breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Going Bald

I asked my husband to shave my head tonight. I had a tiny bit of hair left sprinkled around my head, but it was thin and brittle. It needed to go. I needed to let it go. So, I did.

My fear was that I’d look stupid, but I don’t think I do…neither does my husband. He likes it, or so he says, and I believe him. I like it, which blows my mind.

image

I’m just relieved it’s gone. I’m relieved I had the courage to shave it off. I didn’t have that kind of courage a month ago. I’m relieved my husband did it. I laughed, genuinely, as he buzzed the hair off. It tickled, and I’m ticklish. It made me laugh. It was just comfortable to sit on the edge of the bathtub while he buzzed the hair off. I’m relieved it was easy.

So, I’m bald. I look like a cancer patient.

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breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

When the going gets tough…

The saying goes “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I don’t feel very tough. In fact, I feel pretty defeated right now. I still haven’t been able to completely shake the blues. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were wonderful. Bittersweet, but wonderful. We spent time with A’s family and with my family. Our kids were excited for their gifts. I bought A some Star Wars Legos he wanted, and A bought me some coloring books and some stuff from Lush. Silly it may sound, but I was super excited and happy for the coloring books. One is called The Calm Coloring Book, and it really is soothing. It’s nice to lose myself in the pictures and colors.

On Saturday, we decided to go see Star Wars again and had tickets for the evening showing at a local theater. Right before we left, our area of Dallas was put under a tornado warning. Then, another tornado warning. And another. We checked the radar and really, for those first few warnings, the storm was bad, but not that close to us. The second storm, though, was bad and was close by, and it hit a good thirty minutes after we arrived at the theater.

A’s parents had our kids at their house, and I’m thankful for that because my town is one of the towns in northern Texas hit by a large tornado last night. We were lucky. Our neighborhood was not hit by the storm. We have no damage, but drive one mile up the road, and neighborhoods are leveled. Parts of my town are gone. I’ve lived in this town my entire life, save my four years of college. The damage is horrible. People lost everything but their lives.

In times of devastation and destruction, there are moments of good…moments where the tough get going. My town has had many of those moments over the last twenty four hours.

I need to get going. I need to find my tough. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. In the great scheme of things lately, I’m lucky. Yeah, I have breast cancer, and it’s aggressive and it sucks, but I have a good medical team. I have to trust them. I have an amazing husband who loves me. I have two awesome and crazy children. I have parents who would do just about anything for me. I have in laws who treat me like a daughter and a sister, not a daughter-in-law and sister-in-law. I have friends who are there through thick and thin. I need to stop wallowing. I need to stop the pity party I’ve found myself stuck in for nearly two weeks. I need to just stop.

 

breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

An unexpected meltdown

Last night, I had a meltdown. A sit on the floor of the bathroom, sob until I couldn’t sob anymore, cry so hard I get a headache, meltdown. It was bad enough that I reached out to a friend who is a HER2 breast cancer survivor and sent an SoS text to my mom. My husband and our kids were having a movie night, and I didn’t want my meltdown to ruin their night, so he didn’t know I was losing it in the bathroom. He didn’t know I’d reached out to my mom and to my friend…until my mom showed up and simply asked him, “Where is she?” He was stunned to find me sitting there on the floor, sobbing, but he also knew to leave me with my mom.

My mom had colon cancer a few years ago. She nearly died from an obstruction that December 26th. It was horrible. She had emergency surgery and spent weeks in the hospital. She knows, better than most, how I feel right now and why I melted down.

It’s the holidays.

I’m terrified this is my last Christmas Eve…Christmas Day…New Year’s Eve…New Year’s Day with my husband and children.

My mother gave voice to my fears last night. And, she validated them (and me) by telling me she felt the same way after she was diagnosed. She understood and let me cry. I just kept telling her how scared I am. How truly, deeply scared I am.

Then, my friend, who I’d texted, called me and told me I have to remember that the stories I read are not my story. We don’t know what my story will be. All we know is what my story is right now, and right now, I’m doing everything I can so this isn’t my last Christmas Eve…Christmas Day…New Year’s Eve…New Year’s Day. My mom reminded what they told me two appointments ago: We don’t know what’s going to kill us. We just know we’re all going to die. It could be this. It could be walking out of my house in the morning.

