Two Years Ago

Two years ago today, I knew something wasn’t right in my body. I hadn’t yet seen my midwife or been referred for an ultrasound, I just knew.

We had spent the weekend in Northern California, celebrating my brother’s engagement and the upcoming babies that would be joining our family. The whole time, a lump that I’d found several weeks before, was being rubbed and poked by the underwire of my bra. I was hoping it was just a clogged milk duct since I was pregnant but I had secretly already begun to prep myself for the chance that it could be something worse.

I mean, I knew that it was a possibility, having lost my mom to C in 2008. But at that point in my life, I didn’t know that I carried the BRCA gene and honestly, I was looking for inflammatory breast C symptoms since that’s what she had and that’s what I was familiar with. Not a lump… or 5.

The week and a half that followed was a complete whirlwind. A scheduled prenatal appointment (that happened to be on my mom’s birthday) started it all. The midwife’s face projected the concern I really wasn’t hoping for. The ultrasound that Friday, which required the doctor to take more pics because ‘he liked to take them himself’, was immediately followed up by me crying on the table with my belly propped up on pillows, positioned awkwardly so that they could complete an unplanned biopsy.

I was supposed to be creating a safe space for the baby inside of me. Instead, I was panicking, filling with stress. Thinking I was going to die. Wondering what my babies would do without me.

A funny (not ha ha funny) part of that timeline is that we had maternity photos scheduled for Monday, the day before diagnosis. Underneath that blue dress, my breast was tender, sore from the biopsy. Behind our smiles was fear of what was to come- and some denial.

And then the story we are all familiar with- the call. Tuesday morning I got the call while at work. I had cancer. Me, mom of a 1 year old, 32 weeks pregnant with our second baby, 32 years old.

A lot has happened since that crazy week and now, two years later, I am grateful to still be able to update this blog.

I’m not actually sure the point of this particular post. And honestly, I have other things to report on. But it felt right to share again. And to celebrate that I’m still kicking, two years later.

So I guess, stay tuned.

Hot Mama 🔥

Hot flashes can suck it. Kick rocks. Fuck off. Whatever. I just want them to STAAAHHHPPP! 😩

I currently have the AC blasting, the ceiling fan on high, another standing fan on high, and two ice packs on me just so I can cool off enough to fall asleep… And I’m still sweating.

My hot flashes are getting progressively worse, leaving me with a perma-glow. They happen day and night, night and day. Sometimes, I have to get up and change my shirt in the middle of the night because I’m soaked. I’m constantly looking at the weather app to see when this heat wave will end…. answer- not anytime soon. I’ve been working with my doctor but we have yet to find sweat success. So if you see me out and about, please ignore my pit stains and sweat-stach. 👍🏻

Some less disgusting news- I am super excited to report that I am in the process of becoming a volunteer with Kaiser Hospital.

A little back tracking- When I started chemo, at one of my first treatments, a lady walked up to my chair and began chatting with me. She was a survivor and volunteered her time in the infusion center with patients undergoing treatment. I clearly remember her and saying that once I was out of treatment, I wanted to volunteer too.

Well, thanks to my amazing C Navigator, Brenda, I was introduced to the head of the Breast Cancer Peer Support Program a couple of months back. Once the background check and orientation/training is completed, I will begin connecting with other young people who’ve been recently diagnosed, as a peer support person.

This is actually a role that I’ve gladly stepped into since being diagnosed in August of 2016, just not via Kaiser. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been connected with several people through family, friends, friends of friends, my blog/social media, etc… and I truly enjoy it.

My hope is that, through Kaiser, I will be able to connect with more people and be able to help build an amazing community of fiercely strong, positive, and supported peeps. 💪🏻

Oh, Hey. It’s Been a While

Sometimes, it’s so difficult to practice what you preach. And if you’re me, you don’t even realize that it’s happening. Or not happening? I don’t know how to express that thought.

