Friday, March 9, 2018

It would never be the same...

This particular week began on Sunday night, August 14, 2011 at bedtime. It turned out to be perhaps the most emotionally intense week of my life. We had just gotten in bed, the 2 of us & our beloved Black Lab, Dolly. My husband put his arm around me & said, What the heck?" I said, "What?" in a panicked voice. He told me he felt a lump. I jumped out of bed complete with electrical currents running through my body. I was quite sure it was a seam in my pajama pocket so why was I so scared? I soon realized my pajamas had no pocket. I realized I had a lump. Next I tried to convince the 2 of us that it was probably a benign cyst like our daughter had just a year earlier.

I laid my head on my pillow & felt horrified. I resolved to call the doctor in the morning. I got in with the PA. She suggested I just keep an eye on it. It felt like it was floating & was probably hormonal. I was relieved (for a moment), but that panic stricken feeling quickly returned. I told the PA I preferred to get a mammogram for my own peace of mind. Thank God I did! Just a month sooner we had been on a cruise having the time of our married life. Little did I know that those days were over. We were about to enter the most stressful years of our marriage. Just for the record, 7 months earlier, I had a mammogram that was clean.

That Monday morning as I headed to the diagnostic center, I prayed. I called my husband, & he met me there. I called my friend & asked her to pray for me. She thought I sounded shaken, so she headed there too. Meanwhile, I was by myself receiving news that would turn my world upside down. My husband was not allowed back with me. My friend arrived, & being a female, she was allowed to join me. My husband waited alone in the waiting area. The nurse went to comfort him & suggested he take me wherever I wanted to go on the way home. I was having a lump biopsy & a lymph node biopsy. I was so scared.

With each day of that week, a new word was heard. I felt as if I were hearing a foreign language. With each day, a new fear was founded. By the end of that painful & frightening week, I knew my lump was the size of a walnut. It had uneven margins. It was Her2Nu positive, Estrogen positive, & aggressive. It was Inductal Carcinoma. It was invasive. If we did nothing, I would soon lose my life. Chemo, surgery, & radiation would be necessary. I felt like throwing up. My husband had a pained look on his face which I had never seen before but would become his common expression throughout the years that followed. I knew I was in over my head, & I was in trouble. I became very vulnerable & overwhelmed. My life had changed. It would never be the same.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Common Threads

                                                      THE  SURVIVOR

survivor's guilt
heavy heart
brain fog
loss of security
new me
old me
not me
break up
become stronger
closer than ever
over weight
under weight
loss of appetite
light headed
unable to think
unable to read
unable to focus
can't stay awake
can't sleep
can't shut mind off
chemo brain
side effects
changed relationship
fat graphs
blood counts
tumor marker
support group
PET scans
not symmetrical
skin graphs
Red Devil
damaged skin
lymph nodes
blistered skin
red skin
pain meds
raw skin
shrunken skin
brittle nails
bedside manor
social worker
breast navigator
case worker
thinning hair
new friends
melt downs
axillary dissection
sentinel lymph node
breast sparing
nipple sparing
not done
rate of reoccurence
percent of reoccurrence
CT Scan
low counts
let down
loss of friendship
self breast exam
suicidal thoughts
new friends
"What did I do wrong?"
"How could I have prevented my cancer?"
"What caused this?"
Will "it" come back?
"What will I do if..."
"Why me?"
"Why not me?"
new normal
no where near normal
not normal
family chemistry
The Race
betrayed forgotten
cared for
Bracca Carrier

Monday, March 5, 2018

Queen "B"

This evening, for the first time in a long time, I am writing a blog. This particular blog is for a sweet friend (gone to soon). I know some of you are thinking, "Here we go again!" Some of you are so sick of breast cancer awareness, you don't want to be aware! Some of you are so sick from breast cancer, you want to scream your disgust from a mountaintop! You've been robbed of much, & truth is, when will it end?

2 years ago, @ a Race for The Cure, a speaker told my friend that we were less than 5 years away from a cure. I took that little tidbit of information, & I've held on to it for dear life! Could we be that close to a cure, to a world without breast cancer, or is that something we can only imagine?

The Cure didn't come fast enough for my sweet friend, Bilinda Jean Kelly. I believe she went to the ER this past Christmas Eve. She had plans to begin yet another chemo, but she was fast becoming too ill to withstand the treatment. Instead of a new chemo, she went home, & Hospice became the answer to her family's prayers. She did not make it to ring in the New Year.

