Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sometimes It Seems As Though It's Around Every Corner

Do you ever notice how once something becomes a part of your life you start seeing it everywhere? When we bought a Saturn several years ago,  it seemed like every 5th car I saw on the road was a Saturn.  When my husband bought his first Harley, it was the same thing.  These things were always there around us, it's just that once  they became a part of our life,  we stopped filtering them out of our conscious thoughts.

And for me it's been that way with breast cancer. It seems to pop up every where.  It seems as though there are more commercials on TV for awareness and fundraisers.  It seems to be on the news more.  More products have packaging stating that a portion of the sale of that item goes to fund breast cancer research/treatment.  The cereal, wine, and yogurt  you buy can help support  the fight for a cure.

It's even in the gossip magazines at the check out stands.  That's what got me started on this rambling thought for today. I was loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt at the commissary today, trying not to pass out because I was having another hot flash - did I mention that the hot flashes almost always include dizziness and nausea?  When I looked up and saw a headline about Christina Applegate and motherhood after breast cancer.  I didn't know she had breast cancer.  She was diagnosed in 2008. It was not something she hid from the public.  I guess it was one of those things that I filtered out because it didn't impact me personally.

So of course I did the librarian thing and did a little research. I discovered there are quite a few famous people who have battled breast cancer.  That shouldn't be surprising, since one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  And breast cancer doesn't care how rich or famous you are.  It strikes women/men of all demographics.

It really does feel like it's every where.  Sometimes when I'm in a group of women, I find myself glancing around wondering if some of them will be another one in eight.  And sometimes I say a silent prayer, that it's just me - that I covered that statistic so that someone else doesn't have to face that battle.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Support Groups

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20188761,00.html

I've been pondering the idea of joining a support group. As you know I've been reading the stories of breast cancer survivors.  So far they all mention becoming involved with a support group fairly early on in their treatment.

I think I've been handling things fairly well.  My surgeon thinks so, too. He even asked me to be on a list of support contacts for other women diagnosed with breast cancer similar to mine.  When I first started thinking about this, it was because I felt (still do) a need to do something for others.  Despite my various little pity parties, I know that I've been blessed. Things could have been so much worse than they have been.  It's always been in my nature to try to help others. And when I take on a project, I really take it on. (After all, almost 19 years ago, my husband simply volunteered me to help out with a FSG - Family Support Group for soldiers and their families - [they are now known as FRGs - Family Readiness Groups].  Little did he know that it would become a second career - albeit one that didn't come with a salary.

Even though helping others is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, even though I think I've been handling this challenge in a healthy way - I'm also considering joining a group because it would be good for me.  Earlier this week, I found myself irritated at something someone posted on Facebook (love Facebook but it can be a royal pain sometimes) about people with cancer. They were actually trying to say something good, but they said it in a way that it felt like a slap at me. And my first angry thought was "How could you possibly understand? Do you have breast cancer?"  When I took a moment to listen to the rant that was going on in my head, I realized that I just might need to talk to others who are like me. Reading the stories of survivors is helpful, but being in the same room and hearing their voices would be even better.  Don't get me wrong. I have a wonderful support group made of my loving family and friends. I wouldn't be able to crawl out of bed to meet this challenge, much less fight it without them.  They have all been more understanding than I deserve. But their understanding can't be the same as that of someone who has gone through the same I am going through.

So, now I just need to pull out my ninja librarian skills and find the right group for me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Could I Have Prevented My Breast Cancer?

This is a question I've been asking myself over and over since I first heard the diagnoses.  The Mayo Clinic does list things  you can do to limit the risk.

Limit alcohol - I'm not a heavy drinker, though I suppose completely abstaining from alcohol could have reduced my risk.

Control your weight - Controlling my weight has always been a challenge. I'm a stress eater (though in the last year and a half, I've found other ways of dealing with stress. I'm convinced that having lost the almost 80 pounds made it easier for the cancer to be detected early. I also believe it made the recovery from the surgeries much easier.

Get plenty of physical activity - I'm fairly active now. But prior to June of 2010, I wasn't. Too busy sticking my nose in a book to get much exercise.

Breast-feed - nope, didn't do that either. Over the years, I've often wondered if I'd done my boys a disservice because I didn't breast feed. It never occurred to me that breast feeding might have been to my benefit. I used to joke that my chest was so large I was afraid I'd smother the boys.  I used to want a "boob job" - but not what you think - I wanted a reduction.  Considering that if  the cancer had not been detected early I would have had a drastic reduction, I've decided to be happy with what God gave me.

Discontinue hormone therapy - Never had hormone therapy until after the cancer. Tamoxifen is considered hormone therapy.

Avoid exposure to environmental pollution - The Mayo Clinic states "While further studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust and air pollution." (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-cancer-prevention/WO00091).  Since I've never lived in highly polluted area, I guess this, avoiding hormone thereapy and the limited alcohol are the only preventatives that I actually managed to follow.

Eat a healthy diet - A diet rich in fruits and vegetables doesn't offer direct protection from breast cancer, but  it can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is a key factor in breast cancer prevention. But again, though I consider my current diet to be healthy, it's only recently become healthy. Eating healthy is not easy nor cheap.  Why is it that food that is good for you is so much more expensive?

If I had followed all these precautions would I have gotten breast cancer?  Since I don't have a crystal ball to tell me what God's plan was, I can't answer that.


Some of these things I failed to do because I was young and stupid.  If I could go back in time retaining the knowledge I have now, I would probably follow these precautions, but hindsight is always perfect, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Test or Not To Test

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom/3391469181/

Yesterday I had my appointment with the genetics counselor to determine if I'm a candidate for genetic testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2.  Apparently, these are genes that everyone has - they are the genes that fight the cancer tumors. But in some people, the genes are mutated and don't work properly.  I've always heard them referred to the Breast Cancer gene, but they are also the genes that, if mutated, can result in ovarian cancer.

I have to admit that I was appalled at my lack of knowledge about my family history, at least on my mother's side.  Even when my mom and I still communicated, she was not very forth coming about her health.  Somewhere I have a half sister. I have no idea what her medical history is, nor do I have any way of letting her know about mine. If I have the "gene" then she could have it too - because if I have it, we have know way of knowing if it came from my mother or my dad.

