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!

Monday, April 30, 2007

My Thoughts Today

My Aurgument with Cancer's Inner Demons!

What can I say? The last 15 months have been a blur. I can't lie, it has been a long hard road. One that is still being trod. One that will more than likely be beneath my feet for the rest of my life. A much longer road than I thought it would be or ever expected it to turn into. I live each day wishing it was the last day I had to wake up knowing "cancer" was apart of my existence. And I know that there are days, all of us wish we didn't have to think about it, hear about it or read about it. But it is my reality and for all of those that have made the choice to walk this road with me, I cannot even begin to express the depths of my love, gratitude and the bond that we are forging together. Those who have trod this path, no matter the course and type of cancer, know exactly what I mean. I admire your strength in the midst of your battle and I look up to you for your courage and tenacity for life in the midst of the odds against you. I thank you for being the example to me!

I am struggling right now. I feel in-between hope and loss. I know I shouldn't complain, but my body is so weak right now and I am just really struggling to keep coming up for air. All I want to do is stay in bed and sleep. My body is so drained and my stomach is still on the edge. I want to eat, but then when I do, my stomach is not happy with me. This hysterectomy has really beaten me up and shoved me down. My body was just not ready for this major undertaking just yet I suppose. Don't fret, I will get back up again, but for the moment I have had my feet completely taken out from under me. I really NEED this wound to heal and stop oozing. That alone would make me feel so much better. My blood sugars are not too high, but they are somewhat elevated. So I know this infection is not under control yet. And I am working on my third bottle of pain killers. I hate that! I am not one to generally finish one bottle,and here I am starting on bottle number three! I want to be well, and on the go again right now. But I can't, my body won't let me. Soon, hopefully really soon though I hope.

Recovery and healing, they go hand and hand, physically, mentally and emotionally. Often as you travel this road your body buckles and many more times it soars. Three steps forward for every five steps backwards. No, you may not be traveling very far or too quickly for that matter, and honestly you may feel as if you are in S-L-O-W--M-O-T-I-O-N, but all the same you are in motion and that is a very good thing, right? I have to say honestly that for me life has just been very trying this year. Character building at times and maybe at other times a bit more on the demolition side of things in regard to personal growth and traits. I believe that I have grown as a person, as a woman, as mother, as wife, as sister and hopefully as a friend. So I hope that as I am pruned through this process, I do not bring ya'll down to the depths with me when I have those hard days. This fight is just grueling, and I have those days when I am simply tired from all the uncertainty. There are times I feel it all around me, closing in from all sides. Not only have I been fighting my own personal cancer beast, but I have seen two other precious lives go on before me, and I fear for several others holding on by threads in the wings. I see it all around me and yes, there are times, it scares me. After, coming so close to death 17 days ago, I feel as if the Reaper is out in full force, working overtime. Ever feel just on the edge of something? On the edge of a battle that you cannot avoid, just waiting for it to begin? It's a helpless feeling, that turns your stomach, causes your heart to race and your head to pound. That's how I feel right now. Kinda how I felt in between the time I found my lump and had the breast biopsy done. Just kinda waiting for the world to fall. I just really hate cancer!

Over the last 15 months there have been many times that I have just wanted to throw in the towel and lay in bed and not get up to face the world around me. But you can't do that, and you realize that there are so many others depending upon you to get up, fight, and not roll around in your own misery. So you get up. No matter the pain, no matter the reason for your discomfort and you move forward. Even when you are scolded for not making better progress or not being upbeat enough. There are those moments when you think to yourself, "Pardon me for not smiling as I dance the Tango with death, would you like to step in for me, I could use the break?"

I have to tell you chemo is a horrible monster. It's this ugly poison, meant to save your life being shot into your body to attack and shut down the cancer that is biding for your mere existence. It is intended to kill. And it does kill! It goes after every part of you, not necessarily just the cancer. It strips away everything physically that makes you, well you! You are just sort of along for the ride. Part of the mad scientists experiment. You eventually stop worrying about what your nails look like, or trying to make yourself look human anymore. You just accept the fact that you have become Frankenstein! All the while it is slowly killing so many parts of you. Everyday it surges through your body, it takes a part of your life, apart of who you were, and reshapes your life into something else. A life you have no control over, a life that you would have never chosen.

When I step back and take a good look around me I see my children suffering beyond what their little minds can bear. They cry themselves to sleep, or they can't sleep at all and go to school on just a few hours of sleep. They can't eat, focus, or relax. They are afraid of everything. How do you take that fear away? Especially after they have seen the Reaper enter your hospital room to steal Mommy's life away? How do you comfort them when they see you, their mother, caretaker, story teller, encourager, their protector from the world, and their "take all my worries and fears away Mommy" meeting death around every corner? They see it. They know it. They are living it 24/7. What am I to do about their worries? Joshua and Micah are only 10 and 8 years old. They are living through this with me.They see and know how their lives have stopped, been put on hold, while their friends are moving on, and the rest of the world is still turning. They have been a year and a half with this already. They were only 9 and 6, in just third and first grade when this all began to change their lives. My heart breaks in more pieces than can be glued back together when I think of how this cancer has affected them. How it will shape them, mold them and affect them for the rest of their lives. There are times I curse myself, wondering what I could have done differently. Yet I know, that is an impossible question. The beast comes for it's intended without warning. You have no choice in this scenario. It is what it is, a strategy game played out day to day, and the ultimate victory, if you are lucky, is life. As for my precious boys, we have them in counseling right now. Joshua is on meds for focusing, and they are both taking something to help them sleep. We are doing all we can to get them moving forward, but they are children, not grown adults. They do not have the tools mentally to face the fact that Mommy has cancer.

Cancer is such a horrible word. It cuts you so deep that all goes numb inside of you and then as a cruel twist, the pain comes searing right through you like a hot blade! It cuts deep into all you ever were and thought you would be. This thing, the "it," they call breast cancer is a beast. A beast with long stretching tentacles reaching out, wrapping itself not only around your life, but the lives of everyone else within close proximity of your world. There are times the beast gets a death grip, a strangling hold on you, and then there are other times when you feel confident as if you and those warriors you call family and friends are battling right beside you, keeping the beast at bay, throwing every rock, stabbing it with pitchforks, hitting it right between the eyes by any means necessary and simply whipping "it's" butt.

This beast takes hold and strips you of all your femininity and grace. Everything that made you feel like a woman and all that made you whole is gone. First goes the breast. You now have a huge scar across your chest. What once was a breast, what once gave your children life is empty, void of anything beautiful, anything yours. It is now a lump, just skin, sitting there lifeless. Even with cosmetic surgery the scar will always be there. Like a stretch mark long after you have had a baby, except this scar is not a reminder of life, but of death. They cut away what once made you whole and threw it away like trash. They took everything, every part of it, down to the chest lining. The mussels that once enabled you to open a door are gone. You no longer have the strength to move things around because they are gone and will never return. Then they place a port in the remaining breast, and suddenly you have this new thing sticking out of you, and a nice new scar that is forever a reminder of the chemo. Then the chemo starts. At first you think, I can do this. It's not as bad as I have heard. Then the poison kicks in and you feel as if death itself has taken control of your body. Every part of your body hurts, just to touch it. You can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't move. Yet somehow you do. The emotional pain is enough to make your body hurt, but then you have the physical pain of the chemo and you just want to go to sleep and not move.

