About Me...

My photo
In a nut shell : I'm a full time working mom, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a breast cancer survivor of almost a decade and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Blessings of Christmas

The Blessing's of Christmas

Blessings are sometimes the hardest things to really be thankful for. For sometimes we do not really understand them nor do we honestly see them for what they truly are...blessings of strength, character, family and tradition. No, so many times we see only the hardships, the pain and the uncertainty of what life is throwing our way at the moment.

This year I choose to embrace all my many blessings...

The beauty of December's Lights, the wonder of God's peace that comes in the gift of my children's' unconditional love. The blessings of tradition, both old ones and new. The blessing of living to see yet another Christmas and the pain of next years uncertainty. Not one of us are ever guaranteed tomorrow, so why do we fuss so much over the fear of what it may bring?

It is the simple pleasures that bring such HOPE to my heart. The blessing of hearing the Christmas bells and pipes just one year more. The blessing of finding yet another perfect tree and the journey of bringing it home. Witnessing the shinning radiant light in my children's eyes from where the star is hung is a blessing not to be missed. The blessing of not only hearing, but listening to my eldest sing in his first choir concert and the blessed pain of seeing him grow from a boy into a young man. What joys are to be held in the blessings of the season?

The blessing of giggles, laughter and the sharing of tears as Santa's letter is delivered. The wonder of His words of encouragement and magic. The blessings of bravery and courage that is bestowed upon your children as his letter is read aloud. The blessing that comes in knowing that for yet another year Santa's Secret is still secure within their hearts. The blessings of Christmas are bountiful if you only take the time to pay attention to them. The gift of the Son, and the faith found inside the humblest of hearts. The harps, the voices raised in majestic chorus and the power of one life can touch those in the darkest of places.

Though I have found this year to be harsh, I have found beauty as well and in both I have found the blessing of life. I am profoundly blessed to be loved and to be alive and to have found HOPE even in the midst of my fears. I am blessed to struggle and to cry and yet I am equally as blessed to know this peace that comes from experiencing both. I have been left to ponder and to puzzle the whys yet still I am blessed beyond comprehension. I am blessed to feel the embrace of my boys and their small hands within my own. I am blessed to wipe their tears away and to watch them sleep. I am blessed to sacrifice my own wants for my children and to lie next to my husband when the day has come to an end. I am truly blessed to gather around the table with my family and friends again this season. 'Tis true, I may at times feel swept under the tide, yet I am absolutely blessed to be aware that I am still alive to fight for my every breath.

When all is said and done, when the last ornament has come down and the last toast is made bringing in the new year, I will have been blessed beyond my heart's desires. The truth is that I may have suffered yet another loss or felt the string of cancer's grip yet again; but I will have lived to see another gingerbread house made, four more stockings hung and heard another carol sung. I will have been blessed to see my youngest turn eight and to listen to my eldest sing 'Believe' with all his tender heart. Yes, for another year I will have been blessed, so very blessed to have lived without regret.

So what do you ask is the blessing of the season? It is the gift of life, of heart and of spirit. Embrace this season my dear friends and keep it close. Take heart and take hold, embrace your loved ones, and impress the gift of your children's innocence upon your spirit. Hold onto all of these beautiful blessings for they are the glue that holds our hearts and souls together in this life we are so graciously blessed with.

Christina

Friday, December 7, 2007

Life's Dance


Life's Dance

How frustrating can life be? How painful can the dance be? But how beautiful can the embrace be! Maybe it could be better compared to the Paso Doble? Maybe the Tango? Either way it can be trying and beautiful, but if we didn't dance where would we be?

So many times cancer patients are just sort of 'handled' as if we are already dead. Do they really mean to treat you as if you are lifeless inside? No, I don't think so. But all the same they see the word 'cancer' on your file or they see your lack of hair, and the pain in your eyes and they simply write you off. In those moments they misjudge you, misread the pain for hallowness and see you very differently from themselves. Sounds crazy right? Yes, it does, but it so very true. I feel it all comes down to perception of the heart and spirit really.

It is fear that causes this kind of withdrawal. Sadly, we can go through life afraid of dying, afraid of feeling, but in the end we all have to die and in dying we all have to feel. If we could just take a step back, breath deeply , exhale and then view our lives through our spirit, the wonders we would see! How deeply we would feel and how richly we would live! But if we continue to live on the outskirts of life, how much do we miss?How much do we not see or who do we not touch with our own spirit?

Life is a dance and it calls to us, beckons us out and onto the dance floor. How long we watch from the sidelines is up to us, but if we wait too long we will never have the chance to move across the floor, to embrace life, to feel, to hope , and to share our love. At times we move freely, gracefully and at other times we move clumsily, unsure of ourselves. Maybe it hurts, and maybe it takes our breath away, but how deeply, how wonderfully can we celebrate our victories? How precious are those painful yet meaningful defeats?

As for myself, life has been brutal sometimes, and yes there are times I fly to the sidelines. But at the end of the day I choose to dance, to always return to the floor. I may recede behind the curtain from time to time to rest, to catch my breath, but I will always dance. Life is a beautiful, sometimes painful dance, but a fantastic dance non the less. So I am ready to take to the dance floor once again whether I fall, slip, trip or glide I will dance!

