That’s me - I kept walking around telling everyone who slowed down by me that I was in the anthology, page 35! Was I beyond proud? Hell yes! What am I talking about?
Well, if you are a patient of Sloan, they have a non profit organization called Visible Ink that is run by Judith Kelman and volunteers who edit and help encourage patients write about ... well whatever they want.
As soon as I learned of the program, I signed up and Judith herself called me to find out all about me and then she linked me with my soulmate -Samantha - the best editor around (imho) and she and I got to work on what I wanted to write. I knew right away it had to be fiction.
Why? Because I always wanted to write fiction but could never do it despite trying for uhm decades. I am a big reader and wanted to publish since I was a kid and even my professional publishing did not satisfy my goal of published writer. Sure I was an author but not a “writer” - there’s a difference and if I have to explain it to you, you will never understand - but if you get it, you know what I mean.
I started writing about a divorced single mom of 1 with one boob - the only things like me are the one boob thing as I am married with 2 kids :).
When I submitted it, I wasn’t sure what would happened, it was 800 words ripped from my soul and a few months later I got the letter saying I had been selected to be part of the anthology!
There is also a chance, if your piece is selected, to be acted out, on stage, by Broadway and off Broadway (and TV) stars but mine - this year- was not picked for that but getting into the anthology at all was a huge honor!
I attended the event with my husband right after our long vacation at Woodloch - I got dressed up and I was nervous and excited. My seats were in the second row and we were absolutely transfixed for the whole show and before when my picture was on the big screen too!
Each piece was acted out much like I did during my days of speech and debate with a black binder and limited movements but with music and dance and singing and more. Oh the singing!! My other most wished talent!
On the way out of the event on to the smorgosbord of wonderful food and drink (all provided for free), I saw someone who looked familiar, though I could not place her. And then, my brain kicked in and I realized it was my favorite (living) author! (Note: My favorite author of all time is Emily Bronte but she is not living anymore - is it creepy that I feel I have to preface my favorite author with the word "living"?)
Adriana Trigiani was there - in the flesh and we hugged and she was so so kind even though my chemobrain robbed me of the names of all of her books. I just read her latest Kiss Carlo and all of her books have been amazing - like Big Stone Gap! If you love books that hit you with love stories, scenery, dialogue and more - like when I read her books, I can see her world in my mind, that is the mark of a true writer, then you must read her work - the link to Amazon is right here .
Visible Ink is a nonprofit that helps heal - by writing our stories, we give pieces of it away - the bad stuff that would eat at our hearts gets out and into the ether. The good pieces become tattooed on our hearts for whatever comes next. The kindness of people who volunteer to do this either editing for hours or practicing a piece to get it just "right" for the writer (and the rest of the audience) - these are amazing things that people do to help us feel whole again.
If you can donate anything to help them continue, it would be amazing and tax deductible - you can click here to donate OR to order the anthology and to read my amazing kind of too personal story (though it is fictionalized, parts of it are real true - too true for my husband's liking... but it is okay, he still loves me)!
I have always been a for profit kind of gal. From my first jobs in downtown NYC and investment banks to my various entrepreneurial pursuits ... and even working, it was all about numbers, the bottom line and building equity I guess for what, who knows...
I have learned, with all of the scars and bumps to prove it, that the real currency, the real bottom line is how many people you help and how you help them.
When I got cancer, I was humbled by everyone who pitched in and did whatever it was I used to do that covered like maybe 2-3 people worth of stuff. I also saw who didn’t help and who even tried to hurt - yes, people are human and as such they can be sucky ... but I do not waste my thoughts on that.
I knew I wanted to help others once I grew a pair of balls and put my name out there for real as a cancer patient with my blog in June 2017. I have been blown away by the power of sharing and how many people I have come to know through blogging and social media that have become like family to me.
Since I relaunched the website as a .ORG URL in November 2017 (which took away previous user data), I have had over 900k pageviews and over 43000 unique visitors. It was foward thinking that I organized the website as a .ORG as I was not yet a nonprofit... Things have a way of working out!
Nonprofit Status & FREE Webinars
My original nonprofit application was denied (I had filled out the form wrong - easy to do with chemo brain...)
I wasn’t sure if I would reapply because I couldn’t get my head around it but I did and promptly forgot about it. In the interim I had launched and created my first free webinar about how to be confident prepared and have a plan to get back to work after cancer.
