11.17.2015

The Time Is Now: One Year Later

One year ago today, I woke up to Jeff bringing me pancakes in bed and a card for my birthday that promised he would be there for me "no matter what happens".

365 days ago I was told I had cancer.

I sat on this post for a very, very long time. I knew I wanted to write something to mark the date. I have been sitting here, trying to determine exactly how I feel, and yet nothing I wrote felt right.

So, I decided to write a little post to myself. That is a very lame and cheesy thing to do, I know. I try and avoid the lame and cheesy but I had cancer, and it's my cancerversary, and I'm also turning 25 and am officially "an old lady" (too much Sons of Anarchy) so I feel like it's warranted. Story of my life.

So here it goes. If I had known a year ago what I know now, what would I have said?

Dear Sam,

A year ago the thought of writing yourself a letter would have made you laugh in my face. I know that. You would have told me you were way too busy to read it. You probably also would have been knee deep in boxes and on your twelfth hour of work as well, but let's not even go there.

You don't know this yet but 2015 is about to be the craziest year of your life. Seriously though, everything is about to change - and I don't just mean your hair colour. Although you will have pink hair this year (and no hair for that matter, sorry to tell you). Remember that time you played around with wigs when you worked at a salon? Yeah, well, you're about to become an expert on them.

I wish I could prepare you for the shock you're going to be in when the doctor says the big "C" word. To say you were in full denial was a real understatement. The devastation is unfathomable. I am so sorry.

I can't even begin to comfort you, but you learn quickly that, like anything else in life, the pain numbs out after awhile. It's sad to say you become used to life with cancer, but you do.

You sleep for about a week straight (amongst all of the appointments), and I hope you always remember how much clearer your mind and focus are when you're well rested. I don't just mean to deal with the cancer, I mean to deal with life after cancer as well. If there's one thing you should take away is that you need to sleep more. Everything seems so much more manageable after a good nights sleep.

I think I always knew mentally you could endure a lot, but I didn't know how much you would be able to endure physically. Chemotherapy ain't a joke. There will be that one night when you eat too many snacks, get too excited about Christmas presents, and then proceed to spend the rest of your night hugging the toilet until Jeff calls the nurse to knock you out. Guess what? You learn your lesson. Thank goodness, this only happens once.

When you finally go for surgery, you are fully ready for them to remove the cancer. You just want it gone and you aren't nervous. I wish you would have been more mentally prepared for how it will affect you. A year later, looking in the mirror at an uneven scar, you still find it very hard to come to terms with.

I'm so proud of you for talking about what you're going through. Looking back on it now, I don't know how you got the courage to do it. I don't think I could have. I think the fear of the unknown really motivated you to connect with others, and it worked. You very rarely felt alone.

One time you asked yourself if you were going to die. You only ask once, though. You will cry, and cry, and sit on the ground hugging your knees wondering if this is it for you (But I really do want to get married! I want to have children and see them grow up! I am just starting my life, how can it be over already? Do I really never get to go to Disney World again?), and all of a sudden something washes over you and you're calm. Something is telling you you're strong enough to deal with this. You repeat that over and over. I hope you continue to for the rest of your life. It's a great mantra.

Once you invest time in your hobbies, I hope you never lose them. Keep investing time into reading, writing, creating, reflecting. It keeps you, "you".

Things don't happen by chance. People will be introduced into your life at the time you need them most, and it isn't a coincidence, it's fate. Life gives you what you need. Trust that, always. (How you nourish it and what you do with it is up to you, though).

You have really great family, friends and colleagues who really step up to bat for you this year. Remember them, cherish them, give back to them over the years that follow. Don't take all they have given you, and given up for you this year, for granted.

Take some deep breaths and allow yourself to feel all the feels. You're not going to feel so positive some days. That's okay. Some days you won't even get up or turn on a light, and instead will binge listen to Serial for 12 hours. That's okay, too. Just don't make it a habit.

A year goes by really, really fast. You make all these grandiose plans for your time "off" and then next thing you know it's passed you by. This is typical of life, I think. Not just cancer-life, real life too. Make the moments count. Now's the time.

PS:

Put on the cream they tell you to use after radiation. Why are you so lazy!!! Your skin is coming off in sheets, and you still forget to use that cream! You crazy lady.

Love, 

Sam of 2015



11.16.2015

What Life Looks Like Now

It's been two months since my last blog post and I've been having mixed feelings about it!

Part of me is so happy that I have taken my life back. I have really been able to relax over the last month. I've started feeling like myself again. I also started back to work!

The other part of me is so sad, because I truly love to blog and connect with those of you that take the time to peek into my crazy life.

I've had a few people ask me how life has been and how the transition from bed-ridden cancer diagnosis to a full return to work (more like, return to life!) has been. So, as I'm off on this beautiful November day, I was sitting in my reading chair and thought I would write you up a post about what my post cancer life is looking like!

I spent the majority of the last two months indulging in all of my favourite things. I got to take a fall cottage getaway with my best friends, have a crazy Halloween, spend Thanksgiving being EXTRA grateful this year with my family and friends, watch two of our best friends get married, and of course, plan and execute some absolutely fantastic fundraisers in benefit of the Run for the Cure. I'm so happy to report that my team was able to raise over $10 000 for cancer research. I was so proud and received such amazing closure that day. I truly learned that fundraising is a real skill and learned SO much. Mainly, starting our campaign earlier to avoid September burnout like this year...........



 

I have been listening to new music and rediscovering the old (new Ellie Goulding, the Amy Winehouse obsession is back, and of course some new One Direction ). I'm realizing how relaxing cooking can be, and continuing in the habit of reading 4 different books at a time and getting all my story-lines occasionally mixed up.

 
 

However, life is life, so unfortunately it hasn't been all smiles! I actually struggled quite a bit since my last blog post. Losing a friend to cancer makes the reality of this disease very, very real. It was not something that you just get over. It makes you question everything, and, ask "Why me?" for the umpteenth time (Why Me? seems to be a recurring question on this blog. If I didn't already have a perfectly fitting name I would just name this blog "Why Me?"). In honour of this, I made a little list of the top 5 struggles I've personally had in my return to life post-cancer diagnosis.

Top 5 Post-Cancer Struggles

1) Anxiety

It isn't the kind of anxiety over having a zit or wondering why someone isn't texting you back. It is real, full blown,  can't breath panic type anxiety that hits you when you least expect it. Namely staring at your ceiling at 3AM when your cats just won't shut the hell up and you've been googling "why is my hand numb" and you're on page 44 of a thread on WebMD and everyone is telling you that you've developed a second cancer.

You realize you took this whole year to rid your body of cancer only to realize that for the rest of your life you're going to live with the notion that it could come back.

