Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful and grateful

Today was a little crazy. I had all intentions of going grocery shopping before picking up Annie from basketball practice, but I didn't. Too tired and I did not feel like shopping for anything. Yep, i said it but it shall pass. :) Didn't want to check the bank account to see what a deficit Black Friday put on my account. I was thinking of a plan to sell jewelry and pumpkin rolls to have some breathing room for Christmas. I decided to skip shopping and just read in the car until Annie got out. 
On the way there I passed a kid and thought it was odd where they were standing on the road but kept on driving. 20 minutes later I got a heart attack when they knocked on my car window asking if I had seen a car drive by. I did not and the kid walked away. I knew something was wrong and asked them if they needed to call anyone on my phone. They did and I asked them if they needed a ride home. They did. Never met the kid before in my life. 

As I was driving them home they asked if I was rich. I laughed and said no. They said that they always see my family in the paper. I said if I were rich I would be driving a Hummer and they laughed. They asked to be dropped off by their mailbox because they didn't want a "nice car" to be stuck in the holes down the road to their house. When they got out of the car, I cried. I thanked God for allowing me to be at the right place and right time. Finally not going grocery shopping and procrastinating paid off. My emotions came from guilt. As I was riding home in the 3rd row of the car for 2 hours surrounded by mounds of Christmas presents i wish I had more money and a bigger car. I fantasized of what bigger car I could get to sit comfortably and be able to travel with my "stuff." I prayed hard for them that they would succeed in life but mainly that I would be content. 

Thanksgiving came without much fanfare. I was happy to see my family and extended family from NJ. The time in VA cured my homesickness. On Thanksgiving I checked in on Facebook and read posts from my breast cancer support groups about this possibly being their last Thanksgiving. People taking pictures to capture these moments. People praising to just be healthy and keep the meal down. 

I felt guilty in that moment not taking a family photo. My good health and scans never crossed my mind. I guess it's good to not look at things like it might be your last. But at the same time I wonder if I would have done anything different. I did have the opportunity to spend one on one time with Meg and Annie. Madison was in heaven with my Dad and Mom to care less about anyone else. And looking back on it now I would have done the same thing with Meg and Annie whether this was my last holiday hooray or I have many more to come. Annie got her first taste of Black Friday which is a tradition my Mom and I have always done since I was able to walk. Meg went out with me later to a jewelry store to hunt down Alex and Ani bracelets. :) which we are both in love with now. 

I ended getting my family portrait heading home. With Meg driving on I64 in Chesapeake and me crammed in the back with white knuckles. 

When I got home I checked my zillion emails inviting me to Cyber Monday to every store known to man. My last email that was checked as read was the email from the Young Survivor Coalition awarding me a full scholarship to attend the annual conference March of next year. This is a huge honor to attend, let alone receive a full scholarship! I just registered and I also found my gratitude!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Update and the end of Pinktober

Update: I went and saw the dr last week and stumped her. It makes no sense to her or I, if I were having side effects from chemo, why it is happening now. I have been on the same “cocktail” for over a year. (They call the mixture of chemo drugs a cocktail, how fancy, and I was on the Cleopatra when I was on this chemo with the bad one.) She prescribed me meds for neuropathy and I am to follow up with my Oncologist when I go to chemo this Thursday. When I got home and took the medicine the burning, itchy sensation subsided and I felt the onset of pain and numbness. The tips of my pointer and middle finger are numb and my wrist is in pain. Thankfully it’s a dull pain. However, I am more convinced that it is the onset of neuropathy, the weakness and damage to the nerves. I am thankful that currently I am only experiencing it in my left hand and nowhere else. I had a terrible time with numbness and tingling in my toes when I was on the “bad” chemo. After I was taken off, it took 5 months til I started feeling sensation in my feet again.

It’s the end of Pinktober. You know where everything is turned pink for breast cancer. I have never seen people get so angry and upset at a color. Mostly from cancer survivors and specifically breast cancer survivors. I get it. Breast cancer is not wrapped in a pretty pink ribbon. It sucks, it hurts, the color pink is just a color. But let’s rally around this color and ribbon and let our voice be heard. Now is the time as survivors to tell our story that was so hard to share before. Talk about the horrors of cancer, the mental, physical and financial breakdown it gives a survivor and that 30% of all breast cancer patients will metastasize, but only 2% of research funding goes to metastatic breast cancer.