I've always known more about my paternal side of the family. That's the side I favor - at least in looks.  On that side of the family, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease are the family legacy. Thats one of the reasons I worked so hard to lose all that excess weight (did I mention that one of the stinking side effects of tamoxifen can be weight gain? Ah but that's a rant for another day).  I figured my battles would be against heart disease.

The result of today's 30 minute appointment was that the chances of my having the mutated gene are about less than 5%.  Granted it's a small percentage. Perhaps not worth having the test done. Except it just leaves one more unanswered question.

If I do have the mutated gene, then the chances of the cancer returning or appearing in the other breast increase.  The chances of my getting ovarian cancer increase.  (Ever since my mother-in-law died of ovarian cancer at age 48 that's been one of my worries.)

What are the benefits of the test? Information.  If I have the gene, then there are precautions I can consider for the future.  (Everything I've heard about ovarian cancer is that by the time the symptoms show up, it's almost always too late. Better screening might be a guard against that.)  A person who has the mutated gene has a 50% chance of passing it to their children regardless of their gender.  So let's say that my mother-in-law had the gene and that's what resulted in her ovarian cancer.  She might have passed it to my husband. If I have the gene, also - well I've never been good at math, but even I know that ups the percentage that my boys will have the gene.

What is the harm, if any of having the test?  There's only one I can think of - I'll freak out about the needle, but that's nothing new. I've lived with needle phobia for years and it's only one vial of blood they will need to take.

What is the harm if I don't have the test?  Somewhere in the back of my mind I'll always be fretting and wondering.  I'll be ignoring my own advice about using all my resources - failing to gather as much information as I can.  If  I don't have the test and I do have the gene, I will have missed an opportunity to better plan for my future health. I have to think about my boys, too.

I'm fortunate that my insurance will fully cover the costs of the tests (at least that's what the counselor said). So money is not an issue - jut a big needle. (Or at least big in my mind.)

Even though I'll sleep it on it for a few nights and pray about it, I guess it's not really much of a question.    For me, the fear of the unknown is worse than the fear of the known. Information is power, right?  Wonder if that wonderful nurse from Memorial would be willing to be the one to do the blood test?

What do you think? If the odds were less than 5% would you still have the test?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Visualizing Wellness

The second story in B.O.O.B.S: a Bunch Of Outrageous Breast Cancer Survivors Tell Their Stories of Courage, Hope, and Healing is about a woman named Beth.  In her story she talks about encouraged to develop a visualization to use during radiation. 


Her visualization involved her Australian Shepard.  


"Sadie and I were standing side by side at the edge of a field (my breast).  As soon as the radiation began, I sent her out and she circled the entire mass, braking and nipping at the cancer cells to herd them under the radiation beam.  When the machine clicked off, I caller her back to my side." Kempner, Ann. B.O.O.B.S.: a bunch of outrageous breast-cancer survivors tell their stories of courage, hope, & healing. Cumberland House Publishing, 2004. Print. (p. 59)




http://www.positive-thinking-for-you.com/visualization.html




I like the idea of using a visualization.  It sort of reminds me of what Joel Osteen (Since our Missouri Adventure last summer, I've been reading a lot of his work) says.  I'm doing a bad job of paraphrasing what he says, but basically, he encourages you to pray differently than how I was tough to pray. Instead of asking God to help you with whatever it is you need help with, Osteen says we should pray a prayer thanking God for the blessing you are asking for.  Osteen says that "What you say in the midst of your difficulties will have a great impact on how long you stay in those situations . . . Declare God's favor."  Osteen, Joel. Your Best Life Now. New York, NY: Warner Faith, 2004. Print.


When  you face an important battle it is a good idea to be as fully armed as possible.  For me a fully stocked arsenal includes, prayer, information, family/friends, an excellent medical team and ATTITUDE. I'm human, so I do have moments (more than I would like) when I tend to indulge in some negative thinking, but for the most part I've been concentrating on a positive attitude. I'm a VICTOR, not a victim. I don't intend to just be a survivor I intend to be the WINNER.  
http://api.ning.com/files/WMo*wPvFk7Dw-2VlXGUPGjU2jOAaC4L1ibsiRIV8MMA6k6cVQMZpVZq-*-1Zn5MDBiswwUr*eaGRHVWxPnlkFAm62WYADsY1/Winner.jpg


I have an active imagination (it's the would be writer in me).  My day dreams could give Walter Middy (most of you are probably not old enough to know who that is) a run for his money, but someone said (Osteen?) if you can "see" it you can achieve it.  And that's where the visualization comes into play.  I've already used visualization to get me through the needle biopsies.  I just need a good one to get me through the radiation.


I have a few weeks to come up with a good one or two.  I meet with the radiation oncologist next Tuesday. Then we will set up a "radiation simulation" - more on that when I find out what it is. And then we'll start the six weeks of radiation.


Today I meet with the Genetics Counselors to determine if I need genetic testing.  (Wonder if there is a way to visualize blood tests that don't involve needles? When is medical science going to totally catch up with Star Trek?)


Do you have use visualization to get you through something difficult?  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fighting With Myself

I wasn't sure what I was going to talk about today. I'd been toying around with the topic of how what you eat can help deter breast cancer, but I'm still not well versed on the subject.

Then, this afternoon I learned that another woman lost the battle with breast cancer.  Though I knew who she was I didn't really know her.  We attended the same university, but graduated in different years.  We were in the same women's fraternity. We shared friends.  We were fighting the same battle.

She was an amazing woman. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she took it as an opportunity to help raise awareness and funds for research. She didn't just sit back and take it. She fought back, not just for herself, but others as well.  However, the cancer returned within five years. And this time it spread.  And this time she lost the battle.


There's been a raging battle between the voices in my head since I heard of her death earlier today.

Rational, leather-weathering, tough, keeps it all together librarian: "Everyone is different. You don't know that your battles had any similarity.  Don't freak out."

Frightened, fretful, worry-wart, who wishes she could run hide behind her Granny: "She had breast cancer. She had treatment. It CAME BACK! IT GOT WORSE!

Timid little mouse who sometimes feels guilty for breathing: "This isn't about me. I'm horrible. A husband just lost his wife and I'm freaking about my own worries."

Librarian: "Snap out of it!"

Worry-wart: I need chocolate. Where did I hide the chocolate?

Guilty mouse: Why are you thinking of chocolate? You're not allowed chocolate! It's not on your diet. You should be thinking of this woman's family. What's your problem?

Pollyanna: You know there are women who have survived breast cancer.

