About Me...

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

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Guilt By Remission?

I was struck by life's irony this weekend. I stood there next to one of my closest friends watching the cruel twist of fate and the uncertainty cancer brings into our lives. Tears fell from my eyes before I even had the chance to protest them. I stood there motionless, Morgen's hand holding my own as I watched Kelly Jo Dowd's story play out in front of my eyes. She too had fought and battled breast cancer. She had moved on thinking that her cancer battle was behind her, until it came back and forced her back onto the front lines again. Her daughter was 10 years old when she fought her first fight in this ring, and 3 years later, she was hit with a fatal punch loosing her life. That really hit me hard as I saw my 10 year old son running down the stairs with his friends. I am so determined not to face this beast again but the truth is breast cancer has a mind of its own and its own agenda. What may or may not come is not in my hands?


As I have moved forward, gaining higher ground in this struggle I have put all my strength into living and not allowing this cancer to take anymore away from me than it already has. I have put a face on to the world with a smile forcing myself to stay strong, not conceding anything. I have tried my best not to open the strongest floodgates and the real depths of what this beast has truly taken away from my mind, body and spirit. But living in the shadow of breast cancer is like living on the edge of an approaching battle that you know you cannot avoid. You feel the fear rising as the beast circles and tries to push its way into your sacred space and still you cannot charge fully onto the battle field just yet. You are armed and ready in your armor but you are held back, at the edge watching the beast taunt you from the outer edges. At times you feel the need to scream at the monster to just get it over with, to end the overwhelming odds gaining in numbers against you. Then you feel the fight well up within, even as you pray with all your might to stay back away from the heat of the battle. But then the gnawing rises up from the pit of your stomach telling you to stay vigilant, to keep the oil burning and to be prepared, saving some of your energy for the next fight.


As I have begun to heal I have come to view my "remission" as a double edged sword. The simple freedom of waking up every morning and knowing my body will not have to endure chemotherapy, is a blessing to be acknowledged in and of it self. I have come to terms with the bone pain, the on again off again nausea that lingers and the loss of mobility in my arm. I am alive and that is far more important than those hiccups. But still, there is always the uncertainty of tomorrow. Do I live in the shadow of fear? No, I do not, but I do live in the shadow of this beastly cancer everyday. As a survivor in remission I am blessed to be alive able to begin thinking about my future. But there is also the other side of remission that eats away at you. This new counterpart is guilt and it is a storm that rises slowly striking unexpectedly. Guilt is a powerful enemy as it attacks cutting deep into your already bleeding soul. I myself have felt this guilt time and time again as it strikes every time I see a fellow sister walking back into the beasts’ lair or hear word that she has succumb to its deathly grip. Remission is a wonderful and burdensome place to be both at the same time.

Yes, I am blessed and I thank my Maker everyday that I am given an extension on this life of mine. I am grateful when I sit within the company of friends raising our glasses or when I hear my boys’ laugher moving through the house and in to my heart. I long for more time as I mourn the loss my sisters in arms knowing all too well that my day may come. So I raise my heart today making this vow never to forget those who have fallen and I make this promise to my loved ones right here, right now to fight hard, to live loudly and to love unconditionally for the remainder of this journey we call life.

Christina




Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Disfigurement of Cancer



Cancer's Shadow...



I know to some my desire to keep my struggle close to my heart not forgetting where I have been these last 16 months has been burdensome to a few. I honestly understand just how burdensome cancer can be. I really, really do understand this. I know how hard it has been for me to look in a mirror and see the effects of chemo on my face as my brows and lashes disapeared and as I seemed to age over night, so I can imagine that for others it has been troubling as well. Dealing with any form of cancer is understandably difficult to say the least. I know many struggle with what to say or not to say. But something as simple as a hug goes a long way in sharing the burden or easing the load on most days .



