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, December 31, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 854

Today is the last day of 2015.  
After spending the last 2 1/2 years going to my multitude of doctors, enduring countless tests and procedures, taking medicine, having a bunch of surgeries (did you remember there were 7 of them?) and recovering from those surgeries, I'm looking forward to what I hope will be an uneventful new year.

I don't usually make new year's resolutions, because no matter how good my intentions, I never stick to them.  I'm making an exception this year.  In addition to the one in the picture above (because we could all be more awesome, in my opinion), my resolution is to NOT max out my health insurance coverage next year.  Ha ha.  After reaching the catastrophic limit three years in a row, it would be nice to keep my insurance claims to a minimum (if there is such a thing for a cancer survivor).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 848

Christmas 2015

A wonderfully quiet, peaceful day with my little family.

The kids woke us up early to open presents.  We had a baked pastry (a.k.a. too many calories) for breakfast, snacked and napped off and on during the day and enjoyed a delicious Christmas meal for dinner.  We capped off the night with a movie (Big Hero 6 which I hadn't seen before and thoroughly enjoyed!).  

Everyone is happy with their gifts.  
My heart is full.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 847

I am so thankful to be spending another Christmas, happy and healthy, with the people most important to me.  Every holiday, every birthday, every day after cancer is a milestone, and I don't take any of it for granted.

To my Hubby:
You are my true north.  In a couple of weeks we'll have reached sixteen years since we logged on and said hello for the first time.  I've never been so grateful for anything in my life as I am for the night I "met" you.  You have changed my life for the better.  You have given me children who mean the world to me.  Your family has become my family.  You are my rock, my sounding board, my shoulder to cry on, the one person I can count on no matter what.  You make me laugh every day.  Your hugs make everything better.  Your steady support has gotten me through the absolute worst time of my life.  Home is wherever you are.  You have my heart forever.

To my children:
You are the lights of my life.  You drive me crazy in the ways only a teenage boy and a preteen girl could do, but I couldn't have asked for more incredible children.  Your pure hearts, your compassion, your creativity and imaginations, your thoughtfulness and delight in the world around you make me so proud to be your mom.  My life would not be the same without softball games, band concerts and Minecraft conversations.

To my parents:
You are two of the best people I've ever known.  You have both suffered severe, awful medical setbacks and have handled them with dignity and grace, and unbelievable strength.  You love unconditionally and have shown me who I want to be when I grow up.  Thank you for raising me right.

To my brother:
I miss you.  I'm sorry that you've had a rough time.  I'm so glad I was able to see you last month and get a hug from my big brother.  You're the guy who first introduced me to football and the Dallas Cowboys (to my Hubby's delight).  You appreciate the novelty of Peanuts greeting cards even though we are not kids anymore.  You love my kids in the way only a fun uncle can, and I know you are here in spirit, even when you can't be with us.  I hope 2016 is your year.

To my BFF:
I promise to make more time for you.  Life has a way of going crazy, as you well know.  We've both been dealt the same hand.... a husband, two busy kids, cancer, moms with cancer..... but you've been the one constant in my life since we were 12.  I hate that phone calls and texts are all we have, because you are the most fun.  Your friendship is what I wish for every girl to have.  You "get" me.  We can talk every week or not talk for two months, and still we can pick up where we left off.  I hope we get our New York time in this summer (and maybe a concert!), but if not, we will have to figure out a time/place to visit.  I miss you.

To Sharon:
Ten years of friendship. Wow, we're getting old.  You are a true and faithful friend.  You have my back no matter what.  I can always count on you for a laugh, a hug and an entertaining story.  Life has its ups and downs, and even during the "downs", you make me smile. 

To Marti (and Emily):
I can't even begin to explain what your friendship has meant to me and my girl.  K and I were dealt a huge blow earlier this year, and you've helped us pick up the pieces by becoming our posse.  I love love love that K has a BFF who is sweet, fun, funny and who loves my girl as much as my girl loves Emily.  Thank you for being there for me.  Your hugs, your dugout duty in relief, your late night text conversations over things that amuse us..... the world could use a lot more people like you and I'm lucky I get to call you friend.

To the Lady Diamonds peeps:
You guys are my family.  Five years ago I never knew how important softball would become to me.  Your girls are my girls.  Their parents are my friends.  I love our team.  We have drama and fun, wins and losses, laughter and tears, and through it all, I wouldn't trade the Diamonds for anything. 

To Kim and Kala:

To Shadow:
My faithful companion.... my world is a little dimmer since you passed on earlier this year.  You were a part of my life for 19 years.... almost half my life.  I couldn't have asked for a better kitty, and I hope you and Pumpkin are happy to be reunited.  You were the best and I miss you.

My son asked me earlier what I wanted for Christmas.  I told him I have everything I want, and I meant it.  I've been a cancer survivor since August 1, 2013.  I have a wonderful husband, fantastic kids, true friends, a loving family.  I get paid to work with my husband, who happens to be my favorite person in the world.  I have two amazing breast cancer support groups through which I've been able to meet the most incredible women.  I was able to see my mom get married, and walk my first 5k in Vegas (and eat gummy bears) with another wonderful friend, 

Life is good.  And I am thankful.
Merry Christmas to all of the blessings in my life.  I am rich because of you.
Now "Let It Be Christmas"

Kicking cancer's ass - day 846

Merry Little Christmas.

If you don't know what that is, you're obviously not of Norwegian/Scandinavian descent.  Ha!

In my family, we've always celebrated "little Christmas".  In Norway, people open gifts on Christmas Eve.  We still open our presents on Christmas morning, but the elves fill our stockings on LITTLE Christmas Eve, so we open them on Christmas Eve morning.  Takes a little bit of the Christmas anticipation edge off, and makes you the envy of all the other kids when you get something from Santa before anyone else!

