That's right, folks....the breakfast menu for tomorrow morning is a whopping serving size of barium sulfate! Woohoo! Just how everyone wants to start off their Monday morning, right?
In case you aren't following my late night, exhausted attempt at humor...this means I am getting my next round of scans done first thing at the morning tomorrow. I will head to the hospital with Mike around 7:30am and we will likely be there until mid-afternoon getting a few different tests and bloodwork done. Downside - it's a long and exhausting day. Upside - Mike took the day off to go with me so at least I get an entire day with him by my side. We have both been so ridiculously busy lately that I am really looking forward to spending the day together, even if it means sitting in the lovely Nuclear Medicine Department all morning.
If you have some prayers, good mojo or healing thoughts you could send my way, I would sincerely appreciate it! It truly does ease the "scanxiety" knowing you are all cheering me on and sending positive thoughts into the atmosphere.
I have lots of updates it seems, especially about all of the hard work I have been doing to promote MBC and young survivors at the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure this year! It is late and I have to get to bed, but I promise to update soon. If I don't get a chance this week since it's going to be a nutty one again, please at least spread the word to anyone who is local, to please register for the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure this year and come see what we have been doing - especially for those women who are metastatic. Here is a little sneak peek at one of the great things we have in store for race participants.
Please join us next Saturday at Chene Park in Detroit or make a donation to "Team Malley Rally" here.
Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. Won't see Dr. F until a week from Thursday for my results. Waiting is soooo....fun. (insert sarcasm here)
And because I can't possibly have a post without sharing some pics...here are some quick iphone shots of the fun we had together on Mother's Day while cheering on the Tigers!
Over the past year or so, this has become one of my favorite quotes...."Gratitude turns what we have into enough." I will be the first to admit that it's not always easy to live by, but I try my best to remind myself of this mantra as often as possible - especially during those toughest times.
If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I would soon be diagnosed with cancer, then find out that it was the most aggressive and advanced stage, learn that I cannot have children, and all the other emotional and physical obstacles that have come along....I would never have believed you if you told me I would reach a day where I would be grateful to hear the words "stable disease"...but I truly am.
I will never forget the shock I felt during my first meeting with Dr. F, when he explained there was a stage of breast cancer that was no longer curable. I didn't understand - couldn't comprehend it - and didn't even worry about it too much since I figured there was no way that could apply to me. Well, fast forward to today and here I am living this seemingly entirely new life and I find myself grateful for stable, stage IV cancer. It's just crazy how much your life can change- how much you can adjust to, and what your definition of "good news" can become.
Although I will always have hard days and there will always be aspects of my life that are difficult, I am so thankful that I am able to have the outlook that I do. I attribute a lot of that to your prayers. I really do believe that through your prayers and well wishes, God has helped me learn how to cope with this life and how to continue to see my blessings and be grateful for them, amidst the pain and heartbreak that comes along with living with this diagnosis.
Since my last post when we received our great news from my scans, life has continued along at our usual busy pace. I have had a jam packed schedule of photography clients and I am loving growing this business. Mike and I just spent the weekend in Chicago visiting some of my best friends and it was a blast, as always.
This upcoming weekend is the Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure in Ann Arbor and I will be there cheering on Doug and Kyle as they bike 30 miles to raise awareness and funds for this cause. This is a great event and my dear friend Kyle is still trying to reach her fundraising goal, so please consider donating whatever you can to her efforts. Please click here to donate!
Also, please consider supporting the "Meghan Malley Rally" 3 Day team. They are working hard to raise the necessary funds required to participate in this event in just a couple of weeks. They are participating in this event on August 17 -19th in order to help spread awareness that this disease does impact young women, and also to help generate awareness for metastatic disease and the critical importance of research in order to help find a cure. I would sincerely appreciate any donation you are able to make so that my friends can participate and further advocate for the issues that mean so much to me, and to each of them. Every dollar does make a difference! Please click here to visit the team page and click on any team members name to donate to that person specifically.
