Tag Archive | life after cancer

One Month to D-Day

I'm a little over six months pregnant in this picture.

I’m a little over six months pregnant in this picture.

Boy time sure does fly when you have a baby growing in your belly! I am now eight months pregnant. Just a few weeks away from Baby Faith Day! And I’m so excited and ready for it to happen!

My husband and I attended a few classes to prepare us for labor, delivery and the first few months with Faith. I learned a lot and I am so glad that we attended classes. For all of my expecting mommies (and dads) out there, please attend a class (or two) to educate you. We had to pay a small fee for our classes but it was worth it. There are a lot of free classes out there so find one in your area and make time to go. Also, check out some books from your local library (or buy them). I have the Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and the Mayo Clinic’s Guide to Your Baby’s First Year and I’ve found them to be very helpful. I’ve also found websites such as The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and What to Expect to be helpful as well.

Classes and books have helped to make all of my nervousness and anxieties subside. I’m looking forward to life with our baby girl. Here’s what I’ve taken from these last eight months of pregnancy…

  • Every pregnancy is different so take those pregnancy stories that friends/family/and strangers share with you with a grain of salt. Especially – those freaky, scary stories. I don’t know why people feel the need to share these stories with a pregnant woman but they do. You don’t need anything to try and shake up your faith right now – so block those stories from your memory and stay focused on having a happy, healthy pregnancy.
  • Take care of your mind, body and soul. Get enough rest. Eat well. Exercise. Pray. Spend time with your family and friends. I’ve found meditating on Bible scriptures and what God says about me and our baby to be very encouraging and helpful. I’ve also slowed down…quite a lot. I used to constantly do and go so I’ve been spending more time relaxing and stopping all the action before becoming overwhelmed.
  • Hormones will make you a very emotional person. I’m not typically overly emotional but I’ve found myself crying at the most weird, random times and for no apparent reason. I’ve cried over food, television shows, being tired, the thought of seeing Faith for the first time…and I’m sure there’s more.
  • Nine months may seem like a long time but trust me it will go by so fast. I suggest getting organized quickly and tackling bigger projects at the beginning of your pregnancy. You may not feel like doing much of anything once you hit your third trimester.
  • Feeling your baby kick and move is exhilarating…every time it happens. This experience has truly been the best – no matter how hard the jabs have been.

I’ve had an awesome pregnancy so far and I’m truly thankful to be a mom. To all the new parents out there – Congratulations! And if you have any nuggets of wisdom to share, please feel free to do so.

Peace and Love

Advice to 20 Year Old Me

20somethingsurvivor

Me at age 21 during college on The Hill

One of my best friends re-posted a hilarious (the gifs put it over the top) article on Facebook titled 29 Awesome Things About Being 29 (if you’re 29…you can probably relate to a few items on this list). I’m in the last days of my 20s – yay me! Friday will mark my 30th year of life in this big ‘ole world. Yep, I’m excited about turning 30… can’t believe a decade has passed. Geesh it goes by fast!

Well with all of that being said I guess I’ll do the whole “What would the 29 year old self tell the 20 year old self” post. So hold on, give me a second, this is my time for reflection. Reflection is good (smile).

To the 20 year old me…

Keep Christ at the center of every area of your life. You’ve been a believer the majority of your life – way before you were baptized at the age of 16. Be on fire for Christ! Don’t be a lukewarm Christian! Don’t wait until your world turns upside down to run to Jesus.  He longs for a relationship with you.

You are strong.  After you are diagnosed with cancer, your life will never be the same. But life isn’t over – it’s just beginning.  You will be healed and restored. God has good plans for your life. Trust Him. He is still in control.

Date with a purpose. That purpose should be marriage. So if you do not want to be married – don’t date – I’m just saying. You’ll kiss a lot of frogs and won’t marry your prince until your 29. Ewww!  Don’t waste your time on those lame men! Totally don’t date any of them (or anyone else). Enjoy being single and do your own thing until you meet your husband.

Just say no to credit cards/loans. Yes. This is high on the list. No debt = freedom. Cash rules the world! Use cash from this day forward. End of story. Period.

Travel more.  You’ve been to many places. So maybe I should be more specific…

Travel internationally. You’ve never been out of the states but crossing the pond is going to be way cool. You have a long list of places to see and experience. Go for it!

Broaden your circle of friends. Your friends don’t have to look like you. Sound like you. Grow up similar to how you did. Step outside of that imaginary, limiting box.

Treat your body well. Proper rest, nutrition and exercise will carry you a long way.  I know you still won’t grasp this concept until you’re 25! 

Be bold and take a risk. Start that blog. Start that business. Go to dinner by yourself. Cut your hair off…you get the picture.

Love your family and friends. A good friend is hard to find so treat her well. Family is family. You’re fortunate to have an awesome family so thank God for them and keep on loving them.

Be happy. No need to waste time and energy being angry at the world. Remember happiness and peace comes from within.

What advice would you give your 20 year old self? Please share.

Peace and Love

Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer

Are you still experiencing cold winter weather? *Sigh* I’m not! Sorry to rub it in your face but the temperature here is mid 60s and man I’m happy about it.  It gets better though.  Next week I’ll be traveling to sunny Orlando, Florida for the Annual Conference for Young Women affected by Breast Cancer (C4YW). I received a registration waiver from the conference.  In addition, my other generous sponsors (mom and dad) are covering my plane ticket to and from Florida.  I’m super excited!

“C4YW is the only international event focused on the unique needs and issues faced by women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45.  Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Young Survival Coalition have created this conference for young women affected by breast cancer and those who support them.”

I’m looking forward to meeting other young survivors, learning more about trending research, attending workshops, sightseeing and of course the sunny warm weather.  A few of the workshops that I plan to attend are…The Case for a Greener World: Breast Cancer and the Environment…Advocacy and Inclusion: Coming Together for Good…Cancer and Careers: Understanding Your Rights in the Workplace…and many more interesting topics that’ll be a part of this year’s conference.  I’ll be sure to share more when I return.

The conference agenda is packed with tons of activities to keep busy.  In between workshops and conference speakers I do plan on venturing out into the city.  So, if you’re from Orlando or you’ve been to Orlando…

Where should I go? (Other than Disney World) What should I do?

Peace and Love

Your Health. Your Priority.

When I was finishing chemotherapy a few months ago, I witnessed something very troubling.  There was a young lady in the infusion center (place where you receive chemo) who was having a not so good day.  She was arguing with a not so helpful nurse.  See the young lady was thoroughly confused about why she was in the infusion center. 

The patient thought she was there to receive chemo.  The infusion center nurse was trying to explain to her that the doctor’s orders were not chemo.  Apparently, the patient did not like the nurse’s tone as the nurse was trying to explain chemo to her.  So she went in on the nurse exclaiming how she’s not an idiot, you can’t talk to me any ‘ole kind of way, and I really don’t know why I’m here today. I thought it was for chemo because that’s what I always get when I’m here. I don’t know, my doctor just told me to come down here so I’m here.

It got loud. Both parties were angry and frustrated.  I couldn’t believe this craziness that was transpiring in front of me.  Well, actually I could.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been the completely confused patient before.  I’ve been frustrated because I didn’t understand.

Before I found my way to UAMS, I was angry because a nurse or staff person was unpleasant or not helpful.  I was frustrated at a doctor who somewhat blew me off as being overly anxious. I’ve wanted to give those people a piece of my mind. I was thoroughly upset with how I was treated.  But I think I was more so disappointed in the fact that I had no idea what was going on with me medically. I decided that I’d never be in that situation again.  I had to be proactive about my health.

I’ve had more doctors’ visits in the past year than I’ve had over the span of my life.  Here’s what I do to prepare for and during a doctor’s visit –

Recruit someone to go along with me. Whoever it is, have him/her play the role of recording secretary.  Ask him/her to write down everything discussed while your doctor is in the exam room.

Ask for additional information.  There are usually free pamphlets that your doctor can provide.  My doctor is always helpful in printing info sheets for the various drugs that are being used during my treatments. 

Ask questions.  Usually, I have one or two questions ready before I even see my doctor. Ask away.  Let your doctor see that you want to be an active participant during the course of your care.

Do your research.  Refer to books, medical journals, or online sites to become more knowledgeable about various procedures, treatments, and drugs.

Be pleasant. Your attitude can make a big difference in the way you feel, how you interpret things, and often how others will treat you. Even when it’s difficult, remain positive and respectful when interacting with your care providers.

Be on time. Time is a precious commodity that no person can get back.  Trust, you are not as important as you think you may be…there are other patients who need care too. Be timely for all lab appointments, doctor’s visits, and/or scheduled treatments.

Follow your doctor’s orders.  I believe something like 99.8 percent (some random non-scientific statistic I made up) of doctors really are looking out for the best interest of their patients. So, if your doctor asks you to stay in the bed and get some rest. Do so.  If your doctor wants you to lose a few pounds. What are you waiting for?

Make your health a priority.  Always be proactive when receiving medical care.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Confide in a close friend or family member when you feel nervous or unsure about what’s happening with you health wise.

Have you had an unpleasant doctor or hospital visit?  How did it affect you?

Peace and Love

True Life

I found a great website today…they have really cool t-shirts and awesome Top 10 Lists (I def love these).  The sun isn’t out today and I needed a really good laugh…I’m glad that I stumbled across this site.

Here’s a Top 10 List posted on Planet Cancer that made my eyes water it was so funny. The post stemmed from true stories from members of the Young Survival Coalition, which serves young women under 40 with breast cancer.

Top 10 (minus 1) Worst Things to Hear From Your Doctor

9. When complaining to my plastic surgeon about the funky shape of my tissue expander, he said “Well, it’s sort of like a beach toy that is not fully inflated yet.”

8.  When asked to take part in a clinical trial suitable for stage II cancer, I asked my oncologist, “So that means I’m stage II, then?” And he replied, “Yeah– at LEAST!”

7.  After taking samples of my tumor, my physician asked, “Do you want to see them? They look like little tiny pieces of angel hair pasta.”

6.  After discussing plastic surgery for breast cancer, my plastic surgeon said, “You know they are never going to look real.”

5.  When discussing with my oncologist about getting my port removed, he said, “Well, I guess we can put it back in if we need it.”

4.  Talking to my oncologist, he says, “Well, everything is fine—for now”

3.  My primary oncologist asked me, “So, who is your primary oncologist?”

2.  My plastic surgeon remarks, “I hate making nipples.”

1.  Arriving to get a mammogram a few years after a breast cancer diagnosis: “So, why are you here?”

You may think it’s sick or a little twisted but hey you gotta have a sense of humor to be a cancer survivor…or else you’ll drown in sorrow. Have a super fantastic weekend!

Are you a dark comedy fan?  Share your funniest dark joke.

Peace and Love

Life After Cancer

Did you know that approximately 11,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40 every year?  On January 6, 2010 I was counted in that number.  Four days before my 26th birthday, my doctor entered the cold sterile room where my mom and I patiently waited for the results from a biopsy of my left breast.  It didn’t even take my doctor thirty minutes to return with the results.  Before she even opened her mouth, I had a gut feeling that she would say – You have cancer. And she did.  Since those words were spoken to me, my life has never been the same.

The past year has been one filled with heartache, sickness, confusion, fatigue, and extreme emotions.  And though people always reiterate how positive I’ve remained throughout this entire process, I’ve struggled many times to keep the negative thoughts and the pain from invading my life.  I can’t believe I ever questioned God and asked Him why? Why would He allow this to happen to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why didn’t He intervene?

I’ve come to realize that this was an attack by the devil. God didn’t want this to happen to me.  The devil tried to use cancer to turn my world upside down…to break me…to push me to lose my faith…to become unloving and cynical.  What was meant to hurt me and what was meant to have me distrust Jesus made me a better person and made my love for Him even stronger.  It may sound bizarre but I am grateful for this experience.

Since my diagnosis, my outlook on the world has changed.  My thought process is so much different.  The way I interact with others has evolved. The list of things I want to experience in life has grown. Now the importance of how I spend my time and who I spend my time with has become a major consideration. I feel and believe that I can and will do everything and anything that I set out to accomplish.  Many people wait until much later in life, often after they’ve been consumed by a demanding career, exhausted from raising a family, beat-up by destructive behavior, to re-evaluate what’s important to them or to define who they are as a person.

Being diagnosed with such a life threatening illness at a young age has helped me to realize who I am, to give me the confidence needed to face my fears, to value life, to be proactive in regards to my health, to build a stronger relationship with God, to reevaluate friendships and relationships, and to show my appreciation to my parents and family for all of their love and support over the years.

Today I turned a year older.  Not so long ago, birthdays were just another day for me.  No reason to get excited.  No hurt feelings if people didn’t send me birthday wishes.  Just another day in the neighborhood. I must admit that I was looking forward to today.  No, I didn’t have any super plans.  In fact, where I live, we got several inches of snow last night.  And in the South if we get two snow flurries we shut everything down! So, I’ve spent my birthday – or snow day – at home, on my couch, watching countless reruns of sitcoms, and taking impromptu naps.  A perfect birthday.  And every birthday that I’m blessed to see from this year forward will be perfect.

I’m thankful for today…I’m thankful for life…I’m thankful for the support and love of family and great friends…I’m thankful for Doctors Henry-Tillman, Hutchins, and Yuen for their care and their vigilance in seeing that cancer will never invade my body again…I’m thankful for the nurses and staff at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for their warmth, optimism, and ability to make me feel comfortable on my worse days…lastly I’m thankful for a loving and merciful God. If He never does anything else for me again…He’s already done more than enough.

Peace and Love

Still Standing

I’m slowly winding down my treatments. I began radiation therapy at the beginning of November.  It has been a very painless process.  Thank God!  The only thing that I’ve been overly concerned with during my treatments is skin burns.

I was warned that the area where I am being treated during therapy may darken.  That has happened. In addition, there may be some burning of the skin. Similar to what happens when you play in the sun without sunscreen.  You get a what?…Sunburn.

I’m doing pretty well.  I have a few burns.  My surgical oncologist told me to make them stop giving me therapy if I begin to burn.  I’m so close to finishing treatments that I don’t want to stop! Sad I know. But it’s almost over.  Today is my last day…woo-hoo! No more going to radiation everyday to have someone touch all over your boobs.

I think my oncologist knows that I can be passive at times so she made sure to call the radiation oncologist and let her know the deal.  She’s a pistol of a doctor! I definitely appreciate how she goes the extra mile to make sure I’m being treated properly.

I know this treatment will make sure that the cancer will never return.  But it’s pretty embarrassing when you walk in the room for your radiation treatment and one of your therapists for the day is a young and very attractive man.  Geesh! Can I have old and ugly please?  I guess he saw it in my eyes that I was mortified about him seeing me topless.  So he stepped back and let his partner for the day, a female therapist, do all of the touchy feely parts of the treatment.

CARTI patients receive two complimentary massages while they’re receiving treatment.  I went for my first massage, ever, Friday after work.  It was pretty great!  I think massages are going to be a bi-monthly requirement for me now.  I’m going back today and I’m pretty sure before I walk out of the door, I’ll be scheduling a follow-up appointment.

So tell me. Do you have any embarrassing doctor’s office stories? I know I’m not the only one. Also, have you ever received a massage? Did you enjoy it? How do you relax? Please share.

Peace and Love