Back to Work

Well the time finally arrived. Back to work. I survived the first week! I guess that is promising. I know that I should be happy I have a job to go back to, which I am. But I just can not stop thinking about how much of life I am missing out on while at work in front of a computer all day. Am I the only one who felt this way after returning to work following a life changing event? I’m pretty sure I’m not. I would be curious to hear stories from others.

Knowing and experiencing first hand just how precious life is, I find it insane that we spend so much of our time working and not actually enjoying life. And now I feel trapped because I am the insurance holder for my family. I suppose I will just have to suck it up for now.

Well that is my rant for today. I’m feeling well and have also gone back to working out. Crofton Bootcamp is really making me feel the burn! I’m pretty out of shape, but just means I have no where to go but up! Looking forward to a healthier, leaner, happier, and grounded me for the summer. I’m REALLY looking forward to warmer weather and Maryland CRABS!!!!! Mmmmmm Mmmmmmm Mmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!! So good. My hair is growing back and pretty quickly too, so I’m told. I have eyebrows and eyelashes again, which is VERY exciting! lol

I have follow up appointments with my Radiation doc on May 17th and with my medical oncologists June 7th. We will also be meeting with our fertility doctor sometime in May to discuss our options moving forward and to run some tests to see how my reproductive system is functioning. WARNING: About to spew TMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have not had a menstrual cycle since December. However, I no longer have night sweats or hot flashes so that is super promising! Well at least I think it is. I mean, I guess it could mean I’ve gone through early menopause and things are no longer working. Wait, what???? None of that! ONLY POSITIVE THOUGHTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Man, I tell you. Sometimes I need a swift kick in the pants! To which I can turn to many of my lovely friends to do. Good thing not a one of you is any where near me right now!! lol

So yes, remaining positive and hopeful that all is on the up swing! I will keep you posted ;o)

Celebrating Life

The past few weeks after treatment ended have been a whirl wind. A few days after my bell ringing festivities, my brother finally arrived in Maryland! No words to describe how awesome it was having him home with his family and being able to spend lots of time together. During this time, we had a big party to celebrate Justin returning from Afghanistan and me kicking Cancer’s a$$. It was hands down the best time I have had in FOREVER!!! So many faces I haven’t seen in a long time. So much love came together through family and friends to make that party a lasting memory. We truly are blessed to have such amazing people in our lives. Thank you to everyone that was there to celebrate with us, and giant hugs and much love to all those who helped with decorations, food, music and our venue! I truly love all of you more then you know.

We also had to wrap up the renovations on our house AND get all the final inspections complete, including having the appraiser come out to make sure all conditions of the loan had been met. By the grace of God we managed to get everything complete and can now breath a sigh of relief!!!!

And we went to Arizona and stayed with my cousin for a week to get away before my dreaded 😉 return to work. Arizona is one of the prettiest, breath taking states I have ever seen. And my husband and I are now contemplating a move there sometime in the next few years. Guess we will have to see what the future holds on that!

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Blasting Through Radiation

Boy, I’m not very good at keeping up with this. I always have the best intentions on posting, but something always keeps me from it. Not to mention we are coming to the end of our renovations on our house so we’ve been super busy. Boy is that exciting! Almost as exciting as coming to the end of treatment! I’m actually in the waiting room now at the hospital awaiting radiation, which will be #24, leaving only 6 more to go!!! It feels like so much time has past since my diagnosis. It has been just about 7 months. And what a world of difference in my life. Just as it was when Cameron left us, so it is now. I was forever changed by Cam touching our lives, and in ways, Cancer has done the same. I made some incredible relationships with my doctors, nurses and other staff members at the hospital. I’ve also made some other connections that appear to be setting me on that path I’ve spent so much time searching for. Always wanting to help others and give back in some way but never knowing exactly where to start. Since my last post, I’ve gone with Christalene to the Save the Coconuts – Coco Blanco fundraiser, where she henna tattooed my head for all to see. The video that Sugar Farm Productions so beautifully put together, has been viewed by so many people. Most recently, as in just this morning, I was contacted by the hospitals PR Office as they want to interview me because they heard my story from one of the wonderful nurses in the NICU. I told them I would be more then happy to tell my story and help the hospital in any way I could. I’ve spent so much of my time at AAMC over the last two years. They have done so much for me so I would be honored to give back however I can.

I will also be ending this treatment journey next Tuesday. It sounds funny to say that. So many emotions will come along with that day. Glad to be finished, but then I have to work extra hard to keep that worry out of my head. For some reason, when you are in treatment activley, you feel safe. Maybe because you are surrounded by hospital staff on a daily basis. Then this reality sets in that you are about to embark back into the real world and resume life, and try to be normal again. Wait….. What the heck is NORMAL??!!??

I guess next week I will start to find out. Oh boy……

UPDATE: apparently there is a glitch in the matrix. I posted this almost two weeks ago. Only to log on and find out it was in my drafts and never posted. Awesome.

Closing the Chapter

So the day has finally come. My last radiation treatment. I almost can’t believe it. After a 7 month journey, I got to ring my final bell, symbolizing the close to this chapter of my story! Just an intense overwhelming feeling of joy. And what better way to celebrate this accomplishment then to have my parents and some of my close friends there to witness. As I stood there ringing the bell I thought back to when this all started. How incredibly scared I felt the day I received my diagnosis. Thinking why God is this happening to me. Why can’t we catch a break? What are we going to do? How will we ever get through this? Sometimes we just have to realize that no matter what, we will be ok. We are right where we are supposed to be. The moment I stopped crying and got all the self pity out of my system, I knew I was going to be just fine. Worry wasn’t going to help. I had to focus and stay positive in order to get through this battle. So everything negative had NO PLACE in my life!

So here we are at the end. I couldn’t have come this far without all my friends and family. My support system is absolutely amazing! So I am dedicating this final ringing of the bell to all of you!!! I love you all so much. And truly blessed to have all of you in my life!

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Positivity Abounds!!!!!

Two things I want to share. First, I am very excited to be able to share this little film my friend Alison put together of me getting my henna tattoo. It is beautifully done and really showcases Christalene’s project and my story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Healing Through Body Art from Sugar Farm Productions on Vimeo.

Second, I received this post on Facebook via my very close friend Rob Brown. Family is more like it. He’s such a source of positivity and inspiration in my life and to many others. I was moved to tears when I read this and felt so honored by what he had to say. Instead of trying to tell you what an awesome lyricist/poet this man is, I will just let his words do the talking. For those of you fighting this disease, remember, there is a soldier in each one of you!

“I guess it isn’t ironic that without your hair you look like a little soldier because you have sure put up one hell of a fight, and I am so grateful to call myself your friend. The funny thing about days is that they seem to come and go without so much as a thought that they may actually have numbers. That is of course, until the dreadful day comes when someone tells you that they do. The sheer magnitude of what you have accomplished is only eclipsed by the absolute courage and class that you have demonstrated while doing so. Proof that angels truly do walk the earth because surely only an angel could take something so ugly and turn it into art. That is what you have become before our very eyes, living art. The smallest things you do continues to restore my faith in human beings. Who would ever have thought that the little girl with the mega-watt smile would have stood so defiantly in the face of adversity, whispering a “no” that became a roar telling the world that you are here and you won’t go without a fight. We hear you loud and clear and only ask that you allow us to stand here and watch you complete your masterpiece. I only hope that when my time comes, whatever is in you, I also find in myself. Thank you Amber Blose, for reminding us that days do have numbers, and every last one of them is worth fighting for…”

The Amazing Power of Art

Last week I went to visit my dear friend Christalene for a reiki session. I knew I was long over due as I could sense it was getting harder for me to keep up my positivity. Not only was I excited for my reiki, but I was also getting a henna tattoo on my head! Yes yes I know. At first this probably sounds crazy or silly. But I must explain how we got here.

About a year and a half ago Christalene and I got together so I could have reiki done. She also planned a full body painting session for me as well. You see, this was a few months after our little Cameron had passed and she wanted to help in my healing process. So while we were having my reiki session she had a vision of doing what she now calls Healing Through Body Art. She envisioned painting women with scars or burns to empower them and let them know they are beautiful. To help them heal. She also thought it would be beneficial for women with cancer who had lost their hair. She could paint or do henna on their heads. I felt this was incredible. My body painting session was just that. It helped me on both an emotional and spiritual level to heal.

Now fast forward to the present. I’m getting a henna tattoo on my head! It’s like we came full circle without any indication we would be here. When this idea came to light, I was a year away from my diagnosis. Yet here we are. Not only did I get my henna on my head but the amazing Alison Harbaugh from Freckle Photography and Sugar Farm Productions came over to take photos and film the entire session.

While Christalene was creating her art on my head I was able to reflect on my journey so far in life and how much I have overcome. It’s really incredible actually, what the human spirit is capable of. I truly hope that others can gain something from this.

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Finally Chemo is O-V-E-R!!!

It’s been almost three weeks since my final chemo treatment. It’s been too long since my last post too. Things have gotten a bit crazy since then. First off, saying goodbye to chemo was great! I got to ring the bell at the infusion center for completing my treatment and all the nurses signed a certificate commemorating my journey. I have since then been trying to hold on to that happiness. The neuropathy is progressing and I am doing my best to cope with this side effect. I’m also tired all of the time. It’s a tired that I can’t explain. I can basically fall asleep whenever and wherever in a matter of seconds. This can be very disruptive when it comes to my normal daily activities. Which brings me to the next thing that has occurred. I am not working. My doctor put me out of work for the next 8 weeks. She felt this was in my best interest given the side effects I’m experiencing and how I’ve been dealing with the stress of working through Chemotherapy. She said that my side effects will continue to add up for the few weeks that follow my last treatment before they start to get better. And then I will begin radiation for 6 weeks with treatment everyday. This will also add to the fatigue which will build up throughout treatment and last a few weeks after treatment ends just like chemo. Fun times ahead!
I have been to so many appointments over the last couple weeks! I had my radiation consult, a CT scan, tattoos for radiation, and surgery to have my port removed! I still have to have an MRI, 1 month follow up with my oncologist and a follow up with my breast surgeon as it has been 6 months since my lumpectomy! 6 months!?!?!?!? That is crazy! I can’t believe it. So many things to be thankful for.

And just when I thought things might be going smoothly and I was on the road to recovery, I received a letter in the mail from the state. They only approved my leave for 4 weeks instead of the full amount requested due to my doctors orders. I am beside myself right now. But doing my best to not let it send me over the edge with worry. I will be calling work and trying to figure out what is going on and why. The letter stated I need to be evaluated by a state medical board doctor. Really???? You mean to tell me that a doctor from the state medical board is more qualified then my oncologist to give an opinion on my health?

Sidenote: I called work and was told that the meeting with the state medical director is to determine whether or not I will be in fact coming back to work. This doesn’t make any sense as I already gave them my doctors letter and such that says I will be back.

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Round 7 side effects

Round 7 brought on the neuropathy. Something I wasn’t prepared for. For those that don’t know, this is the numbness and tingling in your toes and/or fingers. So far this has all been in my toes and soles of my feet. It’s like my toes are falling asleep. Then I get shooting pains from feet up through my legs. It happens randomly throughout the day but seems to get worse at night.

So last week I ended up calling the dr because my cough got worse. I got put on antibiotics. Then I called this past Monday because of the neuropathy and they called in another med for that an currently have me out of work through this Monday when I see the dr again. At that time she will evaluate me to see 1. If I’m going to proceed with treatment as scheduled 2. If not, when I will have my last treatment and 3. When I’m going back to work. Which should be Tuesday as of now.

They warned me that things like this could happen. Chemo is cumulative so it builds up in your system, causing the problems to rear their head at the end stages of treatment. At this point I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring. But I have to stop worrying about everything, especially work. I just need to focus on me and my recovery. For the first time in my life I need to be selfish. And it’s ok to be that way!

In other news, house is progressing. Kitchen cabinets are all done. Plumbing inspection this week and then on to the bathrooms. Woohoo! And of course, looking forward to the Championship games tomorrow. GO RAVENS!!!!!!

Survivor Bras by VS

My good friend Chris Opilla sent this to me today. I think it’s a great idea. I shop at Victories Secret because of the quality and fit of their bras. However since having my partial mastectomy (lumpectomy) surgery, non of my bras fit properly. No one probably notices but me. However, it still bothers me. They make bras out there for those who’ve had a mastectomy. Non that I’ve seen look anything like Vicky’s. Woman loose a piece of their femininity after this type of surgery. So why not make a product that brings the sexy back?

http://consumerist.com/2013/01/17/daughter-of-breast-cancer-survivor-petitions-victorias-secret-to-create-nice-bras-for-women-with-mastectomies/