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I finally got around to posting an outfit of the day!…yikes… It’s been a long time since I’ve had the courage to model in front of the camera. Mainly because I have gained weight and I’ve had no desire to showcase these extra pounds. Most of the weight is due to medication, which causes all sorts of hormone changes and slows down my metabolism. I feel so sluggish and achy some days. Another problem is I don’t have as much energy as I use to,thanks to chemo and radiation. My body has seen the worst of times over this past year. It use to be effortless to take pictures and feel confident. Now I’m worried about covering up scars and ways to hide my weight gain, it’s exhausting.
I wasn’t motivated to lose the weight until recently. I was stuck, I ate more, didn’t exercise and felt tired all the time. It was a horrible feeling. At first I thought I was putting back on the weight I lost during treatment. Then it just crept up on me and wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t take it anymore, I was uncomfortable all the time. Nothing fit and I refused to go shopping for larger sizes. I decided to join the gym, I go 3-4 times a week, for at least two hours, thankfully the pounds are slowly melting away and my energy is coming back. I feel better overall, I guess exercise really does the body good.
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I had a latissimus Dorsi Flap procedure in October of last year. I have yet to complete my reconstruction. I’ve put it off for months because I was tired of being carved up. Cancer really sucks!..nothing worse than having scars all over and breasts that have no sensation. I have one temporary tissue expander in my left boob and an actual silicon implant in the other. The whole experience has been one crazy emotional mess.
I feel like there is no plan for life after treatment. When I started out, there was a plan, a diet, a routine, it sucked but it was a “road map” to recovery. I don’t know that I will ever get use to life after treatment. I was lost for a while, I found it hard to adjust, which is weird because I’m usually in control and adapt to change easily.
I’m not going to complain though, I know countless women who have metastatic breast cancer (stage IV) terminal cancer that will be in treatment for the rest of there lives. Having any terminal disease is a tough reality to live with daily. My heart goes out to them.
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I try stay focused and positive. It helps with depression and survivors guilt. I wanted to get back to doing something I love to do. Fashion has always been one of my favorite hobbies so I wanted to get back to blogging. These days I look for fit and comfort when choosing pieces for my wardrobe. I go for clothes with higher necklines, loose fit, and patterns that compliment my style. I’ve always loved a pair of jeans and pumps, it just works well for different occasions. I’ve had the jacket for a while, it’s by Loft, see a similar style here. The bag and pumps were affordable pieces from T.J. Maxx. The blouse is from spring of last year, I purchased it at Kohl’s.
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I hope you enjoy the pictures and as always, thanks for stopping by…XO!

 

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Self Love

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I had reached some really low points emotionally while battling ‘breast cancer’ this past year. The very thought that cancer had invaded my body was enough to turn my world upside down. I felt hopeless…lost….confused and deeply hurt. I initially cried a lot, stopped eating, and closed myself off from the rest of the world. How could anyone ever look at me the same? Why did I have to get cancer? When you’re a woman you worry about everything, especially physical (beauty) or your appearance in general ….our society is built on it. After losing all my hair during chemo, then both my breast after bilateral surgery, I had to learn to LOVE and ACCEPT the new me. 


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Xo 

 

Beautiful Scars

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“Turning the marks of our pain into beautiful scars.” –Song lyrics by Steven C. Chapman

Look who has hair!!! It’s baby soft and a completely different texture from what I had before. Guess we’ll see how long it lasts. It’s growing back right on time because it is quite chilly in the south.  

I’ve completed surgery for my bilateral mastectomy, I’m healing fairly well and looking forward to the joy the holiday season brings. Thank you all for checking in on me, you guys are amazing and I appreciate the LOVE! I’ve surprised myself with the level of calm I’ve had with removing both breasts, I actually felt more emotion over losing my hair than my breast…shocking…I know. Especially since the physical and emotional scars are adding up. I don’t know that I’ve ever considered any of my scars beautiful but lately I’ve come to see them in a different light. My scars are a testimony to my journey, they tell a story about a woman who refused to give in to cancer. I think this disease has forced me to see another side of myself, a stronger, kick-ass side, that I can’t really explain but I’m happy I discovered it because fighting cancer is no walk in the park.

