Tag Archive | The Daily Post

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

 

 

I’m Sorry… An Open Letter to My Followers

 

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's lymph node nodes axillary node dissection bilateral mastectomy illness port powerport needle anesthesia lymphedema

Hello Dear Readers,

I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post.  I thought about writing to you.  Every. Day.  I began posts that I never finished.  I had things to tell you.  I took a notebook to my appointments and filled page after page with thoughts meant for you over these long weeks months (gasp!) apart.  But I just couldn’t.  Share them.  Here.

It’s difficult for me to admit that things have been just plain crappy.  I’ve had infection after infection (pneumonia, kidney, cellulitis).  Super antibiotic after super antibiotic.  And I have zero energy.  Just getting out of bed each day has been such a struggle.

I’m beginning to think that if I don’t tell myself repeatedly on a morning that I don’t have a choice, I may not be able do it.  I am no stranger to forcing my body and mind to push on when they are begging me to just rest.  But pleading is being replaced more and more by screaming on the part of my exhausted body and mind.  And sometimes I am met with absolute refusal.  There are times during the day, or especially in the early to late evening, when I am just hit with insurmountable fatigue and I must stop, wherever I am, and lie down.

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's lymph node nodes axillary node dissection bilateral mastectomy illness port powerport needle anesthesia lymphedema

 

This was happening before I was diagnosed.  In the months before I heard the words, “Everything we biopsied was malignant,” I was struck with fatigue like this.  The kind of fatigue that stops you in your tracks.  The kind of fatigue that lets you know that if you don’t find a place to lie down and sleep immediately, your body will find one for you, be it a bench or a chair or a carpet or a patch of grass.  Your body doesn’t care about the where.  It will drop you anywhere.

This happens about once or twice a day now.  It’s usually after I’ve been up and out for appointments, etc.  By the time the kids get home, have dinner, and I help with homework, it has already been creeping up on me.  And then I just hit a wall and cannot do “it” anymore — whatever “it” may be.  Not for another minute.  And I go to the couch, drop down, and cannot move again.  It takes a great deal of cajoling to get my body to take me upstairs for bed.  Brushing my teeth seems an insurmountable task.  I just need to crawl into bed after the exhausting trip up the stairs to my room, and fall asleep.

But it is happening earlier in the day, too.  A few days ago, I went to an appointment in the morning and had to lie down in the car afterward and cancel my afternoon appointment.  And when I finally made it home, I had to lie down and couldn’t move again until the kids came home and I convinced my body that it no longer had the luxury of resting time.  But after dinner, I had to lie down again.

I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but this is not normal for me.  I can usually push, push, push, until everything is taken care of, everyone is in bed, the day is done.  And then I will lay awake for hours, waiting for sleep to come.  And it eventually will, but sometimes not until the birds are beginning to stir outside and I know that the faint early morning light will soon creep through my velvety merlot curtains.  And just a few hours later, it will be time to get up with the kids and for the school routine to begin before I head out the door myself.

Well, that “normal” is long gone…  This hasn’t been happening for months now.  Now, when I hit that metaphorical wall, I will drift in and out of sleep.  Sometimes just until the dead of night.  Other times it is until the dawn begins to break.  But I just can’t stay awake without a major effort.

I do wake frequently.

I was experiencing night sweats “before.”  During the worst of the chemos.  And then ever since my radical hysterectomy and salpingo-oopherectomy two years ago.  But the hot flashes and night sweats that spiked when I had to have my my surgery two years ago had begun to wane (well, somewhat, anyway — when I say “wane,” what I really mean is slip down to a more manageable number/degree, if there is such a thing) about a year ago.

And now… They’ve ramped up again with a vengeance and have become far more intense and overwhelming than what I had been accustomed to, even when they were at their worst.  They have been even more overwhelming and exhausting in the past six months than they were in the first year without my ovaries.  I am waking about three times a night now just completely drenched.   So much so that I need to change whatever I’m wearing each time.  And it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing.  Flannel head-to-toe pajamas — drenched.  A soft robe — drenched.  A cozy sweatshirt and sweatpants — drenched.  Yoga pants and a light top — drenched.  A thin t-shirt and undies — drenched.  Just the undies — drenched.  It really doesn’t matter.  I will often lay a blanket down in the bed to cover the soaked bedding and to give myself a fresh start for the night.  And then I’ll do this maybe twice more per night after each soaking.

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's lymph node nodes axillary node dissection bilateral mastectomy illness port powerport needle anesthesia lymphedema

I’ve tried everything I can think of to curb the frequency or intensity of the night sweats, but nothing helps.

And then every day I find myself breaking out into cold sweats.  My face is dripping with sweat.  Drops of sweat roll down my legs and arms.  And then I find myself shivering and needing to change my clothes because I am so, so wet.

Sure, this happened before.  To a degree.  Surgical menopause at 35 will do that to you.  Or at least that’s what it did to me.  But this, this is so much worse.  It doesn’t feel normal.  So far from it.

It’s concerning and exhausting, to say the least.   I’m hoping (I think?) this increase in frequency and intensity might have something to do with the fevers I’ve been experiencing on a now regular basis over the past six months?  But then, what is causing the fevers?  Sure, I’ve had lots of infections.  But I’ve been on antibiotics consistently, with breaks of only a couple of days, if at all, between.  So it’s unclear as to whether the fevers are linked to the infections.

Sometimes I’m glad I’m too tired to expend the mental energy to think about it!

Well, this has become more of an explanation post than an apology letter.  But I began intent upon focusing on the apology.  Because I do owe you an apology.  You’ve stood by me, reading, commenting, emailing, or sending messages in some other way.  And I haven’t been the best with the communication.  Okay, I’ve been downright shitty, really.  But it is not because I haven’t thought of you.

It is not because I haven’t appreciated you.

It is not because I haven’t wanted to reach out to you.

It is just because.

I wish I could say or do better than this.  But I will try my best to give you what I can, when I can.  And I sincerely hope you’ll continue to reach out to me as you have been.  Because it has meant so much to me.

Even when it doesn’t seem like it, I am listening.  And I am grateful to know that you’ve thought of me, even if it is just a fleeting thought.   Because sometimes that makes all the difference in the world…

Thank you…

p.s.  Because you know I love to stick photos wherever I can, I’m adding a few pictures that illustrate (at least I think so!) the theme of The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week.  This week’s challenge asks participants to show readers a “Room” or “Rooms.”  Here are a couple of rooms other than the hospital and Cancer Center rooms above…

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The rooms below are from a visit to “Give Kids the World” with my boys’ best friend and his family.

Give Kids The World

B has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and was granted his “wish” by the Make A Wish Foundation and “Give Kids the World” back when he and my twins were in pre-school.

We were fortunate to be able to return to “Give Kids the World” with B and his family recently.  I am good friends with B’s mom.  The boys and B’s brother and sister all get along so well.  And we like B’s dad, too.  So it was wonderful to have some special time with B and his whole family.

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These are a few photos from a visit to a series of special rooms on the campus where each child leaves a shiny gold star containing his/her wish behind…  The ceilings were covered with wishes.  What a moving experience.

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Okay, off to bed.  Thanks so much for visiting.  I hope life is being kind to you…

My warmest wishes…

 

Silence Isn’t Golden — and — Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside / Little Dog Inside Big Dog

cancer in my thirties breast cancer 30s 30's dog dogs

There have been times in my life when I have agreed with the title of that old song, “Silence is Golden,” by The Four Seasons.  But my silence here has not proven to be one of those times.  As the days following my last post crept to weeks and then to months, I couldn’t believe that so much time had passed.  But I still felt powerless to do much about it.

Call it the result of unrelenting exhaustion.  Call it the result of a muddled mixture of intense pain and a haziness induced by strong opioid painkillers.  Call it an inability to balance new/worsening symptoms with life and its demands.  Call it what you will, but whatever it was, I just wasn’t able to pull myself through “it” to find the energy and space to write to you.

I value our time together.  I value our relationship.  And I didn’t want to just pop in to do a quick, crappy post while I was in the midst of feeling as though I was caught in a tailspin.

YOU:    “So, is it over?  Are you better?  Is this going to be a terrific post that was well worth the wait?”

ME:      “No.  No.  And no.”

YOU:    “Aw man, I was hoping for something riveting and inspiring.”

ME:      “I’m sorry, this post will be neither.  But I figured that if I waited any longer, the gap would just widen and it would be even more difficult to return.  So I am here, for better or worse, with a crappy post just meant to let you know that I have missed you and that I do value our relationship — probably more than you’ll ever know.”

ME:      “And, given the nature of some of the emails I’ve received from some of you, I felt that some of you might be wondering if I’d gotten much sicker and perhaps moved on to the great blue yonder.  To be honest, I would wonder the same thing, especially because some of my “virtual” cancer friends (cancer bloggers or online breast cancer community friends) have disappeared in this way when they’ve died.  Silence.  Then, after a few days or weeks or so, a husband or best friend or mom will pop in to say, “Sorry, _______ died last month.  I know she’d want you to know.”

YOU:    “Well, I didn’t want to say it, but, um, yes, maybe “that” thought crossed my mind.  This is a cancer blog, afterall!”

Okay, all kidding aside, I wanted/needed to say hello.  I wanted you to know that you are still in my thoughts.  I wanted to respond to the kind emails and messages I’ve received.

And I wanted to apologize for such a long silence.

Sure, I’ve felt crappy.  Sure, I’m struggling to manage life and the boys and everything else while feeling so cruddy.  But you’ve come to mean a lot to me and I owe you more than this silence.  Plus, this is a cancer blog, so I should be blogging about feeling crappy and about the ins and outs and ups and downs of this whole experience.

I should.

I know I should.

But I wage this positive vs. negative battle with myself all the time.  In my day-to-day life, I try to be positive and upbeat because this is what is expected of me.  So it is difficult for me to give myself permission to be “Debbie-Downer” in my day-to-day.  And sometimes that cup runneth over to my blog, too.  If you’ve been reading all along you know that this doesn’t happen often — I usually don’t have much trouble “telling it like it is” and spreading some gloom here! — but it does happen sometimes.

I’ll try to elaborate a bit more on how life has been soon.  But for now I wanted to end the silence.  Close the gap.  Get back on the horse.

And I wanted to thank you for sticking by me.

I’d also like to know how you are doing…  During my silence I have not only been a bad blogger, but a lousy blog reader.  But it isn’t because I haven’t thought of you.  In fact, I enjoy reading your blogs far more than I enjoy creating posts for my own, so I’m certain I’ve missed you much more than you’ve missed me!  So if you have a moment, please drop me a line / leave me a comment to let me know how you are — and I promise to pop over to visit your blog soon.

And I will be back soon to fill you in.  Even if I just write crappy one paragraph posts.  I’ll shoot for “quantity vs. quality” rather than the “neither” I’ve been giving you!

p.s. For old times’ sake, I’ll include a few photos that happen to be in line with The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  Okay, “on purpose” rather than “happen to be.”  But you know how I like pictures!  This week’s challenge topic?  “Inside.”  Participants are asked to photograph “something” inside “something else.”  [There’s more to it than that, but I’ll give you the skinny version in case you are tired, too!]

You know how I love my dogs, so I’m giving you photographs of “Ginger Inside Kevin.”  Or “Little Dog Inside Big Dog,” because I refer to them as “Big” and “Little.”

