To be honest, the holidays have been difficult for me this year. I don't like complaining and I genuinely feel grateful for each and every day - but that doesn't mean that certain times aren't rough. I am the type of girl that normally gets really into the holiday spirit. I love decorating the house, picking out the perfect gifts, and spending tons of time with family and friends to celebrate. But I have struggled this year - struggled to get motivated to do my shopping, struggled to get excited about putting up my outdoor Christmas lights, and struggled to muster up the energy for all the parties and social events of the holiday season.
I had a wonderful few days last week when my friend Sarah was visiting. After Sarah left on Thursday, I fell into a bit of a funk. I think I was just exhausted from radiation, physical therapy, and running all around town showing Sarah a great time while she was here. I spent much of Friday and Saturday fighting back tears - and often times losing that battle - and just crying for no apparent reason. My poor husband would look over and check on me every 15 minutes or so to ask how I was doing - he could sense it and see it all over my face that I was just feeling down. I couldn't perk myself up, couldn't force a smile, and just felt like I wanted the holidays to be over - as much as I feel ashamed to say that because I know I should be grateful for this time with friends and family. It just felt like a bit of a blue Christmas this year.
Christmas Eve we had Mom, Doug, Mike, Diane, Dan and Melissa over for dinner and we had a great time. It helped distract me from my funk for a little while. Christmas morning we headed to Mom & Doug's for breakfast and gift exchanging. As always, we had a wonderful morning together, along with Jeff. But, I felt exhausted already. My eyes were burning from the second I woke up and I just didn't have the usual excitement about the day like I normally do. For the first time in my entire life, I didn't spend the rest of the day with my family. I decided to head back home with Mike instead of going to my aunts, and then to Mike's aunts later that night. I put on my pj's, laid on the couch, watched Home Alone (my favorite Christmas movie ever - along with Love Actually) and didn't move for the rest of the day. Of course I felt guilty not being with my family, but it was the first time in my life I didn't have to run around to a bunch of places on Christmas day. Not only did I want and need to let my body rest, but I just felt like being alone - at least alone with Mike and the pup. I can't really explain all of my emotions well so it might be hard for others to understand. The bottom line is that sometimes all of this is a lot to handle and it can be really tough - really, really tough - and I guess the holidays this year has been one of those times.
It's also hard to face coming to the end of a year that was filled with so many hopes and dreams. Every year I set goals and make resolutions for the upcoming year and Mike and I talk about all the exciting things that we hope might happen. I had such high hopes this year - dreams that didn't come true, and may never come true now that cancer has entered my life. And yes, I know that I have accomplished a lot. I know that people will say, "But look at all you have been through and how well you are doing". I know that I have so much to be grateful for and that I will set new goals and have new dreams. But, I also think it's only fair to let me mourn the loss of my old ones.
I had such a blast with Sarah last week. I am so grateful that she took the time to come and visit. Love you friend!
What gets me through each of those dark times, is my best friend. His love and support mean the world to me. During those difficult times, he knows exactly what to say, or not say - when to hug me, and when to give me my space. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes and I would be lost without him.
Our fate was sealed with a kiss on a unforgettable night 13 years ago. It was New Years Eve of 1998 and I had a serious crush on a cute senior boy, one year older than me. He was the star of the basketball and baseball teams and although we had known each other since we were in elementary school, we had just recently become good friends. A friendship that quickly turned into stalling after our respective basketball and volleyball practices so that we could see each other, phone conversations that went on for hours into the late night, and re-routing how we walked to class so that we could "run" into each other throughout the day.
I will never forget that New Years Eve. I remember exactly where we were, who we were with, and what I was wearing. I remember when Mike asked me to go outside to "talk" which led to that first magical kiss. It started as complete teenage puppy love - I was a few months shy of my 17th birthday and Mike was 18. We have been together ever since.
You aren't supposed to marry the first boy you fall in love with, right? You are supposed to date a bunch of people to figure out exactly who is right for you and weed out all the jerks before settling down and getting married. But what happens when you meet the love of your life as a kid? All I know is that I thank God every day that I recognized how incredible Mike was back then and how special our relationship was....I held on tight and never let go. And the rest is history.
Even before this recent roller coaster started, we had been through a lot together. We spent 4 years in a long distance relationship in college, supported each other through personal and family struggles, and endured the loss of Mike's mom together. By the time we were married, it felt as though we had been through more than many couples that had been together for twice as long as we had. I thought we were surely in the clear for awhile - that we had dealt with our fair share of heartache. I would have never guessed what was waiting ahead for us.
But through it all, we have remained absolute best friends. There is no one I would rather be with on this planet than my husband. And although we have surely had more difficult times than many people our age - the amazing, wonderful, and hilarious times FAR outweigh the tough ones.
Tomorrow we will celebrate 4 years of marriage, and 13 years together - nearly half of my life spent with the most incredible person I know. I am so blessed...but I am greedy and I want many, many more....100 more years would still not be enough.
Happy Anniversary to a man that lives out his vows each and every day. I am so honored and proud to be your wife. ♥
Week #2 of radiation is now done and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season continues. I am thankful that Mike is now on Christmas break from school and will have two full weeks off at home. We have an action packed couple of weeks coming up with plans with family or friends every day from now until after the new year! This past Saturday we celebrated my father in-law Mike's wedding to Diane. It was a fun day spent with lots of family and friends. Congrats Mike & Diane!
It has now been over four months since I shared my "30 Before 30" list with all of you and I figured it was time for a little update on my progress. :)
I'm looking forward to tackling the things I haven't had a chance to cross off my list yet. Three more months to get it done. :)
I am so excited to have one of my best friends from college coming to visit tomorrow! My friend Sarah lives in Denver and it's been way too long since we've seen each other. She is driving up from her parents home in Louisville and will be spending a couple of days with us. I cannot wait to see her! Hope you are all having a great week and gearing up for a wonderful Christmas weekend! Happy holidays!
ps. Please take a quick minute to read about a sweet little boy who really needs some help during this holiday season. I hope that you can stop by and help if you are in the Troy area Tuesday. Thank you! Here is a message from my Aunt Erin...
"Want to take a minute to tell you about a little boy who needs our help, his name is Gabe and he has Leukemia. He is five years old, just started kindergarten when he was diagnoised. After under going his first couple rounds of chemo, he contracted Guillian-Barre Syndrome, as a result he cannot walk, is very weak, and treatment has been stopped for now. Gabe is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. His Aunt Kathy is a friend of mine, she along with her family will be having a BONE MARROW DRIVE TUES 12/20 from 6-9 PM @ Church of Latter Day Saints 2784 Square lake Rd in Troy. You simply fill out a form, and get a swab of the inside of your cheek. You must be between 18-60 yrs, HIV, AIDS, and Cancer free."
Thank you for all the love and encouragement this week as I headed into radiation. The week has been so busy since beginning radiation and therapy for my chest and arms. Everything is going pretty well - no side effects to report yet. I will try to smuggle my camera into radiation sometime soon so I can give you a sneak peek. I can't thank you enough for the cards, texts, emails and messages of support as I headed into this next round of treatment.
I would also like to thank everyone for the extra prayers and concern for my friend, Janet that I mentioned in last weeks post. It is with a heavy heart that I have to share that Janet lost her brave battle with colon cancer last Thursday. I cannot possibly explain how hard this is- even though we were only friends for a short time, we shared a special bond that only few people can understand. I am so heartbroken for her family and devastated that this awful disease has robbed the world of such a beautiful person. This has been one of the first times I have actually felt angry - angry that cancer has taken the lives of so many people I care about - angry that Janet never had the chance to marry her fiance' and grow old together - and angry that despite feeling like I have always tried to do the right things in life, this disease might just take it all away from me.
I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I have said it countless times throughout my life. I have always held on to the belief that God has a plan for us and throughout these past 8 1/2 months, I have desperately tried to stay focused on that. But, I would by lying if I denied that it is a huge struggle to not question that plan sometimes. To not ask "why is this happening?"...I don't ever ask that about myself and what is happening to me but I do question it for the other people in my life. Like, "why did Janet have to be taken from us so quickly", or "why does my husband have to watch his wife go through this after losing his mom to cancer". My dear friend Meredith often helps me work through these emotions and she reminds me that God is good all of the time - that when bad things happen to good people, it doesn't mean God is punishing them, and it doesn't mean He loves them any less. Every day I remind myself that God is with me - that He is looking out for me and those I love - that he won't abandon me or my family when times get really hard. I feel such comfort in knowing that but during tough times like this, after losing a friend, it is easy to feel discouraged and try to question His plan.
Tonight I will head to the funeral home to say goodbye to Janet and pay my respects to her family. Selfishly, I am a little worried about how I will handle it. This is the fourth person I have lost due to cancer since my own diagnosis, and this one just hits the closest to home. I think of her grieving mom and I think of my mom, I will see her heartbroken fiance' and I will think of Mike, I will watch her best friends struggle with this loss and I will think of my best friends.
I am so sad that cancer took Janet from us, but I am relieved that the great suffering she endured is now over. My mom always reminds me that for the person that has died, they have received the ultimate reward - a place in Heaven - and it is those of us that are left behind that struggle and grieve. Janet is in a better place and I am thankful for that. I will honor her memory by continuing to live each day to the fullest and remind myself that every day is truly a blessing.
Please continue to keep her family in your thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time.
I have spent a lot of time with many different friends this week and I just hope you all know how much you mean to me and how grateful I am to have you in my life. I am so blessed to have such amazing friends and I cannot thank you enough for always checking on me, taking the time to call or visit, and for the fun times we have when we are together. I am so thankful for each of you!
Grateful that Janet will be another special guardian angel looking out for us...
This week has been filled with all sorts of up's and down's which has led to this post being delayed a bit. It seemed like every time I would sit down to write, I would feel a certain way and when I would come back to finish it later, I would be feeling a completely new set of emotions and delete everything I had previously typed. So, where to start?...
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, followed by a great weekend in Chicago to celebrate our friend Mike's wedding. We had a really fun weekend and it was nice to catch up with some old friends that we don't get a chance to see too often.