Queen of Denial: Everyone shut up! I'm going to pour myself a drink and crawl inside a good book.  We'll be back when we can pull ourselves together and make sense.

This really is the conversation that has been going on in my head - or something close to it.  But please don't think I'm making light of this woman's death. And even though I am whiny at the moment, I do know it's not all about me.  My heart is hurting for her family and friends.   I hope you will all take a moment to send up a prayer for her family and for all the families who are fighting this battle.  Yesterday, I said information is power, but I also believe that prayer is even more powerful.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mythbusters

I finished the story of other Beverly's battle with breast cancer. This is the paragraph at the end of her entry.


"Beverly looks forward to finishing with tamoxifen in the coming year. She recently completed chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer and has resumed her active lifestyle.  Her tremendous inner strength helps her maintain a positive outlook." Kempner, Ann. B.O.O.B.S.: a bunch of outrageous breast-cancer survivors tell their stories of courage, hope, & healing. Cumberland House Publishing, 2004. Print. (p. 37)


After my recent post about Elizabeth Edwards, I'm sure you can guess what is now running around in my brain.  Elizabeth Edwards started out with breast cancer, it spread.  This other Beverly had breast cancer, then she had colon cancer.  So I'm asking myself, has breast cancer opened up the door and stuck out a welcome sign to other cancers to invade my body?  This may have been something I discussed with my surgeon, but I didn't take any notes on it - and for many of our discussions I was on information overload.  My dear sweet husband, my second pair of ears for all of these conversations, has been called into work on this holiday weekend, so I can't ask him. I will be calling my Breast Care Navigator next week to ask her about it.  But in the meantime, I pulled out my librarian hat and tried to do a little research  myself.  I haven't really found an answer, but I did find several sites that talk about Breast Cancer Myths.


The best way to deal with myths is to be informed. When it comes to your health, the best source of information is your doctor. So while I will share a couple of sites that I consider reliable (I'm a librarian after all and only recommend authoritative sites.) I encourage anyone who has questions to ask their doctor.

Breast Cancer Myths (BreastCancer.org)


16 Common Myths (University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center


There are a few myths that I found particularly interesting.  One in particular reminded me of something I often heard while growing up (when the adults didn't realize I was listening, of course).


#14 from 16 Common Myths states "If cancer is exposed to air during surgery, it will spread."  I've never believed this, but as a child I do remember my grandparents believed this.  I don't know where they got the idea, but they were convinced that surgery often caused things to spread or get worse.


Rather than list all the myths with all the truths here, I'm going to encourage you to check out the two links listed above and/or talk to your doctor. I'm not a doctor, I'm just a librarian.  I'm also going to encourage you to not sit on your questions. Information is power.  Librarians, soldiers and doctors will all agree on that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Thursday - Trekking Towards Normal

For the second morning this week, I've managed to get a morning walk in. I know some are worried that I'm moving too fast. But walking clears my head and actually gives me more energy.  I often say there's always an excuse not to walk, so now that my surgeries are over, I don't have to worry about catching a cold and it delaying my treatment.  I'm just ready for Spring so that it will be light out when I walk in the mornings.












Besides I'm training to go up Pikes Peak in August.  So, though I do listen to my body when it tells me it's too tired to hike around the neighborhood, I also try not to let it or myself get too lazy.


As I said walking clears my head. I plan lesson plans, think of wonderful comebacks to snarky people (not that I ever use them), compose letters, plan crafts and ponder things that weigh heavy on my mind or heart. This morning I was pondering genetics.

Yesterday, after over a week of playing phone tag  with the genetics office at Penrose, I finally have an appointment for genetic counseling. (Of course it's not on Monday when school is closed for President's Day, so I'll be missing more time from the library.)  I wasn't sure why they kept pushing for me to meet with the genetics counselor. There's no history of breast cancer in my family - well not that I know of - I don't really know my mom's cause of death.  Though as I've said before, in the wee hours of the night I worry about the possibility of passing this cancer on to my boys.  Yesterday, the woman scheduling my appointment told me that when a woman gets breast cancer in her mid 50s to 60s it is often a case of an aging body with cells that due to age no longer function properly.  But when a woman younger than 50 is diagnosed with breast cancer it can be a matter of a gene that has mutated.  And that gene can be passed on from the father. So that answers my question. If I have this gene, I may very well have passed it onto my sons and they could pass it on to their children.   At this point, it's still all speculation. I have to fill out as much of a family history as I can (and now I'm feeling guilty for not knowing my mother's medical history - though that was mainly her choice, but it could impact my boys) and then spend an hour or so with a genetic counselor.  That will determine if I'm "a candidate" for genetic testing.  I haven't even had the nerve to research what that testing will involve. I'm sure it will involve needles.   I think I better get more walks in before Tuesday.  At least that's one thing I can control. It may be the one normal thing in my life right now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is It Just Me or Is It Hot in Here?

I'm fortunate enough that I will be doing hormone therapy, not chemotherapy.  Still it seems that all treatments have some sort of side effect.   When you get a new prescription, do you read that flyer that the pharmacist gives you - the one with all the potential side effects? If the prescription is for my children, I read it. But if it's for me, I usually skip it because I'm worried about the power of suggestion.  I listen when the doctor tells me what the potential side effects are - but I generally don't want all the gritty details.

I'll be taking tamoxifen for the next five years.  I remember the doctor saying that for some women the side effects are similar to menopause: hot flashes, etc.  When Tony picked up the prescription for me, I was resting and I don't remember what happened to that little flyer from the pharmacist. I think I was just so relieved to be taking a pill instead of going through chemo.

After the second surgery I started the tamoxifen.  I've been taking it for a little over two weeks now. My first thought was great - no side effects, well at least not any that I attributed to the medicine.  When the doctor had said I might have hot flashes, I was picturing myself reading a story to the kindergartners and breaking out into a sweat.  No, I still freeze  while I'm in the library (it's very drafty.)

 It took me a while to realize that I don't have hot flashes, I'm getting night sweats.  At first I thought the weather was finally getting warmer and so I just needed to turn down the heated mattress pad.  Then I thought, well, at least I'm sweating off some of what I've been eating - that should be a plus since I'm not getting as much exercise as I'd like.  Then during one of my usual awake every 45 minutes to an hour nights, it dawned on me that it might be the tamoxifen.  Maybe the expected hot flashes are night sweats.  I can handle that - even if it's frustrating to through off the covers only to grab them again in just a few minutes because I'm freezing again. I guess that's what happens when a cold natured person gets hot flashes and lives in Colorado. I could be experiencing these night sweats in Texas in July.

