Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Almost a year...

Really?! I cannot believe it has been so long since I have written a post.  I guess that could be a good thing - life is certainly getting back to normal.

As I looked at the blog and realized my last post was almost a year ago - I couldn't help but think "WOW!"  I just put this year's meet on my calendar - October 15.

So of course it made me reflect on this past year and I am very happy to say that it has been a good year for my family and I.  My son is growing into an amazing young man and turned 15 this year.  We finally took that roadtrip we have talked about for years (you can see some fun photos here).  I have made it another year past my surgery date (this is the one I base my time off of - I can remember it) and am working toward my five year mark. My sweet husband and I had our twentieth anniversary (that is a big deal - applause). I am teaching art a couple days a week in a local studio and that has been a lot of fun (you can see that here).  Yes in deed - It has been a very good year.

Health wise - I am feeling pretty good.  Side effects from various things seem to be creeping up and creating issues, but I will save that for another post.  My next big scans are scheduled for October 14 - so with mcuh anticipation and fingers crossed, that too will go well.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SWIMMERS...Getting Wet to Save the Set

I have to say this month has been full of all sorts of fundraisers, various calls for Breast Cancer support, school support, etc. BUT when my son brought this home I thought "How Fun!"

University, DeLand, & Atlantic High Schools
Getting Wet to Save the Set

My son currently swims with his High School Swim Team and they are participating in a special  swim meet on October 8 where all the proceeds go to our local Cancer Center. Obviously this is near and dear to me on a variety of levels - I want to support my son and his swim team, but I feel so honored that they are swimming to support survivors and raise money to continue the efforts.

DHS Swim Team Logo

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"C" is for...

 is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
(According to Wikipedia.)

Yep, it takes lots of this my friends!

But we can have courage to move forward in our lives 
- we just have to believe we can do it & appreciate where we are in our journey.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"B" is for...

So many things in life are intangible; we can't see the air but we know it's there, we can feel it on our face, we can watch its effects as it moves through the trees. And yet there are still so many things that we may not know or have answers for but we can BELIEVE.

Believe in Ourselves.
Believe in the love of Others.
Believe that Things WILL Work Out.
Believe that we can be better tomorrow than we are today.

We can Believe!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"A" is for....

What a good word - right?!  I think we all could have more appreciation of the good things we have in life.  Lately I have been experiencing a lot of overwhelming moments in my life (I'm going to blame it on my new hormone therapy) and I could certainly make quite a list for you, BUT like I said - I am going to try to forget them and focus on the good stuff.

I love my husband - he is so good to me.
I love my son - he is so kind to me.
I have an AMAZING family.

I need to appreciate them more!

I need to appreciate all the wonderful things
I can do & stop feeling sorry for myself over what I can't do.

Yep, I like this word!

Just for Fun!

I keep myself pretty busy, but every now and again I have some free time and I try to catch up on family and friends.  As I was reading the latest blog entry at Knee Deep in Grace, my Aunt shared something she is working on, taken from another blogger's challenge - Blogging through the Alphabet.  I thought that was a really fun idea.  However I am not sure I can take on the challenge and accomplish it the way it was intended.  But I really wanted to do it - so I thought I would give it a shot, just keep it simple and do on my own here.

Here goes - for "A" I am going with.....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Breast Reconstruction - Part 2

Today I met with a plastic surgeon at Mayo Clinic to discuss some specifics of options available to me for breast reconstruction.  I have researched this quite a bit in the past - kinda keep pulling this package of the shelf to check on, get a little overwhelmed and decide to put it back.

About six months ago I met with my breast surgeon and she actually made the appointment for me, just to answer some questions I had.  You see it is really weird, hard, confusing, and a variety of other descriptive words - you feel like life is moving along, your feeling pretty good about things, thinking you can maybe handle doing this; I mean after all it would be nice to have breasts again, I think. Then you think some more and well me, I talk myself right out of doing anything (maybe not you).  So it was a good thing I just had to show up and ask questions.

My options were for the most part the same, however my radiated skin was looking pretty good and he felt as though it could be successful to do an expander followed by an implant.  This was big news!  Up to this point I didn't have this option.  Of course I was warned that the skin could be difficult, could form an infection, then everything would have to come out, wait to heel up and start all over. So that just sounds super appealing, but compared to 10 hours of surgery, 3-5 days in the hospital, and a lot of scaring - maybe it wasn't sounding awful.

Seriously though, I had a very good surgeon who listened to my concerns, asked me questions about my lifestyle - what I did and didn't do; all to help determine which would be the best option for me.  When I expressed my fear of another major surgery, he completely understood.  I finally feel like I am able to live my life pretty similar to what I had before my cancer - to start over or limit my abilities to do things I enjoy for 8 months or even the rest of my life is really a tough decision. I know it may seem like a no brainer, but not really.  I think the hardest part of the experience is the emotional heeling that has to take place in your life.

Sometimes I feel very frustrated with my options, and then I am reminded like today..."We don't have a lot of women (with my advanced stage of cancer) in your situation, most of them don't make it this far." 

Then I am quickly reminded of just how blessed I am!