Yes, that makes me angry. Not everything that you buy, that is pink or has a pink ribbon on it, goes to research. I do encourage you to keep your funds local if you do donate. My life was forever changed by going to Get Your Pink On in New Bern. It’s a grass roots, community-supported event that brings awareness and support for cancer warriors in New Bern. All funds raised and donated went back to the community to help fight this awful disease. It was amazing to see a community wrap their arms around this event and get a message out that needs to be heard. I enjoy Pinktober. I believe if just one person sees the color pink or the pink ribbon and schedules a mammogram, performs a self-breast exam or at least goes and talks to their doctor that it’s a positive step in the right direction.

But did you know the month of October also tries to bring awareness of Aids, Domestic Violence and one I know so many struggling with, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. I do feel the pink movement over shadows them all and for that I am upset about. Of course those struggling with Aids, Domestic Violence or Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness do not forget. I think, if anything, it’s a very difficult time of the year for them. I believe though that those raw emotions and feelings need to be heard and shared because unfortunately that is what people listen to and react to the most. Every day is awareness month.

I wouldn’t say October was a difficult month for me because so much good came out of it. I had a lot of celebrating to do since I just turned 30! I was ready to leave part of my 20’s behind. The being diagnosed with breast cancer, twice, part. I know going into my 30’s and the rest of my life I will have breast cancer but I have also done a lot of growing. I have met inspirational people along the way and formed relationships that I wouldn’t have, because breast cancer brought us together.

Since I have become more vocal about my stage 4 breast cancer journey. I have also let more people in. This has been the hard part. There is so much uncertainty, uncertainty of test results or whether a chemo treatment is effective for so many of my friends. There is pain from what the cancer has taken away. It has also made me thankful for my good days, thankful for suppressed cancer and a “good scan.” I hurt, when they hurt and celebrate the victories, like they are my own. Opening up also makes me deal with my own cancer in a different way. That I was not prepared for but I think it is something that I need to deal with. 

It has been overwhelming and my heart is overflowing by the love and support. The small community I live in has wrapped their arms around me. The BBQ Fundraiser was extremely successful and I thank everyone who donated their time volunteering, gathering names and money and who supported me far away with their prayers. I find my strength and hope in those who surround me with love and encouragement. 


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Be demanding

I have stage 4 breast cancer. It has metastasized to my bones, liver and breast. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that originates beyond the breast to other organs in the body. At age 28 I was given a 1-6 months to live. There is no cure, I will never be in remission and cancer free is not a phrase in my vocabulary. I receive "maintenance chemo" every 3 weeks. That is the longest my body and my cancer can go without chemo. Without chemo, I will most likely die within a year. Chemo is prolonging my life and allowing me time with my family.

I receive CAT scans every 3 months of my whole body. The next likely areas it spreads is to the lungs and brain. That terrifies me. 

 This is my second diagnosis of breast cancer. 26, I was first diagnosed. I was not performing self breast exams. I was too young to get cancer. I have no family history of breast cancer. 

I was hurting in my breast, shooting pains to my nipple and my left breast was "leaking", discharging. My Mom got excited thinking I was pregnant. I took 3 pregnancy tests. Two breast ultrasounds showed nothing. Self exams did feel a lump and it was solid. Finally a mammogram showed up a suspicious lump. The breast biopsy revealed breast cancer. I went in for a double mastectomy and expansion for implants the day my girls started school.

They said they "got it all" and I was not recommended for oral chemo with a pill, radiation or chemo. I was seeing my oncologist who performed his own self exams when I went  in for "check ups." When asked what to look for in case of a possible reoccurrence  he said I would SEE, FEEL a bump on the outside of my skin. 

Ladies and gents it DID NOT go down like that. Now, I did have a tiny bump near my implant that they believed was scar tissue and has been confirmed scar tissue from my mastectomy. It did not originally   hurt me nor could you see it. What the dr told me to look for. What hurt was my side, Ih ad shortness of breath. I had trouble sleeping, getting comfortable. THE DAY I went into the hospital and diagnosed with stage 4breast  cancer I had just left the Oncologist who sent me home to keep an "eye" on my scar tissue with the idea of opening my breast back open yo break up the scar tissue. I cried, sobbed for 45 minutes from my dr to home and demanded my husband to take me to the  hospital because something WAS WRONG! I went into the hospital with orders to have my gallbladder removed and came out of the hospital with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. 

I don't know if you have heard or seen but I just turned 30, haha. I made it to 30!  You know I'm not even old enough to qualify for a mammogram if I were not diagnosed with cancer previously. And before turning 30 I've been diagnosed twice. I will die with breast cancer. 5 months. Insurance protocals at my age and no family history makes you start from the least restrictive, invansive measure. Dont get me wrong I dont want them to start cutting away on me first but 5 months of being undiagnosed is too long. 

Know your body. You do know your body the best so listen to it. If something is NOT right get it checked out! Demand answers! Be your own advocate. I would be dead today if I stopped advocating for myself and ignored the pain. First step is self breast exams! Get your mammograms if you're eligible. But DONT stop there FOLLOW THROUGH! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I don't do emotions

I don't like crying. I use to not cry in front of anyone. I pride myself in that. Still do. Why? I don't know, I guess I believe it shows you are strong. I remember having a huge lump in my throat when watching Free Willy in the movie theatre. I thought I was going to pass out from not breathing because I was NOT going to cry.

People crying around me, friends...crying. I freeze. I get tense and I do the half hug where I'm not committed but I care. I just don't  do well with emotions. If I cry, I cry in private and I try for it not to be long.  I pride myself on being my own coping mechanism. Now you think I'm crazy. :) I've ruined friendships, lost friendships, because when the tough got going for them I was absence. Now I can handle anger, give me anger and I'll be fist pumping and cheering you on but you can't stay down for long 'til I bail.  If I can't send a funny Ecard and cheer you up via text or my side hug just doesn't do it for you, I'm out. It's not that I don't care, I will pray for you but I'm just not good with emotions.

I avoid emotions; the sad, not funny emotions. I avoid events for cancer like the plaque. I don't want to heard a speaker, I don't want to share emotions and I don't want to cry. Crying in public is NOT a an option.  I know how difficult it is for me to handle someone crying that I do not want someone to be awkward around me nor do I like "sharing" time. I don't want someone to take on my burdens, troubles. I hate attending meetings where you have to tell 3 things about yourself, find someone who traveled out of country, etc.... I came to learn! Just let me sit here quietly and do the awkward laugh. :)

I still am very appreciative that whoever reached my Dad and told him not to force me to go to a support group that he listened and did not make me go.  I have a hard time sharing my story because it's sad, who wants to hear sadness and honestly not me. Sadness is not who I am. I don't know how best to say this so I'm going to say it., I would take on everyone's illness, sadness, their "story" and make it my own and it would  hurt and put me in a bad place. And that I feel selfish honestly. I feel like I have a cold heart for not wanting anyone in who is going through this battle. Everyone deals with cancer in their own way.

Tonight, I went to New Bern Get Your Pink On! I did NOT want to go. The event was from 5pm-7pm  and I had chemo today until 5pm. I tried using the excuse that we would be too rushed. I knew there would be emotions, crying, sadness. There was that and much more. I think I cried first, in public, snotted on myself and was stared at because I was sobbing. I was with all the girls and Pete. Crying in public, with my family, in front of my kids. A 34 woman with two 15 year old daughters and her husband shared her story. She has been living with this disease for 7 months now. She started having abdominal pain, had a mammogram because she had a family history of cancer and her pain was finally severe enough she was sent to UNC for surgery. There she had a hysterectomy amongst other surgeries and diagnosed stage 4 breast cancer that had metastasized. When she got home from the hospital she received her results from her mammogram, prior to going to UNC, saying "Congratulations, your mammogram is clear!"  But she was not in the clear, she was stage 4.

After her story her two daughters spoke and I spotted some more. Afterwards, candles were lite and prayers were prayed at the event. And I stepped out of my comfort zone and introduced myself to Beth Fairchild the 34 year old, mother, wife, friend living with stage 4 breast cancer whose story is identical to mind. I cried in front of her, a person I did not even know and we made plans for lunch.

