In case you haven’t noticed, spring has sprung! This time of year is my favorite now-a-days. Let me explain….
I grew up primarily in Arizona. The seasons really didn’t change much there. Yes, the desert is beautiful in the spring time but then I moved to Texas. I got to experience more “seasons” there. I fell in love with spring all over again with the bulbs emerging from the ground, new buds and flowers on the trees and the grass greening up. Wow….so very beautiful and energizing!
And then I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, 2011. The seasons came and went. I was thankful to be bald during the hot summer months in Dallas and not the winter, but the heat and humidity was very challenging as I got through my chemo!
Fall arrived in time for healing from my double mastectomy. I was able to get outside and walk and enjoy the cooler fall air.
Then winter strolled in, just in time for radiation. The holidays were difficult. While everyone was struggling to find a parking spot at the mall, I struggled to find a parking spot on my daily trips to my oncologist’s office for radiation. I was pretty much in just “keeping on keeping on” mode. Just wanted radiation over so I could move on with my life.
Then I was finished with radiation in January, 2012. No more treatments!! I was cancer free!! Alleluia!! I felt like I was just given a license to live again!! A scary time as well, to be released to the “real world” when everything inside me had changed!!
And then spring hit…. HOLY COW! I immersed myself in the spring time eagerly watching each new bud come to life again! It was time to live again!
So now, I greet each spring with the same fervor, especially in my new home of Northwest Arkansas. The birds and budding trees and tulips and daffodils are endless and colorful and beautiful!! Spring is a time for renewal and regrowth. Spring is the season for “new life”! Embrace it, feel it. No matter our issues, choose to live again and let spring help you live a new life!!
Is it REAL or FAKE??
Drum roll…..announcing the new nip!!!
I am thrilled with my new nipple! It matches the “original” one perfectly!! After many sleepless night trying to decide whether to do the nipple reconstruction or not, I’m thrilled I did!!!
Now to get that incision above the nip to soften and heal better. The new “boob skin” is really skin from my tummy and attaches to radiated skin causing the more thickened incision line. Daily coconut oil massaging is making a difference!!
Hail to the new nip!!!
Another milestone went down yesterday with the “final bow” being put on my breast cancer package!! I got my nipple tattoos completed yesterday!! Wow, such emotion as I sat waiting for my plastic surgeon to come into the procedure room. The thirty-three months since May 6, 2011 when I felt the lump deep under my right breast quickly flashed before my eyes.
It’s hard to believe the treatment aspect is now complete but I am forever changed because of my breast cancer, both physically and emotionally. I actually got teary eyed when I asked my Plastic Surgeon if he wanted me to make another appointment or was THIS IT??? (Thank goodness he wants to see the results of his tattooing when I return to Dallas for my 6 month check ups with oncologist and breast surgeon the end of March!!)
I am forever grateful for the tremendous support I have had throughout my “long ass” journey. My family, my soccer friends, my church friends, my work/school friends, and people I didn’t even know reached out to me when I was desperate and didn’t think I could make another day. The cards, texts, emails, messages on CaringBridge and Facebook, and the phone calls all were so greatly appreciated and touched my heart continually! YOU are why I was able to keep afloat and take on this beast!!
I think back to the unknowns, the sleepless nights, the chemo, a trip of a lifetime to London during chemo, radiation during Christmas and New Years, the 11 surgeries, my passion for PINK and creating Bald Chicks Are Hot, my painful, lost toenails, being bald, the many stages of hair regrowth, walking 40 miles for Avon with my Breast Friends, pulling my own drains, connecting with so many beautiful people around the world through Bald Chicks Are Hot Facebook page, a move to Arkansas….and it goes on… Life continues to be lived and continues to go by despite our many challenges or triumphs.
Thank you for walking with me on this journey. I have learned so very much along the way and continue to learn. I hope I can keep sharing with others and helping others in their journey. I pray God continues sharing His plan with me as I move forward to help in other ways as well.
I am excited to keep living and supporting all those affected by cancer. If I can touch one life, it fills my heart. I do believe a support system is a key to a successful treatment plan including faith and hope. I ultimately give thanks to God for getting me through by placing my medical team and so many wonderful people in my life!! He has never forgotten me even at my darkest moments…. I am so thankful!!
So today, I’m ready to live life again!! Knowing “I’m finished” is surreal! But I’ll never truly “be done”. I have so many things I want to do that are still untouched. Cancer has allowed me to tap into things and people I never would have done “before cancer”. I have connected with wonderful friends during this journey. Cancer opens your eyes to the importance of the little things and the people on your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It really doesn’t matter in the end.
