Seven Years by Mary Beth

April 29, 2013

Shortly after midnight on Saturday my daughter and her friend gave me this beautiful card case to hold my business cards.

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Sunday was my seven year anniversary as a Breast Cancer Survivor. On Friday, I ordered a cake for myself to celebrate this day.  I don’t really drink, I don’t do drugs and I have never smoked and I still got cancer… so yes I eat sugar.

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I asked my closest friend in California, (who was literally the first person to hear the news as the Doctor called me at work) to come over and celebrate with me.

The day started out a little later than I had planned, I was running late for church and the chapel that I attend is very small and difficult to sneak in late. I decided to go to the church that we belonged to when we first moved here (and during my treatment) as their mass starts 15 minutes later. This parish had been talking and planning and raising money to build a new church when we became members. I do believe things happen for a reason and as I sat in the church I became very reflective on the past 7 years. I sat in the old church and prayed to heal and survive when I was sick. Now 7 years later I sat in this new church and so thankful that I am still here.
Cancer changed my life forever, not all bad, but changed nonetheless. I am healed on the outside, but sometimes the emotional side still creeps up on me. A few months back I had a “touch-up” procedure done. Before I left work for the appointment I looked at myself in the mirror and thought outwardly, most people that I meet now, have no idea that I am a cancer survivor. My hair has grown in and they can’t tell that it is much thinner than before. My eyebrows and my eyelashes have grown back and my eyelashes hold mascara again. My scars are not visible when I am dressed. People cannot see the effects of the aromatase inhibitors. But as I lay on the table with the greatest leopard hospital gown on… the tears started streaming down my face. I was back 7 years ago as they wheeled me into the operating room to remove a part of my body. I have learned we must allow ourselves to honor these moments as part of the healing process too.

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Today the tears streamed down my face again, so many emotions. Happiness that I am still here, gratefulness for all of the people that supported, prayed and helped me. Sadness for many of the people that I met because of the cancer that are not here anymore. I wrote and delivered a note to another close friend at that time, who had helped me with the kids. Our lives have now taken us in different directions. I sent a thank you text to Lou for supporting me during my treatment. We were close to divorcing in 2006 and then I was diagnosed. We decided to stay together. We tried for another 5 years, but it just was not meant to be.
After honoring those few moments of tears and emotions I was off to enjoy my day. I walked my favorite island and visited my friend who is still recovering from a freak illness. He congratulated me and then asked “did you think you would be sitting here 7 years later?” “Honestly, I was not sure, but my Doctors were.” was my response. They told me it would be 12-18 months of hell and then I would have a greater risk driving on the freeways.

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I treated myself to one of my favorite childhood candies while relaxing for a pedicure.

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My friend and her daughter came over and we celebrated our friendship… and the girls ate CAKE!

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The only part missing in the day was seeing my Dante. This was his weekend with his Dad and his future Step-Mother. Other than that…
I am a survivor.
I am alive.
I have so many amazing people in my life that care about me.
It was a great day.

cross-posted at marybethvolpini


Seven Is A Perfect Number

May 3, 2012


Jewish tradition declares the number seven is perfect. So today I share seven thoughts.

1. Seven years ago today I woke up with butterflies in my belly because of what the day held for me.

2. Seven years ago today the surgical waiting room at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock was overrun with people praying for me, laughing and telling lies exaggerated stories about me and eating my peanut M&Ms.

3. Seven years ago today I sang “I Want To Be Sedated” as the attendant and nurse wheeled me into surgery.

4. Seven years ago today a cancerous mass, my left breast and several lymph nodes were removed from my body.

5. Seven years ago today somebody stole the breast cancer awareness car magnet from my van in the hospital parking lot.

6. Seven years ago today I began an unwelcomed journey, but one in which I learned a lot along the way.

7. Seven years ago today I decided I would not be bested by something as evil as cancer.

It may not be a perfect list, but I sure do love being able to say I’ve been cancer free for seven years.

Crossposted at Jenster’s Musings


Divorce vs. Cancer, by Mary Beth

January 20, 2012

I have not blogged on this site in quite some time. I just had my 5 year and 6 month check-up and I am good, a few minor problems but let me emphasize minor. The past year has been a very difficult and trying one. After 28 years of marriage I found the courage to ask for a divorce.

