Thursday, October 25, 2018

Full Circle Moment! Survivorship For the Win

6 years ago to the day was likely the most traumatic for my mother in terms of immediate impact. It was the day that our good family friend shaved my head.  While I felt proud to have a bald head, my mother felt like this is when I looked "sick".

Let's recap, now does this really look like a cancer patient?

Anyways, I have had my hair past my shoulders since I was in the first grade, but making it to the 5 year mark of being NED lit a fire under me to keep growing my hair out and to donate it for wigs for the American Cancer Society. So it had been a year since I cut my hair. I found I did know how to braid it, which surprised my mom.

(Sneaky way of cheering for the Red Sox, huh? Please ignore my inability to pose for photos in the above). 

So, after growing my ponytail to 9 inches, I had the same family friend who shaved my head, cut off my ponytail for me and then gave me a pretty sweet lob. 

Mom and I (of course I had her with me, still trying to help reverse some of the trauma in her mind of shaving my head), then went to the post office and sent this guy off to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.  

Then, with my hair package securely sent out,  I made sure to buy some breast cancer stamps  Did you know that these stamps helped fund the study that showed that not everyone needs chemo with a breast cancer diagnosis? How awesome. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Boston 2018

Welcome to Boobtober! A month where we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness and watch everything get slapped with a pink ribbon. I am happy to say that those in my circle are becoming more educated about products and make certain that donations from products actively go to organizations that actually do things to advance breast cancer research or take care of patients. Things like the Breast Cancer Research Fund (BCRF, there great hashtag for the month is #ResearchistheReason), Dr. Susan Love Foundation, and American Cancer Society. Because of all the good the American Cancer Society does for people actively undergoing cancer treatment and ways for people to cope with diagnosis.

One of my favorite activities of Boobtober is doing the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk my primary caregiver, my Mom. I enjoy doing the walk because this is where they give you a survivor sash and its great to be surrounded by other breast cancer survivor sisters (and brothers) and their support squads. Plus, its fun to watch my mom get such joy from the continued surprised looks people give the two of us walking when they see my sash! This year many people stopped to say congratulations or give a thumbs up, or communicate in some way that they were excited for you.

I went with the bandanna this year instead of a cape and you cans see part of my survivor sash sticking out. The weather was gorgeous and it's rewarding to see so many people out supporting the cause.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Lahey 5K 2018

Raising money by baking, running with good friends and celebrating the hospital that keeps me cancer free? Sign me up!!
Photo provided by Johnson Photography 

For the FIFTH year team NED (No Evidence of Disease) was in full affect. And we managed to raise $3,700 for the Lahey Health Cancer Centers. Not too shabby. Over the 5 years of Team NED's existence we have raised >$15,000 for the cancer centers. Slow and steady we keep the money flowing.

Our annual bake sale ended up being a rousing success, not surpassing last year, but still with an impressive haul.

Check out all the baking the RD's did:

The biggest hit (outside of the granola that we can't keep in stock) was oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies. Will need to remember that going forward!

And then came the actual race. And I knew that my training was sub par (iron deficiency anemia had started to fight back) but had been getting slightly better......and I tied my personal worst! Not terrible but definitely not good (still managed 8:30 min/mile).

Photo provided by Johnson Photography

It was great to see all the survivors and supporters out at the walk/run. It's great to see many familiar faces and more and more survivor shirts year after year. 

Go Team NED!
Photo provided by Johnson Photography 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The 5 Year Squish

 I have spent a fair amount of time celebrating reaching the 5 year mark; boob cakes (5 layer, chocolate raspberry moose cake), parties, vacations....

But, party time was over and it was time to prove that there was nothing but boob in my boobs. It was  time for my annual mammogram.

I showed up for my appointment on Thursday and per usual was a little bit anxious. I cut the greeter off mid speech to let her know I didn't have deodorant on, I didn't need the mammowipes and this was not my first mammogram. She smiled kindly at me and left me to put on the dreaded pink johnny.

I take a seat in the waiting room and fight the urge to wave at the other woman who are waiting and can't help themselves from staring. I think about what may be going on in their heads; "Hmm. She looks young for 40 (or as my age starts to creep closer to 40, I like to think this)" or "She must have a family history"or "I'm anxious about my own test I don't even know that I'm staring". Either way, inventing other peoples internal dialogue helps me pass the time.

Then they call my name. The mammogram tech introduces herself to me and lets me know that she is pretty new and will have someone check the films before I go back to the waiting room. I let her know that she needn't be afraid to hurt me and that she should do whatever she need to get the pictures. I also tell her that all of my markers are very close to my chest wall so she can do what she needs to get them. She looks at me a little surprised, but agrees.

Then the usual; relax this shoulder, squish your face against this plastic thing, lets put this boob in a vice and of course don't breath (like I could if I wanted to). My scar causes some issues on the right side, so we do those pictures again. Then this lovely new tech goes to get someone to look at them, and it walks my mother and I's favorite mammogram tech. What, that is a totally normal thing. Most mothers and daughters share favorite mammogram techs. It's totally regular.

The new tech then starts to introduce me to our fav tech and she stops her and says "No worries, I know her. Nice to see you again." She helps her show the positioning on someone like me (small boobs, markers close to chest wall, dense breasts) and they take a couple more photos. I also note that the pressure on the machine is cranked up to 18 psi. 18 lbs per square inch.  Now that's a vice.

They are both happy with the pictures and I go back into the waiting room. And everyone turns to see who come through the door. You have to love the amount of anxiety in the waiting room. I park myself in a chair and wait.

Then the door opens and the fav tach walks in, just looks right at me and says "they want more".  My heart drops to my stomach. When we get into the exam room she tells me they look fine, they just want to see the marker closest to the chest well. My heart moves back up to my chest.  On which side? Left. Ok, Here comes another 18 psi and this time an additional plastic tray. She gets the picture in one shot.

10 minutes later someone else comes in to let me know I'm free to go. She also asks me to remind my doctor to put the order in for next year. I just say "ok", like sure lady, like between my oncologist, surgeon and pcp someone will forget to schedule me a mammogram. But, I'm bruised and free to go back to work.

I am sore, but I wasn't too sore to put a sports bra on and run 3 miles that night (and completed my virtual 5K for BraveLikeGabe.
I still had a lot of adrenaline to run off. And for the first time in a couple of weeks I slept without having super bizarre dreams; so I guess I was more worried than I thought.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

5 Years of NED

5 years ago, I remember walking into the radiation suite for one last time. I remember being so excited that my hair was growing back, that I only had to wear the pink johnny one last time and that I had finished. I had made it though surgery, 4 rounds of chemo and 30 radiation treatments.

My mom reminded me how when I first diagnosed, she looked at me and said I wish it was five years from now and this was all behind us. it is.  It's amazing.

I started the day wearing my Team NED t-shirt and matching one of my favorite people in her Team NED tshirt

This is the extent that the toddler was willing to have her picture taken in the morning. She was still mad that her grandparents had brought me a present in the morning and not her (she did, however, get a cake pop). 

I had a grand old time celebrating the day with my family. I was staying at my brother and sister in laws and spending as much time with the tiny person as possible. We had a dance party in the kitchen and had an amazing dinner. 
I mean who wouldn't love hanging out with this crew? A 3 year old who has tiaras for everyone and every mood? What's not to like? How could you not have a blast? 

So, the boob cake has to wait a couple of weeks this year because 5 years was too important not to be surrounded by my family. 

One of my breast cancer peeps hit her 5 year mark this year too. As we both know, that with ER/PR+ breast cancer has a chance of recurrence throughout the lifetime, but we have both said we are loving the 5 year feeling! 

Also, in celebration, we got the Team NED fundraising page up and running to raise some money and get more people all NEDded up and able to celebrate their 5 years cancer free mark. 

So ya, I'm lovin' that 5 year feeling. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Five Year's of NED Celebration has begun

Yes, I am a few days early. But, as the 5 year anniversary approaches, I have had a weird mix of emotions; the majority of gratitude, still a touch of anger (when I take my poop emoji shaped medicine), and lots of happiness. 

Anniversaries also lead to a lot of reflection. It's amazing how something could seem like a lifetime ago as well as that it happened yesterday. I get a little lost in thought; while riding the bus to work, I remember the mornings riding in bald, when the other riders left me a seat to myself; willing myself to get to work on days when I didn't feel well. 

I also remember the feeling 3 weeks after the last chemo treatment when I woke up and felt normal and I hadn't been aware of how weird I had felt. 

In order to leave my office at work I have to go down the hall that I took every morning to go to radiation. I remember laying on that table day after day, wondering if anything was happening and then towards the end marveling at how hot pink my skin had become. I remember appreciating that the the radiation techs also loved 80's music. 

One of the weird, new normal things, that happens with my right arm and pectoral muscle is that I don't have all the feeling in my right triceps. It never came all the way back. I didn't even think about it until I was teaching 20 nutrition students how to do physical exams and had to direct the students away from my right arm, because I couldn't sense if they were testing it correctly. The other side effect of surgery and having the pectoral fascia removed (because my tumor was so close to my chest wall) is that occasionally my pectoral muscle gets stuck and it takes some weird shoulder movements to get it unstuck. 

In the 5 years I have learned that 1) I am still a hypochondriac, but 2) there are times that I am really correct and their are some really scary sh*t that happens. I have also learned that having breast cancer on your past medical history makes everyone freak out for every ache, pain and irregularity. I have gotten used to scans, exams, blood work and even colonoscopies. Through it all, I am still grateful I am here and that I beat cancer. 

I beat cancer. It's been 5 years and it's still some of the sweetest words you will ever hear. Now, is the time to celebrate. Now, is the time to spend time with friends and family. Now is the time to buy the good seats to see Bon Jovi. Now, is the time to be grateful for having more time. Now, is the time. 

Editors note: Boob cake to come in a couple of weeks

Monday, January 29, 2018

Hair Watch 2018

Unlike the previous hair watches, where I was singing Wilson Phillips  and updating the world that I was bald I have a full head of hair. However, as these episodes were more than 5 years ago, they still seem like they were yesterday.

I really did not mind being bald. I did not enjoy the growing back in phases process where I had mostly hair on my neck and some on the sides.

However, I am fully aware that not everyone fully embraces being a baldy. That is why as part of my upcoming celebration of 5 years of NED includes growing my hair out for donation. My good friend Mary has done this a couple of times and gave me the details on the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program.  You need at least an 8 inch ponytail.

Guess what? I have a 5 inch ponytail right now (which is totally crazy for me and the longest my hair has been in about 30 years).

This is part of my giving back in the 5th year of NED.  Looking forward to finding more ways I can give back.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Here's to 2018

After a great holiday season spent with good friends and family, I am looking forward to the things to come in 2018.

I've adjusted to my new, new normal; cancer survivor on a blood thinner. I try exceptionally hard not to bang my head on ice (because brain bleed is now high on the list of hypochondriac concerns added in 2017) and do the usual new years things; Try to eat more vegetables, get back in shape (two jobs this fall killed my workout schedule), spend less time connected to my cell phone.

However, there are new items that I'm looking forward to in 2018, mainly planning how to celebrate reaching 5 years of being a cancer survivor. What kind of boob cake should I make? How many vacation days do I want to use? How great is it that these are the biggest issues in my life? And working on more ways to do good for those whose issues are bigger than boob cake flavors.

Happy New Year