I have to start off by giving a huge, "Thank You!" to all of you that have helped rally around us and boost my spirits lately. Since I shared the last blog post, I have received so many thoughtful cards, messages, and calls from friends and family. I can't tell you how much that means to Mike and I - and how it does truly help us remember how many people are praying for us and how many of you want to help us in any way you can. I truly, truly appreciate it so much and don't know what I would do without the incredible support system that we are so blessed to have!
We have been so busy lately trying to juggle my work schedule, many photography gigs, Mike's strength and conditioning camps that he is running, taking care of the pup and the house, managing medical billing errors and paperwork, maintaining our healthy diets, getting enough sleep, and trying to make time to just relax and enjoy the summer with friends and family. I really make an effort to try my best to not stress about things like I used to. So what if the house is a little messy - or if my laundry has piled up to the ceiling - or if I fell behind on my paperwork at the clinic. Who cares! None of it is the end of the world and all that important in the scheme of things. I know that when I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I carry it throughout my entire body. My shoulders and upper traps feel tense and painful, my back aches, my stomach is upset, and I get a headache. Not only do I feel bad physically and mentally when I am stressed, but there are many, many published studies that document the damaging effects that stress can have on a body that is already fighting cancer - especially a hormonally driven cancer, such as mine. High levels of cortisol (the hormone that sky rockets when your body is stressed) leads to such problems as impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia, decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, and lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body --which we all know are two huge things that I need to avoid in order to stay healthy. So bottom line is, we all need to let go of the stress. It's so harmful to our bodies and our spirits.
Speaking of letting go of the stress, I was so grateful that we had a little mini vacation last weekend and spent a few days up north in Traverse City. It was so relaxing and fun - and the farthest thing from stressful. Interestingly enough, I experienced no back pain! We were there to celebrate our friend Erin's wedding (which was beautiful!), and it was also nice to have some extra time to just enjoy each other and our friends, and to explore a part of the state that we absolutely love!
A few more fun pics I captured via Instagram on my phone...
This weekend we will be celebrating my cousin Devon's wedding and I am looking forward to some fun family time! Next week brings my scans which of course is always an anxiety ridden time but I am trying my best to not get myself too worked up about it. We would especially appreciate your continued prayers during that time.
If I could also make one more prayer request - my Aunt Helen suffered a terrible accident on Monday of this week. She is now in a coma after having half of her skull removed due to severe swelling and bleeding in her brain. The doctors said that it was too late but she is a fighter and still hanging on. Please keep her and my family in your prayers. Thank you very much!
I also wanted to share a few quick notes about the 3 Day for the Cure which is coming up on August 17! My friends have organized a few fundraisers that I wanted to tell you all about. There will be a Zumba fundraiser at Royal Oak High School on Friday, July 13. If you were there last year, you know how much fun this is!
The team will also be hosting a garage sale at Becca's house on Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15 from 8am-3pm. We will be selling all sorts of good stuff - including great furniture and gently worn clothes. All proceeds will go directly to the 3 Day team's fundraising efforts. Becca's address is 367 East Saratoga, in Ferndale.
We are also selling some great items for the kiddos in honor of breast cancer awareness. There are onesies, t-shirts, and bibs available with all proceeds going towards the 3 Day as well. Shirts and onesies are $15 and bibs are $10. Many sizes available. Comment below with your contact info or message me if you are interested in placing an order.
Hope everyone is having a great week!
As we settled into bed on Wednesday night, I pulled out my trusty pink notebook that has been my constant companion since last March. "Okay, time to put our list together", I said to Mike. Thursday morning I had an appointment with my oncologist and per our usual ritual in the Malley house, we generated our list of questions and concerns for Dr. F the night before.
"Make sure to tell Dr. F that my last surgery was May 4th...tell him I just saw Dr. M on Monday and he gave me the green light to exercise my arms...I am back to work and it's going well...still bruising a lot, so how does blood work look?" And before Mike drifted off to sleep, he reminded me for about the 100th time, "please make sure to talk to Dr. F about your back." Ah yes, my back. The one thing that has been a trouble maker from the start. This is the area we have worried about from Day #1 when a questionable little spot appeared on those first diagnostic tests.
I was heading into this appointment on my own this time so Mike made me promise that I would be honest with Dr. F about my increased back pain and the symptoms I have been having lately. So, I shared with Dr. F that I feel about 80 years old when I wake up in the morning. That my entire back feels achy and so incredibly stiff. I told him that I experience a dull achy pain throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine at the end of most days. And, I shared with him the terrifying and excruciating pain I experienced on Tuesday when I had severe muscle spasms throughout my paraspinal muscles while sitting at my desk at work. I haven't experienced spasms like that since last fall and it is just about the most painful thing I have ever felt.
BUT, I also explained to Dr. F that I have been doing a lot more lately. I have been at the gym more, I have been busy with lots of photo sessions that require me to get in all sorts of goofy positions while photographing children. I told him that I have also been spending hours and hours on end at my desk editing my photographs and learning how to run a business.
I told Dr. F that although my family has often suggested I get an MRI done, I don't have any interest in having my scans completed any earlier than originally scheduled. I explained that I have been looking forward to feeling "normal" and enjoying this summer without worrying about test results. Unfortunately, Dr. F really didn't see eye to eye with me on my whole "ignorance is bliss" theory. He decided to move my scans up so we can see what's going on. Logically, I am thankful that he is so attentive and proactive, but right now I am just feeling sad, scared, and anxious.
Just when life was starting to feel more normal again, now I have to worry about this. It is so difficult to live this way - to feel all sorts of aches and pains and always have to wonder, is the disease causing this pain? Has my medication stopped working? Does this mean the cancer is spreading? It leads you down a dark and awful path to "Worryville." There is not a doubt in my mind that the psychological and emotional aspects of living with cancer far outweigh the physical ones. The roller coaster of emotions is just relentless and the hardest part is knowing that I will never be able to get off this awful ride.
The timing seems like it couldn't be worse. My closest friend with metastatic BC just found out a few days ago that she has had a serious progression of her disease, after being stable with no evidence of disease for the past year. She has been scanned every three months and it's absolutely terrifying to me to think that so much can change in such a short period of time. It has been so hard to think of what she is going through and watch her grieve this news, and experience all of those emotions that we both felt when we were first diagnosed...fear, worry, doubt, doom, disbelief. I can't help but put myself in her shoes and wonder if I will have a similar fate.
Will we have to start a new treatment plan? Will I have to have chemo again? Will my quality of life be as good if I am on a new medication with different side effects. I try so hard not to worry, but it is nearly impossible to not have these thoughts race through your mind. I wasn't prepared for this. I thought I would have until the end of August to have my "scanxiety" kick in and all of a sudden, it's upon me.
I couldn't stop crying last night and feeling overwhelmed and scared. Today, I am still feeling a little down but I am trying to be very hopeful and optimistic that everything is fine, but all the "what if's" are terrifying nonetheless.
I am begging for your prayers. Prayers that my spine is just as healthy (if not healthier!) than it was when I was scanned in February. Prayers that my current medication is still working and I can maintain my good quality of life. Prayers that the aches and pains subside in my back and that it is simply a result of increased activity. And especially, prayers to help me remember that every day is a blessing - that I am able to remain grateful - and that I am not consumed by fear and doubt. Thank you so much!
I will be having my full body bone scan and spine MRI on July 2, followed by a chest/abdomen/pelvis CT on July 6. I will have to wait until July 12 to see Dr. F for my results since he is only at my clinic on Thursday's. I will definitely keep you all posted.
ps - please keep my stepdad, Doug and his siblings in your prayers as well. Doug lost his sweet and thoughtful dad last night, after leading a wonderful life for 95 years. I know this will be an extra difficult Father's Day for them this year. Thank you for being a great father figure, Doug. Happy Father's Day to you!
And Happy Father's Day to my wonderful father in-law, Mike. We are so grateful you are feeling better. Love you!
Memories often flash through my head like lightening bolts - in one second they appear, and in the next they are gone. Sometimes I have flashes of all sorts of memories that come storming through my mind in such a frenzy it's as if they are competing for my attention. Memories of my high school graduation, my wedding day, or just simple and ordinary moments like my mom picking me up from latch-key as a kid. My mom, Jeff and I would sing, laugh and tease each other in the car as we drove home. We would especially tease my mom about the smell of her feet after a long day in those lovely white nursing shoes she had to wear. (Sorry to call you out on the internet, Mom) :) Life was so simple back then. I long for life to be that simple again.
Tonight is one of those nights where I am just feeling sentimental. Maybe it's because Mike's out of town and I am alone in the house. Or, is it because I am listening to my Fleet Foxes station on Pandora and indulging in a rare glass of wine. Or, maybe it's because I spent the evening with my family and laughed, joke, and reminisced.
As great as it feels to look back on the past and smile, it is also difficult for me. I look at old pictures and wonder, "did I have cancer then and just not know it yet", or "will I ever be that carefree and happy again?" Thinking of the past inevitabily causes me to then think about the future.
I have always been a dreamer. I have always dreamed about where I would live, what my life would be like, how many kids would I have. I try to still have dreams but it's hard for me sometimes. I have been pouring in so much time and energy into Meg Malley Photography but I would be lying if I said there wasn't a tiny voice in the back of my head asking, "Is this all worth it? How many years will you even be here to run a business?" But, it's my dream so I am trying to focus on the present and continue to pursue it. Or when people refer to the future and say, "In five years, we'll do _____." The first thought in my head is, "will I be here in five years?" I beat those thoughts back into the recesses of my mind, but they creep back to the surface every now and then.
I returned to work this past week and it truly felt really great. I am working (very) part time for now and I am grateful I am able to slowly adjust to this new chapter. It's amazing how tired I felt after one 5 hour shift! During my week back at work I noticed a few things....
1) It's nice to feel like a professional again. I worked so incredibly hard for my doctorate degree and I was so worried I lost all of my skills and knowledge. It was so nice to put it all to use again and realize I am still good at my job.
2) It is nice to care for others and forget about yourself for awhile.
3) I am 100% confident I will be a much better clinician now that I understand what it is like to be a patient. Not a patient in the sense of having a doctors appointment every now and then - but a true, chronic, ongoing patient. I have such a deeper respect and understanding for all that my patients have been through and continue to go through.
4) It will be a difficult adjustment for me to realize that I have physical limitations that I must adhere to. I have always prided myself on being physically strong and able to independently transfer and care for most of my patients without assistance. After working just a of couple hours, I began to become aware of my achy back and tight chest and arm muscles - and was sadly reminded of all my body has been through. It will be a true test for me to learn how to ask for physical help at work and not feel inadequate because of it. 5) My priorities have shifted dramatically throughout the past year or so. As much as I love my job, it will always be more important to me that I have dinner with my husband every night rather than staying at work late.
I have a follow up with my plastic surgeon on Monday and another appointment with Dr. F on Thursday for my 8 week follow up and monthly injections. I am hoping my blood work and everything continues to look good to the docs. My back has been bothering me a bit more than normal but I am hoping it will feel better as I transition back into my yoga practice. I'll keep you posted on what my wonderful docs have to say. :)
Thank you for all the love and support - as always. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. I truly appreciate it more than you know.
And because every post is better with pictures....I've been super busy with my photography lately. Here are a few of the cuties I have been photographing....
My blog to keep you all