Christmas Eve is also the last visit from Heart.  Our busy little elf will be going back home to the North Pole tomorrow night -  Christmas Eve - until next year.  As you can see, she had to get all dressed up for her final performance this Christmas season.

Today is also a special day for another reason:  it marks the final step in the reconstruction process for me.  This afternoon I had an appointment at my plastic surgery clinic with the tattoo artist.  Guess what?  Almost two years exactly from the day I had my breasts removed, I have complete breasts again.  They were constructed from fat from other parts of my body, they are scarred, they have little to no feeling and the nipples are fake.  But they look like breasts.  Finally.

I have to wear bandages on them for five days and may need a touch-up session in a few months (because scar areas don't absorb the ink the same way as regular skin so it might look uneven), but over the next month or so, I should be able to look down and see something I haven't seen since January 3, 2014.

God willing, this will be the last in the long line of tests, procedures, treatments and surgeries I've endured over the last 27 months.  I hope to stay on this end of the cancer battle, only seeing my doctors every six months for them to tell me "everything looks good".  If the worst things I have to complain about are my achy joints, restless legs and extra ten (or thirty) pounds, I'm calling it good.

Merry Little Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 845

I don't want to jinx myself, but tomorrow is (hopefully) my last doctor's appointment for the year.

Scheduling a trip to Dallas the week of Christmas isn't my idea of fun, but when you've maxed out your insurance three years in a row, you learn to fit as much into a calendar year as possible while it's paid 100%!  Tomorrow's appointment is at my plastic surgeon's office.  Unfortunately Dr T is out of the office, so another doctor will have to see me.  Just what I want, someone ELSE looking at my naked chest.  Ha.  One of the worst things about going to the plastic surgeon is that they take pictures.  Lots of pictures.  One of the best things about going to the plastic surgeon is that I don't have to get on the scale.

This appointment should be the final step in my reconstruction process, and then I can hopefully be on "see you in six months" visits with ALL of my doctors.

845 days.... about damn time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 839

Someone send get better vibes to my house.

My issues are nothing new.  Everything hurts.  BAD.  My knees crack when I stand up, sit down or climb stairs.  I have no strength in my wrists or elbows and even my ankles feel the hurt.  I have a newfound sympathy for people who suffer from arthritis.  It sucks.  
I can't sleep because I can't sleep and because everything gets restless as soon as my back hits the bed, especially my legs.  I'm trying a switcheroo today and taking my Arimidex (a.k.a. the devil) at night in hopes of being more awake during the day and more sleepy during the night.  We shall see.

The other day J stepped on a piece of glass in the bathroom.  We're guessing it was from a light bulb Hubby dropped which then broke.  Poor guy has been limping for days.  We think the glass splinter is gone, but it's hard to tell on the bottom of a foot.  He somehow hurt his back, too, and has confiscated my back massage pillow.  I love that he gets a good workout in during off-season football, but it makes me worry a little bit that he might overdo it with the weights.

Today was just another in a string of bad days for K.  She had a bad stomach ache at school and had to leave before her Christmas party even began.  Monday she stayed home because she still wasn't feeling good after being sick (throwing up) on Sunday.  At her softball tournament Saturday she hit herself in the mouth with her bat and busted her lip and cut her gum.  Luckily the tooth she hit is a baby tooth.

Hubby is the only one with no real issues right now, other than his usual aches and pains and some sniffles.  It's probably just a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

Then we can all be miserable for Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 836

Insomniac blogging...

I feel like a newborn baby who has her nights and days mixed up.
I wonder when I will ever have a good night's sleep again.  I'm sleepy when I wake up.  I'm exhausted by late afternoon.  I make myself go to bed around 10-11pm.  Then I wake up all night long.  And when I do sleep, I have crazy, crazy dreams.

4am seems to be my magic hour.  I wake up, almost wide awake, around that time every night.  Nothing is wrong.  I usually get up to use the bathroom.  I'll wander to the kitchen to get a drink.  Sometimes I'll check the weather on my computer.  Then I go back to bed, eventually fall back asleep, and then curse my alarm when it goes off an hour or two later.

Yesterday I dozed on the couch for more than an hour.  I guess that little bit was enough to keep me up.  I made myself go to bed at midnight.  I tossed and turned, made it through a couple of hot flashes by flipping my pillow over to the cooler side, and finally gave up a few minutes ago.

If the rain hasn't put a damper on it, we have to be at the fields by 7am for an 8am softball game.  Getting up at 5:45 is going to be loads of fun when I'm still wide awake at 1am.

I miss the days when I could fall asleep anywhere and sleep through an apocalypse.
Think Hubby would notice if I tried this?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 831

I want to share something that one of my KCA sisters shared.  It's from a blog written by a cancer survivor named Betsy Hnath.  I'm also sharing the link so credit goes where it's due.

I could not have written anything more eloquent or more accurate about life after cancer.

Sailing the Waves of Cancer

It’s been four years since my diagnosis with stage II breast cancer: One and a half of them I spent in treatment, the other two and a half I spent dealing with the aftermath.

As time passes, and my emotional ship sails in relative equilibrium for longer stretches, I try to spend more time on the deck, taking in my surroundings, living in the moment. Then cancer sends up a flare in the distance and my attention is shifted: A random pain, tightness in my chest, or some extra fatigue. These bright, red burning lights remind me it is always there, hovering, perhaps waiting to attack again.

Sometimes cancer is a cannon, launching its missile close enough to graze my bow, as it has recently. When I hear that close friends, young friends, healthy friends have been diagnosed, I begin to sway. I know they will soon begin building their own ship and join the growing fleet that surrounds me of loving, faithful, undeserving patients. I mourn for their loss of the “old normal.” I know what it does to you.

I have to sit back and powerlessly watch during the excruciating 2-3 weeks it takes to learn everything they can about their enemy through scans and tests, and formulate their plan of attack. Nothing can be done to slow down or speed up that time.

