What more could a girl ask for in one weekend....spending a ton of time with family and friends visiting from out of town, meeting a true inspiration in my life, supporting a wonderful local charity.....oh, and having my picture on the cover of the Detroit Free Press newspaper! Yeah, that's right...the cover!
First things first...a few months ago, I discovered the lovely Kris Carr was coming to speak in Rochester Hills. I couldn't believe it and my immediate thought was, "I don't care what I have going on, I have got to be there!" Some of you may be thinking, "That is so cool", and others may be thinking, "Who the heck is Kris Carr?" Well, for those of you that don't have the pleasure of knowing who Kris is, I will be happy to tell you a little about her. Kris is a New York Times best-selling author and a self proclaimed "Wellness Warrior". She also happens to be living with Stage IV cancer and has been kicking it's butt for the past nine years. I had a vague recollection of her TLC documentary entitled, "Crazy Sexy Cancer", which followed the beginning of her journey with the disease, but didn't know very much about her until after I was diagnosed. My friend, Nikki bought me Kris' book, "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips" and from the instant I started reading, I felt like she was speaking directly to me. Kris was 31 years old when she was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and was told she had no more than ten years to live. Everything she wrote about completely resonated with me - all of the unique issues that a young woman faces while battling this disease, especially one without a cure. I could identify with everything Kris wrote about and I knew right away that she was going to be a huge inspiration for me. After reading that book, I then read her "Crazy Sexy Diet Book", and became involved in her online community. Kris' website, Crazy Sexy Life is filled with a lot of health and wellness information and her online community, My Crazy Sexy Life is an amazing place to connect with thousands of other cancer survivors. There are over 200 different online support groups at My Crazy Sexy Life and my discovery of the metastatic breast cancer group has been an absolute Godsend for me.
I am so grateful that I have so much support from the incredible community of breast cancer survivors. And I am also thankful to belong to support groups specifically for young adults, but "meeting" my online friends of the metastatic breast cancer group has filled a huge void for me. The most difficult aspects of this disease for me are those that deal with coming to grips with a Stage IV diagnosis - wrapping my head around living my entire life with cancer, and living with the fear that this disease will take me away from those I love well before I am ready - those are issues that others just can't understand. No matter how well intentioned someone is, whether they are a cancer survivor or not, there are aspects of my life that only these women, and others dealing with metastatic disease can truly understand. Having this support group of amazing, positive, and optimistic women has been a huge comfort to me and ultimately, I have Kris Carr to thank for that.
I have always been dumbfounded when watching people (usually teenagers) lose their minds when meeting a celebrity - like the girls that would scream, cry, and pass out at a Michael Jackson concert just because they were in his presence. Well, although there was no screaming or passing out, I did become extremely emotional upon meeting Kris. I tried to choke back tears as she signed my two books, but soon they were streaming down my face as I desperately tried to quickly explain to her what a huge impact she has had in my life. It was like an out of body experience, where I sat back and watched myself thinking, "get ahold of yourself - you are acting like a crazy fool!" - but something came over me and I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was meeting someone that is considered a "celebrity" in some circles, but because this person has truly made a huge positive impact in my life. To me, Kris represents inspiration, motivation, optimism, positivity, self-advocacy, and most of all, she represents HOPE. And that means everything to me.
If you or anyone you know could benefit from a tremendous resource in the battle against cancer, please direct them to Kris' books or website. It is a wealth of information and support, not only for those of us with cancer, but for anyone that is seeking a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthier life. To watch a quick video to learn more about the fabulous Kris Carr, please click here.
Kris was in Michigan as the keynote speaker for The Pink Fund. This luncheon was a fundraiser for this great organization which raises money to help financially support women while they battle breast cancer. To learn more about The Pink Fund, click here.
After a wonderful afternoon at The Pink Fund luncheon with Momma Jan, I headed to the Callaghan Family Picnic for the remainder of the day. I am so extremely blessed that I absolutely adore Mike's family and love spending time with them. I have been a part of the their family for nearly 13 years now and they have always treated me as one of their own. I love Mike's aunts, uncles, and cousins as if they are my blood relatives and I had a fabulous time with them Saturday afternoon, Saturday night watching the Tigers game, and on Sunday at our house while a group of us cheered on the Lions and the Tigers!
I woke up on Sunday morning at 7:30am to the sound of my phone ringing. It was Julie, one of my very best friends, and upon answering I realized she was crying. She was crying tears of joy and pride as she saw the Detroit Free Press article featuring yours truly. I was so touched and immediately so excited to get my hands on a copy. Mike immediately headed out to the store and hurried back home with a huge stack of newspapers. I couldn't believe it when I saw my face on the actual cover of the paper! And then to see a full page picture of my mug on the cover of the Health + Food section! I was blown away. After I turned the page I saw the wonderful article by Patricia Montemurri and a huge spread of information honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I honestly did not realize what a huge feature this was going to be and I was completely shocked.
Just "a few" of the papers Mike bought...he's a proud hubby and went a little overboard
Cover of the Health + Food section
Two page spread inside the Health + Food section along with a lot of other great information regarding types of breast cancer, how to complete self breast exams, mammograms, and other helpful screening information.
The main article is also featured on the Detroit Free Press website, and you can read it here. Thank you so much to all of our family and friends that contacted us to share their excitement with us on Sunday. The happiness for me is not seeing my name or picture in the paper (if you know me, you know I pick apart every picture of myself anyways), but it is in the thought that perhaps this article can help just one other person. Perhaps it can lead someone to early detection to save themselves from going through this, or maybe it can help someone that has been diagnosed realize that life goes on, and that although the journey is a difficult one, it can also be amazingly fulfilling and meaningful.
ps. I planned on completing this post last night, but late in the afternoon I received an amazing text message. A friend of mine from high school, Kevin, texted Mike and I to ask if we wanted tickets to the Tigers playoff game against the New York Yankees! Um, hello...of course we did!!! If you don't know us personally then you might not know what huge baseball fans we are - Mike in particular. Kevin has a friend on the Yankees (Chris Dickerson) and he hooked us up with his tickets in the Yankees family section! In one word- AMAZING! We were 26 rows behind home plate with an incredible view of all of the action. We were just a few rows behind Jeter's parents & Granderson's parents, one section over from former Detroit Red Wings, Chris Osgood and Kris Draper and Detroit Red Wing, Mike Commodore was sitting in the seat immediately behind me. It was nuts! But the best part was cheering on the Tigers as they scored another victory over the Yankees! Thank you so much to Kevin (and Chris Dickerson) for the fabulous tickets!
There are some weeks that are so action packed that I swear they just fly by in the blink of an eye. This past week was definitely one of them. It consisted of the YSC "In Living Pink" fashion show, lunch & dinner dates with friends, being interviewed and photographed by the Detroit Free Press (yes, you read that right! more on that later...), the amazing "Rocking For A Reason" benefit concert, an appointment with another new doctor, celebrating a friend's birthday, a fabulous 3 hour coffee date with a friend and fellow cancer warrior, and the beginning of a young adult support group that I helped initiate. Whew! Don't get me wrong, I sleep in late and get in as much rest as possible in between, but boy does the calendar fill up.
Last Thursday night was the "In Living Pink" fashion show benefiting the Young Survival Coalition of metro Detroit. I really had no idea what I was signing up for but it turned out to be a really fun night. The YSC women did an incredible job turning the Royal Oak Farmers Market into a beautiful venue and they raised a lot of money for a wonderful cause. I had a great time pretending to be a model for a night, along with a few other survivors that are involved in YSC. Thank you so much to my family and friends that were able to come out and cheer me on as I channeled my inner Heidi Klum when I hit the runway. ;)
Thanks to the talented, Miss Kyle Dorcey for the beautiful photos and to Kristy of YSC for the group shots included below.
BreAnne and me - she is the talented designer that created my dress
Just a few of the other wonderful survivors I have met through YSC - Lori, Lisa & Kristy
Some of the women of the metro Detroit chapter of YSC
What a fun (and exhausting) night. I have realized that I can no longer stand for hours on end, especially in high heels. My body, particularly my back, paid for it the next day but it was worth it in the end and I felt much better after a lot of extra rest.
Sunday marked the incredible "Rocking For A Reason" benefit concert that the fabulous, Patty LaBella spearheaded for us. Wow, I don't even know what to say about it...the entire event was completely overwhelming and uplifting. It was truly remarkable to see how many family, friends and community members came out to support us and show their love. I have no clue how many people were there at one point or another throughout the evening, but it was just so touching to see all of you and to feel the love from so many people. What also completely blew me away was not only the amazing generosity of everyone that came to the event but also that of all those that donated great items for the auction. From family members, to those that I have never even met, to local businesses, to a huge corporation such as Martha Stewart Living ---I couldn't even believe the donations that were coming in for the auction. And on top of that, I was so touched and humbled by all of those that placed bids and bought raffle tickets -it was truly wonderful.
To be honest, this type of thing is difficult for me. It is hard to go to these events and be the one that they are benefiting. I wish I was attending to help someone else out - that it wasn't me that was in all the pictures and who's name was on the poster. I am not comfortable in the spotlight like this and I am definitely not comfortable accepting this kind of help from others. I feel like I never know how to adequately thank all of you - how to say what's really on my mind and in my heart. There are just no words that accurately describe my gratitude. Please know how much this event meant to Mike and I and how thankful we are for it. It will keep our spirits soaring high for a very long time.
A HUGE special thanks to Patty & Joe LaBella, Eric Kozlowski (you are awesome!), The Berkley Music Company, The Berkley Front, the adorable little Blake, Katie Grace, ONNA, The High Strung, and all of the others that helped make this event a reality. Thank you all so very much!
Me & the bro
My awesome brother in-law, Dan and his wonderful girlfriend, Melissa with Mike & I
After spending much of Monday in bed recuperating, I met yet another new member of the medical team on Tuesday. Dr. R is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) doc at Beaumont. He is the one that will be following me closely to monitor for any lymphedema so our visit included a lot of pre-op measurements and physical examination. We also discussed stretches I can be doing to prepare for surgery, exercises to start doing after surgery, and exercises and precautions I need to take with my spine due to the fragile nature of my vertebrae and my increased risk for fractures from here on out. I think Dr. R liked the fact that I am a physical therapist since I was already extremely familiar with much of what he was telling and that I will be a diligent patient with my "homework" after surgery. I will see Dr. R again two weeks after surgery to take my first post-op measurements and to assess my upper body range of motion. I am once again thankful for another knowledgable and personable addition to my medical team.
Thursday night was the first meeting for our "Young Adult Survivor" group at Karmanos. There are many wonderful support groups at Karmanos but there is not one dedicated solely to young adults who are cancer survivors. On a few occasions, I discussed this need with Kathleen, the social worker at the Weisberg Center, and how there are so many of us in our 20's and 30's that are treated there. Kathleen had always wanted to start a group like this but needed someone that wanted to coordinate it...insert my name here. :) So, I gladly signed on and we held our first meeting last night. It went very well and I am looking forward to seeing it grow as we provide support for each other and learn how to navigate issues that only young adults with cancer can truly understand. The group is open to anyone that is a young adult cancer survivor, whether they are treated at Karmanos or not, so if you know someone that would benefit from talking to others in a similar position, please send them our way. Our next meeting is Thursday, Oct 27 at 5:30pm at the Weisberg Center in Farmington Hills.
Saturday is October 1 which marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Detroit Free Press likes to do some special features in October dealing with breast cancer in general and to promote awareness, early detection, etc. So, to make a long story short, my name was passed along to the director of media relations at Karmanos and after talking with her, she then passed along my name and story to the Free Press. The editors receive stories from numerous people and hospital systems, but they ended up picking my story and deciding to interview me! So crazy, huh?! We really wanted to highlight the start of our new Young Adult Survivor Group at Karmanos in addition to telling my unique story of when breast cancer doesn't present as a detectable lump.
A couple weeks ago, a reporter from the Free Press visited me at home and we spent a lot of time together discussing all sorts of aspects of my life and this journey I am on. Then, a photographer followed me at the "In Living Pink" fashion show, and another photographer came to our home last Saturday to capture pictures of Mike and I. Although, I never wanted any attention in this way, if my story can further spread awareness and possibly help just one person, then it's totally worth it. So, check out the Detroit Free Press, this Sunday, October 2! I have no idea what will make it into the paper - it could be the tiniest little article ever, but keep your eyes peeled for it.
*As a quick side note, I want to clarify just one thing before you read that article. The great reporter that I have been working with has called me numerous times to check her facts and make sure she has all the details she needs. Well, the other day she was reading me a quote she received from Dr. F, my oncologist. It read something to the effect that I had an "excellent" response to chemotherapy and that I may undergo clinical trials in the future but right now I am in "remission". I was like, "REMISSION?!" What?! That is a huge word with a lot of different meanings and I have NEVER heard Dr. F use that word to me directly. I got all excited because hearing that word has always been my goal, but then I tried to calm myself down and realize what mind games different terminology and verbiage can play. Remission is defined as, "the state of absence of disease activity in patients with a chronic illness, with the possibility of return of disease activity." So, with that said - I am thrilled to hear Dr. F say this, because I take it as my disease is stable and not acting up and causing problems. BUT, please do not be mistaken that this means I am cancer-free. I don't want anyone to read this article and be confused and think that the cancer is gone, and "why didn't Meghan tell us that she beat it and she's in remission now?!" That's not exactly the case. I hope to be considered in "remission" for many, many years with the disease behaving like we want it to, that it's responding to my medications, and that there is not current "disease activity". I pray that I will eventually be told there is "no evidence of disease", which means that all of the detectable cancer cells have been killed and that no evidence of further disease can be picked up on my imaging tests....but I have a chronic disease with no known cure, and it will always be considered a part of me. I hope that makes sense and that I didn't confuse anyone any further.
Well, the surgery countdown is now at two weeks! Yikes! I meet with my plastic surgeon, Dr. M on Monday to finalize plans for the reconstruction side of the double mastectomy. I will then meet yet another new member to the team on Wednesday. Another Dr. R will be added to the gang and she will be my Radiation Oncologist at Karmanos. I won't start radiation until approximately 6 weeks after surgery but it will be nice to chat with her now and discuss our game plan. I will definitely update everyone after those two appointments once I know more about what the next steps of this journey will entail.
I am looking forward to a weekend consisting of dinner with friends, a breast cancer luncheon/fundraiser where I will get to meet a true inspiration for those living with metastatic cancer (I'll fill ya in next time on that), a Callaghan family reunion, Sunday brunch with some best friends from Chicago, and checking out this newspaper article. Looks to be a busy one...par for the course, right?! :)
My blog to keep you all