Luck Be a Lady.

I am feeling lucky...and it’s a good thing because I’m in Vegas for my annual holiday trip with my husband.  Every year we go to Vegas for 2 nights around the holidays to let loose. Last year the holiday cheer turned into a holiday nightmare because it was in Vegas when I found out I had breast cancer. It was in Vegas that I was on the phone trying to make multiple doctor appointments with future oncologists. It was in Vegas that my world was shattered and I felt the universe had tricked me. It was in Vegas where I lost my ‘luck’...but now, one year later to be exact, I realize it was exactly the opposite. I really WAS and still AM a very lucky girl.

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Being back in Vegas one year later feels very special to me; just knowing what I’ve been through this past year, remembering how depressed I was last holiday season, and now feeling so grateful and blessed this holiday season. It always surprises me how much life can change in such a short period of time.  How much I can change in such a short period of time. Which brings me to the next thought... what comes next? I realize that I DON’T want to be one of those people who are always talking about being a cancer survivor.  No, I don’t want to diminish it, but I DO want to make sure that being a cancer survivor is not my only identity. I had a lot going on BEFORE cancer, and I’ll have a lot going on AFTER cancer. Cancer was a year of my life, and I feel that’s about enough time to spend on cancer, no? And yes, I realize that since cancer, I’m a little different in my thinking, in my being, because now the one thing that matters most is my health. But let’s think about everything else in my life that left a mark in who I am as a person... From the beginning, I was a preemie baby. I came out early and almost died because I was so small. Being the shortest and tiniest kid growing up definitely shaped my identity, but do I talk about being a preemie survivor?  NO :)

Next big part of my identity was being a gymnast and leaving home at 14 years old to train for the Olympics. Yes, that was a tough life for a kid, but it was something I chose to do and I was proud of what I accomplished. I was on the US national team, traveling around the world representing the United States. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee and had a major surgery 2 years before the Olympics… I was never the same gymnast after that.  But does that make me a gymnastics survivor? Yes, I guess, but again, I don’t talk about it much anymore.

Next, I would probably talk about all of my relationship dramas. I was married for 4 months when I was 29-30 years old. It wasn’t right. He is probably a great guy now, but when we were together, it was filled with a lot of emotional abuse. Being a gymnast, I was used to emotional abuse, but I knew deep down that it was NOT how I wanted to live my life, and thank God I had the courage to leave my marriage after it went downhill very quickly.  So, am I a survivor of abuse? Yes I am… but today, I'm not one to talk about it OR think about it too much.

Next were a lot of failed relationships, some bad and some amazing. One lasted 8 years and was filled with so much love, however he didn’t want to have children and I did, so as hard as it was to leave, I listened to my voice and went after what I truly wanted...to find a guy who wanted kids and marriage and the whole thing. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am happily married to a guy who has a daughter, but also wanted to have kids with me. And so when we got engaged, we started trying. We did lots of fertility doctors and drugs and tried and tried for over 2 years... We were on a hiatus from trying for a couple of months until I found out I had cancer and learned that if I had gotten pregnant, the pregnancy would have KILLED ME because it would have made the cancer spread everywhere and there would be nothing that I could have done about it. Strange how the universe works, no? And my previous relationship basically saved my life because if I was with another guy, I would have had kids and I probably would have gotten cancer earlier and died. So, as painful as the last relationship was, it saved my life, and as painful as it was to have not gotten pregnant while trying, the universe was protecting me. So yes, yes, yes, I feel LUCKY! I also feel that the universe has my back in so many ways, and sometimes I want to yell and scream at the universe for not getting what I think I want, but in the end, I see how magical the universe has been in guiding and protecting me, and everything in my life has been just the way it was supposed to be... even getting cancer!

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Anyway, I hope you feel as lucky as I do, even without every dream coming into true...because it’s important to realize, one dream NOT coming true but be a BIGGER dream to come through at a later time.. just saying!

And now, time to head back to the poker tables! Luck be a lady tonight and every night to come!!!

 

Weekend Reflections: WHY WHY WHY Do I Have Cancer???

I wanted to see what I was feeling almost a year ago, exactly how I was feeling…  I was journaling at that time. So as I dive into this blog ‘thing’, "Weekend Reflections" are going to be about going back in time, not remembering per say, but in actuality, how I was feeling… a blip from the past, EXACTLY how I saw it. Let's go back a little bit...

