40 and Fabulous?

So the newsflash is out…I turned 40 last Saturday! Loads of crappy happy well wishes, cards, and presents have flown in my direction for the last week. Not that I’m not grateful, but the big 4-0 is a little hard to stomach for any woman, probably any guy for that matter, but I can’t help but think females are a tad more sensitive to the subject. Maybe, maybe not. I think I was probably about as thrilled as anyone when you hit that next big milestone. I couldn’t help but feel a bit down and defeated. I thought I would be so much further in life…married, kids, and great house. You know, living happily ever after with that picket fence and all. But instead I’m divorced, no kids, house was sold years ago and replaced by years of endless medical bills from Lyme Disease, the aftermath of gluten sensitivity, and breast cancer. So what’s there to be excited about? I asked myself that several times over the last few weeks.

It’s not to be debated, but the most monumental conclusion I came to was….I’m freakin still alive!! Ha! :) Last year could have turned out quite differently for me. I mean seriously, cancer??? There are many others out there that aren’t as fortunate. One of my toughest lessons this last year was I was introduced to what is called ‘survivor’s remorse’. The sense emotional pain that you survived or got off much easier than someone else who either lost their battle or are fighting for their lives. I had heard about it, but never could have imaged I would be reduced to tears on more than one occasion because I just felt so guilty. It’s by far one of the strangest feelings I have experienced but was also monumentally a learning experience for me as well, and for that I’m truly grateful.

In addition to simply living to see my 40th birthday, I also am grateful for the following blessings:

  • A solid job
  • Great insurance
  • Food on my table
  • A roof over my head
  • Kitties who love me unconditionally and keep my endlessly entertained. (Yes, I’m listing my cats!!) :)
  • I also have great friends and family. They love me unconditionally and check up on me regularly, make sure I’m not getting into any trouble.

Although many of the things I listed seem simple, it truly is all about the things in life we take for granted. Missing any of the above items, and life can be pretty tough, or downright miserable. My health isn’t perfect, but I’ve also found a new doctor and we are working on things. But in the meantime, I plan on living life to the fullest, perhaps with a nap or two in between. So finally getting myself to a positive frame of mind, Saturday night I got dressed up and went out with my guy and celebrated life! I also made the decision to drink for the first time in two years…and am glad I did. In doing so I was singled out of a group of people and carded! Ha ha ha….should have seen the look on that bouncer’s face when he looked at my driver’s license. Classic! I had declared earlier in the night, “40 is the new 30″, but perhaps it’s the new 20? What do you think?

I declare 40 is the new 30!!

40 and Fabulous!

Either way it made my night! Like I said…it’s the little things! :)

Onward and Upward!

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Recovery

Surgery was better than a piece of cake…it was a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream, whip cream and a cherry on top! Yes, it was surprisingly easy!!! Took just under two hours and I never needed any pain meds afterward. Even the doctor was surprised by the last part. I don’t like the side issues that come with narcotics so it was a blessing I never had to take any. Actually I never even had real pain. The day of surgery I had some mild discomfort but no pain to speak of. I felt very blessed. :)

For the last two weeks I have been relaxing and putting myself first. The entire first week all I did was read…finished two books. Can’t remember the last time I was able to just sit and read to my heart’s content. I also spent time listening to music and cooking from scratch. Neither of those sound like any big deal, but I find both very soothing, and normally I don’t have a ton of time for either of those pass times. Also never turned on the television until the evenings when I had company over and we watched movies. So for two weeks I had pure, 100% rest and relaxation. A rare commodity in my life.

I did have one small scare though. Any event of mine wouldn’t be normal for me without a  bit of abnormality, right? Saturday I started having some mild pain under my left arm along the rib cage. I had accidentally lifted something a little heavier than my 10 lb weight limit and felt a zing along the same area the night before, so I didn’t think much of it. Figured I must have pulled a stitch. By Sunday the pain was much stronger and was also along the sternum side of the breast. The pain rose high enough that the breast itself was very tender and every step I took I could feel some sort of discomfort. After having two solid weeks with zero pain or discomfort this was a bit alarming for me. All I could think was infection was setting in, and the aftermath of something like that would not be pleasant. But after much prayer and a solid night sleep I woke feeling much better. Later when I called Mayo I was relieved to find out that though not the most common to have new pain after so much time has passed, it also isn’t unheard of…in other words probably a bit rare, so for me…it fits! :)

Today was my first day back at work…oh how I miss the last two weeks already. :( I was greeted by over 700 emails and an endless list of tasks and projects to complete, many of which are late. Luckily it’s a short work week, I only work through Wednesday and then I will welcome the shelter of a long weekend. Looking forward to some fireworks and a fun birthday weekend…yup, hitting the big 4…0…on Saturday! But more on that crappy happy subject later. :)

Onward…

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Surgery Time!

Tomorrow is surgery day! I’ve waited almost a year to have the final reconstruction done after my left breast mastectomy. I saw my plastic surgeon today and selected the implant of my choosing. I happily chose the new Gummy Bear implants. A year ago when this mess all started the FDA hadn’t approved them yet so I was elated when I heard they were available to the general public and not just controlled test groups. The quality about these implants that is so exciting is if you spring a ‘leak’ nothing will drain out. That makes me happy. As if it isn’t bad enough you have to have this in your body for life but add to it the worry about foreign fluids leaking into your body? No thanks!

