Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reflections on the Past Year

It's definitely been a while since I wrote...about two weeks, in fact.  During that time, my team, Rivertown's Bosom Buddies, participated in the walk for Breast Cancer Awareness on behalf of the American Cancer Society at Manhattanville College in NY on October 16th and raised over $7,000!  I am doing much better without the extender on one side of my body (it will be replaced once again in a couple months); and my blood pressure (which was a problem) is now under control.  I have been spending a lot of time lately in moments which are very reflective of my particular experience.

I keep thinking back to a year ago and where I was then and can't quite believe I have come so far.  I remember the week my sister-in-law spent with me while I was going through the beginning of chemo and when I first started to lose my hair.  I was so glad she was there and that she never showed how shocking it must have been to see me lose my hair overnight!  My husband also took everything in stride and never seemed to be "turned off" by my physical appearance.  In fact, if anything, he became more affectionate and more understanding than he ever was before.  The staff at my preschool never let me feel that my absences were a problem...truly, I feel like they worked twice as hard to make everything go "smoothly".  My church continued to let me know that even though I couldn't do all I did before, it really didn't matter.  They just wanted me well and told me so all the time.  Friends sent messages, small gifts, meals, prayers, and made phone calls to let me know I was not alone.  Of course, life is not perfect, and there were other problems within our extended family at that time that were very stressful.  These concerns made this time additionally difficult despite all the support I received.  Yet, I truly, truly felt the prayers that were being upheld for me; and it is because of these prayers that I could stand and face each wave of battle that had to be won over and over.

Creating a team for the Breast Cancer walk was one very positive action I could take at this time.  It gave me an energy to do something positive on behalf of all those who will follow me into this abyss of life-changing forces.  And it helped me to see it all beyond my own face...in the face of one in every eight people that I meet.  I am glad to have been a part of that walk and I was overwhelmed by the number of people who joined the team and made the walk with me!  Our local newspaper even wrote an article and me, my battle, and my wonderful walking team.

But each day lately,I remind myself of how far I have come.  Not that I don't think there is more ahead to fight through or fight for...but just that I HAVE survived all that has happened over the past year and I am more than ready to keep fighting.  I have met amazing people and have found support where I least expected it and have been so thankful of those friends and family that stayed with me no matter what! 

Life will have some changes as time goes on...as it should.  Perhaps it will have more changes because of all I have been through...as should be expected.  I know I am changed because of it...that is a "given".  More importantly, I am proud of all I have done and will do...and I will never take life for granted again.  

Thank you, everyone, for all you have been to me and for all the support you have shown.  It is incredible, amazing, and wonderful...Thank you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Color My World...Pink!

First, to bring you up to date.  Surgery last Thursday....well, plastic surgeon found no evidence of infection (although I am still on heavy duty antibiotics in case something turns up) and could not find a reason why the skin is so "misbehavin"...so he decided to take out the extender and NOT put a new one in.  So for now, I am lopsided...although hopefully healing more consistently so he can try again in about 3 months or so.  I am now "stuffing a bra"...which I NEVER had to do in my life...quite an adventure! LOL! 

Also having issues with blood pressure.  After the last surgery, it went very low and I was taken off some of my meds for that--now, it is going high and I had to add some meds for that.  My body, I am sure, is saying "Enough, already!  Stick a fork in me...I'm done!"

Not feeling totally "up to par" yet.  But hoping to soon since the breast cancer walk is this Sunday and my team, "Rivertown's Bosom Buddies" are just raring to go!  Our shirts are coming this Friday ("Walking our Buns off for the Boobs") and I have been planning for this day for a while.  We have raised over $5,000 and I am so proud of what we have done.  

Each October, the world is colored PINK and breast cancer awareness is all over.  This is a pandemic, people!  Everywhere you go, look around you at people and count up to 8...one in eight people will be affected by breast cancer.  We need the PINK to remind us that we want to ensure early detection (get those mammo's, everyone!) and further research and development to help those who have already been diagnosed and those who will be.  We need to rid our bodies of this disease!  We need to take better care of God's world so that we, in turn, can take better care of us!  

Looking forward to seeing all the PINK on Sunday.  Even thinking of spraying my hair a little pink and of course, pink sneakers.  It used to be PINK reminded me of the cancer and all I was going through.  Now, it reminds me that there is HOPE and the color of HOPE is PINK!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Tomorrow is the surgery to take out the extender, clean the area, and put in the new extender.  It is hoped this will ONCE AND FOR ALL get rid of that infection that is causing that "red area" on my breast.  And I am hoping for a good outcome and the end of this endless trying to make everything "all better".  If it doesn't work, then the extender will come out, we give this side a while to heal and get better, and then try again sometime in the future.

I had a call from my "chemo friend" whom I have never met, but knows a lot more of my story than most people who do know me and see me each day.  She has gone through a lot similar to me, except for all the craziness of the reconstruction.  She has decided not to do this.  We talked about how life will never be "normal" again...but it will be a "different normal".  We both will look at things differently, make changes in our lives and the way we live them, and still mourn the loss of a whole year of our lives....but glad to be alive and have a wonderful chance of being long-time survivors!  And we intend to meet next week for the first time.  I am looking forward to this.

Around the same time as this call, my former Pastor e-mailed with a story about a conversation he had after viewing a photo of an older woman who had survived breast cancer.  The conversation was with the 80+ year old woman in the photo and she told him how God was with her all the way and made her recovery possible.  The photo showed a light coming down on her and she looked at peace with herself and her life.  I wrote him an answer and I am repeating it here:

"This is a story I feel with my heart.  And one I understand with my spirit.

I have learned that how I look is not as important as who I am.  I have learned that God can give me incredible strength just when I need it....and He can hold me and cry with me when there is more needed than just strength.  I have learned that what I will take with me from this life will not be where I went, or what I did, or how much I accumulated; but if I was a good friend and if I showed love both when it was poured on me...and when it was not.

I have had people tell me, "You actually look better than you ever have!"  And I just smile because I know now it has nothing to do with a hairstyle or make-up or clothes.  God's love is shining through my eyes and my heart and that makes anyone beautiful.  And I am at last at peace with myself because I know God sees my heart and that's all that matters.

Yes, I understand the story and the journey and the light that shines brighter because of it."

You know that saying "there's a light at the end of the tunnel"?  Well, there really is...and we thank God for that!