About Me...

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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!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Celebrating








Celebrating A New Day

I woke up this morning and I realized that I had gained and added another thirty something digit to my name. Yes, another marker had lined itself up front and center and was shouting 34 at me as loudly as possible. Of course having my children bounce up and down on the bed like jumping beans shouting 'it's ya birthday, it's ya birthday' through my foggy state of semi consciousness was enough to leave me in complete awe.

But seriously on the flip side of things, is it age that caused me to reflect and to tremble? No, actually I embrace the years that I have lived here on this Earth. The simple truth is that I am in awe of the life I am now living, a life once swept away, thought to be dull and abandoned has now come to life full of new opportunities.How precious is it that I am here today, alive and living with hope and courage? Looking back on the last 519 days, 74 weeks and 17 months I realize that I have lived more than I have ever lived before in all my years put together since those fateful words, breast cancer, were uttered. Why is it that the threat of dying suddenly brings you to life? So why do we suddenly realize that for all our efforts, we have become complacent to life, taken all we have, all we love and all we know for grated once death is on the table? Simply put, we don't quite understand yet what we really have to loose until we feel the loss. Yes, the threat of death has a way of waking you up inside and bringing you back to life again.

In my own experience along this amazing journey I found that once death has been freely embraced, you finally begin to live. Do I still worry that the grim may yet come too early for me? Absolutely, I especially worry when I look at my boys sleeping. I worry about who will raise them, love them, nurture them in my place yet I know that I have today. Yes, I have today to love with all my heart, to live with all my might and to stop worrying about what might yet come.

So I will spend this day with my boys impressing upon the walls of my heart memories of my children running around the yard with wooden swords in hand slaying the imaginary dragon that has come to consume Mommy (if they only knew how close to reality they truly were). I will record the sound of their laughter within my spirit as I sit upon the birthday throne and hold on to their tender yet brave hearts as close as I can deep within my soul while they crown Mommy queen for the day.

Today, my children hold the greatest gift I could ever receive, their love. Yes, they are my ultimate gifts today. I have stopped and taken in the simple yet extraordinarymoments that I have been handed today. I have gasped in awe while opening their gifts today for their love cannot be found in any store bought card, but instead my heart has been completely lost in their imperfect perfectly drawn birthday cards. I have found the greatest gift today not in any perfectly wrapped and cut roses, but instead in the hand picked bouquet of weeds now sitting on my kitchen table.

So today, I celebrate life and all the living I have yet to do. I consciously choose today to give thanks unto my Maker for all I have been given in this life of mine cancer and all. Tonight, when this day has come to an end I will lay my head down knowing I have truly lived one more day fully giving all my heart can and fully accepting all life has given me.

Christina







Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Holding On

Holding On.....

Have you ever had one of those days or maybe it was one of those weeks when you just wanted to throw the towel in, leave everything where it lies and literally run for the hills? Well, this has been one of those days, weeks for me and it is only Tuesday!

You know sometimes having your plate so full that it is overflowing isn't a bad thing. Having a full plate can be exciting, keep you going and your mind occupied. But then there are those times when having that plate of yours over flowing seems like a daunting task at best. Truly hasn't everyone experienced a day or two at some point in their lives when they wanted to take that plate and just toss it, slam it up against the wall and watch all the pieces of the plate crash down o the floor and the contents of the plate just slowly drip down the wall? Well, truthfully that has been my day today.

There are times that dealing with and living through cancer can really just beat you down leave you feeling hopeless. Not to say that I am hopeless, because I believe that hope can't die out. Just getting up every morning and living in spite of this man eating soul piercing and spirit devouring beast is proof that hope exists. But the truth is that I have days when I question my place within this battle especially when this beast is at my heels. I am tired I suppose. Tests, meds and appointments at times get the best of me. As of today I have learned my ultrasound of the other breast is normal, which is fantastic. Now I am waiting on the biopsy of a skin nodule. Nothing really too overwhelming honestly.