Living in cancer's shadow is trying as it is grueling. There are times I know that some have hated me almost as much as they have hated my cancer for causing them to despise me so much to begin with. I can only imagine how it must feel to see someone you care about, someone full of laughter and life suddenly disfigured and visibly walking side by side with death. It isn't easy to have to give up the control you once thought you had on life and then have to surrender that friend over to the chaos of cancer's long journey. It suddenly becomes easier to look the other way, or to talk about them as if they have no meaning in your life any more because to acknowledge the pain, means you must feel the pain.



I do believe though that all those who really know me, love me and understand me realize that for me it is not that I have not moved on, because I am moving on and pushing forward everyday. I am gaining higher ground with each day that passes as I am moving forward, walking tall and heading toward the finish line with every step I take. No, those that do know me well, see me with eyes wide open, and hear me with clarity accept my desire to call those that will listen to action, advocacy and awareness. It is not just my fight, but their fight as well. It is the fight of thousands, for all women and their future existence. To forget it, means to forsake the cause and the life that I have been given back.



I have tried with all my might to stay strong and steady through this uncharted course. I know at times I have failed miserably but life doesn't come with a guide book for surviving cancer. Hind sight is always 20/20 when it comes to most of life anyway. Mostly, living life with cancer is by trail and error. I am truly sorry if I have offended anyone with my hope, my desire to fight or as recently finding my choice in seasonal clothing as something worth scolding me about. I will only say this; I am not wearing layers to draw attention to myself. The truth is that I am wearing them to cover my lack of symmetry. Though most close to me do know this, some still do not realize that I still have only part of a left breast to date. I have yet to be totally restored and made whole again. So to best suite my new, lopsided figure I have learned to hide my disfigurement as best as I can. You may not see my lack of a breast or my scars, but I do. I am aware everyday that I have lost this part of my body. I see the emptiness, the barrenness every time I get dressed, buy a bra that inevitably does not fit or feel the loss as I open a door realizing just how much range of motion I have lost since the mastectomy. In spite of all that I am pressing forward while embracing my new life but I do ask of those that still ask me to go quietly into the shadows to try walking in my shoes so that they can fully appreciate where I have been, grasp where I stand now and understand where I am going in the journey yet ahead of me.



I am truly in the debt of all of my dear friends and family, both far and near, those have been by my side through this battle coming to my aid without fear to rally around me, lift me up and see me through. Yes, I have cried over losses, but mostly I have found acceptance. The Race for the Cure this last year was one of those beautiful moments for me. I can say without hesitation I was completely taken back by all the love, support and encouragement I received that morning. Looking back at the picture of all of us walking with our hands raised and linked together as we crossed the finish line still brings me to tears. I am a survivor yes, but I have not become one on the wings of my own courage solely. I have sought to not only survive but to also endure with the hope, faith, strength and courage of all those who have fought a long side of me.


Christina



Monday, May 21, 2007

The life of a Survivor

A Way of Life

Over the last year and four months I have come to realize that being a breast cancer survivor is more than just a statement. It is a way of life. A way of living each and every day from just pulling yourself up and out of bed in the morning to getting yourself back into bed when the day is through. It is about finding a way to live through the uncertainty of tomorrow and the pain of today. Along the way you find, store deep within you and when needed rely upon faith, hope, strength and courage. Your new life is a maze of "what ifs" as it suddenly becomes an open book for all to see, to read and to criticize. Surviving breast cancer becomes an intricate and defiant part of who you are now. Your life, the one you have now taken a second mortgage out on, is up for review every so many months so you live every moment as if it is your last. This is the life of a survivor, a life that is now mine and one I am humbled to live.

As I have traveled this road I have come across many different women and with each woman a new story of triumph, loss, hope and courage. I was reminded of this on Mother's Day as I enjoyed the afternoon with family. I was standing there, taking in a ball game with my children and husband when I looked to my left. It was instantaneous, one look and we both knew. She was standing there, with her hat on her head, standing out beautifully while smiling through her fear. Before I realized we were embracing as if we had known each other all our lives. We stood there, crying as the other people around us looked on with confusion not knowing what to think of us.

