Thursday, May 26, 2011

Celebrating Life

The finished product.
Yesterday was the 4 week anniversary of my having completed radiation.  What better way to celebrate than by marking an item of my Life Celebration list?

As you know I've written up a Life Celebration List (I'm sure you remember my aversion to calling it a Bucket List) of things I've always wanted to do but put off for one reason or another.

Some people, Joel Osteen is one I think, say that you should look for the positive in what comes your way. While finding something positive about having been diagnosed with cancer is an extremely difficult thing to do (even the most positive upbeat person would have difficulty making lemonade/lemon pie with those lemons) there are three positives that come quickly to mind.

First, I found out just how much I am loved.  My sense of self worth is not always what it should be, but the love and support of all my family and friends over the last several months have made me see things differently.

Second, I've come to the conclusion that while it is ok to be afraid (life is scary),  it's not ok to let fear rule your life. Sometimes, fear is just a bully that you have to stand up to - sometimes just standing up to your fear is enough to make it go away.  I'll be the first to admit it - I'm a Texas sized wimp, but my goal is to stand up to that bully and keep going. Many of the things on my Life Celebration List are things that I always wanted to do, but was too afraid or too convinced that I just couldn't do them. I'm not going to lie to you.  There are things on the list, that I'm not too sure I can accomplish - but I'm going to try anyway.

Third, I have a better appreciation for life.  Oh, don't start calling me Pollyanna. I know life is not easy. For  many people life is very hard.  Despite all of the whining I've done about the negative things that have happened,  I am very well aware that my life is very good. Still, it is not easy to see around the negative things, but if you spend too much time dwelling on them, you give them more importance.  I don't want the negatives in my life to take precedence over the positives.   I don't want to miss my blessings because I got too caught up with my burdens.

All pontificating aside, let's talk about the tattoo - the first thing on my list.  I'm sure that my friends from my college, high school, and early Army wife days might be a little astonished.  The words tattoo and Beverly were not something I ever thought you would find in the same sentence.  I was raised to believe that ladies did not get tattoos. Of course the person who pounded that into my young brain, drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, cussed like a sailor, and couldn't find the word fidelity in the dictionary with a road map.  She was, perhaps, not the best person to define what a lady does and does not do.  And then there was that whole needle thing.  I guess that's one more thing you can chalk up to the cancer treatment - a better tolerance for needles.  Oh, I still break out in a cold sweat when I see one, but the urge to scream is not quite as great.

It HURT - well it stung very badly. And it's not an experience I want to repeat.  I've been told that I picked one of the more sensitive spots to get a tattoo.  But really, the ankle was the only spot. I wanted a spot where I could easily show it off and easily cover it up.  I don't know if I will have many more opportunities to wear strapless ball gowns, but just in case I do, I don't want any tattoos peaking out of the necklines.

This was the picture I downloaded for the artist to work from.
It's BIG - much bigger than I thought it would be. It's much bigger than the one in the photo I downloaded as a sample.   Or maybe my foot is just smaller than I thought. One thing I know,  unlike Meg in Little Women, I do not have an attractive foot.  Yikes, the pictures of my foot are almost as scary as the needle.

Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do this if Tony hadn't held my hand (and if I hadn't had a book to read). On the other hand I might not have even considered getting one if it hadn't been for Tony. It took almost 20 years and a cancer diagnoses to convince me to even consider it.  I hope I didn't embarrass him by being too wimpy.

Getting ready. Do I look worried?

The tattoo artis was awesome. 

It's been a long rambling post. But what I hope you will take away from it is this - regardless of what's going on in your life - take time to Celebrate Life.  It's much better than the alternative.

On to the next thing on the list - hiking Pike's Peak or learning to ride a motorcycle, shoot a gun, ballroom dance - you get the idea.  So, how do you celebrate life?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Goodbye Cancer Garden - Book Review

Telling family members you have cancer is not an easy task.  Telling small children is even harder.  The Goodbye Cancer Garden  by Jane Matthies is a beautifully illustrated and heartwarming story about a very difficult topic.

Summary:  After Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has Cancer, the whole family goes to the doctor to ask questions. "Is Mom better yet?" Jeffrey asked. "Not yet," she said. "But we're working very hard to make her better-probably by pumpkin time." That gave Janie an idea...the family plants a vegetable garden. As the garden grows, Mom's treatment, chemo, head-shaving and other side effects, radiation...and when it's all done, there are healthy pumpkins and a healthly Mom!

I personally liked the way this story focused on the positive without taking away the seriousness of the situation.  This is a good resource for providing reassurance for young children (and maybe old ones like me) facing a similar situation.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moving On!

It's been almost a month since my last radiation treatment and I think things are finally moving towards some sense of normalcy.

The sunburn is gone.  There is still some strange coloring, but no more burn.  No one is truly symmetrical, but I still seem a little more lopsided than I was before treatment.  Still most of the swelling from the radiation is gone, so I will need to get fitted for a new bra. Not exactly my idea of a fun shopping trip.

