Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 428

I have a question for my fellow survivors:

 How do you feel about the pink ribbon?

When you see this:  

 what comes to mind?

I know too many breast cancer survivors.  Some are from my "real" life like my sister-in-law and my BFF.  There are a lot more that I know from my online support groups (some of whom I've met in person).  There are differing opinions between all of these ladies regarding the pink ribbon.  Some of them despise it.  They don't want any reminders that they had cancer and hate what it stands for.  They are appalled that the world makes a profit from marketing breast cancer.  But some of them, like me, embrace it and believe it stands for something else - hope.

Last week I had lunch with one of my KCA sisters, a fellow survivor, and she complimented my pink ribbon necklace.  She said it was pretty, but that she can't bring herself to wear anything that displays the fact that she had cancer.  She told me she hates that she had cancer.  That's no surprise - I hate the fact that I had cancer, too.  I don't wear the pink ribbon stuff to bring attention to myself or to advertise that I've had cancer.  I don't think the world needs more pink ribbons to bring awareness to breast cancer.  The world is more than aware of breast cancer.

I choose to wear my pink ribbon in support of my friends and family who have bravely fought this disease before or alongside me.  I choose to wear it because I'm damn proud of myself for fighting through treatment and coming out on the other side.  I'm older, wiser, scarred and scared, but I'm alive, and to me, that's what the pink ribbon stands for.  

In the morning when I put on my pink beaded bracelet that has a ribbon charm and says "survivor" on it, and when I put on one of the pink ribbon necklaces or my Relay for Life survivor shirt, I think "I'm a fighter".

Score one for me, cancer!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 427

Breast Cancer Awareness month is coming to a close, and I've been reflecting on how much survivors appreciate life.  When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are immediately faced with your own mortality.  I know that nobody knows when their time will come.  You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  Or struck by lightning during the next storm.  Or catch Ebola.  But a cancer survivor faces all of the normal risks of life PLUS they walk around with the knowledge that there was a disease in their body that tried to kill them, and it could come back at any time.  Every time you have an ache or pain, or you find a new lump, or you feel more tired than normal - you automatically wonder:  is it cancer?

I can't say that I don't still sweat the small stuff.  I'm OCD, so of course I do.  But I try really hard not to stress over things I can't control.  I laugh off more things than I used to.  I treasure each moment with my husband and my kids, even normal everyday times, or times when they are grouchy.  Or I am.  One of my KCA sisters turned her trip to meet us in Vegas into a month-long camping journey with her husband.  They've been across the country from Tennessee and back, seeing things like the Grand Canyon and the St. Louis arch.  Another of my KCA sisters who was pregnant while going through chemo (can you imagine?) just posted pictures from Hawaii where they are celebrating her baby's first birthday.  Amazing, and inspiring.
The most important lesson I've learned over the last year and a half, a lesson that my fellow survivors have also learned:  Every day is a gift.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 426

If that doesn't put a smile on your face, there's something wrong with you.

And I definitely need a smile after staying up until midnight only to watch my beloved Cowboys lose in overtime to the dreaded Redskins.  Ugh.  Yes, Abilene people, I'm aware that Colt McCoy is somewhat of a hometown hero and he had a great night.  I don't care.  The Cowboys LOST.
Monday Night Football, you're killing me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 424

Sometimes I feel so youthful and healthy, it makes me think I can't possibly be 41 years old and someone who has had cancer.

Then I get out of bed after twelve hours standing at a softball tournament, after a week filled with two trips to Fort Worth for physical therapy, two softball games, a 7th grade football game, a road trip to the high school football game, a work day and then five softball games on Saturday and I realize maybe I'm not so youthful after all!  I slept for almost twelve hours and I'm still tired.  Everything hurts and I feel like I ran a marathon!

