Life After Cancer

A little less of me.

The year began like any other with me writing goals for the year more so than resolutions. Years ago I wrote a blog about New Year’s resolutions. It came about due to so many people’s posts on Facebook about how they didn’t like New Year’s Resolutions or why they thought they were wrong or a waste of time. I personally felt that New Year’s Resolutions were more like goals you set for yourself. Sometimes we achieve our goals and other times we fail. What would life be like without failure? If we never set goals, never try at something, never fail, then what is the point? Why go about our lives day in and day out, year in and year out do the same thing over and over again? What is that quote….. “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein.  Failure often leads to one trying again or trying something different. At least it can. And so, I firmly believe in setting goals, New Year’s Resolutions, plans, lists, and revising them as needed in order to continue on in life.

I should look back and see what my goals were for 2016. I can’t even imagine what they were. When January 1, 2016 hit I already had three appointments on my calendar. One on January 5th for a biopsy of cells found in my right breast. And one on January 6th for a biopsy of a mass found in my left breast. The third appointment was set for January 11th and it was to find out the results of my biopsies. Although these appointments were in my calendar I set goals for the year. All of which were put on hold come January 11th when we were told I in fact had breast cancer.

The year quickly took on a new agenda which was to do what I needed to do to ensure many more years, decades with my family. As the year went on it continued to take a few turns here and there that were not on our original map. Each turn brought a different treatment, test or procedure. All of which contributed to our ultimate goal of many more years together in the future. I learned many great lessons throughout the year. Some of which included how amazing our friends truly are, how broad and wide our friend circle actually was, how to let others help us rather than us help others, how to receive blessings over and over again, how to allow my body, my mind and my heart time to heal and grieve, and how to accept that just when I thought it was time to go back to work, it wasn’t.

I started off 2016 with a whole body  accept for two small parts that had been removed when I was quite young, my tonsils and my appendix. This year alone I have lost (or had removed) both breasts (complete bilateral skin sparing mastectomy), some lymph nodes, my uterus, my fallopian tubes, my ovaries and my cervix. Just when I was starting to grieve the loss of my breasts and the acceptance of my foobs we found it was necessary for me to undergo a complete and radical hysterectomy. I put my grieving on hold and went into surgery. In 12 short months I have had 4 surgeries, 12 rounds of chemo, and about 19 IV Immunotherapy treatments. I have 6 more immunotherapy treatments to go which should wrap up in April/May of 2017. And now in December I am aware that there is a little less of me. In some ways they are just body parts, as crude as that may sound it is true. In other ways I know that as I reflect on them and on the changes to come I will begin to see and accept that they were more than body parts, they were a part of me. As 2016 comes to a close I find I want to take time to reflect on all of the good that came to us this year. The blessings are many. As I look forward to 2017 I envision time for reflection, time for grieving, time to share all of the changes in my body in hopes of helping others, and time to transition back into ‘normal’ life after treatment as the year progresses. I will once again write down New Year’s Resolutions and look forward to seeing how they play out over the course of the year.

31 Days of Writing

Day 2 Discovering Me – 31 Days

Thankfully the 31 Day Challenge officially starts on October 1 and I as getting a head start. I already missed Day 2! There just was no time to write yesterday. Well, other than if I had set an alarm and gotten up earlier or if I had stayed up past my bedtime and wrote then. As you can see, that didn’t happen.

So back to my questions. Where did I leave off? Am I the friend I want to be? Am I the woman I want to be? I am sure there are more areas of my life that could be brought into question. For the sake of time and to not beat a dead horse with this one way of discovering me, I will answer these two and move on to other avenues of discovery.

2016 has been an interesting year for me and for my family. On January 11, 2016 I was officially told that I had breast cancer. DCIS and IDC in the right breast that was triple positive and grade 3. DCIS stands for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. IDC stands for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and means some cancer cells had moved outside of the duct. Triple positive refers to the fact that my cancer cells tested positive for Estrogen, Progesterone and HER2. Apparently my cells fed off of my own hormones and protein to help them grow and multiply at a fast rate. Grade 3 on a scale of 1-4 determines how aggressive my type of cancer was. Plainly said it was aggressive. The good news was we caught it REALLY early. It was classified as Stage 1. It would have been Stage 0 except it was just slightly over the maximum size for that stage. It could have been Stage 2 but thankfully it had not spread to my lymph nodes and the size was small enough to stay in the Stage 1 category. With early detection and aggressive treatment my outlook is extremely bright!

