I jumped online the other morning, as I do every morning in an effort to wake up my brain and eyes. I grabbed my phone, browsed emails, flipped to Facebook (which immediately made me feel old considering the stigma of it not being a forum for the younger generations any longer; and while I felt a bit bitter about that, I also sensed gratefulness and strength to be in the "older" category now... considering the alternative). The first post I saw was one by SU2C (Stand Up to Cancer), which oddly has since been removed. I don't see their posts often, which makes this one a tad more intriguing. It was a short clip on a woman who was diagnosed, fought, changed her lifestyle and helped educate family and friends then celebrated all within a year and the end of the video posed a question "How have you paid it forward?"
"How have you paid it forward?"
"How have YOU paid it forward?"
"HOW have YOU paid it FORWARD?!" It screamed at me!
My heart sunk. My breath was taken away. I don't know that I have paid it forward, really... though I desperately want to! Then, before I could go any further with my thoughts, the next line popped up "Share in the comments below." Oh, great... now the pressure is on. You want me to share that RIGHT NOW!?! I'm already struggling with HOW to share and pay it forward and now I have to share it immediately... in this post?! No... I can't even begin to figure this out right now. Not happening. So, I scrolled down dismissing it completely. I got through a few other posts, the whole time with guilt and contemplating ignoring that blatant request from a higher place... I knew where it was coming from. I've been feeling that tug grow stronger and stronger. I slumped down like a child told to do chores, then reluctantly scrolled back up and instead of sharing, I decided to analyze the clip to see just where and how this particular woman paid it forward... At first I was confused. How is going through a diagnosis, having a team of friends and family support you and changing your diet considered "paying it forward?" I wasn't trying to attack her, I was just unhappy with my lack of action and wanting to figure it out- how did she do it? Where did she start? How did she get it all done within a year? I'm on year 11 and still attempting to share and pay it forward and with minimal response to help me analyze my efforts... ONE year? Have I really not been paying it forward this entire time? Why can't I think of ONE way I have actually paid it forward? Then they started to pop into my mind... teaching my family about being healthy, teaching our kids how to shop at the grocery store, teaching them all what to look for in food products, sharing my stories (even if sporadic) to give even just one person a shred of hope and happiness in a time of struggle, mentoring fighters as a survivor (for the record, I still hate that term "survivor"... doesn't anyone have an alternative suggestion?), every now and then I will cross paths with someone and offer a bit of strength and encouragement (though I never fully feel confident, my heart is strong when I do this)... and more came through. Yet, somehow, I still lack the feeling of truly "paying it forward." It seems it's just all about me; and with that idea, I'm not content.
I sure would like to know how you pay it forward. Please write in the comments below. And, if you have any suggestions for me to take my aspirations of helping others to the next level... please share.
Love and hugs to you all... enjoy this beautiful day!
Happy New Year!
As always, with the new year comes new resolutions... Please post yours in the comments below!
I have the cliché ones this year... time to get back to my pastime routine of eating healthy and exercising. I miss me, the happy me, the healthy me. BUT!!! I'm not dead YET! So... LET'S DO THIS! I found a gym that might actually be a perfect fit. You may be thinking "a gym is a gym." Au Contraire... it is not when you have an internal prosthetic and all you've been told is not to cross your legs, not to twist to the right and not to bend to a 90° angle or further. I've gone through physical therapy (several times over), but those are all floor exercises and then what??? Besides, I hate being on the floor (I don't get down there easily nor do I rise from it well. Besides, it's gross... especially when you live with four animals and three children... and a husband) and I don't self-motivate at home anyway. Besides the same monotonous routines get stale. Over the years, I have visited numerous gyms, spoken with a plethora of personal trainers and none seem to carry the education and familiarity to help me figure out what I can or should not do with this prosthetic. They wish to help, but they are simply unable to tell me what to watch for regarding pain, or which machines would be good to use vs which may be harmful. I've only been informed to stay away from the elliptical... the elliptical was my past time favorite. Of course, right? I know i can ride a bike, PT had me riding the cycle every day... (insert music from The Little Mermaid here- "I want mooooooooorrrrrre.")
I can see how people can fall through cracks. I went through extensive PT and OT both in-patient and out. But once that expired, I've just sort of been on my own. If you don't continue to make doctor appointments and keep the conversation going, you can literally just sort of be forgotten. I'm surprised I am one of those people with this type of prosthetic. It was such a big deal to all the doctors when it happened to me at a relatively young age... I thought for sure they would want to study my progress and keep in touch with me, but they just put it in, gave me the PT/OT scripts and had I don't remember how many check-ups (that was in my shock phase). Then that was it. One day... it was my last, and I didn't even know it. Now I live across the country and probably not going to call the same doctor. I don't know if I'm supposed to be scanned every so often or just call if something seems off. (I am pretty sure I know the answer to that question, but I'm not going to admit it right now because I don't really want to open the can of medical options right now, it's happy-thought time.)