I did this video at home and struggled with the webinar service - I mean, if I wanted to be more "profit minded", I would never provide these seminars for FREE with just a simple YouTube link - not even a "log in landing page" like the webinar service provided.
That being said, I do suggest folks sign up through my website, though, just so that I can be sure they get information about all of the new and exciting things I have coming for my #careeraftercancer initiative. If you are interested in learning more with me, you can sign up here.
I have seen enough webinars in my life to know that the basic strategy of them is to show just enough to entice viewers to "buy" something to move forward. This is not the point of my nonprofit webinars, though I might try that strategy for my small business website...
Instead I put my training and lessons out there, I post my story to any website that will have me and continue to get 2000-3000 unique visitors per week here at thetimebetweenis.org. Also, this month, the second most viewed page is the Career after Cancer page!
Also, in case you have been visiting me recently, you will notice that I did redesign my site. Originally, when you got to my homepage, it was the blog. Now, with the magic of site redirect and all this programming stuff, I switched my landing page to be the Career after Cancer page and the blog is now the second item on the navigation. Let me know what you think of it - it had to be done, in my opinion, to showcase my focus - of course, I will always blog and not just about being a nonprofit, either. The blog is still my catharsis and my way of connecting with any of you on a one to one basis with the realities of having cancer and being a mom and being a wife and my perennial ways of oversharing are still 100% intact!
Another BIG thing is that I wrote a book about how to be career ready! Now, this is not such a HUGE deal as I had written 4 professional books before but this is the first book I was able to write that is more than a few pages of text since my cancer crap. I never thought I would be able to do it again...
The book is my mantra with all of my advice and lessons in one place - well at least the first round of it! I called it first in a series because I might definitely have more to add.
I do believe that this book and my free training and whatever else I launch next (always thinking, my brain is on fire) will help other people who have dealt with cancer get back to work - if they want to and if they can.
I always share that the true gift is knowing life is short and that to help others is the best we can do. This is just my little way to do it - if you have been through cancer (any kind) and now are ready to get out there and rock your professional life, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up on my homepage thetimebetweenis.org.
Please consider donating to help The Time Between Is, INC 501(c)(3), reach our goals of helping cancer patients, survivors and thrivers to have their #careeraftercancer.
I do not know what I was waiting for - I never do. I know money is a big issue for me - duh, I share about it alot and without my mother in law’s help, we would have no vacations and probably no house - more on what I feel about that (besides immensely thankful) coming in a future post.
Anyway, when I first was measured for a mastectomy bra in January 2017, I was surprised at how much it looked like a 1950’s lingerie contraption. It was a big bra - lots of thickness to the bands and it was beige and with some lace, to show what I do not know - maybe the cover of the big prosthetic? That is another thing, the prosthetic was a size “9” which I guess means instead of a breast, I had a foot (my shoe size is a 9).
I was religious about wearing the prosthetic and the bra everywhere EXCEPT to chemo. I mean if I was gonna get pumped full of chemicals and toxins and poison, I was going to do it comfortably and without a boob. I wore my post surgical compression bra from Sloan to those appointments and rocked the half flat look - but would not even consider doing that elsewhere.
By the time I lost my job and the summer came, I was like why am I doing this? By August, on a trip to Disney, I ditched the prosthetic and walked around half flat and I have honestly not looked back.
But I did feel discomfort - my bras were now ALL sports bras which is a different kind of “look” and “feel” and I did miss the whole fastening in front and turning it around to the back of bras…
I had known about AnaOno from when I began to share my story in June 2017 but I was hesitant to do anything. Why? Funds, fit, comfort, confusion, etc. I even met the designer and owner, Dana (one of my girl crushes) and was finally “ready” to order. But, remember, no job = broke so I was waiting until my friend Irena told me about the “insurance” option via AnaOno that handles the whole process for you - and she got 4 new bras for a small dollar investment and I was like, “Hmmm. This I think I can swing.” I filled out the form here and they handle everything. Everything.
Angela, my insurance rep, was an “angel” - she got my doctor’s office to issue a prescription, handled my insurance to get pre-approval and then helped me pick the right size. After all was said and done, it would be $200 for 4 bras, including shipping. That is great, except I did not have $200 and would not expect to have it for a month.