----> Dec 16, 2016 <----

So, today I found out from the pet scan that I have a weird thing going on in my sternum bone. Once again, nothing is cleared. The pet scan was supposed to be an easy test showing nothing else. But something else is there, and the anxiety is horrible. I can’t control anything. I am OUT of control. I’m wanting the doctors to be IN control, but they too are OUT of control. And you want to trust that every doctor cares about you, but it’s a business, and they’re so many people. Maybe I’m just a number to them and not someone they can actually care about because they don’t really know me, so they pretend to care, but I hope more than anything that they care about the cancer and curing it more than they cure about me.  I hope they’re vigilant about fighting the cancer.  I will be vigilant about fighting it. 

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But I can’t help but ask myself, WHY WHY WHY? Why am I having to do this? What did I do wrong? All of my choices in my life... Am I being punished?  I smoked in my life. I knew it was wrong, but I chose to do it, so is that why I have breast cancer? I had mammograms EVERY year for 7 years, and NOTHING was alarming to the doctors, so why tell me I have stage 3 cancer? 

And now if it’s in the sternum, it’s stage 4.  And doesn't stage 4 mean that you're gonna die?  I’m soooooooo not ready to die. I thought I was just starting to live, not EVEN starting to live. Has my depression caused all this? I was always diagnosed with a little bit of depression throughout my life. Did my last relationship break my heart, and is that why my sternum has cancer?  Did I not take life seriously? Was I too rebellious? Is that why I have cancer? Why do I have cancer?  Why, God, why? 

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I honestly thought that it would be hard to kill me. I was gonna live into my 100’s for sure.  I was mostly worried about Larry (my husband) dying and leaving me with not a lot to keep going.  That was my worry.  Not dying.  In fact, I remember the reason I bought my first pack of cigarettes was when I was about 23 and it was not because I wanted to die, I just wanted to help the death process because I thought I was gonna live too long. Nothing could kill me, so maybe this is the first test?  Nothing can kill me.  I’m invincible.  But, I have to say when you’re hearing all of this news about cancer and the type and the stage it is, you don’t feel very invincible. And it’s like a week before Christmas, a week before everyone is supposed to be cheery and vacationing and going to parties and getting presents and I can’t think of anything other than I have cancer, I HAVE CANCER. Do you have cancer?  

Ugh, this is going to be a tough year. What caused this? I NEED to know!  I can’t believe how different life feels to be in this place. To NOT know if you’re gonna live. I guess I’m supposed to ignore this and just know I AM going to live. I will have to fight, but I WILL live.  I thought some days I had a cloud over me just because I felt fat, or I felt insecure, or I was worried about money, or I was worried about fighting with Larry, or I was bored, or whatever the cloud was…. but now there really is a cloud, a big black cloud, and I know how it feels to be under it; it’s over you at every second, and you feel so alone. No one can really know how it feels to be diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer unless they’re diagnosed.

In the past, I’ve felt compassionate to so many cancer people. Ha, I call them ‘cancer people’, but I was also so secure that I was never gonna have it, and also so grateful that it wasn’t me that had it… I could give compassion at the same time that I could feel I wasn't connected to it. But now I’m connected,  and oh boy, I wish I wasn’t connected. Am I still the same person? I THINK I’m still the same person. I HOPE I’m still the same person, but I feel there is now a stigma or something.  Now people will look at me differently, feel sorry for me, treat me differently.  My friends will stop feeling the same way about me. I’ll be someone they need to take care of, not someone they always go to for advice or to do things with.  

Oh my hair, I love my hair and it’s all gonna go if I don’t use the cold pads on my head … what should I do? GOD, where are you?  Please talk to me. I need you. I want to know you are watching me and on my side. What do you want me to do? I promise I will help every cancer victim after I survive this, I will love to help people get through this. I will donate money. I will write a book about my journey, my story of survival and being scared. 

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I’m so lucky to have found out that I have something curable, and so many people have this and not something that is deadly and incurable. But I start to feel like my life has not been worth anything so far, like my life has been a waste, and that’s why I am getting this. I was given a certain amount of years, and since nothing really happened so far, then I’m going to be killed off.  I didn't have any kids, don’t have a big job, not really doing anything good for the world, so get rid of me. Maybe?