Lately, I have been feeling disconnected from myself. Not depressed but disconnected. And not just from myself but from others too. Some days, it feels like I put on this costume of someone who has it all together. Most of the time, I can find the right words to say to others in the moments they need them. Or I find the strength to lift them up when it’s just so damn hard. But then I go home and I feel…. disconnected. Always lacking the right words for myself, unable to lift myself up.

I’m not able to pin point the source of this disconnection. It could be hormonal changes from my hysterectomy. It could be that I’m spreading myself too thin, I’m too busy. It could be because I haven’t “shown up to therapy” in too long- AKA updating the blog. It could be that I’m so frustrated with my hair but know that I should be thankful to have it.

It could be that while learning to navigate the new me, I never realized that those around me would have to be doing the same- a pretty selfish thing to realize. It could be so many things… so many things all mixed together.

I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter, what matters is that I’ve noticed it. Others have noticed it, so it’s time to address it.

I’m not looking for tips or advice, I’m just venting in what I consider a safe space. And I truly feel like once I get this off my chest by hitting ‘publish’, I’ll start to feel free and more capable of working on myself. But right now, I’m having too many moments of feeling like I’m fumbling around to get my oxygen mask on while the people around me suffer. You know, that airplane analogy and what not…. and actually, even since I started brainstorming this post a couple of weeks ago, I’ve already begun to feel at ease.

Since my last post, quite a bit has happened. I spoke at Kaiser’s C Survivors Day and I didn’t pee myself. I had people thank me at the end, share their stories with me, shake my hand. It felt good to be able to share myself with others and to have such positive feedback.

I’ve been teaching a bunch of yoga classes and I really dig it. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunities to share what I love so dearly with others. If your in OC, come find me!

I had a bone density scan which came back great. It was primarily done to get a baseline to compare to later on and also, to look into some joint pain I’ve been having. I have the typical results of a woman my age which is awesome considering that I am in menopause, though no answer to the gnarly joint pain that causes me to shuffle to the bathroom each morning to pee. And the nagging joint pain that doesn’t allow me to open the top on my kombucha…. and life’s other important tasks. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I got a haircut about a month ago to control the mullet I had dominating my head. I now feel like I’m wearing a hair helmet. So, that needs to be fixed soon. Or is that what it’s like to grow out post chemo hair? 🤨

John and I celebrated 5 years of marriage but both agree it feels more like 15. Glad to report, we are still in love.

I’m sure there are more things, ideas, and events I am missing from the last two months. Thoughts I forgot to jot down. But that’s life. 💜

Moonlight 🌕

Tonight was. Straight. Up. Magical.

I attended an outdoor yoga class under the full moon and I have never felt so connected to myself and my practice. It could have been so easy, as soon as those raindrops smacked my windshield on the drive over, to say nope. Turn around and head home, where I could be comfy cozy and warm. But I was so pumped to go to this class so I kept on truckin’.

Each rain drop that hit my mat sounded like a tiny drum. The palms rustling in the breeze were so calming. Birds whistling away, topped it off. Shit, people pay good money for sound machines to mimic these noises!

I never actually saw the moon through the clouds- but I didn’t have to.

It all reminded me of one of my favorite quotes- which again, I always screw up but goes something like this, “you can’t control what happens to you, you can only control how you react”. So I lifted my face to the sky.

What I also found really great, not one person complained. No one rolled up their mat and said “screw this, I’m out.” And when class was over, everyone seemed truly happy. It. Was. Magical.

But don’t get me wrong- because , for some reason, I feel like I always need to clarify- I’m not always this happy, positive person who can sit in the rain for an hour and smile. Oh, no. But I try to see the good in all. I try and choose joy as often as possible.

Sometimes, things are crap. Sometimes, a lot of things are crap all at once. Super crap. And in those times, it’s so damn hard to see anything but the shit storm in front of you, let alone joy. I get that. And I don’t have an answer as to how and make the storm any easier. Any gentler. Any less shitty. I guess you have to power through and trust that you’ll come out the other end… covered in crap.