I have always been afraid of divorce. I am not sure if it was because I was so young when we met. If I was afraid of being alone… which is a funny concept because I have felt alone for much of my marriage. I was afraid of what others would think. I was afraid of the kid sharing. I was afraid that once I asked for a divorce he would not support us. I was worried about money, which is also a funny concept because I was worried about money with him too….probably more so. I was afraid because he was my first love. I was afraid to have to try to meet someone else to spend my life with and now even more so as a cancer survivor, with a double mastectomy. I was afraid because I love the idea of marriage and family and I desperately wanted to have a long-term marriage and a good family life for my kids.

We had talked about divorce many times and in fact were very close in 2006 and then the cancer diagnosis. We stayed together, but in hindsight I think that was the final nail in the marriage coffin… thank goodness in was not the final nail in my coffin. I learned so many lessons from my cancer, mostly what is truly important. It changed me in so many ways. I guess I thought it would change the others close to me too. I have learned that just because we learn lessons, it does not mean everyone else does. So many times after the cancer I felt like the glorified nanny and housekeeper. There were many issues that I could not talk about then, that I hope someday I can share in case other women experience the same with their marriages.

Over the past 5 years since my diagnosis, those that knew of my marital problems would say “you survived cancer, you can survive divorce”. I heard what they were saying, but I just could not find that courage. I felt cancer was different. I had a team of doctors that I trusted. They said “do this” and I knew I would do it and follow their directions to the letter. There is no trust in divorce… another funny thought because there was no trust in my marriage either. I was not blessed with being able to trust those who are supposed to love and protect you.

I was so afraid of asking for a divorce and then having my cancer come back, what would I do? I don’t know if my cancer will come back, but I know if I stayed it definitely would. I found the courage. Divorce is hard, but cancer is harder.

On the tough divorce issue days I think of the other Mothers on this site who are fighting their cancer daily, hourly and by the minute. I think of the women that we have lost and their valiant fight, they remind me everyday what is truly important and then I remind myself… “if I survived cancer… then I can survive divorce.”

Please say a prayer or lots of prayers and healing thoughts for one of our fearless and amazing leaders, Susan, she has been having some breathing and pain issues and was admitted to the ER on Tuesday.


children with cancer (by Judy)

April 16, 2011

(First, I need to say that I’m not talking about Energy Boy; I don’t want to upset any of our loved ones.)
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When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s hard being a mom with cancer, particularly an aggressive cancer or a cancer at an advanced stage. We worry about our children — how is this experience affecting them? Will it change them? Will they never be quite as innocent as other kids who don’t face such troubles in their families?

And then there are the really big worries: Will I be here to raise him? Will he ever remember me when I wasn’t sick? Will he get as much mommy time as he needs before this disease takes me?

It’s a heavy burden, but I know there are heavier ones. My cancer is the worst thing that’s happened to me, but I know without a doubt that if EB had cancer, that would be even worse. We don’t want our children to feel pain. I wouldn’t want him to have to go through chemo or radiation or surgery, as I have. Yet, some children DO go through some/all of those, and perhaps even more painful stuff. We’re blessed that EB is very healthy right now and I pray that he stays that way. I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother whose child has cancer, but I can imagine somewhat.

Yesterday I received a very nice email from Ryan Stephens, the Marketing Coordinator of the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. I’m going to quote some of his email here.

Hi Judy,

Because of the way you’re able to bring Energy Boy and Absent Minded Professor to life on your blog, while also detailing your own cancer journey, I thought you would be a great advocate in helping us share the story of Matthew Rager – a 9-year old glioma brain tumor survivor – in hopes that other parents will feel empowered in the fight against childhood cancer.

I work at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center where Matthew received his proton radiation treatment and his mother Denise wanted to share their story, of struggle, advocacy and courage to offer support and hope to other families facing cancer. Their story, told by Denise through a video essay will premiere April 16th in New Orleans at the annual Mom 2.0 Summit (on Twitter @Mom2Summit or #Mom2Summit). The video will be available on YouTube for everyone to view and share immediately after the premiere. I’ve included you in an exclusive group of people who get to see the video a day early in case you want to share it on your blog after the premiere tomorrow.

