Exactly one year ago today, my life was forever changed. It's incredible to think of how a few small words can turn your life upside down and transform your entire world in an instant. Although a year ago I knew I had a battle ahead of me, I never could have dreamed it would become such a daunting one, with such a dire diagnosis. In so many ways, it still feels surreal.
I spent some quiet time alone last night, reflecting on everything that has happened throughout this past year. I re-read all 108 comments written on my very first post on this blog. The love and outpouring of support was overwhelming then - and it still is today. The first paragraph I wrote on that first blog entry says it best...
"I guess I should start off by saying that I am so incredibly blessed to have so many people in my life that love me so much! I have a truly AMAZING husband that is the absolute love of my life (please excuse the cheesy, lovey-dovey stuff- I can't help myself sometimes), a mother and step-father that are the best, and a brother that has put up with me for 29 years and loves me anyways. (Yep, turned the big 2-9 on Monday and then found out about the big "C word" 2 days later...happy birthday, huh?!) In addition to these wonderful people, I have the most loving aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and grandmother ever!...and my friends...let me tell you, I have the most incredible and supportive friends ever!"
Those words hold even more truth today. I am beyond blessed to have the most incredible support network of family, friends, and even complete strangers. I truly have no idea how anyone gets through times like this without that. I have made it through these last 365 days because of your support, your love, and your prayers.
For 365 days, I have known that I am living with cancer.
For 365 days, I have looked at the world differently.
For 365 days, I have lived with first hand knowledge that life is a precious gift.
And for 365 days, I have endured more physically, mentally and emotionally than I ever thought I would in this lifetime...
3 bone scans
1 MUGA heart scan
3 CT scans
1 port surgically implanted in my chest
1 shaved head
Many lost eyelashes and eyebrows
15 rounds & more than 60 hours of chemotherapy
1 terrifying loss of consciousness
28 radiation treatments
Hundreds of trips to Karmanos
1 car ride spent vomiting
1 night in the hospital
3 annoying surgical drains
2 tissue expanders
Seemingly endless amount of days awaiting test results
Thousands of tears
1 bout of the flu
Too many days of nausea
Many, many needle pokes and blood draws
210 days of Tamoxifen
6 painful injections of Zoladex with a 14 gauge needle
5 injections of Xgeva to strengthen my bones
2 shut down ovaries
22 pills every single day
Ridiculous amount of hot flashes
Countless appointments with my medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, PM & R doc, occupational therapist, nurses, genetic counselors, and support groups
I have prayed, meditated, juiced and blended my fruits & veggies, practiced yoga, tried reiki, been massaged, began a gratitude journal, learned deep breathing techniques, became a member of 2 support groups and started a third. I have attended fundraisers, spoke to high schoolers, and travelled to conferences. I have made new friends, reached out, and shared my story to try to help others.
I have learned how to let go of stress, accept help from others, and learned how to say "no". I have learned how to take even better care of myself, how to truly relax, and how to live in the moment. I have learned to have more patience, to not sweat the small stuff, and to let go of the things which I cannot control.
I have slept a lot, celebrated a lot, and even travelled a lot.
I have laughed and cried, laughed and cried...and cried some more.
I've revised my hopes and dreams - but haven't stopped hoping and dreaming.
I've prayed, promised, bargained...and maybe even begged.
I've figured out what my true priorities are in life.
I smile and laugh every day. I tell my husband, "I love you" every day. I talk to my mom at least 5 times every day. I talk to at least one friend every day. I cuddle my pup every day. I try to eat well and care for my body every day. I thank God every day.
I don't take anything for granted.
I appreciate the small things in life.
I count my blessings.
I've been reminded of how many people love and care about me.
Reminded of what an incredible caregiver and best friend my husband is.
Reminded of how lucky I am to have an amazing mom.
Reminded that I am not the one in charge.
Reminded of my faith in God.
I've been reminded that each and every day is a blessing...all 365 of them - whether they were filled with injections, infusions, and tears - or smiles, laughter and joy....they were 365 huge blessings and I am grateful for every single one of them.
Thank you to every one of you reading this for your love and support over these past twelve months. There are no words to adequately thank you all but please know that your comments, notes, calls, texts, meals, and visits have made a huge impact in my life and have helped lift my spirits each and every day. I look forward to another 365 days of blessings...and many, many more years beyond that!
ps. Happy, happy birthday to my wonderful step-dad, Douggie. ;) Thank you so much for all you have done for us this year. We are so blessed to have you in our lives!
It seems appropriate that I leave you with some images from my garden on this special day. Last year at this time, I included an image of a tiny tulip popping up in my flower bed. Spring has sprung even earlier this year and my flowers are looking great already. It's only fitting that my birthday and this milestone anniversary occur during the first week of spring...a time of re-birth, growth and renewal.
My blog to keep you all