Saturday, May 20, 2006

I want breasts.

Yesterday I shopped, briefly, for a couple of summer clothing items. I'd like a sundress that fits me, and so off I went.

All of the sundresses I liked had halter tops, spaghetti straps, strapless, or V-necks. All were impossible for a woman who has one weird, bumpy, off-to-one-side breast and one flat side. From the bottom of my rib-cage down, I thought they looked fabulous. Around my bosom, they looked terrible.

This breast business is really, truly, seriously getting old. I feel like I've done my time, and yet I'm still in jail. It's been nearly a year, and still, I have one breast, and it doesn't look that great (think Frankenstein). One day, I know, I'm going to have two relatively normal looking breasts, just scarred...but now, I have one lousy, misshapen, lumpy breast, and one very flat, burned, brown, scarred chest.

Losing all this weight, I have a desire to show off my new body. I'm a weight I haven't been since my mid-twenties, and I love it. I'm out of size 8, wearing size 6 all the time. And yet clothes shopping is still sometimes torturous, unless I want to advertise my mastectomy through the clothes I wear.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Blog against cancer" for LiveStrong

The LiveStrong organization, headed by Lance Armstrong, is determined to make a difference by helping cancer survivors, finding cures, and encouraging government to do important funding to fight this deadly disease. Today is LiveStrong's "Blog against cancer" event, and I'm participating.

Cancer, in any form, is frightening. Terrifying. Mind-numbing. Everyone knows someone touched by the disease, and we all know that a cancer diagnosis comes hand in hand with the kind of fear that makes one shake and tremble. It must be stopped. We must find out what factors - environmental or otherwise - are causing cancer rates to rise so dramatically, and we must find cures. I know too much about cancer to want to witness anyone else go through it, and yet I know that I will, in my lifetime, doubtless receive that terrible phone call or message that someone else I love has cancer.

I plan to make a difference through fundraising. It's all that I know how to do, so I must do it. If you haven't already, today would be a great day to donate to the Breast Cancer 3-Day (there's a link on the right of this page), or to any other cancer charity (LiveStrong is a great one, and one that Ryan and I support, in addition to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.)


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yard Sale Craziness - Pictures

Here are some pictures of the craziness that was our yard sale. Our neighbors, Jeff & Amy, kindly let us use their front yard, and we spread out across the two yards, taking up the sidewalk and parking strip as well. There were literally hundreds of visitors to the yard sale - and countless items for sale. The pictures give just a taste of what it was like that day: organized chaos!

The final two pictures were taken the night before the yard sale. Our dining room table became a sorting ground for clothing (a hopeless cause because there was just so much!) and Erik found a fabulously awful yellow blazer that had us all in stitches laughing. Good times, despite the huge amount of work!


Moving on

A few months ago, there was a post on the YSC ("Young Survivor Coalition" - a website for women under the age of 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer) about moving on, and whether it was possible to truly move on after breast cancer. The women there posted a variety of thoughts on the subject, ranging from the "I forgot about it as soon as I finished" (then why are you on a support-group website?!) to "it's always on my mind, every second of every minute of every hour of every day." The idea of moving on pops in my head all the time now: as I approach my one year anniversary of diagnosis, I start to wonder what moving on looks like for me.

Obviously, my diagnosis changed the rest of my life. The thing that I miss most, more than my breasts or hair, is my innocence. Before June 1, 2005, I was innocent. Aside from the tragedy of my cousin Kathy's death at age 17 in 1988 (I miss her every day, to this day), I had not been deeply touched by tragedy. I don't know if I felt invincible, but it did seem like bad things happened to other people. The diagnosis changed all of that, and in a heartbeat. Not only did I lose body parts, and a year of treatment, but I also lost confidence in my own body's ability to fight the "bad stuff." I am no longer invincible. I am utterly human, and there is no guarantee that I will live to be 100. A good attitude, strong support network, and healthy lifestyle guarantee me nothing. This, of course, is no different from the minute before I found my lump; it's just that I'm always aware of it now.

I will never regain my innocence. There will always be two parts to my life: before and after breast cancer. The loss of innocence is the dividing point between those points.

Despite all that, I do wish to move on. So how do I move on, while acknowledging that life will never again be what it once was?

I think that the answer to that question will come slowly, over time. I don't pretend to have it figured out, and I know that what is true for me will not ring true for truth is not an absolute truth, and what's more, it may be an ever changing truth.