Christina

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Soul Clutter


Soul Clutter


I have spent the better part of the last two weeks secluded in my home tucked away and hidden from the world. Why? Well, I have been trying to de clutter, clean and put together my house again after 22 moths of free reigning chaos. I have had my head and hands inside of closets that seemed to be sucking me up into a black hole. I have had my nose over run by dust bunnies, and my skin crawl with imaginable unseen, yet very real critters. I have pushed, pulled and shoved furniture from one end of the house to the other. Then at the days end I have finally collapsed onto my bed, only to hear the voices of my children asking for water in the middle of the night. What does all this have to do with anything you ask? Well, it has everything to do with well, everything! Just as we finally get to a point where we can't keep opening our closets up everyday and having an earthquake pour out, or look at all the collected clutter on the table one more day, we also have to spring clean our souls.




I have lived with and through cancer. I have kept moving, stopping only to take a breath here and there. I have dared myself to live in spite of all the pain, and push on even while I have felt my soul bleeding. There have been many times that I have seen all the clutter building up in my life, yet put it off saying tomorrow. I have seen the pictures that remind me of who I was before and how I spent my life. I have stepped over the boxes filled with the dreams of who I wanted to be, who I was and who I could have been. I have promised to pack up a hurt and toss it away, yet somehow it never seems to make it out of that closet of mine. But isn't that the way of things in this life?




We just keep collecting clutter? Before we know it we have months and then years of emotional pain, scares and hurt feelings that have been built up. Suddenly we open that closet one day and everything comes falling out over our heads, onto our feet and into our hands. There is no choice but to deal with the black hole! For me that black hole has been my cancer. I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it but it still showed up one day like junk mail. We all have those "black holes," those closets and drawers filled with stuff we really don't need, maybe even don't really want, but still we hold onto them. Piles and piles of worry, hurt, and fears left unseen, but always there in those 'no mans lands' of our souls. We tuck them away over here and over there, in the junk drawer, shoving them inside that 'no worries' closet until finally there is no more room left. Our reasons are all different, but they are all still there, gathering up more clutter everyday.


After a while all that clutter begins to make you feel as if you really have been committed. The desire begins hitting a little too close to home when you start banging your head into the padded walls of your cell as it closes in on you. In the blink of an eye all the order of your life went flying out the window leaving you with uncontrollable chaos. Before you have a chance to catch your breath your world has become unruly. Chaos is supreme ruler here in the shadows and it feels as if all your fears have leaped out into the real world. Your once orderly books, precisely placed trinkets, packed boxes, vacuumed floor and the peaceful music inside your soul has sprung loose and is suddenly crowding you. Books have fallen out of their shelves and are in piles all around the recently stained carpet. Trinkets are here and there out of place while boxes filled with inner secrets have spilled out and over. And as if that isn't bad enough the radio dial of your soul has been cranked and is blasting out hard metal music.


OK, so your mind is in a muddle and you feel as if you have completely lost your mind in the middle of all this craziness. In my life I have had to come to terms with and understand that there is no control with cancer! No one has any control of the beast. It attacks without warning, taking all it can from you, beating you down, and striping you of the life you once knew. Living inside the belly of the beast isn't easy no matter what beast you are fighting. But you can claw your way back out. I personally have had to come to an understanding with my beast and accept that we have any control with what it can and will do. Not the doctors, nor the surgeons, and especially not me! The only One, Who has any control, is my Maker. It is in His hands that I have had to surrender my control and all this clutter. What else is there to do? He has not set out to cause me pain; instead He has allowed this beast to attack, always giving me the strength to endure for reasons known only to Him.



So maybe it's time to open that closet, or not to just dig through those drawers but to dive in head first. I know it's hard at the end of the day. I know that the load in front of you may seem impossible at times but I am living proof that there is an end to the Black Hole currently in front of you. You aren't lacking strength. It is there, hidden maybe, but it is still there deep within you soul. It doesn't matter how dark, cold or lonely you feel, there is hope, strength and courage in the arms holding your arms up. Go head, let all that clutter out, toss it out, sweep those floors, right side your soul and open up the blinds to your soul!


Christina



Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Whys of it All!



Why?




Why, is one of those words that just can't be answered sometimes. I have stood in front of the mirror may times, looking at my disfigured chest asking myself why this had to happen to me, to my body and to my family?



Why is the biggest word I have found the hardest answering my sons. Why, Mommy? Why you, why us? Why cancer? Why did God let this happen? Why are you so sick? Why ... why Mommy does cancer cause people to die? Why would God let you die Mommy?




Why some may ask? Yes, why does cancer make its mark on our lives? Why does God allow this thing to take over our wayof life and our bodies? Why does cancer change us so desperately? Well, because CANCER is CANCER, simple in nature, but not so simple in the living of it.




So again, why? Well, the truth is that I do not know why. But what I do know is that this cancer, breast cancer, has done more for me than it has ever taken away from me. I realize that at some point cancer my take my last breath from me, but it will not take my life from me!




As I sit here I see my life fully in front of me. I see my family, my boys, my husband and my parents. I see my dearest friends and those who stand beside me. I feel my faith strong inside and I have no need to ask if I trust my God, because I do trust Him even as I struggle with this cancer. My faith comes from the inner knowledge that even in death I will have lived.





