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!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 883

Insomniac blogging....

So I'm wide awake at almost 1am.  This time it's not because I can't fall asleep.  It's because I DID fall asleep.  I had a headache and felt "off" this afternoon, so I slept like the dead for about three hours.  Rest I needed, sure, but waking up at 7pm means I'm still awake in the wee hours.

Hubby teased me about sleeping "all day", and even made the comment "who are you?" when he and K came home from basketball practice.  I know he was just giving me a hard time, but I also know there's a part of him that meant it.  He's probably so sick of my drama.  He has to be, because I'M so sick of it.  If I'm not at a doctor's appointment, I'm worrying about a symptom that's prompting me to make an appointment.  I'm not sleeping at night, I'm tired and napping during the day, I have no energy to do the stuff I used to do.  My back hurts, my knees crack, my left arm swells during the night.  I can't even joke "Not tonight, I have a headache" because most of the time I DO have a headache!  Who wants to live with that 24/7?

Honestly, he got the short end of the stick when he married me.  I've forced the "in sickness and in health" vow on him to the millionth degree.  So on top of all of the other post-cancer crap, I'm dealing with worry and guilt over not being the wife I want to be, and not being the mom I want to be for my kids.  It has been 883 days since my first chemo treatment.  That's a lot of freaking days.  I've been through a lot, no doubt about it, but I'm here, I'm alive and well and I'm blessed with family and friends.  So why is everything so incredibly hard???  Sometimes I feel like I was stronger, happier and more together in the middle of chemo than I am now.  I am a cancer survivor.  I tell myself I should be treasuring every day and just be happy I'm alive.

Yet I'm constantly overwhelmed.  My former perfectionist OCD multitasking expert self is nowhere to be found.  The shelves in my living room are still empty of our belongings two weeks after the carpet guy finished.  One of these days I would like to reclaim my laundry room, but I just can't seem to summon the energy to open the storage tubs full of knick knacks and photo albums.  More often than not we eat out because I either can't remember to plan ahead or can't find the energy to cook.  I stress over making healthy choices about eating because there are so many things I love that are bad for you.  I'd love to lose the thirty pounds I've gained, but it's hard to find motivation when fatigue is my constant companion and every joint in my body hurts.  I want to be the fun, spontaneous mom that makes childhood a magical time for her kids, and yet I'm just not her.  I want to be the sweet, caring woman that my husband fell in love with all those years ago.... not the tired, grumpy, complaining person I am now.  I haven't talked to my BFF in months.  Not because I don't want to, because I forget to call.  I want to do more.  I want to be more.

I found a great blog by Debbie Woodbury called "Running on Empty - Coping with Cancer Stress"
She describes everything I'm feeling so perfectly.  It's worth a read.

She says:

But the transition from patient to cancer survivor is not an easy one and the new normal brings its own cancer stress. Even for prisoners, the re-entry phase into normal society is usually gradual, but such is not the case for most cancer survivors. Family and friends want to return to normal life as soon as possible, and who can blame them? The cancer survivor wants that too, of course. But what we want is not always what we are capable of achieving, which causes even more cancer stress (and often, full-blown cancer anger.) After all we have been through, we are running on empty and only capable of so much.  

Who I am right now is unacceptable to me.  And yet.... what can I do?   I'm on antidepressants to help keep my mood even.  I'm taking supplements to help me stay healthy and to combat the side effects of the medicine I'm on.  I try to exercise at least 30 minutes a few times a week, which is the best I can do right now.

But it doesn't feel like my best is enough.  *I* don't feel like enough.
I feel like I'm letting my husband down.  I feel like I'm letting my kids down.  Even after 883 days, cancer is draining me.
I'm running on empty.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 879

Do you know how much junk a family of four collects over the course of 15+ years?
Of course I've weeded through toys and clothes semi-regularly, and we've replaced furniture and appliances as needed.  But still.... there is SO.MUCH.STUFF!

We decided to replace our carpet and bathroom floors recently, which means basically packing up all of your belongings as if you were moving.  The floor guys will move furniture, but not personal items, anything fragile or electronics.  So.... in order to pack, we had to weed through the mountains of stuff that we had lying around the house.  The kids' rooms (especially the closets) were the worst.

You thought I was kidding, right?  
Granted, that picture was about midway through emptying out his closet, but still.  How much junk does a teenage boy need???

That was after the clean-up (clean OUT??) - before new floor.  
And the finished product:

We went with vinyl floor instead of carpet in his room because J is allergic to... well... everything.

K's room looked pretty much the same as J's did when we were weeding through the mess.  I didn't take a picture, but you can imagine - books, toys, stuffed animals, dvds, shoes, more stuffed animals..... 
Here her room is before new carpet:

And after (with a little rearranging, too):

Our bedroom didn't have quite the clutter as the kids' rooms, but the closet came close.
Now it's all fresh and clean:

During the whole new flooring adventure, all of my stuff was confined to the garage and this little corner of my dining room (where I was also confined during the 2.5 days it took to complete):

And just to make things interesting, we had our new range delivered right in the midst of everything.
I always wanted a double oven, and I love, love, love it!

Here's the living room before:

Getting there....


The carpet ended up looking more brown than I had planned after it was installed,
but overall I'm very pleased. 

And the bathrooms - before and after:

I've never had to pack up an entire house to move (only a small apartment), and I'm not looking forward to doing so anytime soon.  (Unless we win the lottery and I get my beach house!)   I still have containers of stuff yet to be put away.  The clutter in my dining room, laundry room and garage is getting to me, so it's only a matter of time before everything finds its home again.

Hubby's brother asked him if there was anything original left in the house (Hubby built the house 10 years before I moved here).  He joked that he was the only thing left!  ha ha

Monday, January 18, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 872

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr
(And I believe this applies to what cancer survivors go through)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 870

Attention football fans:

K's softball team is trying to raise money for the upcoming season.  This football board is $25 per square, and we'll be giving away $250 each quarter during the Super Bowl.
(You don't even have to be local..... we can take - and send - via PayPal)

The funds raised will help these girls participate in tournaments this spring (each tournament can cost over $400 to play).

Email michelleburleson12@gmail.com if you're interested in helping the Lady Diamonds!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 869

True, right?
This is something I struggle with daily.  Before cancer, I never was a very fearful person.  I worried about stuff, maybe too much, but I never let those worries overtake me.  I was calm, I was levelheaded.

Since cancer, I worry a lot.  Some of it is justified... I mean, I had Stage III invasive breast cancer.  At the age of 40.  When I was diagnosed, I should have only been halfway through my life, and yet three little words changed how I looked at everything.  Forget about living until I'm 80.  Will I even make it to 50?  60?

One of the most common pieces of advice given to cancer patients is to "stay positive".  Easier said than done.  You try staying positive when you have something inside you that could kill you.  Even once it's gone.... destroyed by chemo, blasted by radiation, removed with surgery.... the wondering is always there.  Will it come back?  Did they get it all?  Is there something lurking, growing somewhere inside of me, without me knowing?

It's a little irrational, but you'd be amazed how fast your mind can take an idea and run with it.  A headache means a brain tumor.  Pain in my ribs means bone cancer.  A lump ANYWHERE means cancer.  Major fatigue isn't caused by overdoing it or stress or meds.... it's the cancer overtaking my body.

Crazy, right?  Except.... not.  I'm an optimist and a dreamer, but cancer has made me a realist, too.  There's a very real possibility that I will have to face this beast again in my lifetime.  I hope and pray that I'm one of the lucky ones.  That is my greatest wish, aside from happy and healthy lives for my children:  to die an old woman from something other than breast cancer.  I want to be one of those women my friends will talk about years from now, saying "She had breast cancer ten years ago and she's still doing great!"  But I've known too many who have had it come back (some more than once).  When you're faced with the worst case scenario, it's hard NOT to go there again and again.  If it comes back, it's Stage IV.  And that has no cure.

Years ago I had a miscarriage.  I'd never known anyone who had been through that, I never in a million years expected it to happen to ME.  I naively thought a positive pregnancy test meant a baby.  Three weeks later, no baby.  I was devastated.  A month later I was pregnant again.  You have no idea how fearful I was during those early days of that second pregnancy.  I was pregnant before, and I lost that baby.  I worried every day that it would happen again.  Thankfully I was blessed with a perfectly healthy baby boy six days after his due date.
Fast forward three years.... another positive pregnancy test.  Ten weeks later...another miscarriage.  OH MY GOD.  You see why I worried?  Once it happens to you, you worry it will happen again.  Once it happens to you AGAIN..... there are no words.  Six months later I became pregnant again, and thankfully I had an obstetrician who was very careful (given my history) and scheduled me for monthly ultrasounds.  Being able to see my baby time and again before she was born was so reassuring.  