I did give into the impulse to check out some of the other potential side effects of tamoxifen. So I googled it and according to the National Cancer institute the side effects include headaches, fatigue and nausea.  And yes, I have been experiencing all those things, but I can't really say it's due to the tamoxifen.  I've had migraines since I was a kid.  When I took off all the excess weight, the number of migraines decreased significantly.  There's recently been a slight increase, but that could be due to the anesthesia from the surgeries. As for the fatigue - again something I was experiencing before tamoxifen.  The random bouts of nausea could be an after effect of the anesthesia or it could be from the tamoxifen.

All in all, these are rather minor irritations.  Things could be a lot worse. Chemo would totally revamp my definition of fatigue.  The migraines have been quickly dispatched by Zomig. And the nausea passes quickly.  I don't think the fatigue will ever go away unless I win the lottery and can afford to retire early. And to be honest, until the radiation is over, it's probably futile for me to try to determine what is normal for my body.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Ramblings

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day. It was an especially nice day for me.  I was happy to be here to celebrate it and very happy to have my soldier here and not deployed halfway across the world.  We recently bought a new car. For Valentine's my sweetheart got me personalized plates and they arrived just in time.

I apologize for not blogging yesterday. The day got away from me and I was stewing over the book I've been reading: BOOBS, a Bunch Of Outrageous Breast cancer Survivors tell their stories of courage, hope and healing.

As I mentioned on Sunday, I checked out several books on breast cancer from the library (there are six more waiting for me to pick up.) I chose BOOBS as my first read because the first story in the book is about a woman named Beverly.  I've not finished her story, but it's given me a lot to think about so far. She was also 45 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was Stage one, two tumors that were not detectable physically. They showed up on the mammogram.  This other woman's husband had lost his mother to cancer. (My husband lost his mother to ovarian cancer.)  Her treatment was different, though (at least from what I've read so far). Because her tumors were farther apart than mine, a lumpectomy would not have been as effective for her and after discussing this with her doctor and her husband she chose to have a mastectomy. She also had to have chemo.

I'm glad I didn't start reading this woman's story until after I had my surgeries and had already developed of plan of treatment with my doctors.  As I started reading her story, of course I began to make comparisons between this other Beverly and myself. I know that's not always a good thing. Each woman is different. Even if the cancer is the same, the way it impacts the body can  be very different.  But it's normal to make comparisons. It's part of being human.  This reminded me of when I heard that Elizabeth Edwards (the wife of John Edwards) had died from cancer. It really depressed me. My husband, whom I love very much, told me not to let it get me down. That her cancer was different. She didn't have just breast cancer, it had spread to her lungs and maybe other parts of her body as well. It wasn't the same thing.  My husband wasn't the only who told me not to let Mrs. Edwards death get to me.Several friends said the same thing.  I know this was a case of my loved ones trying to help me keep my spirits up - to help me not be any more frightened than I already was. But at the time, I was a little irritated. I felt as though they were dismissing my feelings (rationally - I know that wasn't the case, but emotions often play a bigger role in the lives of cancer patients than does rationality).

For me, being depressed over Mrs. Edwards' death seemed perfectly normal. (Now when I say depressed, I don't mean I sunk into doom and gloom - closed all the blinds, crawled into bed and hid under the covers - though if I had done that for a little while, that would have been ok, too. I just mean that it put a dent in my armor.) I know that Elizabeth Edward's cancer had spread beyond breast cancer, but that's where it started.  And even if it was lung cancer or whatever that finally defeated her, all I could think was that breast cancer is what started it and we had just lost another woman to breast cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, in 2010 there were approximately 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and in 2010 approximately 39,840 women died from breast cancer.  We've come along way, but the race isn't over yet.


As these thoughts ramble around in my brain today, I'm reminded once again of how lucky I am. No woman wants breast cancer, but I have to agree with my doctor, that for a woman with breast cancer, I have the best case scenario.  Just keep in mind that even though I know that and even though I feel as though I'm on the down hill stretch of this marathon, I'm only human and I will from time to time give into a little self pity and depression.


If you have a loved one battling cancer, keep in mind that while it is important to help keep their spirits up, it's also important to acknowledge the very real feelings of fear and depression. (Don't let them be carried away with those feelings, but allow them some time to deal with them. It's part of the healing process.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BOOBS!

That's right - it says BOOBS!  Got your attention didn't it?  Breast cancer is all about the boobs and it is very much about awareness.  That awareness is a big part of why there has been so many advancements in the treatment of breast cancer.  Awareness is what will get us to a cure. And if we can cure  one cancer we can cure others.

But I digress.  Today's post has to do with an incident at the library today.  As I'm sort of in limbo while I wait for my body to finish healing from the surgery so I can start radiation, I've been wondering what to do with myself.  I'm not very good at just waiting.  I generally fill my wait time with reading. And as I've decided I want to be an advocate for breast cancer awareness, I decided I'd better start reading up on the topic.

So a trip to the library was in order.  I requested several books from both Pikes Peak Library and Douglas County Libraries.  Several were available at DCL so I made weekly trip up to Castle Rock to pick them up.   Technology decided to make things interesting.  The self check out stations decided to quit working. In fact even the librarian's circ computers went down. So they were checking out books the old fashion way - writing down the patron's name/barcode and the barcode of all the books they were checking out. I used to work for Douglas County Libraries, but I don't think the young man recognized me. After having lost so much weight, many of the staff don't recognize me right away.  I handed him my books and was looking out the window when I heard him chuckle. I looked back to see what he had found humorous. You guessed it. B.O.O.B.S - A Bunch Of Outrageous Breast Cancer Survivors compiled and edited by Ann Kempner Fisher was the book on top of the pile.  As you can see it has a somewhat suggestive photo on the cover.

I could tell by the look he gave me that he had not seen the subtitle and even though he was old enough to know better, he was having a rather juvenile reaction to the cover of the book.  When he moved onto the next book, which was either A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors or Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer, his face turned as pink as the cover of the above book.  I thought about saying something to smooth it over, but what was I going to say? It was just one of those times when keeping my mouth shut was the best course of action - not that I always do that when I should.

