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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned…
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

An Exciting Month…

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, butย 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 ย 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.

It's time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!  <3 <3 <3
It’s time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!

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.

I Finished!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Yes!!! What an honor. :)
Yes!!! What an honor. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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…

If it’s in your heart, you can do it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

2 weeks completed, now it’s time for another amazing vacation ;) …

It was only about 2 weeks ago, that I was blogging about how my first week at my new job going. Since then, so much has occurred. My first 2 weeks at the gynecology office had gone really well. My coworkers were great and it felt amazing to be in the workforce again. However, traveling was proving to be a little tougher than I had anticipated it would be. I was finding myself spending anywhere from 2-3 hours of my day, driving to and from work. I didn’t think it would be such an issue considering I had traveled long distances before for work, but it was really starting to wear me down. Luckily, I had planned a vacation prior to starting my new job and it would serve as a good break for me to recuperate.

It was August 16th, when we hopped on a plan heading to San Francisco, California. I was super excited to embark on another new journey. This time I was doing a spiritual retreat in Mount Shasta. I honestly didn’t think much of it at first. I just knew we would be hiking, meditating, and doing some yoga. That alone was a great vacation in my book.

Our flight from Ft Lauderdale, Florida to San Francisco, California was 6 hours long, and Mount Shasta was a good 5 hours away from San Francisco.

And we've arrived to San Francisco!! :D
And we’ve arrived to San Francisco!! ๐Ÿ˜€
Time to hit the road and make our way to Mt Shasta :)
Time to hit the road and make our way to Mt Shasta ๐Ÿ™‚

For the record, I would recommend arriving in Sacramento or Redding, California instead. It will easily cut the drive time in half. If you don’t have that option, plan to stay the night in San Francisco and drive up the next morning. You’ll be happy you did.

Upon arriving at the lovely Mt Shasta Bed & Breakfast, we checked in, I placed my bags on the room floor and passed out like a baby after a heavy meal.

The next day, I showered up and made my way to the dining room where breakfast was served daily to all of the house guests. There, we slowly began to meet some of the individuals that were also partaking in the spiritual retreat. They were all very sweet and pleasant to talk with. Each with a unique background and wealth of information. As much as I enjoy being a social butterfly and talking to others, I found myself happily listening to each conversation, eager to learn more about the people I would be spending the next 7 days with.

Later that morning, we explored the town a bit and decided to rent some mountain bikes. The sun was out and there was a cool breeze in the air. With the view of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, it was hard to deny myself the desire to ride again. We mounted our bikes and cruised through the city and eventually made our way to lake siskiyou. It was so beautiful to see a big lake surrounded by such a majestic mountain. When I took a closer look, I could see the locals swimming and canoeing, while others played fetch with theirs dogs. In that moment, I began to feel grounded again. The fast pace of the city was drowned out by the nature all around me. I could have stayed there all day, only we had to return the bikes to the store and make our way back to the bed & breakfast for our first group meeting.

Lake Siskiyou :)
Lake Siskiyou ๐Ÿ™‚
Me+My bike+lake siskiyou= awesomeness!!! :D
Me+My bike+lake siskiyou= awesomeness!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Andrew, our group leader, and his partner in crime Lauren, welcomed us and gathered us into a circle. One by one, we were asked to introduce ourselves and express to the group why we were there. In other words, what did we expect to get from the retreat. I was honestly looking forward to some time off. However, when it was my turn to speak, the most natural explanation to leave my mouth was, “Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve wanted to stress less about the little things in life and focus more on living my life and my true purpose”. I can’t recall if I worded it just so, but it’s pretty close to what I remember saying. I don’t even know where the words came from. I hadn’t met any of these people before, and here I was, sharing such a personal experience without flinching a muscle. I have blogged about it, yes, but never have I spoken to such a large group of people about it. In that moment I knew that this “vacation” was going to provide me with more than just time to meditate, hike, and do yoga. I was going to continue my growth in a way I had been longing to for some time and I look forward to sharing my experience with you all…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Past vs Present…

It’s been a little over a week since I started my new job, and although it’s made me happy to be working again, it has truly been something difficult to adjust to. I wasn’t prepared to physically feel the way I do and needless to say it has affected me emotionally as well.

I spend every day reminding myself of all the challenges I’ve overcome since being diagnosed with breast cancer, but once again have found myself saddened by my levels of exhaustion, resulting from my medications. I keep getting flashbacks of the girl that used to go on long training runs after a hectic day at work, and how refreshed I felt after running an easy 5-6 miles. It’s hard to believe that was ever me when the thought alone feels so foreign.

I have blogged about my experience in hopes of helping someone else cope with there own journey, but I would really love to hear from anyone willing to share their story, and what has helped them get through their challenges as well.

The truth is, there are many emotional ups and downs that come with a cancer diagnose, and I have personally realized that it never really ends. The damage is done, and you just have to learn to work around it and make yourself a stronger person in the process, in order to really move on. You just can’t reflect so much on what was. Instead, I continue to try and find peace in thinking about what will become of the new me…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Paws & Recovery…

There are moments when no amount of words could ever express the way you feel. This was often an issue for me while going through my journey. In fact, many of those moments lead to frustration. I would often find myself creating distance from everyone so that I wouldn’t even have to make an attempt to explain what it was I was feeling. I just needed my emotions to run their course in hopes of finding the answers later.

There is one little guy however that I found comfort spending my time with. He wouldn’t try to hard to make me happy, or ask me to break down in detail why I felt the way I did emotionally. Well to be honest, it’s because he couldn’t speak. That however, shouldn’t take away from the importance he’s played in my journey.

