This is it - full 31 day straight blogging challenge is done today - I am now going back to my regularly scheduled as needed blogging schedule. This was hard af.
So it is Halloween, the last day of my 31 day Breast Cancer Awareness Month blogging challenge. I shared something every day this month whereas usually I just blog as the feeling moves me. I have also been more active on Insta and Twitter this month. It has been a lot of sharing.
There are monsters and goblins and things to be afraid of every day when you have cancer. There is an insurmountable mountain sometimes in front of you that just flashes "I have cancer!" over and over in neon lights.
I just to cross that HAVE into HAD and instead focus on the positive - the way I survived - shit thrived during chemotherapy. I choose to think about how before that I kicked fucking ass on my mastectomy. I choose to think how I did a pet scan and it was CLEAR. How I worked full time during my chemo and still was "here" for my kids. How I rocked my new hair once it started to grow in. How I got fit and dropped my weight down to the "magic" number of 147.
I will think instead about my family and friends and who stayed by my side and not even spend a minute thinking about who was not there or who was only there for part of it and not all. Cancer is a thing that can ruin your life - easily. Instead, I will chose to look past the monsters, smile at the goblins and fucking laugh at the ghosts because I am here and here I will be for as long as I can. I will pray to be cured but for the time between, I set a goal and I did it - I wrote and bared my soul and my chest literally and figuratively. I will not give in to the fear even though it can be hard sometimes. I will not get overwhelmed with all of the things I need to do at home. I will continue to try to share the tasks so that I can exercise self care and to just keep my life in the order I need it to be - not what others expect of me.
This is what I do in the time between. Now back to my regularly scheduled ad hoc postings :).
Happy halloween to all!
I truly do not know what the hell I was thinking to "challenge" myself to blog every day this breast cancer awareness month - my first as someone who has/had breast cancer.
Today is the eve of the last day, I guess and tomorrow is Old Hallow's Eve (?) right? So maybe there is some symmetry to this stupid idea of mine.
When I say "stupid" it is with a smile - I love to write but as I am working on this daily blog post, I am also working on my first novel i-am-writing.html and looking for a new job when-god-closes-a-door-he-opens-a-window.html oh and I went away on my own for the first time in over a decade to focus on ME being-a-woman-or-how-a-local-charitable-organization-marys-place-by-the-sea-has-boots-on-the-ground-toes-in-the-sand-helping-women-cancer-patients.html.
I recognize that my words help others - my website unique visitors count shows me that on a daily basis and the folks who do reach out to me solidify that what I am doing "matters" or "helps" the other 1 in 8 women who are facing a diagnosis of breast cancer,
As I write this, 67 people have been on my blog TODAY and 1495 this week. Words have power and sharing my story helps me manage it and deal with it. I will not lie, though - as much as I smile and focus on today, there are fears. Fears that my cancer will come back, fear that it will become terminal (by spreading to other organs or metastasizing). Last night, when I returned from my weekend away at Mary's Place by the Sea, I felt thrumming with emotions. I had uncovered so many things about me and how I feel and what I feel that it was like too much - sensory overload. I had tears coming and part of it was from the fear - the fear that I will die before my time.
I want to tell you it is easy to move past these fears but it is not. However, once you realize that YOU are still HERE you have to shake it off (in the words of the immortal Taylor Swift). I let those fears and tears fall, then I said, "Pray, hope and don't worry!" because that is my mantra, it is what works for me. The truth is, no one knows what the future brings and I say this to myself over and over again. It just hit me hard in the gut, though, that I would have cancer. That I would be in a situation where I was truly, honestly "sick" after really being one of the healthiest people I know.
Why was I so healthy way back when - because I did listen to my body. When I was tired or run down, I stayed home and did not put on my low cut shirts and go out to flirt and party. When I felt icky, I missed a day from work and rested in bed. I was born old - I say this all the time and it's true. Even this weekend with my new friends at Mary's Place by the Sea, at dinner I was like, "Whoa, it's 8:15pm, I got to go to bed!" Everyone made fun of me (in a sweet way but I can take it, I have been teased about this stuff for years!) and I was one of the first (and youngest) ones to get to bed.