Why Cancer? I do not know. Maybe it was to make me stronger, to open my eyes to the cause or to mold me into a survivor. I do not know why, but I do know that I am a better person for its mark on my life. To some this breast cancer may appear to have been my undoing to others this cancer may seem to be my legacy. But in the depths of my heart it is my children, my boys who will grow into strong men one day who are my real legacy. It is in their lives, in their hearts and in their futures that I leave my hope, eternally.




So even though my life has not turned out just the way I thought it would, or taken the turns I had hoped for. Though the real truth of it all is that I will never be able to answer the questions that begin with the word 'Why,' I will live in the peace of my Maker's hands.




Why me, why you? Why is just simply a word that follows our fear. So even though I will struggle on those bad days I can rest in the assurance of my faith. I know without doubt that I will continue to ask why on those days that breast cancer haunts my spirit. But when the fear of cancer, of my immortality has receded, I will embrace the unknown and simply live in spite of all the whys!




Christina





Sunday, October 21, 2007

Warrior Girl, In Honor Of Breast Cancer Awareness Month




I AM A Warrior!

Breast Cancer has made me into many things... a fighter, an advocate, a survivor and a warrior. There have been many days that Breast Cancer has stomped the breathe right out of me, made me feel as if it was taking my life away with it's every daunting touch. But at the end of the day my fear has always been replaced by courage, my tears replaced by stubbornness and my pain by hope. For every inch of ground that cancer has ever tried to take away from me, I have pushed myself two more steps ahead.


So as I look out and see pink ribbons everywhere I turn right now, I feel a strong surge rising up, beating inside me. I feel the need to shout it out that this is a month of reckoning, and a time to put a real, very honest face on breast cancer. A time to stand together and fight with all our might to save our daughters, our son's daughters and our daughters, daughters daughter.

We are not just pretty ribbons or an admirable cause for just this moment in time. No, we are real women, with real lives and a very real invading enemy that is still biding for our very existence. And yet, even as this enemy advances from all sides, and all directions, we are holding our ground and holding onto real hope in spite of what we know lies before us.

The real truth is that Breast cancer is not pretty despite the delicate pink ribbon. It does not just come out of the closet for one month out of the year in a brightly colored package. No, Breast Cancer is a monster, a beast at best, that wages war all year long upon thousands and thousands. It's objective...to kill. Breast Cancer manes and makes it's mark upon mind, body and soul. Breast Cancer takes no prisoners, it plays by no ones rules. Breast Cancer does it's own bidding and if let out to play will continue on it's war path. I ca say from experience that Breast Cancer does not play well with others! This enemy is silent as it is deadly. It claws, gnaws and tramples it's way through your body consuming every thing in its way.

The woman I was before, is not the same woman that I have become. True there was once a time when I saw Breast Cancer as only an older woman's disease. How very naive I was before coming face to face myself with this beast. But now I stand tall, side by side with all women. I stand shoulder to shoulder with both the young and the old, those still naive and those wiser than I, to fight this war. I was once afraid, but now I have become seasoned and battle ready. I have put on my pink body armor and stepped over the line drawn before me. I wear my pink proudly, yet I am not deceived by it's luster anymore. I have donned my pink helmet, placed my breast plate on, laced up my boots, smeared the pink war paint across my face and taken up my sword. I am ready to march, to run, to race onto the battlefield. I am a WARRIOR!


Living in each day within this base camp we know that life is never certain, but hope is. We can beat this thing, even if it means living within it's claw. We are strong, and we are not afraid to face it dead on. Yes, we may feel our hands shake and our hearts race, but we are survivors, we are sisters, we are warriors. We will over come. It's past time to put our war paint on my dear sisters. The battle front is before us, and though the face of this beast roars loudly at us, we stand ... together, never retreating!





So again, I shout this call to arms, and call for the drums not to just beat, but to echo as loudly as they can for all to hear. I am not afraid of this breast cancer beast. I have and will continue to meet it with my sword drawn ready to fight to the end. My time has come to bleed PINK! Has yours?



Christina




Thursday, October 4, 2007

Update


Hello Friends!

I am doing much better than I was 12 days ago! I am finally feeling much more like a human being rather than a rag doll stitched back together. I am still hurting, but at least I have been able to wean myself off of my pain meds and deal with the pain that is left. I am sleeping a lot which is something I am not used to doing. I have never been one to stop and rest. But I think this time, after all the chemo and 7 surgeries my body is just taking over the task of resting for me, lol. My stitches come out hopeful on Tuesday. That will be wonderful and I will be jumping up and down (figuratively), lol.


Today, will mark another milestone for me as I see my oncologist. Once again bittersweet. I will hold my breath till the visit is over and then I will walk out and wait another 3 months. It's the process, the journey, the cost of cancer. It is well, worth hearing that I have no signs of a return. This has been a long process, but a journey I do not regret. I have been taken apart, put back together and well molded into a stronger, better person.


The truth is it's all about putting yourself back together again, and even though it is painful, we are blessed to live in day and age where they can reconstruct our breasts. A time where we don't have to hide our cancer, but live it loudly for all the world to see and hear. A day when we can voice of hopes for a cure. Remember that this month, October, is breast cancer awareness month. It's time to find a cure and let pink be just a color again!


