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

Honesty is the hardest policy

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If a part of becoming a happier person is being honest with myself by labeling negative emotions, then I have to address the elephant in my headspace.

I’m jealous…deeply, horribly, shamefully jealous, and that jealousy leads to me being angry. Together, they make a nasty stew in my head full of negative thoughts and what-ifs and why mes.

I’m jealous of people who don’t worry about cancer.

I’m jealous of people who are healthy.

I’m jealous of people who do not struggle to lose weight.

I’m jealous of friends who seem to have it so easy.

I’m jealous of ex-friends who keep making bad choice but come up smelling like roses.

I’m jealous of people who are happy.

If I’m being honest with myself, I have to acknowledge this part of me. It’s an ugly part. But more than anything, I have to change this part. Honesty is like forgiveness -you have to mean it. So, to put a more positive thought process into practice, I’m starting a 30 day self-care challenge, and I’m throwing away products I’ve been holding onto that I’m not going to use again.

Last year, a friend at work who used Beautycounter (no, I’m not a consultant, and no one asked me to provide this information) encouraged me to check it out, and I switched my foundation and powder to theirs. Sunscreen is where I always feel damned if I do and damned if I don’t because the EWG decries most sunscreens, and let’s be honest, I don’t want to give myself any more reasons to blame myself for cancer. To that end, I switched my sunscreen to the Beautycounter sunscreen lotion. It’s expensive, but it was so worth it last summer. I didn’t get a single sunburn, nor did my daughter. It smells a little like limes to us, it goes on easily, and it’s not greasy. I actually feel good about using it. I just ordered two more bottles (I know, I know, but we’re going to Florida in a few weeks, we have a community pool in our new neighborhood, and we have season passes to the local waterpark. We spend a LOT of time in the sun and water), and I literally feel relieved. I do so much that’s not good for me..junk food, Dr. Pepper, candy…that I have to do things for me that make me feel as though I’m doing something good for me. I can be more aware of my beauty products, and I am, now. Hence, Beautycounter…and Say Yes to Cucumbers…and Acure. I no longer use any beauty or skin products with parabens and such if I can avoid it. I feel good about what I’m putting on my skin, and as much as I love my Bath and Body Works stuff, I don’t feel good about using it anymore. So, today, I trashed or recycled everything I was keeping. Wasteful? Yes. None of it was new or unused, though. Some had less than a tablespoon of soap left. Part of the self-care challenge is purging what you don’t need. I didn’t need any of it.

Another part of the self-care challenge involves cooking. That’s not a big deal for me. I know how to cook. I like to cook. I’d fallen out of the habit, though, so we were eating a lot of drive thru (read: McDonalds and Cane’s). Besides not being the best for us, it’s a killer on our budget, so I’ve cooked every day this week. In fact, yesterday, A, when he came home to crock-pot pulled pork sandwiches, he told me he likes summers when I’m a stay-at-home wife. I laughed. He laughed. He knows as much as I love the idea of staying home, I wouldn’t do it long-term. I’m not the kind to put all my eggs in one basket. I need to help provide for our family. Beyond that, I love teaching and where I teach. As I told a friend this week, I’ll either retire or die a teacher. On Monday, I made homemade red pepper cream sauce (with peppers from our garden) and vegetable pasta with baked marinated chicken bites. On Tuesday, I made smothered pork cutlets, mashed potatoes, and spicy asparagus spears and quarters tomatoes (from our garden). On Wednesday, I dry rubbed some pork shoulder and threw it in the crock pot with sliced onions, sliced mushrooms, and some chicken stock, and then, I made black-eyed peas to go with it because I believe in the superstition that black eyed peas can bring good luck. Today, A had a second round interview for a job opportunity which would be an amazing challenge for him and an awesome opportunity for our family. I’m grateful he even made it to the second round of interviews, which takes me to another part of the self care challenge: Being grateful.

I have the app Calm. I’ve begun using it for the 7 days of Calm and the Best of Daily Calm. One of the Best of Daily Calm’s programs is a gratitude one. I did it today. I’m working on that whole changing my brain process from constant negative. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. As I’m staring my five month check up in the face, I just want to crawl in bed, pull the covers over my face, and cry for days. To be honest, I’ve done that, but it’s not going to solve anything, and A, as always, is right when he said I’m just allowing it to steal my joy. I’m not joyful, not by a long shot, but I am grateful today…and yesterday…and Tuesday, when I started this challenge.