Once the chemo has started to make it's way through your body, you feel the mental, emotional and physical pain of loosing your hair all over your body. It feels as if someone has poured acid all over your scalp, as if someone has taken an ax to your scalp and removed it without pain killers! So then you steady yourself for the next 9-12 months of having to live without hair. You prepare yourself for the wigs, then you move onto scarves and finally to bandanas. You actually get excited when Walmart has new bandanas in stock! You decided it's not so bad not having to shave, and then you loose your eyebrows and eyelashes. Suddenly you are violated all over again by the poison! You suddenly feel venerable all over again. You look into the mirror and you have no face, no expression. Your face has swollen beyond recognition and your eyes disappear into this new you. Of course everyone tells you how good you look, but deep inside you know the monster that you have become. People treat you different. To some, you are the creature from the black lagoon or worse. People can pity you, they can ignore you or they can really enable you to survive the beasts grip by walking beside you. You see the stares, the looks. You see the pain in your children's eyes, the hurt spelled out all over their faces and you are helpless to do anything about it. It is devastating.

So you keep reminding yourself that you are still among the living and that is far more important than your physical features. You realize that your husband still loves and desires you. That he sees the real you, the you that he fell in love with 11 years ago. That seems to help you get up and smile at him every morning. Yet you long to be whole. To look beautiful for him, to shine again, and not to feel so useless. Cancer is a lifelong struggle. It does not just affect you, it affects everyone around you. It affects family relationships, friendships you thought would never waver. Even when you are better, you are always fighting the beast. It is your beast now. It can be tamed on some days, but it is still wild and unpredictable and can attack at any given moment.

Truth is this, I am on the road to recovery and healing. I have had some good news and some bad. I am positive and I am strong. But I am still struggling day to day. I still have pain and I still feel apart of me is MIA, missing in action, somewhere. I plan to be around for another 50 years, if the Grim will keep his distance. I take nothing for granted. I do take stock in my present and I do not, will not, take this day, this hour, this moment for granted. I know very well that I could not be here to experience another year of changing seasons, as much as I know I may be here to celebrate 60 more years. As much as I know this. so does my husband, my children and my parents. They live with this knowledge every day right along side of me. Life is precious. Today is a time to remember how far we have come and yes, we have come far indeed. It is a time to be grateful for the wonderful things, precious moments we have been given and for the beautiful family and friends we now have surrounding us. It is a season to rejoice in, to acknowledge the time we have here and now, and to be thankful for each morning we are given to rise and greet a new day.

I appreciate each of you more than I can ever express. I am grateful for the kindness I have been shown and for the beauty I have been given here in J-Land, in each post and in each of you. I have been taught many lessons this year from taking life a day at a time, to standing up for myself. Just know that no matter what the future holds, I hold each of you all close to my heart.


Living Life One day at a Time with Love, Hope, Laughter and Humor

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Story of a Woman

Breast Cancer can do so much to a woman's body, spirit and soul. Yes, it can take away so much, leave you feeling as if you are insignificant, deficient, and lacking in strength. From the moment those words are uttered your journey begins. Suddenly you feel as if it is you against the world. You are now navigating through all the ups and downs, through the hurt and pain, both emotional and physical. Some leave you as they take other paths leading away from you, while others surprise you by joining you, walking side by side through your entire journey. Life changes and you change with it. Breast Cancer is a learning curve, a teacher, an enemy and at times a friend. This is what this beast has done to me....


This is the story of a woman. She is a lover, full of desire. She is a mother full of hope. She is strength, as she holds her weakness deep within. Her heart is true, and while her spirit is torn in two, her soul is full of grace.

She is lost and she is abandoned. She is hidden and she is restless. She is eager to fly, to be found and unbound. Behind these walls that keep her and the chains that hold her to the floor, there is a surge of passion waiting to escape, to be released.

Deep, hidden inside her lies a desire, a tenderness, a lover, a passion just waiting to be unleashed, and set free. She is hope, holding her heart in her hands. She eagerly awaits the sun to rise each new day ready for its glow to set her life ablaze with new found strength, love and unbound brilliance.

As a circle is true, so she is bound to herself to find her own truth. Looking deep within herself, she sees a woman caged deep within her own eyes. All hope she feels is lost, no life and no strength to be found within her.

Yet hope is clear and hope is true. As clear as the dawn, she sees through the muck and the mist clouding her sight. An awakening, a deep knowing, a vision and an insight is revealed within her. This ember inside her soul begins to grow into a fire giving her strength, hope, a deep desire and a need for passion once again.

Finding her way, and breaking free from the old, she finds deep within herself an independent spirit within her new life. She is beauty and she is grace, a creature of her own design. As a lover, a mother, and a daughter she is complete. She is a fiery spirit and still a gentle breeze. She is a warm summer day full of endless possibilities and she is a warm rain falling down on hungry fields.

Wild and untamed ,she is an adventure waiting to be set upon and explored. She is youth, free to love, free to desire and to create passion without fear of boundaries. Longing to awaken her desire, to fan the flames, to consume and to be consumed she retreats to the quiet, inner peace of her heart, complete now to live, to breathe, to love as a free spirit.

This is the story of a woman ... of hope, of truth, of a life taken to flight, this is the story of me.


Friday, April 27, 2007


Today, April 27, 2007, is mine and Johnny's 11th anniversary. It doesn't seem that long ago, yet after the past year and a half it seems much longer. I love my husband more than I could ever begin to express here in words to you. He is not perfect by any means. He has his finer moments and yes, many more of those less-than-finer-moments. But so do I for that matter. Truth be told, he is a good man, a loving and quiet man and a good, no wonderful father. When we said, "I do," way back when, we meant every word of it. We didn't know then just how deeply that would be tested but the sickness and in health part has held up and has never been in question from the moment we heard the words," breast cancer".

Johnny in all his "opps" and blunders, loves me and has stood by my side through it all. I honestly don't know how many men would still find their wives as attractive and desire them as much as Johnny has in spite of my "uniboob," loss of hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, etc. Just knowing he is coming home to me everyday, strengthens my spirit. We have had our moments when neither one of us has recognized the other in the heat of an argument, but when the smoke clears, we are always standing side by side. Johnny loves me 100% and even when I find myself ready to throttle him, I know deep down that he loves me and that I could not, would not and will not go through this without him!

We don't have any great plans for the weekend, but that is all right by me. Just knowing I am here to celebrate is a gift. I am not up for any grand outing and that is all right by Johnny. We are thinking about grilling steaks and renting a movie. I don't even mind if the kids spend the evening with us, maybe we can toss in a board game as well. I am just happy that we are all here, together and that is reason enough to celebrate. So I just want to say today to the whole world, " I love Johnny." He is rock, my protector and my soul mate. Without him, I am only half of a whole. Thank you for standing beside me, holding my hand and when no one is looking, carrying me the extra mile Johnny. Happy Anniversary!


