Tag Archives: survivorship

Mom, you should wear a bikini

My seven year old daughter is full of confidence and spunk and smarts and style. She asked for a bikini from the Easter Bunny. Delivered.

Totally and without reservation she put it on last weekend in preparation for a pool party, did a twirl in the mirror and set her face to one of approval. Then she turned to me and asked, “Mom, why don’t you wear a bikini?”

It was one of those seminal parenting moments I was totally and completely at a loss for words. “Because I worry what other people think?” “Because I have been called many things in my life and a covergirl is not one of them?” “Because my body has changed so much in the last four years that I sometimes don’t recognize my own reflection?” “Because the last time I wore a bikini was on my honeymoon with your Dad and I was a size I will never be again?”

I thought it would be a sign of strength and purpose – and frankly, there was a little bit of vanity involved – to be able to wear a bikini when I turn 40 (or even just before). Celebrating a milestone with style. But every time I look in the mirror, I see my imperfections. Every time.

I even had a few days where I did sit ups and crunches – thinking somehow that would put me over the edge and tighten this section of extra – abdominal muscles that were strained and pulled and cut and sewn. A belly that now thinks I’m postmenopausal and is storing fat like a rainy day is coming.

I know, logically, I should embrace my body – it’s been through a helluva lot. And it’s done me well. I have had three kids – two pregnancies – gained over 65 pounds with both … created happy healthy amazing kids including 16 pounds of twins … then the cancer. Scarred, implanted, tattooed … hormones amuk causing muffin tops and rounded corners and insomnia and anxiety. But, I’m still here. Why isn’t that enough?

As a woman raising a girl, I want to instill confidence and self-awareness and body image and a glorious, wonderful sense of assurance. I have struggled with it my whole life. What if I could save her from that in some small way? She is perfect now – fashion oblivious, sporty and hilarious and assertive and amazing. I want to keep this. Bottle it.

When she turned to me and asked me about the bikini, all of this went through my head. I thought of my struggles with healthy weight … losing weight when stressed to the point that I was melting away because I forgot to eat. Gaining weight while in chemo eating plates of french toast to abate the cravings. Up and down as a collegiate learning to eat and exercise and drink and not have the structure of square meals and sports.

Now I have the balance I always craved. I play tennis, I go to barre ocassionally, I dance with my kids. I drink light beer and champagne. I love chocolate. I’m not willing to give that all up, but I am also totally and completely and unabashedly self-conscious of the pile of “twin skin” and extra rolls that I have on my belly.

But when Emmy said that, I realized it’s not always about my feelings. Part of being a parent is sucking it up – lose sleep? Privacy? Adult conversation? And, selfishness.

So there was a bikini. And she wanted me to post it on Facebook. Here it is. But I do this for all the Moms out there raising girls. All the women who have gone through hell and back with cancer treatments and surgeries. All the women who realize that bodies can be perfectly imperfect and still celebrated. Who don’t have time for evened out tans or bikini waxes or body toning. Who live their lives and struggle through fears and try to love their bodies.

IMG_8982

This will be for you, for me, but mostly, for my girl. Because why shouldn’t we all wear a bikini?

And yes, this is as brave as I can be – lounging, sitting down. Girls weekend. I’m trying!

And, my girlie loved the picture.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ground Control to Major Tom – How ARE you?

Please forgive me dear readers for it has been one month and two weeks since my last update.

I admit I am almost running from all things that smack of 2012 – whether it be blogs, art bras, foods I found enjoyable … even clothes.

My problems are plain old every day problems now. It’s trying to figure out how to get the kids home from school every day with me working and an inconsistent, bandaided sitter approach to afternoons after our nanny quit.

It’s trying to figure out how to get a little extra sleep – past 6:30 – with three kids and two dogs who all arise at the crack of dawn and want to know on a given day what the weather will be, did we know it was the 1st of the month, would there be soccer, and what to do when their arm falls asleep. The last one happens in the middle of the night, too. As does visiting because they are cold, hungry, scared, or not feeling well.

We had strep and flu at the same time at the house. Our puppy apprently likes eating dog poop but last time she did it she threw up all over everything.

It’s good – normal. Vacuuming three times a week, washing clothes and hair often because of allergies, focusing on remodeling opportunities down the road, worrying about the impression I make at work. Planning trips between soccer and scouts and swim.

But then I am reminded that I’m not normal – and won’t be. I get a comment at my company retreat that I look so different – why am I growing my hair differently?

I have this super strange thing going on with my mouth where my tongue is inflamed and taste buds are enlarged and instead of just worrying about what kind of crazy thing I have going on – allergies? a virus? I have to set up an appointment to talk to my oncologist.

