Monthly Archives: June 2015

 

I have been thinking about this post for some time. What to say? What to share? And my eyes fill up with water. Just as I am typing now.

My dad.

Where does one begin. The above picture, my Dad and I took just a few hours before we headed to the hospital for my mastectomy on November 5, 2014. My very favorite place, Washington Park. I do not remember what we talked about. I honestly do not remember much of anything from the time I was diagnosed to my surgery. It was this strange blur of living with cancer, and waiting for my surgery.

Ever since I was in high school, my dad and I have this thing of going on long walks. When I am home in Kentucky we prefer to walk during the heat of a summer day. More recently we will drive to the park nearby my parents home and we will set off to walk for an hour or more. This has been our tradition for years. So the morning of my surgery it only seemed appropriate for us to go on a walk. The above picture remains one of my most treasured pictures. I remember that morning, the anticipation but more than anything I remember being at peace  about the unknown future that was before me.

Growing up I was always told I looked just like my dad. I remember a time when we were at the grocery store together, I must have been six or seven I am not sure. But a woman made quite a scene announcing that “if any little girl looked just like her daddy it was me.” My big brown eyes next to my dad and I remember feeling so special. Good for me this has not changed a bit.

I do not know what the past year has been like for my dad watching me with breast cancer. But, I do know what it feels like to watch your dad watching you with breast cancer. What it feels like to watch your dad grieve. What it feels like to be loved by, cried for, worried over by someone so much. I am not sure if it was the time we were in the car. Sitting in the parking lot less than twenty four hours from my diagnosis,  weeping. Or when I fell asleep next to him as he researched doctors. But never once did I doubt that I mattered. Never once did I feel abandoned. Not once was he not there. The day I was diagnosed my dad landed in Denver less than twelve hours later. And if you remember reading (if you have not then click here to read the full story), my dad surprised me and flew me to Guatemala to be at my best friends wedding that I was certain I would miss due to my surgery.

So on this very special Fathers Day, I would like to say Thank you. To my dad. For loving me so well. For crying over me. Praying over me. Worrying over me. It is an honor and a privilege to be your daughter. And thanks to you, I knew to be brave and to be strong.

I am your daughter after all 🙂

Love Your Bean Head.

Three months ago I had my last round of chemotherapy. While I am still sleeping a lot. I am starting to feel better each day. I am bike commuting half the week  and I finally feel my body recovering. This is a short post just to highlight the one thing that is not a big deal but is TOTALLY A BIG DEAL, HAIR.

Below are pictures capturing the progress of my hair these days… I am getting excited for my Pixie Cut that is quickly coming in. My hair has really started to grow. If I do not shower in the morning, I have to wet my hair to make sure I do not have bed head. All good things and something I never thought I would have to deal with. Needless to say enjoy the below pictures:

April 15, 2015 – Just three weeks after my last round of chemotherapy.

April 27, 2015 Eye brows shrinking – taken right after my reconstruction surgery.

May 8, 2015 – Pencil Drawn Eyebrows and clear hair. Still Bald but beginning to grow.

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Left photo from June 4, 2015 and the right photo from June 11, 2015

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June 13, 2015 – Hair is standing up. Buzz cut in full swing.

June 18, 2015 – Hair lays down. My eyebrows are coming back. Eyelashes (lets not talk about them, they are falling out).

HOWEVER…when I ask the Lord to give me eyes to see grace, to see beauty, to see ALL that is good, He takes my breath away. – Mundane Faithfulness

I am not sure I ever asked to see grace, but all of a sudden grace just happened. Grace starts to take over when the hard is unbearable. When the hurt is to great. When I am simply too tired to try.

The past week I settled into a new normal, as I told someone Saturday. I now expect in the evening a night sweat or two (or three). I am prepared now when the sweat takes over (often through my clothes) and I must turn on my fan at my desk. Typically right around 9:00 am every morning. I am learning my new limitations. Accepting the difficult reality that is “I had cancer”. Because it is a thing…. there is a past tense of cancer. I had it. Now it is gone. Just like that.

The support and love carried me through and now I am learning to navigate the post cancer life on my own.

I cry thinking about looking in the mirror at my scars. I deliberately shower, change my clothes and hardly look in the mirror before I am covered. I don’t know if this will ever change. I find it hard to accept something that feels not apart of who I am. After the mastectomy I lost all feeling across my chest. I often forget that I even have them.

Do I hate them? That’s a tough question to answer. They just are. Maybe hate would not be the best word to use. They are not what I had. I know I have mentioned this before, but they are not. Clothes don’t fit as they should. Bathing Suits are meant for “real breasts” not strangely constructed fake breasts. Everything about them is hard. (both literally and figuratively).

But if you ask a stranger they look amazing.

That is just it though. How others perceive me and how I perceive myself are two different things.

So I am intentionally working on the self perception part…

I am aware of the emotional storm that left me in the current state that I am in. I feel like me but in a different light, with different fears, different thoughts and looking to the world with a new set of eyes. So I daily try to embrace my scars, the hurt, the fear, the rejection, the outcast, and all that cancer brought about. I am still in menopause and on top of that I now take a pill each morning, that worsens the side affects of the menopausal state. I wonder over my eyelashes that have now gone scarce and my buzzed head that is coming in. I daily feel around my breasts for abnormal. Afraid that something might be there. It is all apart of what cancer left.

