Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This time last year I was in the midst of chemo. Its amazing how much difference a year can make.  Looking back now, it all seems very surreal.  I would have never thought (in my wildest of dreams) that I would have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I never saw it coming.  However, I got through it....with the help of Faith, Family, and Friends.

When I began dealing with surgeries and treatment, I really wanted to get it all finished in the year of 2010.  I was able to reach my goal.  2010 will always be the year that I dealt with breast cancer.  However, I also thought that I would put it all behind me and move on with my life.  That is one reason I decided to do chemo. It wasn't something the doctor recommended but was entirely my choice. My oncotype dx was higher than I would have liked and I didn't want to always be looking over my shoulder for the big "C".  Although my sentinel node was negative, my oncotype dx was 29.  I listened to my spirit.  Everything within me said do the chemo and so I did. 

Traveling through treatment for breast cancer was definitely the most traumatic experience I have endured.  Although I know I had love and prayers, I often felt so very alone.  I knew this was a journey that I had to take and no one ....absolutely no one could do it for me.  I made it through the valley and I'm a much stronger person today for it.

There is so much to deal with when you're handed a diagnosis like cancer.  Of course, you have the medical aspect of treatment, side effects from all the toxins floating around inside your body, dealing with insurance statements and paying the endless bills.  It was a full time job for me keeping up with all the EOBs, matching them to bills and making sure everything was paid.  I was just grateful we had the money to pay the seemingly endless bills.  I think the most difficult aspect was the emotional pain.  People treat you different when you have cancer.  Some disappear never to be heard from again.  It sure helps you "weed out" real people and, for myself, I came to the full realization that I only had a handful of people I could count on.

I had a friend tell me not to long ago that he was sorry that he wasn't there for me last year like he should have been.  Oh, I got a few phone calls from him throughout the summer but he never came to visit. He wasn't present but then, so many other people weren't either.  I was impressed that he even knew he wasn't there for me.  

Then you have other people who treat you like you're dying.....well, aren't we all!  I have people who ask....are you in remission?  Completely ....I say.  Although I've never had a PET scan or tumor marking, I believe myself to be completely cancer free.   

I shared with someone a few days ago that I have been walking 2-3 miles each morning.  We've been getting up and walking before sunrise just trying to beat the heat.  I know that exercise is so very important in helping to ensure I don't have to deal with this monster again.  Anyway, this lady asks "should you be doing that?"  ....like I'm an invalid or something.  

I feel very different than I did one year ago; I look very different as well.  I decided not to color my hair and it is salt and pepper.  Its very short. I like it. Its the new me.  I've lost about 10 pounds but that was due to my thyroid issue after treatment.  Most importantly, I feel very different inside. 

I know that life will always bring storms and sometimes we might have to dance in the rain.  I know that as long as there are people in our lives, they will disappoint us....I know that I have inner strength and courage that I never knew existed.  I know that life is short and we really don't have forever to do whatever it is we're here for.  I know there is a place to go inside when I am scared or confused.    I know that I am not afraid to die and it will be a wonderful transition into the spiritual realm.  I know the power of prayer.  I know that bad things don't just happen to other people.  I know that we are suppose to live our lives one day at a time.......

For many, the calm after the storm isn't quite as calm as we thought it would be.  The effects of chemo don't quite go away after treatment is finished. There can be neuropathy and permanent damage to vital organs.  I'm not sure if the chemo caused my thyroid issue but I have read where many people developed thyroid problems while being treated with chemo.  It really doesn't matter.  It is what it is.  I will have to take synthroid for the rest of my life; I will also have to take tamoxifen for 5 years.  So far, the side effects from that hasn't been too bad. .......other than those horrid hot flashes.  At times I feel like I'm going to spontaneous combust!

My storm brought challenges, it gave me insight and wisdom.  However, the calm that I thought would come after making it through treatment really doesn't exist. It is an illusion.  Pehaps as the years go by and I make it through that 5 year window.....perhaps as the emotional wounds heal and the body fully recovers from chemo. Perhaps there really is a calm after the storm but I haven't gotten there yet?  Perhaps?

Today I take nothing for granted.....NOTHING.   I don't know what storms tomorrow might bring but I do know that I am strong. I am a survivor. 

Monday, July 18, 2011


Gilda Radner's famous line as Rosa Anna Rose Annadanna was "Its always something".  I think she was onto something there!  It is always something and as we live our life, each day will bring new trials and challenges of its own! The secret is, (I think) to learn to meet these challenges head on, learn and grow from them....this will prepare you for the next!  

My dear mother in law has been dealing with the challenge of being married to a man who is verbally abusive and just downright mean. He is a miserable person and apparently wants everyone else to be as well.  She lost her husband and father of her children almost 25 years ago.  She has been with this "jerk" for 17 years. Its been a long and rocky road.  Well, He  (the jerk ) left her (again) the other day; I'm saying "AMEN"!  She is in the midst of dealing with this crisis when she happens to be the person to discover the body of her brother in law.  He was like a brother to her; she was going over to have coffee with him and as she turned the corner she saw him lying on the ground.  I know it is something she will never get over completely......to lose a dear friend and family member to suicide is a tragedy that you cannot find closure in.....but to be the one to discover the body is even more devastating.