The irony is that after all of that, I had restless legs last night and had to ride my exercise bike at midnight before I could even go to bed!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 420

Today marks another milestone in the kicking cancer's ass journey:  my first post-chemo haircut.  I feel so brave.  Anyone who has been bald for any length of time knows that you are grateful to have any hair again once it grows back.  Even though my hair is super short, super curly, mostly gray and not at all "me", I'm so grateful to not be wearing wigs and hats like I was this time last year.  After losing my hair, I confess that it was extremely difficult to part with any of it now that it's back...even this tiny bird's nest that was trimmed today:

I'm so thankful for my friend T who not only gave me a great trim, but she came to my house to do it!  How many of you have a hairdresser that makes house calls?  She is sweet and funny and fun, and it's a bonus that she has talent working with my impossible hair.  I still have the look of a little old lady with an 80's perm, but at least I can sort of tame the front, and I really like the end result.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 419

Today is my biweekly lunch date with my friend S.  
She's been a little down lately, so this is for her:

I love you, Friend. 
 You are beautiful inside and out, and your friendship is a blessing in my life.

On a side note, I want to shout out a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dad.  Today he celebrates #74.  Considering two months ago we weren't even sure he'd still be here, this birthday is even more of a blessing.  Keep up the good work, Dad.  Remember - you are a FIGHTER!  
Happy Birthday.  We love you. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 418

Every Sunday the ladies in my Facebook group "KCA Strong" take pictures and post these as "Sunday Selfies".  It started out months ago as a way to compare and encourage each other's hair re-growth.  We continue the tradition because I think we're all still wishing for longer hair, plus it's a fun way to keep "seeing" each other.  One of the Sunday selfies this week showed one of my friends after she finished the Susan G. Komen 3-Day this past weekend.

Two years ago I looked into doing this.  It sounds crazy - walking sixty miles (yes, 60) in three days, and camping in tents at night.  I was inspired by my BFF's breast cancer diagnosis that year, though, and wanted to do something to make a difference.  Two things kept me from signing up.  Sixty miles is a long freaking walk, and I don't know of anyone who would do it with me.  Also, many people are not fans of the Susan G. Komen organization (myself included) because of the way it distributes its money.  For a "charity" that brings in millions, only a fraction of that goes to breast cancer research.  Most of it goes right back into the pink "campaign" or even worse, to pad executives pockets.

After seeing my friend's pictures of her weekend in Atlanta, I really, really want to do this next year.  Not because I want to support Susan G. Komen.  Because I want to support me.  I want to support the other women who have faced this beast.  I want to set a seemingly impossible goal and have something to work toward.  I saw the video my KCA friend posted of herself walking through the crowd with all of the other survivors and I had tears in my eyes.  If I find it that touching to watch someone I've never even met walk, how would I feel actually doing it?  I want to find out.

Susan G Komen 3-Day - Dallas, TX - November 6-8, 2015

Anyone crazy enough to do it with me?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 417

I read a post online today, something someone in the public eye had written, and it really made me think.  It was written by a woman who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  In my quest for information and support, since d-day I have come across countless articles and followed many, many women throughout their fight.  I still do.  Anyway, this particular lady has had surgery and chemo, so while I know everyone responds and reacts differently, I pretty much know exactly what she's going through, considering I've been there.  It sucks, and I feel sorry for her, or anyone else who has to face this beast like I did, but sometimes she comes across as such a whiner.  That makes me sound really judgmental, and I hate that.  Let me try to explain my feelings about this.

Like this woman, I made the decision to bring my fight to the public eye.  Granted, my little blog reaches only a tiny fraction of the audience she does, but still.  I chose to share every day of my treatment - the good, the bad and the ugly.  Through it all, I tried to remain myself.  I didn't want to become Michelle the cancer patient.  I am Michelle who happened to have cancer.  I have followed this lady's posts from the beginning of her journey, and since day one, I've been wondering if I ever gave my readers that same self-pitying vibe that I get from reading her words.

Every cancer patient instantly becomes selfish and self-centered when diagnosed.  You have to.  Immediately the focus switches from everyday life to fighting for your life, and things that might seem trivial to others are suddenly a huge deal to you.  Cancer has a sneaky way of taking over every aspect of your life if you let it.  However, I know that there are millions of other women battling right beside me.  This woman writes like she's the first person to ever have breast cancer.  I sympathize with her, and definitely harbor no ill will toward her.  I respect her for her honesty and her openness.  What she's going through is a nightmare, plain and simple.  But she's not the only woman who has had her hair, her breasts and life as she knew it stolen by cancer.

