Saturday, December 4, 2021

2021 Best of Times/Worst of Times

There have been so many times this year when I thought 'I should blog about this'...and then I didn't. So now, I give to you, my craptastic 2021....
In the middle of August I went to my primary physician because I was having some abnormal pain. I know, I know all pain should be abnormal...but this one was weird for me. Due to my history, he sent me for an ultrasound. I chose to get this done at Roswell (because they're the pros) and I figured if this happens to be anything serious, I'd rather start it off there. The next day my oncologist called me and immediately put a plan in place because he didn't like what he saw on my ultrasound results. 

He thinks my cancer could be back. 

Next I had an MRI and the results came back as "concerning for recurrance".  From there my oncologist attempted a biopsy in his office. Then we went to the big guy....the PET-CT. The result? "There is no definite evidence of metabolically active malignancy." No evidence of disease. Not the answer we were expecting, but the answer we wanted!

After all of that, we're hoping everything they saw in the ultrasound and MRI are results of past radiation. They're going to monitor it and I'll have a follow up scan in a couple weeks to see if we're still in the clear.

Now, I was able to sum that up in just a couple quick paragraphs, but if I'm being honest....hello, you know me....this rocked my world for a couple months. Hard.

I didn't want to be sick again. I was in the process of buying a house, I started a new position at work this year - this timing is horrible, I'm happy in life, I'm in love, my kiddos are doing amazing....and now I'm going to mess up their lives by dying. And as great as it is to get good news like "no evidence of disease", it doesn't just shut off all the feelings that have been overwhelming you for the previous 5 weeks. I can't tell you how many times I heard "you must be so relieved". Was I? Yeah I was happy I wasn't sick again but, man, it takes serious time to get out of that headspace. I had gotten back in to planning my funeral. I told my friend that cuts my hair that this was the last regular haircut she'd give me. Let's start planning for when I'm bald again. I had to figure out what happens to my new house when I die. This along with a million other things - the things I got to block out of my brain for the last few years....this brought them back...and just like that it was time to hide them away again.

So, yes, I'm still "cancer free" but this is just one way that cancer is very much still a part of my life.

While I was dealing with that scare, I was also going through the process of closing on my house. When I got divorced, I moved into an apartment and set a goal to buy my own house as soon as possible. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that the housing market has been insane. We lost out on houses that were going $30k, $40k, $75k(!) over asking. 

Then we found the one. 

It was an estate. The gentleman that owned it had passed away and his two daughters were selling. It was under my budget and had been on the market for over 30 days - that was unheard something must be wrong with it. We looked at it anyway. It was perfect. The inspector couldn't come up with anything major that needed fixing and even said he'd let his kids buy the house. The family selling couldn't have been nicer. At every turn we found new things we loved about the place. And the more we learned about the gentleman that owned it, the more we wanted to honor him by taking care of his home. I keep referring to it as the unicorn house. It's perfect for us. I couldn't wait to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks in my little kitchen and put this years Christmas tree up in the front window. On October 28th I closed and got the keys....then on November 2nd, just 5 days after closing, I got the call that the house was on fire. It wasn't a big fire but the smoke and soot damage is extensive. We probably won't be able to move in until spring at the absolute earliest. The silver lining is that we get a new kitchen and new windows and light fixtures. But I wanted to work towards that. This is definitely NOT how I wanted to go about it. And I was really looking forward to this being our first Christmas there.

Aaron and I need some time away. Work for me this year has been exceptionally challenging, we had the cancer scare, and the fire at the house. Even if just 2 days. We decided to go to NYC this week to experience the city at Christmas.  Well, believe it or not, we never made it to NYC. Why? We are both currently at home with covid. I hesitate to go into details here because everyone has their opinions on the matter, but we're both vaccinated and we're both extremely grateful for science because I can't imagine how bad we would've been had we not gotten our vaccines. Besides feeling like garbage, we're both quarantined away from our kids and that is shit. We missed seeing Santa and the lighting of the tree in our village. We missed trucking out to the tree farm and cutting down our tree. We're missing Christmas parties together and ice skating lessons. Although there's one perk of divorce - both of our kiddos have somewhere safe to quarantine after being in contact with us and they're safely away when we need to quarantine.

Here's the thing. 2021 was crap. But at the same time it wasn't all bad. Aaron and I rode our bikes across the state to raise money for cancer research and in doing so, we met some of the greatest people that have become so special to us.

In March we said goodbye to Layla but in August we welcomed Sergeant Paddy Barrels to our family. We can't imagine a better fit for us. He's the perfect addition to our crew.

The cancer scare was big. It was a doozy for my mental health. In just a few days from now I'll be 4.5 years cancer free. And then a few days after that I'll have my follow up scan to make sure those growths they saw in September are still "nothing". Next June is the 5 year mark. I can't even put into words how badly I want that 5 years! It's 6 months and 5 days away.