My Love to ALL of you.

Christina

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Race for the Cure







Today, I Am A Survivor

Today I want to be free, to be able to wake up and know I am alive, free from Breast Cancer and her shadow. But for today, I have to accept what grace I have been given to fight this beast. Today I must be brave even if I don't really want to be. Today I must hold my head up, put my shoulders back, smile and put one foot in front of the other despite how I feel. You see, today is not about me, nor is it about my own struggle or the inner demons that taunt me daily. No, today is about my sisters and brothers, yes brothers, some 200,000 of them alone just this year who will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today is a time to reflect, to rejoice and to mourn. Today, I will walk with those who have survived this monster as I will walk among those whom have lost beloved sisters, daughters and wives to this beast. Yes, today I will walk for all of them, for my family, and yes even for myself!

Today I will join thousands to honor one cause. Today, in the morning hours I will walk hand and hand with those that have come to stand up together defiantly by my side and cross a finish line that embodies HOPE for a CURE. For Today, I am a Survivor!

Christina

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reconstruction

Well, getting a new pair of whatever you prefer to call them is not all it us cracked up to be, let me tell you! Oh my, what was I ever thinking? Oh wait, I wasn't thinking, it was the fun loving cancer that decided to take away my breasts. So here I am 5 days later looking somewhat between the Bride of Frankenstien and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas and feeling as if a train just hit me going 200 miles per hour at the same time a cement truck poured its entire barrel over top of me and sped off! There is a lot in there to expand upon ... later when I have actual full use of my upper body. But for now I will just leave it at that.

As for how I am holding up? I am doing my best. I am getting past the 'upfront costs' of both the plastic surgeon and the medical facility and the idea of a nipple tattoo. Truthfully, I am just plain tired and in pain but I am still up and doing what I can. I guess I am finally admitting that my body just isn't able to bounce back as it was 7 surgeries ago. I have broken down in tears and actually started taking my pain meds on time round the clock. I feel like I look ... bruised and beaten up. My left side is not as bad as the right, but then I have very little feeling on my left side, so I guess that is a blessing. My right side is cute up, down, sideways and around. I developed a blister as well and now I am watching it for any infection. I am still not keeping much food down and I am running a low grade fever. Basically I am not feeling like me yet. It is hard because I am so used to just dealing and going and moving. I am done for a while I think but that doesn't change my plans to walk! I still plan to walk in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure on October 6th. I have made that commitment to both my boys and to myself, so no matter what I have to do, I will be out there!

I hate to admit it but the bottom line is that my body is in some of the worst pain I have ever felt before. I have to say this feels worse and even looks worse than my mastectomy. But then I was still fresh and not so worn out when all that took place. My surgery went well, but my first 2 days at home didn't. I ended up with a high fever by Sunday and started with some fluid build up on my lungs which I am now trying to completely get rid of. I came out of the bandages and wet into a bra on Monday. A mixed blessing in my eyes, but a step forward.


In all, if I had to choose this surgery just because... I wouldn't get near it with a ten foot pole. But the cancer did this to me. The cancer took my breast away and left me uneven, unwomanly and maybe even unwell in some eyes, definitely UN-whole in mine. So surgery it was. I know that when I have recovered from this, which honestly is not going to happen over night this time for me. When the bruises are gone, the stitches are out, the cuts are long gone and once the scars have finally started to fade, I will be OK with it all. In the end I will look more like me again. I will never look like the Christina I knew for 32 years before this monster was let loose on my body, but I will be closer than I have been in the last 2 years. In the end, I will be whole and I will have closure.

Love to all,

Christina

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Surgery Tomorrow

Christina Is FINALLY Saying Good-bye to Her Lop Sided Boobs!

The day has finally arrived! This Friday, September 21, 2007 at 11:30 AM I will go under the knife hopefully for close to the last time. I will be in the OR for 3 1/2 hours which will put me back out around 3 PM and then I will go to the Recovery Room for about 2 hours.

I have a new plastic surgeon, and he is on the ball. By the Grace of Heaven our insurance is working with us, and even though the cost is a bit more than we really have right now and I have had to put payment down already, it is manageable in the long run.

So here I go, into surgery 7. Wow! That just amazes me really. To think I have gone under that many times in 20 months and that I will finally be asclose to whole as I will ever be is breath taking. I don't really know what to think about it all actually. One part of me is thinking to myself, "no biggie, it's just another surgery" and then the other part of me is screaming out loud, "another surgery, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind?" I guess I could forgo the whole thing and truly I have thought about it. But I really trust this doctor and quite honestly it is past time. I need to do this so I can start putting this beast behind me. This surgery is pretty much the next to last thing on my "Kick Breast Cancer in the Forth Point of Contact Check List."