I can tell them what I know from experience: that this is the worst of it, this first part. Shifting uncomfortably in scratchy, paper gowns as you wait in sterile, silent exam rooms; the inability to get the smell of hand sanitizer out of your nose; shaking hands with one doctor after another as he or she flips through your life, which has been neatly assembled onto a clipboard. How you can go from feeling normal to completely despondent, sometimes within the same ten-minute span. That ache, burning in your chest, as you inhale yesterday’s Suave when you bend down and kiss your children’s heads as they sleep, wondering how many more nights you’ll get to do it. I can prepare them and reassure them, but in the end they will sail through it on their own just as we all do.

Cancer’s most effective attacks come with news of a recurrence. So far it hasn’t been mine, but the disease has resurfaced in people I love. It rips a hole in my side, allowing the visions and fears of my own eventual diagnosis to flood in. This is when family, friends and sometimes professionals come help bail out panic by the bucketful as I struggle to stay afloat. Even though objectively every person’s experience is unique, if you’ve had cancer, it’s impossible not to see yourself in both the successes and disappointments of your peers who have it, too.

Sometimes I wish I could distance myself from my armada, because when their seas are rough, I can’t help but toss along with them. I want to pull away and go back to my views of the shore as I sail on my own, calm water. But there is an unspoken family in cancer and there is strength in numbers. By sharing information, support and love, we break through the chop, making it easier for those behind us; but that doesn’t make it easy.

By remaining a resource, it’s impossible to rid myself of my memories. I can’t stop my heart from breaking at news of a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, either newly or with a recurrence. I also can’t help but scrape wounds that had only just started to heal in me after my own experience. My BRCA2 didn’t only damage my genes. It attacked my soul.

Most who have crossed the ocean of cancer often end up with some PTSD, and I am not immune. A smell, taste or even a certain item of clothing, can trigger a memory of a dark day, sending me into a spiral of depressive thoughts. Seeing a stranger in a bandana, with penciled-in eyebrows still both repels me and makes me long to talk to them. It’s hard to look and not be thrown back into days filled with chairs in a row, IV poles next to each, a rainbow of poisons connected to chests and elbows, all in an attempt to fend off death.  Still, I want to approach these individuals, to tell them if I can do it, so can they. Most often I settle for an “I’m in the club, too” nod and smile.

Maybe by year five I’ll learn how to cruise my cancer seas more effectively.  To better balance my desire and responsibility to help others with my own need to get some emotional distance from the experience. I need both to feel whole, but the equation of how they best fit together in my life has yet to present itself.

Until then I will sail along, offering what I can, taking in vistas, and learning as I go.
By Betsy Hnath

Monday, December 7, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 830

I have a love/hate relationship with this whole Elf on a Shelf thing.
K loves our elf.  I mean loves our elf.  She started counting down in November, saying she couldn't wait until Heart gets here.  She asks me every night if I will wake her up early so she can look for Heart.  The joy she gets from this silly little tradition is amazing.  Even my fourteen year old asks every morning, "Where's Heart?".

That's the part I love.

The parts I hate?  Having to a) remember to move the darn elf every night (which I mostly do thanks to the reminder on my phone!), b) staying up later than my kids, which isn't always easy! and c) thinking of new and creative things for Heart to do.  Ugh.

I've seen a lot of ideas passed on through Facebook and Pinterest.  There are a lot of desperate elf owners out there.  We've done the roasting marshmallows over a candle bit.  Heart has made minions on the bananas with a Sharpie.  Last year she toilet papered our Christmas tree.  But frankly, who has the time for most of that?  I just don't have a miniature toothbrush hanging around so our elf can pretend to brush her teeth.  I don't want to sit and build a fort out of Legos so she can have a snowball fight with marshmallows.  Our house is only so big, and this is our third year of Heart appearances, so I'm running out of places for her to creatively hide.

Bah Humbug.

This morning Heart was taking in the sunrise from our front door.

Cute, right?  
Too bad I still have eighteen more ideas to come up with.
Stupid elf on a shelf.  

On a positive note, even though I'm not quite feeling my usual Christmas cheer this year, we got our tree this weekend.  It's up, decorated and I love it.  There's nothing quite like sitting in the evening with the twinkling lights and the scent of the Christmas tree filling the room.

If only Hubby would let me have a fire in the fireplace, our Christmas card scene would be complete.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 823

Stole this from my Bella friend Deb Inzana...
(If you think it's a little dramatic, you've probably never "you have cancer")

“What’s it like to go through cancer treatment?"

It’s something like this:

One day, you’re minding your own business, you open the fridge to get some breakfast, and OH MY GOD THERE’S A MOUNTAIN LION IN YOUR FRIDGE.
So you take off running, and the mountain lion is right behind you. You know the only thing that can kill a mountain lion is a bear, and the only bear is on top of the mountain, so you better find that bear. You start running up the mountain in hopes of finding the bear. Your friends desperately want to help, but they are powerless against mountain lions, as mountain lions are godless killing machines. But they really want to help, so they’re cheering you on and bringing you paper cups of water and orange slices as you run up the mountain and yelling at the mountain lion - “GET LOST, MOUNTAIN LION, NO ONE LIKES YOU” - and you really appreciate the support, but the mountain lion is still coming.
Also, for some reason, there’s someone in the crowd who’s yelling “that’s not really a mountain lion, it’s a puma” and another person yelling “I read that mountain lions are allergic to kale, have you tried rubbing kale on it?”
As you’re running up the mountain, you see other people fleeing their own mountain lions. Some of the mountain lions seem comparatively wimpy - they’re half grown and only have three legs or whatever, and you think to yourself - why couldn’t I have gotten one of those mountain lions? But then you look over at the people who are fleeing mountain lions the size of a monster truck with huge prehistoric saber fangs, and you feel like an asshole for even thinking that - besides, who in their right mind would want to fight a mountain lion, even a three-legged one?
Finally, the person closest to you, whose job it is to take care of you - maybe a parent or sibling or best friend or, in my case, my husband - comes barging out of the woods and jumps on the mountain lion, whaling on it and screaming “GODDAMMIT MOUNTAIN LION, STOP TRYING TO EAT MY WIFE,” and the mountain lion punches your husband right in the face. Now your husband (or whatever) is rolling around on the ground clutching his nose, and he’s bought you some time, but you still need to get to the top of the mountain.
Eventually you reach the top, finally, and the bear is there. Waiting. For both of you. You rush right up to the bear, and the bear rushes the mountain lion, but the bear has to go through you to get to the mountain lion, and in doing so, the bear TOTALLY KICKS YOUR ASS, but not before it also punches your husband in the face. And your husband is now staggering around with a black eye and bloody nose, and saying “can I get some help, I’ve been punched in the face by two apex predators and I think my nose is broken,” and all you can say is “I’M KIND OF BUSY IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED I’M FIGHTING A MOUNTAIN LION.”
Then, IF YOU ARE LUCKY, the bear leaps on the mountain lion and they are locked in epic battle until finally the two of them roll off a cliff edge together, and the mountain lion is dead.
Maybe. You’re not sure - it fell off the cliff, but mountain lions are crafty. It could come back at any moment.
And all your friends come running up to you and say “that was amazing! You’re so brave, we’re so proud of you! You didn’t die! That must be a huge relief!”
Meanwhile, you blew out both your knees, you’re having an asthma attack, you twisted your ankle, and also you have been mauled by a bear. And everyone says “boy, you must be excited to walk down the mountain!”
And all you can think as you stagger to your feet is “f*ck this mountain, I never wanted to climb it in the first place.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 815

One of my Bella friends posted this in our group, and it's worth a read.

17 Things No One Tells You About Breast Cancer

There are so many "myths" and misconceptions about breast cancer.  The ones I'm struggling with now are #15 and #16.  For two years my life revolved around tests and procedures designed to rid my body of breast cancer.  I had mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, a bone scan, a PET scan, biopsies, blood draws, chemotherapy (8 treatments over 5 months), surgeries (7 to this date) and radiation (33 treatments).  As you can imagine, that is all-consuming and pretty much took over my focus.  I've skated through being a wife and mom, a daughter, sister and friend.  Thankfully I have incredible people who love me and forgive me for that.  The bottom line is when you have cancer, you have no choice but to be selfish and focus 100% on yourself.

But then, after all of that, after 815 days of that, what's next?  Yes I am healthy.  Yes I am better than I have been in over two years.  I have no signs of cancer so I live with the mantra "no news is good news" every single day.  But that doesn't mean I'm "over it".  Here's why:

  • The fear never leaves.  Never.  I wonder every day if that will be the day that cancer comes back.  I don't have routine scans, so I have no "proof" that stupid little cancer cells aren't lurking somewhere.  I worry about every ache and pain, every bump and lump, because I can't help it.  I'm not a pessimist.  I'm a realist.  I've already faced the worst case scenario, so it's impossible not to go there again, at least in my mind.
  • My body is living proof of my fight.  I've gained weight.  My hair is short and almost 100% gray.  I have limited range of motion in my left shoulder and almost zero feeling in my chest and under my arm thanks to my surgeries.  And the scars, oh the scars.  I look like I've been pieced together like Frankenstein.  Not kidding.  Obviously there are scars on my chest, but also on my stomach and legs.  I will never again look good in a bathing suit.  For someone who has struggled with low self esteem forever, looking at myself is a low blow.  Every time.  Yes, being alive is beautiful, and being a strong fighter is beautiful.  But my body is not beautiful.
  • Everything hurts.  And I'm so incredibly tired.  I was thrown into menopause at age 41.  Menopause is no fun anyway, but for it to happen instantly is really no fun.  And thanks to chemo after-effects and the estrogen blocker I'm on, I have bone and joint pain.  Every time I stand up, I do it slowly like an old woman.  My knees crack on every step when I climb stairs.  I have restless legs every single night (and sometimes during the day).  I take medicine to counter the side effects of other medicines.  
Like that article says, "It's okay to not be okay."  Hopefully as time goes by I will be more and more "okay".  But my last surgery was less than two months ago, so even though this all started back in 2013, everything is still pretty fresh for me.  And as #17 says, "You are left alone to figure out the clusterfuck that is now your life."  Excuse the language, but that pretty much sums it up.  I don't want to sound like a complainer.  I'm just doing my best to accept the "new normal" of living with everything I've been through.  

I'm so incredibly grateful to be alive.  The people in my life have been so wonderful and supportive, helping when I need it, lifting me up when I am down, taking care of my family when I couldn't.  I've needed them so much, and they were there (and still are).  The only thing I ask of anyone who knows someone who has been through this - please don't assume everything is all right, that the person is "over it".  In truth, it's probably never going to be completely  "all right" for them.  

I'm still Michelle, but I won't ever be the same.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 812

So I discovered that heat helps my restless legs (a little).
One night the outside of my right knee was the problem.  I heated up my rice bag and put it on there.... settled right down.
Tonight I am sitting on the couch with my heating pad over my knees to keep my legs still.  So far so good.

Unfortunately, in addition to restless legs syndrome, hot flashes are also a side effect of Arimidex.
FYI Heat does NOT help with hot flashes.

Just another day in the life.....or should I say another sleepless night?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 811

Life is HARD.
Even without cancer.  Family issues, family health issues, friend issues, parenting issues....
It's so hard.

This is what the side of my refrigerator looks like:

The medicine I take every day is in the cabinet right next to that.  Every morning, as I swallow pills that will hopefully keep me alive for a long time, I stare at the side of my fridge.