For my husband, Johnny. Celebrating 11 years together, today!

By: Christina Olachia

We can run away from the past and bury it. We can try to hide from our present and close our eyes to the future. We can avoid our emotions trying to rule us and walk away from everything else life offers us. But we cannot walk away from the true heart of who we are...

There is a much deeper truth that binds us, bonding us together. This truth goes far beyond what we see and feel today. This truth is found in the story of who we are, in the story of who we once were and in the story of who we are becoming. In the writing of our story we can bend with the wind, break a few rules, interact with characters that in turn cross us and still turn over new perspectives that we never saw coming. We can move and continue through each chapter of our lives as if we are not concerned with the turbulence lying ahead of us nor the storms pounding down upon us. We press on with our journey though it does not matter how many upsets or uncertainties this story offers us ... for we know we are safe within our love ... within the hands of our maker and in the arms of one another.

There is a calming peace in knowing that we share this life, this story together, knowing that even when we can't see past today, we have tomorrow. Together we are able to hold on to a deeper understanding, knowing that even if we are only granted but a short while here on this earth together, we still have a lifetime to wrap ourselves around the ones who love us unconditionally. We still have time to embrace one another, to love one another for who we are and what we have become together in spite of our differences.

Do we not know deep within our hearts the truth of where we belong? We are who we are, loved completely, wholly, absolutely just as we are here and now. We are safe in spite of the challenges, or the rejections we have found in this lifetime. We are a part of each other, two halves, one heart. It is in this connection that we are made strong, a family, a tapestry woven together by our Creator. Imperfections seen in our eyes, yet in our creators eyes, in the writing of this story we are perfection. Our lives, the story of us, a crafting not to be undone by the work of our own hands, but to remain strong by guiding hands above us is a a gift not to be second guessed.

We may not understand all this life has brought to us, and while some hearts we may lose and some hearts we may win, in the end it is those hearts that we touch that truly hold meaning in our story. It is in the weaving of our lives, the hopes and dreams, the people we are meant to become, together. Are not our lives forged through the lives and loves we have lost and gained? Do they not all pale in comparison to how we let go of the pain we leave behind as we strive to forgive and rebuild?

It's our love, our desire, our hope, our embrace and the life we hold on to that we ultimately create for ourselves. It's the deeper truth that our hearts hold, the never ending story of us, who we are and who we are becoming that makes us one.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Never A Dull Moment!

"Never a dull moment!"

Yes, at times life seems to copy cat that old Dick Van Dike movie. I visualize myself swinging on large balloons, paint flying everywhere and running, while falling, and still trying to get back up again, away from the bad guys! LOL

My day started with sitting an hour for an ultrasound in an empty office. Followed by driving all the way back across town to see my GYN (who is great by the way). I barely remember eating lunch somewhere in there. Then as I was about to pull into the parking lot I received a call from the school. Micah's arm was hurting so off I went to the school to save the day with pain meds (wonder woman theme song playing in the background, lol).

OK, back to the serious side of things, lol. When I got there he was crying. So I tried to calm him down, give him meds and send him back to class so I could get to the doctors office. Ever feel as if you are traveling in a crazed, out of control, parallel universe? Well, that was my Mom and I today. Except we were in a mini van, but it felt more like an old Ford LTD, with no seat belts as we were holding on to the dash board for dear life around corners trying to make it to the office on time!

Once I was there, we had to park in the lower quadrant. Of course as we were walking into the building a parking spot right in front opened up. Just my kind of luck, lol. Finally, I was told that I have a wound infection and a small hernia. It's a wonder that it didn't happen sooner. So now I am on new meds and bed rest. Well, we shall see how that goes. But the kicker came just as I was walking through the front door of my home. Just as I was about to collapse and pass out for a bit, Micah walks through the door with his cast in his hand! Yes, you heard me right! Not on his hand, in his hand. The cast had slipped completely off. So we all piled back in the speed demon of a mini-van and took to the roads again. By the time 5 o' clock came around Micah had a new cast (this one glows in the dark) and I was spent.

Complain? No never! Without the constant chaos, all humor would be lost. No, I can handle it, well maybe. There are definite times I hear the loud sirens of the paddy wagon coming for me and the peanut gallery singing, "They're coming to take me away, he hah, to the funny farm."

I would say on some days it definitely feels as if the key stone cops have arrived and are falling out of the cars they have just crashed into my life with! But honestly, I love life. I embrace all it offers. I love the unknown and the comical, yet crazy moments life offers me everyday. Yes, life can drive you up a wall and back down again, only to lead you right back up it again. But truly, isn't that what makes living worth it? To have to slow down and live life in the slow lane would probably kill me just as much as my breast cancer will eventually. Yes, I did just say that, but I am at peace with the idea of all the unholy, crude irony that this disease offers me on a daily basis. What I am not comfortable with is the idea that I can just get over it and be normal. I will never ever be normal in that sense again. I will never just take a back seat to life or ride the kiddy coaster again. I am still here, still breathing and still living, and as long as I am doing all three I will be living life as loudly as possible!

Why there are those that think I just walked up, signed on the dotted line, raised my right hand and volunteered for cancer is beyond me. But there are those sick persons who actually fantasize about the attention they would receive if they had breast cancer. Tell you what, I will gladly hand it over to them if they really want to take on the burden. Do I hear a "hear hear" from the gallery? lol.

Sorry, it has just been one of those days here in the Lone Star State today. Wow, do I ever feel better! Glad I got that off my chest.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

End of the Day

Well, the end of the day is finally here.

It has been a long couple of days. Johnny, went to his Aunts funeral alone. I wasn't sure about the whole idea at first, but given the last two days it was the right decision.
I really don't know what to make of my mother in law. I tried for years to fit into her life. I finally gave up and realized that I was never going to bend enough to do that. I see her now as a very lonely woman, who can't seem to get past my "stealing" her baby away from her.

It's sad really. It has been six years since she has seen her grandchildren, or her son. The boys are so beautiful and so full of life. They would embrace her, love her unconditionally, if she would let them in. The boys desire family, and love to be around those they love. If we could just get her to realize what she is missing. It is just so sad. Especially when one family member dies and you realize how precious life is.

Johnny did see her last night and his brother. He said he didn't know what to make of it at all. My mother in law didn't even recognize her own son, and then once she did acted as if nothing had ever happened between them. I wish I could make the hurt go away for him. I know it must be terrible to be estranged from your mother like he is. I wish it was different. I am not sure what we should do now. I guess now we wait and see what happens.

Last night when he came home I just watched him for a while. He is such a good man, loving man, strong man. She raised a good man, and I am ever thankful to her for that. I just wish she could see how wonderful he is. See her son as a father and a husband. I know deep down it would make her proud. He could really use to know he had a mother right now too.

My cancer has really been hard on Johnny. He doesn't sleep much these days, he has put on weight and now his blood pressure is up. Being sick effects everyone, not just me. I am far from it's only victim if you really want to use that word in this fight. The poor boys live in fear that I am going to die. It has been really hard on them watching this "thing" play out day by day. They have been in therapy since December and Joshua is on meds to help him focus. He just completely lost that ability when I got sick and started failing school. It seems all my family has suffered from my cancer. I keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare, you know? But some nightmares you just keep living day to day to day.

