So I do not know if I will post this or not - I just am in a bit of an existential crisis, NBD.
I have spent the last decade of my life being a MOM capital letters needed. I did not have any help and I had to keep pretending I did not want to do anything other than be a mom because I felt I HAD to do it. My golden girls kept telling me to stop and to slow down but did I listen NOOO (my-golden-girls.html).
My husband, bless his heart, has struggled with issues (no nothing as cool as addiction <sarcasm>, just garden variety cray cray) and I was the person in charge of everything at home and the children and even taking care of him, too. We went out to lunch recently and once he removed the sharp knives from the table, he told me that he does not want me to work full time because he is not "ready". My mom, who I have written about here a-tale-of-two-novembers.html is often pressuring me to "think of the children" when she, you know, kind of didn't. And to round out the trifecta, my mother in law who is also kind of "anti-working full time" for me.
I get it, it is coming from love and they partly do not want to see me get sick again and also partly know I do a lot for my kids, the house, my husband and whoever else in my family I wind up helping as I am kind of a surrogate mom for everyone in my life... though I am trying to scale that back BIG TIME taking-back-control.html.
I recently had a job interview (one of like a handful I have been called for despite looking hard for a job since September 2017 but like that is a post for another day worth of bitching...) and I was very excited about it. Now for other reasons, I do not think this job is going to work out but still it was a great fantasy to think about having the support, the infrastructure to go back to being "executive" and having the budget to live on and so on and so forth. BIG BUBBLE POPPED though re no support...
So here I stand, in New York City today, Valentine's Day, because I needed a shot in the arse (my Lupron shot to keep my ovaries off) and I am now in an office that I can use for the day on Wall Street, my old haunting grounds - where I worked when I was young and free and focused and driven and wanted to be the CEO of a major company. That seems like another version of Lisa long gone...
This me, (hi!) is very much alive and in flux and also in this weird world of "in between" I believe I am cured but I have no proof of it - it is just something I believe in my heart until I am told otherwise (God willing never). Let's be real, anything can happen over the next 2, 5, 10 or even 20 years but I will not let this bitch of breast cancer fuck me up anymore than it has. I have scars mentally, physically, emotionally but I am ready to bounce them and to keep living to keep trying to do more.... but I am still confused over what that means.
I do know my budget is in shambles and real talk, we are broker than broke. BUT also another real talk confession, we have been this way since I stopped working full time in New York City in 2009. What makes it worse now is that, quite frankly, I do not want to have ANY stress in my life and finances, particularly when they are broken, are stressful.
I also see these women owning it, walking around in their matching bags and shoes and I lust after it, I really do. I wish I could be those women - I am sure of them many are moms, some are also the 1 in 8 who have dealt with breast cancer, but I do not know if that is where I need to be, either.
I am someplace in between (pun intended), I want to assert myself, be kick ass again, make the dollar bills BUT at what cost - what am I willing to give up? My kids just got used to the fact that I won't die (they have no other option but to think this way, too) do I want to uproot them further by going to a full time job and not seeing them except on weekends? I KNOW other people do it and they are amazing and making big and huge trade offs daily (I remember, I did it for 2 years after my daughter was born) but for me particularly, I do not want stress in my life - so which is the most stress? Having to scrimp and save to pay bills or to have the finances on point and instead miss your kids?
I know women can have it all and they can balance but I do not know how to do it or if I want to do it... It is a choice, always a choice. I did not choose to get cancer but I can now choose how my life post cancer will be... Now can you tell me what that should be? Thanks! :) XOXO Li
I am not an exhibitionist. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in revealing clothing because I was no allowed to go anywhere; for instance, I had a 12am curfew until I left the country at 21 years old and often spent time at people's houses not at the club or anything like that. As I got older, I learned the art of clothing that fits and keeps things covered - I would often, though, show cleavage especially as my weight went up and it seemed those hills would detract / hide my stomach - I write about it here --> complicated-history-of-boobs-a-treatise-by-a-breast-cancer-patient.html.
I am still not an exhibitionist BUT I have done a few photo shoots over the last two days that might make your scratch your head and think otherwise.
On Sunday, an organization called The Magic Hour arranged for my family and I to have a photo session free of charge with Jessica Leigh Photography (www.photographybyjessicaleigh.com/ ). Jessica and I had spoken a few times in advance before the session and I just felt like I knew her in real life before she even showed up at my doorstep with tons of camera equipment and an easy, relaxed smile.
