You just never know what the person next to you might need to hear. Or might need to share. Or might need to pass along … You never know how your story will impact their story . Or perhaps their story will change the way you think about your own life or maybe give you information that you didn’t even realize you needed.
We all have burdens. Big burdens, small burdens… it makes no difference…. we all need to ease those burdens. It’s healthy to share with a trusted friend, or sometimes it’s a stranger who creates a safe place to unload your troubles. If you’re lucky, that stranger may become family. Sometimes people cross our paths at just the perfect time to create a magical moment. Whoever it is, take the chance and let it out. Perhaps this may be an opportunity for you to be the listener as well. The act of sharing can help lower anxiety and calm your soul. And most importantly, it creates connection. We crave it, we desire it, we need it.
Sharing means being vulnerable and that can be VERY daunting. I really struggled before I posted my first blog entry. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so public about my journey . But I realized that many people had helped me with details or given advice and I truly needed all of that. If this helps someone with their own journey , then I am happy to share. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. No judgement, no gossip, no mis- information.
Just love. Just care. Just inspiration. Just honesty. Just support. Just LOVE.
Don’t be afraid to share your story. You might help someone have a happy ending.
September is a month where I find myself reflecting even more. September is confusing. It brings me joy, yet makes me sad. It reminds me of things I want to leave in the past. BUT, It gives me hope and promises a new beginning. Poor September… that’s a lot of pressure.
Im getting ready to celebrate my birthday … the significance is extra special this year. Last year was tough. But by the grace of God, Im here. I’m stronger, I’m changed, I’m grateful, and all of the blessings have not gone unnoticed. At this time last year, I was in a deep, dark haze. Too much was going on and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do what I knew needed to be done. Sometimes when it rains , it pours… and that was certainly the case in my family’s world. I was about to start chemotherapy treatment. I was worried and scared. Worried that my kids were dealing with more than they deserved, and scared for what lay ahead.
Enter God, enter family , enter dear friends. I felt so loved and supported. It TRULY takes a village, and I am forever grateful and so blessed by some of the best humans around.
Today, I look forward. I am filled with anticipation, excitement , courage and awe for what God has planned. Peace is part of my daily thought pattern. Prayer is ever important. Relationships feel deeper and more connected. Love is a word I use everyday. This is part of my journey. I have grown.
If you are reading this, I hope you are growing too. I hope you are getting where you want to be in your life, loving who you want to love, using your gifts, and receiving blessings each and every day.
I’ll be honest. There have been times over this past year when I questioned why I was dealing with so many things at one time. I wondered why God allowed me to go through this. I had a dear friend suggest that maybe he didn’t ALLOW me to go through it , but he certainly walked every step with me. This is definitely where Faith comes into play. We don’t know the outcome, we just trust that God is in charge and he already knows the beginning, middle and end of our stories.
Is there any way to make sense out of things we don’t understand? I’ve really been wondering how we get to where we are. Im a big believer that everything happens in our lives to get us exactly where we are meant to be. But, do things happen circumstantially or are we chosen for the events in our life?
Are we chosen to face adversity… because we are level headed? Are we chosen for greatness… because we can influence? Are we chosen for struggle… because we are strong enough? Are we chosen for heartbreak… because we have the capacity to love big? Are we chosen for purpose… because we are driven?
I do believe we are chosen for certain things in life, but what about free will? Sometimes we make decisions that put us on a different path instead of what was originally intended. The question remains: If we go down the wrong path, is that destination the right one? Perhaps these are questions we are not meant to answer. Yet somehow, we need to find a balance between our yearning for knowledge and our conquering of faith.
Just some thoughts. Life has brought me to a place where I am contemplating many things. If we aren’t growing , we become stagnant. No one wants to be stuck in their own mud. There are too many fields with beautiful flowers to skip through.
I’m sitting here on a quiet Sunday morning feeling extremely blessed and so very thankful that my kids are here to care for me, inspire me, keep me real and keep me laughing. I’m three days post surgery and starting to feel a little more like myself. Thank God!
My final surgery went well. My care team put me back together using both expertise and compassion . I am so grateful for their guidance, suggestions and counseling. None of this has been easy, but I have felt confident along the way that I have been with a team that honestly wanted the best for me as a patient and a woman.
Recovery has been much easier this time around. Less pain, less fuzziness, less anxiety. More joy, more relief, more confidence.
There is a very surreal feeling that I am completing this BRCA 1 journey. I have done my best , with the things I have control over, to eliminate risk for any future problems. It has been a journey that I never expected, and definitely not one that I wanted to be on. But by the grace of God, and the love and care from multiple family members and dear friends , I am on the other side. This creates a huge lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes. Relief isn’t a strong enough word, but it’s a huge emotion. I have learned about faith and strength in ways that I never thought possible. I am not the same. I was forced to dig deep. I am changed. I am new. I am humbled.
My heart is full from many blessings and so much love. If you have been a part of this chapter of life with me, I hope you feel loved and appreciated. You truly are. ♥️
Life changes. We want that. It’s a part of growth. Growth is healthy and exciting . Growth can be an adventure , a blessing and even a surprise. Sometimes growth comes through adversity . Sometimes growth means that life goes in another direction than you anticipated . Sometimes you just need to buckle up and forge ahead.
Life has brought me to a place of contemplation. What truly matters in this life ? How do you make a difference in this world ? How do you say no to negativity and YES to hope ,health and rebirth ? How do you handle circumstances that bring you to your knees? How do you turn “your mess into your message ? “
Sometimes my mind whirls about in a constant state of wonder. Have you felt the same way ? Have circumstances in your life put you off balance and longing for a calmer time ? I truly believe that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle . I believe he equips you with the tools you need to face life’s challenges, as well as life’s blessings. And I believe he walks with you through the good , and often carries you through the darkest moments. I have learned to cling to my Faith more than ever in this past year. I am beyond grateful. I am often moved to tears when I stop and think of all the ways God has been faithful to me and my family. I am so thankful for the grace I have received and try to build on that grace every single day.
I recently listened to a sermon about anxiousness and fear , and one of the take-a-ways was “Calm down and look up ! “ What powerful words. Take a breath when you’re feeling overwhelmed and look up. Lift your prayers , your desires ,your needs, your fears . “You gotta feel it to heal it . “ Let go .
Why is it that our biggest growth periods often stem from adversity? Maybe fear moves us forward. Maybe it shakes our core and we somehow instinctively just know we need to shift … perspective , lifestyle, habits or mindset.
When you go through something you have very little control over , you learn quickly what really matters in this life. Importance takes on a new meaning . There can be a gift in a trepidatious journey. Peace can be a beautiful part of that gift. Search with heart and eyes wide open. You won’t be disappointed.
Whatever life throws at you , you have a choice. There are always two sides to the street. I prefer to walk on the sunny side .
Ok , I made a decision. Now it was time to do research , ask questions ( and more questions and more questions ) and prepare. As I write this , I am actually two months post op so my brain has cleared , the pain has lessened , and I am well on my way to a healthy and strong body. I wanted to give myself some time to recover from chemo before I had this surgery . I waited four months and was ready to tackle this next phase.
I was told to expect an overnight stay in the hospital and then head home for a typically 4-6 week recuperation time. I knew this was the right and perfect decision for me but that didn’t stop the nerves . My pre-op nurses were sweet and calming , my anesthesiologist was trying to keep us laughing , and I even got an unexpected visit with a childhood friend and his wife who are both in the medical field and affiliated with the hospital. God works in mysterious ways and gives comfort when you need it the most. My breast surgeon ( she told me her hands were guided) and plastic surgeon worked side by side to take me apart and put me back together. The faith we share gave me a great peace.
Post surgery , I definitely needed and welcomed the morphine drip. It helped control the pain although it kept me pretty foggy. Probably not a bad idea for that first 24 hours. The nurses got me up and walking pretty quickly. One lap around the halls was enough for me and I quickly decided , even in my foggy state, that I really didn’t need to have that experience again. Ugh! I remember asking my daughter why I chose to do this and she told me because it was the right decision. Ok. Pity party over. Time to put on those big girl panties and buck up buttercup !
The medical community was good about giving me all the medical info I needed , but it was friends and Pinterest that let me know what to expect when I came home. If you know someone who might benefit from a few post surgery tips, please pass this along. These are some things that helped me immensely… But just a warning, it’s not pretty.
If you don’t have a reclining chair, get yourself a body pillow. It will be your best friend for the next few weeks. You will also need some smaller pillows to place under your arms. You come home from the hospital with drains hanging from behind your armpits and the area is very sore. The small pillows , tucked under your arms, are a necessity for comfort. You will not have any strength to lift yourself up, so the recliner or body pillow will help prop you up and make it easier to move when you need to. These were tips from friends and they made recovery much more bearable .
The drains will be with you between two and four weeks to help prevent infection. They will need to stripped, emptied and measured three times a day and you will need help. The pain from the mastectomy was tough, but the drains were worse. No sugar coating here. You need somewhere for the drains to live while they’re attached to your body. I used a craft apron from Home Depot that had little pockets until my plastic surgeon’s office gave me a prettier version that the auxiliary ladies made. You’ll need two- so you have a spare when you wash one. The drains go with you everywhere ( literally) so you might as well make friends with them. Ha ha… Showering is tricky, but they want you to stay really clean. You’ll need loops with a little mesh pocket to hold the drains, or a lanyard with a clip to put around your neck so they don’t just dangle from your body. My drains came out one at a time and when the last one was out , I was singing praises!
Stay on top of the pain! Take the pain meds! I wanted to be off of them as soon as possible, but I found I really needed them to control the pain. Eventually I went down to alternating Tylenol and Advil until I weaned myself off completely. I wasn’t allowed to put heat or ice on my chest, which I desperately wanted to do, so the best relief for the pain is the meds. Drink lots of water to flush out the drugs! The surgery pain will subside, but the pain from the expanders stays with you. Their job is to stretch skin which doesn’t necessarily want to be stretched. I got relief from rubbing my chest with Copaiba essential oil mixed with a carrier oil as well as using CBD cream.
None of it is easy and none of it is comfortable , but it does get better. With the help of loved ones and dear friends you just learn to power through…
Live well, give love,
This is the body pillow (Amazon.com) and the smaller travel pillows to tuck under your arms. Heart shaped pillows work great under the arms too.
Here is the apron where my drains lived for 2 weeks. 24 hours a day.
These straps were a lifesaver in the shower. Amazon.com carries something similar listed under shower pockets.
Because I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation , I am at a greater risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. Well, we’ve covered the ovarian part… so now onto the breasts… When you hear the genetic counselor tell you your chances of developing breast cancer in your lifetime are up to 70 percent, you listen. Or you ignore them. Or you go into denial. But then you start listening again and gathering some much needed information. So , the journey continues. I am STILL marching forward in amazement , fear, bravery, and faith. I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to be on this road. But I believe in a bigger plan and I know that God has goodness in store.
Having this information about the BRCA gene means you have a decision to make. You can closely monitor your breasts with bi-annual mammograms and MRI’s (exposing yourself to radiation each time you are tested) along with taking a preventative cancer drug for 5 years. My doctor told me that most people don’t continue taking the drug for the full five years because the side effects are awful. So, what’s the point? Or you can do a preventative bi-lateral mastectomy to greatly eliminate your risk. Or you can do a preventative bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction to greatly eliminate your risk. Or you can roll the dice.
I’d already had a surprise and I didn’t want another. After much discussion with my doctors, nurses, family , friends and God I made the decision to do the preventative mastectomy with reconstruction. Believe me, this was not an easy decision to make. I didn’t make this decision because I had cancer . I was making it to prevent cancer. Getting rid of something on your insides because of a medical necessity wasn’t that hard of a decision. Getting rid of something on your outside was much more personal. But necessary. Thank God for modern technology and choices…
I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead…
I’ll pass along some helpful hints of what got me through the surgery and recovery. Luckily (actually sadly), I had a couple of friends who had been through it and they were a wonderful resource. You definitely get more information from folks who have been in the trenches. I’ve found that to be true through this entire journey.
If you find yourself faced with this decision, talk it through with medical professionals, friends, strangers…. whoever you feel comfortable with. Every situation is different and you need to make the decision that is best for YOU. But get educated. Don’t go into this blindly. Get your facts and weigh your options.
We all have our gifts. Some are obvious, some are subtle , but I believe they all miraculously work together in this crazy world to complete a big puzzle. My daughter reminded me of this the other day when we were chatting about what topics might be useful for my blog. I’ve constantly shared with her how different friends have come to this party bringing their unique gifts. And honestly, they are all important!
Anything you can offer someone in a time of need is helpful. Don’t underestimate what you can do even in the smallest capacity. Believe me, there are no small gifts. They are all deeply appreciated.
Nobody wants to be the “help-ee”. We all want to be the helper. But if there is a time in your life when you need the help, accept it and be grateful.
If you are a cook , prepare a meal. If you are a shopper, do the shopping. If you are a cleaner, help with some housecleaning. If you are a good listener, go for a visit . If you are a writer, send an encouraging card. If you are a person of faith, pray boldly. If you have some free time, offer to be a driver. If you are a gardener, offer to work in the yard. If you are a comic, go make some laughs! If you have been through a similar situation , give some advice about what helped you cope. I am beyond grateful for all of these things and for the family and friends who have shared their love and gifts so freely .
It does take a village. We all have our gifts and together we are stronger.
As our bodies need care and attention , our souls need it just as much. Maybe even more .
When you go through any kind of personal crisis , there is something deeply healing about connection . Connecting with family, friends, even strangers, can make your heart swell and that pesky lump in your throat appear. Our bodies are made to deal with crisis differently. Some of us are very open about our struggles , some are much more private. Some embrace the chance to talk about their feelings while others fear the vulnerability of being raw and honest. There is definitely a degree of aloneness when you’re moving through a challenging time. You alone have to experience the feelings, the pain , the fear , and the anxiety. That’s part of the process. But then it’s time to gather your tribe…. those people who you love dearly. Those people who you are connected to and want to help whatever way they can. Those people who walk this journey with you and are enhancing your healing every step of the way.
I have seen kindness and love in countless ways and I am deeply grateful and humbled. It feels good. And through it all I’ve learned another lesson . We all need to feel connected. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get into the messy parts of life with those you love . Do what you can when someone needs help . Just be present. It makes a huge difference. Not only does it help the person in need , but it’ll open your heart up to feeling more love and grace. We need each other. That’s why we’re here.
When I started writing this blog, I was hopeful that sharing my story might help someone else going through a similar experience. If you are reading this and know of someone who might benefit from it , please send it along. What I didn’t realize is that writing about this experience would actually help me. It’s helped me come to terms with many feelings that I put aside just to be able to get through the day. Perhaps we all do that. When we are in crisis mode, we tend to focus on what’s right in front of us. The task at hand, the thing we don’t want to do but need to do; searching for courage for the unpleasantness ahead. Sometimes that means we put aside other emotions that should be dealt with but aren’t top priority. Wellness includes body, mind, and spirit. Pay attention. Deal with it. Give a voice to your thoughts and feelings. Getting rid of the fear and negativity opens you up to infinite possibilities. Be open to goodness. It’s all around.
Part of the goodness is learning to CELEBRATE. Not just the big stuff…. celebrate whatever you want! Celebrate a good day, a milestone, an unexpected visitor, hair growth, a surprise package in the mail… whatever you feel positive about. Celebrate by yourself, with your family , or with your friends. Celebrate the people who are walking this journey with you. Let them know how much you appreciate them and love them. Share your feelings with them and encourage them to do the same. Let the conversation be two-sided. It’s just another way of choosing to do something positive. It’s about energy. It’s uplifting and mood changing. And it’s important!