As we headed down for the Race for the Cure in Detroit on Saturday, we were all reminiscing about last years event. How hot it was, how fatigued I felt, and how lightheaded and nauseous I became during the opening ceremonies. I think I had just finished my third round of chemo and I wanted to surprise my friends by showing up to support them at the race. In all honesty, I probably had no business being there. I didn't say much but secretly I felt pretty awful and now that I look back on it, I have a greater understanding of how bad I truly felt. Knowing that I would be present for the opening ceremonies, and actually be able to participate in the walk this year, felt pretty amazing. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's so true....what a difference a year makes!
Our team arrived bright and early at Comerica Park because our local ABC news affiliate wanted to interview our team before the opening ceremonies started. Normally, I hold it together pretty well during those sorts of things, but I got a little choked up when I was discussing how special it was to be able to fully participate this year. You can check out the clip from WXYZ Channel 7's broadcast here.... make sure you click on the video showing our purple shirts.
I was asked to be part of the Survivor Honor Guard during the opening ceremonies. A group of survivors were picked to carry flags indicating how many years of survivorship they have. We gathered together for the opening ceremonies until they called us up and had us gather on stage. I am going to be honest - that part of the morning was extremely difficult for me and once I realized how it was making me feel, I instantly wished I wasn't a part of it. Although I put on a happy face, inside I was feeling incredibly alone and sad. Wouldn't know it from this smile I flashed for my team, would you?
It might sound crazy to say that I felt alone in a sea of thousands of breast cancer survivors, but that's exactly how I felt. I should have stayed with my team during the opening ceremonies. I should have held Mike's hand and been surrounded by my friends and family that know my personal struggle. Instead, I found myself surrounded by women that were cheering, smiling and celebrating the fact that they beat this disease. Sure, some had tears and I know it's a very emotional experience for any cancer survivor. But for me, my tears were entirely different. My tears represented the fact that I will live with this disease until my dying day - and when that day comes, it will likely be due to this cancer. My tears represented the fact that no matter how hard I try, how much I alter my lifestyle, how many books I read or prayers I recite, I cannot just "beat this" like so many other women have. My tears represented the women I have come to know and lost due to this disease - the women who were stage IV just like me. My tears represented letting go of so many of my hopes and dreams and trying with every fiber of my being to live in the moment because that is all that is promised to me.
Please don't get me wrong, I am grateful to be here. I know I have so many reasons to celebrate, and that is what I tried to focus on. But at the same time, I felt like an imposter - like a total fake. I felt like I didn't deserve to stand with all of those women on stage and have everyone clap for us that we "beat" breast cancer. I felt lonely and isolated and couldn't help but overhear all the women around me talking about when their treatments ended.....will my treatment ever end?
I stood on that stage while everyone sang and danced and I just wanted to scream out and say, "what about all of the women that have died!" I know this event can't be all doom and gloom but I think the women that have lost their lives to breast cancer deserve more than one brief moment of silence. Many of the women around me didn't even stop talking during that time and I couldn't help but feel angry and disrespected - knowing one day that moment of silence might be for me too.
I think it's just been a lot lately - a lot of interviews, a lot of breast cancer related events - and it just becomes overwhelming. I feel as though I am in a constant state of emotional turmoil over whether or not to participate in all of this. On one hand, I want to generate more awareness for metastatic disease and for young adults with cancer, and I desperately want to change the way funds are allocated in the breast cancer world. We all know what a pink ribbon means - we have enough awareness about that. I want to see more money go towards research and I want to advocate for that. But, at what point do I need to just live my life? Every single event, fundraiser, or interview puts this disease right back in my face when I work so hard to try to forget about it. I know it's a huge part of me but I don't want it to define who I am.
I think Saturday was just my tipping point and I need to step back and take a breather for a little while. Thankfully, I am returning to work next week! Yikes- sorta scary but great at the same time. I am so grateful that I am able to start (very) part time and see how it goes. TRP is being so flexible and accommodating and I am grateful for it. I am looking forward to having a piece of my "old life" back and hopefully this will make me feel a little bit more "normal" again.
We spent the rest of our Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. It was so nice to relax in Jeff's pool, work in the yard, and have friends over for a BBQ.
These two were having quite the field day with their recent discoveries of chocolate covered pretzels ♥
I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend too!
A huge thank you to my loving friends and family that came out on Saturday for the Race for the Cure - and a big thanks to Nichole for organizing all the shirt orders and picking up all our packets! Thank you so much, friend. I am so grateful to have all of you in my life....and grateful you will walk in the pouring rain with me. ;) Love you guys!
Oh, and for those of you that didn't catch my interview with Alicia Smith from WXYZ Channel 7 news from last week, you can find it here. I think you have to click on the third video that is shown. As weird as it is to see yourself on tv and hear your own voice, I think they did a nice job with the piece.
Have a great rest of your week!
I guess once I had a taste of the sweet freedom after surgery, there was no keeping me down any longer. Ever since the nausea and soreness settled down, it seems like life has returned to it's usual hectic pace. No complaints here though - that's the kind of life that feels most 'normal' to me anyway. And I will always be grateful to be busy since that is a true indication that I am feeling good!
A belated Happy Mother's Day to all of you amazing mommas out there! I was able to spend that day hosting brunch for the fam over at our house and then heading out to GG's to celebrate with her, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. There aren't many things I can say about my incredible Momma that I haven't already gushed about in previous posts. All I know is that I would be lost without her, and Mike and I are beyond grateful to have her in our lives and help support us through all of the ups and downs of the past year, in particular. She deserves much more recognition than one special day allows! We love you Momma! ♥
I am also so grateful to have some other pretty amazing women in my life too...especially my grandma GG, and my Godmother, my Aunt Carol. Happy Mother's Day to you both, too! Love you!
Last Monday, I had my first follow up appointment with Dr. M since surgery on May 4th. He was pleased with how everything looks and how I have been feeling. Of course, I had to badger him and ask if I can please get back to working out and doing everything around the house that I want to do. He gave me the green light to go back to the gym but I am not able to do anything with my arms for another 4 weeks - no lifting weights, no pushing, no pulling, no picking up friends babies....oops, might have cheated on that last one a few times! ;) It is driving me nuts to not be able to do what I want, but I am trying my best to be a good little patient and make sure that everything heals just as it is intended to.
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of being invited onto the field at Comerica Park during the national anthem and first pitch at the Tigers Game. It was such a neat experience to join other breast cancer survivors as the Tigers honored us with their "Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer" game. I met up with some of my YSC friends there as well. We wore the shirts that the YSC team is wearing for the Race for the Cure - it's pretty astounding to see the ages of our diagnoses on our shirts!
I was able to capture a picture of myself on the scoreboard of me taking a picture of the scoreboard! ha-sounds confusing, I know. Can you see where I circled myself in the pic below?
Wednesday night at Comerica was a blast! Then first thing Thursday morning, I headed to Karmanos for my monthly injections into my abdomen. In addition to that, I was asked to participate in an interview with our local ABC news affiliate, WXYZ Channel 7. The super sweet and lovely anchor, Alicia Smith, interviewed me. She wanted to know my story and what I have been through, about why I wanted to help start a young women's support group, and why I participate in the Race for the Cure and what it means to me to have others support me there as well. It was a fun morning and one more way that I am trying to help raise awareness for young adults faced with cancer. I haven't heard when it will air but it's going to be sometime this week before the race on Saturday morning. Channel 7 will be interviewing me again live at the race with my entire team there with me!
Here I am with Alicia Smith, who couldn't have been any nicer and made me feel much more relaxed on camera.
The rest of the week and weekend was filled with many Kettering baseball games, a trip to Eastern Market for flower day, and spending time with two of my favorite munchkins - Emma and Alice. Luckily for me, I have some pretty cute models to practice my photography skills with. :)
I also wanted to mention that a group of my wonderful friends are at it again this year and have formed their "Meghan Malley Rally" team for the 3 Day For A Cure event in August. I am so proud of them and honored that they want to dedicate their time and energy to this cause in my name. They are not only focused on supporting me, but on helping to generate more awareness for metastatic breast cancer and the importance for further research to help find a CURE!
Their fundraising efforts are underway and if you like to bowl, and love to support a great cause, we have an event for you! Check out the flyer for more details and click here to visit their team page to either join our team or donate! I am not an official participant, but I will be out there attempting 10 miles each day, so come join us August 17-19!
Keep your eyes out for me on Channel 7 news this week and come join us Saturday morning at the Detroit Race for the Cure! It is a wonderful event! Hope everyone is having a great week and have a fun Memorial Day weekend!
ps. - I would like to give a very special thank you to Dr. Schenden and his staff at Schenden's Medical Day Spa. Last week I was completely blown away by a letter that Dr. Schenden wrote me. He told me that some of his staff have been following the blog and have been touched by my story. Dr. Schenden mentioned that they knew one of the "30 before 30" items I wasn't able to cross off my list yet was to get a massage for Mike. Well, Dr. Schenden so graciously sent us two gift certificates for spa services at his medical day spa! One for Mike, and one gift certificate for me too! It was so unexpected and I am so grateful. People often do not realize the impact that one little note, or one kind gesture can have. I was brought to tears by this act of kindness and I am truly so thankful that such compassionate and thoughtful people are out there in the world doing things to help brighten someone else's day. Thank you so much to Dr. Schenden and his staff - It truly meant so much to us!
I am super excited to be coming to you from my desktop computer, and not the laptop - which means I have peeled myself off from the couch! woohooo!!! It's the little victories, people. ;)
Friday was a bit of a doozy for me but thankfully, all in all, surgery went well and was a success. I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 am for all my pre-op stuff, went into surgery a little after 8am, and was out of surgery a couple hours later. Dr. M came out to talk to the fam and let them know everything went well. The surgery itself was fairly uneventful except for one complication on my left side. There was an area where my pec muscle had sort of collapsed and wasn't covering the tissue expander properly. It's so interesting to find this out because I knew there was something wrong with this particular spot ever since my mastectomy. I could not only see, but feel that something was different there but no one knew what it was. Just one more example of how we should always trust our intuitions about these things - we know our bodies better than anyone! Anyways, Dr. M had to implant some sort of synthetic mesh tissue to build that area back up and apparently over time my body will begin to recognize this as normal tissue and start to heal itself. Modern medicine is amazing, huh?!
Although surgery went well, my experience in post-op while coming out of anesthesia was just about the polar opposite. I truly felt like I was hit by a Mack truck! Every inch of my body ached and hurt, and it honestly felt like I didn't have an ounce of pain medication in my body. On top of that, I was extremely nauseous and thought I was going to vomit. This was nothing like my experience with the double mastectomy. I was a little nauseous after that but my pain was so well controlled - this was a level of pain like I had never felt before! To make matters worse, my post-op nurse was let's just say, less than friendly or compassionate.
I was extremely groggy but I remember telling this nurse that I was in a great deal of pain. Well, she proceeded to say that because I was also nauseous she would not give me any Vicodin until I ate. Next thing I know, she shoves a bowl of saltines in my hand and tells me to eat. Now let's think about this...I have not been allowed to eat or drink anything for 14 hours at this point which means my throat is as dry as the Sahara, I was just intubated with a tube down my throat for 2 hours which means I am very sore on top of the dryness, and to top it off, I am nauseous and don't have the desire to eat one morsel of anything! I remember trying to chew and swallow one of the crackers, and the nurse comes back and says, "Well, did you eat?" I then nod my head yes and she looks in the bowl and with disgust she says, "Ugh, you only ate one - I am not giving you the meds until you eat more." This lovely lady then decides to sort of lecture me and make me somehow feel bad that I can't take the medicine she wants to give me for anti-nausea because I have a major sensitivity to it and it bottoms out my blood pressure...."Well, you would feel better if you could take the Zofran.....Well, I can't give you the Zofran so that's why you are nauseous...." It was as if she thought I was just choosing not to take it to be a pain in the butt or something. So what does she decide to give me? Benadryl! So now she expects me to finish eating those crackers while I struggling with every fiber of my being to keep my eyes open. Ugh - it was not fun.
Thankfully, what seemed like an eternity later, they let Mike, Mom and Doug come back and see me. They had been in the waiting room worried since Dr. M told them they would probably be able to see me 45 minutes after surgery, but in actuality it ended up being 2 hours because of all this nausea/pain craziness. I knew as soon as Momma/Nurse Jan was back there with me, I would get the meds I needed and hopefully start to feel better. Well, the next thing I remember is literally feeling like they were pushing me out of the door. The nurse told Mike to go get the car, my mom helped me get dressed and I just remember begging her to let me get back in the bed. The thought of being transported in a wheelchair and riding in the car sounded awful! I actually don't really remember riding in the car or how I got in the house. I woke up a few hours later in my bed and was so grateful to be feeling a little better and not so, "I was just run down by a stampede of wild buffalo" feeling.
My "Hope" bracelet is so special to me. I have worn it each and every day since last April when my sweet friend Katie gave it to me. She also gave a similar one to each of our Beauts, and one to Momma Jan. I am always bummed out whenever I have to take it off for surgery or an MRI.
Saturday I felt pretty darn good. Of course, I felt a little sore but I wouldn't really even call it pain. Mike had a baseball tournament which I didn't want him to miss, so Momma Jan stayed with me and I also had a few sweet visitors come by to keep me company and bring me treats--thanks friends! And there was one sweet puppy who wanted to be lazy and spend lots of time next to his Momma, on his new doggy bed....
Sunday brought some tummy issues that I always seem to have after surgery. The anesthesia and pain meds just mess up my stomach and make me feel nauseous sometimes so that was the problem on Sunday. I stopped taking the Vicodin on Saturday to try to avoid it's effects on my stomach but I think it takes awhile to have your system bounce back from all of that. I pretty much didn't move from the couch and just spent the day watching trashy tv. :) Yesterday, I started feeling better but was still dealing with a little bit of an upset stomach, but today I am feeling much better! I haven't even sat on the couch once yet today and it's already noon - victory! :)
I am honestly bored to tears and am not used to laying around like this. It's a catch 22 because I am bored but don't feel 100% well enough to go do much. Sadly, Dr. M told me absolutely no exercise for 2 weeks. I seriously just wanted to walk on the treadmill or slowly ride a stationary bike but he said, "NO!" Then when I said, "well, I will be able to just walk around the block, right?" He said, "what don't you understand about this - no!" It was kind of hilarious with the two of us going at it right before surgery. So, I will feel much better when I can get back to the gym and start moving again. I see Dr. M on Monday and hopefully he will cut me a little slack then. :)
In other news, I got my port out! Woohoo! That was a bit of an unexpected surprise. Dr. F told me last September when chemo was over that I could get it out but I was honestly worried that I would need it again for more chemo or something. After my good scans in February, I felt a little better about not needing it but I was still apprehensive. So, after my appointment with Dr. F a few weeks ago, I decided to just go for it and get it out. I figured that it would be nice for summer time to not have this big thing popping out of my chest, and Dr. F reminded me that it's a source of infection so it's smart to have it out. I scheduled outpatient surgery at the end of May to have it removed. Well, during pre-op while I was talking to Dr. M, he said, "Well, we aren't using it today so why don't I just take it out. I do it all the time!" Bonus! One less surgery to worry about. So, although my port never really bothered me and I didn't even mind it too much, I got rid of it and it's nice to have one extra foreign thing removed from my body. Now my little scar just needs to heal up and I'll be good to go.
Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers while I went into surgery and have since been recovering. It always boosts my spirits to hear from people and I appreciate it so much!
In other exciting news...this downtime has allowed me to concentrate more on my new little baby, "Meg Malley Photography". A few weeks ago, I officially registered my business with the county and I have decided to take the plunge into being a small business owner. I started a Meg Malley Photography Facebook page over the weekend to post my latest work...feel free to check it out here -http://www.facebook.com/MegMalleyPhotography
And of course, you can see my full website at www.megmalleyphotography.com. I am looking forward to devoting more time and attention to this part of my life because I truly enjoy it so much!
Hope everyone has a great week!
Do you ever sit back and take a minute to reflect on exactly where you are in your life? Not in the sense of a geographical location, but where you are spiritually, psychologically, emotionally. How did you end up there? What events throughout your life led to this exact moment? Where would you be if you chose the other path when you came upon the fork in the road?
We have all ended up exactly where we are based on a series of choices - and those choices have likely been influenced by a number of different people and circumstances throughout our lives. I think one major point of this crazy thing called life, is to learn from those choices - to reflect on where they led you - and to decide if that is a path you should continue to travel down, or perhaps it is time to venture out and try something new.
Are you truly happy in this moment? If not, what can you do about it? Are there steps you can take to actively participate in the direction your life is heading? Or are you willing to sit back and watch it all unfold without attempting to change the angle of your sails and steer yourself towards what brings you joy in this world?
The only way that I have found to live with true happiness while facing this disease, is to try to turn it into something positive. To try to somehow make a difference - to educate, to support, to befriend, to create awareness, to speak out. If I simply sat back and wallowed in self-pity about this hand that's been dealt to me, I would be miserable. What good would that do for anyone? For me, Mike, my family, and my friends - it would suck everyone down into a deep, dark hole. Instead, I have tried to do what I can to turn this situation around and make something good come from it.
I am grateful that New Balance and Chris Pearson, the director of the Mid-Michigan affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure gave me the opportunity to share my story last Sunday at the Race for the Cure in Lansing. I nervously stood on the steps leading up to the State Capital building and awaited my introduction. Just moments prior, I almost lost it as the opening ceremonies began and young dancers performed in front of the crowd. As I watched my mom and saw the tears stream down her face, I was reminded of how hard this is for everyone. But, I knew it was important that I take this opportunity to share my experience and try to make some kind of positive impact.
As Mike and I walked up to the podium, I felt a wave of nervousness wash over me. But after bobbling the first few words of my speech, I took a breath and simply spoke from the heart. I shared my story and emphasized what I believe to be the most important aspects of my journey - that it is a myth that young women are not affected by breast cancer, and that there needs to be more research and awareness for metastatic disease because no one dies from breast cancer unless they become metastatic. Research investigating why cancer cells metastasize and how to stop this from happening are the only ways we will actually find a true cure!
Thankfully, I was able to get through my entire speech without breaking down. That was one of my goals because once those flood gates open, good luck getting them closed for awhile! I want to thank Mike for literally and figuratively always standing right by my side, no matter what. There is no one I would rather travel down this road with than you! Thank you to my family and friends that came out to support me and to all of you that sent me well wishes and good luck vibes from afar. I am so thankful that I have received such amazing feedback from this - especially from my friends in the metastatic breast cancer community. I truly wanted to represent them well and speak on behalf of every single one of them.
If you would like to see my speech, please click on the link below. Looks like I can cross this one of my bucket list..."Share your story in front of 5,000 people!"
Here are a few pics from the day that Kyle captured...
I don't know what made Mike happier - listening to me speak or meeting MSU's football coach, Mark Dantonio and hearing him mention me in his speech to the crowd.
I love all of you guys - thank you so much for coming! Sorry we missed Aunt Erin, Mary, Melis, Brad and Payton in our group pic.
Well, tomorrow at 6:30am we are due to check in at the hospital for my next scheduled surgery - never a dull moment around here I guess. :) My surgery will begin at 8am and will last a couple of hours, followed by a couple of hours in recovery before I am able to head home. This is (hopefully) the last major step in my reconstruction process. Tomorrow, Dr. M will open up my scars from the double mastectomy and he will proceed to remove the tissue expanders and replace them with implants. He will then make some fine-tuning adjustments to ensure a proper fit, size and shape. Dr. M has informed me that I will likely be sore and down and out for a few days. I will have strict restrictions to avoid any lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling for 2 weeks at a minimum, and no returning to work for at least 4 weeks. Thankfully, momma nurse Jan and Mike will be here all weekend and into next week making sure that I am doing just fine. I am expecting surgery to go smoothly and that I will have an uneventful and speedy recovery.
I would greatly appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers as I head into surgery tomorrow - not just for me but for my family as they anxiously await the outcome, and for my medical team that will be taking care of me. Thank you all so much for your enduring support and we will be sure to update you soon once I am out of surgery.
My blog to keep you all