breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

Let’s make a deal

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Sometimes, that’s how I feel…God’s laughing at me. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes.

I prayed every morning, for years, as I got ready for work or as I drove to work. The biggest part of my prayers- “God, please keep my husband and children safe from harm, disease, conditions, or ailments that could take their lives. Please let my children grow up, and God, please let me be around to see them grow up.” Basically, let’s make a deal, God…you and me.

Every. Morning.

In my darkest moments, when I’m my saddest and angriest about having breast cancer in my thirties, I ask God why-why won’t I get to see my children grow up because, in those moments, I feel like my body is in the guillotine with the blade hovering a hairbreadth from my neck. Sometimes, I still feel like this is a death sentence. It could be. I don’t know.

The closer I get to the end of Herceptin, the more anxious I’m becoming. The closer I get to my next echocardiogram, the more anxious I’m becoming. The closer I get to my next surgery, the more anxious I’m becoming. The closer I get to August, the more anxious I’m becoming.

If everything goes to plan, I have five Herceptin treatments left. If everything goes to plan, I have my last echocardiogram on June 28th. If everything goes to plan, my DIEP reconstruction is on July 28th. If everything goes to plan, maybe I can say I’m in remission by September.

If everything goes to plan.

If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

Is God laughing at me? Will I be around in another two years? Five years? How do I stop feeling like God is laughing at me? At A? At our family?

Why is it so damned hard for me to hope I might be a survivor of this disease? Why is it so damned hard for me to see I might be a survivor of this disease?

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breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

One Perfect Day

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been able to say I’ve had a pretty perfect day.

Today has been one, though.

The kids and I took a day off from packing and cleaning. I decided we needed a break at the local water park where we have season passes but haven’t used them much this summer. We found some seats under a large, shady tree near the wave pool, and once we settled our seats and sun screened, we played. Two hours went by before we knew it. Then, four hours went by. We would have stayed until closing, but  S has summer dance tonight.

It was relaxing. It was stress free. It was fun. I didn’t think about cancer. I didn’t worry about an area of swelling that has me worried but A thinks is because I (stupidly) wore my purse cross body last Saturday and the strap weighed heavily exactly where the swelling is, and Dr. H isn’t concerned about right now. She said to call her next week it gets worse or still worries me. It’s significantly less swollen than it was on Saturday or Sunday. So, there’s that.

I had a meltdown yesterday in front of my in laws. They were over helping me pack and clean since I can’t lift boxes or reach too high. I haven’t had a meltdown like that in months. It was a slide down the wall and sob meltdown. It’s because I’m so scared and anxious as the summer goes by and as things go well. It feels like history repeating, and it scares me so much. I told my mother in law I feel how I felt last year. I told her I was scared of the swelling. She reminded me she felt it on Saturday and said it feels nothing like how it felt Saturday. She told me she doesn’t believe the cancer is back and that it’s hot. Swelling during the heat is normal. I said everything last year was going perfectly, and this year, everything seems to be going perfectly. I reminded them that this exact week, last year was going so well. I was offered my dream job. A knew he was going to be promoted. Then, cancer happened, and I felt like I’d been given a death sentence.

I remember the Saturday after I was diagnosed, we were about to leave to go to a family birthday party, and I had a slide down the wall and sob meltdown right as we walked out the door. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face my family. I felt like I was a failure. I didn’t think I could handle the sympathy and the questions. My parents came and took S and AJ while A and I stayed home. I remember sitting on the couch with him and sobbing on his shoulder. I remember asking him what I’d done. I remember asking him why God hated me. I remember begging him not to leave me because cancer destroys so many marriages. I remember him telling me he vowed in sickness and in health and for better or for worse. I remember him telling me we were going to face this together. I remember him telling me I could cry, scream, throw things. I remember him telling me he would be there every step of the way.

It’s been nearly a year since my world turned upside down, inside out, and made me face mortality and reorder my priorities. My father in law told me he believes this year will be different. He told me he can’t believe how A and I have handled this year without losing it more than we have. He told me not to focus on this week last year but to focus on this week this year. I did that today. So, I may have lost the peace I had a few weeks ago and may be struggling right now, but today was pretty perfect.

I played with my kids, I made memories with them, I laughed with them, and I sat under the shade of a tree with wind blowing around me and felt a little peace.

family, life, Uncategorized

We Do What We Want

….within reason 🙂

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Found on someecards. No infringement intended.