At this point we’ve decided to wait on the nipple reconstruction. My weight is still quite low and my surgeon feels we need to lower the implant a bit more during surgery tomorrow so he is concerned he won’t be able to place the nipple accurately. I’m ok with waiting. Tattoo will come later as well. So guess I’m not quite done with Mayo afterall. Or perhaps they just enjoy my company?! :)

I have to be to the hospital at 5:45 a.m. so just enjoyed my last supper and will be turning in soon to get a wink or two of sleep before the big day tomorrow. Night All!

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Cancer’s a Bitch!

It’s been a while since I wrote anything, but I will be getting back into the swing of things over the next few weeks. So much has happened over the last few months I hardly know where to begin, but today just a quick reflection as I look toward a major event this week.

June 8th marked one year ago that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For me, cancer was not a tragedy….it was a teacher. Cancer taught me many things, but some of the most valuable lessons was to slow down…put myself first. She taught me that I’m my most valuable advocate, and to look, listen and learn from every situation that presents itself. She taught me that life is short and everything can change in a heartbeat. She taught me that not everyone has your best interests at heart. She reminded me to be thankful for the roof over my head as I recover, and recognize the blessings in the ability to work and earn a living. She taught me to be grateful for insurance that keeps me from sinking financially and provides me the ability to get the best care available. She taught me not to wait for the storm to pass, but to dance in the rain. And she taught me how valuable friends and family are…and the good ones are irreplaceable.

Why do I refer to cancer as “she”? Because cancer is a bitch! She’s bossy. She takes over, and thinks she’s the only thing that matters. She must be dealt with or your world falls apart. She’s arrogant and deserves to have her ass kicked. As far as I’m concerned I hold close the lessons she taught me, but I found most value in kicking her royal ass. My doctors have finally approved me for my last surgery to complete the reconstruction after my mastectomy and that will take place this Friday. I’m looking forward to finishing this chapter in my life. The past year has been a good one, but it’s time to move Onward…and most definitely, Upward!

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Determination…

One thing I have discovered as a result of chronic illness, is I’ve turned into a huge procrastinator. Anyone who reads this blog can tell by just looking at when my last post was published, October 13th, 2012, and it becomes pretty clear. I don’t know what my malfunction is, but I have the most difficult time following through on simple tasks. I’ve been in this rut for months; though the rut existed before cancer, cancer definitely magnified the problem. Even so, I’m not concerned, I will work through this issue same as all the others…one tiny baby step at a time.

For the past 15 years I’ve been battling chronic illness that was progressively getting worse. And for the past two years I’ve been dealing with the ever stacking diagnoses…first gluten sensitivity, then Lyme Disease, followed by breast cancer…and most recently dysbiosis and chronic candidiasis…both of which are the result of all my issues, but mainly the aftermath of ‘trying’ to treat the Lyme Disease. To put it simply, I’ve been in my own personal hell for what seems like…forever. Those that are dealing with their own chronic illness know exactly what I’m talking about when I say ‘if it’s not one thing, it’s another’.

A few months ago I set a goal of running a 5K. I needed something to focus on that would push me to my limits and give me the strength and focus to start taking back control. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have been able to even kid about running a 5K, but against the odds I’ve moved forward.  Training has not been easy either…each week it seems like something went wrong. I stumbled as the klutz that I am and broke a toe, I slipped on the ice and gashed open my knee, and I’ve been battling some sort of respiratory issue for several months…each of these issues has kept me off the treadmill each for up to a week at time. But I refused to give up. People ask me all the time ‘Why a 5K?’. For me it’s not about what place I come in or what my time is…for me it’s all about finishing. Crossing that finish line will be truly symbolic. Finishing will be all about taking back control, following through on setting and accomplishing a goal, and most importantly…beating the odds.

I look forward to crossing the finish line in my all too appropriate pink ribbon running gear. The race is this Saturday, March 9th, and I have my own little cheering section coming down to support me. Perhaps they will be the much-needed pressure I will need to keep my booty moving along the course. I’m determined to run and finish that race. I will only be too proud if I don’t have to walk any of it, but I have a feeling a short stroll might just be in order. :)

Onward...

Onward…

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Finding Peace…

One thing I have discovered about chronic illness…it comes with hidden blessings. Strange, I realize, but I know others can attest. I have grown significantly as a person with the diagnosis and battle of gluten sensitivity, Lyme disease, and breast cancer. Today I realize that is because of the hidden blessings I received from being chronically ill.

The most valuable gift chronic illness has blessed me with is great patience. Growing up I was never a patient person, and when I started getting sick many years ago, trying to get to the root of the problem was very frustrating. Over time, and I mean years, I have learned the answer will come when the time is right…whether I agree with the timing or not.  I now see that getting frustrated or losing my cool over things I cannot control or don’t have the answers to does nothing but waste valuable energy. I suppose part of this has been learned simply by getting old…I mean ‘older’…as well. Ha ha! Most of the things in life that we stress over truly don’t matter anyways, but unless it is put into proper perspective, we can’t get out of our own way to see it. I found this wall plaque recently, and it’s now a question I ask myself regularly…it’s amazing how easily you can dismiss something when you validate it this way.

