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!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the Door

I was reminded about a week ago of just how unpredictable life can be. We are never fully ready for the storm, no matter how much we prepare or how hard we brace for the first wave. In the end all we can really do is sit back and pray for the best. Once we have checked our to do list off, prepared our homes, our lives and our families for the worst to come what can we do except huddle together, holding each other’s hands and close our eyes?

We can pray, we can believe in spite of the winds, the distance between us and the ground below, the chaos building up inside of us and the gunfire all around us that God has a plan. I have to say I have always had a way of asking God in my own are you kidding attitude kind of way what He was up to in my life, why this, why now and yes even why me? I have spent many days looking over my own plans, my escape route, and my emergency evacuation blueprints and simply shook my head wondering what was wrong with my way of doing things?

Why couldn’t life just turn out the way I dreamed, the way I wanted, the way I planed it to, why did it have to go awry in such an extreme way? Well the one thing I have come to realize is sometimes we are not meant to know the whys till years later. Sometimes taking a leap of faith is the best course of action, even if it does make sense. Granted the gap between here and there may very well be wide enough to make us cringe and back away! Believe me I have had confusion and disorder reign supreme in my life over the last 5 years! I can’t tell you how many times the turbulent rain and winds from the raging storm just outside my door has blow through my windows leaving my life in disarray, a complete mess in need a bull dozer to clean up the turmoil left behind.

I have muddled and rummaged through what was left of my life, scrambled to save the shambles, tried to piece back together the disorder and turn down the racket of cancer’s havoc. I am telling you with un-abandoned certainty cancer has kicked my butt more times than I can shake a stick at. Seriously take a look around at my life, I have lost a breast, I have more scars than I want to acknowledge, bold and ugly from side to side, top to bottom all from cuts, deep and brutal. I have a disfigured body in a perfectly perfect image kind of world. Where having an immaculate body, impeccable; unblemished, uninjured; scathless, intact practically super human perfect body is the driving appetite, thirst and aspiration so many of us diet, starve and push our bodies to become. I would say sadly, but the truth is I am not disgruntled about my less then perfect body anymore. I may not always find myself attractive, beautiful or the image of how my dream life should have turned out but I am comfortable in the skin I am in!

So what happened to my glass of red wine, strawberry eating, nice romantic life filled with dancing by candle light? Where did my once young, beautiful, two breasted chest go? I’ll tell you where, out the door into the war zone I was dropped into with the hurricane strength winds that blew through my life 5 years ago leaving a path of destruction, areas of major devastation in need of a disaster relief area plan! If you ask me I will tell you at times I am convinced I am trapped inside a movie life scenario watching everything I am, everything I once longed to be tipped upside down, shaken till my pockets were completely emptied and swept out to sea by cancer’s chaos. So as I begin readying myself for the next battle, for the new storm surge on the horizon I am reminded of God’s plan for my life. A plan I fought many times, yet found refuge in. I am not fearless in the face of this beast and her constantly reaching claws, but I am brave in the faith I hold inside my heart.

Next week I will undergo my 11th surgery within the last 5 years. Why, well I have recently suffered a few complications. Now don’t worry too much I am still in remission, but my body has undergone so much while fighting this beast, weathering her storm over and over again that it has just buckled under the stress a bit. We all have battle wounds, no matter how big or small they are and mine have come calling. If I told you I was undauntedly fearless I would be lying to you because I am apprehensive, but as any good soldier knows you still have to press on. My dad has always said there are no promises in combat and so I understand that each and every time I go into battle, ready myself for conflict with this beast I am not guaranteed anything! What I do know is I have a plan, not my plan, but God’s on my side. No matter what comes tomorrow when the new day begins, when the sun shines once again I will still be in God’s hands, under His watchful eyes and within His perfect design. He knows tomorrow‘s forecast, He knows if the battle plan will be victorious so for today I will prepare, bracing for the storm ahead and gather with my family knowing we have done everything possible to prepare for the mission ahead. All I have left to do now is rest in His grace and wait for the Jumpmaster to say, “Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door “...


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Learning to LOVE the Skin We’re in (Dents and All)

What is the first word which comes to your mind when you think of a car wreck? How about destruction, devastation, crippling, marred, out of commission, shot to pieces? Any of the above ring a bell? Well the truth is being diagnosed with breast cancer is basically like a car wreck. Maybe you didn’t see it coming or you may have indeed had notice but the fact is you are still sliding into this situation, this pile up of crushed hopes and dreams in slow motion helpless to stop any of the careening chaos ahead.

