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:
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!