My Big Decision

Let’s go back a little bit so I can catch you up on what’s happened in these last few years. I went back to work for the State of Maryland after my 8 weeks of leave when I had Jace. I knew at that time I needed more.  I didn’t want to be in an office setting and I knew I wanted to spend as much time with my baby as I could. But I didn’t know what to do. 

We were fortunate enough to have my mother and mother in law watch him which helped immensely. Every parent out there knows the cost of child care is insane and I was not ready to work just to pay for that. Or let some stranger raise our child. That just wasn’t in my plan. 

So I decided to pray. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for a sign. I asked the universe for help, to show me the way. I needed something to help pay the bills and had a flexible schedule. I loved the people I worked with and the job I was doing. I was able to share my story with coworkers who battled cancer or had just been diagnosed.  I watched my story help them have hope through their treatment. I gained friendships through this that I’ll be forever grateful for. But I had come to a point where I just wanted to own my time. I know far too well how precious that time is and I needed to make a change. And quickly. 

I went on working for about a year before I found it. I had kinda stopped looking for it to be honest. But there it was. A friend of mine added me to this group on Facebook called Fancy Pants. I had no idea what it was all about but soon discovered they sold Maxi skirts! I was in love! I live for skirts in the summer and was excited when I found stylish and affordable Maxi skirts! Plus they have a nice way of flattering the mom pooch. 😉 

It wasn’t long before the packages started coming to the house every few days. First skirts. Then these crazy soft leggings, and then dresses. Chris finally stopped and asked “What is all this stuff you keep getting?” I replied comfy clothes that make me feel good! I explained to him how they only sold items on Facebook or at these things called Popup parties. Having worked his own retail business for many years he asked if it seems like a lucrative business. I decided to look into it. 

I scheduled a meeting with a local consultant to discuss what this business entailed. We had so so much in common and really hit it off! I went home that evening and filled out the paperwork! And on October 17, 2015 I became a retailer with LuLaRoe. 

If you’re not familiar with LuLaRoe, the company makes tops, skirts, dresses, coverups/cardigans, leggings and some children’s clothes. The styles range from XXS-3XL in most and there really is something for everyone. Which for me was the selling point. I could still help people by way of making them feel comfortable and beautiful at the same time! 

I had done it! I had finally found the missing piece to our puzzle. And in July of last year I left my full time job to pursue LuLaRoe full time. It’s truly been a blessing for our family. Being able to be home with Jace is amazing. I get to go to his nursery school functions, play dates with our friends, impromptu trips, and I don’t have to worry about how much leave I’m going to use to do it. My time is now mine. We’ve learned to weed out the things in life that we really don’t need and just live comfortably. We’ve also been able to go on trips and vacations that we couldn’t do in the past. Making memories is so important! 

I never thought I would ever leave my state job. However when this opportunity presented itself I knew it was time to take the leap. It was absolutely scary diving into the unknown. All the “What-ifs” hanging in the balance. But that’s no way to live your life. We only have this one. And I for certain don’t want to get to the end and regret all the things I didn’t do. 

So here we are. Living a happy life. We have our struggles too.  Don’t think it’s all sunshine and roses. But those things don’t really matter at the end of the day. And they shouldn’t for you either. Remember to be grateful for all you have. You are blessed. You are here. And you are important. Don’t ever forget that!

Blood Work and Mammograms and MRI’s OH MY!!!!

“Time for your checkup, time for your checkup!” Ok so I’ve been watching way too much Doc McStuffins. Please forgive me. But seriously it’s that time of year when I am so lucky to not only get my semi annual blood work, but it’s also my annual mammo and Breast MRI time. I never really give any of this much thought as I’m always busy doing “mom” stuff these days. That is until the day of the screening. And then, I’m consumed with the screening itself and more importantly, waiting on the results. Luckily I have a fantastic doctor who phones me as soon as my results are in (for the MRI). But first up is the ever wonderful mammogram.

You see I had one a few months back but could only do one side due to my recent delivery and my desire to breast feed my child. In May I stopped breast feeding and pumping, going exclusively to formula. I was very lucky that the transition was easy on my baby. I struggled a bit but held on to the fact that I made it 4 1/2 months with only one milk-producing breast. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

I had to wait a few months for my hormones to normalize before I could have the mammo. Fast forward those few months and boy was I nervous as I sat in the little cubbyhole changing room waiting for the Radiologists to tell me the results. When I heard those words “all clean”, I sighed. Thank you thank you thank you! I knew the MRI was next up but I would sail into that screening on this positive note. (P.S. 3-D mammograms are now available at most imaging centers. If you are young or have dense breast tissue, I would recommend having this done. Unfortunately, there is a cost associated with this. Check with your center. The Breast Center at AAMC charges $50. I believe it is worth it to get a better image.)