Here are a few links that you may find helpful when looking at breast reconstruction as well as what to talk to your plastic surgeon about.

American Cancer Society - Breast Reconstruction
American Society of Plastic Surgeons

I'm still here!

I must say I have not been very good with posting much lately, but I am happy to report that "I am still here" and doing really well.

This Valentine's day, February 14, 2013, was my two year mark for having completed all of my cancer treatments.  I am so excited - mostly because I finally feel like I am getting back to a remotely normal life again.  I'm not saying that I don't still have twenty pounds to loose and get tired much faster than I used too, but hey - I'm happy and enjoying my busy life with my husband and almost fourteen year old son.

This past month I have started a whole new phase of my ongoing treatments - what does that mean?  I have a whole lot of research to do and share.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Things First

I must say - I feel as though I have failed my readers who may be experiencing cancer themselves by one important issue.  That is to say I have shared my experiences with you very randomly, 
but if you are starting out on your own journey with cancer
you need to know what is most important and how to put...


I am approaching my third year since all of this cancer stuff began and I must say parts of it have been a serious learning curve - while other aspects where simply by the grace of God I was placed in the right place at the right time AND with the right doctors. 
I was given books, bought books, and read, read, read...

In all of those books the most important thing it discusses is setting up your medical team.

It is the FIRST thing you need to do!

After all, these are the people who you are going to get to know really well.
AND better yet should know you really well.

A lot of books and websites give you wonderful information about cancer, pathology reports, various treatments available, but they don't always tell you who to be talking to about the information.
It is important to know that if you have just found out you have cancer you most likely figured it out through your general physician or gynecologist.  They will help get you set up with the right people to run the various test you may need.  A biopsy being one of them - so a surgeon will most likely be one of the first people you are sent to.  
However I have found it rather surprising that that is as far as some people get.  

Your team of doctors will most likely consist of:

Medical Oncologist
Plastic Surgeon
Radiation Oncologist

Your list may also include a nutritionist, various support groups, and possibly a psyhcologist.

Personally I feel like at the time you select your surgeon you should also select an oncologist - whether this is the oncologist you stay with or not. An oncologist is a cancer doctor.  They will be the person who will best interpret your pathology report for you (which is key in determining what your medical treatment should be), they are the doctor who will create a treatment plan for you and make sure it is administered correctly.  They will become your best friend for a minimum of five years.  

You need to choose doctors who you like, trust, and are comfortable with.
Ask yourself:

Are they considerate of me?
Are they up to date on medical treatment options?
Do they view me as an individual with cancer and look for what is best for my type of cancer?
Are they informative and talk to me so that I understand?

I think it is also very important to point out that, although your general physician, family, and friends (as well as yourself) will want things to move as quickly as possible. Once you have a pathology report - You NEED to take the time to prepare your team of doctors and not just jump into a lumpectomy, mastectomy or any other surgery.  Once something has been done; often times too quickly and before you have fully prepared yourself with the right doctors, you loose options that may have been available to you but no longer are.

I also want to remind you that you have most likely had cancer longer than you think.  Waiting that extra week or two to have interviews with your doctors, ask them questions, get the answers you feel most comfortable with, and set up a team for you to spend the next several months, possibly years - is well worth the wait.  Never hesitate to ask for second opinions - your doctor should welcome that.  This is your body and most importantly your life.  After your surgery your doctor will return to his normal everyday routine.  You on the other hand will be living with it daily.

Do not allow someone who is only a small part of your cancer journey tell you what is best for you!

I was very blessed in this area - my doctors suggested an oncologist right from the start and together my oncologist and surgeon both agreed I needed treatment options that were not available to me with them.  BUT I was a very advanced stage III invasive cancer. 
 A lot of women who have stage I cancer are not sent onto an oncologist and therefore many of them don't really understand their pathology report.  They are scared of what the future may hold because they don't know enough about their cancer. Become your best advocate - read, learn!

Here are a couple of books I have found helpful information on forming a medical team:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Moments of Reflection

Today I sat down to check my emails and found I had a facebook link added to my timeline by one of my aunts.  I was of course curious and went straight way to the link.  

I was touched and overwhelmed with her sweet entry on her blog

As I read her post I couldn't help but remember the first time that I met her...she is married to my husband's uncle.  I am not even sure if I was married yet, but I do remember it was the first time I had met my husband's uncle and his family.  We were at another aunt's home with quite a few of us gathered for a family event.  My Aunt Penny had her brother with her and I remember how tentative she was to him and kind.  He was clearly in the process of his cancer treatment; tall, thin, and very comfortable with the mass of people.  I remember the thought crossing my mind that he was so young - really not much older than my husband and myself at the time.

I'm not sure why, but I even think of cancer as an illness you get when you are old.  When you see someone young it always has a significant impact on you.  It seems so out of order with the way we feel things should be.

So as I read I could not help but reflect on the many people who I have had in my life who have been effected by cancer.  Sadly there were quite a few.  Some old and some quite young, but all have become connected to me in a new way.

Finding cancer early is our best hope for successful outcomes.  
The best way to find it early is to know about it.
Take time to check it out...

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