I'm determined to find a new routine... even 11 years later, I'm still encountering "new normals." So, I think I finally found a gym... it is connected with a hospital and has TWO personal trainers with experience in orthopedics!! It also has an in-house physical therapy room, a SPA, and two pools with plenty of classes to take that interest me (I may even try to dance again- ha, that's funny). I'm excited to get started and I want to begin my routine TODAY, which I surprisingly have time for, but am required to get a doctor's release before they'll let me start. UGH! See? The challenges seem to never cease... there are so many things that become trickier after cancer. Most people don't realize that. It's the little things we take for granted. of course, I have to revise my entire financial situation and cancel some things in order to join this place, which I am in the process of doing. But... in the end, it will be worth it!
So... Happy New Year! I hope that you have a resolution and a game plan to implement it... please share below... let's encourage each other!
Well, I have successfully completed my first year back as a public teacher after "surviving" cancer. School is officially over for the warm months! One of my most ridiculous fears with taking a job like this lingers on my mind daily... what happens if a panic attack sets in during school hours? Thankfully, I was somehow able to strike a deal with anxiety and we've come to some compromises, but I know that this is not always possible as anxiety is often more stubborn than I (such as with airplanes now- we are still at the discussion table for this issue... back and forth with terms we go until hopefully we reach an agreement with which we can both be content). I am fortunate to occupy the given space at this school because interestingly enough, environment can often be a trigger and this is a particularly good set up for me. This past school year, my mind and body stepped up to the plate with big girl panties on and lived each day one at a time. I did NOT pass out... not once. BONUS! I did not freak out to the point of having to abandon classes mid-day as I thought was possible. I did not hyperventilate too much ("too much" being the key phrase here). I did not space-out to the point where my students thought I was having a stroke or something. I did not have a vasovagal episode during school hours, or at all in fact... BIG BONUS! My students did not ever feel the need to call the nurse or principal due to concern for my health and well-being (or if they did, I didn't know it and it never physically happened). I was able to make it through every meeting without having to get up and walk around to ground myself. I managed to function. Imagine that... just function... what a huge success that can be sometimes.
Yes, these are legitimate concerns. I 100% realize how absurd every single one of them sounds too because I didn't always have these concerns, remember. So if you happen to be laughing at the craziness here rather than relating then you do not suffer from true anxiety and/or panic attacks and therefor, please do not say you do in phrases like "I'm having a panic attack" or "I'm having anxiety." They have become very overused. If you relate to these, then you know what it feels like to worry about the simplest of things that others take for granted- or maybe it's not that they take them for granted, but rather just accomplish without thought... we call those "normal people," right? Because, for some reason, we (anxious people) have decided that we are not normal any more. But that's not really true. We ARE normal... everyone just has a different normal. Along with the term "survivor" I also do not care for the phrase "new normal." How many of you have had to face that term? How did you handle it? It didn't sit well with me and ten years later, sometimes I find myself dwelling on my old normal and missing my former life... but please don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I do not like my current life. I am immensely appreciative for all that surrounds me and for the individuals whose paths intertwine with the one laid out for me. I have a very different life now after cancer. I don't know that I will ever fully be comfortable again as I once was, but somehow, I seem to manage to SURVIVE and live. I am aware and careful not to create too many similarities in my new life to my old life as I do not want history to repeat itself.
Getting back to summer... now that we have arrived, I know scans are coming. Thankfully, my doctor allowed me to break for 7 months this time rather than 6 so that I could celebrate our family birthdays before heading to Houston and starting the clock again. But, sadly, I was not able to stretch it to 8 months to ensure my participation in the big birthday vacation to Ireland and Scotland for my dad... which will come AFTER scans. My mom is the definition of positive thinking and freely books these trips on the assumption that all will be fine with this next set of scans. I still do not understand how she is able to do this. "WHAT IF?!" If you don't have someone in your life to pull you out of that mind-sucking leach of a "what if" state and force you to accomplish things outside of your comfort level for your own benefit, then I highly recommend finding someone because without my mother, I would be purchasing all the insurances, all the backup options, all the extras that will allow me to cancel last minute without penalties and likely spend more money on those things than if I just have to cancel when the time comes. Planning things is not easy for someone dragging panic around all the time and ironically, planning helps push panic aside.
I am looking forward to that trip and am going to focus on that!
I am looking forward to summer!
I am looking forward to celebrating our birthdays!!!
I am looking forward to each day being more "normal." (...and I hope you are too!)
Finding balance is a difficult thing to do for me and so here I type feeling guilty that I have yet again failed to write for the last two and a half months. I need to join a zen yoga mediation club or something. I am sorry. I'm working on it. Please forgive me and I hope you continue to read these posts whenever you need them most.
