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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Running Five Miles is NOTHING.....

Recently I started adding running into my regular workouts.  The first day I ran on the treadmill about a month ago it was torture!  Just trying to complete two miles was really a challenge even though I exercise daily.  I got the cramp in my side and thought my legs were going to give out.  The first few times I ran it just seemed like I would never get through it.  As I thought how hard it was to run, it made me think of how I thought I would never get through breast cancer and all the crap that goes with it. 

I use to think five miles was long, hard or maybe even impossible.  Now I realize it is NOTHING compared to what I have been through.  The other day I began my ran and just set out to do at least three miles.  I wasn't particularly excited about it, but I know that running is good for me.  As I got going I remembered why I use to run so much years ago.  There is some type of adrenalin rush that occurs after three miles and you no longer feel your legs or feel tired.  You feel full of energy and full of life.  It is powerful surge from deep inside that just carries you through.  There is something inside that tells you  - you can do more, so you do just that.  Before I knew it I had run 5 1/4 miles and felt great.  I really didn't know I had it in me to do this!

As I think about a five mile run or the long road in the last 10 months since my diagnosis, I realize that nothing is impossible.  I never thought I could run 5 miles again, let alone after breast cancer, but I did.  I never really knew how I would get through the surgeries, chemo and emotional strain of breast cancer, but I did.  Here I sit, full of energy and life, feeling good about what I have accomplished.  I look back on the whole breast cancer experience and am eager to put it behind me and move on with my new cancer free life.  I have a renewed hope that life will be good and I can do anything I set my mind to.  Life is good!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paying it Forward

I knew that when I got diagnosed that at some point I would want to do something to help others going through the whole breast cancer journey.   I guess it's the educator in me.  I just can't help myself!

Today I took the first step to doing just that.  I visited a local cancer wellness center and spoke to the wellness director about getting involved.  I am hopeful that I can can teach some fitness classes or give some presentations about nutrition to help educate others going through cancer treatment or after.   I have learned so much in this journey and I hope that in some small way I can pay it forward and offer support or help to someone else going through this too.  

While I am excited to get involved,  I also know that as I continue to move forward beyond cancer in my life I don't want to dwell on it.  At some point I can't eat, drink and live breast cancer anymore. I know there will be a fine line between helping others and living too much in the cancer world.  I hope I can find a way to support and help others while still moving on with my new cancer free life. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Meeting my Bosom Buddies

Breast cancer has certainly brought a lot of things to my life I never expected.  Of course, most of them are negative things.....lumpectomy, bilateral mastectomy and chemo to name a few.  It has been a long ten months but during that time I have also experienced some things I never expected that were positive.  One of the best experiences I have had was making friends with other women diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time I was.  Over the last ten months I have forged a close relationship over the Internet with some truly wonderful women that have forever touched my life.  I never expected this.

Back in February after my surgery I posted on a breast cancer chat board looking to chat with other women recovering from surgery that were into exercise and doing physical therapy after surgery.  Several women joined in on my chat, but a few months into it, most ladies didn't return.  By that time it was just down to seven of us that posted regularly.  We all encouraged each other to do our daily exercises and eat healthy.  There was so much enthusiasm and support.  It was great!

Over the course of the last several months, we have learned so much about each other.  We moved our chat group to a private facebook group  (named appropriately "Bosom Buddies") and exchanged cell phone numbers.  Many of us have talked on the phone too.  We all live in different states so getting together is difficult so the computer and cell phones are the easiest way for us to communicate with each other.

Last week two of my Bosom Buddies were here in Chicago and I got to meet them!  I have been looking forward to this for months!  It was amazing to meet these wonderful women.  I never thought posting a message on a breast cancer chat board would result in something so incredible!

What's strange is we got to know each other backwards (one of my Bosom Buddies said this at lunch last week).  They knew all my deepest darkest secrets and fears of breast cancer right up front before they even knew my real name.  As time went on we shared more about our recovery, post surgery physical therapy, pain and emotional issues related to breast cancer.  Then we started to talk about our families, share our real names and even connect on Facebook and see what everyone looked like.  Our friendships continued to grow and get deeper.  Now, ten months after my diagnosis I can't start my day without checking in online with my Bosom Buddies.  We chat and post updates through out the day and share so many things.  Now our friendship is so much more than just breast cancer chat. 

