Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beauty For Ashes

" give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified" Isaiah 61:13 AKJV

Cancer is many things. Yes it is ugly and difficult but it can also be beautiful and amazing. Cancer teaches you how to live, how to love and how to laugh. Cancer changes you inside and out. Yes my body is scared and rugged and its been through more than I ever thought it could handle but I'm proud of every scar and every imperfection. The following pictures were taken this summer just a couple of weeks before my port-a-cath was removed.

"...There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us." 
From Isaiah 53 Msg

"There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." 
Isaiah 41:10 

 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best! 2 Corinthians 4:7-12  

“Still, if you set your heart on God
    and reach out to him,
If you scrub your hands of sin
    and refuse to entertain evil in your home,
You’ll be able to face the world unashamed
    and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless.
You’ll forget your troubles;
    they’ll be like old, faded photographs.
Your world will be washed in sunshine,
    every shadow dispersed by dayspring.
Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again;
    you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy.
Expansive, without a care in the world,
    you’ll be hunted out by many for your blessing.
But the wicked will see none of this.
    They’re headed down a dead-end road
    with nothing to look forward to—nothing.”
Job 11:13-20

And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. 
Philippians 1:19-21 

As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. 
Philippians 1:22-26 

As thanksgiving is quickly approaching I have spent a lot of time reflecting already on what I'm thankful for. First of all I'm super thankful for the awesome God that I serve. He has held me in his arms and carried me through the mess of these last couple of years. I'm also thankful for my husband of 12 years who hasn't left my side even for a second. He is my rock and without him I don't know where I would be. I'm thankful for my three little girls who bring me laughter and joy each and every day. I'm thankful for life and as crazy as it sounds I'm thankful for cancer. Its been an awesome journey of self-discovery. Finally I'm thankful for all the amazing women I have met because of breast cancer. Some of my best friends now are survivors and knowing that I never would have met them without having been down this road makes it all the more worth it. Speaking of being thankful I'm also super thankful for my hubby for taking these photos for me. He did an amazing job on these photos.

Stick a Fork in Me I'm Done!

For most of the women I have talked to radiation was the easiest stage of their treatment. That wasn't the case for me. It was the WORST! Seriously I have never come so close to quitting anything in my life but towards the end I was very close to crying uncle and asking for a break. Taking a break could have given the cancer a brief moment to grow again though so I put on my big girl panties and sucked it up. Working though chemo and returning so quickly from surgery wasn't that bad but working through rads. was terrible. There is no delicate way to say it just simply sucked. I don't have much to say about this phase of treatment. I hated everything about it. Well other than the techs I got to see each and everyday. They were pretty awesome. There were some days that I was on the verge of tears going in but I would leave laughing. There were other days where I was burned so bad that they had tears and on those days I found a little strength to make them laugh. Its funny how much you get used to seeing someone when you see them everyday for 6 weeks. The following are pictures from radiation. To be honest this isn't even the worst of it. By the end I didn't have the energy to take pictures.

This first one was about 3 weeks into radiation. The stickers with the targets are used by the radiation techs to line up the machine. I also have a bunch of small dots tattooed on me for this same purpose. I had "superclav"radiation which means they also radiated my neck and collar bone area. It turned red but nothing like the rest of it. Part of the reason is because they used a "bullace" (sp) thing which was because I had IBC. Basically this plastic thing they laid over my chest made the machine burn the hell out of me! LOL

FYI that little bulge along my scar line that kind of looks like there could be a boob there is just fluid building up after my drains were removed. Eventually that went away.
 This second picture is during the fifth week. This is when I quit running at the gym and basically stopped wearing a shirt except for going to work. I rarely left the house at this point because I hated wearing cloths. I used a lot of creams and burn stuff but most of these either soaked through my shirt or made my shirt stick to my burn. Neither of which were great options. This was the biggest test of my strength and will power that I have ever faced. My radiation appointments were mid afternoon and by the sixth week I ended up just going home after instead of going back to work for another hour. Looking back I realize that I probably should have just stayed home once it go this bad so that I didn't have to wear a shirt and could have just had burn cream on it all the time. I'm not sure what I was thinking! Oh and if you are wondering what that little bump is on my left side is, that is my Port-a-cath. Its what they use to give me my Chemo. They would take this needle thing and poke through my skin into that device which went into my vain. I kept that stupid thing for nearly two years. I was so happy to see that go!
Next up the end result of all my treatments and surgery's!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And Then There Were None!

Well as you know the next faze of my treatment was a mastectomy. The type of surgery you have depends on a lot of things. Part of it depends on the type of cancer you have and what stage, part of it on all the other factors like whether or not you are BRCA1 and part of just depends on your personal preference. Even before we knew what the doctors would recommend Shawn and I knew that a bilateral mastectomy was what we wanted. Being in my 20's and having three young girls we knew we wanted to do everything we could to raise my chances of a long life.