I first started having this worry when I put all of my beautiful chemo hats in a box to take to donate to the cancer center. I started thinking, maybe I shouldn't part with these. Maybe I may need them again. Then I started looking at my wig, my bestie for those few months last winter, and I had to stow her back under my bed. I kept saying, you just never know. I ended up having the courage to donate the hats, but the wig still sits under my bed. I'm just not ready yet.

I had these really crazy shoulder pains for awhile that I was sure were bone pain, an early sign of stage 4 cancer. I had ghost pains in my breast that had been removed. Some nights, I couldn't sleep with the anxiety that I was sure my cancer had returned.

I've heard from others that the nerves, while they never disappear, will lessen as your life becomes less "cancer' consumed. It's important to remember the feeling is normal and when you're having any concerns your oncologist is usually more then open to checking it out.

2) A deep sense of loss

It was 5AM, I was walking to the bus to go to work, and I had this deep feeling of sadness come over me. It just seems to hit sometimes. The whole, "I cannot believe I actually just had cancer" thing. Telling someone the other day "On Christmas last year I was recovering from chemotherapy" just seemed like the craziest thing. I am still in shock that this whole year even happened to me.

I get that kind of feeling in your stomach that you get when you're in a big fight with a friend or you've had a really bad breakup or you've lost a pet. I am seriously mourning my cancer. I spent a whole year living with it, battling it every single morning when I woke up, wondering what side effect or appointment I would have next.

This morning, I officially closed my file with CCAC which provided me home care. I don't need care anymore, because I'm in the clear. It just feels like I am moving on from what was such a big part of my life for the past year, and I never want to forget how hard it was.

Sometimes I go a full day where I haven't even thought about my cancer at all. Then I feel so guilty. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to myself, and everything I've been through, to just move on.

3) Aches & Pains

Okay so if you're like me and had a hard time with bone and joint pain during your chemo, chances are you weren't the most active. I had the hardest time returning back to work for my first 3 shifts. After my first day I literally felt like I had done the toughest work out of all time (and one time way back when I had done the Gillian Micheals Shred, and I couldn't even sit on the toilet for a week and I think it was actually worse then that).

My body isn't in the shape it was when this all started. I am realizing how HARD it is to get back into shape once you're out of shape. It seriously sucks. Getting winded running up a set of stairs? My life, every.single.day.

4) Struggling To Do It All

Okay, so this is something I seem to be continuously learning and re-visiting so it may be a life long lesson for me.

I signed up for a course at Algonquin back in August: History of Furniture and Design. It was Thursday nights from 7-10. Most people in the course were going for their diploma in Interior Decorating. I was just doing it for... fun.

Until I went back to work, I was exhausted, and the idea of being in class until 10PM and then going to work for 6AM seemed ridiculous.

I started reading this book called Essentialism where I found the following image:


I realized this is a good example of my life. I am interested in so many different things, and I invest all of this time into learning a little bit about everything. I realized that even with this course, I wouldn't become an expert on the History of Furniture, even though I was spending 3 hours in class and about 3 hours on homework per week.

I decided I wanted to invest all of my time into my return to work and my recovery. Returning to work after a year off would be a learning curve as is. When you're me, and you realize the way you were working was all wrong and you essentially need to change everything you were doing, it's a REAL learning curve.

So, I dropped my course. Surprisingly, I did so with very little guilt. I was missing reading books for fun. I learned SO much in the few weeks I was there, and it is something I would like to pick back up again later in life, but the timing was all wrong.

You can't do it all. Sometimes you have to focus your energies on becoming an expert on one thing then being somewhat knowledgeable on a bunch of different subjects.

5) Getting back Into a Routine

I spent a year either sick and in bed, sleeping in until 11 and staying up until 4, and basically doing whatever in the heck made me feel better at the time being (because I had cancer so that basically gave me a free pass to eat chips in bed and re-watch all 10 seasons of ER).

That being said, it was always hard for me to have nothing to do most days, when all of my friends and family were working. I felt very inadequate and unproductive. So, I thought I would love getting back into a routine!

And I have, don't get me wrong! I am loving having a reason to wake up in the morning again. I went back to work nervous I wouldn't love it anymore, that I changed so much over this year and it wouldn't be a good fit. I went back and felt the opposite. I loved it more then ever.

That doesn't mean that the whole waking up early, working hard and giving up the freedom of cancer life has been easy though! Balancing life and work is hard - now I remember why I was no good at it!

Unplugging after work is something that is still very hard for me. We're all so connected through e-mail, text and our cell phones that I find it hard to "turn off" sometimes when I'm at home. I don't think this is a cancer thing. This is just a life thing that I find I'm still struggling with.

So many of you were so concerned about my work pattern and how I would transition when I returned. Seriously, my first day back I think I counted like 18 messages of people ensuring I wasn't falling back into bad habits.

I'm happy to say that with integrating a planner and organizing my day before I fall asleep I have been able to accomplish more then I ever have, and in less time.

So... everyone. Back off! (Kidding. Love you. But seriously. I am fine.)

  

In other news, "The Un-Organized Mind" was named the blog of the month by Rethink Breast Cancer. Super exciting!! So for all you new readers... Hi!

Despite struggling a bit, I've declared this "the winter of soup" and have started by making a spicy hot & sour soup, a potato soup and a hearty winter stew. Turns out when your hands are full of food and your timer is going off, you don't have as much time to look at your phone so it's a healthy way to relax. Plus, now Jeff can't tell everyone that I've never made him a meal in the 6.5 years we've been together!

I've also been reading quite a few good books, one of which I mentioned above called "Essentialism" which I'd recommend you check out if you find you're working so hard and never feeling very productive. It teaches the art of saying no and prioritizing, so you can complete your best work. If you're looking for a funny but rewarding read, check out "Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson. A hilarious take on mental illness (with a great message).

This Saturday I'm getting dressed up for a nice dinner with friends and a party back at our apartment to celebrate my birthday. It feels pretty surreal that my one year cancer-versary is coming up. It feels like it's gone by so fast until I close my eyes and remember how bad the hot flashes were and that feels like forever ago. I would rather not live till I'm 50 then go through menopause and have hot flashes again. KIDDING. Bring on the hot flashes, as I've heard 50 is the new 20.

 Oh, and I should probably tell you: had my first post-cancer mammo and I'm still in the clear. Six more months of living cancer-free! Now that's something to celebrate!

 
Saying Hello from my Herceptin treatment!

xx

Sam

9.08.2015

Jaclyn's Story




In February, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a woman named Jaclyn. In the next few paragraphs, I'd like to tell you her story.

It was February, and I was nearing the end of my chemo. I had little to no eyebrows or lashes left, and was on treatment 2/3. I was at the Irving Greenberg Cancer center where I had a follow up appointment with my oncologist, and as I was waiting to see my nurse, I was talking to my mom about my treatment plan. A woman must have heard our conversation because she came over and said, "Are you diagnosed with breast cancer as well?". We quickly learned that we were diagnosed at the same time and were receiving similar treatment plans. Our chemotherapy would be finished around the same time, and we were both going to be doing the pre-surgery course. We shared e-mail addresses that day, and she referred me to ReThink - a program that provides support and education for young women living with breast cancer.

We corresponded over e-mail, where she sent me encouraging messages telling me to "go and eat a big piece of end of chemo cake!" and that I was a real "cancer bulldozer". We had a laugh over how her daughter cut her Barbie's hair off and ran up to her and said, "Look Mama, Barbie looks like you now!". We agreed cancer likes to pick on only the best girls.

Jaclyn's cancer started growing back while she was undergoing chemotherapy, and she told me they would be pushing her surgery date. She felt relief when they removed the tumour, and even e-mailed me the day after to tell me how anxious she had been, but how Dr. Arnaout had eased her anxieties and held her hand while she went under. After undergoing a major surgery, she thought to e-mail me to give me some peace of mind. This is a true sign of her big heart.

Her and her daughter coloured pictures for me so I could see them the day after my own surgery. She sent me a long facebook message saying that she had read my blog, and what I had written had inspired her to start writing "What having cancer at 34 has taught me".

She celebrated her end of radiation, and I remember seeing posts on Facebook of her celebrating and taking a (much needed) vacation. It wasn't until I saw her posts in our Rethink group that I thought something may be wrong. She started asking for advice for severe joint pain, and was having issues with a very bad cough.

She went to emergency where they sent her for a CT scan, and she learned that her cancer had metastasized to her bones, lungs, liver, and shortly after, her brain as well. She was given two months to live.

Today, Jaclyn lost her battle to cancer. Jaclyn has a beautiful family: a husband and two beautiful babies. I feel odd writing about how connected I felt to a woman I only met once. Sometimes, I think once is enough. It only takes one time to create a lasting impact on someone's life. Jaclyn, I think of you daily. I am so incredibly sad to hear of your passing. I think of you every time I look at my scar when I go to shower, when I sit in the Queensway waiting room, and you have been the inspiration needed to push me to volunteer and dedicate my time to breast cancer research.

In my last message from Jaclyn, she told me this:

"Don't let my story scare you. My life may be shortened, but I feel so much more alive then I did before Cancer"

This is a diagnosis that no one should have to live with, yet you did it with absolute bravery, hope and strength. You are the true definition of a warrior.


8.12.2015

Under (re)Construction: Run For The Cure



Back in the winter, I had a woman reach out to me from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation asking me if I wanted to do some work with them this fall for the Run for the Cure.

Originally, I was super excited. Then a few things changed.

Firstly, my treatments ended up being more intensive then I thought and I was knocked off my feet. Secondly, my mom was also recovering and mentally, that was a lot to take in.

Besides all of that though, I started to let my mind wander...

When I was diagnosed with cancer I had a lot to think about. What were my best treatment options? When would I be able to return to work? Lastly: how can I give back to a community that has been so overly generous to me?

Despite it being my favorite colour, I had a problem with "pink-washing". There are many articles online that will talk about why we, as survivors, should be opposed to the month of October, the pink ribbon, and all that surrounds it. I was going to write an intensive post about it here, but decided against it. Here's why:

My cancer was removed in April and it was determined that I had a Stage 3, aggressive, triple positive breast cancer (my cancer loves and feeds off of progesterone, estrogen and HER2).

Had this been 10-15 years ago, my options for treatments to prevent a recurrence would have been very slim.

Since this is 2015, and due to phenomenal research, we uncovered a new drug now called Herceptin. In short form, Herceptin treats my HER2 positive receptor: it attaches to breast cancer cells to slow or stop their growth (so, if there is any cancer left inside me, this drug will either stop it from growing or destroy it altogether). It's saved lives and decreased mortality rates exponentially (if you want to learn more about Herceptin, click here).

I go for this treatment every 21 days for a full year.

I also take a type of hormonal therapy, administered as a pill, called Tamoxifen. It blocks estrogen in my body, which prevents cancer cells from developing and growing.

I've also had the opportunity to speak to many women who experienced chemo in the 70's and 80's, before the drugs we take to prevent nausea and improve our quality of life existed. All I can say is that their stories are not pretty. I feel extremely lucky to have had cancer in 2015, and to have maintained a full life during my treatments. This is all thanks to the research advancements in the drugs we can take.

Lastly, I have a few special people in my life that are currently living with stage four breast cancer. Once you are diagnosed as metastatic, your cancer is no longer considered curable. You can live, even thrive, while on treatments, but it will be a constant battle.

These are beautiful people and their only hope now is that we can further research that will work to save lives in the future.

Research is expensive. 

To me, nothing else matters. 

These beautiful people deserve a cure.

Our future mothers, sisters, wives, caretakers, best friends, teachers, bosses... they deserve a cure.

They deserve a full life, to see their children grow old, and to have the necessary treatments to beat this disease.

I'm running for a cure.  

I'm running because those who ran before me helped to save my life. 

I would love to have every single person that has sent me a sweet facebook message or e-mail, a blog comment, a phone call or text message or simply thought about me and my family to join me on October 4th 2015.

        If you're interested, please click here and sign up to be on Team (re)Construction. 


Some additional info...

Don't live in Ottawa?
You can participate on my team ANYWHERE in Canada that is hosting a run! 

Can't make the run date? 
Donations to team (re)Construction are always graciously accepted.

Have an AWESOME idea for a fundraiser?
I am available the entire month of September to help and facilitate... Shoot me off an e-mail here and let's get the ball rolling! 

Feeling shy about joining?
DON'T! Even if we've never met, only met once, fallen out of touch, or you think you CAN'T RUN - don't worry about it!! Most people walk, and I would LOVE to have you on my team! The more the merrier!

And most importantly- become educated:

Think before you pink - this link provides detail into what questions you should ask before purchasing anything that claims to be in support of breast cancer. 

Thank you so much (in advance) for all of your continued love and support. It means the world to us!



Now get your jogging pants on and start practicing... I will see you October 4th!

xx

Sam

7.09.2015

Poisoned, Chopped Up & Burnt: A Novel


Rooftop dinner, Ribfest, Soccer games at Landsdowne, Canada day traditions, and s'mores by the fire (featuring the cutest family selfie EVER).