Her suffering came to an abrupt end after a 4 year journey filled with uncertainties, tears, fear, sadness, & an incredible amount of joy in spite of her circumstances. You see, she was loved beyond measure by her beloved husband & her adoring daughter. I know their hearts still ache with grief, but peace can reign in their hearts for 2 reasons. #1. They loved her well. #2 She had a faith that held up while the rivers of trouble kept flowing. Time after time, she received hopeless news. Time after time, her family loved her through their sorrows. She never gave up. In the end, she had no choice. It was time. Her # was called.

I wonder how many more #'s will be called before we have our Cure? Will my # be called? Will my family have to grieve for me? Will I miss out on my precious grandchildren?  Will I grieve because I know my days are numbered? I am not afraid to ask these questions. I am not afraid to die. I am afraid to leave my family & my little ones with aching grieving hearts because The Cure didn't come soon enough. We are close. Perhaps Team Sweet Potatas will be enough. Perhaps this year, the Race for The Cure will push the bar, & the Cure will come. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

finding beauty...

Have you heard of the Prosperity Gospel? From what I gather, it's a belief that God wants us to be happy, to prosper... It comes from a verse in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 29:11), "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare & not for evil, to give you a future & a hope." Seems simple enough. It's a belief that God wants us to have physical well being as well as wealth and/or success. So, if you buy into this, & you live life the best you know how, fully believing God is leading you, what happens when you stumble across hardships, hardships which derail your success?  Perhaps a family member becomes seriously ill, a cherished relationship fails, someone cheats you, & the list goes on... & on...

These things (called hardships & LIFE) happen everyday to people. They are earth shattering to the people who experience them. If they believe in the Prosperity Gospel, then what accounts for the closed door? I believe God does want good things for me, but I don't believe that's his chief concern. Ultimately, if I have a relationship with Him (His son), I will have something far deeper & more meaningful than health & wealth on this earth. If I believe in the Prosperity Gospel, I have set myself up for depression & possibly even disbelief in God. In John 16:33, Jesus said,"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It's a given, TROUBLE will be a part of my life. It's just a matter of when, how much, what will it look like, how long will it last, is there an end in sight? So my question is this, "How do I find  BEAUTY in my TROUBLES?" Life keeps happening whether I like my troubles or not. They are not what I would choose, but I have a BIG choice in how I choose to face them. Do my troubles mean that God has forsaken me? No! If it weren't for Him, I wouldn't be whole. I wouldn't be thriving in a broken world filled with daily evil & so much sorrow. If I walk around believing that God wants only good for me, then how can I reconcile not just my own troubles, but the troubles of the ones I love, & the troubles of this world? I cannot just cover my eyes & pretend everything is okay. It's not. It never has been in my lifetime, & until I rest in Heaven, everything will not be okay for me. That's a truth.

So, if God wants Health & Wealth for me, but bad things still happen, how do I make sense of this? I whole heartedly believe that God cares about every detail of my life. He has shown that to me over & over. I believe that bad things happen because we live in a broken world. When I pray, I believe God hears my prayer, but His answer may not look at all how I expected it to look. That too has happened over & over in my life. I can honestly say, I have been shaped by my troubles & learned far more from them than my mountaintop highs in life. I love the mountaintops, but they are not what makes me who I am. No, it's those darned old troubles that nag at me daily that keep me close to God & make me Susie.

I believe that God is far more interested in the refining of my heart & fitting me for Heaven than He is in giving me Health & Wealth on this earth. Health & Wealth are temporary as are the things of this earthly life. The lessons learned & the beauty found in our troubles is eternal. Looking for the BEAUTY in the hardship is challenging, but it's fulfilling & far more meaningful than the things that make our life easier. If you are reading this, & you believe in the Prosperity Gospel, I mean no offense to you. It just doesn't work for me. My physical well being & total contentment will come in Heaven. Until then, I will look to God for my sustenance. Finding the Beauty is beautiful.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Many whom I deeply respect...

Today, I pick up this blog & write a few words. I know people whom I deeply respect & even admire may stumble across this post & read it. Some of them have had a great impact on my life & have helped me formulate some of my own beliefs. I realize that many of them may disagree with what I write & may even judge me. It's possible they will think I have abandoned my faith or made up my own Bible, at the very least, misinterpreted the words of the Bible. Truth is... my faith has never been deeper. My life has never been more dependent on the Lord for each hour of each day. He is the air that I breathe. Without Him, I am nothing.

As you read my words, please realize that what I write is nothing more than my words, my thoughts, on an ugly subject. I am by no means a Bible scholar. Tho' I have followed the Lord for a lifetime, I must admit that my relationship with Him is based more on my heart than my intelligence. I believe that a lifetime of following the Lord has allowed me to grasp Christ's message, but as I said, not so much in an intellectual way. That isn't to say I have no Biblical knowledge but to say that at this time in my life, I am unable to express my knowledge & articulate it in a way that would be acceptable to those who are scholarly.

I welcome the opinions of my readers but ask that you express them in a way which is respectful of me & more importantly, the people for whom this blog is written. Over the last 7 years of my life, I have experienced one trauma after another. I actually am able to thank God for my horrors. Not because I am a super human being, but because thru them God has shaped my heart for Him. In Him, I have found my wholeness, my strength, my conviction, my courage, my ability to laugh & carry on even when  my heart has been overcome with deep sadness & no reassurance of the future or what it holds. I have learned that no one is immune to anything. My story is not written the way I planned it. I am not inviting more trauma into my life. I am only thanking God for what I have thus far experienced. I am quite sure there is more to come because that is life.

As I heard about the Nashville Statement, I think my mouth dropped open. As I researched, my heart broke for the LGBT population. I could only see Christ meeting each of them at the well & embracing them. I believe in "God is Love" as is written in the Bible. Christ did not shun people, He loved them. He met them where they were & ministered to them. I do not have the insight of Christ to judge another soul, therefore I believe it is my responsibility to love each soul that comes into my life.

I am well aware of the Bible verses which were used to make the conclusions expressed by the Nashville Statement, & I am well aware of the repeating message of the Bible from Genesis thru Revelations. I don't understand each verse of the Bible, so I will just have to wait for the other side of Heaven to see the whole picture. I am okay with that. I am NOT God. I believe that the repeating theme of the Bible trumps picking apart individual verses & taking them out of context. I believe that the message which permeates throughout the whole Bible speaks so much louder than the verses picked out to shun & hurt this quite loving community of people. I believe the Bible must be looked at as a whole.

What is this message of which I speak? It is a message of, "God is Love." It is a message of God going to extreme lengths to draw each soul unto Him. It is a message of His patience with our sorry souls & His forgiveness. Christ did not walk the earth failing to love anyone whose heart was open to Him or would one day soften. Christ was all about healing the hurting. He fed them. He prayed for them. He touched them. He loved them. He died for them. His message was simple.

I have never been a believer of labels. Each soul is a human being before he/she is anything else.
Each soul is an imperfect human being. It is not my right or place to judge. I don't have the whole picture of the life of another or of God's plan. I only know we are created to love Him & to love others as ourselves. Some will say that you judge the fruits of a person, not the person, & therefore justify their judgement. I have trouble judging my own fruits let alone the fruits of another whose shoes I have not worn for a day. I shutter to call this population the LGBT population because I am so against labels. Rather, I prefer to say that they are imperfect human beings just as I am & are all  human beings. They deserve to be loved. They have souls, & I believe each human being is worthy of being used by God. They are worthy of sitting in a pew, being a part of the community we call Church, & being used by God.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Things you never knew...

The past few months have been unexpectedly beautiful. I always get a bit stressed out as the day of The Race for The Cure approaches. It took place on May 13th, so we are that much closer to next year's Race. I pressure myself to raise as much money as I can because I am passionate about research. Research, I believe is our only path to a cure for this deadly disease. I am not being overtly dramatic. This disease has taken 2 of my friends & is currently metastatic in 5 friends.

It most often seems to have no rhyme or reason. It finds a home in healthy bodies & most often in bodies that bear NO family history than do. It seems to attack the younger woman more & more, but this may just be my perspective. The younger the person, I think the more aggressive the treatment. Some forms of breast cancer are more deadly than others. Research is proving new facts every day. Susan G. Komen is connected to most of the advancements made in breast cancer  research, diagnosis, & treatment.

For the Survivor, The Race for The Cure serves as inspiration. Participating in The Race with fellow  Survivors decked out in pink tees is meaningful. The camaraderie says, "I can do this. Look at all the other Survivors who are doing this." The  support of family & friends gives the Survivor a lift which will not be felt on the medical side of this disease. When your loved one helps fund your team or shows up to walk this race with you, words cannot express how the heart is impacted.

It seems that the impact of any kindness expressed toward a Survivor is multiplied thousand fold. These kindnesses actually serve to carry the Survivor through her most vulnerable moments. I don't know quite why, but breast cancer can take a healthy person & reduce her to a raw state of vulnerability in the blink of an eye. In these most tender moments, kindness has a magical effect.

One of my magical moments came the Thursday before this year's race. A friend took his jar full of coins into Komen to support my team. For some reason, the meaning of this act of kindness put a smile on my face & across my heart that I could not hide. It made me laugh out loud because he cared this much! Even now, when I ponder this beautiful moment, I smile. Who knew?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

highly personal

One day I was out riding my bike on the trails in Washington. It was a warm summer day in August. I liked to go in the morning before the sun got too hot. The wind was blowing through my coarse head of hair affectionately referred to as "Brillo pad" by my husband. I loved the trail, & I loved the exercise. Midlife had hit, & I was trying to get in shape. Riding my bike 10 miles a day made me feel good about myself. I felt as though I was truly shaping up, & I was thankful I was doing something to help myself.

The winds of change had drifted our way, but we were clueless. We had just taken a trip on a ship, a cruise ship on which our soon-to-be son-in-law played his trumpet. We were empty nesters now, & it seemed as though we would enjoy our new stage in life. We were helping our middle daughter plan her December wedding. Our youngest was getting ready to return to College. I remember thinking about a few changes I had noticed on my left side. It happened on that cruise ship. The thing is... those changes didn't stay. I figured everything was fine. I didn't give it much thought. I did not notice the lump under my arm. I think I didn't realize that when a woman does a self exam, she needs to check her underarm area.

I was diligent about my monthly self exams (even though I didn't know to check my underarm areas). I was diligent about my mammograms even though they caused me immense anxiety, & frankly, I hated them. Just 7 months earlier, I'd had a clean mammogram. The thought never went through my mind that my life was hanging in the balance. I remember looking in the bathroom mirror & noticing a discoloration. This change stuck in my mind, but the discoloration went away just as it had done on the cruise ship. Hmmm... weird.

FAST FORWARD 1 YEAR:  I am finishing up a year's worth of treatment. My hair is just growing back in. It looks like salt & pepper. Will it be curly like it was before, or will it be straight? I have survived not having hair. I have even decided hair is highly overrated. Getting ready each morning is much simpler without hair, & hats are stylish. I don't really look like myself. I haven't ridden my bike in a year, & I no longer feel very feminine.  My life is so far from normal, I don't know if I were to run smack dab into my old self if I would recognize her.

For 365 days, I awakened each morning with a deep heaviness of heart. I would wake up, lay in my bed, & realize my heart was sad. Each morning I realized why I was sad. "Oh yeah," it would come back to me. "I have cancer." I am afraid. I think I must have PTSD. I feel as if this curse will never leave me. I am filled with turmoil, & I don't know what to do. I never miss a doctor appointment, but I dread each of them. "What strange words will be thrown at me today?" It's all so over my head, yet so many decisions must be made. My family weighed in, but ultimately, I am the patient. I have to make the decisions. How am I to know what to do? I can't even speak the doctor's language. It is foreign to me.

5 YEARS, 8 MONTHS LATER:  I am preparing for my 6th Race for The Cure as a Survivor. I am trying to reach my goal which I fear I have set too high. Too high for what? Not too high for Susan G. Komen. Because of her research, I live. I have grandchildren, none of which were even a thought when my lump was found. None of them would I know if not for Susan G. Komen.  I have made new friends that I didn't know before my biopsy, but some of them are no longer with us. I would never have known them if not for Susan G. Komen.  My faith is bigger than the day I was diagnosed. I would not have lived long enough to know this new depth of faith if not for Susan G. Komen.

TODAY: I am changed. I don't ride my bike 10 miles a day. My hair is soft & curly. My weight has been up & down like a pogo stick. I take 27 pills a day. I attend a support group. I go to counseling. I love my friends (old & new). My grandkids bring me unspeakable joy. I am stronger in some ways & weaker in others. I still have anxiety. I try to live in the moment. I try to live each day to the full. I celebrate life. I cry when I lose my Survivor friends. I am raising money for the 6th year in a row. My goal is $10,000. Currently, I am in third place. Last year, Team Sweet Potatas came in second. 2 years in a row before that, it came in first. The farther I get from my diagnosis, the harder it is to raise money. I don't care if my team comes in first or last, but I do care about my cause. I care about research. I care about a cure.