My MRI was much like my mammo in the fact that I was totally fine until I walked into the MRI room. For this scan they hook up a little IV to you so they can run a dye through your bloodstream while taking the images. This contrast dye is suppose to attach itself to abnormal areas which “light up” on the imaging screen. Unlike the mammo, you have to wait until your doctor’s office contacts you with the results. So waiting is the name of the game.

As I said before, I’m lucky to have a doctor who calls me immediately with the results. “Everything looks great”! Music to my ears. Another sigh and more thank you’s!!

Last week was my semi-annual appointment with my oncologist. Before every appointment I go to the lab in the basement at the hospital to have my blood drawn. I had emailed her regarding my blood work and asked if she could add my Thyroid and B-12 to the list. I was a couple weeks overdue to have my thyroid checked as my endocrinologist let me stop taking the meds and told me to wait a few weeks then have it tested to see if I could stay off the medicine all together. Rather than getting stuck twice I wanted to see if I could have it all done there and the results sent to my other doctor. My days of being a human pincushion were long gone! As for my B-12, about 3 months ago I made the decision to stop eating meat, dairy and eggs. I really want to elaborate more on this but I want to do it in a post of its own as I have a lot to say on the topic. However the main concern I had was am I getting enough B-12 now that I don’t eat meat.

Results are in and my levels are all perfect! No more thyroid medication! The only thing that came back of concern is that I am Vitamin D deficient. So I have to take a weekly prescribed dose for the next 3 months and then continue with a daily over the counter dose. I also just need to continue my bi-weekly B-12 dose. I take Deva Nutritional sublingual tablets 2500 mcg. She also made it very clear that exercise is extremely important in keeping recurrence at bay.

I was struggling with exercise as I just couldn’t find the time. But I decided I needed to make the commitment to do it given the importance. I have so much to be thankful for and one amazingly handsome little fella to live for. And wouldn’t you know it, right after I made that commitment, my little boy began sleeping through the night. Now I get 8 hours of sleep and am well rested. I have time to get up, work out and get ready for work all before he gets up in the morning! I’ve also added some mediation in the evenings before I go to sleep. It’s been so helpful with clearing my thoughts and focus.

Life is good. I am beyond blessed. I have to stay focused on the positive. I believe that positivity is the key ingredient to a long happy future. Add in a healthy diet, exercise, rest, friends, family, hope and love and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success!!!

Link

About a month and a half ago I received a call from a young professional at Capital Style Magazine. Elisha Sauers informed me that she had come across my blog and found my story interesting and inspiring. She asked if I would be willing to do an interview with her for an article in the October issue of Capital Style. I quickly told her that I had done an interview with the Capital Newspaper last year around this time and didn’t want to beat a dead horse. She let me know that she was aware of the previous article. However she was interested in sharing the whole story much like my blog, and bringing it full story to our son. I agreed and we made the necessary arrangements and set up a time for the interview.

I was nervous and afraid because I don’t want to come across as someone searching for attention. I’ve never hunted out the media. After all, people have heard my story. And is anyone really listening anymore anyway??? Well, I guess they are. Which in a way makes me really happy. All I’ve ever wanted was to tell my story, reach people who may be going through the same situation or have a family member going through it, and make a difference in how they get through it. The fact that I might actually inspire someone was not a thought. But it turns out that’s what has happened and it is truly humbling.

Check out the link below to read the full article. I was very pleased with the outcome. Thank you to Elisha Sauers for thinking of me. I hope my story continues to reach people and help those who find themselves lost in either of the situations I’ve gone through.

http://www.capitalgazette.com/capital_style/ph-ac-capstyle-amber-blose-1019-20141019,0,319549.story?page=1

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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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The Red Devil

Yesterday was our Chemotherapy Teaching Day at the infusion center. I learned a lot about what my treatment will consist of. It’s AC followed by T. First 4 rounds of chemo are AC with Nuelasta. The A is for Adriamycin (or Doxorubicin hyrdochloride) more commonly known as “The Red Devil” because it is a red liquid that comes in a tube and is super toxic.  Put it this way, if it drips on you or out of your IV,which I surely hope the nurse gets correctly in my vein, it can scare the hell out of your skin.  Oooo please sign me up!  It belongs to the general group of chemotherapy drugs known as anthracycline antibiotics. This chemo drug stops the growth of cancer cells causing the cells to die. Cancer cells grow quickly, so do the cells for hair and nail growth as well, hense the side effect of hair loss. Common side effects are decreased white blood cell and platelet count, loss of appetite, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. Sounds fun right?