I do have to admit that I found it rather humorous, not because he was embarrassed at the prospect of being perceived as having made light of something so serious, but because it reminded me of the time back in North Carolina when a group of fourth grade boys found an old book in the library about fairies. They all wanted to check it out because the little fairies in the illustrations wore gossamer clothes and if you looked very close you could tell they were girls because you could see their tiny little breasts.

What is the point of all this rambling? Cancer of any kind makes people nervous. It's not as though Miss Manners has written an etiquette book dealing with the topic. Peoples reactions whether they know your or not are sometimes just going to be awkward.  Sometimes, you just have to smile and move on.

So what other breast cancer books did I check out:  The Breast Cancer Survivor's Fitness Plan by Carolyn M. Kaelin, M. D., Promise Me: How A Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer by Nancy G. Brinker (Susan G. Koman's sister - I'm tempted to recommend this one as the next selection for my book club),  and After The Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors by Emily K. Abel and Saskia K. Subramanian.

Which one will I read first: BOOBS!  When I glanced through the book I found that the first entry in the book is a story of another woman named Beverly. That seemed like a sign that I should read this one first. But since I tend to multi-read - who knows, maybe I'll read them all at the same time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

TGIF - on Saturday!

The week that began with me feeling like I had been run over by a bulldozer ended fairly well.  Still tired, still experiencing random bouts of nausea (it's sad that an English major has to look up how to spell that word each time she uses it), and still have that grapefruit/cantaloupe thing going on. Yet Friday was a good day.

I had my post op appointment with the surgeon.  He said that this time THEY GOT IT ALL!  Big sigh of relief.  He also told me I'm healing very well. In fact he was impressed how well I heal. He told me that the nausea and the tiredness were to be expected. And as for the swelling - it's fluid and it will just take my body time to absorb it. So I can stop worrying about how to stuff an icepack into my shirt while giving library lessons.

Then he surprised me by asking if I would be willing to be on a list of support contacts for other women who have been diagnosed with a similar type of breast cancer.  He said they normally wait until after radiation to ask survivors to do this, but that I seem to have my head in a good place and if I was willing he thought I would be a good contact.  Of course that just made my day. One of the reasons I write this blog is to share my experiences with others affected by breast cancer - and hopefully be of some help.  (Of course, its rather therapeutic for me as well.)

I checked my donations for Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and I'm now halfway to the $1800 I need to raise by June.  Thank you all for your support.


I ended the day listening to my  Battle Buddy conduct a phone interview to be a member of the Youth Crew for the Rocky Mountain Walk.  I'm so proud of this young man. He always wants to help - not just me, but others as well.  He's a hard worker as well. 

 He's truly one of my heroes (and sort of makes my stretch marks seem like badges of honor.)  Seriously, he's a good kid with a great moral compass. 

So Friday was a Fabulous Day! I still have radiation to look forward to and I'll have to have blood work done in six months to check how my body is handling the tamaxifen.  But now when I look down that long hallway in my mind  - not only does the hallway not seem so long as before, but I can see a door labeled SURVIVOR.  




So, how did your week go?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Embracing Pink

I've always been a fan of the color pink. I love to wear it. There's just something very feminine about wearing soft pink colors. It goes well with gray and with purple: two other colors I like to wear.  So wearing pink is nothing new for me, but since the diagnosis, I seem to be "pinking" myself out.  I worry that people are thinking I'm trying to draw attention to myself.  That's not my goal at all.  What I want to draw attention to is  the need for breast cancer awareness.  I've been told that breast cancer is the one cancer that is considered curable. If it's curable, then maybe it's preventable as well. I figure the more attention we call to it, the better.  And besides, it's like being a librarian and reading.  I'm a total bookworm. And so when I read instead of cleaning house, I justify it by saying it's job related.  Now, I figure I have a purpose for wearing pink instead of just because I like it. It's my own sense of validation.  

Have you seen the really cool pink ribbons socks?  Those of you who know me, know that I love to weary funky socks - especially to school for story time.  Here's just a couple of cute ones that I found.




And I'm thinking I might need to get a sock monkey.  What can I say, I like pink almost as much as I like books. 

And if you're not into wearing pink, there are other ways to show your support.

My youngest son wears a pink version of the bracelet shown below. He got this one for me to wear.  Instead of doing a fist bump, he likes to do a wrist bump - bumping together our bracelets.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr - BOOK REVIEW


Amazon Summary:

An advice-from-the-trenches cancer survival guidebook for young women with cancer.

Actress and photographer Kris Carr thought she had a hangover, but a Jivamukti yoga class didn't provide its usual kick-ass cure. A visit to her doctor confirmed her "liver looked like Swiss cheese," covered with cancerous tumors. She entered trench warfare (wearing cowboy boots into the MRI machine, no less), vowing, "Cancer needed a makeover and I was just the gal to do it!" She began writing and filming her journey, documenting her interactions with friends, doctors, alternative "quacks," blind dates, and other women with cancer--sadly a growing group. These include hip, young women such as illustrator-author Marisa Acocella Marchetto (Cancer Vixen), Glamour writer-editor Erin Zammett (My So-Called Normal Life), MTV personality Diem Brown (Real World/Road Rules Challenge), model Sharon Blynn (founder, Bald Is Beautiful), and music manager Jackie Farry, among others.



This was an impulse download for me. Sometime after my diagnoses I was surfing the free kindle books on Amazon and ran across this one. I thought why not. I'm sure I'll be adding lots of books on cancer to my to be read pile.

There were many things I liked about this book. There were some things I didn't.

First, I think there must of have been some glitch when transferring it from a print book to an e-book.  The formatting was off and that was sometimes distracting.  I mention this, because for some readers this can be a big distraction and keep a reader from finishing a book.

Second, some of the tips Carr offers are just not practical for many women.  Not all women diagnosed with cancer have the financial means to take a "cancervation", shop at Whole Foods or attend the retreats around the country - and many women will not have the means to travel across the country searching for the right treatment plan. (Though I do think that it is important to get more than one opinion and to search for the right fit on medical care.)

Some of the reviews I've read of this book have criticized the book for making cancer seem more fun than it is. I thought the point Carr was making is that cancer is not fun, it's devastating, but that doesn't mean you have to let it define you. You have to choose how you're going to fight it.   I think she's encouraging you take as much control as you can. Yes, cancer is going to make you feel like something scraped off the bottom of cattle rancher's boot, but part of fighting the cancer is fighting that feeling. Maybe Carr's tips are not practical for everyone, but they are worth considering.

