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!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Lives...

If we stop, we can hear the seconds passing us by...one by one they tick away. ..

Just this past weekend we celebrated my parents 40Th wedding anniversary. It was beautiful as it was celebratory. Still I felt as if I were hurrying around so much at times I didn't get to sit and breathe. I felt guilty, as if I were not spending enough time with our guests. Most celebrations are like this though. How many times do we plan a celebration and actually take it all in, see everyone? Usually after all the crowds have gone home, the decorations have been put away and the food is cleared do we finally breathe.

Do we not live our lives just like this? Hurrying around, planning, and tidying up our days? We can be merciless in our attempt to get things right, perfect in every way. But then something happens, changes our plan leaving us with the option to fall to pieces or to laugh. It kinda reminds me of my own wedding to my husband Johnny.

We were married in April and planned an outside ceremony. I was so determined about this I forgot about two things in the month of April here in Texas: rain and wind. Fortunately we were blessed and the rain stayed away. But... yes there is always a but isn't there? But no plan ever goes as expected, right? Our wedding was no different. Johnny was as handsome as he was nervous on our wedding day.We were both so young with our whole lives ahead of us. How could we know what lay ahead?

Thirteen years ago, I walked down the aisle. What a day it was! Truly it really was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, my dress fit just right, my hair was up, and our guests we all there.. Well all with the exception of one. The first in a line of the unexpected was my mother in law was so late our ceremony has to be delayed. Then the music player kept going in and out. Finally our candles kept blowing out due to the wind. No one bothered to tell me this and honestly I was so nervous myself I didn't even notice. That is until it was time to light the unity candle.

All of a sudden Johnny pulls out a lighter. Seriously in the middle of our song, just before we picked up our candles, Johnny produces a lighter and lights the candles. I am not sure why this struck me as so funny but it did. I could not stop laughing, and in turn Johnny began laughing. Before long everyone was laughing. The tension was gone and we were all relaxed, and not at all on my schedule. By the end of the ceremony, we gave up on the music and just walked back up the aisle. After all did the music really matter so much? We were married. I was now Johnny's wife, the man I loved with all my heart. Johnny, my new husband, the man who in the coming years would stay by my side, love me and support me even with the loss of a breast.

At the end of the day this was the lesson for me, to sit back and not to sweat the small things.So it is no surprise I see my life with cancer and now as her survivor this way. Believe me my plans did not include a waltz with the beast! I had a plan of my own, a schedule and a timeline of how I wanted my life to go. Kids, a home, vacations, savings, health, retirement and the list goes on. Let me say this now, life is not a planned event! Sure we can try and sometimes we do succeed with things going just as we want them to go. But mostly life is about detours and excepting the changes they bring.Sometimes the worst turns can bring us the most joy.

During those times we can feel like a failure, I know I have, as if we are not capable. But I see things differently. In my life I have found it is indeed our failures... the undoing of our perfectly laid plans where we begin to see our true capabilities come to life.

I cannot say every detour is not painful, because many are. I can vouch for!this personally! But in step, in each twist and turn I have found another part of me I didn't know was there before. A mouthful I know, but so true. Adversity is not chosen by us, but still it is allowed to sneak into our lives. I will not say I am ready to jump up and down excited over the thought, but I do know I am a better person for it. I am not the same woman I was before, nor have I lost the girl I was when I married Johnny. I have just grown in both spirit and mind. I have learned to let life press forward, to breathe even when I am afraid, to love unconditionally and to forgive without grievances.

I dream, research, and hope. So yes, I still have plans. I have just learned to let them go when life moves me in another direction. I am a survivor, not because I am still alive. No, I am a survivor because I have chosen to live in the moments I am given, for as long as I am given.

I do hope to live long enough to celebrate 40 years of marriage, to slim down, to see all my family in one place at one time or just to walk down Disney's Maine Street with my children again. Yet these things may come and go or they may fall away. In the end, my life and the way I live and love cannot be planned. What is truly important is how I cherish the time I am given, perfect or flawed. For life and all it's imperfections is what makes the experience so sweet.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Put Your Shoes On and Let's Go Dancing!

Are you sitting down, again that is?
Well then get up on your feet, and stay put. We can all go dancing in the streets! I mean it this time! Whew Wee! I am dressed up and ready to go.

My results show nothing to worry about. Both of them. No cancer, no surgery, no chemo, just follow ups. I can live with that for sure.

Now, I do not know what she wants to do as follow ups or as far as watching what is there. I will find that out next week. I see her on March 6Th. I will have a better idea of how she plans to keep on eye on things then, but I am sure all will continue to be well. I am still in remission. I totally feel like celebrating! I have no other way to explain how I truly feel except to say I feel like a new woman.