My husband said the same thing to me after my mom left last night. I told him I feel as though I’m staring death in the face, and I’m terrified. He told me I stare death in the face everyday. I just don’t know what it looks like.

He’s right.

It doesn’t make me less scared.

But, as my friend said last night, the stories I read are not mine. I don’t know what mine is. What I know is what my mom told me: I cannot allow the fear to consume me. I have to find my way out of this meltdown.

So, I’m sitting here, in my living room, waiting for my in-laws to come over for our annual Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes celebration while watching Food Network wearing a red and white candy stripe wig. I look ridiculous, but I bought and wore the wig the last day of the semester on a dare from a student, and I felt okay that day. It felt good to be silly. So, I’m hoping this helps pull me out of the meltdown.

And, if it doesn’t, at least it’ll be good for a few laughs.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Post Treatment Blues

This is normal for me. For a few days post-chemo, I’m down. I’m really down. Part of it is because I don’t feel well. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t feel terrible. I really don’t. But, I don’t feel great. The taste in my mouth came back quickly this time. I feel run down. My nose runs. My eyes water. I’m fatigued. I just don’t feel good.

But, it’s the holidays, and it’s not my kids’ fault I have breast cancer. So, on Sunday, A and I took them to see Santa. AJ knows exactly what he wants: a robot. He loves to build and to create. So, a robot it is for our little man. We know he’ll love it.

S is a little withdrawn this year. She doesn’t know what she wants. All she could tell Santa was she wants something blue. Our girl loves the color blue, and she loves Boo, The World’s Cutest Dog. So, her Daddy went to Nordstrom and bought her the oversized Boo we saw a few weeks ago. I found her a blue scarf  we’ll wrap around Boo, and it’ll be her Santa gift. I think she’ll love it. I hope she loves it. I hope it brings her some comfort and peace. S is a child that internalizes her struggles, much like her daddy. When she’s ready, she’ll open up to us. We know she sees and hears more about my illness than we want her to, but at the same time, we don’t want to hide things from her and her brother. It’s a delicate balance of answering her questions and protecting her.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday in bed. I ventured out to the mall for a few hours to find something else for S. AJ has been so easy to buy for this year, but not S. So, I went to wander. The mall was its usual pre-Christmas chaos. I found a few more things for S, and a couple of hours was all I could handle. When I got home, I went back to bed and drifted. A says I napped, but I don’t believe him. The blues hit me hard last night. I cried some last night. A did what he does and held me until the tears stopped. Then, he sent me to bed with Harry Potter on the TV because he knows I sleep better with noise in the background and something soothing.

This morning, I woke up around 1:30 am and spent the rest of the early morning tossing and turning. I couldn’t go back to sleep because I couldn’t stop the horrible merry-go-round “You have breast cancer…you have breast cancer…you have an aggressive breast cancer.” I hate when I can’t get the merry-go-round to stop. I know I have breast cancer. I know HER2 is aggressive. I know it…I KNOW it. I don’t need to hear it in my own head.

A woke up around 8 am, and we talked. He asked why I’m struggling so much this time when Dr. O was so positive. He knows, though, why I’m struggling so much. I don’t feel good. I’m scared. I’m a pessimist. So much out there says HER2 doesn’t stay in remission. It comes back. It responds to treatment, but it doesn’t stay away. And, that’s my fear. This morning, I asked A, “What if this is my last Christmas? My last New Year’s?” And, he responded, “You don’t know that it is, you don’t know that it’s not, and if it is, how do you know it’ll be the fault of this cancer? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in fear and depressed?”

Trust A to hit the nail on the head.

I spent a lot of the last several years worried about melanoma because I’m at high risk for it. I fretted over every spot. I ran to the dermatologist anytime I found something new or thought something had changed. I never gave breast cancer more than a passing thought because no one in my family has ever had it. Yet, I find a lump in my breast, and what did I do? I ignored it. For months. And I worried about it. But I didn’t run to the doctor about it until my gut told me something was wrong. I lived in fear for months. Fear of the unknown. Fear of it being cancer. And, it is cancer. Just not the one I feared…it’s one I never knew to fear.

I’ve been thinking today about the line from Better: “Don’t die before you die. We’re all terminal cases.” I don’t want to die before I die, but right now, I feel like I’m dying, which is ironic since we’re all dying simply by living. I can’t find my optimism. I can’t find my happiness.

