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And finally, a visit with my oncologist and a med student, who both agree I am still a healthy girl, or, in medical speak — I am unremarkable. I love how that sounds.
Departed Cancer Center at 9:45 AM.
I was reminding John today that I have my oncology follow-up tomorrow morning, and 7-year-old Danny said, “What’s oncology?”
I told him it basically means cancer, that I have a visit with my doctor to make sure I still don’t have the disease. Then the conversation went like this:
Danny: “What if you do?”
Me: “Then I’ll treat it.”
Danny: “Will you tell us if you have it?”
Me: “Of course, I’ll tell you.”
Danny: “Can I touch you if you have cancer?”
John told him that yes, he can, that cancer is not contagious.
Funny, because I’ve already had cancer, but Danny was so young (18 months old when I was diagnosed) that he has no real memory of the whole ordeal, which I happen to think is pretty cool. It’s like it never even happened to him. That makes me happy.
My 5K challenge (5K a day for two weeks) got cut short by something like, oh, nine days. It wasn’t a lack of motivation or stamina or anything glamorous (like a warrior-like injury while sprinting) that took me out of the game. Nope, it was a pair of size 2 little-boy Skechers, placed strategically right where I stepped down last Sunday from kitchen to garage. Those darn velcro shoes caused my entire foot to turn on itself. We’ll just call it a sprain, because I never did get an X-ray (one expert said I probably couldn’t walk so well if it was a break), and we’ll just hope it’s on the mend. It should be — the bad bruise is pretty much gone, so is the swelling, I’ve been icing a lot, and while I am not actually sitting still and elevating it (can moms really do that?), I do sense I’m making comeback.
I was hoping to show up at my Monday oncology check-up having run 43 miles over the course of 14 days, but, well, that’s not gonna happen, so I’ll just continue healing and set out on a new challenge once my hobble turns back into a walk and that sharp sticking pain goes away. No biggie, I guess. I mean, there are worse things that can happen, right? Like cancer.
Big shout-out to my college roommate Ericha, who is one day from completing — actually, crushing — the challenge. (The girl ran 4, 5, 6+ miles on some days.) Way to run, my friend!
Ericha was my college roommate, the girl with whom I was randomly placed when I decided to stop commuting and moved into a residence hall at Kent State University. We hit if off, had a lot of laughs, got in little bits of trouble (noise violations, just noise!), and we managed to stay connected over the years. I can’t even remember the last time I saw her, but our Facebook chats leave me feeling like not much time or distance separates us.
Ericha is joining me in my 5K challenge (she runs in Ohio, and I run in Florida), and for the past few days, we’ve been posting on each other’s FB walls about our progress. We’ve inspired a few others who have decided to pound the pavement, and we’ve got lots of friends commenting on our respective strides. I love it. I especially love that Ericha linked to my blog in one of her posts, and this morning, her friend Cindy wrote to me. Here are her words:
I live near Ericha, and our children attend school together. Though we have never been close, we talk from time to time at school functions, and now on FB. Over a year ago, I had a lump removed from my breast (stage 2). Being a single mom to 4, with no other family, I was petrified I would leave my children without a mother. I had also just lost my mother, a non-smoker, to lung cancer only a few months before. My grandmother had died from breast cancer, my dad, sister, and best friend all to cancer. I began researching everything I could online. All of the articles were basically the same, but then I came across a blog — a blog I could relate to, a blog that gave me hope. But after a car accident, being pronounced cancer-free, other minor stressors, and life just “happening,” I forgot about the blog. Last night I pulled out my old laptop that I hadn’t used since November, and started cleaning out the files. Lo’ and behold, there was the blog. Curious as to what was happening with the author, I opened it. Immediately I realized it was the same blog Ericha had posted on her FB wall! It was YOU! I just want to thank you for getting me through a very difficult time in my life. I had you on my church prayer list, and prayed for you daily. I am sure I’m not the only one who was encouraged and motivated by your words. Not only did you motivate me to keep on keeping on, you prepared me for what was yet to come, and gave me HOPE. Without hope, we have nothing. THANK YOU! God bless you and your family.