Annnnd, transition….. So many people have asked me about the Survivor Day at Kaiser this June. Here’s all the info I have:

It will be June 2nd at the Kaiser Hospital in Anaheim on La Palma- by the fountain. The event will start at 10 am and speakers will begin at 11. There will be four of us, each with a 10 minute time slot. I still don’t know what I’m going to talk about….. I’m thinking I’ll just wing it and hope that I don’t drop any F bombs 😬

The view from my mat

The view from my mat 💜

No Nips- No Prob (Don’t read this if seeing me topless offends you 😂)

Do I have perky breasts? Nope. A flat and fit tummy? Nah. Long and flowing hair? Not even close. But is my heart filled with love? Completely. Is my soul beaming with hope? You’re damn right. Do I know how strong I am? You bet your sweet ass.

The picture below is raw and it’s not wrapped up in a pink bow.

It’s only been a year since my double mastectomy. About 9 months since completing radiation. And about 8 months since my total hysterectomy. My body is still healing and adjusting- same with my mind and soul. But I will not let what has happened to me, define me. Nor will I be ashamed of this picture. The scars are just part of my story and I’m proud of me. (Even though I had to convince myself that it’s ok to share this pic.) Why I questioned myself is a whole different post in itself…. Another day

If a female body with no nipples and a chest that’s a bit con-caved bothers you, well- I’m not sorry. This is what I am working with these days. In my C community, scars are the norm. In my home, we don’t blink an eye. In fact, I often wonder if my boys will be confused one day…… in a very very very long time…. when they see another woman with breasts and nipples. But I mean, like a reeeeaaaallllllly long time from now. 😆

So if you are like so many who have questioned ‘what it looks like’ – here you go.

This picture was taken in Sedona, Arizona- a place that I thought might be all hype even though I hoped not. I heard it was ‘healing’ and all that jazz. For a moment I wondered if it would heal this frickin sinus infection that has been plaguing me for two weeks. It didn’t. But what it did do- holy crap you guys- it began to heal my soul. I left there feeling so connected to myself and totally recharged. Maybe it was spending more time in nature half naked. Maybe it was spending time with people I loved. Maybe it was the vortexes. Maybe it was the crystals. Maybe it was the wine….. Maybe it was a mixture of lots of stuff. I don’t have the answer. But I still feel amazing from it. And to add to the healing, we were able to spend time with John’s family and some of my family along the way. I truly believe that surrounding yourself with love and positivity heals us more than we realize. 💜

On our way out to AZ, I got a call from my oncologist. I panicked answering the phone, thinking I missed an appointment or something. Instead, she asked me if I would be interested in speaking at Kaiser’s National Cancer Survivor Day on June 2nd. My response- absolutely! I have no idea what I’m going to say but I’m pretty excited about it all! So if you’re in the area and want to see me freak out (and possibly pee myself) about speaking in public. Come on by! It will be a good time for all.

Last update for today- about a month ago, John, the kiddos, and I headed up to Culver City so I could take part in a Cancer Survivors Photo shoot. The amazing ladies from Luna Peak photography really know how to make a gal feel goooooood. They did my makeup, styled my hair and snapped some of the best pics. We even got to get some family shots which (you can tell by their outfits) we didn’t plan for. But they are so us! And I so am grateful to have those moments captured.

Sometimes I wonder if you guys get sick of my gratefulness and positivity. But for real, I mean, it’s not always unicorns shitting rainbows over here. We all have bad days- remember that. And those days are ok to visit. Just as long as we don’t live there. I just try and focus on the happy as much as I can. Yeah? Yeah.

Mamas got this 💜

Happy Anniversary!

Last week, I had realized that the day was approaching but it then slipped my mind. So today when my cousin wished me a ‘happy anniversary‘ I was baffled. I jumped on my Timehop to see just what I was celebrating. Well, shit- it’s been 1 whole year since my double mastectomy. One year, officially breastless. One year, flat and fabulous.