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The days leading up to surgery were intense. It was kind of like when I was pregnant with my son. A few days before giving birth, I had that ‘nesting’ feeling. I had so much anxiety, I cleaned and prepared for every little possible hiccup. The only obvious difference was his birth was joyous…mastectomies are NOT. My mother naturally cleared her schedule to be with me for surgery and I instantly felt relieved. It also helped that I’ve stopped working until I’ve fully recovered from surgery. I was able to focus on healing for once, besides it’s not like I could drive myself to the office anyways. I had the canon ball drains and wires hanging all over my body. I felt like a puppet and could not wait to have them removed. It was difficult to sleep and so freaking uncomfortable with the drains in. I left the hospital the day following my surgery. I had to get clearance from both the surgeon and oncologist. I thought I was going to be in so much pain but I wasn’t and I wanted to go home. I’ll admit that I didn’t feel like dancing but I haven’t needed the pain meds the surgeon prescribed. At one point, after surgery, I experienced a brief black out, after feeling a little light headed. I fell, luckily didn’t hit my head on anything, regained consciousness and had to go to the emergency room just to make sure nothing more serious wasn’t going on inside my body. It turned out to be nothing serious but made me realize just how fragile this disease had made me. It’s of course the holiday season, I want to decorate and be festive but I had to be extra cautious with the drains, they made me feel so old. It was a good thing its cold outside so I could wear layers to disguise them when I have to head out to take care of errands. I have not gotten use to being home all day, I’ve worked so much over the years, I’m not sure how to just slow down… sooooo I’m working from home, which keeps me busy. After about two weeks following surgery I was finally able to drive my car. I’m still restricted by the amount of physical activity I can do but I’m happy to be out and about on my own again.

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After I heal from surgery, I’ll have to undergo radiation and then more surgery for reconstruction. I have so much respect for the many women who have lived with cancer for years and continue to fight this disease every day. Thank God for providing me with such an amazing support system! My mother has made so many trips back and forth from Connecticut to S. Carolina to be there for me and I love her so much for it! She’s a rock, my rock. The days when I feel weak, she provides a level of strength that can only be admired…I’m beyond grateful to have her in my life.

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Nurse Navigator “Dottie” she’s amazing!
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My drains

I almost forgot to mention that the day before surgery, I got a call from my surgeon’s office telling me that my insurance would not cover a bilateral surgery. They were only willing to pay for a unilateral mastectomy. The unaffected breast that I opted to have removed is considered healthy so they didn’t feel it was necessary to remove it. I understood that removing it doesn’t extend my life, it doesn’t even prevent a recurrence, so why remove it? I considered it ‘preventative’ it had so much calcification in it. I also never did genetic testing so I don’t know for sure if  I have the BRCA gene but it’s one less thing I want to be monitored for or worry about each time they run scans. Plus someone wanted to raise my blood pressure because why else would I be getting that kind of update the day before major surgery. Let’s just say I politely gave a few people a piece of my mind. I had to pay out of pocket for the other breast to be removed as well. Most people don’t just get in line to remove their boobies unless they’re hoping to avoid the miserable routine mammograms and testing that would be recommended if I kept the so called healthy breast.

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feeling more & more like the old me 😉
I don’t know that anyone can ever prepare themselves emotionally for a roller coaster ride like the one I’ve been on these past 7 months. I think back to last year around this time, I was preparing to start another chapter in my life by relocating. I was so excited and ready for change. If only we had crystal balls, that alerted us about future bumps in the road. I would have ‘detoured’ or chosen an alternate route because CANCER SUCKS!! It robs us of so much and when you think you’re in the clear, it can come back with a vengeance!!  I’ve remained optimistic despite the over whelming urge to break down and cry. It’s hard to make anyone understand my pain. The sad truth is many people will die and it’s heart breaking to think that so many lives will be destroyed by the disease. We need a cure, research has come a long way but there is still a lot of ground to cover.
I hope you all are having a great time with family and friends…be thankful…love and cherish each other 😉
XOXO

Push Forward

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You say, “It’s impossible.”…. God says, All things are possible.  

 
I’ve finally completed chemo…WoooHooo! Six cycles from June to October and while I still have far to go with treatment, I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate every milestone because it’s a BIG deal to me! I started getting a sinus infection just days before the last cycle, thanks to my little ‘germ box’ five year old son ;). He goes to school and brings home all his cooties to share with mommy….you gotta love kids. I felt so guilty for not having energy to run and play with him. I did everything to rid my body of that cold because I was determined to get through that last cycle. When I arrived for treatment my doctor was concerned because my labs came back with a very low hemoglobin level. He debated for a little about holding off on chemo and possibly doing a blood transfusion. After reviewing the complete lab work he gave the green light to move forward with the last infusion…thank goodness! I just wanted to get it over with because my body was ready to throw in the white flag. Let’s just say that between these miserable hot flashes, lousy taste buds, and nightly leg cramps, I’m ready to give my body a much needed break from the ‘chemo beating’.
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I was so grateful to have friends and family go with me for my last cycle. My sister, whom I haven’t seen in a few years, flew in from London and my amazing friend Steph flew in from Connecticut for the ‘Ringing of the bell’ ceremony at SCOA. I wanted to cry when I rang that bell, I was so full of emotion. I’ve watched on the side lines for months as other people got up and rang the bell. It was a joyous moment, one that I will never forget. I remember when I first started my treatments at SCOA, I didn’t know what to expect but the nurses and doctors have been so good to me. The facility has been like a second home because I’m constantly in and out for treatments and other appointments.
It gets increasingly difficult to look pass the many faces and not be moved by the devastation that cancer has inflicted on other lives. I often look at SCOA as a room filled with everyday people going on with their everyday lives, until cancer puts the breaks on. I’ve met people that have fought cancer two and three times in their lifetime and remain so positive about returning for another battle…now that’s strong! I have exchanged stories about treatment plans, diagnostics, chemo, and how we first discovered we had cancer. The experience has been eye opening in so many ways.
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So what’s next?…Surgery…then radiation. I have repeat testing for the MRI and other scans before I determine the type of surgery, which will likely be a bilateral mastectomy….ouch! I haven’t prepared mentally for surgery, one thing at a time I guess. I’m working on recouping from chemo so I can be strong enough for surgery.

 

Thanks for all the prayers, love, and continued support…. I’m pushing forward!   
Huggs,

 

THE #FIGHTFORROXYJEWELZ FUNDRAISER

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” Never give up on your dreams”
I’ve been telling myself this ever since I relocated and found out I have breast cancer. For years I ran a fashion jewelry business and ‘I LOVED IT’, I worked full time but always kept a side hustle. It was a fun and exciting way of connecting with new people and building lasting relationships. It never feels like work when your having fun. Once I relocated I got so busy trying to adjust to my new way of life, job, and helping my son get comfortable in his new school….so busy that I stopped pushing my online hustle and trunk shows. I didn’t really know anyone and my circle of close friends were all in the northeast. I now realize that it is very necessary for me to revamp my business and use it as a source of income to help off set the medical & financial toll, that having cancer can bring on someone who is already fighting a difficult battle.
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I contacted my friends and suggested that I throw a trunk show in Connecticut…a fundraiser and revamp my business party all in one! Well that took off…my home girls are all super creative, very supportive, and they need no permission to go all out to make things happen….God I love them! In just one week my small scale trunk show turned into an all around fundraising extravaganza, complete with a venue ‘Sparks’ T-shirts & wristbands for the cause, silent auction, drink donations from the lovely Lisa Vanderpumps ‘ LVP Sangria ‘ line, raffle, jewelry of course and Karoake..LOL this should be interesting. I’m so ready to see old friends, make new ones, and have a great time! If your in the NY/CT area please stop by and say hello 😉
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I’ve always been very independent, you find out early on in the battle against cancer that ‘support’ & ‘help’ are needed in order to keep your sanity and help you cope with the harsh reality of what the disease does to you mentally & physically. I have always given to different charities and fundraisers, over time but had never considered one for myself until recently when my sister created a Give Forward page to help me get over financial hurdles. Every little bit counts! It could be a sweet message, social media share or like, monetary amount, it all helps! Please stop by and help in any way you can! Visit www.giveforward.com and search #fightforroxyjewelz  The link is posted to the right of the page for easier access. I have just completed chemo and was able to work as much as possible but surgery, depending on the type that I go with, will definitely require a lengthy recovery period so I’ll have to take considerable time off from work. There will be on going treatments, including radiation and medication that I will have to take for the rest of my life. This journey for me is far from over but I plan on fighting with everything in me.
I will begin releasing jewelry pieces weekly for online sales, which is something that I use to do and have decided to revisit. I pray that I have the time and energy to accomplish this while still undergoing treatments…LOL. I want to THANK all of you who have taken time to continue to support my efforts. I have amazing friends and family who know me personally but when you have a connection with people who you’ve never met, understand what your going through, it’s a truly humbling experience!
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Check out the article in this months issue of Afrophire Magazine
Thanks A Million,
 

 

Learning to Dance in the Rain

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“I want to live!”

It’s just that simple… I want to grow old and see my son graduate from college, get married, and give me grandchildren….is that too much to ask for? Well being diagnosed with cancer makes you think of all the ‘what if’s’….what if the cancer never goes away? What if it goes away and comes back? Then I start looking at survival rates and it becomes, how long will I live? The truth is anything can happen to anyone of us at any given time but for some reason, when your faced with a disease like cancer, it’s like someone just accelerated your life closer to death. Thoughts of death and sickness become the ‘elephant in the room’ you try to avoid it, you pray, you try to live a normal life but sickness and death are always in the back your mind. I wish that was not the case but it is for many people fighting this disease like myself.One way that I change the focus from cancer is by going to work. I work because keeping busy leaves less time for me to think about cancer… it’s the perfect distraction. I never thought I would admit that going to work gives me some sense of normalcy but it does. It’s actually a good feeling to leave the office on Friday and know that I made it through the entire work week. There are mornings that I dread waking up, I’m usually exhausted….sleep deprived and running on fumes. When the alarm goes off I wish for five extra minutes. Then I drag myself out of bed in time to slip out the door and make it into the office. I typically take the days following my chemo cycle off just so I can rest. Chemo days run together and come with long sleepless nights. I often find myself lying in the dark feeding my soul with prayer and positive thoughts. Sometimes I lay still enough to feel the heavy beating of my heart. Occasionally certain parts of my body twitch uncontrollably, I feel my fingers and toes become stiff at the joints and I get the worse charlie horse in my calves…boy, o boy are those painful. Let’s not talk about the bathroom trips…I haven’t used the bathroom this often since I was pregnant. I have to drink so much fluid to prevent dehydration but at the same time, I think my bladder wants to divorce me…seriously!

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The side effects
tongue pain & change in pigmentation, eyebrow & eyelash hair reduction or loss, lack of sleep, damage nails

Even on my worse nights I don’t doubt that life is worth living…Thankfully I’m able push forward every single day. I can smile because I know this to be true “I have cancer…cancer doesn’t have me.” I try to be optimistic about my future even during chemo cycles and testing. It’s hard to be optimistic when I’m hooked up to bags of lethal drugs that come with awful side effects. Some days I complain…some days I cry ‘I DON’T WANT TO BE STRONG’ …. Some days I ask why me? Then I feel guilty because I’m still here…Alive…and able to enjoy a life that so many people only dream. I’m grateful and I hope to fulfill my dreams and do all the crazy things I’ve always dreamed about doing, hopefully I won’t have to continue planning everything around the disease.

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My chemo care must haves for mouth, hair, skin, and comfort

I’m looking forward to October because…IT’S MY LAST CHEMO! I’ll still have to deal with the dreadful re-testing phase to see how successful the chemo and hormone therapy was on the tumor. Keep the prayers coming because surgery is the next big thing and while I’ve been able to work through out chemo I will have to take a month or two off to heal from surgery. I imagine this will be a tough holiday season 🙁  I plan on taking some time out to visit my friends and family in CT before I have surgery…not looking forward to the ‘human road map look’.  The scaring is so severe from any of the surgeries…UGH! I have been working on revamping my business and getting back to what I love to do…slowly but surely. I miss trunk shows, jewelry parties, and meeting great people all while building lasting relationships…the lyrics to the song “One day at a time,” just ran across my mind.

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Revamping my accessories business very soon!

I would like to discuss a few things in upcoming posts like, diet & exercise, support groups, and surgery and my thoughts on living life beyond the disease. I appreciate ALL of you that take the time out to support me on this journey, it has helped me tremendously!

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Loads of hugs!

XO

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The Wakeup call

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“I thought I’d never smile again.”

I remember waking up that morning, not sure of what to expect from the breast exam. I hadn’t slept much the night before; I was overwhelmed from spending much of the night tossing and turning until I fell asleep from exhaustion.

 I arrived at the women’s center and sat waiting in the mammogram room; it was brightly lit, stark white, with blank walls. The mammogram machine took up most of the room. I was kind of curious to experience the mammogram for the first time. I had heard stories about how your breasts were flattened out between the plates during the exam. How painful I thought as the built up anxiety put knots in my stomach. I was relieved when the nurse walked in and announced that due to my age, I was not a good candidate for the mammogram. They wanted to perform an ultrasound instead and for some reason I felt more relaxed, it just seemed less invasive….if only I could have warned myself of what was to come.

During the exam, I was instructed to lie on my side as the nurse performed the ultrasound. The lump was already painful but it intensified as she rolled and pressed inward with the transducer each time. I strained my neck a few times hoping to see the image on the grainy grey monitor. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see but  I was on edge just waiting to hear her assure me it was exactly what they thought it was…a ‘cyst’ but she had a  puzzled look on her face.  She said nothing, except that she was going to get the doctor. She was concerned….I could tell, and at that very moment, I knew I was in for a wakeup call.

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Once the doctor came in and introduced himself, he told me that he wanted to take a look at both breast. Up until that point the nurse had only focused on the one with the existing lump. I took a deep breath and rolled from one side to the next as he navigated around each breast with the transducer, applied more gel, and studied the monitor. The room was ice cold, the only thing warm were the steady streams of tears rolling down my cheeks. I wanted to ask him what he saw but I couldn’t talk, there was a lump in my throat. It’s as if I already knew that whatever it was, it was really bad…really really bad.
Remember that mammogram that I didn’t really qualify for in the beginning? Well know he wanted to perform one. This day was going down the tubes very fast. I walked across the hall and sat waiting for what seemed like forever until the nurse returned and performed the mammogram…it was uncomfortable and just as awful as the stories I had heard about the discomfort. My 9 AM, in and out appointment had now gone on for two hours,  finally after a needle biopsy, the doctor said in his professional opinion, he was 99% sure it was C-A-N-C-E-R.
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C-A-N-C-E-R?? …My legs began to shake uncontrollably as I sat on the exam table. He replied back “yes, it’s a cancerous tumor that’s approximately 3cm in size based on the markers.” I was weak, I felt like a truck just slammed into me at full speed, and the world began to close in on me.

I was devastated, to say the least but he pulled out the images from the mammogram and walked me through his findings…. I had planned on going to work after my appointment, obviously I couldn’t and after sitting in my car for what seemed like forever, I finally called my mother to share the news.

It’s one of those phone calls that you never want to make. I imagined that the news would be equally as terrifying for her as it was for me. She had lost her own mother to breast cancer several years ago, it was a battle that our family lost and one that I didn’t want her to have to face again. Our telephone conversation was awkward because I mainly let her talk, she was in a good mood that day. I felt guilty about telling her about my appointment. When I finally did, she remained completely silent. I waited for her to reply and when she finally did, she said “Don’t worry, stay strong, we’re going to beat this together.” My mother is a ‘rock’ and the strongest woman I know. She’s always offering advice and spends considerable time helping those less fortunate than herself. She was miles away but I could hear the fear and concern in her voice even though she remained upbeat and reassuring.
I didn’t sleep that first night and because the appointment was at the end of the week, I had to wait until the following Monday to get the results of the pathology report. Worrying about the future is only natural. When cancer stops you in your tracks, you begin to understand that worrying doesn’t make things better especially when you can’t control things. I had to think about what really mattered to me and remain faithful in God because he has the final word.
The scariest part was waiting and being alone with my thoughts. My initial fear was wondering how much time I had left with my son. As a mother you always want to be there for your kids. You give birth and watch them grow up right before your eyes. That first night I was filled with thoughts of not being there to be a part of those special moments in his life. Your dreams begin to shatter, you feel weak, and everything becomes dark, no appetite, no smile, only deep hurt and pain.
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Monday came and went, I went to work mainly because it kept me busy enough to not go off the deep end. I have the best coworkers, they have all been so supportive throughout this journey.   They kept things as ‘normal’ as possible for me because they knew my appointment had not gone well. It was an uneasy day my nerves were through the roof. I jumped every time my phone rang, in anticipation of that dreadful phone call from the doctor’s office, with the official pathology report to confirm his finding. It never came that day and as anxious as I was to find out, I never called because of fear.
The following day arrived and I went off to work as usual. My eyes were swollen because it had been a tearful night; the insomnia was insane from interrupted sleep but I made it through the day managing to squeeze out a smile here & there to help lighten the mood in the office…the day was mainly a blur. At  exactly 4:34pm Tuesday June 3rd I found out that I not only had Invasive cancer but I also had a rapidly growing and aggressive cancer….bullets…that’s how I felt…like bullets had pierced every part of my body. Thank God two my coworkers were concerned enough to come outside, which is where I ran to so that I could take the call in private. They got concerned because I didn’t come back inside. They helped me stand up, because my legs felt like they had caved in as I received the news. They even cried with me but most of all they helped me breathe when I couldn’t catch my breath. That day will continue to remind me to be thankful for everyday of life because it isn’t promised to anyone.
Love,

My Unwelcome Lumpy Visitor

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One month before diagnosis
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.-Woody Allen
 
Towards the end of 2013 I was craving change, so I decided to push my plans to relocate south into full effect. Winter was approaching fast and I was mentally and physically drained. I felt like I was spinning around in circles and I couldn’t stop long enough to focus and catch my breath. I had my plans laid out, two years in the making for the big move. I was ready to escape the harsh winters and busy work schedule that seemed to leave me with little or no time with my son. I was two weeks away from moving when out of nowhere, this painful lump appeared. It had this sharp shooting sensation, a pinching dull pain. It seemed to balloon during my cycle and then go back down but not completely go away. How freaking annoying I thought, I had just gone for a routine pap only 2 months prior and I didn’t remember it being there,  I didn’t remember  my doctor saying anything when he performed the in office breast exam. What an inconvenience, now I had to make another appointment to have this lump checked out in the middle of packing and moving hundreds of miles away.
I reluctantly made the appointment for that same week because I was due to move the following week. I wanted to have a medical professional examine the lump. I wasn’t in the mood for bad news but after a few days of self diagnosing myself through Google (bad idea). I was ready to get the appointment over with. Finally the breast exam day arrived and everything went surprisingly smooth. The doctor did the exam and decided based on the lumps characteristics and my history of fibrocystic breasts (I had a benign lump removed in my mid twenties) she felt that it was nothing to be alarmed over.  She said something to the effect of “blah, blah, blah, you have nothing to worry about”… naturally I heard only what I wanted to hear “Nothing to worry about”.  Phew! I thought what great news, this was all I needed to hear so that I could move forward with my plans.
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The relocation south was exciting because it was during the middle of the holiday season. Thanksgiving had just past, Christmas was just a few weeks away and before I saw it coming, it was a new year. I started my New Year’s resolution by joining the local gym, which I enjoyed after dropping my son off for school. Once I settled in I started my job search and landed a job shortly after the New Year. Everything seemed to be falling into place.  Except that this lump had not gone away, it hadn’t really changed in size, it was still very tender and something about it just didn’t seem right. Once I started my new job I lost track of time because it was during the middle of the company’s busiest season and I had 6 weeks of training.  I just didn’t have time to go for that follow up appointment. I needed to do so much but the days turned into weeks and before I knew it, it was a new month.
Once things started to die down I began scheduling appointments for my son first. I was grateful for the job because the new health care market place was a mess to navigate. I had spent 14 years with a company that provided various health insurance options so it was over whelming to figure it out for myself. It was now time to schedule another wellness follow up for myself. I was really good at going for my wellness visits.  This time I was more prepared and I had questions for the doctor. After performing the exam I started with my list of questions and then she said something at the end that hadn’t really dawned on me before, “everything appears fine but I don’t have x-ray vision”. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head, had I dismissed the fact that no ultrasound or mammogram had been performed at the last visit? Why was the previous doctor so certain that this lump wasn’t cancer? Suddenly a sense of urgency came over me. This time I requested to have the mammogram performed for later that week. While I was nervous about the appointment, I was anxious to find out more about my unwelcome lumpy visitor.
Love,

 

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