Being a mom and trying to keep up with baseball, and basketball schedules, school projects, etc., sometimes feels overwhelming. I try to keep up without complaining, but there are just some weeks that I can't keep up no matter how hard I try. This has been one of those weeks for me. Yesterday I was under a deadline I didn't know I had. Joshua has a presidential project do next week. He is presenting and portraying Thomas Jefferson for his fourth grade project. So after seeing my doctor yesterday, I went from store to store trying to put his costume together because it was suddenly due and Johnny was not going to be home due to family gatherings. This is normally the kind of project I love to do. I love being a Mom and planing, helping and participating in every part of their school projects. This one is no different. Joshua as Thomas Jefferson is a site to behold, which by the way is absolutely cute. He looks adorable in his costume and it was well worth the time up on my feet. But I was up on my feet from 11:30 AM to 9:30 PM and I was spent by the time I came home.

I realized when I came home and changed that a stitch had popped. It was oozing and didn't look good at all. By this morning I was not feeling good at all. I am seeing the doctor in the morning. I am scheduled for an ultrasound to see what is happening. I am sure it is simple, but I had a rough day with cramping and I started with a low grade fever. That in turn scared Joshua and Micah. They were right by my side, bless their hearts, holding my hand and trying to bring me something for pain. (Micah brought me his singular, lol)

I am feeling a bit better now. The boys have gone over to my parents house for the night so that I can sleep in in the morning. Anyway, I am rambling on now. I just needed to share my thoughts.

I also really want to thank each of you for listening, reading and encouraging me. It means so much to know I can share and not feel weak, condemned or selfish for having a woe as me moment.


Monday, April 23, 2007

One of Those Days

Today has just been one of those days.

My husbands Aunt died yesterday of Ovarian Cancer. I do not know how he feels, as he is the strong, quiet type. I asked to go to the funeral with him and he said he wanted to go alone. I am not sure what to think or how to feel about that. There is so much duress in the family, and having married a woman outside of the reservation, has not helped Johnny's standings with his mother or brother. Actually he has not spoken to her in over 6 years since she asked him to choose his wife and kids or herself. (I know, illogical doesn't even begin to cover that one) He says he does not want a confrontation, and I understand that. (Though, I am in no shape to even entertain a confrontation.) Then there is the fact that she has no idea I have been sick. I just worry about him being alone with her and how his Aunt's death will affect him.

Sadly, this week so far has given me much reason to reflect on life's priorities and our ultimate appointment with death. I have thought about my own immortality, both the boys gerbils died (not a good thing when they are already so scared of death), Johnny's Aunt died and then I received the call I was praying so hard against. A dear friend lost their Aunt to cancer.

She fought so hard and lived life so fully, and yet in the end though her spirit was not overtaken, her body was overcome. Watching my friends go through this has been so hard. I have felt this struggle in the depths of my being and I feel as if a part of me lost the fight too. I have spent the last two days taking inventory in my own life.
I may not understand all the whys nor see the whole picture, but I do know that I have not been brought this far to lose site of the saving grace that guides my life. As a child I was very sickly and as I grew I was plagued with difficulties. At seven years old I was angry with God and questioned why He was allowing so much illness to wreck my body. I made peace with God then, as I have done now. If I had not trod that road as child, I would never have had the strength to walk this journey through this blasted cancer. I have made peace with the fear of death, on most days. Making peace with it has enabled me to live life with hope. I live knowing that I live each day on an extended lease and I am always grateful for each day I am given.
I live each day knowing I am living it on borrowed time, such sweet borrowed time. Each day I rise I have another day to hug my boys, and another day to simply watch my husband sleep. It is those everyday things that make me smile. Being able to sit down to a meal together, to work out in the yard or even spend an extra few dollars on an absurd souvenir is meaningful. They are all memories, part of the weaving of my life, a tapestry that will last long after I have departed this earthly world.
So let me tell you that all in all, I have lived life fully and wonderfully. If and when I go home, I go in grace and with peace. My way will be clear and though my mortal body will have disappeared, I will never be a stranger to the love inside your hearts.
Know this always. And live life fully everyday!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Grim and I

Well, I am still kicking and driving my husband insane, so that is a good sign, lol. The last 12 days have honestly kicked my butt. I was not ready for this one, as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise before I went under.

I have spent the last 15 months trying to "beat the system," so to speak. I have been very stubborn about not giving into the pain, and the fear and this life sucking piranha called "Breast Cancer." But the honest truth is that my body is whipped, wiped out, done with the game and it took this operation to slap me in the face with that truth. It is going to take my body longer than I thought to recover. Chemo, diabetes, stroke all play a part in this battle. Don't get me wrong, I am feeling better and getting stronger everyday. I am just still very tired and weak, and I hate that! I am just not able yet to get up and run around in circles like I am used to.I am so ready to be able to walk fully upright again! It amazes me how just reading to Micah's second grade class wore me out. I am healing, slowly, but surely. I knew this would be painful, but somehow that just wasn't enough to prepare me. But then, I guess being cut from one end to the other end of your abdomen, and having everything "womanly" pulled out of you is enough to keep you off your feet for a bit.

I have had a lot of time to just "be" the last two weeks and that means lots of time to think. I am almost 34 years old and yes, I have cancer and it sucks. But I am still here, still moving and still breathing. I am still living my life. I still have my precious boys who cuddle up beside me and give me reason to fight. I still have my ornery husband, who despite himself worries about me and checks on me through the night. I still have my family, my friends and that is what counts. I know the time will eventually come when I will take my last breath, and I know it won't be an easy time, but what I do know is this: when that time comes my family, and my friends will have each other to lean on, and they will have many memories to find comfort in. They will have those things, those times, and those life gifts to embrace, to hold on to and to smile about.

There are times it feels as if death seems to be lurking around every corner, smirking at me, pointing that awful sickle in my direction. Yes, there are times I feel as if the Grim and I are at odds, face to face, screaming at each other about the when, and the where, though mostly we have come to terms with the why. I am determined to keep squaring off with the black robed, sickle carrying maniac Grim as long as I have the strength to keep yelling back at his pruned face!

Friday, April 13, was one of those days for me. I felt as if I were indeed leaving my earthly body. It was an experience I know will come again, but not too soon I hope. I was not scared, but I was saddened. From my experience, I don't know that you really have time to fear death, as much as you have time to reflect in those few short moments flashing before you.

That afternoon, I knew things were getting bad when Johnny and my dad showed up after leaving work early. For hours they had been trying to stop the vomiting. I felt horrible and the entire floor staff was in my room. I was concerned for my boys. I looked into my husbands eyes and saw the fear growing as he was panicked as I was struggling to breath, to keep my eyes on him, to hold on to my surroundings. My Mom was crying, standing there looking at me through all the nurses, doctors etc. I asked my dad to please take care of my boys. I saw my 8 year old in the room, crying, holding his broken wrist and I heard him calling my name. Then the doctor said to Johnny, this isn't good, it isn't good for your son, you need to take him out of here. I will never forget those moments. I cannot convey how surreal it all was. I know some will roll their eyes and scoff, but there was a moment when I knew that I was going, when I could see my family, and the doctors, nurses fading and I knew it was over. My children's worst fears were happening right there and right in front of them to boot. I just wanted to hold my babies, to kiss Johnny and tell them it would be OK. I do not fear death, but I do fear leaving my loved ones behind, especially my boys mother less.

Finally, my body started to feel heavier, grounded is the better word for how my body, spirit and soul began to feel. I began to gain a higher body temp, my blood pressure started to come back up and normalize. My breathing became stronger and I was aware of my family. I was right back in ICU, where I had just been 2 days before, attached to every gadget and wire known to man, again, but I was alive and I was breathing on my own and I was still fighting. I will always be fighting. I do not plan to ever give up! Honestly, I am just too busy to die right now, lol!

So, the Grim and I will keep our fists up, and continue our showdown. What is he anyway? Just a black robe of bones, right? I have said this before and I will say it again now, I choose to live everyday as if it may be my last. I do not want to ever take life for granted again. It is too precious and too limited to put off till tomorrow.

Embrace life, live it, love it, and cherish it!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Back Home

I am sorry it has been so long. I had a rough time with this surgery. I finally came home last night. I think this type of surgery is hard on any woman, but it is even more so after chemo and with diabetes.

I did well during surgery, it was the recovery that kicked my butt. First off my body did not respond to the morphine, and later when they tried it again, caused my airway to close. I was placed on a spinal block for the first 24 hours. I did provide some entertainment though, I was put on some super drug similar to morphine and well, I hallucinated with that one, lol. At one point I was talking to dragons I was told.

I was in ICU for the first 24 hours. But I was not allowed up because my blood pressure dropped way too low. I ended up back in ICU following a bout with my liver, throwing up and a drop in my body temp. Finally, late yesterday, I was OK to go home.

I am really sore, and truth be told last night I was really mad at the whole thing. But I am better today and ready to start facing the world so to speak. While I was being placed back in ICU o Friday, Micah, my youngest, was in the ER after breaking his wrist at school. So Friday the 13th definitely lived up to it's name for our family, lol.

Joshua, my oldest is struggling with it all. He broke down Friday night and cried. He needed to cry. To let it all out. He hates the cancer and what it has done to us. I tried to tell him, that in time, this will all be behind us. It's really hard on the kids. They understand, but just aren't old enough to cope.

Anyway, I am home. We are all dealing and healing. It may be a few days between posts for a while. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.
Christi na

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

For My Boys...

For my boys, Joshua and Micah


Lying here my heart aches as I watch my children sleep, tucked away in bed snuggled close to my side. I long only for their happiness and yet I know that eventually the thunder of uncertainty will cause them great pain in the years to come. All too soon they will be asked to brave the storms of life and mend from misfortunes they themselves have no control over as they grow older. As a mother, I can only pray that I have lived as an example of hope and strength. That as they grow older, my boys will embrace all life has to give them, the good mingled with the bad, the unforeseen pain and all the simple joys life will bring their way.

Right here in this moment looking upon their little faces, with their tiny noses and locks of curls spiraling uncontrollable on top of their heads I pray they will come to understand that there are no true regrets in life. Even in life's failures and disappointments life will always give something back in return, some small gift making everyday worth the struggle.

This is the prayer I send to my children: That they would gain the joy of living life in spite of it's heartaches and find that life is truly found in how we face our heartaches that defines who we are and how we perceive ourselves.

As I rise and greet the sun every waking morning I see life all around me and I reach for the hope that life offers me in my mortality. I close my eyes and see the men they will be someday. I open my eyes again and I see my boys as tall as they have grown and with all their might still so small in this moment. There are no words, no embrace soft enough to ease this pain, yet the world, and all it's opportunities are still before them endless with possibilities. When my passing comes, tomorrow or sixty years from now, I pray only this, that in my children, my precious, silly, and brave boys, the world will find a piece of me. A legacy of who I am, a portrait of who they are, a continuation of life itself. In their smiles, I see today. In their eyes, I see tomorrow. In their laughter, I hear forever.

Christia Olachia

Monday, April 9, 2007

Sugery in the Morning

Well, the day has come. I go into surgery in the morning. 8:30 AM to be exact. I am a bit nervous about it all. I worry about how weak my body has grown physically, but I am staying strong mentally. The chemo has weakened me, yes. And my 25 years with diabetes worries me just a bit.I woke up during surgery #5, so I certainly don't want to go through that again! LOL. I need to get this one over with. Leaving it all in, will just lead to more complications later.

My poor husband's aunt is in the final stages of ovarian cancer as I type. At this point, I have what they think is a benign tumor inside one of my ovaries. It has been causing more trouble than it is worth, so it needs to come out. I also have endometriosis from the chemo. So it is better to take it all out, then to just sit around and wait for trouble. They have decided against hormones, so I am feeling a bit better about that. I will see my oncologist a week out of this surgery. That is always a double edged sword. Every three months, I feel as if I get to sign another extended lease on life when I go in and that is a good thing. I am determined to tackle this and overcome my fear tomorrow. All will be fine.

As for today, I spent the it with my boys, Joshua and Micah. Kept the "friend" off my mind. I also went in for my pre-opp doctors appointment, then had lunch and then had our "talk." The boys are scared that I will not come home. I cried when I had to drop them at my parents house tonight. I hurt so badly for them sometimes. It has been such a roller coaster ride for them both. My parents have been here for us, and that has been a real help. Still it has been tough on them. They really struggled with my chemo and hair loss. I tried hard to keep up, going to baseball games and reading to their classes, etc. But it was hard for them to deal with my "new look." I realized just how hard it was on my oldest last week when I ate lunch with him at school. A few of the girls had been bullying him through the year. Joshua had dealt with it and just kept his distance. Then last week I was sitting there with him. Normally we sit at the parents tables, but there wasn't anymore room so I sat with him at his normal table. We were having a good time, and so were the kids seated around us. Then one of the "girls" asked me who the other lady was that used to come to lunch with Joshua. I sat there stunned for a minute trying to figure it out, and then she said, "The lady with the thing on her head." She was talking about me! My poor son had been bullied because his Mom was sick. My heart sank and then I replied back, "It was me sweetie." She just looked at me and I explained how I had been sick. It was as if a light went off. She then turned to Joshua and asked him why he hadn't said anything. I realized then how hard it has been for my boys. God, how I love my boys. They are my whole reason for fighting so hard. Joshua and Micah are so precious and so brave. They have been such troopers through all this. They were just 6 and 9 when I received my diagnosis. They are both scared about this surgery. Mostly they are not happy with the idea of not being able to come home from school and have me there waiting for them. I have tried to get them ready, but how do you really do that?

Johnny is a mess. He always is just before surgery. We had our normal melt down yesterday. Johnny is Alabama- Coushatta Indian. He is a big guy and can stare you down in a kind of way that makes you want to turn and run for the hills, lol. But deep down he is really a big teddy bear, my teddy bear. Poor guy, he worries about raising the boys alone. He is a good man. Not big on talking things out, but always there to help me through. He is my rock. I remember waking up from my biopsy and seeing him there, holding my hand and his head resting on my arm. I knew right then that things weren't good. All I heard coming out of his mouth was, "Cancer, 5 cm tumor, 6 more specs, it has to go." I passed out following that, lol. Again, when I came home from the mastectomy, he was there for me. Morgen, my dearest of friends was unwinding the bandages, I was crying. Johnny asked me what was wrong, and I replied that I was afraid of what he was going tosee. He just smiled at me, held my hand and told me it wasn't too bad, it just looked a little deflated. I knew then and there it was going to be OK. He is a mess, but then so am I, but together we just make sense! I am still not sure how they are going to make it through the week without anyone around to clean up after them, lol. I may have to come through the door at the end of the week with my hands covering my eyes. Anyway, here we all go. This is for the best and I have accepted that. My best friend, Morgen will be there, as will Johnny and both my parents. That is comforting and I know that they will take good care of each other.

Well, my friends, I will be down for a few days (I come home sometime Friday) but you will be with me in my heart. Thank you each for listening to me and allowing me to simply be me. I look forward to a long future getting to know each of you better!


Sunday, April 8, 2007

My Soap Box

I Will Not Be Silenced!

I will not go quietly! I simply refuse to be silent. Shall I yell loudly? Must I stomp and shout to be heard? I call out to all those whom would come to silence me, to stomp out my strength and to quiet my courage. I say this now; I will not go quietly. None of us will go easily. I stand now, arm and arm, united with fellow survivors ready to fight, and ready to overcome. I raise my voice to inspire those still traveling this rugged path and I raise my voice in honor of those whom have gone on too soon. I shout from the depths of my soul as I vow to live every day in the face of death!

I say no to all those whom come to quiet me. I will not back down. I will not be broken. Even if my body falls weak, I will bend as the path moves me. I will not remain silent nor shall I be bound to illness. With the strength of those who have come before me I stand. I say now even though I may splinter, I will not be broken!

I take my place in this fight with humility and awe knowing I now speak for all those who cannot. I drink from the cup of wisdom passed down from survivor to survivor. I carry with me their stories, their convictions and I make them mine. I will hold true to the fight. I am a warrior now as I go into the fight always before me with a battle cry. I speak for those whom have been silenced and I speak for all those who are striving to live. I am strong, but not of my own accord. I have gained my strength from the battle within me, from the battle within all survivors. I am tried and I am true and I will not be silenced! I will not go down without a fight!

To some I may seem weak. To others I appear tired. I may even seem to have abandoned what to some means the most, vanity. But in truth I have gained more than I have ever lost. For I have gained a voice, as I have gained a new lease on life. I now speak from an inner strength I can always count on.

I will not hide nor will I run. I am a fighter and a survivor. I refuse, though some have tried, to give up my voice. I will not be quiet. I will shout my victory for all the world to hear! I will not be silenced. I must stand now or sink like a stone. I will stand tall proud of my scar. I must stand now or conceded to defeat. Yes, it is true, I may have lost my breast, but I have not lost my grace. In truth, what I have lost has made me whole. My body may be less than desirable to some, but to others my heart is full. I have nothing to fear and I have everything tolive for.

So I choose to live life as if I were dying. I choose to never forget what I cannot change. I am a cancer survivor, not it's victim. So right here and right now, I shout it out, " I choose to be loud and to live life as loudly as I can!" I am here to stay and I am here to speak. I will not be silenced!

By: Christina Olachia


Living with Ghosts....

Over all I am in good spirits today. Cancer is a big pain in the butt and I hate that I am putting my family through this. But we are getting through it and that it what matters. I do not know why this had to happen, but it did and my Creators grace is what keeps me afloat even when I feel like the water is getting just a little bit too high for my liking. It is that grace that enables me to laugh, smile and work through the pain and the sometimes overwhelming loss of it all. Ultimately, it is that grace that strengthens me and enables me to bend and not break.

It's hard sometimes though. Joshua and I both came to the conclusion over this weekend that living with cancer is like being a ghost. You know you are still here. You can feel, see, hear everything around you, but somehow life has stopped. Come to a halt. People go on living, laughing, bonding, and yet somehow you are on the outside of it all just watching life pass you by. You are just standing there, with no motion, while the world turns, people go by, seasons change and you are still standing right there in the same spot. It is no ones fault, it is what it is. But it doesn't make it any easier. Kids back away, people back away. Not because they mean to hurt you but because they don't know how to respond to you.

There are times I feel like a broken picture frame, as if no one can see the woman still inside me. But the truth is that even though I feel that way, I am still me under it all. That will never change. I am still a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend. So no matter what the next few months hold I will still be standing, fighting and smiling through it all even if the storm decides to pour down with no let up, I will still be Christie, still Christina, and still Mommy.

So I keep moving. I keep smiling and I keep hope alive. The stress? Well that never goes away. The doctors tell me to try and relax. Well Try relaxing while you are hurling six times a day I say!

Honestly, I am not really sure what I can do to relieve any extra stress. I still have a home and family to care for, but I will try my best. What I do know is this, I am not going to let a little stress be my undoing. I have worked so hard to beat this monster and I am not going to let it get one more claw into my life!

I am a SURVIVOR! My family members are survivors and I will not allow myself to give into anything that will cause them or myself anymore pain. And that is that! I hold to hope, and I hold to faith. I hold to my family and my true friends. I know that I am not in this alone and that we will all come through this with flying colors. Yes, maybe with a few tears and regrets, but we WILL all come through this battle with a solid knowledge in who we are and what we can do when we stand together. I truly believe that with all my heart.


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Living With Hope

I have lived amongst fear and pain. I have dwelt within the boundaries of uncertainty. I have embraced loss and succumb to tears. I am one face among so many with Breast Cancer. I am a Survivor clinging to Hope.

What is Hope you may ask? Hope is greater than fear, Hope is stronger than uncertainty. Hope can overcome pain and loss. Hope turns tears into laughter. Living with Hope stirs the soul and presents all the wonderous possibilities life has to offer and begs us to embrace.

Breast Cancer may be my lot in this life, but it will not be my undoing. This Hope I carry inside is my Legacy. My true fate in this life is to live with hope within faith and on through to strength and courage. To face each new day as a blessing and a new opportunity for healing. Living with Hope brings an understanding of all the souls' deeper possibilities. Hope is the other part of who I am that makes certain there is always a way for each part of me to overcome and feel the true emotion of all that life has to offer.

Yes, fear has at times steadily crept in and tried to steal Hope away from my being. But Hope is inspiring and Hope has a way of shining through even brighter than misery. So I cling to Hope while gaining strength, holding onto faith, and allowing courage to seep in, giving my life hope in life's everyday possibilities.

And this my friends is my one true prayer for each of you in all you do... Live life fully, live life with laughter and Live life with Hope!

Christina Olachia

Finding Faith

Yesterday I was really upset at some things going on around me. I had been hurt by words and by attitudes and basically people just being human. I was letting hurt creep in and lay claim to my heart. We all do that, it's natural. But then I woke up and looked at my boys. I saw them lying there, sleeping peacefully and realized how blessed I am. How much I do have to be grateful for, to appreciate and to hold close to my heart. I realized that I need not let that hurt take root and question all that I do have in my life that is good. So I took a deep breath and let it out very slowly, and then just sat there watching them sleep. In a few minutes all the hurt just seemed to dissolve away and the peace that I know, that I have, deep in my heart, in my soul, returned with ease and blessed my spirit again.
This fight, as many of you have walked it yourselves, are walking it or have walked it with others before me, know it is not easy. It tears at you, tries to burden you with fear and pain. It cuts deep at what you thought as your immortality and ultimately cancer robes you of the security that once held your world together. Yet, it offers so much on so many levels, that in the end you come through a better person for the miles trod. You see life so differently and you respond to life in ways you never thought you could or would. I am learning this as I go, as my family goes along beside me, and as ya'll go through this with me.
I have been blessed in so many ways, by so many friendships and by family who are always there. Never faulty, never out to lunch so to speak. I am blessed by those who come to my aid with strength and love and encouragement. For all of those who have been there for me, Johnny, the boys and my parents, I cannot thank enough. You listen when I am tired emotionally, physically and at times just say nothing at all, except that you love me. There is such strength and hope in those moments, such comfort on such a deep level. I am forever in your debt.
At this point my body is tired, it is beat. Basically I am tired of being sick and tired! I am tired, and yes, I am spent, yes. But I am finding renewed strength and hope. There is always hope. Doubt yes, there is always doubt and fear. But that does not take away hope and faith. I am determined to finish this fight! Even when my body has had enough and I am at my weakest I am still fighting. I can do that because of you my family and friends that are there to lift me up, to help steady me and help me stay on this path without feeling as if I am walking it alone.
I am not walking alone! I know without a doubt that YOU, my family and friends, are with me just as Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17:12) were with Moses. Lifting up his arms up during the battle to ensure they won the fight they were fighting. YOU do the same for me! And I love you for it. I am blessed by you and I do not take any of your encouragement, love and or friendships for granted. I treasure each and every one of you and all you offer to my life.
I recently read a quote that touched my heart. It made me really think about life and all that comes with it. This is what it said:
"This story is about faith, for it is only in faith that you can believe in something you cannot see. And it is about love, for in love, and only love, will you ever know the joy of selflessness. And it is about family, for without them you know nothing about being accepted just as you are. And it is about eternity, for without it, yesterday is forgotten, today is taken and tomorrow never comes. Learn to love who you are, accept what you cannot change and trust in truths you cannot see."
This is the lesson that I am being taught right now as I go through this nasty little thing called cancer. And though I hate cancer and all the "Yuck" it has brought, I am grateful for this lesson. I am in awe of those that surround my life with so much love, light, joy, laughter, strength and HOPE! For those that still see me as me and can see past the loss of hair, lack of a breast, etc., and see me. Really see me, the person I still am. Thank you for having faith to believe in me, for loving me without ceasing, and for accepting me just as I am right now.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

Friday, April 6, 2007

Branded with a Scarlet Letter

Just more ramblings from the mind of a crazed ex chemo patient! This has been a work in progress for some time.I have added my thoughts here and there, especaily after days when I have had to deal with those cruel people whom feel the need to "inspire" you while they are kicking and punching you! This is a very long piece to read and unless you just have time to kill, well it will take some time to get through it all. I never mean to write novels. But once I start writing it all just comes overflowing and out into my journal. So I warn you now this is a doozy.
Hope is a precious commodity. Without it, there is no tomorrow. No sunrise, no sunset. Hope is a blessing. Hope is eternal. Hope is life itself. Hope is the blessing that we breath in every morning when we wake. Hope is the prayer that goes out with each of us in everything we do. Hope inspires and hope advocates for those who have no voice. Hope reflects on loss with tenacity. Hope endeavors to hold us close when all else seems lost. When we are weary and we can no longer can hear the song life offers us, it is hope that whispers in our ears. Hope is simply believing. Hope is not the absence of fear but the absence of worrying over the things that you cannot control. Hope is found in our uncertainty and hope is found in our faith in the unseen forces that guide our way through this battlefield we call life. So then why is it that some seek to destroy hope? To abandon all that glues the soul together? I have come to believe that it is the fear of living, of feeling and of experiencing life itself they ultimately fear. For life and death are partners, we need one to experience the other.

As human beings we sometimes have a tendency to blame the sick, the injured, and the weak for their illness. As if they are to blame? I for one have come to know this recurring theme a little too well this past year on many levels and in many different people. Sadly, it is just easier sometimes for others to blame you, ignore you, or be angry with you for being sick. Your illness is now on full parade for all to see and those whom cannot "fix it" just want to sweep it under the rug as if it is a dirty little secret best left out of sight, lout of mind and out of the way! Believe me, as a cancer patient/survivor, if you could keep it out of sight and ignore it you would! But that isn't how this beast works. If you are going to survive it, you are going to have to face it head on, battle it one on one and then accept it. Yet to those that must place blame on someone or something, and there are many out there who need to blame, from those whom we love and trust to those whom pass by you in silence on the street. To them your hope is now a threat and they will do anything to destroy it. Personally I have found that once we embrace hope we overcome the need to blame and we are then able to release our anger and we find we have had faith in spite of the uncertainty all along. Hope overcomes the pain and fear of a less than perfect and failing body and ensures we partake in the many precious joys that surround our lives. Hope is the certainty that overtakes the threat of blames' void, and reaches deep within us to reconcile and restore peace within our souls.

Hope is not a cure all for the cancer that has invaded your body, nor is it a Band-Aid for the emotional pain it inflicts. No hope is believing, and believing is trusting. Trusting in the truth that even in the face of fear you will overcome. For fear is the child of blame and blame the child of uncertainty. Once you realize and accept blame is indeed the child of fear and the seed of anger, you can embrace that hope is the child of faith and faith the child of courage. Each one giving birth to the next while empowering you to press onward. In order to become a survivor you must embrace all three: hope, faith and courage.

In my own experience with this beast, I have found that at times your life may seem to become a blur. Suddenly you don't know which way is up and which way is down. You are no longer in Kansas anymore that is for sure! The wicked witch is far from dead (in fact she is green, the very same color you just can't seem to keep away from on most days) then there are those crazy flying monkeys out to get you and the yellow brick road that is full of pot holes! So what do you do? Well, you learn to cope. You find that you don't need the great wizard to help you get back home. No, what you really need to do is stare those incredible annoying parasites in the eyes, and tell them to bite you! Yep, bite you! Maybe by doing so they'll find out that you aren't contagious and they can actually hug you! By all means you are not all about your pain and suffering! You feel their pain and you really do understand just how crummy life can be. You desire to lend a helping hand and an ear when needed. The one thing you still have is compassion. But it is not compassion they want. No, they want to hang you up by your toes and let all your blood drain out! And if you really wanted to give up you might oblige them. But for now you have enough to deal with here in OZ, with the horse of different colors playing tricks on your eyes and the over bearing, always playing, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" ringing in your ears. At some point the fairy tale ends and you get real. You have cancer, not yellow fever! You just want those that feel the need to place blame on you to stop playing this childish game of cooties! Once you begin to fight back, and take hold of what this cancer has tried to take from you, you suddenly realize just how much strength you have and you know rain or shine the show will go on!