But I’ll be real, I didn’t feel too fabulous for quite a while. The pain from surgery was terrible. Not being able to hold my children for 6 weeks was worse. And trying on ‘regular’ clothes to go out in public for the first time was heartbreaking. My aunt can vouch for that emotional afternoon when I cried hysterically because the reality of what had happened to my body finally hit me. In fact, I was so disturbed by how I looked and felt that I almost cancelled plans John and I had for the evening. I tried on a million different tops, modeling each one along with different bras and prosthetics. I ended up settling with wearing my prosthetics that day even though they made me feel like a fraud. That was the first of 5 times I’ve worn prosthetics.

A year later, I am more confident with my body than I ever have been. I have my days where clothes just don’t look right. But I don’t cry about it anymore. I just try something else until I feel all good. It also helps that I have an amazing husband who reminds me that I am beautiful no matter what. That I should own being flat. And that I shouldn’t care what other people think. He has kept me strong (and sane) through some of the toughest times and I can’t thank him enough. If you know me well, you know I don’t need his approval but I do truly appreciate it. ❤️

I try to focus on the positives that come with not having the girls around anymore. The biggest positive- not having to come home and immediately rip a bra off! I can focus solely on ripping my work pants off and hopping into something that doesn’t have a zipper or buttons. Just over here, living the dream. 😜

I’m actually looking forward to getting back to running once my feet heal completely. I think that running flat will feel so much better than having two post baby boobs flapping in every direction with each step. How’s that for a visual?

Occasionally, I still get people trying to convince me that I’ll change my mind and get reconstruction- this includes people in the medical profession- all based on the fact that I’m young. As of right now, I don’t plan on having another surgery. Things feel right the way they are. I was actually just talking with John the other night about how I am thankful that my plastic surgeon said I was not a candidate for immediate reconstruction. He had told me IF, after a year, I wanted to revisit the conversation, he would gladly do so.

If. Not when. I heart that man.

Now, in case you were wondering, I did not qualify for the study I talked about in the last post. But it’s all good. I believe it wasn’t meant to be but it’s great knowing that this study is being conducted. Hopefully it will open doors down the line for triple negative peeps. Research. Research. Research!!!

I don’t know what’s next, possibly the aspirin trial. I know that my onc and I discussed other options if I didn’t qualify for the study but I can’t remember what the heck those were… I still have chemo brain residual- so I got that going for me. Once I remember, I’ll pass that info along.

Happy anniversary!

A Decade

It’s been 10 years, today, since my mom passed. I feel like after all these years, I should have some eloquent things to say. Still waiting for the right words I guess…

I’m typically a very positive person but I have yet to find a positive that comes from losing my mom. I still get a sudden urge to call her when big things comes up- and little things. All things really. It saddens me to think of all the big milestones she has missed.

But you know what really screws with me? Living through the same disease that took her. I want to ask her about treatments, tests, side effects, thoughts and feelings- compare stories- and I can’t do that. I want to be able to cry to her when things get too scary because I know she would get it. Somehow, she always did have the right words.

I haven’t been great with dealing with my emotions over the last decade. Not just with her passing- with a whole lot of stuff. I hold too much in, I build walls and distance myself- it’s unhealthy but it’s my way of processing difficult things. I tend to slap a smile on and use lots of (maybe too much for some people) dark humor and keep on truckin’.

Perhaps I’ll get to have some sort of famous person breakdown here soon from holding it all in? Kidding. Seriously kidding. {cue Britney 2007}

Onto my oncology follow up. I’m back to needing to focus on a healthy diet. I’m skipping too many meals which leads to dizzy spells. Otherwise, my exam went well. My skin is healing nicely and all mouth sores have disappeared.

