Sunday, July 16, 2017

What a rude interruption!

Cancer is rude.  It interrupts a person's life in a flash, turning it upside down and inside out. It sounds crazy to say, but I don't think I ever really realized that before becoming a cancer patient.

The first kind of interruption is pretty obvious.  It's the changes everyone can see from the outside looking in.  After a cancer diagnosis, life becomes more about doctor appointments, testing, more doctor appointments, treatments.  It becomes about finding the new normal, the logistics of living with cancer, the daily changes in schedules, not only for the patient but for their support system.

The second kind of interruption is more subdued.  This is the interruption that is even more obvious to me....the changes in how I am living my life.  Cancer interrupts many of my plans, my goals, my ideas of things I want to get done.  Cancer saps my energy and motivation, and that's challenging for me.  A few weeks ago I mentioned I wanted to plan an annual 5K to raise money for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) research.  Have I done anything about it since?  Nope.  I have a blog I want to write about IBC and the statistics surrounding it.  I had someone who is very knowledgeable about IBC send me information about it, but have I read any of that information?  Nope.  I have planned to start exercising again, yet every day I have had to cancel those plans as I am just too tired.  I know exercise will help my fatigue, yet I'm too fatigued to get moving.  Ironic.

I know, I know....I need to rest and can get to this stuff later.  I get that.  But it gets very old very quickly.

The silver lining about all this is I can better understand how oncology patients feel.  When I talk with patients at work, I have been very guilty of not remembering they are dealing with interruptions too.  And some of them....the leukemia patients who are in the hospital for a month, or the cancer patients who end up in the hospital for 2 weeks fighting an infection....have greater interruptions than I (hopefully) will ever have.  So being a patient will help me relate to them better, to empathize with them, and to be aware of the interruptions they are facing.  And for that, I'm grateful.

But still....cancer is a rude jerk.  And I can't wait until I start feeling better and can get back doing things that are me!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Not letting CANCER take over

The picture above makes me think of what the inside of my mind must look like right now. Since being diagnosed, all I think about is CANCER, and then the associated other things that go with it. Oh, sometimes other thoughts squeak in...God, family, work, friends, etc. But CANCER always seems to take back over and to do so very quickly.

I have so much on my mental "to do" list, but stopping CANCER from dominating my thoughts is the first thing I need to do.  And I know I'll be able to, because it's still new, and fresh, and difficult.  But I don't like CANCER having such a big part in my life, the biggest part of my life.  I need to be someone living with cancer, not having CANCER controlling my life.

I'll get there.  It's a hell of a long road, but I'll get there.  I'm too strong and have come through too much in my 43 years to let one word rule me.  So screw you CANCER, and go back to the small letters you are.  I will live with cancer, but I won't let it be first in my life.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fight Like Me

One month ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And when I get a major illness, I do it with gusto!  Not only do I have breast cancer, but I have Stage 3, triple negative, Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC).  I'll go more into the specific medical details in another blog, but triple negative breast cancers make up 15-20% of all breast cancers and IBC makes up less than 5% of all breast cancers.  Basically, I'm an overachiever.

I decided to start blogging again to help bring awareness to the diagnosis of IBC.  IBC doesn't show up as a lump.  It appears as redness on the breast.  It can have swelling, and peau d'orange (skin that looks like an orange peel), or the breast can have an inverted nipple.  The only symptom I noticed immediately was redness on my skin.  I thought I had cellulitis, a skin infection.  When I looked closer, I did have some peau d'orange, but a very small amount.  And I had mild swelling.

The thing is, IBC is SO aggressive, that it often appears between scheduled mammograms. Mine did.  And it's not always detected on mammograms, although mine was.  IBC is diagnosed at least as a Stage 3, ALWAYS.  That's because with the inflammatory nature of this cancer, the cancer cells clog up the lymph channels and lymph nodes.  The spread to lymph nodes is automatically labeled Stage 3 disease.

Breast cancer gets SO much research money, but more needs to be done towards IBC. There's got to be better detection, more discussion, increased education.  And I want to do whatever I can to help that.

But I'm also hoping this blog will be about more than IBC.  It will be about someone living with cancer.  It will be about the support and love that has come my way.  It will be about chemotherapy and surgery and radiation.  It will be about relationships, new and old.  It will be about my sweet girl and how she is handling all this.  It will be about working on an oncology unit while going through treatment myself.  At times, I'm hoping it will be funny, and sweet, and maddening.  But most of all I want it to be real.

When I started blogging years ago, I named this blog "A Journey of Sorts".  I never knew how true that title would be.  But it is definitely a journey, and I have A LOT more to say.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


As I sit here rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle, I thought I'd share my thoughts from today.  February 23, 2014, another item completed off my "fitness" bucket list.  I completed my first half marathon.  13.1 miles.  Unreal.

I was so unbelievably excited.  I have run at the Cowtown for the past 2 years, and this would be my third. I ran my first 5K in 2012, my first 10K in 2013 and this would be my first half.  I registered pretty much as soon as registration opened.  And then I got stuck. Real life overtook my workout regime and I knew I wasn't going to be near ready for this race.  But I also wasn't going to forfeit the $80 I paid to do it either!  One way or another, I was going to complete this race.

All week I have been excited and nervous.  I haven't been able to run the past couple weeks, and I had *only* gotten back up to running 5 miles at a time.  But I figured my adrenaline and excitement would carry me for a little while, and I was hoping to at least run the first half and then run/walk the second.  

This was the scene from where I parked.  Traffic was pretty sucky so I only got there about 20 minutes before start time.  But hey, less time to wait around.  I was super stoked at this point.

My corral started off at 7:15.  The first few miles were lots of turns and running through Trinity Park and some neighborhoods.  It was neat to see all the people out cheering.  I felt pretty good for those first few miles.  Then at mile 3, I stopped to get some water and felt a burst of energy when I started again.  Hey, this walking for a bit helps!  Onward I went.

Around mile 5-6 I was looking for my parents and Jenna.  They were supposed to be somewhere along there to cheer for me.  I never found them and later on, I found out they thought they had missed me so they left.  I hadn't gotten there yet.  I was going much slower than they (and I) had thought I would be but I kept trudging along.

Just after mile 6 we entered the Stockyards.  I love the Stockyards.  It's such an iconic part of Fort Worth.

I didn't take this picture, obviously.  But if runners had been in this picture, we would have been coming toward you, down the hill.  It was neat to run through there but cobblestone is hard to run on!

After this, I started feeling it.  I would run for a little while, and then walk.  And my walking kept getting longer and longer.  By now, I was stopping at every water station to get something to drink and also walking a lot between stations too.

Then the infamous mile 9.  A long, gradual hill.  I had already decided that forget trying to run up that.  But this view was at the top.  Another great view!

Then the race ran through downtown, through Sundance Square.  The next picture shows how it would have looked if the runners had been coming towards the camera.  Another great place to run but I was hurting by this point.  My knees, which had been bothering me all week, really weren't bad but my foot was really feeling it.  I was pretty much just walking at this point!  I was excited though because I saw the 3:00 pacer right in front of me, but they started jogging again and I couldn't keep up.  

And I pretty much walked from here on out.  Occasionally I would jog a little but I was feeling it.  About mile 11, not only was I feeling it in my foot but my calves were really tight and I was wondering if I was going to start cramping.  One foot in front of the other.  Just kept going.

Right before the finish, I saw my parents and Jenna.  They did find me!  Jenna was yelling "Go Mommy!", my dad was high fiving me and as I said, "This has sucked!" my mom said, "Only 2 more turns to go!"  Thank goodness.

And I finished.  I didn't feel the elation I had with my 5Ks or 10Ks, but I felt relief.  I was just happy to be done, and I got my medal.

Hobbled to my car and as I was sitting in line trying to get out of the parking garage, I went on Facebook and saw all the posts, comments and encouragement from my friends.  Now the elation was starting.  I had finished a half marathon!  Dude!  That's a LONG way.

We went out to eat (of course!) and I remembered my decal that I had bought from the expo yesterday.  I have NEVER put a sticker on my car before but this one was definitely going on.

And that's the story of my first half.  Right now, 6 hours after I finished, I'm sore and hobbling, but happy.  It wasn't near the race I had wanted to run, but considering my life in the past few months, I'm DAMN proud to have done it.  And heck, it gives me something to improve on as I eye my next one (most likely the Fort Worth half marathon in November).  

13.1.  Done.  And I'm thrilled.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The end of a chapter

Big day tomorrow, my 40th birthday!  I will be closing the chapter of my 30s and starting fresh.  And the neat thing is, I really have NO idea what my 40s will hold for me, but I'm excited to find out.  But before I end my 30s, I did want to look back a bit.

In my 30s, the most significant event of my life happened.  I became a mom.  Being a mom has been the absolute greatest joy of my life.  I cannot imagine life before Jenna.  Not only did I become a mom, but I became a mom to HER.  She is the sweetest, most loving, most caring child and she has my whole heart.  

When I turned 30, I was working in urgent care.  About a year later, I realized how much I missed hospital nursing, and I went back to working in the hospital.  I have changed hospitals a few times since then, but I'm so glad I realized my true love in nursing is med/surg patients.  I can't imagine doing another specialty, and I'm so fortunate that I've worked where I have for the past 3 years.  In my 30s, I found the best hospital and unit I've ever worked for.

Also in my 30s, I became a Certified Medical Surgical nurse (CMSRN).  It means I know quite a bit about my field, and it's a great certification to have.

Personally, in the second half of my 30s, I discovered a joy of cooking.  I also have Jenna to thank for that, because I truly think that being a mom helped make me want to cook more, to provide better meals for her.  And I really, really enjoy it.  It's been a pleasant surprise.

Also in the second half of my 30s, I discovered I LOVE running.  I think I've completed close to 20 races since I started running in February 2012, including a Warrior Dash (5K obstacle course.)  I look back at the first entries of this blog, and I wrote about wanting to run a 5K and even further.  And in less than 2 weeks, I'll be completing my first half marathon!

Also in my 30s, not only did I realize I love running, but I discovered my inner athlete. Running is way up on the list, but I've also really enjoyed working out in general.  I realized the other day that I've belonged to a gym for over 2 years and I've actually used it frequently!  I think I've probably belonged to gyms that length of time before but I never consistently worked out.

As I end my 30s, I realize that I'm truly beginning to find out who I really am.  That process started in the last few years, as I became healthier, more confident, and happier.  That is definitely a work in progress, but in my 30s, I found my voice.  I'm not just a mom, a daughter, a sister, a nurse.  I wasn't just a wife.  I'm a really good person, and now is the time to find out just what kind of life I want to have.  I think so often, women especially, get caught up in the busy day to day life, and they don't have time for themselves to think about what THEY want.  And I've been fortunate enough to start that process in the last couple years.  I think that's what is most exciting about turning 40.  It's my time.  Of course, I will continue to be a mom, a daughter, a sister, a nurse.  But finding my true self will only help in all those other roles.

So 40 is going to be an open book.  Get ready world.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Living life

"Live the life you have imagined."  That wall hanging is on the wall above my computer.  I see it a lot, and it's damn good advice.  Still working on taking that advice though.

My divorce was final August 5, 2013.  It was FAST.  I left Jason May 21, 2013.  Filed May 31, 2013 and it was final August 5.  I guess when both people decide there's no way to stay married and agree on how to split everything, it doesn't take long.  And I'm glad it was fast, because I needed to move on.  Still having a tough time with that, but it's getting easier.

Tomorrow, October 7, would have been my 13th wedding anniversary.  I'm really trying not to let that bother me.  In fact, I'm trying to look at it as THE point of me moving on.  I'm hoping that the date will miraculously be the kick in the pants that I need.  I'm not down in the dumps by any means, and I have more good days than bad.  But I need to move forward.

A BIG part of that moving forward is getting healthy again.  I've gained A LOT of weight back.  I'm having to wear bigger clothes and I can feel it.  I can feel that I've gotten bigger again.  It's not a lost cause, by any means, but I've got to get back to eating healthy and working out.  I want to.  I know I'll be happier.

So I'm hoping tomorrow is kind of a turning point for me, where I start going forward again, not backward.  I've been trying to do that for weeks now, and I haven't been able to do it consistently.  Hoping tomorrow, even though it's just a date on the calendar now, will help to change that.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What a journey it has turned out to be!

When I started this blog, I thought most of the posts would be about losing weight, about the journey to physical health.  And they have been, up until this point.  But oh, has life changed, and it's become SO much more than that.

May 31, 2013.  I filed for divorce.  I NEVER in a million years thought I'd be getting divorced, yet I am.  Without getting into all the nitty gritty details, I was miserable in my marriage (and I'm pretty sure Jason was too.)  We couldn't come to any agreement on how to fix it, so I decided to end it.  When you realize that you would be happier alone, that is eye opening.  So 12 years of being married, (15 since we started dating), and just like that, it's over.

I've kept seeing a counselor throughout all this, and she really helps me make sense of a lot of this "stuff."  I saw her yesterday, and it hit the past few years, when I've been getting healthy with eating right and working out, I've been unhealthy in my most important relationship of all, my marriage.  I didn't realize how unhealthy it was.  Well, scratch that.  I think I did.  But I think I didn't want to admit it.  Who does?  Who wants to admit their marriage is not good?

So while a big part of my life was becoming healthy, another part was going the opposite direction.  I think it became more apparent too, with the more weight I lost.  I've known for years that Jason and I had our problems, but I ALWAYS blamed it on my weight.  I told myself when I lost the weight, we'd be better, closer, more in love, etc, etc, etc.  And it didn't happen.  At all.  And it got the the point where I wasn't willing to be so unhappy any longer.

It's still very difficult.  Do I wish my marriage had worked out?  Of course I do.  I loved Jason.  I still love him.  But I don't love, and could not stay, in our marriage the way it had become.  I don't know why things changed.  Or even when they changed.  But I do know, without a doubt, that it was beyond repair.  I would have tried different things to make it work, but it was too far gone by this point.

That's where my journey has taken me lately.  On the physical part, I have been really struggling.  I've not been eating right and not been working out the way I should/can.  Maybe I'm so used to having part of my life being unhealthy, that I tend to go back to that.  My personal/emotional life is on the upswing now, so I compensate and make another part of my life (physical) unhealthy.  Why would I do that though?  Who knows.  Still working on that part.

But I'm getting through it.  I'm proud of where I am.  It hasn't been easy, or pretty, but I've gotten out of bed every day.  I'm getting back to my usual routine, which is working out, cooking, spending time with Jenna.  I haven't missed work since all this started (big for me due to anxiety issues that rear up from time to time) and I'm looking ahead.  I can't look back.  There's no point.  What's done is done.  So I'll keep looking forward.