I knew the fall would be busy, but boy is it giving me a good run for my money. We have had a lot going on over here at the Malley household but there are no complaints here. We are just busy living our hectic lives that we enjoyed before cancer barged in. The fall photography season continues to be booming and I am so grateful that within my first year of becoming an official business, I couldn't be busier! I apologize to my friends whom I haven't been able to spend as much time with lately, but starting this business is really a passion of mine and I am so grateful for the chance to do it -and to feel well enough to do it! A huge thank you to all of the clients that have trusted in me, while I continue to learn and grow. You can check out my most recent work here on Facebook or on my blog.
I am also gearing up to add more hours at The Recovery Project, and I am really looking forward to that. I am so blessed to love my job as a physical therapist and to work at a place that is so completely supportive in every way. I was really worried about returning to work earlier this summer. I was worried if it would totally exhaust me - which it did in the beginning. Would it cause my back to hurt? Would I feel like my physical limitations hindered me as a therapist? Would I remember everything I worked so hard to learn for 7 1/2 years of college? ....The great news is that although I may need to brush up on some skills that I haven't used in awhile, it feels really good to be serving my patients again. I love interacting with my patients and co-workers (who are awesome, I might add!) and it feels even better to be using that good ole' left brain again. :) I am beyond grateful to be feeling well enough to be able to increase my hours again next month (once I am all healed up from surgery), and grateful to have employers that allow me to make this transition at my own pace.
There always seems to be so much I want to catch you all up on but lately the thought of that alone, makes me feel tired which then deters me from updating the blog at all. I promise I will eventually get around to sharing some pretty big things that have happened recently, such as my dinner with Nancy Brinker and my trip to Chicago for the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network National Conference.
Another wonderful event that recently took place was the 18th Annual Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards. I have been treated at Karmanos ever since I was diagnosed and I have nothing but exceptional things to say about everyone I have worked with there. It is truly an incredible place and I am so thankful that I can receive the highest level of care so close to home. I was completely blown away a few months ago when I received a phone call notifying me that I was being honored with the Community Service Award at this years Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards. It was so unexpected and so meaningful to me on so many levels - but mostly because I have always said that although I would never wish this disease upon anyone, if I can at least turn it into something positive, then it's not for nothing. Then all the pain and heartache are at least worth it in some way to help a greater good. Although I never set out to be recognized in any way, I am extremely humbled that I was.
Karmanos hosted a beautiful evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit on October 30 and I was able to invite my family to attend along with me. There were over 200 people in attendance (including my oncologist and the oncology social worker that I started our support group with) and it couldn't have been a nicer evening. There were ten awards given that evening to various people and organizations and I was so surprised to even be among them. It was a night filled with smiles and meeting new people, feeling hopeful about the incredible research that Dr. Lum is doing with metastatic breast cancer that earned him the Scientific Distinction Award, but also a night with moments of sorrow and tears as a strong and heartbroken mother accepted an award on her daughter's behalf after she passed away earlier this year from this disease.
What touched me the most about the entire evening was an anonymous quote from a member of the support group I helped create at Karmanos. I was holding it together pretty well as they were introducing me but after that quote was read, I struggled to maintain my composure as I walked on the stage to give my acceptance speech. It was her words that meant the most because the women in my support group truly mean the world to me. I like to think that creating that group has helped, and will continue to help many women that travel this road, but truly it was a selfish endeavor as well - because every time I meet with them, I feel better. I feel more hopeful. I feel uplifted. I feel grateful, and happy, and blessed. And most importantly, I never feel alone. As I said in my speech that night, I am so humbled to have received this award, since it truly belongs to all of the young women in our group that have given so much back to me - and for them, I am eternally grateful.
You can read more about all of the Heroes of Breast Cancer here.
Surgery is in 11 days! I'm getting a little nervous but trusting that all will go well. Thanks for keeping me in your prayers.
What a crazy, busy, wonderful couple of weeks it has been. Between the Johnson's visit, 3 Day festivities, our friend Zak coming to visit, celebrating Mike's birthday, a family reunion and an extremely packed schedule for Meg Malley Photography - things have been super busy!
We had such a good time having Brinley, Andy and Andrew here for a week. It is always so great to see them and to be able to spend so much time together. Mike and Andy are like partners in crime and always have a great time when they are together, and of course, Brin and I never have moments without lots of laughs and tons to talk about. It was so amazing to see how much little Andrew has changed since I visited them in Florida in February. He is a total cuddle bug who gives great hugs and kisses. He loves to pretend to cook, and carries his pots and pans everywhere he goes. He is active, smart, and full of smiles. The week flew by too fast and of course I miss them already, but I am so grateful that they were able to come visit. I love you guys!
And then there was the Susan G. Komen 3 Day For A Cure....how do you even summarize this event? You truly need to experience it in order to appreciate how moving and special it is. I am so grateful that five of my wonderful friends (Brinley, Nikki, Becca, Chanell, and Janine) dedicated so much of their time and energy to training, fundraising, and completing this 60 mile, 3 day challenge.
There has been quite a bit of controversy and drama with the Komen organization this year. On top of that, after my diagnosis, I learned that many women in the metastatic breast cancer community feel very upset with Komen due to the way that funds are dispersed, and the disparity regarding dollars allocated to metastatic research. Although I may dedicate an entire post to my feelings on these issues at some point, today is not that day. What I do want to share is that despite what anyone may say, I am grateful for what the Komen organization has done to raise awareness for this disease, and even if it's only one cent put towards metastatic research- I am grateful for it because every little bit helps.
What I feel most proud about regarding the 3 Day event this year is that my friends know how I feel, they know what is important to me, and they went above and beyond to spread my message about metastatic breast cancer awareness throughout this 3 Day event. I often feel lost in the "celebration" at breast cancer events. I am not the same type of "survivor". Breast cancer is not in my rearview window. It's not in the past and it's not something that will ever be behind me. I live and breath it every day and often times I don't feel quite as celebratory as many of the women at these events that have beat their disease because they were fortunate enough to be diagnosed early. So, what did my friends do? They spread the word about metastatic disease everywhere along their 60 mile journey. They brought it out of the shadows even though it's not the perfect success story. They talked about it, displayed the words "Metastatic breast cancer" proudly on their tents and signs, and they raised awareness for the fact that thousands of women continue to live with this disease each and every day and that we have not been truly successful until a cure has been found for all of us! Not just those diagnosed early.
Team Meghan Malley Rally got robbed in the tent decorating competition. They should have won with their awesome Olympic themed decor...."Going for gold for Metastatic Cancer"....I loved it!
I was so proud of each of them (and all the other walkers!) and loved chasing them around and cheering them on all weekend long. They were amazing!
A huge thank you to the friends and family that came out to our cheering station on Saturday. It was so nice to see you there, supporting the walkers, and supporting me by your presence. The MVP of the day goes to Momma Jan - best cheerleader around...hands down! Thank you Mom and Doug for all you did that day- I appreciate it more than you know. Love you!
And a special, HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY to Becca Boo!!!! She celebrated the big 3-0 while walking all day long for this cause. What a great friend that is!
I am exhausted just looking back on the pictures from that weekend. :) What an emotional 3 days it is and I can't thank everyone enough for being part of it. Whether you walked, cheered, donated, or kept the walkers in your thoughts and prayers that weekend - thank you so very much!
After the Johnson fam left last Wednesday, our friend Zak came into town and we celebrated Mike's birthday, which was Saturday. It was a great weekend filled with lots of friends and family. HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my very best friend and the most incredible person I know. I am so very honored to be your wife and I look forward to celebrating many more birthday's with you in the future. Love you so much!
Well, it has been 7 weeks since I received my great scan results and I was really hoping to make it until the next scans in January before I had to deal with any new speed bumps, medically speaking. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have been noticing some changes with my left breast over the past few weeks - swelling, changes in shape, warm to the touch. I have learned by now that I need to trust my instincts about my own body so I got in to see my plastic surgeon, Dr M. as soon as I could.
I saw him this morning and he is concerned. He doesn't know exactly what is going on and the cause of the swelling could be from a few different sources. To spare you all the details, many of which I am still trying to understand, this could be as minor as some blood accumulation due to some trauma that I wasn't aware of, all the way to something very serious such as a type of lymphoma that (VERY) rarely occurs after receiving breast implants. Needless to say, I am very worried. I don't want any complications. I don't want more surgery. I was finally starting to feel "normal" for awhile. I picked up more hours at the clinic and Meg Malley Photography is booming and keeping me so incredibly busy! I head to the hospital tomorrow for an ultrasound and needle aspiration of the fluid that is accumulating in the left side of my chest and breast. I will then have to wait for awhile until the results come back from the lab telling us what this is. I am praying that it will only require some simple intervention, such as Dr. M draining the fluid. I will be sure to keep you posted. Please keep me in your prayers that this is nothing serious and that life can continue as "normal".
Hope everyone is doing well and enjoys a wonderful Labor Day weekend. We are headed up to Torch Lake with our friends and I can't wait for some R & R!
Memories often flash through my head like lightening bolts - in one second they appear, and in the next they are gone. Sometimes I have flashes of all sorts of memories that come storming through my mind in such a frenzy it's as if they are competing for my attention. Memories of my high school graduation, my wedding day, or just simple and ordinary moments like my mom picking me up from latch-key as a kid. My mom, Jeff and I would sing, laugh and tease each other in the car as we drove home. We would especially tease my mom about the smell of her feet after a long day in those lovely white nursing shoes she had to wear. (Sorry to call you out on the internet, Mom) :) Life was so simple back then. I long for life to be that simple again.
Tonight is one of those nights where I am just feeling sentimental. Maybe it's because Mike's out of town and I am alone in the house. Or, is it because I am listening to my Fleet Foxes station on Pandora and indulging in a rare glass of wine. Or, maybe it's because I spent the evening with my family and laughed, joke, and reminisced.
As great as it feels to look back on the past and smile, it is also difficult for me. I look at old pictures and wonder, "did I have cancer then and just not know it yet", or "will I ever be that carefree and happy again?" Thinking of the past inevitabily causes me to then think about the future.
I have always been a dreamer. I have always dreamed about where I would live, what my life would be like, how many kids would I have. I try to still have dreams but it's hard for me sometimes. I have been pouring in so much time and energy into Meg Malley Photography but I would be lying if I said there wasn't a tiny voice in the back of my head asking, "Is this all worth it? How many years will you even be here to run a business?" But, it's my dream so I am trying to focus on the present and continue to pursue it. Or when people refer to the future and say, "In five years, we'll do _____." The first thought in my head is, "will I be here in five years?" I beat those thoughts back into the recesses of my mind, but they creep back to the surface every now and then.
I returned to work this past week and it truly felt really great. I am working (very) part time for now and I am grateful I am able to slowly adjust to this new chapter. It's amazing how tired I felt after one 5 hour shift! During my week back at work I noticed a few things....
1) It's nice to feel like a professional again. I worked so incredibly hard for my doctorate degree and I was so worried I lost all of my skills and knowledge. It was so nice to put it all to use again and realize I am still good at my job.
2) It is nice to care for others and forget about yourself for awhile.
3) I am 100% confident I will be a much better clinician now that I understand what it is like to be a patient. Not a patient in the sense of having a doctors appointment every now and then - but a true, chronic, ongoing patient. I have such a deeper respect and understanding for all that my patients have been through and continue to go through.
4) It will be a difficult adjustment for me to realize that I have physical limitations that I must adhere to. I have always prided myself on being physically strong and able to independently transfer and care for most of my patients without assistance. After working just a of couple hours, I began to become aware of my achy back and tight chest and arm muscles - and was sadly reminded of all my body has been through. It will be a true test for me to learn how to ask for physical help at work and not feel inadequate because of it. 5) My priorities have shifted dramatically throughout the past year or so. As much as I love my job, it will always be more important to me that I have dinner with my husband every night rather than staying at work late.
I have a follow up with my plastic surgeon on Monday and another appointment with Dr. F on Thursday for my 8 week follow up and monthly injections. I am hoping my blood work and everything continues to look good to the docs. My back has been bothering me a bit more than normal but I am hoping it will feel better as I transition back into my yoga practice. I'll keep you posted on what my wonderful docs have to say. :)
Thank you for all the love and support - as always. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. I truly appreciate it more than you know.
And because every post is better with pictures....I've been super busy with my photography lately. Here are a few of the cuties I have been photographing....
I am super excited to be coming to you from my desktop computer, and not the laptop - which means I have peeled myself off from the couch! woohooo!!! It's the little victories, people. ;)
Friday was a bit of a doozy for me but thankfully, all in all, surgery went well and was a success. I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 am for all my pre-op stuff, went into surgery a little after 8am, and was out of surgery a couple hours later. Dr. M came out to talk to the fam and let them know everything went well. The surgery itself was fairly uneventful except for one complication on my left side. There was an area where my pec muscle had sort of collapsed and wasn't covering the tissue expander properly. It's so interesting to find this out because I knew there was something wrong with this particular spot ever since my mastectomy. I could not only see, but feel that something was different there but no one knew what it was. Just one more example of how we should always trust our intuitions about these things - we know our bodies better than anyone! Anyways, Dr. M had to implant some sort of synthetic mesh tissue to build that area back up and apparently over time my body will begin to recognize this as normal tissue and start to heal itself. Modern medicine is amazing, huh?!
Although surgery went well, my experience in post-op while coming out of anesthesia was just about the polar opposite. I truly felt like I was hit by a Mack truck! Every inch of my body ached and hurt, and it honestly felt like I didn't have an ounce of pain medication in my body. On top of that, I was extremely nauseous and thought I was going to vomit. This was nothing like my experience with the double mastectomy. I was a little nauseous after that but my pain was so well controlled - this was a level of pain like I had never felt before! To make matters worse, my post-op nurse was let's just say, less than friendly or compassionate.
I was extremely groggy but I remember telling this nurse that I was in a great deal of pain. Well, she proceeded to say that because I was also nauseous she would not give me any Vicodin until I ate. Next thing I know, she shoves a bowl of saltines in my hand and tells me to eat. Now let's think about this...I have not been allowed to eat or drink anything for 14 hours at this point which means my throat is as dry as the Sahara, I was just intubated with a tube down my throat for 2 hours which means I am very sore on top of the dryness, and to top it off, I am nauseous and don't have the desire to eat one morsel of anything! I remember trying to chew and swallow one of the crackers, and the nurse comes back and says, "Well, did you eat?" I then nod my head yes and she looks in the bowl and with disgust she says, "Ugh, you only ate one - I am not giving you the meds until you eat more." This lovely lady then decides to sort of lecture me and make me somehow feel bad that I can't take the medicine she wants to give me for anti-nausea because I have a major sensitivity to it and it bottoms out my blood pressure...."Well, you would feel better if you could take the Zofran.....Well, I can't give you the Zofran so that's why you are nauseous...." It was as if she thought I was just choosing not to take it to be a pain in the butt or something. So what does she decide to give me? Benadryl! So now she expects me to finish eating those crackers while I struggling with every fiber of my being to keep my eyes open. Ugh - it was not fun.
Thankfully, what seemed like an eternity later, they let Mike, Mom and Doug come back and see me. They had been in the waiting room worried since Dr. M told them they would probably be able to see me 45 minutes after surgery, but in actuality it ended up being 2 hours because of all this nausea/pain craziness. I knew as soon as Momma/Nurse Jan was back there with me, I would get the meds I needed and hopefully start to feel better. Well, the next thing I remember is literally feeling like they were pushing me out of the door. The nurse told Mike to go get the car, my mom helped me get dressed and I just remember begging her to let me get back in the bed. The thought of being transported in a wheelchair and riding in the car sounded awful! I actually don't really remember riding in the car or how I got in the house. I woke up a few hours later in my bed and was so grateful to be feeling a little better and not so, "I was just run down by a stampede of wild buffalo" feeling.
My "Hope" bracelet is so special to me. I have worn it each and every day since last April when my sweet friend Katie gave it to me. She also gave a similar one to each of our Beauts, and one to Momma Jan. I am always bummed out whenever I have to take it off for surgery or an MRI.
Saturday I felt pretty darn good. Of course, I felt a little sore but I wouldn't really even call it pain. Mike had a baseball tournament which I didn't want him to miss, so Momma Jan stayed with me and I also had a few sweet visitors come by to keep me company and bring me treats--thanks friends! And there was one sweet puppy who wanted to be lazy and spend lots of time next to his Momma, on his new doggy bed....
Sunday brought some tummy issues that I always seem to have after surgery. The anesthesia and pain meds just mess up my stomach and make me feel nauseous sometimes so that was the problem on Sunday. I stopped taking the Vicodin on Saturday to try to avoid it's effects on my stomach but I think it takes awhile to have your system bounce back from all of that. I pretty much didn't move from the couch and just spent the day watching trashy tv. :) Yesterday, I started feeling better but was still dealing with a little bit of an upset stomach, but today I am feeling much better! I haven't even sat on the couch once yet today and it's already noon - victory! :)
I am honestly bored to tears and am not used to laying around like this. It's a catch 22 because I am bored but don't feel 100% well enough to go do much. Sadly, Dr. M told me absolutely no exercise for 2 weeks. I seriously just wanted to walk on the treadmill or slowly ride a stationary bike but he said, "NO!" Then when I said, "well, I will be able to just walk around the block, right?" He said, "what don't you understand about this - no!" It was kind of hilarious with the two of us going at it right before surgery. So, I will feel much better when I can get back to the gym and start moving again. I see Dr. M on Monday and hopefully he will cut me a little slack then. :)
In other news, I got my port out! Woohoo! That was a bit of an unexpected surprise. Dr. F told me last September when chemo was over that I could get it out but I was honestly worried that I would need it again for more chemo or something. After my good scans in February, I felt a little better about not needing it but I was still apprehensive. So, after my appointment with Dr. F a few weeks ago, I decided to just go for it and get it out. I figured that it would be nice for summer time to not have this big thing popping out of my chest, and Dr. F reminded me that it's a source of infection so it's smart to have it out. I scheduled outpatient surgery at the end of May to have it removed. Well, during pre-op while I was talking to Dr. M, he said, "Well, we aren't using it today so why don't I just take it out. I do it all the time!" Bonus! One less surgery to worry about. So, although my port never really bothered me and I didn't even mind it too much, I got rid of it and it's nice to have one extra foreign thing removed from my body. Now my little scar just needs to heal up and I'll be good to go.
Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers while I went into surgery and have since been recovering. It always boosts my spirits to hear from people and I appreciate it so much!
In other exciting news...this downtime has allowed me to concentrate more on my new little baby, "Meg Malley Photography". A few weeks ago, I officially registered my business with the county and I have decided to take the plunge into being a small business owner. I started a Meg Malley Photography Facebook page over the weekend to post my latest work...feel free to check it out here -http://www.facebook.com/MegMalleyPhotography
And of course, you can see my full website at www.megmalleyphotography.com. I am looking forward to devoting more time and attention to this part of my life because I truly enjoy it so much!
Hope everyone has a great week!
Well, it was bound to happen, and today was the day. I hit my first real low point. Everything hit me like a ton of bricks today, and I am not going to lie...it was tough - one of the toughest days of my life. I think it was a combination of a very long day(first appointment at 7:30 am and last appointment ended at 5pm with not much down time in between), lack of sleep, and the reality of it all truly setting in.
I had a bone scan this morning to further investigate my spine to see if the cancer has spread there. It was terrifying as I lay on the hard table and glanced over on the screen to see an area of my spine light up - indicating increased radioactivity - which means that something abnormal is going on there. But I tried not to worry too much and waited until Dr. F (the oncologist) explained the findings later in the afternoon. We then spent a few hours at Karmanos this afternoon meeting with Dr. F for the first time. It was great to meet him, discuss all of the test results, get all of our questions answered, and establish a treatment plan. But let me be honest and say, it was incredibly overwhelming, scary, and surreal. There are still some random moments throughout the day where I forget I have cancer for a minute - but today was a huge slap in the face and reality set in.
We met with Dr. F for a few hours so I will try to summarize the latest and greatest news of this roller coaster ride that our lives have become....
Thankfully, we continue to have the most amazing support system ever! Coming home to a porch full of groceries from a co-worker, food in my fridge from Julie, and the most incredible and thoughtful care package from Brinley, all helped me get out of my funk and smile again. Mike & I have become completely overwhelmed (in a good way!) by all of the wonderful cards, gifts, flowers and food that people have sent our way. I have realized that it is no longer possible for me to include every personal thank you on the blog because each post would go on forever. :) Please know that we sincerely appreciate every single nice word and gesture that is sent our way and it means more to us than you will ever know! I honestly don't know how I could get through this without all of your support. You all think that I am so strong - but really that strength comes from all of you lifting us up through your encouraging words, thoughts, and prayers. For all of these things, I am eternally grateful.
ps. Thank you for all of the photography love! Over the last two years, it has become a true passion of mine and I can't get enough of it :) A few days before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was accepted for an internship with an amazing professional photographer, Jennifer Grant. I was so excited to begin this journey and get the chance to soak up all the knowledge I could from Jennifer. Unfortunately, I have had to withdraw from this opportunity so that I can devote all of my time and attention to beating this cancer! For those of you that asked to see more of my photography, please check it out at Meg Malley Photography.
This journal & I have become attached at the hip. It contains all of my questions & concerns, appointments, and all that other good stuff that I would never be able to remember otherwise. It's like my own version of American Express..."can't leave home without it".
The most thoughtful, handmade bracelet and pocket angel charms with my name engraved on them. Thank you so much to my wonderful friend Katie and her mom, Barb. I will treasure these always.
My blog to keep you all