Maybe you can understand why sometimes fear drives me.  There are no guarantees that I won't have to deal with this again.  I actually have a higher than average risk of developing cancer again thanks to the BRCA gene.  So sometimes.... I just have to wallow in self-pity and worry and convince myself that I'm going to have to "go there" again.

And then I put my big girl panties on and get over it.
Tonight I had dinner with a friend, and on the way home one of my all-time favorite songs came on.  It's like Garth Brooks was giving me my own little pep talk:

Too many times we stand aside 
And let the waters slip away 
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow 
It has now become today 
So don't you sit upon the shoreline 
And say you're satisfied 
Choose to chance the rapids 
And dare to dance that tide 
And I will sail my vessel 
'Til the river runs dry 

I may be worried, and there are days the fear will rule my mind. But I want to chance the rapids, and I want to dance that tide. Whether I have two months or four decades left to live, I'm going to make the most of it, even on my bad days.  Screw you cancer.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 865

And so it begins....

That's what my dining room looks like right now.  Every belonging we have that couldn't be packed up is stacked in there.  There's a tiny corner of the table that's open where my computer sits, and that's where you'll find me for the next two days.  My garage is full of dismantled bed frames and Rubbermaid tubs.  We have made a hefty contribution to Abilene's trash collection, and we carted off a crap-ton of toys, clothes and furniture to storage (that we'll hopefully sell in a garage sale).

Why all the fun, you ask?  We are getting new floors.  Something I am very excited about!  New tile in the bathrooms.... new (fake) wood flooring in J's bedroom and new carpet throughout the rest of the house.  The only floor that has been "updated" since I moved here fifteen years ago is the kitchen, so it's about time the rest of the house catches up!  We had planned to do this a few years ago, right before I got sick.  And then I got sick.  Cancer was a much higher priority than carpet.  Now I'm better, so here we go!

That's exciting, right?  The prep work was not so exciting.  I honestly feel like we could have been on an episode of Hoarders.  My kids had SO MUCH STUFF!!!  I admit I have a lot of shoes, and even more books.  But that's it, and they can both be neatly (sort of) contained.  But J & K?  Gah.  I swear their rooms were like a disaster zone.  I almost thought about calling in the National Guard.  Obviously I need to do a better job of weeding out more than just clothes that don't fit anymore.

However, that's all done.  The floor guy is here now banging and scraping and ripping up old carpet.  By tomorrow night, we'll hopefully have brand spanking new floors and can start to re-right the ship that kind of resembles the Titanic right now.  Once we get the beds back together, I can take my time putting a lot less stuff back in a much more organized fashion.  If you know me, then you know that is right up my alley.  Typical OCD perfectionist stuff.

Hopefully my next post will have before and after pictures so I can show off my nice, clean, new floors!
(I'm also still oven-less so we are eating out a lot, which helps with not having a kitchen table!  But the new one shipped, so hopefully this week....)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 861

In 2000, January 7th became the best day of my life.  I didn't know it then, when I logged in to a chat room (remember those??) and started talking to "Adam" that he would be the man to change me forever.  Late night chats became emails, daily emails became phone calls, phone calls eventually became visits and the rest is history.  My history with Hubby.

I read this quote today:

I wasn't looking when I met you.  But you turned out to be everything I was looking for.

Truer words were never spoken.  I was a New York girl living in South Carolina, 26 years old hanging around in a 30-something chat room (because let's face it, younger guys may be hot but they are SO immature!).  I stumbled upon a Texan who shared my love of country music and football.  One of our first dates was a tour of the old Texas Stadium.  One of our best dates was an Alabama concert where we sweated our butts off and stood for three hours because it was that good.

We've been through births and deaths.  We've made friends together and we've lost friends together.  We've suffered financial setbacks and enjoyed more prosperous times.  We've played golf together and we've gone to Vegas together.  I introduced him to the beach, he introduced me to Mexican food.  I endure his love of "who done it" shows and he indulges my love for romance novels.  We've lost two children and created two more.  We've been to weddings and funerals together.  I've sat with him through numerous injections for his bad back, and he's been by my side through countless medical procedures (and I mean countless!).  He makes me laugh, he thinks I'm a nut, and he loves me for me.

That's a pretty cool thing, because I love him for him.
Happy 16 years, Hubby.

In 2007, January 7th became one of the worst days in Hubby's (and through him, mine as well) life.  His brother Daryl was killed in a motorcycle accident.  I can't pretend to know what it's like to lose your big brother.  All I know is Hubby handled it with his characteristic stoic strength and calm.  I know this day brings sad memories for him along with the happy ones, but isn't that what life is all about?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 860

Blast from the past.

Three Little Cowboys: Mad

That is a link to my sweet friend Allyson's blog post the day she learned I had cancer.
Ally's Wish, the charity started in her honor, was asking on Facebook about how her stories have touched your life.  I wanted to quote what she wrote to me that day so I went looking back through her blog.

Confidential to M:
So, today was a bad day.  And there will be some more bad days.  But hear me loud and clear, sister: you are not alone!!!  There is no way that I am going to sit over here and let you walk down this road unassisted.  I KNEW all this cancer stuff would come in handy someday!  :)  It's okay to be scared, and it's okay to be mad (obviously!), as long as you remember the three things:  1) God loves us. 2) God is always in control. 3) God is good.
You are the daughter of a big, big God who is holding you in the palm of his big, big hand.  And you have a slightly crazy friend who will do just about anything for you.  Anytime, day or night.  Any reason.  You are loved.
Oh yeah---let's hit up Bahama Buck's, okay?  My treat.

I hate that Allyson is no longer on this earth.  I think about her every day.  I see her sweet face on my refrigerator every time I walk into my kitchen.  Her book has a permanent place on my bookshelf in my bedroom.  I continue to stalk her family on Facebook.  I miss her.

But I am forever grateful that I had her in my life for the time I did.  Everyone should be so lucky.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 859

What I wish everyone knew:

No, I don't have Fibromyalgia.  But the after-effects of cancer treatment and surgeries mimic a lot of the fibro symptoms.  I am on the better side of treatment, but there are days I still feel pretty lousy.  I am thankful I don't have the 24/7 yuck feeling of chemo or the pain of recovering from surgery.  SO thankful.  But there are days, still, when I could sleep all afternoon, when everything hurts, when hot flashes come more than they go, when restless legs and/or insomnia keep me up at night, when I have almost unbearable fatigue.  

I am happy to be {knock on wood} "done" with surgeries, chemo and radiation.  If the worst thing I have to deal with is side effects of medicine and learning to handle how treatment changed my body, I'll take it.  

Two years and two days ago, I had a bilateral mastectomy.  Two years ago today I came home to sleep in the recliner for four weeks and let my mom and Hubby take care of my house and my family.  The fact that I am working, cleaning, shopping, reading, cooking, hosting Christmas and New Year's Eve parties, packing lunches, supervising homework, doing laundry and everything else that being Michelle entails is a miracle to me, and I'm grateful for every chore-filled day.

But being grateful doesn't mean I can't complain.  And since I have those complaints, I'd like to encourage you to support anyone who has a "hidden" illness.  Even though they may look fine (or better than they have in a long time) doesn't mean everything IS fine.  For me and others like me, the struggle is managing the lasting physical effects of treatment and coping with the fear that never goes away.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Kicking cancer's ass - day 855

"The goal is to live a full productive life, even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is the days that you have had, you will have lived." - Gilda Radner

One of my KCA friends posted this on Facebook today, and it really struck a chord with me.  I've been struggling for some time with fear, worrying that everything that's wrong with me is cancer sneaking up on me again.  It doesn't take much to convince myself that my bones and joints don't ache because of the Arimidex, they hurt because they are being overrun by cancer cells.  When I wake up with a bad headache, it's probably a brain tumor.  Blurry vision is not a leftover gift from chemo, it's the other "c" word.

I could go on and on.

But you know what?  Screw that.  I'm going to take a page from Gilda Radner's book and I'm going to try to focus on living instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I doubt I'll be able to completely eliminate the fear, but maybe I can work on being too busy to worry all that much.

I don't know if I have two months or forty years left in my life, so I don't want to take a single minute for granted.  

Tonight I came out of the bathroom to find K sitting on my bed with her doll Emma - waiting for me.  She asked me if she could show me how to do Emma's hair.  My initial reaction was to say "maybe later", but I caught myself.  In that minute, my little girl asking for my attention was way more important than my book and the couch that were calling my name.  

I now know how to do a fishtail braid.