My infamous quote last year during my treatment for breast cancer was "It can always be worse."  I reminded myself of this so very often....Though my diagnosis was devastating, I knew there were so many women (and men) that had been handed a much more challenging diagnosis.  I held onto this thought throughout the year. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "It can always be worse"

Often we find ourselves dealing with one crisis and find ourselves right in the middle of something even more devastating.  Our minds and bodies are wonderful in the way that we don't really absorb it all at once.  Little by little we begin to wrap our minds around the event that has turned our world upside down.  We are literally in a state of shock, so to speak.  

Today prayers are going up for all the people who are hurting and locked up inside themselves.....for all the people who have attempted suicide, victims and their families (survivors).  Depression is a horrible disease that can be very difficult to treat;  medication is not always the answer and often escalates the problem.  

We have become a society of thinking a pill can take care of anything and everything.  I am one that absolutely hates taking any kind of medication.  Everything has side effects and risks associated with it....EVERYTHING!  I preach exercise, diet, and stress reduction.  Not that I always live what I preach but I do try....especially after last year!

So, today no matter what situation you might be dealing with; no matter what happens to come your way,  remember, always remember......"IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Searching For Rainbows

When I was going through chemo, I had these weird rhyming thoughts rambling around in my head.  They were usually positive and uplifting; I think it was my spirit trying to encourage and lift me up. Whatever the reason, they were there. I wrote most of them down and even posted them on my face book page. Some of them were corny but they were a representation of what I was enduring at the time.  One of my favorites went some like this........"Riding the storm, catching a wave, looking for rainbows and blessings to save."

We all do it....searching the sky after a storm looking for those brilliant colors we love so much.  I saw a double rainbow once. I will never forget it! It was in Oldham County on a summers afternoon.  It was breathtaking! ;)

There is another type of rainbow that we experience every day; it is a rainbow of the soul.  You can call them a lot of different things but I call them blessings.  The problem is, we take so many of them for granted.....One day (during chemo) I sat down and made a list of all my blessings. It was very long (30 plus) and I know there were some I probably missed.  It was also very therapeutic.  Its hard to feel depressed and down on your luck when you have so much to be thankful for.

Recently my son shared an experience with me and it was one of those rainbow blessings! He was making a small purchase and the clerk gave him back a $20 instead of a single dollar.  Initially he was thinking...Wow! I could really use this! He was at the crossroads of making an "executive" decision...to do the right thing and return the money or pocket it for some extra cash.  He returned the money to the clerk and told him of his error. He said the clerk didn't even say "thank you"!  He was shocked of the lack of appreciation on the clerk's behalf.  I, on the other hand, was thrilled because I knew this spoke volumes of my son's moral values and standards.  My heart was warmed and full of color; I knew in that moment that my son will do just fine in life.  That was a "rainbow moment".

Some days are more challenging than others in finding and recognizing our rainbows. If we have a bad day at work, its more difficult to be thankful for having a job. However, if we can find gratitude in our greatest challenges, it helps us through the valley.   

During my treatment last year, I was so very grateful for my surgeons and oncologist. I made sure they knew it too! I sent them cards telling them how much I appreciated their care and hard work.  Health care professionals don't get this very much. I also sent them cards before my surgery. I wanted them to know that I was totally confident in them and the healing they were bringing to my life.

So, today I'll be searching for rainbows.....looking high and low,
I know they'll be there, wherever I go!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Broken Heart

So, I'm having a bad day; we all have them. Fact is, you can't get through life without them! My son got a phone call today. We were on our way to a July 4th cookout, swim party, celebration with family.  I heard him say "oh, no. Oh my God" I was hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.  One of his best friends had been killed in a accident. He loved riding his bike. The news was he had been struck and killed while riding his bicycle. He was a drummer. He was full of life and love.  He was 24 years old. He was such a handsome young man and my heart aches for my son and his friend's parents.

When we have sudden unexpected losses and hardships, its important to just take it one day at a time.....or one minute at a time, one hour at a time. Sometimes that's about all we can do!  Our mind has a wonderful way of protecting us in times of shock.  It only lets us absorb the crisis a little bit at a time. That's why things might seem very surreal for a period of time.

My son's heart has been broken; it is full of grief. We took the food to the party and came back home. We called out for pizza and just hung around the house. There will be no fireworks and celebrations in this house tonight.  Our hearts are heavy.  However,  tonight I am so thankful that I have my son. I feel almost selfish in my gratitude.

Tonight our loss is heaven's gain. I know the angels are singing just a little bit sweeter. 
R.I.P. David Whitney