Monday, January 28, 2008

Body Image

Recently I had the opportunity to lecture at Gilda’s Club to other young survivors. The topic I discussed was body image and cancer. I now want to share some of it with all of you and hopefully get your input on it as well!

For most of us body image issues began way before our cancer diagnosis. I know mine sure did! I never thought my boobs were big enough, my stomach was too fat, and I never seemed to be happy with my hair. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman my body image issues increased with intensity to say the very least.

At the top of my list of concerns then was hair loss. Yes, I put that before boob loss. My boob I could hide away under my clothes but the hair…..that was going to be dam tough to hide. I had new scars to deal with when my boob was gone, I enjoyed chemo induced menopause (full on with hot flashes, and I dried up like an old prune at 31), fatigue that felt as if my body was beat until bloody, my skin color began to look a greyish green (oh so lovely) and I was beginning to no longer recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror.

How did I deal with all that? As a young single woman clinging to the hope she wouldn’t die, how did I try to feel better about myself, about my body, my disappearing self? Well, it wasn’t easy and somedays even now it still seems like a struggle. Here are some tips I want to share to help pick yourself up during cancer treatment and beyond to try and do just that….

- Loose the scale! When I focused on my weight I only felt worse.

- Refocus your energy on healing the inside.

- Wear lipstick everyday……if no other makeup.

- Get a mani/pedicure….I had a standing weekly manicure appointment. It may have been a small thing but it really made me feel better about myself.

- The hair thing…..experiment with wigs and try to have fun. I had more than one wig just to change it up a bit. Or if you are one of those girls that rocks the bald head….you go girl!! You should feel good about yourself no matter what!

- Start to look at your new scars in a different way……my scars are now a daily reminder that I am a survivor!

Most important to remember is that at the end of the day we are all just girls with the same worries we had about our bodies before cancer smacked us in the face. Focus on what makes you who you are on the inside. Change your focus and get rid of fear. Think about what makes you feel creative and what you are passionate about. For me it was writing, photography or just taking a long walk. It was a way for me to empower myself. Fear can steal away our power. Don’t let it!

It is important to realize that you don’t have to keep up appearances. Just be yourself. Turn focus to the positives. Reach out to other cancer survivors who will know what you are going through. Who know what it is like knee deep in the sh**!

What was it that helped you feel better about you? How did you deal with your own body image crapness??

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bitch Board

As I hung up the phone last nite I felt drained. Like the life was literally sucked right out of me. I felt angry, sad, and guilty all at the same time. Is that possible? To have so many feelings all at once. Is it possible to be so mad at yourself for not speaking up and just taking sh** that you could scream?

My whole life I have struggled in our relationship, I have struggled with my feelings for you. Love and hate intertwined together with me unable to untie the knot. When I was a little girl all I longed to do was make you happy, make you proud of me. I tried and tried. Tried to be good, and polite, and always do what I was told. I feared you. The alcohol always won. I could never beat it. It had taken over you, taken over our lives.

It has taken me many years to forgive. And now that you have cancer, now that you are dying, the little girl inside is trying to figure out how to save you. She is trying to figure out how to make you happy if even for a minute. But again you are lost. Lost in your own hell. The hell you have created for yourself. I have realized that this is your path, your journey, one that I cannot lay out for you nor can I get in the way.

I called you last nite to talk for a while but as usual I barely did any talking. I listened to your complaints feeling guilty because of the cancer. Maybe that is why I listened for so long. For 2 hours. Maybe that is why I felt selfish. Selfish for wanting you to ask me how I was doing. Instead I became your bitching board again.

Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that I will put myself out in the line of fire. It is called self preservation and it is what I have to do for me.

I am not strong enough….the board is beginning to break……

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Results Are In!!!

I hadn’t posted about this over the summer when the saga began but I am feeling the urge to share the story with all of you today.

Back in May I went for my annual breast MRI on my one good boob. I was as usual stressed out to the max. It is a banner day down at Sloan with the MRI in the morning, then off to Mammo, then in to see the doc. I have to say, instinctively I had an icky feeling going into this test. I found out while I was waiting to get called into my mammo that the radiologist saw a small 5 mm area of enhancement on the MRI. All my scans over the past 5 years have been clean. So you can well imagine where my head ran off too! As I sat there with my doc I could feel the blood draining from me and I thought I would faint. She said that he was 90% sure that it was nothing but wanted to do an ultrasound. So they ushered me off like cattle and before I knew it I was laying on a table with cold gel being dumped onto my boob as flashes of my past bout with cancer flew through my head. Nothing showed up on the ultrasound, and my mammo came back normal. The radiologist wanted to do an MRI guided biopsy to be sure. The problem with breast MRI is that there are alot of false positives. Of course they couldn’t be sure that I was one of those. What the f***! How could I possibly be back in this place of total darkness again I thought to myself. Would I lose another breast? Would I die this time? This news came only a month after my dad’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. This couldn’t be possible.

