Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Positive Attitude

So, today's post might be a bit ranty. I apologize in advance, but I just have to let this out. It's come up a few times recently - both in comments people have said to me {but, I'm grateful to report that the comments were few} and in talking to other cancer patients, so I just feel like it needs to be said. Because it's important to those of who are struggling - with anything by the way, not just cancer - that people can acknowledge and agree with what I'm about to say.

A positive attitude will NOT cure cancer. It will not make a sick person healthy. It will not raise white blood counts or red blood counts. It does not make tumors shrink.

That's not to say I don't see how a positive attitude is helpful. It certainly can be. However, it is absolutely NOT helpful at all when the person with the positive attitude is completely faking it because s/he feels pressure from the people around him/her to be "happy." It is draining to fake it. It is tiring to fake it.

It also needs to be said, just because I do not have a huge smile plastered on my face, that doesn't mean I do not have a positive attitude. I can have a generally positive attitude, but still have a bad day. The two feelings can be co-existent. Some days suck. Some days I have pain. Some days I'm over-whelmed by what is going on. And so? I might not be smiling. I might even be crying. But that doesn't mean I have a negative attitude. It just means I'm acknowledging my feelings. And that? Is okay in my book.

It also needs to be said, that if I'm being realistic about my cancer? That doesn't mean I don't have a positive attitude. My cancer can come back. That is a reality. It's why oncologists do not call you cured. Because while they may not be able to detect cancer, small cells could still be in my body, waiting to grow. Me acknowledging that? Doesn't mean I don't have a positive attitude. The truth is for some time to come, maybe even forever, in the back of my head will be the thought my cancer can come back. This doesn't mean I've given up on life and refuse to live it. It doesn't mean I'm being negative. I can acknowledge the realities of my health and still have a positive attitude.

It also needs to be said, that if at any time I lose my positive attitude, for whatever reason? That's okay too. I've been what feels like to hell and back. I might not be oh-so positive about it all the time. I might have some very negative feelings. And that's okay. I realize it might be harder for those around me. I get it, negativity can be hard to be around at times. But I, and I think every person really, need to honor my feelings, my experiences, my emotions. And it won't cause my cancer to come back. It won't delay the healing my body needs to do. Might it get in the way of my emotional healing? It might. But you know what, so will faking a positive attitude that doesn't really exist.

Now, I've been really blessed. I am embraced and loved and surrounded by people who let me be exactly who I am - whether it's the smiling happy Brandie, or the sad, crying Brandie. I'm so amazingly blessed by this. I do not feel pressured to fake anything.

But, a few times, by well-meaning folks I'm sure {but who are essentially strangers} have made comments. Or told me to just be happy. That if I just had a better attitude, I'd heal faster. I've also been told about how they knew someone who smiled through all of her treatment, and never got sick or had side effects and was so happy and upbeat and I should try to be like her. (And I've had other breast cancer patients share stories about how they were told that even by their close friends and family. And how hurtful it can be, especially from people close to you.) But no. Being happy won't fix this. Having a better attitude won't heal my body. And I should NOT try to be someone else. Because I am already me.

Now, I know, I know, these things are often said in love. And are meant with good intentions. I do understand that. But I also think that there needs to be understanding that these comments are in fact not helpful to every person. And throwing them around casually, as if being happy or positive, is the solution to the problem is not helpful. This is not say you can't talk about being happy, or talk about people you know who did in fact smile all the way through treatment. I might get jealous hearing about that person but I don't mind the sharing, as long as it doesn't come with an ending that says "be like her!" or "be like him!"

Because I know from experience from all the wonderful people in my life, when you let the person you are talking to just be who they are and not give them expectations to live up to, it will make your bond with them better. They will remember how good it felt to be with you. They will appreciate the fact that you are listening to them, through the good and the bad.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bucket List

Over Thanksgiving weekend we traveled to St. Louis to visit some family. We had a very wonderful time (as we always do!). Someday, maybe, I'll have to share pictures because we went to this cute Christmas village that was amazing. But, that's for another date.

We travel down there every Thanksgiving weekend and sometimes in the spring. Usually I'm excited about it because it means 5ish hours of knitting {or some similar project in the car}. This trip was different though ... knitting was out of the question for a variety of reasons - but mostly because I was in pain and just couldn't work on it.

Anyway, I spent the first hour or so pretty much pouting about this. But then I started talking. And my poor husband, because once I get going, I do not stop. And as I was chit-chatting somehow we came around to bucket lists. And right there in the car I started a bucket list! I've never made one before so it was kind of fun. So, without further ado, here is my bucket list!