My children gravitated and warmed up to her immediately. She does something called "unscripted life sessions" and these photos are nothing like you see at Sears or Picture People or even other photographers I had worked with in the past. She does not "pose" you instead the photos are the real YOU.
For me, this new me, this pixie haired, one boobed, clinging on with all I got to being cured me is ALL ABOUT THIS. I wanted photos that reflected who we truly are as a family, what we learned from breast cancer and how we are just at home, together and that quiet strength that we all have honed specifically over the last 15 months.
You see, though I was the one diagnosed with cancer, we ALL had cancer. My son who told me he would visit me in the cemetery because "lots of people with cancer die", my daughter who was stoic and happy throughout the whole process until it was over and she let herself be afraid and need comfort, my husband who mustered up all of his strength and love for me even though at times before I was diagnosed we were anything but "love-y". Even the darn dog was effected.
So this past Sunday, Jessica arrived and immediately won every one of us over and got us doing our things - playing board games, cuddling on my bed and just individual action shots of the kids jumping on my bed - of course, what kid doesn't love to jump on their parents' beds!
We then did some individual shots of me that showcased my warrior battle scar from breast cancer. It was powerful and the shots were amazing. I cannot wait to see them! All of them!
Today, I had another photo shoot and this one was way more revealing than anything I have ever done before full stop. I had heard about The Grace Project (the-grace-project.org/) at the beginning of my "public" exposure as a blogger / advocate about breast cancer screenings and sharing my story. I immediately messaged the photographer to volunteer to be photographed. At the time, it seemed like it was a long shot to be asked to get photographed but already I could tell that it would be a powerful statement for me to make as a "young-ish" survivor in training who did not reconstruct for the women out there who feel that without their boob(s) that they are LESS THAN or who tried to reconstruct and had issues with infection or removal or even those who do not want their boobs anyway but still wonder about whether or not they are "beautiful".
I am lucky in that, despite being super dependent on my boobs for most of my life either in wearing low cut tops or using my cleavage to disguise my belly, I really do not miss having a pair of tits. The one is enough for me and if I had my way, I would have opted to take lefty off, too.
I am leaving my prosthetic behind more and more and just acclimating to this new body, this new shape and all that. I was honored when the photographer Charise Isis let me know she would be in New York and I jumped at the chance to be photographed by her. She is a powerhouse of a woman who shares "broken is still beautiful" as a belief system and documents women who have had mastectomies to survive breast cancer. She takes photos representing the women as Greek goddesses and my experience with her today in a penthouse-adjacent apartment near Times Square was a powerful, moving and empowering experience and I cannot wait to share the images with you in a few months when I get them.
So I am going way out of my comfort zone and doing things I never ever thought I would do but I know it is the right thing - I want to normalize this new normal for others who are going through it. Cancer sucks but saying that does not make it all better, it does not make the scars you see and those you can't see disappear. We are all in stages of repair and recovery as we wait in the time between.
To find out more about The Grace Project or to donate to her work at healing breast cancer warriors, click here the-grace-project.org
Instagram Stories are fast becoming my favorite thing to do and post - if you are not already following me on Instagram, please do I am @thetimebetweenis.
I have been living on the edge since cancer. I was someone who experienced things on an extreme level for many years. I lived in fear and anxiety. I would imagine myself in a situation and feel such fear that I would not be able to actually even consider being in said situation.
I had a phobia of traffic - of being stuck in traffic or being away from home too long. It was a lot for me to work around but I would force myself to do certain things and force myself NOT to do a lot of things. I definitely was experiencing the world of mental illness. I let me world shrink - it did not happen overnight. One day, I was flying around the world for work and fun and then all of a sudden, I did less and less. I stayed closer and closer to home when I was always meant to fly.
Sharing this is hard. It is embarrassing to think about all of the opportunities I missed, of all of the things I was not comfortable doing. Of how much I was not happy and comfortable in my skin, with my life and now I realize damn, I had it all. I did not have "cancer", I was truly free but in the disease of my own mind so not that free.
Now, I have no such fears. I refuse them, I refute them. I laugh at them. This week alone I have driven myself into the city for two different things. I have been focused on maybe being an entrepreneur again and building something exclusively mine. It is a lot to handle. In the midst, I have had meet ups with folks who I never would have met if not for this big c word.