I realize not everyone can put on a brave face and wake each day planning to be strong.  I know I didn't.  Cancer and its treatment is no picnic.  I've had my share of "woe is me" days for sure.  I don't always feel strong, and every day I hate what cancer has done to me.  I just hope I haven't brought my readers, my supporters, down by feeling sorry for myself.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 416

One of my friends posted this on Facebook yesterday and it really struck a chord with me.  I know I can be a pushover and maybe I'm a little bit naive, but I truly believe in those words.  I wish everyone would mean what they say, say what they mean and always do what they say.  But not everyone does.  In fact, most people don't.  In my experience, people say what they think you want to hear, or they say what makes them look good.  It's just human nature.  Not everyone is like that.  Some people are honest to a fault.  While I value honesty, I also crave peace.  Sometimes I choose not to enter a battle, even if I'm right, because peace is better.  

After the year I've had, and knowing that every day I wake up is a gift, I don't want to waste my time and energy on negativity.  Sometimes being right isn't most important...being a good person, being a supportive wife and mom, being a caring friend, as well as being someone people want to be around - that's what I strive for every day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 413

Lucky number thirteen.

Thirteen years ago today I married my Hubby. Little did I know how smart I was. He is my rock, my best friend, my helpmate, my biggest supporter and the love of my life. We've had some highs and some lows, but through them all we've remained a team. I can't wait for the next thirteen years.

Hubby, I love you to the moon and back. I can't imagine going through this crazy thing called life without you.

Happy Anniversary!

Today is also Allyson's birthday. Friend, I hope you have the exact dessert you want in heaven. If anyone deserves to be a birthday princess, it's you. I miss you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 412

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas... But I had such a fabulous weekend that I'm going to share with you.

My friend K and I flew to Vegas on Saturday (which was an adventure in and of itself - and not in a good way).  My KCA sisters (ladies I met on breastcancer.org who all went through chemo the same time as me last fall) planned this weekend as kind of a "one year later" celebration. 

There were eight of us who visited from all over the country, all different ages and lifestyles, but all sharing the same diagnosis.  We all kicked cancer's ass and have the t-shirt to prove it!

K is from the Pacific Northwest and was instrumental in creating our itinerary, making dinner reservations and providing much appreciate taxi service in her rental car.

P is from Minnesota and is extremely energetic, extremely funny and shared some great post-cancer dating stories. Go P!!

V is from Chicago. She and her husband made the trip (we never saw him) and she is extremely nice. Unfortunately she received some bad news while we were there and they had to leave unexpectedly. I'm keeping her and her family in my prayers.

K is a firefighter, a mom and so tall, thin and graceful that I felt short and frumpy next to her! She's shy, caring and is my chemo hair twin.

G is my fellow Texan in the group.  I've met her before and really enjoyed seeing her again. She's older than me, has more kids than me, and is a grandmother, and she can rock a bikini!!

K is the most "seasoned" of our group, but man, she is a youthful 62!  She is so pleasant to be around, and her husband is the perfect travel companion. He was also the designated photographer. They made a camping road trip out of this vacation, driving from Tennessee to Vegas and back. Safe travels!

A was the local, having lived in Vegas for over twenty years. She is exactly my age, has two kids (we met her daughter, what a sweetheart) and works room service at one of the hotels! I'm so grateful for her willingness to shuttle me around when I needed rides - and for sharing her 99 cent fan. She's also a Cowboys fan, so lots to like there!

Some random observations:

- Spa days are wonderful
- A trip is not complete without a visit to Urgent Care (K was stung by a bee and she's allergic)
- Bahama Breeze serves one heck of a strawberry daquiri.  I'm not a fan of yucca fries, though. Yuck indeed!
- Front row seats to the Cirque de Soleil Love show were amazing!  I swear, though, the person who created that show must have been stoned at the time. It was amazing and bizarre and entertaining and funny and so OUT THERE I wouldn't even begin to know how to describe it.
- There are still good people in this world. P lost her phone while hiking yesterday, and when she got home to Minnesota today she had a message that it was found and turned in!
- I am not a fan of American Airlines after this trip
- My friend K really knows how to liven up a blackjack table
- Watching the Cowboys win on Sunday with my brother after a peppermint foot massage and a phone call from our dad made for a pretty spectacular day.