Most of the tamoxifen side effects are gone. My hair still seems to be coming out in alarming rates, but I seem to be growing plenty of replacements.  The hot flashes, chills and nausea are gone.

So, now instead of being caught up with feeling horrible, I'm beginning to appreciate just how wonderful I feel.

I'm working my way back into a good walking routine (those 39 miles in the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk are not going to walk themselves), getting more involved with breast cancer awareness and support, and continuing to make sure I'm well informed. (I think I may have checked out every book two different library systems have on breast cancer.)

Speaking of being involved with awareness, on Saturday Tony and I participated in our first Breast Cancer Motorcycle Poker run of the 2011 riding season.

I know I look like I'm really ticked off in this picture. I wasn't. It was just the sun. Even though it was a little chilly, it was great ride. This was the annual Deb Tryon Cancer Run.  All the proceeds went to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation.

On Sunday, Tony had training for the Motorcycle Crew for the Rocky Mountain Avon Cancer Walk.  While I'm walking, he will get to ride around on his Harley.

In June, I'll go to my first Breast Cancer Survivor Support Group meeting. I was scheduled to start last week, but I had a job interview.  (And I got the job!) In July, after I've had several weeks to decompress after the completion of radiation, I'll have an appointment at Penrose to talk about what's next - medical wise. I'll keep you posted.

As for my Life Celebration list, I haven't given up on that. I'm just trying to get through the end of the school year before I start on it in earnest. Though, I might be marking one thing off my list this week - the tattoo. Stay tuned for pictures.

As I look back at my busy weekend and look ahead to all that I have going on over the summer, I am reminded that John Diamond was right.  "Cancer is a word, not a sentence."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Checking In

Things have been a little crazy since my last post. Part of me has been just trying to catch up on my rest since radiation ended.  The other part has just been trying to tread water with all the end of school things that need to be done.

Summer break is just days away. I still have lots of information I want to share, so I hope you'll stay with me. Regular posts will start up again soon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Am I Losing My Hair or My Mind? Maybe Both!

From time to time I've joked with my husband that I'm as bad as the animals when it comes to shedding hair. Hair dressers can't seem to agree on whether or not my hair is thick or thin.  At least it has always covered my skull fairly well.

Since January I've noticed that I seem to shed more. And when I run my fingers through my hair in the shower, they seem to come away with clumps of loose hair.  I'm not going bald - at least not yet, but I do seem to pulling quite a bit out of the drain.   I've been a little concerned.

Then, a few days ago, I read a story in a Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors about a woman who was not going through chemo but had thinning hair due to the Tamoxifen!  I thought I had researched all the potential side effects.  Thinning hair or actual hair loss is a rare side effect of Tamoxifen.  It's not too bad at the moment. And at least I know why so much is ending up in the shower drain.

Of course Tony said not to worry. I can always shave my head and get a wig - maybe multiple ones of different colors.  We'll see what the doctor says in July when I meet with the medical oncologist to discuss how the Tamoxifen is impacting my body.

In the mean time - I'm hoping to hear the results from the genetics test by next Friday. I'm trying not to think about it too much, but I'm a worry wart. And so it does creep into my thoughts now and again. But there's nothing to do until I do get the results, so I'm trying to concentrate on getting ready for the end of school instead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

With Radiation In The Rear View Mirror - What's Ahead?

A week ago today, I had my last radiation treatment. I've sort of been on a blogging break since then.  However, my plan is to continue this blog at least until my first year anniversary of being clear. There's still plenty to do - not just for me - but for the general war on breast cancer.

Last Friday morning, I headed back to Penrose to give blood so they can test to see if I have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.  It will most likely be a week from this Friday before I get the results. I'm trying not to think about it too much until then.

Friday night I celebrated the end of radiation with three wonderful ladies (Bobbi, Brenda, and Katie)  from my old school, followed by dinner out on Saturday night with two wonderful friends (Jim and Laurel) without whom, I don't know how Tony and I would have made it through the last several months.

I am not in this battle alone and I hope that I never forget to let everyone know how much their prayers, support and help have meant to me.

This morning I'll be heading back to Penrose to drop off a bouquet of Pink Ribbon cookies for the wonderful radiation techs who took such good care of me. Yes, I know that's what they get paid for - but they were so good - so friendly and supportive, I wanted to show my appreciation.  (If you are in the Colorado Springs area and need beautiful cookies of any shape/design - let me know. I can put you in contact with an awesome cookie designer.)

So, what's next? I'm still waiting for my skin to heal. Part of it healed very quickly, one little area seems bent on being irritated. Of course it's on the side I tend to sleep on, so I'm hoping it clears up soon. I'm trying to get back into my normal physical routine, if the Colorado weather will just cooperate.

My fundraising efforts for my June Avon Rocky Mountain Walk continue. (Click here if you'd like to donate.)  The pink ribbon t-shirts will arrive this week and I'm still running a photography special connected to the walk.

I'm also working on my Life Celebration List. (Yep - that's the list with tattoo.)  I'll keep you posted.  I'm also continuing my reading on breast cancer.  Stay tuned for updates on that as well.

In the mean time, I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!