I hope you’ll consider sharing their story and video on your blog (or via Twitter) after the premiere — as you will no doubt influence the lives of those who now or might some day need to make a decision for themselves or someone they love.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information on proton therapy. In the meantime, more information can be found here: http://mdanderson.org/protonforkids

Thank you for your time!

Ryan Stephens

I watched the video, twice, and cried like a baby both times. I related to the mom, for even if my son hasn’t been through what hers has, I think on some level, many of us moms have secret worries and fears about “what if . . . . ” happens to my child. I wanted to embrace this boy, this family, and then cheer them for what they had been through, what they had endured.

I love this video. It’s a very touching story of a boy’s journey through cancer. And not just his journey, but his family’s journey, and what they’ve done to help others afterward. Mostly, it’s a video about hope, and hope is nothing to sneeze at, my friends.

Please watch Matthew’s story. It will make you want to hold your child(ren) a bit tighter today.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


Need Help Buying Lymphedema Sleeves?

January 5, 2011

Are you or do you know a breast cancer survivor?  Please read today’s post and pass it on.  If you can’t afford to purchase a lymphedema sleeve, gauntlet, and/or glove, and you can’t manage your post-mastectomy swelling, Crickett’s Answer and LympheDIVAs want to help.

Today, I am pleased to announce a NEW opportunity for breast cancer survivors who have had a mastectomy and/or axillary dissection of the lymph nodes due to breast cancer and have swelling of one or both arms but cannot afford the $200-$500+ cost for two sets of the compression sleeves and gauntlets that survivors with lymphedema must wear every day to keep the swelling in check. 

Although lymphedema sleeves are medically necessary, they are not covered by Medicare OR most insurance plans under current law, and thousands of survivors go without the sleeves, needlessly suffering congestion, swelling, and pain that interferes with their normal activities.

Crickett’s Answer, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in memory of Crickett Julius, has just joined forces with LympheDIVAs to help other breast cancer survivors who fight not just the beast that is breast cancer but also the fallout of side effects that includes lymphedema, which may limit survivors’ activities.  By working together, they are now able to provide needed lymphedema sleeves and gauntlets to women who need them but cannot afford them out-of-pocket or convince their insurance companies to pay for them.  They do this in honor and memory of their loved ones.

Crickett JuliusCrickett Julius survived breast cancer only four months, but her mother and cousin are dedicated to helping other women enjoy their life post-diagnosis through Crickett’s Answer, a 501(c)3 organization that provides wigs, mastectomy products, oncology/mastectomy/ lymphedema massage, facials, and other pampering services as a way to help women feel feminine and beautiful after losing their hair and/or breasts.

Rachel TroxellLympheDIVAs was founded by Rachel Troxell and Robin Miller, friends and breast cancer survivors who wanted to create a more elegant and comfortable compression sleeve.  Rachel continued to build the company during her later recurrence.  Even though she died two years ago, at the age of 37, her father, mother, and brother continue to grow the company in her honor and in the hope that LympheDIVAs’ compression apparel will continue to inspire breast cancer survivors everywhere to feel as beautiful, strong, and confident as Rachel was.

To ask for help, please download and complete the forms at Crickett’s Answer, writing in “lymphedema sleeve and gauntlet” on page 2 of the application. 

To help someone else, please copy and paste this post on your blog or email it to a friend (or your local cancer center!).

To donate, go here

To help change the law so that this medical garment is covered by cancer survivors’ insurance, stay tuned for more about the Lymphedema Treatment Act when it is reintroduced in the 2011 Congress.

Because of these women, these three thirty-something women who didn’t ask to get breast cancer, and the men and women who love them, there is now help for women who can’t afford lymphedema sleeves, a medically necessary garment not typically covered by insurance.  Their legacy lives on.

Note: Cancer patients who are members of the National Lymphedema Network and who are treated by an NLN therapist can also apply to the NLN garment fund, set up in honor of Marilyn Westerbrook


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