I liked the irreverent approach Carr took towards fighting her cancer. I don't think she was making light of it at all.  Carr refuses to let cancer OWN her. She fights it with laughter and a fierceness I rather admire.  Even if your cancer is as "innocent" as mine, it's often hard to find a reason to laugh. Carr's book made me laugh. It made cry sometimes. It made me think. It made me appreciate the many good things I still have in my life.

For me, this book worked.  However, you must realize that this is the story of a cancer survivor (Carr's cancer will never be cured. The best she can hope for is that it will stay dormant.) It's not a medical how to book or a clinical study.  The Susan G. Komen for the Cure encourages cancer patients to share their stories.  What works for Carr might not work for you, but it might work for the next person who reads her story. Or just maybe there is one thing in Carr's book that will be helpful for you. It's worth giving her book a try. If you find her approach too irreverent or just not what you are looking for you don't have to finish the book.

I needed to hear the story of someone who is doing her best to kick cancer's butt and not let it be the other way around.  Even though there is no cure for Carr's cancer, Carr seems to be winning the overall battle. (And yes, once I finished the book I googled her to see if she was still alive. You can find out more about her by visiting her website.)

It's not a medical resource - it's an account of what worked for one woman and her group of friends. If you read this book, take what you find useful and disregard the rest.

A side note:  Carr also made a documentary for the Learning Channel. The documentary was supposed to be based on the book. I checked the DVD out from the library, but found for some reason that Carr's vibrance that bursts forth in the book, somehow didn't make the transfer to film.  The documentary was rather disjointed. I think you will get more from reading the book than watching the film.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Lemonade Club and A Little Rambling.



In Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, Kris Carr talks about some members of the Cancer Babes (her posse - all women diagnosed with cancer of some type) who lost their hair and the ways they dealt with it.  One woman shaved her head early on and had a wig party with her friends.  Her friends went with her to help her pick out an assortment of wigs. There were some great photos of everyone having fun trying on wigs - some elegant, some down right silly.

This reminded me of a wonderful book by Patricia Polacco - The Lemonade Club.

Amazon Product Description:
Everyone loves Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class—especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That’s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She’s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia—and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only Traci and Miss Wichelman who stand up for her, but in a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class, who figures out a way to say we’re with you.

I love Patricia Polacco's books. They touch on real life situations that we sometimes forget that children may have to face. Spoiler alert:


In this book, when Marilyn loses her hair due to chemotherapy, the entire class, including Miss Wichelman, shaves their heads.  Soon everyone's hair begins to grow back - everyone's but Miss Wichelman. Turns out she has breast cancer.


Even more of spoiler:


This is not a sad book. (Ok, that's as far as I'm going to go without giving you the ending to the story.)  Even if you have not been touched by cancer in some way, even if you do not have any young children in your life - you should read this book.  As are many of Polacco's books this one is based on a true story. Polacco does her usual excellent job of taking a tough subject and turning into a touching and beautifully written children's story.

Since I won't be going through chemo, I will get to keep my hair. But I suspect that if I had to shave my head, that I have a group of wonderful people who wouldn't shave their head, but would have a fun wig party with me.  Prior to the diagnosis, my self esteem was at some pretty low levels due to some other drama in my life.  I had convinced myself that people only liked me if I could help them out in some way and when certain events made me feel as if I've been dropped like rotten fruit, I allowed that to impact the way I looked at myself.  One positive about all this cancer mess has been that I realized that way of thinking of was just dumb. Sometimes you never realize just how loved you are until you are feeling so low, you'd have to look up to just see depressed and just at that point, you realize there is a long line of people just waiting to you haul you up.

I won't say that being diagnosed with cancer has made me realize who my true friends are. That wouldn't be fair. Deep down I actually had a pretty good idea of that even when I was wallowing in self pity over the other drama in my life.  Cancer did open my eyes to just how many wonderful people are in my life. The number is very large.  However, I have had some people shy away once they learned about the diagnoses. Most of them were Facebook Friends that I have not seen in 20 years and probably wouldn't be in touch with if it weren't for Facebook anyway.

And I really can't blame them. Cancer may be just a word, not a sentence, (John Diamond) but it is still a scary word.  The word cancer can stump the most eloquent speaker.  Many people don't know what to say when they learn someone has it.  Others just don't want to be anywhere near cancer. Not that people believe that cancer is catching, but I think all of us deep down sometimes feel that "trouble" can be contagious.

So what do you do when life gives you lemons? Do you make lemonade or do you throw them back and tell life to send you chocolate?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How Quickly Time Passes



I had planned to post yesterday. But it was a total MONDAY. It was my first day back to work after the second surgery. I was up early as usual, but felt sick and tired. I was too worried about getting ready for some lessons I would be teaching to 3rd graders on finding resources. There wasn't time to get all my blog posts completed. (We had already delayed these lessons because of my surgery and I was feeling guilty that I hadn't done more than think about them during my recovery.) So I had decided I would just post when I got home from school.

Nice plan, but  it didn't quite work out. First I was surprised to find myself almost in tears once I got to school. And I have no idea why. Fortunately, I got myself under control before my first class. The nausea had finally passed.  Unfortunately, the tired feeling didn't. In fact it just got worse.

In addition to feeling tired beyond belief, I kept wondering if I looked as lopsided as I felt.  The swelling from the first surgery had not gone away before they did the second surgery.  It's sort of like walking around with a cantaloupe on one side and a grapefruit on the other side. (Sorry guys if it's TMI, but it's a fact of life for me right now.)  I'm really worried about the swelling since my BCN told me that it really needed to go down before they start radiation because radiation will cause swelling as well.  She had suggested ice or a heating pad. Well, bags of ice and the library just don't go together.  Try explaining that to a group of elementary students - Mrs. Archer - you're dripping!  If I could find a battery operated heating pad, I might be able to try heat to get the swelling down. Anyone know where you can get a battery operated heating pad?

Finally, it was the end of the day and I didn't feel like I had done much. I taught two hour- long classes on finding resources and a thirty minute class on Tomie DePaola, but I didn't shelve a book (thankfully my co-workers worked hard to keep the number of books that need shelving down to a minimum) nor did I process one book out of the stack that needs to be added to the collection.  But I made it through the day.

