Those I’ve met along the way…”The Chef”

Sharing my story with the world has put me in touch with some pretty wonderful people and it wasn’t until today that I decided to actually share what each experience has meant to me.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the chef and owner of my favorite little french restaurant, Bistro 1902. The night started off slow and quickly became busy with a flurry of people coming in to enjoy the delicious meals and wonderful atmosphere. This is the kind of restaurant that has the kind of food that makes you want to close your eyes with each bite to ensure you savor each moment.

The restaurant was short staffed that evening so we had the pleasure of being served by the chef himself. I recall asking where he was from and my eyes lit up when he replied, “Paris”.

It was only months ago that we had to cancel our trip to Paris due to my surgery and the fact that I had to use all of my vacation and sick time from work for my recovery. When I shared these details with him, he smiled and complimented my optimistic outlook on the whole experience. It was very sweet and nice to know that through it all, others can still see my efforts to find the positive in my journey.

The Chef later returned and said, “You know what? Since you had to cancel your vacation, I want to make the rest of your night extra special.” “I will speak to you in french for the rest of your meal and I will even be little rude to you”, he said with a smile. This made me laugh and as crazy as it sounds made me feel so special.

He later shared stories about his childhood memories of his mom teaching him, at the age of 13, how to make the delicious dessert I was enjoying that evening. The whole experience was really wonderful.

I guess in short what I’m trying to say is that, I know it can be hard to just randomly shed light on something so personal but in that moment, I was glad I did. I felt I had somehow turned a sensitive topic into something more positive. It was a reminder of where I was now compared to where I was before, and how much I wanted to never give up  or stop living life the way I was living it in that moment.

You see, a wise woman once told me, “Cancer doesn’t define you”, and she was right. It’s my desire to never let it keep me down that determines my strength and who I really am.

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth 🙂

Speak up or forever be mistreated…

Yes…

This is my first official rant…

And while I don’t want to bore you with the details of my disappointment, there is one thing I wanted to share with you all. If you feel even the tiniest inclination that the doctor you’ve chosen isn’t a great match, don’t be intimidated and speak up.

Today I stood my ground after feeling like the oncologist I had chosen in my new home town crossed the line by talking to me in a manner no patient should be spoken to. I don’t care how amazing you are!

I can’t even fully describe in words how unhappy I was when I left the office and I’m not even the type that cares so much about the warm fuzzy’s. I can handle a straight and to the point doctor. What I can’t handle is a rude one that doesn’t see me as an educated individual and spends more time asking things like, “did you not understand when I told you I received and reviewed the pathology slides you sent me”, when my question was a simple, “how should I go about sending the records to the physician you are referring me to”?

Excuse me…

That response was a bit rude don’t you think?

I had to stop and ask myself, “Since when did being proactive and willing to assist become a bad thing?”

There were a few more similar comments that eventually just made me want to say,  “I’m so sorry to be inconveniencing you with my cancer history doctor. Please feel free to continue to seem annoyed about you being my physician.”

After this experience I felt the need to remind everyone out there that, “You are human and should be treated like one”. Going through cancer is difficult enough without the addition of having someone make you feel even worse about it.

I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I know what it’s like having an amazing oncologist and keeping that relationship through the process. It’s important and really makes the journey a little easier to go through. In a way, they become a part of your family.

If you haven’t found one yet, don’t stop looking, I promise you there is a great oncologist out there for you and you deserve to find them. You don’t want someone that’s just great on paper, you want someone that is great to and for you.

My search is on and all I can say is “this little warrior doesn’t settle”. If I wont let cancer keep me down, rest assure I wont allow a physician to do it either…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

Finally, my dream pillow has arrived!!

There are pillows for your head, neck, body, knees and feet.

LADIES, I now introduce to you the Breast Pillow!!

To me this was like winning the lotto. I couldn’t resist a trial run after arriving home from work. I couldn’t feel any pain laying on my stomach!! This is a dream come true!! I could almost cry over it!!

I was able to find this pillow on Amazon.com. It’s called the Descansa Breast Pillow. This particular size is the Large – X Large measuring 19 x 11 x 3 inches to fit a C cup or Larger. I couldn’t believe it even existed and was very happy to have stumbled across it. 🙂

Dreams really do come true...
Dreams really do come true…

My thought of the day….