  • Go to Las Vegas {no! I've never been before!}
  • Go on a knitting retreat weekend {or a whole week, I won't be picky!}
  • Hike a {small} mountain
  • Take a photography class
  • Girls weekend {again, I've never done this, but it would be so fun, wouldn't it?}
  • Go to taping of Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me {it's in Chicago, wanna go with me?}
  • Learn to play piano
  • Learn to speak Swedish {what, no one said I had to pick practical things}
  • Visit Sweden {bet you didn't see that one coming lol!}
  • Go to top of St. Louis Arch {seen it, driven by it, never been up it!}
  • Go to top of Statue Liberty {nope, never even been to New York period}
  • Give back {not sure specifically how. Still searching on this one}
  • Knit hats for hospital
  • Enter my knitting into some sort of fair/competition {even if I get last place, I can say I did it}
  • Attend Blogher {or another similar conference}
My husband informs me some of these aren't BIG enough for a bucket list. So I informed him that he was wrong. And I'm always right. So there. LOL!

And I know at least one of these things will happen this year. It will be fun if I can knock several things off this list, but we'll just have to see how the year unfolds!

Have you made a bucket list? Share!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Ugly Truth ....

This week I had to face some ugly truths. In a sum, I think I'm depressed. I think too I've known this for a few weeks now, but I've been in denial. A lot of denial.

And since I'm being completely honest I will tell you I basically feel like I am drowning right now. And there is no life preserver to grab onto. I can't see any boats in the distance coming to rescue me. I feel alone. And like I'm slowly losing steam to keep on treading water.

Which is silly because the truth is I'm surrounded by people who would come rescue me in a heartbeat. And I know that, but still I feel very lonely inside. And defeated. I've not been doing things I should be doing lately. I'm just so exhausted. And worn out. And things just take so much effort. So things get left undone. Oh it starts with letting one thing slide. And then another. And another. Thankfully, we are not to the point where I've let everything slide. Just some things.

Which basically makes me feel like I'm mostly failing. But on the path to completely failing. {Also, I know I'm not really failing. But knowing that and feeling that are two different things}.

Anyway, there's a lot at play here. One of my medicines is probably contributing to this a lot right now. But it's a medicine that's supposed to essentially keep my cancer from coming back. So what do I pick: risking cancer again? Or feeling like crap all the time? {Okay, okay, the decision isn't quite that black and white. There are things we can try to alleviate the symptoms first before I have to make that decision. But still, in my head, that's how it feels.} Of course, as I'll tell anyone who asks, I also feel like I've been to hell and back over the last 9 months. And I'm still recovering from all of that. And so there is a lot going on. A lot of different things that are causing me to feel this way.

I think the toughest part is really, I have a lot of wonderful things in my life right now. I have a lot of things to look forward too. I have an amazing family that is patient and loving and kind. I have friends who are just as wonderful to me. And yet? Inside? I just feel broken. And like I will never be healed. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way because shouldn't all the good in my life make me feel good?

The good news in all of this is that I don't have to do it alone. Even though it's so hard to ask for help {also? please someone tell me why it's so hard to ask for help}, help has been asked for. I'd like to say  this can all be "fixed" overnight. If only it worked that way. But I'm not giving up. I'm not throwing in the towel. Because, the prettiest truth I've learned: I deserve to feel good inside.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walking, walking ...

Walking. I'll be doing a lot of walking here soon.

Someone else suggested I rename the blog Journey of 1,000 1,000,000 Steps.

That's because earlier this week I signed up to walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Yep, that's right. 39.3 miles in 2 days.

I've been thinking about it for a while. But the truth was I was too scared to sign-up. So many things to worry about: can I really walk that far? Can I meet my fund-raising minimums? Can I really do it?

But, I saw a friend sign-up. And then another (blogless) friend. And I just knew I couldn't let fear hold me back anymore. And also. I had to remind myself, last summer I survived cancer. So, um, this walk? Yeah. It seems much easier to do than that. Not only that, but walking it with friends who are awesome and have been such amazing supporters of me? Umm, how could I NOT sign up.

It's a big deal. I need to start training. The truth is right now I'm not sure I could walk 3 miles, much less 39. But I have time to train. The walk is June 2-3. And our team has swelled to 8 people and is still growing! I'm so excited to participate. I'm still nervous I might not be able to walk the entire distance. But you know what? Even if I have to stop early .... I'll still be participating in an amazing event and doing a wonderful thing!

Anyway, any and all encouragement and good thoughts for this are very welcomed! And if you are so inclined, please feel free to visit my Avon page and see how I'm doing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unsung Hero: My children

My children have simply blown me away this year.