As if I haven't asked for enough already...I have one more request. Our good friend's little 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor (a type of kidney cancer) just a couple weeks ago. They have since found out that the cancer is Stage IV and has spread to her lungs, vena cava and is approaching her heart. Sweet little Cecylia has a long road ahead of her as she just began chemo in the hopes to shrink the cancer enough to have surgery to remove her kidney. This will then be followed by a heavy course of radiation treatments. Our friends are optimistic and very hopeful that this treatment will be effective for their baby girl, but of course this is a terrifying time for them. Mike and I have been so blown away by the outpouring of love and prayers for us and we are confident in the fact that it has made a positive impact on my health. So, I figured I would ask for all of you to add Cecylia to your prayers because I just know it will help. Please specifically pray that she stops coming down with fevers that repeatedly land her in the hospital. Please pray she is able to heal in the comfort of her own home with her parents and 2 year old sister, and that she becomes stronger each and every day so that her body is best equipped to battle this cancer.
Thank you so much! I hope everyone has a great week ahead.
I am being 100% truthful when I say that there has not been one moment throughout these last 15 1/2 months where I have asked, "why me?". I have never said, "this isn't fair", or had a huge pity party for myself. I have had my fair share of sad (okay, even devastated) moments, or times where I felt a little angry, frustrated or discouraged but I have never let it suck me down that big black hole of despair for very long. I have held tight to the faith that God has a plan for me, and although I may never understand it, He is watching over me and wants the best for me. I have spent more time working on my relationship with God since the day I was diagnosed. We had a little heart to heart where I said, "Hey, remember me?! I could really use your help right about now!"
There have been many "coincidences" along this road which I now don't believe were coincidences at all. There have been people that have been brought into my life for very specific purposes at seemingly the exact perfect time I needed them. There have been so many scary and stressful moments where I have been shocked at the sense of calm and peace that I felt come over me. It is in these times especially, that I know God is with me.
Although I was raised in the Catholic church, I found myself distanced from it the older I became. What always seemed to cause me frustration and confusion, and ultimately my lack of participation within the church, was the question of, "if we have an all knowing and all loving God, how does he let such bad things happen to such good people?". I have struggled with this thought since I was a little girl and it has always been a huge source of internal turmoil for me.
I am truly thankful for a few very special friends that help me work through these thoughts, and who share with me their thoughts and beliefs which have helped me understand that God does truly want whats best for me. He is not punishing me through this cancer. But, bad things do happen - and that is just life. I have been finding more peace lately by putting my trust in God and I am sincerely grateful for that.
With that said, it doesn't mean that my faith doesn't waiver. Traveling this road ultimately leads to many moments where it is hard to have faith, where it is hard to remember that God is with me, and where it is a challenge to focus on my blessings. The past week or so has been an true example of this.
Aside from having my scans completed last week and knowing those results are looming over my head, there have been a few other things going on in my personal life that even on their own would be devastating and difficult to get through - let alone all combined at the same time, on top of everything else we have already been dealing with. I had a few days of deep sadness, frustration, and confusion as to why so much could possibly be piled onto our plates right now. Why have I been through so much already at just 30 years old - more than many people go through in a long lifetime? These thoughts led to an impromptu pity party where I was the guest of honor. But, ultimately I needed to throw that party. I needed to let myself break down, release the tears and cries, and with that, release my worries, frustrations and fears to God.
I have come to truly detest the saying, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" - I just don't believe that. I believe so many of us go through times where it is too much to handle, and that's when we need to rely on Him.
As the dust has settled over the last few days, the clouds of that deep sadness have lifted a bit, but I know I am headed straight into another potential storm on Thursday. I am praying (more like begging) for good news. I could really use a break right now - I need it more than ever.
Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement. That is what helps me get through these difficult times. And thank you to those of you that have prayed for my Aunt Helen. She was taken off life support on Friday but is continuing to hold on. I am asking for prayers that she is able to let go, give her body the rest it deserves, and return to her family in Heaven who await her.
I will post on Thursday after my appointment with hopefully nothing but great news!
***REMINDER - There are TONS of great fundraising events happening to benefit the 3 Day team as they each try to raise at least $2,300 for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day For the Cure. Please check out the details and attend if you are able!
First up, Zumba this Friday night....
THIS WEEKEND - HUGE Garage Sale at Becca's house. Lots of great stuff - not your average garage sale finds! Please visit 367 East Saratoga Street in Ferndale from 8-3pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Next Thursday, July 19th - Fundraiser at Rosie O'Grady's in downtown Ferndale. Please join us starting at 6pm for all you can eat pizza and salad buffet out on the front patio for just $15. There will also be a silent auction and 50/50 raffle. Please pass this invite along to all your friends and family - it will be a great time!
The following week, come join us for some yoga!.....
We are also continuing to sell the adorable kids apparel as well! Please contact me for orders or you can place an order directly from Brinley's website at
http://littleonesforacure.blogspot.com. The onesies are available in 12, 18 and 24 months (special order at no additional cost, 3, 6 or 9 months) and the t's are available in 2T, 3T and 4T sizes.
If you would rather make a donation directly to the 3 Day team, please visit the link here.
and pick a team member to donate to. Thank you for your support!
Last but not least, my dear friend Kyle is once again participating in the 30 mile Ride For the Cure in Ann Arbor on August 4th. Please consider helping her reach her goal by donating here.
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!
Hi-ya friends...the Malley household is hustling and bustling like the good ole' days lately. Mike is in full swing with the baseball season (pun intended...hehe), I have officially started a new business venture (which I'll fill you in on soon), and I have been super busy juggling all sorts of other things like meetings about returning to work and getting tons done around the house before my next surgery...which is in 8 days! yikes! It finally feels like we are back to a little bit of what life was like before I was diagnosed - full schedules involving both work and play, cooking & eating dinner together every night (and at the kitchen table - no longer eating while laying on the couch or in bed), and just enjoying feeling well enough to tackle all sorts of things.
I realized that my 30th birthday came and went without me ever wrapping up my ambitious "30 before 30" list. I will admit - I didn't accomplish everything. But I will say, it was a valiant effort and I will definitely continue to cross off the rest of my list as the year progresses. Here is how I fared....
I have some pretty big things coming up in the next week. This coming Sunday, April 29 is the Mid-Michigan Race for the Cure in Lansing. I am proud to be the "New Balance Honorary Survivor" of this years race and I will be speaking at the opening ceremonies on the steps of the Capital building. I am using this opportunity to not only share my story, but stress the critical importance of further research in the field of breast cancer. I think that Komen and other organizations have done a great job of spreading awareness - but it's time for more! We all know what a pink ribbon means. Now it's time to really step up our game and put our money where our mouth is and find a cure! I am nervous to be speaking in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people but I feel like it is my responsibility to advocate for myself and the other men and women that are battling for their lives right along side me. Publicly speaking about myself and what I have been through is always an emotional thing for me so I am grateful that some of my close friends and family members will be there to support me. That truly means so much to me. The opening ceremonies begin at 1pm at the Capital in Lansing. If you would like more information, want to join our team, or donate to this cause, please click here.
The next big thing on the agenda after the Race for the Cure is that I will be having surgery next Friday, May 4. This is the next step in my reconstruction process. The surgery itself should only take a couple hours and I will come home that same day. I will share more details on that next week but needless to say, undergoing surgery is always an anxious time. I will once again be asking for all of you prayer warriors out there to start storming the heavens again.
In the meantime, here are some snapshots from my iphone to show you what I have been up to lately....weekly trips to the farmers market, lots of Kettering baseball games, new tasty recipes, juicing my veggies, roughly 30 or so pills every morning and then again at night, zoo trips with friends, doctors appointments, and babysitting our sweet Goddaughter...life is good!
Hope you all have a great weekend and that I see some of you on Sunday at the Mid-Michigan Race for the Cure in Lansing!
Sorry for a bit of a hiatus...life sure has been busy around here lately. The past two weeks have been jam packed with plans. Mike threw me a wonderful 3oth birthday party on the 24th and we had the best time! It is always so much fun when we are able to get so many of our family members and friends together at one time. Thank you so much to my loving husband for planning everything, and thank you to all of you that were able to come out and celebrate with us!
The fun continued when we traveled to Chicago last weekend. Our main reason for the visit was actually a medical appointment at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care. We spent almost 7 hours at the Block Center and I will definitely fill you all in on that very soon. After spending all day Friday at our appointment, we spent that night and the rest of the weekend with our many friends that live in the city. As always, we had a great time in Chicago and can't wait to visit again soon!
This past Thursday was Opening Day for the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park! For those of you that aren't from the D, you may not know what a huge deal this is. Basically, the entire city turns into one huge party. You may remember from this post, that I went to Opening Day for the first time last year when my big bro asked me to go with him. I remember that it was just a few days after I got my port placed in my chest, and Jeff was being so protective in the bar before the game - making sure that no one would bump into me since I was so sore. It's crazy to think of all that has happened since then.
Mike and I were so excited that we not only got tickets to the game (thanks Uncle Ed!), but that we were going with Mike's cousins, Brian and Diana - who we adore. Mike and I are really close with Brian and Diana and we always have the best time together. It worked out perfect that Diana was visiting from NYC, and Mike had the day off for spring break.
We met up before the game with Jeff and some other friends at Coaches Corner before heading to the game to cheer the Tigers on for their first win of the season. It was such a fun day!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter Sunday with your families. I will never forget my Easter last year. I spent the day in bed, suffering from a great deal of fatigue and extremely low blood pressure after my very first round of chemo. The night before, all of my wonderful Beauts came over with dinner, made me laugh, and physically tucked me into my bed that night. I am so grateful for how far I have come since then. I am grateful that I will spend Easter with my family - not in my bed - and that I have enough energy to enjoy every moment of the day. Happy Easter!
ps. - I have been asked to be the Team New Balance Honorary Survivor at this years Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Lansing, Michigan. The Mid-Michigan Komen affiliate is doing wonderful things for the greater Lansing community and I am happy to be a part of their event. My hope in taking part in this is that by sharing my story to hundreds (maybe thousands!) of people when I take the stage at the opening ceremonies, I will help bring about increased awareness about the risks for younger women, and especially educate others on metastatic breast cancer. If you would like to join us on April 29th at the State Capital, please click here to become a member of our team or to make a donation to this cause. To learn more about the great work of the Mid-Michigan Komen affiliate, and to see yours truly in their video, click on this link.
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?! :)
There always seems to be so much on my mind when I sit down to prepare my next update. I can assure you that there is never a shortage of topics or things I want to share. Sometimes the hard part is narrowing down all the things that are running through my mind to figure out exactly what I want to focus my energy on. I guess that is what I do everyday - I choose what to focus my energy on that day and try to tune out the rest. So when people say, "you are so positive" or "you have such a great attitude", I really do appreciate it but it's simply about making the conscious choice to do your best to block out the negative, focus on the positive, and enjoy each moment.
But, I also feel that it's important to say that it's not all positive, happy thoughts, 100% of the time. There is a part of me that is sad - every day. There is a part of me that is grieving - every day. There is a part of me that is scared - every day. And there is a part of me that feels lost - each and every single day. But, I go to bed each night watching Mike as he falls asleep, quietly reaching out to hold his hand without waking him, and thanking God for another wonderful day with my husband...because that is all I ever truly want.
My hair began to slowly grow back about a month or so ago (while still on Taxol) and within the last couple of weeks it has really started to get longer and thicker. So, last week when we went to the cider mill, I decided to be brave and venture out without my scarf. It might not sound like a very big deal to most, but until you are forced to lose your hair, you have no idea what it feels like to go through these types of transitions. Losing my hair wasn't as devastating as it is to many people, but I became very used to my wig and scarves and aside from when I was inside my house, I had something on my head 24/7. I remember stepping out onto my porch once to get the mail and realized that I didn't have a scarf on and all of a sudden I stood paralyzed, looking around to see if any neighbors saw me. I felt like I was just caught naked by the entire community! So now that my hair is growing back, I have found that it was hard to part with the security blanket that my scarves and wig had become.
It feels like another crossroads - the start of a new path. It's a little hard for me to put into words but with my hair growing back it sometimes feels like people will think that means I am all better, or the cancer is gone because chemo is over, and that I can just go ahead and return to my "normal" life. And unfortunately, none of those things are true. Yes, I will now have hair and I won't be as readily identified as a cancer patient without my scarves -but it doesn't mean I am okay. I am reminded of this cancer inside me each and every day when my back aches and throbs, when I am fatigued after lunch with a friend, and when I think of the long road ahead. I am a little nervous that because people say I look good and I will now look even less like a patient, that I will be expected to just put the pieces back together and move on - but please realize this is far from over and I am still fighting.
I felt very self-conscious at the cider mill last Sunday, and not to mention cold from the breeze on my head that I hadn't felt in a long time! :) Although my wonderful husband reassured me a million times that I looked beautiful, and that he loved my new "edgy" look, I didn't feel like myself anymore without my scarves. But, I realized that I needed to step outside of my comfort zone once again and take this step forward. I haven't put a scarf back on since. Each day last week I ventured out to different places, all while sporting my new pixie cut. I have become a little more confident and feel a little bit more myself each day - although I am still caught off guard when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or store window. I did wear my wig to our friend Matt's wedding last Saturday because I just didn't feel right without it once I was all dressed up - but that might be the last time I wear it for long while...maybe ever!
So what do ya think?!.....
And if you are wondering...yes, it is starting to curl in the back, and yes, it is starting to look more and more red each day. I have heard all sorts of stories of women having their hair come back in all kinds of new ways after chemo but something tells me that this little ginger is going to get her red curls back...and I never thought I would say it, but I really hope I do. Through this experience, I have come to really appreciate what I had and the uniqueness that was my hair - getting that back will help me feel a little bit more like myself again...and I miss that.
Things are still super busy around here. I continue to struggle to find a balance between social activities with friends, household responsibilities, photography, and doctors appointments. In my mind, I continue to think that I can go, go, go like I used to-but increased back pain has been a reminder lately that I am doing too much and need to rest more. Before surgery, I have four more doctors appointments, four photography sessions, a fundraiser luncheon for The Pink Fund, a family reunion, starting a young adult cancer survivor support group at Karmanos, a few get togethers with friends, the charity fashion show benefiting the YSC, and the amazing benefit concert on Sunday that Patty is planning for us! Just to name a few! ;) Don't worry Mom, I am going to make sure to get plenty of rest in there too.
Tomorrow is the fashion show benefiting the Young Survival Coalition - it should be a fun time and if you would like to attend, you can still buy tickets at the door.
This Sunday is the wonderful benefit concert that Patty has been tirelessly planning for us. It is going to be such a fun time with fabulous music, and the silent auction items are incredible! I can't believe how generous everyone is! These are just a few of the great items available on Sunday....2 acoustic guitars, Red Wings tickets, two autographed hockey sticks from the Red Wings, an incredible gift bag from Martha Stewart Living including an autographed book and tickets to a live taping in NYC (a package valued at over $400!), an autographed football from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, local restaurant gift cards and much more! Patty and Eric from Berkley Music - we are so thankful and truly excited for Sunday!
Hope to see you Sunday if you are in our neck of the woods. Thanks again for the continued prayers, love and support for not only myself but for my family too! We truly appreciate each and every one of you!
ps. Mike would like me to mention that he took the colored pic of me posted above. He's finally learning how to work the camera - maybe that means I'll finally get to be in more pics now! :)
Thank you so much for all of the love and encouragement you all have shown me throughout these last few days since I received my test results. I must admit that I am still smiling over it and it's so amazing to see how many people were praying for us, cheering us on, and anxiously awaiting those results right along side us. I know I have said it before, but I am so thankful for such an incredible support system - I just don't know how anyone gets through this kind of thing without that. So, thank you so very much for constantly reminding me I am not alone in this fight!
It's been crazy busy since last Thursday, but definitely due to lots of fun stuff. We celebrated our wonderful friend Kyle's birthday, made our first trip of the season to the cider mill, visited my dear friend Elizabeth and her adorable premie, Luca in the hospital, hung out with Julie and Will, and had an amazing day in Ann Arbor last Saturday with Aunt Clare and Uncle Bob.
Aunt Clare's close friend from high school, A.T is a fellow breast cancer survivor. A.T has been following the blog and praying for me everyday! (Thanks A.T!) She is a Notre Dame alum and active member of their alumni association. Another notable Notre Dame family member is also a breast cancer survivor - head coach Brian Kelly's wife, Pacqui Kelly. Pacqui has battled breast cancer twice now and has since created a wonderful foundation called, "Kelly Cares Foundation". This past Saturday, Notre Dame happened to be playing the University of Michigan for the first night game at The Big House! The metro Detroit chapter of the Notre Dame Alumni Association held a tailgate at the Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, which also served as a fundraiser for the Kelly Cares Foundation. A.T invited Mike and I to attend along with Aunt Clare and Uncle Bob.
We had a really great time and it was so nice to meet Pacqui and chat about what this experience has been like for the both of us. We talked for awhile along with another wonderful breast cancer survivor that was there, and then the emcee got on the mic and shared my story with the entire room. I wasn't expecting that at all but A.T thought the news we received last Thursday was so great that we should share it with the crowd. It was so touching to see all of those faces smiling at me and giving me a huge round of applause when they heard about the positive test results. It was a really nice way to start the day and it was so great to meet both A.T and Pacqui Kelly...although we had to wear neutral colors and not let it be known that we were really U of M fans. :)
A blurry snapshot of me and Pacqui
A.T was so kind and generous that she even hooked us up with tickets to the game! I was so excited because I had never been to The Big House before and this was such a landmark day to go since it was the first ever night game. We spent the remaining hours before the game hanging out with more members of the fam- Dan, Brian Christopher, Sara, Anna, and Brian Peter. It was really nice to spend time with them and catch up with everybody in Ann Arbor.
I have always been a fan of both MSU and U of M since I didn't go to either school, and I have always cheered for whoever happens to be playing at the time. But with that said, there is just something so electric and amazing about being in Michigan Stadium. The pre-game celebration gave me chills - it was the coolest thing I have experienced in quite awhile...even considering we were sitting in the middle of Notre Dame territory. Well, if you watched the game, you would know what an incredible ending it was and that the Wolverines came out on top!!!! GO BLUE! ....Unfortunately, we had left just before all of that excitement began because it looked like Notre Dame had wrapped it up, and we had already been in Ann Arbor for 12 hours that day. To say that Mike was devastated while listening to the final few minutes in the car, would be a huge understatement. Good thing we could laugh about it and be grateful that we were there at all. Thank you so much to A.T, Pacqui Kelly, Aunt Clare, and Uncle Bob for such a wonderful day!
There was a special 9/11 tribute, an amazing parachuter that landed on the field at half time, and I even ran into the big bro just before the game started!
Boy, was I exhausted on Sunday morning. I pretty much bummed around all day, except for a quick trip to one of my favorite places...the Franklin Cider Mill! You just can't beat going to the cider mill on a beautiful fall day. Mike and I treated ourselves to some warm donuts and fresh cider...yum! It was worth every calorie. ;)
It was gorgeous at the cider mill and within the ten minute drive home, a huge storm came through and it poured! And I mean POURED! I have never seen our street so flooded in the six years we have lived here! I went outside to capture some pics of the neighborhood kids playing and "swimming" in the street and I looked up and saw this...
A few other things I wanted to share....I have recently become involved in a wonderful nationwide organization called the Young Survival Coalition. YSC is a group that was created solely for young women that are/have battled breast cancer. I attended the metro Detroit chapter's meeting last month and I will be attending again tonight. I am grateful for meeting a wonderful group of women through YSC and hope to stay active within the group to not only gain emotional support for myself, but hopefully be there for others that may need it as well. Detroit Fashion Week has partnered with YSC to create "In Living Pink" which will take place next Thursday, September 22. The fashion show will include young breast cancer survivors modeling the clothing while strutting the runway! And yours truly is going to be working that runway while wearing a beautiful dress from a local designer! Yikes! I hope I can make it down the runway in those huge heels, all in one piece without face planting. :) 100% of the proceeds of the event will go to YSC to help fund the programming they do to assist newly diagnosed young women in metro Detroit. If you are interested in attending, please let me know and I can get you tickets.
Last but certainly not least....the awesome Patty La Bella is working her tail off to put on an amazing evening of music and fun at The Berkley Front for us. This is going to be such a fun time, with 4 bands, a silent auction, a special live auction with some really special items, lots of family and friends, and of course the 42 beers on tap that The Berkley Front is known for. We have a limited number of tickets available in advance or you can buy them at the door on Sunday, September 25. Please contact Patty if you know of any items available for the auction, if you would like to make a donation. Tickets for the event are available through Mike and myself, and Patty. We are so excited and grateful that Patty is doing this for us. Thank you in advance to everyone that is able to come out - we appreciate it more than you know!
Well, life continues to keep us very busy around here while we try to live as normally as we can between doctors appointments and treatments. So far, I haven't had any crazy side effects from the new medications I am on so my mind is now gearing up for surgery. Throughout the next week, I have lunch or dinner plans with various friends nearly every day, we have our friend Matt's wedding on Saturday, the Foo Fighters Concert on Monday, and these great fundraisers to look forward to....all while trying to get as much rest as I can in between. Although chemo is over, I have come to realize the fatigue and back pain is definitely going to be sticking with me for awhile, and that it is often a reminder that I need to slow down and take it easy. That's a work in progress for me. :)
Have a great week everyone!
Chemo is over!!!! It's been 20 long weeks - 5 months - 4 brutal rounds of Adriamycin & Cytoxin - 11 rounds of Taxol - 15 rounds in all - total hair loss, including eye lashes and eye brows - 5 days of dramatically low blood pressure - 1 episode of passing out - 4 injections of Neulasta from Mike - countless medications - many headaches, visual changes, back and joint pain & muscle spasms - too many needles and pokes to access my port - weeks of annoying hot flashes, runny nose and eyes - daily fatigue with countless hours spent in bed, and.......I MADE IT!!! I am not the type to toot my own horn, but I must admit that I am pretty proud of myself for making it through these last 5 months. I rarely complained and tried to keep my head held high through it all, because I knew I could do it. I know I can get through anything, especially with my amazing support team. I swear, if all it took to beat cancer was sheer drive, motivation and hard work - I would have had it beat already! I can't thank you enough for all of the many ways you have shown your support throughout chemo - it has truly helped us get through the hardest times. I am so grateful that this first huge hurdle is over and that I made it through in the best shape possible, but I know the journey continues. There will be many more hurdles along the way, so let's get on to the next!
For many weeks now, I have wanted to share what Chemoland is like. But, there has always been something else that I wanted to share at that particular time, so I never got around to it. Today I wanted to give you a small glimpse into the world at the Weisberg Center (aka Chemoland), because it has become a bit of a second home to me - as odd as that may sound. The Weisberg Center is a satellite of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, located in Farmington Hills. The main hospital in downtown Detroit is a part of a huge medical center that is always crazy busy, with tons of people running around, and it can be a bit overwhelming. I am so grateful I get to receive my care at the Weisberg Center, which is a much more intimate, relaxed, and peaceful environment.
Here are a few pics I took to let you see where I spend much of my time these days. The images are limited in order to protect the privacy of patients that were already in the clinic on this day.
A couple snapshots of the lobby...there is also another section over by the windows with comfy arm chairs, a television, and reading materials.
A gorgeous water wall that makes the lobby feel very tranquil
There are three main areas in the building, aside from the reception and main lobby. There is the clinic where I see my oncologist, the front portion of the building where they do imaging and radiation, and then there is the infusion side where I received my chemo.
This comfy green chair in the infusion area is where I have spent many, many hours throughout the last 15 rounds of chemotherapy. There are walls on either side that allow for some privacy, a huge window on one side that looks out onto the garden, a television, and then one side is open so the nurses can keep an eye on all of us.
Behind the building there are beautiful, lush gardens with many animals, flowers, and sculptures. There is a patio with tables, chairs, and benches where family and friends are able to sit and relax. The windows on the left side of the picture below are the ones that you see in the picture above, next to my infusion chair. So this garden is what all of us patients are able to see while we receive our chemo treatments.
Doesn't it look as peaceful and relaxing as chemo can possibly be? Although the Weisberg Center is beautiful, that's not what makes me so grateful that I receive my treatment there. It's the wonderful people. There's Felicia - the receptionist that greets Mike and I every morning with the biggest smile and most heartfelt, "How are you?". She has known us by name since day #1. I don't need to sign in, or wait at the desk for my wristband - I am able to go relax in a comfy chair because Felicia insisted on it from the very beginning -she goes out of her way to come find me and check me in. She somehow knew when it was Mike's birthday and even tried to make it special for him by giving him a little "happy birthday" name tag. She is the best and I wish that every doctors office or hospital had someone like Felicia sitting at the front desk, always with a huge smile, and kind words to try to brighten your day and make you feel better.
I have talked before about how much I adore Dr. F, but I also love my infusion nurses - they are the best! Denise, Traci, and Ashley are the nurses that have taken awesome care of me during these months of chemo, and Tiffany who assists them. They are always so friendly, warm, and caring. As a patient, they make me feel that they truly care about me, that they are really looking out for me and that they are cheering me along! I am so grateful to have such a wonderful team around me. Even though I am glad to finish up these treatments, I will miss seeing them every week.
Although chemo is over, I will continue to spend a lot of time at the Weisberg Center since this is where I will always see Dr. F and where I will receive 30 radiation treatments later this year. If I have to go through all of this, I am at least glad that I get to do it here - a place that makes me feel so comfortable, and where the Cheers theme song is true, "where everybody knows your name!"
At 5:30 am the morning after chemo ended, we left for sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mom, Doug, Mike and I took a little Labor Day trip to celebrate finishing chemo treatments! Our wonderful friends, John & Paul invited us to come stay with them and it was perfect! They have a beautiful home on a canal off the Intercoastal waterway, only a mile or so from the ocean. We had a perfect trip spent relaxing at their pool, walking along the beach, eating lots of yummy food, and visiting with lots of friends! Aside from visiting with John and Paul, we were able to spend time with my mom's great friend, Sally and her family as well as meeting up with Brinley, Andy, Andrew, and Brin's parents. The weekend flew by so fast, but it was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.
John & Paul's home has the most amazing landscaping - their property is covered with luscious plants, trees, and flowers. You can't even see their house from the street, or from the dock because it is surrounded in this incredible landscaping. While relaxing in their pool, it felt like I was engulfed in a tropical forest that gave us complete privacy from the outside world. It was simply gorgeous.
Being near the ocean is always so relaxing for me. It is a great reminder that we are such a small part of this vast and huge world. Hearing those waves and seeing nothing but the bright, blue sea until it meets the horizon, helps me remember that there is a greater power at work in our lives and He is capable of amazing things.
John & Paul - thank you so very much for letting the four of us come invade your gorgeous Florida home for the weekend. We had so much fun with you and we are so grateful we were able to do this! Mike already misses his morning egg sandwiches. ;)
We are now back to reality. The school year officially started for Mike today and I will be heading back to the doctor on Thursday to get my test results and discuss our future plans. I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing Labor Day weekend. I'll be sure to update the blog again at the end of the week to keep everyone updated with the latest news.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for a great event on Sunday, September 25. Our dear friend, Patty has been working hard to make this happen and we are so grateful! Please contact Patty if you would like to contribute to the silent auction. Tickets for the event will be available at the end of the week.
My blog to keep you all