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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Metamorphosis

met·a·mor·pho·sis
ˌmedəˈmôrfəsəs/
noun

...the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages...

...a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means...

I couldn't have found a more appropriate word to describe this reconstruction process. I felt like cancer and its standardized "treatments" left me in shambles. The wreckage gave light to why so many refer to this as a battlefield and I, a warrior. I felt broken, maimed, mutilated, empty, and lost. I felt like a shell of my old self. I desperately needed God to transform my shattered pieces into something beautiful again. Whole. Feminine. Restored.

I put on a good mask in public...

I'm quickly approaching the anniversary of my last chemo treatment. I've had much work to do to clean up the mess it caused. Detoxing my physical body was only part of it. I needed to rid my heart from past hurts, my mind from the lies I'd allowed to take up space in my head. The healing has been slow and painful, but good. Oh, so good!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

My Creator is in control here. I'm looking forward to my new form.

[A very special thank you to Bella Joi photography for capturing my vision and bringing it to life.]

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reconstruction

4 months ago I went in for surgery to begin the process of restoring some semblance of my pre-cancer body. I haven't posted an update since because...well, it's been hard to put into words the myriad of emotions I've experienced along the way. It has also been a more delicate subject to share publicly, this rebuilding of my breasts. I go in next week to complete the process (God willing!) and I figure it's time to fill in the gaps.

In June of 2016, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, more commonly known as a double mastectomy. Even though the cancer was only in my right breast (and one lymph node), it was an "easy decision" to have both removed. At that time I opted to delay reconstruction to allow my body to heal from surgery and chemo before putting more stress on my already impaired body.

I was left with scars from armpit to armpit, scattered along my ribs from blistering caused by an allergic reaction to the surgical tape, plus more scars from those horrid drains. I also had "dog ears", weird looking tissue under my armpits that look weird in my clothing and are uncomfortable when exercising. I call those my armpit boobs because...they are.


One year later, I went in for yet another surgery to have tissue expanders placed underneath my pectoral muscles. This is my surgeon's "game plan", marking where he would go in, where my new incisions would be (he used the same scar lines), and that little circle on the right was a suspicious lump that appeared. 


It was removed and sent to pathology and was thankfully just funky scar tissue and not more cancer. More drains, more scars, more healing.


 Giving myself injections to avoid blood clots, measuring fluid output from the drains, nausea. It's sad how familiar this has all become. 


Alloderm, was sewn in to hold the expander in place, creating a bit of a hammock.


Expanders look like fancy whoopy cushions. This is the sample expander my nurse showed me and my mom, my constant companion to these appointments ♥ The ones I have have 3 of those little tabs, each to hold the expander in place with a few uncomfortable stitches. 


Each expander has a magnetic port so they don't puncture the wrong spot. That would be bad!


Each week I would go in for fills. 50ccs of saline in each side until the desired size was reached. That funny looking device in the upper right hand corner reminds me of some type of navigation tool. I guess in a way it is. It has a magnet in it to locate the port in the expanders.

I'm sure you can imagine the discomfort (that word really doesn't have much weight to it) that these things caused. I have rock-hard boulders stitched under my pecs. I can't sleep comfortably on my side or my back and have been on muscle relaxers and pain meds throughout the process. I can't wait to be done. Next Tuesday, October 24th, I will go in for my "exchange". My plastic surgeon will swap the expanders for implants. I'm told they will be much more comfortable than the expanders and I should heal quickly.

There's more to share but that's for another day❤

PRAYER REQUESTS
I got sick this weekend. My first cold in over a year and a half, but it's a doozy. Please pray that I will be well again soon and nothing will delay my surgery date.
Also, my medical donation fund set up last year has allowed me to continue with treatments, self care, and medical expenses but is now less than $200. I see my integrative oncologist this week and that will leave me with very little left and that is causing me no small amount of stress. I'm not even sure how to ask you to pray here, but I trust God has a plan for this.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2 days post op

This morning was my first time waking up at home. I slept through the night, which is both good and bad. Good because I need the rest to heal. Bad because it means I didn't take any pain meds for almost 10 hours. I was in so much pain just trying to sit up I thought I'd either throw up or pass out from the pain. No bueno. I'm thankful my boys were here to help me get a quick bite to eat so I could take my meds. It's taking about 45 mins for them to kick in. Ugh...

Feeling better now but planning to try and stay ahead of the pain going forward.  I hate taking meds but right now they're necessary.

My surgery went well. No complications. My surgeon was able to place my expanders and give me my first fills. I'll see him again in 2 weeks to remove my drains. Thankfully the drains aren't bothering me as much as the ones last year from my mastectomy. Awkward and uncomfortable, yes, but not awful.

I'm sending out gentle hugs to all my loving helpers these last few days. You know who you are 💜 Thank you! Whether it was to deliver a meal or just a quick visit, we appreciate it. The more I can rest the faster I'll heal.

While prayers for my healing are appreciated, please continue to keep our family (especially Charlie, his sister Angie, and stepdad Ray) in your prayers as we each find our way through the grief of losing his mom less than 2 weeks ago. Thank you❤

Showtime

8:30 am UPDATE: All is well. Got a little rest and they finally figured out a pain med that seems to be working without making me ill.  I'm going home in a couple hours. Thanks for covering me in prayer💜

Night owls, please pray. It's been over 12 hours since I got out of surgery and I haven't slept. I got 2 hours Monday night. I have a very LOUD roommate that is coughing and puking. I can hear her through ear plugs. The thought of me getting sick when I'm in so much pain already is no good.  I'm wearing a mask but claustrophobia sucks and so do hot flashes. So far nothing they've given me has touched the pain. Please pray. They tell me there are no empty rooms. I just want to go home.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rearview mirror

One year ago today, I went in for a life-changing, life-saving surgery to remove the cancer invading my body. I am still sorting through the long-lasting effects, even now as I'm preparing for another surgery to rebuild what was destroyed.

Not long after my double mastectomy last year, I had a doctor tell me "I know this is hard right now, but a year from now you'll look back and see that this is all behind you." The timing was perfect. It was just what I needed to hear then to carry me through the months to come. I looked forward to this day, looking in my rearview mirror to see that cancer was far behind me...only it's not.

I'll be honest (because what's the point of lying?) I'm struggling lately. When I stopped chemo last November, I was hopeful to enjoy and celebrate the holidays with my family. They too have been through so much. But it flew by with more doctor appointments and catching up on everything that had been put on hold. Everything but them. I was hopeful for a family getaway to rest and recuperate, to spend time together, to celebrate the end of the hardest days of my life (their lives too), but that has been put on hold too. We went from one hardship right into another. My inlaws both are fighting cancer right now. Both were diagnosed just as I finished treatment. My mother-in-law is close to her Homecoming. Soon she will be face to face with Jesus. How pathetic that I'm a little jealous. No more suffering. It's so not fair! No more sickness and pain. I hate cancer. I'm so happy for her. She will be missed but she will be remembered and loved always.

I said I was struggling. That may be an understatement. I need your prayers, my friends. I should be celebrating today but instead I'm in tears. This dark cloud that has moved in again is not welcome here but I'm helpless to change it. I pray and I know God hears my prayers. I just wish I could hear his response...

Some days it's a lot easier to choose joy. I *want* to choose joy! I want off this stupid rollercoaster of emotions and hardship. I have much to be thankful for. I also have much that weighs heavily on my heart. God tells us (repeatedly) to be strong and courageous. He also tells us not to be anxious. I feel weak and afraid, worried, disobedient. I feel like I've failed.

I planned to have a party next weekend to celebrate my year of being cancer free. As much as I want to do that, I'm not sure it's a *need* that God is providing for. I go in for reconstructive surgery at the end of this month and will not be able to work for a couple weeks. I had planned accordingly with my schedule at my art studio, scheduled extra classes and events to help cover the weeks I won't be working. I'm starting to wonder if that too is a *want* rather than a need. Business is so slow...I truly don't know how I'll be able to keep my doors open if I go through with my surgery. Please pray. God is so confusing sometimes yet I know he loves me. I just don't understand what he wants me to do next. Who am I to doubt his plans when I *know* they are good? Who am I to question God?

How do you climb out of a dark pit of despair when so much is out of your control??

Friday, May 5, 2017

One year

One year ago today, I sat in the doctor's office with a doctor I'd only met because my regular doctor was unavailable. I sat there with Charlie, waiting to hear the results of my biopsy. The doctor walked in wearing stilettos and I remember thinking how impractical those shoes must be, especially for a doctor. As she started going over my results, her vocabulary made me cringe...trash mouth...I wanted to hand her a bar of soap...but cancer. I have cancer? I wasn't sure if I heard her correctly through all the profanities. Cancer. I wanted to tell her to shut up. Stop saying those words. Stop being unprofessional. Stop talking. Just stop.

I had planned an open studio for that afternoon. Charlie encouraged me to cancel it and go home. I insisted that I needed to be busy. I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to think about what the doctor said. I didn't want to have cancer. I wanted to throw up. I needed to scream. I went to paint. No one showed up. I was alone anyway. I painted and I prayed. I covered my hands in paint and smeared it on my canvas. I was scared.

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

I was not alone. God was with me then and he is with me now. It's been one year since my world was turned upside-down and I am well. I am still choosing JOY. Thanks be to God❤

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

First check

It's been awhile since I've shared much of anything. There are many reasons for that, none of them I feel necessary to explain, but there is a bit of an update.

Yesterday was my first post-chemo checkup with my oncologist. When I got there, I sat in the parking lot on the verge of tears, feeling like I might throw up. This time was so different...not there for treatment...not there with someone else. Feeling very alone...but determined. We discussed what the last 3.5 months have been like for me, what to do next. She did her sales pitch for tamoxifen again, as I expected, but I'm holding my ground. I have no intention of doing it. I asked for labs again, checking my vitamin D and more, liver function, and hormone levels. We talked about reconstructive surgery too. I'll have another CTC test next month when I see my integrative oncologist. (For those that don't know, the Circulating Tumor Cells test I had in January came back showing 0...ZERO...cancer cells in my body. Praise the Lord!! I've been way out of whack on my diet the last few weeks, but it feels good to be getting back on track again. I want to keep that number at zero! I'm adjusting my supplements too since my body's needs have changed.

I'm exercising 4+ days a week now, and loving it, though in shorter spells on some days since I'm finding myself exhausted and needing more rest. (This daylight savings has been rough!) I'm looking forward to the sunshine though! Did you hear I went skiing?? First time in 19 years, only one run, but I did it. As a result, I'm setting more goals like this for this year.

God has been working on my heart too. Things that previously would have lingered (festered) and brought me down are now put into (proper) perspective. I recently had an...encounter...with a "friend" that left me reeling but then, after much prayer over the matter, freedom. The hurt was real and painful, but I don't have to stay in that place. Healing is happening...

I'm spending several days a week in my studio doing what I love and sharing it with whomever shows up. God is at work there too, bringing in the people HE wants there and that's all I want. I love getting messages from customers telling me how my classes boosted their confidence or helped them to relax. The therapeutic element is evident in many ways and I'm thankful that he's using me to bless others.

If you've read this far, I'm asking that you join me in prayer. In the last 3 months, we've had 3 family members diagnosed with cancer. It's hitting close to home and a little too soon for me but we don't get to choose, do we? Please pray for their healing, for wisdom for both patients and doctors, and for them each to be surrounded by the loving support they're sure to need in the months to come. Thank you!

The following pictures were taken 1 month apart: 

Today (mid March) 


Mid February
Mid January
Mid December
It's nice to have hair again! Lol 😂