Let my travels begin…

Less than 2 weeks into my move I was getting ready to board a plane for Peru. “Could I be any luckier?” I felt so blessed to be taking such an amazing trip, and couldn’t wait to explore another country. This was one of those vacations that I put on my bucket list, but never thought I’d have a chance to take. It was so surreal arriving in Lima the first night. “I can’t believe I’m actually here!”

Early the next morning, we were back on a plane, destination Cusco. One of our stops was the Scared Valley. There was something so special about being in those mountains. The weather was beautiful and the sites were breathtaking. That night we stayed in one of my favorite hotels, Casa Andina. The view from our room was something right out of a movie! It was gorgeous and everywhere we went the people were so kind and accommodating.

After waking up to the most incredible view I had ever seen, we had a quick breakfast and boarded a bus that took us to the train station. There, we’d board the train taking us to Machu Picchu. I must say, up to this point, we were very impressed with the booking agency we used. All of our accommodations were beyond my expectations. Many of them first class.

At last, we arrived in the town of Machu Picchu. It was small and so full of great energy. Our hotel was so close to all of the markets, dining and entertainment. It was the perfect place to just go exploring on your own without feeling like you could get lost. Of course, this also meant we did a lot of shopping too. 😉

The hotel provided the entire group with a spectacular dinner that evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, and were excited about going to Machu Picchu the following morning. I couldn’t wait to be on the top of that mountain, and take a moment to reflect on all I had gone through, and the many blessings I had received along the way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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 🙂

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. 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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 🙂

Saying goodbye…

It was officially my last day at work and time to say goodbye to the people I had worked with for over 11 years. I was excited to be starting a new life on the other coast, but I was also sad to be leaving everyone behind. My coworkers had become my family and my best friends.

These were the people that watched me grow into the person I am today, and taught me so much along the way. To be honest with you, even through the tough times, this was the kind of place people only dreamed of working in. My boss is the kind of doctor that works “for the people” and not “for the dollar”. Yes, we all know it’s a business but, he taught me to be compassionate towards my patients, and by example taught me, that without a good patient/doctor relationship there is no business.

As I cut my cake and we shared a few laughs, I remember reflecting back on my experiences and with a smile on my face thinking, “These people will always hold a special place in my heart”.

Goodbye to my life here in beautiful Naples, FL. It was now time to head on over to the place I would now call home. A place full of new opportunities and adventures to come, Miami, FL.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Today, June 18th 2014…

Though I’ve begun to fulfill what I feel is part of my purpose in life, I still feel like I’m meant to do something more. I’ve begun to share my story but, what’s next? Is what I’m doing enough? Am I really helping others to my fullest potential or is there more I can be doing? It’s a question I hope to find an answer to soon, but in the meantime, I just have to trust that my life is unfolding the way it’s suppose to, and do my best to learn from each experience I encounter.

On a completely different note, I have some growing concerns about the upcoming appointments I have next week. I’m scheduled to see my oncologist and radiation oncologist, as well as, have my first follow up mammogram since my surgery. It will be a busy day and, can I be honest with you? I’m really nervous about it. I’ve been feeling discomfort and at times pain since my radiation treatments and it terrifies me to think that something else could be wrong. I’ve reminded myself time and time again that it will be a while before things are back to normal but, a small part of me still fears the “C” word.

I’m sure it sounds crazy after how well everything has already turned out but, I suppose it’s just a natural response to the experience I had. Actually, it’s a relief to feel anything at all, considering how much time I had spent closing myself up and pretending all was well. And let’s face it, I’m in no way the poster child for perfection. I worry just like everyone else no matter how much I try to look on the bright side. It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to accept these feelings, and have learned that it’s not thinking about negative things that will hurt you, it’s dwelling on them that will keep you from moving forward and accomplishing the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

As my appointment date gets closer, I will be sure to pop back into the present and give you an update. For now however, I will continue to share what I’ve already experienced. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to reader ***

You can find me on Facebook by going to http://www.facebook.com/giftwithapinkribbon . Be sure to click the “like” button to stay up to date on any daily posts or messages I send out.

For more information you can email your questions to info@giftwithapinkribbon.com

 

The Half Marathon…

Race day had finally arrived. I had mixed emotions about it since I’d been feeling so tired and sore from the radiation but, my partner reassured me we’d finish it together, even if that meant walking to the finish line. It was just the support I needed before heading to the event that morning.

