Monday, October 29, 2012

Asking for Help

Mister Man, happy to help make a cake!
Why is it so hard to ask for help?

I struggle with it, and I know other people who struggle with it too. And yet, even though we have a difficult time asking for help, most people are willing, and probably eager to help out.

The thing is, I always thought asking for help was admitting defeat, or saying I was weak, or not capable enough to do it on my own. I wish I could go back and tell myself that asking for help simple means I needed a bit of help.

I suppose, if nothing else, the last 18 months have taught me to ask for help. I resisted at first. I didn't ask people for anything specifically. My mom set up meals for us, and even though she was the one asking, it felt awkward at first. People offered to come clean, to drive places, to watch the kids, and so many times I turned it down.

I can't lie: I wish I hadn't. The truth is we could have used the help. Sure, we got by and we survived, but things might have been much smoother if I had been more vocal. But then we hit a point where I had to ask. So I asked if someone could come help me clean, and an aunt came over and helped me. I cleaned with her though so it felt less awkward because you know, at least I wasn't sitting around and just watching. But then there came the day I needed help cleaning and all I could do was sit on the couch and watch. It felt horrible. Two women from the church came over and cleaned - one a breast cancer survivor herself - and I hated every single second of it. When they finished, I just burst into tears. But they came over and assured me that I didn't need to cry - they understood, they didn't feel bad, and in fact they felt better since they could do something to help out.

I think that's the moment it all clicked - most people like to help. They want to do something. As someone told me later, she couldn't take the cancer away, but she could cook for us. And I get it. Last week I was cooking dinner for another family and offering to take their children for a while and drive them to their activities. It wasn't a hardship for me, in fact, I only wish I could have done more. A few weeks ago I drove a friend to the doctors. And while we were driving she teared up, and I got it - I went back to that moment of sitting on my couch crying because people were cleaning my house. But I was happy to drive her. In fact, I joked that it was about time someone needed me because I have a big debt to repay for all the help we've gotten ;-)

It still feels a bit awkward asking for help. With that in mind, over the weekend I went to facebook and simply asked if someone local could help us out today (Monday). With myself getting surgery, I realized, if I could just get a dinner for today, it would help out so much. And wouldn't you know it, right away, dinner was arranged. And dinner for tomorrow and probably Wednesday. And let me tell you, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Could we get by without it? Well, yes, we could. But I would have worried about it. The husband would have worried about it. And well the kids, although not too worried about meals, were a bit worried about trick-or-treating.

I share this because as I said earlier, I know plenty of others who also struggle with asking for help. So my advice is suck it up, and ask. People are good. And they want to help. And if you need it, you shouldn't be afraid to get it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tents and reading

This week has been a good week. And I'm not just saying it to say it. I actually mean it, which is a nice feeling.

It hasn't been perfect for sure, but it's been full of some good times. I was able to get together with some family and friends that I don't see nearly often enough. I've been able to mostly keep up around the house - which means my house isn't as trashed as it normally is. And, I've had some fun moments with the kids.

This week we did a lot of "tent" building. We used sheets, chairs, clips, a coffee table, a foot rest and pillows to make a great little space to crawl into.

I don't do this kind of thing with my kids nearly enough. And let me tell you, they were thrilled with it. Seriously, they were just tickled pink.

So we hung out in it. I dubbed it our reading tent. See, Mister Man isn't into reading as much as I'd like him to be. He isn't always enthusiastic about reading - but in our reading tent? He's totally game.

Miss M and I sat and knitting while he read some Commander Toad and the Planet of the Grapes to us. Naturally, we decided being in our reading tent, reading about grapes clearly meant we should be eating grapes too. So we did. ;-)

Then, we listened to the first quarter of The Wizard of Oz on audio. Which was so fun. I remember reading it with my 12 year old when she was younger too. {Related: when did she grow up? I kind of miss the days when she was little!}

My front room was a bit messy for a few days. And I still have a pile of sheets and blankets waiting to be washed. But we had a grape time {get it, grape ;)}. Who knows. Maybe this weekend we will need to make a new tent so we can listen to some more Wizard of Oz.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Here we ago again

Next Monday I will go for surgery. Again.

