It's often quite overwhelming and daunting to think about how much can go on in the span of a couple weeks....how many emotions I go through...how many highs and lows there are...and how my the status of my health can change.
The past few weeks have been nothing short of exhausting and overwhelming. There are times when I want to share with you all what has been going on but I don't even know where to start, and it makes me feel exhausted just thinking about trying to catch everyone up to speed. I apologize for that because I know you are all waiting for updates and want to know how things are going. Prior to my last post about the loss of my uncle, I was prepared to tell you about my trip to Vegas for my friend Nikki's wedding. It was great to see my old college roomies and have a few days of R & R - although I actually got a little extra time than I bargained for since I accidentally booked my flight home on the wrong day. :) So, I got a little extra fun in the sun and enjoyed not only the warm desert air and sunshine, but laughs with friends, good food, a great Cirque du Soleil show and even won a few bucks! I am grateful for feeling well enough to travel and spend time with friends!
After I got home from Las Vegas, it was back to full blown busy mode with 2 or 3 photo sessions each week, an amazing acoustic Ben Harper concert in Ann Arbor with Mike, doctors appointments & my monthly injections, support group meetings, and a fun fall baking day with girlfriends.
The past week or two so has been an especially difficult one for me. Of course, it all stems from the loss of my Uncle Kevin and all of the emotions that brings. Then last Wednesday, Mike and I were invited to an impromptu small dinner with Ambassador Nancy Brinker - the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. My local Komen affiliate has been wonderful about listening to my concerns regarding how isolated the metastatic breast cancer community often feels in the midst of all the Komen events and fundraisers. I will write a more in depth post on this another time but the meeting was my opportunity to voice my concerns and opinions to Ambassador Brinker herself - and that's exactly what I did. I would say that dinner went well but it was the start of another emotional few days for me involving a lot of talk about cancer, cancer, cancer.
The following day, Mike and I left straight from work to be with my family in Grand Rapids as we prepared to lay my Uncle Kevin to rest. Thursday night and Friday were spent remembering what an amazing guy he was and what a great impact he had on so many people. As I said before, these things are even more difficult for me now that I am living with this disease. It makes me wonder - what songs will be at my service? Who will speak? Is this how my family will be talking about me? I am thankful that Mike lets me be free to talk about whatever I need to, at any time. So, as we left Grand Rapids and drove to Chicago, we talked a little bit about my funeral. No, I am not dying - and I don't plan on heading that way for a very long time. But the reality of this disease forces us to discuss these things sometimes. And contrary to what you may think, it actually makes me feel better to talk about it. It doesn't help when someone says, "don't talk about that" or "that's not going to happen". Let us talk about it because the thoughts go on in our minds anyways and if we are free to discuss it, it lifts some of that weight off of our shoulders. ("Our", as in those of us living with metastatic breast cancer and other incurable diseases.)
We arrived to Chicago on Friday night and I was looking forward to just relaxing with our good friends Beth & Ben - and that's just what we did. We were not only in Chicago to visit our friends, but we went so that I could attend the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's Annual Conference. Although, it was great to meet up with some of my friends living with MBC, the conference was difficult for me emotionally. I think I will talk about it more in my next post, but let's just say I was hoping to feel encouraged, uplifted and empowered and instead, I left feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated and very sad.
First thing on Monday morning, I found myself back in my plastic surgeon's office. Haven't had the chance to tell you guys, but the swelling in my left breast returned a few weeks ago. I know Dr. M told me that if the swelling ever came back, surgery was inevitable. Well, after discussing the issue once again, asking more questions, and shedding a few tears - I left my appointment with surgery on the books, as well as a decreased sense of confidence that this will be the last of these problems. Of course, I trust Dr. M very much, but there is just no telling what will happen after he opens me back up. He will be removing the mesh tissue that we think is causing all of the problems. He will also remove the implant and replace it with a new one. Not only am I worried about the usual side effects from surgery - infection, pain, and the fatigue that it brings over me - but I am worried about what will happen once that mesh is removed. I obviously needed that mesh the first time around because my skin wasn't strong enough to support the implant on it's own. I am now praying that somehow I will be able to successfully support the implant without the mesh, because if I cannot, it means more complications and more surgeries down the road.
