying to find and nurture the little light that she saw inside of me when we were just girls on the edge of new beginnings.

In Memory of Beautiful Julie – 1976 – 2007

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

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

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

Though this wasn’t compiled in time for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge last week, I did pull together the images for this purpose, so I will post with this title:

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life — School Break

I hope you enjoy the photos.  And I hope those of you with children home on winter break are managing / enjoying the time!

Thanks for visiting, always!

The Night I Lied to You

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Alright, technically I didn’t lie.  But I may as well have.

Do you remember that night?  It had been a muggy summer day.  But when you pulled up in your car at dusk, it was as if the humidity was sucked from the air, leaving a perfect July night in its wake.

I met you downstairs and we got in your car and drove.  And drove.  For hours with no destination in mind. I don’t think the destination was as important as the distance we put between your little car and our ‘real’ lives.

Into the city, out to the outlying rural towns.  On highways and country roads.  As the mixed tapes we made for each hummed in the background, we talked and talked.  We always talked like this, soaking up each and every drop of our time together.  It was as if we had never spoken before and had to learn everything about each other in one night.  And it was like this every time.

We drove into the starry night.  The music played on with professions of love and stories about loss and visions of star-crossed lovers escaping into the night together.

That is what we were.  Star-crossed lovers, you and I.

We drove through so many little towns that night, asking so many questions of one another.  We were playful and serious, thoughtful and direct.

A casual observer would think we held nothing back when we talked.  But we held the most important thing back.  You knew it.  I knew it.  We both knew that we both knew it.

But tonight was different.  I knew it would be different when we drove through that farm town.  We had already made our way through a handful that looked just the same.  But this place was different. As we drove down that dark road, your headlights piercing the darkness, raindrops began to fall.  We had just been talking about what you would do if you found out I was getting married.  Would you show up and tell me not to go through with it and ask me to run away with you?  Or would you watch me give my life to another?  Or would you stay away?

Though thoughts of marriage were far from my mind, of course I knew the wedding you were talking about was to your former best friend.  A guy who didn’t treat me very well.  A guy who you no longer seemed to care for.  Yet, he was the guy I was seeing.  He was away now.  Gone for a month on vacation with his parents.

And I had time to think about where my life was headed.  I was only 21.  I was independent and strong.  Bright and educated.  I was moving up the ranks at work, making a name for myself.  I had just gotten another raise.  I could have had a bright future ahead of me, but I was considering a move from the apartment I shared with a roommate to a place with the guy who didn’t treat me so well (we’ll use an acronym for him going forward — GWDTMSW).

And you and I were here, in your car, feeling as though we couldn’t get our timing right.  You were seeing someone or I was seeing someone.  Or both.  But we loved each other and had no trouble expressing our feelings in lengthy letters over the years.

But out of respect for GWDTMSW, we danced around the giant pink elephant in the car.  In fact, out of the corner of my eye I could see that pink elephant waving at me from the backseat.  But I ignored him.

And we drove.  Into a little micro-climate in this small town.  A fleeting rainstorm.  Heavy drops of fresh rain pelted the car as you told me it would be too much for you to bear.  You could never sit back and watch me marry another.  You would let me make my decision, but if it wasn’t you standing up there taking my hand, you would not be there.  I gulped as I considered the prospect.

The heavy rain gave way to a sprinkle.  And just then, this desolate country road was filled with frogs.  Little bits of green hopped in front of the car.  There were hundreds of them.  They extended as far as the reach of your headlights.

I made you stop the car immediately, lest we not squash a single one. It was an incredible sight.  Magical, really.

I jumped out of the car to scoop one up, just as I would have when I was 8 years old.  I was filled with glee as I held that slimy little friend in my hand.  And you were grinning, too.   Happy that I was happy.

I forget how long we waited for the frogs to clear.  Shooing them to the edge of the road was slow but rewarding work.  You inched your way through the thinning crowd and I walked ahead and kept clearing.  We lost some of Kermit’s brethren along the way, but the losses were unavoidable.

Afterward, we reluctantly decided to drive back to my apartment in the city.  We both knew the night would end when we reached my driveway.

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It still took time.  These were the days before GPS and we only vaguely knew where we were.  And we traveled roads neither of us had traveled before.

But I felt more found than lost.

We found our way together.  As we pulled up to that disheveled former mansion turned apartment building, you asked if I wanted to take a walk.   The area was divided into two parts.  Bad and good.  My apartment was a few hundred feet from the invisible divider.  On the bad side.  So we abandoned the car and made our way to the ‘good’ side.