Still I hate cancer. I really really do. Do I believe that there is hope? Absolutely! I live with hope every day but there are still those days when despair creeps in taking your breath away as it tries to pry your hope away. The 'Man,' as I like to call my insurance company has provided me with just such a screenplay as this today. As of June 1st without our knowledge, our insurance changed leaving us scrambling to line my medical life back together and back in order again. Suddenly we had new copays, deductibles all in the month of June. With my situation and with my breast reconstruction still in the process, we asked for continuing care under the old plan to finish what was started. Well, the 'Man" gave his verdict today....and a loud "NO" sounded all around.

Again, I say that cancer sucks. Yes, I am still fighting, but I have been dealt a huge blow with this verdict. With the new insurance I will have to come up with the thousands this surgery will cost all up front before my wonderful plastic surgeon will complete what has been started. So I am a bit overwhelmed about this. I know that I will suck it up and deal with it all while waiting for my breast to be completed. I just hate it. It's just the idea of waiting 8 more months is emotionally painful. I have already waited 17 months already. But this is the 'Mans' verdict, so I must comply and comply I will. I will find a smile and I will find my hope again but for right now I am clean wiped out with nothing to offer right now. Childish I know. I am chiding myself even as I type this. I just wanted to be whole sooner than later.

I will pull myself back up on my feet again, put a smile back on my face and keep fighting this beast and all it comes to steal from me. I will not give in to this beastie, nor shall I ever give up my hope, my spirit or my soul. In the end it may take my body, but it will not take my hope or my fight!

Christina

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Branded with a Scarlet Letter C

Recently a wonderful, strong, courageous friend of mine and fellow pink warrior was attacked on her blog for sharing her "misery with the masses," calling her a silly woman. How sad that anyone would feel the need to belittle a beautiful fighter in such a way. Sadly we all know people like this. Sadder still is that they gain their own strength from the pain of others. I too have been bitten by this type of emotional vampire as I have written about in past entries. In my circumstances I wasn't attacked by a stranger, but by a "friend." Through my journey I have come to realize that these emotional sucking vampires are just empty, shallow, attention craving, and genuinely needy folks. So I offer this entry to you now long as it may be, this entry is a true reflection of where I have been and where I am going in my journey with Breast Cancer. This is truly why we fight, to keep the voice of reason and the virtue of compassion alive in this mad, mad, world! This is for Kim.







Re-Post


BRANDED WITH A SCARLET LETTER



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 themto 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 mayeven 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 asudden 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, lackof 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. Consider it a right 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


Sunday, June 17, 2007

What I Have Learned

I have learned that cancer can be cruel, incredibly overwhelming and at times over powering. I have learned through my journey that while there are some days when you are completely inspired to keep up the fight, there are simply those days when you have no fight left in you.

I have learned that there are parts to this journey where you feel absolutely strong, eager not just to face the beast, but to slay the beast! Then there are those days that creep up from behind you, pull your feet out from under you and leave the stench of defeat within close proximity of the beast's lair.

I have learned that your family and friends will pull you back up on your feet again intentionally or not. Those close to you will listen without intruding as they will comfort and encourage you without ever judging your weakness. Still, more importantly they will allow your tears to cleanse your spirit without ever feeling the need to crush it.

What I have learned is that this journey isn't easy nor does it ever really end. The journey of cancer is an ever winding always turning twisting road. There are indeed some days that hold the promise of hope just as there are many weeks that tear that silver lining right out.

What has this journey truly taught me? To love completely, never holding back, to live fully never skipping a new possibility and to laugh never fearing the joy or the pain of what tomorrow may bring!

Christina

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Update

Hello Ya'll!

Well, let me first say that I am thrilled with my new doctor. She is wonderful. Her office was like coming home in a way. The rooms and walls are full of comfy, heart warming and welcoming pictures, nick nacks etc. She is also all about empowering her patients with knowledge, file copies and giving each woman plenty of time. When you have an appointment, you have her time and not the other way around. She spent about 3 hours with me going over everything from my initial staging to what I can expect in the coming years. The best thing is that she schedules only 2-3 women at a time. That was a welcome wonder after being one of 30 waiting for a doctor.