A asked me to do one thing today: Make cookies.

I always make cookies before Christmas. I like making cookies. I like baking. I like cooking. No one is more surprised than me that I like cooking and baking and am fairly good at it. By now, I’ve usually made several dozen chocolate chip, butter cookies, chocolate crackle cookies, peppermint rice crispy treats with chocolate chips, and pumpkin spice cookies. This year, until today, I’d made…none. I hadn’t felt like it. And, truthfully, I didn’t feel like it today either, but I made some. I made several dozen chocolate chip cookies with S acting as sous chef. And, I made the dough for the butter cookies. We’ll do those tonight or tomorrow. The kids look forward to making those, and while my not-so-itty-bitty-cookie-decorating-committee will not win any cookie decorating contests, they love making them and decorating them.

A tells me that forcing me to do little things like baking cookies is forcing me to live. I guess he’s right.

I just want to get past this case of the blues and find my happy again.

breast cancer, Uncategorized

Treatment 5/6 is in the books…

I had the best night of sleep last night since this crazy train started in August.

When I saw my oncologist yesterday, Dr. O, I confessed everything to her. I told her I feel fine physically except for the hot flashes, but since Tuesday, I’ve been an emotional wreck. I told her about the news story I read of the young mother who was HER2 positive and died this week. I told her how scared I am the treatment isn’t really working. I told her I haven’t slept more than four or five hours in weeks because of hot flashes and just being uncomfortable because my heel hurts (planar fasciitis from an old injury) and the toes on that same foot itch and the foot twitches at night.

I’ll give Dr. O this: tell her your struggles, and she’ll do whatever, if anything, she can to make life better.

She asked me if I was taking the prescription sleep aid Dr. H gave me. I was honest. I told her no because I’m afraid of the side effects and horror stories about it on the Internet. Dr. O laughed, told me to stay off the internet, and to take the pill. She told me she’d just come from another patient’s room who takes the same sleep aid and sleeps beautifully on it. Dr. O challenged me to try it just once this weekend when I don’t have to get up and see how it works. She told me if I had any side effects to it she would switch me to a different sleep aid because sleeping well is non negotiable. My husband, who was with me at my appointment, assured her that I would take it this weekend. And…I did. I took it last night, and it truly was the best night’s sleep I’ve had since August. My husband told me he could tell it’s the best I’ve slept in months because I didn’t toss and turn.

As for the hot flashes, I’m already on something to help treat them. Dr. O said if I’m still having them every night, the dose is not high enough and upped the dose a little bit. She also said the medicine will help with the anxiety I’m having. She assured me that the way I’m feeling right now is completely normal because chemo has messed up my ovaries, put me into menopause (or chemopause, as a friend called it), so everything is out of whack. She said the treatment, along with my fears, are causing anxiety. So, hopefully, the increased dosage stops the hot flashes and treats the anxiety.

The heel isn’t really anything she can do anything about…I just like to complain about it. Two years ago, I severely sprained my right ankle. The orthopedic I saw told me I was going to wish I’d just broken it because it would heal better and faster and because my left foot was taking so much of the pressure off my right, I would probably end up with problems with my left. She told me what every other doctor tells me. Wear supportive shoes, take ibuprofen when needed, ice it, and wrap it if the pain is really bad. The toe itching and twitching and hurting is a different matter, though. She’s concerned I may be developing a bit of neuropathy, so I’m increasing the dosage of one of my B vitamins and am supposed to report if the itching, twitching, or hurting doesn’t stop.

My fear of the treatments not working is something she did address. She did a thorough clinical breast exam, as she does at every appointment, and she told us she can no longer feel an area that feels any different than the normal breast tissue. She feels no area of density or calcification. She feels nothing. She reviewed her notes from my first visit and told us she feels nothing like what she felt then. She told us, in her medical opinion, I have responded to the treatments beautifully, and she said she believes I’ve already had a complete pathological response. She stressed that it’s impossible to know for sure right now because I haven’t had surgery, but she said all physical and clinical indications are I’ve responded. She said I have no reason to worry, but followed that by saying, she understands why I’m so worried, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. I asked her about an area I can feel, so she examined it and told me it feels like normal breast tissue. She reminded me normal tissue doesn’t always feel flat. It’s bumpy and in pods. She said I’m feeling a bumpy pod. It made me laugh.

