Lung Update: The Good, The Bad, and Even The Sad.

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It has been a little over a week since I was released from the hospital for the second time and I am once again perplexing my entire medical team…. or as my nurses point out, keeping all of my specialists on their toes. I will be honest, It has been a really hard few weeks as I recover from my chest tube procedure and extended stays in the hospital and both the emotional and physical pain that comes with that. I have been doing all that I can physically stand to do to distract myself from the fact that I have again been reminded that I am that .1% and as always I fall into the rare category with everything. As hard as it is for me, I have I to admit that I have had some of my lowest points since the very day I was diagnosed these past few weeks and, I actually took my positive and hopeful hat off and just felt, sad, frustrated, and even mad that I am still going through what I am going through 17 months after my diagnosis. I had prepared my mind and my body to face a year of sickness and pain in prepped both my mind and my body for the hardest battle of my life, however that was all with the expectation that after those very horrible and trying 12 months of treatment and surgeries, I would again regain my life or at least feel better, not worse.

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However, here we are a year and a half later and I am still being wheeled off to unplanned surgeries, and sitting in the infusion chairs far more then I would like to admit. As this point, my mind is sharp, my determination is strong, and I am ready to jump back into life, however my body is fighting me a bit on how soon this transition can and will happen. My team is again reminding me that my journey with breast cancer specifically is not the norm and I shouldn’t compare or beat myself because I have had to face many obstacles that do not arise in most or any other cases.. I have heard this from the beginning, and I have taken it in stride because to me, my journey is all I have ever known. With each curve ball I have been thrown, I have held my head high and forged through with an optimistic smile. I really never have looked up to the sky and asked why me which until this past week. I have faced every single sad, scary and frustrating day with true and real optimism and I have always believed that everything that has and is happening to me, was part of a greater and bigger plan for me in the long run a test of sorts that would take me where I was meant to be, but for whatever reason these past two surgeries and past 3 hospital stays have gotten me pretty down. I am not sure if it is because I am again trying to come to terms with the fact that it seems that no matter what, my path always comes with scares and complications or if it is just all catching up to me, but after a week and a half in the hospital, I had, just plain had enough. I wanted to go home. Ok, really I wanted to run out of the hospital and run away from everything that my life has become. I just wanted to disappear and pretend none of this was happening and although I know my medical team at Butterworth had a good reason to wanting to keep me admitted there was no stopping me. I just had to get out of that hospital and breathe, because in my mind I was literally going a little crazy.

For the first time, ever I got angry that I have been dealt a crummy hand and I felt sorry for myself. My husband was nervous to take me out of the hospital without full approval of the doctors, however I think he could see what was happening inside of me and he knew that I really just needed to break away. Within in seconds of being in the car, I started to cry. As we drove to get my prescriptions, I said, “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t want me to go, but I had to get out of there. I just cannot take it anymore.” I was struggling to keep up with all of the amazingly inspirational texts, cards, and posts, and I realized that I really just needed to “tap out” of the reality of my life and pretend that I wasn’t “Tammy the cancer patient.” Jordan could tell I was a mess, and I’m not sure he knew what to do. He reminded me that I needed to cut myself a break because it has been a crumby few weeks, as I watched quietly out the window, but it wasn’t helping. Everyone I saw seemed to represent something I no longer have in being out and about enjoying life. That alone seemed to fuel my frustration even more as they reminded me of how much I am still loosing in this battle. With the flip of a switch I was crying again.

As I looked around I secretly cursed the young women with the beautiful long and curly hair walking into Meijer with her toddler for being able to live her life without illness and pain and share special moments with her daughter, I felt sadness as I watched a young couple playfully swinging their child as they walked to the car because those are moments so few and far between for our family, and I felt sorry for myself as the IV pain meds were wearing off and I was of course realizing that I had a painful rude awakening of a recovery heading my way yet again. I mean really I was the poster child for not getting breast cancer in the first place, being that I have no family history, I do not drink or smoke, I have kept a healthy weight, and I have always stayed pretty active but, I faced that with an optimistic smile. When I got my first of many infections I told myself this kind of thing happens and stay positive as they wheeled me off to an emergency surgery to remove my infected expander and officially leave me one breasted. I came to terms with the reality that our dream of bringing another baby into this world the natural way was no longer possible and looked for a bright side, I even laughed and embraced my newly bald head and ever changing body, and I have stayed very positive and optimistic with every single recurrence scare and re-scan, but now a hole in my lung lands me again in the surgical wing! Really…. only me? And this has been becoming quite clear to everyone as I even received a sweet text from the diagnostic radiologist I met in this first scary days saying “you really are that .1% Missy!” I shed a lot of tears that first day home and felt quite low, however it seems the universe knew exactly what I needed in that very moment, because little did I know I had a very special surprise visitor coming my way the next morning.

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My amazingly inspiring heart friend Vicki who has also faced breast cancer herself 6 years ago and the very person who unintentionally inspired me to share my own journey with all of you had been supporting me through each step of my journey from a far because she has been traveling the world in her first few years of retirement, was finally back in the states and planning a surprise visit. She had planned on spending some time visiting with me in the hospital, however now that I was home, she came knowing she would take me to my infusion appointments and just spend a relaxing “girls day” with me. Her timing could not have been more impeccable or more meant to be. As we walked into the infusion center where I have received all of my treatments and infusions including all of my chemo treatments, my whole world or journey seemed to come full-circle. There were so many times that I felt Vicki there with me in spirit, however this was the first time she had actually been there in the flesh. I could tell it was as surreal for her as it was for me. She sat by my side as I received fluids and IV medications for my nausea and migraines, and then we ventured out but not before a quick tour of the beautiful hospital I have been describing to her for over a year. We had nothing planned but an entire day together. First stop was lunch at Bistro which just so happens to be the restaurant that I have celebrated each cancer milestone. We sat outside and soaked up all the sun we could get. Sharing stores from this past year and mostly talking about all that I was dealing with and how I was feeling. We talked about her amazing adventures and her latest trip which was a bike and badge tour of Europe, she listened to me as I vented, reminded me to have self-love, compassion and understanding for myself, and she reminded me that it’s ok for me to stop worrying about what others think for a few days and just take some time for “Tammy” or in a sense, tap out. After an amazing lunch she spoiled me a bit with matching pink pedicures, and we headed to the bakery for a dessert.

imageimageOur last stop was to Sip Organic Juice Bar, which has also been a huge part of my cancer journey so we could take cancer-fighting elixir together for the first time ever. As we sat there I think we both realized how amazing and how meant to be the entire day had been. My heart was filling with warmth and my eyes were filling with tears as she tearfully held her wheat grass shot up high and said I would like to purpose a toast that you are blessed with many more days like to day. She said “ I know you are still in a lot of pain, and I know you haven’t had a lot of normalcy over the past year and a half. Actually I know you probably don’t even remember what it’s like to live. My hope for this visit was to give you that and my biggest wish for you sweetie, is that you have many many more days like today, where you are able to live life happily and experience normalcy outside of those hospital walls, and feel the blessings of every moment with the people you love the most.” We were both on the verge of crying like babies at this point, right there at a table inside of the East Town Sip, but it didn’t matter because in that moment it was only Vicki and I. I wasn’t thinking about how much pain I was in or how frustrated I was that I had just spent far too many days away from my family in the hospital. I was no longer feeling sorry for myself. That was all it took. The universe aligned and brought me back, which was exactly what I needed at my lowest point since diagnosis. I was again reminded that even during the darkest of days, the sun is just around the corner. My reality hadn’t changed, and nor had my pain, but the amazing perspective that I have gained through my diagnosis and 17 months with cancer has again been restored thanks to one of the most special people in my life. Since that beautiful day a lot has happened. I did virtually tap out a bit to allow myself time to breathe and spend time with my family and friends but I am happy to report I have been back to my optimistic smiling self since that day.

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To give you an real update, I will say that my nursing team was right in warning me. Chest tubes HURT… a lot! And the pain lasts LONG after the tube is actually removed. Especially if your chest tube has been placed behind your shoulder blade in your back. The pain is beginning to lesson, but I was warned that because of where it was placed, I could be looking at 5-6 weeks before the pain actually subsides so don’t be surprised if I tear up after a tiny sneeze or cough. After forcing Butterworth to release me last Tuesday, a lot has happened. I cannot tell you that I didn’t regret leaving the hospital where my pain was mostly controlled more then a few times, but I was glad to be home and even more happy that I got to spend time outside of the hospital with some pretty special people.

When I was released, I was told that I still had a small pneumothorax and that I also had inflation in both of my lungs that looked to be radiation pneumonitis, so I was released only after promising I would see a Pulmonologist at her office within 48 hours, a deal that I kept. I must say that although it’s frustrating that I keep having to add specialists to my ever-growing list, I am pretty sure I have just added one of the most caring, compassionate and determined physicians to my team. She was amazing and literally spent over two hours with us going over my perplexing case, as well as all of the tests I have been having. She also spent a lot of time, looking into my medical history and all that has happened to me in the past year and a half with cancer in an attempt to work through what may have caused the pneumothorax in the first place. The perplexing part is that according to her, it is VERY rare to see a patient my age, who has never smoked and did not have any trauma to the lungs, and had scans without glips on them, get a spontaneous pneumothorax. Laughingly I did tell her that anything “rare” is quite par for the course with me, but she really was quite determined to find a cause, which made us fall in love with her right away. In talking with her, she really hopes that the hole in my lung was not spontaneous because when this does happen spontaneously, it usually tends to reoccur again and again meaning, I would most likely have to go through this whole ordeal again. So she was digging really deep to find a cause for the hole that had formed. In going over everything the only thing that we could come up with is that I have passed out a handful of times over the past two months, and there was one time that I went down and my husband wasn’t close by to catch me. It’s hard to say how I fell when no was is around to see it, but she did say that being that I had chemo and radiation to that side of my chest the tissues have been weakened, so even if it’s a long shot, it is possible that this fall could have punctured a hole, and not bruised noticeably This is of course something we will probably never know the answer too. The good news is that the small hole that was left after my surgery looks to be healing, however she was quite worried about the inflammation that was showing up in my lungs and what could be causing it, and she was especially worried that while walking my oxygen levels dropped in the office and again perplexed her because it seems that there are or could be several reasons why I am feeling the way I am feeling. Her first thought was that there is one type of infection that could have caused a pneumothorax to occur as well as the inflammation and the drops in my oxygen levels, so she initially wanted to send me to the hospital to have a bronchial tube placed to know for sure, but she thought it may cause more harm then good to put my body through something else so soon my last procedure. Instead she sent us away with orders have an arterial blood gas testing which she warned is an in-patient blood draw that can only be done by accessing a main artery and it would be very painful…. I had the testing done Monday after a 5 hour infusion at Lemmon Holton. Let me start by saying that she was not kidding, it was VERY painful especially because they had to do it 4 times before reaching an artery. I am pretty much a pro in this department and can handle the pain without so much as a flinch, but my body wanted to complicate the testing a bit as it often does, because I started too, well passed out during the 3rd try. My guess is it was a mix of not feeling well after hours in the infusion center and having nothing to eat before going that day, but I will admit that thanks to that little episode I was feeling a lot worse after. My little episode earned me a longer stay at Butterworth and after returning to Lemmon Holton, I literally put two chairs together in the mediation room and curled up in a ball so I could just close my eyes for a while and I spent the entire evening on the couch. (A new low for me, but it was better then laying on the floor right?)

Here’s for the good news. The pain from the chest tube is finally starting to get better. I do still tear up a bit when sneezing or coughing, and apparently grab my chest without knowing it when it hurts during the day (at which case a friend of mine usually starts saying. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…) but I will take any improvements I can get at this point. I am also finally seeing some of the benefits of the procedure as my shortness of breath is lessening a little with each day. I was told the recovery for the chest tube could take 6 weeks because they had to place my tube in my back and interrupted a lot of nerves and muscles, so I am doing my best to be patient. Still on the good front, I got a call from the pulmonoligist and the results came back good. It looks as if my levels are starting to normalize so she says this should mean I do not have an infection in my lungs and I will continue to heal over these next few weeks. If it gets worse I was instructed to go immediately to the ER, but otherwise I will see her in a few weeks for another CT scan and eventually a full breathing test once I am fully healed. Now for the bummer… Come on you knew it was coming? I have been having a lot of stomach issues really since chemo ended but especially over the past few months. We thought it was initially still lasting effects from the chemo, but My oncologist discovered stones in my gallbladder on a recent scans so she is thinking this could also be a factor. I saw a surgeon yesterday and unfortunately he is recommending more surgery to now remove my gallbladder before it causes something a lot more serious. I will say that it sounds like pretty minor procedure, but as a doctor/friend who has performed one surgery on me pointed out today over coffee, “there is no “simple” anything with me.” Keep your Fingers crossed for me!

imageBeyond all this medial craziness, I am doing pretty well and really hoping things start to normalize for me soon. I have been spending a lot of time with my sweet girl and my awesome hubby and I am finally getting back to finalizing the fun aspects of my big passion BC project. I owe a big thank you to my amazing heart friend Vicki for knowing exactly when to swoon in and lift me up out of my lowest yet. Emotionally it was not a place I am used to being and it is not a place I wanted to be for very long. I am again reminded that so much of this journey of mine is very very meant to be right down to the people I have surrounding me. Thank you to all of you who have been sending cards, gifts, texts, messages, prayers my way over the past few weeks.

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Take Me Out To The Ballpark

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Ok so I will be honest, I am still pretty disconnected from…. Um everything, and I am very much still working my way back from the craziest few weeks that I have had in a very very very long time. Truth is I have had so so many things to write about and just not enough time, or really enough energy to make it all happen with what’s been happening with me physically. So let’s just say there are A LOT of half-written posts in the works.

In some ways this has been the hardest few weeks since my diagnosis, even harder then my intense treatment days, but I will admit that before the last few weeks of classic “Tammy” medical mayhem, some good things actually did happen too, and although there has been a lot of emotion and a lot of pain, there has also been pretty great moments with some very special people in my life as well. So look for me to flood the feed here in the next few weeks with full updates on all fronts, starting with an update from today’s appointments with the Pulmonologist and how I am currently. (Probably tomorrow as I sit in the infusion chair)

But for now I will share this little bit of Awesomeness with the disclaimer that I know that I probably should not have done this given that, I oh… Just got out of the hospital two days ago, and I am very much still struggling with the recovery pain of having a chest tube placed in addition to some inflamed and possibly, but hopefully not infected lungs…. But as some of you know I’m a little crazy, so I took a LOT of pain meds, put my big Jackie-O style glasses on to hide those pain pills and we rushed from my appointments directly to the ballpark for the Pink Out Whitecaps baseball game that I vowed not to miss. And…. I actually threw out one of the first pitches. I will say it didn’t even make it to the plate, well maybe with a bounce, and it did hurt like hell…. because my chest tube was actually placed behind my shoulder blade and muscles were effected so I’m paying for it now big time, but it was so worth it. The truth is, either way I would be feeling the pain now right? At least this way I got a fun experience in there too. The very really truth is that Sometimes you just have to say…. Screw it! I’m not going to let life or better yet my own life circumstances hold me back today! And celebrate the fact that despite one hell of a hard, uphill cancer journey thus far, I am still a Survivor… (Or as I prefer to say, I am a Cancer warrior) Am I right? Plus it made my day to hear my sweet girl Yelling “Good job Mommy! You threw the ball SOOOO far!” From the side lines.

A huge thanks to the West Michigan Komen Association for giving us the gift of this night out as a family at the ballpark to celebrate our “pinkness”, a very big thank you to my husband Jordan for biting his tongue and letting me break the rules of rest and recovery to yet again push myself just a little too far, but this time for a little fun, (As this was my positive way of standing up with him and saying “F*ck Cancer without wearing his awesome shirt) and lastly thank you to my brother Scott, his girlfriend Amanda, and my nephew Connor for making the trip across the state to share this fun “pink”. night with Jordan, Corryn, and I.

Here are a few photos of Pinkness at the BallPark. Now I have to rest before day of appointments.

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‪#‎mypersonalpinktime‬ ‪#‎susangkomen‬ ‪#‎WestMichiganWhiteCaps‬ ‪#‎f‬*ckcancer ‪#‎pinkout‬

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Update on Tammy’s Condition

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Hey Guys, it’s Jordan again.
Here’s an update on Tam.

We are now at Butterworth Hospital downtown. After giving Tammy A LOT of medications to get her pain under control and running several tests last night they found out that Tammy has inflammation in her lungs called radiation pneumonitis. I guess this can be pretty painful. They gave her some pretty heavy doses of a steroid last night for this but needed her to be seen by a thoracic surgeon on this which they didn’t have staffed at Blodgett, so we were sent by ambulance to Spectrum Butterworth, which we didn’t really feel was needed. However I guess it is protocol.

They also said that she has subcutaneous emphysema which is when some of the air leaks out of the chest tube and gets stuck between the muscles. For her it is in between the muscles behind her shoulder and in her left side under her arm. This too is really painful and can move around a bit from the incision/lung site so this could explain a lot of what Tam is experiencing in her chest as well. In addition we were told that they saw some apical scaring on the lung and that there was still a small pneumothorax present after the chest tube was removed in addition to a UTI because of being repeatedly straight-cathed last week after the surgery. They are hoping that the small pneumothorax and the subcutaneous emphysema heals on it’s own in time and she is receiving high strength IV meds for the UTI. We are being told that some of this is common (finally) and can be happen with chest tubes, so they are hoping it resolves itself. We just really need to get the inflammation and the painful subcutaneous emphysema take care of.

As of now, we are still waiting to see a Thoracic Surgeon. Tammy is still in a lot of pain, but she doesn’t want to take all the meds they are suggesting because she want’s to be with it when the Doctor comes in so she is again smiling and making the best of spending a few more days in the hospital but off the record she is pretty funny on the meds. At this point we are being told we will be here until at least tomorrow, but we are hoping to get home as soon as we can. We are both missing a little girl who has been hanging with her Grandma’s for the past week.

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Officially Discharged

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Officially being discharged from Butterworth after 4 days of post-surgical care. From what I understand, the procedure to place the drainage tube in my lung, went well. The location of the hole made the procedure tricky because of some main arteries located in that area, but they were able to go in through my back to place the tube instead, and the hole is expected to heal over the next few weeks. They were able to get the trapped air and what looked to be a lot of blood out of my lung and my lung did re-inflate in the affected areas, so they were able to remove the tube late last night. OUCH!
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I don’t actually remember much of the past few days because the IV meds kind of kept me in a fog……. Which I am thankful for, because now that the IV meds are wearing off, I am realizing how right my nurses were in warning me that this would be a very very painful process. Wowers! I won’t lie, I have been through A LOT of painful surgeries, but this one, is right up there on the pain scale. Either way, it way more then I prepared myself for, and I was bummed to hear that it will hurt like this for a good few weeks.

While admitted I did have a few visitors, including one who came with flowers in hand and happened to be from Spectrum Heath’s Marketing department, but mostly, I spent 4 days in bed; resting, healing, relaxing, and sleeping, which if you know me at all, you know that none of these actions happen often. So you know I’m on the right track. I will see my surgeon in a few weeks for repeat CT scans and chest X-rays to see if surgery was a full success, but for now I’ll be on the couch hoping to feel more like myself soon!!!!

‪#‎Surgerystinks‬!
‪#‎mypersonalpinktime‬
‪#‎Cancerstinks‬!

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Packing my surgery bag again

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It’s like a ready to deliver pregnancy bag, just without the prize at the end.
The past few weeks have been quite a roller coaster with this whole pneumothorax thing, but after a few trips to different specialists, several repeat CT scans and being sent to the ER a few times, the pain is only getting worse along with the other symptoms and the hole appears to be getting bigger rather then healing on it’s own, so I am having surgery this morning to place a tube in an attempt to try to get the trapped air out and allow my lung to re-inflate. Because of my size and the size and placement of the hole, my thoracic surgeon is having intervenes radiology place the line and then I will be placed in his care for the next few days. I was told to plan on staying 4 days in the hospital, but if things go extremely well I may be able to come home sooner.

Because of the location of the hole it’s a little more complicated and there is potential that another portion of my lung could be nicked in the process, so I will be watched pretty closely for the first few days. My husband and I joke that Spectrum should give some sort of punch card out for frequent visits to the OR but sadly I am becoming a pro at this surgery stuff. I am not worried about the surgery, in fact this should be my easiest one yet, however my nurses are warning me that this will be quite painful which is kind of bumming me out a bit. There are so many other details to all of this that I will share a bit later after I come out of the fog, but first I need to finish packing my bag and get in the shower. We have to be at Butterworth at 7 and my procedure should take place around 10. Here goes nothing…..

#yetanothersurgery #mypersonalpinktime

Lung Scan Results Are In

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 1.28.53 AMGood News….Lung Scan Results are in:
The results show that the nodule on my lung is stable and it looks to be benign which is the very best news! No more cancer. Big sigh of relief there!

On the bummer side, the test also reviled that I do have a small hole in my lung causing pneumothorax, which explains my shortness of breath. My oncologist wants me to go to the emergency room where they would either insert a chest tube or needle into the lung to help it re-inflate it, if it gets worse this weekend, or if I’m ok the way it is, she wants me to come in Monday for a chest x-Ray to see if it will eventually correct itself or if we need to fix it. A bummer of course, but it’s treatable, and it means that the shortness of breath is not a lasting or long-term side effect from the chemo. This I am very thankful for. 😀

#mypersonalpinktime

Taking the Bad with the Good

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Taking the Good With the Bad:
Last week was full of high moments for me as I experienced my first National Cancer Survivor Week. To start off my week, The Susan G. Komen Organization shared my story on their home page and with a survivor day campaign that they are running to bring hope and comfort to women enduring breast cancer treatment with notes of encouragement. On Tuesday, I saw my oncologist for my 3 month check up and she not only raved about my reconstruction progress, but also said that there was no sign of any cancer return in my breasts and later that day Spectrum Health Beat posted a story about my journey with breast cancer and the vital part that my medical team played in the last 15 months of treatments and surgeries. On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling great so I spent the better part of the day at infusion, but during that time, I was asked to do my first ever radio interview, which was a little intimidating at first. Following the interview and my infusions, I headed down stairs to check out the Spectrum Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Survivor day celebration at Lemmon Holton where I met some pretty special people. One being a very sweet young lady. I was sitting with a friend when she came up and said “Tammy?”. Her eyes instantly welled up with tears before she could get another word out. She said she has been following me for the past year and that she has followed many cancer stories over the years and none have touched her in the way that my story has, which was so touching to hear. She said I usually never do this, but I saw you and I had to come up and tell you how amazing you are and how much you have inspired me. I asked her if she had been personally touched by cancer and she struggled to hold back the tears as she said, “I lost my aunt to breast cancer when I was younger. She was everything to me and I am now living my life in a way that honors her.” I got goose bumps all over my body, but in a good way, as I too lost my aunt at a very young age to breast cancer, and I too made a promise to live my life in a way that honored her. Although we didn’t chat for too long, she left a little imprint on my day and on my heart. I ended my week by finally releasing a sneak peek video teaser of the Breast cancer awareness project that has been in the works since the day I was diagnosed,which was a release of emotion in itself. I still have a lot of work yet to do, but I am very excited to release the full project into the public very soon.

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All of this sounds really great, but there is one moment among all these happy and joyous moments that I haven’t shared. Before I left my 3 month oncology appointment with Dr. Melnik, she mentioned that my post treatment and surgery nausea may be because of some gall stones that have shown up on my scans, so she suggested I see a surgeon about potentially having my gall bladder removed, and then… She let me know that they had found a nodule on my lung in a previous scan. Right away, she said that it could be nothing, but she also said that they have to take anything in the lungs very seriously because it is not uncommon for breast cancer to move to the lungs, which is not what I wanted to hear. She said we have to do another scan to take a closer look and makes sure that this nodule is not more cancer. As usual my heart skipped a beat, but I have had many scares already in this journey so I am getting better at putting my fear aside and letting the positive guide me through. Although it is always scary to hear you have to be re-scanned for anything, I was able to kind of dismiss it and tell myself it was nothing. However seeing my husbands eyes well up with tears and his mind fill with fear again, as I shared this with him, reminded me how serious this situation is and always will be. Just seeing the fear on his face took me back to those scary first few days last year. The truth is, having even a small chance that there could be more cancer growing in my body and knowing that I could be faced with all of this again, has a way of sending your mind into panic mode.

I will be honest, I originally didn’t think this was something I was going to share because this key part of my post doesn’t exactly go with all the good that cancer survivor week had brought last week, but I am realizing that this key part has a bigger part in this whole message all together. To be completely honest I am not a huge fan of the word “survivor” or at least I wasn’t. I kind of felt that if my medical team could tell me that I will never have to deal with cancer again and that cancer was just a part of my past and will never be a part of my future, then I could refer to myself as a cancer survivor, however we don’t know if that is the case. I started my battle with cancer last year, I battled my way through treatment, I battled my way though surgeries, and now I am battling my way through post treatment care, and the lasting effects of breast cancer. My fight started last year and it will not end until the day I take my last breath (which will hopefully be many many years down the road), so I prefer to call myself a “Cancer Warrior”. I’m not sure if my battle will ever be won because from what I understand you don’t really ever fully win a battle with breast cancer… Although it has a high cure rate as they say, it also has the ability to lay dormant in other parts of the bod for years until it rears its ugly head again, so it will always be lurking in my mind, and I feel like I will always be fighting. In explaining this to my infusion nurse, she said, why is it that you don’t like to attach the word survivor to you? How does it make you feel? She does that sometimes… just puts you on the spot and makes you face and work through your reality but she did kind of see my point. However it must have been on her mind, because she returned to my little infusion cubicle a little later to tell me that she looked it up and the term “Survivor” is actually derived from the Latin term “la Vevere” which means “to live or living”. The dots immediately connected in my mind. Although Cancer will always be a part of me and I will constantly be reminded that my “cancer” could return, I don’t have to let it own me in the mean time. That’s when it clicked that I needed to share this part of my week with all of you because dealing with constant fearful moments like these and still getting up each morning and putting a smile on my face for the ones I love is what truly makes me a survivor. I do have some control here.. I can wake up every morning and choose to live and not let cancer control me in this very moment. Even with the scares that seem to keep coming at every pass, I can take the good with the bad, and I can choose to be a survivor. I can choose not to let cancer win and keep me down and that is a choice I am going to keep making. So I am a “cancer warrior” who will not give up, but at the same time I am also a survivor who chooses to live. In the mean time, I am going to hope and pray that this scare with my lung, is just that… a scare.

Although the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis will never get easier, I am accepting that this is a part of my life now and I am choosing to remain optimistic. In talking to both my nurse and my OT today, there really is a greater chance that this scare is nothing to worry about, but none of us will be able to move forward until we know that for sure. For now an order has been placed for another scan to take a closer look at my lungs and I will be seeing a surgeon about my gall bladder in the coming weeks. As usual I will keep you all posted.

‪#‎cancersucks‬ ‪#‎mypersonalpinktime‬

Breast Cancer Campaign Teaser

Here’s the first official sneak peek of the breast cancer campaign that I have had in the works over the past few months. This is just a tease, but I promise you there is more to come. Next to my family, this project really has been my driving force over the past year because it has given me something positive to focus on when I needed the most. It may have started with an idea that was really born in my mind about 20 years ago, but it grew into something much bigger when I myself was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and although it started with me, it really has become a community effort in bringing this little vision of mine together. I could not be more excited to get it out there for all of you to see.
 
Everyone who has been involved with this project has donated their time, their talents, and their services to help me bring this idea to life. I would like to thank Kevin from Rhino Media for jumping in head first and offering his team to take this crazy project on without a second thought, but I would also like to very much thank Brooke and Dan who are the cinematographers from Rhino Media in Kalamazoo who been capturing footage of this project and of me for the past few months. Dan has brought a lot of talent and expertise to the table and Brooke has really been a very vital part of this whole process and really has been putting so much of her own heart and soul into this project as well…. Which I love! She has not only accepted my crazy type A-side side with a smile, but she also stuck with me, and has been tirelessly editing and putting this video and teaser video together for a few months now.
 
I would also like to thank, Amy, Ingrid, Casemiya, and Sara for graciously stepping out of their comfort zones and joining me in this effort to raise awareness in addition to thanking all the vendors:
Sam from Shutter Sam Photography, Cassie from White Dress Events, Adrienne and Megan from Pure Salon, Amber from I Do Signs, Skeeter from Wasserman’s Flowers, Jenn from Modern Day Floral and Events, Jenn from Sip Organic Juice Bar, Justin from Grand Rapids Finale, Margaret from Anything Goes Catering, Jason from The Cakabakery, and Nancy from Harboufront Grand Hall. All of these amazing people/companies jumped on board without a second thought, for a cause the is very near and dear to my heart. I cannot express how thankful I am to have had such an amazing team of vendors behind me. This project really wouldn’t have been possible without all of them.
 
This project is really in it’s infancy, but it will be evolving so much over the new few weeks, so stay tuned as we inch closer to an official launch.
 
#passionatedistractions #mypersonalpinktime #breastcancercampaign #ForgottenFighters

National Cancer Survivor’s Day

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15 months ago now I was initiated into a very elite group that I have never aspired to be a member of, but I proudly join all cancer survivors on this National Cancer Survivor’s Day, by honoring those who have lost their battle, by encouraging those who are still fighting, and by celebrating those who are wining their battles with the awful “C”.

I was honored to have Spectrum Health Beat write a story on my journey with breast cancer and the oncologist who has guided me through this cancer jungle.

A Shout-out to Co-Survivors

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I received an email from the Susan G. Komen Organization a few weeks ago. They had come a cross my story and expressed that they were in tears after diving deeper to my blog, which gave me chills all over, but in a good way. First I cannot express how honored I am that the Komen foundation was touched by my story, but I am also so honored to hear that my words are helping others. I really never thought that my posts would be reaching as many people as they are reaching and I never thought I would be getting the response that I am getting. But having such a key player in the Breast Cancer awareness, research and funding community share my story has taken that to a whole new level and again reminded me that stepping our of my comfort zone to document and share some of the hardest and scariest yet amazing moments of my life; was indeed what I was meant to do. To my surprise the Komen Organization asked if they could feature my “I love Mom” photo on social media, and said they would be honored to share my story as part of a campaign they have wrapped around National Survivor day, as well.

A few days ago, a photo of Jordan, Corryn, and I was added to the homepage feature on the official Susan G. Komen website, and this morning I received an email from my contact at the Komen Organization, with a social post featuring co-survivors and mentioning all that my sweet husband has done to help me through the hardest year of my life. My body went tingly all over. The post is touching and beautiful at the same time, and I too feel it is important to honor all of the co-survivors out there as National Survivor day nears. In most cases, it is these co-survivors or those closest to us during our war with cancer, who really give us the strength to keep going every single day and to most of all, to keep getting up everyday and fighting.

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