Monday, September 30, 2019

“Oh, but not me”

“Oh, but not me”


I was 30 years old when I was told, “I’m sorry, but you have breast cancer.”


It is crazy how fast a few new facts being thrown at you can completely derail you from your path.


That day in September, 2008, the facts told to me were:

I had triple negative, grade 3, Stage 1 breast cancer.


I clung to what I thought I knew as facts...I was young, I caught it early...all should be good to go after it was all said and done.


I made it through chemo, surgery & radiation just as planned...just as the facts had be presented to me...keep your head down, push through the hard & all will be back to normal.


But there was a problem with my facts...I didn’t pay attention to ALL the facts about breast cancer because I thought, “NOT ME!”


I thought those statistics didn’t apply to me...HA! If we could actually just ignore what we don’t want to know and make the facts go away!?!? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t work that way...believe me, I tried to hide from the facts for a long time.


But when the breast cancer metastasized to my lungs & bones, the fact that 30% of breast cancer comes back at Metastatic Breast Cancer hit me hard.


When I lost my first breast cancer friend, the fact about the average survival rate is a mere 30 MONTHS after diagnosis hit me harder.


When I ended up in the ER due to a seizure caused by a growth in my brain, is when I realized that fact about breast cancer moving to the brain was indeed true.


When I kept losing friends to Metastatic Breast Cancer, the fact that more than 115 people in the US alone die daily from MBC cut me deeper with each and every friend’s funeral I attended. 


For some reason, I am beating the facts...I am beating the odds of the facts. I don’t know fore sure why me, but I believe it has something to do with the trial I was able to be in for my second line of treatment for MBC. It is this reason I am so passionate about funding for research...it is research that is going to change the playing field for MBC.


Because of this, I beg of you one thing...please know where your donation dollars go. I get it, it is exciting and fun to be a part of a big event, but PLEASE know what those big events fund...here is a hint...it isn’t much research at all...if any.


The facts are the facts; 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. Of those 1 in 8, 30% are diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. 40,000 Americans die EVERY YEAR from MBC. 


Those stats haven’t changed at all over the past 20 years. 


We are all aware about breast cancer. 


Can you please help me spread the facts...we need more research if we ever expect these statistics to change. Because the truth is...pretending it can’t happen to you or a loved one is not going to stop it from happening.





Saturday, September 7, 2019

7 years later

7 years


I sometimes forget all the crazy that has happened here in Cancerland over my 11 years as a resident here...like that it was 7 years ago today that I had my first brain surgery due a tumor in my brain caused by Metastatic Breast Cancer. (YES - Metastatic breast cancer can/does grow in other parts of the body.)

7 years.

7 years.

It has to sink in with me too.

Eric took me to the ER because I lost control of my right foot while Ian and I were out running errands. My foot was heavy & wasn’t responding to my brain telling it to do stuff.

After a quick MRI, I remember the ER doctor’s eyes when he came in to tell us what was going on. His eyes were kind & filled with sadness. As he was telling us I that I had a large tumor about the size of a tennis ball in my brain, I crumbled in Eric’s arms. We sat there and listened to him telling us the tumor was most likely  caused by breast cancer that moved to my brain. 

This was a TOTAL SHOCK to me being as I had conveniently buried my head in the sand from the facts of MBC...that it can spread to the brain. 

Fast forward to 3 days from the ER visit.

I remember waking up from that surgery so scared & uncertain about everything.

I remember laying the hospital room alone (between family & friends I didn’t have much alone time) so this break from outside noise & chaos was a welcomed break. 

I vividly remember having a conversation with Jesus in my hospital room. He pulled up a chair close to my bed and He sat with me & listened to me.  

I told Him I was scared. 

I told Him I was pissed off at Him.

I told Him how unfair all this sh*t was. 

I asked Him why me. 

I cried my eyes out begging for my life to continue on here on earth. 

I remember Him clasping my hands & engulfing me in His white light...not like I was about to die white light, but the most calming & peaceful serenity feelings filled my heart & soul. 

Then He was gone.

I have never told anyone about this...not sure why. 

I guess I didn’t want any follow up questions about it - like did He say I was going to be fine? Was I going to die? Am I going crazy? What did it mean?

I didn’t and still don’t have answers to all those questions.

But here I am...7 years later.

In these past 7 years I have learned so much, but I think most important lesson I have learned is to absolutely 100% to keep going. 

Keep putting one foot in front of the other - even when you have NO idea where it is you are going, you MUST keep going. 

Even if you are taking steps backwards. 

Even if you are marching in place. 

Even if you trip over your feet.

YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING.   


 

Monday, August 12, 2019

The fall

The Fall


About 10 weeks ago, I fell.


Hard.


I was at the Domain taking something back, and I didn’t have my walking stick with me because I was feeling great, confident - ready to take on the world.


I had to step up a curb to get to where I was going. I stepped up with my left foot & brought my right foot up and didn’t clear the curb.


Down I went.


My right knee hit the ground first, then my right hand which jacked up my shoulder.


I quickly got myself up, went to do the errand I was there for then went to my car and cried. 


I was crying for may reasons. One... because it flipping hurt, but more so I was crying because I was shaken up...bad.


Not being steady on my feet is still something I really struggle with...even before the fall.


Because of this, I still physically struggle on a daily basis. 


Stairs - I can sidestep up stairs leading with my left foot but it takes a BIG mental and physical toll on me. 


Uneven ground - I can’t walk on uneven ground without help...either my walking stick or a hand to hold.


Driving - I drive with 2 feet. I can’t get my right foot from the gas to break quickly. 


Bending over - just something about the thought of me toppling over gives my anxiety. I can semi squat, but I don’t feel comfortable bending over.


I didn’t realize how much the fear from the fall was still effecting me until a few weeks ago when I was at therapy. 


When I told her that I had fallen, I burst into tears.


It just reiterates the facts of my current life...facts I sometimes try to forget...but they are the facts.


And I don’t want to sound unappreciative of the HUGE facts...I am still alive & doing great. But I am also not going to lie and say I don’t miss the physical things I used to be able to do. 


I was starting to feel a little more steady, but I still pretty apprehensive. 


And after meeting with my new brain oncologist last week, she suggested I go back to PT to regain confidence. So, next week I will be starting PT again. Which I am honestly looking forward to.





Monday, August 5, 2019

Learning to live again

I like to reflect back on times in my life where some of my biggest lessons came from.


Throughout my life, I have watched a few of my closest friends struggle with anxiety and/or depression.


In my teens and early 20’s, I honestly thought that they should be able to think their way out of depression and/or anxiety...because, well they thought their way there SO why not be able to think their way out?!?!


BIG F-ing EYE ROLL 🙄 

BIG HUGE F-ing vomit on how I sat back and judged something I had zero idea about.


Oh...but I now know why too much about it .


The first time I noticed depression and/or anxiety in myself was when I was 23. I had moved to Austin from Amarillo with my then boyfriend. It was about a year after we moved that I couldn’t ignore the empty, lost, hopeless feelings inside of me. 


I went to the doctor that time because I had a massive spider bite that I needed her to look at, but as she was leaving the room, I blurted out that I felt depressed. She told me that me telling her this as she was leaving was what they called a “door knob” question (because I waited until she was at the door leaving to bring it up) and I needed to make another appointment so we would have the proper amount of time to talk about.


So, I went back the next week, and talked to her about what was going on and she agreed, it sounded like mild depression. She wrote me an Rx and luckily I started feeling better quickly.


However, I remember one of my friends telling me that it was weird that I needed to be on an Rx for depression because I always seemed so happy.


I still carry that comment with me. I still feel like I seem ok that why do I think I need an extra something??


Somewhere in my head, that comment got turned into, “Am I able to take care of myself? If I can’t take care of my thoughts, how in the hell am I supposed to take care of life?”


Crazy what my mind let me think.


I stayed on that Rx for about 2 years, until I felt more in control and able to keep it together.


From the ages 26 - 30 years old, I had a few panic attacks but I always was able to tie them to a certain something so I was ok with them...I thought it was normal to have these panic attacks because they were brought on by certain events.


At 30, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and somehow kept it together all through chemo treatment, but I cracked wide open when it was time to start radiation. 


I couldn’t find peace within me.

I couldn’t find trust with myself. 

I was a mess. 


My oncologist told me depression after treatment was all too common. She prescribed talk therapy and a Rx. I stayed on that Rx for about 1 year. At that point, I felt like I had a handle on my mental state and got off the Rx.


Then I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer and I told my doctor that I knew I needed some help in the mental department too because I was spinning out of control.


Again, I started a new Rx for anxiety.


Over the past 8 years, I have had some massive anxiety attacks...MASSIVE. So unfortunately I am no stranger to out of control meltdowns.


But about 2 months ago, these anxiety attacks turned into a constant state of fear.


Loud noises. 

Crowded places. 

Driving. 

Making plans. 

Anything I perceived as chaos. 


It seemed like any little thing was ripping me apart. 


I tried every single trick in the book that has helped me before...nothing seemed to help.  The more tricks I tried, the bigger loser I felt like because nothing was working for me.


Being in this heighten state of anxiety was taking a massive toll on me...emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and probably many other ways I don’t even know.


It was taking a toll on my husband and son.


I lost count of how many massive meltdowns I have had in the past 2 months. But something in me clicked last week, and I decided that maybe my Rx needed to be changed.


I said a prayer asking for guidance on how to find the right psychiatrist for me. I didn’t want someone who would just give me an Rx... I wanted someone who listened to me, give me concrete things I can work on to help me help myself and to see if needed new Rx.


I LOVE asking Angels to help. I pulled up googs, typed in psychiatrist around me and boom, I felt drawn to a certain name. I called and he had an immediate opening on Wednesday! 


I went in with all my notes Eric and I had put together from the past 2 months and vomited everything out. After more than an hour actually talking, he decided switching my Rx was definitely needed. BUT he also told me that the Rx is only 25% of the puzzle. It is up to me to work with the other 75% of the puzzle. He recommended me doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). So off I went with high, HIGH hopes of something being able to change in my anxiety ridden state.


The following day I had an appointment with my regular therapist. I ran through everything with her and asked her about CBT and she laughed and said that was exactly what we were going to start working on! Again, this is where I believe Angels are totally involved with life when we ask.


We went through the steps/questions I am supposed to follow after a panic attack. 

Then we applied the questions to 3 of the most massive attacks I told her about.  She showed me how to ask the questions about the panic to myself.


I really feel like this method of looking into the panic to find answers is going to be great for me.


Then she asked me where I see myself in 5 years, and I panicked and started crying. I told her I have no idea because I any time I try to envision me in the future I can only seem to get to 2 years max.


Now I have lots of homework before my next appointment. Figure out who I am & who I want to be AFTER cancer.


I am excited to start down this path.




Sunday, June 2, 2019

Universal Hollywood Vacation

I am floating on Cloud 9 and a little delirious from being tired...BUT it is so great to be this tired!

We just got home from a vacation to Universal Hollywood. We had such a fantastic time!!





Most spent a lot of time in the Harry Potter area! We did the rides twice (yes I do the rides!! I had to take a few minutes after each one to let my equilibrium balance.)

And then a whole lot of time playing games in and looking around in the Simpson area.











The studio tour was great! We had no idea what to expect...very fun!





Saturday we did the Hollywood sign and Venice beach...so fun 






We are now home and ready for the week. I am excited to say that I am not near as exhausted as I thought I would be!! 

Hope you are having a great start to summer too!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Been waiting 2.5 years





They said, one day I would wake up and just feel good again.


I didn’t know exactly what they meant when they were telling me this because feeling good seemed like such a faraway memory that I hadn’t felt on a consistent basis for 8 years. 


There was no logic...no constant...there was was no way for me to know how I would feel one day to the next. Some days I felt great, then the next day I was in bed all day from over doing it when I felt good. And on my most terrible days, I thought I this whole bone marrow transplant was the worst thing to ever happen to me...even worse than the 3 brain surgeries.


Maybe 6 - 9 months after my transplant, I started having a few more good days compared to the bad days. I still had no control over what days I would wake up and need to fall back asleep for an additional 4-6 hours, or wake up and feel great.


I was having about a 50% average for good days verses not good. There were varying levels for both the feel good and feel bad days. 


Some feel good days, I was able to do an errand or two, OR go to the gym, OR lunch with friends, OR paint, OR write, OR watch TV or a movie and actually follow along with the plot. I say OR with such importance because I have to remember where I truly was to completely appreciate where I am now. 


Some feel bad days, I simply couldn’t get out of bed because I literally had no energy. Think of the flu without body aches...just the pure exhaustion. I always tried to get up in the morning with my husband and son before school drop off, but some days I couldn’t. Other feel bad days I might just sit on my couch and watch TV all day or would be so tired that I couldn’t sleep which would make me nauseous so I would take a phinigrin which would knock out the nausea but also knocked me out.


Than around my 1 year new birthday, my feel good days got a little better... I could do a little more without crashing afterwards. I was still averaging about 50/50 feel good vs not, BUT I had more spunk on fee good days! I still had pretty bad days too, but I was getting used to this and knew after a few bad days, I would bounce back.


From this 50/50 point around 1 year post transplant up through today...which is 1 week shy from my 2.5 transplant birthday...have gradually been gaining more energy, more focus, mobility, and overall health.


I still have bad days, but I think I am at about 80% good days!! Every day is still different on the energy scale, but the energy swings aren’t near as dramatic as they once were and I can kinda tell before I am about to crash and modify whatever I need to in order to avoid a full crash...most of the time.


Back to what I said at the start of this story, they said one day I would wake up and feel good again... I have stepped into that reality!! 


It hasn’t been anything like I ever experienced before with all the chemos, radiation and surgeries, so I never knew what to fully expect... I had no personal outline on becoming myself after bone marrow transplant. 


One major lesson I have learned in these past 2 1/2 years of healing is I have the ability to choose what I focus on. Which in turn, can instantly change your turmoil to inner peace.... or cause a massive inner storm.


So what does all this mean?


No matter what you are going through, there IS something good to focus on. That something good might be hidden deep in you under years of hurt or sickness but I beg you to keep digging to find your sparkly peaceful energy amongst the layers of life settled on top of it because there IS something good to focus on.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

What creating does for me.

I have been a crafter/maker for as long as I can remember. I have always drawn inspiration from anything that makes my heart smile.

The first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer is when I really started to feel an actual NEED for me to create. I felt this need to create after I noticed that while I was creating anything, my mind was at peace. I wasn’t thinking about how bad I felt from the chemo, I wasn’t thinking about all the “what if” stories that were continually running through my head, I wasn’t thinking about what a bad mom I was being to my 13 month old son, what a bad wife I was for all that I had to dump on my husband...I wasn’t thinking about anything at all except being in the moment creating whatever it was I was working on. 

And it was those times when my mind wasn’t running all over me that I felt completely at Peace and whole and healthy.  

For some reason, after I was “done” with cancer treatments, I stopped creating just for me. I tried to create items that I thought would sell. I thought since I was a stay-at-home-mom, I somehow needed to bring money in. So I thought crafts were what I “needed” to do. I quickly learned that me having to create was not peaceful...AT ALL.

Then I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2011, and once again I turned to art for myself as an outlet for my mind to escape for a little bit.

I started creating what I was craving in my world: HOPE.  And what brought me Hope was bright, happy, fun, quirky stuff. From this need in my heart, I made my first “Hope Block.” After making some for myself and posting pictures, people started wanting to purchase some for themselves!  Next, I had a need to share my go get ‘em attitude, words of advice/love, hope with others and that is how my first “CancerGirl” was born.








Since then, I have kept digging in my heart to ask: what stories, what words of wisdom, what  lessons have impacted me the most, what lessons have I had to learn multiple times, what have I worked on to help me with my frame of mind and SO much more.

Now today, March, 30 2019 I have figured out what my next step that my heart as been craving should be: doing more of what absolutely lights my soul on fire! Literally, as I typing this, my heart is beating a little faster and I have this sparkly feeling in my tummy.   

So what does that mean? 

It means more bright, crazy-fun art that tells a story of Hope, Love, awe at Life, Joy and sparkly feelings. I want my art to be able to inject Joy into the person looking at it no matter what craziness is happening in their world. I want people to gain strength and Hope from my stories, and to know that same strength and Hope is there for them too. 





I guess to answer my original question, what does creating do for me? 

It allows me to create pockets of all I feel in my heart for others to see and hopefully experience some glittery feeling of their own.