I asked Angela if we could wait a month and she said “no problem” I was so happy and relieved. Then, the end of the month came and I was ready except I only had $100 and not $200. I was worried but called and asked if I could split the order and it was no problem AND despite ordering on Monday, I got the bras in 2 days and was ready to bring them to my vacation with me!!
Trying them on was a dream - the material is so soft it is like a warm hug. Despite only having one boob, it sits well on my frame - I do need to weigh it down with the cotton inserts because I am so against putting in a prosthetic on principle but it works just fine with the two little inserts and the left side just goes without anything except my tit.
I feel that I should not have waited so long so I had to share with all of you to not wait - go for it - this company is top to bottom for breast cancer survivors, patients, previvors, survivors, everything - this is NOT AN AD - this is my honest, thoughts of the best bras ever and here are the pics of me in them to prove it!
Thanks, Dana, for being a kick ass advocate and rockstar! This is what I do in the time between....
Before we go any further, check out Beautifulself.org and consider how you can help them (see image below) - this charitable organization is transformative for cancer survivors - more on that in a few:
Photoshoot - 1940's Femme Fetale More below...
Those pictures up there are part of a transforming experience that I undertook just this week in New Jersey with a charitable organization called Beautiful Self. The two ladies who run this are a powerhouse. Michelle and Jillian were true angels - from when I walked in at 8:30am, I knew I was in for the time of my life.
A friend of mine had told me to sign up to take part in this and when I did I had been warned it would be a 6-8 month wait but something opened up and I was able to grab it and go this week instead of months from now. I am so lucky.
I had posted like twice on Instagram that I love the 1940's. Once in a story and once in a post. As soon as we got started on my hair and makeup, Jillian confided that I would be getting done up like a 1940's pin up model / movie star and I almost burst into tears. Me, I am not a crier but I was about to be hysterical. It was pre-make up so it was okay to weep!
It might sound corny, but the only way I can explain my day on Tuesday April 17 is to say that it introduced me to my pinup queen, dame, tough, fuck cancer persona.
I knew she was in there - I was writing about how tough I was before and about my golden girls and their tough love but here I was rocking it, smoldering before the cameras like this was my JOB. And who knows, after all of the confidence these pictures hit me with, I might push myself to become a covergirl. I half flat, slightly older, pouchy stomach with scoliosis and lots of body hair but LET'S GO! Anything is possible :). Consider this photo gallery up there my head shots and consider me your model for whatever - mastectomy clothes, underwear, bathing suits, fashion... (as you can tell, I am still on a high).
Something about the way I look in these pictures shows me who I really am.
Something about those 3 pictures captures my soul - something about who I am and what I am.
I know I am a survivor, a "fighter" - I also know I am lucky and hopeful that the conventional treatments PLUS clinical trial PLUS nutrition PLUS exercise PLUS weight loss PLUS "no stress" etc etc will keep working and keep me healthy.
I am a mom and a share-r at times, an oversharer. I walk around trying to think about others while also thinking about myself. More to come on how I want to do this on a larger scale for other people touched by cancer (hint it has something to do with my
#careeraftercancer Work Readiness for Cancer Survivors initiative.
These photos, though, make me look like a freaking movie star. Hey, why not. "I am ready for my close up Mr DeMille..."
This is what I do in the time between.
So the last post got me thinking about the link (if it exists) between childhood trauma and illness. I do NOT blame myself for getting sick - never have and never will. I know there is nothing I could have done differently or can do differently to have changed the fact that I got diagnosed with cancer at 39 years old.
All I can do is move forward with the confidence, the belief that I am “cured” - there is no other way to live or as I put it in my insta stories (why aren't you following me yet?):
I hate to blame parents for anything - I know there are some shite parents out there but really, I was not neglected or beaten or abused. I did however understand too much at too young of an age and really did believe it was my “job” to fix things - I wrote a little about my childhood here but the fact is that I was an adult in a little kid’s body from about 9 years old. I took responsibility for my brothers and also tried to help my parent’s marriage and more. I did not cook or clean, but everything else was on my shoulders.
When I think back of it, now having kids around that age who are going through something as traumatic in a way as I did watching my parents marriage crumble and moving around so much and not having a pot to piss in and blah blah blah - I realize that though things happened that were really bad, I did not keep the bad with me. As much as you can blame my future anxiety, cancer diagnosis, my old need for control, etc on my childhood, I refute it, I reject it.
Me & My Kiddos Right Before I Was DX - the last picture of us "pre-cancer"
Through the worst of times, during my childhood and young adulthood, I worried but I knew it would all work out. Or I deluded myself into thinking that. At times when things were darkest - when my grandparents who lived with us and cared for us after my mom left the family - seemed to be ready to give up because of issues with my dad - I still believed it would work out.
When my mom would call me crying because she did not have us with her but at the same time made no move to offer a safe environment, I still believed it would work out.
I wrote everything down, I spoke to a therapist until he tried to do something weird in my book - nothing illegal just WEIRD and then I kept my nose down and kept working, working, working, studying, helping my brothers, calming down the fights, listening to my dad rail about how my mom was a whore, listening to my mom crying about how lonely she was until she met someone new and then all was great….
So when I see my kids struggle at times with my illness and its aftermath, I think back about how I handled things when my world fell apart, multiple times. I just kept going and going and going and kept believing it would all be okay. I let the tragedies, the issues, the pity, the haters flow off my back like a duck with water off its back.
I rolled with things. I had my normalcy, my childhood sweetheart (who I did not marry) and their family who helped provide some stability and before I knew it, I was living in Italy getting my MBA and away from the chaos only to be hit with much, much worse when I came back and lost my grandma who held us all together. But still, I survived and I think about HOW - how did I do it and what can I push down to my kids to help them push through, too and you know avoid the cancer shit. So taking the good pieces and not the "delusion" or the "Type A" stuff...
I guess it would be called “resilience” or “internal fortitude” - the fact that I kept pushing and trying no matter how many times I failed (and continue to fail), witnessed failing and been failed is I guess because I am deep down to my core as positive as possible - maybe insanely so.
After 2 miscarriages, I got my son here by hook or by crook. After stage 3 cancer, I learned how to live. Unfortunately or fortunately so much of how I live and why I live has had to change. I already shared how I need to stop thinking in terms of my children and think about ME because otherwise, I will fall apart. I know that there are things they need that I can no longer provide them 100% - the safety, the stability - it is gone. I need them to find it deep down inside themselves as I did in 1986… and again, God willing, without the cancer.
This is what I do in the time between.
Me & Dad at my 2005 wedding :)
So you would think that going on vacation after breast cancer dx and treatment would pale compared to vacations of yesteryear -- but you would be wrong!
Why is this and what is wrong with your writer? Simple - the word for it, I guess, would be “anxiety” - or just “fear” or just “stupidity”. When I think back about all of the things that I worried about when in reality, I had nothing to worry about I really do want to have a flux capacitor to go back in time to kick my own ass.
So summers past getting ready for vacation would boggle my mind - I would pack everyone and panic the whole time, thinking about the ride to wherever we were going and whether or not there would be traffic. Yes, this girl, who lives in the most densely populated area around had an anxiety disorder around being stuck in traffic.
It was something that creeped up on me little by little over the years - my world got smaller and smaller but not overnight - over years. I went from traveling the world, living in other countries and states and even doing the 27 hour flight to Singapore without a thought. It was just “living” and I did a lot of it - I mean, I used to fly to Rome for the WEEKEND. For the weekend! Crazy.
Then, little by little, I got less and less adventurous. I started to really think in terms of “No, I cannot do that!” Before my “real” wedding (after we eloped alone) was my first inkling that I was developing an issue.
All of a sudden, I could not take the subway anymore. I had taken the subway ALL OF THE TIME but now, I got the intense feeling that I would need a bathroom during the times when the train stops and waits - at times this could be 4 minutes or 4 hours (ain’t nothing like the good ole’ MTA). What a weird, random thing to worry about but it consumed me for many years - this fear of needing a bathroom when there was none…
Looking back at when it all began was around the time of my church wedding. I was really worried about my wedding - we had eloped, yes, but had planned an semi old fashioned church wedding with party for a few months after our elopement.
All of a sudden, I was convinced that something bad would happen at my traditional wedding. My dad, who had raised me as a single dad, and my mom were basically still at war even then almost 15 years after divorce and my mom would be at the wedding with her new-ish husband.