So let's break out the champagne, turn up the music, start celebrating and dance on top of the tables this time!

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and support. I couldn't have made it through this long without them!



I am up late tonight. I cannot sleep. Our home is tense as we wait for the news... good or bad. Johnny is scared, though he will not admit it. The boys sleep is restless and still we wait.

Though it has only been six days it feels like I have been waiting for an eternity already. Every time the phone rings, either the home or cell, I jump. Is this the call? What will she say? How will I react? Will I jump up and down with good news or be shaken with the bad? Who do I call first? What do I say? Better yet how do I say it? I truly do not know how I will respond yet though I have tried to play the scene out in my mind a thousand times over. Still, good or bad an answer is most welcome right now. The knowing of what is ahead, to be able to wrap my head around what is to come or is not to come will be a welcome relief.

The heaviness of this waiting is almost unbearably painful as it is eerie. I feel as if I am just waiting here in the shadows watching the storm roll in. The only way I can truly describe my state of mind is to compare it to an approaching hurricane. You know it is coming. The clouds have turned bright pink and yellow. The wind is stiring and the storm is definitely on the way. The slightest of turns could change it's course and the outcome. Yet looking out at the sea, there is little doubt you are headed into turbulent waters.The waters are rising and the waves are crashing hard onto the shore. Still the winds could change. Oh how you long for the storm to pass you by. So yes there is always reason to hope.

I am not resolved to cancer and her sudden surge into my life again. No, I am standing with my armor on pushing her advances back. Still I must prepare myself and those I love for a straight forward hit. Being prepared does not mean giving in to the fear, but it is simply wise to be ready. I am hopeful, even though I feel my nerves slipping into a panic or my mind giving into exhaustion.

I am pacing the floor at night, even if it is merely in the hallways of my dreams. I smile at my children seeing them as toddlers again, wishing I could go back. I know time has marched on, and so my children have grown and will continue to do so. My boys will leave childhood behind them and become men one day. This is my greatest hope: To see Joshua and Micah become men, strong and true. Yet I long to return to their nursery when they were both small and cancer had yet to touch our lives. Ah yes, yes my dear ones I fear death and yet I embrace it. I simply do not want to leave their lives too early. I know this may just be another speed bump, nothing more than a hiccup. We may be dancing in the streets come tomorrow with joy and a clean bill of health. Yet, this stillness, the very same I have felt before, is lingering as I continue to wait.

So here I am... back to the waiting. The days, hours and minutes passing me by seem to drag on. Ah this waiting, it can steer me in the wrong direction if I let it do so. On the other hand the waiting can reawaken my senses, call me back, scold me for not seizing every moment I have been given.

So I wait. I will wait for what else can I do? I will seize this moment, cherish my family, my boys and hold them close, kiss their foreheads and hold their hands. I will cradle them in my arms and pray for another day. In truth, are we all not hopeful for the very same? As we wait together may we all hold those we love closer to our hearts. May you know, each and everyone, I hold you close...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Time's A Charm

I began reading "This Time's A Charm" by Donald A. Wilhem soon after receiving my signed copy from the author. I was not sure what to expect ...hope, inspiration, or a one of a kind turbulent ride? What I did find was a journey of incredible detail through the eyes of a four time cancer survivor. I laughed many times, and cringed a time or two. But by the book's end I understood more than I ever imagined about living life with lymphoma. Don's back cover humor completely says it all: " WARNING- STEEP BLUFF, 450 Foot Drop To Lake Michigan. Return climb is extremely exhausting. DO NOT RUN. DO NOT THROW ROCKS."

First let me say this is not your average hope and inspiration book. Reading Don's story I felt as if I were indeed surviving boot camp... grateful for the experience, thankful for the insight and very aware by the time I was through reading every survivor's dance (with the beast) affects each of us differently. Simply put, we have our own battles to wage and scars to carry.

I have to be honest with you as I read through Don's 115 page story I found his story telling to be a very raw, uncut and uncensored account of his battle with lymphoma . Don is explicit, as he is sometimes brash in the writing of his experiences. Don encourages the reader to "go all in". Don does not apologize nor does he taken any prisoners. He simply tells it like it is! In his closing arguments Don quotes someone by saying, " There's two types of people; survivors and die-ers". Though Don does admit this summation is a bit callous he says his view point here is to encourage the reader to get livin.