That's my whole world.  Right there.
My husband.  My children.
My mom and my dad.
And Allyson, the angel I look to for hope and strength when life gets too hard.  She was the queen of pep talks, and if she couldn't come up with a pep talk, then she would crack a joke.  Or give a great hug.

Even though I had a fantastic weekend away (which will be a post for another day), tonight, life is HARD.

But it's my life, and it's a life full of those blessings right there.
Thank God.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 796

Life is too short.

How many times have you thought that?  How many times have you said that?  How many times has something happened to remind you of that?

As I sit here at my laptop today, coughing and hacking and cursing the world because I have the cold from hell, my eyes are watering, it's freaking windy outside, my joints ache from my new medicine and every night I have the worst restless legs.....I came across a blurb on Facebook that Joey Feek (one half of the country duo Joey & Rory) said goodbye to her daughters.

Oh my freaking God.

I don't know her.  Even though I listen to country music, I couldn't even tell you one of their songs.  I don't know how old she is and can't even remember what kind of cancer she has.  All I know is that she's a beautiful woman, a loving mom and is going to have to leave this world way too young.  She knows she is going to die soon, and she had to say goodbye to her children.

Life is too short!

None of us know when we will die.  But I can just about bet that anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer has thought about it.  I have.  I was told at age 40 that I had stage III cancer.  Um, I'm still supposed to have more than half of my life to live.  Knowing I'm going to do that with the worry that cancer might come back sucks.  Plain and simple.  Knowing that, and knowing I have a husband who is my whole world and children whom I love dearly..... there are no words.

Cancer isn't always a death sentence.  I know that.  But cancer is everywhere, and more often than not, the beast wins.  I'm a fighter, and an optimist, but the worry is there.  Always.  After eight rounds of chemo, thirty-three rounds of radiation, seven surgeries.... will I have to do this all again someday?  If I do, and it doesn't work, how do you find the words to say goodbye to the people who make your world brighter?

Kind of makes my stupid cold seem insignificant.

I'm off to take some more medicine, stock up on cough drops and tissues and put on a hat.  I have a football game and a softball game to go to, because even though I'm sick, life is too damn short!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 786

This picture seems appropriate today, since it has rained over six inches in the past two days.  But a blog post about rain is boring.  A blog post about blessings is so not boring. 

My life is full of blessings.  I know that.  I have a husband who would do anything for me.  I have beautiful children, a family that loves me and friends who always have my back.  But every once in a while, God sends down an unexpected blessing that warms my heart even more.

This morning I woke up to see this on Facebook:

Cati is a good person, a fun lady, a great mom.  She's someone I'm friendly with, but not the "hey, want to go to lunch?" kind of friend.  To know that I was on her mind, that she was honoring my fight in her run today, both touched and surprised me.  

Thank you Cati.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 784

Restless legs syndrome.

The bane of my existence.  It has been ever since I was a teenager, back when I just called it "jumpy legs" because there wasn't an official term for it.  That, and headaches, are two things I've always suffered from. Some things never change.

Apparently going off Tamoxifen and starting Arimidex triggered both. I had the worst headache last night, and two rounds of restless legs (even though I rode my exercise bike at 9pm).  My active night was exhausting. I took a two hour nap on the couch this afternoon and now at 9pm I feel like I could doze off.

Am I just getting old? Worn out from the last two years?  Suffering from side effects from medicine that's going to keep me cancer free?

There are worse things than being tired. There are worse things than having a headache or having to walk circles in my living room at 11pm. Way worse things. So if that's what I have to deal with, bring it.  I won't like it, I'll complain every damn night,  but I'll deal with it. Because those worse things?  They really sucked and I dealt with them, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 783

Happy 75th Birthday to my wonderful dad!  

Opa, we love and miss you and can't wait to see you again!


On a side note, today I am starting a new medicine.  I have been taking Tamoxifen for eighteen months to block estrogen production in my body.  However, Tamoxifen has proven more effective in pre-menopausal women, where another class of medicines have been proven more effective in post-menopausal women.  Since I had a hysterectomy, that puts me in the second group - hence the switch.  
I'm not overly thrilled.  From the Arimidex web site:
  • Women with a history of blockages in heart arteries (ischemic heart disease) who take ARIMIDEX may have a slight increase in this type of heart disease compared to similar patients who take tamoxifen
  • ARIMIDEX can cause bone softening/weakening (osteoporosis) increasing the chance of fractures. In a clinical study in early breast cancer, there were more fractures (including fractures of the spine, hip, and wrist) with ARIMIDEX (10%) than with tamoxifen (7%)
  • In a clinical study in early breast cancer, some patients taking ARIMIDEX had an increase in cholesterol. Skin reactions, allergic reactions, and changes in blood tests of liver function have also been reported
  • In the early breast cancer clinical trial, the most common side effects seen with ARIMIDEX include hot flashes, joint symptoms (including arthritis and arthralgia), weakness, mood changes, pain, back pain, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, rash, depression, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, fractures, swelling of arms/legs, insomnia, and headache
So...while I wasn't a fan of Tamoxifen, it was the devil I knew.  Arimidex has a lot of the same side effects, with a few exceptions.  Arimidex is harder on the heart.  Arimidex weakens the bones, where Tamoxifen strengthens them.  Arimidex can raise cholesterol.  Arimidex causes more severe joint pain - which I already have on Tamox.  

And the biggie, for me, that's not listed - weight gain.  Both my BFF and my sister-in-law started on Arimidex and gained a significant amount of weight.  I've already put on 20 pounds with Tamoxifen....I really don't want to add any more!  My sis-in-law has since switched to Tamoxifen and has been able to lose some weight.  My BFF is still on Arimidex and has finally been able to lose some weight (but she's trying HARD!).  