Over the winter, my blog became my friend and confidante, my own way of being "social" when I wasn't able to leave my bed. More recently, however, as the fog has lifted and I have been able to return back to normal, I have been feeling less and less inclined to spend time inside on my computer and feeling more and more inclined to go out and do all the things I have been missing out on.

The first thing I want to do when I am all healed up (more details on my disgusting, terrible, horrible sunburn below...) is jump into a pool and SWIM. It is so hilarious because I have always been a tanning-poolside kind of girl but naturally as soon as I am not allowed to go swimming, it's all I can think about. Soo typical.

I have been busy. I always like to keep busy, but my life the past month has re-defined what busy means to me. Going to the hospital every single day is time consuming, draining, and frustrating. The only benefit has been the hangout time my mom and I have had: we've had the best adventures,  incorporating fun lunch dates, (window) shopping trips and car dance parties into our insanely long hospital afternoons.

Radiation has not been at the same time every day, which has made it nearly impossible to have any sort of routine. Some days I am in for 10AM, some days not until 12 or 1 o'clock. I have given up on any sense of real "normalcy" or routine as I have been progressively getting more and more tired as the days go by. I am drained of any sort of energy by 6PM most days and need my afternoon naps.

The burns are nasty. No other way to put it. It is not like your typical sunburn. I started peeling and then the fresh skin underneath got burnt as well and it is now peeling too. My skin has changed from being brown and tanned to black. The worst areas are definitely my collarbone and under the breast. Now, it isn't unbearable (yet). They prescribe creams for itching and healing and I've been instructed not to put anything else on the wounds. I originally panicked when I read that I wasn't allowed to shave under my arm during treatment, but slowly realized that I needn't worry: I am so burnt that no hair is growing anyways. My last treatment is Tuesday (!!!!!) and about 14 days after my last treatment they said to expect the skin to fully peel off and then I can start getting back on track.

They say it's supposed to get worse... how in the heck is it supposed to get worse then this...

I also had my second round of Herceptin, and I am sooo happy to say I survived this one with minimal side effects. The stomach pain and headaches have (almost) completely disappeared.

I went to go for a follow up MRI a few weeks ago because my headaches were so bad. They wanted to do a scan of my brain to make sure all was OK up there. Anyways, as most of you know, MRI's are not very pleasant. I had my IV put in, changed into my blue hospital gown (I seriously think I should just own my own set at this point), and went to go in the machine. My specialist ran over to me before I started and said 'Wait! You have an expander in your chest, don't you? What make is it? Some expanders have metal in them...'. Surely enough, mine is one that is made with metal. This means I am not able to go for an MRI while I have it in. I am very annoyed at this.

An MRI is the most accurate way to see what is going on inside the body, and it does so without using any radiation (cat scans, x-rays etc. use radiation, which can possibly cause a second cancer later on in life which I would obviously like to avoid).

Fifteen dollars in parking, an unnecessary IV and 3 hours at the hospital later they sent me packing and said there was nothing left they could do. Although I haven't voiced it, the cancerous lymphnode in my chest has been a major cause of stress for me. I realized then that I wouldn't be able to get a read on how it is progressing until this dumb, rock hard expander was taken out of my chest. I had anger towards my plastic surgeon for possibly inserting something into my body for purely cosmetic reasons that was preventing me from looking after my health. The whole idea here is to make sure I come out cancer-free... right? Additionally, I can't even have it removed because you are not supposed to touch skin that has been radiated for 6-8 months after treatments.

So here I am, having a panic at the hospital, thinking my cancer has spread to all of my limbs and that I will have to go through a lifetime of chemotherapy and never see hair on my body ever again. My radiation oncologist did tell me the cancer was tiny (less then 1mm), and that I shouldn't be worried at all. However, this is interfering with my "I am cancer-free" thing so of course I was worried.

Last Friday I go in and tell her my concerns. I don't want to return to real life worrying that I may have cancer and have to go through this all again. I don't want to start developing a routine and have to hear "You have cancer" again. I can't do it.

She told me to hold on and grabbed my "file" (more like a novel, it holds detailed write ups of every single test and appointment I have had since this started). She is flipping around and falls on my last scheduled MRI which I had before my surgery. In tiny, small print at the bottom of the page it says:

"Suspicious activity in the lymph nodes appears to have been cleared up".

"Suspicious activity in the lymph nodes appears to have been cleared up".

"Suspicious activity in the lymph nodes appears to have been cleared up".

"Suspicious activity in the lymph nodes appears to have been cleared up".

Cancer. Free.

I guess I can't expect the oncologists to read every last little detail... but there it was all along, written in my file. I have been cancer free this whole time.

Cue some happy tears and hugs with my mom later and all of a sudden radiation didn't seem so bad anymore. I don't need it to clear up any present cancer, so it's merely a preventative to sterilize my skin and affected area.

With only two sessions left, I'm not sure what I'll do with all of this newfound time I'm going to have. I have Herceptin every 21 days and some follow up appointments but my active cancer treatments will be over. 


(Since writing this post, I finished my treatments! And a throwback celebration picture, as my mom finished about 2 weeks ago. Went for a celebratory lunch with my family. As fate would have it, I finished my radiation on my mom's birthday.. double celebration!) 

One of my insta-friends whom is currently going through chemo wrote under my picture "That must feel amazing - I can't wait to get there too. Live and laugh my friend". Honestly, I can remember being 3/6 chemo sessions in and feeling like this day would never come. I had no idea what was going to happen to me back then, but here I am: poisoned, chopped up and burnt but very much alive and kickin'.


Duh. Starting with a selfie and ending with a selfie.

I had a very big internal struggle this last month with my appearance. I guess it is only natural: my hair is starting to grow back, my eyebrows are making my face look more "me" and all of a sudden I cared about how I looked again. During chemo, I was too sick to care. But, 30 pounds later and very strange, awkward hair that likes to flip up in every direction and I just started to feel... unpretty. I wanted my body back, my hair back, my wardrobe back.

Many people said to me, well aren't you supposed to lose weight during chemo? Truth is, not anymore. In fact, they encourage you to gain weight. Eat when you're hungry, which if you'll remember this hilarious post, the steroids made me very, very hungry. Paired with months of bed-dwelling and my body is very different then what I was used to.

When I worked for the salon my end goal was to look like Barbie. I'm not even kidding you. I loved my bleached blonde hair and pink dresses, I wore heels every single day and I wore a size small. My nails were always perfect and I mastered fake lashes. In reality, This was only last January (2014)! When you live like that for 3 years of your life, working in an industry that is obsessed with image, you can't help but get sucked in to trying to always look "perfect" and it is very difficult to change your mind frame. So, about a month ago I started being hard on myself about getting back into a routine and looking up gym memberships.

As radiation progressed though, I couldn't fathom the idea of exercising. I have been so tired. In the last month, I have had my first few big "outings" since I have been feeling better: Kris's bridal shower, Westfest, Canada Day, the bachelorette. Most were heavily photographed and I remember dreading taking any pictures of myself. I didn't want to see what I looked like.





Some bachelorette and bridal shower spam! Other then radiation, planning these two are what took up most of my time (and we had an absolute blast at both!). :) 

Turns out, I must have learned a thing or two along this journey. I look at pictures and I pleasantly surprise myself. Instead of being harsh and judgmental, I am so happy. Does that sound cheesy and self centered? I look like me. I look happy. I am enjoying my life. I am able to celebrate. I am able to go out and do things again. A long 8 months later and I feel like me, finally. I love my body, I'm proud of it. Poisoned, chopped up and burnt... my body saved my life. Every single doctor I have had has told me how great I am at "healing". I bounce back quickly.

It took me a long time to write this post, because I wanted to be sure I was being true with myself. Body issue and image struggles are a very real reality after cancer - Nalie, Krysta and others have all openly struggled the same way I did. You don't look or feel the same anymore. You keep getting waves of "Woah. Did that really just happen to me?". Your body is scarred and changed and you need to deal with all of that. I'm sure it will be a battle I fight over again, but for now...

I am constantly wowed at how our bodies look after us and fight for us.

I just want to hug my body and tell it what a good job it has done and how proud I am of it.

I have likely put my body through more then it will ever again go through in it's life, and I am soo proud of it.

I am so grateful for this lesson, and to be learning it at a young age. For this revelation, for this new found kindness to my extra curves and dimples and yes even some stretchmarks (which I have taken to fondly calling my stretchies).  I am grateful that cancer has made my mind strong and deeply engrained the lesson that I am more then my weight, appearance and hair.

I am happy that cancer has allowed me to look at a picture and instead of pick out flaws, see how happy I am to be with friends and family, or how much fun I am having. To understand how hard it was to get to the point where I am able to celebrate life again.

In the words of one of my favorite ladies (J.K. Rowling)...

"Is fat really the worst thing a human can be? If fat worse then vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring or cruel? Not to me." 


Now the struggle becomes real... what to write about now? Life after cancer... stay tuned.

xx

Sam

6.12.2015

Radiation is Not Like Lying In a Tanning Bed (& Other Musings)

                                                 Do you guys think this should be my first post-chemo haircut? ;)

I'm 6 weeks post surgery. My scars are all healed up "nicely" (although, they aren't really nice... let's be honest here).

I had a good run the last few weeks. I'd been sleeping regular hours again and that alone has begun to erase the John Mayer-esque eyes I developed during chemo. I started dreaming about going back to work, having normal dates with Jeff that didn't involve hospitals (it started to feel like all of our days off together were filled with appointments), conversations with friends that were light hearted and had more to do with long term plans and goals and less to do with cancer. I started letting myself feel 24 again.

                  
                
                  
                     
I'm 100% sure that baby snuggles, cute dogs, learning new skills (like making sushi!), and being silly with friends is the true meaning of life.

I even made the leap to start introducing exercise back in to my life at about the 3 week post-surgery mark. I went out and bought a Fitbit. I knew it was time when in the middle of the night, my legs were so restless I felt like I needed to go for a run around the block. It's in those moments I realized that I just spent the last 6 months in my bed. I am sure, one of these days, I will write you a full review on the pros and cons of my Fitbit but for now I'll say this: if you are competitive, you will be motivated by this device. I strapped it on my first day and saw I was walking, on average, 2000 steps (the recommended daily is 10 000). So, next thing I knew, I was waking up earlier, taking the long way to get a coffee in the morning, and going on the treadmill with my book to get those extra steps in.

With this new-found energy I'm trying to check some things off my list. Being kind to my body is my #1 priority right now. It needs some TLC. I have been trying to walk for a half hour on the treadmill, then jog/walk in intervals for a half hour. I got the OK from my doctor to do any sort of lower-body exercising. I feel my muscles loosening up a bit again. I have always despised exercising, but recently it had become a part of my day that is so peaceful. I know I get a full hour dedicated to reading my book and listening to my music. The best part? My gym is so quiet. As in, no one is ever using it. I don't wear my wig or pencil in my eyebrows and no one sees me. It is the ideal situation.

I'm unsure if it's related, but as soon as I introduced exercise into my diet, my hot flashes nearly disappeared. Now, this is likely because I am two months post chemo (!) and I was told this was when they would wear off, but it seems too coincidental.



Back when I still had no eyebrows. They have been growing in like CRAZY the last few weeks though. I am going to have to get them threaded ASAP.

My baby hair is so soft, I can't stop running my fingers through it. I actually need to wash it with shampoo now. It seems to be going curly in the back! I'm excited at the prospect of being able to part it again and hoping that will come at the 12 week mark. I feel increasingly frustrated with my wig: while I felt comfortable in it throughout treatment, I just don't want to wear it anymore. 

Taken today! 11 weeks post chemo. 

Last week I met with my radiation oncologist to prepare for radiation,  the next stage in my treatment. The original size of my tumor, how close it was to my skin, and that is was aggressive and had spread to my lymph nodes all played a factor in my upcoming treatment plan.

I went for a CT sim at the hospital where they made a mold of my chest, and I got my radiation tattoos. How badass. They are the size of a freckle and ensure your radiation technologists can line you up easily.

I will be receiving 5 weeks of radiation (every. single. day.) from Monday-Friday, a whopping total of 25 sessions. Radiation has to be given in small doses, until you reach the end: this is when you are considered having received a "full dosage". Your body still processes the radiation in the 2 weeks afterwards. This is typically when you see the worst of your side effects.

Last summer, I fell asleep on Westboro beach for nearly 3 hours. I woke up to the most horrendous burn. It blistered and bubbled and I couldn't wear pants or bend over for weeks. I have a hilariously vivid memory of making Jeff rub me down with aloe and moisturizer while violently shaking and crying from the pain. I had just started my job at Chapters where I would go to the bathroom and peel off layers of my skin so I didn't offend customers. It was a real 10/10.

That is the worst burn I have ever experienced (and yes, I am well-versed on the damages the suns rays can have and trust me, I have integrated a high SPF into my daily foundation and don't plan on sitting in the sun without sun screen this summer. No more sun burns for this girl!). I am going to remember how this full-body burn felt and feel grateful I am only doing radiation in a few localized places, knowing it is better then the full body burn I had last year.

I am receiving radiation to the chest, shoulder, armpit and collar bone area. I actually found out the (disturbing) news that I actually have a cancerous lymph node in my chest that did not fully clear up post chemo. They aren't able to remove lymph nodes that are under the chest muscle and so close to the lungs, so the only option is for radiation. I was a bit concerned about this, but my radiation oncologist told me this is the point of the treatment and not to worry. So, I'm not going to worry. I trust that with 5 weeks we should be able to take care of it.

I started my first radiation session this last Tuesday. The times vary each day, but my sessions last about 15 minutes. As my mom and I have been going to radiation treatments together (weird, right?), they have been so kind and accommodating to ensure our treatment times coincide.

I guess I was picturing lying in an intensive tanning bed when it came to radiation. It is actually far from it (and significantly less relaxing). I'm on the 'Tomo' machine - we only have one of these in our hospitals in Ottawa - meaning I have to be treated at the General.  It's kind of like going for a cat scan. You lie down, lift your arms straight up, and a wax mold is placed on your chest and then you're strapped in. The sounds you hear aren't as loud as an MRI, but they definitely aren't soothing either. I felt the anxiety the first day... you are super constricted and have to lay completely still for a full 12 minutes. This is actually way harder then it sounds!

So I've been working on my meditating skills. I try and just zone out. I have only one other memory of a time when I zoned myself completely out of a situation and that's when I got the tattoo on my ribcage and my mom told me the faces I was making from the pain were similar to those you make when giving birth. I didn't want to be present for that either, so I have some practice with taking a deep breath and going to my happy place (mainly full of books, bright colours, water and beaches).

I'd spoken to a few of my pink sisters before I started radiation and asked them what to expect. Everyone was very adamant that it was easy-breezy compared to chemo. You can expect a fairly severe sunburn by the end, and some fatigue, but you will be fine.

I'm four sessions in, and I can't lie to you guys. I feel like absolute death.

I can even venture to say that the way I have been feeling for the past two weeks are equal or worse then most of my chemo sessions (mainly because I have been feeling sick for so long). 

Now, my original post blamed the radiation for this. With some digging, and seeing every doctor available to me (I have true appointment fatigue - most days this week I have had radiation and 1-2 other appointments with various doctors as well), I have been told that my side effects are 100% not from the radiation. It is localized, and you simply don't see these kinds of effects from the treatment.


I posted this picture on Instagram about two and a half weeks ago that made a few of you a bit nervous! No, I am not doing chemo again. I am, however, being administered a drug called Herceptin every 21 days and it is in the chemo "family". I go to the chemo ward where they use my port to give it to me. There are very minimal to no side effects for most people.

"Most people".

No side effects for...most people.

We've all determined that I've become extremely lucky this past year, so of course I would be the one to have extremely severe side effects to Herceptin.

My head hurts so badly it is making me extremely nauseous. It is compromising my sight at times. I feel like I may faint. My body is so sore. All those chemo-like side effects are back to haunt me. Only, during chemo they give you piles of drugs to help you through it. You don't get that with Herceptin.

I wasn't expecting that.

So, my normal 24 year old life has been put on hold as I take care of my poor, poor body. I keep telling her it will be over soon and in reality it has to go away soon. It's been two weeks! I've curled up in bed most afternoons this week and tried to sleep the pain away but it keeps creeping back every morning.

If I never have to have another IV again, I would be totally OK with that. 

I put my guard down and I find it has made it so much harder to be strong and persevere through the pain. I kept saying "Well, the worst is over!" after I recovered from surgery. Radiation - what a joke! Herceptin - I'll just make sure I have the afternoon free! 

Here's some real talk. When it comes to cancer, there isn't any "easy" part. Don't celebrate too early. It isn't over until the very last appointment for your very last treatment, and even then... is it ever truly over? The anxiety of having scans every few months to determine, is it back? I don't think life will be easy ever again after this.

The sweetest picture I found on Instagram. Jeff and I decided we need to print it out to keep.

I wish I had something else more positive or upbeat to talk about. I'm not (completely) miserable. I just wasn't prepared to fight the chemo battle ever again. I retired that warrior-like portion of my life (of myself). I was ready to go back to worrying about normal things, like what colour to paint my nails or what new TV show I should watch once I'm done Scandal, and what I was going to do this weekend. I have had such an overwhelming few months that I just wanted to coast for awhile. Life doesn't always respects your "wants" though, does it?


I was so discouraged at how sick I've been. Jeff looked at me the other day and said - get out of bed. Don't give up. You aren't dying. He said these things in the nicest way possible, and he was right. I (think) I have done a good job of coping through the last few months - and not just coping, but living while I'm at it. I had some dark moments, but for the most part I was genuinely happy. Yet, I have let this unexpected sickness pull the rug out from under me. I've been having some serious woe-is-me moments. 

I need to listen to my body. I know that I need to rest to heal, but I also need to make an effort to do the simple stuff. Like get out of my pajamas every once in awhile. Oh, and shower. That needs to be a priority. ;)

So I'm re-learning lessons I thought I had already dealt with. I have had so many people say to me "I don't know what I would do if I was you. You're so brave! I couldn't deal with all of that".

Here's my answer to that:

Yes, you can.

Yes, you would have.

Because when it's happening to you, you realize you have no other option. 

I'm not some superhuman who loves needles and copes extremely well with side effects. 

When it's your life, I can guarantee you find the strength buried deep inside you to cope with more then you ever thought possible.

So, when you are feeling overhwhelmed on the day-to-day: remember that. Don't wait for cancer to come along to find that bravery. 

Be bold before you have to be. 

I need to remember all that I've gone through and realize that if I can endure what I have the last 6 months, I can deal with anything.  

I can deal with the cruel woman who works for Great West Life and is giving me a hard time with my benefits recently

I can deal with my hair growing slowly on the top and longer on the sides so it looks like a mullet

I can deal with the fact that Olivia Pope may never end up with President Fitz on Scandal

I can deal with the headaches and stomachaches and fatigue and all of the rotten side effects that make me feel as if life isn't worth getting out of bed

I can deal with all of it because it's worth it. The end result: a happy, beautiful (not so) "normal" life after cancer will be worth it.

And with that, I'm off to enjoy the most beautiful weekend we've had in awhile (under a heavily shaded patio umbrella, hat and scarf).

 xx

Sam

PS - My friend Diana recently had a serious fall and has been in the hospital recovering. She has been a wonderful support to me during the last 6 months. I have experienced firsthand the power behind all of your positive energy and prayers, and I know she will come to good health in no time if we all stand behind her. Please include her in your thoughts tonight. xo

5.21.2015

Brunette's Have More Fun (...Right?)



"We know how we got this far.. Strength and courage and a Wonderbra
(How I made it through the last 6 weeks. Ten points if you get the reference... #spiceupyourlife)

If you have opened this blog post, you're in for a treat. It's a sunny day, I'm sitting outdoors on my patio, and I already know this post is going to be extra long, since my life has been extra exciting these past few weeks (also because I have all of the necessities in arms reach: snacks, drinks and a foot rest. Why would I need to go inside?!). You'll hear me talk about my body hair, draining out (and measuring) my bodily fluids, how I react to anesthesia (you don't want to miss this), what not to tell someone before they go in for surgery, a story about the biggest needle I have ever seen, and even some cute baby pictures. It's gonna be a good one.


Before I can move forward, a quick story about my patio set. Here was the debate in the days before my surgery. Do we get a cute (less functional, less comfortable) patio set? Or do I say f**k it, and get the comfiest set I can find? I chose the latter. I got the set above and I LOVE it. I have already spent so much time out here. Jeff, however, asked me if he was being "Punk'd" when I brought them home. Okay... they're kinda ugly.

I'm going to start about three weeks ago: when I went in for my pre-op class at the hospital, to learn exciting things like how to empty bodily fluids out of my drains and how to properly treat my new breast (if this makes you uncomfortable, you definitely should not scroll through this post). Part of this lesson was from a physiotherapist. She went over exercises to help us fully recover from either a bilateral or single mastectomy. She lamented about how important exercises were to ensure you got back your full mobility. The first excercise? Put your hand into a fist and slowly open and close it. 

Wow. This is excercise? I hate excercise, but this is easy! If this is considered excercise, count me in!!

Wait.

You mean, I wont be able to open and close my hand? I won't be able to shrug my shoulders? How will I show Jeff how indifferent I am when it comes to choosing between Suits and Bloodline as our after-dinner show?!  (You simply can't ask me to choose between Coach and Harvey). What are these surgeons going to be doing to me?

I was a bit frantic about how I was going to live for 6 weeks without being able to make a fist, much less be able to use my arm for anything else. The severity of my surgery hit me. I signed up for an online course to learn coding that I hoped would pass the time and had books on books on books to keep me occupied and give me something to look forward to. 

The days before my surgery I pulled out all my summer clothing and moved all of my "comfy" clothes to an arm level distance. I definitely wouldn't be able to reach up high (I am not supposed to reach over my head or lift anything over 10lbs). I moved all of the best snack foods from the high cupboards so I could reach them, and I got some pretty awesome hot pink body pillows (Jeff loves this addition to our bedroom) to support my arms and hold them elevated while I was healing from my axillary dissection (scraping out all the lymph nodes in my armpits).

I remember back to the days before my surgery as being fairly... calm. I kept waiting to be nervous. I kept thinking I was holding something back, burying my true feelings, but it never did come. The day of my surgery my Mom, Jeff and I packed up and were at the hospital for 10:30AM. We had some waiting time where we laughed, caught up on Homeland, and were in pretty positive spirits all around.

Around 1:30PM, they sent me in to get a "block". I had no idea what this was. In case you don't either, it's a type of anesthesia that they inject into your back through a series of needles, that travels through the chest to numb the area for up to 24 hours. It helps with pain post surgery. 

I met with my anesthesiologist, and as she was administering the block, she asked if I has any questions. All that popped to mind was "How do you know I won't wake up in the middle of the surgery?"

"Well... I don't really."

(So NOT the answer you want to hear before going in to surgery).

"It can happen, but it isn't common for your type of surgery."

"Hey! Remember that movie that had the patient getting open heart surgery where he woke up in the middle of it? THAT would never happen".

...

Anyways.

I got wheeled into the operating room and Dr. Arnaout (still my hero) held my hand while they put the mask on and before I could count down to 3, I was asleep. 

I wake up about 3 hours later in the recovery room. I'm crying uncontrollably. There is one nurse for about 12 patients, all of us having strange reactions to the anaesthetic. I kept telling her "I'm not even sad!!". I just kept crying. I told her I was feeling anxious and she pumped me with more drugs.

They told me they weren't able to save enough skin to be able to do immediate reconstruction (no implant, yet). The cancer was too close to the skin. I had a spacer put in and the skin remaining was stretched over it. It's definitely a shocking thing to wake up to... nothing. More to come on this.

After about an hour of crying and confusion, I moved downstairs where I got to see my family. They let me rest for awhile. When I woke up it was 9PM and they told me it was time to go home. As long as I could walk and go to the washroom by myself, I could leave.

That was a joke.

I looked at her as if she was crazy and said... yeah. I am not moving out of this bed. The pain I felt was a 10/10. I couldn't stand the pressure in my side. They kept giving me more drugs. I tried to move and couldn't use my right arm much less sit up on my own. I tried to brave going to the washroom. Every time I tried to stand up and walk around I got sick.

This was around the time I was admitted to the hospital overnight. My family had to go home and I was moved back up to the recovery room.

I had this weird thing where I was convinced the doctor treating everyone in the recovery room was Bob from The Walking Dead. Anesthesia and morphine do strange things to my brain. 

As soon as I was admitted in for the night, I immediately relaxed. In reality it was probably the piles of drugs, but I don't remember the last time I was that relaxed. Knowing someone is going to look after you, that you're in the care of professionals, is super comforting. I was happy my family got to go home and sleep (although, I don't think they slept much). I tried to get up a few times (unsuccessfully), but eventually around noon the next day I was discharged and able to walk.

 Waking up in the hospital and being reunited with Jeff. Obvi needed a selfie to let everyone know I lived.

I determined it was because they make you fast before the surgery, and I hadn't eaten in almost 32 hours when I woke up in the hospital that I got so sick. Narcotics on an empty stomach don't agree with me!

Jeff and my mom shared the task of helping me sit, walk, lie down and get changed for the days following the surgery. I have been sleeping with my arm elevated and sitting up straight for almost three weeks now.

Last time I wrote to you was about a week after my surgery. By then I was able to walk, sit and stand on my own. I was able to fully lift my arm above my head. Despite the tragic tale of my night in the hospital (if you are going for surgery similar to mine, don't worry. That reaction is uncommon!), I'm recovering really well. My nurse told me that while in most cases they encourage their patients to stretch and move more, she told me to remember I just had a major surgery and not to over-do it. Why is everyone always trying to rain on my parade?! Doesn't everyone know it's summer now? I got patio drinking to do.

Up and at 'em!

You may or may not have heard about the dreaded drains. If you're my friend, chances are you got some disgusting pictures of me with my drains. I was fascinated by them. If you are getting this surgery done let me tell you something: they are NOT as bad as the internet makes them out to be.

The dreaded Jackson-Pratt drains

You empty the drains of fluid every few hours and measure how much is in them. Once they're below 30cc you can have them removed. I had 2 drains, and they stayed in for 10 days. One gave me problems. It wouldn't stop blocking. My nurse told me it was blocking with chunky "matter". Body matter. Stringy, cell-like material. Shudder.

Let me tell you what you're looking at. This is my side. Other then saving my life, Dr A also saved my tattoo. She put my drain right in between the petals! Fun fact: my mom drew my tattoo.

Anyways, once they were out, I was able to shower. This is a definite cause for celebration. 10 days of sweaty hot flashes = this girl needed a shower. I often wonder how Jeff still loves me. ;)

Spoiled brat! 

I went into my surgery without knowing what to expect. Now that I have gone through it, here is my list of things you absolutely need post-mastectomy (also, this is a good link to follow for more tips too):

1) A back pillow with arms to prop you up. It saved me.  (Note: I tagged this one because it was pink like mine, but then noticed it was $350. Do not spend $350. I got mine from Giant Tiger for $15).

2) A lap tray (because you will seriously not want to move any bone in your body if you don't have to for at least 5 days).

3) Clothing that zips up in the front. I couldn't lift my hands above my head, so any clothing I had to put over my head was out. Big, baggy sweaters were the best for me. I attached the drains to myself by pinning them to the zippers and wearing them like a fashionable necklace. 

4) Don't bother with the expensive bras. They recommend you get something without an underwire. If you go to a mastectomy boutique, they have beautiful options without a doubt, but in the end, my favorite bra has been my $5 cotton one from Wal-Mart.

5) Someone to stay with you for the first few days! They recommend someone stay with you for the first night, but I was so happy to have Jeff and my mom to administer my meds, make my food, and help me sit up and lie down for at least the first 4 days.
 
It wouldn't be a blog post without a picture of my kitties so... here you go.

I'm surprised (and grateful), because I honestly expected to be in bed for about 6 weeks. It's been 20 days since my surgery and I'm (almost) fully back to normal routine. Nights still suck, but what else is new? Hot flashes are still testing my patience, and I have to sleep sitting upright on top of everything. Narcotics made me have the strangest dreams (dead bears and bleeding eyeballs), but I'm able to do most basic functions. I can't work my upper body super hard but the pain is tolerable and at times almost non-existent.

Things I've been up to in the last few weeks:


My beautiful sister donated EIGHT INCHES of healthy hair to Hair Donation Ottawa last weekend and raised over $600 for the cause. I was overjoyed to see so many hairstylists donating their time, young girls (as young as 5!) cutting their hair for donation, and the amazing results: over $100 000 and hundreds of inches of hair. 

Some more life photos:

             
Family visits, long braids, plants that look like pineapples and patio lunch.

Yesterday we went to see Dr. Arnaout for my follow up appointment. She had my pathology report to review with me. When we got in the room together, she was near giddy. She said she could not have better news. My tumor had shrunk to 1.8 cm (down from it's original 10cm), and it is officially gone. She is confident that it was all removed. I had 26 lymph nodes removed from under my arms (remember: we all have a different number of lymph nodes!), and only 2 tested cancer-positive (less then 4mm). Two others had shown they were full of cancer but the chemo completely killed it off. This is promising because if there was any other cancer floating around my body, it is almost sure to have been killed off by the chemo as well.

So, May 4th I'm (technically) cancer-free. The chemo was extremely successful. Those times where I wanted to walk out and quit... were worth it. In the end, my pathology showed I officially had aggressive, Stage 3 breast cancer. To be honest, I thought I would be more elated. Don't get me wrong: I am so grateful. I could not have better news. I'm just tired. Cancer is tiring. It has literally taken up every waking moment of the last 6 months. I think it will take awhile to feel "normal" again.

I officially win for Transformation Tuesday.

I met with Dr Zhang this morning, our plastic surgeon. I was having pain under my arm. Although I have absolutely no feeling in my armpit and chest area that was operated on, it was definitely swollen. 

If you're afraid of needles, you should just get a touch of cancer. I can guarantee it will take care of that fear quicker then you can say "port-o-cath" (I kid). She pulled out this huge syringe (bigger then my whole hand. The actual needle was longer then my middle finger) and drained a ton of fluid from the area. She actually had to empty the syringe then come back for more. Immediately, I felt relief. This is called Seroma, and if it happens to you: get it checked out. The needle is freaky for sure, but you won't feel it go in. The surgery has damaged all the nerves in the area so the feeling is gone, and it can (sometimes!) be permanent.

After getting over the syringe, she then tells me she's going to "pump me up". So not as fun as it sounds. She grabs another equally large needle, and blows up my spacer with saline to stretch my skin so eventually when I go back for reconstruction, they can insert an implant.

Mentally, not only am I done with needles, but I'm also feeling over whelmed with so many appointments and information at once. Yet again, I'm heading into the unknown. Radiation starts in about a month.

We rocked out from a young age.

I find myself looking at old pictures often and saying "If only I had known what was coming for me!", or "If you had told me this was going to happen to me at 24, I wouldn't have believed you!". I tell myself I would have lived differently, but I know I wouldn't have. I would have worked the same amount, ate the same amount, drank the same amount, danced the same, loved the same, acted the exact same.

I have spent hours creeping Instagram at the "#breastcancer" hashtag, and it is unbelievable how many young women are diagnosed with this cancer. When Dr. Arnaout told me I had stage three breast cancer, I was shocked. Initially I thought I had stage two. Not that it matters now, but it just made me realize (again) how real this was. Stage four is considered incurable... I can't believe I had almost let it get that far.

Here's my cancer spiel for this post. My girl Nalie has a great initiation to #feelitonthefirst. Check yourself out on the first of the month. It's not about doing it right it's about doing it regularly and getting to know your own body. The second you notice changes, get it checked out ASAP. Not every change means you have breast cancer, but it's worth taking a look. Her video below made me giggle: the best way to get comfortable with a topic that makes people uncomfortable is to just be open and real about it. You could save yourself from chemo, radiation, surgery, recovery - heck you can save your own life.



Oh, and in case you're wondering what 7 weeks post-chemo hair looks like...

 

Thought I would say "Hi!" from my patio (Where'd my blonde go?!). Thank you (again) for all of your support from my last post. Life seems to be trying to test my positivity... but as long as the sun is shining and there are still cute puppies, kitties and babies to snuggle in this world then what is there to be sad about?

Until next time...

xx

Sam

PS - Link to my e-mail here. Just in case you want to hear more about drains, fake boobs, or how to efficiently clip your extensions into your wigs, I'm a jack of all trades over here, and just a quick click away. ;)  

PPS - I wrote this post on May 9th and just never posted it. So, here it is. More has of course happened since then, so stay tuned!

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