A decade ago… a decade to go.

I sit here today realizing that this day is the last of a decade that has changed my life profoundly.  So profoundly, in fact, that the me of the last decade almost seems to be someone else entirely. 

I eagerly awaited this decade past as The Begining of my “life”.  Ten years ago I was one year into my marriage and newly pregnant. I looked forward to a New Years Eve which would fulfill expectations set in 1982 by (the artist who would become formerly known as) Prince when he told us to “party like it’s 1999!”  Has any New Years Eve ever been anticipated longer??? I was fresh into a new field of Government work, living in our newly purchased home.   The changes forthcoming in the 2000s were unknown and exciting!

Now, a decade later, I am an “old married woman”.  I am the mother of two children who both define and and give meaning to my life.  They also limit the life I could would have.  Our previously new house is now a home cluttered with the comforts and debris of a life too busy.  I have an expertise in my job that only comes from longevity and have trained every co-worker in my office. 

My life has traveled a path in the last ten years I never could have anticipated.  Motherhood has proved more challenging and satisfying than I would have believed possible.  I have one child with ADHD and another who is blind and most likely autistic.  I marvel at the naive view I’d had of parenthood.  My life alternates between the whirlwind of activity that is work, school, sports, life and the frustrating slowness that surrounds a child with handicaps.  I have long since lost the surety of knowing my path and content myself with the newness of the changing scenery instead. 

I leave the “naughties” as a Breast Cancer Survivor.  This decade that ushered me into motherhood also brought me face to face with death.  I discovered reserves of strength within myself I never would have thought possible.  I also found a deep and abiding faith and peacefulness that fortifies me today. 

Ten years ago I looked to this past decade as a fulfilment of the promise of my life.  Today I see it as but an introduction.  The stage has been set, the players cast.  I can’t wait to turn the page and read my script!

Bring on the next decade!  Surprise me!  Amaze me!  Shock me!  I can’t be disappointed for time has given me life and life has given me more time.  I am anxious to see the me of 2019.  It is my only wish for the next decade.

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999

That’s how many days I’ve been cancer free. Nine hundred ninety nine days. I’ve had 23,976 minutes – healthy minutes – with my family and friends that I wasn’t sure I’d ever have.

Tomorrow I mark 1,000 days of bonus life. Can I say how much I love that without jinxing it?

I saw Dr. Villa, my oncologist, today for my 999 day checkup. It was my eleventh 3-month appointment over the last two years, 8 months and 25 days. Actually, I forgot I even had an appointment today until I looked at the calendar this morning. I’ve been very busy. But I choose to look at my forgetfulness as a very, very good sign.

It means I’ve been feeling so healthy that there has been no reason for the insidious paranoia that haunts and torments all cancer survivors. It means cancer is not the focus of my life anymore. Is there any better news than that? I wasn’t sure I’d ever see this day.

Is this what it means to be a survivor? Not a date on a calendar. Not five years. Not a countdown from date of diagnosis or surgery or end of treatment? Perhaps, it’s just a feeling, instead. Survivorship. Surviving in body, mind and spirit. A true return to normal.

I hope so, anyway.

Cross-posted to Mothers with Cancer

Happy Birthday to me!

This is what the modern-day, 43 year old, double mastected, two and one half year cancer thriver looks like!

I passed all my tests with flying colors. My bones scans were very bony. My CT was quite unremarkable. And my wonderful oncologist said I am just going to live forever. Forever. It has a nice ring to it. Well, perhaps not forever. I wouldn’t want to outlive my bladder control, after all…

Some of my friends tip-toe around my age or suggest that I might be 39 this year with a conspiratorial wink. “Oh, no you don’t!”, I think to myself, “I earned this age! There was a time not long ago I didn’t think I’d live to see it!” Besides, 39 was when I was diagnosed.

You can keep 39!!!!!

I’ll take 43, and 44, and 50, and 60… any day!!!!!

Cross posted to Mothers With Cancer

Happy Holidays!

We wish you a joyous and loving family-filled Christmas

and a beachin’ New Year!

Stella, Daddy-O
Ben and Danny

The Journey’s the thing

Three years ago yesterday my whole world stopped. For a split second anyway. Before it was thrust into a strange slow-motion, fast-forward kaleidoscope of cancer treatment and regrets for a future with my children that might never be.

Is there and other phrase that has the same effect as “it’s cancer”? What powerful, life-changing words those are. Normally I would think news of a close friend or relative’s diagnosis would be worse than your own. But after careful consideration, I think it’s far, far worse if it is oneself. Particularly, if you happen to be the mother of young children.

When I heard the words for the first time my heart stopped. Confirmation. My worst fear. I cried.

Was I crying for myself? The prospect of death. The stress of all the medical tests. The relief of finally knowing. The fear of an unknown future.

Was I crying for my kids? Losing their mother at such young ages (that was the only end I could see for them). The confusion and pain they would feel because of me. The scars they would always carry. How those scars would change their lives.

Was I crying for my mother? Hearing that one of your children may die (not a certainty in her context for some reason). Bearing powerless witness as the child you created fights for survival. The pain that would cause – the unnecessary burden.

All those thoughts rushed through my head at once, scorching a path as they passed. Quickly in and out. Shock left in their wake. Mental paralysis. Yet my fingers started typing. As the doctor’s voice relayed test numbers and statistics through the phone to some walled-off portion of my brain, I tapped off an email to co-workers. “It’s cancer.” Even in shock I knew it would be less painful to type than to speak those dreaded words.

I don’t know how long that call lasted, but there was a tight wall of support behind me as I put the phone in its cradle. I couldn’t turn around. I felt marked. Marked for death. An object of pity. Not strong. Weak – in constitution and capability. A failure. I ran away from their concern like a coward .

~~~~~

All through my treatment, I never successfully shook those initial feelings of failure and weakness. I’d failed to remain healthy. I’d failed as a wife; cashing in the vows from our marriage. In sickness and health. Till death do us part. I’d failed as a mother. Would I see my boys grown? Would I leave Danny with a father stretched too thin from providing and filling both parental roles to adequately see to his therapies and education?

Yet I survived.

Chemotherapy made me realize what strength is… and that I have it. It gave me time to work through that onus of weakness and failure. Time to realize that God’s plan was perfect – even for my children. Even if it means that they may have to live without me someday. It gave me time to appreciate my husband for the man that he is and not the one I sometimes wish he was. And to be grateful for those in my life that have always been there for me, and even more that stepped out of shadows and into my life. Mostly, it gave me time to acknowledge my life, my loves and my future… in all its incarnations.

I am so pleased to be here three years and one day later. I am proud of the journey I’ve made. I am grateful that I have been able to walk my boys through a difficult time and prepare them for others in the future. More grateful still that those future tragedies just might not include their mother.

When I look back at that afternoon in December 2005 I see myself consumed with fear. Today I have replaced that fear with power and action. Daddy-O still refuses to mention the “C” word by name, choosing instead to simply reference his worry from time to time, knowing I’ll know exactly what he means. As for me, I talk about it often – stripping cancer’s power and making it my own.

I am more than a Breast Cancer Survivor – I am a Thriver.

People’s HealthBlogger Awards

A few weeks ago I thought it might be a good idea to enter Mothers With Cancer in the People’s HealthBlogger Awards. The Awards are for any bloggers who write primarily about health or healthy living topics. That’s certainly MWC! Plus, the Awards are sponsored or invented or made up… (whatever) by a website that is forever sending me all sorts of email invitations that I quite rudely delete and ignore. A little more visibility with our target audience would be nice compensation for the probable carpal tunnel I’ll eventually get in my Delete Finger.

Anyway, that great idea was a few weeks ago (I think). But, as I’ve been discovering, my mind is as water tight as a leaky dinghy at best… and a collander at worst. So I applied and promptly forgot all about it. That’s me. Memory like a steel trap! At least that used to be the case. *sigh*

Frankly, I’ve been a bit worried about my memory issues of late. I can’t seem to remember anything anymore. This isn’t the run of the mill Chemo Brain. On Wednesday Ben had an appointment with Dr. Flaton at 10:30. I saw it on the kitchen calendar that morning. I left Daddy-O a note reminding him to let the school know I’d be picking Ben up. I told Ben about the appointment. I even remembered to grab the medication evaluation paperwork from the bookcase. Next thing I know, my cell phone is ringing and it’s Dr. Flaton’s office calling to ask if we were keepingour appointment. It was 10:45! Gah!

The day before I discussed with Wonder Sitter keeping Danny home from preschool the next day. I agreed to call his therapists & let them know not to show up. I couldn’t even remember that long enough for the 3 block drive home. I did finally remember it 24 hours later as I was driving home from our office Christmas party. I am not going to go into the dozens of messages and reminders I have forgotten to give Daddy-O.

Of course, I worry about breast cancer metastasis to the brain. At least that’s what I worry about when I remember there is something to worry about. Directly after the thought of mets enters my head I hear a resounding “Pshaw!” bouncing around between my ears. I guess I don’t really believe I have a brain metastasis. It’s just that I have always had a near perfect memory – particularly for daily minutia. It’s frustrating to completely forget entire appointments and conversations. I imagine it’s much like being a man…

Just in case someone Googles brain mets looking for some useful information and got my drivel instead, I will include a list of the 7 Typical Signs or Symptoms of Brain or Spinal Metastisis.

In any patient previously diagnosed with cancer, the following should raise the suspicion for a brain tumor:

  1. A persistent headache with or without vomiting.
  2. Seizures (Change in type or frequency )
  3. Double vision, mental changes, speech difficulty.
  4. Stroke (brain hemorrhage). Certain brain metastases, such as melanoma, renal carcinoma, and choriocarcinoma bleed easily.
  5. Confusion
  6. Any numbness, arm or leg weakness, back pain, difficulty walking.
  7. Loss of control of bowel or bladder.

Numbers 6,7 are more common with spinal metastases.

Fortunately, I’m just forgetful (probably getting old) and a hypochodriac as the only symptom I can lay claim to is “mental changes”. If I can remember long enough I’ll say a little thank you for that during my prayers tonight.

In the meantime, click on the handy little button on the right and give a vote for MWC.

A Life Sentence

If you’ll remember back a bit, I posted an excerpt from Ben’s Sentence Completion List. This was an assignment from Dr. Flaton, the pediatric ADD specialist. As a very special treat for you today, I will post the remainder of Ben’s sentences. And perhaps a comment or two if you are very, very good readers. Just a reminder, Ben is 8 years old.

1. I would like to be a scientist.

2. My mother loves chocolate martinis. (ack! choke! cough! While technically true, this was not high on my list of things I wanted the doctor to know.)

3. I cannot have a cell phone. (This is so true. But I am considering wrist watch walkie talkies with a mile and a half range.)

4. If I only had a cell phone I’d love my Mom and Dad. (Boy! They learn early don’t they? The answer is still “NO!”)

5. Girls _____________________ (He had no reply to that. I find that comforting on so many levels.)

6. I am ashamed of Danny having attitude. (Note that he’s not ashamed of his own behavior. This answer is totally worthy of a presidential candidate!)

7. I am afraid of nothing. (Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of…)

8. I like Pokemon cards.

9. I don’t like summer school.

10. I love my Mom, Dad and Danny.

11. Boys are my friends.

12. Mother should do nothing. (I am not exactly sure how to take that… but I like it.)

13. There are times when I am bored.

14. I hate bullies.

15. It makes me sad to watch a kid being bullied.

16. My home is small.

17. Father should do nothing. (again with that?)

18. People think that I am stupid. (What!? After much teeth gnashing and hand wringing it turns out there is a snotty 2nd grader that asks him things like “what is 1000 x 200?” When Ben doesn’t know the answer he tells him he’s stupid. Grrrrr!)

19. Sometimes I think about skateboarding and fishing and surfing.

20. Nobody knows that I have ADD. (I can’t decide if it’s wonderful or really sad that he doesn’t get that people know he’s ADD…)

21. The best thing that ever happened to me was riding a horse.

22. The worst thing that ever happened to me was breaking my wrist the first time.

So, I guess we haven’t completely ruined our kid. Except for being outed about the chocolate martini addiction and the small house it’s all good.

Did anyone notice what didn’t make the list anywhere?????

CANCER.

That’s right. No cancer anywhere.

No, “worst thing that ever happened to me was mom getting cancer…”

No, “mom should buy a wig…”

No, “afraid my mom will die…”

Just normal, every day eight-year-old boy stuff: science, surfing, cell phones and Pokemon cards. Thank you, Lord!

Cross posted to Mothers with Cancer