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!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just Call Me Sally!

Today is Wednesday. Just a typical day around here. You know how it goes? Let's see... get up, get the family fed and out the door, clean up, dress myself at some point, have my IVIG infusion, wake Micah up and feed him, make sure he is dressed for his home bound teacher, pick up Joshua from school, get homework done, answer emails, take a call or two from the school, come up for air and breath, then start on dinner and sit down to watch a movie with the family. OK stop to breath again then clean up the end of the day mess, shower, and get into bed. Whew! OK now I have to remember nothing to eat or drink after midnight which is about the time I will get into bed and be back up by 4:30 AM and out the door for surgery at the hospital!

I didn't tell you? Opps, I am really sorry. Where has the time gone? I have meant to sit down all week and fill y'll in. Life has just been very stressful lately. You know the typical stuff that has caused my hair to literally fall out? Really, seriously I had to have it cut last week because it was coming out in clumps. Nice I know, but hey this time around on the O.R. merry-go-round it's really no biggie. Just a routine in and out. Of course it seems like I am taking two steps backwards to move one step forward, but hey that's what life is all about right?

Tomorrow morning I am having a brand new port -a -cath placed. This is happening, whether I want it to or not. I know, it's what I need. Sure it's for the best, really I know, since I have extremely limited access these days thanks to chemo. I have one good vein left in but it is so covered in scar tissue it just isn't very reliable anymore. Then with lymphedema in my other arm well you can see this is the next best thing.

But I am nervous. I hate going under. I don't respond well to the anesthesia and I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't admit to dragging my feet into the O.R. tomorrow. True it has been a long time coming especially with the IVIG every week. Bottom line is I will be there first thing in the morning ready to go only this time the port is going in on my own terms. No more crazy sticks with blown veins right?

When I stop and look back it amazes me to think how far I have actually come. This is me, three years after finding a lump in my breast. A lump which could have killed me, but it didn't did it? So sure I am living with the after shock of breast cancer and TAC but these small impositions are far better than the alliterative.

Yes tomorrow morning will be here before I know it with the prospect of living with another port. This will make my 11th surgery in 3 years, but hey who's counting anyway? I am just Sally at your service I am! I may be full of scars and stitched up body parts, but I have survived breast cancer, a hysterectomy, and now an auto immune disorder. I am alive, still kicking and happily ready to shout it from the roof tops! Besides Sally has her man Jack and a head full of yarn seriously how much better can it get?

Seriously, God has been good to me. I have had three more year with my family I didn't have before. I have seen my boys grow, heard their laughter fill the house and held each of them in my arms a day longer than the next. We have faced the beast, walked hand in hand across the victory line and pushed through the darkest of nights together, side by side. I am truly blessed beyond all measure to know I am loved by and to love my family.

My life is a miracle feed and water by love, compassion, understanding and countless friendships. As I walk into the hospital tomorrow morning I want each of you to know I take a part of you with me. I am honored and blessed to be touched by so many beautiful souls.

Well off I go to finish dinner and to sit down with my boys, all three of them, and watch a movie before I put the younger of the three to bed. Say a little prayer for me tomorrow. I know all will be well. Just call me Sally, after all she just has to pull out her handy dandy needle and thread!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

If the Bra Fits....

If losing a breast seems like a nightmare, well the process of gaining it back is just plain hilarious.

Seriously when I first lost my breast to this cancer I was in shock. I was young, full of vitality and plenty of cleavage! I wasn't Ms. Hottie or anything like that but I was confident in my very own over flowing feminine boobie cleavage. Yep, that's right I said it, boobie cleavage.

Life was really good, then I inadvertently bought a ticket aboard the uniboob express. Let me tell you the path my life took afterwards changed forever. I have been buckled in tight with my nails dug into the upholstery ever since.

Three years after losing my breast I have not fully completed the process of re- building my breast. I have the makings of a nice, new, firm, happy breast yes, but not all the bright shiny parts just yet. So to say this train is overdue is an understatement.

I have been down this road, taken more detours than I would like to admit and tried my best to figure out which turn to take next. Inevitably I keep ending up at the same impasse with no real direction. After all this time you would think I would be tired of this loop dee loop by now.

From time to time I have those days when I find myself sitting on the bed wondering what on earth I have gotten myself into. Seriously I can stand in front of a mirror for 10 minutes trying to figure what is wrong with "this" picture. My top is lop sided and my shoulders seem tilted...then it hits me...oh...that's right Christina, you have only one and a half boobies left!Believe me I have become an old pro at fixing things when this dilemma pops up. It's just a matter of tucking here, covering there and suddenly all my scars and imperfections are gone to the naked eye. Really it's no problem, I just move out of habit anymore. In the end I always seem to find myself walking over to my closet and grabbing a sweater in the middle of July. The layered look is still in right or did it go out in the 80's?

My husband would say I look hot? Hum... sure I do. But between you and me it's not the 'hot mama' kind, of hot. Nope I'm talkin' the kind of hot where sweat pours down your back and you beg for water kind of hot! Does this deter me? By no means because by the time I am fully dressed at least I don't look lop sided right? OK so mama said there would be days like these, but did she seriously mean this kind of a day?

So right about now I just have to stop and laugh. What else can I do with such an absurd reality? Life in the uniboob lane is rather fast, sometimes painfully slow but mostly ridiculously laughable. What else would you do? Sure you could cry, scream, stomp around and bang your fists into the wall but really how is all that going to help you get through the craziness? In my corner of this crazy little world laughter is the best medicine.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear Faith Hill's "Baby let's go to Vegas" tune playing to my own parody..." Hey baby let's go to boobie land, take a chance on chemo and a mastectomy...hey baby let's go to boobie land, we'll take a ride on the uniboob express and grab some new cleavage as we say goodbye.." I know craziness but without a touch of it I could not, would not, be able to survive life with breast cancer.

OK now go ahead and pull your jaw back up. You want to know how am I a winner in all of this hullabaloo? Well in the winners corner of whack- a - boobie I have to say I can finally fit into my pre -baby bras. Yeah baby! Can't be a bad thing right? Just a few weeks back I grabbed one without realizing what prize I had in my hands and was shocked to be able to wear something so cute again. Seriously as I stood there I was no longer falling out, stuffing myself back in and squeezing my eyes shut biting my lip as I struggled to hook the back of the darned thing.( I know this is way too much information but hey the blog title is " The Uniboob Club"!)

As the seconds passed in slow motion I didn't know whether to be pleased and jump up and down like a silly school girl or to cry and throw myself into my pillow. I took the first route and just gawked with my mouth wide open standing there for a few minutes stunned. I was just waiting for the spot light and music to follow until Johnny stared at me with his "what in the world is wrong with you" look on his face. I just grinned back at him and thought to myself well if the bra fits....


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Woven Tapestries...

This morning I am sitting here watching my babies sleep. Of course they would argue this point saying they are no longer babies anymore. But to me they will always be my babies no matter where or how far life takes them.

It amazes me how many detours and sudden turns life takes along the way. I always knew I would be a mother even when the doctors told me no, wanted me to have a hysterectomy at age twenty- one. I was stubborn and I said no. I was going to carry and deliver the boys God had already told me I would bare. Their names were engraved upon my heart even as I was just a child myself. I did not know when nor had I seen their faces in any dreams , but I knew deep within my heart who they were and who they would be.

I struggled as a child , as a teen and continued to battle medical issues as an adult. I was in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. I dealt with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight, blood clots at sixteen, cervical (pre) cancer at twenty-one, bells palsy, a stroke at twenty- five, and of course breast cancer and lymphadema at thirty- two years old but God was good. He never abandoned me. Did I ever want to scream at Him? Of course and believe me I did. I have stomped around, screamed, yelled and cried, but I always grow quiet and listen. Because I have learned to stop and allow my spirit to be still and my soul to be quiet. Because of this I have found a peace like none else. As my fear has given way to peace and grace I have grown as a both a woman and as a mother. As the days have gone by and the nights fallen I have found a strength I did not know I possessed.

Even as all the detours came and went I knew my one call in life was to be a mother. I know to some this must sound crazy, but I knew from the time I was little I would have these two precious boys. Even as life seemed to go off down crazy, untraveled paths I trusted God. In time I began to see His plan unfold even as I worried I could not survive myself. My pregnancies were struggles from day one. I was in and out of the hospital with pre term labor, near death came and went a time or two and many times I was advised my pregnancies were not good ideas .I know Johnny gained at least 50 new gray hairs with each one of our boys births but the end result was worth all the pain... the gift of motherhood was spectacular.

Now as I look back I can see clearly I have been in trusted with the care of these two precious souls. Beyond the life I have been given, my children, our boys, Joshua and Micah, are God's greatest gifts in our lives. Have their lives been easy? No, absolutely not! Life has been harsh and the ground has been shaky but God has still provided beauty and joy along the way.

My boys have become strong fighters ready for battle. They carry their swords prepared for battle everyday. I see the fear and yet I see the resolve in their eyes daily. They worry and they fret asking if my cancer will come back. They see my weekly iv infusions and they hold their breathe as I enter one doctors office after another. I watch as they snuggle close enough to squeeze the air right out of me and I listen as they pray each night..."Please God keep Mommy here with us, keep her well and don't take her from us."

At times the pain and the worry can be all but overwhelming and our resolve battered and bruised. As a mother, with breast cancer, living within reach of the beasts den, I can attest to this truth. But hope is not lost because I see life in bloom everyday as I watch my boys laugh, play and sleep. Even when the storm clouds hover above them Joshua and Micah see the beauty life has to offer. Each day I see them take life as a gift even as they pray for the next. My breast cancer has been hard on them, I know this but I also see the positive it has played in their precious lives. I see how the struggles have made them strong boys who will grow into strong men one day. I see compassion, hope and faith as they come to my aide and to my side. In time this cancer too shall pass, but these attributes will not. Come what may, we can not change the course God has placed us on, but we can find ourselves in each and every turn.

So on this Mother's Day I celebrate the life and love I have with my boys. The sands of time slip away faster than we can comprehend. Before we know it life has moved on and our tiny babies have become adults themselves. Joshua and Micah are growing into men so quickly. I still have nights I long for the days when they were still little enough to crawl into my lap. They may not be so little anymore but I still sing to them and hold their hands when no one is looking. No matter how far away they go or how tall grow they will always be my babies.

Still the truth remains time stands still for no one and so I encourage each of you today to hold your children close for they are precious. Our lives are woven and spun into beautiful tapestries each and everyday leaving our imprint and our mark for the generations who follow. So my question is this: What would you have them see ? Yes our time here is short, but our legacies are far reaching. Strength is not in standing tall indeed it is found in the fall. I have always taught my boys that failure is not in the loss. True strength and success is found as you pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off and put just one more step in front of the other. The many paths life leads us down are narrow and winding as we are led from one path to the next. I know the windows life offers each of us may be small, but they are still opportunities. Life lessons and life triumphs are wrapped together tightly so do not waste what time you have been given on the shortcoming life brings. Instead hold true, keep the faith and dust yourself off!

These are the lessons I offer my boys with love, grace and compassion. I pray as I sit here watching my babies sleep, life will offer them opportunity, love and grace even as I know it will offer pain and sorrow along the way. So right here and right now I offer them hope, strength and faith. God has given these precious boys to me, I have given them life, and tomorrow will give them uncertainty. But they will always have this beautiful, worn and in places tattered, woven tapestry to guide them through both the good and the bad times.

May this Mother's day weekend be one of joy and love, memories both filled with tears of loss and triumph. May joy fill your hearts and hope rekindle the flames of true inspiration. May you be blessed and honored as mothers and thankful as fathers. May your children, both young and old, sit beside you threading the needle together as you weave your love, knowledge and history into their lives.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Child's Persistence In Cancer's Shadow

As a mother I have often paused to think about the imprint this journey is leaving upon my children. I have wondered many times if the emotional bruises will ever go away... if the fear, the worry and the pain will ever be just a memory?

I sometimes sit back and mentally journey back to the beginning and see how far we have come. I see my boys little faces full of sadness and hope, sometimes both at the same time. I see their tears, hear their fears and know their pain, but then I can see the changes begin, I see the joy on their faces and the laughter in their voices.Take all the misery for what it is but there is still more to this journey than those dreadful things.

As I move forward through time, past many of our twists and turns, down many detours and through many shattered dreams what do I see you may ask? I see life emerging with hope, strength and determination. Together, as a family, we have stood our ground, taken back this life, changed as it may be, and withstood the challenge. No this journey has not been easy and we have cried many more tears than I would like to admit, but we have done so together. We have suffered many nights waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for another surgery to pass, and another treatment to come and to go. We have watched together as my hair fell out, and my breast was taken away. We have ridden the storms out as they have come, each and every one and yes we have come away battered and bruised. But... we have emerged on our feet, hand and hand, strong in spirit... together.

We have gathered to celebrate and to mourn, we have walked together, with family and friends by our sides, in search for a cure. We have raised our glasses to honor yet another "Life Day" ( year of remission) and held our breathe as we waited for news of it's return. My point is this: We have done this not individually, but together, as a unit, a family. As a mother I have feared for my boys this is true, but I have also made it very clear to each one of them, life is always worth fighting for. So many nights I have lay in my bed, awake, praying for my children, for strength, determination and compassion, in their everyday lives. I have seen them press on, carry heavy loads upon their backs and still share hope and laughter with others.

Then just this last week I received an email from Joshua's school councilor. I opened it up and began reading until my tears began blurring my sight and could not see the words in front of me anymore. Once I cleared my eyes I saw in her note she had written a narrative on our family and submitted it to the Katy Elk Lodge. She had spoken of our strength and resolve, of our determination and how we had risen to the challenge. Her words as as follows:

"I wrote the narrative of how at a young age of 30+ you have battled with cancer and how you chose not to let this disease take the core of your family’s integrity. Also, how you still manage to step up to the plate and headstrong – eye to eye -- confront the malice this disease brings into your home and into your lives . How your perseverance and good attitude is the most admirable trait you have taught your children and how I see it in your son, Joshua. Also, how you have taught your family to stick together through the hard times and not give up even when you feel like you can’t keep up. This is what many of us witness when we see from the outside looking in, and we understand it’s not half of what you truly experience inside in your home. There is so much more you and your family have accomplished on a day-to-day basis that we couldn’t begin to imagine. We appreciate all you do to teach us and our families what it means to persist through life’s toughest adversity when the norm would be to give up."

On Sunday, May 26, 2009 our family was honored by the Elk Lodge as their '2009 Family of the Year' for meeting the challenge to provide outstanding family support under special circumstances. As we stood there hand and hand together in front of so many people we were moved and humbled even as we were being honored. As the speaker went on he began to speak of Joshua and my heart jumped with joy as I listened to how he has risen up from these ashes and made a difference in other children's lives. Our son, our child at the tender age of 12, after living in the shadow of this beast for 3 years now, has begun to mentor other children as their journeys are just beginning within his school walls. His courage and strength spoke to me as it moved me to tears.

You can see why I broke down in tears, why I am in tears now. This was not my goal in life, nor did I see myself living my life this way. But we are not given a choice in such matters and so it is not so much about the cards we are dealt but what we do with them that matters. In my life as the cards are been dealt what I strive for everyday is to help my family, to give my boys purpose. So even when the storm would come to carry us out into the ocean we can rise above the waves.

So in the end, when my time here on earth comes to an end it is time to close this book I pray what I leave behind is a legacy of hope and strength and yes determination to my boys. I pray they will grow into strong men, with good hearts and compassion enough to share with many. This is my greatest hope.