Right now, here's what I know. I know that I want to stop losing time to cancer. For nearly a year, every moment has been colored by cancer. I have felt the aches and pains of treatment as a daily reminder, and I have felt the heartache of wondering what would happen if treatment didn't work. It's time to move past that. With the removal of my final breast, the hard part of treatment is now officially over. My time will not be robbed, daily, by cancer's after-effects, because now I am working on healing. Nothing else will be taken from me: from here on out, my hair will grow longer, my breasts will return to me (in some form!), and the hours of my days will be less and less painful as my body returns to fitness and health. Soon, I will be able to chase Tessa again, to scoop her up in my arms and throw her up in the air and catch her, and my body will not shriek at me to STOP before I fall down from the pain. Soon, I will be able to exercise daily, to keep house and to cook food, to organize playdates, to assist friends and family with their needs, to work regular hours for the BSD. That is what it means to move on. I want to move out of a land where pain is the guideline for how much I can do, and where my hours and days are stolen by doctors, technicians, and drugs. There were many weeks when I had 10 appointments per week; there has not been a week without medical appointments (except Christmas) since the whole mess started, and. I still have appointments and scans, I still have doctors to see, but only sometimes, not all the time.

With clear pathology on my hysterectomy and mastectomy, and a clean whole-body MRI and CT scan, I am disease free. Now, I need to go about the business of living, and I really want to live. I am impatient to enjoy long summer days, to BBQ with friends, to bring my body to never-before-seen levels of fitness. I want to live fully, with full knowledge of the beauty that life presents itself. I will not take it for granted. I want to seize every day and live it to the fullest, because a little voice whispers in my ear "At any moment, this can all change, and tragedy can strike. Don't throw away what you're given! This is your life, and it's short. Make a difference! LIVE!" It's a bittersweet message: full of hope and strength and courage to make the most of my life, tinged with the fear that I will have to relive some of the past year again in the future. I know that I may die young. I don't plan on it, but I know that my plans have nothing to do with it. All I can do is make the most of my days, and hope and pray that I live to watch my daughter grow old, my husband at my side, surrounded by friends and family.

I'm ready to move on in this new universe I live in. I will never forget that I am a breast cancer survivor, but I hope to live my life as more than just a survivor - I want to take every minute and squeeze the essence from it, absorbing all of the joy that the world has to offer me. What's more, I want to give joy to those around me. I want to give my family the best of me, to share and learn from friends and family, and to inspire other breast cancer survivors. I want to use my life for something useful: I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I pray that I can be part of the solution to finding a cure for breast cancer; I will not forget the cause. I want to remember my diagnosis, without being defined by it.

The anniversary of my diagnosis is a monumental day for me. I barely remember the self that existed before that day...she seems so far away now. I hope that I can revisit her, and recapture some of her spirit, while keeping some of the strength that I have earned and learned in the past year.

Moving on. I'm trying, that's for sure. It sounds so beautiful to me - to move on, and reclaim my life. That is what I am working on, on this beautiful sunny day.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Proud of Ryan

First, I need to say that I'm very proud of Ryan for all that he's accomplished over the past months. He has developed a positive outlook, and his smile truly gladdens my heart. Ryan is a fabulously smart and talented individual, and some company is going to be so incredibly fortunate to have him working for him.

That said, the Microsoft position did not come through, and of course that's disappointing. There is a silver lining, however: the team all thought that Ryan was "Microsoft material," just not a good fit for the position, and the recruiter has another position in mind that she'd like Ryan to interview for. We'll hear more soon...and we hope for the best, of course.

I'd also like to post a couple of pictures: a before and after of Ryan. The first picture was taken on my first Mother's Day, when Ryan was at his heaviest weight. The second was taken yesterday on Mother's Day - look at how handsome my husband is! He continues to work hard at Weight Watchers with me, and he's almost lost more than I have (we're neck in neck). Wahooooo! I'll also post one of me yesterday - I don't think it's the most flattering, but it certainly shows that I've lost weight from where I started. :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Yard Sale Results; Happy Mother's Day!

Yesterday's yard sale was a phenomenal success - just thinking about how many people contributed to its success through donations, volunteer time, baking, etc. brings tears to my eyes. I am overwhlemed with gratitude! There were literally hundreds of people that came by and shopped, and I'm glad for that, too.

And (drumroll please): We raised over $2100!!!!! THANK YOU! The money will be divided up among participating team members to put in their Breast Cancer 3-Day accounts, so that individuals can get closer to their goals. (Each team member needs to raise $2200 in order to participate in the walk.)

I took a few photos that I will post later. Now, I must go and enjoy Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day to the wonderful mothers in my life: I am blessed by my own mother's love, and I am grateful for the many mothers in my life who have helped to mother me, or who have set great examples of mothering for me to learn from.