It’s my New Year’s Day…….

This is going to be a long one today….fair warning. But first I need another cup of coffee…

TODAY!! Happy New year to me today. I know it is January 15th. Let me explain….

Keep in mind today is my husband Keith’s birthday.

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY:  At this time one year ago today I was checked into the hospital for  my double mastectomy/reconstruction surgery. They also had to pull out a cluster of my lymph nodes since the cancer had spread there too. Eight and half hours later I was in the recovery room. Completely oblivious to my surroundings and forever physically and mentally scarred.

November 3rd 2015. That is when I got the phone call at work. My primary care doctor calling to tell me about the biopsy results. It was defiantly cancer. At first it was a stage 0, pretty much around the nipple area, a lumpectomy would easily take care of it. Many tests later and an MRI revealed that it was actually stage 2B and that I had the BRCA2 gene. I have now upgraded to a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The surgeon that I wanted and I spoke to for my initial consultation was now sick and could no longer follow through on my care. I was switched to a new surgeon I have never met, during Christmas holiday. This was challenging and scary. When I met her she told me that I had to have a sentinel lymph node surgery done at least a week before the mastectomy. Basically I was in the hospital for this surgery by the end of the week!! Yikes!  Caught us completely off guard.

The plastic surgeon I met way back in November but at that time I was only going to get a lumpectomy so I really didn’t pay much attention to what she told me about reconstruction. Suddenly I am having surgeries one week apart. I am having a double mastectomy and reconstruction and I find out the day before that I have to take shots for a week in my belly! Nope. I did not sign up for that. Neither did my husband. He had to give them to me because there was no way I was going to do it for myself. NEEDLES…a big fat NOPE.

Those first couple of weeks were a drugged blur. I remember Keith sleeping on a cot at the end of our bed, listening to my every move, making sure that I would not be in any pain and ready to help me up if I had to go to the bathroom. I remember how proud of me he was when I got home from the hospital and walked up the stairs normally. One foot , one step at a time. I remember him changing out my whiteboard with the dates so that when I was awake I would know what day it was and how much time had passed. I remember him making my coffee for me and bringing me oatmeal. He hated stripping my drains almost as much if not more than giving me the shots. He drove me to every appointment and even to have my hair washed at the beauty school. I don’t know how he did it but he did everything, all the time, just for me.

Six weeks passed and I had been released to go back to work. At this time people thought I was out on vacation and sick leave. I had only shared with a few family and friends. My inner circle, my support team and of course this blog. My breasts by now were the same size as they were before the surgery so outside of being tired no one knew what I had been through.

Then I found out that I should do chemotherapy to kill what ever rogue cells that may have escaped. Also to lower my chances of recurrence. Now I had to go public because the side effects of chemotherapy are hard to hide and I planned on working as much as possible through all of it. Chemotherapy started on my son’s birthday in March. Ironic. Hmm.

Had a consultation with the genetic counselor suggesting I have my ovaries removed. Had those removed in July, the same day that Keith was to fly out to AZ for his class reunion. He changed his plans. I don’t think I could have managed without him.

My final surgery, the exchange surgery ended up being in October. I missed out on my friends Halloween party. First time in four years. Keith missed work for a week and they were busy. He had to play catch up all year because of me.

As things are getting ‘back to normal’ ha! as if it will ever be normal again….I have learned this:

  • My husband loves me more than I ever thought he did, or could.
  • I love him more now than I ever had
  • our relationship is better, even better than when we first started
  • I had no idea it could get better or stronger or healthier
  • I have amazing friends and family in my life
  • I had no idea menopause was so terrible
  • I am not the same person I was before and I never will be again
  • I need people. I need Keith. I need my son Richard. I need my family. I need to focus on the future, on strength, on kindness to others, on love.

Keith and I decided that we want to be healthier together. Eat out less, exercise more, make better food and beverage choices. You know..blah blah blah. We also decided that we would start on New Year’s Day. Not January 1st but OUR New Year’s day. January 15th. That is our new year. Yes his birthday, but our first new year.

Okay, the watching what we eat will actually commence tomorrow because today we celebrate with a party!! My friend is hosting a ‘Renee Kicked cancer’s ass and we are celebrating one year cancer free’ party!! I know a mouthful. Just take a deep breath before you say it… Then breathe in again afterwards.

I don’t think this blog post came out in any way shape or form as I intended. It is what it is. Long. Heartfelt. Truth. Snippets. Healing.

PS: I have signed up for two runs this year so far and I am totally back in revenge mode!! So keep checking in on me… Take that cancer!!

ONE YEAR AGO!!!!!! 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

When you leave the frozen gelato in the organic peanut butter aisle….

My son is coming over for breakfast tomorrow. I am planning on making a German pancake with bacon, apple sausage and cider Mimosas. I walked next door to the natural food market to get the bacon and sausage. The meat is organic and nitrate free and from local farms. I walked by the freezer and saw that they had the gelato my husband loves on sale, so I grabbed a pint. I also needed more raw almond butter for my protein shakes. I put every thing down so I can fill my cup up with the freshly ground almonds. Hop over to the register and head on home. A few hours later I am frantically looking for the gelato! I can’t remember if I put it in the fridge or the cabinet instead of the freezer. Turns out I left it on the shelf by the almond butter machine. Hope they found it before it melted all over the floor.

The hubby and I have decided that we need to get our eating back under control. I can’t lose weight, he wants to. So the plan is to eat cereal for dinner. Doing the dishes tonight I realized that we either have too many spoons and bowls or not enough.

Went to the gym twice this week! Got on the treadmill, or as Paula from Never A Dull Bling calls it the ‘dreadmill’ I actually enjoy the treadmill. I got on and started with a walking pace. Several times I bumped it up and jogged! That was huge for me. Tonight I went back to the gym with the same intention. Turned out much better than I thought. I actually ran for half the time on it. Feeling pretty good from that and since I was the ONLY one at the gym I also used the ‘machines’ for some arm and leg strength workout. I am sure I will be super sore on Monday but for a Saturday I am feeling pretty proud of myself.

My heart is hurting for some friends. My friend Paula lost her mother this week. My friend Janice is going to lose her mother shortly. I find that I struggle with dealing with other people’s struggles now. Not that I don’t care and worry and pray for them. I just find that I have a harder time remembering to. I don’t think that is quite right either. I have a hard time getting my brain to wake up and be a thoughtful person.

I messaged a fitness friend of mine that I met via Facebook. I guess friend is a strong word. I found her on YouTube doing Zumba dances that I would learn and use in my classes. then I started stalking her on Facebook, joined her workout group online. She always chats with me like she wants to be my friend. She is a Beach Body Coach so she is trying to get me to sell stuff for her but I think we have connected on a higher level than that. I messaged her about goal setting and new ideas and such. My message to her was just as convoluted as this paragraph trying to explain it.

My hair is another weird phase again. It is finally longer over my ears so I have less wing action going on but have more wild hairs. I am still unsure what I am going to do with it but I have heard that I have two more phases before it is really my hair. So I wait and close my eyes and wear hats often.

Home from my workout, dishes are done and now enjoying a classic movie ‘Woman  of the Year’ If only I could find that drive and passion with a little more compassion and sensitivity than Tess.

 

 

 

Living paycheck to paycheck….

Many years ago, when I was much younger, freshly married and a new mom we truly were living paycheck to paycheck. It was frustrating, exhausting, and worrisome at times. How were we going to make it?  There are bills to pay and needs to be met with a new young mouth to feed. Somehow we always found a way to make it to payday.

Life has a funny way of repeating itself. The circumstances are different yet the reasons are just as noble.

I catch myself watching my bank balance. My husband makes a decent living so he pays the majority of the bills. I am in charge of groceries, the phone bill and paying for my fitness lic. and continuing education expenses and miscellaneous things.This usually leaves me with a cushion in my bank account before each payday. Until recent events.

The cancer diagnosis was  a life changer for sure. A very expensive life changer. Bills coming from everywhere, even with insurance our out of pocket expenses ate up all our cushion. Now we have met all the out-of-pocket for now and there are no extra charges, just co-pays. Yet, I catch myself still living paycheck to paycheck.

This is why, I have started living. I no longer put off the things that I didn’t do because I couldn’t afford them. I just do it. I have loved ones that I want to send something to, so I do. I have pictures that I had developed from an October Zumba fundraiser that I have not framed. Not anymore. I want them framed and put up to enjoy. I want to send flowers to a friend, an extra card in the mail to a loved one, donate to a charity I believe in, try growing an herb garden, go out and laugh with friends. Get it?

Life is too short to wait and do the things someday. If you are not living now, then when? Enjoy what you have. Enjoy it now. Enjoy the things that make you happy. Give until you can’t give anymore. Give of yourself, give joy, give time, give money, give devotion, give peace, give encouragement. Just give and you will see that you are really living, paycheck to paycheck. Surprisingly though your life will feel fuller and richer than ever before.

Today is my last round of chemotherapy. Soon I will be living even more. Stay tuned.

 

 

Ha! My mind is moving everywhere!

Have you ever looked in the toilet when done and say: ‘that’s the perfect poop!?’ I have thanks to a Facebook story of the shapes of poop and what they mean.

Life is not about your waistline, yet you need to take care of yours so you can enjoy life. That’s a catch 22.

Is there really life after menopause? The sporadic, sweaty nights make it hard for me to believe in that fairy tail.

Actually no, I can’t just take a nap and feel better. Chemotherapy doesn’t work like that. I get really tired of explaining this. Yes, I look tired because I AM tired. It is from the chemo not the lack of naps. Possibly from the hot flashes in the middle of the night, but not because I need a nap.

Why can’t I get enough to eat? I am trying very hard to not PUT on weight. I am not able to lose any right now, but I don’t want to gain any either. This is hard when I am hungry all the time and ALL the food looks good. Even the semi-green potato salad at work in the vending machine. Yes I ate it. So far so good.

When I am tired I pretty much throw out the whole ‘no sugar, no alcohol, no non organic’ eating plan. Yes I see the reoccurring theme and irony.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Cinco de Mayo or as I like to refer to it: Cinco de Reneeo. I am expecting two wigs, a fun blue one and a fun dark one along with a skin/case for my computer. Last year I ordered the Star Wars movies. I like ordering things that end up showing up on my birthday. It makes me feel special.

This is my final random thought. Life really is short. It is easier to love. I choose to laugh. I choose to publicly document my random thoughts.

 

Just being a girl for a moment…

Bear with me as I divulge into some really girly stuff.

It has taken me years, years I tell you to finally recognize when I am being a PMS snot.

At the very least the first 15 years of my marriage I was a roller coaster of hormones and emotions. It happens, I get my period and I get cramps, bloated, emotional, tired, edgy, short-tempered and flat-out delusional.

I have yelled at my spouse for nothing and everything. I have felt sorry for myself that I didn’t choose a more romantic, sensitive partner instead of one that is smart, strong and funny. And why for the love of all that is holy can he not find the laundry basket for his socks!! At least just for one week out of the month!

Over time I started paying more attention to my body and my emotions. I listened to it. There are signs that warn me my cycle is coming and I need to ready to steady myself to be normal so I don’t go into banshee mode on the hubby.

I started with exercise. As I became more physically fit I became more mentally stable.

I started eating better. As I ate better my hormones naturally became more balanced. Sigh, I hate to admit it but eating balanced is huge!

As chemotherapy continues my ovaries are shutting down. It is part of the process. the meds I am on throw you into menopause, possibly permanently. Which really doesn’t matter because I will need a hysterectomy now because of the BRCA2 mutation. Which means no matter there will be menopause.

I have done enough research as a women and heard enough stories and have had enough hot flashes already to know it is not going to be pretty.

I keep warning my husband.

We were in the car the other day. I reached for his hand. I told him I have no idea how bad I will be. I may become more irrational, cry more, yell more, and just be ‘don’t touch me’ more. I have no idea, I just know it won’t be me and that it may take another 15 years to learn the new signs of hormone breakdowns.

He simply looked over to me and said “I know you love me”

How can he know? I don’t even know at times. I tell him all the time, but let’s face it words sometimes fall empty. We say them so much that they lose meaning and sincerity.

I believe it is the little things. Like making sure he has Mt. Dew on hand. Knowing that he is going to drive the car next after me so I move the seat back so he can get into the car. Making his lunch each day. High- fiving him when he does well on a paper for his classes. Encouraging him to do things he loves to do without me i.e baseball games and curling.

I know that my body is changing. Against my will, for the greater good, and out of my hands. Along with the body changing so are my emotions and hormones and attitude. There will always be this challenge to make sure he knows he loves me, in spite of my words.

Truth is. I know he loves me. That is enough to inspire me to try, to really try.