Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Count Down to the New Year (Fiscal New Year that is)

There are only 9 days left in this fiscal year and they can't get here soon enough. My job is doing fiscal work for a University so June 30th is a very exciting day for me and several of my co-workers. The the nice thing about working in the fiscal world is you get to celebrate two New Years and yes if your wondering I will be celebrating by shooting off fireworks and drinking a strawberry daiquiri and then turn around and do it again 4 days later for the 4th. Ok so once my "new year" gets here I pretty much just keep the celebration going till after the 4th. This is partly because my husband like so many other men loves to blow things up. These last couple of weeks leading up to our new year is spent working our tails off to get everything left for the year done by June 30th.  I look at each year as a fresh start. Its a great time to change anything that didn't work well last year and to implement and try new things. Its also a time where we  slow down a bit. Of course slowing down here really just means we finally have a chance to catch up on things that were behind and deal with anything we have been neglecting. We also spend this time box up old files for archiving and getting our new ones ready. Out with the old and in with the new as they say. As we head into the new year here at work we are reorganizing and planning our goals for this next year. Its been a long and difficult year at work for various reasons besides the struggles that came from cancer and I'm looking forward to a new year here full of change and new opportunities.  This year I have also looked at the new year as a time to reflect on my personal life. I really didn't even consider doing that for the real new year. I had just finished Chemo a day before new years eve and was planning for my mastectomy that took place in January. I was only taking things a day at a time and still wasn't sure I could even look far enough into the future to plan for an entire year. This last year was all about trying to keep things as "normal" as possible while I was going through treatments. This year, however, will be all about change! For me its about reconnecting with things that I love but haven't had time for in years like photography and writing and maybe even music. Its about being bold and daring and trying new things. Who knows maybe we will get a motorcycle or go sky diving. Its about conquering things I have always wanted to do but just couldn't master like sewing or staying organized. I wouldn't count on the latter happening and time soon if ever.  Its about discovering all those things out in this great world that I never knew existed or was to scared to try. Cancer changes a lot of things in your life and while most people think its all bad I have to tell you its been a wonderful experience for me. Its made me such a stronger person but also a more compassionate and caring person. So this year will also be about figuring out how I can give back to the world around me and to my God who brought me through this last year. He brought me through this for a reason and I intend to figure out what that is. Somehow I believe my struggles will be used for others. Maybe its to give hope to others with IBC, maybe its to give encouragement to people with various struggles in life and maybe just maybe its about helping to grow the kingdom of God. Its possible that this will be through volunteering, it may mean working directly or indirectly with people and it may just simply be in the form of setting and example with me living and loving life the way its intended. I have no idea what God has planned for me in the next year and I don't know what it will look like but I won't know if I don't get out there and try new things.  I'm sure there are many things out there I will try and fail miserably at and thats ok. Failing is part of every great discovery. Its part of success in general. All the great explorers, inventors and  scientists didn't reach success without first failing a few times. Thats how we figure out what works and what doesn't. So I'm off to embark on a new adventure this year. To try new things, to explore new things, "to boldly go where no man has gone before" *said with my best Ernest impression* What these new things are I'm not sure just yet but I'll let ya know when I figure it out. In the mean time I challenge you to look at your own life. Are you doing everything you ever wanted? If not what is stopping you? Take this as your chance to get out there and try something new!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What is IBC?

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer? I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I was very wrong! It turns out that there are several types of breast cancer and you don’t even have to have a lump to have breast cancer. 
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. I was one of the few lucky ones that actually have a lump along with IBC. Most women don't. Because I was diagnosed while my daughter was less than a month old I probably would have been misdiagnosed as having mastitis but because of the lump and the severity of my IBC my doctors did a biopsy right away. Most don't. Many women are given antibiotics and sent away not once but multiple times.

Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Survival rates for women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer are grim.  Only 25 to 50 percent of women will survive five years.  Believe it or not, this is a HUGE improvement over the survival statistics of just a few years ago — when only 1-2% could expect to be alive five years after diagnosis.  Even with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, 90% of women will suffer a recurrence.  This is a lifelong battle for those that are diagnosed, and it is a very difficult disease to battle, as it’s one of the few cancers that are obvious on the surface of the body; as it marches across a woman’s breast, it is very hard to watch. While the survival rates are still grim its expected that with new drugs that have been widely used just in the last few years we should start to see those statistics rise. One last thing about IBC and breast cancer in general it doesn't matter what race you are, what age you are or even if your male or female you are still at risk. Yes men can have this too. I was only 28 at the time of my diagnosis and while I felt way to young to have it I found out there are many more even younger than me who have also been diagnosed.

Thanks to Toddler Planet for letting IBCers all over the world "steal" and rewrite your blog.

For more information on IBC or to figure out how you can help visit www.theibcnetwork.com

Friday, June 3, 2011

Learning to dance in the rain

I love the rain. I love everything about the rain. Its our stormy season here and my favorite time of the year. Each new storm is unique and unpredictable but at the same time beautiful. I could sit and listen to the rain for hours. It just brings me closer to nature, to my surroundings and to God. While rain can bring destruction in many forms especially this time of year with flooding and tornado's its also needed to bring about life. The storm that has the ability to destroy is the same storm that causes the flowers to grow and bloom.
Sometimes its hard to see in a storm. Things can seem so dark and dreary. Sometime you wonder if the storm will ever pass. Surely it can't rain forever right?
Right! Every storm will eventually pass and have you ever notice how much brighter the sky is after a storm? 
With every storm if you look hard enough you will also find a rainbow. It’s the same in life and while those storms can be hard and sometime devastating I still love them. Its during the storms of life that you see so much beauty in yourself and those around you. The tornado that hit Joplin here in the MidWest was devastating. It breaks my heart to see so much destruction and sadness. At the same time it has been beautiful watching people from all backgrounds, locations and places in life come together to help and support so many in need. So many beautiful stories of people sacrificing themselves to save loved ones and sometimes even to save strangers. Storms also cause us to seek shelter and my storm has lead me to seek shelter in the arms of my God. I have been a Christian all my life but this year I went from being a Christian to really embracing God and seeking his purpose for my life. This last year has been a giant storm for me and my family. I have seen friends, family and even strangers rally together  in order to  support me. Last year brought a third precious daughter into our lives but it also brought a lot of heartache. As we were enjoying the newness of our daughter we were also facing the uncertainty of cancer and what has become our greatest storm so far.
 I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)  in September and began treatments all within a month after having her prematurely. IBC very rare and aggressive cancer (more on that later). While it has been a long and hard storm there have been so many rainbows and let me tell you the sky is most certainly brighter now than it has ever been. 
 I hope this blog will inspire and give hope to others with IBC. Not just hope that we can beat this thing but that we can even dance our way through it. I still don’t know what the future will hold but I wouldn’t change anything about this last year. Every part of the storm brought about something wonderful and beautiful and has made me a much better person, mom, wife and friend. Thats what this blog is about. Its about my storms and my rainbows. Its about my fight with IBC and about life in general. What that will look like I have no idea because frankly I don’t know what life will bring next but I’m sure it will something spectacular! One of my favorite quotes and one that has become my life moto is “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass its about learning to dance in the rain”. I don’t know who wrote it though I have tried to find out but I try and live each day that way. As a family we have learned how to have fun on even the rainiest of days. So next time you have a storm in you life get out there and dance!