Today, the Daily Calm was to think of people you’re grateful are in your life and to focus on the happiness those people bring into your life. That was easy. AJ, S, and A. My parents. A’s parents, sister, and brother. BFFs Ashley, Natalie, and Heather. Cancer recoverers Kristen and Diane. My teacher squad. The people who are my center, who I can call in the early morning, who I can rely on no matter what, no questions asked, no judgement given. I’m grateful for them.

Yesterday, the self-care challenge for gratitude was an event you’re grateful for happening. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but the first thing I thought was actually when I was hired for my current teaching job. I was so damn glad to go back into the classroom and to do what I know I’m meant to do. I liked instructional coaching and curriculum development, but my heart is with students and school communities. When my current campus said they were sending my packet to HR for hiring, I hung up my phone and cried. I was so happy. Then, I called my teacher squad, several of whom had encouraged me to seek a teaching position. As much as 2015-2016 sucked with cancer, it was a school year that truly changed me as a teacher. I told my Class of 2017 seniors on the last day I saw them prior to graduation, they changed me as a teacher. Their kindness, their work ethic, their concern for me and for each other changed me. I can count three senior classes in my 17 years who fundamentally changed me as a teacher: the Class of 2004, the Class of 2012, and the Class of 2017. I’ve taught some amazing kids in other senior classes who deeply affected my life (Class of 2008 and Class of 2011, I’m looking at you!), but these three classes changed me as a teacher. The Class of 2004 were my first students. I taught them as freshman and then as juniors. We learned high school together. I am proud to count many of them and their families among my friends. The Class of 2012 helped me remember why I became a teacher. I had them as freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Not going to lie…I was becoming a burned out teacher when I had them as sophomores. Their curiosity for learning and burning need to prove themselves made me dig deep as a teacher. Challenging them was a challenge for me, and as they challenged me, it made me find myself as a teacher again. Then, the Class of 2017 walked with me through cancer, and never once were they anything but kind, caring, and understanding. As far as I was concerned at school, cancer couldn’t affect me at school. Those kids were in my classroom for an excellent education, and I’m not the type of teacher to give busy work because I’m tired or not feeling well. We powered through together, and I couldn’t be prouder of my students. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I’ve had as a teacher to impact my community.

On Tuesday, the challenge was to find one thing to be grateful for, and honestly, my first thought was A. He’s my rock, and I’m so damned proud of him and the work he does. I’m so proud of who he is, and I’m so grateful he’s stuck with me for 21 years. I know I’m not the girl he or his family envisioned him dating, much less marrying, yet he fell in love with me. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for him.

I hope this self-care challenge and the Calm Gratefulness Meditation helps. I really do. I’m actually, really trying to be good to myself. The little girl I was would beat up the woman I’ve become…the worried, negative, pessimistic, sad woman I am. That little girl took risks, embraced challenges, and tried to make others happy because she was happy. It’s my mom’s fault I’ve been thinking about myself as a kid. My mom found one of my old dance pictures…the last year I took tap classes. She brought it over to give to me, and after she left, I looked at that picture and thought about that last year of tap. I hated my tap teacher, but I loved tap. So, I tapped. I had a stupid rehearsal outfit (tights and leotard were pink with black tap shoes all over them). I didn’t care. I remember having to go up to my mom’s school, now the school I teach at, one night after tap class because she was working the concession stand at a basketball game. I had on that stupid outfit and my tap shoes. I remember some kid who was working the concession stand asking me if I wanted to borrow a spirit shirt. I remember staring at them and then tapping out of the concession stand, into the Student Council office. I was nine…maybe 10. That girl wouldn’t recognize the woman she became.

I have to work on that because I want my little girl to be proud of me. I don’t want S’s, or AJ’s, memories of me to be like my memories of my grandmother. She was negative and pessimistic. She was loving and caring. I want to be more, to be better than that.

So, I’m working on it.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Rule of Fear

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I broke down in tears yesterday right before I prepped dinner. I’m pretty good at hiding my tears, or I try to be. I don’t want to worry S or AJ or A. The thing is, though, I’ve been worrying A for weeks. He knows I’m worked up about my upcoming five month check up. He’s not unobservant. It’s his insight, his ability to see the trees and the forest, and his compassion that make him so good at his job and with relationships, which he has to be for his job, too. Building strong, productive relationships is a huge part of his job. It’s not something he takes lightly at work or at home.

