My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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Acquainted With The Night

night

BY ROBERT FROST

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

 

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

 

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

 

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

A luminary clock against the sky

 

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.    


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Getting Into The Spring Of Things

There’s nothing like starting to exercise again after a long hiatus to make you feel like a total and utter failure.  In your mind, you can sprint for miles while in reality, your body will only take you to the next tree, or car, or lamppost.  It’s discouraging to say the very least.

I know that I should be forgiving and kind to myself.  Not that long ago I underwent a huge surgery and this is after 6 months of chemo and radiation.  That’s not a small thing.  And the recovery from this particular surgery, the DIEP Flap, was especially rigorous and intense.  I couldn’t move for weeks.  Exercise was out of the question.  I mostly lay on my couch and binge watched Scandal, The Good Wife and How To Get Away With Murder.

I did all of this without caring much for what I was putting into my body.  I didn’t go crazy or anything but I certainly didn’t measure the amount of ice cream that I was ingesting.  Well, I guess I could measure it but in pints rather than small measuring cups.  I did try to eat a balanced diet with lots of veggies, though.  But when you’re not moving it doesn’t matter so much.  Between being a couch potato and the side effects of the tamoxifen, I have gained a little weight and I’m really unhappy about it.

Getting out and exercising is really hard.  For starters, between work and raising my son, I don’t have a lot of time left over to exercise.  I would love to take a class but my husband works long hours so he’s not home in time for me to get to a class.  I also don’t know what kind of exercise I can do without hurting myself.  The last time I tried to exercise in a slightly vigorous way was during chemo.  I put on The 30 Day Shred on my dvd player and somehow, despite low hemoglobin counts, got through the video.  But it wasn’t long after that my cording and lymphedema developed.  I’m positive that this vigorous exercise is what triggered the issues.  I was told by doctors to exercise.  I was told to take it easy.  So I modified the pushups and did some of the exercises with light or no weights.  But that wasn’t careful enough.

I didn’t have any guidance when it came to how I should exercise.  When I am told to take it slow or easy, what does that look like?  When can I get back to the things I love to do, like boxing?  I love the idea of punching something but I can just imagine swinging my right arm out for a hard jab and feeling that awful pull of the cord that begins in my breast and goes all the way down into the pit of my arm and to the webs of my hands.  I don’t need more cords and I don’t need my lymphedema to worsen.

So, that leaves me with running.  I hate running.  No.  You don’t understand me.  I HATE RUNNING!!!!!  But, my husband loves running.  He loves it so much that he runs half and full marathons.  He makes me come out and watch him.  He talks about running constantly.  CONSTANTLY!!!!!  If you know and love a runner, I know you know what I’m talking about. A runner has a myopic view of life…running is great and everybody should love it.  They can not, in their egocentric state, imagine how one can not love running.  They live for the euphoria that comes from pushing through the pain.

Me?  I never hit that euphoria.  My endorphins don’t kick in.  They never have after a run or workout.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  I get pissed of when I run.  Like, really angry!  I curse, I cry, I hate it.  Does this happen to anyone else?

But here’s what I do love.  I love being outside.  I love watching all of the people in the park with their babies, children, friends….I love seeing the trees bloom in the spring and the leaves turn bright oranges and yellows in the fall.  I love it more than I can express.

Today, I went out and ran for the second time since my surgery.  It was awful.  I barely made it through.  But as I huffed and puffed through Prospect Park, I noticed some of the trees were pink with flowers that must have just bloomed.

It’s spring.  It’s time for a fresh start.  It’s time for things to begin their cycle toward life and beauty again.  Some of the trees are still bare, with not a bud in sight.  They are lagging behind.  I know how they feel.  But inevitably, in their own time, they too will bud and grow leaves.  If all of these things in nature can grow and have their fresh start, why can’t I?  So I will go out again soon.  I will do my best.  I will try to be kind and loving to myself.  Even when I’m running.IMG_5586IMG_5587


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Bits Of Happiness #26

I have a love/hate relationship with NYC these days.  I love it because there’s always something to do, somewhere to go.  It’s hard to get bored here.  I love the arts, the culture, the food and the people.  I hate it because it has become so overcrowded, unaffordable and a series of chain stores where small, gritty, independent shops used to exist.  It’s hard to live in the place where I was born and know that, in many ways, it’s no longer for me.  It’s pushing me away.

But not this weekend.  This weekend was filled with arts and culture for me and my family.  On Saturday, we celebrated my mother’s birthday by taking Oliver to see a wonderful production of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I became so emotional as he watched in awe as the actors manipulated the colorful puppets.  I felt so lucky that I am able to expose him  to theatre at such a young age.  Then today, we went to The New York Historical Society’s opening weekend of the Mo Willems exhibit.  If you don’t know Mo Willems, he is a children’s author and illustrator.  He is best known for his books, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny, and the Elephant and Piggie series.  They now have an exhibition that features his artwork and has a replica of the bus that appears in his book which is FILLED with his books for children to read.  And this weekend, they had art projects out for the children to participate in and they got to meet Elephant and Piggie.

I wasn’t sure if Oliver would like meeting the life size characters but he was so excited to see them!  He went right up to them and showed them the wire sculpture of the letter F he made (his favorite letter).  He couldn’t believe it was really them.

Then, later, as I was perusing the artwork, I recognized a voice and realized I was standing next to Cynthia Nixon (of Sex and the City fame) and her wife as we looked at the same picture.  How cool is that?

It’s days like these that make it impossible to leave NY.

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My Life In Two Parts

When I go on vacation, I take thousands of pictures.  I can’t help it.  I love looking at the world through the camera and I’m afraid that if I don’t document every moment, I will forget it.  This drives my husband crazy.  He just wants to keep moving and exploring.  I want to take a picture of that beautiful flower bud with the river in the distance.  We differ in that way.  But always…always…when push comes to shove, we have amazing memories to look back on.  Inevitably, when we look back, we come across a picture and we realize that it shows a moment that we had forgotten.  A moment that, without that picture, might be lost forever.

The other night I was looking at our first and last vacation as a family, just Ken, Oliver and I.  We went to Oregon.  I had always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and we decided that this would be the perfect first trip to take with a toddler.  There’d be lots to see and do, great food to eat, wine tasting, hiking, culture, ocean…everything.  And this vacation delivered.  It was June of 2014.  Oliver was 18 months old.  It fell on our 6th anniversary.  But after it ended, one week later is when I found my lump and our lives changed forever.

I haven’t looked at these pictures in a very long time.  It feels like a lie.  A fraud.  Looking at our smiling faces…we were ignorant of what was coming.  Of what was already growing inside of me.  I look at those pictures and I know what in the next chapter.

I see those pictures and I’m scared for the people in them, as if it wasn’t me or my family.  They are another family.  It’s going to happen to someone else.  I cry for them because they don’t know what’s about to hit them.

I think about my cancer then…laughing…mocking me…like a thief hiding in your closet only to come out when you’re not looking to take everything that’s precious to you and turn your home upside down.  Cancer stole so much from us.  It turned our lives upside down.  But when I look at those pictures, all I see are those unknowing, unsuspecting people.  And I just want to scream at them to beware of what’s lurking.

I now think about my life consisting of two parts; before breast cancer (BBC) and after breast cancer (ABC).  I often look back to the time before breast cancer and long for what I had.  It wasn’t perfect. Is anything ever perfect?  But we were happy.  We were traveling, which was a goal of mine for Oliver.  I was satisfied with my career and beginning to think of the next steps.  I started thinking about the possibility of having another child even though I had said, “one and done.”  My life was developing and moving forward.  These pictures remind me of that.  It breaks my heart.

After breast cancer is much different.  I have trouble seeing the future in the way I used to. I don’t know what my life is supposed to look like now.  I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go.  What are my goals?  What are the next steps in my life?  It’s like cancer is the glue that sticks me to this past year and half and won’t let me move forward. And these photos, however beautiful, however memorable, remind me of that.

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Do you view your life in two parts; before breast cancer and after breast cancer?


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Bits of Happiness #25

I don’t think I’ve told anyone, but I’m going to be a warrior!!!!!!  I am teaming up with an amazing organization, Hidden Warriors, to tap into my inner goddess and become a warrior for a day.

Hidden Warriors mission is, “We are committed to increasing self-esteem in and empowering women who have been affected by cancer. Together, we create an experiential and transformative adventure which tap into the Hidden Warriors they already are. The Warrior Makeover Workshop model is achieving this goal!”

I will be spending the day with volunteer makeup artists, costume designers, occupational therapists, yoga instructors, photographers and other amazing cancer survivors.  I absolutely can’t wait.

Yesterday, I stopped by the studio of the mad who makes the head gear.  Darrell is a seriously talented artist and it was so hard to choose which head piece I was going to wear but after trying on a bunch, this one is the one that felt right to me.  What do you think?  Isn’t it amazing?

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I’ll be transforming on April 3rd.  I’m not sure when I’ll get the photos but I can’t wait to show them to you.  In the meantime, here are some past photos they have done.  What do you think?

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Zoladex Was Supposed To Be A Pain In The Ass (Plus Another Anniversary)

needle

I have to admit, I’ve been planning the title of this post for several weeks, ever since I last saw my oncologist we decided to get me started on Zoladex.  The title was supposed to be, Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass, but it can’t be anymore.  I’ll explain why.

Zoladex is a drug administered by monthly injection and in combination with Tamoxifen in premenopausal women, lowers the risk of recurrence when diagnosed with early stage, hormone positive breast cancer.  It is an ovarian suppressor so it stop the ovaries (or lowers) production of estrogen.  This will put me in complete menopause.

My oncologist has been bringing up this drug to me for over six months now and I have been very resistant.  “Why,” I asked on many occasions,”do I need to do something else?  Why do I need to put another drug in my body?  Haven’t I done enough?”  It was really that last question I was asking.  “Haven’t I done enough?”  Why isn’t a mastectomy, chemotherapy, herceptin, radiation and tamoxifen enough to keep my cancer at bay?

The answer she gave me is that Zoladex is one more thing that can help prevent recurrence.  While it doesn’t improve my chances a huge amount, my oncologist feels that the benefit it is statistically significant in women who were diagnosed under the age of 35 (I was 37 so, close enough) when in combination with all of the treatment I have had.  It took a long time for me to come to the conclusion to try it but I promised my son that I would do everything…EVERYTHING…to make sure this cancer never happens again.  So, I need to at least try it.

I had heard that there is a “technique” for administering the injection so I was very curious about that, so I asked my oncologist.  Her reply was, “How graphic do you want me to get?  Are you sure you want to know?”  I felt the blood leave my head but I said that I’m not good with surprises and that I’d rather know than be caught off guard.  So she informed me.

WARNING:  If you do not want to know how this is done, stop reading now.  I acknowledge that this information is not helpful for all.

“Well, it’s a big needle.  A really big needle.  Whatever you do, don’t look at it.  Because it’s a big needle, after sticking it in the skin it needs to be twisted.  Then we inject the liquid which is more vicious that others.  It is going to hurt but only going in.  And when it’s done, it’s done.  That’s it.  And we inject it into your backside.”

My ass!!!!  MY ASS!!!!  They wanted to stick a huge needle into my ass?

Hence, the title I’ve been planning for weeks.  Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass.

But, yesterday, when I got the injection, I was informed I was going to get it in my belly and not my bum.  “Are you sure,” I asked my nurse?  She was positive.  I was simultaneously elated and disappointed; elated because I got to keep my pants up and avoid the humiliation of getting a shot in the ass but, disappointed because what was the title of this post going to be?

I informed my nurse, Nina my chemo nurse, of course, that I didn’t want to see the needle.  She agreed it was not a good idea.  But let me tell you what I did see.  The box!!!!  I saw the box the needle came in.

I am of the belief that anything that is going to enter your body in any way while you are still conscious should not come in a box that size.  I started to sweat.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.  But amazing Nina kept me talking (probably so I wouldn’t faint), sprayed some numbing solution on my skin and did it.

It didn’t hurt.  Maybe a slight pinch but that’s nothing.  And it was done in seconds.  In fact, it hurt more after (a little soreness) than actually getting the injection.  It was done.  Now I just have to see if I get any side effects…more hot flashes, night sweats, that sort of thing.

I had been psyching myself out for weeks over this injection.  In my mind, the needle looked something like this.

needle 2

Or worse, this one.

needle 3

My imagination really got the best of me.  I’m still happy that I was prepared for what was coming.  If I had seen that box and didn’t know what was in store, I think I would have flipped out.

It’s also ironic that I started this new treatment on the anniversary of my last chemo treatment.  I can’t believe that one year ago, I said goodbye to chemotherapy (hopefully) forever!  What’s amazing to me is how quickly this year has gone by.  From the time I was diagnosed and throughout treatment, it felt like the world stopped turning and I was stuck in time.  And since then the world has been spinning uncontrollably forward.  This is good in the sense that I have been getting back to normal life, to the best of my ability.  But it’s also had me scrambling to catch up.  More on that in another post.

But today, I want to celebrate how far I’ve come.  Even though I’m starting a new treatment and I don’t know what the side effects will be like, I have to remain hopeful.  I have to trust that it’s one more thing keeping me safe.  It’s one more thing ensuring that I see my son graduate college, get married and have his own children.  And for that, you can stick any size needle into me whenever you want (not really but yes really).

Enjoy some images taken one year ago.  And you can read about my last chemo day and how I celebrated here and here.

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Bits Of Happiness #24

I can’t believe the overwhelming response I have gotten to my last two posts about lymphedema.  Last night, I saw my post come up on Facebook as a “related link” and it said that it had been shared 754 times!!!!  And by tonight, close to 1000!!!!!  These posts, by far, have been the most read and commented on my blog.

This makes me thrilled because it helps me feel less alone.  Lymphedema can be so isolating; sometimes I feel like I am the only one to be going through such a horrific disease, even though I know I’m not.  Seeing all of the views, shares, comments and likes have made me feel less alone.  And I’m letting you all know about this because I hope it helps you feel the same way.  We are definitely not alone in this.

I encourage all of you to continue sharing your stories.  The more we share, the more we raise awareness about lymphedema.

Thank you all, a million times over.

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My blog post, right over Kathy Bates!!! Hi, Kathy!!!!!