My dad had hated the fact that I lived in “sin” with my husband before marriage and I just did not know what would happen at the wedding - would he not be willing to walk me down the aisle? Would he be angry at me? Would my mom do something crazy?
It was all a “loose cannon” opportunity to someone who had been raised hearing ALL OF THE TIME about how my mom’s dad refused to walk her down the aisle and how this meant she had no family and that the marriage was cursed, etc etc. Now, here, was the perfect opportunity (down to the same CHURCH) for history to repeat itself.
My mom was to be my maid of honor - I had been hers more times than I could count (ok, twice, two times, two different marriages) so I figured it was her turn to do the same for me. I had no real “fears” about her doing her job - she had been in enough weddings as a bride to know what to do (lol).
Leading up to the wedding, I knew something was “off” so I went to a therapist (not a new thing for me, I began therapy in high school just through my school and college, too) and walked out when she blamed my fears and anxieties on my childhood and my parents. I do not abide by that - not just because I am a parent myself staring at the precipice of childhood trauma with my cancer diagnosis - but I just feel that anything going on with me in my late 20’s though maybe jiggled into place by a fear around history repeating itself at my wedding is not anyone's FAULT but mine for how I see the world.
(Also, at the time, I struggled with even pinpointing what my issue was - it is only now with present’s 20/20 hindsight that I can figure out what it was…)
Oh and see that picture above of the 5 of us, my "core" family - it was taken in 2005; the last such picture I have of that group is from my college graduation in 1998... so was stress really that much of a surprise?
The wedding went well, my dad walked me down the aisle, crying audibly the whole way - weird as he is not really someone who has even been “emotional” - and the party was awesome but the fear and the nerves did not go away.
Shortly after my wedding, I turned down a travel requirement for my job and told my boss I did not feel comfortable flying for the short term. He looked at me like I was nuts - me, the girl who hopped on the plane to Singapore without saying “boo” who flew to Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Italy etc was asking to sit out the next flight. And the next. And the next.
This did not go away even when I changed jobs to my big step to being a VP and a big salary. I still had this “issue” - some days, I could not even make myself commute to work and instead worked from home.
It was debilitating and yet, I did not realize it or would not realize it. So vacations past were a hotbed of anxiety, fearing the road trip - me who used to live in Boston and drive to NY on weekends just for fun - could not fathom a trip to Pennsylvania without worrying and fears and being a nut.
So, facing cancer, if it does nothing else for me, made me realize I cannot live in FEAR. Commuting to NYC for my initial appointments, stuck in traffic on the FDR, I looked at my reflection in the cab’s window and said, “You have cancer - you cannot be afraid of anything anymore. Your worst case scenario came true - this is what fear breeds, disease, illness, death. It is OVER.”
And, for some reason, after years of journaling (is that a word?) and worrying and thinking, I felt it let go. When it tries to come back, I remind myself, “I faced cancer, I can face ANYTHING.”
I just wish I had been able to learn this lesson without the potential life threatening illness BUT I non friga nienta because at least I learned it. So if you ever see someone peeing on the side of the road, it’s me and I do not care :). This is what I do in the time between.
A few minutes before walking down the aisle, this is the face of "oh shit, please don't let this be a disaster!"
This post is sponsored by Celgene Corporation to review and share information about a new app to help children understand their mother’s breast cancer diagnosis called The Magic Tree. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
When I sat my kids down to tell them I had cancer, it was hard. I didn’t have any resources on how to describe what was going on. I didn’t know how I would handle it, and forget about how to help them handle it.
Of course, as a mom, I had to be stoic and positive that I would beat it and that all would be OK, but that it would take time to get there without really knowing what that “time” meant
I wished there was a way to communicate with them that they could understand. At 9 and 6, they were not yet able to handle terminology or be told to look things up on their own. I was on my own. I just knew that the treatment hospital had suggested I tell them as soon as possible and not let them hear about it by someone else or by innuendo. I got it and know how smart my kids are (all kids now come out smart) but I had no idea how to address this topic.
Celgene came up with an app called The Magic Tree and it is something that I wish had been around when I was diagnosed. It uses child-like explanations, with a glossary, videos and games to help explain a cancer diagnosis. It is a free app available for iPhones and Androids which you can download right now by clicking here The Magic Tree or from the App Store or Google Play Store.
It takes the child and parent through the four different levels. The home where the discussion is centered around “Is it my fault?” is so age appropriate, as most kids blame themselves for everything. The app also offers a library for a child to look things up about cancer. It talks about sharing your feelings a lot. We definitely needed that for one of my kids.
The next level is about “Can you catch cancer?” Again, it reiterates about sharing feelings and understanding that others might say, “Oh cancer, people die,” and that this is not always true. The third level is “What is cancer?”
While I liked it, I did find it a little jarring because it mentions how fast cancer grows and how it can spread to distant places. On the one hand, the activist in me loves this because ⅓ of patients with early stage cancer become stage 4, but it was a bit scary for my kids because they both asked, “Wait, that did not happen with you, did it?” It was good though because it did allow me to explain that my cancer did not spread beyond my lymph nodes. I find it hard, still, to explain to a now 7- and 10-year-old what could happen regarding cancer and me.
Fourth level is “How do you treat breast cancer?” This was very informative about how the cells get out of control and what can be done. The order of treatment was a bit off - chemotherapy, I think, would always be done before radiation and sometimes surgery is not done before chemotherapy and some folks do not get chemo, etc. But, all in all, it was informative and helpful to explain how it goes. Each section talks about the love mom still has for the child and how you can still spend time together no matter what.
Each level also has games to break up the heaviness of the topics, which I (and my kids) liked. I would like to see the mom with a little girl, in addition to the boy and maybe moms that looks like other moms, too. Perhaps future iterations will have different moms/kids for each of the 4 sections? Just a thought to make it more diverse.
All in all, this is a great tool to use for families who have a mom diagnosed with breast cancer. It can help explain tough things for both the mom, family and the kids! Thanks, Celgene!
So I spent time this weekend with scanziety over something that isn’t even a scan nor is it a different thing or out of the ordinary. It is something I do quite often with my clinical trial where I go in every 3 months for CBC blood work - so not even tumor markers- and then I get a physical exam of my remaining breast and my mastectomy side and then I get my next 3 months of trial pills.
There is no rational reason for me to be fearful and thinking that I will be told “that’s not good” - nothing has changed, I haven’t had any weird side effects so thank God about all of that - and yet I am still consumed with this fear that something will happen to ruin our immediate vacation.
I have realized that I am thinking in terms of my kids all of the time - what mother doesn’t I guess - but for this cancer mama there is so much that I have no control over even more so than “normal” moms. What do I mean by that? Well, you see I feel guilty that I got sick. I know I didn’t make myself sick I know I didn’t ask to get sick but it happened and though it did effect me it also effected my kids - sometimes more and more...
So now with this random unnecessary scanziety I know what I have to do. I have to recenter away from how things such as bad Dr news affects my kids and instead just think about me - me the kickass person who said cut the boob off, who sat through 8 rounds of chemo with a smile on my stupid face and worked full time during it too then got laid off then went through radiation and started sharing to help others in so many ways between career after cancer seminars the free kids book and sharing my story period.
I have to think about that because although my kids maybe couldn’t handle any bad news (God forbid) I know I can because I did ... so I have to do some deep breathes and just know no matter what I will go to Sloan and then to my family vacation after. No matter what. This is what I do in the time between.
No matter how much I am happy and smiling and so damn happy to be alive, I do still get down and feel "off". Today is one of those days. I am proud to say these days are few and far between but that is not by "nature" - that is because I actively work hard on it every damn day.
Most days, when I get caught up in all of the things going wrong (and trust, there are a LOT), I hit myself mentally with the memory of how I felt when I was first diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment and how much I wished and prayed for my "old problems" back and force myself to recognize how damn lucky I am that treatment is over and pray that it stays that way...
I try to imagine how it would feel God forbid to be told the worst news - if God forbid the cancer came back or spread - both things I try NOT to remember and worry about but when I get all caught up in petty b.s. I find it helps me to remind myself of what really is a "worst case scenario" and what is just that petty b.s.
That being said, I am only human and I do get upset at times or worried or dare I say it "down". I can not really ever even claim to be "depressed" because I am naturally buoyant by nature and really have never in my life felt something that could clinically be called depression because I am fucking perky and trust me, most people can only handle me after a few cups of coffee.
Today, I am feeling upset about stuff. There is a family issue with one of my siblings, my dad's heart health, my upcoming clinical trial visit at Sloan ... and ding, ding, ding - I know that all of a sudden feeling so upset about everything does have a lot to do with a weird kind of "scanziety".
You see, with my clinical trial, I go every 3 months to get blood work, physical exam (as in my remaining boob and my chest get manhandled big time by the doctor or nurse) and to collect my next 3 months of pills and drug diaries. For some reason, because I have plans for the week (a surprise vacation for me and the fam), I am hard core dreading this follow up despite never even acknowledging them emotionally before. For example, I have been through these clinical trial appointments already 5 times - this is my 6th go round and I never before batted an eye about them. But this one, this one is freaking me out.
As far as I know, there have been no changes - no lumps or bumps aside from what has always been on my scar. I have not had any issues (thank God) with the trial pills - I am done with cycle 8 and aside from my blood showing low WBC, I have been "ok" - I mean I walk 6+ miles per day, I run around after and with my kids and just balance a lot of stuff oh and I survived Spring Break with the kids home and with no hard plans because of, you know, budget issues.
So why am I dreading Monday's appointment? Because in this reptilian piece of my brain is the fear, that little voice that says, "Sure all of your other appointments have been great and you never worried but now this one might NOT be and then you have plans to go away..."
I hate that stupid voice. I know that stupid voice - it is mine. I am telling me to shut up now immediately. That does not mean I will not indulge in a little crying - which is strange that I even feel the "interest" to cry as I do not cry - I cried once after diagnosis and once during chemo. I am just not a crier - there is nothing wrong with crying but I do not often feel the need to do it.
I mean put Beaches on and I will weep hysterically like a baby child. Or, you know, put on Coco and I will be a puddle on the floor. I mean, I have a heart. I just am not the type of person who feels they need to cry unless something is shamelessly playing with my emotions like killing Barbara Hershey or showing a young child how his family dies and needs to be remembered and shit.
So this is what I do in the time between - work out my feelings on this blog and try to force myself to not panic. Should be fun! I will update of course after Monday but not too much as I plan to still be on vacation NO MATTER WHAT!
So check below to see ME - way out of my comfort zone but then again who of us who have been diagnosed with cancer can even remember what a comfort zone is or where it is?
I have already shared some pictures showing my scar on both my instagram and my blog that are (to me) breathtaking and I guess contemplative and some have said it shows that I am “resigned” or “tough”.
I cherish those descriptors and I love it - because as soon as I heard the words “you have cancer” at 39 years old with a husband who hadn’t been “there” for me, 2 kids aged 6 and 9 that took up my whole life force and energy I really did have to get resigned to it ASAP because there was no “no thank you” option.
It was live and growing and I wanted it OUT in any way possible and did not even consider doing a lumpectomy but asked (or demanded ... those who know me know when I want something, I do not take no for an answer) for the mastectomy.
I have shared this before but when I woke up from surgery, I was so scared - not before surgery at all - but afterwards, I was afraid to look at my body - this new body that would be "half". The breast (yes just the one) I used to feed my daughter, the "pillow" both kids had laid their heads on multiple times per night (lol) the weight and feel of the breast - I knew it was gone, I could see the bandages but I would not look at my body for some time.
Then, once I “healed” I began to wear a prosthetic and avoid the half bloated and bald body in the mirror.
I was ashamed and disgusted by how I looked and the fact that I got sick. At some point, though, I realized that I needed to love this body .... this body that survived childbirth (one natural, one c-section) and 2 D&C’s in between as well as cancer and all of its requirements like mastectomy, lymph node removal, 8 rounds of chemo, 33 rounds of radiations, gaining 50-80 pounds, losing the weight, walking my 40 miles per week, etc etc...So I do - I love my body and these special photos by #behindthescars taken by the amazing photographer Sophie Mayanne tell that story.
I look at these 20 pictures and I see a beautiful dare I say “sexy” confident woman who is not half but whole and I share it for you, those of you who find yourselves the 1 in 8 and fear looking in the mirror now that you feel half - to know that someday you will know that you are whole too.
PS: I do feel a bit funny posting these as a 41 (to be 42, God willing) mom of 2 but I do think it’s important to share that breast cancer is not a pretty pink disease but you can still feel pretty and beautiful after being mutilated, poisoned and burnt :).
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