I hate that I’m causing pain to my family, especially my mom who has been through so much.  I guess part of me is happy I’m the one who has it and not the one who is witnessing it because that would be harder than having it. I can beat it. I am strong enough to go through it all, so I’m glad I have all the support of my friends and family. I feel like I am extra young to be going through this, but it is my journey and this is what I got… I've a great life so far, maybe too good, so I need to pay up right now. But I could also be looked at like the girl who never got what she wanted.  I had the broken heart. I had a career that was not ever fulfilling. I wanted a child that I never had. Poor Jenn. Wow, there are really so many ways of looking at this, so many perspectives, but what do they matter anyway?  I have cancer. That’s all I know.

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Everyone I talk to who has had cancer, are all so supportive and positive - like they know since they were cured, I will be cured.  Even the doctors aren’t saying I’ll be cured, so it’s hard to know that as a fact. Part of me is so okay to die, and that part scares me.  I don’t have kids who need me. I have a dog who needs me, basically.  I have people I don’t want to leave, but no one really NEEDS me, so maybe that fact alone will make the cancer worse. I don’t want to think bad thoughts; I really want to stay positive. Sometimes I feel so positive, but that also could be denial.  Sometimes I feel so scared, so out of control, and I don’t like feeling that way. It’s the worst feeling in the world, actually, for a control freak. Maybe once I feel the chemo, the chemo will be worse. I’m better with psychological pain over physiological pain, I think? I guess we’ll find out soon… ugh… I’m scared.

I’ll end this by saying, I WILL get through this, I really do believe that, because medicine is so great now, but I still don’t like hearing that stage 4 is more serious, that we don’t know for sure if the cancer will react to the chemo, that we don’t know if it’s gonna come back or not… I guess it will have to be day by day, moment by moment, and hope that the strength I have inside will come out. I used to be called a mac truck because I was never sick and never felt anything wrong.  It’ll be a strange thing do be looked at like the ‘sick person’. Maybe I’m the only one who looks at me that way?  But then again, I AM sick, I AM the ‘sick person’.  So weird. because I don't feel sick... Anyway, all I know right now is that I don’t want to die, and that I really don’t understand anything anymore…

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

I’m starting to go through all of my pictures from the last year, from when I had long brown hair, to bald, to my current pixie cut and bleached blond Billy Idol style … and it’s pretty surreal how the way I look with my different hair cuts shows so many different personalities in myself.  When I look in the mirror, I see myself in a different way.  But I remember NOT feeling different inside, especially when I was bald.  Looking back at myself as a baldie, it makes me have so much compassion for that person and for my parents.  I look at myself and see a frail, sick person and that makes me feel sorry myself.  I can’t believe my parents had to watch their child go through this transformation, my husband the same, and yet they kept it together most of the time.  They didn't treat me differently, they didn’t feel sorry for me. I didn't even feel sorry for me.  

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Of course there were those times I was depressed and feeling sick and always tired, but most of the time, I felt lucky.  I know, it sounds so strange, but I was lucky to be getting cancer so early in my life, early enough where I knew I could handle it, when my body was strong enough.  I also felt lucky because I saw cancer as a sign from the universe to take a step back, re-evaluate my life, check-in, and see what works and what doesn’t work.  Cancer was saying to me, YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF, LOVE YOUR LIFE, LOVE YOUR WORLD, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW HOW LONG YOU WILL BE HERE.  And that message to me was HUGE.  It inspired me to create Zero Negative. To be in control of my destiny. To turn negatives into positives. And in seeing the message in the negative, I was turning it into a positive.  Or at least, that’s how it felt to me.  

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I also looked at cancer as cleaning house… or like a cleanse… I called it the ‘chemo cleanse’ and my ‘mid-life cleanse’.  I mean, I was getting brand new hair, thicker and healthier!  I was getting brand new boobs that I could design in any way I wanted, and most importantly, I was getting a brand new outlook on life. And because I saw it that way, I have to wonder if that’s why I survived and why I'm cancer free?!  I manifested it? I wanted it to be that, and so it was that? I really don’t know…

But if I was depressed, if I was sad, if I felt cursed and unlucky, if I felt like a victim, maybe I would have been a victim? I know once in a while I would feel scared and alone and ‘why me,’ but that feeling never stayed very long with me, and most of the time, I was feeling stronger than ever before, because I was living and working and having a life even when I was doing chemo. I was saying to the cancer: come on cancer, lemme feel you, lemme see what you do, because you can’t control me, you can’t take me away, you can only GIVE GIVE GIVE to me, a new life, a new hair do, and perky new boobs…  

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Anyway, what a lesson this whole year has been… to think, almost a year ago, cancer was not even a thought in my head. And now, having been there, done that, in just one year - it’s crazy!! I really can’t wrap my head around it?!  But, it makes me excited for the future…AND it makes me feel like a super hero sometimes, that I can do anything I want because look what I overcame so quickly! If I can do that, I can do anything right?

Back to Blogging: The First Pet Scan.

November 28th… beginning again. 

Zero Negative: Fighting Cancer in style, one handbag at a time.

Ok, I have been gone for a LOOOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGGG time, and I am so sorry to have ditched my blog…. but I’m now out of the tunnel and on the other side, the other side of cancer, which means I can sit down and actually process everything I went through and hope that my story can reach other stories and inspire everyone who is blessed with cancer, to know that they too can get to the other side, the Cancer Free side. 

And with my year anniversary coming up of being diagnosed, December 14th, 2016, I feel very inspired to start writing about my journey.  But with that said, before I go back in time, I have to admit that tomorrow is my first pet scan to check and make sure I am still cancer free and I’m a little scared.  In my head, I KNOW that it would be almost impossible to have cancer again, so soon after chemo, but it’s still scary knowing that every 3 to 6 months I’m going to be going through these pet scans to make sure the cancer hasn't come back. Ugh. 

I remember all the MRI’s and pet scans I had in the beginning.  Each scan led to more bad news, all very unexpected and scary.  The first MRI was to see how much cancer was in my breast and to rule out the other breast.  Well, it ruled out the left breast, but it said there were ‘multiple’ lymph nodes with cancer.  Next scan was a pet scan to rule out anything in the body.  Every doctor said it was highly unlikely, but it was just a routine scan to make sure. Well, more bad news. The cancer had spread to my sternum bone.  Not good. That meant that my stage 2 cancer was now stage 4, and all the doctors became more serious. 

Cancer Pet Scan Results

I remember being in the doctors office after waiting over an hour to get the results back. I remember him coming in to say “Well, we have found possible spread of cancer to your sternum.” My heart started beating - faster and faster. I could feel the tears welling up, but I didn't want to cry.  Not yet. I wanted to know what he was saying. My sister was in the room with me, my husband was downstairs in the parking garage with my mom because he ran over her foot. Ha, another story to tell at a different time!  But here I was with my sister, freaking out. She was hugging me from behind as I was trying to keep it together and hear what the doctor had to say.  Funny, I haven't really walked through this event again, and I’m writing it down and feeling the tears again. I guess it’s still such a traumatic event that I had to push down to get through it. 

Anyway, the doctor said that even though it had spread to my bone, it still could be cured with chemo.  It was just a little harder to guarantee chemo getting rid of all of it. And the bigger issue being that if it came back, it would come back in another part of the body, bone, liver, lung, and be much harder to control.  Basically he was saying, we can most likely control it now, but if it comes back, we won’t be able to save you. This seemed like a death sentence to me, and it all happened within a week of being diagnosed. I was a healthy young teacher on Tuesday, then Wednesday I possibly had breast cancer (but needed to get a biopsy), then by Friday I presumably had breast cancer, but most likely only stage 1 to 2.

Then the weekend came and my husband and had planned a holiday trip to vegas. While in the encore hotel heading out to go shopping, Monday, December 14th, I had triple negative breast cancer.  Two days later I had the MRI showing it spread to my lymph nodes. Friday I had stage 4 triple negative breast cancer… and in my mind, I was going to die.  My life as I knew it made no sense to me anymore.  

BUT, I don’t want to end this blog on a bad note because everything is amazing now! I guess my pet scan tomorrow is bringing up a lot of feelings from the past. Feelings that I haven’t given words to yet.  I think this blogging might be a really good idea…

Jenn