Laughing instead of crying

18D3C6B3-3FD7-467B-BD4E-25BFD0827BCDTomorrow, Nov. 20, will be my two-year anniversary of my mastectomy. I wanted to create something special that launches on that day that would hopefully help people dealing with cancer find a little joy during such a hellous situation.

I created this online community called Humor Beats Cancer, which encourages those who have faced cancer in their 20s, 30s and 40s to share a humorous or poignant story about an experience that happened to them along the journey. I’m hoping these stories will create that sense of empathy.

For anyone who reads or has read this blog please visit the site. And if you have experienced cancer as a patient or caregiver in your 20s, 30s or 40s please share your story at editor@humorbeatscancer.com.

 

 

 

 

A different kind of cancer

I woke up this morning angry, well still angry, about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. And when I’m angry, confused or sad sometimes the only thing I can think to do is write about it.

I’m using this blog I created about dealing with cancer to talk about a different kind of cancer — hatred and racism. Because just like they haven’t found a cure for breast cancer, this weekend shows that they sure as hell haven’t found a cure or even a treatment for racism. And right now it seems like our country has stopped doing chemo and radiation and the cancer is spreading across our country’s body at a speed that we cannot keep up with. Besides the obvious violence and ignorance that have come to the forefront in Virginia, I’m also concerned by the surprise that this mentality exists. People are shocked that others live with this hatred and racism but I hate to break the news to you but this has existed for awhile. But we have ignored it or said things like “I don’t agree with that perspective” and moved on. But now it’s in our face and we must acknowledge and figure out what we can do to combat it.

If my words aren’t enough to convince you that racism and justice are present in our world, here are a couple examples. Continue reading

Tossing the box of memories and creating new ones

In the last few months I’ve undergone two reconstruction surgeries, including creation of a fake nipple, and my nipple tattoo. I think I’m over the hump and done with surgeries.

The tattoo was such an amazing experience and I’m lucky that this tattoo artist does this. It was the least painful tattoo I’ve ever had since it’s on a part of my body that has no feeling anymore. But it looks realistic (no I won’t be sharing any photos) and makes me feel more normal, whatever normal is. Here is a link for more information on this procedure.

In addition, this year I was selected by Twist Out Cancer to be partnered with an artist who will tell my cancer story through a piece of art. It’s a really cool project and I’m so excited by the opportunity to work on something so interesting. The final product will be sold during the art exhibit in September.  Continue reading

Another year stronger

img_4260What I didn’t realize at the start of this year was that part of the recovery process involves recovering mentally from cancer — mending my trust in life and accepting that cancer irrevocably changed me. I thought once I got past all the treatments and I didn’t have to see the doctors as much things would go back to normal. I was wrong. It has taken me longer to appreciate and understand what I’ve gone through since May 2015 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I need to give myself a break and understand that I’m doing the best I can. But I find myself increasingly frustrated when things are out of my control and I attribute that in part to how out of control I still feel about my health. I want at least whatever I’m worrying about to be in my control. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s not like you get cancer and every other part of your life is in order as some sort of fair trade.  Continue reading

On the cusp of a new year

In about 20 minutes I turn a year older. For a blog like this, a new birthday is definitely a different type of celebration. It means you made it another year, cancer didn’t win and the ugliness of the world didn’t win.

As I reflect back on the year for some reason I think of the word “scar.” Cancer leaves behind so many scars. There was this old war movie that my parents used to love to watch. It was like six hours long and I can’t remember the title, but it was about these men who came home from World War II and how the war had impacted them. When I was younger I couldn’t understand why some of the guys in the movie couldn’t just be happy to not be at war. Yes, there was the man who lost his hands — I got why he was sad, but for the others it seemed like such a waste of good lives. But as I look back on the past year I get it. I’m so happy to be alive and I’m so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life. Continue reading

New breasts

I find it such a strange coincidence that I’ll be seeing Dolly Parton in concert tomorrow given my unnatural obsession with my breasts this week. I think when you get breast cancer you start thinking of your boobs in a different way — particularly if they were not a huge part of your identity pre-cancer. But breasts take on new meaning when they are the home of the cancer. You don’t trust them and you start to pay attention to them a lot closer to see what secrets they have about what is inside your body. And then when you lose one of them due to a mastectomy and need a doctor to manufacturer a new one it becomes even stranger. Continue reading

Life’s unexpected turns

imageThis week I got some surprising/sad news about one of the people who touched my life while I was going through breast cancer last year.

For those who have read this blog you’ll know that I was devastated to lose my hair. But what made it slightly easier was the fact that I met this nice man named Brian Blanchard who created a wig that looked exactly like my hair. He was truly an artist who took such time and care with me during the process of losing my hair. He also acted as a psychologist who comforted his clients and told them that this was all only temporary. He complimented our bone structure and told us we could totally handle a bald head, but the wig would help everyone else feel comfortable with this.

I tell you all this because I learned this week that Brian died in September. I am so embarrassed that I didn’t know. I was so preoccupied with my own situation and didn’t know. Continue reading

Setting Goals and Moving Forward

May marked the one-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. e64189778def66dff84b4bed37e55f02

In that one year — as you’ve I’m sure read diligently — I’ve experienced IVF, chemo, a unilateral mastectomy, radiation and a reconstruction surgery. I’ve lost my hair everywhere and I’ve gained weight everywhere. I’ve written columns about breast cancer and talked to family and friends facing a version of cancer in their own lives. I’ve prayed that cancer would not come back and stayed up at night because I worried that it would. Continue reading

Checking In

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in on the blog — mainly because I’ve been trying to not think about cancer. But truly that’s harder than it sunlooks.

Since we last spoke, what’s been going on?

In November I had the mastectomy to my left breast. I’ve been to regular oncologist appointments and my numbers are looking good and it appears like I’m on the road to recovery. It makes me nervous to even type those words and I can’t stop thinking about whether cancer will return. At the same time, I keep reading so many articles about women I knew professionally or the wives of people I knew who have died of cancer. Here are a couple of stories here and here because these women need to be remembered on a blog like this because they lived with courage and strength. Also, read this great story about Sarah Wood, former Cubs player’s wife, and her battle with breast cancer. Continue reading

Changing life’s path

I’ve come to the portion of this journey where I ask myself: What’s next?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the strange routine of going to doctors’ appointments and moving forward with each form of treatment. It becomes this unusual routine in your life where people are asking you for your birthdate and how you are feeling on a regular basis. But as you wind down on those treatments and wait for your body to heal and for check-ups to revecheck listal your status, you realize that you must return to normal life. But one problem is that you can’t just return to life a year ago because you’ve faced this terribly tramatic experience of battling cancer. You face the worry that the cancer will come back. You start looking at your life differently because you realize how fragile life can be and how you aren’t guaranteed the chance to grow old and elderly.

The problem is that it is not so easy to change your life’s path. You don’t automatically start eating healthy foods and living out your greatest dreams. But what makes it worse is you know even more clearly that you should. Continue reading