My anti-handle emotions is BC. Before Cancer. Now I cry at a drop of a hat. I avoid events because I know I am going to cry. I avoid support groups because I will cry, cry for those that hurt, that have been touched by this disease. I still don't cry in front of my kids but now they are coming more and more frequent.  Call it hormones, cancer, life, the realization I can't do this on my own nor am I suppose to.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Lets talk providence...
That was the topic of Sundays sermon. A lot of things hit home during this message but one particularly stuck out. "If we knew everything that was going to happen there would be no faith. "

When I was about 10-11 years old my grandmother signed me up for 4-H camp and off I went every summer for a couple of years. The camp is in VA and every year I would come home horse from screaming my lungs out for the spirit stick. Who knew that this would qualify me for my senior internship in college and I was the Assistant to the 4-H leader in college. My senior year I applied to grad schools and also to be the 4-H agent a hour away from home. I went for my interview during exam week, was a hour late to my interview (bc i got lost) and still got the job. :) I graduated in May and started the job in July. From that day I stayed busy and always out of town for work, either in training or with kids at 4-H events. I remember the moment exactly when I saw Pete, my now husband, at work and from there we were inseparable. You know the rest of the story ;)

Backing up to middle school, I moved my 7th grade year from the only home I remember. I was so sad but met a girl at the bus stop at my new home. She was having a birthday soon and invited me to her party. All I had was an address and when I showed up to her party I got a strange look. She was very sick and contagious and couldn't call and tell me not to come to the party because we just met. So I did what anyone would do and stuck around for cake. :) We became what seemed instant friends and everytime I would want to hang out with her she always said she was going to church. Church? On a Wednesday? Sunday night?  So I went to her church just to hang out with her. I had a blast hanging out with her, my now best friend, and friends from my school. It was also hard for me but especially hard for my Mom to attend a different church.  I wanted to start going to my best friends church on Sundays but was already going to my Moms church she grew up in. I enjoyed going there too.  However, the doctrine was different and when I wanted to rededicate myself to Christ my youth minister called my Mom. I know it was hard not going to church as a family looking back at it now with a family of my own. I hope that my Mom saw me growing in my faith. I honestly give a lot of credit to my bestfriend  for my faith today. Where I'm going with this is that our youth group would go to conventions and there the McCants band perform. I can still do the hand motions, not so much the jumping, to the songs. I have a bootleg copy of their cd from the convention. :) stick with me...

Ok back to Pete, I pretty much knew he was going to be my husband. I dont know if I would call it love at first sight to sound cliche but I had prayed for this man for a long time and while we were dating I prayed for God to lead me. I knew that if I were to date anyone it would be someone from work the way my schedule was at the time and considering 4-H agents is a prodominary female position the choices were few. :) when we got married we tried to find a church immediately. It was difficult. We were trying to find a church for us as a couple and a place for Meg then 6 and Annie, 4, to feel comfortable as well. It was hard. We would love a chuch, but they would have no kid ministry. Or the girls would have fun but Pete and I didnt feel moved. Then I got a call from my best friend. She just got a newsletter from her bible college that Dave McCants is start a church plant in New Bern. The guy from the McCants band from convention when I was a teenager! Here, right where Pete and I live is starting a church. Well the rest is history. We as a family found a church home. Two Rivers Church this year now has a permanent church building. Our preacher, Dave McCants cures my homesickness when he talks about VA and how the events in his life  lead him to New Bern. Meg and Annies youth minister, another previous member of the McCants band and was a groomsman in my bestfriends wedding. Her husbands previous youth minister. God works in mysterious ways, providence! 

When I was first diagnosed  with brast cancer in 2011, I was 26. I reconnected with college friends who sent well wishes and my family members who sent encouraging words. My faith was stronger than ever. I knew I was going to beat it and was ready. I saw purpose. I had a double macestomy and was cured through surgery alone. No chemo, radiation or meds needed. 

Rediagnosed 2013 with stage 4 and my life was sent into a whirlwind. I was not even thinking my pain was cancer and when told it was i thought it would be solved with a simple surgery. No surgery can cure the damage and the mass spreading it has done on my body. I was very much "out of it" for a good 2 months and thank God he did not take me then bc i would not want to be seen going out that way. I didnt have a fight in me bc i didnt know there was a fight to be had. A lot of people say im an inspiration but i think Im doing what a lot of people would do and living my life. Its hard to see the providence of getting breast cancer the second time or a disase in general. Maybe the first to make me a better person, stregthen my faith, but the second time getting breast cancer... With a vegenance. I dont know where im headed and to say i put a lot of thought into it i dont. It would rob me of my time and my life if I let it take over more than it already has. I still trust God had a plan and i might not figure out the providence til I get to where im suppose to be. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Writing my Happy Ending

If you would have told me that I walked 12 hours straight in NYC this time last year I would have rolled my eyes and possibly would have cried at how unrealistic that sounded. But I did it! With my husband, two daughters (left the little at home), my Mom and best friend and we created memories. When I heard I was stage 4 you think about days, life events... Your whole life is now planned by the minutes and whether your minutes will be long enough to see, be there for a life event. You become selfish bc now sometimes someone's "life moment" becomes your life moment. For instance last year dropping Madison off for Kindergarten I had just started going back to work from a hiatus of 4 months not working bc of cancer treatments. I had tons of emotions more than your usual "my baby is growing up and leaving the nest."  I had a "thank you God! I can see her off on her very first day of school. What became Meg's first day of high school for her became my "oh wow I'm old, too oh wow she's growing up , to wow I'm glad I'm healthy that i can drop her off on her first day of high school and be here for this.  Please Lord let me be here to see her graduate. See where the selfishness comes in :) Part of it I get honest, I'm an only child. Before going to NYC I was talking to my Dad who was asking me how the Jason Aldean concert was. I told him it was great and that I was really glad I slept on the way there to VA bc I was tried from the day before going to the NCSU Tailgate and football game. He said "You know not everyone completes their bucket list in a week!" I laughed and said "yea, well not everyone has to fast forward their bucket list to make sure they get it all in a short time either." He chuckled and always with the encouragement said, " you've got a lot more years in you baby, give 'em hell." ;)  it has been said with frequency " your never home" " what exciting things are you doing this weekend?" " let me guess your not going to be home this weekend" lol yes I have bills, they keep coming. My life is blocked off in 3 week blocks with chemo every 3 weeks to a scan every 3 months, to a visit to UNC to review the scan. I work, we work, to pay off one scan to get a new scan with a new bill. The reality is I will never pay off cancer. Cancer plays mental games with your mind and with your wallet.  There is no amount of money someone wouldn't pay in order to be healthy, am I right? I could pinch every penny, sit at home and still never pay off the medical bills. This is not a please donate to me now but this is a please do not judge me if you see me making memories with my family and friends. There was a time, just last year that I thought I had days left and although I still don't know when cancer will take me I hope it's when I'm surrounded by the people I love and I'm happy. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beautiful day, short week

I had written my last post and edited a lot. I debated on posting because it is kind of dark and sounds unappreciative of people caring. I don't want to come across like that at all. I really don't mind people asking me how I'm doing because I'm reporting great news! I'm doing really well with little to no aches and pains. The only time I think about having cancer is when I'm at chemo or if they discuss it on tv for emotional/drama effect. It never fails that all my favorite tv shows, Parenthood in particular, that they discuss breast cancer. I fall apart every episode in tears. If you watch this show you know exactly what I'm talking about. This past Sunday I skipped church to meet with a lady who had breast cancer and is a Survivor! She is now dealing with  the nasty side effects of being on chemo and steroids. Did I mention I never had met her before Saturday? All our interaction had been through Facebook but my former supervisor personally knew her and encouraged us to chat. Well on Saturday over lunch it was like catching up with an old friend and we shared a mutual hatred for our previous oncologist, haha. I hate that breast cancer brings us together but so thankful to have her support. She also loves Parenthood too. I'm happy to report my hair is growing like crazy in one big pouf! I posted on Facebook a picture of MTV's hotties Beavis and Butthead because that's how I feel about my hair. In the same day of my post I ran across someone's post that says "The thing you take for granted someone's praying for." Isn't that so true?! Not too long ago was I missing my hair now I'm saying it's pouffy! Also this past weekend my sorority sister and her husband were a featured couple in the Race to Parenthood, a 5K fundraiser to raise awareness of infertility. How often do I mention how crazy it is to juggle 3 active girls schedules in my own household. I just love this quote and it definetly makes you stop and think. On another note we got a dog! He's a mix of everything but the cutest ever! He is such a good dog and the girls couldn't be more thrilled. He is traveling to VA with us to visit my parents and that will be the true test on whether they like him or not. I'm at chemo right now and then the plan is to leave for Virginia afterwards. Very ready to have a long weekend visiting my home away from home and to sleep in. :) I also have a Facebook $5 jewelry party tomorrow! Becoming a Paparazzi Consultant my life has been hopping and I love the business name my husband came up with Charmed for a Cure! If you haven't liked my page on F
acebook please do! Thanks to all those that already have and I already have some loyal customers.