Friday, September 9, 2016

My New Normal

My New Normal

Wow.  It’s been a while since I posted here.  It seems like the last few months have flown by.  It’s been a crazy, emotional, exciting few months. 

I finished up my radiation treatments towards the end of May.  Radiation was much easier on me than chemotherapy.  My skin, 2 weeks after my last treatment, looked worse than when I finished up, which surprised me.  Now, 3 months later, my skin in that area is slightly darker, but it has healed nicely.

This summer I still maintained a much lighter schedule.  My energy is coming back, but I know my limits.  I also know that one of the reasons I am doing so well is that I don’t overdo it.  I rest.  When I got sick last year, I cut out all of my “extra” busy commitments that I had.  I needed my energy to work my job and to fight my cancer.  I am adamant about NOT getting so busy ever again.  All of those meetings, clubs, associations, and parties just don’t seem as important any more.

I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in my backyard most mornings having a cup of coffee…or three, lol.  Since our lake was redone a few years ago, it has really changed the atmosphere in our yard.  I love just sitting out there, watching my 3 dogs enjoy themselves.  I really think that pre-cancer, I would have felt like I needed to be DOING something productive.  I have decided that sitting and appreciating God’s handiwork in nature and enjoying my precious dogs having a great time IS doing something!

In July I went to Nashville for a few days on a Beachbody trip.  This was bittersweet to me.  Last year when I went I had a cancer spreading in me that I didn’t know about.  I was diagnosed about a week after my trip last year.  It was wonderful seeing my Beachbody family.  I hadn’t seen most of them since the trip last July.  I paced myself.  If I attended the morning sessions, I rested in the afternoon so that I could go to the evening events.  The next day, I slept in and skipped the morning sessions and attended the afternoon ones.  I listened to my body and had a wonderful time.

I also attended my class reunion, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My classmates rallied around me when I was diagnosed and I will never forget that. Many of them that I didn’t know very well in school, sent me messages and cards, telling me that they were praying for me. GHS Class of 81 rocks!

August was a rollercoaster of emotions for me.  On August 7th I had my first Pet Scan since I finished my treatments.  I had every reason to believe it would be clear, but that tiny voice kept popping in my head with the “what ifs”.  It was a very emotional week, waiting for the results.   During that week, I had the anniversary of my diagnosis.  I’m glad it all happened during the same week.  I got all of the worrying, remembering and stress out of the way at once.   A flood of memories poured back in my head…..telling Dan, telling Ryan, calling Debbie who was out of town, calling Steff and listening to her cry, telling my Dad.  Telling my Dad broke my heart, because I knew what he was feeling.  The look on my brother’s face.  I’m so glad he was here and not in Germany.   All of those memories came flooding back, especially when I would try to go to sleep.

Last week a Facebook memory stopped me in my tracks.  It was a picture of me at my first chemotherapy session.  I was so scared.  I was smiling, but inside I was so scared. I just wanted to run away and scream. If I could go back in time I would tell myself “don’t be frightened. You can handle this. You’ve got an army of people praying for you and you will be fine”.

Now, as I am finding a “new normal” in my life, I am thankful.  My two granddaughters are happy and healthy, and I have another granddaughter due in October.  I am thankful for family, thankful for friends, thankful for healing, thankful for life.

At my first treatment:

July 2016, almost one year later.  Hair is growing back!

My backyard, my happy place

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May 10th....The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Wow, here it is May 10th already!  I only have two more radiation treatments to go, and then I will be DONE!   I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I certainly hope it isn't a freight train!   It has gone by so quickly.  I’m sure that is because I haven’t really felt too bad.  I clearly remember that day last August when I was diagnosed.  It was a whirlwind.  I remember going to see the Oncologist, and when she told me my treatment plan, I thought “20 weeks of chemo!!!  35 radiation treatments!!!!   How will I ever get through all of that?  It is going to be a very long, awful year!”   You know what, it has been scary, but it has been wonderful at the same time.  Wonderful in that I have felt so loved and cared for by so many people.   Wonderful in that I really knew what was important during this time.  Wonderful in that I had the treatments available to help me beat this!  I really look back at the last 9 months and I think that this “journey” has made me a better person.   At least I sure hope so.  I know I have learned a lot of lessons.  I have learned to slow down and appreciate each day!!  Sometimes we get so busy with life, we forget to HAVE a life.

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day, but I can’t help feel sad that Nathan isn’t with us.   I can honestly say that there isn’t one single day that he doesn’t pop into my head at least a dozen times.   Now though, I do smile at the memories, even though they do still hurt.

Most of you have seen that we will be having a new addition to the family in October!  Steff and Austin are expecting a baby this fall, and I am so thrilled.   What a great way to celebrate LIVING, adding a new grand baby.

I really don’t know exactly where I am headed in this journey we call life.  I DO know that I appreciate it more now.   I also feel that I am being called, somehow, to show people how important it is to take care of ourselves, and that getting cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  I’ve got lots of ideas milling around in my head……..I hope that they don’t collide in there and cause any damage!

Thank you, everyone, for all of the love and support you have shown me!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cancer Surgery & Recovery, and misc life updates

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted anything!   A lot has happened since then, which is probably one of the reasons I didn't post!  
On February 10th I was admitted to OSF Peoria to have my surgery.  I had a total radical mastectomy with reconstruction on the right side.  The surgery was long, but uneventful.  I was in surgery for 5 hours.  When I woke up, I was in some pain, but the meds kept it under control.  It wasn't as bad as the pain I had with my colon surgery.  I had a room full of people with me all day.  A HUGE shout out to my 84-year-old Dad.   He was there by 6:45 am and he stayed the whole day, until he got to talk to me after surgery.  He said he wasn't going anywhere until he knew I was okay.  What a long exhausting day for him!  I was released from the hospital the next day and went home to recover.  It was uneventful, also! (Uneventful is very good in the cancer world) When my surgeon talked to me afterwards, she told me that they would send the tissue and lymph nodes to be checked for any cancer cells.  She said that it would be foolish to think that there weren’t some living cancer cells remaining, and that I might need a few more chemotherapy treatments before I started radiation.  Well, guess what?  This girl has a COMPLETE RESPONSE to the chemotherapy.  There was not one trace of disease in the breast tissue or the lymph nodes that they removed.  Woo hoo!  No more chemo, on to radiation.

I was off of work for four weeks.  Luckily, I don't have a physically demanding job, but driving around all day can wear you out!  My work family has been very supportive and I'm truly thankful for that, also.
I started physical therapy 6 weeks’ post-surgery and started radiation the week after that.  I was scared the night before, and my sister-in-law Lori went with me.  It was a piece of cake.  You are literally in and out in 15 minutes.  It takes longer to change into the gown and get positioned on the table than it does to have the actual treatment.  I was prescribed 35 treatments initially, which was revised to 33 due to my complete response to the chemo.  As of today, I have 9 left.
Today I went for my first acupuncture appointment.  I have a slight case of neuropathy in my feet, a side effect of Taxol.  This has helped many people, so I am giving it a try.
Well, that pretty much gets me up to date, as far as my cancer treatments go.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am thankful for that.  This experience has definitely changed me.  I appreciate the little things in life so much more.  I've learned to be still.  I was always so busy.  I felt I always had to be doing something.  I have learned to appreciate just being in the moment, surrounded by your loved ones.
And, on a very positive note, my baby girl Stephanie and her husband Austin announced that they are expecting their first baby in October.  They told us on Easter, but I had to keep quiet.   Boy, that was hard!  I'm glad that cat is out of the bag!  I have a feeling that 2016 is going to be a very good year!