Breast Cancer, two words that slice through your heart, bringing devastation and hardship beyond any nightmare Freddy on Elm Street could ever cook up! A three alarm fire has erupted, and you are tied down at the very center of its flames! Being suddenly thrown into the Big C can take away your ability to respond or cope with anything else. You may feel impaired, on the ropes, out of gas, paralyzed, and just plain afraid, anxious, frightened and apprehensive. By the time the Big C has had her way with you and your body I can tell you from my own experience in the drivers seat life can become very turbulent. So let’s get real for a few seconds, past all the “I am hope” spiel; having your breast whacked off then thrown into the incinerator is just ludicrous certainly not a walk in the park. Once you get past the idea of saying goodbye to your boobie you are well on your way to placing an expander inside your chest, a technology wonder of wonders, where a breast used to be. Finally after letting your boobie go you're under the influence of replacing what once was.  Stretching your skin till you scream just to fit your brand new, better than ever, first class, absolute perfection of an implant that will make you whole again right? Presto, you are complete with a sparkling, bouncy, very perky one sided boobie, but what does this really mean anyway? A new boobie, is what! Can I get a hallelujah and pass the potatoes? Alright the truth, the  deep down and dirty, nitty gritty gravy sopping truth is this: Your new boobie is nothing like the real thing, there is nothing remotely familiar about out of the box boobie, it’s not a bigger and better boob, and it won't make you feel whole or complete just because it's shaped like a breast. Any salesman trying to offer you perfection wrapped up in misery is not worth your time. My advice is to be sure you begin moving briskly towards the door and the opposite direction of a dotted line until you have faced your inner mirrior. A new boobie is great, but in order to be whole, to feel complete you have to accept the new you, dents, dings and scars. Before you jump in feet first you MUST be comfortable in your own skin, missing boobie and all.

Truth is I lost my boobie, my hair, eye lashes, and eye brows at 32 years old. Sure everything came back better than ever, without any help I might add, with the exception of my boobie! Learning to love the skin I am in has been a process. Being comfortable with who I am, as a one boobed, thirty something woman has been an adventure let me tell you! I have stood in the mirror many times, tracing over my long, somewhat faded scars stretched across my chest, across both breasts and down under my arm. I have felt the fear of disfigurement, as if a crater had been dug out into my body, leaving me less of a woman so many mornings it wold make your head spin  facing the bathroom mirror. I would not be honest if I didn't tell you I have sunk to the bottom of my shower, with tears in my eyes, asking God how this could be fair anywhere , in any universe He had control over. I have felt disgusting, grotesque, hideous, homely, repulsive, ugly, unattractive as if I am defect, tarnished and corroded.

I have looked at my life as a car wreck many times, surveyed the dents and the dings, contemplated having my life towed off to the junk yard, scraped and left for worthless parts but the real honest to goodness truth is I am not hopeless, I am not a heap of trash or a pile of rusty old lifeless scrap metal. Sure my life has been interrupted by the Big C but it was not relinquished because cancer interrupted my life for a few unsolicited messages! What my life was and could have been was shaken to the core, tossed around and left for the buzzards. Life after the Big C has been a day to day, stop and go, hit the breaks, running low on gas, push, pull and tow kind of journey but the thing is this friends the life I lead now is right where I need to be, where I landed, on my feet, in God’s hands, with a wider view of life’s ups and downs and yes a few more puzzle pieces to snap in place along the road, but full of life, full of joy even in a make shift, rusted old car!  I may have some extra dents I hadn’t planned on, but just like Mater in Cars 2, when he is offered a chance to fix what the world sees as imperfections, I am OK with keeping my dents perfectly in place. Sure I may be a simple tow truck, rusted and banged up, full of unsightly dents, one head light missing with a dilapidated old fender and no hood but just like Mater, “You can’t touch my dents”. I may not have made every dent with Lightening McQueen but I sure did get every one of these unsymmetrical, unappealing, yet radiant, life changing dents along this journey, this adventure of sorts in the company of so many wonderful companions and compatriots.

Together we have created these radiant, ravishing, extremely beautiful imperfect dents in life, they are truly memorable memories, remembrances that inspire us, challenge us to rise above our own idea of perfection allowing our lives to become a narrative, a story, a tragedy turned into good fortune, a blessing, a miracle handing us  triumph over the defeat of a Big C's diagnosis. We no longer have to give in, succumb, surrender, and yield to defeat just because we have a new dent on the exterior canvas of life. Instead, I challenge you to embrace the “dents” life brings your way, whether cancer creates them or not. Stop for just one second and realize them dents are valuable friend! Just like our old friend Mater, go ahead love those dents, be crazy about ‘em, be crazy for ‘em, be crazy over ‘em, be mad about ‘em, go nuts over ‘em , be stuck on ‘em, be wild about ‘em and cherish each dent you have acquired because when all is said and done, each one indeed has made you uniquely you!