When I feel gas in my belly – is it the beans or is it cancer?

When I don’t get a good night of sleep and have to take a nap the next day I am reminded that my body is still only recovering from that “year and a half long battle” that you hear referenced in stories about other cancer fighters. I am that person.

I struggle with day to day being so mundane, so good, and yet so shadowed. I try to right myself by focusing on the accomplishments – a soccer win, kids scoring, perfect report cards, a win at work, a beautiful new master bedroom … and it helps most of the time.

But there are days when it all comes back – when the pain and fear of losing myself, my family, my battle … when all I want is just a break from this crazy thing that I now have that’s called life … and I yearn strangely for the days when I only had to worry about getting myself through the day as if that was enough. Now it seems like it’s never enough.

But, in general, when asked how I am, I am good. I am great. I am alive and healthy and happy. But don’t expect the same level of frenetic behavior as last year – I can’t make a bra and work and live and love. I can’t start a foundation and work and make dinner and clean up the dog poop. Some of you will – and can – and I totally love that you can.

I can’t any more. And that will have to be enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Anxiety is back – that old familiar feeling

Blogging is cathartic for me. So, I hope I get some of that good juju by taking a break today to put it all on the line. This one will be all over the place – because that’s where I am right now. But ohwell, another day in the life.

I have a ball of anxiety in my stomach curled up consuming me right now. I have always tended toward anxious – that is the type A personality after all, but occasionally, it comes back. It is like a ball of warmth that sits in my belly – reminding me every minute that I am not in control. Hi there ball I say – and it rustles and coils.

It seems to coincide with lack of sleep. And, here we have again, lack of sleep. (puppy – more on that in a minute)

It seems to coincide with multiple workstreams of powerlessness – a lack of a plan or control on a few different fronts.

So, here I am with multiple issues (none life threatening, none that are massive), but without a means to corrale my feelings, emotions, or plan a next step, I am paralyzed with my anxiety ball until I either get enough sleep, take enough meds, or come up with enough plans to make it all better.

After the initial euphoria that the dog’s cancer was operable, there are qualifications. The surgeons are suggesting multiple surgeries to remove it, multiple procedures that would be violently invasive – requiring drains and stitches and recuperation and recovery. He is fine right now, laying next to me on the bed. He even managed to play a bit with the puppy at her insistence this weekend. How can we put him through such pain and uncertainty when he has no visible distress right now? How much discomfort should we force on him just to have him with us another six months? I fight back tears even as I write this – how do you decide someone else’s well being? When they have no say … and yes, he’s a dog, but the echoes to my past two years (how can I expect him at 10 1/2 to recover what I am still reeling from in terms of invasive and corrective surgery? how can I not provide him the same support and therapy that he provided to me?)

I am having trouble with my hip – a consistent muscle ache that leaves me unable to sit or stand certain days. Is it the cancer back? I have appointments with physical therapists and masseuses and have started doing yoga and exercising – but what if that’s not enough?

And, the puppy. She is wonderful – sweet and loving and curious and soft and hilarious. But she is up in the night – how do we balance what we know is right (giving her access to the yard) with the needs of the family – SLEEP. I think we’re going to have to go against my humane judgement and crate her at night in the back room. Sanity and our health and happiness has to come first. I remind myself that some dogs live outside all the time. And then I start to second guess – was it too much to take on to make this addition now? Was I wrong?

Sleeplessness is a funny thing – it deprives you of your ability to compartmentalize, to fairly judge the severity of issues, and you forget how powerful an agent of destruction it can be.

OK, my anxiety ball is a little smaller now – I know it will grow the next time I think about end of life for Cameron and the decisions we must make, but I also must remember he is our dog and he is loved and happy right now.

I must remember that we are kind and loving den mates for our puppy – who is learning what she can do, and we are learning what we can do. As Davis mentioned to me last night – sometimes these last few months my desire is not met by my capability. I can not do the sleepless nights right now.

And, I think and hope and pray that this is just my muscles struggling to understand how to support and manage my new self, and not the cancer back. Enough is on the plate right now.

I heard a hilarious rant the other day from a lady who had lost her mother, her boyfriend, her apartment, and was diagnosed with cancer.

She said “Does God really give us only what we can handle? I picture him up there sometimes laughing – oh, she can take a little more. And the angels saying, God – what are you thinking?”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The More Things Change

An exhilarating and exhausting October is behind me – the first since recovery, and therefore the first fundraiser (and success!) the first big speaking opportunity, the first month of remembrance for fallen sisters, the first real Halloween in a long time

I had my first girl’s night out with soccer Moms, drank too much at Halloween – sorry if I was a little bit loud fellow trick or treaters!), listened to my 8 year old son read an entire page of Chinese characters.