Hopefully, I will be up and on my feet fully by Sunday so that Johnny and the kids don't have to suffer through Mom being off her feet again for too long.Life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride the last few weeks with my dad's cancer diagnosis so I want to do my best to be up and on my feet ready to take care of my family before the weekend is over if I can. My parents, my boys and Johnny have just seen plenty enough of upside downs and downward spirals that I do not need to put them through anymore. I also really need to be back up and on my feet so I can help my dad through his surgery and be there for my Mom too. Life generally gets a bit touch and go around here before a surgery, but typically we get everything back in place and in working order before we actually take the plunge. It would almost seem as if this surgery is happening all too fast, but then after waiting 20 months to finish what we started it seems way too long in coming too. This will be good for us in the long run, though I think we are all just plain sick and tired of doctors and hospitals. It will mark an end to at least part of the journey and though I hate going under the knife again it is really time to get on with the business of at least "resembling" normal. (All right now, no heckling from the peanut gallery, lol! I know I have never been considered quite "normal," but we can all pretend, can't we? LOL)

I don't think that it is easy for any women to live without a breast. But I do know this, once you have looked yourself in the mirror morning after morning without one, you do adjust to seeing your body reshaped without a breast physically attached to your body. Still as "used" to being without my left breast as I have become, I need closure. At this point in my life I need to either have them both removed or to have this mess cleaned up and put back together again. I am tied of this "in-between" stuff. This last year and 8 months and has been a real eye opening experience for me on many levels. My vanity has taken several hits, to say the least. In all honesty, I do believe that what chemo takes away from you (hair, eyebrows, taste buds, youth, sanity, etc.) it generally restores to you given the right amount of time and patience. The reality is that chemo did not take my breast away, the cancer did.

My own personal experience with this demon is that the problem with loosing a breast is that you can't just rub some miracle-grow on over it and just sprout a new one back. I really, really wish it was that easy! But it just doesn't work that way.Then there is the other side of that coin, the side is that you just can't have another one reattached over night either. The art of having a breast reconstructed is a process, a long, painful, grueling, character building and yes, tiresome process. It really is painful and there is o other way to put it. Honestly there are just times you wish you could unscrew the blasted "thing" off and forget about it! As for most, I think we learn to overcome it mostly by just keeping to remind ourselves that getting to anyplace worth while is always worth the trouble of getting there in the first place.

Over the last almost 2 years my experience has been that most people don't realize (though most mean no harm) that restoring a breast isn't just a quick in, out and pouf you are good as new process! With breast enhancement, there is already a breast there to work with. It just isn't a simple matter of placing an implant under already natural existing breast tissue once there is none left. No, when you have to have one rebuilt most if any of what was left behind after the mastectomy has to be has to be stretched and is really thin. So after you get that out of the way, have let the expander has do its job, an implant is finally put in. You would think at this point that a breast would be there. Well, not exactly. At least it hasn't worked that way for me. It is still just a lump, or as one doctor called it, a wing,( I am thinking I should have tried flying lessons, lol) with an eight-nine inch now purplish scar across your chest. What is a reconstructed breast? Well, to be honest, it is an internal prosthesis.

So when we are done Friday I will have a "breast." It will look for all necessary purposes real and that is precisely the point. I have gotten used to having no feeling in the area though I can say I have finally been able not just to feel an itch under my skin, but actually somewhat scratch at it, lol. Sad really that that is a major hurdle for me to be excited about jumping over right now. It will be strange to have a breast again, but a good strange I think, far better than living the rest of my life as Cyclopes. So, I am going into this surgery with a grateful heart. I have had 20 months to get ready for this. Just as it was an adjustment when I first lost my breast this too will be another adjustment. I am ready to look and feel whole again physically and yet I feel if I had to live without it that I have been able to make peace internally with my life. So I am ready to stop being under reconstruction and actually be completely reconstructed!

I will end this with a great quote that I have carried in my heart through this whole process'; Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Still a survivor, still a fighter, still aware, still facing the beast and always a uniboober in my heart...

AKA 'Christina, Soon to Be, Breast-Less No More' (Well, maybe.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Wanna Be Brave...

I was blessed this weekend by having the opportunity to speak for many young woman facing breast cancer during a live news interview. I was beside myself and a nervous wreck, but the truth is that I had my wonderful husband and my closest friend there with me. True I could really see the affects of this cancer on my face, but I was sitting there, alive and able to speak for those that can't. So this morning in the midst of all that is happening with my dad and even with all these new, costly tests I am being put through, I offer this part of my inner thoughts to you, my friends.

I wrote this some time back on a really bad day. In my day to day struggle, and as I watch others struggle through their own battle with this beast, I know that I speak not only for myself, but for many others in how CANCER rips away at your spirit some days. This entry is for all CANCER SURVIVORS. I really feel it hits the nail right on the head in respect to even the strongest survivors along the Journey.


I Wanna Be Brave

I wanna be brave today even though I feel like crying. I wanna be courageous this morning even though I am scared. I wanna be strong this afternoon even though I feel terribly weak. I want to believe today that there is a tomorrow and I want to know that hope is strong enough to carry me even though my faith has been crushed.

I don't want my heart to fall apart or let the world see my bandaged spirit. I want to be in control even though I know that I cannot hold back this beast forever. I want to smile easily and forget, even if it is just for now, how sad I really feel. I wanna be me again.

I wanna be brave, really I do. I don't want to be afraid. I don't want to think about dying, I want to live. I don't want to be just a number on a schedule even though I know I really am. I want to think about tomorrow, but all I can really do is plan for today.

I wanna grow old enough to see silver line my hair. I want to be healthy and strong. I don't want to feel this pain within my body anymore and I don't want to worry about my children living their lives without me. I don't want my hair to fall out again or lose another breast. I want to live life as I once did, unafraid. I want to laugh and feel sexy once again. I want to feel uninhibited and wake up without feeling the reapers sickle at my throat. I want to be spontaneous and silly again, carefree without worry.

I wanna be me again. I want to live without fear, smile without hesitance. I want to be strong, full of courage and oh how I wanna be brave.

Christina

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Living on the Island of Mis-fits

Living on the Island of Misfits

Most definitely there are times when living in the aftermath of breast cancer feels a lot like living on an Island of misfits. You really do understand that there is just something a little off, a bit different about you now. Still you want to believe if just for a moment, that even with your square peg you will fit into that round hole sitting in front of you. Point in case, my most recent moment off the island came last week in the hour I spent in a mall fitting room. Talk about feeling like a misfit as you try carrying in bra after bra, filling in only half of it and falling completely out of the other half of it! Talk about being a true mis-fit!

Then there was the little problem of who was this person staring back at me from out of the other side of the mirror? I finally just began telling myself that I must simply be going blind. After all, this whole new me, well it simply wasn't me! I certainly didn't recognize this woman and the reflection that I saw in the mirror. I honestly did grasp the situation fully, really I did. I just didn't like having to accept it as I was trying on intimate apparel! I fully did understand and I do get that this surely must be my body, but do I really have to claim it as my own, is what I want to know?

So here is the picture as I was standing there in the fitting room. My dilemma was this; Do I squash, shove and squeeze myself into one side of the bra while sliding in, out and under the other side of it or just go with the cut and splice thing? Seriously maybe I just needed to run and hide or scream 'FREEDOM' as I burned the blasted thing right there in the fitting room! Well, that is what I am talking about as I try to push my way into a round hole when I am clearly a square peg! But what else can I say about standing right there in that small little room in what can best be described as my own personal hell? Well, I did catch a glimpse of the woman I was before breast cancer ever made it's mark on me and she was still smiling as if life wasn't so bad on the Island of Misfits.

True I miss the days when I could just grab a bra out of my drawers and go. Yes, I miss the mornings when I didn't feel so old, even decrepit or see so many deep lines inset on my face. But, these mishaps, large and small physical defects as we will call them, have made me unique. Truth is, not everyone can live on the Island of Misfits comfortably, because first you have to be willing to admit to being a mis-fit and that isn't so easy after all.

I know, believe me I know that I don't own two breasts anymore and maybe I never will but at the end of the day, I still have the best part of who I am left. This is the part of me that has been here all along. It doesn't matter how long I reside on this island, my strength, not my physical difference, will always be the best part of who I am even when my days here are long gone.

So the truth is that even the best of weeks are going to bring a day your way and mine for that matter that is going to leave us ready to run for the doors, tearing every strand of new hair out of our heads and every bra we see in half. But once we have made our way through the doors, past an obviously over due tirade, and back to the safety of our own private island of misfits, we can and still will revel in the strength of those that love us.

At the end of the day, as hard as it is living in the aftermath and as overwhelming as it seems, even cancer with all it's hang ups can't keep you from smiling. What has made us feel misfit, a little different from everyone else, what has truly defined us, making us stronger women has honestly given us a home, a family of support. Yes, this breast cancer, seemingly two little words, that all too many and yet all too few really understand in the end has brought us here and made us feel right at home on this strangely beautiful and wonderful Island of Mis -fits.


Christina

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Wrecker

Well, my friends what to say? I came home Sunday after vacationing with my family to find another message from my oncologist. The news? Not too bad, but not great either. Mostly it is something to chew on and hopefully in the end spit out. But the truth is, right now that she is very concerned. After listening, and listening again, then having Johnny listen to the message, I spoke with the office yesterday, as she is out of the country and my liver function numbers are through the roof. My calcium is up and my Vitamin D is down so I go back in for more blood work today.(They added another Bone Mineral Density test on my spine and hips today) Based on those results, I will either be cleared or I will have to undergo more testing, scans and possible biopsy. The other issue is my brain scan. I am having a MRI with sedation and contrast tomorrow. This is due to some of the problems with speech, coordination and memory loss that I am having. All together, I am good with it but the thing about all this testing is that it stirs the pot up bringing up all those deep, dark fears that have been lying on the bottom for a while. My greatest fear? Leaving my two precious boys motherless. They are my greatest blessings in this life.

So I say, what are those of us teetering on the edge of life and death to do? Are we to spend what precious time we have left no matter how long or short as victims, spinning out of control with self pity, stomping around as if we have no life left in us to live? No! Simply put, life is full of unexpected back roads, sharp twists and turns, sudden stops and painful pot holes.Sure we can fight it all we want. Take short cuts wind our way through the backups, honk our horns for all to hear, fuss all we can about the long waits, and how much time it is costing us. But what about the time we lose while we are complaining? What about the time we give up without a thought about it? What about those precious moments we give up every minute we grip about ourturned up side down lives?

True life is not all we THINK it should be on most days. Sure we thought we would have more money, a bigger house, health and more security by this time in our lives. But the truth is, there is no greater security than uncertainty. It is always there, steady and true, always waiting to throw you a curve ball. But isn't that the sweetness of life? The not knowing, the unexpected and the complete surprise that turns out to be blessing when all is said and done?

Of course landing in a pot hole and nearly missing a tree going 55 mph is not my idea of fun. No one is exactly pleased with the idea. But the real truth is this: Once you have pulled yourself out of the drivers seat, surveyed the damage, yelled and screamed at the yourself for a bit, stomped around like a crazy person and smacked your vehicle for a good while you finally hand over the dented structure to the wrecker. Sure it is not one of your better, jump up and down, shout hallelujah kind of moments, but the you finally begin to let the situation sink in. You are alive to tell the tale and you are here, and still able to move, to breath and to speak. You suddenly take inventory of all that is truly precious to you, your faith blossoms and thankfulness finally takes hold.

That is what this cancer pot hole of life has done for me. In all, I have found not only my voice, but that my faith in my Maker is stronger and that though tested, my hope is never wavering. No, I was not happy in the least bit about being towed in to the oncologists office, having an overhaul done on my engine and body work done on my frame. I may not have all the same parts as I did before, and true I may not look the same or feel the same, but all together I am whole with or without my breast. My desire, my strongest hope when all this is said and done is that I am a better person for all the twists, turns, stops and yes, even pot holes.

True, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We do not know our time or the place and yes we all know our lives can all be gone in a heart beat. The sadder fact is that most may know this, but still do not choose to live as if they were dying. So my challenge to each of you is this: Live life! Embrace all that it offers, all that it takes away and all the possibilities it yet holds. Forget all the squabbles, the silly little things that keep you a part from those that love you. Live life in spite of all it's hardships. Love those that have hurt you and embrace those that stand with you. Look deep within yourself and you will find this kind of WILL, the will to believe and to hold on to your faith. Truly, they are the pieces that will make you stronger for
the course, enabling you to survive the sudden stops and give you hope through all of life's pit stops.


Ah, my dear friends, take hold of your family, your loved ones, and your friends despite your deference's. Do not live your life in the shadows of what could have been. Let it go and embrace the life you have been give and all those that hold you close. Let go of the hurt from those whom have injured you, and live your life, every moment of it as if it were your last! Remember this my dear friends, life is fleeting, live, love and hold close these moments.

Love to all...
Faith, Hope, Strength and Courage,

Christina







Friday, July 13, 2007

Humor

My Adventures as a Uniboober!

My story is not so unique, but it is still one worth telling I guess. Yes, it is a bit of a crazy tale, full of insane nonsense, but isn't humor the key to life's insanity? So without any more ado here is the tale of one crazed, hear me roar, I am still alive and kicking, proud to be a uniboob woman.


I am absolutely a self declared, uniboober. Oh yes, I wear that title with a smirk across my face. I can honestly say that there have been those days along the way that I have felt like Captain Jack Sparrow aboard the Black Pearl. Alright, with the exception that I have would take the name of 'Captain Christina Breast-Less' and sail aboard the 'Pink Pearl' navigating the seas of Chaos and Uncertainty. Adventure you say? Where is the adventure in being Breast-Less? Well, then do I have a tale to tell you my friend.


Ah, I have ventured many a day through storms cast upon my life through the years. Though the truth be told I would rather find myself on a long sandy beach, with my boots off, lying in a hammock with a coconut full of rum in my hand. Yep, I am a pirate of sorts I suppose. Can't you just see me standing there at the wheel, a shaved head of course, with a pink leather hat, and a black bandana underneath it's brim? Yes, I can see myself aboard The Pink Pearl, making haste with a crew of survivors. All of us uniboobers, breast-less and marked women alike together sailing the oceans of this world in search of a cure. 'Tis true we are a group of swashbuckling, yo ho, high sea sailing, pink wearing of the female sort of course band of Cure Runners. Living life aboard this ship we proudly wear our bandanas displaying our bald heads and raising up our jolly roger complete with a pink ribbon. We are young and old alike, beautiful and strong, fearless and yet still fearful as we sail these seas of death and despair. Indeed, I have cast my lot with this crew in search of life beyond this so called curse. We have thrown all of our hope into life and the living of it. Our sails, a rose color in defiance of this beast that chases after us needing pain to feed upon seeking only to pull us down in to the depths of despair right along with it.


True, I have sailed making port at the unlikeliest of places. I have made my way to such exotic lands as cytoxan, adriamycian and taxotere. Lost a breast along the way, hence the name, 'Christina Breast-Less'. Or shall I say, Captain Christina Breast-Less to you mate? I have made my way through the uncharted shores of a tortuous land called Hyst-er-ec-tomy. Aye matey, a land so terrible that the surrounding natives themselves will not make port. They know the deep dark secrets of this place and keep as far away as they can. Certainly they are no dummies, knowing the untimely fates of those who dare to go a shore face.


Ah, I have sold my youth and had my soul nearly consumed by this unknown heading that has taken all aboard unto life giving waters' end. Aye, casting us on to the shores of a land unknown to most as it calls only to those this dark, forsaken Isle wishes to hold captive within its boarders. Marooned here without a map and upon these shores far from all ye have known and have loved, your soul is shaken. Slowly the insane becomes a part of your every breath as you find yourself lost and wandering its sands. The fear of spending the rest of your days here is overwhelming as you begin embracing the insanely, crazy, yet oddly humorous new life you have been so suddenly handed here. There are definitely those moments when ye feel quite at home within your own loopiness. Then there are also those days when you really wonder when Captain Obviously Gone Mad will come to collect your mind for you.


