I don’t know who this is….

Something is off.

This week has been a tough week. No reason in particular. It just feels rough, out of sorts, extra long and just plain off.

I know it is me. I know that it is something in me that is off. I can’t place my finger on it. I am starting to believe that it is the medication I am taking to keep the cancer from growing back. At least that is what I am choosing to think.

I ache, all over. I can’t stop crying. My body is not recovering from exercising like it should. I am not even over doing the exercise, so that is not the excuse. I just feel off. I hurt enough to notice it but not enough to stop me from pressing forward. Going to work, working out, being ‘normal’ and to not call the doctor. Just off.

I find it troublesome when something is on the edge of your tongue yet still so elusive you can’t put your finger on it.

Last Christmas we celebrated somberly. I knew about the cancer and at the time I didn’t know what or when treatment was going to happen or by whom.

This year I celebrate Christmas somberly again. Thankful that I am in remission and that I am nearing my one year mark. Thankful that my family is closer and tighter than ever before. Grateful that I can close this chapter of my life.

At least that is the theory. The cold harsh reality is I am still fighting. Fighting to get sleep ( these 4:30 AM wake ups are rough) Fighting to get healthy (ugh, still fighting with the carbs) Fighting to move more (my motivation and endurance are still lacking) Fighting to find the good in every thing and everyone (it is there, I may not have it but I know others do) Fighting to find my new normal (blah I HATE that phrase) Fighting to not let the outside be reflective of my inside (I have changed, I try to hide that)

Things I have learned so far through all of this:

I have many friends. Some that I never knew I had. I also have less friends. One’s I never should have had.

I am way more into my appearance and hair than I ever thought I was. Who knew I had so much vanity? I honestly didn’t.

That no matter how determined and consistent I am, I still lose focus and energy and motivation to keep doing what is right.

That my job is just a job and it no longer brings me joy. I want more. I have also learned that over time doing the same mundane things you lose sight of the goal of wanting more and something different, something better. Changing and doing more was so intense I couldn’t breath or speak. That is gone. Worn away by the everyday. How did I let that happen?

I am different. My body is the biggest give away. My hair is obvious. My weight is even more obvious. All the scars and lack of nipple cements the difference. I am different on the inside too. Most days I am learning who I am now. Who I want to become. What I am made of.

I look at this picture I took yesterday in the bathroom at work. I took it because I was wearing a new lipstick that I bought from my friend and I wanted her to see what it looked like on me. I do not see Renee. I do not know who this person is. I don’t recognize her at all.

I do know that when I look at this picture I will not be her for long. I am going to fight whatever this ‘offness’ is. I am going to keep moving forward. I am going to wear a hat more often. I am going to believe that 2017 is the year of Renee. I am going to believe that there is only going forward, only becoming better, smarter, funnier, prettier and stronger.

I don’t know who this is. I do know that someday I will.

 

 

 

I push..

I push then I wonder why. My body screams move, then it screams stop it hurts, so I stop and my head screams why did you stop? push through, push harder, and all I can think is why, why am I doing this? is it to prove to myself? is it to prove to those who think I can’t? is it because I need validation, a victory, proof? run. NO walk. NO, run. NO, walk! NO, jog!! now even if it hurts, why? this is the battle in my head. who knew that wogging would be so emotional? I didn’t. I knew it was mental and physical but not emotional. It stirs up thoughts of failure, status quo, aging aching bones and muscles. it brings up doubts of can I do anything? or am I okay with just being where I am at? Am I all worked up from my online goals classes? do I have a real purpose? or just a challenge to prove to myself that I am strong enough, and smart enough and have no limits? I get excited because I have goals and a focus and am constatntly trying to reach them. It is exciting. then day to day life settles in and I doubt I can do them. what is the point? why does it matter? does anyone care but me? how can I a type B introvert be a type A confident person? what purpose does it serve? Then I remind myself… I LIKE having a goal, a purpose, a direction. I have never had one before that was so clear and concise. so real that I can taste it. so much more that I can be. No longer a status quo, a day in day out liver, but a doer, a focuser, a liver of life, a goal setter and achiever….. Why? maybe just for me? maybe just for a kick? maybe for someone else? maybe for the accolade? or simple acknowledgement that I am not dumb, lazy or unfocused. I am not sure yet of the why, but I am sure of the want.

A stress free Thanksgiving……

and other lies we tell ourselves.

I will officially have lived in the Inland Northwest nine years this coming January. Nine years after driving away from the only life I have ever known.

Since we have moved here we have never done the same thing twice for Thanksgiving. We have: gone to the casino, gone to a friends, had turducken, had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, served at a soup kitchen, and have dinned somewhere nice.

This year I asked my son what he wanted to do for Thanksgiving. It was a time to actually give thanks. I am cancer free, done with surgery and treatments. We should celebrate everything. He asked for a ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving. So that means turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and lots of gravy.

Since I was working the day before and the day after I really didn’t want to make a big mess in the kitchen. So sticking with our tradition of doing something different each year I decided to order one of those pre-cooked dinners from the grocery store. I ordered the traditional turkey dinner. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, and cranberry sauce. I ordered a small side of green been casserole too since my son likes it. The advertisement says it is fully cooked. How difficult can it be? I ordered and set our pick up time as 9AM. The deli worker said I will need to warm the turkey up and it would take about an hour and half. That should work out great. I am baking a sugar creme pie that I have never even heard of until two weeks ago. It takes about an hour and half. That will free the oven up for turkey and time to reheat all the pre-cooked foods.

When Keith came home with the food it was not what I expected at all. There was a turkey that you can tell had just barely been defrosted in time. It said on the directions that it needed to be in the oven for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours, yikes! All the side dishes were ones that you could just buy out of the deli in the prepackaged food ‘ready-to-go’ section. I thought it was going to be made at the deli. The turkey took forever to warm through. I put the stuffing in the oven for the last 30 minutes to heat it up. The gravy was simmering on the stove top and the mashed potatoes were in the microwave. Three minutes is what the directions said. Mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls are my favorite part of the holiday dinner. All the carbs on one plate. I was looking forward to the potatoes.

When they came out of the microwave and I stirred them it was like water. WATER! Noooooo! In my eyes dinner is ruined. The turkey was taking forever, the potatoes runny. Ugh. I asked where we may go since dinner sucked. They laughed and said the turkey will be fine and we still have gravy and rolls. I popped the potatoes back in the microwave for five more minutes. They finally stiffened up and actually tasted great. Disaster averted.

I bought a frozen apple pie and a chocolate creme pie. It is a good thing too, the sugar creme pie texture is different. And the taste is kind of bland. maybe that is how it supposed to taste?

Anyway dinner was fine. We ate too much. There was very little clean up, and I hung out with my family. All wonderful things in my book.

A side note: The day before Thanksgiving my doctor emailed me my blood work results. My cholesterol is up too high. She said I need to lay off the carbs. Lay off carbs, ugh. Also I went to a Turkey Burn Zumba class on Saturday. It was 90 minutes long. NINETY!!! It felt great.

The picture is a Thanksgiving that happened four years ago. A friend was celebrating living in her first home and wanted to make dinner. This is also me 25 pounds ago. I think I really do need to lay off the carbs…

 

Last night I slept without a bra on….

I know this may not seem like much to you. In fact I would venture to guess the majority of people sleep without bras on. I used to be one of those people.

When I had the double mastectomy with reconstruction I came home from the hospital wearing a velcro wrap. It was tight and uncomfortable. It was necessary to wear to keep the swelling down and to make sure my new foobs stayed in place and would look symmetrical. Eventually I was allowed to exchange the wrap for a sports bra. I had to wear the sports bra all the time, including at night.

As time went on and the expanders were filled to the capacity I wanted, I was able to wear my ‘pretty bras’ again during the day. At night the expanders were so uncomfortable and unmovable that I would wear the sports bra or the surgery bra to bed to be a buffer. Laying on my side was tricky and the support of a bra helped.

Because of chemotherapy the exchange surgery had to be postponed for months. MONTHS! I had to wear the hard and awkward expanders for ten months. That meant continuing to sleep in a bra or some sort of supportive garment.

Last night I felt confident enough to sleep without a bra on. I slept on my side, on my back and on the other side. It felt wonderful and honestly I almost felt normal. NORMAL!?!?!?!?! Is that such a thing? I can’t even recall feeling normal, except for those rare occasional moments that last for just a minute or two.

I have a followup appointment this coming week with the plastic surgeon. I think everything looks great, as great as it is can get considering. I am looking forward to her telling me that. And that I will be able to jog again. And that I can wear my pretty bras that I just bought from an online company that specializes in bras for mastectomy and reconstruction patients. They are expensive but very pretty. I want to be as normal as possible, I think the new bras will help. So will the jogging. So will the ‘all is clear and good’ from the doctor.

No bra at night, pretty bras during the day. Who knows, next I might wear jeans again.

 

Cuckoo

The other night my son came over and we had a movie night. I was in the mood to watch ‘The Wedding Singer’ because at work the song ‘Love Stinks’ came on and we all started talking about the movie. It is such a fun movie.

There is a scene right after he is stood up at the altar when the nephews are teasing him about being cuckoo and needing to go to a mental institution. The voice of the child is still rattling around in my head. Cuckoo cuckoo.

Last night a friend messaged me and told me I was her hero. That with all that I am challenged with I still keep going. I am not a hero.

I am a girl. Who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Who had surgery and chemotherapy to put the cancer in its place and control it. Nothing more nothing less.

It did however get me to thinking. When you get the call that you have cancer you suddenly become a deer in headlights. It is overwhelming and scary all at once. You are bombarded with doctors and insurance and bills and advice and un-welcomed suggestions. Forming a plan of action. For me surgery, reconstruction, chemotherapy. It is put into motion and professionals are helping you meet that plan of action. You do what you need to do and trust those you need to trust. It is really not that hard because you do not know better.

What is hard is the mental battle. Your emotions are all over the place, often controlling you like a puppet. You wake up ready to face another day and suddenly your brain starts telling you don’t forget you have cancer. People die from cancer. Cancer is your fault. You must have done something really wrong in this world to get cancer. Only bad things happen to bad people. Cancer is eating your body right now. You will never feel normal again. Don’t forget to have a pity party. It flat-out can make you feel like you are cuckoo. Not for cocoa puffs, just cuckoo. It mentally slaps you, hard.

How can you be a hero when you are cuckoo? You can’t. You just get up and go. Go until you exhaust your thoughts. Go until you can finally prove to yourself you are not cuckoo. Go until someday the thoughts will no longer haunt you.

I am a girl. Slightly nuts before, definitely crazy now. Ready to embrace this new sense of ‘normal’ and accept that cuckoo is not really a bad thing. It can’t be. And besides, it was really funny and almost cute when the 5 year old said it in the movie…

 

Today is better….

I was so discouraged the other day. The day I wrote about ‘I can’t’

It was the first time that I really thought I can’t since that fateful call on Nov. 3rd.

My poor husband. I came home on Wednesday and he made the mistake of asking if I was okay. Okay!?!? NO! No I am not okay as I lay crying in a lump on the bed. What was your first clue? I was so tired. I just kept telling him I can’t do this. I can’t do this.

He picked me up and said yes you can you are just tired. He then told me that he will feed me Taco Bell and then I should go to bed. I think it helped. I know the Taco Bell did.

They told me that the last round of chemotherapy will hit me the hardest. Knowing it and living it are two different things. No matter how much I braced myself for it I was not mentally prepared. The fatigue was harder, the dry fingertips are unmanageable , the flat taste in my mouth and dried tongue are worse. Then to top it off my asthma started kicking my ass, er lung I should say. So not sleeping from night sweats, chemically induced fatigue and a cramping right lung truly left me discouraged. It left me at I can’t.

Today, today is so much better. Now my mind is wandering and wondering.

Thinking of things like the following:

Are chemically induced hot flashes worse than when it happens naturally? My vote is yes.

The hair on my head that is growing back is like a brillo pad. It is coarse, gray and sticks out in all directions. Soon it will poke straight through my hats and wigs. When I showered the other day I used conditioner on it hoping it will soften. I think it is a logical conclusion. It didn’t.

Vanilla seems to be the saving grace for my coffee with the tongue/taste bud issues. Is it wrong that I am drinking extra cups of my froo froo sweet vanilla coffee because it actually tastes good? Probably, but right now I am still too tired to worry about calories and dehydration. I will just drink more water inbetween cups, yeah that is totally logical.

Why isn’t being naked at work and in public acceptable? The moment I put clothes on I start sweating. Granted I don’t think people would appreciate all of ‘this’ (pointing to my body) naked.

Do all the hot flashes and night sweats smell, or is it just in my head? I have started spraying my clothes down with my signature scent just in case. It worked for the French.

I am ready for life after chemotherapy. I am searching for my new ‘normal’ I will find it. One cup of coffee and douse of perfume at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hot then I’m cold……

Okay so the real lyrics from the Katy Perry song are ‘You’re hot then you’re cold’ but I am singing about myself.

The chemotherapy has totally taken over my hormones as promised by my doctors. I have hot flashes and night sweats so often now I am not sure what ‘normal’ feels like anymore.

I sleep with my ceiling fan on. Not that unusual, right? But, I HAVE to also have my big comforter over me too. This seems to be a conflict of interest to most, husband included. I start off cold so I cover myself. It doesn’t take long before I go into sweating mode and have to throw the cover off and let the fan cool me off. Soon I will be too cold and have to cover up again. For this very reason I stopped wearing my Fitbit when I sleep. I do not need to be reminded that I woke up 27 times. Yes 27!

This week seems to be worse. I have started wearing skirts and dresses at work because they are cooler. I seem to sweat through my back and toes when I have daytime hot flashes. The night sweats, well I just soak everything including the pillow. It only takes a few days of interrupted sleep and early mornings (like 3am because you just can’t try to sleep again) to make you feel like you are losing your mind and haven’t slept for months. It isn’t true but it feels true.

The other lovely thing I have going on is acid reflux and an increase in gas. I have always had gas. All humans do. It is natural. Mine has always smelled like death. You know ‘silent but deadly’. That is me. Lately they have been death warmed over twice then forgotten so it rotted. Yeah, I know, gross. Try living in that smell. So I looked it up to see if it is a side effect of chemo. Guess what I found:

 

Chemotherapy medications you may be taking to treat breast cancer can cause gas by speeding up or slowing down your digestion. This can increase the amount of gas released in the stomach, which can increase belching or flatulence. Chemotherapy also can affect how the bacteria in your stomach work, causing gas and abdominal pain.

So that is awesome. GERD and acid reflux are also part of the process too. I am so relieved that it is a treatment induced issue but sheesh kick a girl when she is bald!

I know that the chemotherapy is catching up to me. Not just from the increase issues but that it is harder and harder for me to find the humor in it. I have always found humor in every little thing in life. I have always been able to bring a chuckle to myself or others in any situation. It is getting harder and harder for me. This is how I know that the medications are effecting me.

I have one more round of chemo left. ONE MORE ROUND!! I have to get though this. I will get though this. The question is will I get though it with grace, joy and a non raw butt hole? Will I get through with a sense of humor left? Will there be an end (ha!) to the gas and GERD? Will I ever adjust to the hot flashes (they will continue after for many years,ugh) ? Why is the sky blue? What is an eight-hour night of solid sleep like? What is up with the Muppets getting cancelled? So many questions, so many uncertainties, so many ways to bring out depression.

This is what I know to be true: It is for the greater good. My husband still loves me even though I am scarred, deformed, bald and sometimes smell. I have a new perspective of what I want out of life and will soon have the energy to pursue it. That this too shall pass. And most of all that my bedroom ceiling fan is quite beautiful.

 

Met the new neighbor……

No one in my real world has really seen the bald me.

Oh my husband has. He in fact is the one who shaved my head when my hair started falling out by the cupfuls.

My son has when he has come over to hang out with us at the house.

One of the oncology nurses has because at my last infusion I had a hot flash and had to remove my hat to cool off quickly.

If you follow me on YouTube at Cancercize with Renee B. https://youtu.be/Qa3Zgl7srBA then you have seen my bald little head. I don’t count that as people seeing me bald because that is the ‘cyber world’ not real world.

Yesterday I stopped to talk to the homeowners Dan and Angie who I rent an upstairs apartment from. They told me they are so impressed with how well I am handling chemotherapy. They even told me that I make them look lazy! Ha! It is a lovely compliment coming from very wonderful people.

Dan was telling me that he likes all my cute hats and hairpiece and that I have a lot fun with them. Angie said she was glad to see me having ‘fun’ with it.

As we were talking Angie informed me we have a new neighbor across the hall now. They really like her and hoped that I would too. As we were talking the new neighbor walked up. We were introduced to each other and shook hands. She is young and beautiful and seems very nice. We walked into the house and up the stairs together getting a little background on each other. It was nice, the last neighbor was odd and would avoid talking to me.

About an hour later I hear a knock on our door. We were getting ready to go for a walk so I ran to answer the door expecting Dan and Angie. Nope, it was the new neighbor asking for the wi-fi password. I didn’t have my hat or hair or scarf on! I do not know if Dan and Angie ‘warned’ her about my journey. I hope so. If not I can’t even imagine what is going through her head. She was very kind and didn’t stare or act startled. So there is that. Keith ,my husband felt bad for me AND for her. It put me in spot I wasn’t ready for. Sure I answered bald, but I assumed it was the homeowners and they know about the hairless me.

 

Perhaps after this encounter I will become bolder about bearing my baldness? For now I will stick to the cute hats, wigs and scarves. Like the one my husband is wearing in the picture. A friend made me that hat. It has the hair sewn into it! It was a bit tight and gave me a headache so Keith wore it backwards like that during my last round of chemo to stretch it out. It worked! I wear this one often because it is easy to put on (and take off if I am having a hot flash)

 

 

 

A moment…..

As I was making breakfast for dinner last night I had a moment.

A moment that felt trapped in time.

A moment that was as real as I am.

A moment that I tried to capture with a picture.

I don’t know if it was the bright evening spring sun shining through the kitchen window. Or  that I was making breakfast for dinner. All I know is in that moment I felt normal. Normal like there is no cancer. Normal like there was never a surgery. Normal like I am not in chemo. Just me being me and feeling normal.

I wanted to somehow capture it and make it so it wouldn’t be a fleeting moment. I tried to take a picture of the warmth shining through my window. It doesn’t even come close to expressing how it truly was. I stood there embracing the moment, the warmth, the time standing still. Please don’t let me wake up out of this trance.

Then I burned the pancakes.

Reality.

A moment gone not likely to return and I am at a loss how to recapture it.

 

 

Just an update….

I am three days into my chemo. I am very fortunate that I am only on two medications/poisons. My friend that sat with me Thursday was on three. My other friend was on five, five! I feel lucky.

The first of the side effects hit me yesterday afternoon. The metallic taste in my mouth they all warned me about. Everything tastes like my permeant metal retainer has leaked all over my tongue and lips and teeth. I don’t have the best taste buds, because I really don’t have a sense of smell. I was hoping this wasn’t going to bother me. I was wrong. It even makes water taste awful.

So this is my game plan. I made a list of healthy foods that I do not like. Kale, apricots, nut butters, avocados, tomatoes, mangos, etc. I am going to the store to buy them all today! I will force myself to eat them so I can get my fruit, veggies and all important protein!

I have been told that I shouldn’t eat food I like because I will never like them again after chemo. So I figure this is a safe list for me!

I have a secondary list of foods I kind of like but if I eat them now and never want them again I will be okay with that. Broccoli, apples, collard greens, persimmons, oranges and etc.

If I eat bad foods it will be pasta, white bread, white rice, potatoes salad..and things that I should kick the habit of.

I only have one thing on my list to never eat while on chemo…BACON!! I want to still like bacon after all of this…

If I have already said all this I apologize now. My chemo brain is also in full effect. I have notes to myself everywhere in the house! Just so I don’t forget to do the thing later. Seriously, even one that says: Get up and MOVE!!

I know the fatigue is coming. And the inevitable hair loss (which probably won’t happen until the next to last treatment) but if this all I get, fatigue, metallic taste, hair loss, poor immune system I will be a happy chemo camper.

I am still on my quest/challenge to post a workout video each day on my YouTube Channel Cancercize with Renee B. I feel it is so important to document that you CAN workout while going through chemo/cancer/surgery. And that it will help your mental health as well as your physical health. I hope to one day turn it into a real class and offer it to all who need a place to workout. We only have one place that does it out here and it is extremely hard to get into. (closed group) Even with doctor notes you get turned away. This saddens my heart. There needs to be more classes for this. After all cancer is not a respecter of age, health, personalities, or anything. It is growing, and attacking. There are many people who need to have a place to workout safely to help themselves be stronger!

Anyway, this is just an update of where I am today. I know, not very humorous. Just an honest update.

P.S. this is a picture of my feet outside. It was so nice out and my energy was good I walked around the block, TWICE! I am pretty darn proud of myself. A workout video and a walk.

#mylifeisshort #ichoosetolaugh #itiseasiertolove #onwardandupward #atpeace #ventinghelps #youarestronger