So we finally did it! An ENORMOUGUNGOUS "THANK YOU" goes out to everyone who donated funds for my 10-year cancer-free anniversary in March! We raised just under our goal of $1,000, but spent just over that amount! Another HUGE "THANK YOU" goes out to our local Michael's store who generously discounted our order by 30%! As you can see, we were able to purchase so many fun things that our receipt list was taller than we were and it was filled with art kits, art supplies, crafts, coloring and activity books, model car kits, craft lap desks, pens, markers, model magic, glitter glue, princess crowns and so much more... for boys and girls and for all ages! After spending a couple hours thoughtfully choosing each item and watching our cost, we checked out and headed over to Target to purchase four $50 gift cards for families or for the older children who might not be interested in art supplies or crafts. As my husband drove us to the hospital donation dock, the kids and I wrote some inspiring and happy words on cards where we put the gift cards.
It was heartwarming to be able to do this as a family and watch our girls be excited about the whole process. What loving hearts they have! We literally shopped for over two hours and not one of our children thought about themselves the entire time... not once did they ask if they could get something for themselves... they were just simply in the moment and happy to be able forward love and smiles to kids stuck inside a hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted with a friendly smile from Jessica, our donation coordinator. She helped us unload and set everything out for a photo and then presented our kids with "Super Donor" Certificates. We were all so excited throughout the entire day! I can't think of a better way to have celebrated my 10th anniversary of being cancer-free and am looking forward to doing it together again at my 15-year milestone!
Yesterday I had so many mixed emotions... excitement battling anxiety.
Today... I am thrilled to be alive, full of energy and yet I am still having flashbacks. Thankfully, I'm able to quickly overcome those nervous feelings that dwell within the memories; that's not always possible for me, but it is today! Proof that positive thinking can help overcome anything.
Ten years ago today the team of doctors removed all those cancer cells from my femur (along with the femur portion they had taken residence in) and they performed a total hip reconstruction. At the time, there were only a handful of doctors skilled and versed enough in this specific prosthetic to perform this surgery and they really didn't have many answers for me about the prosthetic since it was so new and was also not (I'm thinking "installed" but I'm sure there's a more appropriate and friendly term... but "installed" sort of works in this particular explanation given the feeling inside where it functions) installed in many people and those that did have it were not nearly as young as I was at the time. No answer on how long this prosthetic will last, no answers on what my mobility capabilities would be... not that they can actually answer those questions definitively anyway, but really, everything was just based on hope and faith that I would keep living and moving forward.
I suppose I had a choice to not undergo this multiple-part surgery process and just accept the fate that the doctors had given me, but today, I'm sure glad my family pushed me forward! (Thanks, Mom, I'm sure you're glad too considering I'm your favorite.)
Today, I am celebrating life with everyone I run into... co-workers, students, family, friends, acquaintances, social media friends, YOU. It's a great day today, ten years after I should have died. It's a great day every day, but that's often forgotten with the mundane stresses of daily routines. I'm looking forward to cleaning my house (that's odd... but really, when I have a clean house, I feel so much more relaxed) and I'm looking forward to planned vacations. I'm very thankful today and I'm so blessed to have the support and friendship of so many around me. Thank you all!
Today, I would love nothing more than to hit our $1,000 fundraising goal so that our family can
pay it forward to other families fighting cancer. Every dollar helps and we have reached $685 so far. I'm hoping to reach that goal today so that we can deliver supplies to the hospital families on Tuesday. I hope you will help if you can. Please click the link and read about our mission:
Today is the day after my mother's birthday and the day before I celebrate that last cancer cell removed from my body ten years ago.
Today is a day full of excitement and full of anxiety...
a push and pull of past memories and forward thinking.
I remember my mom's birthday dinner in California across from the beach the night before I checked into the hospital for my series of hip surgeries. I remember the love and support from all the family and friends that joined us that night. I remember it as one of those nights I knew could potentially never come again. One of THOSE nights that were extra special to me given the next day's agenda and the current prognosis of being two months into a six month death sentence.
Ten years ago today, I started with surgery number one. Since I would like to keep the posts around this milestone positive and uplifting in support of the excitement over the anxiety, I will not go into detail. I will only say that I remember that surgery. I remember being aware of it throughout the hours I was in. I remember one nurse who was unkind and one nurse who stood by my side and comforted me with encouraging words and a simple hold of the hand... what a difference a hand hold makes! That nurse was a saint in my eyes and I will never forget her! This surgery was the embolization- to cut off blood flow to the tumor area they were to remove the following day. I made it through and spent the night in the hospital... this night, ten years ago... the night before the "mega-prosthetic" surgery.
Today is the day that I remember slightly more vividly the events of ten years ago. Today is a day I never thought I would live to see. Every single day is a gift, an added bonus to my life. I think I am somewhat still in a bit of denial that I am here physically (and literally) walking this Earth and that it has been so long since I have had a cancer cell in my body. I feel like I'm always waiting for one to show up in those scans. Ten years? TEN YEARS?!?! Moving along from excitement and celebratory thoughts, I wonder if this will end up being the last big milestone I'll reach. If something shows up, the count begins again, if I'm lucky to get another count going. (Yeah, worry can creep into an anxious mind at any given moment... even in the most happiest of times.)