I was so incredibly sad that we couldn't go get our Christmas tree like we planned but Aaron coordinated a surprise with our friends and they showed up with a real tree for us to put up...while I sat sobbing in the window like a blubbering idiot. We seriously have the greatest people in our lives.  I can't wait til the kids can come home again so we can decorate it.

I could easily crawl into a hole with everything that's happened this year. But with each unfortunate event, I had to find the light. It was our friends, family and looking to the future that are getting me through. Next year I'm going to celebrate turning 40. I'm crossing my fingers I'll celebrate being 5 years cancer free. And we're going to celebrate lots of firsts in our new home.

I'm asking one thing of you...

This year has been tough on so many people. Check on your family & friends. If they need to vent, let them. You don't have to find solutions for them. You just need to listen.
Take care of yourselves: physically and mentally. Sometimes it's hard to find that light. And it's also ok to ask for help.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

4 Years Out

Hi. Hello. I think my blog posts have become the equivalent to Christmas Card letters. A yearly update on my life…but in mine, I usually talk about my girl bits. So maybe not the Merry & Bright letters you’re used to.

Today I'm 4 years cancer free. 4 years. Like past years, I've been emotional this week thinking about what I went through and reading old blog posts leading up to my surgery and the horrendous months that followed. I'm so grateful I kept this blog. Thanks, All, for sticking with me for the last 5.5 years. 

 This year I'm in a strange spot. Im happy to have made it to four years, but I'm constantly frustrated with this body. Side effects from my treatments and surgery are worse, not better. About 2 years ago I started seeing a specialist about a problem I was having. At my last appointment with her, she walked out of the room saying she didn't think there was anything else that she could do for me. That was kind of a kick in the ass. But if you know me, you know I'm not a quitter. I went back to square one and started in a new direction. 

 A few months ago I started seeing a physical therapist. Her name is Renee and she's a damn hero. Seriously. I've had more progress and breakthroughs with her than I've had with anyone else. We discuss all the issues I'm having and if there's something she can't answer or help fix right there, she researches and comes back the next week full of information and a plan. I see Renee every single week. Some weeks I'm frustrated and I want to stop because I'm angry that I have to deal with this body that cancer left me with and other weeks I leave in tears of happiness and relief because she's helping me with things no one else has been able to figure out. 

 When you get radiation treatments, a machine basically burns the cancer out of you from the inside out. So as a result of this, all the tissue and muscle from my lower abdomen to my upper thighs and everything in between is the consistency of scar tissue. Some parts I can't even feel. They're not stretchy and healthy - they're stiff and stupid. Renee specializes in pelvic floor therapy. In her quest to help me with other things, she's magically discovered the root of my back pain. I've NEVER had anyone address this with confidence before. I've been given stretches, I've been offered pain meds, but never has someone said, "Oh, this is happening because of these muscles and we can alleviate some of the pain by doing this." The first day she addressed my back I was so emotional I broke down in tears. What a relief - not even a relief of pain, but I've waited 4 years to have someone justify that what I was feeling was real and it finally happened.  
Don't quit. Don't give up. Ever. 

 Speaking of not giving up, Aaron - my better half - and I are riding in the Empire State Ride this summer. We're riding our bicycles, with 250 other people, from NYC to Niagara Falls to raise money for research at Roswell Park. How cool is it that the money we raise could save someone else from going through the crap that I've been through? I keep saying this ride is the hardest thing I'll ever do, but I tackled a monster 4 years ago that kicked my ass, so my scarred hips, my sore ass and I are ready to take this challenge on. Aaron and I will be documenting our entire trip, so if you'd like to follow along, we'll be on Instagram: @redshoeadv and Facebook: @redshoeadventures. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly. And if you're in town on Saturday, July 31st, we'd LOVE to see your face as the ESR team rides into Niagara Falls to complete our 550+ mile ride. 

 I'm typing this post as Aaron and I, in our red shoes, take a quick day trip to celebrate the day. We just made a pit stop and Aaron found this at the gift shop: 

Perfect, right?!?!? 

I couldn't be luckier to have Aaron by my side for this day and every day. Life is good. 

There is some sad news to share: Today's post is dedicated to my Chief Support Officer. Layla left us in March after almost 14 years of fluffy love. She was my constant protector and my best fluffy pal. It was ridiculously hard to say goodbye, but she was ready and we were able to be with her, at home in the sunshine, as she passed. If you ever have to say goodbye to a fluffy friend, and you're able to do this, I highly recommend Dr. Dunne at Paws In Your Heart. Dr. Dunne was absolutely amazing and took such good care of Layla and of us! She carefully explained every step of the euthanasia process and treated Layla like she was her own.

Thank you for your support over the years! I see my oncologist in a couple weeks to get official word on still being cancer free, but for now I will celebrate all of my days and forever be grateful for life and love and all the support from family and friends!

And if you'd like to donate to our Empire State Ride, you can do that here: 
Cancer research saves lives!