He doesn’t tolerate me being down for long. He wants to fix it, to fix me, yet there is no fix.

When he realized I was crying, he followed me into our bedroom, sat down beside me, and asked, “When do you see Dr. O?”

“June 20th at 1:00.”

“So, nine days. You want to be miserable for nine days, there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s your choice. What I can tell you is what I’ve told you for years -when all you do is fret over the future, you steal the joy from now, and you’ll never get now back.”

He’s right. I know he’s right. I’m doing this to myself because I’m scared the cancer is going to come back, and I can’t do a damned thing about it. So, I’ve dug myself into a hole that’s dark, and I’m miserable.

Do I want to be like this for nine days? No. Absolutely not.

The truth is I’m afraid if I let go, I’m inviting the worst to happen. If I stop worrying, I feel like I’m opening myself up to my fears coming true.

A coworker posted an article on Facebook this weekend about the neuroscience of happiness. She’s an RN, and I swear, this article was meant for me to see. It states, “Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.”

I stopped the gratitude journal I was told to keep by my cancer counselor. That was stupid of me.

When I was a teenager, every single weekday morning, I did a devotional before school began. I found these devotional guides, I can’t even remember what they’re called now, but every page or so was a story or prompt or Bible verse and guided questions. Each ended with a fill-in-the-blank prayer which focused on the lesson. I don’t want a Bible based devotional, though. As I’ve said before, my relationship with God and church is complicated at best. It’s just not as simple as it was when I was a kid. Too much baggage. Too much heartbreak. Too much disappointment.

I do want a meditation journal, though. Something similar to what I had as a teenager with guided lessons and specific targets. I remember how calming and soothing it was to start out each school day with it.

I bought the Sunrise Manifesto a few weeks ago. I haven’t started it, yet, but maybe I will this week. Every lesson begins with a gratitude question. Neuroscience says just searching for gratitude is enough to trigger the right brain response. I’ll give it a go. My current brain response sucks.

As for naming the negative feeling, it’s fear. I’m freaking afraid (not the f word I want to use, but my mom reads my blog and would yell at me, and yes, I’m 39 and still have a healthy fear of my mom).

I’m scared.

I’m terrified.

I once read to help yourself with your fears, look at yourself in the mirror and say the fears out loud. I’ve done that.

I. Have. Cancer.

It’s my reality. I. Have. Cancer. I’ll always have cancer, even if I live to my hundreds and die in my sleep like my great-grandmother who died in her sleep at 101. Remission doesn’t mean cured. It means dormant. Asleep. Undetectable.

I’m scared of the cancer returning, of not being around for S and AJ. I’m scared of the cancer returning, of not being able to work and ruining A’s financial stability. I’m scared of the cancer returning, of dying a slow, painful death.

I’m. Scared.

There. I labeled the negative emotion. Now, I have to decide how I want to spend the days leading to my five month check up. Day-by-day. As my mom tells me, one day at a time. That’s good enough.

S and AJ are full of hugs. It’s the first thing they do after waking up. They come find me and give good morning hugs. That’s good enough.

All of this is literally in my head. The choice are mine. I can let my fear of cancer rule me or I can rule my fear.

It’s ruling me right now. I can either say enough or remain miserable.

It’s so hard to be bigger than my fear, and truthfully?

I don’t know if I can.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

I need something

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I need something to do, something to take my mind off my upcoming 5-month check up, something to take my mind off cancer, something.

I’ve read two books in the last six days.

I’ve taken my kids swimming four times in the last five days.

I’ve seen two movies with my kids in the last seven days.

My kids have pretty much done everything possible to shove summer vacation into seven days.

My mind keeps whirling.

I haven’t slept well in weeks.

I can’t shake the ten pounds I’ve gained since the oophorectomy.

I overspent our budget. A lot.

Summer is not starting out the best…

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

You need to be a happier person

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Today is World Cancer Survivor’s Day. I don’t know if I was supposed to celebrate or punch a wall.

I did neither

Instead, I sobbed and yelled at God today.

I know I’m not worthy. I know I’m not the greatest person. I make mistakes. I’m prone to jealousy and melancholy. But. I try. I love with my whole heart. I hate the lack of compassion in the world. I’m scared of the hate in the world. I know I’m not worthy. I know you don’t particularly care about me. I’m tired of being told you love me, you gave me this burden to grow, to show others how to move this rock. I’m tired. I just want to see my babies grow up. I’ve watched 15 high school graduation as a teacher. I’ve sat in 2 as a relative. Will I sit in S’s? In AJ’s? I know I’m not worthy. I know you don’t like me. But, dammit, I’m not the worst person in the world. I’m not the worst person in my family. People say you only give us what makes us stronger, but that’s crap. If this was to make me stronger, what’s next? All this has done is make me weaker. I know I’m not worthy. I’m just me. I wish I were good enough.

A told me he wishes I’d find some happy. “If you keep being miserable for something that hasn’t happened, you’re wasting time you could be happy.”

I know that. I do. I know being miserable, on guard, wondering when the cancer will return to rot my life as it rots my body, does me no good. I know.

But, on this graduation weekend, on this World Cancer Survivor’s Day, I wonder how many more I’ll live to see, and I damn myself for having cancer in the first place because if I didn’t have it, I’d never wonder if I’ll see my babies grow up, and I’d never give more than a passing thought to cancer.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

A piece of my heart

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A piece of my heart beats outside my body. He wears size 5 youth shoes, a medium shirt, and size 8 pants. He loves Pokémon and Captain Underpants. He’s obsessed with Legos and Star Wars and Marvel movies. He has a quick grin, a smart mouth, and hair that would give a chia pet a run in the craziest hair ever contest. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He’s eight, almost nine, years old. He’s sweet and frustrating and funny and smart. He’s shy and brave. He’s quirky, a little nerdy, and so full of life. He loves running, swimming, playing outside, and acting silly.

It’s been a rough year for AJ, this year of 2nd grade. He’s learned some hard lessons this year about friendship, making good choices, and responsibility. I’ve watched him, this piece of my heart, be bruised as he learns life lessons. It’s taken all of my wherewithal to let him learn these lessons, not to be the helicopter parent, not to be the parent who fixes it instead of letting him learn, not to save him failure.

His 9th birthday looms, and he decided he wants to have a party where he invites his classmates. With it being a summer birthday, I know few are likely to come. And, I’ve done my all to prepare him for the fact that no one, or very few, may show up, and I’ve watched my precious boy gather his determination and find his bravery to go to school, to pass out those invitations, and to wait, to see if anyone texts or emails me that they will come. It’s agony for me. I want nothing more than for everyone to see AJ the way I see him -smart, funny, silly, and kind.

He is impatient, he doesn’t always follow the rules at school, and my fear, even though his teachers assure me it isn’t true, is that he is “that” kid -the kid no one wants to be friends with because he’s different, my super smart son. He goes to an academy for kids who are academically gifted, which AJ is. To me, AJ is the stereotypical gifted kid. He’s afraid of failure, a perfectionist, who is easily frustrated. He almost never gets angry, but he’s quick to impatience and prone to believe the worst in himself.

God help me, he’s me.

His sister makes friends easily, knows how to navigate the social landscape. She’s gregarious and outgoing. She’s sure of herself. She’s had almost three more years in this life to learn the lessons AJ is learning. I remember going through something similar with her when she was in 3rd grade. I know AJ will learn, and I hope he will become as gregarious and outgoing as his sister, but right now, he’s unsure. He tells me he’s not brave enough, but to me, he’s more than enough, and I want, so much, for others to see it too.

Parenting, allowing pieces of your heart, to walk outside your body, knowing you cannot hide them behind bone and muscle, veins and tendons, is agony and joy, heartbreak and elation.

Yesterday, after school, AJ ran to me, gave me a huge hug, buried his face in my neck, and pulled away long enough to say, “I passed the invitations out Momma. Thank you for letting me.” I kissed his forehead and gathered him tightly in my arms, savoring, knowing moments like these are fleeting, cancer or not. He’s eight, almost nine. He won’t be able to sit in my lap, bury his face in my neck, and be held tightly much longer. He won’t want to sit in my lap, bury his face in my beck, and he held tightly much longer. These moments are precious. He is precious.

I have a son.  A smart, silly, kind, smart little boy. Brave yet uncertain, learning lessons I wish were easier to learn, yet knowing these lessons have to be learned. I have a son. I love him with ferocity and wish I could protect him from everything, yet I know I can’t. I have a son. No matter what happens to me, this piece of my heart makes our lives better, richer. I have a son, a piece of my heart living outside my body, walking this Earth.

He and his sister, they are the best parts of me.

 

family, life, teaching, Uncategorized

It’s been a strange day

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The end of the school year is in sight. My school district has seven days left, counting today. Our seniors are almost done and are wrapping up their high school careers. Our underclassmen are finishing cumulative projects and preparing to advance to the next grade level. There are awards ceremonies, student recognition ceremonies, last concerts, graduation rehearsal, and final exams.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Top 10 luncheon where the school district invites the Top 10 seniors in class rank from each high school campus, their principals, their parents, and each senior selects an influential teacher to attend with them. I attended with an amazing young woman, 3rd in her class, who is one of the smartest, kindest students I’ve known in 17 years of teaching. Her senior class, the Class of 2017, is one of the most compassionate classes I’ve taught. Yesterday, I had the honor to present three of my seniors with scholarships at the senior awards ceremony. I will deeply miss this senior class, and graduation will be joyous and sad.

As the campus Teacher of the Year, I have the honor of sitting on the stage with the class sponsors, the principals, school board members, and the interim superintendent. Watching each of them walk the stage will be bittersweet -excitement as they move to the next stage of their lives, sadness knowing I will not see them walking the halls of our high school next year. They will join me as alumnus of this school when the school year ends and graduation commences.

Today started out as a normal, end of the year day. I woke up later than I wanted to, but it’s the end of the year, and I wasn’t going to be late…I just woke up later than I planned. Since I knew I didn’t have anything extra on my plate today at school, I threw on minimal makeup, a pair of black pants, a black and gray linen blend shirt, and a black cardigan. Appropriate attire for the end of the year, especially an end of the year which involves packing up my entire room.

Everything was totally normal until 8:15 am when our principal’s secretary came down to my classroom. She held a note for me with a message to call our district’s communication coordinator ASAP, which to me was strange because I knew I would see her tonight at the school board meeting. See, two weeks ago, all the campus Teachers of the Year were honored at a school board meeting. Then, the Friday after the board meeting, I was surprised by the interim superintendent and our communication’s director during my second period class -They came to announce that I had been named Secondary Teacher of the Year for my district. I’m still shocked by it. All the campus Teachers of the Year are invited to apply as our district Teacher of the Year, which I did with no expectation of being selected by the committee who then selects a district Teacher of the Year for elementary and another one for secondary. Tonight, the district Elementary Teacher of the Year and I will be presented to the school board.

I called our communications coordinator, who is lovely, engaging, and savvy, and when she answered, she wasted no time.

“Channel 8 wants to come interview you and do a story about you,” she told me.

Once I picked my jaw off the ground, I squeaked out, “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” I sounded much like the teenagers I teach.

She explained to me that last week when one of the local media outlets was at the district office for something, and she mentioned that one of the district Teachers of the Year (me) was campus Teacher of the Year at the same school she (me) graduated from, and the year she (me) graduated, her mom (my mom) was Teacher of the Year at that campus (because my mom made me go to the high school she taught at, and no, it was not an awful experience for me). On top of that, she (me) had two former students teaching in the district who are campus Teachers of the Year this year as well. This morning, the news outlet called our communications coordinator and told her they want to do a story about me and my mom sharing Teacher of the Year 20 years apart for the same campus because it’s a unique human interest story.

Long story short, the news outlet came to my campus this morning, filmed me teaching, talked to one of my students, interviewed me, and then went to the school my mom teaches at now and interviewed her. If everything goes to plan, it’s going to air tonight at 6 pm.

 

I honestly felt like the most inarticulate, silly, person ever as they interviewed me, and to be honest, I’m really worried about what they’re going to air. I don’t want to look stupid, and I’m afraid I came off as stupid.

So, I guess in a few hours, I’ll see what they put together. Hopefully, it’s better than I expect. The communications coordinator assures me that I did well and so did my mom, but still.

It’s just been a really, REALLY, strange day.

 

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

A collision with cancer

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I’ve damaged relationship with some friends lately, people I’ve known two…five…ten…seventeen years.

How?

Politics.

My politics are too aggressive. My viewpoint is too harsh. My animosity towards the healthcare situation is too strong. One friend told me she liked me better before cancer.

Me too. Sort of. Me too.

There’s a lot of WTH to process in that statement.

Before cancer, I kept my politics to myself or family and close friends. Long, long before cancer, my mother would leave a room if my father and I were watching the news together and Reagan, Bush, or Clinton, or Ann Richards or Bush Jr were on the news in some way -she didn’t like mediating our politics because I was a Republican and my father, a Democrat. Long before cancer, I realized I disagreed with much of the GOP platform, and I realized my politics were shifting moderate, democratic. Long before cancer, I minored in political science, found myself fascinated with constitutional law, toyed with the idea of law school. Before cancer, I voiced my opinions, but I did it quietly, in a roundabout way because I’m a people pleaser. I don’t enjoy when I upset or hurt people. Then…cancer.

When I was diagnosed, one of the only sighs of relief I took was knowing the ACA protected me from being dropped by my insurance company and prohibited annual and lifetime limits or caps. I knew my treatments and surgeries would be covered- I would not run afoul of an annual limit or test the reaches of a lifetime limit. Then…Trump, the GOP.

The AHCA, a bill so despicable, Congress exempted themselves from it and opened the door to annual and lifetime limits, even on employer provided insurance. Again.

When the House passed the AHCA, a friend with a lifelong autoimmune disease texted me that she felt nauseous, afraid of what might happen, especially since she’s in the throes of a flare right now. I called her instead of texting. We talked for nearly an hour, both of us terrified of what lies ahead for our health, our families, if this atrocious bill becomes law in any shape of the House form.

Another friend asked me why I’m really all that worried since, “your cancer is gone.” My head exploded. Then, I corrected her, told her I am no evidence of disease, and all that means is right now. When I see Dr. O on June 20th for my next 5 month check up, I’ll know my future five month fate. We live check up to check up, scan to scan, test to test, us cancer patients. I’ll either gain a five month reprieve or take part in another conversation regarding cancer I hoped I’d never have.

It’s funny, and by funny, I mean not funny at all, but when I was diagnosed, when I was quiet about my politics, when I soldiered on with a fake smile and an “I’m fine,” lie, I had all the support.

Then, I spoke up to my friends about the protections of the ACA. I used clinical evidence from the ASCO and from the annual SABC conference. I used personal evidence. I used nonpartisan evidence from CBO. I condemned those who voted for Trump for what millions of people with preexisting and life threatening conditions are now enduring, the fear of what happens next, as if having a medical (or mental or physical) condition isn’t enough worry and stress. I begged friends and family to understand from where my fear came.

My condemnation was too much, I guess. So now, I’m left to wonder is it me who is in the wrong. Do I regret the stance I’ve taken, the choices I’ve made?

A little, actually.

I’m a people pleaser. I hate causing drama -I’ll enjoy a bowl of popcorn as I watch it if it doesn’t involve me, though. I don’t want to be disliked. I’m choosy when it comes to friends, and I’m grateful for my small squad of framily because not a one if those friends I trust like family have been anything but loving and supportive. It’s the bigger circle that’s shrunk, and I am saddened by that because I am choosy and thought I chose well. But, then again, I’ve been blindsided and backstabbed more than once before. Maybe my judgement isn’t the best, but the reason why is the best: I believe the best in most people, especially those I know personally. I give second, third, fifth, twentieth chances.

I know the adage, you can’t please all the people all the time. I understand that. What I don’t understand is how you can support me through cancer, cancer treatment, and cancer surgeries but then be offended and disappear when I call out politics and political games when those directly affect my life and the lives of those I love. What would you do? Remain silent? Put on a fake smile and an “I’m ok” lie?

Been there. Done that. I did it to protect my friends and family because I figured no one really needed to hear how bad I felt from chemo, whatever reaction I was having to Perjeta, how tired and overwhelmed and terrified I was (and still am). My parents, my in laws, my husband all knew. They lived it with me. Sometimes, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about cancer and treatments and surgeries and prognosis. Besides, it was made pretty clear to me that people expected me to breeze through as though it was nothing because it’s breast cancer. It’s treatable. It’s easy.

WTH?

Now, I know the people who expected that of me were fools, but worse, so was I.  I allowed that expectation take hold in me. I couldn’t let anyone down. If I did, I was a disappointment, and that’s one thing I cannot abide, being a disappointment.

I’ve said and done some pretty stupid things. I’ve hurt people without meaning to do so. I am sorry for that.