I'll be honest the worst part about the mastectomy was waking up from anesthesia. I opted to do my surgery as a same day outpatient surgery. My amazing surgeon told me up front that most people couldn't handle that and that after the surgery if I decided it was too much I could stay but if I really wanted to go home that day she would let me. It took a couple hours to get up and going after and I did puke a couple of times but I went home and I'm glad I did. I was so much more comfortable at home than I would have been in the hospital plus I had my amazing husband to help with my drains.

I'll be honest. I tried to prepare myself for this by looking at pictures online. I felt like I was mentally prepared before hand but I just never really knew how I would feel once it was done. As it turns out I was fine with it. I was actually relieved to have them gone. After all they were trying to kill me. The following picture was taken as soon as the anesthesia had worn off enough that I could get up and around without wanting to throw up.  
 When the time came to take off the bandages I was a little scared. Mostly because I was afraid what Shawn would think. He insisted on taking them off for me. He knows me well enough to know that I can't take off a band-aid myself much less all of this. He took off all the bandages and he never blinked. He was amazing!

The biggest hassle about having a mastectomy was the drains. They are gross and  I was always afraid I might rip them out. You have to get creative to find ways to keep them attached but out of the way. Most of the time they were pinned inside my shirt but other times I had to get more creative. When it came time to shower I had to find a way to keep them from pulling out that didn't involve me trying to juggle them. My FRTI lanyards came in very handy for this. LOL
I wish we had my nice new camera at this point because we could have had a lot of fun taking pictures of what came out of those drains! But more iphone pictures will have to do.
All in all this was probably the easiest part of my treatments. I realize that's not the case for many women but for me it wasn't bad at all. I'll post pictures of everything after it healed a couple of blogs from now. The next phase was the worst for me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bald and Beautiful!

I really had planned to post more this month but I ended up taking a break from the blogging world. So many breast cancer survivors make their blogs in October about how ugly cancer is and how they hate Pink. If you were following me this time last year you know I LOVE PINK! Which is why I didn't want to post my next blog. I also didn't want to go off on a rant about how we survived cancer and deserve a girly color. Heck I have no boobs and short hair I need something to wear so that people know I'm a girl. I had intended my next blog to be about the mastectomy but again I didn't want to add to the anti pink cancer is ugly blogs this time of year so I thought I would just post random pictures from my time during Chemo. After all that was the next faze of my treatment anyway. So here are a few fun pictures between the time I was diagnosed and my surgery.

  This one was obviously taken early on in treatment. Some days I can't believe Jo was ever this small. She kind of looks like a little spider monkey lol. I took this with my iphone one day at Shawn's work while waiting for him to get off. I'm not sure what I was doing off work that day but its one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.

 I think this one is pretty obvious. It was taken right before Halloween. One thing we tried to do was make sure that we kept things as "normal" as possible. We didn't want our kids to miss out on things like carving pumpkins or dressing up for Halloween just because I was sick. I couldn't find any pictures but not only did we all dress up we even went to church Sunday morning in costume. I can't wait for the next time it falls on a Sunday lol!
Well if there is something really ugly about cancer its this picture! I believe this was taken at Thanksgiving. If not its pretty close to it. This is our home away from home. We try and go to Shawn's grandparents house every chance we get.
This is one of my favorite pictures. This was obviously taken at Hooters. I wanted to do something fun before my mastectomy so the weekend before my surgery the entire Beal clan went to Hooters. They were amazing there. They gave us a discount (basically free lunch for me) and this fabulous t-shirt which I will never be able to fit even without having any boobs. That was my first time eating at hooters and after meeting their fabulous staff I can't help but go back and celebrate milestones there. My goal is to get them signed on as sponsors for Komen or another similar group in the future.

Well there you have it. While its true cancer sucks life still goes on. It can even continue to be fun and amazing if you just choose to make it that way. Yes there are ugly things about cancer but stick it out over the next couple of blogs and you will see that even through the scary ugliness of cancer beauty can be found if you just look for it.

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I can't let myself end this one without reminding you all to make sure you are doing your self breast exams and to schedule to see your doctor and get your yearly mammogram or as a dear friend always says "go get your boobs smashed in the freezer door" lol! I have to take her word on this as I have not nor will I ever need a mammogram. Its just one of the "perks" of having breast cancer.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

You know its serious when.... hear "can I get a picture of that" from your doctor.Well if you missed the warning in my last blog be aware that the next few blogs are going to be about cancer. No not my typical blogs but the true reality of cancer including pictures. You see most of the time when we think of cancer we think of something that is virtually unseen. Something that you can sometimes feel and sometimes only detect by machines. Something that doesn't hurt. Then there is IBC. Its a very visible  cancer. Its ugly and its painful and for that reason it typically ends up misdiagnosed and miss treated until it too late. In most cases IBC does not have a lump. Luckily for me it did. Otherwise there is no telling how long it would have been before mine would have been detected. While many friends and family were telling us that things would be ok and that my biopsy would come back fine we knew that wasn't going to be the case. No one really understood why we were so sure but when you see these pictures you will understand. My Port-a-cath was put in on September 14th 2010 which was our Tenth Anniversary. The following day exactly two years ago today these pictures were taken in the doctors office. Shawn and I joked with a nurse that at least no one had taken a picture because thats when you know things are really bad. That very second the radiation doc that we were having a consult with walked in and asked if he could take a picture. We laughed but she cried. Anyway, its weird to be posting these pictures but in the end I think its important for people to realize what IBC is, what it may look like, how serious it is, and how extensive the treatment is. One last thing. Keep in mind I was exactly one month postpartum when these pictures were taken. I say that only because that is my excuse for the fat rolls LOL. Make sure you scroll down and look at both because they loaded funny and are very spread out.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Couple of Thoughts and a Warning.

Today marks the 2 year anniversary since I heard the words I had cancer. Its been a long day full of its own ups and downs. Some days I almost forget that I ever had cancer. Some days I'm reminded over and over again. Today was one of those days for a multitude of reasons. It wasn't just because of the fact that it was my two year cancerversary, it wasn't just because I was at the Komen office stuffing packets for the upcoming race, it wasn't because I was sharing my story with other survivors today and it wasn't because I was planning kids activities for race day in exactly one week. It was simply because I hit a wall. Not an emotional wall but a physical one. You see sometimes I forget that my physical body isn't the same it used to be. Ok sure there is the obvious not having boobs thing but that is not what I'm talking about. I tend to take on a multitude of things and keep going, keep working, keep doing...until my body says no more. Today was one of those days. I had an incredible week. There were so many firsts I don't even know where to begin. I got to attend and throw my first tailgate party for my department. It was a huge success and it was so much fun. I even got to throw some balls at our dunk tank and watch a student take the plunge. Apparently I can still throw a ball pretty well. It was fun but the event was also a lot of work. I also ended up getting a photo gig that same night which was a completely unique and fun experience. Then this morning I got to spent time with my church family in some awesome and uplifting worship followed by one of my all time favorite preachers of all times who I have known most of my life.Then of course there is the whole crunch time for Komen. Basically I have been going non stop for weeks with no end in sight until November. I'm not complaining...really I'm was just a reminder today that I have physical limits now that I never had before. Each day I forget that I can't take on the entire world on my own and I try to do it,  then there are days like today when its like a big slap in the face that I can't do as much as I used to. I'll be honest. I forgot this weekend that today marked my 2 year cancerversary because I was so stinking busy. I say that in the most wonderful way. Then I started shutting down, every muscle, every bone hurt just to move or to stand and then when that wasn't enough for me to slow down a migraine started.  Even then I kept attempting to keep going and then somehow out of nowhere I remembered not only that I had cancer but that I needed a break. That I couldn't keep going like that and needed to spend the evening relaxing. So I spent part of the evening watching the girls play on the porch and part of it chatting with the BFF about photo shoots and other fun stuff. I'll be honest I went through the first half of the day without even realizing that it had been exactly two years. I'm glad that my body basically slapped me in the face and reminded me because I was started to take time and energy for granted. I was forgetting to slow down and enjoy the little moments. Luckily I'm nearly through by busy season as far as volunteer work and major planning events for my regular job leaving me more time I hope for things like photoshoots, writing and some reading. I'm reading a great book by one of my favorite authors right now but had to take a two week break because of a lack of time and energy.  Two years ago I wouldn't have had a problem doing all of this. I wouldn't have even thought twice about needing to slow down but here I am curled up on the couch not willing to move for the rest of the evening.
The other thing that I was reminded of this week is how amazing God is sometimes. There are times that he brings people into your life not once, not twice but multiple times all in various and unrelated ways. If he keeps making your paths cross with the same person over and over there is probably a bigger reason for that. I may not always know what that reason is but at least He makes me realize that I should be on the look out for a what that purpose might be.
Well that was my thoughts for today so here is the warning. I have been working on a project for my blog. I plan to take you through my cancer journey in a new and different way. The next few blogs will be about those mile stones both good and bad but will also include pictures of that journey. Why the warning you ask? Because some of these pictures will be graphic. Some may even include pictures of breasts *gasp*! I have been wanting to do this for a while but just haven't got around to it. With this being the two year mark and heading into the Komen race and breast cancer awareness month I honestly can't think of a better time to do this. Not to mention that I have had to work up the nerve to post some of the pictures that will be in these next few blogs. While I struggled to decide weather or not to post them I realized that its important for  awareness, education, and for families that may have to face this. Maybe its not really even for other people maybe its just a selfish way to chronicle what I have been through and where I am going. As I close this blog toast with me as I celebrate an awesome two years of not only surviving but thriving!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Walking in the Spirit

I was recently asked if I would contribute to a blog of a local breast cancer organization called "Walking in the Spirit". They are a really neat organization here in CoMo. They are a faith based group dedicated to promoting education, prevention and awareness to undeserved populations in the area. I hope one of these days I can make it to one of their events. The last one that they held they had someone come in and teach praise dancing. I'm sure this is something I would be terrible at but I think it would be fun to try anyway. Their blog is full of great tips on nutrition and staying healthy which is one of the few things you can control to lower your risk of breast cancer. They also feature medical experts and stories from survivors. You may even know today’s guest! I posted this on my facebook page the other day so if you happen to follow me on facbeook you have probably already read this blog. If you haven't read it already take a few minutes to visit their blog and read my post from August 31st then take some time and read their about me section and check out some of the other blogs. I really hope I can get more involved in this group. They are doing great things here in CoMo!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rewind: Kickin it Old School

Zoe got to go to camp this year! She wasn't quit old enough for the camp our church goes to but she was for the one where I grew up. So we headed out to SICSC where the SON always shines. I have to admit it was kind of weird. I didn't feel old until other friends started showing up with their kids. Thats when it hit me. There was an entire new generation at camp now. A third generation of the Camp mafia! Its just pretty crazy to think about. When we got there they told us to just let Chloe stay too so we signed them both in. That left us with just Jo for the day. We had to drive 4 hours to camp so we couldn't just drive home and come back to pick them up. Our family in the area was busy so we pretty much hung out at camp all day. I'm not complaining it was nice to be "home". 

 The theme for the day camp they attended was called "Rewind: Kickin it Old School". I think this would be an awesome summer theme at White Oak. I can only imagine how much fun it would be with older kids. More than anything I can only think of all the fun that camp staff could have with this.

 According to Shawn that ET game shown below is the worst video game ever made. Apparently thats not just his opinion its just known in the nerd world that its a terrible game.

Shawn told me not to be one of those moms who follow their kids around and hover. He made me keep a distance so that they could really enjoy being campers and feel independent. I couldn't help but sneak in a few pictures though when they came near the area we were sitting. 

The girls got to have rest time in Cabin 6.

The girls attended several classes throughout the day but thy had a ton of fun stuff going on too. They got to swim in the camp pool and then they got to play on this.

 After camp was over they were given certificates and their camp picture. They had a wonderful time and so did I. I got to spend time catching up with old friends and best of all I got to visit with PaPa Ron! The worlds greatest camp manager. Oh and I even got to hear his son telling stories about Ron stealing the bell. Who would have ever thunk he stole a bell. Well more like tried to steal a bell according to D.
As soon as camp was over we hit the road and headed to Metropolis to see my grandpa at the nursing home. Of course that meant we had to take a picture or two because who can resist taking pictures in Metro?

Finally we got to the nursing home and had a nice visit with G'pa.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pulaski County Relay 4 life

In my last blog I posted the link to the my speech at the Relay for Life in Pulaski County. What an honor it was to be chosen to do the opening speech. I just thought I would share with you a little more about that relay. My parents are from St. Robert and were part of the St. Robert Fire Department team. We weren't at the Relay long because we had to make the long drive back that evening but we had a great time getting to visit with them.

The kids enjoyed getting to hang out with their grandparents. 

I also had a nice time catching up with old friends.

One of which even offered to take me up in the aerial and take pictures. 
I should also point out that no only did I get to go up in the aerial but it happens to be the coolest one I have ever seen. 
 Believe it or not. Growing up in the fire service and even being on a department when I was younger. This was my first ride up in one of these. I must say it was pretty awesome. Thanks Chief!

 I don't think there was a single moment that the bounce thing wasn't full of kids.

 All three of mine had a blast jumping on this thing.

  Chloe probably enjoyed it the most. Check out the air she got on this jump!
The girls had a blast playing games and winning prizes.

Jo's favorite part was the candy. Every time I turned around someone from the fire department was giving her more candy. Which she kept dropping and trying eat off the ground.

 As always there was a ton of walking.

Maybe the best part of all was getting to hang with GOLDEN BOY!!!!!!!!

Yes ladies he is single!

No relay is complete without a picture of the worlds greatest caregiver. 

I wish we could have stayed the entire time for this one. Although we only spent a few hours at this Relay 4 Life it was a ton of fun. They did an amazing job despite the heat. Thank you again for having us. It was an honor and privilege to be a part of such a fantastic relay.