In light of the treatment that lay ahead I set up a Helping Hands Calendar. A friend of a friend had told me about it when we were emailing about cancer treatment. It sounded like a terrific idea. You set up a calendar and post your needs for rides to Dr Appt, treatment, meals to be delivered, house cleaning, whatever. People can sign up for whatever items fit their schedule, budget and energy/commitment level. You don’t have to ask and hear no or call 10 different people trying to find someone who can help you. And your friends don’t have to feel guilty saying no. It is perfect in my opinion. In setting it up I realized that I had to invite people to join the calendar as it is private. Here is where I got a little nervous. Who would want to be added to my calendar? What if no one did? Or only a couple of friends. What if I was asking for too much help? I made a post on Facebook explaining what I was doing and asking anyone who wanted to be added to reply to my post. The response blew me out of the water! When all was said and done I had 72 friends signed up on the Helping Hands Calendar. The biggest complaint I got was that every time they logged in to sign up all of the opportunities were already taken. I’m not joking, they complained. My hear was beyond overwhelmed with how people responded. I posted this on Facebook and several friends told me something along these lines, “You are one of the most giving, generous people we all know. It is finally time that we can give to you.” A compliment like that was hard for me to receive. I can think of all the times I have failed a friend, didn’t reach out, hurt someone’s feelings, didn’t jump at the chance to help someone because I had too much going on. And here they were telling me that they see all of the times I/we do reach out and help others. If I made a list (I wouldn’t because it would so look like bragging in a terrible way) of all of the things Tom and I have done to help others, it would be long indeed. We don’t do them to earn points or keep a standing record or toot our own horn. We do them out of a sincere appreciation for the life we have, the help I received in the past and the love we want to share. Our friends let us know in a very mighty way that they see that and were standing ready to give back to us. What a joy!

Am I the friend I want to be? If I had answered the question myself I am sure it would have started with the times I have failed and a hope to be an even better friend. Instead I will look to what our friends said and showed us this year and say, Yes I am the friend that I want to be. I hope I continue to be that friend all the more as the years go on.

The last question, Am I the woman I want to be? I will have to answer that one tomorrow as my time for writing today is coming to a close.

31 Days of Writing

31 Day Challenge

A friend of mine posted that she has accepted a 31 Day Challenge. It’s a writing challenge actually. Apparently it’s not new. In fact this is the 8th year this particular site has had this challenge. The challenge starts on October 1st and runs through October 31st. When you accept the challenge you agree to write every day for 31 days on a specific topic you have chosen. Not a different topic every day, but instead something in regards to the same topic every day. I guess in some ways that makes it easy and in some ways it makes it difficult. On the one hand you might think you would run out of things to say about the same topic day after day over the course of 31 days. On the other hand sticking to the same topic means you do not waste time each day determining the basis of your writing. It can also help you go more in depth rather than just touching the surface of a particular topic. I was intrigued by this challenge for many reasons. The most obvious being that I love to write and am always saying that I need to get back to writing. I complain (let’s be honest here, it is complaining) that I do not have or make time each day to write and I wish I could/would. I have promised myself repeatedly that I would make it a priority only to fail time and time again. It always seems there is something else that requires my attention that I deem more important. Another reason I am intrigued is that it gives me a reason to write every day. I mean, who doesn’t love a challenge? If I am challenged to do it then I have to do it! I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it to fulfill the challenge! The fact that the challenge website gave category and topic suggestions made it all the more easy for me. I perused the ideas and past year bloggers and immediately felt inspired. In a matter of what felt like seconds I knew my topic would be, Discovering Me in 31 Days. The topic is focused enough being about myself and yet broad enough because, who am I anyway? Maybe each day I will ask myself a question and write out the response. Or maybe I will share experiences from the past that have molded and shaped who I am today. Or maybe I will contemplate what hasn’t been, what could be if only and what I would do or be if only there were no limits. The options are endless and only limited by me, my imagination, the time, effort and thought I am willing to put into it. I contemplated joining the challenge through the website as my friend is doing. In order to do so you needed to sign up, create a linky thing that is a button people (other writers) can click on that directs them directly to your 31 days of blogs, and then link up on October 1 and begin writing. Each day that you write you copy and paste the latest days writing to the linky thing so people can read just those posts on your blog. I headed down the road to create the linky thing and determined that part wasn’t for me. Instead I will just write on here for 31  days in the same spirit of sticking to one topic and doing it daily. The hope is not only to discover me but to also begin a habit of daily writing that will lead to a book or two that I have always wanted to write. So, let the journey begin a day or two early as I embark upon Discovering Me in the next 31 (or 35 days).