We walked on the tree-lined streets, each dotted with lovely cottage-likes homes and large historic mansions made of stone or plaster.   We walked close enough for our arms to brush against each other occasionally.  You made a comment about how the people in their cars were probably wondering why you weren’t holding my hand.  And you said that you would if I would let you.  But I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I couldn’t.  Because I was loyal to GWDTMSW.

As we came up on East Avenue again, you stopped and turned to me.  And this was where you asked me to marry you.  You knew I was the one.  You had been in love with me for years.  And I loved you, too.  I knew you were the love of my life.

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I remember my response as though it were yesterday.  “Yes, barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

What kind of response is that to a marriage proposal?  It is the kind of response you give when you know that something or someone will get in the way.  It is the kind of response you give when you don’t want to lie, despite how much you’d like to simply say, “Yes.” It is the kind of response you give when the bad things you have experienced in your life have so warped you that you are afraid to just choose happiness.

We continued on our stroll.  Dawn would be breaking soon.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Well, I have returned from my first adventure…but things have been far too hectic and I have been far too exhausted (and ill with cellulitis) to write about the experience yet.  But it is a post I am looking forward to sharing!  In the meantime, I thought I would return with a photo challenge post.  Thank you so much for all of the likes and comments on my last post — and for being there to cheer me on…

These may not be the greatest photos, but to me, they are wonderful representations of this week’s photo challenge topic, “love.”

There were many contenders, but I am far too tired to add them all (and I don’t want to bore you!), so here are just a few.  I may come back to add more at a later date…

Thank you for reading!

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It was Christmas and my littlest sister decided that after all of my chemo and surgeries, the best gift she could give me would be a little companion to help me weather the remainder of my cancer treatments.  So she chose this sweet little mini dachshund and presented her to me with a red ribbon around her furry little body.  Ginger has spent many hours snuggling with me and giving me comfort in the two years we have been together.  And she is a wonderful reminder of the special kind of love sisters sometimes share.

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Another Christmas photo…  I was sick and so tired.  And my sweet miniature schnauzer, Mattie, snuggled up next to me.  I had so much to do to get ready for a busy day of making our Christmas rounds that day, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to lay there with my special girl.  And I am so glad that I did because she died suddenly of cancer a couple of months later.   She loved me unconditionally and I miss her as much today as I did when she first died.

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And my boys…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

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

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

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/weekly-photo-challenge-love/

 

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?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

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PowerPort (port) through which chemo and other medicines and fluids can be administered. Also great for lab draws and scans for which I.V. contrast is necessary. I was reluctant to have the port placement ‘surgery’ back on May 7, 2010. But I am so glad I wasn’t given a choice & was ‘forced’ to do it — it has been a lifesaver!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

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

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

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/photo-challenge-delicate/

GUEST POST: A Holiday Season With Cancer

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*Just so there is no confusion, this is me (NOT Heather)*
Christmas 2010

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I am pleased to introduce guest writer Cameron Von St. James.   I was honored when Cameron approached me to ask about posting an article here.  After reading a little bit about what his family has dealt with, I was also moved and inspired…and I thought you would be, too.  With a new baby to care for and the holiday season just beginning, Cameron’s wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.  Their story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Please join me in welcoming Cameron Von St. James…

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A Holiday Season With Cancer

The holiday season has always been near and dear to my heart. It was always a time when my family came together to practice our holiday traditions and give thanks for all that we have in life.

In 2005, I was especially excited for the holidays, as my wife Heather had just given birth to our first child, Lily, and we couldn’t wait to establish our own traditions with our new family. Those feelings of giddiness were stamped out completely when we learned, three days before Thanksgiving, that Heather had cancer.

Our daughter was only three and a half months old when we learned that Heather was suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma. I knew enough about the disease to be concerned for our future. The anger I felt was overwhelming, and I found myself preparing for the worst.

I dreaded the holiday celebrations that year, during which Heather’s family came to stay with us before she headed off to a treatment center in Boston. During dinners that should have been about seasonal togetherness, we discussed how her family could come to terms with Heather’s deadly disease. We talked about the future of our finances and childcare options for Lily. We made plans to pay for Heather’s expensive treatments, and to my embarrassment discussed how her family could help us stay afloat financially.  Heather and I both worked, but with the new baby money was already tight, and with expensive treatment and travel looming, on top of the fact that we would soon be down to one income when Heather started treatment, we were going to be in real trouble. Heather’s family helped us figure out what we could liquidate for cash, and how much they could afford to pay for. I was mortified and embarrassed, and it would be years before I could look back on that conversation with anything but shame.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer malignant pleural mesothelioma story stories thirties 30s young mom mother kids holidays Christmas

Mesothelioma
Image courtesy of http://www.mesothelioma.com

I was so awash with negative emotions that I couldn’t see what I now see today. I realize now how mistaken I was to look at this time so negatively.  What I see now is that I was being so firmly supported by our family – people who came from afar to be with Heather, Lily and me during our moment of need. They were willing to help us in any way possible, they offered to make incredible sacrifices of their own for our well-being, but I was so weighed down with guilt and fear that I couldn’t see that clearly.

