Saturday, October 29, 2011

Choose Me

Hello Dear Reader.

Did you think I forgot about you?  I didn't.

I come here every day, and I can see you are still reading, even though I haven't posted lately.  I keep logging in to write, so many things to tell you about, and then I don't know where to start or which is important to tell you.

Then I realized, if I keep over thinking this thing, to make it matter, I will stay stuck, and not write.

So here I am, letting you know,
I'm still here,
and have a lot on my mind,
but it's all swirling around in my head,
like a tornado,
and I just need to reach in
and grab a piece out of that chaos,
and share it with you.

Ok, reaching in,
and grabbing,
got it,
got it,
here.

I am one year and a half out from my breast cancer diagnosis, and one year out from bilateral mastectomy last October.

I did what I thought I could not do, walked out of Cancer Camp as a survivor, and learned how to live with the me I am now after cancer treatment.

I did what I thought I could not do.

My reconstruction surgery was scheduled for October 26th, but is now postponed until January 4th.  I had to get used to the idea, no new boobs for Christmas, but I'm there now, and very happy I'll be home this Halloween night, handing out candy to trick or treaters, as I love to do, and not laid up in a hospital bed.

My 25th wedding anniversary was this last week, and the same day my son Batman turned 21 and celebrated royally, and the day after was the one year anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy, and I was present and accounted for.  Still here, oh praise, oh praise, to celebrate all of it.

I have been on so many journeys within this journey.

They all keep bringing me back to the same startling glorious place.

With or without hair,
with or without boobs,

cancerous,
or cancer free,

dancing,
or crawling,

I would not give it back, even if I could.

Even if you waved a magic wand over me,
and said you could take away
every day of fear and sorrow,
pain and uncertainty,
chemo days,
bald days,
scary scary nights,
I would not give it back, even if I could.

When I went to Grace Community Church, to speak as a survivor for their special service on breast cancer awareness, I thought God had a plan.  Sending me there to deliver a gift.

I was all wrong.  God had other plans for me.  I was brought there to receive.

There was a survivor who spoke just before me.

Hello Sister Lee.

With her simple and sweet and heartfelt testimony as a 13 year survivor, she captivated the room.

She said something that just about knocked me out of my chair, and absolutely changed my life forever.

She said she used to ask "Why God, Why?  Why me?  Why me?"

As time went on, and she realized all that was brought into her life since her cancer diagnosis, the grace and abundance and good.

Now she says, raising her hand,

"Choose me Lord.  Choose me."

Wow.  Wow.

Every single day I am growing in the spirit so eloquently described by Sister Lee, the message God arranged to have delivered to me, on a Sunday morning in a gospel church with the warmest folks and best music ever.

Choose me Lord.

Choose me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

If You Do Only One Thing - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

There are all kinds of things you can do to take better care of yourself, and cut your cancer risk dramatically, like eating more whole foods with an emphasis on all kinds of colorful fruit and vegetables, exercise, and managing stress.

If you only do ONE THING, then do this -

Click on this link to read all about Vitamin D3, and getting your Vitamin D blood serum levels checked.

There are several recent studies that link higher Vitamin D levels with a dramatic decrease in breast cancer, and several other types of cancer.

At my appointment with my oncologist next month (I'm still on an every three months cycle), I'm going to ask that my Vitamin D blood serum level is checked.  Dr. Mercola recommends for those with cancer or heart disease, the blood serum level should be 70-100 ng/ml.

I'll be curious to see what mine is, and will report back to you.

Go get you some Vitamin D3, today!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Radiation





Underneath my left arm pit - signs of radiation.

You walk into a room that is basically a cement vault.  The door into the vault is a 4,000 lb. door.  The whole point is to keep the radiation in so that nobody gets exposed to that.  Well, nobody but me, and it's aimed directly at what's left of my left breast and under my arm to radiate lymph nodes too.  I had seven nodes removed under that arm, you can see the scar in my armpit.  All but one were positive for cancer.

The whole point of radiation is to kill and burn any residual cancer cells that may still be lurking after chemo and surgery.

Your skin burns too.  It swells and puffs and weeps and turns red, just like a burn.  I was lucky, my skin held up very well until almost the end of 6 1/2 weeks of daily radiation.  The last week was really hard, and even weeks after you complete radiation, you are still burning.

This is what it looks like when your breast cancer is not detected early.

I tell you this because it is my solemn prayer and mission that you will understand the difference in treatment and survival when breast cancer is detected early.

Just do it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Making the Turn

They say the universe keeps sending you what you need to learn, until you learn it.

I guess I need more practice making the turn, when the bend in the road comes up, the one that requires turning left when I thought fur shizl I'd be turning right.

Make the turn.

Be flexible and resilient.

