Genesis 9:13 “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”

 

Turns out rainbows are mentioned in the bible 15 times (well, of course this depends on which version of the bible you read – some say it is only mentioned a mere 7 times) and unicorns are mentioned 9 times (well, no one can agree if it is really a mythical unicorn creature or a bull or an extinct animal such as the Siberian Unicorn – an extinct genus of rhinoceros). If I have googled all these fun facts, I guess there is no time like the present to tell you about my spiritual journey in a two parts…the first below – what shaped my thoughts and early life spiritually and religiously and then in the second part – how I made the decision to join the Catholic Church and my experiences there. Oh, and Deacon John, I am totally going to do each part with no “bad” words just for you! ūüôā

So, I was born to parents of very Baptist mothers. Both my grandma Jean and Grandma Boots were very involved with the First Baptist Church on Neville Street in Beckley, WV. My parents were both raised Baptist too. I was raised to be a good person. My dad actually told me after he had gotten sick that his biggest regret in raising me was not having me Baptized like both of my grandmothers wanted. I hate that he had that regret, but at this point in my life, I can tell you that I am very glad that I was raised the way I was.

I remember having a conversation with my mom when I was 15 or so upstairs in the house we had moved into when I was 14 about believing in something that was bigger than her. She told me how she had fallen out of traditional religious beliefs when a homeless man had come into church one Sunday and the congregation voted to have him leave. This is not Christian, and I think I would have had issue with that belief process as well. But, hey…this is my story!

I went to more vacation bible school than any kid on the planet each summer growing up! I went to the Presbyterian Church with Meredith, the Synagogue with Alisa, Methodist Temple with Mary, Baptist Church with Carla and because Grandma Jean wanted me to, Catholic Church with Ashley…you get the picture! As I was growing up, I went to an Episcopalian pre-school and later in life, I was a member of the Youth Group at both the First Baptist Church and The Methodist Temple. I remember enjoying learning about the different faiths and found it so amazing to discover the small differences between belief systems in the Christian faith and other faiths. I had a Buddhist Pocket Guide I would read as a teen nightly – I still think there is a great deal of truth to that belief system – karma and rebirth seem to be things I am drawn to. To this day, I still love to uncover commonalities between all the religions, as one of my dearest friends is Muslim. It amazes me that so many of the same people are in the Bible and the Quran. I could sit and discuss biblical stories and how they differ or continue on in the Quran with Ahmed (Tiffany, make sure to show him this:) for hours and enjoy each moment of it.

When I would stay with my grandma Jean, we would go to church Sunday morning…she would not let me drink the grape juice – recall above, I had not been baptized! I was definitely the major religious holiday and Mother’s Day attendee that I know Preachers and Priests love so much! There became a time that I questioned a lot as a teenager. I feel like I had my own Rumspringa – although I am not Amish, would be sad if I had to go back and deny worldly pleasures or stay gone and never see my family again, and really wasn’t any determinable faith at the time.

I was married in the church my parents were married in. It meant a lot to me at the time. Of course, my ex-husband and I were not members of the church, but we did not live in Beckley any more either so it made that easier. I remember my mom and dad getting nervous with me because they were worried what I would say to the pastor because they knew I did not want a “religious” ceremony. I actually told Pastor Carrico that I wanted as little God in there as he would allow. I am surprised he would agree to still marry us in his church. I was also surprised at the time how nervous being in his presence made me. I did not like the few counseling courses we had to go to. I was still uncomfortable in that church after all those years. I remember my dad being angry with me the Easter after we got married because I did not bring “appropriate” clothing for church service. I told him I wasn’t going and he was not happy by that. He told me that I should go to church because I had not set foot in there since I had gotten married. I calmly asked him how many times he had been since I had gotten married? For those of you who knew my dad, I definitely got the lip biting, red face anger he was relatively good at…lol…touch√©! Of course maybe the joke is now no me and the lack of God in my marriage was a reason it did not last…hmmmm…I’ll save that for another entry!

I remember learning about agnostics and atheists – as other “faiths” so to speak. I had many friends who said they were agnostic, and in all truth, I believe I was one of them. I was sure that there was something greater than me – I just wasn’t sure what to name it or if there was only one to name. One of my best friends, Amber always said she was agnostic because it made her family happier. She now will admit to being atheist. This does not mean she is the devil – she is not a satanist, she simply doesn’t believe in the existence of God or gods. She will tell you all about believing in Christmas though – as the stolen Pagan holiday and Santa Claus – as well as the Springtime Bunny. We live in a society where we should all be allowed to have our own beliefs without fear of persecution or losing friendships. Our differences are what make us special, people!

Anyway, back to my journey…again…I finished my chemotherapy and had already had one of my surgeries (we will talk about that at some point too) and my marriage was falling apart. I had so many questions. I turned to Amber at one point – she is my “no sugar coating” friend who will tell me like it is. I told her I felt like I was supposed to be learning something. Like I was being tested – we all have the “why me” moments in our life and I was definitely drowning in mine. Of course, Amber told me that she would support any decisions I made, but by her belief I was not being tested – sometimes life is just hard and sucks. This was the first time I had started to question my own belief system and faith.

When I was growing up, I formed a belief system about religion. I was sure it was a coping mechanism to make dying yourself, or processing another’s death easier. I mean, it seems easier to think we get to keep living through eternity – at the time I always said “whether that is true or not”. Like organized religion and faith was a man-made system to make life seem worth it and make it easier to die and easier to let go and easier to cope with all life throws our way. I was a science major in college as well and this did not help my beliefs. “The fossil record doesn’t lie” I would say – “how am I supposed to believe in something that all of my formal education recants over and over again?” There was a time that I thought my illness had me searching for something greater than me to make it make sense…this was the root of my questioning.

I actually now have a theory for all of those standard responses as well. You know there are creationist and evolutionist, right? Why can’t evolution be part of the plan? Time is something that has changed too…let’s be honest here, Methuselah was said to 969 years old – the grandfather to Noah – who lived 950 years. Then lifespans diminish down to 120 years for Moses. Can you imagine living that many years? CENTURIES more than we live now? Is it plausible that in the seven days it took God to create our world – day 1 light and dark, day 2 sky and sea, day 3 land and vegetation, day 4 stars, sun and moon, day 5 sea creatures and birds, day 6 animals and humans and on the 7th day he took rest from all the work he had made – that these aren’t the 24 hour days we know now? That the theory of evolution was actually a plan within the creation of the world? Maybe I should have changed my major to philosophy back in the day!?!?! HA

Wow…reel it back in, Lindsay! …I had know Michele for years before I was diagnosed. I knew she was Catholic and actually one of the most religious of all my friends. She and Lisa T. always said they would get me in a church one day. I couldn’t understand Michele’s faith and her dedication to it. I remember many conversations we had about religion and beliefs in my old office. The first I remember clearly was me telling her I wanted NO ONE to tell me my dad was in a better place when he would eventually succumb to his disease. The second came about when she was trying to get me to join them for church one Sunday morning. I asked point blank how she could go to a church and sit with all those people knowing that they had firm beliefs about her lifestyle and were not supportive of her life choices. I will never forget her response to me – she said that the God she knows would never create her to love who she loves and for that to be wrong. That her relationship with God was hers and hers alone and it did not matter what everyone else in the congregation thought about what she did with her life. That was a very powerful conversation I will always hold onto.