We arrived and I remember being amazed at how many people had registered for the race. This was by far the largest half marathon I had ever participated in. The music was insane and you could feel the energy and excitement as you walked through the crowds. The count down finally began and the race was off to a great start. I was back and loving every moment of it! It was breezy and still dark out, so the running conditions were perfect. It wasn’t till around mile 7 or 8 that my body felt like it was giving up on me. By then, the sun had come up and the heat was really getting to me. I was tired and had become frustrated with how long it was taking me to get to each mile marker.

Slowly, I began to lose site of why I was running. My goal was to finish the race and to have fun, but instead, I was focusing on my speed and setting unrealistic goals. I hadn’t trained enough nor was I in the physical condition to be pushing myself as hard as I once did. My peers and doctors thought I was a bit nuts for attempting to run the distance but I wanted to at least try. I suppose it was my own way of telling myself I could still do it if I really wanted to. However, it stopped being fun and that’s the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.

That’s when the universe through me a curve ball. Left and right I was running passed participants with physical disabilities far greater than mine. They were happy and so full of life, living their moment the way I should have been living mine. This wasn’t suppose to be about speed or breaking my own record, it was suppose to be about having fun and finishing what I started. I was inspired once more and for the remainder of the race I made it a point to soak in my surroundings and appreciate the fact that I was able to be a part of something so amazing.

The crowds cheered us all on as we crossed the finish line. It was a beautiful race and I was happy to say that regardless of the pain I was in or how tired I was, my treatments didn’t stop me from doing what I enjoyed most. In that moment, I couldn’t have been happier. It was as though I had gotten a little piece of my life back…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

** Note to reader **

Be sure to check out my photos to see my medal for the half marathon. 🙂

 

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My thoughts on what I’ve learned along the way…

Writing and sharing my journey hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. It’s made me relive a lot of moments I’ve learned now I hadn’t dealt with. On the other hand, it’s allowed me to work through those emotions with all of you as my support system, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

The truth is, no matter how severe it is, cancer is scary, period. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “breast cancer is such a popular thing now a days and is so much easier to treat, you’ll be fine”. It’s true, there are many treatment options today, however, that doesn’t change the fact that cancer is frightening, and that there is no way of determining if treatment now will guarantee you won’t have it again in the future. Nevertheless, I found myself thinking those very thoughts and even repeating them in conversations with others. I had brainwashed myself to think that my journey wasn’t that big a deal.

If you are currently going through your own cancer journey, please know that you are entitled to feeling however it is that you are feeling. It may be sad, scared, angry, confused or all of the above, and hiding it from the world, or denying those feelings will only make it harder to deal with later. It will also make it hard for those around you to understand your needs. If you come across as though everything is perfect, people will do the same and not offer the assistance you may need. My experience showed me that it wasn’t others that didn’t understand my feelings, it was me that wasn’t being honest about what I expressed to them. Communication is key, and though it doesn’t mean you wont ever deal with a difficult situation, it will keep you from creating unnecessary road blocks along the way.

It doesn’t hurt to be forgiving either. If you do come across a person that has a nonchalant attitude regarding your situation, try not to get to worked up about it. Often times, the response comes from lack of knowledge or the inability to express themselves well. The news will come as a shock to them, and their first reaction may be to say the first positive thing that comes to mind. It may not be what you want to hear but, do your best to put yourself in their shoes and take that opportunity instead to educate them by sharing your experience.

One other very important thing is remembering to do your part. As a cancer patient, it’s easy for us to lose site of the struggles our loved ones are going through because we are thinking of our own. At times it even feels like we are going through the worse parts of the journey alone. Just remember though, fearing the loss of someone you love or watching them suffer is also hard on your loved ones. They too are confused and have no control of the situation. No matter how much they wish they could take your place or make it all better, they can’t, and that can be difficult to cope with. So be patient, communicate and just like they do their best to make things easier for you, try to plan a “time out” for them so that they too can be physically and emotionally balanced.

Lastly, I want to thank you all again for reading and continuing to follow my journey. I don’t have all the answers and still have more to learn but, I’m embracing the changes that come my way and looking forward to sharing them with you in hopes that someone out there will find it helpful… 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

A few weeks into radiation…

I was starting to wrap things up at work when I looked at my watch and realized I needed head over for my daily radiation treatment. I had grown more and more excited about going with each day that passed. Not only was I one day closer to finishing, I was also meeting some really nice people along the way. To my relief, I hadn’t been experiencing any pains or serious burns either. I had started mountain biking again and was even feeling confident about running the half marathon with my partner. It was only a week or so away and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I really couldn’t understand why I had read stories of so many people having such a terrible time.