A is in a work related training all this week and part of this weekend. I have a one-day work training I have to attend this week. Thankfully, one of my BFFs is attending the training on the same day.

When A came home yesterday from the training he’s attending, he sat down beside me and said, “Let’s go for it.”

I gave him a semi-confused look, and he clarified, “The house. Let’s go for it. It’s everything we want. If this year has taught me anything it’s we do what we want within reason, and we want this. We can afford it. No doubts. No looking back. We move forward because we don’t know what’s ahead. We don’t let your fear of history repeating itself stop us from moving forward with our lives. We don’t let other people dictate our choices on this. You loved that house. I loved the possibilities. The kids loved the neighborhood. So, let’s go for it.”

So…we did. We have an agent. Our house is going on the market within the next few weeks, and our new house will be ready in November. It’s a new build and not quite done. We walked one already purchased this weekend. The development has another under construction and no buyer.

They have a buyer now. We put down a deposit yesterday afternoon.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen, good or bad. Yes, I’m TERRIFIED history is repeating itself, and if it is…whatever. I can’t change it. All I can do is roll with it. Still, I’m terrified of it.

We’re making a decision that’s best for us. We have some debt (medical and credit). We won’t if we sell our house. We’ll have no debt but a mortgage and car payments, and our cars are nearly paid off. That’s our compelling reason to make this change. So, we’re doing it.

And, God willing, we’ll be in a new home by Thanksgiving. Our forever home.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Leaps and Bounds

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One year ago this week, A and I began journeys which changed our professional and personal lives. This week, one year ago today, I was at the Dallas AVID Summer Institute and A began a five step interview process for his current position. By the end of this week, both of us changed our professional lives, impacting our personal ones.

The changes seemed huge at the time…big scary steps. But, they felt right. No rhyme or reason to them except what our guts were telling us to do. So, we talked to each other and followed our hearts.

Then, the bottom fell out. The lump in my left breast I’d been uneasy about for months turned out to be cancer. And, our lives changed again. Huge. Scary.

Now, almost a year later, as the anniversary of that fateful phone call creeps closer, I find myself anxious. Scared. I’m jumpy. I cry without a moment’s notice. Every new pain or swelling, I fear it is the cancer come back to end my life. It’s hard. It’s been a hard few days around here…hard and busy.

AJ turned 8 on Saturday. He planned his whole party. We do family birthday parties. He wanted a Skylanders theme. He went with me and selected the cake, the filling, the frosting. He picked out the party food and helped with it. He’s growing up so fast. I want to be around for him as he grows up, and I fear I won’t.

God, I hate cancer.

Just as we made major changes in our lives this time last year, A and I are contemplating another major change this year-selling our house and moving. There are many compelling reasons to sell. I’m once bitten, twice shy, though. This time last year, everything seemed to be working out amazingly well for us. Then…cancer. What if history repeats itself? That’s my fear.

But…we found our dream house this weekend. As we stood in the backyard, I told A that house, that yard, that’s where I want to spend whatever time I have left on this mortal coil. I told him I could die there and not regret it at all. He got really, really mad at me for saying all that, but it’s the truth.

Despite my fears, we’re going to start the ball rolling and hope this works out for the best. Our lives have been a roller coaster for nearly a year now. What’s one more hill to climb and gut dropping descent? I can’t allow myself to be ruled by fear of cancer even though I’m terrified about it right now. I can’t allow the past to dictate my future even if I’m barely willing to see a future for myself.

I can see a future in that house, though. If the worst were to happen, the cancer come back and take me, I know A and our kids would be happy there. I can be happy knowing they’re happy. I just have to be willing to move forward despite my fears, despite cancer.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Fissures

Strange as this will sound, there have been some benefits to having cancer.

I always wondered what I’d look like with short hair, but I was never willing to take the chance and cut it. Cancer didn’t give me much choice. Now, my hair is growing back, and I like the pixie. I’m going to keep it short, I think.

Thanks to the stress, I lost nearly 30 lbs. I really needed to lose weight, and truthfully, I need to lose another 20-30 lbs. Today, I was able to wear a pair of shorts I haven’t worn in over two years because I’ve lost so much weight.

My oncology center provides complimentary oncology massages once a week to patients undergoing treatment. I’ve been having some trouble with my left shoulder. I carry tension in my shoulders. I took advantage of the massage therapy. It helped, but honestly, not enough to deal with the tension there, especially last night and today.