I told her how little side effects I had to treatment 4, and she was delighted and told me to do whatever I did, so hopefully this treatment goes as easily as 4.

I have some major tests and appointments coming up over the next few weeks. I have to have an echocardiogram right before New Year’s to check heart function since Herceptin can cause heart damage. I’m hoping with all my might they find my heart function to be as good as it was before I started treatment so I can stay on Herceptin, and they find no evidence of anything else.

Then, that next week, I have, what will hopefully be, my last chemo treatment. I’m having it two days early because Dr. O is scheduled to be out of the office when my treatment was originally scheduled. Since it’s my last (please) chemo, she wanted me to come in and see her, so hopefully, my counts will be good and I can have treatment.

The week after treatment, I meet the plastic surgeon for the first time. He’s come very highly recommended, is one of the top plastic surgeons in Dallas, and works closely with my breast surgeon. I have high hopes for him. I want to come out of this healthy and with breasts that don’t look totally fake…like something someone bolted onto my chest.

The week after that, I meet with my breast surgeon to schedule the bilateral mastectomy.

There’s a lot I need to do between now and then. I need to go to Nordstroms for a mastectomy bra. I need to write my lesson plans for my sub when I’m out for surgery. Those are the top of my list. I know there’s more, but those are weighing heavily on me right now.

I’m working on my positivity. Dr. O gave me a lot of hope yesterday. I just hope I’m not getting my hopes up only to be slapped down, which is my history with hope.

breast cancer, Uncategorized

Struggles

My emotions are out of control today and tonight. I’m struggling. Physically, I’m fine. Emotionally, I’m not. Not by a long shot.

I’m scared. I’m really scared

I read a story on Yahoo news about a 36 years old woman who died this week from breast cancer. One of the stories said she was diagnosed at stage 2B and before she finished her year of Herceptin treatments, the cancer spread to her liver and bones. Stage IV. Before she even finished a year of treatment.

The story scared me to my core. That could be me.

So, tonight, after my husband came home, I sat with him on the couch and cried like I did the night after I was diagnosed.

I see my oncologist tomorrow and am scheduled for chemo 5 as long as my blood work is okay. I hope it is. A friend is really encouraging me to open up to my doctor about how scared I am. There’s not a lot she can do, but maybe she can talk me off the ledge I’m on.

It’s funny how different I feel today versus how I felt a week ago. Last week, I felt great. I was getting ready to graduate with my master’s. I was proud and happy and excited. This week, I don’t feel so great. I’m scared and anxious and fearful.

Cancer is a roller coaster, and I hate I ever got placed on this ride.

breast cancer, Uncategorized

And just like that

Just like I physically have good days and bad days, emotionally, I have good days and bad days. Since I had my fourth treatment three weeks ago, I’ve had many more good days than bad. In fact, I haven’t felt this good since August, before I was diagnosed.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, though, I crashed. Several stories on Yahoo dealt with cancer deaths, particularly of young women. The stories hit me hard. I have treatment this week, and deep down I’m scared the treatment isn’t working or isn’t going to work for long.

I’m scared. As I told my husband last night, I’m really scared, and there are times, without warning, the fear comes roaring back. Last night was one of those times.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

When you already have trouble sleeping and feel like you’ve lost control over everything…

Sleeping well is an activity I typically fail at because I have what I like to call a scumbag brain. The second I go to bed and settle in to sleep, my brain usually does something like this:

Brain: Hey, remember that pain in your left heel?

Me: Yeah…the one I’ve had since I severely sprained my right ankle two years ago, and my left ankle and foot compensated for the injury?

Brain: Yeah that one. What if it isn’t from compensation but cancer?

Me: …

Or, something like this:

Brain: Remember when you were a bitch to your husband four years ago?

Me: No…

Brain: Sure you do! You said _____.

Me: Okay…

Brain: You should feel bad about that. Let’s feel bad RIGHT NOW.

Or, something like this:

Brain: Your lesson plan for tomorrow is boring. Your kids are going to be bored. You should fix it.

Me: It’s midnight. I have to be at work in seven hours. And, the lesson plan is fine. The kids will not be bored.

Brain: You have a boring lesson plan. FIX IT. NOW.

Me: *worries for hours*

On the nights when my brain leaves me alone, our cat usually doesn’t. He wants to be pet. IMMEDIATELY. And, he will meow at the top of his lungs. On the rare night when my brain and the cat behave, I like to stay awake because I’m a night owl. There’s Pinterest. There’s good books to read. There’s the internet to surf. There’s stuff to do!

Then, I found a lump in my breast, had tests, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sleeping became next to impossible. My husband was the one who told my surgeon that I have trouble sleeping, and at that point, I hadn’t slept for longer than two or three hours in the days since my diagnosis. She wrote me a prescription for a sleep aid, and I haven’t touched the prescription.

I don’t want to take a prescription sleep aid. I don’t know why…I just don’t. Part of me doesn’t want to because I’m already on so many prescriptions to handle the side effects of my treatments. The other part of me doesn’t want to because sleeping is one of those things I can still control. If I want to stay awake and Netflix NCIS for hours, I can. I have control. If I want to stay awake and read for hours, I can. If I want to stay awake and Pinterest for hours, I can. If I just want to stay awake, I can.

With my cancer diagnosis came an absolute loss of control, and while I’m not a control freak, I like to know I can control things when I can. And, now, I can’t. It feels like I’m always at the mercy of someone or something else. I can’t plan ahead too much because I don’t know what I’m going to feel like day to day, especially on those days right after treatment. Just last night, my husband wanted to make plans for this weekend, but then he asked me when my next treatment is, which is this Friday, and the second I said that, there went setting plans for this weekend. We can’t commit because who knows if I will feel as good after round 5 as I’ve felt through round 4? What if round 5 is as bad as round 3? That’s the game we play, and I have no control over how I’m going to feel.

Letting go of control is hard. I want to feel like I can control some part of my life right now, but I can’t. I’m at the mercy of treatments and doctors and appointments and surgeries and side effects. It’s frustrating.

And, it’s one of the reason I struggle so much with sleeping well lately. When I feel as good as I have the last week, I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay awake and enjoy things. But, I know I need to sleep.

So, here I am. Sleepy, frustrated, and anxious with no one to blame but myself.

breast cancer, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Living life

Last night I graduated with my master’s degree. I posted on Facebook that last night was a night that cancer didn’t get to win. And, it didn’t.

Yesterday, I felt normal. No side effects. No nothing. I went to work, taught my classes, laughed with my students, bowed to their applause when they remembered I was graduating later that night, and reminded them to be at the study session bright and early the next morning (today). When the moans and groans started, I reminded them that if I could get up and be at school by 7:00 am on a Saturday after being out at graduation late Friday night, so could they. And, to my surprise, all but about 10 of my students showed up this morning, bright and early, ready for six hours of intensive study sessions.

I know I’m not always going to feel as good as I did yesterday, or even as good as I feel today despite not sleeping much Friday night. But, it’s nice to have a few days where I feel normal and can be normal. It’s nice to have days where cancer doesn’t win. And, last night, cancer did not win. This morning, cancer did not win.

I worked my tail off for my master’s degree. The university I attended for my master’s has an intense program where students can complete the master’s program in as little as a year or the normal time frame of two years. I chose the one-year route, which meant I took two classes every eight weeks. The classes are the equivalent of the semester long course crammed into eight weeks. The professors do not lower expectations, decrease writing assignments and projects, or reduce reading assignments. It is a difficult program. I watched several classmates drop classes, and in some cases, drop the program. I began my last class the week I was diagnosed, and I called my adviser, panicked, because I didn’t think I could keep up with the last class while undergoing treatment. She talked me off the ledge and encouraged me to talk with my professor before dropping the class. If I dropped, I would not be able to take the class again until the summer session. As it was my last class, my adviser wanted me to try and finish. I wanted to try and finish. I’d worked too hard, but at that moment, having just been diagnosed and having no idea of what I faced, I doubted my ability to finish the program. My adviser suggested I take a few days, talk to my professor, and then call her with my decision. I took her advice, and I’m so glad I did. After emailing my professor and talking with her, I decided to try and finish the class. And, I did. I wrote my last paper while receiving my second chemo treatment, much to the amusement of my chemo nurse. I didn’t want to write the paper and complained the entire five and a half hours I wrote the paper and received chemo. It was worth it, though because it was the only obstacle standing between my degree and me. Now, I have my degree. Who knows if I’ll do more with it because right now, I love teaching, but at least now I have one life goal scratched off my list.