So this is never good bye…..this is simply a “thank you” for standing by me as we got through this storm. It looks like the skies have cleared!!
Happy New Year! Better late than never. I have had this “blog” running in my head for weeks now….so here it goes.
2014 is going to be “Better”. Hold on to that thought… What is “better”?? Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I too wanted to throw 2011 to the wind and embrace 2012 as MY year. No more chemo, no more radiation, and only one more surgery….done, finished, over….right?? No….I ended up having five more surgeries in 2012 and then three more in 2013.
So was my 2012 “better”?? Yes, it was…. I learned so much through my healing issues and multiple surgeries about me, about cancer, about people, about life. I was able to connect with more people because of my own experiences as well.
It really didn’t hit home for me until I heard all my “2013 diagnosed cancer friends” talking about how their 2014 is going to be so much “better”. "Put 2013 to rest and let 2014 be our year". I get it though…. It’s HOPE for a NEW year and putting all that nastiness behind. What I have learned; however, is we cannot place unrealistic expectations on what "our year" is going to be like, no matter what your situation is. We have to be able to accept each circumstance as they come along, good or bad, and roll with it.
I say that…but I did say the same thing to myself once again about 2012 and again with 2013. But as you can see, the years continue to go by and we are still living and experiencing. I am really trying to keep better perspective on my “new 2014 year” in reminding myself “what happens, will happen”. We have no control.
Yes, I shouldn’t have to have any surgeries this calendar year, but I am getting the “final bow put on my package” by receiving my nipple tattoo to complete my reconstruction in just over a week. Once I’m all “tatted” up, I am finally finished with cancer!!! Haaa…if only that were true!!!
Every day I am reminded of my cancer by looking in the mirror and feeling the aches and pains of my restricted arm from radiation and many surgeries. I occasionally have stabbing pains in my “implant area”. I’m completely numb on my chest, My abdomen is completely numb from my DIEP (tummy flap) surgery including its scar from hip to hip. I am in full blown early menopause from my chemo. Then I still have the follow up visits with my plastic surgeon, my oncologist and my surgical oncologist which include lab work and scans. I also have my annual GYN visits to make sure the daily Tamoxifen I’m taking doesn’t cause uterine polyps or uterine cancer. Why??? Because I had breast cancer……
Cancer will never escape me. Sure, I am cancer-free but I continually have that little voice in the back of my mind…”your cancer is going to come back”. But I block it out and I choose to LIVE.
So make your 2014 better with whatever comes across your path. Just don’t make unrealistic expectations that everything will be rosy because that is when the heartache begins….
May your 2014 be blessed in every way imaginable. Here’s to a HAPPY and HEALTHY 2014!!
Tummy time!!! Hated and beloved by so many babies and mothers!!! But ahhhh….I love it!! And I’m not talking baby tummy time as I share in the above pictures. I’m talking about being able to sleep on your tummy after having breast surgery!!
I am now 5 weeks post op and am able to comfortably sleep on my stomach without feeling discomfort and it’s glorious! For tummy sleepers out there, you know what I’m saying. I have slept on my back or side more in the past two years than ever in my life!!
So let’s talk about the “Million Dollar Melons” now that you have mentioned it. They are healing fabulously. I cannot tell a lie, I had a slow healing reconstructed nipple (there ya go…..I said it “Nipple”!) but it is looking perfect now.
As you can see from the diagram above, my actually skin is used to “create” the “sticky out” part of the nipple. The colored areola will be tattooed on in January and cover those side incisions!!! My new nip separated a bit where the two flaps came together when the stitches were removed. I was being positive using my nursing skills to assess the healing. No redness, no drainage, good capillary refill (blood flow), put a yucky looking scab at the top aspect of the nip…..EXACTLY where my original nip fell off on my first reconstruction. That is what scared me. I have been down this road before!!!
I was on the ledge. I needed to be talked off. I contacted my Dr. Fabulousness and he reassured me it was going to heal. I felt confident in that intellectually but I just needed him to tell me that. Well, today I can say I have the best new nip on the planet!! To be honest, the little scabbing defect has made it look ever more real!! It’s amazing how Dr. Fab can puzzle three flaps of skin together to create such a beauty! It’s crazy….it’s almost identical to my left “real” nip!!!
I had a “nipple sparing” mastectomy on the left but my cancer side was a no-go. I had to remove it all. At times, I regretted “saving” my original nipple because I felt pressured (by me) to do the nipple reconstruction on the right. And my left nip had major healing issues after the original mastectomy which was kinda scary as we waited and watched it heal. I was just so hesitant with all the healing issues I have had in the past…until we finally took the plunge!!
So I close in saying, enjoy your tummy time when you go to sleep tonight. And for those friends who haven’t progressed to that yet….it’s coming and it’s GLORIOUS!!! Happy sleeping!!!
It’s Friday the 13th! Are you feeling superstitious??
I consider Friday the 13th a LUCKY day! In May, 2011 on Friday the 13th, I had my breast needle biopsy done. Many people asked why I would have the biopsy done on that day. Well, I wanted the procedure completed as soon as possible and figured if I have breast cancer on the 13th, I’ll probably have it on the 12th or the 14th!! I consider this fateful day LUCKY because I was able to get to the bottom of my concerns. As much as I didn’t want to hear I had breast cancer, I listened to my gut, and spoke up when I was initially told to go home after a “normal” mammogram and sonogram. I’m thankful the radiologist listened to me when I shard the lump I felt was NOT normal, she suggested the biopsy. I thought “Okay, let’s do it to show it’s NOT cancer’.
Well, you know the rest of the story…. I just can’t imagine where I would be now had I not listened to my gut and left that “normal” mammogram/sonogram day returning in a year. I can’t let myself go there….to think about that. I’m just so very thankful and LUCKY I had that needle biopsy on Friday the 13th!!
I also finished my radiation on January, 2012 Friday the 13th!! A celebration of my last treatment for the cancer that once was…..another LUCKY day!!!
And today, I met a wonderful massage therapist who is trained in breast cancer therapies and lymphedema. Ever since my initial sentinel node biopsy in May of 2011, I have been a scar making machine in my armpit, where the 2 inch incision is.
I have had this scar tissue that would inhibit my shoulder movement removed several times during previous surgeries, including this most recent surgery OMG…a blow for freedom and I don’t want the scar tissue to come back! I looked into physical therapy in my new community but was told the local oncology office has massage therapists who specialize in breast cancer treatments. COOL!!
Well, I met Susan today, Friday the 13th and was brought to tears when she was targeting the areas that have been so bound for so long. Yes, the yoga and stretching I do helps, but nothing like someone massaging this hard to get to area and mobilizing all the scar tissue. So thankful and LUCKY to have found her. I’ll be going weekly to keep my range of motion up and scar build up down.
So on this day of Friday the 13th, look for the good in the potential “bad” things out there. You just never know, it could be your LUCKY day too!!!
Day 30- I was so busy being thankful, I forgot to post the past two days!! So, on this final day of November, I will wrap up because there is always, always something to be thankful for!
I’m so thankful for airplanes that they could fly my children home so we could have Thanksgiving together. Thankful Katherine’s boyfriend Josh could join us as well. And last night, thankful my mother-in-law arrived safely from CA. So thankful she was able to come see us in our new home.
Thankful for my health and my ability to run yesterday and do yoga today.
Thankful for sunshine and warmer weather!
Thankful for washing machines that are washing towels and sheets.
Thankful for dishwashers and hand lotion. My hands are brutally dry from dishes and cooking!!
Thankful for an Arizona basketball victory yesterday! Thankful for texting so my family could cheer on the Cats together even though we are all over the country!!
Thankful for good food and leftovers!! And now, thankful for naps.
Sending much love and warmest wishes as we jump into the Christmas season!!
Day 26- So very thankful and grateful my children are coming HOME for Thanksgiving. This picture is, I believe, the last time we were all together…last Christmas!! I hope my chemo/anesthesia brain is wrong…but it has been too long!
Praying the weather back east allows Kevin to get home tonight without delays!
And safe travels to Katherine and her boyfriend, Josh on Wednesday! Then we await the arrival of the mother-in-law!! Yes, Roy’s mother is coming on Friday!! It’s gonna be a special week!! My heart is full…..
Day 25- Thankful for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, my husband’s company. They have given us opportunities to live in some great places and meet some wonderful lifelong friends!! During tough times in the sales industry, I’m always thankful for Roy and the hard work he does.
I’m thankful for my nursing degree and license. I have always found a job no matter where we have lived. This is the first move I have not worked. But I always took pride in my nursing care. Who knows what lies ahead…