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!!!
A cancer diagnose will bring even the strongest individual down to their knees, regardless of the stage. It’s something we’ve all heard about but never really think will happen to us. The ugly truth however, is that it can happen and it changes your life in an instant.
After my cancer diagnoses, all I could think about was cancer. Before I knew it I was buried in articles and books, all relating to breast cancer.
I remember researching and stumbling across women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer but were far more advanced than I was. It made me feel blessed that I wasn’t as advanced, yet insignificant all at the same time. Like I was crying over spilled milk. Why couldn’t I find more women who were going through something similar and were willing to talk about it. I felt terrible talking about how I felt emotionally with someone that was worse off than I was. How dare I complain, right? Still, with that being said, I had a voice and needed to be heard. I had fears and needed to express them, but to who? Who would be able to understand how I felt and remind me that it was okay to feel that way?
This is why I wanted to take a moment and encourage you to please share your story. I never wish for anyone to feel the way I did, trapped and feeling guilty for being so sad. I promise you that you will be making a huge difference in someones life.
This message goes out to the Caregivers too. Don’t think even for a moment that I have forgotten you.
You know first hand that caregivers need just as much love and understanding as the patient themselves do. Your insight might be just what other caretakers need to help get them passed a hurdle or two. Sharing your journey will also remind others that they aren’t alone. It will even help us, as the patient, better understand some of the struggles you go through.
I really hope that at this hour I’ve been able to really express just how important it is to share our experiences with one another. No story is to small, and no moment of sadness less worthy of a shoulder to cry on than another. This is why I blog…
January 2015 has come to an end and we are quickly already approaching the middle of February. Where does the time go?
I don’t know that I’ll ever really find the answer to that question, but I can say I have accomplished a lot since the year started. I wanted to enter 2015 with the same tenacity I had moving into the big city. I was so excited and felt like I could conquer the world!
This small town girl however was in for a surprise. I struggled so much with the cultural differences when I arrived. As the time went by, the aggressiveness of the city was turning me into an overwhelmed mess. Not to mention only recently I had received news of further studies that needed to be done regarding an area in my left breast. Seriously?
I was starting to think of all the bad things that could result from the stress and the ideas that lingered in my mind and they were starting to eat me up inside.
That’s when I decided to reset my thoughts and focus on the goals I wanted to accomplish, and not on the things I disliked around me.
One of my first goals was to run the Miami Half Marathon I had registered for the previous year. The challenge here was that I hadn’t run since the last one in 2014. In fact, The most I ran the entire year was a distance of 1.25 miles and that occurred less than a handful of times. My work hours had been long, but worse was the way my medications were making me feel. I just didn’t have the energy.
Nevertheless, I wanted to get back into the game and this race was a special one. I know I’ve said that about many others, but this race was the one I ran while undergoing radiation the year prior. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it than and I could do it now.
The race was a beautiful one as always. I ran the first 6 miles feeling sore but great all at the same time. It was after mile 6 that my body broke down and my emotions were at an all time low. I was starting to break down and so many thoughts were running through my mind. “Why are you putting your body through this torture?”, “You didn’t train and weren’t ready for this.”, “You were so much faster last year, look at all those people running by you.”
You know that saying, “You are your own worst enemy”? It was never more true than in that moment. If I had listened to my thoughts, I would have parked myself on the side line to wait for someone to pick me up and bring me to the finish line.
That however was not about to happen my friends! It took a few pep talks but I finished that race with my run/walk combination and it felt amazing!!!! What a great sense of physical accomplishment. 🙂
Could this year get any better???
Yes it can!!!
It was that same week that I was officially turning over my old position as “administrative assistant” and walking into my new one as “assistant property manager” in the building I started working at last September of 2014. This being a completely different career for me felt like the greatest accomplishment. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to move up in the company and I was honored to have been given the opportunity to do so.
To make this opportunity even greater, I received news that I had been accepted into the mentorship program I applied for back in October, after working less then 2 months with my company!! I remember reading the beginning of the email and my jaw dropping in excitement. This was such a blessing and was going to be such a great tool to help me grow as an individual in my company. 😀
All of these blessings have helped keep my mind at ease about the uncertainties that have previously cluttered my mind. Most importantly, I learned that all I have is “Now”. I need to “seize the moment” as they say and make the most of my “now” so that I can get to where I want to be in life.
Planning for the worse has only proven to keep me from doing the things I really want to. It made me less adventurous and taught me to always play it safe. Life isn’t always about walking the straight and narrow though. You’ve got to allow yourself to be creative and follow your heart. It may not always make sense but if you want it, you’ve got to reach out for it. Not matter the diagnoses or the obstacles.
So to all of you out there who think you can’t do it, I have a message for you…
So what better way to remember my amazing trip to Peru while learning how to cook a new dish? Why a cooking date night with a chef of course!! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing so.
I recommend it to any one who enjoys the kitchen, even if only a little. I am no chef but the ability to cook a new dish , while enjoying good music, a delicious beverage and meeting new people was enough to have me sold on the idea.
All of the dishes came out amazing, especially the Lomo Saltado that we prepped…lol 😉 It was certainly a confidence booster for me in the “home cooked meals” department. Cheers to fun in the kitchen! 😉
So now that I’ve shared my story, the biggest question lingering in my head is “what now? What else do I write about?” Sure I’ve had new struggles, but I no longer know whats important and useful to share. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out myself. Many people think that once you’ve gotten over “the worse part of the journey”, things are smooth sailing from there on out. Here’s the thing though, “the worst part” is different for us all.
Let’s take me for example. I sailed right through my surgery and radiation like a champ. Even my doctors were worried about the fact that I was “taking it so well”. Later though, when the storm had past, I expected nothing but rainbows to follow. The “worse part of the journey” was over right? Not exactly. Instead of rainbows, a tornado swiped through unexpectedly destroying the very foundation I had been standing on for so long. It was as though every emotion I had suppressed had come bursting out of a secret box buried deep within. I began to ask myself, “Am I really a survivor?” To me the word “survivor” meant it was all over and life would be what it once was. Why wasn’t that happening?
I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way so I decided to write about it. It’s about the only part of my journey that really makes sense to me at the moment. I’ve realized that the life I once lived can no longer exist exactly as it was. No matter how much I try to even think the way I once did, it’s impossible. It’s like buying a delicious ice cream cone with all of your favorite toppings and watching it hit the floor just before you start eating it. You can’t just put it back on the cone and eat it without thinking about the “slow motion” fall you just witnessed. Instead, you learn to appreciate whats left of it and go on your merry way.
Learning to cope with the side effects of my surgery and medications, while remembering how lucky I am to be typing away at my laptop sharing my random thoughts with the world, is my version of “learning to appreciate what is left of it and going on your merry way”. I too am guilty of finding it hard to see the silver lining at times but I promise you, it’s there. It’s just difficult to see when our emotions get the best of us. Just take a moment and remind yourself of your many accomplishments. You will slowly start to realize that there is no way you could accomplish so much and be the same person. In time you will find you are far more amazing, courageous and beautiful…
Do you ever find yourself at a cross point where one part of you is happily making it’s way from one goal to the next, while the other half is busy looking for shortcuts and not taking a moment to appreciate what you’ve learned along the way? “I have!”
At first I thought this was all happening as a result of my journey and my history of always being so hard on myself. However, I later realized that this happens to a number of us on a far to regular basis. Sometimes, we even find ourselves daydreaming of the life we want only to feel stuck in the life we are living, not even taking into consideration that the current situation/opportunity is what will prepare us for what is to come.
While aspiring to be more and have more can be great, when does it ever become enough? Better yet, why does it make us forget the great things we have already accomplished or why have we lost so much patience with ourselves and the sacrifices we must sometimes make to get to our next goal in life? I myself, even after all I’ve been through, am still guilty of not giving myself enough credit and taking some life lessons for granted.
With that being said, I’ve spoken to a lot of people this week that haven’t given themselves the pat on the back they deserve and are also feeling stuck in their current “journey” and I wanted to remind them, as well as myself, that what we are going through is just that, “a journey”. This means we aren’t stuck in this phase of our lives forever and life still has so much more in store for us. If you think I’m lying, read the definition of journey below…
*an act of traveling from one place to another.
“she went on a long journey”
*a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
“her spiritual journey towards Roman Catholicism”
“they journeyed south”
See, there is nothing in that word that states there is no moving forward from here. So keep your chin up butter cup, life is full of many blessings and you are just one of them. 😉
So I began blogging about my vacation to Mt Shasta and the amazing experience I had, then I became so busy, I never got to finish. Since I returned from vacation, I started a new job and have been on the constant go. I have no complaints though. My new job has been a great learning experience and has opened me up to new opportunities. In fact, I almost feel like I was able to hit the reset button and put aside the sad memories of what I had experienced since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I still intend to blog in hopes of helping others get through their journey, it just won’t be as often as I had before.
To those going through their own journey with cancer, I have this to share with you…. I want you to know that I wish for you all the support and love that I was blessed with to help you through your journey. We are amazing individuals and together we can help each other get through the toughest of times. If there is anyone out there that needs an ear to listen, know you have one here….
After our first group meeting, we headed out for our first hike. Our destination, Fairy Falls, was not very far from the bed and breakfast. Once we arrived, we each took the opportunity to enter the fall, giving ourselves a fresh new start to our individual journeys. I remember slowly making my way to the water and freezing up the moment I took my first step in. The water was colder than any water I’ve ever felt. My first instinct was to run and reject the cold water like I normally would. Then, someone said, “come on, who’s going to be the first girl to enter the fall”?
That’s when the insane competitive side kicked in and said, “come on, be brave, you can do it!!” I guess, having a slight competitive edge paid off this time because it was just what I needed to drum up the courage to walk right into the fall and lose myself in the moment. It was so cold and I could barely stop shaking enough to keep myself standing. I remember screaming “Mahalo”, like those before me, and feeling an instant surge of energy run through my body. It was as if my body had finally woken up from the stagnant stage it had been in for so long.
One by one, others followed, as those who had already entered cheered them on. We then found a spot of our own along the stream to enjoy our surroundings. It was beautiful and peaceful. You could hear the wind blowing through the trees, the water from the fall and it flowing down the stream, and the birds singing songs of joy. Though I suppose in their own language they could have very well been asking each other who’s bringing what to the next family gathering. Lol
The following day after gathering again as a group, we carpooled up to Crystal Lake. It was a short hike to the lake, and the spectacular area where we all enjoyed lunch together while soaking up the nature around us. I felt so lucky to be living that moment. To often, I have a million things running through my head and a to do list, like many, that never ends. There, the only thing I had “to do” is enjoy that moment.
After a group meditation and healing exercise, we made our way to the lake for a refreshing swim. Now, when I say refreshing, I mean it was really cold. Granted, I’m a Florida girl who has been guilty on many occasions of complaining about the beach water being cold where I live, but this really was cold! For me at least. I promise not to complain about my beach again. All in all though, it was very nice, and I had yet another chance to do something I normally wouldn’t have done.
On our way back to the B&B, I received a call that completely made up for the cold water I had jumped in. While at the falls the day prior, I had asked god to please continue to provide me with opportunities for growth and to help me find balance in my career. I was spending so much time on the road, and I wished nothing more than to be closer to home. If only I could move the office closer to me, right? Well that call was just one of the few gifts this journey and god had provided me with. I was offered a job in the city, about 15 mins away from home, making much more than I was currently making, and with many additional benefits. It was the package I had been looking for when I had previously interviewed for the company. At the time the position hadn’t been available, and out of no where, BOOM, there it was!
Never in my life had I done such a crazy thing, but I accepted. In that moment, I couldn’t believe the opportunity I was presented with. I also had no idea how I was going to inform my current employer of the life changing decision I had just made. I had always pride myself in being loyal to my employer, and here I was deciding to leave after only 2 weeks. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity though, and I had to follow my intuition.
I spent the rest of my afternoon thinking of what I would say to my boss. Was I going to tell her by phone? Would I wait till I got back? The new executive administrative position I had accepted was ready for me to start as soon as I got back home. I felt however that I still needed to provide some sort of notice and I wanted to do so as soon as possible, even if it meant doing it by phone. We had a 3 hour time difference and I had reached my room late that evening. The call would have to wait till the following day…
Last Thursday I finally established with a new gynecologist here in Miami. It took a while to get in, but so far I’m pleased with her approach. She looked over my medical records and immediately followed up on my pelvis. She ordered another pelvic ultrasound and a CA125.
The CA125 was going to be used to determine my baseline, and monitored for any abnormalities. Last night I received those results through my patient portal, and was pleased to see that my score came back at a 10, placing me within normal range. This was great news and a huge relief.
Today, I went to have my follow up ultrasound done. I feel confident that the results of the test will come back normal too. I should know for sure within a few days.
I did also receive a call from Moffitt yesterday afternoon, however, the results of the genetic testing were still not available. I was told it would take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, so they feel I should have some answers by the end of the week.
All in all, I’m happy that everything is coming together so well. It allows me to stay focused on moving on with my life. Though, I’m reminded everyday of this experience when I look at myself in the mirror, I’ve started to adjust and accept the changes that have occurred as a result of it.
My scar isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s a beautiful reminder of one of the most important experiences of my life. An experience that changed my life for the better and brought me closer to the person I want to be…
Lately, despite all of the craziness that has been surrounding me, I have found myself reminiscing about my past. The ups, the downs and the, “hey, where did that come from?” I’ve often times even considered what I could have done differently.
After sharing those thoughts with my partner, I was asked a very important question. What have you learned from the experience? It’s funny, I’ve always known that every thing we go through in life is an opportunity to learn. However, how often do we really ask ourselves, “what did I learn during this process?” To often, we let time pass and figure it out when a similar situation arises. Why not ask the question now and allow ourselves to further enjoy the moments we’ve overcome and take more pleasure in knowing we’ve learned a great lesson.
It makes sense, and here’s a perfect example of how this plays out in my own life. I’ve beaten myself up so many times for not being the athlete I once was. Could I have trained harder before so I wouldn’t have been so behind now? Should I have focused less on my mental and emotional recovery and thought more about getting “back into the game”?
The answer is no. I realize that I may still not be as strong physically as before, but I am stronger emotionally and mentally. That strength is the tool I needed to build more confidence, allowing me to speak out and make a bigger difference in the world around me. I was given a second chance to do with it all I’ve imagined, not to let it go to waste. With that desire to make a difference, and an opportunity to fulfill it came the birth of “Gift with a pink ribbon”.
So in short, just when you think you are at your lowest point or that things are going wrong because you’ve made a bad decision, remember that this may be the necessary steps needed for you to gain the tools to fulfill your life purpose.