This past month has been a real struggle so I took a break from writing to try to focus on my thoughts. Even though my mind knows I have so much to be thankful for, my heart just can’t make sense of that no matter how hard I try, making me feel like a terrible person. I feel so empty and like I’m simply going through the motions as if I were a robot.

I smile because I know I should and laugh because jokes are supposed to be funny. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time but I can tell when it does because I feel like in that moment I step outside of my body and begin watching myself from across the room. Just trying to understand why, in that precise moment, I stopped feeling anything at all. I finally decided to write about it in hopes of discovering something I hadn’t already or maybe just as a way of letting it go. I chose to share it on my blog not to obtain sympathy or complain to the world, but instead educate others on the thought process I’m going through. It wouldn’t be fair or right for me to portray myself as a superhero.

Those that have been following my blog since the beginning know I’ve said it before, “allow yourself to feel sad if that’s what you are really feeling”. I’ve realized now something very important about that statement. It’s a full time job. Why you ask? For me the explanation is very simple. It’s easier to keep the sad moments to myself because too often when I provide truth about my journey, the feedback is the usual, “Just be thankful that you are still alive today”, “there are people worse off than you”, “god has a special plan for you”. While I agree this is all true, it’s not exactly comforting to hear when all you need is a listening ear.

I may be up and running but trust me when I say that each day has its challenges and looks can be deceiving. My journey is far from complete and even after a bilateral mastectomy, I’m still going through a painful breast reconstruction, am waiting to hear if radiation is still a must and have a regimen of injections and pills waiting for me to start. Not to mention the possibility of other surgeries outside of completing my breast reconstruction.

So what crazy idea have I come up with? It’s simply really. Since most people don’t really want to hear the details when they ask how I’m doing, I save them the trouble and respond with a simple, “Just taking it one day at a time”. Those that want to know more will ask and this way I don’t have to pour myself out to those that are simply just trying to be courteous. I mean, why bore people with the details if they aren’t interested in them right? At the same time, I keep myself from hearing the “Generic” comments most people use, thinking they have to say something that makes sense to make you feel better when in reality, nothing really does.

It’s like when people ask, “Hi, How are you?” Have you ever really taken a moment to notice that most people ask but they don’t stop what they are doing to hear the response? It’s terrible. As a society, we seem to have lost our human side. The side that shows compassion and true caring for others. Maybe I’m just being sensitive about the topic but I’m sharing the thought because I know there are others like me going through something similar and I want them to know they aren’t alone. I’m also hoping that people become a little more aware of their interactions with people and start showing genuine interest in each other. Cancer or no Cancer, all of us are going through something and it’s important we give each other at least a minute of our undivided attention. It can make a world of a difference…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My Expansion Progress Report…

I’ve had two successful expansions since my bilateral mastectomy in March and each day has been a new learning opportunity. First and foremost, I feel blessed to have had the option to undergo a breast reconstruction at the same time I had the mastectomy done. There have been so many women before me that didn’t have the option and to me that’s a big deal. While the process isn’t always an easy or fun one, there is a sense of peace I feel knowing I will eventually feel “whole” again.

After getting over the initial pain I experienced due to the expanders, the toughest thing has been adjusting to sleeping on my back. I’m usually a side or stomach sleeper so this has been a difficult one to get use to. Nevertheless, I’ve managed and have found great use for the bamboo body pillow I received after my surgery.

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The firm and tight feel of my expanding chest is another thing I’ve had to get use to. At times it’s caused back pain or difficulties breathing comfortably. The reconstructed breasts are so rounded compared to what they were like before and they feel so stiff after each expansion. I secretly hope each day that they eventually develop a more natural feel and look but, I don’t know that it will really happen until my final implants go in. You can tell in the picture I posted that it’s starting to look like I have two round balls on my chest… Lol Crazy!

Overall, the expansion process has been an experience I can’t complain to much about. Every two weeks I see my surgeon, he uses a needle to inject more saline into my expanders and I go back to my daily routine, giving my skin time to stretch and make room for more saline.

Saline anyone? :)
Saline anyone? 🙂

Radiation treatment has been put on hold till we determine what other treatment options I have so, keeping faith that each expansion will be a successful one is the only thing I try to focus on right now. The biggest concern is that the left breast won’t do well since I had radiation. You can even see in the picture how shiny the skin on the left side is as a result of its inability to stretch as easily as the right. All in all, I am doing well and am looking forward to the final product. 🙂

Stay tuned…
Elizabeth 🙂

Is Therapy Right For Me?