I had actually considered using what Kris Carr calls the "Cancer" card and calling in sick.  In her book she devotes a whole chapter to when you can and can't get away with swiping the card. My problem is that sometimes I still think that my cancer is so innocent I have no right to complain, much less swipe the card. (Though there have been a few things I would have loved to have gotten out of if I'd just been bold enough to try.)  And then of course there's that whole I want to get back to normal as fast as I can mentality, so of course that's why I headed off to school anyway. And though it kicked my butt, I'm actually glad I did.

The day finally ended. I got home and then had to tell my family that it was leftovers or fend for yourself night because I had forgotten to take anything out to thaw. (I had also left the house that morning without taking my tamoxifen so I ended up taking it in the evening instead of the morning.)  I was so tired when I sat down on the couch I couldn't even keep my eyes open wide enough to read. (Those of you who know me, know that's unusual.) I would have just gone to bed, but I had some prep to do for today's classes (that didn't get done either, thank goodness for today's snow day) and Patrick needed help getting his application submitted for the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  At 10:00 p.m. we were still waiting for the email to go through and of course I finally crashed on the couch watching Murder She Wrote. I didn't wake up until 3:00 a.m. when I finally crawled into bed, only to be awakened sometime after 4 with a text about the school closing.

So what does all this rambling have to do about the passage of time?  Around 5:30 a.m. this morning I realized that snow day or not, exhaustion or not, my body is used to getting up at this time - not to mention that the dogs needed to go out as well. So I got up, poured a cup of coffee and turned on the news.  As I was doing my usual morning surf of the blogs I follow, I was only half listening to the news when I heard a reporter comment that it had been a month since Rep. Giffords was shot. (And that reminded me that my troubles are nothing compared to what she and the others on that horrible day have had to endure.) It also reminded me that Monday was the one month anniversary of my first surgery.  There's been a lot that has happened in one month: two surgeries, a week and a half of being terrified I'd have to go through chemo, a few snow days, an appointment with the medical oncologist, a book signing, super bowl, school, registration for three walks, and brain storming for fundraising ideas and probably things I have forgotten.

It's only been a month. Healing takes time. No wonder I am tired. I was tired before all of this began.  If anyone else told me that they felt like a wimp because they were tired a week after having a second surgery, I would have told them to cut themselves some slack. So maybe I should cut myself some slack. Not sure that will actually happen - I tend to be a little tough on myself - but it's worth considering.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

As you may know I'm planning on participating in three Breast Cancer Walks this year: two Susan G. Komen Walks (Denver & Colorado Springs) and the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. For the Avon Walk, I'm committed to raising $1800. I just signed up earlier this week and I'm already at 47% of my goal. If you'd like to contribute you can do so online by clicking here.  Or if you'd rather wait and support one of the Komen Walks, I'll be sure to let you know about them when I have more information. I'm planning a Mother's Day photo shoot to raise funds as well as designing a t-shirt.

Speaking of Susan G. Komen, she was one amazing women. Even though she was struggling with her own battle with breast cancer, she was more concerned with finding ways to help other women going through the same battle. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the global leader in the breast cancer movement. Started by Susan's sister, Nancy G. Brinker in 1982, the foundation has made great strides.  Back then the 5 year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer was 74%, today the rate is 98 percent. Nearly 75 percent of women over the age of 40 now receive regular mammograms compared to just 30% in 1982.

It's not all about fundraising. It's about education and support. This morning I've spent some time  exploring the Susan G. Komen for the Cure web site.  It's an amazing resource, providing information about diagnoses, treatment and sharing stories of those fighting the battle - just to name a few.

I'm a Zeta Tau Alpha. ZTAs  main philanthropic focus has been in support of  Susan G. Komen for the Cure. When I was diagnose with breast cancer one of the many guilty things that popped into my head was that I should have paid more attention in college. Susan G. Komen was a name I was familiar with and over the years it has been one of the charities I support. But recently I've thought as a Zeta, I should have been more involved. (Turns out that Susan G. Komen for the Cure was just in its infancy when I was in college and considering how immature I was back then, it's a wonder I was even aware of it back then.) It's not too late for me to get more involved. Nor is it too late for you.  If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or know someone who has, I suggest you check out their site.  And if you'd like to get some exercise for a good cause, sign up for one of their walks. They are held all over the country.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Searching for Normal

Over the last couple of months, I've often been told don't worry about . . .
Don't worry about missing work, the library and books will still be there when you come back. Don't worry about the dishes, the housework, the never ending to do list, don't worry about the diet - it will all still be there when you're ready. Just take care of yourself.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate all of those sentiments. Basically everyone is saying worrying about MYSELF is what matters in the grand scheme of things.  I can't speak for other cancer patients, but for me it's not so much about worrying that things won't get done or that my work ethic  will suffer (hey, I just as soon sit on the couch with a mug of tea and a good book), but it's more about being normal.  I realize that for me the definition of normal is going to have to change a little.  Though I'm confident that they got all the cancer during this last surgery and I expect my next scan, whenever that is, to show me as cancer free, I'm never going to be who I was before the diagnosis. That person has changed (hopefully for the better).  But, that doesn't mean that I can't strive for some sense of normal.

For me, fretting about the library is normal. Walking at least five times a week is normal.  Doing 50 sit-ups for me is normal (ok for you highly fit athletes, that's not much, but for the bookworm who was also a couch potato, just a year ago - 50 sit-ups is pretty good.)  Running out into the snow to take a photo is normal.  These are all things I don't want to give up.  So, bear with me if I move a little too fast trying to get back into "normal." Of course, when I'm so tired I have to a nap after grocery shopping, I know I won't have anyone but myself to blame.

Enough rambling. This morning I took the first step on the road back to normal. For the first time in a little over a month, I went on a morning walk. Brrr! It was chilly.  And I am tired, but my head is clear.  I took my camera and I have some shots to play with.  It took me a little longer - at least it felt like it did.  But, I DID it. For me it was worth being a little tired.

 This is the hill that is toward the end of my usual walking route. It doesn't look like much in the pictures, but even when I am in shape, my legs usually tingle just a little after I make it up this slight incline.

So, what is the one thing for you that makes life seem normal?

Friday, February 4, 2011

To Google or Not To Google


I'm a librarian, so "googling" is often second nature for me. If  I want information, I look for a book and I check for reliable internet resources.  Any time anything happens to my boys I pull on my super librarian cape and go to work. Yet, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in November, it wasn't me that did the googling. it was Tony. He was very good about looking up information and sharing it with me. (Honey - I have to confess. I took all that information and filed it away without looking at it.) I think it was a form of denial for me.  If I didn't research it, if  I didn't read up on it - then it wasn't real.  However, after two mammograms, two biopsies, two surgeries and impending radiation, it can't get much more real.  Time to be better informed.

Thing is, my search this morning wasn't to find out more about my cancer (DCIS - Ductal Carcinoma In Situ - I still think DCIS sounds like an acronym for a school district), but because one of my fears is that I've somehow passed this on to my boys.  Yes, breast cancer can strike males, just not females, though male breast cancer is rare.

Yesterday, my oldest, Ryan called Tony and asked that he be picked up from school because he had a bad migraine.  Migraines are something that I have passed onto my boys.  Fortunately, their migraines have not been as chronic as mine were at their age and also, unlike my mother who first said that I couldn't have a headache since I was kid and kids don't get headaches and then she later claimed she didn't know where my headaches came from even though she used to go to bed with a "sick headache" several times a month - I have always taken my boys' headaches seriously. 

Ryan's migraine yesterday (which turned out to be the result of a sinus infection) got me to thinking. If I passed my migraines onto the boys, could have I passed on this cancer as well? So a'googling I went. According to Breastcancer.org the risk of cancer in males is very low. "Breast cancer in men is a rare disease. Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. In 2005, when 211,400 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, 1,690 men were diagnosed with the disease."  The risk goes up as men get older and of course if there is a significant family history the risk also increases.  If I have the Breast Cancer Gene Abnormality, then I could have passed that on to the boys. I won't know unless I am tested for the gene. I think I mentioned that my BCN wants me to at least meet with the genetic folks at Penrose.  Chances are since there is no known history in my family that my cancer is an anomaly. But for my peace of mind, if the genetic folks recommend I be tested I will even if it means more needles. (Maybe we can get the nurse from Memorial to come help with those tests.) Information is key in any battle. I love my boys and I want them (and their children) to be as well armed as possible.

For now, my super librarian skills failed me. I can't find the final answer to my fears on my own. I'll have to rely on the experts.

As for whether to google or not to google, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips does recommend doing your research. Information is power. If you're not up to being your own googler - then get one of your cancer co-survivors to help out. It will give them something tangible to do and when you're ready, you'll have the information at hand. I'm fortunate - my Combat Engineer happens to have some hidden super librarian skills of his own.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Looking For Inspiration

I've decided to design a breast cancer awareness t-shirt. It's somewhat of a daunting task as there are some really great ones already out there.







These are just a few of the hundreds of awesome shirts out there. My design will incorporate the ribbon that Patrick painted for me. It's my signature picture for the blog. It will most likely be black with pink lettering so that while it will be "In the Pink", guys will still be comfortable wearing it.  My good friend Cara who is very talented at everything from designing shirts to photography, suggested adding a quote.

Here are few quotes I've found:

Once you choose hope, anything's possible.  ~Christopher Reeve
Cancer is a word, not a sentence.  ~John Diamond
Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.  ~Dan Rather
 When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt


What do you think? Do you have any quotes that would be good?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Acknolwedging The Angels In Your Life

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tip #45: Take A Moment And Acknowledge The Co-Survivors In Your Life!

Cancer doesn't limit itself to hurting the person who is diagnosed with it. It can be devastating to those around us, especially those who love us. They are fighting the battle right along with us.

Carr puts it this way "Co-survivors are the Crazy Sexy Cancer Angels, the wonderful family, best friends, and even pets who stick by your side and care for you through thick and then." (Carr, K. (2007). Crazy sexy cancer tips. Connecticut: Morris Publishing Group, LLC.)

I would add co-workers as well. I've been truly blessed with a wonderfully large and supportive network of angels looking out for me. Prayers have been said for me all over the country. People have opened up to tell me about their experiences, delicious meals have been brought to the house, willing ears and shoulders have been ready whenever I needed them. I've been allowed to be cranky and pitiful whenever I needed to be. Not one time since I got the phone call in November have I been in this alone. I am truly blessed.

I want to take just a moment to thank my Cancer Battle Buddies.

My wonderful husband, Tony, tops the list. He has been my biggest supporter from the very beginning. He has even embraced my new love of pink. He's put up with  my mood swings when any normal person would have told me to get over myself.
My son Patrick, has been my Battle Buddy for more than just the fight against cancer. He was my Battle Buddy for my husband's last deployment and he was one of my biggest supporters during my weight loss program. He never asked me if I lost weight on my weigh-ins - he always asked how much? He's been a real trooper during the cancer battle as well. He runs errands for me, helps me take care of the hedgehog and doesn't let a morning go by without making sure I get my morning hug. He plans to walk with me in the Avon Walk for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Walks for the Cure in Denver and Colorado Springs. He even hung out with me while I was recuperating from the first surgery. Not too many 13 year-olds would give up their entire Saturday to hang out with Mom.

Then there are my parents by choice. Clark and Sue have seen me through more dramas/traumas than I can count. I can't think of anyone I'd rather have in my corner. The parents who gave me life were not able to be there for me, but these two have been my parents and best friends all rolled up together.


I have also been truly blessed with with wonderful friends both far and near (Rhonda, Paula, Michelle, Joyce, Jim, Laurel, Marken, Christy - the gang at Peak - to name just a few) and Casi, who is the little sister I always wanted and my wonderful family from Academy Endeavour and Chinook Trail. 

And I have also been blessed and comforted by two true angels who are no longer with us.  I know this is going to sound nuts, but I do believe that God gives us what we need - if we just open ourselves up to receive it.  When I had the first biopsy, I was feeling very sorry for myself. (It was that needle thing again.) Tony was in the waiting room. He couldn't be in the room with me. And I was feeling alone. It was then that I thought of both my Granny and Tony's mom, Patty.  I could hear Patty telling me that I was strong enough to handle this and anything else that comes along. And I could almost feel Granny's cool hand on my forehead, just like all the times she did that when I was little and not feeling well.  These were two of the strongest women I've ever known. If they thought I could handle it then I knew I could. Were their spirits in the room with me? I don't know. I'd like to think so, but I do know they were in my heart just when I needed them. 

So, the point of all this rambling this morning is that I know I'm blessed because I don't have to fight this fight alone.  I know this can be tough for my friends and family and not just me.  I know that with everyone that I have on my team, kicking cancer will be a breeze. I pray that everyone who must fight such a battle will be as blessed as I am.