And then one day soon after, I woke up and decided to get dressed and go to church. I wore jeans and a 3/4 length shirt. I remember that well, because that was not appropriate for church when I was growing up. I also remember the sound of my ex-husbands voice when I told him where I was going – disbelief and shock possibly good descriptors there. I went to St. Johns where Fr. Jeremiah was leading mass and cried the entire hour I was there. Many of my friends who went to St. Johns gave me hints and pointers to feeling more like the group and some dos and don’ts for the masses. Kim was always so supportive of my initial church days and I will always be appreciative of her kind words and direction as she has entered the church later in life too. I will also never forget Michele’s voice when I said I was coming and the look on her face when I actually showed up. Like she had won or something…for those of you who know her, you can certainly see that she would have that competitive nature even when it comes to getting someone to take one step closer to Christ! This was the late fall of 2014 – I went to church more and more as time went on until I decided that this was the path I wanted to journey down and take my kids with me…

Tune back in soon to see how we actually made the conversion to Catholicism! ¬†I was told today my blog entries were getting too long winded. HA Maybe that is true, but I am so happy that I know some one is reading my entries…if only they can help one person – I know they are helping me!

 

 

 

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lindsayGenesis 9:13 “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”
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Chemo-schmemo

Have you ever had a time in your life when you wondered ‚Äúwhat the actual fuck am I supposed to do with this?‚Ä̬†Yea…I have. Unfortunately, more than once. But here I sit, all the better for it – because what came out of it is me believing in me and truthfully, friends, I wouldn’t give up one shitty hour of the story I am telling because it lead me to where I am today…¬†

Dr. Burns had me scheduled for my mastectomy over the summer of 2014. That is the way you do this, right? Get diagnosed, have surgery to get it out and then treat any remaining cells that may have been missed through chemo and radiation. I remember asking him point blank “I am Beth. What does she do next?” I couldn’t imagine just sitting around knowing I had this time bomb that was growing rapidly in my chest and doing nothing while I wait for an OR to be available and the doctors schedules to jive. Dr. Burns said to me, “no one has ever asked me what to do next like that. I tell my wife to go see Jame in Cleveland.” So that is what I did. I will never forget the way he looked at me at that moment – and I hope and pray he never has to do this with her.

Dr. Abraham was once in Morgantown and then left to be the Director of the Breast Oncology Program at Taussig Cancer Institute and to be the co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program. Morgantown definitely lost a shining star, but trust that there are many of us who carpool to him yearly (more on the Dr Abraham fan bus later:).

By May 14, 2014 (remember I was diagnosed 5/6/2014), I was sitting in his waiting room to determine my plan of action and to get his opinion as well. He is an amazing spirit and true inspiration. His bedside manner and disposition is something to be studied and emulated – everyone who has seen him would agree. I walked in to my appointment and waited. Scared. Unknowing what he would say and what the plan would be. I just knew sitting around wasn’t right for me. He came in the room and said I was quite the celebrity. Apparently my boss at the time and my Jennie (that I know of) had texted him and told him I was special and to take very good care of me. He never would tell me who else texted – I just could guess those two.

He took the time to educate me and to tell me what was growing in my right breast had probably just started fairly recently because it was a very aggressive type of cancer from the biopsy results. I totally broke down on him because I knew in my mind that I had done this to myself. I knew that I had eaten the wrong things or stressed out too much or lived my life wrong. I knew I was responsible for this disaster taking hold of my life. He calmly told me horrifying facts – he said that it is not a true question of IF someone we love or ourselves will get cancer, but a question of WHEN. Statistically, 1 out of 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime and 1 out of 5 will die from the disease – 1 in every 8 women get breast cancer. This is the world we live in and it is scary.

There was a newer chemotherapy drug on the market that had just been FDA approved in September of 2013. Very few people had taken it at that time, but he suggested this was the best course of therapy for me. Perjeta is only used when your cancer is HER2+. At the time, if you have the absence of the HER2+ marker, this drug is not an option. If I were to have had my surgery first, this drug would not have been on the table. I was totally on the fence though! I looked at him like he was crazy Рyou mean to tell me that I am just supposed to go ahead and live my life with this growing inside of me and try this new treatment? I have drawing after drawing after drawing of his explaining why this was the best idea Рwhy my triple positive (ER+ Рestrogen receptor Рand PgR+ Рprogestogen receptor Рand HER2+) invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) was best treated by being left alone at first.

This new drug had been shown in studies to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back by 18% when used in conjunction with Herceptin for a year after diagnosis – not to exceed 18 treatments given every 3 weeks. In addition to this course of treatment, I was also to take¬†Taxotere, Carboplatin every three weeks for 6 treatments. I was the second person to ever receive Perjeta at Mon General Hospital…the first to start in a mere 3 days before me in the same week. I had no idea what to expect – we didn’t know what to expect actually. NONE! But I trusted this team of doctors – Dr. Burns, Dr. Abraham in Cleveland and Dr. Saunders on the ground here in Morgantown. I knew I was in good hands.

By May 20, 2014, I was having surgery to place my port in my left chest wall. This is supposedly to more easily access a direct vessel to get the drugs into your system and to drawl blood out. I hated my port. After than surgery, Dr. Burns told me that I may be a little sore because I had one of the tightest muscles around my collar bone he had ever had to maneuver to run the line. I thought “seriously??? The only tone muscle in my indie body is the one you had to pry off to put a line under? How lucky am I???” The following week, I went in for my first of 6 full day treatments.

Let’s be honest…I had absolutely NO idea what to expect. This was just another in the list of unknowns I was about to deal with. Early on when my dad was first starting his chemotherapy, we had a long conversation. He told me about feeling 100% – as good as it could get at that time before he started taking those drugs. He took a pill form of chemotherapy to start that was something ridiculous like $13,000/pill! WHAT??? He had extreme fatigue with his treatment. As the time progressed after taking a dose, he felt a little better, but never got back to 100% – so the next round he started at more like 90% and so on until he just felt well under 50%. It is very hard to bounce back from the effects of chemotherapy between treatments, this I learned was so very true.

Jan, of course came up to attend my first treatment with me, but you already knew that. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from it. We spoke with the infusion coordinator and of course I had Heather to poison me. Kim accessed my port for the very first time. This was less than a week after it had been put in. NO THANK YOU! This thing feels like it is just below your skin and when they pull out that 1.5 or so inch needle to push in your chest…I just can’t. Although there was a lot I did not like about chemo, accessing my port was one of my least favorite things! Also horrible from all of this, the taste you get when they flush your port. It is simply saline, but you can taste it – and smell it from the inside. I don’t know how really to explain that, but it is awful! And even now, with my port out, I can still taste a normal IV flush in a way I was never able to before and it turns my stomach making me feel green.

So back to having no idea what to expect…all of these drugs come from the pharmacy in biohazard bags. The nurses who come to set them up wear special gowns and whatnot. The bags clearly state not to get them on your skin – because they can cause severe burns and reactions. What in the world are they putting into my body? Why don’t I need to wear a hazmat suit? Why does anyone think this is a good idea? LOL…all the things you think about when these drips are about to start! I had to take oral steroids for a few days leading up to my treatment and then had a steroid drip prior to receiving my medications to hopefully counteract some of the side effects that could come from this therapy.

I remember being able to taste or smell wild flowers as the carboplatin went into my chest. It was such a weird infusion. I remember having a hot flash sensation as the taxotere dripped into my system. The herceptin and perjeta were no big deal – but how was I really to know what caused me to feel so awful when I was getting all 4 therapies at the same time?

After the first treatment I remember coming home and thinking about how I needed to drink a lot of liquids. I took a huge gulp of Gatorade and promptly puked it into the kitchen sink. My port hurt. Seriously, hurt. I had ice on it for another week on and off and got very little relief. The day after my first treatment (a Friday) I woke up red. You read that right…red. I looked like a lobster and my skin was super hot to the touch. But, I felt ok. I had this false sense of everything being ok and I worked all day long. I came home and went to bed. Waking the next morning to my children’s needs – then 2 and 5 – I had no patience. I learned quickly how few patience one has when on such high doses of steroids. I went to wake my now ex husband and told him point blank that he had to get up and deal with his children before I killed them. I had never felt this way in my life!

It is a tired you have never felt. If I was a not enjoying the show I was watching but the remote was 8 inches away from my hand on the arm of the chair, that was too taxing and hard to reach for it to change the channel – seriously, that type of fatigue. We all think we know what tired feels like – especially if we have children or very demanding jobs. We are all wrong. I was a virtual zombie – and a super mean, grumpy one at that – the Saturday thru Monday after my Thursday treatments. I tried to drive to take Emlyn to a sleepover and then went back the next day to pick her up after my first infusion. I never again drove on this two day stretch – it was definitely not safe and a horrible idea.

This first treatment, I really had no idea this was coming. I got up on Monday morning and got ready for work. I stood in my closet and cried about not being able to lift my left arm over my head to get my shirt on. My port site hurt so badly it was unreal. Once I got it together, I worked the entire day. I went to get Emlyn from school and came back to work – that is what we did each and every afternoon during pre-k before we went to get Charly, so why would this day be any different? I got her situated, went into my then bosses office and sat in one of her chairs. She was not in that day and I remember simply losing my shit. I sat there and cried for about 20 minutes all alone – ugly cry, guys! ¬†Like I couldn’t pull it together cry. I was 4 days into this new life and had 3 months left ahead of me. 5 more treatments. I was sure I was not going to be able to handle it and that it was going to kill me. Luckily, I woke up the next morning feeling a little more human and that progressed until I went in to the hospital to have treatment number 2 and so forth through number 6.

I remember thinking that I had to be strong. I had to be the poster child of dealing with this crap. ¬†I had two girls who were 5 and 2 and I had to show them what beautiful was – that this was defined by inner strength and character, not your hair or outward appearance. Jennie and Tiffany definitely knew the truth as I tried my best to keep everything else to myself…remember that mallard duck looking all graceful on the surface but fighting like hell under the water? That was me! I put a smile on my face each and every day even if I did not feel like it. The side effects from treatment were no joke. I have already told you about the fatigue and the lack of patience, but there is so much more that went along with these three months.

Soon after treatment 1, I started to lose my hair. Beth helped me cut it really short so I was not finding 8 inch hairs all over the place. Then about a week and a half in the clumps started to pull out. That night, my husband and I shaved my head. My girls watched. Wow, did I look like my dad! LOL I did not much like to cover my baldness. I sometimes wore scarfs, but that was rare. I generally just rocked the shiny bald scalp and the little hairs that started to pop back in soon after they all fell out. Turns out, those cells are killed off once but they start to generate quickly (in my case at least) even before treatment is over. I did have a wig, but only wore it for about an hour in my friend Ambers wedding.

You know, since we are being real here, lets really go there! You lose all your hair. ALL OF IT! I am not sure I expected to lose it all. I was lucky to not lose my eyebrows or eyelashes. I did not wear mascara then though because I was so afraid of how delicate my lashes were at the time. The first hair I lost in clumps was actually my pubic hair. No one tells you about that. And one day, it is just all gone. The hair on your legs, arms, face, under your arms…all of it gone! It is actually relatively glorious! If only you could get the hair on the top of your head to come back in and everything else to stay away…work on that cancer researchers!

So, the Perjeta can cause heart problems. I had to have a baseline EKG and redo it three times to make sure my heart wasn’t being compromised. It can also cause you to have numbness and sensation loss in your extremities – especially in your fingers. I was always afraid that would happen to me. I did have weakness in my hands though. Nausea was also a huge problem. I took Zofran before treatment for 3 days and then after treatment for 4 days every 3 hours as set as alarms on my phone. I missed that dose one time and vowed to never do that again! If I didn’t have diarrhea, I was constipated – there was no happy medium there. Everything that left my body for three days after treatment smelled like chemicals. It is a smell I can’t truly describe, but I will never forget it. When you are on chemo, you are supposed to use the same bathroom always and children for sure are not supposed to share the restroom with you. This shit is serious, guys! You also have to watch what you eat – no fountain drinks or machine made milkshakes. Did you know that those machines are so dirty that they can cause a chemo patient to get very ill with their suppressed immune system? Why do we drink out of them when we aren’t on chemo then???

After my third treatment, I developed sores in my mouth. They stayed around for about 9 weeks. To say I was miserable from that would be an understatement. At one point, I counted 22 different places on my tongue, inside my cheeks and lips, and even on my gums. I used “magic mouthwash” which is a mix of Benadryl, Mylanta and lidocaine like I had nothing else to do just to breath. Eating was not really an option at that time. Talking was hard. Everything hurt and there was no way around it.

About this same time, I noticed I could no longer feel my tumor. Dr. Saunders agreed and sent me for an ultrasound. It was not detected! I was so excited that I was going to get a reprieve on the remaining 3 full chemo days. Dr. Saunders simply laughed that off and said there was no get out of jail free card. Even though we could no longer feel or see the tumor on ultrasound did not mean some of it wasn’t still floating around my body. It was also about this time my hair started to grow back in…WHITE. Like this silvery shiny white. That is why I am now a platinum blonde! My hair is that silvery white or pitch dark black…more white than black! But in my 30s, no thank you!

My 5th treatment brought vomiting along with the diarrhea. I could keep nothing down and nothing in. When you are on chemo, your first visit actually, you are given a card to hand to a ER if you are in need of being seen. I thought I was strong enough to not need to use that card. I mustered through my normal 4 day routing after the 5th treatment and then called Dr. Saunders on Monday morning because I felt so horrible and so weak. I walked in, had my bp taken (it was obnoxiously low Рlike 105/60) and Dr. Saunders was brought in immediately. I definitely got a scolding for this one! Why had I not come into the ER before Monday? Why did I let this get so bad? I was asked if I could walk to the 5th floor, because I needed IV fluids and at least a 24 hour supervision stay on the cancer floor. Of course I walked my ass up there. I got in that hospital, I did not need anyone to wheel me around to a bed! I was still so nauseous that I had dry heaves and was beyond miserable Рstill with all those mouth sores too. I had a shot of Phenergan and felt like I was floating in a second. I hate feeling that way, but was finally able to sleep. I remember Dr. Burns seeing me on the charts and stopping by to see why I was in the hospital. He told me I looked awful. HA! Damn straight I felt the way I looked too.

I was released the next day fully hydrated and with strict orders to never wait again. On our way home, my mom called and told me I needed to come home. My dad died the next day. The day before his 62 birthday. This is about chemo though…we will revisit this in another blog post…but quickly, it seemed as though many of the people at the service did not know that I had cancer too. I stood near the casket during the visitation and so many people kept telling me how much I looked like my dad. “A spitting image” one lady said. I would look over at him and I kept thinking, “Damn, do I look that bad? I mean, I feel that bad, but I am still standing!”

My mom was finally able to be with me on my last full chemo day though. I guess from horrible things you can sometimes find a rainbow. I was so relieved that we were finally to this day! Day 6 – the last $40,000 treatment day! Yes, this is how much each of my full days costs when you added the drug totals all up. I got through my¬†Taxotere, and then we started the carboplatin. I remember feeling weird – like I couldn’t breath well and my bra started itching something awful around the bottom of my breasts. Then I thought I was just making this up – like it was all in my head. Remember, this is the drug that I could smell a field of wild flowers when it was dripping into my system. So weird! I finally mentioned how I was feeling and a swarm of nurses came in and Jean – Dr. Saunders right hand woman followed by Dr. Saunders. He had never been in the infusion center that I had seen when I had been there before. ¬†Now I started to freak out some – that did not help the itching I was feeling. I was having an allergic reaction to this drug. I was lucky it hadn’t happened before. They slowed the drip way down and kept going. I was told that if it happened earlier, I would have still had the drip but with a big ole bag of benadryl first and it would have been given much slower than it had been previously. I was also told I will never be able to have that drug again. Side note, that is totally ok with me and on my long term goals plan!

By Tuesday after my last chemo I was starting to feel much better. Within a week and a half after my last full treatment, I started to exercise again. I felt my strength coming back and I felt better each day. It was so empowering to know that I was feeling so much better and I was not going to be knocked down again! I had the one unknown with chemo left – to see how my body would react to only the Perjeta and Herceptin infusions alone. Luckily, I breezed through those additional 12 chemo days as I had to do that every 3 weeks for the remainder of the year. My surgeries and radiation were actually planned around that treatment.

I had my mastectomy in October of 2014 – I did have a bilateral and I will tell you all about that in the future. The exciting news though from this that deserves to go in this post is that I have no idea what grade or stage my cancer was…as I had 100% response to the 6 days of chemotherapy. All of that was worth it. I no longer had breasts, but I was al 100% cancer free at that moment! I celebrate my new birthday in October of each year now – October 16 to be exact! The day I was told I was cancer free and given a new lease on life! That was the day I began to believe in me – and friends, that is one of the best things I have ever done…all because of this crappy hand dealt to me. I would prefer to never do that again. The treatment days were definitely long, but the time was short and I made it…successfully at that, my girls told me soon after the summer was over that it was “the best summer ever” thanks to my village who saved them from me! Chemo-schmemo, no more!

 

 

 

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lindsayChemo-schmemo
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Every Chapter is Special.

You know…through my years on this planet…especially those I have been adulting, I have realized that there are definitely good times and bad times. I have come up with so much to say about the day to day and realize that each and every event or time in our life is unfolding with us center stage. Even if it isn’t what we wanted or thought it would be.

One of my all time favorite broadway musicals is RENT. The message through the entire performance is that there is “No Day But Today”! We live 525,600 minutes (some of you sang that, didn’t you?) in a year and how do you measure that time? I would like to think I measure the time in lessons learned and progress made.

No one is perfect, but everyone is perfectly themselves and I can promise that you won’t be let down if you see your progress and don’t try to be what others believe is perfect. I have a few more tips that I have learned along the way. They may be hard pills to swallow, but once I truly started believing these facts, I started to be happier – glow as a couple ladies have told me recently (and no, I can not be pregnant – it is in fact medically impossible, so don’t go there – ha!). I want to share with you these truths that I am now full fledged believing – see what you have to think about them…

I was 3 months pregnant with Charly when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I had a friend who came in to talk to me at work. Nichole’s mother had lost a battle with breast cancer years before and she knew how hard it was to be faced with loosing a parent. She told me that it was very hard and totally unfair, but that I needed to look to God to see what the reason was with this. What was I supposed to learn from this situation? I often think of this conversation when a chapter in life ends or begins even – what am I supposed to be learning? Often times, I learn that life is not fair, but no one promised it would be, right? Its in these times of greatest adversity that we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and see what we are made of.

During this same time, I was also introduced to the saying “God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle”. I am not so sure I believe that malarky either. LOL I will get to my journey with God and finding his love at some point in the future, but I am pretty sure the God I love, cherish, worship and was created by is all about love. If he tests us by throwing additional hardships our way, I don’t believe it is being done out of malice or spite. I also don’t think it is a competition to see how much we can handle. Obviously, there are times people can’t handle life and thusly have too much. Whether those people hurt themselves or others, there was too much thrown at them at that particular time. I would like to believe that this wasn’t in the master plan and that those too weak to continue doing life were still loved. Life is full of plot twists – and maybe I believe more strongly in “rolling with the punches”.

I have learned a lot about happiness. It is important – paramount almost in my mind. That doesn’t mean I don’t have down days or shed a tear or two, but I believe being happy is one emotion I can actually create in myself. You know that sentiment of “fake it till you make it?” I firmly believe that if I think I am happy, one day I will wake up and it will be authentic. I am here at this moment in my life. It took a second to realize two other things about happiness though to bring me to this point: one, no one is responsible for my happiness except for me and two, it is no ones fault if I am unhappy except my own. We are in control of our circumstances and our mindset. I choose to be happy. With this choice, my days are brighter and I am more pleasant to be around. Try it and see for yourself! It is magical almost and improves relationships all around you.