I’ve said before that I work really hard everyday to find some peace and happiness, and it’s true. Peace and happiness do not come naturally to me. I wish they did. Maybe I wouldn’t have cancer if they did. A well-meaning person told me stress can cause cancer. I gave them a blank stare…the same stare I give my students when they say something completely off-the-wall.

Still, they could be right. Who knows?

Yesterday afternoon and evening were rough. I don’t know why. They just were. I haven’t cried over my diagnosis in quite awhile.

I cried last night.

I sat on our bed and sobbed while A played with my hair to calm me down. It came out of the blue and lasted for a few minutes.

Then, I put myself back together.

I told A I needed to go into the living room and just be by myself for awhile. I curled up on the recliner, thought about playing World of Warcraft (I’ve played on and off since WoW’s launch), and ended up watching The Martian for the hundredth time. Sitting there, watching the movie soothed me some. It helped close some of the cracks, the fissures in my invisible armor. Then, this morning came.

Dr. O set up an echocardiogram for me on June 28th prior to my infusion appointment. It should be my last echo. It *should* be.

I’m terrified of it.

A few months ago, there were news stories of a young mother who had died from breast cancer. Two years prior, she had been diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer. Right before her last Herceptin treatment, they discovered the cancer had returned and spread to her liver. They found the mets during her last echo when the tech had to angle the wand to see around her implants.

That news story is stuck in my brain. It. Will. Not. Go. Away. I know her story is not mine. While our cancer types are the same, there are differences…important differences. She was diagnosed with grade 3 (not stage…grade. Remember, there are grades and stages in breast cancer. 3 grades. 4 stages (or five if you count Stage 0-DCIS)). Mine, both the HER2 and ER, are grade 2. She did AC-TH. I did TCHP. The HER2 cancer, the bad actor, as Dr. H called it, was completely gone when I had my bilateral mastectomy. All that was left was the ER+ we didn’t know was there. Yes, the HER2 had a high proliferation rate, but not terrifyingly high (at least not to me). The ER+ had a loooooowwww proliferation rate (hence why I wasn’t put back on chemo). I know, I KNOW, there are differences. But knowing her story scares me. I read an article where she gave an interview before she died, and the article said, “But with her type of cancer, new tumors are inevitable. It’s a question of when, not whether…”

I can’t get those sentences out of my head. Is that true? Is that my future? My rational brain says no and reminds me I have two friends who are 10 and 11 year survivors of HER2 positive cancer, one of them a survivor of an incredibly aggressive, rare form of breast cancer (she survived stage 3b HER2+ inflammatory breast cancer). Are they the outliers? Or, do I only know bad stories because that’s what’s out there? My rational brain says yes. A friend on FB recently told me to remember there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women walking around who are survivors of HER2 breast cancer. I’m just as likely to be one them as I am to be one who dies from it. Right?

Added to my mental gymnastics, Dr. L’s office called to schedule my reconstruction. Finally. It’s been a back and forth for over two weeks with his office. I needed my surgery scheduled around a week-long training I HAVE to go to in July. I love the myth teachers have the whole summer off and get paid for doing nothing. I’ve already been to two trainings this summer, worked at my school for an entire day, have a training next week, and I’m 7 days into summer break. I don’t mind because I love what I do, and the training in July is one I’m very excited to attend. In May, when I saw Dr. L, I made it very clear the surgery had to be scheduled around the July training. He told me it wasn’t a problem, and his scheduler would get it on the schedule. I didn’t hear another word until I called at the scheduler, found out she had been on vacation, and the person filling in hadn’t done much with my surgery in the two weeks since I saw Dr. L.

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Skeletor meme from memecenter. No infringement intended.

She told me it was likely my surgery would need to be pushed to August. NOPE! I threw a fit on the phone. A polite fit, but a fit, because I do not want to miss the first day of school. So, after two weeks of phone calls every couple of days, my reconstruction is scheduled. I should be happy about it…right?

 

The last time I had this surgery scheduled I came home with tissue expanders because they discovered cancer in my lymph nodes. So…

Cancer is, as I’ve said before, a mind game. Some days, you neither win nor lose. I feel like last night was one of those nights and that today is one of those days. I didn’t win the mind game. I didn’t lose the mind game. It was a draw because I’m not completely beaten. I’m just bruised.

Sometimes, that has to be enough.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Conversations in my Head

On Facebook, I like to post conversation I have with A, S, and AJ. Usually, it’s pretty entertaining, at least to me. Today, A texted me he would be late tonight (considering it’s 10:00 pm as I write this and I have yet to see him, he’s late). I texted back I was just shocked by news that he would be late. We texted back and forth a little more and ended with me telling him to be careful and I’ll see him when I see him. At least a couple days a week, I get a “Going to be late tonight” text. This is part of our new normal. Honestly, I’m ok with it most of the time because it does give me some alone time once the kids are in bed. Some nights, I’m not ok with it. I’m tired. The kids are driving me crazy. I have stuff to do. But, I deal with it.

I have to.

During radiation when I was miserable and dealing with terrible burns, I told a coworker (and a dear friend for many years) I didn’t want to do anymore treatments. I was tired. I was burned. I was in pain. I couldn’t see past how I felt in that moment. She could, though, and she told me, “I know you don’t want to. But, you have to.”

“I have to” has become one of my internal mantras.

My scumbag brain: I don’t want to call the doctor to schedule an echocardiogram. It might reveal something’s wrong.

My rational brain: I have to. I already have stuff wrong. The last time I avoided calling a doctor worked out real well. Pick up your cell phone and dial the doctor’s office.

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Found on quickmeme. No infringement intended.

My scumbag brain: Let’s think about aaaalllllllllll the absurd reasons why my left shoulder hurts instead of seeing a physical therapist.

My rational brain: How ’bout no to thinking about stupid stuff? I have to make an appointment for my shoulder.

My scumbag brain: This is too much. I’m having to ask for a lot of help.

My rational brain: I have to ask for help. Shut up.

Basically, when I have down time, sometimes my brain uses that time to be a scumbag. I fight against it everyday because having cancer is a mind game. It really is. If I’m certain of anything I’ve been through or learned in the last nine months, it’s that this is one big mind game. (Duh, L…people have been telling you that since Day One of this cancer coaster.)

Pretty much everything is out of my control when it comes to this cancer coaster. I can’t control whether the cancer comes back. I can’t control what the tests might or might not show. I can’t control any of it. I know this.

I’ve been working really hard over the last month to find peace in something everyday, to let go of what I can’t control, to stop worrying about the burdens of others, to feel happiness. I’m winning the fight more days than not, which surprises me.

On Saturday, A and I went shopping for AJ, whose birthday is quickly approaching, and while we were walking around one of the stores, A stopped and told me I seemed really tense, and I was. I don’t know why. I had no reason to be tense. I just was, and it’s things like that I have to stop.

I have to.

It’s just hard, though.

 

breast cancer, family, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Reminders of Good Times

Today, as I cleaned up the window seat in our room from six months of collected stuff, I found the binder I put together in preparation to interview for teaching positions. I updated it with stuff from this school year. Then, I stared at the cover I have on it and smiled. The cover I made says “Teaching is the most important job in the world. Every moment a student is in a classroom is a moment a teacher can change that student’s life.” I believe those words with every fiber of my being. Those words are my daily teaching mantra.

It’s crazy to think it’s been almost one year since I attended the AVID summer institute, came home from it, and told A that I missed teaching and wanted to go back to the classroom.

It’s crazy to think it’s been almost one year since A began the interview process for his current position.

It’s been almost one year since I turned my own life upside down (on purpose and with certainty I was doing the right thing) and followed my heart to my current campus.  I’m forever grateful to the friends who told me to listen to my heart instead of my head, for family who encouraged me to listen to my heart, and for the faculty and administration of my campus for welcoming me with open arms and hearts.

I can’t believe it’s been nearly an entire year since A and I turned our professional lives upside down (on purpose) not knowing cancer was lurking and would completely upend everything we thought we knew.

We’re both incredibly grateful to our families, friends, coworkers, and employers for supporting and caring about us throughout this year that should have just been us acclimating to new positions in our careers, but instead of just doing that, we spent the school year on a roller coaster moving at light speed while working new jobs, raising two kids, and trying to keep life as normal as possible.

Thanks binder for reminding how I felt this time last year-full of hope for the future, excitement for what I was going to do, and anticipation of the year. I need those feelings as I stare another major surgery in the face, another echocardiogram in the face, three more months of Herceptin in the face, the quickly coming one year anniversary of hearing a doctor say “I’m 70% sure this is going to come back cancer,” and the one year anniversary of hearing a doctor say, “It’s invasive ducal carcinoma grade 2. You need to find an oncologist” and seeing my life slip away as the feeling of a cancer death sentence slipped over me.

Everyday, I work very hard to combat that feeling. Everyday, I work very hard to consciously relax. Everyday, I work very hard to find some peace. Everyday, I work hard to remember this is out of my control.

Thank you, binder. You reminded me of when I felt a great deal of hope, happiness, and excitement. I need to remember how I felt almost one year ago today so that I can concentrate on those feelings as August lurks in the distance.

Thank you, binder. You reminded me cancer only defines me when I allow it to define me. I prefer to be defined as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, teacher. I need to remember I am more than breast cancer.

Thank you, binder. You started me on a journey to a school year where I loved every moment of teaching. I found my passion again and poured my heart and soul into everyday I worked with my students.

On the last day of school, I thanked my students. I told them I was so grateful to them for rolling with the punches this year threw, for being caring and kind, and for never allowing me to wallow in self-pity too long. I thanked them for recognizing there were days I felt terrible and knowing I felt terrible, they stepped up their game because if I could be there teaching, they knew they had no excuses. I thanked them for working so hard. I told them I was humbled by them. Then, I sent them on their ways with high fives, hugs, and tears.

So, thank you, binder. Thank you for reminding me that the last nine months haven’t all been terrible. Thank you for giving me a moment to pause my cleaning and remember how I felt nearly one year ago today. Thank you for reminding not all changes are bad.

Almost one year ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life. Thank you, binder, for reminding me cancer takes nothing away from my memories unless I allow it. So, I’ll work really hard today to stop my scumbag brain from dwelling on the negative and instead, I’m going to make every effort to focus on how I felt this time last year. That’s the least I can do for myself.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Cancer, Love, and Life

This post morphed completely from my original intent as I wrote it. This post was supposed to be about lifestyle changes I’ve made since my diagnosis. Then, it became about those changes, about my family, and about life.

Writing is weird sometimes.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m really not. I don’t believe the pharmaceutical industry is sitting on the cure to cancer and thousands of oncologists across the nation know it. I don’t believe cancer is a conspiracy in any way.

I believe cancer is an indiscriminate jerk that happens due to a variety of reasons. I also believe it happened to me because craptastic things happen. I’ve known people who are the epitome of health and BAM! cancer and others who do everything in the book and don’t develop cancer. I have a family member who does it all. Drinks. Smokes. Drugs. Tanning booths. Overweight. No cancer. Yet, according to the study I referenced in a previous post, she does everything to put her at risk, high risk, for cancer at a younger age. So, to me, that pretty much proves cancer is an indiscriminate jerk, and no one can control when or how their cells decide to misfire or go out of control.

Despite all that, though, I have made some lifestyle changes because I want to in order to maybe give myself a chance at seeing my kids grow up. I drink more water. I’m trying to eat better. I’ve lost weight and would like to lose more. I’ve begun to take care of my emotional health better. I try really hard not to blame myself for things outside my control. I try not to take loved ones’ problems on as my own (that is REALLY hard for me not to do because I WANT to help them). I’m sleeping a little better, partially because we bought a new mattress and partially because when I’m tired, I put the iPad down and sleep (it’s not happening every night because my brain is a scumbag, but I’m actively working on it). I’m trying really hard to take deep breaths and find peace in situations that would normally stress me out to no end. I recognize I can’t control what happens. I can control my reactions. That’s it.

But, part of me does blame environmental issues for cancer. So, I made some changes to my beauty routine. I use three products by BeautyCounter now mainly because a friend let me try some of what she uses from them, I liked it, so I bought them (no, I am NOT a representative nor do I sell their products…this is purely MY opinion. In absolutely no way am I being compensated by anyone for anything in this post). I switched to Crystal deodorant because it was recommended to me by someone at one of my billion medical appointments. I found it at a local store, liked it, so I bought it.

Yes, I know none of these changes may make no difference, but at least I’m trying to do something for me, and my family, that gives me peace and I can look back on and say, well, I tried. Truthfully, that’s all I want…if this beast comes back, I want to be able to say I tried. I want my kids, my husband, my family, my friends to know I didn’t just do whatever I wanted (contrary to my tshirt that says “I Do What I Want”). I did try. But, if it’s my time, it’s my time. Just remember me. That’s all I ask.

Remember how much I love A, S, and AJ and how very important it is to me that S and AJ keep doing what they do and become members of society we can be proud of, like I am of them now. I burst with pride about my kids. Last week was the awards ceremonies at their respective schools. S recieved 8 awards…7 of them being academic, and I don’t ever want anyone to forget the happiness she radiated from the one non-academic award because it was the first time she recieved an award not related to math or art, and SHE was thrilled to be recognized not only for her academic achievements but for her non academic achievements as well. AJ recieved 4 awards…all 4 were academic, and I don’t ever want anyone to forget the look of stunned pride on his face when he was announced as a top ten reader (he read over a quarter of a million words this year) and a top music student. I want to make sure they chase their dreams. S dreams of being a veterinarian with her own vet clinic that she decorates with sketches and paintings she does of all her animal clients. AJ dream of being a chef, a baker, or a pilot. Maybe a paleontologist. Or an engineer who invents flying cars. The world is his playground. Who knows what he will do! What I want for them is that if I’m not around, I want S and AJ’s curiosity and drive honored and celebrated. I want them to push to be successful and never settle for easy.

As for A, he knows. I’ve loved him since I was seventeen years old. I know I was not his parents’ choice for him at the beginning, and I know there have been times when our relationship has had WTH moments purely of my doing. But, I love him. Fiercely. I want nothing but the best for him. He is truly the best man I’ve ever known. I pray others see it, too. This has been the hardest year he’s ever faced, and it kills me to know part of it is my fault. Still, he is steady and loving and patient and kind. He works hard. He makes mistakes and owns up to them. He loves me and our family with a love I never thought I would find. I don’t deserve him. I just dont’t, and I’m stunned and grateful he chose me, despite all my shortcomings, of which I have many.

I want my family to know I love them. I have a huuuggggeeee extended family. I have two aunts. I have cousins legion. My cousins have children. My extended family is giant. And, all of them have been here for me at one point or another over the last year, more so than usual. My youngest aunt calls or texts weekly with encouragement, come-to-Jesus talks, or just to say “how ya doing?” My oldest cousin and her daughter take my children when my first lines of defense (my mother in law and my mother) can’t. My other cousins text or check in on social media pretty much daily. My parents and I talk or text daily. I could not have gotten through the last nine months without my family, and I want them to know how much I love them. I can be the standoff, quiet one. After all, I was the youngest for many, many years. I liked to be quiet and watch. Or read. Or find a room to curl up in a chair and be alone. I know I was an enigma to them at times. But, they let me be and become who I am.

Then, there’s my in laws and A’s extended family who have done absolutely everything A or I or S or AJ have needed. Period. No questions asked. A’s aunt, who I love and adore, checks in with emails and calls. She’s steady and loves us deeply. A’s grandparents and uncle keep up through social media and phone calls. I love A’s grandparents as if they were my own. They’re kind and sweet. I lost my grandparents years ago. I’m grateful we have A’s. A’s parents…they’re awesome. I love A’s parents as much as my own. A’s mom is here anytime she can be. A’s dad is here anytime he can be. They take our kids with no questions asked. A’s mom takes care of me when I need it. No questions asked. They are hard working, fiercely devoted, and love with no strings. I may not have been their ideal wife for their oldest son, but I’m their daughter, and they treat me as so. They love me, are here for me, have done everything they can for me and A, and I love them with the same love I have for my family. I don’t want anyone to forget how much I love them…how much I love all of them. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind should this beast come back despite everything I do to make sure it doesn’t.

Once upon a time, not long after I was dignosed, I told A I want my epitaph to be “She lived and laughed and loved and left.” That’s how I want to be remembered. I lived. I laughed. I loved.

But, I left against my will.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Quiet

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I’ve been fairly quiet over the last week. It’s been busy, but last week, A and I took the kids and ran away for a weekend vacation at Great Wolf Lodge. We’ve been there before, but it’s been several years. AJ does not remember our last visit there. He was three. So, several weeks ago, I asked A if he thought we could use the Memorial Day weekend to get away for just a day or two. He agreed we needed the family time, and we made it work.