My Motto!

Think about this for a second…it’s amazing how many things just suddenly melt away. And what is left is where you truly need to focus your energy.

I’ve also been blessed with these gifts as well:

  1. Inner strength that continues to grow.
  2. Positive energy – I used to be a negative person. Chronic illness has opened my eyes to all the little things I took for granted and shown me how truly blessed I am.
  3. Drive to find the truth.
  4. A renewed ability to find humor in just about every situation possible.
  5. The amazing fight and strength needed to rebuild. I never accept defeat…this wasn’t always the case with me.
  6. Intense faith.

The last one is something I notice is missing in a lot of people these days. I’m talking about having faith in whatever is needed to make things happen in your life.  You could debate that believing something won’t happen is having ‘faith’ that it won’t happen, but I think that defeats the purpose. :)

In my case…

  • I refuse to accept defeat. I have faith I will win all my battles.
  • I refuse to give up hope. I have faith there is ALWAYS a chance for resolution.
  • I refuse to sit idle. I have faith in my ability to move onward and upward even if only tiny baby steps.
  • I refuse to feel alone in my battles. I have faith God is walking this journey with me, especially when friends and family members can’t be here with me.

Having strong faith has taken me to California when all the doctors in Wisconsin said nothing was wrong, only to be diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and Lyme Disease. Faith has taken me to Mayo when I just wasn’t getting the answers I needed and wanted a higher level of care, and I found it.

So what does all this mean? Chronic illness brings hidden blessings…look for them and you will find peace… :)

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Embracing the problem…

At some point in time in the last few weeks I decided to embrace the weight loss issue I’ve been struggling with endlessly. I’ve always been a few pounds underweight my whole life, but things changed drastically last year when I went gluten-free. Being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity my doctors put me on a modified elimination diet to see if I had any other food sensitivities. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal but when I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease a couple of weeks later I was told to put everything on hold and not eat anything in addition to what I was already consuming. Reacting to a new food would put stress on my body and hinder recovery.

Unfortunately that meant that I was only eating about 20 different foods. At that time it was fine. I had enough of both fruits and vegetables to survive endlessly. But as time went on we realized I was battling yeast throughout my body which had been aggravated by all of the antibiotics from the Lyme treatment. So several months in I had to pull out a few of the vegetables and all of the fruit since sugar feeds yeast. My list of foods dwindled to about 12. I had already lost a couple of pounds just from the initial diet change, but this reduction resulted in a few more pounds of weight loss.

Considering this went on for a year, I felt pretty good about only losing about 7 lbs over a year’s time. Then cancer and kidney stones happened. Both required surgery, and the anesthesia affected me in a way I hadn’t expected….I didn’t want to eat. Food tasted bland or was a complete turn off, and my interest in eating just didn’t exist at all. After each surgery this problem went on for about two weeks each time. The end result has been that I’m now 17 lbs underweight. Ideally I should weigh about 130 lbs. This past week I hit an all time low at 110.5 lbs.

I understand what has happened and what needs to happen. I’ve been trying to gain weight for the last 1.5 years with little luck because of all the hurdles. So my situation isn’t self-inflicted, and it is also expected to a degree considering the turn of events. Yet, I look ‘ill’ because I’m clearly too thin, ALL my clothes hang on me so I look frumpy and sloppy, and people find it necessary to comment on my weight, as if I’m purposely doing this to myself. I have to admit there are times I hate people….

The last few weeks I have had better energy and my spirits are high, so I decided to start dating (more on that later). But in doing so I became more self-conscious about my appearance, as I should be. So what did I do??? I WENT SHOPPING!!!!!!! :)

With all my medical bills over the years, I haven’t truly gone on a shopping spree in years. It was the greatest feeling ever! It sounds funny, but I felt alive! I bought jeans, dress shirts, a suit, sweaters and blazers. I’ve been dressing up every day and I started curling and putting my hair up as much as my energy allowed. The positive comments I have been receiving have been an amazing blessing.

I know I just spent a good amount of money on clothes that are smaller than I normally wear.  I typically wear a size 4 and I bought several items in size 2. And when I gain weight many of these articles of clothing probably won’t fit anymore. But I realized something the other day. Somewhere along the way I stopped living in the ‘now’. I’ve been waiting for the weight issue to resolve itself, and quite honestly I finally realized this issue may be with me for awhile…a long while. The most important thing is I’m fine with the weight, and I’m comfortable with the way I look. Which is a good thing because now that I’m wearing clothes that fit, the negative comments about my weight have increased a bit. :(

I’m comfortable with who I am and my journey. I know what will come eventually. I’m living in the ‘now’ again and loving life. I’ve stopped trying to rush things and I’ll take my journey as it comes and when the weight gain finally happens, I’ll deal with it then…

Onward…

Posted in Cancer, Gluten Sensitivity, Health, Lyme Disease, Modified Elimination Diet, Weight | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment