Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Dance

Today I went in for a mammogram. This is the second mammogram that I have had since I finished treatment almost exactly one year ago. It is the first mammogram since I had my reduction and lift in June. I was a little bit nervous that after my most recent surgery there would be too much scar tissue to get an accurate reading. I was also somewhat concerned that it would be uncomfortable as I still have some tenderness where my surgical scars are.

Not only were the images easier to read (less tissue), they were all clean and clear! Nothing even remotely suspicious in my films!!

I was also happy to be told that most of my tissue is fatty tissue (sometimes fat is good) which is easier to read on film and is an indication that my estrogen levels are decreasing (good for me when my diagnosis was estrogen receptor positive-I want as little estrogen in my body as possible).

I have been doing a happy dance all day long! I will go back in 6 months and every 6 months for the next 3 years. I don't like having my breasts squashed down anymore than anyone else, but I would go in every month if I had to just to make sure everything looked clean and clear.

Ahhh, big sigh of relief!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reflections on a Walk

Well I did it. I completed this year's Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk. I have not had any type of shoes on except for flip flops since Sunday and have taken advantage of a quiet house to put my feet up and recuperate.

The organization provides cheering locations so that friends and family can come and cheer the walkers on. On Day 2 my wonderful husband and children waited 4 hours just so they could cheer me on. I started to cry as soon as I saw them running to me. After the initial hugging and hello's, my youngest daughter asked me if I was going to do it again next year. A bit like asking someone who is in labor if they are going to have more children, but here are my thoughts on that question:

Cons of the walk:

-9 long months of fund-raising
-9 long months of training
-3 full days away from my family
-1 very large time commitment
-Sunburned cheeks
-Sore muscles
-Several (and I do mean several) trips to the medical tent
-Loss of one toenail

While the first day was full of emotion and uplifting spirit, by the second day I was seriously wondering who had come up with this cruel and unusual punishment. Several blisters decided to make an appearance and each and every step of the 21.6 miles that were included in the second day were painful. My good humor and positive attitude were diminishing quickly. When I saw a sign that said "No Whining" I had to quit talking because I couldn't think of anything else to say.

Pros of the Walk

-Being part of the opening and closing ceremonies
-Meeting other survivors
-Seeing the amazing dedication of the walkers
-Being part of a truly inspiring team
-Walking with my sister who means the world to me
-Walking with my friend Matt, one of the finest people on the planet
-Being pampered and spoiled by the entire 3 day crew from the people helping us cross streets to the angels disguised as medical volunteers in the medical tents
-Looking out into the crowd during opening and closing ceremonies and seeing the smiles and the tears of my teammates, friends and family
-Seeing the incredible community support in the way of stickers, water, cheers, food (and more food)
-Feeling supported in every way
-Raising over 8200.00 personally
-Raising over 137,000.00 as a team
-Raising over 5.5 million as a community

I had a couple of defining moments throughout the walk that I wasn't expecting.

1. On day 2 when my feet were well past cooperating and it was 86 degrees and I didn't know if I could take another step, a stranger stepped off of the sidelines and asked if he could throw away my garbage-a cup that I was carrying. I teared up because someone who didn't know anything about me was willing to do something as menial as throw my garbage out for me so that I could continue putting one foot in front of another.

2. At the end of day 2 when we had 2 miles left to go, I realized that I just couldn't do it. I thought that I wanted to complete the entire 60 miles without having to take one of the many shuttle vans that were available. I took the van for the last 2 miles and realized that I didn't feel an ounce of guilt about it. There is nothing heroic in torturing myself. I realized that my success was not defined by the ability to walk 60 miles, nor was it defined by doing it in the fastest time possible. It was defined by the fact that I raised money for a cause that is immensely important to me.

3. On day 3 I saw a small pink sign stuck in the grass of someone's yard that gave me the reason why it was all worth it. It said this:

My Grandma thanks you for walking
Stage 4
Still Fighting

So will I do it again? My feet will pipe up with a resounding "NO!" but my head and heart will supercede my feet and say yes. There is still work to be done. People are still being diagnosed with cancer every day. 1 in 8 women. That is just too many. I will sign up for 2010 and do it all again-hopefully without blisters.

Thank you to my Grandma, my cousin Dale, friends Mary Kay, Annie, Jill, Paul, Tara, Robert, Marcia, Terry, Tristi, Shannon, Mike, Bailey, Kylie, Connor, Taryn, Jim, Heidi, Grace (and Coco), my husband and my daughters for coming out to cheer us on. Can I count on you again next year??

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2 more days

Well it is almost here. The Seattle Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk is almost here. I looked back at my donations and realized that I registered for this walk in January. I have spent 9 months working to raise money for breast cancer research. 9 months is a long time to spend on something. It is the amount of time it takes to produce a baby! It is also the amount of time that I spent treating my own cancer...surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation.

I have been asked to be a flag-bearer in the opening and closing ceremonies in the Survivor Circle. I have been given the COURAGE flag to carry. It is an incredible honor to be asked to participate and I am thrilled to have the Courage flag. There are many characteristics needed to battle cancer; faith, strength, hope, patience, and courage.

3 days will be difficult, but if it can prevent someone else from spending 9 months or longer fighting cancer, then it will be worth it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Catch a Cure for Cancer

"When cancer is discovered at an early stage, nearly every patient is cured while the opposite is true for cancer detected at a late stage. The Hutch will lead the way in early detection. We have a terrific group of very talented scientists who are international leaders in research on early cancer detection."
- Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., President & Director,
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

This morning I went to a local radio station to be interviewed. My story will be part of a radiothon on September 16th that the Moyer Foundation puts on to raise funds for the early detection of cancer.

While I was honored to be asked to do it and to participate, the most poignant part of the interview was having my girls there with me. They were asked to be part of the interview as well and I couldn't have been prouder of their poise and maturity.

When I found out that the interview would take place with all 3 of us in the same room, I was worried. Not worried that the girls couldn't handle themselves, but worried that I couldn't. Though I can speak to my own cancer story without getting overly emotional, it is a completely different story to listen to my children tell it from their perspective. It makes me sad that they had to go through this cancer experience at such a young age and in such close proximity. It also makes me proud that they handled themselves throughout the entire diagnosis, surgeries and treatment with such grace and understanding.

I am blessed to have such wonderful children and I am glad to be able to share them with the world so that they can tell their story. If anything can make people understand how difficult cancer is, it is hearing it from the perspective of a child.

I am happy to say I did not cry in the interview. At least not on the outside.