Don credits his (PMA) Positive Mental Attitude as he calls it with saving his life. As a breast cancer survivor, I did indeed relate to a few of Don's own cancer experiences. I understood his meaning of the " gold standard of treatment" since I have faced the same "lovely bright red chemo called Adrimaycin" as Don refers to it in his book. I also understood some of the anger Don expresses very vividly as I tried to put myself in his shoes with his doctors and his road to remission. Don's words are quite startling, to say the least, shaking his reader up. I could not help but feel as if I had hitched a ride on the cancer express along with Don. Through each pain staking mile Don allows his reader to feel the sting of his anguish, the humorous affects of Ativan (this I can relate to as well) and the pain of his fourth blow... hearing the word "cancer" and "recurrence" in the same sentence.

As his story moves forward Don speaks of falling into the "victim's role" as he faced many challenges from his first chemo, the loss of his first marriage, to overcoming drug use. His pain, grief, anger and depression were apparent as he described each and every step of his journey. I found my heart breaking as I came along with Don through his very open and personal journey. As a woman of faith I was taken back by how Don did not rely on faith at all, but on his own know how, as a self-made man. In the final pages of Don's story he speaks of his desire for others going through this same battle to "know that cancer was not a death sentence. They needed to hear my story, told from the patient's perspective, loaded with emotions that most books don't reveal."

As Don brings his last chapter to a close, he goes through eleven steps he not only lives by but also advice he has given to others along the way. Don closes with this final appeal, " It's not whether you get knocked down, but whether you get back up."

As I mentioned before, Don is a four time lymphoma cancer survivor. This is a major feat in and of itself, having battled the beast four times in five years. Fellow survivors can relate to the fears, the sadness and the humor we gain along the road. Surviving both the ups and downs of cancer's journey is a life changing experience. Don has done so not once, but four times, coming through the experience with his own tale to tell. In closing Don speaks of his new love and sweet wife (Amy), the life he is living now (with the added bonus of a snowmobile and a boat) and how often others encouraged him to write a book. After all Don says,"This Time's A Charm! Does it really matter how many times it takes to beat something like cancer? "


This Time’s a Charm

Be sure to follow Don's Blog Book Tour as it continues...

2/19/09 http://www.moutray.wordpress.com/
2/20/09 http://www.makesomelemondae.com/
2/21/09 http://www.awesomecancersurvivor.com/
2/23/09 http://www.serendipityfactory.com/
2/24/09 http://www.everythingchangesbook.com/
2/25/09 http://www.cancercornerlive.blogspot.com/
2/27/09 http://www.appendix-cancer.blogspot.com/
2/28/09 http://www.imtooyoungforthis.org/
03/1/09 http://www.route53.wordpress.com/

Friday, February 13, 2009

Here I Go Again...

I won't make this long today. I am short on words this morning, kinda nervous but I wanted to give my love to everyone. I am getting ready to leave for my breast biopsies. I go in around noon so hopefully I will be home by 4 or 5 PM maybe sooner.

My boys are still asleep. No school for them today. They are enjoying the break. Today is the day! Scary, hopeful, nervous, sword drawn... I wish this wasn't happening, but it is. Period. So while Johnny and I head to the hospital, the boys are going to spend some time with family and friends. My mom is going to stay at home with the boys this morning, my dad is at work, Morgen is taking the boys this afternoon and Johnny has taken the day off to be with me.

My parents 40th wedding anniversary party is next weekend. I have been planning this for a while. Family is coming in and so are old friends. I will have news by mid week, but I don't want "cancer" to overshadow their celebration. So this is the deal: If these tests come back negative I will shout it from the roof tops, but if they come back positive, I will wait to post the news until after my parents party.

Two biopsies, one ultrasound guided the other a Stereotactic biopsy. I don't want to do this. I really don't. I can see a light at the end of this tunnel, I just can't seem to get there fast enough. Just know I love each of you. You are my extended family, my lifeline and a great source of hope in my life, in my fight with this beast.

So here we go...


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dancing Like A Court Jester

Two little words with a big punch…. Breast Cancer.

Does this sound all too familiar?

Crazy, Insane, Out of control…

Do you feel cancer has taken control of your whole life?

Well then get on board! This car is heading down the track.

Seriously I don’t know about you, but my life has jumped ship onto a speeding horse made of steel. I seem strapped in with no place to go but around and around this race track. Hit the brakes? Sure thing Captain Obvious. I would love to, but there is this tiny little problem… the brake lines seem to have been cut!!!