We didn’t tell S or AJ we were going. I packed for everyone on Friday before S and AJ were home from school, and when A got home from work, we told the kids we were going out to eat and then staying in a cabin the forest. AJ said we were lying. S was concerned we were staying somewhere scary. A and I enjoyed messing with them during dinner and on the drive to Great Wolf. When we stopped at the light to turn to Great Wolf, we told S and AJ to read the sign. They read it, they squealed, screamed, hit A’s shoulder several times, and generally celebrated until we got out of the car. Once we were inside, they were off. Their reactions were the best, and while I wish I’d gotten it on video, I don’t regret not videoing it. I watched their reactions. I laughed with them. I didn’t feel the pressure to be the parent who videos and photos everything while we were there. In fact, the only pictures I took were of S and AJ when we first arrived. The rest of the time, my phone was in the room, and I was swimming and playing with the kids. It was a wonderful mini-vacation. We came back relaxed.

Then, this week, the last week of the school year, hit the ground running. Awards ceremonies. Field trips. Final exams. Final grades. Graduation. It’s been a go, go, GO kind of week. And, to top it off, A’s come down with either a cold or a respiratory infection. It’s just been busy. A good busy. It’s kept my brain from being a scumbag…most of the time.

It reared its ugliness some this afternoon. During graduation rehearsal, as I sat there, I became broody. I wondered if I’ll live long enough to be there when S and AJ graduate high school. I wondered if I’ll live to see my 40th birthday. I beat myself up for falling back into some old, not so good habits. I drink Dr. Pepper again. Not as many as I did pre-cancer, but I drink them again. I brooded over the study floating around Facebook this week discussing how women can cut their chances of breast cancer by 30% if they maintain a healthy weight, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t use hormone therapy. If fact, the study (it was in JAMA Oncology) said 29% of breast cancer in young women could possibly be prevented or delayed.

I love feeling as if it’s my fault I developed cancer.

No, I’m not at a healthy weight, and I haven’t been for 10 years. I need to lose another 20 lbs on top of the 30 lbs I’ve lost since last August.

Yes, I do drink occasionally. A glass of wine and a happy hour with friends here and there.

No, I don’t smoke. I never have. Smoking killed my grandfathers. I learned my lesson at an early age what smoking can do to you. But, I was around second hand smoke most of my childhood because of my grandfathers.

No, I’ve never used hormone therapy.

So, what’s a girl to do? Hindsight is 20/20. I should’ve lost weight after both pregnancies. I should’ve exercised more. I should exercise more. I should’ve changed my diet. I should’ve been more…something. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter. I am where I am. It is what it is. I have cancer. I can’t go back.

Then, I thought about all the other women in my family. There’s a weight problem in my family. My mom lost close to 100 lbs during her battle with colon cancer. My dad lost over 100 lbs in the last four years as he’s dealt with a bleeding ulcer. There are very few people in my family at a healthy weight (Sorry family members who read this, but you know it’s true.). Still, even with the weight issues, not a single one of them has breast cancer. As far as I know, the only item in that list no woman in my immediate family has done is that no one has done hormone therapies. So, as my scumbag brain asked as I sat in graduation rehearsal this afternoon, why me?

I’ve been told, by people who I’m sure thought they were well-meaning, that it could due to any number of reasons…and then proceed to list those reasons or ask me if I’ve heard ____ can cause breast cancer. I’ve given them my best interested face while in my head I screamed SHUT UP! YOU DO NOT KNOW OF WHAT YOU SPEAK! But, I stay quiet because, really, what’s the point? People believe what they believe, and there seem to be a lot of people who graduated from WebMD University or used Dr. Google and are eager to tell me what they know. And, when my brain is being scumbagtastic, like this afternoon, I hear their words and my own in an endless symphony.

I graduated from the high school I now teach at, and there’s a memorial inside the school for students who have died. We walked by it several times today during graduation rehearsal. Thanks to my scumbag brain, I wondered if my name will be on that memorial soon.

I kept all these thoughts to myself today. I stayed quiet. The teachers I sat with at graduation rehearsal are friends. Good friends. But, today’s scumbag brain session needed to be my own until I had time to process it, to feel bad about it, to be mad about it, and ultimately, to make peace with it, which is what I’m trying to do.

I accept I’m afraid. I accept I blame myself. I accept there are as many days that I don’t actively think about cancer as I have that I actively think about cancer.

I want to believe I will survive for many, many years to come. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in seven years, but it’ll be S’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in nine years, but it’ll be AJ’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe cancer will be a distant memory. I want to believe I’ll be a survivor like three of my friends who are 8, 10, 12 years out.

Yet, I also know if it’s my time, it’s my time. Nothing will or can change that.