I know, I know, it sounds petty.  What's a few pounds when compared to keeping cancer away, right?  If you've ever struggled with your weight, then you know why I feel the way I do.  Would I rather be fat and happy and alive, or skinny and fighting cancer all over again?  You know the answer to that.  I just wish those weren't my only two choices.  

You never know.  Everyone is different, and maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones who have an easier time on Arimidex than Tamoxifen.  It can happen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 776

A couple of months ago I read those verses at my mother's wedding.  I don't quote a lot of scripture, but that's probably one of the few I can recite by heart.  Those sentences describe my husband and our marriage better than anything I could come up with.  He has the patience of a saint with me.  He knows me inside and out, and still loves me anyway.  He always puts my welfare above his own.  He is kind.  I need him and he's always there for me to lean on.  He always protects.  Our love always perseveres.

Tomorrow marks fourteen years of marriage, and he has never failed me.  I'm a lucky girl.

For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health...... I still do.

Happy Anniversary Hubby!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 774

I was going to write a big long post about how lousy people can be, but this says it all....

It sucks when you give, give, give and it's still not enough.  No matter how hard you try, someone always finds fault with what you do.  I'm human so I don't always do or say things perfectly, but I give 110% and I try my hardest to make everything right.  It's upsetting to me that no matter what, most people are in it for themselves, and being nice makes me an easy scapegoat when things don't go their way.  I may be naive, and too nice, but I am NOT a liar and don't appreciate my integrity being questioned.

The end.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 762

I'm a riser
I'm a get off of the ground, don't run and hider
When pushin' comes to shove
Hey I'm a fighter
When darkness comes to town, I'm a lighter
A get out a-liver, of the fire

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 760

No pain, no gain.  
That's what they say, right?

This is my leg, three days after surgery:

Before you ask, yes, it is as painful as it looks.  Both legs and my stomach look like this. 

If I didn't have cancer, I wouldn't have needed reconstruction, and I wouldn't look and feel like this right now.
Stupid cancer.

I do have to own up to the fact that this was my choice, though. I'd been through this surgery before, and I knew the result.  It HURTS.  

While some people choose plastic surgery for vanity's sake, others, like me, choose it as a way to get back some of what we lost.  I could have lived with what I had.  But after going through everything I've gone through, why stop two feet from the finish line?  I've been bruised before.  I've been in pain before.  I healed.  I will heal again.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 759

I am battered and bruised, exhausted and running a fever from my surgery on Friday, so I feel a little bit like I was on the receiving end of an ass-kicking.... but I know that's only temporary.  This was - hopefully - the last time I will have surgery for anything related to breast cancer.

On our way to Dallas last Thursday Hubby asked me if I had to do it all over again, would I still choose to go through all that I have?  My answer then, and now (even hurting from surgery), is yes.

The easiest choice - physically - is to forego any reconstruction at all.  I knew that wasn't for me.  I didn't want to spend the rest of my life without breasts - not if I could help it.  I have a couple of friends who have not had reconstruction and they are perfectly fine 90% of the time.  I know I wouldn't be.

I could have chosen breast implants.  They still require surgery, but you end up with (hopefully) real-looking breasts.  After having tissue expanders in for almost a year in preparation for my reconstruction, I can say with all honesty that I'm very happy I don't have anything "foreign" in my body.  Even the softest implants are still just that - implants.  

The most complicated, intensive and time-consuming choice is to do reconstruction using your own body tissue (or "flaps" as they call it in the plastic surgery world).  That was my choice.  Dr T is a big proponent of natural reconstruction.  My surgery was long and complicated, with a grueling recovery.  I've had to have a couple of  revisions, and I developed an infection, which meant even more surgeries, and those have given me scars on top of other scars.  

Was all of this worth it?  Yes.  Because you know what?  I have the most real fake breasts I could possibly have.  And after twenty-five months of treatments and surgeries, I'm DONE!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 757

Yesterday I had surgery.
Yes, another one. That makes 7 surgeries in the last two years.  I am hopeful that this is the last one, because really - enough is enough.

It was a quick procedure and I was out of the hospital around lunchtime.  I feel ok, just very sore.  And I have to wear the lovely compression garments for two weeks, which makes getting dressed and going to the bathroom a workout.

Plastic surgery is not for wimps!! 

I'm thankful that Hubby was there with me... as he has been for every step of this long, painful journey.  He's always there to make me laugh, comfort me, hold me up or just hold my hand.  His quiet, steady presence is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Let the healing begin!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 752

I'm not okay tonight.

No real reason.  At least not that I can think of.  This came on suddenly and without explanation.  Just now, tonight....just like that.  Last night I had a fabulous date with Hubby that continued over into today.  Fantastic concert (really - fantastic, amazing, phenomenal concert), a night without kids in a hotel, sleeping in this morning (sort of).  Tonight we had a nice family dinner out.  I haven't done anything else, or even talked to anyone else.


I'm not depressed.  I've been through hell and back over the last two years.  I know what being depressed feels like.  I'm not angry.  I'm not frustrated.  I'm not tired.  I'm just.... off.

Do you ever feel like that?  Like something is wrong (well, maybe not 'wrong', but more 'not quite right') but you don't know WHAT?  I feel unstable and restless and kinda sad.  What gives?  Is there some cosmic shift going on with the change of seasons and I'm off-balance?  Is this the start of one of my "something bad is going to happen" premonitions? 
(I'm usually right, so I hope to God that's not it).

I want to go to bed to escape this feeling, but I don't feel tired enough.  
I know I took my Lexapro this morning.  I'm sure of it.  
Maybe I need another.
I feel overwhelmed, but I don't even know what is overwhelming me.  

Ugh.  Sometimes being me is difficult.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 749

Last night I should have written an Insomniac Blogging post...  I was up until 2am.  I did have a long "nap" earlier in the evening, but waking up at 6:15 this morning was not fun. I did get a lot of work done in the wee hours, but I'm paying for it today. .  

