Monday, October 26, 2015

Tattoo Love

In October 2013, before I started radiation, the techs gave me four tattoos to mark the "field" that would be radiated 33 times. The only visible tattoo was on the middle left side of my chest (see picture/story here).

For two years I've looked at that dot and thought, "I should tattoo over this and turn it into something beautiful." Because that's what God does; He takes broken things and makes them beautiful.

So last week I did.

I decided to have it turned into a heart to symbolize the love that got me through cancer; the greatest love being from Jesus.

I just love how it turned out. Small but very, very meaningful.

It's a daily reminder of my one of my favorite verses from Romans. One that carried me though cancer treatment... "We also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God's LOVE has been poured into our HEARTS."


Friday, August 14, 2015

Two Years

Well, I'm now two years cancer-free. 8/8/13 was the miraculous, amazing day that I found out that God answered all my prayers.

When I was first diagnosed I had a hard time imagining or believing I'd get to see Elise wear 2T clothes, and here is she already wearing 3T clothes. My perfect, big, healthy girl. And I'm here to see it. God is so good.

Triple negative tends to recur most within the first three years from diagnosis and I'm now 2.5 years from diagnosis. I'm feeling dangerously close to the "safe zone". Like maybe in six months I can finally exhale the last bit of that breath I've been holding since March 1, 2013? It's just too good to believe.

If you know me, you know that I'd always been a big "planner"-- planning future vacations, planning my future children, planning my career moves, even planning for retirement. Once I found out that I had cancer I stopped doing all that. I felt like there was no sense planning if it could all blow up again at any moment. I wouldn't plan vacations that were more than a couple months away. But lately I've felt myself starting to plan again. Daring to believe that I'll be here in a year, or five, or twenty-five. Praying to God that somehow I won't "jinx" it all by planning. But also realizing that I know now that even if plans have to change, God is in those plans to.

Heck, I never even considered the possibility of more kids, and now I'm an 18 month long fertility study for young cancer survivors. And I've started to think that there's a remote possibility that we could have another kid. Unbelievable.

I don't have a good conclusion to this post, but I think Ecclesiastes can sum it up the best, "When life is good, enjoy it. But when life is hard, remember: God gives good times and hard times, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring." (7:14)


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Two Years of Hair

I shaved my head a little over two years ago -- on Good Friday 2013. Good Friday and Easter have always been very special to me, but now they hold even more meaning.

Here is a picture comparison of me on three Easter Weekends. 2013, 2014, and 2015.

I feel so blessed to be here, and (bonus) with hair I actually like now!

And look, I can even do a pony tail now too!

If you had told me two years ago that it would be TWO FULL YEARS to have shoulder-length hair or to be able to put my hair up in a pony tail I think I would have been more depressed when it was falling out and I shaved it.

Praying that at next Easter I'll still be cancer free and my hair will be back to 2012 length.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An Overdue Update

In the world of post-cancer blogging no news is generally good news. And I'm blessed to say with regards to my health I have no news. I'm doing my regular check ups, and since it's hard to prove a negative, all appears to be well (giant knock on wood).

I survived 2014 with basically nothing terrible happening -- which is the first year since 2009 that I can say that. I'd had a rough couple of years with pregnancy loss, unexplained infertility, and real estate woes before I got the knock out punch of cancer. Let's just say I'd be really happy for a peaceful, boring life from here on out.

It's interesting to watch how my cancer is less and less a part of my daily life. It's no longer the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep. My hair looks like a normal shorter hair cut now, my boobs are "squishy" from my final implants, and I feel less anxious about everything. That's not to say I don't think about cancer a lot, because I did.  Random aches or pains scare me still. My back will hurt after a weekend of carrying around my 29 lb toddler and I'll wonder if the cancer is back in my bones. Then I remind myself that I've been carrying around my big baby and I'm not dying. Convincing myself that I am OK and I am going be OK has gotten easier with the passage of time.

I've started to share with people, when I tell my cancer story, more about what God did for me through the whole trial and how it built my faith like nothing could. Almost like I have more clarity about His presence in the storm now looking back. The power of prayer that I experienced during that time is something I'm still wrapping my head around.

My little chemo baby is almost 20 months old and occupies the vast majority of my free time and energy. She's such a blessing and a joy to have in our lives. She literally saved my life in more ways than one. I'm just so incredibly grateful for her.

Christmas 2014
Sadly, I continue to watch cancer rear it's terrible head all around me. I've watched a couple young breast cancer survivor moms from my on line support group relapse and die. My beloved oncologist found out he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer in June and died in December. Heartbreaking. And most recently my good friend's boyfriend was diagnosed with Leukemia. I pray that science keeps advancing to the point that soon cancer can be wiped out or just treated like any other non-fatal illness. I worry about Elise, but then I remind myself how far medicine and cancer research has come since I was a baby and have hope. If I had gotten TNBC 30 years ago I wouldn't be alive to talk about it almost two years later.

My prayer for 2015 is that this blog stays as boring as possible. Boring is good!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pink-tober Thoughts and Strength & Inspire Bracelets

It's officially "pink-tober" (aka breast cancer awareness month). It's taken me a few day to formulate my thoughts on it...

I have such a love-hate relationship with this month. On one hand I love to see a cause that I care so about much getting attention, and I love seeing people care, or pretend to care (*cough cough* NFL *cough*) about it. And I like that breast cancer is no longer a taboo topic like it once was. On the other hand all the "awareness" about breast cancer has done little to reduce the death rate from breast cancer, and it sickens me that many companies actually profiting off their pink products.

I guess if I could share three messages about "pink-tober" it would be this:

1) Ladies, check yourself and go to your doctor if you ever feel anything that resembles a lump. I used to be the the type that didn't want to "bug" my doctor. Luckily by the grace of God I was seeing my OB every four weeks because I was pregnant and she took the lump seriously. This is what you're supposed to be "aware of" from all this breast cancer awareness; check yourself and have a doctor check any lump you find.

2) When a young woman gets breast cancer young it's typically aggressive, fast growing, and deadly. So doctors throw all the treatment they have at them-- typically multiple rounds of chemo, mastectomy, and radiation. And even with all that sometimes it comes back as incurable stage IV. We don't really know why that happens. This is why we need more research and a real cure. Progress has been made but we have a long way to go to prevent, treat, and cure this killer of young women.

3) Be a smart consumer. Before you buy a bunch of pink products find out where money goes. Make sure it's going to research. We need a cure and research will be the way.

So, if you want to purchase a great project where the money actually goes to breast cancer and research, I am selling these awesome"Strength" and "Inspire" bracelets from Stella & Dot.

Stella & Dot is donating 100% of proceeds from these bracelets to the Noreen Fraser Foundation (a fantastic breast cancer charity). At just $39 each, they make great Christmas gifts or a fun little gift for yourself. They are only available during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I am selling them until October 23.

Buy yours today using this link to access my Stella & Dot page:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life after TNBC & a pCR

Sometimes I think I'm rockin' it as a Cancer Survivor and have full confidence that I'll be around to raise Elise and nag love my husband for many many more years to come.

Then sometimes I get an ache or pain and I'll spiral into fear and worry that cancer is back as stage IV. I know that despite my strong faith it's human to worry. Luckily each pain has gone away and I thank God every day for that.

But when I'm in the midst of worry I try to look for reasons I should be optimistic. The biggest one for me is that even though Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) has the worst prognosis of all breast cancer types, having a pCR (pathological complete response) after chemo yields an excellent prognosis. Like, look that this chart:

Now that I'm one year out from surgery what's even more encouraging to me is that all "dips" in the graph for pCR/TNBC are before one year, which means that if I was going to have a reoccurrence I'd likely have it by now. Not 100%, but likely according to studies.

I know that statistics are just statistics and ultimately I'm an individual here by the grace of God. But sometimes that graph reassures me a little.  

And now, for fun, look how good my hair looks now...
Yay for a "Mom-Bob"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm Still Here

It's been a little over one year since I was declared "cancer-free". August 8, 2013. One of the best days of my life. I wasn't ready to celebrate with a big "I beat cancer" party just yet but I did treat myself to this awesome Stella & Dot Necklace as my survivor-versary gift. Maybe when I hit three years cancer-free I'll have a big party. That the prize my eye is on.


I've had very few cancer "scares" since I've finished treatment and for that I feel really blessed. I feel good overall. I did have a small rubbery lump above my right foob (non-cancer side) ultrasounded a couple weeks ago that was declared to be "fatty tissue" and nothing at all suspicious for malignancy. It was pretty nerve-wracking though because the last time I had a breast ultrasound they told me there was a 95% chance I had breast cancer. 

In the past couple of months I've finally started to really like my hair. I've been wearing it wavy which is easy and people say it looks cute. Here's a recent pic of Elise and I that I love. She's so stinkin' cute and I like my hair in it.
July 2014
I feel so blessed to here today -- going to work, chasing around my rowdy toddler, and living life. I couldn't really imagine that I could be here 17 months ago. God is so good. He really is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, They're Fake, The Real Ones Tried to Kill Me

Last week on Thursday I had my breast reconstruction surgery!

It was a three hour surgery that consisted of removing my temporary expander implants and replacing them with permanent silicone implants. Then my plastic surgeon harvested some fat from my thighs to put around the implants to fill in gaps and make my breasts look my natural since I have zero breast tissue after the double mastectomy.

The surgery went really well and my recovery is coming slowly but surely. My chest is super sore and tight but already looks a lot better than before the reconstruction. My thighs where they harvested the fat are so bruised and sore but already feeling less sore. My plastic surgeon and his team are the best, and our family friend who's was my anesthesiologist again did a great job.

I've had the last few days off work and hope to return to work in a couple of days. I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs for four weeks, which means no picking up Elise, which has been emotionally tough already. Luckily I have great help lined up for Elise. I am so thankful for my family and friends.

I hate feeling pained and helpless again but hopefully this is my last surgery and the pain is not near as bad as the mastectomy and I survived that.

I think when all is said and done I need to get this shirt...