Then there is C which is for Cytoxan or Cyclophosphamide which belongs to a general group of chemo drugs known as alkylating agents. It has the same effect on cancer cells as Adriamycin. The side effects are decreased white blood cells, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sores in mouth, diarrhea, stopping of menstrual periods in women, and tiredness.

Now while I am getting these drugs I also get pre-meds that consist of decadron (dexamethasone) a steriod used to combat nausea (and make me gain 10 lbs, Kim Allafi-I will be in Crofton Bootcamp when this is over!), Ativan for any anxiety if needed, and some other drug also for nausea that is slipping my mind right now. After I get these two drugs on Chemo day, I go back the next morning for a shot of Neulasta. This shot helps to boost my bone marrow to make more white blood cells to aid my immune system. I only have to get this shot after the AC regimen portion of chemo (first 4 cycles).

The last 4 cycles of chemo consist of T for Taxol. Taxol is in the general group of chemo drugs known as taxanes. It is a mitotic inhibitor as it stops cell division resulting in cell death. Common side effects are the same as above also numbness and tingling in hands and or feet and muscle and bone aches for 3 days after treatment. Good news is I won’t endure the nausea with this part of treatment so they tell me. The nurse I was with today is a breast cancer survivor and endured the same treatment as me only hers was for a longer duration. So I’m feeling confident taking her word for it. Chemo starts next Friday the 12th. I know I will loose my hair so I’ve made a plan to go back to Amy’s of Denmark and have my hair cut before that happens. The nurse says it will most likely begin at the start of my second treatment. I figured I would dictate when I am going to loose my hair and not cancer. I don’t particularly like being told what to do. Take that cancer!

Chemo sure sounds scary. But aren’t the possible side effects of any drugs always scary? I’m trying to enter this phase of my journey as positive as possible. I know staying that way will be hard, but it’s mandatory for me to get through this with a smile. (please remind me I said this when that smile starts to fade)For now til chemo day I am just going to try and enjoy my time as much as possible. Feels strange not having any doctors appointments to go to for the next 10 days.

Wigging Out!

I have to say I am truly blessed with an amazing family and friends. My friends got together and thought it would be fun to go do some wig shopping together. I welcomed the idea as I see it as a great way to bond with my friends and be a little silly in an otherwise serious situation. Cancer. Always trying to take the fun out of everything. Well I’ve decided NO WAY am I letting it take my sense of humor.

Our trip to Amy of Denmark in Wheaton, MD was nothing short of a blast! The girls made it memorable and outrageous, trying on wigs themselves. What a welcomed change to just let go and enjoy myself. The staff of Amy’s was just outstanding. They made us all feel right at home. They jumped right in and started bringing me different wigs while the girls looked around for some of their own to try on. They even took pictures of all of us together. I know when I have some down days I’ll look at those pictures and smile. Cancer really does suck. But there are little moments like these that occur in this journey when I want to say “Thanks Cancer”. Thank you for bringing me closer to these ladies in my life. Thanks for reminding me of what’s really important. I might not be looking forward to this journey but I’m here and it must take place. What I am looking forward to is the relationships that will be forged as a result of this horrible disease. Cancer, you might be able to take my hair but you can not take my faith and you can not take all the love and support that surrounds me. In fact, the only thing that you can be sure of is that you ARE responsible for making those aspects of my life better. So thanks!

How’s that for positivity!

Wigging Out at Amy's

Wigging Out at Amy’s of Denmark

Super Eggs!

Apparently my eggs are responding well to the fertility drugs. So well in fact that it only took 8 days to get to my trigger shot. This shot signals my brain to think like it is already pregnant so I won’t ovulate, allowing the extraction to take place. This will take place on Thursday. Also on Thursday I will be having my re-excision done. Both procedures involve IV sedation and take about 15-20 minutes. Should make for an interesting long day. I’m excited for this all to take place. But it only means that chemo is lurking around the corner.

UPDATE!!!!

Egg extraction went great! We got 8 eggs with 7 of them being mature. And my tissue margins came back clear. Woohoo! GIANT THANK YOU to Dr. Mottla & my nurse Crystal at Shady Grove Fertility and to Dr. Tafra my surgeon.  You guys are amazing and have made these two steps in my journey so positive and memorable.  I am thankful for all you have done to ease mine and Chris’s mind through all we’ve gone through so far.