Yes, I saw the loss of hair, the lost look in her eyes, but I also saw determination, strength, courage, grace and beauty. I can tell you from living through this battle myself that it takes all five of those traits to step out the door, walk tall and still move among the living everyday. In those precious moments I shared with my fellow sister, I saw myself not too long ago. I felt the tears, the fear and the loss. I understood the uncertainty she held in her heart as she looked upon her children, I too have felt that pain. Yet for all her fear, she walked with strength, shouting it loudly for everyone there to see. She was beautiful and she was inspiring. She was my hero.

Yes, survivors are a different breed. We lose our hair, and our breasts all while still tending our homes and raising our families. We tie on our bandanas and still smile through the stares. We are strong women, confident women and we are determined women. We are the unspoken heroes, which go unseen and largely unheard on most days. We are more than pink ribbons, we are fighters and we are SURVIVORS.

Christina

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Women of Breast Cancer

The Voice

We are Survivors. Women of all backgrounds, colors, and sizes bound together with one voice, and one cause with one goal, to fight. We are sisters in this battle. We are your mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters. We are the heart and soul, and the voice that rises up from the rubble. We are the life and death, the sister hood and the warriors of breast cancer.

Can you hear our cries? Do you see our scars? Can you feel our pain? We are still here, living and breathing, scratching and clawing our way through to the surface of this thing we call cancer. A small voice alone may seem weak, and go unheard, but our voices together as one rise up strong and mighty. We will be heard, and we will be cured. If not today, if not tomorrow, then we will see it through till the end. Our voices will not die out with our deaths no they will continue to grow stronger and to live on in our children's children. In time we will find a way to insure a cure for our children's daughters daughter.


We are the women of breast cancer. Strong, mighty, bold and stubborn. We will fight till the end. We are sisters, we are friends, we are one. We will conquer and we will succeed in our cause. We will not go quietly, we will not be broken. We will be heard, we will be seen and we will live loudly in spiteof the pain. We are the voice and the soul of breast cancer, we are a sister hood of SURVIVORS!


Christina

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thanking J Land

Good Morning All!
I needed to thank each of you for your constant support, especially over the last week. The last few entries have really been heart wrenching for me to write, as the issues behind then have been to manage through. I had to purge myself before I ended up bitter over the saddness that was sweepig over my heart. I am trying with my best foot forward to deal and move on. It is happening, it is just hard on the spirit and soul.
I know I have not made my rounds through J Land the last 10 days either and I am sorry for that too. I miss reading and being apart of your lives. It amazes me how quickly each of you have become part of my life in such a wonderful and encouraging way. I am so blessed to be part if this family here in J Land.
Love to all,
C

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day


Mother's Day is here again.

Mother's Day is a time to remember why we love our Moms so much. But for me this year it isn't so much about my children reflecting on how much they love or appreciate me. They have had the last year to think about "how much." How much they "will" miss me, "if". How much they miss our old life. How much they are scared. How much they need mommy to be OK. No, this year is about how much I love being a mom. How much I love my boys and all the crazy, chaos they bring into my life on a daily basis. How much I am grateful to be alive and to experience all that being a mom offers.


Last Mother's Day, I was just at the beginning of my journey. As I pulled my body out of bed and embraced the morning I looked out at the day and wondered if it would be my last. I soaked it all up, impressed those moments deep into my heart so that I would have those memories to hold on to when "the time" might come. I made myself smile as tears fell from my eyes. I just would not allow myself to take the day for granted in any way or on any level. What I did do was keep my children close, enjoy my Mother's Day Tea with Micah and grab an extra hug from Joshua as he presented me with his hand made card.


Last year I was still looking for higher ground in my fight with breast cancer. I was uncertain of all that lay ahead me and what might befall my life as I passed through the valleys of pain and fear. But I held close with all my might to my faith, and to hope. Somewhere along the path I gained strength and found the courage to keep living, breathing and loving in spite of the obstacles in front of me. My children's love, and tears gave me the determination to see the battle through and see it through we have! Yes, my life is still full of uncertainty, but I am living my life, one day at a time and as richly and fully as possible.Since I have been given this gift of mortality and seeing life for what it truly is, fleeting and precious, I have lived each day as if it were my last. I have done so with awe and in return I have been given a full year of beautiful, precious and wonderful memories that continue to grow with each new day. These memories we have built into our lives can be accessed at any time, any hour or any minute I need a pick me up or a smile to soothe away any pain trying to grip my body. I have loved and been loved and I have been granted many more blessings than I could ever count to see me through the rainy days.

This year, as Mother's Day sails across the horizon, I celebrate my children. I celebrate their lives and unconditional love they bring into my life every day! Yes, being a mom is bittersweet, the results though, tried and true, are completely worth the journey. So on this Mother's Day I celebrate the life and love I have. I celebrate the gift of motherhood. I celebrate my boys, who are my life, my reason for living and for fighting every step of this battle. I celebrate my precious, Divine given gifts I have been given in Joshua and Micah and all the joy, laughter and love they bring into my life. How could I ever ask for more?


Christina


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes!


Last night was one of those extra special ones. It wasn't a planned night. No, it was one of those magical, spontaneous type of evenings.

I made my way into the kitchen and decided I was up to helping with the evening meal. It was taco night. My kids love taco night. So we all gathered in the kitchen, and came together. I put the salsa and chips out, Johnny took care of the caseo and shells. I stirred the meat and the kids put the fixings on the table.It was one of those nights were it was actually OK to play with your food! We were all talking, laughing, and generally just enjoying each others company. Finally we sat down to the table and ate together. We did as most families do I suppose, talking about school, sports, summer. We talked about everything, except my cancer. We were a family just living in the moment, normal, with no problems (with the exception of who was going to help clear the table).


I was just beside myself as I sat there, watching my family, be well a family. This average moment, to me, was an extraordinary one. I could see the ease on each of their faces, with their hands moving this way and that way. Micah calling out to Joshua and Joshua in turn laughing at Micah's corny, silly, yet so funny jokes. Johnny with his "I am serious look" that always seems to be plastered on his face these days was gone, whipped away and had been replaced by a big silly grin across that wonderful face of his. He was wrapped up in this moment just as much as I was.


Yet, even as the night was winding down, as the kids were getting ready for bed, and as the dishes were finally being washed, the magic was still there. Johnny was putting the dishes away, and I was watching the boys, my boys, our boys, literally dance around the kitchen full of happiness, running this way, and sliding across the floor in their socks that way. I was completely caught up in the wonder of my family. Finally before we left the kitchen, I called the boys over to me, and handed them each a wish bone. Little did I know just how that one moment would affect me as the night went on.


No, to most it wasn't a spectacular moment. To some it probably seems very ordinary. Nothing really worth getting excited about. Most wouldn't even rank it up there in the top 10 moments of their lives, feel the need to shout about it from the roof tops, or tell the world about it. Most would just move on as if it was nothing worth noting in the big scheme of things, no big deal in the great big book of life.


But you see, to me it was a rare, wonderful, moment. Why you may ask me? Because it was one of those moments, when we were simply us. A family, not a cancer family. There were no thoughts about Mommy's illness, no worries about dying. No concerns about tomorrow. No, we were just us, happy, content, full of life right there in those moments.

