"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why not me?

I have been hearing so many stories of breast cancer survivors that are cancer free for 5, 10, 20 or more years.  Right now that just seems so impossible to me.  I have been consumed with breast cancer and all the crap that goes with it for nine months now.  It really messes with your head.

It's hard to focus on the possibility of being cancer free as with breast cancer there is no cure.  I was stage 1 and not one doctor used the word "curable" with me.  That is hard to swallow.  It is hard to digest that you will never be cured.  You can never just say "well, that's over with - thank God."  This is something I have to live with forever. 

I am trying to come to a place where I can move forward with my life and not be so consumed with breast cancer.  I am not sure how to do that as it is a very real possibility it can come back.  I keep thinking about those women that are lucky enough to be cancer free for years or the rest of their life and then I think "why not me too?"  I can be cancer free for years too.  I have to keep telling myself that.  It's hard to stay focused on that, but it's what I want more than anything. 

I use to be scared about growing old.  Now I am scared I won't get to grow old.  I want to see my son grow up, go to high school, drive a car, go to college, get married and have kids.  I want to grow old with my husband and return to Italy on our 30th wedding anniversary to visit the place we were married.  I want to retire and move south and enjoy warm winters.  Other breast cancer survivors get to do that.  Why not me?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming Out Of the BC Closet

I have been writing this blog anonymously since my diagnosis in December.  I guess I chose to be anonymous because I was ashamed of my cancer and what comes with it.  I will never really be OK with having cancer, but now I am at a place with things where I am OK with telling others that I had breast cancer.  I just don't care anymore who knows all that much.  I guess with time you just get use to it and realize that it's a part of who I am now. 

Now that so much time has gone by and I have had time to digest my diagnosis and get through treatment, I have decided to reveal myself to those of you that read my blog.  I also want to share photos of the success I have had with using Penguin Cold Caps to keep my hair through chemotherapy.  I want others to see that you don't have to look like a cancer patient.  You can look like a normal, healthy, vibrant woman.  So if you are curious, stay tuned and photos will follow soon.  Since I am moving this week it may take me time to get to the camera as it is packed for the move. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life After Breast Cancer Really Exists!

It has been a wonderful yet crazy week and a half since my last post.  Lots of good news which makes me smile.  First of all, the bone scan was clear!  What a relief.  I was so worried about mets in my ribs since I have been having rib pain again since my surgery.  A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I realize that this is part of how life will be now moving forward.  It is going to take a lot of time and counseling to help me figure out how to deal with this in the years to come.

The other good thing to report is I had a fabulous vacation.  I spent a week with my sister and her kids, plus four other great friends and their families.  We travelled to the Outer Banks for a week to celebrate me being healthy and done with treatment.  It was an amazing trip in so many ways.

The first great thing was being able to spend time with those people that supported me through everything in the past 8 months.  When we made plans for this trip several months ago the purpose was to celebrate my recovery.  I had no idea this trip would also be full of good-byes now that we are moving out of state tomorrow.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to spend time with all of the people that love me and care about me so much.  What a great gift this trip was.

The other good news is that this trip showed me that there is life after breast cancer.  For the first time since my diagnosis I got a dose of something "normal".  I spent my days like any other mom on vacation - in the pool or at the beach swimming with my son.  I laughed with my friends.  I had a few cocktails.  I cooked dinner for the group.  We made sandcastles at the beach.  I sat in the sand and got it all over me.  After the second day I realized I was no longer "consumed" by breast cancer.  It made me remember what life felt like before I was diagnosed.  It made me realize that I can have my life back and that breast cancer WON'T define me.

The highlight of my trip was lunch with my girlfriends with cocktails.  Now that I don't drink much I was a cheap drunk and got tipsy pretty easily.  We had a few drinks over lunch and laughed and had a great time.  That was just what I needed.  It is the best I have felt since getting diagnosed.   I am so grateful for my dear friends that knew just what I needed.  Now I have to remind myself that I can live that carefree life every day if I "choose" to.  It is all about your mind and attitude.  I have to kick the evil thoughts out of my mind and just live in the moment.  I need to focus on living, not breast cancer.

