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Showing posts from 2017

My Head is Spinning

It's easy to explain a cancer diagnosis. It's NOT easy to explain what happens after it. The physical part is the easy part. Doctors tell you what to expect, survivors tell you what to expect, everyone seems to have a good handle on that (although, trust me, there are still things people leave out - like how cavernous your armpit will be once those lymph nodes and all that tissue is removed! I'm still struggling to find a way to shave. Can someone invent a razor with a spherical head please?).

It's not over when surgery is over, though. There's more to come. For some, it's chemo, radiation, infusions and drug therapy. For others, like me, it's reconstruction and more surgeries, recovery and rehab.

But the thing is, in between those surgeries there's this sort of
"down time." You're going on with life, trying hard not to look too long in the mirror, trying hard not to dwell on the still long road ahead, trying hard not to sink into the …

The Burden of Strength, the Blessing of Home

Being strong, both physically and mentally, is not always a blessing. When you're strong, people expect you to always be strong. They expect you to be able to do it all yourself, and they expect you to be okay with whatever is happening.

In 5th grade, my dad redid a bedroom for me and my sister and I was the one designated to help hang drywall. My nickname as a kid was "Moose" because I was bigger than my petite little brothers and sisters, and I was strong. So I held the drywall while dad nailed away and as much satisfaction as it gave me to be part of that, and learn what it takes to remodel a room, I did come out with a whack on the head from a sledgehammer due to a little mishap.

As a young woman, I did my own moving every time I packed up and hit a new city for a new job. Nothing's off limits. I've moved a piano, bedroom furniture, TV's, even a concrete tabletop. I've moved those things up and down stairs! My husband knows he can ask me to lift the…

Slipping Away

I can feel it slipping away. The peace. The calm. The promise NOT to get back on the hamster wheel in the rat race we call life. Here we are - one month after my return to work - and daily devotionals sometimes get trumped by kiddo bathtime, dirty dinner plates and late night emails. Daily meditation is replaced with lightning fast texts and phone calls with messages piling up in voicemail. Quiet moments, couch time, family connections - they somehow all move over for "other" things.

How does that happen? How do we get to that point so easily, so quickly, that all the change we thought we were making and the progress toward the better self slips right back into being the old way; the comfortable way, the way we know it to be.

It's like diet and exercise, I suppose. It takes longer than a week, or even a month, to make something a lifelong habit. You don't go from donuts, cheesesteak and pizza diets to dairy-free, gluten-free, whole food, paleo, keto meals in one da…

Everyone Should Have Cancer

I really don't wish cancer on anyone. But honestly, everyone could probably learn something from it, because as Charles Dickens wrote, it has been the best of times, the worst of times.

It's devastating news; the most devastating I've ever heard. It's difficult mentally, physically and emotionally. It puts your life and your family's life into complete upheaval and turmoil. It forces everyone to change their daily routine and you feel incredibly guilty that you've caused that. Somehow you do what you've always done (work out, get ready, drop off the kids, go to work, make dinner, pay the bills) and you wedge in doctor's appointments, blood tests, scans and insurance calls on top of it.

Then there's surgery and treatments and post ops and time off that you don't get paid for so you have to once again rework your daily life to accommodate less money, less physical ability, and on some days, less motivation, joy and desire to even be there at all…

Life After Losing a Boob

It's not at all how I thought it would be. After I was diagnosed with high grade DCIS breast cancer and learned that a mastectomy would be my best option, I wasn't too phased about the fact I would be losing part of what makes every woman a woman. That's because even before I was diagnosed, from the time I went in for the biopsy in fact, I had already decided if I had cancer, both of those babies were coming off.

When the doctor laid out the options, I told her immediately I had already thought about it, and I wanted a bilateral mastectomy, both breasts removed. Part of what made that decision okay for me was that I was a candidate for direct implants. All of it would happen at once. There would be no 12-15 month period of time for me to go through reconstruction. The surgery would be long, but I would wake up looking like I did (minus the bruises, incisions, bandages of course) when I went in to the operating room.

When the first plastic surgeon disagreed with that option…

Journey? What journey?

When you get diagnosed with cancer, everyone refers to it as a journey. Friends say, "this is a journey, hang in there," doctors say, "this is a journey we're on together," strangers say, "you'll learn so much on this journey."

I don't know about you, but when I think of a journey, I think of something that is going to be enjoyable, something I planned for entertainment, for adventure. I think of a journey as something that will be exciting and bring new experiences to my life.

I do not think of a journey as something that will bring you hurt and pain and depression. I do not think of a journey as something that will lift you up one day and bring you down the next. I do not think of a journey as something you have to struggle through in order to get to the reward on the other side.

It turns out, the word has a French origin and was used to refer to a day's work, or travel. It's also defined on as "traveling from one…

#CancerSucks, But.....

Today is truly a beautiful morning. The sun is streaming in through my lanai and casting light just across the hardwood floor in the living room, over a child's chair and onto a pile of stuffed animals. When I follow the light, it leads me to the corner piled with my children's toys and blankets that are a source of fun, and at times, comfort. Anytime I think of those boys, my eye is on the prize.

The prize that gets me past the anxiety of the day, which today, is an appointment with the oncologist. I'll meet my doctor for the first time, hear his opinion on what other treatment(s) I should have, if any. It could be chemo, drug infusions, endocrine therapy, all of them, some of them, or none of them (that's unlikely). But as I woke, and the sun streamed through, the first thought that crossed my mind as I stood over the sink was, "If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it."  And I said out loud to myself, "God will lead you through it, Richelle…

The day I don't want .... or do I?

Tomorrow is a paradox. A day I don't want to happen. I day I do want to happen. A day I wish never had to happen. A day that has to happen.

To say I have been anxiety ridden would be an understatement. I had a couple good weeks there. Work and life kept me busy and the doctor appointments had trailed off as we prepared. Then, they ramped back up. Then, work came to an end.

That day was harder than I imagined; actually, I didn't imagine it and perhaps that's what made it so hard. I decided not to keep it from the staff I supervise and people I work with regularly. I decided that HIPPA may prevent folks from asking, but in the end, why would women not share this? Why would I not want someone else to hear this story? Why would I not want the opportunity to say, yeah, it's happening and you know what, it's all because I got a mammogram. I will forever advocate for that test, for as long as I live, for as long as I can share. My livelihood is telling stories, having peo…

Turning Points

There comes a time, it seems, in every game, every career, every life, that there's a turning point; a moment that propels you to another level. I'm no sports writer or football analyst, but there was clearly a turning point in the Super Bowl when the New England Patriots had seemingly all but lost the game then managed to muster the biggest comeback in game history and emerge the victor. Apple rode a wave at the top of the tech world for years then lost its spot only to get it back again under a new leader, and arguably, came out even better than before. It's clear to many political analysts that even in last year's presidential election there was a turning point amongst candidates, a point where Donald Trump seemed like the unlikely choice then turned into the sure bet for the Republican Party.

I've had my own turning points in this cancer diagnosis. I've never felt so depressed, felt such a loss of hope, felt such a despair for my future, as I did in those f…

Mom, Wife, and Now... Cancer Fighter

Friday the 13th. January 13th, 2017. Why on earth I agreed to an appointment on Friday the 13th is beyond me, but looking back Monday the 16th wouldn’t have changed anything.
I still would’ve heard the diagnosis no one’s ever prepared to hear: You have breast cancer. The doctor explained what kind of cancer (high grade DCIS), how big and where, and reassured me over and over, “You are not going to die.” She talked about pathology and radiology and biopsy and surgery. The tears flowed. She said again, “You are not going to die.” I told her I was too young. I told her I was a mom. I told her my babies were just 2 and 5. “You are not going to die,” she said again with her hand touching my knee, tears welling up in her own eyes.
She laid out the options: lumpectomy with daily radiation for 6 weeks, mastectomy of the diseased breast or bilateral mastectomy of the diseased breast and the one cancer had not touched. She talked about my survivability rate and that any of those choices offered…