The magic was contagious. It was like pixie dust had been sprinkled all over the four of us, and we had no cares, no worries in the world. We had each other, our small, completely imperfect, little, but mighty family to occupy our night with, and we were reveling in those moments. We moved from the kitchen into Johnny and I's bedroom, the boys on the floor, Johnny and I on the bed watching "Monster's Inc." The boys kept talking about our trip to Disney World last year and how much fun we had while we were there, together. There I was lying in bed, just watching a movie with my husband and boys. My boys were laughing and smiling as children do. Once again, I was just completely taken back by this ordinary moment. Here they were, my boys, enjoying a simple pleasure, laughing, giggling, calling out my name to make sure I saw something funny. I just sat there, looking all around me taking every moment into my heart. After a while, the boys crawled up into our bed. We reminisced about when they were babies, laughed some more, tickled them both and then Micah said the most profound, heart warming, tugging, crushing and yet most tender thing. He looked straight into my eyes, and it me right in the heart. The words coming out were so honest and so tender, that I was speechless. "Mommy," Micah said, "Member the wish bone? I wished tonight that you would get better and that your cancer would go away forever!" My heart was so full, and yet ached so much, and still it felt light, full of life and love. At first my voice was stuck in my throat. I wanted to speak, but couldn't. So I took a deep breath in and finally I was able to speak. I pulled him close and kissed his cheeks. The honest, powerful truth, out of the mouths of babes! Micah's wish, my hope, Joshua's dream, and Johnny's prayer, was just given life, sent into flight and the true belief in faith, trust and a little pixie dust was given real meaning in our home right then and there.


No, there is no magic wand to wave around and make everything right, to cause everything to be better. But there is that deep, soul magic that keeps hope alive. And Hope is what I hold to, what my children hold to, and what my husband holds to. We hold to hope when there is nothing left to hold to. Hope is Life. Yes, life is tough and yes, life is mixed with hurt, and sadness, pain and sorrow. Still life is full of love, happiness and those ever quiet, always magical moments, when pixie dust and a little trust go a long way!


Christina

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Heroes

There are times in all our lives when we find ourselves stepping back, taking a deep breath, and running into the fire, so to speak.We don't ask ourselves why, we just do it. That is exactly what cancer does to not only to your life (the one with the illness), but also to the lives of those who love you. My parents are a perfect case of this. They moved back home the night before I received my diagnosis. When I say the night before I mean they literally pulled up into our driveway with their packed to the top, U-haul, the night before I went in for my breast biopsy! They couldn't have come back home at a better time.


From that first morning, they jumped in, feet first and never looked back. To give you a better idea about my parents, you have to understand that I am their only child. (When I refer to my sister, I mean that with all my heart. Morgen and I are so close that we refer to one another as sisters.) Through the years my parents have sacrificed everything for me. My parents, Bobby and Patty, have been married for over 38 years now. They are the steadfast, unwavering force that had guided, directed and shaped my life. They are the absolute reason for my outlook on life, for my strength, my hope and my determination to beat this beast!


Through the years, my dads job took us from one home to another. I say home because, even though we were always moving from one house to another, no matter where we were, it was home. So even though we were never anywhere long, we always had a home, not just a house. Don't get me wrong! I am not painting a perfect upbringing. No one has that. My parents weren't perfect, but they loved and love me. I grew up with lots of laughter, humor, and love. I never doubted my place in their lives. I always knew that they would go through hell and high water for me. And so this cancer has shown me that all over again.


I was sickly as a child, always in the hospital, but this, this cancer, this beast has bee the hardest on them I think. The last 16 months have been exceptionally hard on my parents. I really saw a glimpse of that pain this afternoon as I sat and had lunch with my Mom. I sat there, really looking at my Mom. I saw the pain, the fear, and the worry deep in her eyes and set into her face. I could see the last 16 months all over her and I cried inside. I wondered how I would feel if it were my boys? How I would react. Right then and there, I thought to myself how much it must hurt to watch your baby ill with cancer, wondering if you will out live your child? How would you make it through burying your only child? I saw it all there in black and white on her face. Again I thought to my self how would you not only will cope, but how you will be able to help your grandchildren cope? To watch them grow knowing your child has passed? My heart broke as I sat there. I wanted to cry as I watched her sitting there across from me, the years suddenly appearing on her face. Still, her grace, reached out to me, comforting my hurt, even over her own pain present.


Today I was given another one of those bitter sweet gifts cancer has a way of suddenly presenting you with. TodayI saw into the depths of my mother's soul. I saw just how deeply my parents love me and just how willing they are to rescue me from this pain. Everyday, my Mom will come by the house. Just to pop in. She is always telling me she just has to see me once a day, to know she has hugged me, kissed my cheek and told me once more how much she loves me. I see now, understand now, that she is saying good-bye to me everyday. Making herself ready to let me go. Yet she is holding on to hope, to life and to her baby with the greatest of all gifts...love.


And my daddy? Well, he is a real southern gentleman, making it a point to stop everyday and call me, just to check in on me, hear my voice and to tell me just how much he loves me. My Daddy, how I treasure him, ad all his old stories, his jokes and the way he smiles at me as I hold onto this life of mine. He was there the day I came home from my mastectomy. He was there, to help raise my arm up and down, to spoon feed me broth and to just sit beside me as I slept in the hospital. "My daddy," I say that with the utmost affection, he was there to take me home, and see the damage, and what was left of me once they removed my breast. He has always been there for me, but having him there for me that day, was the most meaningful day I have ever shared with my dad.


As I have come face to face with chemo, and it's ugly grip, my parents where there. They were the ones to sit through my first chemo, to rush me in to the ER time and time again through the process and the ones to comfort my boys, their grandchildrenon nights Johnny and I could not. When I was at my worst, unable to eat, to focus my eyes or walk without pain, they were there. When I could feel the cold had of the Grim on my shoulder, they were there to offer support. When my precious boys, had sunk into deep sadness, it was my parents that took us all on a last minute trip to Disney World. With that trip, they provided me with a glimpse of hope, a feeling of life as it is meant to be lived and pure magic as I watched my boys smile for the first time in months while we experienced Disney Memories as a family.



Yes, I hurt for my parents as I see them worry, and I pray everyday that my Maker will be kind enough to give us many more years together. As I listen to my parents voices and watch them day to day, I am reminded of their undying, unyielding, unconditional and always present love. They say I am their hero, but the truth is that they are my HEROES! In times of my greatest need, they have been there for not only me, but for my husband and for my children. They are my rock, my fortress, my hide away from the pain. When all else fails I know they will be there by my side, holding my hand, loving me in spite of the chaos. When the fire is raging and someone is needed to run back into the burning building, I know I can count on my parents to step back, take a deep breath and run in!

Christina

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Facing the Journey

MY JOURNEY

I awoke one morning to find my life had forever changed. My once carefree life had taken a sobering turn
down a road I never intended to trod. Once my eyes adjusted to the blur now surrounding me, I took a long look around myself this way and that. I stepped side to side, looking forward and backward but all I could see far and near was pain, all I could hear was doubt, all I could feel was the fear. Fear of this, my new reality,
trying to steal itself deep inside my soul.


This life of mine now to my dismay was caught short. All I once knew was no more. All I could embrace, all that was offered, was the uncertainty of this new journey beckoning me to follow. Why me? Why now? So deep within my soul I sought solace and comfort. I needed answers and yet the answers I sought were no where to be found. My spirit was not ready to give up and my heart not able to give in. A silent killer indeed had been let loose inside my body to destroy and seige what it could. Everywhere I turned I saw death's face staring back at me, biding for my strength and cutting deep into my determination. Death was begging me to give up and give in to it's grip. I could not escape the Grims reach as he tried to turn my joy into sorrow. Still I kept my footing and did not waver while the pull and the stench of fear itself kept calling out to me, tanting me and daring me to just give in to the inevitable.


Yet somehow life itself sought and strove to overcome. Although many poisons lay hold of me physically trying to rid my body of this beast called breast cancer I held to hope, to love and to faith with all my might. I held true as long as I could keep pushing forward, moving backward at times, but always fighting to overcome. I longed to finally wake up and find my life sentence suspended, having finally overcome by living, not dying. I sought to continually give way to strength, never giving in to defeat!


This journey of mine is not yet complete. I am still moving forward, even while taking a step backwards, seeking always to come full circle in this battle of mine. With every day I have another leg to go, and so I travel onward toward recovery...well being ... to new life and to a new beginning.

Christina