This week we move out of state and start a new life.  It's an opportunity to have a clean slate and not be consumed with breast cancer anymore.  No one there knows what I have been through and because I still have my hair, they will never know unless I choose to tell them.  I hope that with new surroundings and lots of things to keep me busy I can focus on something other than breast cancer.  I look forward to the new life me and my family will be building in Chicagoland. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Deja vu

I feel like I am back in the beginning phase of all of the breast cancer crap all over again.  I have been having some rib and hip pain so my medical oncologist assured me it was probably nothing but then said we could do a bone scan to be sure.  So I finally found time to schedule the bone scan in between trips to Chicago and vacation this coming weekend.  I finally went today.

Since my doctor ordered the test, I have been in denial and have been putting it out of my mind.  Today it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was completely worried and emotional again just like when I first was diagnosed and was going through more tests.  I am completely stressed, nervous, anxious and very emotional.  Having this go on while we are moving and traveling out of town for a vacation - and all of this after surgeries and chemo, I am at a breaking point.  My husband is in Chicago so I am a single parent this week too.  I just feel so scared and alone in this.

Now I sit and wait for the test results which will take 3-5 business days.  Nothing like a little more torture.  I am so scared that the cancer is somewhere in my body.  I know this is how I have to live for the rest of my life...with this fear and potential reality.  I just don't know how to do this. 

I am finding it hard to keep my emotions to a minimum in front of my son right now.  The move is really weighing on me.  My stress level is out of control right now.  I have been trying to get us all ready for vacation as we leave in two days.  I know the vacation will be good for me, but how do I even relax knowing the moving truck is coming two days after we get home?  I have not started anything to organize our move yet. 

Last night my five year old son sat on the couch next to me and said "Mommy, I love this house".  I could feel the tears swelling up in my eyes as I said "I do too" in a cracked voice. He could see it in my face...I hate that I can't hide it at times.  He hugged me and said "it will be OK Mommy.  We will get a nice new house and you. me and Daddy will be together having an adventure.  It will be good."  I never expected my little boy to comfort me in such a way.  It breaks my heart that I can't be stronger but I am doing the best I can.  I just wish it was better.

Tonight I was emotional again and he hugged me and wanted to make me feel better.  He asked me "Mommy, are you going to cry again tomorrow - because I can help you stop crying again.  I love you".   I am trying so hard to hold it together but sometimes I just can't.  I don't want my son to remember me crying all the time or being sick.  Breast cancer sucks.  There is not a nicer way to put it.  It destroys not only your body, but your mind and faith in things.

For now I sit and wait just like I did back in December.  I feel sick inside.  I am a wreck. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is breast cancer defining me?

I can remember starting this blog early on when I was first diagnosed and pondering what to call it.  I thought about it and came up with Breast Cancer Won't Define Me because I didn't want to be known as "that girl that had breast cancer".  I still don't want to be "that girl".  I started really thinking about it and wonder if breast cancer is defining me......

Today the family that use to live next door to us was in the neighborhood riding bikes and stopped over unannounced.  We have not seen them since last summer.  We were able to quickly catch up and chat and the whole time my friend had no idea I what I had been going through since December.  I stood there in my kitchen talking to my old neighbor with my hair and new breasts and she had no idea.  I finally told her.  Her jaw hit the floor.  She could not believe it.  She assumed I had not had chemo or a mastectomy.  To her I looked just like I did before.  When I finally told her I had a bilateral mastectomy and chemo she said "your hair" and looked up.  I explained briefly.  She said she would have never guessed I had breast cancer.  In some ways it made me think that breast cancer wasn't defining me.  No one was seeing me as "that girl that had breast cancer" unless I told them.  I guess I have been successful in some ways.

Then I thought about my life and breast cancer.  I feel like the last 8 months have been consumed with breast cancer all the time and every single day is filled with so many things related to breast cancer.  I feel like it is a major part of my life, every day, most hours and minutes.  I hate that it is such a "BIG" part of my life.  I feel like on the outside it's not defining me, but on the inside it is.  It's so all-consuming.  I don't want it to define my life.  I don't want it to be a "BIG" part of every day, hour and minute.  I don't know how to make that part stop. 

As I move forward with all of the big changes in my life it is an opportunity to make sure breast cancer doesn't define me on the inside.  Each day represents a new chance to define my life by positive things and happiness.  I have to keep reminding myself of that each morning and fill each day, hour and minute with joy and not thoughts of breast cancer.