There seems to be a pattern I've developed where I can go about my business as usual for a while...going to work, dealing with softball league business, being wife and mom... until I hit a wall.  Yesterday I hit that wall.  I was sitting on the couch when Hubby came home from work and could hardly keep my eyes open.  (Ok, ok, I was sleeping.)  I told him I was going to lie down for an hour.... and woke up four hours later.  

I don't know if this recurring fatigue can be blamed on the medicine I have to take, or the fact that I'm in menopause at 42 years old, or just due to everything I've been through since d-day.  It's not going to get better anytime soon because I'm scheduled for another surgery next Friday.  That will be surgery number seven in the last 25 months.  Some have been pretty major, some have been "minor".  This one is supposed to fall in the latter category, but I've learned not to expect things to go as planned.  One thing cancer isn't is predictable.  

I'm hopeful that this will be the last THING I have to do, other than routine tests and appointments.  After next week I hope I don't need any more surgeries or procedures, at least for a while!  Months of treatment, more surgeries than you can count on one hand and two years of stress have made me so tired.  Being tired (among other things) has made me fat, and I'm more than ready to look and feel like myself again. 

Last, but definitely not least, September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.  Before all of the hype of "Pink-tober" next month, take a minute to pray for the women affected by this silent killer.  Ovarian cancer is the monster that took my friend Allyson way too soon.  If you can, donate to a worthy cause...

Ally's Wish is the brainchild of Allyson's friends who took their love for her and turned it into a wonderful organization that has helped moms all over the country.  These friends were touched by Allyson and her story, and made it their mission to grant wishes to women - moms - with terminal illnesses.  Allyson's wish was to have her blog published for her family.  I'm happy to say that book is available at Allyswish.org.  Buy it.  And wear turquoise.  For Allyson.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 733


Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about forgiveness.  A lot of thinking.

When someone wrongs you, it's human nature to be hurt, angry, even vindictive.  We all feel that way.  Some of us work through those feelings faster than others.  Some people forgive more easily than others.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I get it.  We are all sinners.  Who are we to judge a sinner, when none of us are without sin?
The Bible says it over and over:
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Luke 6:37 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.
 Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
1 John 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I will be the first to admit that I've made my share of mistakes in my life, and would never claim to be without sin.  I also will be the first to admit that I have a soft-hearted, forgiving nature.  I try to see the best in people.  If I make a mistake, I own up to it and apologize.  And if I apologize, I sincerely mean it.  'I'm sorry' means I really am sorry..

Six months ago, I made a decision.  It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, and it caused more emotional upheaval for me and my family than I can even describe.  Someone I was very close to had been doing something wrong - something illegal - and I was the one to discover it.  It caused me a huge amount of distress because I loved and trusted this person.  Not only were laws broken, but my friendship was abused and taken advantage of - for a long time.  Years.

It made my heart hurt, because my doing the right thing brought hurt down on other people, including my own family.  I lost a close friend.  My daughter lost her best friend.  I lost other people in my life that I thought were my friends.  These people have found it easy to forgive, claiming they won't turn their back on a friend for making a "mistake".

A mistake.  Yelling at someone is a mistake.  Writing on the wall with a Sharpie is a mistake.  Running over a mailbox is a mistake.  Getting a speeding ticket is a mistake.  Deceiving the people closest to you, day after day, month after month, and taking from the very ones you proclaim to love... that's not a mistake.

Have I forgiven?  Can I forgive?  That's what I'm struggling with.

Just as the Bible talks a lot about the need for forgiveness by the person who was wronged, it also talks about the need to repent by the wrong-doer.
Acts 2:38  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 17:3  So watch yourselves.  If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.   
The definition of "repent" is to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.  The need for forgiveness can be a burden, if the offender hasn't repented.

The crimes that were committed, the lies that were told.... this person has been doing this same thing their whole adult life.  They've been caught - and punished - repeatedly, and yet they still choose to go down this path again and again.  It's not a "mistake" when you wrong people the same way over and over again.  It's a choice.  And it's hard to forgive when they show no remorse.

Repenting, to me, would mean expressing how sorry you are for what you did.  It would mean reaching out to those who were hurt.  It would mean doing everything you could to make things right.  In my opinion, someone who continues spreading lies and manipulating the very people they call 'friend' is not repentant.  This person has never once reached out to the "victims", not even my daughter who was practically a part of their family.  They have never once tried to make things right.  They are portraying themselves as a victim instead, and that is about the furthest you can get from repenting.

Dealing with the fallout of someone else's actions every day and knowing they are trying to muddy an issue that is completely black and white makes it hard to forgive.  Looking into my little girl's eyes and knowing someone who said they loved her doesn't care about the hurt she feels... that makes it hard to forgive.  Being the subject of gossip and condemned for choosing the right path, not the easy path... that makes it hard for me to forgive.

According to Wikipedia:
Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.  Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

Forgiveness doesn't mean everything is all better.  It doesn't mean that the wrong that was done doesn't matter anymore.  You can forgive, because you want to (for your own peace of mind), and because it's the Christian thing to do, but that doesn't mean you are condoning the wrongful act, or that you can (or will) forget.  And just because there is no reconciliation doesn't mean forgiveness won't happen.  But it takes time, sometimes a lot of time.  I'll get there, if for no other reason than because I deserve peace.

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”  ~ Billy Graham 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 728

A crazy thing happened to me this morning.
I took a shower, got dressed, put on some make up and dried my hair.  Then I went to my jewelry box to put on my bling for the day.  None of that is unusual.
Then - something caught my eye in the mirror on my dresser and I did a double take.


True, my hair isn't nearly as long as it used to be.  I'm carrying an extra twenty (ok, twenty-five) pounds and I have more scars than I can count.  But on a quick glance in the mirror?  The lady looking back at me reminds me of me.  Finally.

Two years ago tomorrow, I began the kicking cancer's ass journey.  It all started with my first chemo treatment, and it's still going on.  As far as I know, I am cancer-free.  No news is good news.  But the side effects from treatment and the future surgeries (yes, there will be another one) and the medication.... it seems never ending.  

But you know what?  I'm alive.  I'm happy.  I'm able to be Michelle the mom, and Michelle the wife.
I'm Michelle.

God is good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 719

Just this.

After the turmoil of the other night, I needed this.
Thanks to my beautiful Bella friend Kindra for sharing. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 718

Insomniac blogging...

Tonight (or should I say last night, since it's 12:15am?) I had the worst headache I've had in years.  Almost two years, to be exact - when I had the WORST.HEADACHE.EVER after my first chemo and I ended up in the emergency room.  

Thankfully I didn't end up in tears - or the emergency room - tonight, especially since Hubby is away for work.  It did take some heavy-duty pain meds and lots of chocolate to dull the migraine, though, and I'll probably wake up tomorrow feeling like someone took a 2x4 to the back of my head.

Speaking of headaches....I've been a little worried lately because I've had a headache almost every single day since we got home from New York (a week ago).  I want to blame it on Tamoxifen (I'm not supposed to take it for a few days when I fly, so I was off it, on again, off again and now back on, and it really does a number on you with side effects when you do that).  I also want to blame it on allergies now that I'm back in lovely west Texas.  I could also blame it on the heat, because I went from waking up to temperatures in the 50s in NY to Texas in August, which means almost 100 degrees every damn day.  

However, I had cancer.  So you know what that means.  Pain, especially something out of the ordinary that doesn't go away - or keeps coming back- equals something to worry about.

I honestly think, though, that most of the headaches I've been having are tension headaches.  I know for a fact tonight's was.  You'd think I would be nice and relaxed, right?  It's summertime, we just got back from vacation, I've been out of work for over two weeks..... and yet I ended up with a killer migraine.  

One of the things I love the most, that I spend the most time on, is causing me a lot of stress lately.  What's the problem?  I'm a pleaser.  I want everyone to be happy.  I want everyone to get along.  I want everyone to do things for the right reasons.  And yet they don't.  People let attitudes and immaturity and spite get in the way of the bigger picture, and it's hurting me and those close to me.  

You would think that at the ripe old age of 42 I would learn not to take people at face value anymore.  I think my "friends" really are my friends.  Just because someone smiles at me doesn't mean they like me.  People rarely do what they say or say what they mean.  I don't have a mean-spirited bone in my body, though.  I keep looking for the positives, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I probably always will.

That's probably something I should be proud of, but right now, tonight, I'm sick of the selfish, dog-eat-dog world we live in.  People waste so much time and energy on things that don't really matter.  I've spent over 700 days with the knowledge that I had cancer.  SEVEN HUNDRED.  For every one of those days, I've worried that I could still have cancer, or that I could have it again.  My life will never be the same.  THAT is the kind of thing that matters, that's worth getting upset over.  Life is too damn short.

Good thing it's past my bedtime or I might start looking for that stress ball.

Tomorrow I'll have my cancer ass-kicking mojo back.
And I hopefully won't have a headache.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 701

Two years ago today, August 1, 2013, I heard the words "you have cancer". 

That was just the beginning of the bad news.... The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes; there were three tumors, not one; my genetic testing was positive.  What does all of that mean? It means that for two years I have been kicking cancer's ass.  I had eight chemo treatments.  I've had six surgeries. I've had thirty-three radiation treatments.  Cancer took my breasts, chemo took my hair and the last twenty-four months have taken a toll.  But hard as it may have tried, cancer didn't win.

Two years ago today I became a cancer survivor. 

I refuse to say "cancer free". I have no symptoms and none of my blood work indicates a problem, so I'm going with the mantra "no news is good news".   But doctors don't tend to use the term remission anymore, and I have a hard time convincing myself that my body has no tiny microscopic ugly cancer cells just lurking, waiting to rear their ugly heads. My doctor doesn't do scans unless something warrants them, so I have no real proof that there isn't any cancer growing somewhere inside me.  That's why I choose to say I'm a cancer survivor.

Today, August 1, 2015, I will become something else - a stepdaughter.  Today our family celebrates.... we celebrate a mother and daughter both being on the other side of treatment and surgeries, and both being cancer survivors.  And we celebrate a couple's love as my mom and her guy finally tie the knot.

Happy Wedding Day Mom and Dana. I wish you many more years of love and happiness.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kicking cancers ass - day 692

Most of the time I feel pretty good. I have aches and pains, and little energy, but most days I'm good to go.  I go to work, I run errands, I do laundry and cook dinner. I manage to be a mom, a wife, a bookkeeper, a softball coach, a friend.  Lately though, the "good to go" feeling is gone.

I had an incredibly busy few weeks getting ready for our softball league to host a big tournament. Four long days in the heat after weeks of preparation did me in. I came home Sunday afternoon and crashed at 3:00 in the afternoon. I did not get up until almost 10am the next morning.

I'm still really tired, days later. I don't know if it's the normal "you've been through hell because you had cancer" tired, or if I just haven't been taking good care of myself. I just really want to sleep for a week.

One of the lovely side effects of Tamoxifen is joint pain. Most of the time it's not bad... some hip pain and my knees get stiff if I sit too long.  Sometimes it is worse.  Tonight is one of those times. Everything hurts.

Being tired, feeling drained, and having it hurt to move makes for one cranky lady. I feel guilty wallowing in any negativity, but sometimes I just have to give in to the pity party.

One of these days I will wake up and feel rested. One of these days I will be able to stand up without saying "Ow". One of these days I will feel a little bit closer to normal.

One of these days.