In spite of the odds against her, Heather eventually beat mesothelioma. This holiday season I want to take the time to give thanks for everything that I have; I know how much family means because of how close I came to losing the most important person in my life. I am so thankful for my little Lily’s continued health and growth and for all the people who helped us through our dark times. Thank you so much! You’ve all given me a reason to look forward to celebrating the holidays.

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Special thanks to Cameron and his wife for sharing their story…

Would you like to be featured here?  

If you have something to share, please send me an email:

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com

                        

Thank You & Happy Holidays!

PLEASE stop eating PLASTIC!

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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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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic turtle mastectomy bpa fda

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.

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

what my 8~year old son has to say…

One of my sons asked if he could post something on my blog.  He wrote the title and what follows here all by himself!

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breast cancer mom kids boys mattie dog lymphedema mastectomy

From my 8-year-old son:

Cancer is a jerk of course every one nows.

my mom has CANCER  its bad because my mom can not do that much stuff.

I WANT TO DOODOO on cancer  🙂

I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT.

thank you for following my mom readers

revelation from a chilly gray day: I am Cancer’s Bitch

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancerinmythirties breast cancer infertility baby hysterectomy

my lovely niece & me — the summer before my diagnosis

I waited a lifetime for you

but I guess it wasn’t long enough

I think of the babies I’ve lost

and wonder if you were one of them

I’m missing the baby girl

I always thought I’d have

Saw two pink lines last year

My heart soared but my stomach twisted

The hormones that sustain pregnancy

give cancer cells fuel, too

I didn’t care

I wanted you

Even if it meant more sickness for me

“I guess it’s one last chance,” she said.

“Stupid move,” he said.

Doctors.

But I was never meant to hold you in my arms.

Was it the Tamoxifen?  Was it my lack of health?  Was it the weekly Herceptin infusions?  or the steroids?  or the other meds they prescribed?  Or was it just a cruel twist of fate?

As quickly as it began, it was over — and you were gone

Then they found the masses in my pelvis

and the surgeries took my hope of ever seeing you away

and reminded me that I am Cancer’s bitch

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com cancerinmythirties breast cancer infertility baby hysterectomy

Unfortunately for my big dog, my little dog rules the roost just as this cat does!

I’ve forgotten where I first heard a young person describe someone else as their bitch, but I’ve heard the reference a few times — and I never thought I’d use it.  But it seems fitting here.  I sometimes feel that despite my efforts and success with being positive and despite the hell I’ve put my body through, cancer often finds a way to remind me that “it” isn’t really up to me.  And I know this feeling is shared by other cancer patients/survivors.  Cancer is bigger than me.  It is bigger than all of us.

*From wiki.answers.com (because I always look for reliable sources and because if it is written on the internet, it must be true! ha ha):  “If you are “someone’s bitch”  it means they can tell you what to do and you have to listen and do what they say when they say it.”

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!

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!

 

 

4 Months…

So I saw my oncologist today for my 6-week check-up.  I was expecting it to be a nice little ‘here’s what’s happening’ and ‘goodbye & congrats’ session.  It pretty much was. I went through a rundown of my symptoms and she asked me questions and updated my profile in her computer.

Then she told me she had seen my abnormal EEG results and asked what my neurologist was doing as a ‘next step’.  I told her about the MRI I had at the end of last week and said that I had an appointment with the neurologist tomorrow and that I expected to discuss the results with her then.  Since my oncologist and neurologist share a hospital and a computer system, she was able to pull up a 1 sentence blurb taken from the full report.

It mentioned a brain lesion.  But I guess that could mean a few different things — and that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a brain met (metastasis).  But thinking of this in the context of the abnormal EEG, my mind can’t help but “go there.”  For more detail, I’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s appointment.  I kind of wish she hadn’t brought it up.  But I’m sure she wanted to see what the preliminary report had to say at least.  You see, she was headed out on maternity leave after my appointment today and I won’t see her again until February.

So we finished the appointment with a quick exam and a discussion of who will be covering me and what her plans are for me during her leave.

I hugged her, told her (honestly) how happy I was for her, and handed her a card and a wrapped box containing a lovely little pink dress, a dress I had actually purchased for the baby girl I was hoping to have before all of this began.  Of course I did not share this last bit of information with her.  Nor did I not mention that she had become a part of my routine and that I am grateful for her role in killing my cancer.  And I certainly did not tell her that I will miss her while she was away.

And I did not mention the “what if” that crept into my consciousness as we hugged and I realized that I would not be seeing her for 1/3 of a year.  But I knew it was there.

I thought about a couple of women I had come to “know” through their posts about breast cancer.  They both learned that their cancers had returned a couple of months ago.  But they were still hopeful.

And now they are gone.  They died.  A few months ago they thought they were doing fine.  And mere weeks later, they are gone.

I wish I could say these lovely women were the first people I had heard of this happening to.  The first people who have had their cancers return or progress this quickly or aggressively.  But, sadly, I cannot.  Not at all.  You just never know with this disease.

I try not to think about the possibility of this happening in the context of my own life/death.  And most of the time I don’t.

But I am only human.  And at times like these, at times when I hear of sudden losses and the fragility of life hits me like a slap in the face, or when I can’t help but wonder if maybe that nagging pain or that headache that won’t go away is “something,” it is difficult not to let these thoughts creep in in the quiet space of a dark night.

As I walked out to schedule my next appointment, not with the oncologist I had come to trust and rely upon, but with one of her colleagues, I thought about how much could change in the 4 months she would be gone.

Of course a great deal will be changing for her.  She will be bringing a new life into this world, expanding her family, and doing and experiencing all of the things that are associated with that.

And I… Well, I will be trying not to die.

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!

Blending Past & Present

Image

My Nanna (who died of brain cancer when I was 9) and me…

When I started this blog, I had a lofty plan.  I imagined that I would write every day, telling the story of my cancer journey in chronological order, beginning shortly before diagnosis and continuing through today.  It was going well, though I didn’t get very far before infections and hospitalizations this summer took precedence.  After another major event (that I will share in the future) developed, I just couldn’t find the energy to post…

Creating this blog has been something I hoped to do from the start of my cancer experience, so I’ve decided to make it a priority.  To accomplish this goal, I feel the need to revamp it so there are no longer giant gaps between posts.  I’ve decided to abandon my original plan and will no longer feel tethered to the idea that I need to tell the story chronologically.  Though I will continue to share the journey from the beginning, I don’t want to ignore what is happening today.  Because I am still here to tell the story myself, I will include elements from my early days as a cancer patient, but I will also incorporate current stories about this life-altering process and the ongoing struggles and joys that are a part of my life as a cancer patient/survivor in my thirties.

I am excited about this new format and I’m looking forward to melding the past with the present.  I hope you will join me for what I guarantee will be an eventful tale.  Thank you…

April 9, 2010—Life is Like a Box of Chocolate Cupcakes

My appointment is all set.  I have mixed emotions about it, but probably not for the reasons you are thinking.  The top and bottom of it?  I am quite fortunate to be seeing a doctor who founded an internationally recognized breast care center.  But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned because I will be seeing the founder of an internationally recognized breast care center.

There are a number of doctors in the center, so why her?  Maybe I have misheard, but as I understand it, this world-renowned pioneer in the field of breast cancer detection doesn’t see just any random patient (unless there is “news” to deliver) because her schedule does not allow for it.  So I find my mind wandering as I ponder why she would see little old—well, “fairly young” me—someone with no family history or risk factors for breast cancer, and someone with NO health insurance.  Would I be paired with ‘the best of the best’ if this wasn’t something serious?  Or maybe she will be reviewing my mammogram because they need someone who can say with absolute certainty that what I’m dealing with is something benign?

It is hard to keep my mind from wandering to a dark place of ‘what-ifs’.  But I am “blessed” with the ability to second guess myself and to downplay the significance of things concerning my health, etc., so the ‘what-ifs’ quickly melt into thoughts about how everything is fine, how I will be wasting this important doctor’s time, and how the clinic I went to has gone to so much trouble to make arrangements with Cancer Services and with the breast care center—and how all of this is for naught.  I suppose that since this dismissal of my own symptoms will lead to less worrying and dwelling, I’ve found an upside to having lower than average self-esteem.  Ha-ha.

I will do my best to be patient.  I will be seeing her first thing on Tuesday morning.  Today is Friday…  It will be a long weekend, but my boys will keep me busy as we gear up for their birthdays on Wednesday.  They have some fun ideas for cakes they would like, so I’ll probably do a trial run to see what I can come up with for their party next weekend…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo or two of some chocolate cupcakes I made for a fundraiser.  You can’t tell, but they were supersized (and very chocolaty).  I’ll admit that not all of them made it into the boxes!  Thanks for reading…