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.