We've already picked a weekend to do this all again next year, and I hope even more of our group can make it.

What a wonderful weekend.  Kicking cancer's ass indeed!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 407

Today Hubby and I are in Dallas for a three month check up with Dr L, my breast surgeon. I'm not having any serious problems so I am expecting this to be an uneventful (but probably lengthy) appointment.

What's on my mind today isn't my appointment with the surgeon but my mom's appointment with a surgeon.

I've been reluctant to write this post. I don't know if I just haven't been ready to put it "on paper" so to speak, or maybe I'm just hesitant to shout my mom's news out to the world.  My mom has cancer.  That's the bad news (and it's really lousy news, especially on the heels of my dad's heart attack and stroke two months ago, on top of the lousy last fifteen months I've had).  The good news is that the cancer is contained to the one mass in her colon, so hopefully she will only need surgery and be good as new.

Mom, if you're reading this and uncomfortable with me sharing your own journey along with mine, know that I only do so because you're so close to my heart. I have a lot of people who pray for me, and I figure you'll take all the prayers you can get.

Want to know something bizarre? I have said all along that while I love my BFF, I really could have done without being exactly like her (same exact cancer diagnosis at almost the same age  ).  Here's the kicker:  my BFF's mom had cancer, too.  Mom and I are just doing it in reverse order. 

Hey Trude - why don't you win the lottery or something like that??  I'd much rather shadow you on THAT journey!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 405

A strange phenomenon I've noticed since I finished chemo in December is my ability to go, go, go until I eventually need to crash and sleep for about eighteen hours.  Even when I'm not fighting radiation fatigue or recovering from surgery, I'm still so tired.  I'm not kidding.  It's like my body uses up all of its available resources and then I'm completely wiped out for almost a day.

Yesterday was that day.

I had a sick kiddo at home but even that couldn't keep me from taking a nap in the afternoon.  And when I say "afternoon", I mean all afternoon!  I told J I was going to lay down around 1:30pm to take a nap.  I set my alarm for 3:30 so I could be awake when K gets off the bus.  I despise my alarm most times it goes off, but especially at 3:30 in the afternoon when I've slept for ninety minutes but need to sleep for about ninety hours.  Luckily Hubby was already home from work, so I told him I needed to go back to sleep.  I slept until after 6pm.  Seriously.  Who does that?

Apparently a long weekend during which I spent hours and hours at the softball fields on my feet, in the heat, in the cold, picking up trash and buckling chin straps caught up with me.  I think this whole I-feel-like-I-could-sleep-for-a-year thing has gotten worse since my surgery in August.  Menopause seriously saps your energy.

On a non-sleepy note, I had a bone density test yesterday morning.  I've had CT scans, PET scans, mammograms, ultrasounds, blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, biopsies.... but never a bone density test.  Since I was thrown into menopause at such a young age, they will monitor my bones to watch out for osteoporosis.  The fun never ends!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 404

Six games, three days, one trophy!  
So proud of these undefeated Lady Diamonds!  It's extra special to me because this was a Breast Cancer Awareness tournament. So many teams bringing pink to the field, the league is donating money to a local charity and our team took home first place. What a weekend! 

Kicking cancer's ass - day 403

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, every day one of my friends has been honoring someone in her life who has been touched by this disease.  She's been posting pictures on Facebook and writing beautiful tributes to people she cares about.  Yesterday she picked me:

This week I have been honoring a hero of breast cancer! Today I would like to honor a sweet person that I have learned so much through watching her battle. Not only have I learned how strong she is in her small frame but also how to love a person through their battle. Watching her kids and her husband love her and be there for her during all the good and bad days! Respect is not a strong enough word for what I feel about her, her fight and her family. Michelle was always a mother and wife first and a cancer patient second!! Today Michelle Burleson you are my hero!! Love you lady!!