I know that this is nothing major in the scheme of things and that things could be WAY worse. I get that -believe me, I do. But, for the first time last week, I finally hit a point where I just didn't want to try to find the silver lining. I didn't want to have a pity party, but I just wanted to be able to feel sad and discouraged and know that it was justified to feel that way for a little bit. I began to question many of my decisions. Did I do the right thing by having the left breast removed? Should I have just dealt with the mastectomy and foregone the reconstruction? Am I causing my body more harm than good in the long run by going through all of these surgeries and procedures? Once I let myself ask these questions, express these emotions, and work through my feelings, I felt better and could get on with my day.
So, surgery is now scheduled for November 20th - if I told you a later date, that's because there was an earlier opening so they are getting me in a little sooner. Please pray that everything goes very well and that my body can sustain this reconstruction without the mesh, and without further surgeries and complications.
Thanks for your constant love and prayers.
I had started to write a new post a few days ago and I guess I should have made time to finish it then. Because now I am in an entirely different place. I am angry. I am sad. I am devastated and heartbroken that this awful disease has taken the life of another one of my family members. I AM SO SICK OF CANCER! I want to scream!!!!!!!!!!
My sweet, kind and caring, Uncle Kevin died today after a long battle with cancer. Three different types of cancer, to be exact. He was truly an amazing guy. As soon as he found out I was diagnosed he called me to let me know I could do this - I could get through it just like he had. He would call every few weeks and just leave voicemails saying, "don't even worry about calling me back - I just want you to know I am thinking of you and I love you and Mike." He was amazing at acknowledging that although he was a cancer survivor himself, he didn't know exactly what I was going through. He wouldn't pretend that our situations were the same or say, "I know how you are feeling" like so many people do. He would just quietly listen and be there to offer support and encouragement. Because he lived on the other side of the state, and our family dynamics were often not great, I didn't get to see him a lot. But when it came down to it, I know he loved me. I know he cared about me and he was proud of me. And I know that he was worried about me, and that he was devastated that this God - awful disease had now found it's way into my body too...a curse which has been put upon our family for generations.
I don't know what to do. I pulled into my driveway this afternoon and just sat there with the car turned off for about 10 minutes. I couldn't even move. I didn't know what to do, where to go, what to think. I still don't. I just want to close my eyes, go to sleep and wake up knowing this was all a terrible nightmare. I know my poor cousins and my aunt are just reeling right now, and my heart breaks for them. I am so tired of losing people and I can't help but be once again faced with my own mortality each and every time this happens. And as I try to type through tears of sadness, I can't help but think of how my story will end.
Cancer has stolen my mother in law from us. It has stolen my grandmother and between Mike and I both, it has taken 7 of our aunts and uncles.
I am tired of going to funerals. I have been to 7 funerals just since my diagnosis alone. I am tired of losing friends that I have met along my journey. I am tired of having friends lose their mother in law's, or their aunts, or their grandparents to cancer. I am tired of hearing about babies and little children being diagnosed. I am tired of my friends getting bad scans and learning that their disease has progressed, or that their treatment is no longer working for them. I AM SO SICK OF CANCER!!!!!
I love you Uncle Kevin - may you finally rest in peace and be reunited with Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Pat, Aunt Maureen, Uncle Shawn, Uncle Joseph, and Aunt Helen. I am so grateful we were able to see each other at Shannon's wedding in July, and I was able to tell you how much I loved you - knowing it would likely be the last time I saw you until we meet again in Heaven. I will forever remember your kind and gentle spirit, infectious laugh and warm smile.
"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand."
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