Having been through cancer, having been given an end date for my life, having been told to get my affairs in order, having been through tremendous physical pain, having lost so much... to me... my high points in life tend to be so much further up now than they used to be and much more so than most people; and my lows can spiral down, but they turn to anxiety instead of sadness.
Today... I celebrate. I. AM. EXCITED!
Tomorrow... It is unknown how I will feel, but I'm wishful that I will awaken
FULL OF LIFE, FREE-SPIRITED and
EXUBERANTLY, INHERENTLY, MONUMENTALLY HAPPY!
I hope that tomorrow I won't be able to contain the excitement of life! I hope that tomorrow I will unwittingly spread joy and love to every single individual that crosses my path. So, if you're lucky enough to see me tomorrow, please excuse my energy; it may be overwhelming. Or, on the other hand, if you're feeling down... COME SEE ME!
Diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer with a 6 month life expectancy at the age of 31, I celebrate life at 41... ten YEARS later!
Have a HAPPY day! Love your life and all its imperfections!
I do not often make time to sit and watch television. Usually, I'm so busy with work and home chores that I end up lying in bed falling asleep to whatever is playing at the time. I've set a goal for myself this year, one of a few, to create a better life balance for myself which will in turn (in theory) affect a positive change to the balance in my family as well. So, today, on the third day of the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge that I have taken on, I am sitting down after work to write this blog today, will watch a show, eat some chocolate and then will clean something out... one more bag to declutter. This process of cleansing is refreshing.
I'm looking forward...
Looking forward is not always easy when you become weighed down; it's quite effortless to feel overwhelmed, burdened and worried. It takes intrinsic strength to recognize where to focus. I tend to go through cycles of this. But, as I continue to plan and force myself to live as normal as possible... life becomes slightly better... each day.
Today... I am happy.
Today is February 27, 2017... and as I prepare and try to celebrate my 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of being CANCER-FREE on March 9th this year, I found this memory to be fitting. But first... Please read and join me in celebrating through helping others...
July 1, 2015. The last day of my 30’s! I always envisioned this day as the big party day! Downtown on a yacht with family and friends, on a cruise in the Caribbean somewhere with family, sipping tasty beverages with fruit and tiny umbrellas in my bikini (because of course I’m totally buff and perfectly tanned) while laying in a hammock slung between two picturesque palm trees; or perhaps cruising around Italian countryside vineyards! Well, here I am at home the night before my 40th birthday, and thankful to be here right now. Deep down, I am harboring a little unsettled feeling that I have not achieved my life goals by now, but then again, I did achieve most of them by the age of 28 and then lost it all when I was hit with cancer. I had the job, I traveled the world… I’ve been almost everywhere I have wanted to go by then so I really can’t complain. I’m very grateful for that. I’m also very thankful that I was able and willing to take those trips because at this point, it’s not an option financially and now my body is restricted physically.
So tomorrow is my birthday. It’s looking to be quite the day… Venus and Jupiter are aligned and I’ve been reading that some are calling this spectacle the Star of Bethlehem. Interesting. Equally interesting, is that there will be a full moon tomorrow night. Tomorrow may also be the day that I hear back from the oncologist’s office with the biopsy results from last week. Ugh. Biopsy results. Not quite the day I envisioned for my 40th birthday, considering I have a long running habit of celebrating birthdays in a BIG WAY!
Routine scans brought me back to Houston last week. No symptoms, nothing odd, no additional pain, no blood, no nothing… just routine. I had hesitations scheduling this nerve-wrecking appointment just before my birthday and thought about pushing it back to the week after, but it was too far out from my last scans so to Houston I went. I went through my usual routine: Labs, CT scan, lunch, clinic for results. Of course, I was the last one seen that day, which is fine since I had nowhere to be… but the anxiety of waiting for results can be quite the experience, especially if you suffer from anxiety issues to begin with. The doctor came in and the results were not pleasant. Not completely awful, but not pleasant. One spot in my right lung was enlarged. One lymph node in my right lung was enlarged. One area in the right breast showed up out of nowhere. So, in perfect poise, I accept this information- NOT. I wish that were the case, but no, I lose it- completely lose my composure… a 39 year old freak out… I’m crying, I can’t think, I start spiraling down and down and DOWN… I’m not sure but I may have even been rocking back and forth like Rainman. The wall starts going up, the alarms start going off in my head and I start having flashbacks to when I was told I had cancer the first time and to get my things in order. Automatic death sentence for me. The doctor is a Saint at this point because he is trying every tactic in the book to calm me down; poor guy never had a chance because I’m a pro at meltdowns. My mom always comes with me to these appointments, so she too gets Saint status for her efforts of empathetic love and then tough love, encouraging words and then boot camp words… she really didn’t know which tactic to take either. But God love her, I can’t imagine being the mother in this scenario… again!
The doctor then proceeds to tell me that this is most likely the kidney cancer returned and we just need to get some tissue samples to find out what it is exactly. “OH F*#k,” I think… that means surgery! Here we go back down the twisty slide to Hell! I don’t do well with “procedures.” Worse yet, my body doesn’t do well with drugs! Seriously, twilight drugs don’t work on me! Now I’m having more flashbacks of the last surgery, lung collapse, vesovagal episode (which basically means I scared myself literally to death), coded on the table- not good! Flashing red lights, more alarms, where’s that wall I could use right now to separate me from all this information!?! So, I hear that I have to have a mammogram (ok, I can handle that), and a breast ultrasound (totally fine) and a breast “ultrasound guided biopsy.” DAMMIT! Biopsy… the word I knew was coming, but really didn’t want to hear. Then, if one biopsy wasn’t enough, let’s go for two! Whoo hoo! This one’s even better! Down the throat into the lung (more flashbacks of the pain from my left lung collapsing. It’s at this point that I’m now internally having a discussion with my lungs to build up muscle and stay strong because we need to pull together and get through this and FIGHT, not FLEE this time! We can’t flee because it’s painful… so lung, you better just stay inflated, buddy… PLEASE!?!?!)... ok, so we’re going down the throat rather than through the ribs, that’s good. It was ribs last time. And our goal is to get 2 tissue samples from the lung. Alright then.
Even though the doctor is telling me that it’s ok and that whatever it is, we can manage it, I’m completely doubting him! Why am I doubting him as if I know anything about this cancer stuff??? Worse, I’m in total disbelief because I have been cured by Jesus himself and this doctor MUST be wrong. Wow, was I out of my element! It’s not my plan and I so totally wanted it to be right then and there. Doubt now comes into play in a variety of ways. The kind of doubt that I struggle with even today as I await those results from the biopsy. The kind of doubt that I should not have and try to “give it to God” each and every day. The kind of doubt that makes me feel guilty for having and so I ask God for forgiveness for having said doubt, yet, I’m still hanging onto it like a child with a blanky. The fact that I am now facing the possibility of a cancer recurrence has brought up the idea that perhaps my curing experience through Jesus was really just a dream. And, if that is the case, then how do I know what has been real and what has been in my head all along? Jesus cured me. I so want to believe that and now perhaps I’m failing to believe because of this setback. Is that the case? No. I believe. I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus cured me.
He gave me the message clear as daylight “You will never again need to worry about having cancer.” Yet here I am, worrying about it.
I went in for those scans and got that news on Tuesday and the next day, I met with the Pulmonologist. We set up the Bronchoscopy for Friday morning. Thursday, I went in for the mammogram and breast ultrasound. The large area in the scan was nothing, but they did find a “complicated cyst” that needs a biopsy. So, that needs to happen. Since they couldn’t schedule me in Houston until the following week, I decided to send the report home and have that done up North. Miracle number one so far… large area: nothing. Complicated cyst… they said normally they wouldn’t even biopsy it but because of my history, they recommend it. A shred of hope that it’s nothing!
My dad and brother came down to Houston per my request (mostly because I was so afraid of what would happen during this procedure that I wanted them to be with my mom so she wouldn’t be alone). OK, so Friday, per the doctor’s suggestion, I ingested my prescribed 2mg of Xanax before I left the hotel room for the “procedure.” (That’s another word I don’t like.) When they took me in the room, my brother came with to calm me down while they gave me my IV and drugs to sedate me (remember, the drugs I told him don’t work on me). The nurse was kind enough to give me a little injection of something that was to calm me a little more as well as settle my upset stomach. Oh, I’m not an easy patient. I know this. And these caring individuals are amazing! Just amazing! Well, I’m still nervous… My veins decided to flatten out suddenly that day (thanks, guys, I thought we had a pep talk last night together… we are on the same team, so let’s be strong and get through this- mind, body and spirit working together in harmony, let’s do this!) so after a few sticks of the needle, and half my hand bruised, the nurse gets my IV in… and gives me the usual dose of twilight drug. I get a little woozy, feel a little better, but still am very coherent and obviously very nervous. I put on classical music in my ears and tried to relax… but then started getting a little jittery. So, they gave me more. All the while, my brother was holding my hand and telling me it would be ok and that everything looks good… just relax and sleep. They put on a mask to give me something to numb my mouth and throat and here’s where the comedy sets in for everyone but me. NOW, I’m REALLY drugged, they ended up giving me 4x’s the regular dose on top of everything else I already had in me… and here I was, still trying to verbally communicate now with a numb mouth and throat. What I thought was coming out all fine and normal was only coming out a sloppy gibberish apparently. I was asking a lot of important questions and getting no answers but a lot of little smiles and chuckles from my brother, which only confused me. Eventually, he disappeared when I opened my eyes one time so I figured we were ready to go, but there I was, still chatting it up and wondering why I was still awake. The doctor injected something horribly painful in my throat to numb my throat more… OMG! I yelled, cried and pushed his hand out of the way then started worrying that they were going to strap me down and all I could picture in my head was scenes from the movies “Clockwork Orange” and “Fire in the Sky.” So now I’m crying and freaking out… and so it stops for the moment. I rest.
The anesthesiologist came in and had me sign some papers after they waited to let some of the other drugs wear off a bit and counteracted them with additional drugs. I can hear a little disagreement about when my pants were supposed to come off, so I checked to see if they were still on… yep. Still there. I guess I was entertaining just about everyone in that room by now after all the drugs and numbing agents. Still somewhat coherent to talk, but not really… I’m still thinking I’m talking and it’s coming out perfectly. So, the nurse asked me to please remove my pants and I automatically go into freak-out mode! “Just in case you need to shock me?” I fearfully questioned. The room goes into hysterics… except one person who yelled out as if I were deaf, not drugged and numbed, “NO! THE PADDLES! JUST IN CASE WE NEED TO USE THE PADDLES ON YOU!” So naturally, I reply with bulging eyes, “YEAH! That’s what I said! Are you afraid that my heart will stop from all these drugs!?!” Everyone there is just laughing and I’m not getting it at this point. Finally, the anesthesiologist looks at me and says, “we won’t need them… everything will be ok.” Sigh of relief. Somehow, when someone touches my hand or arm, looks me in the eyes and states that everything will be ok, It REALLY makes me feel better inside. That reassurance that I’m ok is needed. I don’t know why, but it just helps. And, I so very much appreciate every single person that has done this for me… and for everyone else out there too. And I’m out.
They took 8 tissue samples from my lung. All went well… very well, actually. The Pathologist was in the room analyzing the samples to make sure they got the right cells… and they did. But, nothing short of a miracle, in this preliminary glance at the cells, there were no cancer cells found! MIRACLE number two! They also said that the spot that showed growth was just a blood vessel. MIRACLE number three! We did not actually anticipate this good news. We thought we would be confirming kidney cancer. Somewhere deep down inside though, I was expecting no cancer. After all, I had been cured and the doctor could be wrong. My doctor stated “most likely” it is cancer. (Now flip to the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”) “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” Yep… one little shred of HOPE to bank on.
Having that hope, I meditated the night before while trying to fall asleep. I did all my breathing techniques, I prayed for a very long time… not only to God and Jesus, but my friend, whom I was missing so much that week, who passed away from the same cancer just this past October. This was the one time I REALLY needed her here and it was already a tough visit to start with. I prayed long and hard that night for that little shred of hope. I reimagined my experience with Jesus and felt that rush of energy emanate through my body while I focused on targeting my right lung with that curing energy. I located the memory and belief of our bodies having everything we need to heal ourselves and I was on a mental mission that night to heal quickly so that when they pull those samples out, they won’t find cancer because I will have gotten rid of it already with the help of Jesus. I am cured. I am healthy. I am happy and I am thankful.
So here I am, now 30 minutes left of being 39 years old… sitting alone in front of my computer writing this story. I am SO glad I am home with my family. My peaceful husband sleeping in the bed next to my desk, our three daughters tucked into their comfy beds, our four dogs sleeping wherever they are… and right now, even though I’m not on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean or enjoying a wine flight in Tuscany, I’m perfectly content and deeply satisfied to be exactly where I am right now. I’m still nervous about tomorrow, wondering if I will get the call telling me I do or do not have cancer in the lung, but it is what it is and I will do everything I can to celebrate my 40th birthday and put that anxiety away for a day. We’ll see. But along with the planetary alignment, the full moon and the plethora of rainbows that I have seen since my scans… today, I was given so many blunt signs to let it go. I was searching online for a birthday cake idea with one of our daughters. In our search, we saw a LOT of rainbow themed cakes, which I thought nothing of it really since there are a lot of rainbow themed cakes out there and it’s not anything unique or new… but then I came across a cupcake with a rainbow that just simply caught my eye and the text under it caught my eye even more “The Amanda Cupcake” it said. “OK. I get it, God. THANK YOU!” I mentally sent up to Him. And I took a deep breath to calm myself a little. Later that day, my husband was flipping through Facebook and said, “Check this out!” It was two photos of the aftermath of the tornado that recently hit Oklahoma. One photo was the top of a telephone pole that had been ripped apart and now was simply a Cross hanging alone in the lines above a road. The other was a photo of the clouds that looked to be a large hand, as if He was saying, “Jesus is here and all is in My hands, so let it go… we are here.” All these signs.
Of course, being the over analytical freak of nature that I am, I have to admit, I wasn’t quick to jump to ease and contentment. I started thinking that my test results could still come back showing cancer… and perhaps He is telling me that it will be ok if they do, but then why did Jesus say he cured me and that I would never have to worry about cancer again? All I know is this… When that phone call does come, and after I get through this breast biopsy next week, I will be on a new path.
I didn’t get to choose which way to go at this fork in the road, but one way or another, I’ll move forward.
As of now, I’m still holding on to that experience with Jesus and the rush of healing energy I feel when I focus on that experience. I’m holding on to that little shred of hope and possibility that there is no cancer in my body. At this moment, 11:45pm on July 1, 2015… the last few moments of being 39… I can officially say that I will have gotten through the rest of my thirties “CANCER FREE!” And, I will keep hope and faith that I will start and end my 40’s cancer free as well.
Fast forward to today's date... I went through a summer of biopsies that year... all NED! (No Evidence of Disease) And now, I'm ready to celebrate that 10 year anniversary... a gift of life I never anticipated having.
Well, I am sorry I have not had a presence here in months. I'm not quite sure why I have gone AWOL, but I'm back and I have set a finish line for my book... though I know I am going to need help from someone to show me the path to editing and publishing... I'm a visual artist, not a writer. I think fear may have crept its way back into me like an incognito spot of sludge that just sticks and lingers. I've removed that now. Fear can be something that we don't want to admit we have but the truth of the matter is that we all have it and it shows up in various forms and affects us in unlimited ways. Fear and anxiety sometimes sit side-by-side, not always, but often. I'm not a psychologist either, nor do I aspire to become one, but it's comforting to think that I know just a little bit about a lot of subjects.
I've been caught in a web of frantic routine. And... as of last weekend, the clothes can wait! Quite literally. Laundry... I'm convinced that clothes multiply like dividing cancer cells the moment they are thrown in the laundry bin, but then the washer automatically eliminates them because I never see any great new items... or even matching socks for that matter. THERE'S SO MUCH LAUNDRY ALL THE TIME! It's exhausting and I've been putting my household chores higher on the priority list than they should be... and I've been lacking in prayer and connections to God because I have not made the time. My mom called the other day because she thought she might come out and visit and I immediately went through all the things I had to get done around the house on this day and then... this is an even crazier thought... I wondered why she suddenly offered to come out to visit after she had earlier stated she didn't want to be around sick kids (two of our kids are fighting allergies or colds or something small) because she just overcame something herself. So, naturally, in true anxious form, I imagined the worst case scenario: Is she terminally ill and wants to tell me in person on a bright, happy and warm day and this is her chance?! Seriously... things like that do happen, and sometimes they happen to me more often than others, so it's not totally out of line... just a bit, but not completely! She phoned me after I reached out to her with no success and called me a "ninny" for thinking that. I had no idea what we were going to do that day, but I knew I'm wasn't going to put her to work on my house that looks like the Tasmanian Devil came through it several times over. The clothes can wait!
We ended up going out for a nice family lunch that day and then my mom suggested we see "A Dog's Purpose." I had heard it was sad and I knew there was controversy, but after researching the alleged dog abuse, I found it to be false; so, we went to see the movie. If you've not seen that movie, I'm just going to say one thing... my mother owes me big time for that one! I'm a dog-lover with 4 dogs in our house and that movie had no right entering my heart and tearing it up to shreds over and over and over. It was pretty much a certifiably traumatic experience which brought back intense feelings for my Sally-dog that passed away so horrifically. My mother and I were separated in the theater by one of my daughters and the two of us were gushing with tears the entire time and then of course bantering back and forth about it and laughing at each other, which made the kids laugh at us because we were so sappy. Ugh... that was an experience to say the least. I was tired just from watching that movie!
Even though the movie wasn't really what I would have liked to have seen, our family bonding day was worth every moment of it. The laundry wasn't finished that day, but my internal spirit was filled. Control is a characteristic of anxiety and letting go of that can be helpful.
So much since my last post. First, my apologies. I find myself now in a position where I feel I may need to edit my words, share less, and carefully manage what seems to be just a little too much at once. But, as I have pondered the possible outcomes of sharing my personal life with others and what it may cost me in the end, I realize that it will ultimately end with higher reward. And so, I will continue this blog and I will continue my book. This comes from the heart and somewhere much more important than any Earthly gain/loss. I guess I needed some time to think about what to do, what to say and how to handle everything before making this post.
My last post was way back in April... to catch you up on my happenings:
- We went on a vacation to Disney World then over to Alabama to visit with family.
- Our oldest daughter is moving in and my husband is building her a bedroom/bathroom in our basement... because he's amazingly handy at EVERYTHING.
- Our three younger girls are growing faster than I like to admit.
- My in-laws made a big move... for the better, I think! Congrats to them!
- Our dogs are adjusting to having a cat in the house, who thinks he's a dog. I'm adjusting too.
- And... I was hired as a high school art teacher... the root of my hesitation here.