I experienced so many emotions this weekend but no fear until I got home - I let it hit me that of the other guests with breast cancer, mine was the most advanced stage AND I was the youngest. Statistically speaking, this is sobering. As 1/3 of breast cancer patients wind up with stage 4, I allowed the fear in to think wow, it would be me in this situation. I pray and hope and not worry about it because if I give in to the fear, then I am already dead, right.
So, I experienced my emotions and then I let them go. I cannot harbor them. I must be who I am - I am the person who smiles and laughs in life's hardships. I am the person who gets up every morning and when my feet hit the ground the Devil goes "Oh shit, she's up! RUN!" I am strong, I am healthy (all things considered) and I will take my cancer and deal with it because that is what I do.
I will love more and be nicer to my husband and I will never forget the lesson that I must make time for me and my life and to be present in it and enjoy the people who are in it who love me (and I love them).
And all things considered, I will focus on the good. The good is that my cancer WAS caught, I was still considered "early stage" and that I can do what I need to do and the rest, is not up to me. It is up to something else - I keep following my doctor's advice and LIVE each day because that is all any of us could do.
But seriously, fuck cancer and fuck 31 day blogging challenges. This is what I do and think in the time between.
Being a Woman or How a Local Charitable Organization (Mary's Place by the Sea) Has Boots on the Ground (Toes in the Sand) Helping Women Cancer Patients
By default, as a woman or a caregiver (male or female) we put ourselves last. We focus on the needs of others, just it is in our DNA for some of us. From a young age, I helped care for my brothers and then that caring extended to my husband, our children and our family.
This caring is done in many ways - the way I (try to) keep my house, the laundry, the cooking, the bill paying, the budgeting, etc etc we just do these things some of us all of it, some of us some of it. It adds up, though.
When I got sick, I was down but not out. There were still things I HAD to do and things I WANTED to do and sometimes, I could barely do them but I did my best. I finally learned the meaning of the word, "help" and "yes".
Mary's Place by the Sea came to be because a woman got the flu. She got the flu and she felt terrible and as she laid on the couch, there was still something to be done, someone to care for, something to do other than rest and recuperate. I was told this is where the beginning of Mary's Place by the Sea came about - this woman thought to herself, something like, "Man, I only have the flu and I cannot catch a break - what do women with long-term illnesses do? Where do they go to recover and recuperate?"
From this thought, Mary's Place by the Sea came into existence. This retreat home is absolutely free of charge for any women who have experienced cancer within the last 6+ months. That is right - it is FREE. You get a room - your OWN room with a bathroom and activities and breakfast and lunch (which were out of this world delicious). You also get company and pampered with activities all done by volunteers. There is no religious requirement; most if not all of the activities can include religion or not - there is no pressure either way.
The home is full with love and attention in every square foot of it. The place was full of women who, like myself, got the plot twist of cancer in our lives. The place was also full of volunteers, women there to make sure we did not get up to serve ourselves or think about anything. Activities were held for us with time in between to just escape to our amazing looking rooms to sit and rest.
I did that a lot. I love my family, my responsibilities, my children, my home, yes, even my husband. However, having a place that for 3 days / 2 nights, I could just be ME - Lisa- without anyone asking me for anything or anyone depending on my for anything was just about the most amazing thing I have ever experienced in my life. To be surrounded by love of these new friends, both guests and volunteers, I have made who I feel will be in my life forever.
I only learned of this place due to a friend who had battled the beast twice. When we first planned and submitted a request to go to Mary's Place, I was hesitant I would even have the balls to get there. I wrote a little about my qualms here - living-no-enjoying-life-my-upcoming-trip-to-marys-place-by-the-sea.html. Obviously, I got over it and went in no small part because one of the women at Mary's Place saw my blog post and called me to say, "You need this, come on down!"
I am so glad I did. You can not imagine the restorative effect of great company, amazing food, rest and relaxation and of course the sea. I came home today and wanted to wait to write this post from my bed at home - but took a while to get things situated and stop helping everyone around me...
Mary's Place by the Sea is a charitable organization and the events and services they provide to women like me are priceless but if you could and you have some extra money, please consider supporting this charity. The benefits can be seen in the smiling pics I will place below of me and my new best friends.
Cancer sucks, help make it suck less.
This is what I do in the time between.
I have been mentioning how hard it has been to write every day for this blog as I challenged myself to do but in a way, it has been very worthwhile / therapeutic.