Yes, you can have a plan, but as you receive new information along the way, you have to be willing to make new decisions based on the new information.

I always tend to think life moves in a straight line progression, and this is never the case.  I always tend to think if I keep making the next right decision, that will lead to the next one and the next one, and progress will be made.  I always think I know where this is heading, or where I'll end up, or how things will go, and somehow I attach myself to an expected outcome.

I attach myself like a pitbull to an expected outcome.

Obviously, a huge huge part of Cancer Camp and even post Camp, and life in general, is all about not resisting the flow, staying open, soft, fluid, wet.

Rigid and stubborn is dry, like a desert.

I keep having to learn this again and again and again.

It shakes me out every time.

I am a creature of habit.
I don't like surprises.
I like plans.

That first day, realizing my reconstruction surgery was not going to take place as planned, was brutal.  I felt lost.  I felt five years old.  I felt scared.  Not again, I thought.  Not again.

Just last year, TWO WEEKS PRIOR to my bilateral mastectomy and planned IMMEDIATE RECONSTRUCTION, all during the same surgery, I found out it wasn't gonna happen.  I was not going to wake up with new boobs.

Now this is pretty damned ironic that my surgery this time WAS SCHEDULED FOR THE SAME DAY AS LAST YEAR.

October 26th.

I took it as an omen, a sign, a good sign.

Then bam.  Down she goes like Humpty Dumpty.  Server down.

For awhile there I was closed, like a little clam, with no boobs.

No, I am staying shut, I am not letting in anything that will keep me from THE PLAN even if the new information received obviously needs to change the plan.  Nope.  No how.  No way.  I'm staying shut.

With each day,
I have opened slightly,
and see just a little bit more
all the benefits to my surgery taking place in January.

It's hard though.

It's real hard sometimes,

opening

and making the turn.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - This is What It Looks Like

When cancer happens, it happens to the whole family.  This flashback is from May of 2010, when two weeks into chemo my hair started coming out in huge clumps, my scalp hurt like hell, and we knew, the hair had to go.


can i leave you with this image? a twelve year old boy positions his desk chair in front of my bathroom mirror. places a towel down for me to make this impromptu barber's chair more comfortable. i sit. gently he uses the electric clippers to buzz his mom's head. i look at our reflection in the mirror. he's not my baby anymore. i never dreamed this would be his rite of passage. gently manly shaving his mom's head. he was very careful and meticulous about it. important work for him. he would pat and blow on my head to check his work.









It's going to take the rest of my life to thank my Husband and sons for all their support, concern and care through every step of Cancer Camp.


Thank you thank you thank you to all the caregivers out there who walk this path with us, hug us when we cry or hurt, make us laugh when we are so scared, and love us more than what cancer could ever take from us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness - Grace Community Church


If you are in the area, come on out this Sunday where I will be the Survivor Speaker for this special program on Breast Cancer Awareness sponsored by Grace Community Church.

If you are in the Bay area, and looking for a guest speaker for your event, you may request me through the ACS Heroes of Hope website.

I'm cute and I'm funny.

and I not only talk the talk, I walked the walk Baby.

Still walkin it.

but feeling better today, cause I threw up my hands and said "I give" as in

I give all of this to you God.

Tell me what to do.
Tell me where to go.
Tell me what to say.

I give.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Door Number Three

Well if there's anything I learned during Cancer Camp, it's that just when you think you've got a plan and you know what to expect and how everything is going to go, along comes

Door Number Three.

The wild card least expected whole new game plan Door.

I hate Door Number Three, I admit it, and yes I've learned to expect the unexpected.

Doesn't mean I have to like it.  Doesn't mean I can't stomp around and throw a fit, in my head of course, cause I'm too courteous to throw a real hiss fit, but I can hiss like a rattler, in my head.

Expect the unexpected.

Despite all my advanced and rigorous training while in Cancer Camp, sometimes I still forget.  I'm just going along trying to make the next right decision in a constantly changing plethora of possibilities, I settle in to a decision, I gear up for the plan, and

Wham.

Door Number Three.

I cried today.
I did a whole lot of crying today, when for various reasons, and mostly financial and how state disability benefits are determined and paid, my reconstruction surgery, scheduled for October 26, has now been pushed back to January 4.

I cried today.  I did a whole lot of crying today.

I am a creature of habit.  I like plans.  I don't like surprises.  and I sure as hell hate that feeling when the proverbial rug gets pulled out from under you, and you feel yourself falling and hitting the ground like a ton of bricks, and all your little plans and hopes are shattered like a dozen eggs underneath you.

I don't know if I am getting braver or more anxious, I don't know if I am a hero or a coward, I don't know if God and the universe are using closed doors as much as open doors to lead me in a particular direction.