I admit there are often times I feel incredible guilt for getting this cancer that has changed their lives so drastically. Activities they had to stop participating in, places I couldn't take them to, too many days spent inside watching TV because mom was too sick to take them anywhere.

But these three children? Have been so understanding and loving towards me. They don't complain. When I apologize for another missed thing, they hug me and tell me it's okay, they understand, that they aren't mad. When I'm tired they tell me to rest, that they'll behave and my oldest offers to help keep an eye on the youngest. If I ask them to bring me a drink, they do it (mostly) happily!

They have shown me compassion I wasn't expecting from them. I underestimated just how much of this they would understand and just how caring they would be towards me during this time. In hindsight, I shouldn't have. I should have known this is how they would respond. But when we got my diagnosis, I just wasn't sure they would completely understand. And, you know, my son (who is 6) probably doesn't completely understand. But he knows mom is sick and recovering. And that was all he needed to know to understand that I needed extra love. And all three of my precious children have showered me with love this year.

I can't change the fact that I got cancer. I can't go back and take away the days I was sick and couldn't be a great mom to them. But I am so proud of how beautifully they've handled it all. I'm touched by how much they want to take care of me. And I'm thankful that they've been so understanding of everything going on. They are amazing. And I'm blessed to have them as my children.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More on parenting ...

Some of the stories I share today may be repeats, and if they are, I'm sorry. But they are bouncing around in my head and so I need to get them out.

This parenting gig? Some days it's hard. And then just when you've got it all figured out, the kids change and enter a new phase. And when I was pregnant with my second child, I remember thinking, this is going to be breeze. I've done it once, so clearly I'm an expert now. Oh, my poor naive self. I had no clue back then. The second (and the third) would be so very different I'd feel like I was a brand new parent all over again!

But you push through the hard moments because there are so many beautiful, wonderful moments.

And the truth is none of that changed once I was diagnosed with cancer. There were still hard days - but suddenly the hardest part wasn't my little guy hitting. Or the oldest talking back. No, the hardest part was the side effects that really knocked me down some days. But there were also some sweet moments in there.

I'll never forget when I could hug the kids again after surgery. My son was the first one to get a hug. Even he lit up to finally get a real hug from mom. And then I went and gave the girls each a hug right away too. My 12yo had hit a phase where she didn't really want hugs from me, but she did not turn that hug away that day. I teared up.

Speaking of the 12yo, this summer McDonald's did their Monopoly game to win prizes. My 12yo was relentless about getting to McD's to get as many pieces as possible. I won't lie. I was annoyed by this. And then my mom called - the kids had been with her - and she shared with me that my daughter told her she wanted to win the grand prize and then she'd use the money to pay my medical bills. I was blown away. And also, felt guilty for getting mad at her for asking for McD's all the time!

One day, and this was a bad day. I was in bed, in a lot of pain and also very sick. And I was just crying and crying. And I had told my husband I was going to quit chemo, that I couldn't go on anymore. It was one of the lowest points I hit in the process. At some point Eric had to get up. And I was still crying {although calmed down some} when my 9yo came into our room. And she climbed into bed with me and was holding my hand. And - a moment I'll never forget - she looked right into my eyes and said "Mom, I wish I could make your cancer come into my body so you won't have to hurt anymore." I couldn't even respond I was so touched. It's supposed to be my job to take care of her, to take her hurt and pain away, and there she was, ready to do the same for me.

Speaking of my 9yo, one day I mixed up sidewalk paint for them. And this? This is what she painted on our driveway:

"my mom is a surviver"

My 6yo has also been extra loving to me through all this. He'll come up and rub my arm. But before he does he double checks to make sure it's not the side that hurts. He has shared his favorite blanket with me and given me well-loved stuffed animals to cuddle up with. And I'm here to tell you, there is nothing sweeter than a little one (yes, I still consider him little) sharing their favorite things with you, because they don't like to give them up very easily usually!

Another precious story about him: we were talking about Christmas. He was excitedly telling me all the things he wanted Santa to bring him! And then he stopped. And kind of looked at me and said "But you know mom. I think Santa should bring you the most presents because you had cancer." This is no small thing to say for a 6yo boy who cannot wait for Christmas morning to come.

Those are the moments I will forever treasure in my heart. The truth is more than one day I got out of bed for them. They kept me going, even in the lowest of the low moments. And while they are not perfect, (they are kids after all!), they also showed so much love and kindness and strength this year.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Even if it shouldn't, getting cancer has also left me with an incredible amount of guilt. And even more so when it comes to my kids.