So here I am with no breaks and an unattached steering wheel, could it get any better? Well, dog gone it, I see the culprit now skipping around the pit. How can she keep doing this? How does this monster keep getting past my security or alarms? Really, must she be so jubilant about it (cancer that is?) Ruthless is more the word. She’s just sneaking off dressed as part of the pit crew and all of this is just good fun. Maddening, isn’t it? Here I am flying over 100 miles per hour toward an impending wall and she is dancing around like some kind of court jester. Seriously do you ever feel like you have entered the Twilight Zone? I keep waiting for my old life to reemerge. Hum… well, maybe the demolished wall falling at my feet is what’s left of my old life?

Honestly cancer is a crazy “cat and mouse game” for lack of better terms. Doesn’t matter how many steps ahead you are, she always gets the jump. Then again she has wings, large feet and claws the size of any 2 story house. What is cancer really? Well let me sum it up for you… cancer is a beast, a monster, a devil, dinosaur, a @#&, a huge pain in the butt and anything else you would like to throw in there! But the truth is we can overcome her.

We are an army. We have strength, and courage and an amazing journey in front of us. We are survivors, fighters and sisters in every beautiful sense of the word. I can’t tell you not to fear my friend, but what I can say is this: Mercy and grace are stronger than fear. Turn up the music, close your eyes and take my hand. Go ahead let your hands shake, take a deep breath and then take a step of faith. Is the rain falling? Then please come and stand under my umbrella. If you are weary, allow your sisters/brothers to gather and protect you from the wind.

The earth may crumble, the seas may rise but we still have hope. We always have hope, because hope cannot be snuffed out. As survivors we are each points of hope ready to share our lives and experiences. But together, our lights held high with every sister/brother hand and hand, we are stronger than cancer! Together, with every point of HOPE we are one bright shining light! Sure the beast may still approach but she will have to face the blinding light of Hope when she does!

None of us can do this alone. We are not equipped to be one man/woman armies. We have to reach out, to allow others to reach out to us. Life is hard enough, but add cancer to the mix and well, you get unsweetened Kool-aid, definitely not my cup of tea. But add the gift of friendship, the love of family and the support of your sisters/brothers in arms and the road can be bearable.

Christina ---

Originally Posted at http://www.fightpink.org/

Monday, February 9, 2009

Opps, I Did It Again!

OK, I am a klutz just like my dad, bless his heart. I am his daughter, carbon copy and all! If you know my dad then you know exactly where I am coming from. No one can forget the time he dropped pizza on Grandmom's brand new carpet just after he and my Mom started dating. After the whole pizza experience, he ate every meal in the kitchen, lol! Plain and simply put I am a klutz and a seriously major one at that. Always have been. You know the kind of person who walks into a book shelf right in front of her? Well, that's me!

Alright, is the peanut gallery ready? Go ahead, let it out... giggle and ask me. What did I do this time? Ready? Here goes, I broke my rib trying to clean the house. Yep you heard me right. I just had to get the one little dust spot, in the one out of reach corner where no one but I could see it (well, maybe I'm like my mom here). Did I stop to think about the end result? Sure I did... the dust would be gone! I was not just stretching to get the dust, no, I was stretching, leaning and jumping all at the same time.

So instead of getting the nesting dust bunny I hit the landing hard and of course felt that little pocket to my left side pop out and back in. The first thing I did was yell ouch!!!!!!!!!!! Poor Johnny just shook his head, looked at me and uttered something about "Christina, you are always doing something to yourself aren't you?'

Well I went to the doctor today, following IVIG. Good thing too because I was already loopy, so explaining what happened was just plain comical. Doctor: "Um, so how did you hurt yourself again?" Christina: "Well, would you believe I was cleaning the house?" Bottom line I confirmed what I already knew... my rib is cracked. Nothing you can really do for it, but take some pain meds and suffer through it. Well it offers a good laugh anyway especially at a time when all I want to do is cry.

So here I sit, trying to type and hold my side at the same time, looking longfully at my pain meds and the at the clock for my next round. I envision a wooden hammer, a knot on top of my head and cartoons running all around the room by the time this is all said and done! Seriously Friday will be just swell, don't ya think? I'll be stuck with needles, have metal pieces inserted inside my breast and deal with a cracked my rib all while lying on my stomach. By the time I roll off the table I'm gonna feel like I have been slammed with a jack hammer!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Biopsies Scheduled

I just wanted ya'll to know that both my biopsies have been scheduled. They called me last week and set things up for of all days, Friday February 13th, lol.

The doctor/radiologist said on Tuesday she was concerned because one looked just like the first one they found in 2006 (clustered calcification's) and the other larger one (closer to the lymph nods) was jagged. I'm not happy about all this, but I'm alright. I am confident, scared, and slapped silly all at once. If this is cancer, then it is a new one, not the same. (I'm guessing here. It makes me feel better to think of it in that light.) My chances seem really good. Beat it once,beat it twice right? Yep. that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

My week is insane. I have IVIG on Monday, a doctors' appointment on both Tuesday and Wednesday, a lump extraction and biopsy ( my head again) on Thursday and then my breast biopsies on Friday. Plus the boys are off from school both Friday and Monday and Micah is still battling this Mono. He is just feeling awful, but he does go back to school Monday.

When it comes down to it, I'm no quitter! I still have my boxing gloves on and I'm ready to beat this beast back if need be.. This is just another hurdle right? I know without a doubt I am in God's hands. What better place to be?

Also please , stop by and encourage Sherri at http://trustmeitsnothing.blogspot.com/ .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

She Wants My Shoes!

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up.I had both my diagnostic mamo and ultrasound today, plus both my X-Rays.Well it was all very interesting to say the least.I had everything done at the Memorial Herman Memorial City Breast Center.It is truly a beautiful center. I have to say the folks there are very kind and efficient. Once the X-rays where done I was brought back and given a very comfortable warm robe, and then called back to where I would have my mamo.I spent some time in there and then was taken back for my ultrasound.OK here is where things get a bit off track from the yellow brick road.I was happy go lucky skipping down the lane, up until the wicked witch appeared. Now don't get me wrong, no one at the center is wicked, not by any means! Truth be told is just this darned beast of mine! She just popped up out of no where like a green poof of smoke! Suddenly she was just cackling and staring me right in the eyes!

OK ready?

Here we go....First the good news...My left breast seems fine. The lump my doctor felt is just the valve to my implant.Great news. I was feeling pretty good, Then I heard the but. It always starts with a but doesn't it?So here is where the road goes a bit crooked...
I was feeling good lying there waiting for the tech to come back.Though I was getting tired of the icky sticky ultrasound gel on my chest.I was a bit surprised to see the the radiologist come in at this point. She said hello, introduced herself and then started taking images herself. She would stop and ask the tech for a closer look. Then closer and closer again. Then she would ask for color, then no color. Finally I asked what was up. After all this isn't my first trip to OZ! She looked down at me and gently told me to wait and she would explain everything to me in a bit. She wanted to have a few more magnification pictures done on the mamo and compare my old films with the new ones.

I took a deep breath, wiped my tears away and tried clicking my heels 3 times. It didn't work. I was still there. So off I was with a bunch of crazy, flying monkeys! Looking down from where I was dangling my hope was seriously a little dashed.

But another trip to the boob squasher it was.This time I was mentally singing,"Patti Cake Patti Cake, Bakers Men, Squish Me A Boob As Fast As You Can!"

So finally all the testing was done and I was just sitting there in my robe. Thankfully my mom was there when they asked if I had anyone there with me. By chance my parents had an appointment in the same area and had decided to come by and wait for me.

After about 10 minutes the doctor/radiologist came back into the room and looked me straight in the eyes.I have been at this long enough to know when a doctor is about to derail the train you're on. So again I took a deep breath and did my best to exhale...

Here's the news:I have 2 area of concern. Both on the right breast. The one furthest away is the one I have been aware of for some time. Mostly pain, but at times I have been able to feel a lump. The other is closest to the nipple area. Both are calcification's. The thing worrying the doctor is the pattern they are following. One is jagged and the other is a perfect twin to the mass found on my left breast 3 years ago. You know the one with breast cancer stamped all across it? Oh the ways of the beast! What a tango she leads us through on the dance floor.

OK what next? Well, this is how it is going to go:I will have a stereotactic breast biopsy .This one will pinpoint the exact location of a breast mass by using a computer and x-rays taken from two different angles. Then I will have an ultrasound guided biopsy. I have chosen to have both on the same day. This way I am not going in twice nor am I having to wait any longer for results.

So now we hurry up and wait. How do I feel? Numb to be exact. Funny I thought I was a rock. Hum.. I sure sank like one though lol. All I can do now is pray and wait. I am not beaten, just bruised a bit.My hair is a mess and my clothes are a bit wrinkled. My loyal friends, bless them are still to each side of me. I have to admit though... I am shaking. The good news?I am holding these ruby slippers tight on my toes in hopes I am really getting back home by clicking them soon. Still I can see the wicked witch sneering at me. Just wait till I throw this bucket of water all over her!

Oh no she didn't!
My shoes?
Oh no you don't, silly sour green lady.

I am so ready to burst out in song. people!

All together now..."Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch is dead!"

Seriously, I am way too busy to die!
I just don't have room to pencil it in!