As for my health? I am well. Yes, I do have a few hiccups to get past, but over all I am confident in my prognosis. I do have mild lymphedema in my left arm so I will see a physical therapist and be placed in a sleeve. No biggie, I have lived without a breast, without hair, so what is a glove? Maybe I will finally look hip, lol. I also need an ultrasound to evaluate a few cysts/lumbs in my right breast. I am still thinking no biggie as they have been watching this anyway. The only reason to reevaluate now is that they have grown just a bit and there is also a small (very small) outward lump on the left "breast" that needs to be looked at.

With all that said I am happy to say I am being put on a new medication (Neurontin) to help with the nerve injury that the chemo did to my body. So overall, things went very well.

I really appreciate everyoneand their prayers.

Christina



Saturday, June 9, 2007

Loosing Those We Love

In Memory...

Well, this has been one of those weeks for me. There have been several days that I really just wanted to run away from my own little spot in this world .The only thing stopping me? I had no place to run to.

There are times when life just seems to be crawling on top of you, shoving and pushing you back down under the water. That's about as honest of a picture as I can give you right about now.

Can I say it again? I HATE CANCER! I hate all it does to your body, your life and to those that love you. Cancer reeks of death. It thrives on it. Cancer is a sly little son of a gun creeping up behind you attacking before you even have time to counter attack. Cancer seeks to destroy taking away all it possibly can. Cancer is a parasite moving through your body as if it truly owns you. Cancer is devastating.

I have lived through cancer, fought it, and have forced it to retreat for the time being. Still there are those days, those appointments that grab you up by the seat of your pants throw you up against the wall and leave your body and spirit feeling terribly bruised. I really hate those kinds of days. Then there are also those days that cancer still gets it's claws around your throat trying to strangle all hope right out of you, these are the days that you loose the ones you love to cancer.

This has been my week. I have faced the uncertainty of my remission, to only have more uncertainty thrown at me as once again only to have lost another close to us in 3 months time to this blasted enemy called cancer.

I will miss you my friend as I will keep your memory close to my heart always. Gloria, a fighter till the end, July 13, 1949-June 06, 2007.

Christina

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Fight




Why We Fight...



We fight for life. We fight for all that has been lost and the pieces of our lives still scattered on the wind. We fight for the lives we once held in our hands full of dreams and we fight for the glimpses of hope we still hold close to our hearts. We fight for the wives we once were and the mothers we still hope to be. We fight for the cause, to eradicate fear and denial. We fight for those who can no longer and we fight with those who stand beside us yet untouched by this disease.



We fight for the hope of not just a cure but healing of the mind and spirit. We fight because we want to live, to breath and to embrace each moment given to us. We have conceded enough. We have given our breasts, our hair, and for too many, our lives. We have given enough!



We fight for our children to give them a life filled with hope and not fear. We fight to fill our days with the lives, the giggles and the innocence of our children, giving them hope for a new day. We fight to fill their lives with happiness, laughter and love even as we fight ourselves to smile.




We fight for our husbands, our lovers, our soul mates destined to walk this journey with us. We fight to ease their pain, comfort their souls and lift their spirits even as our own bodies fail us. We fight to leave a part of ourselves, the true spirit of who we are and the soul of the women we once were forever locked away within our partners hearts.



We fight for life as we fight for love and for friendships held dear. We fight one battle at a time, drafted in to this army of women, young and old alike. We fight for a cause and for hope. We fight along side each of our sisters in arms, all warriors, intended or not, we have each heard the call, lifted the banner and charged the battlefield. There is no time to think or ask if we're ready. There is not enough reassurance to convince us of victory, but we will not accept defeat! We will carry on, even as we send sister after sister in to the pools of death sailing in to the great unknown.



We fight even if it be unto the end. We fight for all that is precious and all that true. We fight for freedom, we fight for peace and we fight for hope.



This is WHY WE FIGHT...

Christina