To my surprise however, shortly after those couple of weeks, my energy level did start to decline and my left breast had become inflamed and extremely painful. It began to interfere with my work, sports, sleep, and was wearing me out emotionally. I had tried several over the counter creams to help alleviate the burning and itching but nothing worked. I eventually mentioned it to the radiation oncologist during my weekly check up. She suspected the possibility of my having mastitis of the left breast and prescribed me an antibiotic along with  a cream to help with the itching and burning of the skin. Within a couple of days I was starting to feel a difference in the amount of pain and swelling I felt but, I was still tired and worn out emotionally.

Psychologically, I had reached my max. I know it sounds crazy, but I would compare the way I felt to the feeling you get after eating a meal to fast. Think about it, you eat really quickly, ignoring your stomach’s chemical signal telling you to stop. You than realize you ate way more than you could handle and now you’ve given yourself a stomachache. That’s how I felt. I had filled my emotional storage space to its max without even picking up on its distress signals and was officially on overload.

During my previous episodes of emotional ups and downs, my radiation oncologist had suggested the use of an antidepressant. I refused it, feeling that it would be a symbol of my weakness and inability to balance my emotions on my own. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need medication to do that. I had already been down that route years ago and had found a better way to cope with my stress through running and staying active. I remember asking myself, ” If there were other people out there that got through this without medication, why should I be any different?” I now realize that, not only was I comparing myself to other people , adding unnecessary pressure, I also wasn’t considering everything else going on in my life that made me feel so off balance. I was leaving my job after more than 11 years. I was moving away to another city leaving my family and friends behind. These were major life changes I was going through, all while juggling everything that came with having had cancer.

I continued on this slippery slope, hoping I could wake up one day feeling different but I never did. The closer I got to finishing my treatments and moving away from everything I knew, the more anxious and depressed I became. Going to my treatments was like a safe haven for me. I felt like cancer couldn’t come back while I was being treated and I feared what would happen when it was all over. I could no longer focus on work, family or my relationship with these thoughts clouding my brain. I wasn’t even enjoying my running and biking anymore. It was then I realized I was in over my head and agreed to take an antidepressant which turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

Preparation day…

After sitting with my oncologist and deciding what steps we were going to take, I scheduled an appointment to see the radiation oncologist. Together, we went over what the next couple of months would look like. All in all, the plan was quite simple. I was to first undergo 33 radiation treatments then, follow up with my oncologist so that he could start me on a medication called Tomaxifen. This medication is designed to block the hormones our bodies make naturally. Since my cancer cells were 100% positive for both progesterone and estrogen receptors, my hormones needed to be blocked in order to prevent them from feeding any cancer cells that may have been left behind.

They began preparing me for radiation by first “mapping” the area being treated with a non-diagnostic CT scan. This would ensure the radiation would only be exposed to the breast area in which the tumor had been removed, preventing any damage to my heart or other organs near by. It’s actually quite fascinating to know we have the ability to be so precise. In order to pin point the treatment area, an adhesive containing a tiny silver bead was placed in 3 different locations. One a couple inches below my left arm pit, the second, on the right side of my left breast and the third, a couple inches below my right armpit. These markings would later help them calculate the distance between the area being treated and the organs around it. Once the scans were finished, the tech tattooed the area where he had placed the tiny silver beads so that later, they would know where to focus the laser beams when positioning me on the treatment table. The tattoos are about the size of a small beauty mark so they are virtually invisible to anyone unless I point them out.

I got dressed and within a few minutes the tech returned to the room, handed me an appointment card, and with a big smile on his face, wished me the best of luck with my treatments. It was official! Each time I returned to the office, I would be one step closer to completing this part of my journey. Looking back however, I now realize how little I took into account the emotional ups and downs that could come from this. I became a pro at talking myself into positive thinking but deep down inside, there was still a sadness I couldn’t overcome. I couldn’t explain exactly why it was there so I kept reminding myself to think positively in hopes of one day no longer feeling that way. Sadly however, that’s not how the law of attraction works. You can’t just think positive thoughts and expect positive outcomes. You need to take action. Do things that promote feelings of positivity and love so that you get the same in return. Had I remembered this sooner,  I would have later found myself in a much better place…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