Why all this drama? I really do not understand why this happens, but after listening to other survivors and reading message boards I know it happens everyday of every week, of every month and in every year to all too many countless cancer patients. It is part of the nature of the beast, I suppose. This sad beast may seem only small, and it may even sport a sweet face, but so did the gremlins and we all remember what trouble they caused? A beast is a beast all the same. With its long stretching arms that come to rob you of the only thing you have left, the only part of you that still has something to offer ... your hope!

Sadly, there are some that feel as crazy as it sounds, that we turn ourselves into victims by merely walking out the door looking less than perfect. As if putting on a wig and attaching fake eyelashes really disguises our illness. For reasons even unknown to those whom shun and shut you out of their perfect world, they feel as if "we," the cancer patients, woke up one day, walked up to the front of the line and freely volunteered ourselves for this fight of our lives. I mean who doesn't want to join the chemoman/woman triathlon? Flush, drip and hurl. Sounds like a load of fun to me.
But seriously, there are times when some treat you as if you couldn't wait to put on a chemo face, don a pink ribbon and head straight to the front lines of the cancer battle. The idea that we would jump up and down hooting and hollering to engage in hand to hand combat with such a deadly enemy is not any survivors idea of fun. Believe me that is the farthest idea of attention any of us have on our minds! Mostly, we are just trying to blend into society or back into our social circles. We don't want to be noticed. The attention suddenly thrown on us is terrifying. You want to go back to the dull, uneventful sense of normal life you once had. But suddenly you have no hair, no eyebrows, and no eyelashes. And believe me that is a big deal! What once made you feel young, vibrant and alive is gone. In truth, how you are sized up in society has disappeared. Your identity is gone, and along with it, your sense of expression and individuality. People stare at you as they watch your every move. You actually feel sorry for them. They stare, not because they find you attractive. No, they look because they find you strangely repulsive. Yet they can't look away the poor suckers, even though they want to. They see you as a mirror of all they fear. You are a sudden reminder of how unstable life is, and just how mortal we all really are. You really don't want to look these folks in the eyes, but you do. You do it even though inside you are struggling to meet them eye to eye. You do it for yourself, you do it for your family and you do it for every other survivor out there! You facethem, meet them eye to eye,take a deep breath, smile, take hold of your children's hands tightly and walk straight past those prejudicial stares and whispers. This is your moment, your time to leave a legacy. It is your time to offer your children courage in the face of uncertainty and in some part adversity. This is your moment as a parent to bestow on your children the greatest lesson you'll ever teach them ... hope in the face of prejudice and fear. The time has come and so you go into battle without the fear of loosing, because you have nothing more to lose.
In every survivors life you will find hope in some form or another. The smallest seed of hope planted inside you will inspire hope in others and so hope indeed lives on. There is always a reason to hope and to fight. There are always friends and family ready to hold your hand, raise your arms and carry you through the battlefield if necessary without inflicting guilt upon you for it. Even at your worst, when you feel completely spent, you somehow look up from the bottom of the battlefield and take a good look around you and find others standing beside you, behind you and some even further out in front of you. You find hope and inspiration. You feel the need to answer the call of courage as you see your own history being made right in front of you. Yes, you hear the voice of pain and of sorrow within your own spirit but soon they begin to fade. You feel hope living inside of you now and so you fight, healing as you continue moving forward through the falling rain. Hope stands, hope shines through darkness and hope lives in all those that battle along side of you, fellow survivors and dear loved ones alike. In your hope you find you are not alone and it is that knowledge that allows you to suddenly realize that you are so much stronger than you ever knew you could be!

So, with new scars you come to terms with your fate, embrace the bandanas, the swollen face, lack of facial hair (realizing just how silly you would look if you drew two little arches that remind you of a McDonald's drive -- thru on your forehead) and then you fight back. Yes, it is true you are physically scared. There is no hiding the eight inch bright red scare that sits across your chest where once a breast used to be. You proudly wear those scars. Still, in a sense you feel branded and not just in a physical sense. You know that you have also been marked by those that cannot understand your pain. You begin to view your scars as a scarlet letter that you have now been branded with. The stigma of living with cancer cuts both ways. It slices you physically and emotionally. Those who come to seek out your weakness come only to exploit it. Their only wish is to challenge all that holds hope within you. In one sense the need to push you away is strong, yet the need to try and control you, and yes even to hurt you is even stronger. You begin to feel as if you are being physically set apart, as you are at the same time being emotionally set apart in a deeper, harsher and much more personal way. You are a leper come to walk among the whole, the beautiful and the privileged.
The beast in and of itself may be small. But with it's long, reaching tentacles you certainly feel it's sting once it gets a hold of you. It takes just a tiny spark to set a field a blaze and a mere small, but loud voice in a crowd to turn it into a mob. It is in that sense that this smallest of beasts can get a hold of those that would never intend to cause harm. Truth be told most do not intend to superimpose a scarlet letter upon you, the fact is it happens. Whether it is simply the natural order of things or the fears of another you find yourself bearing a bright red letter everywhere you go. At first, you think no one knows. It is just a breast, then chemo starts. Then the world you were once apart of gives you a good, swift kick to your fourth point of contact as you look up dazed to see your life has left you behind in a world you no longer fit into. It is humbling and it is disheartening. There are times you feel the pain and you get mad, but then you harness all that guilt and blame and you set it free, push it away and set about restoring harmony to your life once again. True it will never be the same, but living life the same way everyday for the rest of your life can become rather boring don't you think? So you embrace that scarlet letter. Considerit aright of passage, right up there with learning how to walk. You may have fallen and bruised your knees but in the end you walked, and then you ran. So you decide to fight blame with hope.
No survivor asks for illness. No one wishes it upon you. Even God himself does not place this burden upon us, but merely allows us to chart through it's course. No, there is truly no one to blame and there is no way to fix it. Cancer is simply what it is,:" something evil or malignant that spreads destructively <the cancer of hidden resentment. " Cancer can be found both physically and emotionally. It eats away at you until it has had it's fill. So why give into blame? I personally choose HOPE! As I see myself now, I have come full circle and my family and friends have come full circle right along side me. I am battle ready and combat trained. I have fought and I have lost many battles along the way but I have yet to throw my sword down and give up. I am strong, but only as strong as the hope I carry inside my heart. I do not wish to engage in anymore battles, but I stand ready to run full force onto the battlefield against my near and sometimes oddly dear enemy called breast cancer!

So I say right here and now without regret to all of those courageous women, young and old a like, take heart! Don't accept blame for something that is out of your control. Make plans for the future, even if it is just one day at a day. And above all, remove yourself from those that would seek to destroy your hope! Never give up your hope and always, even when the hour is dark, hold onto your hope.

Christina Olachia