For those keeping track {which I'm sure is just myself and my husband} this will be the 4th surgery since June and the 7th in 18 months. And if all goes well, there will be one more surgery coming after this.

I'm mostly excited about this surgery. I'm getting a tissue expander put in, which basically means I'll be back to two boobs. We'll get it expanded to just the right size and then it will switched out {along with the one I have on the left side} with permanent implants. This is a good thing. It really is and I'm happy. It will nice to not need to be in the middle of the grocery store and be struck with panic that I forgot to my prosthetic on {which has happened more often than I care to admit}. I will feel a little more womanly having two boobs and not just one.

But. But. There is a part of me that does not want to go under again. I don't want my husband to miss work to schlep me back and forth to surgery. I don't want my kids to miss their activities because I won't be able to drive for a few days and the husband can't miss any more work than is absolutely necessary. I don't want to have another surgery to go.

Mostly though I just want to be done with all of this and for it to be behind me. Because as I said before, I'm just tired of it all.

But at the end of the day I will be happy to have this surgery behind me and probably be anxious for the next step to come.

On a related note, I know things have been a bit doom and gloom around here. This month has been quite the emotional one - four friends have been diagnosed with cancer. Every time I hear of a new diagnosis it weighs so heavy on my heart. I don't want my friends to have to go through any of this. I mean, I don't want anyone to have to go through this. I wish I had the power to fix it and make it all better. I can't and so I will have to settle for just being to do what I can to help out.

And in the meantime I have a whole slew of emotions I need to work through and will probably dump them all here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I realized something today. I'm still pretty angry over all that has happened. I still haven't accepted it. In fact, I'm downright pissed.

I feel cheated. I feel like my family is being cheated. I'm still dealing with side effects. I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of abnormal blood tests. I'm tired of talking about the next surgery. I'm tired of doctor's appointments and blood draws and of taking medicines that fix one issue but cause other issues. I'm tired of hormones and of hot flashes. I'm tired of having one boob. I'm tired of having no nipples. I'm tired of my husband having to pick up the slack for me around the house. I'm tired of not being able to always do the things I wish I could. I'm tired of the stiff joints. I'm tired of the sore arm. I'm tired of so much lately. And it's making me angry. 

I wish I could wake up and discover this has all been in fact a bad nightmare. It's not. I know. And eventually I will accept it and the anger will dissipate, but for now, it's there and it's strong.

The hardest part of all of this is I'm often reluctant to share all of this. Instead I stuff down and then wham, one day I unleash on some unlucky victim. Which isn't fair to that person. I know there are some safe people I can share this stuff with. But I've also learned that there are some people I can't share it with. I get it. People are working through their own stuff and may not have room for mine. Some people only have room for the good, the up-lifting, etc. And often, cancer is romanticized, right?

I mean, frankly, wasn't I supposed to get cancer then use that to show me what's truly important in my life, have a huge life changing epiphany and then go out and do some major good in this world with my new-found knowledge, bringing joy and love to everyone I come in contact with.

Or you know, maybe I'm just barely getting through the day and I'm too damn tired to have any epiphanies right now. Or I might not be feeling particular grateful. Or particularly talkative. Or particularly happy. I may even need to vent a little bit. This is my cross to bear. This is something I need to work through.

And I am trying to work through it. I'm trying to not be all doom and gloom. I don't want to be so angry about it all. But at the same time, I also need to balance that with being true to how I am feeling, even when it's not pleasant.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Here are a collection of random thoughts in my head.

Netflix had some episodes of Wallace and Gromit. If you haven't watched it, you must. It's such a cute show. I heard about the show many years ago from an aunt, and forgot about it until I saw it as a new arrival on netflix and then I remembered {funny how those memories sneak up on you like that}. My 6yo is loving watching them. We've watched them each several times. I have enjoyed watching with him, since it reminds me of my aunt and as a bonus, Gromit knits. I mean really. We so rarely see knitting shown on tv that it makes me smile =)

It is almost halloween. I did not make my kids halloween costumes this year. I feel like the energy levels are still a huge issue. I'm still not taking care of the house like I used to {though it's not nearly as bad as it was}. Still, I wasn't sure I wanted to take on making their costumes ... they could have picked easy costumes, but they could have picked complicated ones too. So we bought them. Just like we did last year. And the world hasn't ended yet. That said, I saw some internet chats about people who give extra candy to kids who wear homemade costumes since they must not have lazy parents who just bought them and it upset me. But then I stepped back and realized that is not the opinion of the majority and furthermore, if that's how those people feel, that is their issue to deal with, not mine. And goodness knows that I have more than enough issues on my own to deal with right now!