They don’t tell you that in recovery and healing how distant you will feel from the world. I am more introverted. I value time alone and hours of rest.I also realize that some of this is who I am and who I have always been. But before cancer, I never dared to live that person out fully. And now I have no shame. I just do. I do me. And the new me, the new normal is good.

Weekends are starting to fill up, my skin is tan and my legs are tired. (Biking and Running are in full swing). Saturday I went to Boulder early in the morning to watch the 70.3 Ironman. This race I had signed up to do just weeks before being diagnosed. Shortly after learning of my diagnosis, the Ironman organization refunded me. Needless to say it was bittersweet to be there on race day watching as the racers passed by, knowing that I would have been in the field had I not had cancer. Feeling of envy mixed with joy that I was able to be there to watch. Someone sent me a message and said, “You have accomplished far more than that race in the past year”. I thought to myself, that is so true.

Thank you. Those words cut straight to my heart and meant so much. Today I take deeper breaths, cry often, laugh a lot and try my best to seek joy in everything. This new normal. It is good. It is different but it is still good.

Hope this finds you well today.

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From the race course Saturday morning, I rode around 20 miles or so to check on the racers cheer on a dear friend!

“If that remains my expectation, then I will surely be disappointed.

But perhaps I can expect something else that is equally good, only different.”

These words shared in a post made by Kara Tippets husband Jason here, regarding his place as a widower after the passing of his dear wife from Breast Cancer. I have continued to read his words over and over again. The notion that if my expectations remain such … then I will surely be disappointed.

My expectation that I will come out of menopause. Because in all candidness that is the thing that is the thing I am waiting for. Waiting for a my ovaries to wake up again. Waiting for the hot flashes to subside. Waiting until I have cramps like a typical twenty something female does? Will they ever wake up? Unfortunately my hot flashes and night sweats remain. Just yesterday I was sitting at my desk and had to turn on my fan as sweat beads came down my face. I am getting used to them. I no longer make such a fuss about them. I have adjusted. But they are the reminder. That this temporary menopause may be around to stay.

But even with them, I hope for a lot these days. To be honest the days I find joy more than ever before. That is indeed one of the sweet outcomes of having cancer and having the privilege of living beyond it.

Jason goes on to say, “I don’t like this new circumstance, but it helps me to embrace my new reality.”

I don’t like that I had cancer. I don’t like that I do not have MY old breasts anymore. I don’t like that I have scars across my chest. But it is my reality. A reality I am leaning further into than avoiding all together. I have chosen to move more into my story of cancer because it makes me who I am today.

What part of your story could you embrace as a part of who you are?

Their is a newness to who I am. To who God is in my life and the confidence I have in my future. Whether my cancer returns or whether it does not remains out there in the unknown.

As for today I chose joy, and hope over and over again. Below is a recent picture of my hair coming back in. I nicknamed myself the Chia Pet. The hair is growing like crazy.

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Took this picture last night of the sky and the clouds… So beautiful.

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One of the most common questions I am asked is how am I feeling?

Truthfully, right now, I am well. I am sun burnt from riding my road bike, and my legs are tired from a hike Erin and took Sunday in the mountains. My weekend was filled with good company, an early morning bike ride for coffee, music, good beer and yummy food. However I know that just as this weekend was good, moments are coming when I will not feel the same way. My emotions continue to ebb in flow just as the river flows and cancer still shows up in the very small parts of my life. In just seconds I find myself in tears.

Another little girl on the train in the airport whispered up to her mom to explain the sight she saw when she looked over at me. “She doesn’t have any on her head”, she boldly told her mom. I smiled and so did her mom. Those moments when I meet the eyes of stranger they share something with me that encourage me to simply keep on. As though her smile was one of both sadness and encouragement. As though she was saying you go do you, go and live.

It is still a very surreal reality that I had cancer.

My finger nails are not really improving. They are still green and black. And my scar on my right side still is not healed completely but tomorrows appointment he will take a closer look. But the big news is that I now have to remember to shave my armpits. (sorry if that is too much information). After months of not having to shave, I forget to do so now. Hair growth is reason to celebrate! Regarding my pre-menopausal state that I mentioned posts ago,  I am still experiencing consistent hot flashes and night sweats. This is to assume then that my ovaries continue to be in menopause. I will continue to wait and pray and hope that this may change. But I have slowly started to let this not be on the forefront of my mind as I am starting to live in today. The reality that the family I one day desire to have may not happen on the terms I imagined that they would is something I started to embrace the day I chose to harvest my eggs.  And then again was reminded of when I only was able to harvest four eggs.  I no longer assume anything. I explained to someone I hope for much, expect little and joyfully embrace whatever may come my way.  I am confident in the story out in front of me and all that it may or may not include. Knowing fully well he has great things in store. Things to change me and the very desires of my heart to be fulfilled in ways I could not imagine. I am hopeful still.

I will continue writing, and if you are new finding your way to my page I love to hear from people, as well I will be doing a special post revisiting things from months ago. I will continue to be sharing, more about post cancer life, adventures and some things that may be helpful if you know someone diagnosed or you are someone diagnosed.

Again I appreciate your words, your coworkers who prayed, your church who had me on their prayer list, the donations made in my honor, and a special recognition to Baceline Investments (my employer) who went and continues to go above and beyond during my cancer journey.

Hope you have a lovely day. I love this quote from the book Love Does, “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”

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