Monday, December 30, 2013

Another Year Comes to a Quiet Close

So much has gone on this year.  I never thought that retiring would bring so many other things into my life to keep me so busy but I am glad it did.  The fibromyalgia and arthritis that set in my body gives me pain but with retirement and my doc's great encouragement, I push myself to the gym daily to stretch and work out the kinks that hurt.  The hurt hurts, and then it helps.  Sounds crazy, but I know in the long run, it is good for me. 

These last few months, God has tested our wills.  A brother in law passed suddenly from kidney failure after crashing on his four-wheeler. It was and has been a period of great sadness for his family. His mom was then diagnosed with kidney cancer and had her kidney removed, along with the depression, etc from losing her only son. It has been deafening to see her endure her pain. And now she has fallen and broken her hip. Just pitiful, but she is a trooper.  God strengthens her soul in ways I witness but hope to never live. My own son needs me and so I am trying to work things out to where I can move back up north. Financially, it will take a bit to get there, but if it is supposed to be, then it will be, I am doing the best I can. 

And now, my brother, Dennis.  Out of nowhere, a brain injury.  It began with flu like systems around Thanksgiving and he started getting weaker, and weaker and weaker. Literally every thing has been ruled out yet he has brain damage from "something" and it certainly is not viral or bacterial. Motor skills are lost also.  Hospital is preparing to ship him to rehab to save/repair what motor skills they can, but then what?  I keep telling myself that God knows all, does all...believe in Him....hold on to him.  HE knows exactly what he is doing. 

Christmas came and went without much notice as we were all quite exhausted. I even missed Christmas Eve mass. But my God knows where my heart was.   He knows that I know that materially wrapped presents are never the real gifts this time of year, but family and the love of those we have around us and the charity with which we serve others is.  Which brings me to my last note.  This year, I selected a family whose daddy is a terminally ill throat cancer patient and there is three girls (7, 15, and 16).  Tough ages to be seeing their father go through the ravages of cancer.  Radiation and chemo have taken a toll on him and he is down to about 85 or 90lbs and can no longer eat anything; it has to be crushed and put through a tube in his stomach.  Amazing what science can do.  Hearing about this indigent family who would have no Christmas, I asked my local FB friends $.50 each and lo and behold my big FB family came forward.  Many of my military friends jumped in and I was able to spend $300 on this family and get them items that they "really" wanted - to make it special.  Another friend of mine, Michele Haro, a local photographer here in Melbourne/Palm Bay, has also volunteered her time to take family portraits of the family.  This will surely provide lasting memories for their family.

As I reflect on this year, there has been so little and so much and yet God always gives me just what I need. In my heart, he knows the two things I am asking for this next year, if it be his will. I will do my part.

I ask everyone to do their part.  Our world is not getting any easier.  The rules are getting harder, the kids have it tougher, money is tighter, the weather is crazier, even the internet...a little more weird-er (?)  :)   Let's commit ourselves to paying it forward to at least one person once a day, or once a week - if you can.  Just simple things like a smile can go a long way....or a thank you...or holding a door for someone.  That is my wish for all of us...paying it forward to others.  

Happy New Year to all of you out there. I wish you peace, happiness, a joyous spirit, and great health.

I love you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It is Pink-tober for us Survivors!!

Hello everyone! It is October 2013 - you know what that means?  That means that this October will be my third walk as a survivor and my fourth walk.  I am looking forward to enjoying a morning gathering with 7000 of my neighbors here in Florida.  God always smiles on us and grants us with a beautiful day.

Yet again, I have not been so diligent in keeping up with my writing. As I had previously written, I had stepped away for a bit to regain perspective and breathe. I had lost a few friends and was not feeling well myself.  I feel it is important for me to write here, but it is more important for me to write honestly and provide good information.

That being said, today was lovely and I want to share it with you!!  Driving on the highway to pick up a friend to go the Art Fest, I was exiting on the off ramp and what did I see?  A big fire truck - but not just any fire truck.  The big PINK one!! And I got to sign that BIG PINK FIRE TRUCK! I know it may sound silly to some, but to me, it represents hope and honor - and it is in memory of a very young lady, Ashley, who passed away from triple negative breast cancer.  Please, triple negative breast cancer is nothing to play with!! If you or a loved one is diagnosed with TNBC, act quickly and viciously towards the disease or it will be vicious with you. 

Anyway, we took some pictures, bought some shirts, chatted and made some new friends.  The only way I can describe that moment is that it really lifted my soul right when I needed it.  Eyes up - thank you Jesus.  And many thanks to the Guardians of the Ribbon who give so much of  their time for us.  God bless them.
The Art show was nice as it usually is.  The art is too expensive for me, but I love to look at the artists' work - they are very talented!! I am back!! ;)

Another thing I accomplished this last week was to make my own little pumpkin for myself and a few friends.  I hope you like it.  Have a blessed week!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another Woman Cries

I went to bingo one night last week only to hear from a friend that one of her neighbor's has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  My friend is concerned and asked if I could speak with her.  I can and will when she is ready.

Hearing this news saddens me, but what saddens me more is not the chemo, hair loss or breast removal, but the fear and sometimes sheer terror some endure as we face down this deadly beast.

So, I hope she will hear me when I reach out to her and try to be the best advocate I can be when I tell her that living begins with remembering that she is STILL ALIVE!  And there are some amazing and incredible doctors and nurses out there that are going to help in any way they can.  But as a patient, her first and biggest decision must be "Fight or Flight".  She get's that choice.  Does she want to live or not?  If she does, then choose to fight - hard.

I will tell her the same thing I have said over and over, "Your life will become a roller coaster of emotions, tears, fears, laughter, love, anger, and every other feeling you can imagine, so embrace it.  Relish each moment because you can never get it back.  Recognize it for what it is and remember there are no guarantee's, we just fight every day and then let God do the rest.

I have not yet met her so today all I can do is say a special prayer for her and her children.  That's right, she has children.  I remember very well how my own boys were affected by my diagnosis.  It broke my heart, but it made me fight that much harder.  Even through the hardest of days, I was determined to not leave them - not yet.  And now "she" must make that decision for herself because her babies need her too.  I am praying for her and hope she is feeling a little bit better today and is taking those baby steps towards recovering.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's New? Omega 3s

Hello everyone! I have some exciting news for triple negative patients! I am so skeptical nowadays that I usually wait to post, but I think this is worthy of our attention. To credit this properly, the Komen Foundation along with Fox Chase Cancer Center and Penn State researchers  Dr. Jose Russo (at Fox Chase) and Dr. Andrea Manni (at Penn State) performed the research and it is posted on the Medical News Today webpage.

Their research indicates that Omega-3 fatty acids can stop or slow the triple-negative breast cancer cells better than cells from luminal types of cancer!  They added that the research reflects the omega 3 fatty acids work against all cancerous cell types, but were seen to be much more effective against the triple-negative cell lines and able to reduce the multiplication of cells by as much as 90%!!!  Think about that - THAT IS MAGNIFICENT NEWS!!!

So, how can we best ingest these Omega-3's that can help us the most?  By eating sardines, tuna, trout, salmon (oily fish), flax and hemp.  I despise sardines and anything that looks like fish, but if I can get it ground up into something where it doesn't have that God awful after taste, I'm good. BUT, know this, I'm up for changing my attitude for sure. Continuing on with that site's information, they compared our western diet to that of the mediterranean diet.  They eat more of the Omega-3 and obviously there is less cancer in their culture (that is factual).

Breast cancers differ at the molecular levels which is why each patient will respond differently. Some will respond fast, some respond slow, and some just never respond to the treatment.  So to break it down, the experts have categorized BC tumors into four groups: Luminal A, Luminal B (A/B have estrogen and progesterone receptors and these patients have better outcomes), tumors that test positive for the HER3 receptor, and the dratted Triple-negative tumors.

For women with TNBC, they lack the receptors for for estrogen, progesterone and HER2/neu (a protein) so Femara or trastuzumab, which disrupts the HER2 receptor, and tamoxifen, which targets the estrogen receptor, will not work.

Dr. Jose Russo states, "there are no currently available targeted therapies for women with triple-negative breast cancer".  Yep, I knew this. These are all the things I heard doctors and nurses tell me. Between the tears and blurs of moments of sanity, I would think "how the hell can I fight something that THEY don't even know what causes it?" 

But this is what they (Dr. Russo) do know: It is found more frequently in Latina and African-American women; It is highly aggressive; it has a low survival rate; and there is not any one specific treatment for it."  Yep, knew that too.

So, why then am I continuing to write these things? Because, of all things, there remains hope. In that hope, there is continuing research and as of recently they say eat these Omega-3's, so ladies (and gents), please eat them.  While it certainly will not be a cure all for all of us, surely it won't hurt any of us and it can only help....I however, do advise that you choose these fishy things wisely. Make them fresh and without added hormones and chemicals and all that "good" stuff that companies add nowadays.

Here's to our health, one day at a time.  Still here, still fighting, still praying for all of us.  Hugs.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stepped Away

Greetings Everyone;

As you may have noticed, I "stepped away" from my blog for some time.  I needed that "me" time because I had lost quite a few friends that were triple negative and my spirit had been dampened.  Believe me, there are thousands of us still out there alive and well, and thriving, but when you lose not one or two, but three or more whom you have looked up to as your personal TNBC hero's it can be a bit overwhelming.

I will try to do better and post more often.  Regardless, I will try to find more research for women, and more access for those who are unable to get mammogram's or are sick.  I will try.  This damn cancer has me angry and hurt and has made me cry a little bit lately, but as I said way back when nearly four years ago now, every emotion is ok - even now.   That which haunts me now is that nagging feeling that just doesn't go away....UGH!  This disease has done a number on me physically and mentally, but I am still winning and I refuse to give in.

It really isn't what I do or do not do, it is merely the fact that cancer has taken the lives of my parents and has made the attempt on me, my sister, several cousins, etc.  Anyway, I think getting angry is ok considering I was only 19 when the beast stole my mother.

On a brighter note, it is a beautiful Spring day - you can smell it in the air.  Even some showers running across the state and I am watching my dogs high-tail through the yard quick and back into the house trying not to get their paws to wet.  They are my superheroes - oh how they make me smile.

I am here....still.  Thank you Jesus.  My spirit is quiet at the moment, but it will regain its strength and momentum for surely the good Lord has more plans for me.  I hope those plans include me being able to provide helpful information to others. So.....I will get to work on that.  I will return soon. 

Please update me on YOU!!  I really want to know how you are doing.... hugs.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year

My how time has been flying! Already it is January 4th, 2013.  I have not been good at keeping up with my writing the last few months and part of that I believe was because I wasn't feeling up to it. In the last few months, our "breast cancer" family lost a few more women, and yes it affected me personally.  Each time we lose another woman to breast cancer, it is like a stake through my heart, and I wonder why? How much longer will this keep happening?

On the news last night (WKMG), they offered hope to those who will undergo treatment in the future. It becomes like a one stop shop, one treatment, one time and they are having success with it. This  procedure called IORT is done at the time a woman has a lumpectomy and basically a dose of radiation is given to her at that time.

The upside of this - it will help women who can be helped with radiation treatment (ER+/PR+).  But on the downside, I am not certain it will be effective for women with triple negative breast cancer (ER-/PR-/HER2Neu-), such as myself, because as I understand in my knowledge, it does not respond to radiation. Overall, this is GREAT news though, it is showing progress in an area that we need movement on - and fast. So a big hooray to our researchers for this!

After Thanksgiving, I completed another "bucket list" item and went on a 7-day cruise with my son Brad, and 10 other people. We enjoyed the Western Caribbean and stopped in Mexico, Belize, Mahogany Bay, Cozumel, and other places.  We walked the Mayan Ruins of Tulum (and completed the calendar full circle, so yes, life continues) (wink wink). We had the ultimate adrenalin rush with the Belize Zip line and Crystal Cave Tubing experience.  I highly recommend them both. And we enjoyed song, dance, shopping and a cocktail at Senor' Frogs in Costa Maya.

Let's see, what else have I done? Oh my, I have colored my body!! Yes indeed. After my sons inscribed signature and pink ribbons on their arms, I decided it was time for me to do something special for them.  I created an infinity symbol with their names engraved into it and had it placed on my ankle. I also got a "survivor" tattoo on my chest and finally, my military rank on my arm.  All three of these are important to who I am and how I've become the woman I am today, so I wear them with great pride.

2012 was filled with surprises, joy, change, vacations, lots of work - or no work, amendments, retirements, illnesses, and the loss of loved ones. Whatever it held for you, I hope that as it is now in your rear view mirror, you look at each moment as a gift.
 

I wish you peace, hope, prosperity, love and health. Remember to work to live and not live to work. Make time for play and laughter, skipping stones on the water, and Yahtzee!. :)  And find your best friend you grew up with - I am SO happy I did.

Be polite to everyone because you do not know what troubles them and our times are difficult for many now. YOU may be that one smile that saves their day - or life. Be charitable to others. Whether you give financially, give of your time, or help someone learn something new - volunteer at least once! Write down treasured moments and tuck them away together as the year goes by so this time next year you can read them. You can recall the event and remember just how blessed you have been.

Tell your children everyday just how much you love them, and if you have grandchildren, read to them, or start writing "your" story for them. One day, they will want to know everything about you. Be kind out here on blogger, on facebook, on twitter, because someone "important" will eventually read your words....make sure they don't come back to haunt you - or them.

Value your freedom. Thousands of soldiers have paid for it with their lives. This year alone, more than 3,000 soldiers died. Learn and understand your Constitution - you have an obligation to do so.

Finally, wherever I am this year or next, I adore you and feel so privileged to have you in my life. I know I can be a goofball at times, but my love and loyalty to friends and family remains steadfast.

Whatever you do in 2013, I hope you resolve to surround yourself with love and laughter and make a memory out of every day....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's That Time Again!

Hello everyone! It's been quite awhile that I've been back to write a post. I've been busy and taking it easy by taking care of my health, and my brother, for awhile.

This last year, it seemed as if a lot of women I knew were diagnosed with breast cancer and it became frightening for me as a survivor.  I actually sat back to analyze what I was doing out here. Was my writing all for naught in that this devil of an illness was out of control, or that maybe my hope for the future misleading, or am I doing good by continuing my thoughts?  I would like to believe that I can make you laugh, give you hope, and educate you too! And yes, my goal is to ALWAYS be honest and forthright.

Here it is October 2012, wow - three years ago this month, I was walking my first Making Strides event while undergoing chemo.  The next year, I ran it in under 42 minutes. I was so proud of myself because in my heart, I carried so many others with me.  This Saturday, I will walk it again, no more running for my achy bones!  Each year, this event becomes so much more meaningful to me, not just because I am here to walk it, but because of all the other women (and men) who are now surviving and able to share in the day as well.  It still takes my breath away as I walk under those balloons that represent both life and death and the fundraising efforts of millions of people.

This cancer thing is part of who I am. I cannot change that any more than I can change the size of my hands (because I can change my butt and bust) :).  Everywhere I go, it remains a part of me, but I am trying not to let it define me.  It has changed my life in so many ways. My body hurts unlike ever before, so when I had an opportunity to retire/leave the City, I did.  I prayed to God to help me and find a way for me, and he did. I am now in retiree mode resting more and trying to figure out what it is I can or need to do.  All new territory for someone like me who has been so driven all her life.  I thought about writing a book, but what would the catch be?  Cancer? Survival instincts? Motherhood? They've pretty much all been written.  So I wait and think.  I have some idea's, but my mind is not cooperating dammit.  Damn chemo brain. ;)

Cancer changed me in many amazing ways as well, so I am not complaining!  I look at life so much differently; I do not take it for granted.  I desire to help others when possible and I see more good than evil.  More importantly, Jesus found me again. My relationships with others are so much more valuable than ever before.

Moving along....I got two new tattoo's!! I know, it sounds silly for a woman my age, but they both have genuine meaning to me.  The first one, on my chest says "Survivor" with a pink ribbon, and the other is an infinity ribbon with my boys names and a heart. Their actual fingerprints will be placed inside the heart. 

For new survivors; Your life will change a hundred times over - roll with it.  It is a part of who you are, period.  I believe that you will become more educated than ever before by yourself and with the help of others, should you choose to and whether or not you want to.  You have a choice to fight or flight; I recommend fight - always.  Our bodies change - so what, big deal.  So do our minds and our souls and our families and friends.  This is not just a challenge, it IS a journey; embrace it.  You are not alone.

For those survivors that have been around awhile - GO YOU! I am so glad you are still here and able to enjoy the warm sunshine, soft rains, birthdays, and life itself.

And for those of you that we have lost this year (and year's past), my promise is to carry you with me Saturday and always as we continue to fight for a cure.

Hugs

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No Cancer Dancer - Three Years!!

Three years ago, I was terrified that God would take me from my children. How selfish of me, huh? I couldn't begin to comprehend the new terms being tossed at me and what my body was about to endure. But today, I am a no cancer dancer!! The PET Scan is clean! In exactly 11 days, I will reach that critical three year date of being clean from this dreaded disease. YAY!

If you are a follower here, you know that I had a scan back on 6/15 but for some strange reason, the results "never came in".  Well, under normal circumstances, no news is good news, but when you have lived with a determined little DNA that goes awry, you just never know what is going to happen....so you wait, and wait. And in this case...wwaaaiitttt..... but alas, wahala!  Thank you, Jesus.

Three years.  Ladies (and gents, too!) this is great news - especially coming from a TNBC like me!! As I said from the very beginning of this blog, there are no guarantees with cancer, so we hope and we pray. TNBC was found by researchers only a short decade or so ago, so I KNOW there is great hope in the strides being made today for tomorrow's patient.  And I want YOU to believe it!!

You, me, we, cannot give up the fight to support research for ongoing treatment.  Treatment that includes simple things like a life-saving mammogram, a trip to the oncologist (for those financially unable), patient and family support, and yes, the American Cancer Society. They have done so much for patients and their families and the only way I can think of to continue to support research and patients (at the same time) is to support ACS. If others before us had not done so, my sister and I would not be here right now, of that I am certain. I am not a spokesperson or anything for them, I have just been a cancer patient who has been loved by the people who work there.

Today, I ask that you look at each face that passes you by. At work, in the store, on the street, even on television.  Look at them with hope and compassion because if they are not, or have not suffered from a cancer themselves, then surely a loved one has. This disease called knows no boundaries and is very determined to take lives young and old. It took my mother and father. At some point, it has held several women in my family - seven of us. But we are not giving up!

Together, we will continue the battle.  Yay, for three years! YOU can do this, too. I believe in you. Hang in there.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grateful today

Well, I still sit here waiting....patiently as I try....for the results of my PET scan that was done back on 6/15. Those of us who undergo these know that the clock can tick slowly while waiting for the results, but come on, 10 days? Give a chemo brain a break! ;)  I should be a grateful little soldier in that I am well taken care of by our Veteran's Administration and that there are others who, unlike me, may not have access to these medically necessary scans.  So my thought for today is, thank you VA from a grateful ole soldier, but please forward my results. wink wink.

On another note, my Making Strides page is open - please, if you have not yet donated to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign, please consider making a donation at my site.  Your donation is tax deductible!   June 2, 2012, was three years since my diagnosis, and honestly, I have met hundreds of other women with breast cancer. Many are still with us, many are not.  I am determined to help ensure that as time goes by, that percentage of survival increases and that my family will never have to worry about this dreaded disease again.  On October 20, 2012, I will once again walk for, and carry those with me, who can no longer walk for themselves. I AM trying to making strides today for "our" breast cancer family tomorrow.  I could list so many names right here, but there wouldn't be enough room to represent them all.

I must believe that one day, breast cancer will never steal another year from anyone's life.

Cheers for an awesome and hope-filled week! Hugs

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MDS symptoms

As I posted yesterday, Robin Roberts is once again fighting the battle with MDS, a form of leukemia. To follow up on that post because she is also a triple negative, I thought some of you might be interested in the signs or symptoms of the disease.

As taken from the mdsbeacon website and originally published by Biblia Kim 5/1/09, it is as follows:
The symptoms of MDS will vary depending on the severity of the disease. Nearly half of those with MDS display no symptoms upon initial diagnosis.

Anemia, or low red blood cell count, cause the most common symptoms because red blood cells are responsible for distributing oxygen throughout the body. In MDS, the percentage of healthy red blood cells is below normal; therefore, the body does not receive adequate oxygen.
Signs of anemia include:
  • Chronic tiredness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pale skin
  • Chilled sensations
  • Cardiovascular symptoms, such as chest pain (older patients)
Neutropenia, or a low white blood cell count, is another symptom of MDS. A shortage of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, increases the likelihood of acquiring an infection or fever. Of the various types of white blood cells, most people with MDS lack neutrophils, rather than lymphocytes, making them more susceptible to bacterial than viral infections. It is possible to have a defective immune system despite normal neutrophil counts.
The common infections associated with neutropenia include:
  • Skin infection
  • Sinus infection accompanied by nasal congestion
  • Lung infection accompanied by shortness of breath or a cough
  • Urinary tract infection accompanied by frequent and painful urination.
Thrombocytopenia, or low platelet count, is also a symptom of MDS. Platelets are responsible for blood clotting.
People with MDS have a greater frequency of the following symptoms:
  • Nosebleeds (epistaxis)
  • Bleeding gums
  • Flat, pinpoint bruises
  • Rashes of small red dots(petachiae).
Less common signs of MDS include:
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Abnormal shape or size of cells
  • Chromosomal abnormalities. 
Keeping in mind that I would think that periodically some of these things are part of our "normal". But, if you have been reading the above and checking some of the concerns off, then I would recommend you make an appointment with your oncologist for a consultation.  It is likely nothing to worry about, but we as cancer patients know, it is better to be safe than sorry because our lives really do depend on listening to our bodies.

Blessings to all! Have a great week. And don't forget to say a little prayer for fellow cancer patients!!

Hugs!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Robin will be fine

Triple negative breast cancer is a disease that keeps giving. Even when one battle ends, another may begin at any time. If you know someone with breast cancer, please offer a helping hand.  The emotional, physical, and life toll it can take on an entire family is tremendous.  If you are a survivor, please don't forget about those who still need YOU.  Your friends, your family, patients, neighbors.  Cancer may have changed your life in many ways, but it does not define who you are unless you let it.

And so now we hear that Robin Roberts is facing a new challenge in her life.  After surviving triple negative breast cancer, she has now been diagnosed with a bone marrow disease.  She is under going a "pre-treatment" of sorts to gear up for blood transfusions that will help her.  This woman is a rock.  She was one of the very first people I recall looking up with TNBC.  Reading her story helped calm the storm that raged fear within me.  I was terrified and reading her journey quieted that fear, some.

Learning of her illness makes my stomach do flip flops for her, because I know she will have to undergo that dreaded red - or green - devil again, but she is a tough cookie. I read what she had to say about her diagnosis and just like Robin, she is completely positive that her outcome is good.  Some TNs might wonder what is to come for them, too.  Don't worry about tomorrow, we can only control what we have today.

That being that case, I am positive that I will be praying for mercy and intervention on her behalf.  Please, won't you pray for this woman who has come into homes every day with a smile and a story to brighten the lives of millions around the world.

Have a blessed week all.  Hugs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Item #6 on My Bucket List

Well, item #6 on my bucket list is identified as "making a difference in someone's life".  Today, I did something that I hope, hope, hope, will come true.  I sent an email to Ellen DeGeneres asking her to consider my mother in law for a new car.

My M-I-L, Peggy, is nearly a saint. I love this woman as if she were my own mother (My mom died of cancer when I was 19).  She has endured so much, and asked for so little throughout the years. I think the last time she was even on a vacation was probably 20 years ago when I took her to Oklahoma for a weekend of bingo.  She raised five kids on her own after her husband unexpectedly died of a massive heart attack, and never remarried. Her life has been dedicated to her family. One child has cerebral palsy and another has brain seizures. She has never had a new car - ever. Or a new house. Her home was built in the 40's or 50's and her son, my ex-husband (and friend) is constantly making repairs to both the car and house.  The air conditioning is an open window or window unit. Yet, she takes it all in stride and smiles through even the hardest times.

Peg is now in her 70's and still works part-time at a bakery, just to get by.  It breaks my heart. I wish I could give her so much, but I don't have it either.  As we know, cancer has a way of depleting everything out of a person, but if I could, I sure would do this myself.

Not only would it be neat to check off another bucket list wish (Item #6) by helping this truly inspiring woman, who, without even realizing it, helped me become a better person and a good mother, but I would like to be able to give back just an ounce of what she has given to me and so many others.  If you knew her, she would make you smile.  She makes everyone smile; especially my children who adore her.

Ellen, if anyone can do this, you can! Please help me honor Peggy.

To my readers, you can help by asking Ellen to support this request. Her web page is: http://ellen.warnerbros.com/show/respond/?PlugID=441&adid=subfeat-permalink

It would do our hearts some good.  That's my thoughts today.  Love to all.

Hugs and hope~  (Ellen - call me!!)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where'd They Go??

Hi everyone.  Apparently my blog has learned magic, because I am certain I have been writing and logging in here, but a few have magically disappeared.  *poof*gone*  Go figure.

Well, surely there is no way I can regroup what is lost, but I can tell you that my PET scan was indeed negative and I danced around the same office where I first found out about the cancer.  I will make  three years NED and I have no doubt that I will see four and five years too!  What a weight off my shoulders!  I didn't realize how concerned I was until the phone rang and I picked it up. Once I hung up, it was like someone lifted a boulder off of my chest. 

My boys have been in Jamaica for this last week celebrating their daddy's 50th birthday with him.  It brings me great joy and peace to see the wonderful relationship our family has maintained even though we have been divorced for more than 20 years.  Way back then I knew by maintaining "friendly fire" it would be in their best interest long term, and now they not only reap the rewards, but the entire family does and I thank God for his whispers to me even when I wanted to scream.

On another note, one thing we as cancer patients know is that life is very short.  This morning I learned of the passing of a nice lady who was loved by so many people here in Melbourne. She was not a cancer patient. Her death was tragic and completely unexpected.  I only met her a few times and she was so nice to me each time.  So today, my thoughts and my heart are with each of these folks and the family members who lost her.  Michelle, you left your footprint on many and I'm sure they will carry your memory with them always. Thank you for sharing yourself with so many. You will be greatly missed.

Take time today to hug someone or tell them you love them.  These are what make up such special moments in life and when you have the opportunity - don't let it slip by!! You know what they say about physics, right?  In the one second you touch something hot and burn your hand - it can feel like an eternity. But in the second you've lost someone you love, it seems like they've only been here mere minutes and gone way too soon.  Don't miss any special minute today.

You are loved.  Hugs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Regarding PET Scans

Hello everyone. I've been away for a little while.  Busy, but not; exhausted, but energetic.  I was actually just taking some selfish "me" time by going on an amazing cruise! I went to St Thomas and St. Maarten Islands, which I recommend, and since my return, I have been working and napping and playing with my dogs, and so on.

I went in and had a PET Scan on Friday.  I've had some issues with lymph nodes in my arm where the cancer was, and it is painful. My shoulder gives me a fit occasionally, but this was different, so the doc is investigating.  Safety - I prefer that.  As a TN, I'm keeping my fingers crossed because June will be that three year critical point I need to reach being NED.  I believe I remain cancer free and so I hope to hear that from the doctor today.

Regarding PET Scans, I thought I may be able to re-share/refresh the information on them.  What they can do.  PET Scans provide critical information to help physicians locate and determine size of a cancer, distinguish benign from malignant, determine aggression or invasion (has the cancer spread?), type of treatment, and follow up / recurrences.

Some one million new cancers will be diagnosed in 2012 - this includes most cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 570,000 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, more than 1,560 people per day.  Through the use of the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computed Tomography (CT) imaging, doctors can detect and evaluate the extent of cancer.

So now that you know what it CAN do, just how is it done? I will do my best to explain in words I understand it to be. If I am wrong, please feel free to correct me as I want everyone to have the best information.

Well, it can be time consuming, but it really isn't a difficult test. Upon arrival at the imaging center or hospital, you will have an injection that contains minute radioactive glucose particles designed to "make the cancer glow" if you will. For some reason, the cancer is attracted to the sugary substance of it.  The hardest part of the test comes in two parts.  The first part is in remaining very still and quiet. You know how it is, as soon as you are requested not to move or don't have a free hand - your nose itches. Guaranteed every time, right? The second hardest part is the waiting on the results.  The specialists that review the tests know how important it is to get your results right the first time, so you can expect to wait three days.  And, if you are like me, five days as my test was on a Friday.  Patience is a plus.  Anyway, my therapy in waiting comes in my writing this for you and booking my next cruise to the western Caribbean with my son (yayness!).

If you can sit down and look at your results, good or bad, with your doctor, you get a fine opportunity to learn a little more about your body.  How cool is that?  Have an awesome week, and a very blessed Easter.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

So Much to Live For

I have always been aware of the things that I am grateful for in my life. My God, my children, my home, my country, my job, and the ability to see and feel and laugh and love freely as I choose.....When faced with a possible death sentence, there are moments that flash before your eyes and a weakness that fills your whole body. In one breathless split second, you know there is still so much to yet to do. Suddenly all the little things you have done in your life become a bit more significant. You treat others a bit more tenderly and loving and enjoy each day because you know time is precious and that dash between your years is important. An you know that some people never get that extra time.  (I have also found that I can get a bit irritated when people are arrogant or waste my time.)

I would like to think I have accomplished some wonderful things in my life - most importantly my children.  Education, retired military, honors, and others things that fall on the list are there, but my boys, well they are what move me - my real prize in life. When I think about a bucket list, they are always included in those things I want to do.

Just for kicks, some of things on my list that I hope to do (with my boys) one day are:
1.  Go to LA and be on the Ellen Show and the Price is Right. They are my two favorite shows.
2.  Visit Poland.
3.  Write a book
4.  Get a tattoo that is a compilation of my boys tats and names
5.  Sing with Bette Midler
6.  Make a difference in someone's life
7.  Visit the Grand Canyon
8.  Watch the Northern Lights - from Oregon or Alaska
9.  Go skydiving with my boys (Check!)
10. Swim with dolphins with my boys (Check!)
11. Get a master's degree (Check!)
12.  Raise money for charity (Check!)
13. Win the lottery
14. Pay off my house
15. Drive the pace car in the first lap of the Daytona 500
16. Win a Corvette :)


Being a two year survivor, I am now working on that list.  I add to it all the time and I do things that I didn't realize was even on it and then check it off anyway because it just felt amazing......These are but a few of the things that I have to live for but my children brighten my day beyond measure.  Everyday is a pleasure knowing I have them in my life. Just yesterday my son got a tattoo with my signature and a breast cancer ribbon on it.  He blew me away.  On his facebook page, he wrote "the most important person in the world to me".  And this is how I know I still have so much more yet to live for.

For you, whether you are still fighting or a survivor, choose how you want to spend your days and then do it.  Make a list or not.  Count your blessings or not.  Being on this side of the grass on any day is a good day for me so I'm going to make it count with a good attitude and a bit of grace!


Friday, February 17, 2012

A Kiss from God

Great news this morning. I looked at my email and received word that another local patient/friend, Kristen, was told by her doctor that she is cancer-free!!!  This is truly a great day for her and I hope you all dance a little dance for her because this is BIG.  She has been in a huge battle and has two babies....this news is like a kiss from God telling her, "You are ok, honey, I got this".....Especially considering she was Stage 4 when diagnosed.

Kristen is a shining example of faith and hope and how we walk through this day after day and just keep on keeping on. From the day I first met her, and we were all scared, to now.  Today, I am just so, so pleased that my cup runneth over for her and her family. We lost one friend recently so this is a victory on many levels.  Thank you, Jesus.

Like most cancer patients I'm sure she understands that while this battle has settled down, it likely isn't over. But for today, she has won! She is young and her body will take the much needed break it needs to heal and recover and strengthen.  And while she does, I will be out here praying for her.  Won't you help me and say a little prayer for her also?  One minute out of your day means so much....from your mouth to God's ears.....he listens. Yay, Kristen!!

May you all have a safe and blessed weekend. Keep your chin up and remember, when you are down, there is only one way to look.....and that is UP.  Hugs.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Patient Safety - Lack of Communication


A few days back on MedPage I read an interesting article on patient safety. What caught my attention was that it was related to communication between the patient and the doctor.  Although Medpage is open to virtually anyone, my guess is that the population most likely to refer to it would be the medical community, so who would the target audience be?  The medical community?  Yes, exactly. I think it will be an enriching experience for the already well-educated doctor to partake in commo lessons designed to help them relate to the patient, who in many cases, may not be educated.  While working on my master's degree, I took several communications classes and when you don't have a good connection between the sender and the receiver, a breakdown will occur in the transmission of information. 

As a patient, if you don't understand what your doctor, or nurse, is explaining to you, you have an obligation to YOURSELF, to ask them to slow down and explain it in terms that you can understand.  Most will be happy to do so. What I have found is that they are just speaking in a lingo they've become accustomed to and not trying to deter you on purpose. If you are one of the other kind of patients I have seen that does not want to know, then please, at least let a family member, or close friend, be at the appointments with you, to help make sense of the chaos.  In the long run, at least their presence by your side will be comforting.  

Here is Medpage's article as it was printed:

Conversations in Movement Disorders: Communication and Patient Safety

Discover how effective dialogue and feedback between patient and physician can help you achieve optimal patient outcomes.  Communication errors were the underlying cause of 65% of unexpected negative patient outcomes between 1995 and 2004, according to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. Learn how to improve your communication and patient safety with this new activity, Conversations in Movement Disorders: Communication and Patient Safety.  This ground breaking, media-rich learning experience addressing how physician-patient communication impacts patient safety and offers methods for improving interpersonal communication. Learners will be asked to identify their personal communication style and then observe reenactments of actual clinical situations and patient interviews; Hear about physiatrists’ own experiences regarding the impacts of communication breakdowns as well as examples of successful efforts; and learn to identify the traits of four distinct communication styles and how to adjust to them in real-time situations resulting in an increase in understanding between patients, physicians and other medical professionals, enhance the flow of information and ultimately, improve patient outcomes.

If you are not a regular follower of the page, I have found it quite useful and also good reading.

Today, on 13th day of February 2012, I hope that you are having a beautiful, healthy as can be, day and know that you are exactly where God wants you to be today and always.  Have a wonderful Valentine's day everyone.  Hugs~

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another TNBC patient

Toni has passed and so now, in her honor, I am re-posting a post from July 7, 2011 for someone else diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer:

I remember when I first started this walk down cancer road. I was scared. Probably just as much, if not more so, than a lot of you out there. Both my parents died from cancer, my sister had Stage 2 triple negative BC, and I too was diagnosed as triple negative. I remember feeling like I couldn't breathe. I also remember my first three words....."Oh my God"....

Surely he heard my cries because for all the days that followed, I knew HE knew what HE was doing and that I must trust in HIM. You have a choice with God, just as you do this disease. You can walk with HIM/it, or away from HIM/it. I chose to walk with HIM because as I've known all my life, I know he will carry me when I am weak.

I also found it imperative to keep a sense of humor. Trust me, aside from the gravity of my situation, there were also several jokes tossed around. That and my sister's falsey tossed into the pool...where it floated..and I laughed till I cried.

All in all, the days are not going to go by any faster or slower just because you have cancer. And, I bet you will be more grateful for each sunrise and each sunset that you get to enjoy. Take each moment as they come whether you feel great, or not so great. Part of this whole deal is that the treatment designed to heal our bodies actually makes us sick at first. Just roll with it and take it as a cue from your body that it is doing its job. That is all you can do.

When you are unsure if you can do this and get through it, trust me - YOU can, and you will. There are thousands of us out here, right here, sending you blessings. We do care about YOU and your cancer and we want you to get better.

Life isn't perfect but sometimes our society strangely acts as if it is supposed to be. If that were the case, we'd be in heaven already, right?? So, don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff. ;)

OK, that's my thoughts, now chin up, shoulders back, smile, and breathe....it's going to be just fine. Hugs....

Monday, January 23, 2012

TNBC Hero


This past weekend, I found myself doing odd things at times.  Listening to loud music, louder than normal for me; eating more than normal, exercising a little less, and being a little more emotional than I might ordinarily be.  And my heart aches a little more than usual.

I know exactly why I feel this way and I can say it in one word.  Toni.  She has been my “TNBC hero”, if you will, for some time.  She has been a medical miracle in so many ways for the last few years, until the past few weeks.  And now she is in hospice, dying.  She is four years older than me with a husband and son and they are going to bury her sooner than later.

This disease is vicious and very real….it always has been.  Not just for you and me, but for the many before us who so unfairly never got to meet their grandchildren, or watch their sons and daughters walk down the aisle.  I know that research is doing what it can, but it needs to hurry up! Too many have died already.  If they can track one bovine with mad cow disease and send rockets into space – why on earth can’t they find a root cause of this DNA problem and fix us.If any researcher reads this, please hurry.....

My friend and co-worker said something this morning that resonated with me. She said, “I don’t know how you do it. I think I would rather just be driving down the road and have a heart attack and be gone than live with knowing this can or will come back for you”.   Yeah, but it is what it is.  Triple negatives know statistics are against them, but I’m intending to be on the upside of them.

And with that thought and for our Toni, I say, we must shake those moments and just really live each day.  Enjoy a walk on the beach, a funny movie, a phone conversation with an old friend, or your pup and kitten playing.  Really take it in and love that moment for it will not pass again.  And when the good Lord does come for me, I know I will have lived and loved to the best of my ability.

Hugs to all~

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Army of Women is looking for you!

The Army of Women is currently looking for women in the United States who had a benign breast biopsy after January 2000 and have NOT been diagnosed with breast cancer.  What they are writing is that some women who have had a benign breast biopsy are at higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who have not had a benign breast biopsy. 

This study will investigate whether the amount of DNA damage seen in the cells in normal
breast tissue is an indicator of risk. If you agree to participate, it will include a questionnaire, 
pathology slides from your biopsy, and paraffin from your tissue.

Researchers are looking for 400 women in this study.  Research is the only way to find a

cure for breast cancer.

You can participate if you meet this criteria:
• You are a woman over the age of 18
• You have had screening mammograms performed
• You have NOT been diagnosed with breast cancer (including DCIS)
• You had a benign breast biopsy after January 2000
• You were NOT pregnant or breastfeeding when you had the benign breast biopsy
• You were NOT using birth control pills or menopausal hormone therapy when you had 
   the benign breast biopsy
• You have NOT tested positive for the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation (if known)
• You live in the United States
If you are interested in this, please go to:  
Dr Susan Love’s Army of Women – Contact at
https://www.armyofwomen.org/rsvp/618?utm_content=Untitled-20120117135325&utm_campaign=Mailings&utm_source=iPost&utm_medium=email

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sundown Tinting in Birmingham AL

One of my best friends, Kellie, lives in Alabama and she and her husband have an auto tinting business (www.sundowntint.com).  They do exceptional work I might add!  Anyway, for all my friends in the Birmingham area, listen up!

Sundown Window Tinting and Design will make donations to "Making Strides" via my website at http://main.acsevents.org/goto/Arla. If you purchase a bumper sticker at $5.00, $4.00 will be donated to Making Strides.  They are doing this with the Arthritis Foundation and Humane Society as well.

To support this, Sundown Window Tinting & Design is giving away $600.00 worth of work (i.e. ceramic tinting of your car, paint protection, signs, printed signs, advertisement signs, banners, vehicle wraps, etc.) to a lucky purchaser of one of their bumper stickers.  All you have to do is take a picture of the bumper sticker on your vehicle and send them a picture of it on your vehicle, or you can post the picture on your facebook and friend request Sundown Window Tinting so they can see the picture on your facebook.  Once they get the picture, you will be entered into the drawing of $600.00 worth of free work at Sundown Window Tinting and Design.

Support them and they will support the thousands of others in need!  What a great idea for paying it forward to Get Up, Dress Up, and Show Up.   Which, if you will notice, that was my motto too….LOVE this!!   Please support them if you can.   AND, if you are out of town, call Kellie, she will work with you!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Hello Everyone! Well, it is way after ringing in the new year, and I've fallen behind on my duties to keep you up to date on my health - and hopes. In my recent postings, you saw that I did one of my bucket list trips and went skydiving at 18,000 feet with my oldest son, Brad. That was amazing and unforgettable.  This last week, my youngest son, Kyle, was in town and his Christmas present was a ticket to jump - along with many other things of course.  So, why did I give him "this gift"?  Well, one, because he really wanted to jump and two, because for me, I felt a little closer to God and I hope he did too.

We did a lot of other things while he and his girlfriend were here. We made pottery, saw the Blue Man Group, went on an air boat ride, and watched movies (our favorite past time). We went and saw Sherlock Holmes - Robert Downey Jr AND Jude Law at the same time? YES!!! lol

Additionally, I nursed a muscle spasm in my back that is unlike anything I've ever felt before so I continued with physical therapy and that helped loosen the muscles up.

I have not done much research as of late because over the Christmas holiday, I learned of a friend going into hospice.  She, too, is triple negative and has been such a fighter and good christian woman.  She knows what is coming, sooner that she would have liked, but she looks forward to a peaceful heaven, and to greeting us all again one day. Me too.  Anyway, her prognosis set me back a little bit, so I just didn't feel up to writing. My apologies.

I tell people that cancer was good to me. I know - CRAZY!!! Right?  But in many ways, it was. It brought me back to my faith; it made both my family and friendships stronger - in a very real way; and it helped me become less vain. Every day, I can choose to be happy or not, and I choose to be ecstatic for having more time.  Am I sick? Nope, not at all.  I am two years NED. But I won't take one day for granted.

I want every moment with my children to be something they remember with a smile, or a laugh. I want my co-workers to know that I do care and I'm not just "performing", and even when I walk my dogs, I want to focus on their joy of just being with me.  Right now, I have all three dogs and a kitten on me and yes, typing this is a challenge as the kitten chases the mouse.

Resolutions: I have given thought to a resolution as many do each year. This year, I think I would like to knock off another item or two on the bucket list and continue to live as if I'm dying.  I mean, after all - no one gets out alive, right?

In closing, more often than not, we don't know how much time is left, but it's what we do with that time and the people we share it with that is so important.  So come on, join me - do something today that makes you step outside your comfort zone, or check an item off YOUR list, or even just sit and quiet your soul and listen for God. He's still there, waiting for all of us.

Many blessings for a happy and healthy 2012.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Calendar is Complete!!

The 2012 Hope Calendar is finished! If you would like to see it, please go to:
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=f8ec47f73a1981d76276141d224b0f78&sid=0AcOGzJqzcNWjlg

You should be able to view it.  Each woman in the calendar is a breast cancer survivor who offers a short statement on what helped her succeed.  If you are interested in purchasing one of these, the cost is $15. Please let me know.

I had a wonderful time meeting the ladies and sharing with them.  As much as we are all different, we have a great deal in common as well. One thing I have found is that much of what we think and feel after experiencing cancer is the same as the next person.  We move on and try to live our lives as fully as possible knowing in the back of our minds that somewhere deep inside us, it remains, and could return at any time.

This being the week before Thanksgiving, I urge you to reflect on what you give thanks for and what you are grateful for in your life.  What are your special memories, and if you were to write a book, what would you say. On the flip side of that, if someone were to write a book about you, how would that book read?  Would you be proud of what others were reading about you?  What can you do this Thanksgiving to make it that much more special for others around you - just in case.  We never know what is in store for us and ya know what, it's not really about us anymore, it is about those who we love and wish to do well for and by.

That being said, here's a few idea's to help you make your Thanksgiving just a bit more special for family, friends, and yourself.

1.  Read a Thanksgiving story with your family.  If you are alone, read one that resonates especially with you.
2.  If you have family and friends over for dinner, ask each person to recall a special memory and talk about it. It will create fond memories for everyone.
3.  Go to church and praise God.
4.  Go see a parade - or watch one on TV.
5.  Invite someone in need into your home to share the day, or go to one of your favorite charity's and serve others.

When we help others less fortunate than ourselves, it often causes us to feel better about our own predicaments.  I've said many a time here, I am blessed and very lucky because I am still alive.  And while I am still alive, I want to make others laugh and smile....if only for awhile.

If I am not on here beforehand.....then here's to wishing you all a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.  Hugs~

Monday, November 14, 2011

Skydiving - One More Check on the Bucket List!

Good Monday morning all! This past weekend was unlike anything - ever! On Friday evening, my wonderful son, Brad, emailed me and said, "Hey, momma, wanna go skydiving tomorrow?" And me being the kind of mom not to let my boys do something crazy by themselves, said, "Yeah, let's do it!"  And then I thought, "Good Lord, I seriously must be losing it..."

I barely slept that night thinking I was going to jump 15,000 feet out of a perfectly nice airplane, and possibly to my demise. Holy crap! But.....why not?  I always wanted to feel the wind "beneath my wings" so why not try it with my son!  And let me tell you - as far as bucket lists go - PUT THIS ONE ON YOURS!

It was amazing!!!! Did I say amazing?  I meant to say freaking fantastic!!!  After almost wetting my pants when the plane took off (because precisely at that moment you realize there is no backing out), I was terrified on the plane, and at the door, but once I actually jumped with my awesome tandem instructor Cris, everything changed. It is an indescribable feeling, but I will try to explain it.

You know when you are dreaming and feel like you are falling and you shake and wake yourself up?  It does not feel like that at all. LOL It is quite the opposite actually.  You are indeed falling at 120mph towards the ground, and the wind is rushing through your ears and hair quite loudly as you try to grasp the magnitude of everything around you.  With all that going on, you still almost feel like you are being pushed up from the wind, instead of actual free falling.  We spun around in a few flips and circles and Cris even let me "fly" our parachute. Of course, when the parachute opened, I wasn't ready for that part, and *whoosh* it pulls you back....and then you just float.  The whole thing lasted about seven or eight wonderful minutes and Cris, who was so awesome, touched me down as light as a feather, and I just walked right out of the harness (really!!) Having said that, if you are in Florida, I highly recommend Skydive Space Center in Titusville!  I kid you not.  I was so psyched.  My adrenalin was still going at full speed several hours later.

Honestly, other than the initial boarding of the plane and looking out of the door before the jump, it was absolutely spectacular.  So spectacular, that I do hope to do it again.  Oh, and did I mention, that because Brad and I were jumping with the seasoned jumpers who had more than 20,000 jumps, they took us to 18,000 feet.  Not that we would have hit the ground any harder (you're still going 120mph), you just get a longer ride.....ahhhhh.....

THAT was worth the check and check mark.....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breast Cancer Risk vs. Heart Health??

OK ya'll....I need to get this "off my chest", so hold on.....Another "new" study has been published by the American Medical Association that states: "Even moderate drinking increases a woman's breast cancer risk".  Seriously, this after finding out that it also helps the heart by reducing the risk of heart disease.  

Of course, their study doesn't tell women not to drink at all, I mean, why would it?  It seems to me that these "doctors" getting grants (or whatever) and performing studies provide more confusion than conclusions.  

I would like to know how long this particular study endured for Dr Wendy Chen be able to conclude that the alcohol intake "over a long period of time" (lifetime) increases the breast cancer risk".  I listened to her on WKMG, Channel 6, this morning and was blown away by this PhD's responses.  She never had any solid information, only "recommendations" such as "reduce the alcohol intake to several per week".  Ok, I give - just what does that mean?  I myself have an education and would be afraid to explain THAT sentence to anyone.


Quite frankly, if you can't tell, I am exhausted with studies and the conclusions that "everything" leads to breast cancer.  Yep, it does.  Now that we know that, stop saying it and scaring the crap out of women, young and old.  We would benefit our communities much more if we focused on how we fix the breast cancer issue instead and find a flipping cure.  

Finally, oh educated ones, seven surgeries later and waking up every day seeing a "new study" is actually old.  I live with the fact of wondering if today will be the day IT returns, so, please stop screwing around with maybe's and possibilities and start providing real conclusions - or better yet - solutions - for breast cancer.  Only then will women stop having to have their breasts removed from their chest or worse - dying.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A combo for TNBC?

New news has been posted that may help triple negative breast cancer patients.  According to Medpage Today, researchers are stating that Avastin plus Taxol works just as good for TNBC as it does for non-TNBC patients.  I think that is promising news.

One thing this DOES indeed say is this:  Researchers are working diligently towards finding a cure, not just for a single type of breast cancer, but even for the most hardy cancers, and this is awesome.  Triple negative patients generally have a shorter life span than does non-triple negatives, BUT, take heart, there are so many different treatments being formed for now that the cancer is actually beginning to respond to treatment.  Ten years ago it didn't respond to anything and women just passed away.

As for me, I have been quite tired as of late, but I have learned to recognize when I am overdoing it, and I guess if I am honest with myself, either I haven't gotten enough rest each night, or I have gotten too much rest.  Either way, I'm kind of blah, but I know it's a phase I just have to get myself out of. 

I also cannot figure out why on earth I am craving chocolate.  And Lord knows I have eaten my share of it too - shame on me - bad chocolate!!  Never in my life have I craved chocolate.....and it sure isn't helping my cause any....... any idea's??

Have a great week and hang tough....people are working hard to take care of YOU!

Hugs~

Saturday, October 29, 2011

For ALL Women

Well, last Saturday, I did walk the Making Strides Breast Cancer walk.  It was a beautiful morning - I mean really spectacular.  At 0700 it was cool and crisp and the sun came out to gently warm us just as the walk began around 0830.

The walk was scheduled to start at 0800 sharp, however, many participants got stuck in traffic, so it was delayed to allow extra time for everyone to begin together.  This year, more than 7,000 people participated in this walk.  That is phenomenal.  Viera is not a huge place to begin with, but it sure has a lot of heart.  The Avenues continue to support this cause with the American Cancer Society and Lexus and each year it just continues to grow. I don't know how much was raised yet, but I'm sure its over the 500K mark.

Every step is magical for me. I know I've said it a hundred times, and I will likely say it another hundred, but I KNOW how lucky I am to have each day, and I take none of it for granted.  To be here and be able to walk along side these other survivors, and family members who walk for those who are no longer here, is completely humbling to me. I find it hard not to cry. Not from pain or poor experiences, but the richness in my heart that I feel every time I am among such a group of committed people.  I feel.....lucky.

There are so many that I carried with me during my walk, and I prayed for each of you.  I had my little list in my shirt.  I always carry you with me, here or not.  One day, there WILL be a cure.  Of course, I also believe it will require environmental changes too.

Anyway, for all of you out there who continue your own battles, know that you are loved and prayed for.  As a matter of fact, 7,000 people prayed for you Saturday morning....wow!  Believe and hang tough. You CAN do this.

Hugs to all ~

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Third Walk

Tomorrow will be my third walk as a breast cancer "survivor".  I've been a survivor all my life, but being in this group is different because your status can change on a dime.  You have to keep your thoughts and spirits positive because according to science, your body will act/react to your thoughts/moods, etc.  This is not to say that anyone can think themselves healthy or think themselves sick, it is just to say that positivity breeds positivity and vice versa.

The calendar I have been working on for the last few weeks is almost done.  We have one photo shoot left and it is complete. I am excited! We already have about 20 orders for them - and that doesn't include what I shall get for my own family.  I designed them with one word in mind:  HOPE.  And then used a survivor for each month. 

I'm thrilled to still be here to walk tomorrow. Each step for me is symbolic of the all steps taken to get here to this day, to walk with the other survivors.  And, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do so.....I hope to see you there....I am uploading a one of the hope pictures I recently took - I have to thank Trisha with TC Photography.  She has done a wonderful job with the pictures.  If you would like a calendar, they will be $15. All proceeds will go to Making Strides to help patients with appointments, mammograms, chemo, and other important necessities.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Two Years, Four Months, Five Days

I know, you are asking yourself, "What kind of title is that?" Well, for me, it's an important one.  Two years, four months, and five days ago, I received that dreaded call sitting in the same chair in my office that I sit in now.  I remember that feeling as my breath was sucked out of me and my thoughts became garbled in four words, "You have breast cancer".

I had never really been sick before then - I mean really sick, like what this unknown person on the other end of the phone was telling me, and every radar antenna I had went up and all defenses turned on.  Just like that.  I didn't know how, I didn't know where, I didn't even know what I needed to do, but I did know one thing - I was going to fight.

So, I have gone back on this day of surviving two years, four months and five days as a triple negative BC patient and re-read some of my posts.  I also looked at the photographs again, wow, it's been an amazing journey I must say.    I've made myself laugh at some of the things I wrote, and then with some of the others, well, I must apologize, for surely the medication was kicking in and my spelling wasn't the best.  But, the reason I went back to look was to see if I had been keeping my promise to myself, and more importantly to YOU - have I reflected my "get up, dress up, and show up" attitude.  I think I have, and Lord knows, I've been honest for sure. Sometimes too honest, but I refuse to lie to you.  The truth is what it is and you deserve nothing less than that and my mutual respect. That is the mother and soldier in me.  

Anyway, I thank Jesus, for helping me through this and giving me two amazing children and a sister who I could not have done this without.

Finally, it is October so reach out to every woman you know and remind her to get her mammogram.  Do it verbally, on email, here on a blog, and on face book, too.  "We" want more birthdays than ever before.  Do you want a good dose of hope?  I took a photo of a woman who was diagnosed with BC in 1976. The tumor was the size of her breast so she had a mastectomy.....and she is still with us.  Now how's that??? You should be smiling now.... go ahead, you can do it. :)

Hugs~



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's On!

Good morning! The calendar is on! I still do not have a confirmed sponsor, but I fully believe where there is a will, there is a way. I just know this is the right thing to do and the pictures that we have taken so far are beautiful!!! I can't wait to share it with all of you - and I hope that you will buy one when they are ready! All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society. ALL proceeds. I am/have been a cancer patient so my only wish is to help someone else get through it.

The women in the calendar will represent "HOPE" for others who are diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 - and beyond. Some have been survivors for 9 months, some for 40 years. They come from all backgrounds and ethnicity's - just like breast cancer. I am so looking forward to the finished product...

There is only 17 days left before the Making Strides walk here. If you are able, please go to my page and donate. You can find it at:
http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCFY12Florida?px=14996179&pg=personal&fr_id=35980

The funds raised help breast cancer patients with rides to their appointments, wigs and such, the Reach to Recovery program, and much more. Every day another woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, but the good news is that there are 2 million of us beating it because of continuing research. I have one word for that statistic: Yayness. :)

Have a great rest of your week. If you are fighting the fight - don't give up. There are so many of us out here rooting for you. We have done it, and so can you. Put one foot in front of the other and push through it - you CAN do this. Sure this is hard, but remember why God gave you knees, to get down on them and look up to him.

Anyway, my motto was (and still is) to get up, dress up, and show up. That, and putting on a little lip gloss makes me feel pretty good too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How about a Calendar?

OK, late last week, myself and a co-worker were chatting it up and came up with a pretty neat idea... we have decided to do a calendar of local survivors and give all the proceeds to Making Strides for Breast Cancer. What more beautiful way is there to contribute to the cause and to also honor our women who have endured such battles? I was picturing the entire thing in my mind as we talked it through.

My co-worker, Trish, one of our CSI Techs at the PD, is also a photographer who does photography on the side via her own small company called TC Photography. We are looking for a sponsor at this time, and I am confident that we will come through with one.....So, I need YOUR help - if you know of someone who would be interested in one - being part of the calendar or two - sponsoring this wonderful adventure, then please send them my way!!

All good deeds are returned by good karma..... Have a blessed Monday everyone! Hugs

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Strides - 2011 - Lucky Me!

Hello Everyone!

Yes, I am the lucky one because I am here today and I get to write to all of YOU out here in blog-land, and you have been important in my life whether you know it or not. You have been a teacher, a classmate, a friend, family.....someone who sent an awful joke to me, or an unknown friend who has sent me words of encouragement along my journey. For all of it, I thank you.

I know the economy is dreadful and in worse shape than most of us have ever seen, and it does no good to cast blame, it just is what it is. As a country, we will pick ourselves up, dust off our knees, and drive on, because that is what we do.

With regard to Making Strides for the American Cancer Society, I am opting for a different approach to implore you to support this cause. But first, let me tell you that because of your support last year I raised more than $2600 and my team, The SPICE RACK, raised over $4200! I am very grateful to everyone who donated. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This year, I am requesting (praying) that everyone I know donate between $1-$5, (unless your company can afford to donate more to a charity, then please do so). From that angle I hope to raise a few hundred dollars this year. I know it is going to be tough, but this is not an option for me - it IS about survival.

As you know, this cause is very personal for me, and my sister Pam. Triple negative breast cancer patients are only just now surviving in the last 5-7 years because of research. Only a short 11 years ago, they didn't even know triple negatives like us existed and women just died because nothing helped them. They would go through heavy doses of chemo and radiation and all the medication and nothing; they wracked their bodies and died anyway. RESEARCH SAVES LIVES - I, my sister, and many other triple negatives are living proof of it.

BUT, this fight is not over because the cure has not been found. Until we find a cure, mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives will continue to die. I have seen women of all ages - 20s, 30s, 40s and up....and it is heartbreaking. I still weep for my friends who lost their lives to this disease way too young and will never meet their grandchildren.

So, today, I humbly ask you to please donate to my Making Strides campaign where your money WILL go to research and WILL help save lives.

I honestly believe that I am still here to talk to my own children and say goodnight to them because of research in the last ten years. That thought overwhelms me because I know how lucky I am and I don't take one conversation with my boys for granted; I savor every single moment.

I monumentally thank you for your time, your love, your guidance, and your friendship.......and as always, your generosity. To get to my Making Strides page, please copy the below link and paste in your browser:

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCFY12Florida?px=14996179&pg=personal&fr_id=35980

Much love and long life~

Arla

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ACS - Extreme Makeover - It could be YOU!

It is that time of year again that the Brevard County American Cancer Society is hosting their "Extreme Makeover" event. If you would like to nominate someone you know - or yourself, please see the flyer I have posted here. This is for breast cancer patients, men and women alike and consists of a full day of pampering and opening ceremonies for Making Strides!

I was privileged to be one of the women selected for the makeover last year, and it was truly a blessing. This year, I hope to be the photographer so the ACS staff can go about their day and do the final touches for the opening ceremonies (at which those selected will be honored). As they run around doing last minute things, I hope to capture those special moments throughout the day of pampering as ladies (or men) are made over.

This will be my way of giving back to those wonderful, wonderful ladies at ACS who made me feel so special last year. I had a hard time holding back the tears, even with all of the lovely makeup.....

If you know someone - or - know someone who knows someone - please share this super opportunity with them. Share their story. Maybe they will be selected for an amazing day of much needed - and deserved - pampering.

hugs to all ~

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tattooing

Well, two years, one month, and seven surgeries later, I finally received my permanent makeup, or tattoo's if you will. Today is the fifth day with them, and I will tell you this: "Ladies - there is hope in breast reconstruction!!"

Ms. Judy Newdom of Facecrafters in Sarasota, FL, did an absolute superb job. She used a variety of 5 or 6 colors, and the areolas sort of look 3-D. Although I and others who know me know my chest is not my natural born chest, Judy added the final artistic touches and I am very pleased. And get this, the two hours it took her to complete, she did at no cost. Some people are unbelievably giving and she is one of them. Judy is also a survivor and understands the complexities and emotions we go through.

I do not normally advertise for others here, but I am making an exception. Judy Newdom is truly a gift to the breast cancer community she serves. If you or your loved one is looking for areola tattooing or other permanent makeup such as eyebrows, eyeliners, or lip lining, please do yourself a favor and call her first at 941-351-1333. You'll be glad you did.

Thank you, Judy for your dedication to others and for helping me feel like a natural beauty again!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just My Thoughts Today

I remember when I first started this walk down cancer road. I was scared. Probably just as much, if not more so, than a lot of you out there. Both my parents died from cancer, my sister had Stage 2 triple negative BC, and I too was diagnosed as triple negative. I remember feeling like I couldn't breathe. I also remember my first three words....."Oh my God"....

Surely he heard my cries because for all the days that followed, I knew HE knew what HE was doing and that I must trust in HIM. You have a choice with God, just as you do this disease. You can walk with HIM/it, or away from HIM/it. I chose to walk with HIM because as I've known all my life, I know he will carry me when I am weak.

I also found it imperative to keep a sense of humor. Trust me, aside from the gravity of my situation, there were also several jokes tossed around. That and my sister's falsey tossed into the pool...where it floated..and I laughed till I cried.

All in all, the days are not going to go by any faster or slower just because you have cancer. And, I bet you will be more grateful for each sunrise and each sunset that you get to enjoy. Take each moment as they come whether you feel great, or not so great. Part of this whole deal is that the treatment designed to heal our bodies actually makes us sick at first. Just roll with it and take it as a cue from your body that it is doing its job. That is all you can do.

When you are unsure if you can do this and get through it, trust me - YOU can, and you will. There are thousands of us out here, right here, sending you blessings. We do care about YOU and your cancer and we want you to get better.

Life isn't perfect but sometimes our society strangely acts as if it is supposed to be. If that were the case, we'd be in heaven already, right?? So, don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff. ;)

OK, that's my thoughts, now chin up, shoulders back, smile, and breathe....it's going to be just fine. Hugs....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Results

My MRI was clean - NED (no evidence detected) and my oncology appointment went very well. It still seems strange at times that after two years of walking around first like a zombie, then with hesitation and concern, to just go back to being normal.

Not sure what normal is now, but by God, I'm going to enjoy it everyday! And, I am scheduled for my tattoing. After seven surgeries, a deadly bacteria that nearly killed me, chemo, and all the other Triple Negative complications, I can't believe that the thought of two little tattoo's is a bit scary to me. Must be because I'm afraid of springing a leak....been there done that - several times.

For those of you who are new to the breast cancer world, I won't say welcome, I will just say let me extend a big "God-hug" to you. This is not the most exciting path to walk, but we hold our heads high, with as much faith, grace and dignity we have, and we fight with we all can muster. I hope you choose to do the same.

If you haven't read my story, for me it was a no-brainer. For what may have seemed scary for me, was scarier for my children. I cried not for me, but for them as I asked God for mercy. Having lost my own mother at a young age, I became determined to fight hard. I greatly missed out on not having her around as I became a wife and mother and soldier and many other things. And she missed out on her awesome grandchildren. In a nutshell, I plan to stick around as long as possible to meet my own grandchildren one day.....

Independence Day weekend is upon us. This great country we live in offers us so many opportunities, even when we feel we are taking two steps back. Be a part of it - and celebrate your life, and our freedoms. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...amen...feeling pretty blessed.....

Hugs....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MRI

Well, another day and another MRI. Nothing bad I hope, but I have had this awful nagging backache for some time now. Aside from having some back pain prior to cancer, I was hit by a pick-up truck and I have fallen - twice. I didn't just fall though, my feet went out and I went down *poof* - it was one of those "What the heck just happened?" moments - both times.

So, because of the never ending pain that keeps me up at night, I had an MRI (thanks Leslie!). The timing was good because I go to see my Oncologist next week. I have been feeling pretty good, too, so I am hopeful that all is well and as progressing as it should be. I take vitamins daily - including C and D and I walk for 30 minutes!! My hairdresser says my hair is growing "crazy fast"...cool.

I have this crazy chocolate craving though that just doesn't go away. The only thing I've found to counter it is a fruit bowl from Publix. They have the best fruit.... ever. Aside from helping with the craving, it is a natural sugar boost.

My cousin is doing well from her bilateral, and an old supervisor will have hers on Monday. Is it just me or does breast cancer seem to be going around like the flu? I bet if you stopped to think about it, you could name at least a handful of people - men and women, who have either had it in the past, or recently been diagnosed with it. At first, I thought I didn't pay any mind to the sheer numbers of it because it did not affect me personally, but that is not it. Everyday, more and more women are diagnosed with this dreadful disease. Thank God for great (and continuing) research. That is probably part of the growing diagnosis/equation - the ability to diagnose at earlier stages. Which means, more lives can be saved long term.

Anyway, ladies - listen up. Your gentle reminder....If you have not scheduled your mammogram, please do so. You are loved and this one simple test can save your life! I am living proof of it. If you don't have time to call right now, at least write it down on your calendar to make the appointment - YOU are worth it.

Hugs to all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A big weekend

Well, June 2d was my two year anniversary since being diagnosed with breast cancer. It allowed me time for reflection on my life, this blog, and where I want to go and what I want to do. For starters, I signed up for a cruise.

I also graduated with a Dual Master's degree from Webster U. An accomplishment I've waited pretty much all my life for. :) At the graduation, the President of Webster, Dr. Beth Stroble, even said some kind words about me that were totally unexpected. When I got up to meet her and take my photo with her to receive my diploma, she said she was glad to finally meet me....wow, I was thinking the same thing about her.

I also took a photo with Jen Arnold and Bill Klein. Bill's dad was another student / friend in school. Great guy with a great sense of humor. I wanted the photo with them sort of as a reminder that of the things we go through in our own journeys, some endure a lifetime of challenges....If you haven't seen them yet, you can catch them on TLC, the show is called "Little Couple". Wishing them the very best in all that they do.

No more school....until I start teaching...yay for baby steps...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Deciphering BRCA negative...just what does it mean for you?

I have FIVE women in my family (myself, my sister, and three cousins) that are/have been breast cancer patients, and all of us are BRCA negative. For the longest time I've thought, "Surely this gene is in my family". Surely, I must be right. I researched BRCA and decided to share with you what I found because I believe everyone should understand the results.
A negative BRCA test result means that you do not have a detectable mutation (gene) in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Sometimes, there is a known BRCA mutation in other family members, and it is referred to as a ‘true negative’. This means the gene causing the cancer in your family has been identified and you do not carry the same mutation. What does it mean to you? It only means that your negative result reflects it is unlikely that you carry a BRCA1/2 mutation.
Statistics show that approximately 12% of all high-risk people have a BRCA1/2 mutation that is not identified yet, so it’s missed by the test. Genetic testing is not yet perfect and current techniques cannot “read” the gene/DNA completely.
It is also possible that you are not the right person in the family to have this test, so if you tested negative it may be necessary to look at your family and determine whether it might be more appropriate to test someone else. Both myself and my sister have taken this test and we are negative yet we are both triple negative breast cancer survivors.
On the other end of this is the question, what doesn’t the negative test result mean?
It doesn’t mean you don’t have a gene mutation. You could still be at an increased risk for cancer because you might actually have a BRCA1/2 mutation, it just hasn’t been identified yet. Also, the negative test result does not mean that you cannot get cancer. And it doesn't mean you can stop visiting your doctor. You should continue to follow up with your specialists and take your health seriously.
When I had my test, I considered it to be a preemptive strike against my cancer. If I had/or didn’t have the mutation, at least I was aware of the results and could move forward in an educated manner. I will not take this cancer lying down…unless I have just awakened from another surgery……I will become as educated as possible, from reputable doctors and hospitals that I trust.
Genetic testing is getting better and better each day and the medical community is making leaps and bounds strides against breast cancer. BRCA is the current test, and hopefully one day soon, a more predictable accurate test will be available that can identify every mutant gene. Until then, stay educated and know your body and your disease. Hugs.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A "God Week"

There have been all kinds of things happening this week, so I decided I would call it a "God-week"....his reminder that HE is in charge - not us.

In the last 7-10 days, areas from Kansas to Ohio and Texas to Georgia have been pummeled with rain, flooding, and tornado's. People are losing all the material things they have worked so hard for - and some of their most prized possessions.... loved ones. Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL, my Army home for six years, was torn to shreds in EF4 and EF5 tornado's. This pains me as I watch the people look for their loved ones, their pets, and pieces of what may be left of their homes. My heart truly aches to see anyone feel such great loss.

My cousin is making her way through the beginning stages of her breast cancer experience and I pray for her daily, to receive good care from the doctors, and mercy from God. And my friend Debbie, well, she is not so good. She is in the last stages and is now with hospice, and back in the hospital with a signed DNR. She has a tube running through her nose into her stomach to drain the fluids that have built up. I could feel the tears as I left her bedside. I don't know if that is the last time I will see my friend or not.

On a spirited note, this morning, I went for my Graduate photo's. I will finally graduate this coming month and I am thrilled, however, it is overshadowed by the things going on around me. And that is very much ok - so many others are in such great need. Lord, give them strength....

We should all say this: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and staff, they comfort me." I don't know what HIS plans are, but I must trust they are good and our lives were planned for us long before we entered this life.

I know that my own journey with breast cancer has been quite a haul. There were days that I wasn't so sure I would make it and sometimes, like this morning, I feel guilty. Days when my body hurt everywhere, and I looked just awful (to me)... and I was hit by a car, and got the flu....and the list goes on and on....but I never gave up. On the contrary, I would look up and just say, "Really?? Come on, give me a break." Now, I just want to say, "Give them a break."

If you are entering into a journey of your own with cancer, you set your pace between you and God. Trust HIM to get you to where you are supposed to be. I can only say that of all times when I should have lost faith in everything, I found it and found myself, and remembered that family, faith, and love is what living is really all about.

In this "God-week" of turbulent times, hug your loved ones a little closer, smell your child's clean hair, sit by the beach and let the sun warm your skin, or just sit quietly and listen for God. HE is there, watching, waiting, and carrying you just when you will need him most. And, if you can't hear him - call me....he might be a little busy.....

Much love....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Time Flies - Easter Message

It has been some time since my last post and I have been very busy. My oncologist has finally allowed me to go 6 months in between appointments, and my reconstruction specialists are about done. The only thing left to do is paint a pretty picture, if you know what I mean (color them in).

I've been doing well taking vitamins regularly with minerals to help support and sustain that which my body needs. I have also taken my awareness to a heightened level where stress is concerned. I do not want to become very stressed out any more as a part of me believes that for so long I lived that way. Now, I let go and let God as much as I possibly can. At least I'm trying...the fates test me regularly.

Too many classes and two thesis' later, I will graduate with a Dual Master's degree, with Honors, on May 7th. Throughout all the chaos of the last two plus years, I continued my education. Mostly, to show my children that they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to do regardless of the situation. It has been a very challenging and difficult time as my mind has wandered all too often, compliments of chemo I'm sure. I've been lucky in that my instructors have allowed me to use my laptop when my hands and bones hurt, and notes at critical pathways that would help ensure my success. I thank them all genuinely for their patience and support. I hope to become a successful and compassionate college instructor myself after graduation.

Just recently, I learned that my cousin has been diagnosed with Stage II IDC. I remember that awful gut wrenching feeling of not knowing what really lies ahead. Not being in control. Cancer sure has a way of reminding us what humility is. She is a strong woman though with a strong family and friends network, and I believe that she will come through this just fine.

As a young girl, a few years her junior, I always looked up to her. She was tall and beautiful, and a model. And she had this infectious laugh that could make a whole room laugh. And she did, and still does. I still remember my dad saying something to her that made her blush 50 shades of red and the family roared with laughter. Carolyn, you are still beautiful, and regardless of what you choose to do, you will STILL be beautiful when your treatment is over. The good Lord knows what he is doing. Keep the faith cousin, and remember what your knees are really for. HE will carry you as he has promised. For my friends, please say a special prayer for her.

Now on to a special sermon of sorts. With Easter on our door steps, may you all be gently reminded of what Easter is really all about - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time to celebrate HIS victory over death and man's hope for eternal life.

Before His death, Jesus had promised eternal life to those who followed Him. That Jesus rose from death reflected his infinite power. And ever since I was a little girl, the one message that has been said over and over and over again....is that Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting eternal life." (John 3:16).

This Easter, wherever you are, I wish you hope, peace, and love. Always.

Hugs.