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.

 

I woke up hungry…..

I have been so hungry lately! I have been feeding all my cravings. Tacos, fried chicken, bread, bread with butter, bacon, Chinese food and chocolate cake. I usually don’t give in so easily to my cravings. I have learned to combat most of them, or at the very least learned how to portion control them (except for tacos, you can’t control tacos). Lately I just can’t seem to get enough food.

Yesterday I made breakfast. YES I MADE BREAKFAST!! I made sausage patties with two over easy eggs, sautéed salad with sesame seeds and fresh strawberries. I know, so much food. Yes, I did sample the sausage as I was cooking it, you have to taste test you know. We didn’t eat breakfast until nearly 11 AM. Hubby slept late and I am very slow to getting around at the moment. Later that day we stopped for takeout from a yummy fried chicken place called Ezell’s Chicken. I ordered the 2 piece combo. That includes 2 pieces of chicken, a roll, two sides, I had potato salad and mac and cheese. I also ordered a side of onion rings. I ate it ALL! This took place about 3:30 in the afternoon. We called it linner since it was well after lunch time and way before dinner. At about 5:30 pm I had a large slice of chocolate cake and called it a day.

So tell me, why would I wake up at 2Am starving!!! Seriously my stomach was growling so loud it woke me up. I got up and drank a glass of water and reminded my belly of all the food I ate and there is no way it was true hunger pangs. It couldn’t be.

Today I have decided I really need to get back on the food track. Since I am not able to exercise for at least another week I should make sure I am at the very least eating right. This morning I started with my protein shake. It is full of good for me things. It is a great way to start my day on the right foot. Let’s see how long it will be before I am on my left foot. The struggle is real people.

In other snippet news:

I put out my very first newsletter from my website http://www.Cancercize.com I have determined that I need to hire an IT person or someone who knows what the hell they are doing. I couldn’t rotate any of my pictures, I couldn’t change the font size, I couldn’t figure out any of the edit helps. I know if you follow my blog you have already figured out that I have no idea how to manipulate any of this technology. Big sigh.

I put out a plea on my YouTube site for suggestions of what to do with my hair. It is in that awkward stage of I have no idea what to do with it. Chemo hair is dumb.

Turned in my voters ballot and feel that I should no longer be bombarded by social media on who to vote for. If only that were a thing. I voted so no more advertisements and ‘friends’ plugging their agenda/candidate.

Went for a short fall leaf drive. Hubby drove, I enjoyed being out and about and all the beautiful colors.

I am scheduled to see the plastic surgeon tomorrow. I am concerned that my left drain may  still be pulling too much fluid and she won’t remove it. I cannot, I repeat CANNOT stay wrapped up like this anymore. I am restricted in movement. I itch like crazy I want to breathe easy.

I am restless at night tossing and turning like crazy. I am not allowed to sleep on my side so it is just my head swiveling from right to left frantically. Tossing and turning like this has gotten my girdle in a wad. Not my panties just my girdle. It has also given me horrible neck pain. My neck and shoulders need a professional massage. If I get my drains removed I can shower and clean up enough to go find someone to do that for me. So much pending on getting the drains out.

 

P.S. I still want more tacos.

 

 

 

Joy is not circumstantial…

About a month ago the Reddaway truck driver that used to have our route was covering for the new driver. He knew that I had been fighting cancer but hasn’t seen me since the surgery and public announcement. He simply said  ‘your smile is still here’ All I could think was ‘of course, joy is not circumstantial’

There is a difference between joy and happy. Happy is a temporary emotion generally driven by our circumstances and current surroundings. Joy, joy on the other hand is deeper than that. It is sincere, planted deep within and doesn’t fade. Joy is not about our circumstances it is about our choice to find and keep it, to nurture it, to not allow it to starve and disappear.

There are many things that make me happy that also feed my joy.

Working out with heavier weights. Having my cousin Craig do the dishes better than anyone, ever. Picking cherries with the littles. Texting friends first thing in the morning to start the day off right. Mysterious reprieve from the night sweats. Half a pound less on the scale. Hair growing back even if it is all gray. Hugs. Going all week without a head covering. Planning for the future. Hitting my Fitbit goals. Creating new memories. Easily forgetting the drama and stress at work. Discovering my own inner strength. My own inner love. My own inner peace. My own inner drive.

I know those are all circumstantial. Yet they are making a lasting deep impression and adding to my joy. I have always been a firm believer that love is a decision. I have argued this point often. Feelings fade. Decisions should last. I honestly believe that joy is also a decision. You make the choice to be joyful. You can’t hope that others make you happy. They won’t. Maybe for a short time but people never stay the same and can never be the source of joy or love.

I am preparing for more surgery soon. I am preparing to see Paula from @neveradullbling. I am preparing to pursue my joy. I am preparing to grow as a human with a bigger heart, more compassion, overflowing joy and kindness. It is work but it is worthy work.

What will you do to fill/fuel your joy? Run? Write?Volunteer? Give? Share?

Have a joyful day my friends. ❤

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.

 

 

Nothing, blank, nada……

Everything and nothing are going through my head all at once.

Breathe..just breathe.

I feel like nesting. Prepping food for my husband like I am going away for a long time.

Breathe….just breathe

I have moments of fear. I can hear my mom quoting scriptures at me about how that is wrong…having fear that is. So I dismiss them.

Breathe…just breathe

I have thoughts of having no idea what I am doing in a moment, even though it is right in front of me.

Breathe…just breathe

Everything is suspended. Floating in the air around me. I wait for it all to crash at once.

Breathe…just breathe

I think I have a strong mindset. Mental over matter. Yet, that dismissed fear reminds me of the consequences of my actions.

Breathe…just breathe.

I see my husband worn out, tired, making comments of how much his life has changed because of me and it hurts to know that I can’t go through this without him, yet I don’t want him to go through this with me.

Breathe…just breathe

I worry about my boss. Covering all shifts. Working through the flu because I couldn’t come to work. I still can’t cover for her to get a break.

Breathe…just breathe

I am helpless to help others. I have to think about helping myself. I have to think about the daunting fight in front of me. I have to think about how hard it will be to get out of bed, eat healthy, go to work, not vomit, stay awake, workout.

Breathe…just breathe.

And then all the thoughts come together and leave all at once. I can’t put my finger on one thing at a time.

Breathe…just breathe.

Positive in, negative out. positive in, negative out. Breathe in breathe out.

One moment at a time. One POSITIVE moment at a time.
It is for the greater good. It is for the long haul health. It is to get revenge on the cancer.

Just breathe.

Things I am learning:

Now that I was the latest victim to the on growing cancer attacks, I have to say I have learned a lot of what needs exist. My dear husband has taken on the responsibility of my full time care provider. This is not a light duty task. This is a 24 hour task that should never be taken for granted.

He loves me more than I can ever comprehend or possibly ever repay. He took time off work to help in my care process. This process involves, well everything and then some (remember shots in the abs). The husband is already the head provider of our little family. He is also the dish washer and laundry doer. Then he took on meals, medicating in the middle of the night, mother-in-law, chauffeur, and so much more. Trying to fit in a few days of work so to keep being the primary provider. Meanwhile continuing his online schooling a particularly challenging class this semester.

I am going to share what needs there may actually be if you have a friend or loved going through something that has them bed ridden for some time and their spouse is the primary care giver.

#1: Food is great, but people are picky eaters. My husband for example eats no fruit and veggies, ever. I think it would be more helpful for my husband if someone would come babysit while he runs to the store to pick up foods we will eat.

#2 Visits are lovely moments of cheer. But too long is exhausting. Come visit for a short while, do a chore, then leave.

#3 So many people say ‘just ask and I will do anything to help’ HA! If you’ve met me you would know I am the doer not the receiver! It is so hard to ask. And, well how many men do you know that will ask for help? Just make a plan to come, do the dishes, take out the trash or run an errand for the care giver. Just do it. Don’t wait to be asked. It may never happen.

#4 Communication. This is tricky but huge. I don’t know if you will ever understand this but cancer makes you feel alone. It is a state of being where you do not want to be alone but you really want to be left alone. It messes with your brain like that. Getting a text or an email or even a private IM on Facebook from those who know what is going on is, well HUGE. It honestly is. Just a quick text to say Good Morning! or Happy February! anything is very thoughtful and enough to bring your heart to a cheery mood again. This is something I am learning to do in general with the people in my life that I care about. Checking in on them with something uplifting or positive. On a fairly regular basis. It is just a nice feeling in sickness and health.

These are just some of the things I am learning. Going through this will help me be a better friend when someone I know is going through something and has a loved one as their care provider. Just thought I would share.

 

What is it about Free Food?

Seriously?!?!?! The last week has been unusual to say the least. Work was closed because of power failure from the windstorm or I should say  #treeapocalypse2015 in the Inland Northwest. There are still homes and business’ without power even now as I type this. That makes 7 days. 7!!

Meanwhile since we were closed Wednesday and Thursday we worked all our Wednesday orders on Friday and worked 12 hours. Then we worked Thursday/ Friday orders on Saturday (are you confused yet, I was) and worked another 12 hour shift. To show their appreciation the company had lunch catered on Saturday. It was Longhorn BBQ. And it was delicious and I had  toHAVE a bit of everything including 2 cookies and a soda.. You know because it was free and all.

Then today was the traditional Apple Cup Tailgate party at work. You wear your favorite football teams jersey. Side note: I detest football. Last year I wore a ‘futbol’ aka soccer jersey. Anyway, the tailgate party was little smokies in BBQ sauce, fried chicken, potato salad, beans, salad, fruit, and lots of fixings…including MORE COOKIES!!!! It would be impolite to not eat a bit of everything, right? Including “carrots” which is what I call crunchy cheetos… (I can justify anything)

Also, during the outage we went to the casino for the buffet dinner since nothing else was open including grocery stores. (another justifiable excuse) and there I preceded to eat pretty much everything, because well, I have to get my moneys worth?!?!?!?

My body is saying….sweat pants? As You Wish.