The little guy I’m referring to is my toy Chihuahua Chico. “Agh”, you must have thought out loud. “Now I get why he couldn’t speak”. Though I must say, if he did, that would certainly have been a very interesting topic to be blogging about. ๐Ÿ™‚

Because of Chico, I now realize how much better my recovery had been. What do pets have to do with recovery? Well, in the midst of all the craziness that occurred in my life once I was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was only one thing that kept me focused on “the now” and provided me with the non-stop “unconditional love” I needed. That one thing was my little boy Chico. He’s been the perfect therapy for me. He made me laugh with the silly things he did and kept me warm when I just needed to be comforted.

I’ve had Chico for 6 years now and consider myself lucky to have had him. For those who don’t already have a 4 legged child at home, I highly recommend it. You do need to be sure however, that you can make time for them, give them a good and safe home, and have the financial ability to take care of them. A great option is to adopt. I know its cute to have a little puppy, but there are 2 very big advantages of adopting an older dog.

#1. They have often times already been potty trained. You’d be surprised how time consuming all of that can be.

#2. The most important advantage point, you are providing a great home for your new addition.

As the time passes you will both become inseparable, the best of friends, and have helped each other live a more fulfilling life. There is truly no greater gift. If adoption isn’t something you can commit to, you can always visit or volunteer at a pet shelter if your health permits. This works well for anyone unable to take on the responsibility of a pet, and you will find that it still helps you emotionally as well as the pets you interact with. Visiting a friend who has a pet can also do wonders.

Regardless of your decision, I give K9 therapy a two thumbs up. I know I couldn’t have done it without my little guy…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

A short update on my where abouts…

So as my story catches up to present day, I’ve found myself reaching a “writers block”. Sure there are things going on, but nothing major worth writing about. At least that’s what I thought. Then I remembered, this is a story about my journey, that includes the bad, the good and even the boring. With that being said, I thought I should at least update you on what’s been going on.

I’m still in the process of interviewing for the right job. Not that offers haven’t come to the table. I’m just still waiting for the one that will meet my needs as well as my new employers. It’s been a tough process going into a new field, especially because of the fact that most people can’t see beyond what’s written on a rรฉsumรฉ, but there have been some great people that have taken the time to sit with me and truly see what I have to offer. I feel like I’m getting close though. I just need to continue to keep myself open to different opportunities and have faith that the right person will see my potential. If there’s anything my journey with breast cancer had taught me, it has been to be open to new experiences and not be afraid to try something new.

My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling...
My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling…

On another note, about 2 weeks ago I drove to Tampa again for some more genetic testing. I should have received word by now of my results but the phone has been silent on that end. I’m not scared of anything coming up positive. I suppose it’s because I’ve been told that if it did turn up positive, it only means I will need to make adjustments in my preventative care plan. To be frank, knowing what could potentially happen before it does is a huge advantage. It gives you the opportunity to do whatever you can to prevent it from occurring.

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Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail...
Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail…

On that same day, I volunteered myself for the icare registry. It’s for cancer patients who would like to be notified of any new studies they can partake in. Of course, it has other benefits too, but that was the one that was most important to me. If there is something I can do to prevent someone from going through what I did, sign me up! I realize it’s a small step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

ย 

ย 

The End of an Amazing Vacationโ€ฆ

That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.

Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. :D
Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. ๐Ÿ˜€

The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.

Arriving back into Cusco...
Arriving back into Cusco…

The next two days in Cusco were spent exploring the main square and visiting nearby ruins, such as the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This was also the perfect time to break away from all of the touristy restaurants and eat like the locals. There is nothing worse than visiting a place and not experiencing the culture. The food was absolutely amazing! It was fresh and cooked to perfection. We even tried Alpaca while we were out there, and to my surprise, it was delicious! (I apologize in advance for any vegans reading this post)

Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! :)
Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! ๐Ÿ™‚

Since we were there for Palm Sunday, we were able to visit the cathedral for their mass. It was beautiful, and the largest I had ever seen. Certainly a great way to end the trip. After leaving Cusco and arriving in Lima, we spent a little time on a guided tour, exploring the city before it was time to board the plane again. We stopped to eat at a place called Tanta Tanta. The food was delicious and although it was dark out, there was a nice view.

On our way back home I spent some time thinking about our entire vacation. I felt as though the trip had changed me somehow. It had opened up a new world of possibilities and fed my desire to travel and learn more. It also made me realize that I needed to stop living my life behind the scenes, or how others thought I should live my life, and I needed to share my experience with others. Not my vacation, but my journey. Everything I had gone through and all that I was to become. I didnโ€™t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a wayโ€ฆ

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Coming together as a community…

Good morning everyone! I have a huge favor to ask of you all. Someone I hold very near and dear to my heart has been asked to have a biopsy done, after finding a mass on her mammogram and ultrasound results. Would you please include her in your thoughts and prayers?

My wish for her is that the results come back negative, and that this simply be an opportunity for us to come together again as a community, to support one another just like you’ve all supported me. Her name is Josefina. Thank you so much and I wish you all a very blessed day.

With endless gratitude,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Results are in…

Good evening everyone!

I’m happy to report that the results of my first check up since surgery and the completion of my radiation treatment are in and I’m clear!

Thank you all again for your prayers and words of encouragement. I really appreciate all of you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Photos and details to follow…

Another milestone…

The day has finally come!

I’m officially on my way to Naples this morning to follow up with both of my oncologist’s, and to have my first follow up mammogram and ultrasound since the completion of my radiation treatment.

Though I feel all will turn out okay, I can’t ignore the small part of me that is very nervous and anxious to know my results.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my outcome…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