Saturday, July 31, 2010


I was inspired this week. Or maybe I should say I was reminded of the incredible sisterhood that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. My reminder came from a series happenings that individually were not really a big deal, but collectively, their story tells me how lucky I am.

It all started by the pool at my friend, Laurie's house on Sunday. Just us four girls, floating around in a pool talking about a little and a lot, planning Wendi's birthday celebration (Happy Birthday, Wendi!) and trying out a new hors d'oeurvres that Julann prepared to test for her upcoming Pampered Chef show. It was an awesome afternoon. I needed some time with the girls to help gain my focus for the coming week.

To paint a picture of what my week looked like, on my plate were three grant proposals, two important reports to prominent charities and a number of stewardship projects that were time sensitive. All to be completed on my part time schedule. Because a deadline is a deadline, regardless of my limitations, I snuck in hours of work at odd moments, usually getting my second wind about 10:00 p.m. That was my second problem. My first was that the radiation fatigue had finally taken hold. I fell asleep typing for the first time in my life. Not to say all this to complain. I love making a difference. I am passionate about Rady Children's programs and want them to succeed. It was just unfortunate that radiation fatigue peaked and numerous pending deadlines all occurred in the same week. As I tell my kids though, that's the way the cookie crumbles, sometimes.

By the end of the week, just when I had about had it, the 'sisterhood' kicked into high gear. I received a phone call from my friend Nancy, a breast cancer survivor. While we only communicated through voicemail, just hearing from her made me smile. I also made a new friend through my blog and I am anxious to read hers. I stumbled across another new blog that I really like on the Livestrong website and also rediscovered the Living with Cancer blog, a blog I have been following for a while. I was particularly attracted to the Livestrong Blog Entry, Two and Too because Renee, the author had reconstructive surgery yesterday. Renee had posted quite a few pictures of her cancer journey. The pictures were reminiscent of my own journey and had me wishing that we took a few more. Not that all of the memories were pleasant...I just liked the way Renee presented them.

All in all, in reading, listening and responding to messages and posts discovered this week, I am reminded of the sisterhood that exists among breast cancer survivors. Now that I am through radiation, I want to be more of a part of it. I want to be there to help, lend an ear and/or offer advice. I know I have a lot to give. I also know that I have a long road ahead of me too, as I face two painful surgeries. I am lucky to have my family and friends to support me. And more than that, I know I can lean on the sisterhood, that in a backwards sort of way, I am happy to be a part of. This is the good stuff. This is my reward from suffering through cancer. And it goes without saying that my girlfriends who are not a part of the breast cancer sisterhood are still sisters...they contribute in a different way that is equally as important. Love you all, my friends!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Moving On Up!

So much has happened since I last wrote:
  • I completed radiation treatments on July 13;
  • My surgery for my left mastectomy and phase one of reconstruction on the left side has been scheduled for August 31; and,
  • On July 21, my oncologist, Dr. Sweet, changed my medical record from "oncology patient" to "patient has a HISTORY of cancer".
And this list just represents my treatment and recovery. My family life has been just as exciting:
  • Steve's school is back in session. Like last year, his sixth period class is a bit squirrely. He has three blind kids and three kids that suffer from Asperger's syndrome in the same class. He is the most requested teacher, again and is great with troubled students. I am sure that the fire safety demonstration is this week - one of his favorites. Look out science world, Mr. White is in the house!
  • We had to buy a new car. Steve's car finely gave up about a week ago. We love his new car though - the Ford Flex. It is so roomy inside and perfect for hauling around the four of us, plus Cooper (our dog) and whomever else would like to join in on the fun.
  • My daughter finished golf camp this week. She loves to hit the ball, particularly with her driver. My little half-pint! I guess it is time for me to take up golf, now that both kids have caught the golf bug!
  • My son and his best friend, Ian, finished surf camp. Harrison proudly reported that he caught six waves while surfing yesterday; five of which he actually stood up on the board and rode the wave to shore. I will not be taking up surfing, I am afraid. While I love the beach, I am not as sure about my relationship with the ocean and in particular its waves. Madison tells me the same. Maybe both of us will change our minds, in time.
  • Harrison played in two soccer tournaments, occurring last weekend and the weekend before that. They won the Albion Cup last weekend, for Boys U11. We were so proud. I have not seen Harrison that excited in a long time. We are really enjoying the team and the parents too. Looking forward to a great season! The next tournaments are August 7,8 and August 14, 15.
My life is full. My cup runneth over. I am one of the lucky ones. I am confident that there is direct correlation between my happiness and my new, official declaration of having a "history of cancer". 

Through a review of Twitter this morning (I just began 'tweeting' last week), I found a great article from Prevention Magazine, 10 Secrets of Happy Women. It is a fantastic reminder of how we should acknowledge special moments that happen every day, find what is best in them and intertwine that happiness, fleeting as though it may seem, into the very fabric of our existence. It is worth it, take it from me! I think this is what got me to this point, and will keep me at this point, for years to come.

Oh, and how am I feeling physically? I am a little tired. Actually, a lot tired. I was feeling fairly faint on Friday and Saturday; and I am guessing it was just from exhaustion. I am resting. My radiation burns are starting to heal. Though, they have been rather painful and itchy this week. However, I have passed the 10-day post radiation treatment mark, so I should feel better and better from this point forward. Yay!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Only two more radiation treatments left.....

Only two more radiation treatments left. As I was thinking about this last night, I was contemplating all that was going on 23 treatments ago. Harrison's baseball championships. School field trips. Work projects. It seems like so long ago. And, I have been back to work for two months now. I can hardly believe it. Five weeks passed with hardly a blink of an eye.

We are a busy family. This past weekend, my brother was visiting from Portland. Also, Harrison's soccer team played in their first of several soccer tournaments. We had a lot of family time, as we tend to have at soccer tournaments and when my brother visits. It was really nice. One thing that has struck me funny over the course of the last week or so, in talking to people at the soccer tournament and such, is the amount of people who have no idea that I am currently undergoing radiation therapy. I guess that is good. Sometimes in my world, it is easy to get wrapped up in the hoopla that has been my family's life for the past nine months. It is usually all about me.

Admittedly, for the last week, I have been too tired to do much else other than sit on the couch, when I am not working or out and about at a family event. I have a bit more energy than I did through chemotherapy treatments, which is good. However, the intense guilt that results from not being able to accomplish what I would like to accomplish is unbearable at times. Still, I try to let others do for the kids, my house, etc. I am just not very good at it. I get frustrated when things are not done in the manner in which I think they should be, or in the time frame that I think they should be. Then, I do them myself. I just hope I am not driving people around me too crazy, ie. my husband. He is a keeper. (And I am probably driving him a lot crazy, though he would never admit it to me.) 

In any case, this phase of my treatment is coming to a close. They did tell me that I can expect my symptoms - which are mainly fatigue and the ugly rash that extends from my collar bone to my breast bone - to intensify after my radiation therapy ends. I am armed and ready.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hooray for DMV!

The good news....DMV cleared my driver's license this week. I have not received the official piece of paper in the mail, mind you. However, when I completed my behind-the-wheel test, I was told that I was "good to go". Can I tell you how much I loved closing that door? My February seizure added a unwelcome level of stress to my recovery. Yes, cancer hijacked my health for a bit, but my freedom too? That probably bothered me more than losing my eyelashes. I am just saying.

So, radiation week four - check! I have some pretty angry skin, which is sporting an dense series of minuscule, red bumps, reminiscent of a diaper rash. It itches. It is not going to get any better. In fact, I am told it could intensify and my skin could crack and/or blister over the course of the next two-three weeks. Let's hope not. I am currently wearing a foam dressing across part of my chest, about a two-inch strip starting at my collar bone and extending down to my breast bone. The dressing (Mepilex Lite with Safetak technology) allows the skin to heal from the inside. It is pretty cool. I also have prescription for a cream containing hydrocortisone, stronger than the 1% over-the-counter-strength that I was using at the beginning of the week.

I do not mean to sound overly dramatic. Ugly as it is, it does not hurt. It itches a great deal, but the cream should help. In my mind, just like my hair falling out with chemo, my skin's reaction is evidence that the radiation is working. I need it to work; I want it to work. While my cancer is gone (this sounds more awesome every time I say it!), abnormal cells could still be lingering in my chest wall or skin. And it goes without saying that I do not want any abnormal cells floating around and causing problems down the road. It would only take one.

Needless to say, I am very glad the holiday weekend is here. I look forward to reconnecting with friends both and watching my kids eyes light up as they watch the firework shows both tonight and on the 4th. I look forward to hearing their laughter and excitement as they swim and play with friends. I look forward to relaxing on my couch. Mostly, I look forward to a three-day break from radiation treatments. Only six more treatments to go!

Have a happy and safe 4th of July, all!