My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


2 Comments

Thankful

When you have cancer, it’s so easy to focus on what you have lost and what you don’t have anymore.  Trust me.  I know.  I do it constantly.  While I know it’s not helpful, there are days where I live in a constant, “woe is me” state.  It’s important to have those days.  They’re real, honest depictions of living with disease.  But when the dark clouds pass, we get to look at our lives and see all of the great things we have.  Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Last year I made a long list of things I was thankful for.  Most of those things are still true.  I’m still thankful for my family and friends.  That is a given.  I’m nothing without them.  I’m thankful for my husband.  We’ve had a rough year.  Cancer is not easy on a marriage.  But we are figuring it out and I’m thankful for that.

I’m thankful that I have eyebrows again and even though my eyelashes are much thinner than they used to be, I’m thankful that they are here.  I’m thankful that I have found a new physical therapist who seems to be helping to manage my lymphedema.  I’m thankful to have work in wonderful schools and work for so many amazing people and organizations.

I’m thankful that, as of yesterday, I am finished with the infusions for my clinical trial!!!  Woot-woot!!!  November 25 has been a date stamped on the calendar of my brain for more than a year.  This date, which once seemed so far off that I was sure it would never come, happened!  Yesterday!!!!

But as I was in the waiting room to see my oncologist, celebrating by myself (unlike my last day of chemo, I went solo for this one) I noticed new people I hadn’t seen before.  They had that look in their eyes.  Wet from holding back tears.  I knew that look on their faces and the faces of their loved ones.  They were summoning everything they had inside them to hold it together.  Maybe yesterday was the day that they got the results of a mammogram.  Maybe it was the day that the find out what is in store for the next year.  Maybe it was their first day of chemotherapy.  I saw them clutch their tea and try to not make eye contact with the others in the waiting room but then try to catch a glance of those who sat with them.  Do they have the answers to what life will be like?  What it will look like?  Caregivers clutched the hands of their wives.  They got up, suddenly hypersensitive to noise when a secretary was clicking her pen.

I remember all of this so well.  This might have happened to me 13 months ago but being in that room brought it all back for me.  It was so familiar.  All of it.

My heart is with those people who are going into this holiday season with cancer and illness, whose lives are changing forever.

An hour later, I had gotten my infusion, my last free massage and it was time to say goodbye.  Goodbye to Nina, my chemo nurse.  Nina was my cancer mama.  We developed a very close bond.  I love Nina because she is caring but also firm, just like a mother.  I could talk to her about anything that was going on in my life and she wouldn’t sugar coat it.  She’d let me know what was worth worrying about and what I needed to let go.  I knew I could count on her to take care of me through everything, and she did.  Because your nurses aren’t just there to make sure you get your medication and don’t have allergic reactions to them.  They are so much more than that.  Nina was so much more than that to me.  I am so thankful to have had her in my life and to have her as a friend.  We said goodbye.  There were tears.  But I know I can come back anytime I want but “just to say hi.”

IMG_3805

Me and Nina.  The best nurse ever!

Nina walked me out, holding the door open for me to leave and then closed it behind me.  There was a ritual to it.  She was ushering me out of this life that I have been living for so long and telling me not to come back.  But to go out and live.  To live my life again.  That simple act of opening and closing the door was so meaningful.  So emotional.

Afterwards, I left the cancer center.  I won’t need to be back for three months.  Three whole months!!  I am thankful for that.

I celebrated by going to a nearby  coffee shop and getting myself a cappuccino and a warmed up chocolate croissant.  Of course, I did work while eating it.  Life must go on.  But it was still a nice treat.  I am thankful for chocolate croissants.

Now, it is officially Thanksgiving.  Later we are going out to eat.  After the year we have all had, no one felt like cooking.  We are all so tired.  But we are going to the restaurant where my husband works so, in a sense, we will all be together.

This morning, the thing I am most thankful for in this world, Oliver and I got to spend some quality time together.  He wanted to take the Q train over the Manhattan Bridge to Oliver Street.  Yes, there’s an Oliver Street in Chinatown so, that’s exactly what we did.  Then, we had a very non-thanksgiving lunch of oxtail soup with noodles.  Yum!!!!!  I was thankful for that yummy, fatty oxtail.  Last Thanksgiving I couldn’t eat.  That will not be the case this year.  I am thankful for that.

IMG_3829

Looking out onto the Manhattan Bridge

IMG_3836

IMG_3841

Watching the cars get on and off the bridge.

IMG_3843

IMG_3850

Looking at the map for Oliver Street.

And finally, thank you to all of you who read and comment on my blog.  I’m so thankful to have people who support me through this experience.  I’m also so lucky to be part of a community of strong, smart, powerful women who have been through or are going through cancer treatment and share their experiences with me on their own blogs or through comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements


3 Comments

I’m Thankful For

quote

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