Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Hope You Dance

I woke up feeling like a million  bucks! It was my first day without my drainage tubes and I felt liberated. I got up put my face on, my hair was flawless, my outfit was cute, I smelled like a fairy, and the cotton balls were in place. I WAS FIERCE!! It had been so long that I felt this good and it had spread from the inside out.

You're probably wondering why I was getting all dressed up when I'm supposed to be home resting. It was for me. Besides, I had two doctor appointments and was ready to start feeling like my old self again. My first appointment was with the lymphedema doctor to make sure I wasn't experiencing excess swelling as a sign of fluid backing up in the area of my surgery. This appointment was informational but pretty uneventful.....until she scheduled me for three appointments a week for the next three weeks during which she would wrap then unwrap my arm and provide physical therapy to increase my range of motion. Yes, that equals nine appointments. UGH!

But that wasn't the end. I had a second appointment with the oncologist that would be handling my chemotherapy. I could feel the dread begin to creep up on me as I sat for an hour waiting to be seen. I swear I hate these doctor appointments. There are so many and I always experience a feeling of hopelessness. The doctor was a pretty straightforward and didn't show much compassion. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't mean or rude, just direct.

After all the pushing, poking, prodding, and pressure he sat right down and gave it to me point blank. He said the type of cancer I had was pretty aggressive and without anymore treatment I had a 50-60% chance of the cancer returning. Chemotherapy will reduce those chances another 10 to 15% and radiation would begin after four and a half months of chemo. Since my cancer cells also tested positive for the HER2 gene I would also have to take Herceptin treatments intraveniously for a year and tamoxifen for five years to reduce those chances even more. I was numb. I felt all of the air escape my body and I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even cry. I just stared at him blankly. I don't even remember what else he said after that. I remember thinking What if I'm going to die?

By the time I left his office I had an additional six appointments added to my calendar and my mortality to think about. I don't have many regrets in life and have been blessed to truly be happy deep in my soul and it's a peaceful feeling. Those tears that wouldn't come earlier have now appeared so through blurry eyes this is what I advise you all to do.
  • Laugh often
  • Follow your dreams
  • Don't settle. You only live this life once and you deserve the best.
  • Love HARD and don't hold back-even if it hurts. Pure love is amazing!!!
  • Don't wait for others to believe in you - BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
  • And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.....I HOPE YOU DANCE!!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-Z1YwaOiw

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cotton Ball Giggles

It's funny how you can swear you'd never do something then lo and behold you catch yourself doing the very thing you swore you'd never do? Well I have found myself in that predicament having experienced breast cancer and sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

At the school where I teach there was a retired teacher who used to volunteer a few days a week. It was obvious she had had a mastectomy because she didn't wear a prosthesis and just walked around flat chested. I thought to myself, "There's no way I'd ever do that!"

Soon after my surgery, even before I left the hospital, there was a lady who came by my room and brought me this fancy undershirt with breast inserts for me to wear so I could be comfortable and look 'normal' when I went out in public. It was all packaged in this pretty box and I was ecstatic she did because there was no way I would be caught DEAD in public with no boobs!!! However, I didn't count on having drainage tubes coming from my sides that were attached to my skin by two flimsy stitches that would cause me such immense pain. So much so, I didn't even like to put on clothes. I had three humongous t-shirts that I wore in constant rotation because they were so loose there was minimal contact with the tubes.

Anytime I had a doctor appointment I would put on one of those t-shirts and a pair of pants and go.  Yep, you guessed it.....NO BOOBS! The pain of anything touching those tubes or of one being snagged, pulled, or jostled unexpectantly was too much to take so flat chested I was! The first couple of times I would stare longingly at the pretty box but then I would think of the pain and it always won out. My kids never even gave me being flat chested a second thought or comment because I had explained what was going to happen to me with them in detail. My daughter even asked to see my scar and I didn't hesitate to show her so this was all second nature to them.

Well, I've been home for three days now after a month of separation so my kids have been pretty much underfoot after being separated for so long. Saturday night my daughter was sitting on my bed and happened upon the box. "Mom what's this?" she asked. "Those are my cottonball boobs," was my reply. She looked at me with a confused stare and asked if she  could see. Naturally, I said yes. So she opened the box and there they lay....two big "cottonball-like" spheres. She looked at me, I looked at her and we both broke out into uncontrollable laughter.

Sunday my brother got baptized so I got up, showered, lay my clothes out, and reluctantly opened the box. There was no way I was going to church 'flat'. It was defintely a boob occasion. I got dressed and was ready to leave when Lexi gave me a weird look. I knew she was surveying my new 'curves' so, once again, we broke out into giggles.

Today the doctor removed the drainage tubes and I feel as though I have been set free from bondage. The first thing I thought about was those cottonball boobs and my daughter. Now, if you know me then you know there aren't many limits to my sense of humor. Since she goes to the school where I work and I'm close friends with her teacher I decided to text her teacher so she could tell Lexi I had on my 'cottonballs'. By this time I'm cracking up to myself because I could only imagine what her reaction was going to be. About an hour passes by and I get this response from her teacher, "She gave me a funny look and said No, she only wears those to church!"

Needless to say I burst out into more laughter and my soul has been pleased. Today my wish is that you all have 'cottonball giggles'.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Silent Strength

As a teacher, over the years I have come in contact with some very memorable students. Some pleasantly memorable and others not so much so. Most of the time it's the quietest ones that slip through unnoticed. Not this time.

Avi is a student I had for three years in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. He was always a quiet student, and when I say quiet I mean....'if you don't talk to me I'm not going to say one word to you all year' kind of quiet. Me being the reserved and soft spoken person I am (not) I made it my mission to bring him out of his shell. So everyday I would hug him and make him hug me back, brandish his forehead with kisses, harass him for being a Kentucky Wildcat fan, and call on him in class every chance I got. Needless to say, nothing worked! However, we did develop a great relationship and he would actually smile at me even when he didn't want to....it became an reflex response whenever I smiled at him.

He's in fifth grade now and no longer in my class. However, he makes it a point to stop by my door whenever he's wearing a UK shirt, hasn't seen me in a couple days, U of L lost a game, or just because. When word got out at school that I had breast cancer I received an e-mail from his mom telling how panic-stricken and upset he was. The most touching part of Avi's personality is his sensitivity. She would touch bases with me to see how I was doing, ask if I needed anything, and send Avi's regard. Well, Sunday he came to visit me. He was excited and nervous. I recognized that smile and that panic-stricken look on his face. We sat and had a nice visit during which he only spoke when I spoke first but smiled alot! . He has been keeping up with my blog and actually keeps the most inspiring ones in his binder to remind him of courage and strength. So even though I am not at school with my kids I am content in knowing that I STILL touch lives.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This journey has given me a lot of positive awakenings but it has also given me some negative awakenings as well. One of the biggest fears I had going into this was my body image as a woman. The thought of losing my breasts was horrifying and the thought of losing my hair.....well, if you really know me then you already know what that is like!!

Even before I could open my eyes someone had thought about me. That alone is enough to make me feel good. What makes me feel even better is the WAY they thought about me.

"You're still a woman Mami!" Is what my friend said to me when I started my whining one day. "You're just gonna have some changes for a while." He has truly been someone who has supported me emotionally in a way that has brought me through some of my lowest points.

This morning I awakened to a poem he had written for me in my inbox and it honestly brought me to tears. It meant more to me emotionally than words could even begin to express and for this I am thankful that God has placed him in my life. I know he'll read this so Papi....I appreciate and thank you for what you have given me!!

Still..still woman yea I see you walking with your swag
Still talkin' your jive
Still looking good 'cause you have pride
Still swinging them hips from side 2 side
Even if you switch you're.....still woman
Still movin' them lips with powerful but sincere words even the speechless couldn't ignore
Still woman isn't it true why god made blind beauty so pure and fine even the angels adore
Still woman if they took the precious
If they scar'd, torn, ripped away all visual
Your heart still beats like steel
As a man I still kneel because of what you are...
Still woman