Meanings by Stella

March 11, 2012

I never asked “why me”.  I always thought “better me”.

Today is one of those days that reinforces that.

We have a good friend whose girlfriend has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’ve never met her.  But through him I am able to help.  I can offer advice.  Help for nausea.  Advice on hair loss.  Disability is available.  It’s a reprieve.  Take it.  I have hats and beanies.  They are hers for the taking.

It feels good.

It feels right.

It feels like that year or so five years ago weren’t for naught.

I don’t pretend to know God’s plans.

I really have no credible idea why I am still here and others are not.

God knows.  He has vision.  He sees the big picture.

I know I’m the Cheese.

I know not everyone survives.

I know I may not always survive.

But I also know that I can help.

I offer hope.  I offer help.  I offer insight.

How can I run from that?

Who can really ask for more from life?

cross-posted to I Can’t Complain Any More Than Usual 

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.

mixed. but good. i think. (by Laurie)

March 10, 2011

And I’m not talking about the weather, which while it has been mixed, has been pretty consistently bad for the last twenty four hours. We had a big dump of snow (the photo above was taken from my front door), followed by freezing rain, which will be followed by ordinary rain.
Good thing I just bought rain boots.

My GP called me last week to let me know the results of my endoscopy (I won’t get in to see the gastroenterologist until March 21st). All my results were negative – no celiac, no bacterial infection, no cancer. It’s all good.

Then I talked to my oncologist on Friday. We discussed my scope results and my digestive symptoms (diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain). He expressed surprised that I was still feeling lousy on Friday after a Tuesday treatment. I told him that my recovery time had gone from four to six days and that last round, I’d felt sick for a week (this ended up being the case this time, too).

Then my oncologist said, “It’s time to take a break.”

I was floored.

I had been hoping to hear these words for months (years even) but when I finally did, I definitely had a mixed reaction. I’m being taken off the chemotherapy not because I’ve been in remission for a while (although I have) but because the chemo has started to take too big a toll on my body.

As Dr. G. said, “You can’t stay on vinorelbine forever.”
I’m going to continue with the Herceptin but take a break from the chemo for at least three months. Herceptin is also known to induce flu-like symptoms but I don’t think it has the lasting toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. I’m likely to bounce back more quickly after treatments.

So we’ll see what happens. There are no guarantees of anything and no promises. Every change involves risk.

But the next few months will be devoted to healing.

Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.

Obon for Mrs. Edwards

December 8, 2010


I’m sitting here in my cubicle, watching the cars drive by; watching our IT manager brave the rain in a noble attempt to get some winter exercise.

 And I marvel at the ordinariness of their driving and walking. I wonder how, knowing that Elizabeth Edwards died from breast cancer yesterday and that millions of women will die from the same disease, they can drive and walk with what seems like naive oblivion.

 I wondered the same thing, when as a mom who had just returned to full-time work two months prior, I listened to my radiologist gently tell me on the phone at work that my ultrasound/biopsy revealed the fact that I had 10 lumps in my right breast. “Infiltrating lobular cancer,” she said. Not, “Infiltrating lobular carcinoma.”  I listened as I stood in the corner of the stairwell by the elevator. I listened as I watched someone drop a pat of butter on the carpeted floor as they walked back to their cubicle with their lunch. I listened as I watched the receptionist answer the phone and route calls. I listened as I heard my own terrified voice ask Dr. Borofsky questions.

 When I walked back to my desk, I wondered how everyone else could go on with their lives with this devastating news hanging in the air.

 Two months later, I had a bi-lateral mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiation.

 It is now almost five years since my surgery.

 What I’ve discovered in that time is that there are people feeling with the same depth of concern, compassion and sadness that I am feeling. The world may look normal, even oblivious, but there is a community of women who have experienced what I have experienced; who know what it feels like to have had and to live with cancer; who understand that terror management and practicality and faith is what keeps us looking normal while we learn a new job in a swingy brunette wig with a chest as flat as a prairie under our prosthetic breasts; who understand that every new milestone of our children’s lives (the braces coming off, the first day of college) fills us with inexplicable joy and gratitude.

As I drove in the rain to work today, I listened to the radio with a heavy heart as Elizabeth Edwards’ voice filled my 2000 Toyota Sienna. It was an interview in which she talked about the lasting impression of seeing an Obon ritual in Japan, where little boats with lighted candles in them float down a river, symbolizing the souls of the dead finding their way to “the other side of the river.” It was a stunningly beautiful image. Tears welled in my eyes. And no one in the cars around me noticed. I wiped my eyes and smiled. Because I knew there were people on I-280 south who were listening to the same radio interview, who had a mother or a sister or a daughter or a wife who had had breast cancer. Who themselves had or have breast cancer. And I knew, as they drove looking straight ahead, that they were feeling what I was feeling.

A mother with cancer

December 8, 2010

Even though I don’t live in the USA – the news of Elizabeth Edwards saddened me. 

With living in New Zealand, who John Edwards was – what his politics or personal problems were, didnt really interest me at all.  But when I heard his wife had recurrent breast cancer that is who I took notice of.  

I didn’t know Elizabeth other through what I read on the internet and through magazine articles but  whenever you hear of another mother with cancer it resonates within you on  a very deep level.  We all love our children and fear leaving them. I have already had one recurrence, since initial diagnosis in August 2008, and although I am back in remission as one of the other MWC mums so eloquently put it there is an elephant in the room.  At 47 I still want to live long enough to see my children married and my grandchildren but both my children and I know its a possibility that I might not.

Everytime we hear of someone making the decision to end treatment we know it could so easily be us in the future and the fact is most of us have already contemplated how and when we would make this decision.  Only another mother with cancer understands.

Elizabeth Edwards used her time left to educate with grace and strength what it is like to be a mother with cancer and for that all of us other mothers thank her. 

Rest in Peace

The Real Face of Breast Cancer

October 9, 2010

By Lorri Steer, reprinted from my personal blog, originally published 10/2/08

As Breast Cancer Survivors, we have a love/hate relationship with the month of October. Everywhere you turn from the grocery store to the local Mexican restaurant that is serving “Mar-Cure-ritas”, you are reminded that the color pink equals breast cancer…breast cancer that is, or a really emotional exploitation for marketing and sales purposes. Some of the more militant groups of survivors have their own slogan: “F&%# Awareness, Find a Cure.” These aren’t just vigilantes, these are mother who will not live to see their children grow up. These are woman whose marriages failed over the stress and damage of the disease. These are woman who live with the life-altering side effects of cancer treatment and metastases such as chronic pain, heart damage, and even blindness.

Some companies do what they say: raise money for breast cancer research or survivor support. Others prey on people’s sympathy for cancer and color things pink to make more sales with very little of the actual profits going toward actual cancer research or support.

I mean, I’m all for buying pink stuff…I have a pink mixing spoon, a pink rubber ducky that lights up, I had the breast cancer issue designer nail polish last year, and just yesterday, I picked up a pink-lidded jar of pickles. Those are good pickles but I really have no idea what portion of my $4.59 is going toward finding a cure.
Some of the Pink Products are oxymoronical. It is a known fact that cancer feeds off of simple sugar…that’s why you are injected with radioactive glucose before a PET scan: the cancer grabs up that fast energy and then lights up on the scan. So “Pink” products like ice cream, cookies and candy contribute to the disease they are trying to raise money to cure. See the issue? What would make sense would be for anti-cancer items – such as broccoli, real green tea and the like – to bear the pink ribbon. But I suspect it’s going to be a cold day in Hell before we see the broccoli growers of America binding their vegetables with pink satin ribbons. I did see Pink Packaged pre-cut lettuce so that’s a start, I must admit.

Yes, we as survivors are happy that breast cancer gets the recognition and funding that it does. You’ve probably never seen a ribbon for anal cancer, or brain cancer, or throat cancer. Pancreatic cancer has something like 6 researchers in America working on a cure while breast cancer has hundreds. Somehow our culture has a love affair with the breast and pink just wraps it up all warm and cozy like a newborn baby. We see the statistics given to the public and we think breast cancer isn’t a deadly disease. Oprah said the other day that 81% of breast cancer victims survive the disease. But it’s not that simple.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54 in America. Breast cancer in young women is usually of a more fatal form than its counterpart in older women. Young African-American and Latinas have an even higher mortality rate than their Caucasian sisters. We all know that different types and stages of breast cancer have different outcomes but here are some more facts: 80% of stage 4 breast cancer patients will die in 5 years or less. There is no cure for cancer: even women whose disease is “caught early” can go on to have a recurrence or spread into other organs. Yes, many women go on after cancer treatment to live long and healthy lives but that doesn’t mean there should be a Breast Cancer Barbie with a pink ribbon over her perfect bust line like a contest winner. As one survivor of early stage disease said, “There’s no prize for being stage one.”

It’s suitable that October actually is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is also Halloween. The stores are filled with all manner for scary, creepy ghoulish figures and masks. Yesterday, I saw a small red trollish looking devil doll. When you pressed its stomach its red eyes lit up and it made a demonic screaming sound. One kind of chemo treatment is nicknamed, “The Red Devil.” The young women on the cancer board call cancer “The Beast.” This ugly devil doll would actually be a much more suitable mascot for breast cancer. Please don’t fall for the deception of the soft pink wrappings: breast cancer is a cruel, damaging, and often fatal disease. When you are shopping and see those pink items out there, go ahead and purchase some if you want to, but remember the real face of cancer isn’t a beautiful smiling Barbie…it is a red-eyed ugly beast that has yet to be slain.

What you can do to make a difference:

First four days of Xeloda

September 27, 2010

By Sarah

I started my new chemo treatment on Friday morning, it was so easy. I took three pills and bam I was done! No trips to the hospital no sitting in a recliner for 4 hours. No hospital cafeteria food for lunch. It was a breeze. It’s a scary thing though taking a drug for the first time not knowing how it will affect you. Wondering if you are allergic or not. But I did really well. I was able to eat a nice dinner and really enjoy tasting it. It was a good Friday.

On Saturday we all piled into the car and headed out on a trip to visit a college for Miss H. I took My pills along and after stopping for a donut and some coffee I downed my next morning does of my medication. We arrived at our location and went through the open house without a hitch. I walked the whole campus (slowly but I did make it the whole way) and after we were finished we headed towards home and a birthday party. Now two weeks ago I would have not been able to go but I got to go this time. It was so nice to get out and do something not involving driving to the hospital. I enjoyed dinner and had a nice big piece of birthday cake. It seems that my appetite has returned and I am enjoying sweets, and other things that I did not have interest in eating before.

We spent a quiet day around the house on Sunday, Laundry, Football games and homework were the main events. I was a bit tired but not as sleepy as I usually am on the weekends. This morning I am feeling pretty good and am still drinking coffee. Which you know makes me very happy.

So far the only side effect I have is a bit of bone pain but Motrin takes care of that. I am back to cooking and cleaning a bit too. From what I understand I will probably have more side effects in my next cycle, but for now I am enjoying evey minute of feeling pretty good for now.