We can all benefit from the many types of therapy available to help us cope with our daily lives. This is especially true when coping with the many expected and unexpected emotional ups and downs that we face during our journey with and after cancer.

Me during one of my Skype sessions with my therapist.
Me during one of my Skype sessions with my therapist.

One of the ways I have chosen to help me cope is speaking with a therapist. It’s a great way to express my feelings and obtain useful tools to assist me with my emotional recovery. If this is something that interests you but you’d prefer not to be in an office setting, I highly recommend looking into seeing a therapist that also uses modern technology like Skype or FaceTime so that you can have the session in an environment that allows you to feel more comfortable expressing yourself.

Sometimes the office setting can be intimidating and cold, which in turn can result in you not sharing as much. You may also not feel physically ready or even have the transportation, so this will keep you from waiting to long to seek help. Personally, Skype has been a great option for me. 🙂

Let’s say one-on-one just isn’t your thing. That’s no problem at all. Group therapy is another great option. In fact, while not in a group setting, I have found it extremely helpful to speak with other women that have had similar experiences. A group setting can take away the “attention is on me” feeling and allow you to flow with the conversation started by another individual. Listening to their stories can also provide you with a wealth of knowledge without ever having to ask a question.

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This is so important. My experience has shown me that while the doctors may provide us with a brief summary of what we can expect, most things we figure out on our own. We don’t even know they exist until we experience them, so how do we know what additional questions to inquire about in order to be better prepared? This is why listening to others can be so valuable. You can get an even broader perspective of the ups and downs you too may face. This means it wont shock you when it happens and will allow you to mentally prepare for it if it should occur.

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I’ve shared my thoughts about some of the most obvious forms of therapy but what about the not so obvious alternatives. There are many of them out there. Meditation, Hypnoses, Chakra Cleansing, Aroma Therapies, Guided Imagery, EFT ( aka Callahan Method) and many many more. Mediation and EFT have also proven to be very effective for me in the past and are methods I continue to use today.

Bonding with nature is one of my favorite ways to restore my inner strength.
Bonding with nature is one of my favorite ways to restore my inner strength.

Lastly, one of my favorites is utilizing the out doors. I love being around nature and find that it grounds me almost instantly. The more I do it, the better I feel. It may be just sitting outside and listening to the breeze flow through the trees or the birds singing, walking on the grass or on the beach with my bare feet. Its all perfect for me. In fact, I even hugged a tree during my vacation last year in Mt. Shasta and I must say, I may have looked ridiculous doing it but it felt awesome. I didn’t want to let go! 🙂

All in all, I find therapy an essential part of my recovery and I really hope you too will consider it if you haven’t already done so. You are truly worth every moment you invest in yourself. ❤ ❤

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

Breaking Point…

After spending a week in the hospital, I was finally released with a concoction of medications that would allow me to stay comfortable while continuing my recovery at home. I thought my stay at the hospital and the pain I was enduring was the worst thing that could be happening to me until my reality started setting in followed by depression.

I hate to admit it but it’s true, I have reached a new breaking point. I no longer feel as brave as you’ve all known me to be. I’ve become fearful of stepping into my day to day routines and not being able to complete them, unhappy with the way I look and the fact that nothing fits “the way it use to”, and disappointed in myself for letting this whole experience get the best of me.

This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn't restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.
This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn’t restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.

You would think, having gone through this before, it would be a piece of cake to bounce back, but it hasn’t. This surgery and the transformation that came with it has been much harder to cope with.

I try with everything in me to smile and remember just how lucky I am, but a part of me can’t help but be angry, sad and hurt. I get frustrated by the tiniest sound and go from sweet to sour in seconds. It’s an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t seem to end.

As the swelling has gone down and my incision have healed, I’ve been able to become more familiar with the foreign objects inside me. The expanders feel so hard and stiff. I’m even noticing a difference in placement which makes me worried. “Did I do something to make it shift?” “Was it always like that?” “Did the Alloderm not take, causing my expander to slide down?”

I’ve been so careful and still have managed to over do it at times, causing more frustrations. I can honestly say that the one thing that keeps me sane are the pep talks and counseling I’ve received along the way from people who have gone through this or something similar. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone and that I’m not crazy.

I yearn to feel whole again, but for now, I can only take it one day at a time and hope that each day gets better…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth Plaza

After My Bilateral Mastectomy….

Some hosital snap shots. :)
Some hosital snap shots. 🙂

A little over a week has past since my double mastectomy and it’s been an interesting experience thus far. I can completely understand why so many woman struggle with the decision of having a mastectomy done or knowing that its their only option. It’s scary, painful and there are so many unknowns.

Thankfully, we now live in an age whimageere so many brave woman have shared their stories, giving us front row seats to their experieces. In all honesty, this really prepared me for what was to come and has also helped me stay strong through the process.

As a way to give back, I too have been sharing my journey and will continue to do so by writing, posting photos and sharing videos. I’ve already posted many on my Facebook page but will add them to my blog for those who aren’t following me on Facebook. I hope you will continue to follow my crazy journey! 🙂

Stay tuned,image

Elizabeth 🙂

 

Click here  to view some of the videos I’ve shared since my surgery. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Pre-Surgery Update

It’s been almost 2 weeks now that I found out my cancer had returned and I’m officially packed and ready to head to the other coast tomorrow in preparation of my surgery Monday afternoon. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.

Packing was a little different this time as there was one essential item that wasn’t coming with me. My bras! I know it sounds kind of silly, but when it finally clicked in my head that I would no longer be wearing my bras, I felt a whole in my stomach and a pain in my heart. I mean it’s not like I just received the news yesterday but in that moment, it felt like I had.

I have one day left before I say goodbye to the “lady lumps” that have been causing so much emotional stress in my life.

While removing them is the best decision for my future, they’ve been mine for 32 years now and I think that merits the right to be a little upset about losing them.

The plan for my surgery is a bilateral mastectomy, (one side required and the other preventative) with reconstruction. The reconstruction will take place in phases as they will not be putting in the final implants right away. I’ve opted to go with the placement of “Expanders” first at the recommendation of my plastic surgeon, due to the fact that I am small to begin with and have had radiation to the left breast in the past, making the healing process a more difficult one. It will reduce my chances of complications due to infection or my incision not healing correctly.

I admit I’m a bit nervous and am overwhelmed but I try to stay positive and remind myself that what I’m doing now will bring me so much peace in the future.

Flowers from my love :)
Flowers from my love 🙂

I’ve also been blessed to have such an amazing support system to help me get through my daily struggles. My partner, family, close friends and new friends. They’ve all been an essential part of my mission to “keep it together”.

I will continue to blog throughout my recovery so be sure to follow along. I hope what I have to share will be both educational and comforting to others who may be going through something similar or know someone who is.

At the end of the day my purpose for sharing my story is to educate others and help in any way I can to comfort others going through the same. The support I’ve received along the way has really just been a blessing from all of you. One of which I am extremely grateful for.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

P.S. The painting above was done by one of my co-workers. The woman represents me and the 2 flowers above my head represent my journey, one flower being darker than the other to resemble a larger and more difficult journey the second time around. The flowers below are white representing peace and the bird with the survivor ribbon represents my freedom and survivor-ship after completing my journey.  This painting truly touched my heart. ❤

Round 2… Kicking Cancers Butt!!

While the many questions I have regarding “what comes next” have yet to be answered. There is one answer I know for sure. I once again have breast cancer.

It was only yesterday when I received the call confirming my greatest fear. Same breast and same type of cancer. “High Grade Ductal Carcinoma in SITU.” The fact that it’s in SITU is great because it means it’s in it’s early stages. Nevertheless, it’s been an exhausting 24 hours as you can imagine. No matter how busy I’ve been at work and with my personal life, it’s a topic I find hard not to think about. Just the thought of another surgery makes my stomach churn.

Life was going so well you know? I had just received a promotion and been accepted into the mentorship program I had applied for. It frustrated me more than anything how intrusive this disease has always been. Not that it’s something you are ever ready for. It’s just always taken place during a time in my life where major changes are occurring making it so difficult to enjoy those special moments.

I wasn’t even sure if writing about this now was the right thing to do but, my goal was to write about the good and the bad. It’s about my life, my take on it and my hopes of helping others that have or are sharing my journey. So if you are going through your own personal journey, know that I am here. We are sharing this moment together and together we will pull through this. We are going to Kick Cancers Butt!!!

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth ❤