The winning inspirational speech at Speaker Slam, April 25, 2023. (6min)
I feel great. That’s something I haven’t been able to say for a really long time, without some kind of ‘but’ attached to it. Isn’t that incredible? I feel great. End of sentence.
I’ve been off my pain medication for about 10 days now, and I’m so happy to be done with all of that. I feel clearer and more focused on healing than I ever have, and being off pain medication was a huge first step I needed to take to move forward. It wasn’t easy, because feeling all the things I’ve been taking the medication to avoid for so long was incredibly unpleasant. But more than the physical effects, the emotional and psychological toll was much more challenging to get past. I had to really work hard at reminding myself that the discomfort would be temporary, and worth it. And I was right, it was temporary and it has been so worth it.
So am I off pain medication and pain free? Technically yes. Which is something worth celebrating! But there is a little catch… I saw a second rheumatologist last week to see if there was anything that could come out of it – it never hurts to get a second opinion – and our conversation was very interesting.
One of the things I asked him was about whether he had any insight on the whole ‘my body could be fighting the foreign objects (my implants) and creating an inflammatory reaction’ thing.
“I’ve seen it one time.” He said.
I was shocked – no doctor has ever even said that much to me! I was clearly taken back, and asked him more questions. He told me he had one patient who benefited from having her implants removed, and it cleared up symptoms she was experiencing that mimicked other autoimmune diseases. I asked how they knew it was her implants, and he said it was only figured out after surgery. Damn. Back to that.
Then after lots of questions from him about my medical history and symptoms, he talked about how he thought my issue could be spondylitis – a kind of inflammatory condition and arthritis in the back and spine. I asked him how it could be that, if there aren’t any markers in my bloodwork. He said it doesn’t always show up in tests. Oh, here we are again.
So I’ve been told my implants aren’t a problem by many doctors because my bloodwork shows no inflammatory markers. But now this doctor is telling me that I can have spondylitis without any inflammatory markers in my bloodwork. Do you see why this is so frustrating? I’m always back to the same dilemma – how and when do I decide I have no choice but to remove my implants, as a complete shot in the dark.
The reason why I feel great is this. The rheumatologist gave me a hydrocortisone shot. He said that if I got the shot and the pain went away then it would be a good indicator that the inflammatory condition in my back was likely a problem – maybe even THE problem. I wasn’t interested at first, the idea of taking a shot of medication as a guess didn’t feel right. Plus I was only off the Percocet for a few days at this point, so I wasn’t through the amount of time I needed for the withdrawal symptoms to wear off. To put it simply, I didn’t know what was responsible for the pain and discomfort. It wasn’t until he assured me it is relatively low risk for a possibly big pay off – OH and he may have mentioned that his schedule was booked so far in advance it was kind of now or never – so I decided to give it a shot. A shot. Get it?? Besides, it’s not like pumping my body full of medication was something I wasn’t used to… What’s one more try? I got the shot, booked a follow up and went on my way. He said that if the pain disappeared, and then reappeared in 2-3 weeks then it was a strong indicator that we were on the right track.
So here I am, a week after that appointment and I haven’t felt my achy and radiating pain in pretty much that entire amount of time. Sure, there is a bit of lingering fatigue and malaise… but where did the pain go? It’s gone. Was it the shot? Probably. Or has my pain been better for a while now, but the Percocets had me on the revolving cycle that perpetuated the pain and unwell feelings? I guess I’ll know in a couple weeks.
The very optimistic side of me thinks that maybe this shot will wear off and I will feel as good as ever. Maybe my body just needed time to get back to a place where I didn’t have to worry about it as much. It isn’t impossible for things to just get better – and I’ve been putting in the work with my mind-body connection, mindfulness, mindset and physical rehab – so it isn’t impossible that I just may have made the best effort and a lot of good decisions lately to support this. I am doing this, everything I’ve been working for could finally be here.
My energy level fluctuates, but for the most part I’m happy and hyper. My workouts at the gym have been better than I imagined this early on, and I think being back at the gym (now that you need to have your vaccines, it made me feel comfortable going back) with machines that can help stabilize me so I can be more targeted with my strength training has been a game changer. I’m less likely to hurt myself, or overdue it, or tweak something when I’m being so intentional with what I do. It feels great to be back! And I’m stronger than I thought I would be, so that’s a bonus.
As for the Spartan race I spoke about a few weeks ago – I’ve decided I can’t do it. It pains me to make that decision, because I love jumping into challenges like that… but I’m terrified of hurting myself and setting myself back. Doing hundreds of burpees and all those intense obstacles would definitely be risky, and I just can’t take those risks. My husband is going to do it, and my kids will do the kids race. So this year I’ll sit on the sidelines and cheer them all on, the same way they’ve sat on the sidelines cheering me on so many times before. And next year will be my turn of course.
Well, here’s to another week of strength and optimism!
I had been contemplating sharing where I’m at with the decisions I have ahead of me for a very long time. In the beginning of my cancer experience I was very public about everything, but a couple years in I definitely felt the fatigue of sharing everything, with everyone, all the time. It was tiring trying to think of worthwhile captions for my posts on social media, it became a chore to take pictures that I could share, and I worried that I was sharing too much and it seemed like the interest in my story was diminishing. It simply became something that was no longer serving my happiness and peace of mind.
Of course, since the beginning of the year I’d share every once in a while some of the fun things I was doing, or something with my kids… so to the outside world it probably seemed like I had moved on in terms of my health and everything was ok. Sometimes I’d go a couple weeks without posting at all, and I’d always be so touched – and honestly surprised – when many people noticed my silence and would go out of their way to check in with me. To those of you, you know who you are, thank you for that.
The chronic pain I was experiencing was hard to explain, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share what was happening because at that time I was worried that if it was something serious, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through it so publicly the next time around. I felt like I wanted to keep it close because I didn’t want anything to take my focus away from fighting whatever was coming – or from my kids who’d need me more than ever.
It was in January when my physiotherapist was doing her normal treatments and assessments on me when she questioned me about a small lump on my chest, just above where my implant sat on the right side – my cancer side. My chest was hurting a lot everytime I did any kind of cardio exercise, and she was focusing on the scar tissue in the area in an attempt to help that. I honestly wasn’t concerned at first, because it was so small it was hard to find, and it didn’t feel like my first lump. Besides, I had a double mastectomy – what would be the chances.
Well, according to google and about a million websites on the subject, I was reading that around 5% of women will have some kind of a regional recurrence in the first 10 years after a double mastectomy. Although my breast tissue was removed, there is always a chance that some breast tissue cells get left behind, and it only takes one cell to cause another problem. One teeny tiny cell. I was declared cancer free the day of my surgery in November 2018 – but the chemo, radiation and hormone treatments were all done to maximize my chances against recurrence of my HER2 positive cancer, the kind of cancer that if left alone after surgery had something like a 25% recurrence rate, an incredibly dangerous number.
It was my physiotherapist, who knew all of the physical symptoms I was experiencing at the time that began to question if something could be seriously wrong, and she asked me to go get the lump checked out and talk to my doctors as soon as I could. It seems silly, but the idea that my cancer could be back never even crossed my mind until then – and then all of a sudden the dots began to connect in my brain. Suddenly, I knew I had a problem.
My plastic surgeon who was following up on my case regularly since all of my surgeries was my first appointment. After examining me, he agreed that I needed an MRI to determine if the lump was something to be more concerned about. After all, I was experiencing more pain and symptoms for a longer period of time than really any patients he had before me, so there could be an explanation here. A really shitty explanation. It was a couple days later when I got a call from my hospital telling me I was booked for a bone scan – which is not what I was expecting. I was immediately alarmed and after I hung up the phone my stress and anxiety shot through the roof. I know how things worked by now, and for my appointment to be switched to a bone scan after they reviewed the request for an MRI I knew my situation was being escalated, and now they’re looking for a cancer recurrence elsewhere in my body.
Not good. I was not good. I was emotional, my heart was beating a mile a minute and I couldn’t help but worry that everything here was beginning to make sense. I called some people, explained what was going on, and tried not to think about what it would mean if I got bad news. I was really worried, and my people were really worried too.
If you look up breast cancer recurrence online you’ll see a few different numbers. In conversations with my oncologist I was told that it happens in about 5-7% of women with my kind of cancer, at my age, with all of my diagnosis and treatment details. That means 5-7 out of every 100 women like me will be told that their early stage breast cancer has metastasized into a terminal stage 4 diagnosis within their first 5 cancer free years. Do you know how many women there are like me? A terrifying amount. Did you catch the word terminal? Because it is.
Surviving a stage 4 diagnosis is not something that happens. You hear about some women who are considered miracles if they get 10 or more years, but the average survival rate after that diagnosis is more like 3 years. And only about 22% make it to 5 years. In short, it’s a devastating situation. A situation that I now had to worry about for myself.
My scan was in just over two weeks, and I’d get the results a couple days after that. At first it felt like it would be impossible to wait that long to get an answer – and many people voiced their outrage at the fact that I had to wait so long. But the truth is it didn’t matter, if this is what it was then two and a half weeks made no difference. It was a busy COVID season, we were in lockdown, and to be honest I truly felt like scans needed to be prioritized for people who were just beginning their cancer experience, because timing does matter a lot in those situations. I was at peace with the timing, and I couldn’t help but be grateful that I had some time before I couldn’t unknow what could be coming. I needed the time to get my thoughts and feelings together, and to enjoy life as we knew it.
I’ve been through this before, the days leading up to my original breast cancer diagnosis are something I can’t properly describe – but there is a certain peace and happiness you feel, grateful for life, and a new perspective at just how incredibly fragile life is. You see every single moment in a different light, you realize how much you have to be thankful for, trivial problems in life suddenly disappear from your worries and are forced into the present moment in everything you do. The days suddenly go by so fast, and you find yourself promising yourself that you’ll worry less, be more grateful and will do so much better if you’re given a second chance.
In those two and a bit weeks you’ll notice a change in the camera roll on my phone, and I’ve actually reflected on that a few times since. I was taking A LOT of pictures, I was dancing with my kids, reading, lying in bed with them listening to them tell me all their stories, thoughts and plans for the future. I would quite literally just stare at them in awe, and then at the same time a sense of dread would come over me that they would have to learn how to navigate this world without me. They weren’t ready. They needed me. I had so much to teach them and I couldn’t stand the thought of them being so hurt, so sad and so traumatized at such a young age. They’ll never understand, and there will never be enough time.
It’s incredible how emotional I feel right now, six months later, typing this out. If I’m being honest, I’m having trouble seeing my screen as the tears fill up my eyes as I reflect on this experience. I had to come to terms with the idea that this could be how my story ends, and in turn this would be my kid’s story – losing their mom to cancer during childhood. Those two weeks were harder than all the hard things I had been through leading up to that point – because I never worried about not surviving before. It wasn’t even an option. I knew I’d beat it, I knew I’d be ok, and that was that. Absolutely no question in my mind. Was that actually the reality of my case? No, of course there was always a chance this could have gone wrong for me – but I didn’t go there. It served no purpose and I believed that my mindset mattered more than anything.
So why was I having a hard time feeling so confident at this time? Well, I felt like shit. I’ve explained before what sypmptoms I’m exeriecing, and at this time it seemed pretty fucking clear that all my symptoms added up to a breast cancer metasisis to my bones. My bones ached, and the aches radiated out from my ribcage, back and would travel into my legs, arms, feet and hands. It was worse at night when I wasn’t moving very much, and pain relief never really came even when I was taking painkillers. I had a general feeling of malaise, fatigue and sensitivity, and there were no other answers, or even suggestions at this time.
The emotional roller coaster I was experiencing was intense. I found myself reaching out to people I hadn’t talked to in a while, and I treated those interactions as if it might be some of my last… I know it might sound extreme, but I couldn’t help but feel the need to wind down some of those relationships, and lay the groundwork to prepare them for the next thing I would tell them. I didn’t get into the details of my situation with many people, because I wasn’t sure yet and I honestly didn’t want to waste any of the time I had with them talking all about me or cancer. And I definitely didn’t share any of this on social media, because I had decided that if this was happening again, it would be private this time.
The morning of my scan didn’t feel good. There was a certain deja vu feeling in the air with the heaviness I’d felt a few times before. My husband made me a big breakfast with the help of my children, who of course had no idea about the gravity of the situation at all (because that’s something you don’t address until it’s necessary, in my opinion, call that a big fuck NO) and we sat and enjoyed each other until I had to leave for the hospital, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
“How long will you be at your doctor’s appointment?” They asked, like they do every single time I leave the house for an appointment.
“Oh not long, maybe an hour… I’ll be back as fast as I can.” I explained. Hugs, kisses, smiles, normalcy. Off I went.
Because of COVID, I had to be alone. I drove alone, I cried alone on the way there, I parked alone, I took a deep breath in my car alone, I checked in alone, I waited alone. I was injected with a nuclear tracer alone. I waited some more, alone, and I walked into the room alone. I was given instructions by the technician and layed down in the bone scan machine before he went behind the glass panel where a small team would watch my scans and prepare them to be reviewed by the radiologist. It was an awful 40 minutes of trying to avoid looking at the screen, where I’d see different colors popping up throughout my body – what did that mean? Did it mean something? Would it be possible that I’d see something myself? Or no, they wouldn’t let that happen, people would freak out. I was freaking out.
It eventually ended, I was shaky and nervous but I headed out and went home. There was nothing left to do now but wait, so I did everything I could to distract myself and remain calm until I had a reason not to.
The next morning I was teaching a virtual fitness class at 9am when my phone rang at about 9:10am. I panicked, so naturally, I ignored it and continued teaching. But that was it, that was the call. I couldn’t leave my class, and truthfully I didn’t want to. The call was coming from my oncologist – she wasn’t even the one who ordered my test – oh my god it’s already in the hands of my oncologist – it’s not good news. And the results came back in less than 24 hours, that doesn’t happen unless it’s bad…. I was spiraling… with a smile on my face while I told my class to keep doing lunges for another 30 seconds.
Then I got another call, two minutes later. Not good. Then the notification that I had a voicemail. Fuck. 20 minutes left in this class… What was I doing again? Where was I in this workout? I managed to finish the class, and immediately called my oncologist, left a message and waited. I told Brian that I was worried because of who called and how fast this call came… I told him I’d make sure he was there when I got the news.
About an hour later – I think – she called. Brian abruptly left his video meeting, and stared at me like if he stared hard enough he’d be able to read my mind. I didn’t put it on speaker phone, which in hindsight was pretty brutal – but I wasn’t thinking clearly – and my doctor quickly told me that she had my bone scan in her hands and it looked good, no signs of cancer. IT LOOKED GOOD. I looked at my husband, gave him a thumbs up, and tried not to cry while she went on to tell me about it. I felt relieved, sure, but I also felt really fucked up. This was the news that I wasn’t dying – I wasn’t dying people. This was good news!
After a conversation bringing her up to speed on everything that had been going on, she told me she wasn’t concerned it would be a cancer problem. I was cancer free, this wasn’t it. I was told that there really isn’t evidence of long term chronic issues after breast cancer treatment, she really didn’t think she could help me. She recommended I see a rheumatologist next, because it sounded like it could be an autoimmune disease or disorder of some kind. She told me the lump is likely a build up of fatty cells and scar tissue leftover from surgery… they’re scary to find, but are harmless, and aren’t even that uncommon. Not common, but not uncommon. Ok, makes sense.
Before we got off the phone, I asked her about her opinion on breast implant illness, and wondered if it’s something other women have come to her about. The response I got was pretty much that she didn’t know enough about it, there wasn’t enough medical evidence that it was something I should be concerned about, all of the evidence out there is compelling but it’s anecdotal and without proper research and information she didn’t see any way this could be my issue and really couldn’t speak definitively on the subject. I felt silly for even bringing it up – because it isn’t real – silly me. This was the 4th doctor who had maintained the same position on BII in my quest for answers, so I could let it go now, right?. The next step was following up with my family doctor, the doctor who was managing my pain treatment, and getting referred to a rheumatologist. On it.
But first I had a few very important phone calls to make. My parents, and closest friends were waiting, and this was news I couldn’t wait to share.
As a personal trainer, a breast cancer diagnosis not only put my career on hold – it also changed my relationship with fitness and my body forever. In the beginning it was hard to accept the fact that the strength I’ve built and all of the hard work and progress I’ve made up until that point would ultimately be undone and it would be taking a back seat in my life for the foreseeable future. I know, it wasn’t what was important – because surviving was all that mattered – but it was something I had to work hard to accept.
For me, exercise helped me feel normal. It gave me purpose, it gave me coping mechanisms and it gave me a personal sense of power and freedom. This was something that was important to me, and this was something that I needed even more now that I was going through something incredibly challenging, and life altering. Who was I? How would this change me? Can I get out of this alive, and still be who I’ve always been? What if exercise makes it worse? What if exercise makes it better?
During conversations with my oncology team, exercise was always a topic I brought up in appointments and following their advice was something I took very seriously. One piece of advice has particularly stuck in my mind, still to this day. It was my mantra for a long time, and it’s still something I focus on when I need it.
“The more physical activity you do, the faster you’ll feel stronger and more like yourself.”
This advice is what helped me through the tougher times, and helped me be determined to stay strong, especially after every major part of treatment. Walking during chemo was a big win for me – I even managed a couple light jogs here and there when I was having a really good day. During radiation, stretching and basic resistance training exercises were highly beneficial for my body, and my mind. And after every surgery I took the recommended amount of weeks off, and then got professional help through physiotherapy to make sure I recovered safely and properly before getting into anything too heavy.
Whenever I experienced setbacks that landed me back in the hospital or some kind of treatment – which happened more than a couple times for me – I would figure out something that worked, like walking. There are always options, they just may change a lot during the course of your cancer treatment. And you will feel like you again, just a new you, a stronger you, and more determined you.
(Featured image was an outdoor Bootcamp class I lead during my radiation treatments, July 2019)
5-10 minutes of full body stretching
15 minute walk at a brisk, but comfortable pace for your level
3 sets of the following exercises:
10 body weight squats
20 body weight alternating lunges
10 push ups (modified standing against a wall, or from knees on floor)
20 crunches or sit ups
5-10 more minutes of full body stretching
Find this blog post at https://waroncancer.com/experiencing-cancer-as-a-personal-trainer/
Find more information on the War On Cancer website, and don’t forget to check out the War On Cancer social app!
You’ve seen me talk about it, post about it, participate in it, and many others have joined me in the fun as well. Of course in addition to the tens of thousands of others who swear by it as well!
Is it a cult? Maybe. Is it dangerous. Absolutely. Is it worth looking into? That can be answered with another question, like do I like wine? And I was joking about the dangerous cult thing, unless that’s what you’re into.
The Shred 10 is simply a 10 day kick start to a healthier lifestyle program, that includes 10 days of kicking the habits that don’t serve you, and flooding your body with whole food nutrition. The objective to feel great, lose some weight and create healthier habits that will serve you in the long term. Like for life.
10 days people. It’s 10 days. It is not long, but it’s amazing what can happen in that time.
For example, if I can get through one weekend without wine (wine on weekends is my weakness – shocking) then it’s easier for me to make other healthier decisions. I go on a streak, and when I decide to indulge it is no big deal and doesn’t derail any progress I’m making.
Now for some people the difficult thing to give up for 10 days is caffeine, and for some people it’s hard to avoid refined carbs or gluten… and for others the hardest part is cutting back on dairy. We all have our thing. The best part about giving up some difficult to give up habits, is that you realize you don’t need them as much as you thought.
And then do you know what the EASY PART IS?? Getting dressed after 10 days on this program. Looking in the mirror is easier, being naked is easier, getting ready is easier and literally everything is easier because you feel so much better.
After the ten days is up, you’ll aim to continue the healthy habits to the best of your ability. And before you jump to conclusions and think that this sounds complicated – picture this:
Eat well most of the time, try to exercise most days, and work on things that make you happy at least a couple times a week for your mental and emotional health. No counting, no measuring, no points, no calculating, no diets, nothing. Focus on your mind and body. Trust me, this is the way to live.
It’s so easy, some would just call it normal life………. Wink wink.
So, this is how I live healthier. This is how my friends and colleagues all maintain their healthier lifestyles… and should you ever want more information I have it for you.
Well, it’s official. I have no hair. So what kind of tone do I want to set in this specific blog post? Is there even any way I can set a tone after the shock factor most of you experienced after you just saw that big picture of me?
Maybe it’s that I have no hair and who cares. Or that I’m hurting every time I look in the mirror? Maybe it’s that I can totally rock the cue ball look and might even like my hair this short… Probably not, let me think…
The mixed feelings are real.
No hair means the chemo is working. It means it’s targeting all those aggressive fast growing cells and and if I can see it, and I can feel it, then it’s happening. PRO.
No hair means I can feel every single draft of cold air that ever exists. CON.
No hair means I get to experiment with some pretty stellar wig game. PRO.
Wigs are fucking annoying. CON.
No hair means my get-ready routine has been drastically reduced. PRO.
Until I need to really focus on makeup once my eyelashes and eyebrows disappear. CON.
My kids think it’s funny. PRO.
Kingsley thinks I look like a boy. And she really wants me to stay a girl soooo… CON. And funny.
My eyes really stand out. PRO.
Unless they’re tired eyes, sigh… CON.
Who even knew there could be this many PROS? I was really focused on the CONS just before it happened, because I had no idea how it would look, how I would feel or how others would feel. I didn’t want to look like a cancer patient… and now I do, which means that now everyone knows.
PRO – I now know that when my hair starts to grow back, I’ve already tried all of the different lengths and they looked pretty ok on me. And, my hair will be growing back stronger and healthier then ever in just a few short months. It’ll be here in no time… at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
I have had more hairstyles in the last 10 days then I have had in the last 7 years. The whole hair loss thing is one of the hardest parts of this ‘journey’, and not because all that matters is how you look – but because your look is a part of your identity, it is a way you express who you are. So when that look starts to change, and not by choice, it’s a hard thing to accept.
First, I cut the long hair into a bob – my mom bob! You see, the hair started to feel pretty annoying because it was falling out everywhere. Like, it was everywhere. Quickly, I realized that it wasn’t short enough, the inconvenience of it all was too much for me. So the next step naturally, is to cut it shorter, so I went for the pixie cut just 48 hours ago. I thought that haircut would be a tough one, but truthfully since I had absolutely zero emotional attachment to the outcome, it felt pretty casual, and actually very easy.
The poor hairstylist though, looked absolutely horrified when he combed my hair and a ton of hair came with it. My friend had called in advance, and warned him what was happening and why we were there – but I think until you actually experience it, it’s hard to prepare yourself. So, naturally, I told him ‘it’s all good bro keep going’! Haha… That happened.
I keep seeing glances of myself in window reflections, mirrors, etc. And it’s the weirdest thing. It’s me, but it’s not me. How does it actually feel to have shorter hair? It feels ok – it feels like my hair is in a ponytail. But when I see it, I look like someone else.
I plan to shave my head tomorrow, because even though it is super short, it is still EVERYWHERE. It is still too long to just fall out at random. So it’s time I just take complete control of the situation and shave it off. I’m not going to look like myself, and I am probably not going to ever quite feel like myself again – so it’s time to be a different me. With a wig! Or two. They’re all lined up, ready to be worn, so let’s have some fun with it.
I’m a visual person, so naturally when I needed to get some ideas on how I might try to look as normal as possible during my chemo treatment I went to my fav app – Pinterest. I knew I was going to lose my hair, I knew I’d need a wig, and I knew I’d need to learn how to do makeup properly, at the age of 33. I also knew, my regular bikini style wouldn’t suffice during radiation so I needed to find a proper replacement.
“Platinum blonde hair extensions”
“Platinum blonde hair with a touque”
“Blonde curly hair in hat”
These were my first searches. I mean, you all know how much I love a good fake blonde look, in fact many of you have probably heard me admit that I’m ‘blonderexic’ – a self diagnosis where I feel like I’m never quite blonde enough… so here is a chance I can make the most out of a difficult situation and find a head of hair that is definitely not possible in a natural way for me, and have fun with it.
“Makeup tutorial for chemo patients”
Fuck that noise. Too real. New search. ASAP.
“Heavy eyeliner tutorials”
“Dramatic makeup for blondes”
“Mimic fake lashes with eyeliner”
These searches were a little nicer, and there were some pretty beautiful make up examples. If only I could be as effortless as them…. At least I had the visual. That’s all I needed, a visual to see that it’s possible to look like a human, and maybe even attractive during chemo.
I am going to have to start radiation in the spring, and it’s going to last until early July. I am a SUMMER human. Summer is my thing. The only good thing about getting Cancer when I did – was that my surgery and treatment somehow managed to avoid the summer season. I’m grateful, because that is honestly the best timing ever.
But – during radiation my skin is going to be very sensitive to sunlight and any kind of suncare products. This sensitivity will also likely span the majority of the summer after my treatments are all over. So I’ll need to cover up. I found some great options online, and even though I’m not exactly twinning with all of the models – I’ll find a way to pull it off.
The best joke is, I saved a few pictures on my phone. This would be my visual, my goal to help me get to my treatments and knowing that maybe I’d get out of this looking as normal as possible, maybe even…dare I say… attractive?! It might seem shallow, but shit, when you don’t feel like you look good it can really mess with your day. I don’t want people to see Cancer when they see me, I want them to see me, and my effortless beauty! Hahahaha… that’s a thing. Right?
I showed my husband, he said “so basically you want to get hotter during chemo”. I laughed my ass off – because DUH YES. Yes that is what I’m saying. Is that too much to ask?
When I asked my GF to take a look at what my ‘chemo goals’ were she was much more supportive haha. I showed a couple others when they asked what kind of wigs I’d be looking for. All my ladies out there just get it. They’re all very good friends for knowing when they NEED To LIE to me lol. I appreciate it. More then you know.
I posted the photos so you guys could all see the inner workings of my brain. The one of Kingsley is my CONFIDENCE GOAL picture, she just knows how to rock whatever she’s got! I hope you laugh, or at least smile, and understand that visualizing this shit is what works – or at least we’ll see won’t we? Wish me luck!
Almost two weeks ago I had my first round of chemo. And by the time I got to my appointment, pretty much all of my anxiety, anger and negative feelings had disappeared. By the time I got there, I was ready to just get it over with, do what I had to do, and was determined to make the best of it. I had 16 weeks of treatment ahead of me, and I will not waste that amount of time in a bad mood.
My chair was in an insanely sunny area of the ‘Chemo Suite’, and for those of you who know me you know that sunshine is my THING. I live for sun, the sun is my spirit animal, and on vacations I soak in ‘every last drop’ – meaning I literally stay in the sun until every last drop of the rays have turned into shade… it’s not crazy, it’s my thing. I took the fact that I had to wear sunglasses through my treatment as a very positive sign, it was the universe delivering exactly what I needed.
I didn’t feel much during the treatment, physically. It lasted just over an hour, and the nurse administered two different chemo drugs during that time. It honestly didn’t seem like a big deal. I did however have a couple of emotional moments, which is probably pretty normal. Although, I’m not very emotional personally, so it caught me off guard.
The first time was when the nurse was telling me how sometimes it’s hard for them to get some grown adults physically through the chemo suite doors – like some people won’t walk through – the nurses have to take them by the hand and physically get them into the chairs, and really work at getting them their treatment.
This hit me hard because the visual popped into my head and I suddenly realized ‘Holy crap, this is a super scary thing for people, and it’s happening to me’. The grossness of the whole thing seeped into my brain as I looked at my husband, who was there with me, and I practically whispered “I can’t believe this is happening right now”. He looked back at my sympathetically, I looked away, and forced my mind to get control, and get positive again.
But then there was a second time, when the nurse was injecting the first medication into my PICC line. It was bright red, we talked about it a little bit, and then she told me “this is the one that makes your hair fall out’. It hurt. A lot. Like I know that it’s going to happen, the doctors made it very clear it was a guaranteed side effect… they didn’t want me to get my hopes up because ‘some people don’t lose their hair during chemo’. That wouldn’t be me, and now it’s in my body, and there is no turning back. My little emotional moment didn’t last too long, because again I looked at my husband and very clearly said “fucking ew”. He laughed, I laughed, the nurse laughed.. And we all lived happily ever after.
That was abrupt. Here’s the rest. If you’re still with me.
The side effects following the treatment weren’t too bad. I had a medication schedule after my treatment to battle the nausea and vomiting, I had a nurse visit my home for three days to hook my PICC to a saline hydration treatment, and an immune booster shot for 7 days to help keep me healthy. They definitely set you up for success, and do everything possible to make it bearable. For the first week following the treatment I was fatigued, I could feel my heart beating in my chest and my body just felt heavy. I was nauseas, had a pretty major headache, some body aches… felt generally not great. But all of which could be helped with Tylenol or extra anti-nausea pills. It wasn’t anything major.
By the time the second weekend rolled around I was feeling like my normal self again. I had a ton of energy, I was happy, positive and borderline hyperactive haha. Like, it felt so good to feel normal – I felt way above normal! I caught up with friends, drank wine, went to a large event with colleagues, worked out, went skating with kids and friends, organized my whole house (literally decluttered every closet and kid toy shelf that existed), meal prepped, met with clients and friends, got to work, and did a full Bootcamp class! It was a great week.
And I still have all my hair.
Tomorrow I go round 2, and I’ll consider myself lucky if things go the same way! Wish me luck.
Side note: For those of you who were thinking to yourself ‘the sun isn’t an animal’ – yes, I realize the sun is not an animal, you get what I mean, that’s just how much I love the sun.
So, I have Breast Cancer. Turns out that is a thing that can actually happen to you, at the age of 33, seemingly out of nowhere. As I sit here and type my first blog post on the subject, it still feels incredibly strange that this is happening. It doesn’t feel real. And by that I mean exactly what it sounds like… it simply doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me.
I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy, with partial reconstruction – my body is forever changed – plus I have chemotherapy – what most would consider to be the scariest and worst medical treatment out there – currently running through my bloodstream – and it still doesn’t feel real. I’m in a place where every day I just do what I have to do what’s next, and then I wake up again the next day and do whatever is next again. I’ve been calling it business as usual, except I have a new usual.
The new usual consists of me making it my full time job to do everything I can to get me out of this situation, in the best shape possible. Visits to the hospital and clinics are now a part of my job, taking medication on a meticulous schedule is now a part of my job, arranging for childcare, taking care of administrative crap, dealing with insurance companies, home nursing and managing my symptoms are now all just a part of my full time job.
I’ve definitely had better gigs in my day, but never a more important one. So here I am, making the best of a difficult situation, taking it all one day at a time and focusing on maintaining a positive mindset through and through. That’s my plan, that’s my job, and this is my life.