I guess once I had a taste of the sweet freedom after surgery, there was no keeping me down any longer. Ever since the nausea and soreness settled down, it seems like life has returned to it's usual hectic pace. No complaints here though - that's the kind of life that feels most 'normal' to me anyway. And I will always be grateful to be busy since that is a true indication that I am feeling good!
A belated Happy Mother's Day to all of you amazing mommas out there! I was able to spend that day hosting brunch for the fam over at our house and then heading out to GG's to celebrate with her, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. There aren't many things I can say about my incredible Momma that I haven't already gushed about in previous posts. All I know is that I would be lost without her, and Mike and I are beyond grateful to have her in our lives and help support us through all of the ups and downs of the past year, in particular. She deserves much more recognition than one special day allows! We love you Momma! ♥
I am also so grateful to have some other pretty amazing women in my life too...especially my grandma GG, and my Godmother, my Aunt Carol. Happy Mother's Day to you both, too! Love you!
Last Monday, I had my first follow up appointment with Dr. M since surgery on May 4th. He was pleased with how everything looks and how I have been feeling. Of course, I had to badger him and ask if I can please get back to working out and doing everything around the house that I want to do. He gave me the green light to go back to the gym but I am not able to do anything with my arms for another 4 weeks - no lifting weights, no pushing, no pulling, no picking up friends babies....oops, might have cheated on that last one a few times! ;) It is driving me nuts to not be able to do what I want, but I am trying my best to be a good little patient and make sure that everything heals just as it is intended to.
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of being invited onto the field at Comerica Park during the national anthem and first pitch at the Tigers Game. It was such a neat experience to join other breast cancer survivors as the Tigers honored us with their "Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer" game. I met up with some of my YSC friends there as well. We wore the shirts that the YSC team is wearing for the Race for the Cure - it's pretty astounding to see the ages of our diagnoses on our shirts!
I was able to capture a picture of myself on the scoreboard of me taking a picture of the scoreboard! ha-sounds confusing, I know. Can you see where I circled myself in the pic below?
Wednesday night at Comerica was a blast! Then first thing Thursday morning, I headed to Karmanos for my monthly injections into my abdomen. In addition to that, I was asked to participate in an interview with our local ABC news affiliate, WXYZ Channel 7. The super sweet and lovely anchor, Alicia Smith, interviewed me. She wanted to know my story and what I have been through, about why I wanted to help start a young women's support group, and why I participate in the Race for the Cure and what it means to me to have others support me there as well. It was a fun morning and one more way that I am trying to help raise awareness for young adults faced with cancer. I haven't heard when it will air but it's going to be sometime this week before the race on Saturday morning. Channel 7 will be interviewing me again live at the race with my entire team there with me!
Here I am with Alicia Smith, who couldn't have been any nicer and made me feel much more relaxed on camera.
The rest of the week and weekend was filled with many Kettering baseball games, a trip to Eastern Market for flower day, and spending time with two of my favorite munchkins - Emma and Alice. Luckily for me, I have some pretty cute models to practice my photography skills with. :)
I also wanted to mention that a group of my wonderful friends are at it again this year and have formed their "Meghan Malley Rally" team for the 3 Day For A Cure event in August. I am so proud of them and honored that they want to dedicate their time and energy to this cause in my name. They are not only focused on supporting me, but on helping to generate more awareness for metastatic breast cancer and the importance for further research to help find a CURE!
Their fundraising efforts are underway and if you like to bowl, and love to support a great cause, we have an event for you! Check out the flyer for more details and click here to visit their team page to either join our team or donate! I am not an official participant, but I will be out there attempting 10 miles each day, so come join us August 17-19!
Keep your eyes out for me on Channel 7 news this week and come join us Saturday morning at the Detroit Race for the Cure! It is a wonderful event! Hope everyone is having a great week and have a fun Memorial Day weekend!
ps. - I would like to give a very special thank you to Dr. Schenden and his staff at Schenden's Medical Day Spa. Last week I was completely blown away by a letter that Dr. Schenden wrote me. He told me that some of his staff have been following the blog and have been touched by my story. Dr. Schenden mentioned that they knew one of the "30 before 30" items I wasn't able to cross off my list yet was to get a massage for Mike. Well, Dr. Schenden so graciously sent us two gift certificates for spa services at his medical day spa! One for Mike, and one gift certificate for me too! It was so unexpected and I am so grateful. People often do not realize the impact that one little note, or one kind gesture can have. I was brought to tears by this act of kindness and I am truly so thankful that such compassionate and thoughtful people are out there in the world doing things to help brighten someone else's day. Thank you so much to Dr. Schenden and his staff - It truly meant so much to us!
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!
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