Living Beyond Cancer

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Hi guys, where do I even begin? It’s been such a long time. I haven’t blogged for this very reason. I just don’t know how to get back into blogging. It’s like learning to ride a bike again so forgive me if I seem a little rusty.

It’s been a year and three months since my bilateral mastectomy, which is when the cancerous tumor was removed. I count my “cancerversary” from that date. Some survivors count it from the date they were initially diagnosed. A year is big deal in the cancer world! I’m hoping for many more years.

Your probably wondering what I’ve been up to…truthfully, I’ve been celebrating life! it’s beautiful and I’m deeply grateful for each day. I completed all major treatment in June of last year. I reconstructed my breast in September and I’ve been laying low ever since.

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I needed to heal, physically and mentally. Treatment and surgery were so intense, it’s nice to just take a deep breathe. I’m learning to live beyond cancer, which is difficult at times. I had only known one person with breast cancer before I was diagnosed, now it seems like so many people are either battling the disease or dying from it. It’s so depressing, deeply depressing but I try to remain positive.

I wear this big smile, which hides a lot of pain but it also  represents happiness. Happiness for life, a full head off hair, quality time with my son and the people I love. Thank you all for giving me a warm welcome back, it made heart smile.

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Love,
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Faith Prayer & Hope

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That was the message I pulled out of a fish bowl at the breast center before I went for my repeat mammogram. A reminder that I have never faced this battle alone. I was stressed at the thought of having to go through this process again. I remember the initial appointment like it was yesterday, I was coming for an appointment to check out a bothersome lump. I had no idea that I would be told that I had ‘cancer’…invasive, aggressive Her 2+ cancer. That day back in May has forever changed life. Ironically I was greeted by the same nurse who recognized my face from that first visit. We chatted about that initial diagnostic, how I was coping with treatment, and my feelings about going through this journey. She was as kind now as she was then, apologizing for ever having to break that type of news to anyone.
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I haven’t actually blogged in a while and its hard to believe that its been a month since I completed chemo and nothing…..I mean nothing has gone back the way it use to be. My hair for example, has been growing back a completely different texture. I’ve always had course, thick textured hair but the new growth is baby soft. I had eyebrows and lashes all through chemo but for some reason towards the end they thinned out and look like I have nothing. Just imagine a completely bare face, no hair on the head, eyebrows, or lashes. It is definitely a look that I will never get use to seeing in the mirror. I feel like a blank canvas and I jokingly have told friends and coworkers that I have to put on my face each day. The hair on my head is filling in mainly in the back and on the sides not so much on the edges or the top of my head, the growth pattern reminds me of a balding man. I’ve lost close to 30lbs since the start of chemo, which is the only exciting thing about this whole process. I’ve wanted to drop the weight but I’m a serious ‘YoYo’ dieter so I usually lose a little and gain much more! My taste buds have slowly returned so I can enjoy food again, there was a point when everything tasted like metal.
I have started Herceptin treatments alone, it’s an antibody that doesn’t give the same icky, awful side effects that I had during chemo. The Herceptin was a part of my chemo regimen (TCHP) Taxatore, Carbopatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta but I have to finish out the 52 week cycle that is recommended for this drug in order to achieve its full benefits. Taking Herceptin comes with one major side effect and that is heart function, it can damage the heart over time so I have routine echocardiograms to make sure it’s not deteriorating or showing reduced heart function from the drug.
I’ve been feeling pretty good so I was surprised to hear that my hemoglobin levels had not rebounded 3 weeks out from chemo. I have not felt any more tired than usual, I’ve even ventured out a bit more since chemo. At one point I went from work straight home and stayed in all weekend because a mistake like eating the wrong food while on chemo could be pretty explosive and not in a good way! My oncologist wanted to give my body the time to bring the hemoglobin levels up but surgery is needed and possibly radiation so even though, it increased from 7.3 to 8.0, it just is not high enough for the upcoming treatment options. We moved forward with 600 cc of blood to give my body the boost it really needed, the results from the transfusion are pending but I feel more energized than before.

 

I had to repeat my MRI and mammogram, my nerves were on edge because I can recall the initial mammogram like it was yesterday….Guess what? I wanted to share some great news! Take a look at the before and after pictures of my breast. I’ve circled the tumor in each photograph…notice anything different? No your eyes aren’t deceiving you, my tumor disappeared!!!! Your prayers have been working 😉 that along with the ability that God gives these scientist and researchers have made what use to be a death sentence, possible to treat successfully.

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MY MAMMOGRAM

 

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MY MRI

I truly believe that my purpose is bigger than this disease. I’m so grateful for the many people who have kept me in constant prayer. I still have a long way to go with treatment and surgery is still taking place so while the battle isn’t over, I’m sure excited about all the wonderful ways I can help other women through my testimony.

Luv,

 

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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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