It is hard to believe that I am still so close to my BD time (before diagnosis). It has only been a year and 2 months since I was diagnosed. In this time I have had to learn quickly how to retrain my brain, how to let go and be me, how to deal with the fear in a constructive way that maybe some day I could die from this disease. Instead, I refute that possibility and instead focus on LIFE on what I can do right now, here, today instead of worrying about my tomorrows.
It is one hell of a way to live and maybe someday I will forgive myself for not living this way BD -- ah, frig it, I already have.
This is what I do in the time between...
There comes a time when even the most people pleasers of people pleasers (me , I am their queen, hi nice to meet you) realize it must stop. That giving and giving to people who don’t appreciate it and would only give once to you no matter who they are must be turned down.
It’s hard. Really hard. I learned though that I need to focus on me, my husband and my kids. I need to stay healthy, in fighting form and I can’t do that when I’m bogged down by other stuff.
Some of that other stuff in addition to people pleasing is the run of the mill fear of dying and not keeping my promises.
I promised myself during chemo last year that I would change my ways. That I wouldn’t be a crazy helicopter nah shirt-mom. I wasn’t in the helicopter, I was like in the children’s shirts and not allowing them to be on their own or with others. I promised I would be more focused on what I need in my life. That I would take risks. That I wouldn’t settle for what I thought was being a “good mom” and putting myself last anymore.
And you know, so far, I am doing it little by little. I have learned to let go and let God in ways I never ever thought I could. I am like chill af now as the young kids might say... I do not get ruffled often. I do not panic anymore. I have a routine and a plan for managing most of these types of issues. As someone who always worried about everything I don’t worry anymore. Occasionally I get scared and spooked but I just roll with it by acknowledging the fear letting it sit with me for a few minutes and then dtmf down after the 5 minute mark.
I listen to a hypnosis by Seth Deborah called “victory over cancer” and it’s a great visualization technique to see my body healing or to help my body heal.
I also do mindfulness meditation, a novena every night before bed and exercise or at least walk 10k steps every day.
I eat well and have found that taking 3ml of melantonin helps me sleep like really sleep... like life before kids sleep. I found post surgery, chemo and being put in immediate menopause almost one year ago meant that sleep was now a challenge a real big challenge. I would lay awake for hours, despite being so tired. I wouldn’t dream much. I would wake up too early and not be able to rest again. I was taking 1-2 .5 milligram anxiety pills (have to check the name) from my oncologist every night to try to get sleep. Now, after a half hour of laying down, I am out cold. I get up at like 330 to pee and then boom right back to sleep til 6.
It’s amazing. I was born tired so getting to rest is huge for me.
This weekend, I worked on doing something really new. Both kids slept out and my husband and I took a surprise drive to Atlantic City w place we spent lots of time at before kids. We had a fancy dinner and also met up with an old friend of mine from grammar and high school!
I got home at 2am friends!!! And woke up at 7am because I had to get to my sons basketball game at 9! I am finding it’s ok to balance the different parts of me. I got some good news about some exciting opportunities for me to maybe just maybe be able to use my writing and social media skills as an income generator - more on that soon.
I volunteered to be part of the planning committee for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk for Staten Island and there’s more to that tooo coming soon! And I’m stepping wayyy out of my comfort zone again soon in February a few times - can’t wait to tell you all about that too!! You got to keep reading ;).
I continue to try to exceed expectations on this new normal. I have so many ideas and plans to help others adjust to this “new normal”. I am here and I plan on making the most out of whatever time I have left and I hope it’s a long ass time- what about you?
I am pathetically positive. What does this mean? It means that despite my life experiences and recent foray into the world of BREAST CANCER, I am still really really sure I will NOT die of cancer. If this isn't positive thinking, I do not know what is. I was always on the outside a positive person but on the inside, I was the person who prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. This is not positive. This is planning for the inevitable BAD thing and maybe, just maybe manifesting said bad thing with all of the posturing, worrying and planning.
Now, I find myself to more often than not be on the side of expecting the best and planning for the best. This is a radical change for me. I was the person who got Straight A's in college but still knew I failed every test as soon as I put down my pen and handed it in. I was pathetic period.