As I think about all the bad things I have had to endure through the last ten months, it is nice to think about the positive things that came out of all of this.  My Bosom Buddies are definitely at the top of that list!  I don't know what I would have done without these amazing women to listen to my fears, offer advice, make me laugh and give me recipes for healthy dinners.  I am so truly blessed to be friends with such wonderful women.

Meeting two of my Bosom Buddies was the best thing that has happened to me in such a long time.  I was wondering if it would be strange since we had never met before, but it was completely natural.  Once we met it was like old friends getting together for lunch.  I spent last Friday with one friend and then on Saturday all three of us went to lunch.  It was so much fun!  We really had an amazing time and saying good bye after lunch was hard for all of us. 

When I think about what these friendships mean to me, it gets me emotional.  I always refer to them as "my girls" when my husband asks who I am texting or chatting with online.  They are "my girls".  The bond we share is something different because most of my good friends don't "get it".  They try to say the right things about breast cancer and they mean well, but they really don't understand.  I find myself refraining from saying some things to those friends because it just makes me feel alone.  These wonderful women have filled a void in my life that no one else could fill.  For that I am forever grateful and truly blessed.  I don't know what I would do without "my girls". 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking A Shower For Granted

I never thought I would take something as simple as a shower for granted.  That probably sounds odd to those of you reading this, but not to me.  When I decided to do Penguin Cold Caps to preserve my hair during chemo I had to accept all that came with it.  Part of the protocol to save your hair involves washing your hair in cold water.  Yes, I said cold water!  You want to avoid anything that can cause the hair to fall out and so it is recommended that you don't wash your hair in hot water like you normally would in the shower.

I can remember the first time I had to wash my hair in cold water.  It was eye opening!  I have been washing my hair in cold water in the sink or over the tub since February.  The funny thing is I have gotten use to it and really didn't even notice it so much anymore.  I guess after doing for so long like that you just get use to it.

Last week I was in a hurry and just didn't have time to wash my hair in the sink and then take a shower.  They say by about 6 months after chemo you can return to your normal hair care routine.  It was almost 6 months for me so I just hopped in the shower and went with it.  Boy did that feel nice to just take a hot shower and let the water flow over my head!  I guess I never realized how much I took something as simple as taking a shower for granted.  You never think about little things like that.  You just get up and take a shower to start your day.  It's nothing special.  But when you have been dumping buckets of cold water over your head for over eight months, a nice, quiet, hot shower to wash your hair seems like a luxury.  It feels nice to returning to more normal daily things.  I even use the hair dryer again!  I use to hate that it took such a long time to blow dry my long hair.  Now I can't wait for the day that my hair is thick enough for it to take a long time to blow dry my hair!  Now because my hair is thinner it doesn't take that long, but I am happy I have hair to blow dry so I will smile about that!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Other Side Of The Mountain

I can't believe this week it will be ten months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In some ways it seems like so much time has gone by but in other ways it seems like yesterday that my world crashed.  Either way, I know I have come such a long way since that day the doctor said "it no longer looks consistent with something benign." 

When I think about the last ten months, I think about the road ahead of me now and the road that was ahead of me back then.  The road then was full of surgeries and treatments with unknown results and side effects.  It was full of so much uncertainty and fear.  It made me face my worst fears head on.  It tested my strength, my courage, my faith and my emotional abilities.  I just remember I kept saying that I wanted to climb this big mountain in front of me and get to the other side and find some beauty in something from there.  I know now I am on the other side of the mountain and heading down.  I can't believe I actually made it to the other side.

The other side of the mountain is better for sure.  I am glad to have almost all of my surgeries completed (I have one more surgery in early December).  It was my goal to complete this stuff by year's end.  I thought I would never get through chemo and actually it kind of went by pretty fast.  I thought I would never stop shedding hair and worried that the Cold Caps wouldn't work, but they did work and I stopped shedding - and still have my hair.  I remember the burning in my legs and body from chemo fatigue and thought I would never have my strong body back, but it's back stronger than ever.

When I look back and try to see the beauty in the mountain in some way, I find some things that are better in my life now.  Giving up a high stress job that was not my passion has made me more at peace and removed so much tension from my life.  This has not only made me happier, but made my family happier.  Moving out of state was hard, but now that it is just the three of us, we are closer as a family and do more together - just the three of us.  That is a good thing!  I have also gotten closer to other people in my life and always tell them how much I love them.  That is something most people don't ever do.  It feels great to tell someone you love them and to know they know how you feel.  I have also met some amazing women that also have breast cancer.  These new friends have helped enrich my life when it was at it's worst and have made me smile, laugh and be stronger than I ever thought I could be.  I see these things as being the beautiful view from the other side of the mountain.  The other side of the mountain is definitely better!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I knew it was coming...October, which is breast cancer awareness month.  It all started a few weeks ago when I was shopping innocently at Kohl's.  I wandered into the kitchen department - I am a sucker for cooking supplies.  I can't help it...I am Italian and love to cook!  I walked to the end of the aisle, and there it was, the first pink display I saw.

The display was for baking supplies.  There were pink plastic bowls, pink whisks, pink spatula as and more.  The whole area was full of pink kitchen stuff.  I immediately wanted to run in the other direction as at that very moment I was not thinking about my breast cancer (I don't get many moments where I am not thinking about my breast cancer these days!) and now I was reminded.  Ugh!  I quickly walked away and went on about my business.

Later, I stopped at Costco for some groceries and there it was, the next pink display.  This time it was a whole refrigerator full of pink yogurts for the cure.  All I could do was push the shopping cart quicker and get out of that aisle quickly.The next day I stopped at Old Navy to buy my son pants.  There it was, the next pink display with t-shirts, sweat pants, tank tops and more, again all for the cure.  How will I get through a whole month of this???

These encounters with pink all occurred in September which is clearly before Pinktober.  I can't even imagine what I will see next!!!  I have such a hard time not thinking of my breast cancer throughout the day.  No matter what I do, my mind always seems to go there sooner or later.  I get so few moments or hours of not thinking about my breast cancer, it is hard to have these reminders everywhere during this whole month.  An innocent trip to Staples for some folders was another smattering of pink.  There were three separate displays of pink office supplies including scissors, calenders, daily planners, clip boards, pens, highlighters and more!  Then I saw the huge copy/printer paper display with a sign that said "Print for the Cure".  Blech!  I grabbed my "non-pink" folders and ran for the check out only to see another display there.

At this point, I am trying to forget my breast cancer.  I don't even want to go run errands as the pink crap is everywhere.  I know it is meant to help educate others and remind women to get mammograms and such, but these companies are also making a ton of money off of these items with only a small percentage of proceeds going to research.  In addition to that, the pink crap is driving us breast cancer survivors crazy.  Like I need any help going crazy about breast cancer....I was doing fine by myself before Pinktober!  It's going to be a long month......

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Connecting With Breast Cancer Survivors

One of the benefits of moving to the Chicago area was that there is an active group of breast cancer survivors that correspond and get together.   I met these women through a breast cancer chat board.  It is nice to be able to talk to other women that can relate to the whole breast cancer experience.

Last night 12 of us got together for dinner.  It was so much fun!  Even though we discussed breast cancer, we found humor in our stories and managed to laugh quite a bit.  As I met these eleven amazing women, listened to their stories and looked in their faces, I saw confidence, happiness, faith, strength and hope.  It was really quite amazing.  The positive energy in the group was contagious. 

I am only 10 months out from my diagnosis so this all still seems surreal to me.  Seeing other women many more years out from their diagnosis was powerful.  When one gal announced she is a 5 year survival of Stage 3, triple negative breast cancer (a more aggressive type of breast cancer usually with a worse prognosis), it sent chills down my spine.  That is a huge accomplishment....simply amazing!  I gain such incredible strength from hearing that. 

I guess after going to this dinner and meeting each of these wonderful women, I have gained hope and have renewed my faith that somehow this can be OK and life will go on.  I hope in time I can inspire someone else when I am further out from my diagnosis and show them that life can be good after breast cancer. 

When I think about what I have gotten from breast cancer, it is easy to say fear, sadness, anger and all the negative emotions.  As I try to reflect and see the good things that have come from this situation, I can see those too.  I have met so many amazing, incredible women that have forever touched my life in so many powerful ways.  I have made positive life changes by giving up a stressful career and becoming more focused on what really matters.  My family has become closer and we spend more quality time together.  I also have become the type of person to tell those I care about a lot exactly how I feel about them.  I never end a phone call with a dear friend or family member without telling them that  I love them.  These are things that some people may never experience in their lifetime.  I am fortunate.

I guess as I continue to walk forward, I have a choice in which path to take. There is a fork in the road every day.  I can either walk on the positive path or the negative path.  These amazing ladies have helped me continue to choose the positive path.  That is a blessing for sure.