I walked across the stage last night and proudly accepted my master’s degree (well, the degree cover with the letter that states if I’ve met the qualifications for my degree, I’ll receive it in the mail within the next 8 weeks). I know I’ve met the qualifications, so now I wait for the mail. And, I know, no matter what happens in the future, last night, cancer did not win. Cancer did not stop me from achieving my master’s degree. And, cancer definitely did not stop me from participating in the commencement ceremony and celebrating with my family.

For one night, since this roller coaster began, I got to be normal

 

breast cancer, Uncategorized

Little Annoyances

I’m tired. Fatigued really. It’s a side effect of the chemo, targeted therapies, the week before finals, and the general craziness before the holidays. There’s a million things to do, it seems. My daughter, S, was the lead in her school winter play, and the performance was last week. This week, she has her winter dance recital…on a day when we have three other major events happening. It’s been one of those weeks for my husband for the last three weeks at work. The only one not causing us to rush around and adding to the million things to do is my son. AJ’s content to stay at home and read Goosebumps or play Lego Star Wars. To add to the craziness, I will graduate with my master’s degree this week. So, I’m tired. I haven’t slept well in weeks. Again, it’s a side effect.

When it comes to side effects, I’ve been fairly lucky. The chemo regiment I’m on is a hard one. I’m on TCHP (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta…a new-ish regiment). Thankfully, it seems to working the way it should, but some of the side effects are brutal. The fatigue and the taste of I-just-brushed-my-teeth-then-drank-orange-juice really gets to me. I’ve dealt with hair loss. I haven’t lost all my hair, but I’ve lost enough that I will not go out without wearing a hat or one of my wigs. I’m just not comfortable otherwise. I’ve dealt with acne breakouts. I’ve dealt with digestive side effects. Thankfully, I haven’t (yet) dealt with nausea, mouth sores, bone pain, or flu-like symptoms. I’ve only missed one day of work (outside of days for treatment) and that was because I developed laryngitis and could not talk, at all, one day. That’s a problem for a teacher.

My treatment schedule is TCHP every three weeks for six rounds then Herceptin every three weeks for a year. So, next September 28th, maybe I’ll be done. Hopefully, I’ll be done and this will just be a bad memory. I’m scheduled to have round 5 next week, and then one more in January. Then, surgery. The double mastectomy.

I have friends who think it’s cool I’m going to have a double mastectomy because I’ll get implants. They ask me if I’m excited to get new breasts, and I don’t know what to say. No, I’m not excited. No, I don’t want implants. I want my breasts. I don’t want to have major surgery and miss weeks upon weeks of work. I like my job. I want to be at work doing what I love. I don’t want to deal with surgical pain and drains. I don’t want to wake up from surgery to find out that the cancer is in my lymph nodes. We know the screening tests have not shown anything in the lymph nodes thus far, but we won’t know for sure until surgery. So, am I excited? Are you crazy? No. I don’t want to have breast cancer, so why would I be excited to get a mastectomy and implants? Would you be excited? That’s what I want to ask them. But, I don’t. I just look at them because we are friends, and I know they’re saying it to make me feel better or to encourage me to see the brighter side of this surgery, but it doesn’t. My life is so different, and it will never be the same again. I will never look like “me” again, or that’s how I feel. It doesn’t matter if the implants are the same size as what I have now, which is what I plan to do, even though one of my friends jokingly thinks it would be awesome if I got big implants. Again…no, are you crazy? There’s nothing awesome about having a mastectomy and getting implants. There just isn’t. And, I wish people would realize that. It’s not the bright side of this journey.

The bright side is having surgery and finding out the cancer isn’t in my lymph nodes. The bright side is Herceptin and Perjeta doing their jobs and letting me live long enough to see my children grow up so I can be there for them. The bright side is growing old with my husband. The bright side is all the things I’m afraid this cancer will steal from me. But, I know Herceptin and Perjeta are wonder drugs and have done amazing things for women with my subtype of breast cancer, so I’m cautiously hopeful. I want to be one of those women.

I have a friend who just celebrated her 10th anniversary of surviving Stage 2B HER2 breast cancer. I want to be her. I have a friend who just celebrated her 11th anniversary of surviving Stage IIIB HER2 inflammatory breast cancer. I want to be her. And, I know to have the chance to be either of these women, I have to suffer through the side effects and little annoyances.