Dustee Robinson - in addition to my incredible husband and kids, my loving family and supportive circle of friends, it is because of people like you that I'm strong enough to fight this fight.  Knowing people keep me in their prayers and cheer me on in my fight makes all the difference.  Thank you for your sweet words.  You made my day.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 402

One thing nobody told me about, and I didn't expect, is extreme discomfort ten months after my breast surgery.  The muscles on my left side, across the front of my shoulder, under my arm and down the inside of my arm are so tight it's painful.  It doesn't help that I haven't been very diligent about doing my exercises.  My range of motion on that side is pathetic.  If I had to bring my arm straight up over my head, the pain would bring me to my knees.  My left side was dealt a triple whammy with the mastectomy, radiation and having the tissue expander in for almost a year.  Flexibility just isn't happening.

The worst part is the feeling I get when I try to massage that area or stretch those muscles.  I can't even describe it... it's like the pain is so sharp that it turns my stomach.  When I'm laying on the floor stretching my arm over my head, I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin to get away from the awful feeling.  It's a vicious cycle - I need to do the stretches to loosen up the muscles, but it hurts really bad so I don't do them, and I end up even tighter.

No pain, no gain, right?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 401

This weekend K's softball league is hosting a Breast Cancer Awareness tournament.  This picture shows the poster our team made in honor of me.  It's so beautiful.  In fact, K even asked if she can hang it in her room after this weekend.  Ha!  

I don't know what I would do without my Lady Diamonds family.  I love you all so much.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 400

Wow.  Day 400.  Four hundred freaking days since I started kicking cancer's ass.
Just let that sink in.
Ok....moving on.
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.... how can you help?

First of all, check your girls.  Or check your girl's girls.  Guys - check yourself out, too, because it can happen to you.  Know what your "normal" is.  Listen to your body.  Getting a mammogram isn't always enough.  I had three mammograms that never showed anything, even when I had a 4cm tumor.  Scary, huh?  Get checked, and if you're concerned, push the issue.  Better to be safe and be wrong, than wait and be right.  Being right, in this case, sucks.

Second, pray and support the women (and men) fighting the fight.  If seeing a pink ribbon on the back of the car in front of you makes you think of me, or someone else you know, then that pink ribbon did its job.  Every breast cancer patient has a different journey.  Some are longer than others, some are more arduous than others, some are more successful than others.  Everyone walking this road has a fight on their hands, and it's life-changing.  We need all the help we can get.

Third, put your money where your mouth is.  If you want to donate, make sure you are giving to an organization that actually does put their money where their mouth is.  Susan G. Komen is not one of them.  Most of their revenue goes right back into the "Pinktober" stuff, or worse, pads the organization's pockets.  If you don't know of a local organization that could benefit from some help, then you can always give to the American Cancer Society.  I believe you can even designate if you want your gift to go towards breast cancer.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 399

It's October.  You know what that means.  Pink everywhere.  Are you aware of breast cancer?  I'm pretty sure you are.  I know for damn sure I am!  Many, many breast cancer survivors have negative feelings towards breast cancer awareness month.  In a way, I get it.  I mean, who isn't aware of breast cancer?  And most of the pink ribbon stuff you see is just a gimmick - people making money off of it instead of "supporting the cause".  

However, because I am so aware of breast cancer, the whole "Pinktober" thing doesn't bother me.  In a way, I kind of embrace it.  Breast cancer has changed my life.  Both of my grandmothers and my Hubby's mom died from this awful disease.  My best friend, my best friend's mom, my sister-in-law... they are all survivors, too.  In a couple of weeks I am going to Las Vegas to meet a group of women who were in the trenches with me this time last year, and have all come out the other side.  We even had shirts made, and the back says "Friends don't let friends fight cancer alone."  I don't make it my mission to advertise that I had cancer, and I don't really think breast cancer awareness is the problem.  Breast cancer is the problem.  

I don't wear pink to make people aware.  I don't wear my pink ribbon necklace so people will know I had breast cancer.  I support "the cause", because in turn, I'm supporting the women who have been and are right there with me.  Fighting cancer is a big, huge deal, and every day that I wake up breathing and smiling is a big fat "f-you" to cancer.  And that's worth wearing pink for!