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Kevin is a Heinz 57 rescue who we brought to live with us after my dogsoulmate, Mattie, my mini schnauzer, died of cancer in 2009.  Ginger was a “Christmas/chemo/mastectomy/more chemo/radiation/and still more treatment gift” my sister gave me after I’d had a bunch of chemo and my bilateral mastectomy, and then was then destined to go through more chemo and radiation and other treatments.  My littlest sister, Laura, thought she would be a wonderful snuggler and that she’d make it easier to get through the difficult days, so she wrapped her up for Christmas…  And what a wonderful gift she was/is.

Well, ever since Ginger/Little’s arrival, she has ruled the roost.  Though significantly smaller than Kevin, she is definitely the alpha.  From the very beginning, she would climb into or onto Kevin and he wouldn’t move a muscle.  To this day, if she climbs into his curled up body, he stays in this position until she is ready to get up — mostly because she’ll bark at him if he moves an inch!  And since they are coincidentally almost identically colored, it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.  Most pictures of the two of them together look as though I’ve snapped a photo of Kevin with a small dog-like growth protruding from his neck or back.

A looong explanation for a few photos!:

breast cancer in thirties 30s 30's dog dogs ginger kevin

Can you find Ginger?

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's dog dogs

Once in a while, Kevin builds up the nerve to *attempt* to knock Little off his chair. He is never successful…

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***Good night and thank you for visiting.  Thank you for helping me through the dark days, even when you don’t know you are doing this…***

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I’ve Missed You — and Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

gator breast cancer thirties 30s 30's owl john deere gator world cancer day postaday weekly photo challenge object young twins kids

Hello dear readers,

I realized weeks ago that I had not yet posted in the New Year, but was feeling so awful that I just couldn’t force myself to do anything about it.  I decided tonight that this had to change this!

First of all, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year.  May 2014 be filled with peace, joy, and (hopefully) health.  As I welcomed the New Year this year, my thoughts turned to family and friends rather than resolutions.  Even when it feels as though the world is crumbling around me, I know that I am fortunate in that I have good people in my life.  And I count you in that mix of important people who make my life better.  How many bloggers are fortunate enough to have readers email or leave comments to make sure they are alright?  I’m grateful to say that I am that one of those lucky people.

There is much I want to tell you and much I want to share — but I’ve been so crippled by pain and fatigue that I’m just going to have to share things in bits and pieces.  I hope you will continue to bear with me!

Until my next post, I will leave you with a couple of photos of the boys and a school owl they were asked to take care of and write about for a weekend.  These photos are from an Autumn ago.  There is far too much ice and snow on the ground for grass or light jackets or John Deere gators in the yard right now!  But the memories are nice…

All my very best to you —

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's world cancer day twins owl john deere gator

p.s. If you’d like to see other Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge photos, please click here or here.

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

cancer in my thirties jelly jellyfish tank breast thirties 30s 30's bilateral mastectomy axillary lymph node dissection stage 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one more:

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

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

My warmest wishes and appreciation for you all…

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

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Before I get to this week’s photo challenge, I wanted to mention that I’ve just been nominated for Healthline’s Best Health Blogs of 2013 Award and I was wondering if you could please vote for my blog?  Voting started a couple of weeks ago & my nomination was just posted so I am quite behind!

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There are many amazing blogs included, so I doubt that I have much of a chance, but I truly appreciate your support and I am honored to even be grouped with the other blogs.

So, to vote:  You can vote EVERY DAY until JAN. 20th. Voting is through Facebook or Twitter.  Click here to VOTE:  http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest-id?id=714  — or — click on the “VOTE FOR ME” badge in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

And now, on to the photos…

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The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is “Let There Be Light.”  From the original post: “We’re entering a truly light-filled season. Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and Kwanzaa kinaras are spreading their glow in homes the world over (or are just about to), while main streets and public buildings are being prepared for the winter holidays with an explosion of bright decorations.

Take a look around you. Choose one of the light sources you see, and make it the focus of your challenge entry. It can be a dramatic chandelier or a pair of dying candles; the moon, a row of glaring lightbulbs in the parking lot, or a gaudy lava lamp stored in your attic: anything goes. The light doesn’t even have to be switched on: some lamps are just as fascinating for their shape as for the photons they emit.”

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Sadly, shortly after I finished this post I learned of Nelson Mandela’s death earlier today (12/5/13).  It is my hope that Mr. Mandela’s legacy will endure and that his life’s work, his leadership, and his compassion will continue to have a deep impact well beyond his years on this earth.  

I will leave you with my photos and with a favorite quote that many believe was uttered by Mr. Mandela.  While there is controversy about whether he ever spoke these words (written by Marianne Williamson in Return To Love), I think the sentiment so perfectly relates to my vision of how Mr. Mandela lived his life that I feel compelled to share it here regardless:   

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The world lost an amazing source of light and life today.

Thank you for visiting my little corner of the world, for voting (if you choose to), and for bringing light into my life.

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If you would like to participate in this or a future challenge, just click here to visit The Daily Post.

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Eerie Feeling — Is it Cancer?

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When I saw the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week — Eerie — my first thoughts weren’t of Halloween costumes or fake blood or ghouls or goblins.  No, my first thoughts were of the sore spot and the “thickening” in my chest in an area that cancer once called home.

Since my bilateral mastectomy three years ago, I have been checking the area often enough. Monthly, I suppose?  Maybe less?  It’s often enough that I would notice a change.

5 days post mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection for stage 3c breast cancer

While I rarely have trouble with my right side since the surgery, my left side has been a different story. Because of the depth/extent of my left mastectomy and the resulting nerve damage, I have been plagued with a range of unpleasant feelings, from numbness, tingling, itchiness and dull pain, to searing pain and what they term “phantom pain.”

You may have heard of phantom pain before.  Maybe you’ve known someone who has had a limb amputated.  Or you’ve watched an interview with a war veteran who lost an arm or a leg.  Or you follow Grey’s Anatomy and saw the episodes when Arizona was struggling after losing her leg in the plane crash. Or maybe you’ve never heard of it and just think it sounds kind of eerie.