Yet as my story goes, I am not alone in this misery. As this tale is one of hope and not of despair my crew and those that have loved me did indeed set a course through the black seas to find and rescue me. Navigating through darkness and despair upon a foreign ship, my loved ones came for me. Mission bound they boarded the Pink Pearl once again and sailed me away from those lonely shores pulling me from the sands of cancer's kiss of death. As for the unsightly, temperamental Pirates of Chemotherapy? You know the ones who seek to consume all that lives within you? Well, they tried with all their might to strip me of my life and to leave their mark upon my soul. In the end, I body may have been marked, but I have lived to tell the tale. So now, I sail aboard the Pink Pearl in search of a CURE with my crew of Pink Ribbon wearing, compression toting, breast-less, cancer fighting pirates. Together we are as one. As for 'Old Davy Jones? Well, he may have our names burned upon his black list and indeed we may all wear his black spot upon our chests, but we will not go down without a fight!


This beast may have chased us, hunted us down unsatisfied to merely consume a part of us. This beast with all its might wishes to consume all of us, every part of who we are, what we were, and any life that we may hope to have. Yes, this beast comes for us upon calm waters, seeking us out, ready to take The Pink Pearl down to the black cold murky depths. Ah yes, this beastie friend of mine comes to do the devil's bidding but Hope is stronger than deaths' claws. True it may try to consume my body and soul, but it has not nor will it ever take my spirit with it.


'Tis true I ask myself now, how many seas have I sailed, traveling upon, before I found this hope? So many dreams did I forsake living among the insanity of my own fears. Then finally I climbed aboard this ship of survivors and I gave way to the life I thought was fading away and fell to my knees. Who, I thought would light the way, ferry my soul across the waters and into the great beyond? I had lost hope and was lost in a sea of despair fearful of being forgotten. I had been broken, taken apart piece by piece until I stepped aboard this mighty ship.


For days I was tossed upon the waves. But just when I thought all was lost and as I felt my body yielding to the depths my cries were heard, rising up from the waters that sought to drown my soul. Quite unexpectedly I was pulled back to HOPE, and to life. Suddenly the seas around me were calm even while the rains fell. There aboard this ship with pink sails, I found myself among the living again. As my body began to heal my spirit once again emerged. In time I let go of the fear within me that I been carrying, fearful of the black spot upon my body and this death mark that sought to destroy me. Here among those that surround my life seeking to fight the beast while standing up facing the deep bellows of death I am at home and never forgotten.
So here at this stories end and in the telling of this adventure of mine I can say I have found myself among strong women wielding swords cast of strength and hope. Even Davy Jones' locker cannot hold HOPE captive. As we all have taken our turns charging at the beast, toward its jagged teeth and into its mouth we have not been lost. True, the battle with this beast may have taken a part of us with it, and even taken our ship down to the depths many a day but have we not always reemerged tried and true?


So my friends, I raise my coconut cup to you, and to you and to you too. I give to you, hope and inspiration. I pray that as you sail upon the seas of life that Hope brings to your soul fullness of life, love, laughter and all it's precious treasures. As for me? I again will set sail aboard The Pink Pearl with hope behind her sails, and defiance in my bones.


Christina AKA "Breast-Less"


Monday, July 9, 2007

Emotions

Spinning In Emotions

As Monday morning came and went last week giving way to the afternoon I was still awe stricken, amazed and completely given in to my emotions. This is a good thing to be openly honest. My heart is still overflowing and absolutely filled with the unconditional love and unyielding support of my wonderful, dear and kindest friends.


As I walked through the door of two of my closest friends home on the Saturday night of my birthday, I jumped back at first and then melted into tears. There without my knowing were 18 (not including myself, Johnny and our boys) of our friends waiting to surprise me for my birthday. I was completely taken back by the love, the thought and the generosity that abounded in that room as I walked in.


Looking all around me I had a hard time taking all of it in. I stood there, in shock with tears falling from my eyes in my friend Kathy's' kitchen. I was quite taken back by the preparation. There was food of all kinds, a cake, even Tinker Bell decorations but most importantly there were my wonderful friends that have stood by me through my entire journey. As the kids surrounded me, hugging me reinforcing not only their love but the love of their parents as well I knew I was in the company of true friends.These few moments were beyond beautiful and will stay with me forever.


This journey of mine has taken many different paths, had many, many ups and downs yet there has always been those who have stayed steady. Those whom have held my hand when the going got tough and those whom have laughed at the insanely insane right along with me. Without these friends, and family I would have been lost, abandoned and completely alone without hope long ago. So I say to all of you now, all of those who have loved me, supported me and yes even at times carried me, THANK YOU!


I love each and every one of you, both far and near, some in emails and others here in J Land. Each of your beautiful souls has played a part in my journey. I have never ever really been forsaken for I have had each one of you by my side. Without you I would have lost this fight long ago. To those of you, no to all of you, who still walk this journey with me, I am forever in your debt.


Continued Strength in the Journey My Family and Friends...


Christina