And that is why I will continue to blog.
I don’t know what made me commit to running a 5K every day for two weeks, but I think it has something to do with the oncology follow-up I have 14 days from now. I’ve known for a while I need to get my butt in a better gear (because slow and slackin’ haven’t been producing the results I like), and I tend to motivate better when I have a goal. A clear stop date is important, too. So, my next visit with my favorite doctor on March 21 will mark the end of my personal challenge. It will also hopefully be the day I hear I’m still cancer free, and then, maybe — just maybe — I’ll be fired up enough to run some more!
Thank you for landing at my blog! While here, I hope you’ll find plenty of information, inspiration, and hope. But don’t stop with just my site, because there are so many great nuggets of goodness out there on the topic of cancer, and the fantastic folks at NursingSchools.net have complied a list of the 50 best blogs for cancer support. All for you. And me. And anyone who needs a one-stop shop for locating lots of wisdom.
So, take a tour through my place, and then start connecting with all the others out there who have powerful stories to share.
Today, my friend Nicole, her friends Amy and Pam, and Nicole’s two Beagles, kicked off an 8,500-step training walk by painting a famous rock at Kent State University. The rock is the only place on campus where graffiti is allowed, and for decades, the thing has been painted over and over again, sometimes several times per day. Often, colorful Greek letters are splashed across this hunk of Earth located near Main St., but today, it’s a pink ribbon making a powerful statement. It says that Nicole and her pals are stepping into the ring with the disease that took the life of Nicole’s mom, Amy’s cousin, and countless other loved ones.
Nicole and gang will walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For the Cure July 29-31 in Cleveland. Ohio. They’ll trek 20 miles over the course of three days, and while math isn’t exactly my thing, I am able to figure out that these girls will conquer 60 whopping miles, and let’s just agree that this is a serious undertaking.
Serious fundraising is also in the works for this monumental challenge — participants must raise $2,300 — and so, if you have a few bucks to spare and/or could use a 2011 tax deduction, head on over to Nicole’s donation page and sponsor the girl I first met at Kent State’s Stopher Hall (we lived on the same wing in this residence hall), and who, nearly 10 years later, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, became one of my most loyal and hopeful supporters.
Thank you, Nicole, for all you do. You rock!
A short film by Nikki Mackey and Connie Finn. Music from VNV Nation and Metropolis Records.
For much of my life, and much to my dismay, I had bangs. I kept them around not because I wanted them, but because I never felt equipped to grow them out — too many funky stages on the path to all-one-length hair, so I resigned myself to the reality that I’d have them f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
Well, reality changed. I got cancer, and I got to lose all my hair. Devastating, it was, maybe even worse than the cancer itself and its treacherous treatments. There was one little silver lining, though — the bangs were gone. And the golden opportunity presented itself: I could grow my hair all over again, and I would not cut bangs — never, ever, again. And for six years, I didn’t. Until today, when I went to my hair stylist and told her, “I want bangs.”
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the best one. My bangs are longish, and I’ll sweep them to the side — these are not your traditional straight-across variety. I like how they frame my face, how they add some style, how they look warm and chocolate-y with some new chunky highlights, how they’ll hide the wrinkles that will inevitably appear more visible on my forehead. I like them. I just do. Which is a good thing, because, well, I still don’t think I have it in me to grow them out.
Fancy pencils are on sale at my kids’ school this week, and while we were not prepared to buy any this morning (no money on hand), I did score one, thanks to my teacher friend who spotted this spiffy thing, scooped it up, and shared it with me bright and early. She’s the same girl who personalized her license plate with my initials, and shows up at Making Strides events to support her survivor pals. She also happened to be Joey’s third grade teacher, and if we’re lucky, Danny will be in her class next year. She’s definitely on my list of faves — and so is my pretty-in-pink pencil. Love it.
Mostly, I feel more hope than despair regarding breast cancer. And then there are days like today, when someone else dies from the disease, and an aching heart hurts me all over.
Daria was diagnosed in 2000 at the age of 39 — why do people insist that breast cancer is not a young woman’s disease? — and she was treated with radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. Then her cancer recurred in her chest area, and then another lump was found in her breast, and then it showed up in her lungs, liver, and bones. As a result, Daria was living on chemotherapy, and had been since August 2008. Remarkable, she was, digging up the latest news and views on breast cancer and sharing all of it for her Facebook friends, blogging her daily triumphs and troubles, inspiring women all over the world.
And then on January 20, Daria’s husband told her loyal readers that she was no longer able to write. On January 21, he shared that she was resting comfortably but was losing touch. Today, he wrote, “I was by her side and was able to kiss her goodbye several times during the night and then watched her slip away quietly in her sleep.”
Daria is no longer in pain. And that’s a good thing, and it sounds like she can cross off #29 on her bucket list.
But she’s also no longer with us.
And that makes me sad.
Joey went through this stage — he’d give me two horrible choices, and I had to pick one. Like, “Would you rather be torn up by a tiger or run over by a car?” Tough stuff, and now, Danny is challenging me, too. Yesterday, he asked me if I’d rather fall from the Empire State Building or get cancer. I picked cancer.
I figure my chances of surviving the disease are better than what might happen if I tumbled from the 102-story New York landmark. It’s 1,250 feet tall, and, well, I’m just not signing up for that. Of course, I don’t want cancer either (once was plenty for me), but when a 7-year-old puts on the pressure, a girl’s gotta choose.
His follow-up question was a choice between cancer or a good life with people I love. Just as I was answering a definite good life, he added, “The people are shooting guns!”
I’m Erica, and my breast cancer looks like a 30-year-old wife and mother who could not have been more rocked than when I was diagnosed. It looks like a momma who now appreciates every single day with my kids and husband more than ever before. It looks like the desire to run marathons, and see that desire fulfilled with pride. My breast cancer looks like a restoring of my faith. And it looks like a strength I never knew I had.
Erica is a blogger, too — check out her entire breast cancer story, and her thoughts on faith, family, and fitness. Then, show us what your breast cancer looks like. Please e-mail your shots to email@example.com. No blurry ones, and please include a little blurb, too.
Breast cancer looks like a lot of things, and a while back, I asked readers to submit photos that captured the essence of the disease. I got pics of hair loss, bald heads, scars, a wedding, purple flowers, sailboats, and I published them in a series called What Breast Cancer Looks Like.
I think the little project turned out pretty well, and, at least for me, it was way inspiring. That’s why I want more — more images that tell stories of hope, strength, struggle, sickness, recovery, health, and more. You know why? Because I think most of us newly-diagnosed girls want to see right away what other survivors and their journeys look like. It’s how we prepare for our own travels with breast cancer.
And so, I invite you to sort through what you’ve got on your phones, computers, iPads, etc., and send me something that tells your story — or the story of someone close to you. Maybe it’s new curls sprouting from your head, your friend sitting in an infusion chair, a crowd of warriors in pink. You make the call, then shoot something great over to me! I promise to publish asap.
Please e-mail your shots to firstname.lastname@example.org. No blurry ones, and please include a little blurb, too.
It’s not that I don’t want to write here more often, because I do. It’s just that I don’t have much to say anymore. Which is a really good thing, if you think about it. Six years after my breast cancer diagnosis, and I am running short on personal commentary. Definitely better than the alternative.
Now, I’m not saying goodbye, and I promise to come back and document my feelings about breast cancer, spread hope and inspiration, and give away goodies from time to time, too. But there might be a good bit of silence around here, and that’s why I’m branching out by launching a new blog (today!).
Square One is a non-disease related space (ahhhh!).
Here’s the scoop:
Fresh starts inspire me. And Square One is about me finding hope in new beginnings and sharing all my discoveries with you.
Here’s how it all started: 1/11/11.
Hey, did you know I also have a boy blog? Yep, Braving Boys is all about my two kids and the stories that define them.
There’s this thing I do when I hear about someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer, someone who has experienced a recurrence, someone who has died from the disease.