Well, it is kind of eerie.  And not just because of its name.

“Sometimes after a body part has been amputated, it feels as if that part is still there. This is called phantom sensation. It…is not pain, but is a “tingly,” cramping, or itching feeling where the missing part used to be.

[Phantom pain, on the other hand, is painful.]  The pain feels as if it is in the part that is missing. Phantom pain…may feel like a burning, crushing, or stabbing sensation.”  [UPMC.com]

This is a roundabout way of explaining to you that despite the wide range of sensations I’ve experienced on the left side, none of these feelings have ever prompted me to pick up the phone and call the doctor because I’ve always accepted them as my new normal.

But what I’ve been experiencing recently does not feel like the pain or other sensations I’ve become accustomed to in the past three years.  It feels different.  It feels like the pain I felt before my surgery. Like the pain I was experiencing in my breast when my cancer diagnosis came 3 1/2 years ago.

Now maybe you are thinking that doesn’t really mean anything.  I don’t even have that (or any) breast anymore.  I was thinking this, too.  But then I reached under my shirt and felt the area.  In fact, I’ve repeatedly “checked” the area over the past week.

And it feels different.  Like a thickened “something.”

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At first I thought maybe it was swelling.  Swelling has been an issue for me since I received my first intervention — months of dose dense chemo meant to make my inoperable cancer operable.  When I was finally ready for surgery, it was a different kind of swelling.  Swelling in my arms from lymphedema.  And despite having surgical drains placed to collect excess fluid/blood that can accumulated following the surgery, in the space where the tumor was, there was a significant amount of swelling in my chest/underarm/shoulder area. While surgical drains are very common with this type of surgery, leaving them in for many weeks is not typical.  But there was so much fluid that it was necessary. Even still, I developed large seromas [a seroma is a collection of serous fluid in the dead space of post-mastectomy skin flap, axilla or breast] that necessitated trips to the surgeon’s office every 2-3 days so he could insert a long, wide needle and manually drain the fluid.

But it’s been a while since I’ve had a seroma or swelling in this particular area of my chest.  And it does not feel like swelling.  In fact, it doesn’t feel anything like what I’ve become accustomed to.

Normally when I touch the area where my left breast used to be, since the tissue and muscle are missing, I feel rib bones (or the spaces between them) through a thin layer of skin.

It’s odd, really, to go from feeling the squishy, rounded softness of your breasts, to feeling the hard, unforgiving rigidity of bone.

It’s a difficult adjustment to make.

And though you may con your brain into accepting the new “normal” day in and day out, your fingers never really forget.  Touching the area where your breast used to be is still just as jarring for your fingertips as it was in the beginning.

So when something is different…less chiseled…more flexible…softer, your fingers notice.

So it is easy to recognize when something is different or awry.

Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe it will be fine.  It’s probably nothing.  It will probably be fine.  I haven’t even mentioned it to anyone in my life other than “you” because I’m almost sure it will be okay.

But the eerie feeling I had this past week each time my fingers were drawn to my chest was enough of an incentive enough for me to call the office of the breast specialist who diagnosed my cancer.  And it was enough to make me accept (and not cancel) an appointment for 7:30 this morning so I can find out for sure.

I will leave you with my “eerie” photos…

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Even more eerie than fake blood is real blood… These are my mastectomy drains.

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Kevin looks for ghosts amid the cobwebs this Halloween

As always, thank you for being here.  And if you would like to participate in The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click on this link.

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Daily Prompt: My Little Characters

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I happened to notice The Daily Post‘s Daily Prompt for today — It Builds Character — and couldn’t resist the opportunity to share some photos of my little characters.

The prompt asks that we show readers a CHARACTER.

Every month, my boys, twins who are in the same class, must do a family project for school.  October’s project asked them to choose a character from one of their favorite books and turn a pumpkin into that character.  M chose Greg Heffley, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  William chose Darth Paper, from Darth Paper Strikes Back, an Origami Yoda book.

So when I saw today’s prompt, M and I hatched a plan.  We took the pumpkin heads and, well, I’ll just show you:

M wearing the pumpkin head we made -- Diary of a Wimpy Kid's Greg Heffley

M wearing the pumpkin head we made — Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Greg Heffley

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

During dinner, M also developed a character he decided to name Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head.  Unfortunately, Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head had a not-so-secret admirer in Ginger (our weiner dog) and had to change his name to Detective Hamburger Head when Ginger got a bit too close to his mustache.

Detective Bacon Mustache and his secret admirer, Ginger

Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head and his admirer

And both boys decided to pose for one last photo:

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And this is a terrible segway, but I just wanted to thank you for your kind words when I was struggling last week (Why I Can’t Wait for my Colonoscopy).  And I also wanted to tell you that of all the things they found in my colon (like plenty of scar tissue and adhesions), cancer was thankfully not one of them.   It’s nice to have some good news!

Thank you for helping me get through an especially rough week!

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns — Prelude to Toplessness

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As I was assembling photos for this week’s photo challenge, I stumbled across a file filled with photos from September 2010.  It was three years ago this month.

It’s safe to say that the dusty manila icon on my computer screen stopped me in my tracks.

It was filled with good memories from our trip to Florida with jme and my mom.  It was an important trip for many reasons.

I learned that I had cancer that April and had been having a horrible time with chemo ever since.  So when I finally had a break from the Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol and Herceptin, we found some supercheap last minute plane tickets and I threw our clothes in a suitcase.  We were off with just a day or two’s notice.  This was my attempt at finding the spontaneity I’d been told The Big C endows you with.

I remember being supersick but grateful to be there.

Especially because of what was looming over my head.  Other than the cancer thing, of course.  What loomed, large as life, was the fact that I would be returning home the day before the surgery I had been anticipating since April.  It was time for my bilateral mastectomy and complete axillary node dissection.  My tumors had finally shrunk enough to make my formerly “inoperable” cancer “operable.”

I’m explaining all of this because I looked at the shots of superbald me smiling next to my family in Treasure Island, Florida, and I was filled with the same sense of dread that plagued me on that trip each time I stopped to consider my reality.

And then I skipped ahead one image too far and saw myself in the hospital bed.  Days after my surgery.  Showing my bruised body and bandages and blood-filled drains to the camera with a vacant look in my blue eyes.

For all the time I’ve spent in hospitals, there aren’t that many photos of me within their walls.  But I recall thinking that it would be important for me to have some photos from my weeklong post-surgical stay — in case I ever wanted to document my experience in some way.  There are only a handful of photos, but there are enough to make me swallow hard.  Pictures of me with bandages, and some without, as I look at my incisions for the first time.

Fast forward three years and here we are.  I have this blog, this platform, and I think I am ready to share.

But not just yet…

I still need a day or so to wrap my head around what I am about to show you before I post the images.  And, who knows, maybe I won’t be able to post all of them?  Maybe it will be too much for typically modest me?  I truly hope not, because I think this is an important part of my story.  An important reality that needs to be shared to blow a hole in all that pink frilly nonsense that makes breast cancer seem less serious, less deadly, less disfiguring.

So please bear with me as I summon the courage to post this pivotal piece of my story.

In the meantime I will lighten the mood with this week’s challenge photos.  Titled “From Lines to Patterns,” this challenge tasks us with interpreting lines and patterns through the camera lens:

“We see lines and patterns in the world around us, in nature and things man-made. Sometimes we don’t realize they’re there: on the street, across the walls, up in the sky, and along the ground on which we walk.  So…grab your camera, get outside, and snap a great shot of shapes or lines that you stumble upon, or a cool texture or pattern that catches your eye.”

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My little W

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“Under Construction” — Spring 2007 — I’m wearing the same clothes I was wearing in this photo right now! (But the pants are tighter!)

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The beginning of Autumn at the Christmas tree farm

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M climbing the giant web

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Stripes and patterns: Max, our Leopard gecko, was a gift for my 20th birthday. In her younger years she was a vibrantly-colored patterned beauty (for a reptile, anyway!). This was her last picture — she died of old (15 years!) age later than night.

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My Mam’s “Fancy Jell-O”

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NYC

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Thank you for visiting, for looking at this hodgepodge of photos, and for standing by me as I share my story.  I am a grateful girl.

See you soon…

P.S. To participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here or here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside — A Word From the Dogs

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Let’s Make a Break for It!

I failed miserably with my plan to write a complete non-Weekly Photo Challenge post this week.  And now it’s Thursday at 12:47 a.m.

ImageI’d love to blame a brief stint in the hospital, too many doctor’s appointments, a lengthy to-do list, nightly struggles with 4th grade homework x 2, tear-filled boys who do not want to go to bed, crippling fatigue, high-maintenance canines, a husband who was logged enough hours to equal days worth of playing time since our local video store opened on Tuesday (10 a.m.) with the newly-released Grand Theft Auto Five (if you’re not sure what that is, please see photo to the left), and blah, blah, blah… but I won’t bother.  Instead, I will just present you with another photo challenge and I’ll hope you keep returning while I’m on my downswing!

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Well, much to my chagrin, it seems I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open for long enough to post this one, so I’m going to turn it over to the dogs — literally!

For this week’s challenge, titled “Inside,” Kevin and Ginger (or Big and Little as I often call them) are sharing the view from inside our kitchen out to our empty, unfenced backyard.  To me it looks like an empty not-quite-green palette that I long to paint.  To the dogs (my favorite Houdinis) it looks like the open road to FREEDOM!

Kevin & Ginger:  “Yep, all we need to do is pull the front door handle or slide the back screen open — and we DO know how to do this! — and we are free!  There’s no fence to stop us!  It drives our Mom crazy because she has to keep the doors closed ALL the time (even in the summer) and hold onto our collars whenever anyone goes in or out of the house — and that’s A LOT because the twins are always going in and out!  But she knows we’ll take any chance we can get to run away.  And then she has to run through the neighborhood for hours to catch us.  It scares the hell out of her!  It’s SO much fun!!”

Me:  “Yes, it’s a real hoot!”

Kevin & Ginger:  “So these photos are of us trapped INSIDE.  I remember when Mom took these.  She unlocked the glass door for a few minutes while the boys carried the compost out to the compost bin.  She was watching us like a hawk ’cause she knew what we were thinking.  We were working hard to figure out how to unlock the door again.  See the smoke coming out of our ears?”

Kevin:  “Ooh, look, you can see where I scratched big holes in the screen.  See the tape she put on them?  I have no trouble pulling that right off.  Silly Mom!”

Ginger:  “Anyway, I just uploaded the photo — it’s at the top of the post.  I’m the little one.  Kevin’s the big one.  Thanks for reading Mom’s blog!”

Kevin:  “Ooh, I just found a picture of our butts.  I’m going to put that one in for fun.  Don’t tell my Mom.”

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Our Cheeky Bums!

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was so sick.

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

My lymph nodes were swollen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap

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I don’t often participate in The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt challenges, but this one caught my eye because it asks for photos that illustrate vacation. You all know how much I love to take and share vacation photos, so I couldn’t resist.

Here are a few favorites you haven’t seen yet. All were taken during our holiday in Puerto Rico:

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breast cancer thirties 30's 30s young puerto rico

breast cancer thirties 30's 30s young puerto rico

As always, thank you for visiting. Your “likes” and comments brighten my world!

If you would like to participate in a Daily Post Challenge, just click:
here or here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: In The Background

Taken from The Daily Post’s Challenge Page — “In the Background: The places that we pass through day after day, or even once in a lifetime, leave in their small way, echoes and traces of themselves upon us. But so often when taking self portraits or pictures of friends, the places themselves become a soft blurred mush of indistinct semi-nothingness, the limelight stolen by our smiling faces. In today’s challenge, let’s turn the tables.” 

