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.


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


A milestone by Lyn

July 9, 2010

Well  I made it.  I finished my year of Herceptin last week.  I knew the day would come, but I almost can’t believe it.  I see my oncologist again in 3 months, and I admit I am looking forward to the break.  Even better, I am getting my port out in 2 weeks.  I can’t wait for that either.  As for what is next, they tell me I am cancer free, but you all know how that goes, and how fearful it is to worry about a recurrance.  But I am going to be positive, and try to be a bit more spontaneous in the coming year.  I have been tied down to doctor appointments and check ups and physical therapy and recovering, that it is all I have been able to think about, but now I am going to attempt thinking past IBC and the possible recurrance. 

Another big decision, dh and I decided recently to put my reconstruction on hold until my daughter is in kindergarten.  She is 3, so about 2 years.  My skin is so damaged from twice a day radiation that implants are not an option at this time anyway, so the only way to be reconstructed is with the TRAM or DIEP and that is such a huge surgery and recovery.  It’s not sensible with 2 very young children and noone to help out while I am recovering.  Part of me is nervous about the decision, but even more I am relieved because I don’t think I am up for such a large surgery so soon after the last one. 

If you are Her-2 positive, ask your doctors about joining the Neratinib Trial.  It was presented to me, and I have decided not to do it.  But I think it will be very beneficial and help us combat cancer.  My decision was a personal one, but I fully support the trial and believe it will help extend our lives even further.


An update

February 20, 2010

I posted on New Year’s Eve that they found a lump in my chest, and my worries associated with it.  Well I did end up having surgery last week – another surgery, I am sincerely sick of being cut- and I’m relieved to share that it was benign.  It was just fibrous tissue growing.  They didn’t think it was cancer going in but had to check.  I was relieved, but only slightly.  I am resigning myself to the fact that this is my life now.  I am now in the elite group that gets to say things like ‘oh this is just a little surgery’.  That’s what my oncologist said the week before when I expressed anxiety over it.  I suppose compared to the double mastectomy and hysterectomy I had, yes, it was just a little surgery.  I thought I would be happier when the surgeon called to tell me the good news, that it was not cancer brewing its ugly head again.  I was happy, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was just lucky to get a pass.  I couldn’t help but feel like, I’m Ok – for now.  I promise I’m not negative about my situation at all, I do feel very lucky most of the time.  I guess I’m only sharing my fears, how I really feel about it.  My 1 year diagnosis anniversary is in April, maybe as time goes on I will not feel as on guard as I do.  But – for now- I appear to be cancer free, and that is indeed something to celebrate.


The world of lymphedema (by Sarah)

December 6, 2009

I have been welcomed to the world of  lymphedema. After I was diagnosed and had surgery my surgeon briefly talked to me about it but said that none of her patients got lymphedema. I thought I was safe, thinking I would not have a problem with it. I was wrong, I have been suffering from it for some months now and did not realize it. I am suffering from mostly truncal lymphedema. Like Stella my symptoms are mostly pain with a bit of swelling. I have made lots of trips to my oncologist complaining about my pain and was worried that my cancer had come back. Little did I know that lymphedema is very painful. Something I was not told before. I have been to a therapist 4 times now and it seems to be working for me. I am educating my self on how to move my lymphatic fluid that builds up under my arm and in my back. I have been fitted for a sleeve and a vest as well. I will be interested to see how the vest works, I will be wearing it at night and am hoping that I will sleep more comfortably.

The signs of lymphedema may include:

  • swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand
  • area feels full or heavy
  • skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red
  • new aching or discomfort in the area
  • less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand, or wrist
  • trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves
  • bra doesn’t fit the same
  • ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight but you have not gained weight

Early on, the lymphedema may be relieved by raising the affected limb and the skin usually stays soft. But over time, the swollen area may become hot and red and the skin hard and stiff.

Here is a link with more information that is very helpful. My advise is to educate yourself, know the signs of  lymphedema and know your body. Talk to your doctor and be persistent. My doctor told me I did not have a problem but the lymphedema doctor saw my problem right away.

Message, the right kind of message is the key, I was not educated and was not doing my message correctly. If you do have signs of lymphedema get to a good certified lymphedema therapist right away. Your doctor should have a list of good therapists in your area. I feel more relaxed now and know why I have this pain. The pain isn’t fun but I am comforted by the fact that I know what is causing it and am getting the tools to deal with it.


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