Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A kick in the behind!

Lately I've found myself in a spot I vowed last October I wouldn't allow myself to be in.  I've been the whiny "why me" victim.  It's so unattractive, but with the news last week of more chemo in my future it was hard to to fight the backwards tumble.  I just want to move forward, not backward and to me Chemo is a step back.

I found myself looking at my nails today and am amazed at the havoc chemo wreaked on them.  Take a look, but I must warn you it's not for the faint of heart.

They are brittle, discolored, and look at those lines!  If you look carefully, you can see 4 lines.  One for each round of chemo I endured.

I also found myself admiring my how well my hair was coming in.  Then I got pissed cause I knew it would start falling out again when chemo resumed.

So I stopped, I pulled myself up, kicked myself in the ass and said "enough",  So what does one do to lift their spirits?  If your me, you get inky!  And there was no better way to do that then with the Perfect Reason Stamp of Approval collection from Catherine Pooler Designs. The sentiment from one of the sets in this collection was a perfect reminder of what I need to do!  And I couldn't help but smile after looking at all those cute little happy faces I added with a stamp that has been sitting in my stash FOREVER!

I can feel my spirits lifting already!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wow..has it been three months?

When I started my journey with breast cancer 4 months ago I figured I was going to blog the entire time.  Then the reality of  Chemo really hit!  I underestimated how much it was going to kick my ass, but nonetheless I persevered.  I went to work when I could, functioned around the house when I could, but spent a lot of time napping and relaxing.  I found when I overdid it my body had a way of reminding me that I was fighting a life threatening disease and kicked me in the ass for a few days.

So here is the long and short of it.  I began Chemo on November 3, 2016.  The first round I was scared of what side effects I might feel.  I was amazed that they weren't as bad as they could have been.  Yes, I was nauseous, no I couldn't eat, and yes, by week three my hair was falling out in clumps.  BUT, I was able to function, I continued to work and to remain as "normal" as I could.  The only thing I did stop was my creating and stamping for two reasons.  One, it's hard to be creative when you feel nauseous and two, I didn't have much energy to climb the stairs to my loft.  I continued to watch youtube videos, checked into StampNation when I could and dreamed about getting back to my hobby,  I knew I would, I just had to be patient.

I finished my chemo on January 6, 2017 - round four!   My friend drove 5 hours to come sit with me for that final round. The three hours certainly went fast with her to occupy me!!  She stayed the weekend and made me homemade ice cream!  Ice cream is just what the doctor ordered!

The week after that round was the worst I had felt.  I guess by that far in your body is just beat down and exhausted.  I spent almost three days in bed, but eventually I started to see the light.  By three weeks out I wasn't nauseous anymore.  I still had no appetite, and my energy was low, but I was feeling better and that's all that mattered!  I was ready for my next step - surgery to remove the tumor!  Ultrasound and MRI revealed that the tumor had shrunk to half its size, so I was good to go!

Monday February 6 was the day of my surgery.  I was OK until they brought me into my room. That's when I started to cry.  I had never been under general anesthesia and I have an irrational fear of being put under.  I tried my best to put my fears aside, but it just all became too real.  Fortunately, the morning was busy as I was whisked off to radiology so they could mark my tumor, take pictures, and make sure my surgeon was ready.  After that I met with my surgeon, the OR nurse and my Anesthesiologist. To each one I explained my fear of general anesthesia and each one reassured me that I would be ok, I would wake up and all would be good.  I was still scared, but I tried to keep a stiff upper lip.  Then the anesthesia nurse came in my room.  I reiterated my fears to him and he again tried to reassured me, but I could feel myself beginning to panic.   Then he said to me "I'm going to put something in your IV to help you relax".  That's the last thing I remember before waking up three hours later in the recovery room.

When I was more awake, my surgeon came to see me.  She told me the tumor had come out nicely and without a problem.  She did a biopsy of my sentinel lymph nodes.  One out of the 5 she tested had cancer cells, so she took them out. Everything was being sent for testing to determine next steps. Will I need more chemo or will I start radiation?  Now the long wait for those test results.

I know it's a quick Readers Digest version of my story so far, but I wanted to get some of it documented.  I posted pictures and updates to Facebook along the way for anyone who's interested.

Now to start getting back to the things I love, like stamping.  In the last week I've made quite a few cards, and just yesterday, the newest Stamp of Approval collection showed up!  I LOVE the smell of new stamps!!

Stay tuned for the return of my creativity and my MOJO!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why Me?

`When I first learned of my diagnosis a few weeks ago, there were certain promises I made to myself.  One of those was that I would fight with all my might and I would NEVER give into the "victim" mentality.  I took some words out of my vocabulary, like "I can't", "I give up", "why me".

I made it through my first Chemo treatment on Thursday with flying colors.  I kept a positive attitude, faced my fears head on, and never looked back.  The first two days after treatment were better than I expected.  Some queasiness, some tiredness, but nothing too bad.  I was grateful and optimistic.

Then the third day came.  I woke up with pain in my jaw.  It's o.k. I thought, I just won't chew on that side of my mouth.  And I successfully managed, but by last night, the pains came.  Shooting, hot, pulsating pains from my knees down into my feet.  They were horrible.  I couldn't get comfortable and I couldn't get them under control.  In a moment of weakness I began to cry, and I found myself asking "why me".  

I quickly gave myself a virtual slap across the face, pulled myself together, and took a deep breath.  Why me? I'll tell you why me!

Maybe it's me because God knows I'm a fighter, not a quitter?  Maybe it's me because I need to instill that “never give up” quality into my family?  Maybe there's no better way for my kids to learn to never give up than by watching their mother battle a horrible disease with all her might?

Maybe it's me so I can become an inspiration to others around me? If one person can use me as encouragement to battle whatever demons they are facing with determination, then this is worth it. 

Maybe it's me so I can learn to put things into perspective?  Maybe it's ok that my life, kids, finances, job, house, marriage, etc aren't perfect.  We are not put here for perfection, only God can achieve that. We are put on this earth to inspire, love, and teach each other.  My kids' rooms are a hot mess right now.  Guess what?  I don't care.  Their messy rooms are not a reflection of the wonderful, loving, intelligent people they are. As parents, aren't we supposed to raise good people?  Who cares if they are messy!  Although, I would appreciate dishes going into the dishwasher rather than the sink! :)

Maybe it's me so I could see something that few actually get to realize?  Many times we blunder through life, wrapped up in the small things.  I often found myself wondering  what my purpose in life was.  Did I really make a difference in this world?  I have been blessed a thousand fold to find out that yes, I have made a difference in the lives of others.  During the last few weeks I have been humbled by the show of love and support that has come my way.  I’ve been honored that so many people think so much of me to go out of their way to pray for me, leave me supportive messages, give me hugs, etc.  What an awesome feeling to know that maybe you have been doing this thing called life right all along!  What a true gift I’ve been given!

So, that my friends, is why it’s me!!  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Update and A Plan

Yesterday I met with three of my doctors to talk about my treatment plan.  It was unnerving to say the least.  Lots of positive, some negatives, and a plan to attack this demon head on.

First I met with my breast surgeon.  My cancer is hormone positive which is a good thing.  In basic terms, it means that the cancer cells are feeding off estrogen.  After all is said and done, I will be on hormone therapy for five years. We talked about staging and she told me preliminarily mine was stage 2, but without surgery and further testing they could not give the exact staging.  Since I'm young, the cancer is considered more "aggressive".  Not the worst case scenario, but not the best either. I'm intermediate.  Ok, not good, but not bad.  I'll live with that.   

The original thought was I would have surgery first, then radiation, then Chemo.  However, once the surgeon examined my breast she was bit more concerned.  My breast was inflamed and red.  She said that made her believe the cancer was more "angry".  It didn't change the treatability and survival rates, it just changes the course of treatment.  Between that and position of the tumor, she felt it would be "cleaner" if we went ahead and started with Chemo first, then surgery.  

I met next with the medical oncologist.  We talked about chemotherapy and she agreed with the surgeon that chemo would be appropriate first.   4 treatments,  3 weeks apart.  Port placement will happen next week and my first infusion will be shortly afterwards. She said I will lose my hair and we talked about other side effects - nausea, fatigue, risk of infection.  She said I could continue to work as long as I felt ok.  I told her that I felt I needed some level of "normalcy" for my own mental well being. She said that most people feel worst the day or two after infusion.  So we talked about doing infusions on Friday so I would have the weekend to adjust and hopefully feel better by the beginning of the week. She told me 8 out of 10 women continue to work during chemo, it all depends on my body's reaction to the drugs. 

Finally I met the radiologist.  He said I won't see him again until months down the line, but he reiterated what the others had said.  It's curable and I will be ok.

When I got home I told my kids the treatment plan.  We talked about how we will need to become germophobes and that they will have to pitch in more.  The holidays are going to suck around here, but as a family we will get through it.

So last night I sat down and cried.  I'm scared.  I'm determined to beat it, but I'm still scared.   Deep breath.  I got this!

Early and treatable…early and treatable.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A New Journey

"The news is not good."  

Those words put the cap on what was a whirlwind few weeks.  It began with finding the lump, which led to denying the lump existed, and then finally accepting the lump and visiting my primary care doctor.  "I don't like it." she said to me.  In a few hours I was sitting at the Women's Breast Health Center, undergoing Mammography and Ultrasound and ultimately being ushered into a darkened room with the images of my breasts on the wall.  There, in the image of my left breast was a noticeable white spot. In my mind it looked as if it was lit up like a neon sign. I tried to focus on the words the Radiologist was saying.  I heard words like "small", "early", and "hopefully it hasn't spread".  I was ushered from that room to the nurse's office where I was asked about my medical history and my family's medical history and an appointment was made for a biopsy two days later.  I received a copy of the Radiologist’s report and I saw the words "highly suspicious of malignancy".  The words scared me, but oddly didn’t surprise me. 

The biopsy procedure went better than I expected.  Thankfully the nurses and doctor were professional and compassionate. More importantly they indulged the best coping mechanism I have – my humor.  “You’re not even going to buy me a drink first?” I asked the doctor before he began the procedure.  The nurses chuckled when I asked who was going to keep my husband “abreast” of the situation.  I appreciated them keeping it lighthearted with me – but they really had no choice, it was the only way to keep my blood pressure down so they could do the procedure!

The biopsy was  last Friday.  I spent a long weekend crying, denying, crying some more.  I just wanted to know what I was up against and move forward.  I tried to distract myself as best I could, mostly I was unsuccessful.  Thankfully, I was not sore from the biopsy. 

Tuesday at 2:30 they called me.  Results were in - did I want to come at 4:00?  Of course I did.  I grabbed one of my dearest friends for support.  The drive to the Breast Center was one of the longest drives of my life.  My heart was racing, my stomach was churning.  I just wanted to get this part over with.

I was escorted into the same darkened room.  The doctor introduced herself to me.  “We have your results, and the news is not good”.  I remember crying - not so much because the news wasn’t good, I already knew deep down that they weren’t going to be.  I think I cried because in that sentence I knew my life was changing.  I tried to listen and take in everything she was telling me.  I focused on the words “early” and “treatable”.  She repeated those words several times.  I could feel myself calming as I let the words soak in.  “Early” and “treatable”.  I took a deep breath and asked what’s next.  The doctor gave me a hug, wished me luck and I was whisked off to another office where I met who is about to become my new best friend, the Nurse Navigator for the cancer center where I would be treated.  She gave me a quick education on breast cancer.  I had the most common form - Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.   We talked about receptors and cancer feeders and a myriad of other topics.  It was very educational, but surreal that we were talking about me and my breast.  She reiterated the words I heard from the doctor “early” and “treatable”.  She helped assuage the guilt I felt from missing my mammogram last year and told me there was no guarantee it would have even been visible a year ago.  We talked about stages, grades, treatments options, etc. She gave me lots of reading material, but most importantly, she gave me hope.  Early and treatable has become my mantra.  I left the breast center after 90 minutes and I was amazed at what I was feeling – relief.  I knew what I was up against and I had a good idea of what it was going to take to beat it.

The next step of my journey begins on Tuesday when I meet with “my” team. I know surgery is my first step.  I’m going to take it day by day and meet each obstacle head on.  On October 11, 2016, I may have become a statistic, but I refuse to be a victim, I refuse to feel sorry for myself. 

Bring it on cancer.  I got this shit. You  messed with the wrong person!  Cancer may be a bitch, but I’m a bigger bitch, and I’m a fighter, with a strong will and an Italian stubborn attitude! Cancer ain't got a chance against me. 

"Early" and "treatable".  "Early" and 'treatable".

I look forward to next year when I can call myself a “survivor”.  I will get there, there is no doubt!    

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Fun!

Getting on some summer fun and joining in on the Summer Fun challenge over at Tiddly Inks.  If you've followed my ramblings you know I LOVE me some Tiddly Inks.

For this challenge, I stamped this cute Fairy Sunny Day Stamp onto some white cardstock.  And then I got masking!  I used Inkadinkado masking paper and created a mask for the stamp, a circle mask so I could mask off the "sun" area while I did the blue "sky" and then a piece of 51/2 x 4 1/4 inch with the cirlcle cut out of the middle to protect the "sky" area while did did the sun.  I used Tim Holtz distress inks for all my blending, and I colored this little cutie with my Spectrum Noir color pencils.   The sequins add the appropriate bling for this summery card!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Could it be?

Could it be that it's been almost two months since I last posted?  Shame on me!  

I have had a serious problem with mojo, or the lack of it! So, in an attempt to get the creativity flowing again, I'm participating in Kathy Racoosin's Thirty Day Color Challenge.   Kathy's challenge, coupled with this cute little image from Tiddly Inks certainly helped.

I colored the image with my Spectrum Noir Alcohol Markers since that's the medium I find most challenging, especially when it comes to coloring hair.  Thankfully, no hair on this image!

As you can see, once I finished coloring it with my markers, I added some details with my Signo Uni-Ball White Gel Pen. A few Glossy Accent "dew drops" on the flowers added a nice touch.  The greeting is from Newton's Nook Design's Versatile Vases stamp set.

I had some woodgrain textured cardstock that I cut to 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 and inked the edges with some Gathered Twigs Distress Ink by Tim Hotlz.  I think that cardstock is the perfect backdrop for this card!!  I mounted it on my cardbase and I was done!

In the end I'm very happy with the results and I think it may mark the return of my mojo!  Let's hope!