For The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week, Pick asked that we take a photograph of ourselves or someone else as the lesser part of a scene, making the background or foreground the center of attention.

This may not have been exactly what he had in mind, but here are my photos:

The first image came about because I was taking a photo of the boys whilst sitting on a large rocking bench swing at the park yesterday.  My little mini doxie was positioned strategically in my lap.  Until she decided she wanted to be a part of the photo.  The original image captured just the top of her head and her eyebrows.  So I repositioned her (against her will!) to shoot this picture.

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Nobody puts Ginger in the Corner

I told the boys I would take individual photos of them, so I was in the midst of photographing W (in the tie-dye shirt) when M decided it was his turn to be in the limelight.  So he jumped in front of the camera in what I think was a rapper pose?

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I’m calling this one “Yo Mama” because that’s what came out of my sweet little boy’s mouth when he popped up in front of the camera!

And this last one has nothing to do with the theme.  I just thought I would show you how silly my kids are.  They crack me up often.  Since I like to think I am hilariously funny, I can only assume they get their wit and comedic timing from me.   😉

I’m just going to call this photo “Yikes,” for obvious reasons.  I haven’t a clue as to where they’ve seen a pose like this before!  [Mental Note:  Fix the lock on my bedroom door!]

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Thanks for visiting!  If you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/weekly-photo-challenge-in-the-background/

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

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The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for this week asks participants to take a photo or photos from above.

Here are my selections, taken from a trip to Hawaii that feels as though it was a lifetime ago now!

I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking them…Okay, half as much (it was Hawaii, after all!)

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If you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click on the link below.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

And, as always, thank you for visiting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is Culture.

These photos miss the mark a bit, but I like them just the same.  I hope you don’t mind!  They were taken in Old San Juan and San Juan, Puerto Rico on my bucket list adventure.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is “UP.”

These photos were taken during a Fall trip to visit my dear friend Jin.  We traveled through NYC on the way home — the perfect place for “UP” photos.
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If you’d like to take part in a challenge yourself, just click on one of the links below.

~Thanks for visiting!~

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

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/weekly-photo-challenge-up-2/

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.

 

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The Beautiful Bride & Groom

 

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

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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/

Daily Post: The Satisfaction of a List — Things I’m Afraid I Won’t Get to Do Before I Die

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My Boys

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for today is: The Satisfaction of a List.
You are asked to make a list, any list, and share it with your readers.

Though I don’t usually manage to churn out responses to the Daily Writing Challenges, this one caught my eye because I am a lister and I love lists.

The list I’m sharing with you:

20 45 Things I’m Afraid I Won’t Get to Do Before I Die:

  1. Watch my kids go off to Fourth Grade
  2. Put my toes in the ocean again
  3. Dance with my sons at their weddings in 15 years or so
  4. Have my overdue eye exam — and get stylish new glasses
  5. Hold a new baby
  6. Be my youngest sister’s matron of honor (she’s 20)
  7. Get a new puppy
  8. Hold my grandchildren
  9. Finish the next season of The Walking Dead
  10. See Mumford & Sons in concert
  11. Have the option to opt out of going to my 10-year college reunion (because I don’t feel like going, not because I’m dead)
  12. Visit my family’s homeland (England/Scotland)
  13. Celebrate my sons’ 10th birthdays
  14. Publish my novel
  15. Finish writing said novel
  16. Publish a children’s book
  17. Use my teaching degree
  18. See some of my dearest friends again — jme, Jin, Loren, Sue, Sheri, Gil
  19. Make it to another winter (and I hate winter)
  20. Watch my children graduate from (and start!) high school
  21. See the love of my life again
  22. Experience what it’s like to have hormones again (or go a day without being hot and drenched from night/day sweats one minute and then shivering cold the next)
  23. Shed tears as I pack my kids up for college
  24. Shed tears as I wave my kids off to middle school
  25. See my mother happy
  26. Get divorced
  27. Be with someone who truly cares for me & who will miss me when I’m gone
  28. Listen to a lot more music
  29. Learn to play piano
  30. Live a day where money doesn’t keep me from doing the things I want to do for my kids
  31. Travel more
  32. Start a new job
  33. Hear that there is a cure/vaccine for cancer
  34. Show my kids the world
  35. Fall asleep snuggled next to my kids and my dogs more
  36. Experience a pain-free day
  37. Remember what it’s like to have energy
  38. To stress out about doing next year’s taxes
  39. Turn 40
  40. Turn 50
  41. Turn 60
  42. Turn 70
  43. Grow old
  44. To let go of everything that is holding me back…
  45. To say that I truly lived — and mean it…

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

If you’d like to respond to a Daily Post Daily Prompt, just click one of the links below.

The Daily Post

The Daily Post: Satisfaction of a List

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

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I love The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme for this week — Color.

Though you’d never surmise it from my clothing (my wardrobe consists primarily of 3 hues (if you can call them that!) — brown, grey and black)), I love color.

I have a difficult time imagining a world without it.  I have often thought that of all the senses to lose, I would likely miss sight the most.  Of course losing the ability to taste during chemo made me question the theory I developed during my dismal ‘what if’ game.  But, in the end, I reverted to my original thought — that it would be more upsetting to live in a world without color.

Its presence lift our spirits.  Its absence brings us down.  It is powerful and beautiful.

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As always, thank you for visiting.

If you would like to participate in this week’s photo challenge, please click on one of the links below:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenges

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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime — It’s My Birthday

My entry for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic, Lunchtime, is a celebration of the lovely desserts I received for my birthday last week.  While my lunch fare included more than sugary goodness, I am focusing on the best part of the meal here.

I hope you enjoy my photo tribute to the birthday goodies — and flowers — I received from some of my favorite people!

If you would like to participate in a photo challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/photo-challenge-lunchtime/

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

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge topic for this week is: Lost in the Details.

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s corning museum of glass lost in the details young

To participate in this week’s photo challenge, please visit:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/weekly-photo-challenge-lost-in-the-details/

or

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

Thanks for visiting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward — Boys at the Beach

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's beach kids forward young

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

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/forward/

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

Thanks for visiting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss ~ a Wedding, an Elephant, a Gorilla and a Boy

I know I have been M.I.A. this week and that I’m barely squeaking this week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge entry in, but here is my submission for the challenge topic: Kiss.

Thanks so much for visiting.  And if you’d like to participate in a Weekly Photo Challenge, just click on the links at the bottom of this page.

May your life be filled with kisses…

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My Son & His New Friend

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A Mom and Her Baby

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My Beautiful Sister and Her New Husband on Their Wedding Day

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/weekly-photo-challenge-kiss/

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

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…

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My Boys

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Fishing in the Living Room

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

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My Mom & Aunt

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My Mom & Mattie & the Boys

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Mattie in the Window

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

Weekly Photo Challenge

Daily Prompt: Childhood Revisited — Dirty Memories

Written in response to The Daily Post Challenge

Daily Prompt: Childhood Revisited

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Photo Credit: creepypasta.wikia.com

Dirty Memories

Chubby little fingers grip a wooden banister

He leads her toward a strange basement

She is scared

And for good reason

They reach the bottom and he takes her aside

This is where it happens

Again

Her young mind can’t wrap itself around this

And for good reason

No three-year-old should understand this

But she will one day

He finishes

And leads her back upstairs

She does what she is told

She follows

He is her dad, after all

He takes her to the pony rides on the way home

This will wash the dirty memories away

That’s what he thinks, at least

But he is wrong

I will always have the dirty memories

If you’d like to respond to a Daily Post Daily Prompt, click here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/daily-prompts/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for this week: Unique

I hope you enjoy my photo choices.  To participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/photo-challenge-unique/

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

 

A Lone Coconut on the Beach

 

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A Lone Boy Beneath the Setting Sun (one of my sons!)

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I found this zoo’s fake flamingo enclosure to be rather unique.  It’s not often that you see a display of faux animals at an animal park!

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Thanks for visiting!

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/

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved — In Memory of Julie

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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.

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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: Resolved

The Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

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It was April 12, 2012.  It was the anniversary of terrible surprises.

I won’t name them all.  Just a few.

It was the anniversary of the day I was certain that my unborn babies and I would die in the hospital.  It was the day after Easter.  I had been hospitalized with preeclampsia since the week before when I had gone to my check-up and was told that I needed an emergency induction.  I was sent next door to the “best” hospital in our region.  The hospital with the Level III NICU.  The hospital that people traveled across counties and hundreds of miles for.  I had been in active, induced labor for 4 days by April 12, 2004.  By then, the preeclampsia had become severe.  I was so sick.  I was shaking.  I was bleeding (from a yet-to-be diagnosed placental abruption).  I was being pumped with high doses of pitocin to keep me in active labor — and competing doses of magnesium sulfate because my blood pressures were so dangerously high.  And I had gained an inconceivable almost 100 lbs in edema weight since my admission into the hospital.  My organs were shutting down.  I was hearing Christmas music when there was no sound.  I was dying.  And my babies were, too.

Fast forward to April 12, 2005.  One year later.  Two days before my babies’ 1st birthdays.  The day the woman who was like a second mother to me took her life… a woman who also had breast cancer young (but for her, her diagnosis came in her 40’s)… a woman who was also the mother of one of my two very best childhood friends.  I had known her for what felt like my whole life.  I had lived with her during a rough patch in my life.  And now she lived around the corner from me in a house matching mine.  And she had reached out to me and asked me to spend more time with her…but I was so wrapped up in my own traumas and exhaustion that I didn’t see her as much as I should have.  I thought there would be more time.  And then the call came on April 12 that I was too late.  We all were.

And fast forward ahead again to April 12, 2010.  This was the day before I learned for sure that I had breast cancer.  Nuff said.

But…

I had to put these difficult/horrible memories the back burner because April 12, 2012 was 2 days before my twin sons’ birthdays.  It was also their Spring Recess from elementary school.  So we wanted to do something special and make some happy memories for their birthdays.

We packed up the car the day before and set our sights on Philadelphia.  I never been there, but we had free passes for the nearby Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ.  Since it was “only” about an 8 hour drive and we had heard the aquarium was something special, we couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

April 12, 2012.  After a struggle with traffic and an almost unsuccessful quest to find cheap parking, we arrived at the aquarium much later than I had planned.

And I was already exhausted.  You see, only a couple of weeks before I was lying in an operating room while my gynecologic oncologist was performing a radical hysterectomy and oopherectomy on me.  I was 35 and wanted another baby.  But what all of the breast cancer crap would have made unwise and extremely difficult, large masses that we were all certain would come back as ovarian and pelvic metastasis, made perfectly impossible.

surprise the daily post weekly photo challenge cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer feeding the stingrays philadelphia camden, nj Adventure Aquarium thirties 30s mom motherhood family sting ray tank touch wadingDespite this, I entered the crowded aquarium in a wheelchair and with a twinkle in my eye.  I was planning to enjoy the day with my boys.

It was when I was handed a map at the admission desk that I first saw it.  There was something special going on today.  At precisely something-o’clock (I don’t remember when the something was!), a few lucky aquarium goers would be selected from the crowd for a special stingray encounter.  Now this wasn’t your average aquarium encounter.  This was an opportunity to wade into the large stingray pool to hand-feed the rays!

I was determined to be one of the lucky few.

But there were a few major issues with my plan.

  1. My plan wasn’t a plan.
  2. I generally don’t win things.
  3. The place was packed.  And I mean packed.  Everyone with kids on Spring Break clearly had the same idea as we did.  It seemed like the whole east coast was in the aquarium.  There was no way I would be able to get anywhere near the stingray tank, let alone in it.

Nevertheless, I told my husband and my boys that I would be in that tank that afternoon.  My husband told me to give it up.  There was no way.  So we visited the other exhibits and made our way through the aquarium.  We were looking at the hippos in a giant tank filled with hippos, fish and hippo poo when I said, “Oh no, it’s 5 minutes til something-o’clock!”

Unable to run because of the surgery and my post-chemo fatigue, I asked my husband to push me over to the exhibit, an exhibit located almost all the way over on the opposite side of the aquarium.  He told me that it was impossible to get there in 5 minutes and that even if I did, I would never get near the tank and I would certainly never be chosen.

No matter.  I called in all of my favors and groveled, something I never ever never do with him.  I was determined.  So we weaved in and out of the crowds and crowds of people and finally made our way around after what felt like an eternity.  When we arrived near the entrance of the giant stingray room and pool, I emerged from the wheelchair and we left it outside.  I walked into a densely packed room filled with children and adults alike.  It was chaos.

And we were late.  They were asking the audience 4 questions.  4 people who were given the opportunity to answer the questions and who answered correctly would be invited into the tank.   The selection process had already begun.  I had already missed question 1.

Question 2 came and at least 50 hands shot up in a crowd of many more than that.  The tank-keeper wouldn’t even see me.  She selected a child in front and, with the assistance of her dad, the girl gave the correct answer.  Question 2 came.  50 or 60 more hands.  She chose a teenager in front who also answered correctly.

The final question came.  “What kind of seastar is this?”  I knew the answer.  My hand shot up with about 1,000 others.  She asked a child.  Wrong answer.  She asked an adult.  Wrong answer.  I was so buried in the crowd that she would never see me.

But then she pointed in my direction.  “The young lady with the longish red-brown hair.”

“Oh, that’s not me,” I thought.  “I have ugly short not red-brown ‘I’ve had lots of chemo’ hair.”

But then I remembered that I was wearing my lovely wig.  It was me.  She was asking me.  “A chocolate chip seastar,” I shouted!

It was the right answer and I was invited to come out of the crowd to get ready for my encounter.

It was incredible.  I changed out of my winter boots and into the crocs they offered me and we walked up the ramp to be debriefed.  We would be given dead fish parts to hold between our fingers and the rays would glide across our hands and take the carcasses into their mouths.

I could barely contain my excitement.  I had never done anything like this before.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com thirties 30s stingrays sting ray weekly photo challenge surprise hysterectomy twins aquarium camden, nj philadelphia mom motherhood infertilitySo I waded into the tank and began feeding these beautiful creatures.  It was an incredible experience.  And I made a new friend, a giant ray who seemed to want to climb into my lap like one of my dogs.  He didn’t take the food from me, but let me pet him as he slid up my shins and splashed me.

When it was over and we were washing our feet off and changing our shoes in the little prep room, I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the experience that I felt the need to say something to the tank’s keeper.

I told her that I was surprised to have been chosen.  Shocked, actually.  I told her that this was such a special experience for me because for the past 2 years I had been battling breast cancer.  She told me that I was so young and she gave me a hug.  She said that she was a 10 year breast cancer survivor.  She said that though they caught hers early, she still looks over her shoulder, wondering if it will return.  But she said that it also makes her grateful for every day that she is here.

I thanked her with tears in my eyes and we parted.  She felt good about her choice.  And I felt grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to wade with the stingrays.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

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/2012/12/21/weekly-photo-challenge-surprise/

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/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

A collection of photos for the changing seasons:

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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

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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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal — Confessions of a Former Mermaid

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One of my most favorite places in the world
cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge subject for this week is renewal.  The word can mean different things to different people.  But for me, one word comes to mind — SEA.

Perhaps I was a mermaid or a sea turtle in another life?  Or perhaps my love of the water is a genetic trait passed down for generations by my English and Scottish ancestors, much like my blue eyes and my dimples?

breast cancer mastectomy hawaii beauty ocean sea

Regardless of how difficult life can be and how sick I have felt at different points along this rocky road since the cancer diagnosis, there is always one place where I feel safe and healthy and whole again.  There is one place where I feel renewed.  And that is in the ocean.

Pools are lovely.  And the lake is okay.  But the sense of relief I feel when I walk into the ocean or into Florida’s warm gulf waters just doesn’t compare.  It is as if I am home again.  Let me swim in lovely warm sea water and I feel refreshed and renewed and ready to face the world again.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many opportunities to visit the water and I live in a region that is cold half of the year.  And the bathtub just doesn’t cut it!  So I live for our trips to the sea and hold fast to all of the memories I’ve made in the water… And I dream of the next time I will be able to immerse myself in Florida’s warm blue oasis.

—————————————

breast cancer bilateral mastectomy hawaii seaIt was almost 2 years ago when I was shifting treatments from Taxol (chemotherapy) to radiation.  I had a 10-day break in between, so we cashed in our credit card miles and flew to Hawaii.  I was terribly sick from 9 months of treatment.  I had a shiny bald head and was swollen from the steroids and kidney trouble.  And it hadn’t been that long since my mastectomy.  I was a disaster.  But the trip was a dream come true.  How fortunate I felt to be able to dip my toes into Hawaii’s alluring waters.  It was a little too chilly for swimming for my fragile body for most of the trip, but just having the opportunity to absorb so much beauty was incredibly uplifting and replenishing for my mind and soul.  Here are some of the photos from that unforgettable vacation.

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Thanks for reading!

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breast cancer thirties bilateral mastectomy hawaii plane ocean

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Sea Turtle

To participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/weekly-photo-challenge-renewal/

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry in Glass:

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

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

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

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/weekly-photo-challenge-geometry/