On Monday, I headed back to see Dr. M (my plastic surgeon) and after one more fill of my tissue expanders, he gave me the okay that we could be done with this step so I could move on to radiation. So, come Wednesday morning I was back at Karmanos for a couple hours getting all geared up to start this next leg of the journey.
I met with Dr. R (my radiation oncologist) for awhile to talk about how I have been doing post-surgery, and to go over all the potential risks and side effects of radiation. Oh you know, just the unavoidable scarring down of up to 1/3 of my right lung, potential demineralization of my ribs putting me at risk of fractures, possible rupture of my tissue expander, lymphedema, fatigue, and burning/scarring of my skin...just to name a few. No biggie, just another day in the life of a cancer patient...being constantly faced with choices that bring uncertain and potentially dangerous outcomes no matter which way you go. Radiation brings many risks, but I feel that lingering cancer cells pose an even greater risk...therefore, the choice is to let the radiation begin! I will have radiation treatments every single day (Monday through Friday) starting this Monday, all the way through the end of January. However, we have decided to hold off on radiating my spine at this point. This is a much more dangerous area of the body to radiate, and a place that we don't want to radiate unless we really have to. Right now, I am not really having symptoms of back pain due to my cancer. I have an achy and sore back most days, but it is more due to deconditioning and fatigue, rather than the metastases. So, for now we will wait and see how I feel and if the time comes when pain becomes a bigger issue, maybe we will radiate.
After meeting with Dr. R, I headed in for my CT simulation. This is when my radiation therapist and Dr. R used a CT machine to determine the exact location and size of the area to be treated. After a bunch of different marks and assessments, I received 4 permanent little blue tattoos to mark where the radiation beam would be directed at each of my treatments. My right chest wall will be the area radiated, so I now have one small tattoo under my right collarbone, one over my sternum, one near my waist on my left side and the last one near my waist on the right side. After this procedure was over, I received my usual monthly injection of Zoladex (the one that suppresses my ovary function), and also received my first injection of Xgeva, which is a bone strengthener that I will be getting every month from now on. Needless to say, when I left Karmanos on Wednesday afternoon, I truly felt like a human pin cushion.
Last Wednesday night, Dr. R called me which made me a little nervous to say the least. Luckily, all she wanted to tell me was that I needed to have some of the saline removed from my left breast so that it wouldn't interfere with the angle of the radiation beam. I knew that some of the fluid may need to be removed but I was completely shocked after leaving Dr. M's office on Thursday afternoon when they removed nearly half of the saline from my tissue expander. I had a "little" meltdown in my car while driving home - for the first time, I truly felt so sad about how I looked. I worked so hard to tolerate the quick expansion of my expanders and I felt that all of the discomfort I went through was for nothing. Now I am left with this stretched out skin and a deflated looking breast and it was just an emotional moment for me. I didn't realize how different it would look after having 150 cc's removed and for whatever reason, I just lost it. I rarely complain about all of the things my body has had to go through - how I have been poked, prodded, cut up and stretched. I know that it is not the biggest deal in the great scheme of things. But the simple fact is that sometimes it's just a lot to take. I know my dissatisfaction with the way I now look will only be temporary but sometimes I just need to let myself be upset and then I can move on and get over it.
Thankfully, immediately after pulling myself together from that appointment, I left to pick up my wonderful friend Meredith and we headed to our support group meeting. I always feel better after going to those meetings and it was just what I needed that day. We had five new people attend this time and I am grateful for the love and support each person brings to the group.
Friday I visited many of my old co-workers at the Rehab Institute of Michigan and it totally made my day to see them. I am grateful for the time I spent working there and the friendships I made because many of these women continue to be my biggest supporters as I go through this battle.
The real part of this week that has weighed heavily on my heart is hearing the news that a special friend of mine is not doing too well. This is a friend I have met along this journey, who is also battling cancer. We have so many crazy connections and similarities (not to mention we were born on the same day!), and she was diagnosed with advanced cancer just about a month after me. I have spent much of this week worrying about her, praying for her, and trying to remain positive about my own health while being faced with the devastating reality of what this disease can do to a vibrant, beautiful 29 year old woman like her. If you could please say some extra prayers for my friend and her family. Prayers for healing, decreased pain, strength, and peace as she bravely continues this fight. I would really appreciate it.
This upcoming week will be another busy one filled with daily radiation appointments, the start of therapy for my chest muscles and shoulders, holiday shopping, and a few special events in the evenings too. Please keep me in your prayers, because I know they are helping me each and every day. Although I make sure to enjoy each day and I am very optimistic about my future, it doesn't mean that there aren't daily struggles and it is your love, support and prayers that help me through those times.
Loved spending time with some of my favorite ladies the night before Thanksgiving
All dolled up with my handsome husband at Mike and Noreen's wedding! ....ps-can you tell the hair is starting to take on a life of it's own?!
My beautiful friend Julie and her husband Joe were at the wedding too - so glad we were able to spend some time in Chicago together. Love you, Poo!
My blog to keep you all