I watched one of my neighbors mow the lawn yesterday. I don't normally watch people mow their lawns. I'm not sure why I stopped to watch momentarily. But while I did, I started thinking such happy thoughts for this person, whom I don't know all that well. We have a few neighbors that I know have battled or are battling some type of cancer. More people than I think there should be. This neighbor is one of them. I watched as this person walked back and forth in the heat and humidity pushing that mower and I thought, "how AWESOME that he/she is able to do this!" Mowing the lawn. A chore I've never enjoyed partaking in. But this simple observation brought back years of flashbacks and feelings for me. I immediately felt all the darkness that consumed me during my healing period after my big series of hip surgeries... the feeling of helplessness and loss of all activities I was accustomed to and so abruptly. Anxiety started to show its face in a split second of watching the mower. I had to put my head back into the present and ground myself with where I physically stood to escape those memories that often seem so torturous. I then continued to watch and the next wave of emotions fell over me as the feelings of anxiety subsided and the excitement and happiness took their places. There was a time when I wasn't able to mow the lawn. I can now; it causes pain... but I CAN DO IT! I wonder if this person ever has those feelings. Do I internally over-exaggerate these feelings? Those of you who know me well are probably rolling your eyes thinking, "are you kidding? YES, YES YOU DO!" But it doesn't matter, it is what it is for me and for each of us. As I watched, I recalled laying on my stomach in physical therapy trying to bend my knee to lift my foot off the table. Something so simple... and I wasn't able to do it. That's how weak I was in the beginning. I can lift it today, but it's still fairly wobbly when my foot is up in the air. I never regained full strength. Did I give up? Did I reach my limit? Did I settle for "doable?" I don't know. I do know that the day I got that foot off the table was a very exciting day for me though. The day I ditched the walker and moved on to crutches was another milestone. Then I gradually went to using only one crutch. Then I walked with a cane for a very long time. The day I decided not to carry that with me was unsettling, nerve-wrecking and liberating all at once. Walking. It's amazing that we can take for granted such simple things that mean so much in our lives. Beyond walking... climbing stairs! That's a battle I fight every day! My house has stairs because it's almost impossible to find one-story houses for families these days! I'm happy to be able to climb them, but it's no easy feat for me... the person who used to love jumping up the stairs skipping every other or third step in a Tigger-like bounce. Oh did I feel like I was such a pro at quickly gliding up stairs. Now I'm happy just to reach the top. And stairs are everywhere... here a stair, there a stair everywhere a stair, stair. Ugh! But I can do it, and that's what counts.
This short moment of watching my neighbor mow the lawn made me think about writing here again. I related it to my next obstacle which I now face... holding a job in which I am not the leader. As a leader: I have the flexibility to step outside if I feel anxious, or head home if I have the after-effects of a panic attack and can no longer mentally function. I have the ability to make my own schedule. I am able to work it out if I am in too much pain to be on my feet all day. I can share my cancer-experienced life with the general public (which already is no easy task). These are all advantages I will lose when I start this new position. I'm nervous I may not be as great of a teacher I once seemed to be because of my hip, because of the anxiety, because of WHATEVER!
My being now is not what it was before cancer.
I think that's the problem. I need to get over this never-ending hill of fear and frustration. I used to be polar opposite what I am today. How do I get that back?! I'm not sure I ever fully will but I know that if I reject this new job, then the fear wins and I will head in the wrong direction. So, I have to at least try... and usually, when we fully TRY, we succeed. So I plan on succeeding.
I will balance this job with my studio and with my home life. I WILL balance.
I AM BALANCED! (repeat)
It's going to be imperative that I maintain balance. Balance affects performance. Balance affects anxiety levels. Balance... affects others.
So what exactly am I afraid of here? I'm not afraid of working for others, being in a classroom, teaching kids, making lesson plans, meeting deadlines or anything like that. I'm scared of myself, my internal self. How does someone with anxiety hold a full time job that requires being responsible for others' lives? Well, I need to suck it up and manage or BALANCE myself. It's pretty simple really... at least in concept. (I'll start with positive affirmations.) But that's not just it... what happens when they all find out I'm a cancer survivor or that I suffer from panic attacks or that I have pain issues with my hip that could potentially cause me to be out of work a day or two at a time... what happens if I have a setback and end up having more surgery and am out an extended period? What if this happens in my first year of work? We all know that people can't get fired for these things, but we also know that people DO get fired and are told it is for other reasons. So what happens then? I'll tell you what happens. LIFE GOES ON, so LIVE IT and STOP WORRYING! (Wow... that's an epiphany, genius I tell you, genius... what a concept... as if it's a new one! Why is this so difficult to grasp and enact?)
I'm thankful for my art background. I'm SO grateful to my parents for supporting my artistic interests... through high school, through college... all the way through today! I feel that with this artistic background, I have an advantage over others in that I am a phenomenal problem-solver... as an artist, I find a way to get through anything because there's always a way. Nothing is ever only black and white. ...and I'll overcome this worry and I'll find my path.
I'm excited about this new endeavor. I am looking forward to working with the already seemingly friendly staff and molding new, young individuals interested in art. I'm anxious to build my lessons for the year (though I'm overwhelmed with the disorganization of supplies which is setting me back because I can't get a grasp on what materials I have to work with yet). I LOVE the drive to the school... through the farmlands... it's very serene. I like the classrooms and the school building. I'm SO HAPPY that the studio is staying open and that I get to keep my dream going. I'm interested to see how the two will mesh in a year or so because I'm sure they will grow from one another... all in due time.
It's quite inspiring what we are able to gain from observing others and reflecting upon ourselves. Now, go mow your lawn.