I’m not sorry, though, that cancer made me more likely to speak up than remain silent. I have so much to lose if I remain silent. I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but I won’t stop calling out those in power who are trying to undo eight years of healthcare progress. My life literally depends on it, and you know what?

Yours might too.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

15 years

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4:00 PM

May 18, 2002

I do.

15 years ago today, I married A…my high school sweetheart, my college sweetheart. My sweetheart, much to his chagrin (and others), sometimes. I fell in love with A when I was 18. I didn’t know what that kind of love was. I was a teenager. A high schooler.

I was stupid.

He loved me anyway.

We’ve been together for 21 years. There’s been drama (again, high schoolers are stupid sometimes, and we were no exception). There’s been graduations, jobs, miscarriages, births, cars, houses, surgeries.

There’s been cancer.

I’ve spent a good chunk of the last two weeks buried in a lying loop of depression. I’m going to die. The cancer will kill me. This is my fault. I deserved cancer. If I were a better person, this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I were thinner, healthier. A deserves better than me. I’m better now…I started breaking the loop last week, and for now, I’m ok. I’m staving off check up anxiety and scanxiety. I see my radiation oncologist next week for my six month check up with him. I see Dr. O on June 20th.

The scans, the appointments, the test. They never end. I lurch from one to another to another. That’s the life of a cancer patient. Cross your fingers. Hope your scan is clean. Hope your numbers are good. Hope you hear “See you in six months,” and it actually be true.

I’m waiting on the day when it isn’t true…if my body developed cancer once, it can do it again, no matter what I do.

I’ve had a lot of unwelcome and unwanted advice from people on social media lately. Have you tried juicing? You should juice. It’ll help your body be less acidic. Acid causes cancer. Did you know acid causes cancer? 

I’m so sick of the food police. Do you really think I don’t know some of this, or do you assume I don’t care? Here’s the deal-I know this stuff, but I like donuts, and if my cancer comes back because of donuts, well…hell, it was probably going to come back anyway.

Tonight, as A and I celebrate 15 years of marriage, I’m not going to worry about food…or cancer. Not tonight. Cancer steals so much of my life, and I allow it. So…not tonight, cancer. Not tonight.

The 15th wedding anniversary is traditionally gifted with crystal. I spent too much time yesterday wracking my brain for ideas with crystal that weren’t cut crystal photo frames or things for an office desk. At 2:30 yesterday afternoon, it hit me -geodes, A likes geodes and polished stones. So, off I went to our local metaphysical store (yes, seriously).

I bought him an uncut geode for him to crack, to see the treasure inside. I bought clear quartz for all purpose healing; amethyst, my birthstone, for stress relief, anxiety relief, and protection; rose quartz to soothe and encourage love and harmony; citrine for healing, prosperity, abundance, and protection; black tourmaline for protection; carnelian for inspiration and perseverance; adventurine for true love, lasting relationships, and luck. I bought a set of crystals for him and a set for me. I don’t know that I believe in the metaphysical association with crystals, but I like the symbolism. After all, it’s our crystal anniversary. We could do with some healing, stress relief, protection, harmony, prosperity, perseverance, and luck.

True love and lasting relationships, though…there, we’re good. I’ve never loved anyone but him. He’s my better half, the missing piece to my soul. He’s my best friend.

He’s my lobster.

When I met A, I knew he was a good kid, but the man he became? That man is phenomenal. I really don’t deserve him. He chose me, and not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for his choice. I’m difficult on my best day. He laughs it off and tells me he’s the man he is because of me, that I brought him out of his shell, encouraged him to see things differently, helped him find joy.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t care. I care about our fifteen years, two kids who are our hearts living outside our bodies, jobs we like, a home we love, three cats who exasperate us, family and friends who support us.

There have been plenty of times where A could have walked, and no one would have blamed him, but that’s not who he is. He sees things through. He makes things better.

He makes me better.

I may not live to see the “big” anniversaries, the silver, the gold. That’s not okay. Yet, I have the crystal with him, and that? That’s one thing cancer can’t take.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Cell Phone Hater

I hate my cell phone.

I hate when it rings. Whenever it rings, there’s usually news on the line I don’t particularly want…or a telemarketer…or an automated message from my daughter’s school. Seriously. My phone rarely rings for a good reason. I dread my FitBit vibrating because 9 times out of 10, it’s vibrating because my phone is about to ring or there’s a text. How did I find out I had breast cancer? My cell phone. How do my myriad of doctors contact me? My cell phone.

Today, my phone rang a little after 3:00 pm. I glanced down and saw my daughter’s school. I grimaced because when her school calls, she’s either in the clinic because she’s really sick or broken a bone (the broken bone thing has happened twice), or she’s forgotten to tell me she needs to stay late for choir practice. Today, it was choir practice. Not bad news per se, but it was definitely not news I wanted because I wanted to come home and rest. My left side incision is sore after standing and working all day today. Resting did not happen.

As I left work, my phone rang again. It was Dr. He’s office. I need to come in so he can check my incisions and clear me. The only time he can see me is right after school dismisses one day next week. My life seems to revolve around doctor’s appointments and Baylor Dallas.

I hate text messaging lately, too. Most of my texts are friends venting to me because I’m the group listener and shoulder, requests for me to do something, family members telling me something has happened, or alerts to pick up a prescription from CVS. Occasionally, it’s a friend or family member texting to say hi or ask how I’m doing (or my mother-in-law asking about my bolognese recipe). More often than not, though, it’s not my mother-in-law recipe comparing or someone checking in on me. I really do hate when my text message sound dings. I steel myself before I look because it’s so often not something I want to read that I’m programmed to expect bad news. How did I find out my mom had colon cancer? A text message (from her). How did I find out about my dad’s brain tumor? A text message.

Work is crazy right now for A. He left for work at 6:30 am this morning and walked in the door at 8:30 pm tonight. The rest of this week will be like that for him…including Saturday. He has a work event to attend. He texted me at 3:30 pm this afternoon with an update and it wasn’t the best. Things are stressful right now. I take his worries and concerns on me, hoping I can make things better. I can’t. It doesn’t stop me from trying.

I hate my cell phone, but I can’t get rid of it. I need S, AJ, A, my family, his family to be able to get in touch with me. I just wish it communicated more to me than news I usually don’t want.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Is it confidence or arrogance?

I’m mad at myself tonight. It’s a great way to end Spring Break.

As I took a bath, my thoughts turned to last year -I’d just returned to work and started radiation. I did everything the doctors told me to do. I endured 28 sessions of radiation and dealt with skin so burned it’s STILL tanned and stiff…sometimes uncomfortable.

I’m still doing most of what the doctors tell me to do, but tonight, I’m mad at what I’m not doing. Not losing weight. Still drinking Dr. Pepper. Not exercising. Still sleeping badly. These are things I control, but I’ve convinced myself a couple of Dr. Peppers won’t hurt, it’s okay if I haven’t lost more weight since I lost 30 lbs after I was diagnosed, I walk a lot at work (which is a lie), being a night owl isn’t a bad thing. I think I’m being arrogant. The farther away finishing chemo and the mastectomy get, the more arrogant I become. Or, I am becoming more confident?

I don’t know which it is for me…arrogance by believing the cancer might really be gone, or confidence because I’m still alive. I know I was arrogant before my diagnosis. I truly believed I would never develop breast cancer because my family had no history of it, and I believed even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t develop it for a long time because I’m young.

That was arrogance. Fate, karma, God, whatever decided to put on the hat and remind me who’s really in charge -not me.

So, is it arrogance or confidence now? I want to believe the cancer is gone, and I’m going to be like two of my friends who are dozen-plus years survivors of breast cancer. At the same time, I know Fate, karma, God, whatever could go, “JK,” the cancer comes back, and kills me in a matter of months. Still, isn’t it arrogance to think the cancer is gone, that it won’t come back? Isn’t that the same as believing I’d never develop breast cancer in the first place?

I feel like I’m being arrogant. So, I’m mad at myself.

And, to be honest, I’m mad at Fate, karma, God, whatever because this happened to me. Oh, I may have made peace with the fact it happened, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be angry about it, too, from time to time.

I’m stuck in cancer purgatory because I feel as though it’s arrogant to think it’s not going to come back, yet, I’m mad at myself because I’ve allowed part of myself to start believing it won’t come back because I’ve done all the things.

Plenty of people do everything the doctors say and more, but it comes back, meaner, nastier, harder. Plenty of people are humble and gracious as they deal with cancer and the aftermath. Then, there’s me, neither humble nor gracious.

Isn’t that arrogance, then? Shouldn’t smiting follow?

Purgatory…cancer purgatory. It’s not a pretty place, and neither is my head nor my heart tonight.