Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Survivor....Now what?

I'm approaching my "Cancer-versary", y'all.  April 23, 2012...a day that forever changed my life.  In about a month....I go into the statistics of the "2 year survival rate". What a ride it has been.  What a ride.

For all the gory details of how it all began.....

So, I'm two years out.  Sorta.  I'm kinda unsure about what "date" the "Survivor clock" started ticking....so here's the low-down:
April 23, 2012  Diagnosed
April 25, 2012  Lumpectomy/Biopsy.  Confirmed Diagnosis
April 27, 2012  Bone scan clear. CT clear.  No evidence of metastasis.
May 09, 2012  Double Mastectomy.  Pathology Report confirmed. Aggressive infiltrating ductile carcinoma.  5 cm.  Grade 3, Stage IIb.  Clear margins.  Negative in lymph system.  Triple negative. 
June 15, 2012  1st of 8 Chemotherapy treatments.  1 of 4  Adriacytoxin.  'The Red Devil'
Aug 3, 2013  5th Treatment.  1st of 4 - Taxol
September 21, 2012 -- Last treatment.  "No Mo Chemo" day!
October 4, 2012 -- NED call.  After treatments and Bone and CT scans...."No Evidence of Disease"

I just rattled these dates off the top of my head without an ounce of looking back or a calendar in sight.  I can even tell ya what day of the week it was.  Do YOU know what day 4/23/12 was?  A Monday.  What about 5/9/2012? A Wednesday.  9/21/2012?  A Friday.

A survivor knows their dates.  So....pick one.  I'm going with the very beginning.  April 23.  2 years ago.....my journey began.  My FIGHT started.

I'm checking in next Wednesday to have my port removed.  Another milestone of sorts for me. Another chapter closed. 

So...I'm a Survivor.  Now what?  How do you possibly cope with the "new normal?"  Because, I will tell ya...I am forever changed.  Nothing about is me as I was before.  That chapter, my friends....I'm still writing.

In the midst of it all....I didn't realize what was happening.  I felt so darn crummy.  I walked through my days in a "Chemoma" -- a "Chemo Coma."  I wouldn't classify it as "one day at a time"....rather..."minute to minute."  It was a daily battle and I needed a sign around my neck that screamed, "Man DOWN!".....but I had to be the mom.  Moms have no time to be sick.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to ever go back there again.....but while the "fight" may be over.  The effects are everlasting.

Now...the Surveillance has begun.  At my last oncology visit, I was told that after my April visit...I will go from 3 month checkups....to 4 month checkups.  Wait...what????   I like keeping tabs on my innards.... :))  For to me....a lot can happen in an extra month.  I know the drill...it will go from 4 to 6 months.  Then, eventually, a year...etc.  That is IF....NED sticks around.  As I typed this, I realize how cocky I sound resting assured that "this worry" is only if my scans and bloodwork continue to be clear.  Yea, I allowed myself to go there.  What if it doesn't??

I look fine now.  The average Joe no longer thinks I look like a cancer patient.  My hair is now longer than before I lost it.  I'm grumpily supporting about 30 extra pounds that will NOT leave, and for the first time in a LONG time....I can answer the question "What medications are you currently taking?" as NOTHING!   The SURVIVOR looks completely normal....but is far from it on the inside.  People have forgotten.  I'm so far removed now...from the "Fight".....that the "Surveillance" is at times a bit lonely.

I find comfort in God's plan for me.  In God's plan for my little family. 
What is a Cancer Survivor? We are those who have had cancer, but are celebrating being cancer-free. It isn't all pink ribbons and cutsie slogans.  At the same time, we realize that we are still at risk for cancer returning. During my cancer journey itself, I was able to recognize God's blessings among the fear, pain, and uncertainty. Now I am doing more than recognizing God's blessings - I am experiencing them!

God has filled in the "gaps" of my life. When I first became a survivor, I spent a great deal of time wondering what I should be doing with my life. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up! haha I asked God to give me direction, but He seemed to be telling me to rest and wait upon Him. I was able to do that, but not always very patiently. Waiting can be so very difficult - whether waiting for test results, treatments to end, or for God's direction, in this case. Most everyone who has gone through a health crisis struggles in the aftermath. I am having to assess who I am separate from my illness. I have less energy than I did before and I realized how much I need to change my way of life. I believe everyone in this category has a different perspective about life than they did before the illness.

I wish to share the blessings God has allowed me to experience as a cancer survivor who is attempting to follow God's leading. My prayer and purpose for this is to encourage everyone to live more fully and experience a more abundant life in our Lord Jesus Christ following ANY type of crisis...be it a health crises, or other.  I'm still so much of a "work in progress."  I've learned that once I accepted my flaws....ALL of my flaws, in their entirety...that they can no longer be used against me.  That grace thing sneaking in there again. What an epiphany!!

"Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them...."  Hosea 14:9

More specifically, the emotions and inner conflicts I experienced shortly after reaching survivorship status, are what most do not see. Hopefully, you will be able to identify with this and be assured that the Lord will give a sense of purpose and hope when we trust Him. We cannot live a Christian life in our own strength, but only through God's power.

During my treatment time, I had a specific schedule and it always included the company of friends. I became very tired and needed to rest quite a bit. My days had routine to them even though I experienced discomfort and couldn't do all of the "normal" things. I had regular doctor appointments to attend. I had attention and validation of my "worth" all the time! Then when all this stopped, I didn't know what to do. My life had completely changed and I had no idea how to spend my time. I did not have the energy to do much of what I did before. I felt lonely and depressed. I thought people expected me to be jumping for joy about being cancer free. I was very thankful about the actual treatments being over and certainly did not miss them. I was certainly thrilled with receiving a cancer free diagnosis. However, I am now learning who I am "apart from cancer."

Physically, I still struggle.  My eyesight is poor.  My energy level low. Fatigue is still a factor and it keeps me from much of the joy that I experienced before.  It is just hard.

Survivors are still dealing with cancer.  The aftermath.  The fear.  The bills. The Chemo-brain...and difficulty to focus.  The surveillance.  And....as always.....The hope.  The blessings. And the love.  When God made me a mom....it was a whole new ballgame, friends. I was a mom LONG before I was a cancer patient....and even before I became a survivor.  What a reason to fight. 

Please place us again in your prayers....As the clock continues to tick on.....

In Him,

PS...As I published this...I noticed it was my 100th post.  Wow...what a journey!  :)

My Sydney Clare.....

Tomorrow my baby turns 15.  My sweet Sydney Clare....
And in true "proud momma" form...A picture or 2...or 200 :)....really IS a worth a thousand words.  This child has brought more laughter and fun into my life than anybody in the world.  Happy Birthday to my precious Sydney Clare!  <3
This is classic.  My most favorite-ist pic ever!!!  The essence of this child.....

All smiles at our favorite place!

My team.

Just one of her little sneaky notes she leaves me at my office.  This has to be my FAVORITE!  :)

Love these two!

Mission Arlington 2013.  In fact...this is where she is spending her birthday this year!  What a kid!

Our little dancing queens!

Just a few of my favs.  My BFF!

Leaving for Choir Tour '13!

Snuggled up watching a lil soggy Panther football!

My pretty girl....

My little fam....

Headed to watch BJH dance!

Beach bum...

I'm their biggest fans...

Panther pride...<3

Cute little pucker....

First day of being a "grader" for Syd!

They made me a "ribbon" in the sand!

Cheese dip makes her smile!  (Like her momma!)

Where has the time gone???

Still happy to see momma after school!

Go hogs!  Tailgating in 2012.

Beach balcony pic - PCB 2013

You could NEVER tell that she had just thrown a hissy fit because she didn't want to take a picture!  :)

She loves her Uncle Jay....

Tweedle DEE....and Tweedle DUM....<3


Outside Whataburger -- one of our favorites in Destin! 2013

Art Show at Bethel Middle School.  2007

Spring Break in Cozumel, 2012!

A regular "little sister" at the ballpark!  2005

....and again in 2006!  :)

More tailgate fun!  WPS!  2012

We celebrated Syd's birthday in the middle of the Gulf in 2012!  Surprised her with a cake!  :)

Pretty girl...

Panama City Beach, 2013

BJH Dance tribute!  Tryouts for high school Pepstepper next week...Yikes!  Go Syd!

Some BEACH...Somewhere....  Cozumel!  Spring Break 2012

She made this pic for me years ago.  I LOVE it!  <3

In her words...we were looking "Ratchet" at the beach!  2010

About to win Nationals with "The Bird"!  Best tap dance EVER!

"Totes presh"  hehe

Sydney Selfie....<3

Crashing the BMS Dance in the 4th grade!

Caribbean Cake!  13th birthday! 2012

She looks like a little "Gap" ad.....Love this one!

Lake fun!

Merry Christmas!

Headin home from Orange beach! 2010

Cardboard ministry....2012

Cotillion Holly Ball! 2010

Joe Cool.....

My sweet Syd....

One of her many hours at the studio!

Go Cubs!

Go Cubs!

Talent on Parade!

My favorite Diamond Doll!

Father Daughter banquet 2011

Just a dork...

Happy Happy Happy!  Vacay 2013

Captain's Dinner -- Cruise...Spring Break 2012


All smiles!


Dance competition makeup!

Headin to watch some Panther baseball!

Razorback Tailgate 2009

Ice cream anyone??  Spring Break 2012

My Favorite PIC EVER!!! 

Christmas 2011

Fall Family Pics 2012

Salem Elementary - 4th grade

Go Panthers!  Family Day 2014

Just a few of my favs.....

I love this child.  God! I love this child!

Orange Beach 2011

Spring Break 2012

I love her!  Orange Beach 2011

Party Central B-day!  2006

Orange Beach 2011

Panther fans!

Party Central fun!  2006

Pool fun!

Orange Beach 2011

Hog watch 2005!

No words....

She is so beautiful!

...Inside and out...

Destin 2006

Salsa Dance!  "Let's Get Loud!"

PCB 2013

Go Panthers!

Crazy kiddos!

Road Trip!

Spring Break in Progresso!  2012

Sing Sing Sing!

Christmas presents make me happy~!

Snow Day!


More selfies...

Christmas 2013

Quit growin up....

Her first recital!

More studio time!

Viking Cheer!

VBS, 2005

Crazy kiddos!  We love Chloe!

With Papaw Pete, 2005

Happy Birthday to my beautiful, precious, God-loving, God-LIVING, crazy, energetic, spunky, bossy, funny, and spirt-filled Sydney Clare!
I simply love you more than words!