At this point in my life, I am more informed and more well read on all things "cancer" related and adjacent. I understand, in some ways, my risk for becoming dead from cancer and yet I am incredulous thinking of it. In my heart of hearts, I am convinced that I will not die of cancer. It is quite shocking for me to be in this mindset after a lifetime of being convinced of doom and gloom without even a scratch on my health record. I am the person who got a million dollar life insurance policy for $69/month after all. Health has been my currency, it has been who I am inside. Just always healthy BUT not always happy.
Every night, I pray for me and my children to be "happy, healthy and safe" and I have been doing this for over a decade now. It is funny how I always prayed for health but never appreciated it. Despite my glowing health, I was a bundle of anxiety and nerves on a daily basis - nah on a minute to minute basis. Now my health is (I guess) "shit" but yet I am more confident, more comfortable and more focused than ever in my life on the GOOD.
Does this mean I do not worry? Ha, no not at all. I do still worry and it creeps up behind my shoulders whenever I am not looking, this fear, this panic, this feeling of "why does my side hurt - is it cancer?" but when it does show up and hit me, I hit back with this sense of peace, this internal calmness that I have never had before in my life. I credit my faith for this feeling of peace as well as my ability to numb myself with meditation, hypnosis, prayer and good thoughts.
I am treated at the number 2 cancer hospital in the world. I am surrounded by a support system that rocks. My children appear to be "normal" despite the fact that I was at one point not quite sure I would live, however briefly I thought that a child picks up on these thoughts more than you can know. I am back to fighting form and feel (knock on wood) OK. I mean, I am not perfect and never was but all things considered especially when you think about and read the side effects of just a handful of the medication I am currently on NOT to mention the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation I did just this past year, well, I am really lucky.
Being put into menopause and given tons of steroids and chemotherapy led to an immense weight gain. Having a radical mastectomy means that my right side is always a little off and sensitive to pain and pressure as when my son accidentally bumps into my right chest area and I see stars for hours (sometimes days).
The chemotherapy I started a year ago this month leads to tons of side effects that I deal with as best I can. There is chemobrain (this is so real; there are times I feel so off but then times I feel so "normal" but all in all, I lost a bunch of brain cells and it is what it is) and neuropathy (pain and tingling in hands, feet, legs, etc) but it is all manageable because I am still alive.
Every 3 months, I get an injection to stop my ovaries from working as I had a hormone driven type of breast cancer. I have been in medically induced menopause though since after my second chemotherapy in February 2017 so almost one full year without having that monthly reminder of being a woman. My mom did not go into menopause until she was late 50's and I abruptly changed over at 40. I take a daily anti hormone pill that also strips my body of hormones. There are so many side effects to these things on their own and together and yet, knock on wood, I am surviving it.
When I go in for check ups and mammograms or other medical tests, I get PTSD and worry hard. But I survive it. When I hear about my friends losing their battles, I get a feeling of the flu over my body, pain in my extremities and more. My ability to feel emotions and sadness now impact me from my head to my toes whereas before it stayed in my chest and my brain. I worry for my friends who are still dealing with scans and spots and nodules with the overarching fear that the goal of all of our treatment is really not to cure us but to stop disease progression. Cancer wants to progress, it wants to kill, it is its function. Stopping it is what I focus on doing for me and to hopefully help others figure out their plan to do the same.
Despite all of that, I am still sure in my body's ability to heal. Confident in my own jagged, broken down body that it is inherently curing itself along with the doctors' help. I cannot live any other way. To me, this makes me a new and improved version of me but also, deep down, I like to call myself "pathetically positive" or "stupid positive". As a former financial services professional who worked during the subprime mortgage explosion, I derided the big push of all financial services firms hiring "risk managers" or "risk compliance officers" or "chief risk officers" because I knew that people cannot adequately quantify or understand risk. If we did, none of us would get married or have kids. I feel I hired myself to be my own "chief risk officer" with the blinders on to navigate me through this world of broken down health, to get me back to fighting form - like a government bailout but for my own cells and shit.
This is what I do in the time between.
We made it, friends! It is 2018. Many of us are still actively fighting cancer, some of us are done with treatment, some of us are stage 0, stage 1-3, stage 4 but all of us are praying and hoping or wishing for a cure to this disease.
No matter our stage, diagnosis, age, life issues, we all are aware that our life is potentially in trouble or could be lost based on the state of our cells. It is tough to understand and even tougher to get straight answers from medical teams as the fact remains that no one knows. The future is not clear but TODAY is. We are cultivating a life of living in the moment - or at least trying to do it.
I try and fail on a daily basis to keep my thoughts in today, to let things flow off my back and off my mind to stay present in the RIGHT NOW and not the "what if" or "what can". This is not easy for someone who used to be such a control freak, type A personality that everything was planned and then re-planned, everything said to me or about me was taken to heart or caused me to lose sleep or lose my sense of peace.
I have come a long way from this old me but I am still in need of improvement. I am doing all I can to stay as healthy as possible all the while knowing that the future is not promised to anyone. I am focused on doing everything I can to stay healthy while understanding that I have to only think of today. Thinking of tomorrow, a year from now, two years from now, etc is not something I can do without fear. I do not think anyone who has / had cancer can think long term without the constant "what if?" but I want to try to make it much less constant.
When I was filing my paperwork to be a non profit to help cancer patients get back to work, I was thinking about what would happen "what if" and it was making me crazy. I find when I am stressed or perturbed, these thoughts hit me more. When my kids look at me and ask, "Is the cancer gone?" it hits me right in the gut. Of course, I tell them yes but the truth is we just do not know.
I want to manifest for myself this word peace - a life where I live in today and do not ruminate over yesterday nor think about tomorrow. I am focused on finding a job which means I am thinking of the future in terms of being an employee again but I think after all I have been through, I can do this day by day.
What do you do to help yourself live in the moment?
2017, you sucked. I am so glad you are (almost) over. This year, I missed out on so much because chemotherapy broke me, radiation burnt me but I also learned so much. I found I could get out there and unmask myself, show my bald head, tell my shame of getting sick of losing my job of being judged as being “too sick” and “not worth it” and showing the world that I am worth something, that even though I got cancer, I am still a person, someone who is not to be pitied or ignored or forgotten.
I watched my children learn the hard way how sometimes life is so unbelievably random and unpredictable. I watched them also learn how people can be so amazing and kind. I saw them worry about me dying and I was also worried about me dying and it is just too much to all be worried about death. I spent time hugging them and reassuring them and just all around trying to believe the hype, too.
I learned that cancer is something that never truly goes away but if you are lucky it will not kill you. I have always known that what does not kill you makes you stronger I almost feel like I did not need this masterclass on this topic but it is what it is and it can always be worse.
Usually, during New Year's Eve in my past, I would cry a little when the clock struck 12 and think about the time that passed and what I did or did not do. This year, I refuse to cry. I am finishing up a year that was spent primarily in treatment for cancer with the extra dollop of joy of being told I did not have a job for next year and other crazy stuff like family member’s health and being a caregiver even though I was not yet fully healed and more.
There are many things I want to focus on for 2018 and the most important thing is to not worry. You see worry is something that does not help anything. It does not change the trajectory of the future, it just ruins today. I am confident that I am healthy and will stay that way but sometimes, I worry. Right now on the cusp of saying goodbye to 2017, I want to promise myself that I will not go down the road of “what ifs”. I have been doing pretty well with not thinking about the possibilities but so many people have been dying of cancer lately and it truly is a disease that is so misunderstood and sometimes, the thought does cross my mind that I could be a victim. I want to think it even less.
I know I need to find my “next step” my new path after the plot twist of cancer. I know this will help me to heal, to feel whole again. I also know I need to continue to doing what I am doing - practicing gratitude, exercising every day, eating super clean, taking vitamins, my clinical trial, my hormone meds, my hypnosis, meditation, and writing. Writing above all. I would love to find a way to use my writing abilities to bring in an actual income. I am working on some things that might help me be able to do this but in the meanwhile it is a way for me to get out how I feel, to make and keep new friends who are also dealing with this crappy thing called cancer and to get out of my head. In writing it down, I theoretically can no longer hold it inside.
In 2018, I want health and wellness (and a cure for cancer). I want to be doing something meaningful in my charity work and also in my career. I want my children to be confident that I am not planning on going anywhere. I want to continue to share my story and hopefully help other cancer patients who feel the way I did know they are not alone. I want to have many years left to travel, to hang out with my friends, to watch my children grow up, to dance with my husband, to make inappropriate jokes and to just enjoy being alive.
I do not want to deal with pettiness and nastiness. I do not want stress. I do not want to worry about what happens if cancer does X or Y or Z. I want to “forget” cancer was in my body and instead focus on what I DID get from this heinous disease. I got the ability to try to live in the moment. To have grit. To show my toughness. I always knew I was tough but now I got my doctorate in it. I hope for all of us to have a healthy 2018 and beyond. For cancer to be a thing of the past.
What do you want to manifest in 2018? How do you manage cancer fears?
My “Poem” for 2017 (this is why I am not a poet...)
2017 I hated you so much
You had to come along and punch me in the gut
In 2016 I lost my boob
because cancer got caught there and made me a fool
after my mastectomy, I thought it would be easy
to get chemotherapy
ha I was so crazy
chemo was brutal
I worked through it full time
with a wig and a smile
I suffered without words
and lost my job with a sucker punch in the nads
after chemo came radiation
for 34 sessions
then I had follow ups and clinical trials, I ain’t playing
I lost 50 pounds
in the hope that I will be
Cancer free forever you see
My kids they were scared
My husband and I were too
Because when cancer is something that happens to you
It screws you right up and scares you to death
I have no intention of giving up yet
I am here for good
With nowhere to go
I am a fighter, a survivor a lucky ass though
At the end of the day no one knows the future
The cancer is something that makes it much clearer
Photo below: Xmas 2016 vs Xmas 2017 - in my mind, I was the same size until I did this side by side comparison (160+ pounds vs 137 pounds)
Nothing is perfect; no one is perfect. Everyone has their shit and everyone has to learn to deal with it. No one gets what exactly that means, though. Except me. I get it and always did. I believe that if we all got together and smacked our problems down on the table like playing cards that we each would still want to leave the table with our own problems and not someone else’s. Everyone has some great sadness in their life - everyone has something that did not work out, or some plan B they had to execute that was not their plan.
Shit happens and the real gem of life is learning to take that Plan B and love the hell out of it even if it was never in your plan or thought process. For me, I never ever planned to learn to live with such dignity and grace in the face of such adversity. And I thought I knew adversity and I thought I knew what it meant when someone said, “you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. Stupid me.
I have found that when I was weakest and most downtrodden was actually when I was most strong, if that makes sense. Right now, I am nowhere near as strong and tough as I was when I walked into that operating room to get the cancer removed from my body. I was not as strong then as I was when I sat down in the treatment chair for the first round of chemotherapy. I was never even as close to strong as I was when I went from the first 4 rounds to the new chemotherapy drug and not knowing the side effects or issues that would happen. I am not as strong as I was when I sat through 34 radiation treatments. I am not as strong as I was when I put my name in to do the clinical trial (PALLAS)... well, you get the idea. lets-get-clinical-clinical.html
In each of these steps, I have been stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have just kept rolling with it but it is not me alone. I have had support, prayers, faith and more to keep me sane, to keep me smiling, to keep me focused on the prize. The prize is just simple - it is staying alive. It is staying NED as much as possible. It is being cured or whatever is called “cured” for this disease.
It means I have worked hard to change my whole body, what I eat, when I eat and what I do on a daily basis. See, most everyone has “cancer” in their body in the sense that they have an errant cell that wants to do bad things but for the bulk of the population, this errant cell is killed immediately and cannot reproduce. In the words of my nutritionist, Dr Napoli, for cancer to happen it has to be a “perfect storm”. The cell has to be able to do it’s bad work and thrive inside to create the tumor and ultimately spread around.
For me, I was diagnosed after a mammogram showed slight calcification in the duct which was microscopic and not able to be biopsied; it also was 98% chance of staying benign. A few months later, I had “advanced stage” breast cancer with a tumor of 5.6cm and 5/25 lymph nodes positive for cancer. This means there is always the chance that the cancer moved and got someplace else and it also means that whatever is wrong with my body has to be corrected and/or fixed for the just in case’s of cancer.
See, no one is ever truly “cured” of cancer. What it starts in your body, it can always come back. My above referenced nutritionist told me about a conference he attended where it was said that, “85% of cancer patients do not change anything after they are done with treatment.” If this stat is true (and you know what they say about statistics…) that means I am one of the 15% that got myself totally upside down after cancer.
As I have written about a lot on this blog, I read the AntiCancer book learning-about-the-beast-breast-cancer-anti-cancer-book-review.html and that started the seeds of what would ultimately become a total life transformation. See, I was never “obese” but I was up 30, 40 or more pounds from what I had weighed in my “youth” but you see, as a woman who has been pregnant and has children, you just do not think that weight is possible. I looked in the mirror and saw yes a curvier version of me but in no way did I really see me. I saw a woman who still wore a size Medium and just had some extra weight I mean didn’t we all? I am still friends with girls from high school and college and other friends who all say the same thing, we just are not the same body types we were when younger.
Well, then I got cancer and realized there is a big link between excess body weight, hormones and cancer and all that jazz. So I did something I never thought possible and would have smacked you if you suggested it in the past. I weigh 137 pounds, which is what I weighed in high school. It is insane. It is also something very different because in high school, I ate donuts and crap and did not exercise and that was my weight. Now, ha, I have to forgo sugar, exercise daily and fill up on fruits and veggies instead of chips and popcorn.
I am telling you all of this because when I saw my surgeon’s office this December for my 6 month follow up, everyone lost their collective minds and told me I was amazing and that I did the best thing I ever could have done for my health. I am not sure if anyone other than the alternative medicine doctor which I wrote about here integrative-medicine-clinical-trials.html ever told me that unequivocally that weight was so dangerous or if I was told I did not register it.
See, I will do whatever I have to do to keep my body inhospitably to cancer but I will not fall for fads or other crazy things. I am focused on research and proven methods to improve my body and its reaction to rogue cells. To do this, I am working with my nutritionist as well as my doctors at Sloan to balance all of the pieces of health. I no longer eat to just eat. I eat to fuel my body. To help the fight. I do not take a multi-vitamins, I take some supplements that are proven to help my immune system do what it needs to do. I do not let stress, worry and fear into myself (as much as I can not let it, I force it to not be there) and I also exercise and move every day.
There are no guarantees, however, that any of this will work as ⅓ of cancer patients regardless of initial staging become metatastic but I will continue to do it anyway because it cannot hurt.
What do you do to help keep your fears of cancer returning away? What do you do to try to not get progression of your disease? How do you keep your body as healthy as possible?
I keep writing this blog post and deleting it and then redoing it. There are things that I guess are better off left unsaid but sometimes in not saying the things, it eats away at you or at me - it eats away at me so I had to write it, feelings be damned.
As this year 2017 draws to a close, I have to believe that the comeback will be bigger than the setback. What do I mean by this? Have you ever met people who have been through the wringer? Like widowed with 3 young kids and needed to make it and turned around and got themselves through school ALONE and became a powerhouse attorney type of comeback?
I know some people who have done these types of things and I just want them all to write a book on how the hell they did it. As I sit here, post breast cancer plot twist having lost my job and trying to work on my own comeback, I want to have some guidance, some roadmap so to speak of how to do this.
I am standing and kicking butt and taking names, applying to jobs, managing my family life with a renewed focus on ME, my husband and my kids. I had been pulled in many different directions lately stemming from the needs of other family members and I had to stand up and say, “NO. Enough. It is now time to do what I need to do for me.”
In my life, I have been the caregiver for many, many people. I have been the person who keeps it all together. Who makes sure everyone feels welcome and well and, well, I am DONE. I am writing this more for me than anyone else so if you are confused already, sorry. This is a note to me to remember that I matter, that my health, well-being, sanity and time are all precious and important. That I am a good person who cannot get lost in being a people please-r. I have 2 children not 10.
I promise to keep putting me first - to stop trying to be the superwoman I have been acting like again. It is so hard to let go of bad habits. It is not my responsibility to care for everyone. I have to be focused on my small family, our home, our life and let the rest go.
This does not make me a bad person - it makes me ME.
My New Year’s Resolutions are unique this year - I did not make any last year except, “Survive” and this year, I want the same thing but with a bit more.
1- Survive - keep on keeping on in my training to be a survivor. Keep exercising, eating right, keeping myself positive and on track.
2- Letting go- know that I cannot hold on to the pain, the hurt or the betrayal but instead need to stay light, lighter than air to do what I need to do.
3- Work - find my next step, my perfect job/income generating plan to make my life work to be able to stop having so much free time but to balance it with my kids and family.
4-Health - See, survive is for me, health is for the other members of my family. Remove all sugar, get us all on a work out routine, stop my husband from smoking and other destructive habits (sugar, no exercise, etc).
What do you want to do for the upcoming year? What did you find were things you had to let go to survive? What do you know about your comeback? What is your comeback?
So as a December girl, my birthday has always been a great way to celebrate the holidays in overdrive. I used to (before kids) decorate my house and tree right after my birthday (or the day of it) - now of course, we decorate after thanksgiving.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before my birthday last year - actually almost 2 weeks before my birthday to the day. This year, on my actual birthday, I have to admit, I had tons of mixed emotions. I was of course happy and thinking myself blessed and lucky and all that jazz but I also experienced a lot of fear. A lot of dark thoughts about what could happen and if the worse would happen and I would die before seeing my kids grow up or not have the chance to do my renaissance my new me my unveiling of whatever it is my goals in my new life will be to give back, to do more and all that jazz.
I know I have some PTSD and some other lovely issues to work through but I know it takes time. I do all I can to stay focused and positive but sometimes, of course, I falter - hey, I am only human.
Today is the day I can truly celebrate, though, and stay focused on the prize, which is this moment, today, this exact moment of knowing that one year ago today, I had my surgery. My surgeon took out everything - my mastectomy is quite radical I mean hey my tumor was almost 6cm after all. Also, I lost 25 lymph nodes a year ago today of which 5 were positive for cancer.
When the surgeon spoke to my husband he told him emphatically, "I removed all of the cancer. It is all gone." I posted about that on Instagram today (@thetimebetweenis); from that point on my husband has been convinced that I am cured, that I am cancer free. I live my life to try to believe the same, every moment of every day because if I did not, I would not have any peace. I know that this might not be true as it is not true for 1/3 of breast cancer patients who wind up having cancer spread to other parts of their body and become "terminal" at some point...
I also know that some people have local recurrences and all that jazz. I try instead to be positive and not think about those possibilities, but sometimes like the night of my birthday, those thoughts were taking over and winning which sucked.
I did have an awesome night and was able to not cry - because at one point, at dinner, surrounded by my loved ones, I did want to cry. I think the tears were a mix of self pity and fear and I do not like those feelings not one bit. I am thinking about making a post about how pity is one of the worst emotions and why I think so but for now, I will just say that it was a moment of weakness - which everyone can experience at any time though in the old days, I felt this weak all of the time -- now ,though, I truly do (try to) live in the moment.
I am going to share something now that might make you think I am insane - and if that is the case, it is ok, sometimes, I think I am insane, too (lol).
On the night of my birthday, when my peace was rocked, as I was sleeping one of my children called out to me and said, "Mommy, I am scared!" (This happens sometimes as they were impacted by my cancer plot twist and it is the reason why I worked on the children's book told from "their" perspective - see it here - working-through-the-pain-or-what-your-kids-feel-when-mama-gets-sick.html.
Anyway, when they called out, I wanted to say, "I am scared, too." but I did not of course - I told them, "Everything is ok, there is nothing to be scared of..." then, I quickly fell back to sleep but I was not asleep. Instead, I was bathed in a white light that was so strong and so bright and yet I could look at it without having to shield my eyes. I was in a white bright room and in that room were 2 other people - Mary, the Blessed Virgin and Padre Pio. I have written before about my experiences with Padre Pio here padre-pio-me.html.
This experience was more deep, more profound and even if I created it in my head alone (which I do not believe) it was still something that brought me great peace and made me feel that no matter how much I worry, it does not help and that I should just follow my original gut instincts to "pray, hope and don't worry". There was more that happened during this "vision" or "dream" but I cannot put words to it...
I woke up suddenly because I felt something in my hands. When I opened my eyes, I was holding my green scapular in my hands, tight. I will write more about what a "scapular" is at another time because this post already is turning into a book and I have some living to do today! On this day, the day of my "rebirth" there is no bad feeling or fear - there is just this moment, this moment when last year, we heard the magic words, "All of the cancer is gone." I am going to hold on to that and keep it with me so that I can continue to have my peace, no matter what.
What do you do in the time between to help you cope with the fears, the bad stuff, the PTSD? I would love to know! Thanks!
Search the blog here: