My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure-measure a year?

-Rent, “Seasons of Love”

This is the second version of this post.  The first one I wrote was more angry, bitter and sad.  It recounted all of the challenges I’ve been through in the last year.  The memories of the pain, the loss and fear.  Isn’t that what cancer brings after all?  Isn’t that its purpose?

Then I remembered the promise I had made to myself a year ago, Saturday (August 1st will be one year since I heard, “you have cancer”).  That no matter what happened during this time, I would not let cancer win.  I would find the joy and laughter in every day.  No matter how grim the news, how foggy the brain, how painful the wounds, I would find a reason to smile.

With this in mind, I would like to measure my year, my five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, not in pain and resentment but in love.

1. My husband, Ken.  There is no way I could have gotten through this year without him.  He has supported me in every way possible; with love, hugs, kisses, listening, being a shoulder to cry on, a shoulder to punch when I couldn’t bare my life.  He was a nurse, a medicine dispenser and he changed my drains and bandages.  When I couldn’t stand up for very long he took on the majority of the household duties, even after a long work day.  He was my second brain when chemo ate my memories and mental planner.  He came to doctor appointments, asked questions but mostly held my hand (and his breath) through all of the good and bad news.  He worries, I know that but he tries to not let me see.  He’s practical and a problem solver but I know, deep down, he’s scared.  But he stays even tempered for me.  He doesn’t have to.  I love you, Ken.  Thank you for taking our marriage vows, “the for better or for worse” part, seriously.

Photo courtesy of Julia Newman at Julia Newman Photography

Photo courtesy of Julia Newman at Julia Newman Photography

2. My parents.  My mom and dad live close by so they have been there for everything; for appointments, for car service, to cook meals, to do laundry, to watch Oliver…everything!!!!  I’m not sure I could have handled the stress of having cancer, getting treatment and raising Oliver without them.  They have gone above and beyond and I’m so grateful to them.

DSCN22233. My family.  My brother Jesse, my aunt Ava, my mother-in-law Mary, her sister Betty, my sister-in-law Jen and her new wife and my new sister-in-law Kelsey and extended family.  They have been there for moral support, childcare, prayers, good thoughts/vibes and more.  They were constantly thinking about me and my recovery, rooting for me all the way.

4. My aunt Vickie.  Vickie has been my hero throughout this whole process.  On the day I was diagnosed by the most awful doctor that has ever lived, she literally put me in her car and drove me to NYU to make sure I got the best care possible.  She has been coming with me to appointments ever since, advocating for me, taking notes, offering advice, asking questions, researching….  She calls me at least once a week to make sure I’m doing well.  I don’t know where I’d be without her support.  I am so lucky to have an Aunty Wickster.

Me with Vickie when I was pregnant with Oliver

Me with Vickie when I was pregnant with Oliver

 5. My best friends.  I have had all of my best friends since childhood.  It’s amazing how our relationships have stood the test of time.  Lee, Loren, Nicole, Inna, are like sisters to me.  I can tell them anything and rely on them for emotional support and a good laugh.  When they found out about my cancer, some of them cried with me.  Some of them kept a strong face in front of me.  I don’t know what they did in private.  But they were my rock and surrounded me during this time and gave me strength.  They are the best friends a girl can hope for.

Me and Lee when we were kids.

Me and Lee when we were kids.

Inna, me, Nicole and Loren and Nicole's wedding

Inna, me, Nicole and Loren and Nicole’s wedding

6. My doctors and nurses.  Sometimes people call those who are undergoing cancer treatment, “warriors.”  I think the real warriors are those who are fighting for us all and my doctors and nurses fit into this category.  Dr. Guth, Dr. Jhaveri, Dr. Perez, Olivier, Heidi and Nina and all of the others I have met through scans and blood work.  They are all wonderful because while they don’t mince words, they are optimistic and knowledgeable.  They work hard to make sure they are doing the best they know how to for me while taking my life and lifestyle into consideration.  A special shout out goes to Nina, my chemo nurse, who is like a mother to me and Heidi, who has become a dear friend of mine.  When they talk about the good things that come because of cancer, I think they mean these people.

Nina

Nina

Dr. Jhaveri

Dr. Jhaveri

IMG_72437. Friends from along the way.  Maybe we went to college together, grad school, elementary school.  Or we met while I was acting and working in restaurants.  We were in a play together.  I taught in your classroom.  However we met, however we are connected, many of you have come out of the woodwork and have been incredibly kind to me.  With your words, prayers, positive vibes, personal stories, gifts…it has all touched my heart.  To know that I literally have hundreds of people rooting for me and wishing me well is a powerful thing.  I thank you all for what you have done for me and I am glad we can stay connected.

8. The new friends I have made.  I never wanted to be in the breast cancer club but I was given free entry and thrown through the door.  But inside were some of the most amazing women I have ever met.  Through your blogs our conversations and our chance meetings, you have inspired me, educated me, made me think, laugh, cry, scream.  I am grateful that you have welcomed me warmly into this club even though you’d rather not have any more members.

9. Oliver.  What can I say that I haven’t said so many times on this blog?  I am the luckiest mother in the world to have a little boy who is so loving, kind and intuitive.  Oliver kisses my boo-boos to make me feel better.  He has wiped my tears when I just couldn’t hold them back.  He snuggles me and makes nice to me so I will feel happy.  He makes funny jokes, sounds and faces so that I will laugh.  And I do.  I laugh all the time.  He has brought light into a dark time in my life.  There are no words for the love I feel for him.  There is no hug strong enough.  No kiss sweet enough.  I will just have to try and be the most incredible mother I can be to live up to and raise the kind of man I know he can be.  It is my pleasure and honor to fight to stay alive so that I can watch him grow.

IMG_4131 IMG_2638 IMG_4979 IMG_1261 IMG_5606 IMG_1778Thank you, to all of the people who have been in my life this year.  You have helped me fight.  You have helped me mourn.  You have helped me celebrate.  You have helped me measure the last five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in love!

Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(You know that life is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)

Seasons of love
Seasons of love
(Measure your life, measure your life in love)

-Rent, “Seasons of Love”

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Photos From A Family Vacation

I needed this.  I really, really needed this.  One of the things I have felt guilty about throughout this whole cancer debacle is how it has stolen the time I got to spend with Oliver and my family.  Every time I thought I was going to have to do something fun, something would come up; a doctor’s appointment, physical therapy, a hospital stay…  It seemed to never end and all I wanted in the world was to take Oliver to the park or a museum.

When I imagined my vacation, I hoped for being on a Caribbean island where someone would bring me drinks in a coconut while I watched Oliver build sand castles.  Financially, that did not work out but my parents offered to split the cost of a house in Martha’s Vineyard with us.  I had never been but I’ve always heard great things.  And even though it wasn’t the vacation I imagined for myself, it was the best possible escape.  Here are some highlights from our trip.  There’s a lot of Oliver so be prepared!

Fresh lobster.  This would be my last meal.

Fresh lobster. This would be my last meal.

Oliver loved throwing rocks in the ocean.

Oliver loved throwing rocks in the ocean.

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My brother and parents

My brother and parents

Convincing Oliver to come back to the car.  Transitions were hard for him on this trip and he had a lot of meltdowns.

Convincing Oliver to come back to the car. Transitions were hard for him on this trip and he had a lot of meltdowns.

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He loved finding bugs.  I had to dig deep and pretend that I loved it too.

He loved finding bugs. I had to dig deep and pretend that I loved it too.

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Rocking my bathing suit!

Rocking my bathing suit!

My dream house.  I might start a gofundme to get it!

My dream house. I might start a gofundme to get it!

Bunnies everywhere!

Bunnies everywhere!

Anniversary dinner at State Road.  The president eats there!

Anniversary dinner at State Road. The president eats there!

Oliver and Uncle Jesse

Oliver and Uncle Jesse

Maple bacon doughnut.  They say sugar feeds cancer.  Oh, well!

Maple bacon doughnut. They say sugar feeds cancer. Oh, well!

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We had a great time at The Farm Institute.  It was a beautiful farm with a lot of hands on activities for Oliver.

We had a great time at The Farm Institute. It was a beautiful farm with a lot of hands on activities for Oliver.

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A burger with the fresh eggs we got from the farm.  One of the best meals we ate!

A burger with the fresh eggs we got from the farm. One of the best meals we ate!

Oliver fell in love with blueberry pie and insisted I take pictures of him with it.

Oliver fell in love with blueberry pie and insisted I take pictures of him with it.

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We got to bike ride around the island.  It felt amazing to be active.

We got to bike ride around the island. It felt amazing to be active.

A seriously giant dandelion.  Oliver was in heaven!!!

A seriously giant dandelion. Oliver was in heaven!!!

There was an alpaca farm.  I never realized what beautiful animals they are.

There was an alpaca farm. I never realized what beautiful animals they are.

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We extended our trip and went to Boston.  Oliver got his first balloon animal.

We extended our trip and went to Boston. Oliver got his first balloon animal.

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He didn't quite know what to do with his red elephant.

He didn’t quite know what to do with his red elephant.

Oliver learned a string instrument!

Oliver learned a string instrument!

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Lobster mac and cheese.  Lucky guy!

Lobster mac and cheese. Lucky guy!

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We went bug hunting in our pjs!

We went bug hunting in our pjs!

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Oliver loved the water

Oliver loved the water

Diaper changing in the sand is no fun.

Diaper changing in the sand is no fun.

We set up Oliver's train tracks outside (he can't live without his train tracks).

We set up Oliver’s train tracks outside (he can’t live without his train tracks).

The house we stayed in.

The house we stayed in.

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

DSCN2367 DSCN2552 DSCN2571See photos from our first 24 hours of vacation.  Remember my cancer-moon?


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I’m Thankful For

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I decided that today I’d write about all of the things I’m thankful for.  At first, I was feeling pretty pessimistic and morose.  Why should I be thankful right now?  My body has betrayed me, I’m going through hell and being tortured, I’m missing out on life, social and work, as I’m going through treatment, I’m watching my family suffer as they watch me suffer…It all really sucks right now.  But if I look past all of these truths and really think about all of the things I still have and have gained in the process, I have a pretty hefty list of things to be thankful for.  I will do my best to list them all, but if I forget something big or someone who is so special to me, be patient.  It’s the chemo brain, I promise.  Does that excuse hold up in court?

  1. I am thankful for myself, that I have the strength, power and knowledge to know my body and to do a self breast exam.  If I didn’t do this, and my cancer was caught months or years from now, I think we’d be looking at a very different prognosis.
  2. I am thankful for myself again, for have the strength to face my fears of needles, blood, invasion of my body, surgery, sickness and the unknown in order to get myself the best treatment possible.
  3. I am thankful that I am learning to give up control and depend on others.  This is a biggie for me.
  4. I am thankful for my incredible medical team that cares for me and fights for me.  I don’t use the word team, lightly.  This is the staff at the NYU Cancer Center.  Dr. Guth, my breast surgeon, Dr. Jhevari, my oncologist, Heidi, Dr. Jhevari’s assistant, nurse practitioner and family friend who, I feel, treats me just a little more special because of our connection, Nina, who gives me my infusions for each chemo treatment and couldn’t be more warm, caring and wonderful while making sure to educate me on the process, no matter how many times it takes.  My medical team is growing, so I will thank my radiation oncologist, my genetic counselor and my plastic surgeon since they will all be a bigger part of my life very soon.
  5. I am thankful that, so far, my side effects have not been too terrible.  I’m especially thankful that I have not been vomiting every day and that I can function as normal most days as a result.
  6. I’m thankful for the anti-nausea medications that I’m given pre-chemo and all the pills I have in my arsenal that are protecting me should nausea start.  10 years ago, these did not exist and chemo meant spending your days over the toilet.
  7. I’m thankful for the technology that confirmed that I did not in fact have cancer in both breasts, which saved me from a double mastectomy and other unnecessary tests.
  8. I’m thankful for my Aunt Vickie who has been with me since the beginning of all of this and multiple appointments.  She has been my rock.  She made sure I got the best doctors, took notes at every appointment, asked great questions and advocated for me.  She calls me almost every day to make sure I am ok and helps me keep sane.
  9. I’m thankful for my friends who support me with love, meals and occasional babysitting.  They are not overbearing and give me my space to deal in the ways that I need to but also check in when they can, making sure I’m not sinking into an abyss.
  10. I’m thankful to my mom and dad who support me with love and information.  But mostly for being amazing grandparents and taking on a great deal of the rearing of Oliver.  I don’t know what we’d do without them here.  How would I get all of this done with a small child?  And for Oliver, it’s a treat to be with them all the time.  I think he gets extra cookies (don’t deny it Mom and Dad!!!!!)
  11. I’m thankful for Oliver who reminds me what discovery is and pure joy.  Every day I get to see and experience things from his point of view and it is so pure and untainted.  And while raising a toddler at the most challenging part of my life is one of the craziest experiences I’ve had, we mostly laugh, cuddle, kiss and learn together.  I think without him, I’d fall into the pits of despair.IMG_6109
  12. I’m thankful for my husband.  I don’t think he lets me know how hard this has all been on him.  He’s not good and sharing or showing that.  But I know he worries all the time.  He calls me like, 8 times a day.  But he cooks for me, gets me hydrating drinks, and has taken on most of the cleaning and laundry duties.  And he showers me with patience and love.  He’s the best husband ever.IMG_5805
  13. I’m thankful for the rest of my family, in-laws and extended family who write and call with encouraging words all of the time.  Support is the key to survival when going through a terrible illness.
  14. I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made because we have cancer in common.  Jessica and Kimberly, thank you for showing me what bravery is.  I have learned so much by listening and learning from you.  I know that you also get angry, depressed and so much more but you have also taught me to embrace that.  I can’t wait until we can meet in person and when we can declare that we are cancer free.
  15. I’m thankful for Suzanne and Hair We Share for so generously donating my wonderful wig.  You are doing such an incredible service for those suffering from hair loss.  I can’t wait to see your organization grow and support you along the way.
  16. I’m thankful for The Livestrong Foundations and The Sher Institute for Fertility that helped me in the most loving and kind way harvest and freeze my eggs, especially at a time of fear, depression and confusion.  I could never have gotten through that portion of my treatment without you.  You are angels.
  17. I’m thankful that I still get to do the work I love and work for organizations that have been patient with me as I learn to live with this disease.
  18. I’m thankful for The West Wing on Netflix.the-west-wing-cast-708368
  19. I’m thankful for butternut squash soup and coconut water.
  20. I’m thankful for good under eye concealer.
  21. I’m thankful that I get to write this blog and, hopefully have a positive impact on others.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I know that as we sit down tonight, we are all experiencing something difficult; the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, illnesses, defeats…it all counts.  But despite these things, we also have so many things to be thankful for.  Take time to really think of them.  It’s so meaningful.  Enjoy all of the treats today brings.norman rockwell