Usually, for this blog, I write when the mood takes me and if had been quite often since I started in June, all things considered. Now, knowing I can go back to a more whimsical schedule as I want to add is very exciting.
Today is my big day, I am off on an adventure. My first "solo" trip since.... uhm 2006. I put solo in quotes because a dear friend who has also battled is coming with me. FInd out more here --> living-no-enjoying-life-my-upcoming-trip-to-marys-place-by-the-sea.html
We check in this morning and have the whole day to enjoy. Our check out is Sunday at 11am.
I was joking with my close friend through chat this am that cancer was nothing to fear compared to this trip. I am ready, though; I assume my family is ready, too. It is time for me to focus on healing and finding me again. I am almost there - this blog is showing how I have found me again - the me I did not think I knew anymore after marriage, kids, CANCER. It is sad it took a major health crisis I guess to make everything click.
I am going to post more photo based blogs for the weekend to document my time. I am going to work on my fiction and myself this weekend. I hope you have time and resources to do the same.
This is what I do in the time between.
When you get cancer, you find yourself in a world of doctor appointments and hospital visits and meds and the like. Once your active treatment is done, the world of follow up appointments begin. These are less frequent than anything you have done before. You are used to going in every 2 weeks (usually) for chemotherapy and sometimes more often that that before you get to chemotherapy.
I have already written about my decision to join the Pallas clinical trial lets-get-clinical-clinical.html and I have shared on my Instagram bits and pieces of the cycles - I am entering my 3rd cycle (read: month) of the clinical trial. The first 2 rounds went well, bloodwork has been, in my oncologist's words, "Perfect" and I am here today at Sloan to learn how I am doing before I start cycle 3.
There are tons of potential side effects for this drug but luckily, I have not experienced too many. I do find myself having joint pains if I do not drink enough water and take an aleve, if needed. The big issue is not drinking enough water, though, because as long as I stay hydrated, I am golden.
I had been told by the study team that at times the 3rd cycle is when things impact and dosages are lowered but I am hoping I can stay on my full dosage. That being said, I do not hae the control to make this so - I will just have to wait and see what happens.
The other perk of being on this study is that I can see my oncologist more often. This is both good and bad and is a big part of the reason why I want to work in NYC again life-is-change-or-how-i-decided-to-go-back-to-corporate-america.html.
Today's visit was fun - (yes, fun) - they asked me right away how my dad was doing AND asked me how I got so skinny. I mean, how lucky am I. It had been a month since my last visit and I was so happy they remembered. Then we spoke about how I got to my goal weight after last month telling them there was no way I could do it -- but I did it! With jeans, boots and the flimsy robe thing I was exactly 147 on the money.
I found out today I do not need to get back to see my oncologist until January! January! After going once a month to see oncologist and every 2 weeks in between for bloodwork this is like crazy!
I am confident that the fewer visits is a good thing. I can get moving on my life's plans. I have a Lupron shot to do in November then surgeon in late December, oncologist in late January.
If you have been considering the trial but thought it would be too many appointments, good news, it tapers off.
This is what I do in the time between.
I have been using social media as a tool since 2015 when I re-started my small business, The Next Step (www.thenextstep1234.com) - I started using Twitter and Instagram along with blogging but I never really "met" people through social media except for occasionally, someone would click and hire me from my social media outreach. The lack of that happening more than occasionally is why I am currently looking for a Corporate job life-is-change-or-how-i-decided-to-go-back-to-corporate-america.html.
With my breast cancer advocacy and general plot twist sharing, I am making real connections - people who have walked my walk or walked a different path in this world of cancer and it is amazing. I know I might not meet some of these folks in real life, but I feel like I know them almost better than people who I see in real life. They get me. They know what it is like to hear the words, "You have cancer." and to pull yourself up and deal with it in whatever way it is that you deal. And each of us deals differently but most of us gravitate to sharing our story for the main reason of helping others.
On Monday nights, some of my circle I am making for myself "meet" on Twitter using the hashtag #BCSM. It is an open, amazing thing and I try to always make it. For like 2 weeks in a row, my kids were off on a Monday and I mentally thought it was a Sunday and missed it.
I hate when I miss it. During our session, we gab about life, pets, advocacy and breast cancer. We are a mix of doctors, patients, ex-patients, caregivers, male, female, etc. It is a place to feel at home - no judgement just a weekly "meeting" done via 140 characters.
I have to say using social media now is like an extension of the girls I text with in real life. It is another layer of me - more than meets the eye, people around the world just sharing the truth that exists for us. We are all trying to exist in the time between -we know we have / had cancer and now we wait for a cure or to be cured. For my stage 4 sisters, they need a lot more and that is why I recommend thinking before you pink. Look for charities that do more with their dollar like www.metavivor.org and others that focus on stage 4 as those findings will flood down to us in the "earlier" stages.
As someone who is Stage 3A, I know how lucky I am because as I say all the time, with cancer, it can always be worse. I also recognize that cancer is tricky and just because any of us are diagnosed and treated, that does not mean that long term we are "ok" this is our new reality scanziety, FU appointments and meds. Lots of meds- the-new-reality-of-life-post-cancer-diagnosis.html
This is what I do in the time between, though. Make new friends, push my envelope on what I ever thought I would share and just being me. Thanks for being on my plot twist with me either via Twitter, Instagram or right here on my blog! Thanks!!
As everyone knows who follows me on social media, I only have one boob. I wrote about my complicated relationship with my breasts here complicated-history-of-boobs-a-treatise-by-a-breast-cancer-patient.html and wrote about my decision to not reconstruct here to-reconstruct-or-not-to-reconstruct-that-is-the-question.html.
I did not reconstruct and I have no interest whatsoever in reconstructing. I walk around mostly with just the one breast but there are some issues. Paramount is the issue of being lopsided. It is uncomfortable to wear a support garment ALL of the time. So without one, the left breast just hangs out uncomfortably while my right side is free. So I continue to put my pressure on my left side, I notice my shoulder curving in on the right side to compensate for the unbalance.
When I was diagnosed and operated on, my main focus was on getting the cancer out of my body. I also refused to google or share my story at that time. There is a lot I could have learned if I had just been able to break free of my own shame and fear. Mainly fear with a dollop of shame.
I think I would have requested a bilateral mastectomy right away. I remember, though, vaguely, it being discussed as having little or no benefit to remove both breasts and that mastectomy does not cure breast cancer and some other tidbits. I was not thinking clearly though so I could be wrong.
I realized shortly after my connection with social media and other women who have experienced the breast cancer plot twist that I want to be flat. I know, it is insane. The same girl who did, "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" wants to be flat.
This December is my one year post op for my original mastectomy and I feel as though I am "healed" enough on the right side to remove the left breast. Funnily enough, my husband is upset about me wanting to remove lefty.
Obviously, it is not his choice but I find it odd that he would be so supportive of me losing righty and not reconstructing it and now have qualms about losing the left one and being totally flat. I can still, if I chose, pretend to have breasts (which is what I did way back when with socks and tissues) but this time with the inserts that are cheap, light and available on Amazon - www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071L816NB/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&th=1 (and no that is not an affiliate link - so feel free to buy it and not assume I am promoting it to get anything in return).
I will keep you posted on what happens when I ask for the left one to be removed. I am just hoping it is not going to be because I NEED to remove it - just prophylactically and to have an even body - so that I can dress how I want and be comfortable without being half jiggly.
This is what I do in the time between....
The saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword." is something I have heard my whole life and I believe in it strongly. I write because it is something that connects me to others and it helps me expunge things that should not be held anymore.
I never understood the true power of writing though until I began to share my breast cancer reality check. I challenged myself to blog every day for this, my first "pinktober". I had been blogging intermittently from June just when the "mood" hit - and it hit often but not ever daily.
I spoke about this in terms of when I ran my own business, I blogged every day and about many different topics to establish myself as an "expert". Now, I am just sharing what is on my soul that connects my story to so many others - so many damn others who were just walking around living their lives and then BAM - CANCER.
Blogging every day and sharing my story in ways more intimately, less showy and really just being ME unabashedly and unashamedly. I got cancer and I lost my voice. I was cowed. I was treated differently by people because I allowed it to happen. I did not know yet I was an Amazon who can topple people's misconceptions about disease and life. I am a mom, I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend and now I am also an advocate.
Know your breasts, get your screening mammograms and if you are going to donate to a cause, watch where you donate - make sure it is an organization that will help your local community or the people who need our donations most - the Stage 4 Breast Cancer patients for whom there is no cure.
This laptop is my pen, my social media is my sword and I am out there sharing and free - and ready to keep on going through this month to show the true side of what breast cancer has been like for me.
This is what I do in the time between.
I remember being a kid and seeing my neighbor's wife all decked out in her designer suits and high heels getting home from working in NYC off the express bus that dropped off near my house and thinking, "I want to do that." It helped me think that way that my grandma always said how much she admired her for getting that high powered job and wearing those power suits when she had only the option to work in a factory or a department store.
I did not always process how hard the woman's life might have been with two young kids and a husband, who like all husbands, maybe did not do as much work around the house and kids as she did. (Please do not attack me on this, books have been written about the inequitable split of household and childrearing activities to the "mom" or the "mom figure" - I am projecting as I did not live in their house...well, you get the idea.)
My goal during college was to get a high paying job, to be a true "girl boss" and I did everything to make it so. I have posted on my other blog www.thenextstep1234.com/blog about my college resume and how focused I was in getting this "Career" up and running. I took a minor detour to the career part by getting a full tuition scholarship to go to the Rome, Italy campus of my alma mater to get my MBA. I remember telling the neighbor lady that I was going to get my MBA in Rome and she said, "Why would you do that? You need a job - moving to Rome, NY is a bad move." And then I said, "No, I am going to Rome, Italy." And she said, "Well, that's a different story - GO!"
She got me the most beautiful personalized stationary, that I still have a few pieces left of even now almost 20 years later, and though I never told her and we really were NOT that close, she inspired me to build this plan for myself of power suits and management life.
When I came back with my MBA, I hit the ground running at Merrill Lynch in Jersey City (now Bank of America), Skudder Kemper Investments incubator program in Boston, Standard & Poor's in downtown NYC, McGraw-Hill Education by Penn Station, Marsh in upper midtown. And through those careers and years of power suits and sensible shoes (I learned early on I could not do the high heel thing) things changed for me.
The girl who my grandfather relished in bragging about saying, "My granddaughter will never have children - she is too busy, her husband will have to have the children!" (Which he said to the very Sicilian father of my then-boyfriend and shows he liked to stick the knife in and twist it - all good-naturedly of course but this potential father in law of mine did not want to hear of his son having a baby). Well, that girl was gone. All of a sudden, even though I used to even tell my grandmother that I had no intention of getting married or having kids until I was "at least 40" found myself married at 28 and a mom for the first time at 30 and again at 33. I still joke that I do not know how it happened. In fact, colleagues from my earlier career portions CANNOT believe that I got married and had kids. It is a long running joke about how it happened. I still do not know.
Something in the balance changed for me - or lack thereof. There were issues, I needed to be closer to handle them and I switched to my fall back - the most "prestigious" job I ever did - that of "College Professor". I had begun that career in 2003 and it was always something I kept open even working at night at the Manhattan Campus of St John's while working full time at my big executive job at Marsh while pregnant with my daughter.
So for a while, I worked part time as an adjunct cobbling together some salary (never a lot - nothing compared to what I had been making). We made do - with help and as frugally as possible.
Then, I started my entrepreneurship kick in full force and started making some inroads, wrote some books and had the potential to make it work BUT if you have never been an entrepreneur, let me tell you about the "dark side" - the dark side is the focus you have to build your business and the pain you feel when something that seems like a perfect fit for you and your company is not even an option for you despite promoting, press and more. It is not something I truly enjoyed doing along with the whole "pimping" out of the business to try to earn money.
As much as I "enjoyed" it all, I "hated" it, too. When I got offered a full time teaching job, I jumped at it thinking it would be perfect for me. It was not - long story, different time.
Now, I am thinking it is time for me to dust off my professional credentials, my degrees, my project management certification and get out there into the big world of power suits and sensible flats. I did not think I would ever want to do this again because for all that it defined me and my childhood lessons about "never depending on a man or anyone" and wearing those suits and working - I ran away from it for so long to focus on home and hearth. Me, who was voted most likely to be CEO of a big company, was technically more of a stay at home mom than a career person.
I treasure the time I have spent home with my kids but I know now that although life is short, there is still time for me to be me - for me to focus on a combination of my past, present and future to take my own big step back into Corporate.
This is what I do during the time between.
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