It can be a dangerous proposition, because I’ve yet to find someone with my exact same diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan, side effects, and on, and on, and on — and until I do, it’s just plain silly to think I will ever follow in another woman’s footsteps.
Still, I wondered when Carmen’s cancer came back, What if it were me? And I worried when Amy found out her cancer had spread to her lungs and brain, What if it were me? And when she died — What if it were me? The same thing happened when I heard about Christy — nearly 11 years after diagnosis, she died. It’s been just 6 years for me.
Here’s the thing: I never listen to someone’s breast cancer story without somehow connecting it to me. Maybe I do this with everything. My sister’s friend is in the hospital right now, trying to recover from a massive stroke. What if it were me? What if it were me with a sick child, a lost job, a broken marriage? What if it were me at that grocery store in Tucson yesterday when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and so many others were killed and wounded?
Breast cancer is the scariest of all considerations, because I’ve had it once, but I am totally, completely, and fully aware that it could be me with a recurrence, or a death sentence. But it could me in a car accident, too, or a natural disaster, or gosh, who knows what else. Horrible things happen all the time, and really, I don’t have that much control over what happens to me from day to day. Yes, I can eat right, exercise well, drive safely, and all that jazz, but mostly, life is just sort of a gamble, you know?
I’m not all that concerned about continuing to think, What if it were me? Not for reasons of panic or anything, just because I think that question just might keep me grounded. Realizing I’m not immune to the bad stuff makes me really appreciate the good — my healthy kids, my loving husband, my paying job, and my healthy body.
What if it were me?
Well, then, I’d just find a way to cope.
A friend of a friend lost her 41-year-old cousin to breast cancer on Sunday. She shared with me the following letter her cousin wrote three years ago, near the anniversary of her diagnosis.
Wow … can you believe that it has been eight years since we first met? Some days it seems as if it was only yesterday. I have so many mixed feelings about our relationship, it is truly a love/ hate situation. I hate the fact that we ever had to meet but in some strange way I love that we can live together and I am grateful for some of the things that you have taught me over the years.
I need to touch on the reasons for my hatred towards you, you have taken so many things from me. Whether you know it or not you have taken away a part of my daughter’s childhood — she has been forced to deal with situations that only grown ups should have to deal with. You have made it really difficult for me to have certain dreams and goals for fear that I may never realize them. You have stolen my ability to have more children and build a larger family. You have physically beaten me down time and time again not to mention the emotional toll that you take on me on a daily basis. From day one you have been on my mind every day and as much as I want to forget the fact that I know you it is impossible.
There are days when I wake up and my hatred for you is almost overwhelming, it may be that I am sick of going to all of these appointments, or that I am tired of being in pain or it might be as simple as me missing being able to be a free spirit and not having our “friendship” always hanging over my head. I wish I could for one moment forget that we ever met … but the reality is that we did .. for reasons that I will never understand and truthfully never fully accept.
For eight long years I have done my best to get rid of you and just wonder why you are so damn persistent. I mean I know that I am a fun person to hang around with but sometimes you just have to take a hint! Don’t get me wrong I am very thankful for the lessons you have taught me. You have shown me how to love unconditionally, how to forgive completely, how to always have hope and embrace the little things in life. You have opened my eyes to so many beautiful things in this world that one can only appreciate after having known you. You have given me the drive to help others who are in similar situations, to give of myself and make a difference in the lives of others and I will never forget that.
It looks like we are in this together for the long haul whether I like it or not and I am accepting of this, but you had better be prepared because well the truth is I can be a bitch at times and I am used to getting my way. I don’t give up easy and am always up for a good fight. Did I mention that I have great friends and family behind me every step of the way? Well, I do and we are a package deal so just be prepared … we can get crazy at times!
For the past eight years I have wondered off and on why you chose me? I no longer want to know why, the fact is that for whatever reason you did and it is up to me how I deal with it. Every day will be a challenge and I am prepared for this.
As much as I don’t like you, you have ultimately made me a stronger person and being strong is what will carry me through. Here’s to at least another eight years!
He was not quite 4 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and today, he is 10. What a monster milestone. My first baby reaches double digits, and I am alive to see it.