While I also realize I didn't decide to get cancer and therefor it is not my fault {okay, I mostly understand this. But I can't lie, I often wonder if I did do something to cause this}, which means I shouldn't feel guilty, I do.

My children have had to give a lot up because of my cancer. We pulled them out of most of their activities {music lessons, karate, extras} mostly because we knew I wouldn't be in any shape to drive them back and forth. They, though, were understanding about it - not that they wanted to stop, but they understood why and did not complain. Recently the 12 year old has started to ask when we can pick some of these things back up, so I know they are missing them.

There were a lot of things this summer we did not do. I did not take them to the pool. I took them to the park maybe 2 times I think {it's kind of blur}. We didn't go on bike rides and took very few walks. I didn't take them to the water park. We didn't really go for ice cream {although I will interject here that other people stepped up and took care of this one so they did get their fill of it!}. We didn't really go to the library, I didn't read books to them.

I did (and still do) watch too much tv with them. I did (and still do) take naps with them. I did (and still do) cuddle with them. I did (and still do) listen when they needed me to listen. I did (and still do) do what I could as I could. But there are so many days it doesn't feel like enough. And I wonder if they will look back and carry around nothing but bad memories about the past 9 months. I hope they won't. I do feel that through it all we've grown much closer. And I've seen their kind, caring and compassionate side come out. Which, I can't lie, I love and makes me feel so incredibly proud of them.

I know they are resilient. And I know it wasn't all bad for them. And obviously, I am not their only parent, and Eric has been a rock star dad through all of this. Family and friends also helped entertain them when they could.

But even knowing all of that. I can't lie. I am carrying a fair amount of guilt around. I know, I know. Another thing I'll have to work through. Someday, I hope I can unpack it all and let it go. But for now, I worry about them. And how this will affect them. And really? I'm a mom. Can you blame me?

Friday, January 20, 2012

My newest obssession

So, I have new obsession in my life. It's a television called called Downton Abbey

I first heard people talking about it on twitter and didn't get the fuss. But now? I'm hooked! It's a period drama (set in the early 20th century) set in Northern England {also, someone correct me if I'm wrong}. The show revolves around the Earl and Lady Grantham family, their mother, their three daughters and of course the staff - which there are plenty of. Valets, butler, maid, housemaid, footmen, etc.

And I? Am in love? I'd like to go live there. At Downton Abbey. {Um, no, it is not fictional. Downton exists. And I'm sure the Granthams do too! Okay just kidding. I know it's fiction, but seriously, I'm still going to pretend it's not lol!}

The history woven in it? The titanic sinks! Women fighting for the right to vote! World War I! I'm absolutely hooked. {I also enjoy historical fiction when I read so this shouldn't be a surprise}.  My 12 year old is as big of a fan as I am and so she's been watching with me (which I love!). The other two will watch it if they are in the room. And they know some of the characters. Their favorite though is Dowager Countess Grantham but mostly because she is played by Maggie Smith who played Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films!

I'm not quite sure who my favorite character is yet. I was really drawn to Mr. Bates. And also to Anna. But I'll leave it at that.

Season 1 is available on netflix and someone said for Amazon Prime members (I'm not positive though because I am not!) and season 2 just started last week. I think the first two episodes can be seen at video.pbs.org if you are curious to see what it's all about! Also, it is worth noting, I was not asked to write this. No one asked me to watch the show. I just love it that much. That I want to tell you about it! =)

Anyway, what are your guilty pleasures right now? Share with me! =)

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Life is like a merry-go-round these days. There are up days and down days. Except, unlike a merry-go-round where it goes up and down evenly, I feel like I get a bit of time in the up area, and then wham! Back down where I get stuck for a while.

Truthfully, I'm probably just being pulled down to quick these days as I'm sure I'm in a phase with some minor depression {which, after last week, was probably just kind of obvious}. I suppose this shouldn't come as a huge surprise, and yet, it kind of has. Right now there is just a disconnect between my mind and my physical abilities. I want to be doing more. I want to be back to "normal" (whatever that may mean). I want to be up and running around and doing everything I was doing a year ago. But my body? It's not there yet. I get tired easily. I get worn out. I get sore. And this week? I got hit by a virus. At first I thought it was the plague. Then I was convinced I'd be patient zero in the zombie apocalypse. Either way, I was convinced the CDC should be notified right away so they could study what was going on. {Dramatic? Me? Oh, never ;-) }

Alas, it was nothing that serious and instead just the same virus causing havoc all over our area - including with 2 of my children. But boy, has it knocked me out.

And I know I will bounce back. This will pass. More good days are coming. But in the meantime, I'm going to be resting as much as I can!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Unsung Hero: My mom

This gorgeous woman is my mother. My amazing mother. Who has stood by my side and always has been there for me. I'm so lucky this smart, strong woman is the one who raised me. Okay, okay, so I didn't always appreciate her wisdom or advice in the teen years, but I always knew she was pretty incredible.

But, for the past 9 months she has been even more amazing than normal. She drove me to so many of doctor's appointments. She has helped with the kids. She has been generous with her time and also, completely spoils my entire family! Several times I called her when I was down, and she hopped in her car and drove over here to hug me. I don't know how we could have gotten through this without her help and love and kindness and generosity.

Not only that, but my mom is a survivor too - she had breast cancer when she was 30. Although our treatments were vastly different, cancer is cancer. And it's a scary thing to face. And when you are juggling that, and your family, and your job - it's not easy.

But she is an amazing woman. I'm so proud to call her my mom. I'm so grateful she is always there, by my side, ready with a hug when I need her. It doesn't matter that I'm 32. It doesn't matter that I'm a mom myself. She's my mom. And I'm blessed to have her.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A spark ....

Last week a small spark began working it's way back into our house. I think opening up here about so many of struggles and feeling helped me release them. And there's no denying it: my body is in full healing mode, which is helping me also emotionally feel better.

On top of all of that, we have some exciting plans for our family this year and planning for them has begun. And that planning? Is making me feel very excited! I kind of wish we could fast forward to May - my big bash and August - big family vacation! Because looking forward to both of these things? I filling me with so much joy. And ideas. Oh my. The ideas - they are flying through my mind.

With the party there are decoration, invites, food, music, tables, a tent, so many things to do. And plan. And lists. Lots of lists to be made. {Ahem. I feel no shame in tell you I've not already done the invite list but made a play-list of music}. This birthday party will be special .. not just because it's my birthday party, but it's my birthday/I kicked cancer's ass party {although we might need to find a less swear word way to phrase it on the invite!}. And husband and I talked and both are in agreement to go big. So big is where we are going.

And vacation? Travel arrangements to make, packing lists to start. Okay, well, I'm not that ahead of the game, but we did book our travel this weekend and I have to say I'm thrilled! In August, all of us are headed out west. We are going to take a train from Chicago to Colorado. We'll hang out there then head to Moab, Utah. At some point we'll go to Four Corners Landmark. Then head back to Colorado and train it back to Chicago. I can NOT wait to go on this trip. I've never been out that way before, neither have the kids. We are all looking forward to it. The only downside is I have several family members out there and there won't be time to see them :( I guess that just means we'll have to go back someday.

Anyway, all of that, has worked together to perk me up. And the extreme heaviness I felt last week has lifted some. I can finally breath again. It's a nice feeling that I'm going to hold on to as long as I can.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some Pretty

This has been a heavy week around these parts - at least that is how it has felt to me. So I thought what better way to end the week than to share some of the pretty things I've seen around the web recently!

The first item comes from Tender Lane Etsy Store. I can't lie. I love this dress. I'd buy it in a heartbeat if I thought it would fit me. And no, I have NO idea where I would wear it to. But? If I got it? I think I might wear it just around the house. And feel pretty!

Next up is another etsy find. It comes from Charlotte Lyons. It is a gorgeous embroidery pattern. I can picture so many places this would just look so cute in my house. But, the truth is I need to start a new project about as much as I need another hole in my head.

Now to this lovely sweater that Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing whipped up for her daughter. I love it! Also, I wish it came larger. I think my 9yo would love it. And oh yeah, I would love it too! 

Even though I'm not planning a wedding, I pulled this idea from My Bride Idea. I love it. It's so simple yet beautiful. These may be centerpieces at a party I throw later this year. Or I might just put a couple on our dining room table to make dinner more lovely. 

And with Valentine's Day coming up, I thought this pillow from U Create was absolutely lovely. I'd love to tell you I have plans to whip it up this weekend. But I don't think I'll get around to that. I can dream about it though! 

Hope you enjoyed the pretty as much as I have. And also? None of the photos are mine ... if you click the picture it will take you to the original blog post/etsy listing/etc =)

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No. No it's not.

Not only have I heard this, but I've said it ... "But hey, it's like getting a free boob job." But here's the truth: No. No it's not. Not at all.

Here's the thing, I say it to lighten the topic. Cancer can be heavy and sad and full of so much bad things. Chemo isn't fun, radiation isn't fun, surgery isn't fun. It's hard. It's difficult. And I think we naturally look to find the bright spots. And in this case the bright spot is a new set of perky boobs (although, not for everyone who goes through this journey. Some can not do reconstruction for medical reasons. Some chose not to because they simply don't want to. I bring this up, because I think it's simply assumed reconstruction will happen and we need to stop making this assumption. But I digress).

This seems like a good trade-off on face value. And truly, I've had people make this comment with a hint of jealousy in their voice. But trust me, there is nothing to be jealous of. And also? It's not free. And oh yeah, it's nothing like a boob job.

Do you know how much cancer has cost? Do you know how many people go into bankruptcy each and every year because of medical issues? And that doesn't even factor in the time cost or the emotional cost. Trust me. It's not free. It's high. It would have been much much cheaper to go to the plastic surgeon a year ago and get surgery. Truly. Even without insurance coverage.

Also. It's not like a boob job. It's not cosmetic. As one friend recently said, it's like being amputated and then undergoing surgery to put in a permanent prosthesis. After my mastectomy I was in the hospital for 5 days. I was on pain killers for quite a few more. I had to exercise to get range of motion back as my arms were essentially useless right after surgery. It took roughly 6 weeks for my range of motion to come back fully. {Some women never get range of motion back 100%}.

Then there are the expanders. Which are put in behind the muscle and skin. And then filled. Do you know what's it like to stretch the muscle and skin out? At first it wasn't so bad. Towards the end it is quite painful. And uncomfortable. And if you get through that process unscathed (meaning the expanders don't pop or leak, or you don't get an infection) then you get to have another surgery where you get final implants. And have you read all the news stories about the issues with implants these days? I've tried to ignore it, but the stories are there. And this is only if you are lucky enough to be able to get expanders put in.

Some women have to have skin moved from either the stomach area or the back area to cover their chest area. More surgery. More recovery.

I know. It's not fun to think about. It's much better to frame it as "a free boob job!" It's happier. It's more fun. Trust me, I get it (remember, I told you even I've said it) But it's also not authentic and so far from the truth. And I think we need to acknowledge that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unsung Hero: Eric

This handsome man is my husband Eric.You've met him before as he's posted a few updates here and there.

Today, I want to take some time to tell you how incredibly amazing this man is. This man has taken such good care of me, frankly the entire time I've known him. I mean, I've always known he is a great man. But for this last 9 months, he's been phenomenal. 

He has not only cared for me, but he's managed so many of the kids' things, he has done most of the cleaning since diagnosis (oh yes, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, dishes), he's taken care of most of the meals. This all on top of his regular work. In October, he even worked a second job part time.

Not once has this man complained. Not once has he even let out a single sigh. (And here's where I admit if the tables were turned, I'd have sighed a few, okay a few thousand, times.)  Never has he said anything to make me feel bad or guilty that he has to carry such a large load. He runs out to buy me food if I'm having a craving. Or he cooks for me. He was by my side when I was sick. He has held my hand through the scarier moments. His shoulder is there when I need to cry.

And the best part? When I thank him, or tell him how wonderful he is being (which I try to do often. I don't ever want him to think I take him for granted), he still blushes sometimes. And tells me he's just doing what he should be. That he's just being my husband. He is truly the most humble person I know!

I am so blessed to have him by my side. I love him so much and am so thankful he's here with me. And I just had to share all of this with you. So you would know how wonderful he is too!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A bit of a downer ....

I'm sure you've noticed that my recent posts are, well, kind of a downer. To me they feel serious and raw as I open up about some of the things that are hard for me to talk about with all of you. Don't get me wrong, I love you all, but it's not exactly easy to share some of these thoughts with you. I type these posts up and hesitate to hit that publish button. I'm terrified you will read these posts and think less of me.

Because, here's the thing. It's so easy to share the good days with you. It's easy to share the wins and the triumphs and the uplifting things. But it's so difficult to share the bad days. The set-backs and the not-good news and the pain of all that is happening. Not only is it hard, but it's scary to open up in ways like that. I don't want to be the Debbie Downer. I don't want people to leave my blog feeling down. But more importantly than that ... I don't want to disappoint anyone.

I know. That sounds strange. Hear me out. So often I'm told how wonderful it is that I can be positive and upbeat through all of this. So I'm reminded that having a positive attitude can help. These things are said in love and care. And I appreciate that so completely. But there's a part of me that has taken those lovely words and twisted them. {And I'm sure this is the same part of me that says I must lose weight to be happy. And my body is now ugly. And someday I will permanently shut this tiny part of me up!}. This tiny part tells me ah, see, everyone expects you to be happy and upbeat. So don't show them anything else. Or they won't like you anymore. The won't want to listen to you anymore. They will get tired of it and leave you all alone.

And these days? That voice is very loud in my head. Despite the fact that I am, in fact, surrounded by so many wonderful people (including you!) who listen to my bad moments, who send me lovely notes, who are there for me right where I am - on the good days and the bad. Right now I'm just stuck in a string of bad days. I can't lie. Surgery was really the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I had it all together until then. Well, okay, I had it mostly together until then.

But I also know that I can't simply smile these things away. That I need to work through them and process them. It's how my brain works. And so, I might be a bit of a downer for a while. That's not fun, I know. It's not much fun for me either. But it is where I am at. And I have to honor these feelings and work through. I don't want to stuff them down and ignore them. That has never worked well for me.

So, bear with me for a bit if you can. If you can't, I understand. The truth is I'll never know you took a break from reading for a few weeks. But also, know this. I haven't given up. I admit, I'm struggling with depression right now. And struggling to process all that has happened. And to deal with this new body. But I haven't given up. But I am going to be true to myself and not sugar coat the things I need to get out there. Because this writing? It's healing for me. It's therapeutic for me. Truly, I don't know where I'd be without it. So I will keep writing. Open and honestly. And I hope you'll come along for the journey - the ups and the downs.

Monday, January 09, 2012


The last year has left me with scars. Both ones that are visible to the eye and ones that are invisible, but are there lurking none-the-less.

Some scars are fun to talk about - when we get them from fun things. My daughter has a scar from when she tried to jump over a concrete bench. Which makes us all laugh when we think about it now. I know people who have such fun tales to tell about their scars. I have one on my chin from jumping on furniture. It serves as a warning to my children (okay, okay, not to my son. Nothing will convince him to not jump on furniture it seems).

But these new scars, are different. I have two scars from getting the port put in. Oh they are healing. But we will reopen them when it's time to take the port out. And of course, there is that angry scar line that goes across each breast. It's not a scar that's fun to talk about. It's not one I want to show off to anyone. It comes with no funny tale. One has done some healing and isn't as bright as it used to be. But the other, is new again, and still angry looking and has much healing to do.

But much like my post from Friday, this has been difficult for me to emotionally deal with.

See, here's the thing. Parents all over tell their kids it's not what's on the outside that counts, but what is on the inside. But, we lie. We know that people are constantly judged by their appearance. We, especially women, are bombarded with messages to be thin, have perky nice boobs, white teeth, hair with volume, the right clothes, hell - now we have to have long eyelashes. And oh, don't like those scars you carry? That's okay. Plenty of people are willing to sell you creams to help them disappear.

But some scars can't be erased. They can fade over time. But they will always be with you. And herein lies the problem. I can't lotion these scars away. I can't magically wish them away. They are there, and will always be there. And therein lies the problem. I desperately wish I could get rid of these scars. That my body would be back the way it was 9 months ago.

But I can't go back. I can only go forward. One moment at a time. Some moments are easier than others. And some are very dark and difficult to move through.

The other day I ran across this though "A scar simply means you were stronger than what tried to hurt you." (via @ on twitter). I thought what a beautiful sentiment. And for a few blessed moments, those scars went from being something to be ashamed of and embarrassed by to something to be proud of. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Maybe I'm crazy ....

maybe I'm not. Either way, I have a lot going on in this head of mine these days, and a lot of it is trying to get out, so I'm letting it out.

When I had my surgery on December 23, the hardest part was not the surgery itself. It's not the recovery (that is still happening) or the physical pain (that is still lingering). No. The hardest part was knowing I'd come out of surgery with my right foob (fake boob that was put in during the original surgery in May) gone. I felt like there was no time to prepare - not physically, not mentally. One minute it was in my body, and the next they were saying "we need to pull it out." And yes, we did need to pull it out. But that hasn't helped me in the emotional department one bit.

My first gut-wrenching moment came Christmas morning. You see, every year we all get new Christmas jammies. It's our thing. And so I went to put on my new pajamas and instantly had to take the shirt off. Here's the thing ... the top was fitted. And I was missing a boob (and still had the drain and the wrap thing they bandaged me with for surgery). So basically, I looked, ridiculous and strange and not exactly the look I was going for. And I had to instead wear one of husband's t-shirts. And then a few days later, we had a party to go to. And I had the same issue. Most of my tops are fitted. So I went in a large t-shirt and put a bulky sweater over because thankfully those hide lots of things.

But, still. It's hard. It's hard to feel like you can't wear your own clothes without looking strange. It's hard to feel good inside when your outside has changed. And let me add in here - I'm surrounded by wonderful people who assure me I'm still beautiful. That's nice to hear. But the truth is, in some moments, it's just not enough. I wish it were. I also know that I am much, much more than how I look on the outside. But that's really easy to think when the outside is looking fine. It's much harder when you are struggling with how you look on the outside.

Today I'm feeling a bit brave though. Last night I asked Eric to take some pictures of me (clothed though - I'm not that brave) to try to give you all an understanding.

This is how I look right now:

And from the side:

 This is me without a right breast. {although I'm still slightly swollen from surgery}. This is how most of my clothes fit me. And I do realize it's not like I've got a basketball on one side and nothing on the other - but still. It's there. And it's obvious. Contrast this picture with the next one:

This is what I look like when I have two breasts. Do you see the difference? Well, I mean, of course you can see the difference. I suppose in my mind the difference is probably enhanced about 158 thousand times. And so it might not feel as dramatic to you as it does to me when I look at myself.

So, here's how we got the second picture. Last week, Eric took me to a store to get "post-mastectomy garments" which is simply a fancy way to say bras that have pockets to hold a breast forms. This is my new right foob for now:

It's stuffed with a fiberfill, that I can add to or take out as needed. It's kind of strange though. I have to adjust things every time I put the bra on. {Oh, here's where I interject, bras are SO uncomfortable. I had no idea. When you are used to wearing them they aren't. But I haven't worn one since May 18. I am very not used to them now}. Anyway, this has helped me feel a bit better. At least I can go out in public and not feel like everyone is going to stare at me.

But it's still hard. It's still a lot to wrap my mind around. I'm still struggling with this issue. I think I will probably struggle with it until the day reconstruction is finished. Which, is the bright spot in all of this. Reconstruction will happen. We may have to use a different option than the original plan. The doctor isn't sure yet. We can't talk about anything until I am fully healed. And as you can imagine: radiation, infection, surgery - I have a lot of healing left to do. Okay, so I have a lot of healing to do both physically and emotionally. I'm just thankful I also have a lot of support to help me through this healing process. Because some days, this healing feels as difficult as treatment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sad heart ....

The internet has honestly been my life-line this year. All of my friends will tell you, I've been terrible about calling people and seeing people face-to-face. I know, it isn't fair to my friends and loved ones, but I naturally withdraw in bad times and I've done that a lot this year.

Except on-line. The internet, especially twitter, has a vibrant and thriving cancer community. Once you announce you have cancer, the love and out-pouring and the reaching out is amazing. And I can't lie ... it can be extremely helpful and uplifting to talk to people who are where you are, or who have been there. They can tell you that they had the same thing, they can give you tips and tricks and they can commiserate with you.

I love all the new friends I've met. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this. You quickly learn not everyone will go into remission. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after ending.

And so it is with a sad heart that I tell you one of my friends, Dave Hodgson passed away on December 31 from metastatic melanoma. Dave was a great guy - always he had warm and caring words to share with me. Even when he was struggling, he was there to be a great friend. I never met him in person. I only shared 140 character tweets back and forth with him, but I consider him a wonderful friend. The world will indeed be a sadder place without him. My heart and prayers go out to Dave's wife and daughter. I will miss seeing him around twitter. It just won't be the same without him.

And I can't help but wonder how many more wonderful people must we lose to cancer? And also, do not be misled - Dave did not lose this fight. Science lost this fight. Medicine has lost this fight. We have failed to find a cure.

To learn more about Dave, you can read this interview he did. His wife is also on twitter, and if you are too, feel free to send her some love here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A new year ...

Well, 2011 is now behind us. I can't lie. I don't miss it one single bit. I was more than ready to begin a new year and to let 2011 be in the past.

I suppose this makes me sound a bit bitter about how the last year went. Well. I am. I feel cheated and robbed of the last 9 months. I am upset about the physical state of my body. I am angry that it feels we are in a constant 2 steps forward, 1.5 steps backwards pattern. I'm pissed I had so many side effects. I'm tired of pain. I hate how exhausted I feel so much of the time.

But I also know this is a phase - a normal one by the accounts of others who have walked this same path. And I know that eventually this will pass. That there will come a day when I can look back and not only see the forest, but the sun shining down on it. But when you are stuck deep in the forest? It's hard to see that.

I really hope that 2012 is a better year. We have some fun things planned for this upcoming year that we are all excited about. But I also know that I need some time to just heal - both physically and emotionally. And during this time of healing, I need to remember to be kind to myself. I can't do it all tomorrow. I won't heal overnight. I will go through periods of anger and sadness. And that is okay. This cancer thing was rough. And it took it's toll.

But it's a new year. And I'm ready to start afresh. And here's hoping 2012 is a fabulous year. For me, for you, for everyone!