I got a new cell phone {actually, we switched companies} and I hate it. Isn't that horrible? I thought I would like the phone and I don't. So tomorrow, I will head back to the store to replace it with something I will {hopefully!} like. And yes, I acknowledge this is a first world problem, but there it is. Also, I cried over the issue last week. Hormones have been going crazy lately so I've been crying a lot. Then I feel dumb for crying, which, naturally, makes me cry more. Lovely.

I'm knitting a lot and trying to (slowly) organize our house since it's been so long since it got a thorough cleaning. But when I need to sit down and rest, I've been watching How I Met Your Mother. Definitely not a show I can watch with the kids, but a hilarious show none the less!

So, there you go. A small peak into my mind. ;-)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wrapped in Love

Today is National I Love Yarn Day. This day was started last year and is the second Friday in October.

I was unaware that this day existed last year. You could say I was a bit preoccupied. Yet yarn got me through some pretty tough times. I enjoyed knitting when I was able to {and hated the times that treatment left me unable to knit} and I was gifted {among so many things} handmade items: hats, shawls, wraps, etc. It was wonderful and lovely.

For the last few months I've been trying to think of a way to pay it forward so to speak. And I had been tossing some ideas around in my head. I  knew that whatever it was needed to revolve around knitting because knitting is a part of me. Then last week I learned that National I Love Yarn day was coming and so I got to work, planning and knitting, knowing that today would be the perfect day to start something.

So, today, I am launching Wrapped In Love.

Twice a month for the next year, I want to give a scarf away to someone who needs it - for any reason at all. But, I need your help. Do you know someone who need a pick-me-up {even yourself}. Let me know. Seriously. I want to give these scarves away. I want to make someone smile. This is my way of paying it forward for all the kindness I have been shown.

So here is the first scarf I am giving away:

 It comes with a story. Last month I went to Michigan and spent some time with a wonderful friend. When we were talking about getting together she asked if I would mind if she brought some knitting. Um, mind? No way! I had already packed knitting myself! Anyway, she was working on this lovely scarf in a gorgeous yarn and I LOVED it. So I came home, dug through my yarn stash and started knitting it myself. 

I love this scarf. It's gorgeous. And it needs a good home. So tell me who you think I should this scarf too - leave a comment or e-mail me at Brandie185 {at} gmail {dot} com. I can only pick one person, so I'll do the age old trick of drawing a name out of a hat should it come to that.

Anyway, happy Friday. Happy National I Love Yarn Day.


Monday, October 08, 2012


I could alternatively title this post Pink Stinks, and/or In Which I  Make it All About Me. Instead, I"ll just go with sigh and try my best to find the right words to say.

It is October. AKA Pinktober. Pink is everywhere I turn. Everywhere. I can not escape it. Too many times each day I see boobs, or pink, or both. It's all under the guise of awareness. Or of finding a cure {never mind the fact that very little of money goes to research that might lead to a cure or prevention- which might be a rant for another day}.

Everywhere I turn there is pink. And most everywhere I turn are ads, commercials, tv shows, news reporters, etc, etc, talking about getting a mammogram because early detection saves lives. Now, I want to take a break to remind you about the science of breast cancer - early detection can help in approximately 1/3rd of breast cancer cases. In the other 2/3rds? It has no bearing. So, are they lying by saying early detection saves lives? Well. No. But they aren't telling the whole truth ... many people (including my past self) thought that if we could just find all breast cancer early, we would eliminate all breast cancer deaths. I mean, isn't that what is often implied?

And then they throw out stats - like how the 5 year survival rate is improving. What they don't say is the daily death toll (about 110 women every single day die of breast cancer. Ever single day in the US.} has hardly changed at all. We haven't actually prevented many deaths ... it's just women with breast cancer are living longer. If you live 5 years 1 month and then the cancer kills you, guess what? They get to say the 5 year survival rate has gotten better. And yes, the survival rate is getting better. And it's fabulous that women are living longer, but some people out there think people don't even die from breast cancer anymore because of the stats thrown about this time of month. Because October is Pinktober and we'll bury our head in the sand and pretend that breast cancer is beautiful, and it's all about the breasts, and the 5 year survival rate is getting better so it's all good. Just get your mammogram and you'll be fine too.

It is bothering me SO very much this year. I don't remember feeling this stabby last October, but this year, it's there. I can say it: I HATE pinktober. It might be because I have lost 3 friends to breast cancer this year. Three women, gone too soon. Three families, heart-broken. Hundreds of people affected. But hey, the NFL players wear pink socks, so it's all okay! Um, no.

I had planned to not really rant about it on the blog this month, honestly. But then this: last week someone I know from the on-line breast cancer community, told us all her cancer came back. And this time it's metastasized to her bones. There is no cure for this. There will not be remission for her. It's been over 5 years since her original diagnosis. She has three kids. She found it early the first time. Based on "BCA month ads" she should be fine and not dealing with this. But there it is.  Her cancer is back. She is devastated. Her family, her friends, it's heart breaking. And since it's all about me, it's hard to not wonder if that will someday be me. Having to tell my husband, my children, my family, my friends. And it pisses me off.

I was telling my husband this story. And he got it. He, who has to walk a fine line with me when I am pissed off lest I take all my anger out on him even though it's not his fault, said simply - I know. And it sucks. I don't want you to walk around and live in fear everyday. And yet, if you have dreams, you need to do it sooner rather than later. And not wait. If a chance comes up, you have to take it.

Why? Because we both know there is no guarantee my cancer won't return. It could come back tomorrow. It could come back in 8 years. It could come back in the breast or it could come back in my bones, my lungs, my brain, my liver.

And this, my friends, is I think the reason BCA month bothers me so much. Why I feel all the pink around is smothering ... pink crap won't end breast cancer and breast cancer deaths. Mammograms won't end breast cancer and breast cancer deaths. Mastectomies won't end it. Hitting the 5 year mark won't end it. Wearing pink won't end it. Even if we really want it to. Even if we have the best of intentions.

*Please note: I am not saying mammograms are bad. I just think the benefits of early detection are being over-stated and it's not right. I am also aware that there has been some good coming out of pink, that said, I'd argue that today - pink is so commercialized and has way more to do with making money than anything else.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Happy Pinktober ...

Well. It's here. Pinktober.

I have many mixed feelings about this month. There are some good things that come from it, but there are also a lot of gaps in what we shall call "awareness." I don't really want to get into - there are plenty of bloggers who do a great job of delving into that - but I feel the need to point it out because for many people like me - who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and made it through treatment this whole month feels odd.

That said, allow me to share with you something I think we can all do this month to try to make a difference. I have talked to you about Army of Women before, but I'd like to talk to you about them again. Today I am participating in Blog with Love Day. {note: I was asked to share this information, however I am not being compensated to do so.}

Army of Women is doing something that will hopefully turn out to be something AMAZING. They are launching the Health of Women Study. What is the Health of Women Study you ask? Allow me to use Army of Love's words to tell you

With the introduction of the Health of Women study (HOW) on October 1st, the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation will revolutionize the fight against breast cancer. By crowdsourcing health information, and involving the general public directly, we will uncover the information that will end breast cancer. This groundbreaking initiative invites the public, men and women over the age of 18 of all health backgrounds, to be collaborators by participating in the study via the web or on their mobile devices. HOW will also turn traditional research practices on its head by creating a venue for researchers to gather and share information, with the definitive goal of ending breast cancer. To learn more about the Health of Women study, visit:

This study is amazing and is open to Every. Single. Person. who is willing to share. That means you, and you, and you, and yes, even you - men, women, people who have had breast cancer, people who haven't, people with a family history of it, people with out a family history. By getting information from lots of people, maybe we can finally figure out some causes. Maybe someday this will us figure out how to prevent breast cancer from even happening. Can you imagine? A world where we don't have a month that looks like a pepto-bismol bottle was dumped over the entire country? 

Will it take time? Yes. Will it cost you anything? No. Could it help make a difference? Let's all hope so.

What do you say? Can you spare a few minutes this Pinktober?