I am almost numb with gratitude. I realize that I was so lucky to have found it when I did. To have the support I do, To have my children the age they are. To have my husband. My family. Money.

There are days where cancer doesn’t even enter into my thoughts for hours. Where I live as though it was time before. But then I have a hurt back and I wonder – is that bone pain or muscle pain? Or I get a comment about Dubai – weren’t you going there? from a Duke interviewee. Or I look in the mirror and realize my bangs are longer than my hair used to be.

There are always shadows and some people it would forever alter in a bad way.

For me, I am altered and I haven’t sorted good and bad yet.

I went to a Pink Ribbon Cowgirls luncheon last week and it was hard – to go back to that raw place where even sneezing the wrong way can get you sick. It was humbling because my patient navigator addressed the fact that so many people had recurrences in October: statistically there is a massively higher rate of recurrence in the first 3-5 years after NED (no evidence of disease). We still don’t know why.

There’s a danger to being almost smug when you hear each individual story – one woman had it come back with a vengeance after a lumpectomy (I’m so smart I had a mastectomy on both sides I would crow!)one person had ovarian cancer come back and I think I’m so glad I had gene testing so I knew whether to do that or not.

It’s both a sense of empathy and a sense of relief. Profound relief.

At the end of the day – more than relief. Joy. Happy healthy kids. Happy healthy me. Biggest (real) worry is getting everyone to school on time, doing the best I can at my amazing job, helping my friends when they need me.

Biggest perceived worry, though … that will forever be different after cancer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Impatience and the Refresh Button

Someone in the great big universe is telling me that all good things come to those who wait. Although I feel like I already learned this lesson a few times over in the cancer battle this last year. But, I find myself increasingly impatient with my ability to move on at the speed I want – which is probably a little too close to warp speed.

The last few days I have – literally – been watching my email. And, hitting the refresh button as if the server is not fast enough.

For those of you not familiar (is there anyone left out there?) next to your web address bar, there is a little circle button. It also exists in my gmail account near the inbox. It is for the most impatient of us. It is the refresh button – the capability to look at what has changed in the 10 seconds since the last time that your computer talked to the server.

I am awaiting news on a soccer team. In a change of plans some of the kids on our previous team are moving to another league – along with the coach. I coached before all this, and get to coach again, but I am currently waiting to see which boys can play with us – all friends, all sweet. But I wait to tell the other parents who is in and who is out. I refresh to see a note from the parents.

I am awaiting news on a job that would be the perfect fit – I believe – for my intellectual and professional needs. I had four interviews in two days and loved everyone I met. Now I wait to hear.

And, I had to wait until today to play tennis. This wasn’t a refresh button but it was still a waiting game. I was ready Monday morning to play but in a literal freak of nature, Austin got deluged with rain the last three days. Almost 2 inches – which in July is almost unheard of in the past few years. I, clearly, had to wait for dry courts. But I did wait, and I am so very glad. Because today I played tennis for the first time in two years – and probably ten before that. I got beaten by an 11 year old at the courts. And I liked it.

I am hitting the refresh button on my life right now – the news I’m awaiting is for my next chapter: Soccer coach?? Part time employee? Tennis player? I can’t even believe I have come so far in one year. But that doesn’t mean that I like to be in the waiting place. I am reminded – again – of a Dr. Suess favorite “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” I am ready for my boom band.

a most useless place. The Waiting Place…

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To my kids – read when you are 18

Maybe you should wait to read this until you are a parent which hopefully won’t be at 18. Not that I’m prejuding your choices (yay if I’m a grandma already I guess!), I totally support you! But parenting is hard and I hope you don’t have to handle its delicate balance until you are at least 30.

So here it is – your Dad and I have perpetuated many untruths on you. You are 5 and 7 and so I somehow justify it by thinking it’s above your paygrade, and I hope that doesn’t scar you for life.

I’ll go with the low hanging fruit: Christmas. There is no Santa Claus. That was us. Filling up your stockings, wrapping the presents that you whispered into the stranger’s ear at Barton Creek after being coached. No magic reindeer either. So that food we put out? Swept away by Dad.

While we’re on the magic subject – the Elf that showed up at our house last year that you named Little Red? The idea was created by a brillant marketer. His mischievous acts? Dad and I after you go to bed. We found ideas on pinterest and in an effort to one up each other, parents all over the country participate in this ritual that some nights was relatively stressful since we had to pretend Santa Claus was coming and hide all the presents we would wrap each night. They are hidden in the guest room closet if you were wondering. Every year.

Dispelling myths? That means no Easter Bunny and no Tooth Fairy. Both us, too. We sat up until 10pm filling up a hundred eggs for you this year so that you could all have the same amount and fill up your baskets. The tooth fairy is a figment of someone’s imagination in the 50s to celebrate your move into big kiddo realm. Of course, we weren’t expecting sister to lose 5 teeth in two weeks and we had to make a special trip to the bank for the $1 coins. Ironically, you seem not to notice anything other than the “cash money” $1 bill. Did you know that each time the Tooth Fairy comes your Dad and I go through all of our foreign coins we accumulated on our travels to find two interesting ones for you? Maybe soem day you will care about that.

Um, and babies don’t always come out of bellies like you did, but you probably know that by now. Which means there is no deer doctor that runs around performing C sections.

And the part of the Daddy and part of the Mommy that get together? I’m still not prepared to answer how.

There were also some major tragedies this last year that we didn’t share. But you are kids, you don’t need to know those details. For you, things are safe and happy and it’s summer. SO, if you ask we say some people got hurt, some people maybe died, and the perpetrators made “bad decisions.” Even our tension with North Korea was answered that way … Henry, no more reading the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

So those are some of the big ones. I will admit that most of those were to keep up with the times – and to perpetuate our joy at your joy. We love the look on your faces when the magic happens. I wish we could keep that forever.

Now, the last year there have been some half truths as well – I didn’t, couldn’t tell you all about the cancer battle. Cancer bugs as well call them? Incredibly malignant cells that can proliferate all over your body. It was serious although I will be fine now. Although thechance will always be there that it will come back. I have done everything possible – the chemo medicine, the laserlight (radiation) and my surgery to get out the cancer bugs. But breast cancer does not have a remission it just has a “gone for now.”

I’m sorry we didn’t get to go to Dubai, and that I had a year where I lost my hair, was tired, and couldn’t play with you the way I wanted. I’m sorry that we glossed over the surgeries, but there was no way that I could tell you that I had drains coming out of my body, or that my breasts were gone. And now, as I enter into my last major surgery, I have told you that they are fixing some muscles. They are actually giving me my very own new set of boobs.

And I don’t have nipples so I kinda look like the barbies you played with yesterday in the pool.

I’m not ashamed of the half truths because they keep me going. I like to pretend that this is all no big deal too.

And, after you go to bed, your Dad and I watch super fun TV shows without you … and sometimes we go see movies and even go out with our friends and drink alcohol and eat breakfast tacos at 1 in the morning. But you can’t do that until you’re 21. Sorry.

.emmynoteeth

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Plus Side of a Mastectomy

This is going to be a very personal post. I will tell you right now it may also make you squeamish. It certainly has made me, but I figure the more that we can demystify this process and this disease, the better we will be at communicating and supporting each other.

I have been pretty flat since my mastectomy with my nice perky Nordstrom’s ladies strapped on each day. I skittered by the mirror with clothes clutched tight, no interest in seeing the giant lines that were my cancer bugs, that was my figure.

Last Monday I had plastic bubbles – for lack of a better  term – the scientific term is expanders – put under my skin and muscles and sewed into place. I had enough extra skin that they were filled over halfway with saline – in a usual procedure they are only filled a third of the way. Which meant that as soon as I was awake enough I had the chance to see a shape and a sight that I have not seen in six months. And that many of you ladies take for granted – cleavage.

I am small, but skin complains – stretched thin over the expanders it is shiny with the extra effort. It is more than I expected in terms of profile change. It is pretty uncomfortable as that skin moves against the plastic, against the stitches.

I am exhausted too because I am used to sleeping on my stomach – instead I now sleep on my back with a nightly advil run. This process will continue over the next few weeks. I will be pumped full of saline until we all decide I look like the right version of myself. Should I stay a medium? Move to a large? C? B?

But it’s such a weird conversation to have with anyone outside of this blog – friends and teachers asking me today how i was feeling said “I looked great” I know that means they looked at my chest. For so much of our lives that’s considered taboo. Is it still?

My male friends ask how I’m feeling – should I say that it feels like i have an extremely tight push up bra on all the time with some pain in the armpits. Instead I just say good, but tired. My body is exhausted after the last year and this is the last straw. But it’s also the first step up the end ladder. Toward the newest normal imaginable. At a size made to order.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized