Austin will host another screening of Decoding Annie Parker on May 22, 2014 at 7:30pm. I’ve reserved my ticket! To do the same, visit: https://gathr.us/screening/7925.
Austin will host another screening of Decoding Annie Parker on May 22, 2014 at 7:30pm. I’ve reserved my ticket! To do the same, visit: https://gathr.us/screening/7925.
I’m doing fairly well so far on my meal and exercise plan. Not perfect as I have had small cheats here and there–a small piece of chocolate or two crackers. I’m not drinking enough water but trying to be better every day at that. And I’ve slacked off on the exercise a bit in only doing 30 mins some days instead of the expected 40 mins. Still, I’m exercising every day and aside from Administrative Professional’s Day lunch at Carmelo’s last Wednesday, I haven’t eaten out in a week and a half and I’ve been sticking to the most wholesome foods. I’m eating about every two hours and certainly feel the difference–my diet includes things like egg whites, small bananas and oranges, pears, low-fat string cheese, all organic, Greek yogurt with a small amount of local honey, turkey, wild rice and carrots or spinach–every day, certain foods, in specific amounts and at certain times. My stomach starts growling if I haven’t eaten within a couple hours. So far I’ve dropped 4-5 lbs. Even though I’m not being perfect, I think I’m doing pretty well.
When you decide to rid yourself of all your numbing vices, reality IS a bitch. Need I elaborate? The whole point of numbing one’s self is to escape reality, in particular, the pain of it. Cancer or not, life can be incredibly painful and you have to feel it at some point. All the numbing agents in the world can’t make it go away. Well, I guess they can for a while, otherwise we wouldn’t do them, but in the end they only make everything worse. Then you find moments of clarity when the question arises, “WTF, how did I get here?” Like whole blocks of time were erased from your life. But they weren’t. You just weren’t paying enough attention. You were numb.
It’s true, you simply have to move through the pain. At some point you have to stop, FEEL IT and move through it. It really is the only way. It’s certainly a process though–Not a 24-hour turn-around type task.
I’ve been seeing a counselor to help me sort through all of this. She is also a breast cancer survivor. The social worker at Texas Oncology was able to get me in to see her through the Flatwater Foundation (http://flatwaterfoundation.org/). My counselor said I’ve had so much going on for so long that I haven’t had time to grieve any of it. I’ve literally had one major crisis to handle after another, back-to-back, for the past five years. And these aren’t like, “hey I just broke up with my boyfriend” type crises, I wish. These are “I have to think about removing organs from my body or I might die” type crises. Serious life and death situations back-to-back for 5 years.
In August 2009, my stepmother passed away from advanced melanoma. About seven or eight months before she died, around January/February 2009, I was diagnosed with a very rare, pancreatic cyst. My father also needed a lot of assistance during this time with my stepmother’s illness and passing. Then in the fall of 2009, I also assisted my father in his battle with her four daughters over his life estate in the house. This was all very stressful and I was way too in the middle of things, a place I really didn’t want to be. However, at that time I felt I had to help my father.
Upon being diagnosed with the pancreatic cyst, I began meeting with specialists and surgeons and was having tons of testing and blood work done. Two years of trying to characterize the cyst, this entailed a number of endoscopic procedures and biopsies. Then came the decision to do pancreatic surgery and finding a specialized surgeon for that (I ended up going to Houston). In the middle of all of this I finally did the BRCA testing, which came back positive for a BRCA1 mutation.
Once you’re deemed a BRCA mutant, you are automatically placed in the cancer pool and they start watching you like a hawk as it’s only a matter of time in the medical community’s mind before you get it. I started seeing a medical oncologist regularly. One of the top in Austin. Then started the serious breast screening, the first being a breast MRI (it would switch between that and a diagnostic mammogram every six months). With the first breast MRI came a huge scare from my medical oncologist and breast surgeon that they’d found not one spot, but four in my right breast. At that time, they all turned out to be false positives, but you can’t imagine what the stress of not knowing and waiting for results does to a person over the space of a week or two. They nearly called off my scheduled, pancreatic surgery in place of possible cancer treatment for the breast.
2009 and 2010 were a virtual maze of dr. appts, tests, research and decision making. My pancreatic surgeon also presented me with the option of removing my ovaries at the time of having the pancreatic surgery. That alone took a good while of serious contemplation, research, decision-making, consulting with all sorts of medical professionals (including finding a gynecological oncologist surgeon for the procedure), talking with other women with mutations, going to conferences regarding BRCA mutations, tons more research, making pros and cons lists, getting advice from friends, digging deep and “going to the mountain” so to speak, etc. etc. I was only 36 at this time.
After finding out my breasts were okay but still possible ticking time bombs, I then had to make the decision to follow through with the distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy and possible bilateral oophorectomy (mind you, the pancreatic surgery alone is deemed very dangerous. I was told by several doctors and general surgeons that they are told in medical school to stay away from the pancreas. My gastroenterologist basically scared the crap out of me for two years, always with a line like, “you’re young, you’ll probably live through it.”).
November 2, 2010, surgery day, this went fine initially. And then about a week or so after started the massive complications–almost 6 months worth. I came close to dying several times during this period. You can’t imagine how brutal this was. Now I’m considered a Type 1 diabetic and I have a major, complex abdominal hernia and gruesome scar that still need to be repaired. By the end of 2011, I started scouting various surgeons for the hernia repair and preventive, plastic surgery for my breasts. My biggest issue being my weight. All the surgeons wanted me to lose a significant amount before going ahead with the surgery. Best results are at ideal/goal weight. I’ll tell you now; this is easier said than done, having battled weight issues since my early teens.
Then in 2012, I had to make the decision to make a job transition. Not something I wanted at the time, but felt pressured to make. This was huge in itself as I’d been working for my previous firm for 12 and half years and could have easily settled in and retired from there, but I was a little restless regardless and my firm started downsizing so I sought work elsewhere. Right after starting in my position with my new firm, I traveled to Boston for a friend’s wedding and got into a car accident. Although no one was injured, this in itself turned into a months long, stressful and chaotic situation for my other friend and me as we battled with the rental car company, other driver and insurance companies.
Also within this time, around March 2013, my father had massive, congestive heart failure and was in the hospital and a nursery facility for 6-8 weeks and then needed assistance after returning home. This brings us to the spring of 2013 and my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent lumpectomy, 5 months of chemo and double mastectomies, from which I’ve only been recovering since January of this year, 2014.
In February of this year my father fell, fractured his skull and suffered severe bleeding in his brain. He has spent weeks in the hospital and now doing rehab at a nursing facility. My brother and I have been sorting through and dealing with his finances and personal needs. All of which my father has made more difficult for everyone around him–Never thinking ahead, but letting things fell apart and leaving us to pick up the pieces.
In the midst of all of this I’ve personally struggled financially, was failing in the performance of my new job and let all the ordinary maintenance of relationships, home and life fall by the wayside.
Now my counselor says that since some of these burdens have been lifted from me, my brain, heart and body have made way for some sort of extreme grieving process, of which I’ve only started. It’s very hard and feels like a lot of emotional baggage. Very saddening and it’s hard to pull out of a depressed state. I veered off the road at some point and am now lost in the woods. I am focusing on trying to maintain my new eating plan, daily exercise and I’m back to taking my daily supplements. However, I currently still feel like I’m mired neck deep in negative, sad, angry and bitter feelings and thoughts. Almost like I can’t see straight–Just plain screwed up. I’m trying to find my way out of this darkness as I don’t want these feelings to stay. I have to find a way of accepting and moving forward. It’s a bitch to say the least!
All this time I’ve been stuck in hyperdrive, just trying to survive and make it through things. It’s only when we slow down that we are able to assess the damage. The loss of what I anticipated life to look like. The loss or delay of anticipated family and happiness. My counselor says these things are still possible. It takes getting past believing it’s all fubar. Transformation has its setbacks.
I’ve had a severe head cold and therefore been sick as a dog for the last 5-6 days. I’m still not fully over it.
I just received an e-mail from Jackie, my new personal trainer, that she is almost finished creating my new food program. I start the program this Sunday. I’m excited to get started and although a complete bummer, I’ve decided to skip this weekend’s Reggae Fest in preparation for my new program. Right now, I think a wise decision. You know, I wouldn’t want to start my new eating and fitness regimen with a hangover, having spent the whole day before partying when I should have been preparing all my meals for the next week. Kind of a buzzkill, but it’s all good!
Last night I met up with the girls I did the Livestrong survivor fitness program with at the YMCA when I was undergoing chemo. We meet every couple of months now for drinks, food and a fun time laughing and commiserating over our cancer experiences. We have a lot of camaraderie! It’s our group therapy time, and what’s better than cocktails and some girl talk. Each of us experienced a different cancer and different set of circumstances, but we all can relate to the challenges we faced. We’ll have to take pics next time.
I was happy to hear from the other women that, like me, none of them had suddenly turned into a totally zen, super health-obsessed, fitness guru. Not YET anyway (I’m still hoping I’ll get there). We were still enjoying a hard drink and greasy food. It made me feel better as all this time I’d been beating myself up for falling short of not having already become a huge superstar of health, wellbeing and enlightenment. Why haven’t I fully accomplished this yet? Why hasn’t it happened sooner and faster? What the hell is wrong with me? I mean, when you survive what we have, you really have no choice but to stand at the crossroads and re-evaluate your life. I know I’ve been given this second chance, but I’m still majorly stumbling back into old, incredibly unhealthy habits.
Why haven’t I already dropped to 115 pounds and live solely on organic lettuce and microgreens grown by my own two hands in my backyard, drink only purified water and meditate five times a day? Well, I don’t know about getting to 115 lbs, my goal weight isn’t even that small, but I know I need to make serious changes.
The wild thing is that although I certainly haven’t drastically changed everything in one fell-swoop, my life is changing, incredibly! It’s true, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my transformation won’t happen that way either, and that’s okay. It’s OK! It is happening!!!
Everything in its own time, right? And always a work in progress!
Shoulda, woulda, coulda no more!!! – Deb, get the hell out of here and move to Belize already! Just keep a room ready for me to come visit!!! Geez, maybe I should think about moving to Belize. Will ponder.
I just had my first consultation for a customized nutritional and fitness program with my new personal trainer, Jackie, at the gym in the building where I work. It’ll be tough, but I’m now willing to do the work and for sure know right now I need structure and accountability. I’m excited that she’s going to give me that. It sounds like she’ll be super tough, and she’ll be working closely with my medical team to ensure we are all on the same track. She already said several times that she won’t ever sugar-coat things, which I don’t even like my doctors to do. I’ve always told them to give it to me straight, and they do.
This is good and I’m ready for this change! I know it will be hard, but I feel ready–it’s time! And I just want someone to say, “eat this” and “do that.” I don’t want to have to think about it–just do it! No more back and forth, on and off, good food and bad food. Time for clean living and fitness, period!
“Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.” – Unknown
My mother, Mary, and aunt, Martha, both died in their thirties of breast cancer caused by our inherited mutated BRCA1 gene. My mother was just shy of her 40th birthday. It is believed that my grandmother, Doris, also passed away from breast cancer. I learned recently that she died in 1965 at age 41. I never met her. She died almost 9 years before I was born.
When I was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (“TNBC”) last year, I knew then that it was also the type of breast cancer my mother died of. I knew mine was a TNBC even before my breast surgeon confirmed it. This means it is estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER2/neu negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-). I just remember during my biopsy my surgeon saying something about its characteristics, and me saying, “that sounds like a triple-negative, doesn’t it?” and her saying, “yes, it could be.” Prior to my diagnosis, I’d read articles that research shows a good majority of women with BRCA1 mutations present with TNBC; and, in the end my mother’s cancer had spread to her brain, also a classic sign of a TNBC. Often TNBCs spread to the brain or lungs. TNBC is more aggressive and hits younger women, as it did me, my mother, my aunt and my grandmother.
I was diagnosed with a 7 mm stage 1a, grade 3 (fast-growing), invasive ductal carcinoma, TNBC in my right breast at age 39. The age my mother was when she died of it. I had my 40th birthday on March 19, 2014. I was lucky in knowing my family history and taking action early on. I’ve been monitored closely for years and after testing positive for a mutation, screening happened every 6 months. My cancer was caught at a very early stage. I’ll never be totally out of the woods though. Bizarrely, it seems a little scarier now. TNBC is known to have more microscopic cells that can be found in distant sites of the body later, and not all cells can be removed with surgery. Although I’ve now taken the most aggressive approach, they don’t really have sufficient ways to continue to screen you or a desire to continue exposing you to the radiation that comes with screening. However, I guess the point is to now go live your life and not harp on the what-ifs any longer!
I was at my father’s house yesterday looking through old papers and found six or seven dusty photo albums full of old photographs. These images of my mother and aunt are some of the photos I came across. They capture both my mother’s and aunt’s sweet-natured beauty. The baby is my older brother, Ryan.
Here are some articles I’d really like to retain and believe they could be helpful to me on my journey. 15 Things Mentally Strong People Do from MindBodyGreen.com.
AND, Attracting The Right People Into Your Life. Also found on MindBodyGreen.com.
AND, Stop Resisting: Surrender to Your Body to Transform It and Your Life,
5 Steps to Stretch Your Comfort Zone, Take Risks, and Enjoy Them,
Eliminate These 5 Words to Create the Life of Your Dreams,
Breaking the Rust: 7 Tips to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck,
Think Like a 5-Year-Old to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams,
Lessons from Hiking: 5 Ways to Live with Less Stress and More Joy,
How to Stop Limiting Yourself and Feel Fully Alive,
3 Vital Lessons on Living a Life That Won’t Lead to Regret,
25 Ways to Be Good for Someone Else, and How to ROCK Your Rock Bottom and Reinvent Yourself,
all from TinyBuddha.com.
Okay, this post totally reads like an intro to the self-help section at the nearest bookstore, but it’s all good.
Find out and Fill your life with what’s Most Important to You…the rest is just sand.
A little post-birthday bash with friends at Poodie’s Hilltop bar. Yay–I haven’t laughed so hard in a while!!! The lovely, bearded gentleman behind us wanted in on the action too–photo crasher! Nice guy though and I think he adds a special “Texas” charm to the photo! Look at that–Within five minutes of us walking in the door, someone had already spilled her beer. Beth?!