I had to wait 3 weeks to get the biopsy done which is totally unacceptable! Even after many phone calls to my doc there was still no way to get me in sooner. During those three weeks I came down with an awful cold…..there’s no big surprise! All the stress knocked me on my ass! For anyone out there who has ever had a biopsy in an MRI machine you will understand me when I say it was freakin barbaric! I can barely stand to be on my stomach in that machine for the scan never mind being jabbed and cut into from underneath like I was a car up on a mechanic’s lift at a garage!

Before I knew it the waiting game ensued. I got an email the following nite from my doc (who was in Alaska on vaca btw) telling me that it was benign and most likely a fibroadenoma. I began to cry and felt this huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. That is until the next day when I got a call from the radiologist. She rained on my little parade when she told me that it actually was a fibroepithelial lesion with differential for phyllodes tumor or fibroadenoma. Translation please! Essentially although it was benign a phyllodes tumor can change down the road and they can grow fast. The radiologist told me that she would recommend surgery to remove it. As I felt the darkness creep in again I wondered why I didn’t hear this from my doc? As I googled phyllodes tumor I was even more scared. When I finally heard from my doc she said that her reason to remove it would be to make it easier to read my scans in the future in case there was growth. She said that it was in no way a malignancy but in my head I wondered why remove it? Why not wait to scan again and see if it did get bigger? Why rush in with the scalpel?

She told me to let her know when I would feel comfortable doing this. To tell you the truth I was never going to feel comfortable. I had my checkup with my oncologist who suggested we do another MRI to see if there was any growth. If there was it should come out, if not just watch it.

So after many insurance mixups with preauthorization (that stuff is for another post!) I finally had the scan 2 days ago on Tuesday. In the meanwhile I have been getting more rigid with my diet, my daily juicing, daily Quigong exercise and my attempts at meditation (which is really dam hard for me to do!) I have even been exploring raw food. I couldn’t help but wonder if all that would help it stay stable or better yet make it dissolve. I have yet to blog more about this as I am a big believer in nutrition and the power of the mind to heal. I will be bloggin more about it in the future.

At any rate this morning I emailed my doc and the results are in!! The scan showed that the lesion is “no longer present”! I have my titanium clip in there and that is all they saw. I couldn’t believe it. It was better than I had hoped for. Even better, now no surgery! We will continue to follow it on my scans. I feel such a sense of relief as well as empowerment. I followed my instincts, didn’t feel comfortable with surgery for something benign and so tiny without even waiting to see what it was doing in there. I believe that all of my holistic stuff chased the little bugger right out of my boob. I will continue to do all of my crazy diet stuff as well as destressing exercise to keep it the hell away! This showed me proof of the fruits of my labor…..

It gave me power……and I believe that power can kick fear in the ass!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Inspiring Stories

I was recently interviewed by a great ezine the promotes communication between women writers, agents, editors, publishers and readers. It is WOW-Women On Writing and they chose my story for the inspiration column in their January issue which was just posted today.

Sue Donckels is the former editor that interviewed me and I have to say she did a great job! I have been interviewed a few times so far about my story and she asked great questions. She really made me think and dig deep to share more than was in the book.

So be sure to hop on over there and check it out! You will learn a little more about me as a woman and as a survivor.

I hope it inspires you!

If you have an inspiring story to share I would love to hear from you…..

Monday, January 7, 2008

Life Linkage

This is the name of another great organization for young adults with cancer founded by Preston Presnell who is 23 and 11 year cancer survivor. In November 2006 he founded The Life Linkage Network a non profit geared towards Gen X.

He describes it as Facebook and Myspace meets reality.

Survivors as well as organizations can sign up and become a members. Each member is provided with profile space to share with other cancer survivors via online social networking.

As I have said in previous posts it is so important to connect with others who have shared a similar experience. It is crucial to recovery. What I love about this organization is that it provides that opportunity. The online opportunity to connect with and share experiences with other survivors who have all gone through stupid cancer!

So be sure to check it out and pass the word to all of your survivor friends!