We are holding off on the aspirin regiment right now because we are seeing if I’ll get accepted for a targeted therapy double blind study- meaning I might get a drug that has been effective in treating metastatic triple negative bc or I might get a placebo pill. If I get accepted to this study, I’ll be part of something potentially really great for the C community because if the drugs prove to work on non-metastatic disease, it can then be approved for use. To qualify, one must be positive for the BRCA gene and HER2 negative. Note: my tumors were considered triple negative which means- Estrogen Receptor Negative, Progesterone Receptor Negative, and HER2 Negative. And I am BRCA 1 positive.

It’s a little scary to be a part of a study like this but also exciting. Although, before I get too involved, I have to see if I even qualify. Again, I’ll be sure to report back.

And thank you Ed Sheehan, for this:

Done With Xeloda

Originally, this post was going to get into some deep shit. Peppered with some stupid humor. But I just can’t do it right now.

Remember that trip I went on to Vegas last summer? With all the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas? Well, one of them passed this morning and I’m still processing it all. I’m currently in a numb state. She wasn’t just some person from a Facebook group. She was a true friend, who was full of love and she radiated it. This hurts.

So this will just be a quick update because it’s about all I can muster.

My last dose of Xeloda was about a week and a half ago. The tingling in my feet and finger tips has started to subside but my skin is still extremely dry. And the dry skin leads to constant itching. The insides of my nostrils are so dry that they are cracking- like deep paper cuts all up in there and it burns. The spaces between my pinky toes and the soles of my feet are splitting, making me nervous in various yoga poses that they are going to rip right open- I’m just thankful that the inflammation has reduced greatly and standing pressure doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m dousing myself in Aquafor and coconut oil daily with a little relief.

I’m assuming that the Xeloda will take some time to cycle out of my body and things will eventually ease up.

My hair has started to lose its ‘chemo curl’- that’s a thing- and is more of a puff with some straight chunks these days. I’ve just entered a super awkward growing out stage and I don’t see it looking better anytime soon. So, that’s cool.

I see my oncologist this Friday and hope to have some more information on what lies ahead with the possible Aspirin regiment.

And as sweet James Taylor says- “shower the people you love with love” ❤️

Final Xeloda Cycle

Last Wednesday, I started my last cycle of Xeloda. Before last week, I thought I could take on more cycles and had even asked my oncologist if I should. Short answer- she said no. Well, that doc knows what she’s doing. My mouth now feels speckled in sores and the bottoms of my feet are beginning to feel inflamed and painful. I’ve also had some queasy moments where I’m pretty the sure the X is to blame. So, I’m excited to be done with Xeloda this coming Wednesday- it’s really starting to drag me down.

I think I often give off this vibe of someone who has been able to put on a happy face and move along with life post diagnosis. I mean, I get it. I always have this damn smile on my face. But I think I’ve mentioned in the past- I smile when I’m happy, nervous, scared… Some days are easy, I feel strong and fearless. Other days, I want to crawl under my covers and hide from reality. C has proven to be a complete mind f*@$.

With that being said, I feel that there’s a need for me to put some information out there.  Because I often forget that I was thrown into all of this and had to learn what was up- real quick. And that it’s not true for everyone reading this.

While I fully intend on never dealing with this shit again, I also understand that reoccurrence and metastasis are real things that I need to be aware of.  I have several friends who have recently been diagnosed as stage 4 and it hurts my heart. Stage 4 means that the cancer has spread beyond its primary site.  Note- The common sites of metastasis are bone, liver, and lung.  People will often refer to this as “mets”.  Mets can occur no matter your original staging.  (For example, I was stage 3 at initial diagnosis.)

When/if someone has been declared “cancer free”, if their doctor even uses that term, or in remission- it’s not the end all, be all.  We still tend to live in fear and panic with any and every new ache, pain, cough, etc.  Fear that the jerk has returned, and if so- what’s next?

For example, last Saturday morning I went to Urgent Care for a back ache I had for 2 weeks.  Yes, a back ache- where most people would pop some Advil and continue on.  Not me, the pain had me believing that something was wrong.  The doctor truly believed it was a muscular issue but I think she could see the panic in my face and ordered X-rays. Thankfully, she emailed me later that morning that all looked fine and she wished me a good weekend. Yes, it would be a good one with that news.

I wish I could say that this was the first time I’ve freaked out and had xrays.  But I can’t. And I’m pretty sure it wont be the last time.

So I ask you all to be gentle with those who have been diagnosed, no matter the stage or where they are in the timeline of it all. There is sure to be some serious emotional and physical trauma to follow.  Also, remember- if someone doesn’t look “sick”, don’t assume that all is ok. Not all chemos make you lose your hair, brows, lashes, and color in your face. And you never know what’s hiding under their clothes.

A couple more tips-

Never expect someone to be “back to their old selves” once treatment is over.  We too, would love to go back to life the way it was before- but it’s not that easy.

Know that someone could have done everything “right” the first time around and still get a reoccurance or mets.  Do not blame them.

And I will always include this tip, don’t tell someone about a person you know who had C and died.  We understand that you are probably just trying to relate but that one doesn’t help.  Talk about awkward…

I guess a blanket tip could be this— Always be kind to one another because you never know what they have got going on.

On a lighter note- yoga is going pretty freaking great. I’m learning so much and find myself applying the knowledge to my everyday life. On a physical level, my practice is much stronger and the range of motion in my right shoulder is blowing my mind! I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to lift my right arm over my head again but heck yeah, I can. I thought for sure the mastectomy, lymph node removal, and radiation would have done me in- restricting me forever. But with lots of patience, stretching, foam rolling, and strengthening- things are really improving.

I will update after Xeloda is complete and when I have an idea of what- if anything- is next. ✌🏻

Xeloda- Cycle 7

This morning, I had a follow up appointment with my oncologist- to check in and see how I am handling the Xeloda. And honestly, I feel fine on it. I feel so fine that I asked my onc if I should continue on Xeloda for longer than originally planned and she reminded me it’s still a chemo and that I need to remember it’s still taking a toll on my body. I have gotten so used to my skin peeling and being super dry, it just feels normal. I no longer have the severe pain in my hands and feet so I guess I appreciate only having un-fricken-believably dry skin.

I’m currently in the middle of cycle 7 and will be done after the 8th cycle. What’s next? Yeah, I had the same question. Although, I ‘think’ I sounded a little less dramatic than what plays over in my head. Well, next- my oncologist is looking into a low dose aspirin trial. Studies are being conducted to see if low dose aspirin can help prevent metastasis and reoccurrence. The study calls for post menopausal women- me, who were diagnosed with stage 2 or 3 bc- also me. The only thing that could prevent me from participating in the trial is that since I did chemo first and then surgery, I went from stage 3 to stage 1 (because of the residual tumor cells found at surgery). I will have more information on this when I see her in February, towards the end of my final cycle of Xeloda.

Yoga teacher training has been amazing. Our group has this strong, rad energy and our teachers are so inspiring and knowledgeable, I’m proud of the education I’m receiving from such a fantastic studio. We are only about a month in but I can already tell, this group of gals will remain an important part of my life.

The only bummer about teacher training is not seeing John and the kids as much. Mom guilt is real and it’s a bitch. With work, training, additional asana classes, and studying… I feel like I’m missing out. The other night, Harlon told me that they went to Target without me. Man, I don’t even know if they actually went but it got to me. It’s only Target, I get that. But you understand me, yeh? But don’t you worry, I took the boys to Target today. Gotta stock up on those Uncrustables and Chicken Dino’s, obvi.

And this is my friend- Amanda. A fellow KACM. Who I actually got to squeeze in real life here in Orange County last weekend. I won’t lie though- on my way to meet her, part of me felt like I was on MTV’s Catfish and she was going to be some creeper from the inter webs. Thankfully, she’s just what I hoped for- a sassy and super witty buddy fo’ life.

Not much else to report- which isn’t always a bad thing. 🤗