I don't know.  I'm just tired of swimming upstream against the other plans somebody has for me.  I'm tired.

Expect the unexpected.  Let go of your assumptions and predicted outcomes.  Accept that life is often like a deck of cards thrown into the air, and you never know how they'll all land.  It's not for you to know.  It's a surprise.

Door Number Three.

Can you find a way in your life, when Door Number Three makes a guest appearance, and it always will when you least expect it, to be ok with that, to bend, and bounce back

like Tigger?

Bouncy bouncy bouncy.

See me cry and bounce?

Sometimes walking in faith involves crying and bouncing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Three Steps to Finding Breast Cancer Early

This is from an ACS flyer on finding breast cancer early.

Step 1 - Mammograms, annually at age 40, or if your family has a history of breast cancer, discuss with your doctor having a mammogram plus a breast MRI.

Step 2 - Breast exams by your doctor as part of your physical exam, annually if you are 40 or older, and at least every three years if you are in your 20's or 30's.

Step 3 - Breast self awareness - Know how your own breasts look and feel, and report any breast changes to your doctor without delay.  Breast self exams should usually start for women in their 20's.

Don't forget, usually by the time a woman discovers her own breast cancer, as in my case, it is already advanced.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Good Ol Mopsy




Aww, that's Mopsy, see her there, that big fat bunny?  Flopsy was the cancerous sister, but wherever Flopsy goes Mopsy goes too, so I chose what's called a prophylactic mastectomy on my right side, even though there were no signs of cancer there.

This self portrait was from my last chemo, at the end of five months.  I received my last infusion with a regular IV, because along the way, two ports in my chest failed, and right near the end, the PICC line in my arm failed too.

If you are anxious about getting a mammogram, let me just set you straight.  Early stage breast cancer is so treatable.  In fact, when it's found at Stage 0 or Stage 1, the five year survival rate is 100%.  Early stage breast cancer often requires a lumpectomy, and possibly some hormonal treatment, like Tamoxifen, but not necessarily chemo or radiation.  I am not minimizing how hard it is for anybody to receive a cancer diagnosis and treatment, but I assure you, if it's found early and after a lumpectomy, you can often return to work in a couple of weeks.

I spent almost one year in cancer treatment.

Do the math baby.

Early detection.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stinkin Pink

I admit it, although pink is one of my favorite colors, sometimes I get really tired of the whole stinkin pink thing during October Breast Cancer Awareness month.  

I know there are still some of you out there DESPITE HAVING A FRONT ROW SEAT to all my cancer shit and now preaching, who still have not scheduled a mammogram, and are way over due.

What's it gonna take?
Fine.
I'll do whatever it takes.



See these?
I can't wait till I can retire them.
I'd burn 'em except they'd probably give off toxic fumes and give me cancer.
LMAO.


Lemme tell you, with all that I've been blessed, with all that arrived for me when cancer did, all the Angels on my path,


there are some things
I will never
get back.


More than just my boobs.
I will never be able to take back the day I had to sit my boys down,
the expression of utter grief and fear on their faces,
when Mom told them "I have breast cancer."


What's it gonna take?


Make no mistake about it, early detection saves lives.


Just do it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not All Breast Cancer Survivors Wear Pink


Meet my new friend, Bob, fellow Hero of Hope 2012, who proudly represents Relay for Life Burbank.


Bob and I met at Summit, and I was so moved and touched and shocked by his story.

Bob and I have something in common, more than we are both cancer survivors.

Like me, Bob is a breast cancer survivor.

This is Bob's story:

I grew up in Burbank, California. I lived my whole life there, got married, raised my 2 sons there, worked for the City for 40 years. But my wife, Carol and I had always dreamed of living in the mountains, but never could quite break away from Burbank. Then finally June 30, 2009, we moved to our dream home in the mountains at Lake Gregory. 5,000 feet, pines trees, a lake, we could finally live our dream.

During the move it was hot and I took off my shirt. My wife looked at my left nipple and said “What is going on there?”  My left nipple was retracting. I said “I don’t know, I am getting fatter and older and everything is beginning to sag.”

Well after my wife urging me (nagging me) I finally called the Dr. and made an appointment. I showed him my left nipple and explained our concern.  He shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know, but don’t worry about it.”  A month later I went back to my Dr. for another issue, and he said to me “I was doing some inquiring and a retracting nipple is a sign of breast cancer.  Don’t worry about it, but I want you to have a mammogram."  Not so easy for us guys.

Well a lump was found, a needle biopsy was done, and on December 3, 2009, I heard those words that no one wants to hear:

YOU HAVE CANCER!

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  Yes, breast cancer, Yes I said breast cancer.

I am one of approximately 2300 men that are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

I am lucky the St. Joseph's Breast Center helped me get information on breast cancer, although every single bit of it referred to "her" and "she." Never "he" or "him." Yes there is still work to be done.

On January 12, 2010 I had a mastectomy of my left breast. That was followed by 4 rounds of Chemotherapy. Today I am cancer free!  I am a cancer survivor, that puts me into an exclusive club of amazing people that have beat this horrible disease.


I thank my friend Bob for sharing his story with me, so I could share it with you.  Although breast cancer among men is rare, (1 in 1000 lifetime risk, compared to 1 in 8 for women), who knew that some of the same signs for breast cancer that woman often overlook, like an inverted nipple, can also be a sign of breast cancer in a man.

Thank goodness for the loving "nagging" of Bob's wife Carol, that helped save her husband's life.  This is from the American Cancer Society's  web site, cancer.org:


The most recent American Cancer Society estimates for male breast cancer in the United States are for 2011:


  • About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men
  • About 450 men will die from breast cancer
Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. The number of breast cancer cases in men relative to the population has been fairly stable over the last 30 years.
The prognosis (outlook) for men with breast cancer was once thought to be worse than that for women, but recent studies have not found this to be true. In fact, men and women with the same stage of breast cancer have a fairly similar outlook for survival.
Last Medical Review: 09/30/2011  Last Revised: 10/04/2011


What if Bob and Carol had ignored Bob's retracted nipple?

Breast Cancer Awareness.  It's for everybody.  She's and He's.

Thank you Bob, for your courage, infectious spirit and charming presence, it was a real honor and pleasure to meet you.  You set my inspiration on fire!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cancer Treatment - Are you People Trying to Save Me or Kill Me?


This is the self portrait I took of myself, the week I started chemo in May 2010.



This is my self portrait taken from the chemo chair, after receiving my last infusion, five months later in September of 2010.

Sometimes when I look back, I don't know how I did it, one year of cancer treatment.

It must have been all the Angels on my path, and some of them were furry.

1st round of chemo; my at home nursing staff
You schedule your mammogram yet?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Early Detection Saves Lives


This is me, in the chemo chair.  I spent five months in that chair, from May through September of 2010.

Did you know that if breast cancer is detected early, the five year survival rate is 98%.

If it's advanced, the five year survival rate is only 23%.

Did you know that by the time most women have discovered their own breast cancer, it's advanced?

Do the math Baby.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One in Eight


amiel_weisblum_pinkrib_sm.jpg, pink ribbon by Ameil Weisblum, not for commercial use.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

It is my hope and prayer,
I am the one
in your eight.


Self portrait, in bed, 1st round of chemo, five months to go




Sunday, October 2, 2011

Common but Often Overlooked Signs of Breast Cancer

breastcancerawareness.gif, by Melanie


So when you are doing all those self exams, looking for a lump or a pea or a kumquat or a gumball, did you know there are other signs of breast cancer that are commonly overlooked?

Any or all of these may signal breast cancer is present:

An itchy boob,
A red boob,
A scaly boob,
A swollen boob,
A thickening in your boob,
A dimple in your boob,
An inverted or even slightly retracted nipple.

Best advice?

In addition to your annual mammogram after the age of 40, and regular self exams mid-cycle, know the other common signs of breast cancer, 

and don't ignore them.

That was how I discovered my breast cancer, an itchy breast and a slight dimpling near my left nipple.

Diagnostics would go on to confirm what I already suspected.

Somethin just wasn't right.

Look at your body.  Listen to your body.

Take good good care of you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Just Do It

cancerribbon4-holbert.gif, october Breast Cancer Awarness Month by Kateri Holbert



Now you know how much I love things that sparkle.  I am all about the sparkle.  Hand over the sparkle and nobody gets hurt.

Lemme tell you, as much as I like this little eye catcher,
there is nothing sparkly about breast cancer.

Nothing.

Breast cancer sucks.

What else can you do when something takes your hair,
takes your boobs,
and threatens to take your life?

You fight like a girl Baby.

Fight like a girl.

Today is the first of October, 
the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
and I am going to post every day,
just to get all up in your face so you will -

Schedule your mammogram,
Know your girls, i.e. your boobies,
Eat whole foods,
Exercise,
Manage your stress,
Invest in your connectedness to family and friends and whatever you love,
and make time
every day
to laugh louder than the crying
and know
God is near.

No more excuses.

Believe me, you don't want to go through all the shit I went through.

Come on now, when WAS your LAST MAMMOGRAM?  You know who you are.

Prevention.
Early detection.
Until there's a cure.

Get on that, will you?

Make the call on Monday and report back to me.

I'm little, but I'm stubborn and I'm feisty,

and I'm pissed strapping fake boobs on every day.

Just do it.

For gosh sakes,

Just do it.

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