Many people look at happiness as a “good” emotion. I have learned that emotions are not positive or negative – they are simply emotions. I recently watched Susan David’s TED talk about emotional courage. She jokes about not wanting to deal with any “bad” emotions and how that is a dead persons goal – emotions are emotions. Some of our chapters are laden with sadness, fear, anger, disgust, but they can also be overflowing with joy, hope, surprise, gratitude, pride… There are good and bad connotations that go with emotions, but they aren’t really good or bad – they just are what they are at the time. My ex-husband said I was not myself for a year after my grandmother died. I was grieving her being gone. Grief is an emotion. It is something we deal with as part of life, like all emotions. Maybe we like feeling some better than others, but no matter what, they should remind us that we are alive.

And sometimes, they remind us that we are vulnerable. I was recently introduced to Brene Brown’s work and I am so glad that I was. She believes that being vulnerable – going all in 100% knowing we could fail or get hurt – is brave. It is actually one of the bravest things we can do in life. She promotes the truth that courage is in fact contagious. Each and every time we put our chin to the wind and show how courageous we are, we help someone else become a little braver too and strengthen the world. You know, there are times in life that we fail. That what we thought would be isn’t. And we have to learn from those hard truths, with our brave faces on and move forward – not crawl into a hole or bury our heads.

Truth is, nothing in life is guaranteed. When dad was diagnosed, his neurosurgeon said that everyone will die someday and that no one knows the true answer to when that is. Because of this fact, I find it very important to let everyone know exactly how I feel about them. If I love you, you will know it. If I don’t, well, I won’t be as pleasant, but I am not too confrontational, so maybe you get off the hook a little. I just want to make sure that no matter what I feel in the exact moment – sadness, anger, frustration for example – I will not hang up on you without first telling you I love you. This goes for all of my family and friends – you will know where you stand with me, because tomorrow is not promised. Each day we get the privilege to wake up and put our feet on the floor – to stretch and take a deep breath. It may be the day we get hit by the proverbial bus, or a real bus. Shit happens. We may not get to wake up again and there is no way I am going out with a regret on how I left it with someone…and if they go out, that is a guilt I don’t want to be left with.

I was in a meeting recently with a guess speaker as well. In a room full of business people, he said that yesterday is a cancelled check, tomorrow is a promissory note and today is the cash. How very powerful is that statement? I think of it often. I can’t change what happened yesterday and worrying about tomorrow is a waste of today. As long as I am learning and moving forward, I have to seize the day and make the best of each opportunity.

Looking at life as a book makes so much sense to me. It is full of characters Рsome are introduced to serve a purpose and come and go in our lives. Others are mainstays and will never falter. Some you think are forever grounded and permanent fixtures in your life and then you get thrown curve ball and realize they were in fact just to get you through a time or serve a certain purpose. These too can be hard truths and cause sadness in our lives. But no matter what we find in our narrative of life, I can guarantee each and every chapter is special.  It makes us who we are and defines each and every aspect of our being.

Thank you for reading my philosophical thoughts on life. I would love to hear your thoughts! Maybe I should have listened to Dr. Clark in college and changed my major to philosophy? LOL

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lindsayEvery Chapter is Special.
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It Truly Takes a Village!

It truly takes a village to raise a family. It MOST certainly takes one to do so when also dealing with chemotherapy and all that goes into cancer clean up! The outpouring of love and support during my diagnosis, treatment, clean up and even my current every day life continues to touch me and amaze me in ways I doubt people know.

I have always been pretty self sufficient and feeling like I was taking so much from all of these people who obviously cared immensely for me was a very hard pill to swallow. Whether they were bringing me and my family dinner during the 7 days after my treatment so I did not have to worry about anything – set up by Christa and supported fully by my friends in the Morgantown Board of Realtors, my work family and the castle, just stopping by to visit and check in on me, or calling to check in, I had a hard time accepting all the love. You know hindsight is always 20/20 and I shouldn’t have been that way.

Speaking of the Castle (this is where my kids went for daycare – it is a private, in home, amazing blessing that very few are lucky enough to experience)… they had a First Thursday Surprise Pink Party for me where everyone brought something that was pink for my journey into chemotherapy and my battle. Rayanne, the Queen of the Castle, has always been a blessing to my life, but I can not begin to explain what she actually has become to my family over the years. She is truly one of my biggest cheerleaders – the one that reminds me that I am lovable, worth it, not alone, adoptable in a moments notice when I need some Morgantown family, and most of all that those who know me, know me. She was also the driving force behind the Elimination Dinner that was held in my honor to help me pay for my medical bills in 2014 – so much more on this later, I promise. Some moms, Rayanne and I went to dinner at Texas one evening and I remember Heather telling me to just get over it and let Rayanne be Rayanne – trust me, there was no stopping her.

Amy participated from afar so very often. The day before each long chemo day, I received a care package in the mail. In it, activities for me to take for the day and a t-shirt for treatment day. She had one too and wore hers too – even to work. My left arm (the side my port was on) said Take That on each one – her left arm said For Linz on each. They said Wake Up, Kick Cancers Butt and Repeat, Bee Strong, I am a Warrior, Keep Calm and Fight On, and Chemo Grad – it of course was blue and gold! I got a picture of her each morning of treatment with hers on, showing that although she couldn’t be here in real life, she was definitely with me in spirit. Amy also organized a t-shirt sale that sold a ton of shirts that said “I support Lindsay”. ¬†When I went into my last office meeting after chemo and before my mastectomy, everyone had on pink – 90% of them in an I Support Lindsay t-shirt. The days I had surgeries for years to come actually, I got pictures posted on Facebook with my friends and family from all over the country wearing these t-shirts for me on the days of my procedures. It was crazy and still amazes me that people from high school, college, adult life – all over the place were wearing pink just for me. I know that this support, whether the thoughts, prayers, willing, and love got me through the toughest times of my life. This was definitely part of what kept a smile on my face through the hardest battle I had ever faced.

I was never alone for a chemotherapy treatment either. Jan came in to go with me to the first one – the first big unknown. She seriously came all the way to WV to sit there with me for 8 hours or so all the way from Alabama. Jennie took me to number 2 – I can tell you all that this was something for her to do. It isn’t fun for many to relive this day, but she wasn’t going to let me do it alone. Shannon brought me to number 3. She drove up from Grafton to get me and took me home too. Angela took me to number 4 and came bearing fun magazines and stuff for us to do to pass the time. My ex-husband took me to number 5 and we had visitors – Christa, Connie and Shelley Moore Capito…because why wouldn’t that happen. My last full day of chemo was unfortunately after my dad had passed, but my mom was able to be there with me and Michele brought us lunch. I was also poisoned (that is totally what I said they were doing to me) by the best in the business. I would not have wanted to have my port accessed by anyone else than the caring and amazing staff at Mon General! Heather, Rachel, Trish and all the other nurses honestly took an active role in my treatment and still do to this day. To say they are amazing is an understatement – even when I was an annoying type A patient requiring my poisoning to take place in the exact same sequence each time. LOL

The Community Service Committee of the Morgantown Board of Realtors all chipped in and brought be an early Christmas present and came to visit me after one of my surgeries. They brought me a card with money to help me have a wonderful Christmas for my girls without worrying about money. I can never repay them or thank them enough for saving Christmas that year.

My girls actually though that 2014 was the “best summer ever” because of everyone who helped make it that way for them. When I was very down, they would be taken out to do something fun so they wouldn’t have to watch me suffer. And Lord knows, my patience was at an all time low during the period, so it was a great thing to have the girls out and about, living life with their friends while I was in my road rage periods (we will talk about all that sometime too).

The Osman/Wunderlich clan and “framily” came up to save the day more than once too. Whether it was to kidnap all of us and take us to Deep Creek for a day off of life or to storm my house with reinforcements to help get all the laundry sorted, washed, put up/folded…and all I could muster was sitting up kinda to say which kid that outfit belonged to. Of course Tiffany was always there for me. She checked on me daily and waited to get off the phone with me to ever shed a tear. I know now that many times we would get off the phone and she would fall apart. I knowing what it took for her to remain so strong during those calls – she is definitely a cry when she is angry or sad type of person and I believe she was really both at this time.

Michele made it her mission to almost never let me come to any more of my “mini” chemo/infusion days alone. She was also with me on surgery days – if you know her, you understand what this means. She doesn’t…or didn’t lol…do hospitals. She let me fall apart on her many times and picked up all the pieces. When I started radiation, she found my car in the parking lot and left me an envelop with 28 scratch off lottery tickets so I had one to scratch each day before or after treatment. I won $12 on them actually and looked forward to that bright spot each day for 6 weeks.

I am not sure I adequately thanked all of these people who touched my life during this time period…actually I know I didn’t. I also know that I have left people out who stepped up and helped create this village that I honestly don’t think I could live without. I have to just hope and pray myself that they know how touched I was by the visits, gifts, love, support, thoughts, prayers…I felt them daily and I believe that this was actually what made this time in my life bearable – it was so rough, but again, hindsight being 20/20 one of the hardest, saddest, scariest and best time of my life. I hope each and every one of them know that I would do anything for them. To feel love like this from so many is something I never though was in my path and I thank God every day for showing me I am worth it.

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lindsayIt Truly Takes a Village!
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Everyone Needs a Jennie.

Seriously. Getting a cancer diagnosis is annoying as shit. And scary as fuck. (Sorry, mom…there just is not other way to say this. LOL) I realized that Dr Burns was going to tell me that I had cancer when my appointment was pushed further and further and further back. I had a feeling that he was going to tell me I had cancer – in the elevator going up to the appointment, I looked at my mom and now ex-husband and told them that there would be no crying today when they told me the news. I had gone through all the testing – mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy that he tried to wipe the entire tumor away with – I just knew what was coming from the first time he felt it too. ¬†And three weeks later, I was scared and annoyed and honestly did not have time for this.

I feel it was potentially most unfair to my mom if I am being truthful. My dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma multiform – an inoperable brain tumor – in April of 2011 and given 6-9 months to live. I was pregnant with Charly at the time and he was determined to see that little namesake and live long enough for her to remember her grandpa. He would ask me often when I was pregnant how much I remembered from my grandmother who died from complications from colon cancer when I was 3. I knew he was determined to live long enough for her to remember him like I remembered her. Sure enough he did, too! For 41 months he held on and fought, but it was quite the battle (a story for another post). The issue here is that I can’t imagine how ridiculously torn and distraught my mom was at this time. I was in Morgantown. He was in Beckley. We both had cancer. Fuck. This is a situation I hope and pray I am never faced with.

I knew when leaving from that appointment on May 6, 2014 that my life was about to change. I felt pretty good at the time and I knew from watching my dad that I was about to be made to feel something really close to awful in the name of survival. I promise to tell you all about that too, but this post is truly about joining a club – one that is awful and shitty and ridiculous, but wonderful and comforting at the exact same time. Breast cancer patients and survivors are some of the most awesome people I have ever met!

When going through all the testing, I told Jennie. My friend who had TWO bouts of breast cancer by 35 years old. The look on her face when I told her…I will never for get it. In the parking garage in the Wharf after a Castle First Thursday dinner. I knew she would be there for me, but I never knew she would become such an important part of my life. One of my best friends – my cancer confidant who I could look at and know that there is indeed life after this bullshit. The person I could be real with and not put on a front. The person who understood how fucking horrifying all the unknowns that were about to be laid out for me were. I could not have dealt with this diagnosis without her, I know that to be true. She grounded me and helped me not feel crazy even when it was to simply tell me I was not alone in a feeling I was having. I could text her and get reassurance. There is something about having a person to talk to who knows how you feel that is beyond comforting.

I say it is like joining a club you sure as hell wished you hadn’t, but it turns out ok because you all of a sudden meet a million people who are survivors that are amazing women or their mom/sister/grandma was affected by breast cancer. A huge portion of these people live to see another day, some aren’t so lucky. It gives you a connection to people you can’t imagine and although it is beyond crappy to be a member of this club on one hand, it is one of the biggest blessings I have ever been dealt on the other.

Of course there was Jennie – my still to this day, I can’t believe this was our lot in life, BFF I cherish. ¬†But there were others too. My friend Mary Rose told me about her friend Felice and I will never forget about the 1.5 hour conversation I had with her from NY. She had been a single parent with a young son when dealing with her cancer. She was living her life to the fullest though and had just recently gotten new nipples – although the “clean up” from this dreaded disease seems to linger, that is an exciting step in reconstruction and getting on with your life. Kim came over from her office across the street and spent a little over an hour with me talking about how awful this was going to be but how there is in fact an amazing life waiting for me after it. She is who told me about the Red Devil Chemo she had to endure and I was so thankful my first chemo day that I did not have a red drug on my list! When I had my first echocardiogram to make sure that my heart was strong enough to handle all of these drugs they were about to give me, the tech ended up being a survivor and she told me at the end to suck it up and do the fun things even if I didn’t feel like it – that that would be the point I knew I won and the next day would be better and the next even better than that – to never lose sight of what my future would be. Ruthie – the wonder patient who had cancer that came back 13 years later that she had to beat again and was fighting yet again 17 years after that as it had resurfaced yet again – 31 years she told me she had lived with the knowledge that this could come back and it had twice – in her spine and lungs. But she was smiling and fighting again, we were on the same chemo schedule for a while. And Candy – who told me she had had cancer, cancer never had her! This statement was so powerful to me that it became my motto to fight too!

Not everyone in the club is a breast cancer patient of course. You also connect with any other cancer patient. I remember talking to my dad about his chemo journey when it was starting. About never knowing what true fatigue was until his treatment and although I really couldn’t communicate it with him when I was doing it too, he was so right! And Roy – who lost his battle to colon cancer, but had one hell of a fight in him! He told me a story of equating dealing with cancer to feeling like a mallard duck. He told me he looked peaceful on the top of the water as he strode around all over town and appeared to have it all together, but he was flailing like hell under the water to keep a float – and man, wasn’t that the truth?!?!

So now years past my diagnosis and journey I still have a love for these women and men who were my club whether they knew it or not. Who gave me the strength to fight on and the faith to know better days were in fact coming my way. They helped to teach me that each and every day I get to wake up, I am blessed. I have to find the good in that day and say thank you for getting another go at it – at life!

I have felt totally compelled to also pay that part of my journey forward. Since becoming cancer free, I have spoken with a lot of women about their journey and their current path. Most are current patients when we talk. I give them as much time as they need – they all have my phone number and email address. They can call me or text me any time they are in need. We cry together – laugh together – get mad together. I just hope that me being a slight version of their Jennie helps them along their path the way she helped me…because honestly, every cancer patient needs a Jennie.

 

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lindsayEveryone Needs a Jennie.
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Without Music…Life Would Be A Mistake…

Music. This is one thing that can take you back to a place and time in an instant. Plato said¬†‚ÄúMusic gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.‚ÄĚ

I am taking a small departure from the story to tell you about my love for music. So much that happens in my life I associate with a song or an album or an artist or a group. A song can take me back to a place or a person within 10 seconds a lot of the time and I want to be able to mention what song reminds me of the time I am blogging about. It just doesn’t make sense if I don’t first dive into my love for music – it really is a big part of who I am.

I remember listing to music with my dad – a lot. I remember him yelling at me when I started to drive “seriously, Lindsay! Adjust mirrors and check surroundings BEFORE adjusting the radio!” Some things just don’t change, daddy! He and my mom had an amazing record collection that I loved to listen to. Yes, vinyl records! Two that stand out always are The Association Windy (side A)/Sometime (side B) and Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (yes, we would listen to all 17 minutes of it!). ¬†I wonder what it was with his love for ridiculously long songs? His all time favorite song was actually Alice’s Restaurant – all 16 or so minutes of it. We took a lot of ski trips too and this one season we did a lot of snow driving to and from Snowshoe listening to the Wall Flowers. I know he talks to me from beyond the grave with One Headlight actually. The day I signed the lease to open my own office, I walked out to my car, had a penny laying on the ground right outside the door and got in, turned on the car – then radio, dad – and playing was One Headlight by the Wall Flowers. I just smiled and looked up because I knew he approved of my spreading my wings and was proud of me. This actually happens quite frequently and instead of being totally freaked out by it, I am totally comforted by knowing he is with me always.

My first record was actually 1984 by Van Halen – my second, Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album – YES, the double cover where he was laying across the centerfold in a white suit and black button down. My first cassette tape was Bon Jovi’s New Jersey. I have seen them in concert multiple times, but actually seeing them preform in New Jersey is a total bucket list item! My first CD was probably stollen from my dad – how strange is it that I can’t remember the first CD? I am sure it was probably Hanging Tough by New Kids on The Block (how many Donnie fans do I have reading this???) or Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson! ¬† Tommy Page anyone? ¬†LOL

My taste is so very eclectic and I can appreciate almost any type of music – almost, because country is not my favorite, but I can jam out to mid to late 90s country like nobody’s business so maybe I do like country too. Some of my all time favorites that just make me smile are Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison (although my dad always changed it to blue for me), Regulate by Warren G, We Belong by Pat Benatar, The Gourds version of Gin and Juice (Snoops too, but who doesn’t love that song – if you haven’t heard with with banjo, Google that shit now!), When We Were Young by Adele, Biggies Hypnotize, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, Beyonce’s Sorry, Paperboy’s Ditty, Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s Buttermilk Biscuits (I just recently met someone who claims to know every word to this song just as I do…that is a first and I think it is amazing!), Pearl Jam’s Sirens, Salt-N-Peppa’s Shoop, Under the Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Sunday’s version of Wild Horses, Bon Jovi’s Always, Tiestos Wasted, L.L. Cool J’s Lounging’, Candlebox Far Behind, Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks, Sarah McLachlan’s Angel, Modest Mouse Trailer Trash and Lounge (Closing Time) – who doesn’t love Modest Mouse? I mean, their Baron Von Bullshit Rides Again Album cover had a UNICORN on it! ¬†What a crazy list that is…so many more too. Wow…totally just went down a spiral and have to cut this off somewhere! I don’t think I could pick my favorite song if held by gunpoint.

Bottom line, I love music – live music – by artist, covered, on tv – music in the car – nothing is worse than a long car ride with silence – satellite radio, Pandora and Spotify – how amazing is it to have such a change in something I love so very much from vinyl to subscription?!?!? So many people are surprised by my taste, but I think it is a big part of what makes me me. I can feel it – I am pretty sure “A Happy Place” is potentially bullshit, but I can certainly put a smile on my face just by choosing a song to play or happening into one tied to an amazing memory. I love the emotion it conjures up in me and the memories that stream through in a second. I love to sing horribly in the shower and in the car with a concert of one (or in many cases 3!) as my girls love to jam too! Plato was right at least for me – music gives me life. And my dad was right too – imagine how book smart I could have been if only everything was to good music?!?!?

 

 

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lindsayWithout Music…Life Would Be A Mistake…
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Cancer Changes Us…but it is up to you to determine who you become on the backside!

“It’s cancer” he said. “But you knew that.”¬† Most of the rest of the reveal is a blur to me until I blurted out that my boobs have never done a damn thing for me – they have always been different sizes making me feel self conscious, they did not produce milk to nourish my children and now, they make cancer.¬† “You have to be fucking kidding me!” You should have seen my moms face. LOL

I had bought new bras for the first time in forever in March that year.¬†They were nice.¬†There were three of them‚Ķone white, one cream and one black strapless number…my bras are actually much more fun now.¬†I even bought the strap hider ditties that tie your straps back in ways to allow for racer back tops and no straps.¬†I took my bra off the evening of April 7 and felt something strange.¬†I did not say anything until about 3 hours later when my now ex husband asked me what was wrong.¬†“Feel this!” I told him as I put his hand on the prominent lump that surely should not be in my breast.¬†He felt it too – I knew at that moment that this wasn’t good.

The next day was foggy to me. I was sad and in disbelief. Not to mention the fact that I did not have time for this in my life.  I was working really hard and burning the candle at both ends. I was volunteering for many community groups that I held close to my heart. I was raising two children in extracurricular activities. My father was on palliative hospice care with stage 4 brain cancer that was progressing (more about that later) and we were driving 3 hours south almost every weekend to see him as much as humanly possible. There was no time to fit in the doctor Рlet alone cancer if that is what this was.

Later that evening I told Tiffany.¬†She was not pleased that I would ever consider waiting until the next week to ever call the doctor.¬†Not pleased is actually less than what she was.¬†I was to call the doctor the next morning and she would be calling me to verify that the task had been done.¬†If you know Tiffany. you know that was no joke.¬†She would give me until 10am.¬†She was serious and has still yet to this day let me live down my demanding “I HEAR YOU, Tiffany!” scream I let her have at one point in the lecture.

So the next morning, I called my midwifes office. That is what you do right? That is who gives you a breast exam? She was on medical leave until the middle of June. That was going to be too long and would certainly not fit in to the deadline of 10am set by my friend. I got to thinking РI had a lumpectomy in early 2003. I had an emergency appendectomy in 2009 followed that same year by a colonoscopy.  I had a surgeon. Why did I need to go through extra steps. So I called their office and asked if I needed to be referred in if I was an existing patient. I told them what was happening and that I was concerned. My surgeon is amazing. Has a fun southern drawl (he calls hicky) and knows he is both good looking and good at what he does.  I will admit that is not a good combination in most men, but it works for him and I would like the people who are going to cut in to my body to be sure of themselves! He was unable to see me for two weeks. However, the receptionist called his nurse and they rearranged his schedule some to fit me in that Friday. WOW! This shit was happening and this week. Period. Full Stop. No time to waste.  

I spoke to Tiffany and she was pleased that I had followed her orders.¬†Amy was coming in the next night and we had a fun girls weekend in DC planned to celebrate another Amber’s upcoming nuptials.¬†This was my group of ladies – we try to get together every year and celebrate our friendship and being girls, but adulting certainly gets in the way of that here recently.¬†This year we were using this bachelorette party as our excuse and I found myself kicking off the weekend with a doctors appointment to see if I had breast cancer.¬†Yay! I picked up Amy at the airport and could not tell her.¬†I did not want her to worry or feel required to come to my appointment or to feel required to think about my mortality all weekend – for the love of God, we are supposed to be having fun – and I for one was already going down this path without dragging any others down with me.

I went to “work” the next morning while Amy slept in.¬†I told my now ex husband I did not need him to go.¬† My appointment was at 10am and I was somewhat nervous, but had a shred of hope that he was not going to be worried about this lump.¬†Like any other doctors office, I was brought back, weighed (BOO to that shit always being involved!), had my BP checked and went over my ridiculous health history.¬† Then I got the paper cover to wear while I waited for the doctor.¬†Sidenote, that thing¬†is not large enough –¬†I felt like I was sitting on the exam table in a pink paper mid-drift cape.¬†Lovely!¬† I am not sure why anyone designed those to be one size fits anyone…I guess they are supposed to make you feel more comfortable and less exposed, but you may as well just sit there topless.¬† Turns out soon enough, I wouldn’t care who saw my boobs!

Doctor Burns came in and we exchanged normal niceties that we always have.¬†How’s the real estate business?¬†When you coming back for a colonoscopy?¬†Oh, right…40 – I will totally get to that story at some point on this blog I am sure…¬†We do this every time I see him.¬†I told him I had found a lump and was concerned – it isn’t like I hadn’t done this before with him. He was very reassuring and told me to go ahead and¬†lay back so he could feel my new lump.¬†The look on his face – the change in his voice – as he stated “4mm mass top right quadrant approximately 12 on the clock.¬† Schedule immediate mammogram” let me know that my fears were being confirmed and this is totally real life now.¬†He assured me that they would get me in as soon as possible with the mammogram and check with my insurance.¬†He was not sure if I would be able to have a mammogram on the left as well because I was only 34 years old at the time.¬†Turns out, insurance denies such requests when you aren’t 35 and whoever gets to make rules about my own personal health have actually changed the age for mammograms to 40 – guys, you can’t fix stupid!¬†He also told me that once the mammogram was complete, he wanted me to wait in the hospital and have a follow up ultra sound.

I immediately got to the car and started to freak the fuck out. I googled 4 mm mass in breast and read everything I could find. Trust that this is NOT comforting and I made a vow to myself to stop doing shit like that! I stopped by the house to pick up Amy and we headed to Uniontown to get my car serviced before we jetted across to DC. She asked me a question in the car and I handed her my phone to check in with Google. Damn! I forgot to close the 4mm mass tab and now she was staring at me wide-eyed and freaked out. Tears in her eyes. Guess I am telling Amy now too.

I felt so good at that time and I knew life was about to get really hard really fast. And that I was going to be made to feel like shit all in the name of saving my life. There was no choice. I had two daughters. I was gearing up for the fight of my life and I, man, I wasn’t prepared for the shit that came with it. Honestly, though, I can tell you my cancer diagnosis and journey was my saving grace.

I can’t wait to tell you more…

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lindsayCancer Changes Us…but it is up to you to determine who you become on the backside!
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And So It Begins…

As promised, my blog. A true look behind my life and how I became who I am today. A true glimpse behind the smile and the positivity. Don’t go getting all scared over there! I am actually mostly all smiles and positivity in a world that has left me wondering “why” more than once. To break it down in a crazy short nutshell, I have had my fair share of heartache and sadness, yet I chose to chase the unicorns and rainbows. I chose to believe that this path we are on is laid out for a reason and we are simply along for the ride. We can always look to find the reason behind our fate in life, or we can chose to make the best of it realizing that sometimes, what it boils down to is that life is not fair. There are no promises.

And with that in mind, I think often about unicorns and rainbows, don’t you? (Maybe that is just a woman with daughters thing…be happy I didn’t also add fairies and mermaids!) All are filled with wonder and amazing things – they are beautiful, rare, mythical, full of dreams and hopes and craziness, just like life and adulting.

Seriously, have you ever looked up unicorn or rainbow on Google? I am guessing the answer there is no! HA…but you know I have and I feel that is one thing you should also be aware. Unicorn – an unattainable object of your affection – a mythical species that is impossible to catch – a horse with a horn on its head that missed Noah’s boarding – a single piece of corn – a super hot bisexual person who can join in with polyamorous couples and¬†not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple – wait, what? And then there are rainbows –¬†a spectrum of colored light appearing in the sky when the sun shines through the rain – the path you follow to find the pot of gold – $50 flip flops I will never get to wear –¬†a symbol widely appropriated by members of the gay community – a game teenagers apparently play where girls put different colors of lipstick on and…wait! WHAT? Please help me raise my daughters to not learn of that type of rainbow! LOL

If I think it, I am going to share. If I live or lived it and I think it can help someone else, I am going to share. I have generally always been a relatively open book. I am so hopeful that some part of my journey will be able to touch or help just one person. To help them realize that they aren’t alone – that shit happens to everyone and you don’t always know what someone is dealing with from their outward appearance – that they can still live life to the fullest and smile, on the daily!

Not every day is filled with unicorns and rainbows, however. Some days actually suck. Sometimes, adulting really is a fucking awful buzzkill! ¬†But there is something to be learned from those days too. And let’s be honest here, no one is perfect. Life is made perfect by seeing the progress in your day to day – by realizing your most authentic self. A glimpse of not being alone when adulting gets you down, if nothing else. And the next day the realization that we are mostly all balancing somewhere between tragedy and comedy…that there‚Äôs a lot of shit to wade through while we chase the unicorns and rainbows.

I hope you enjoy and stay tuned!

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lindsayAnd So It Begins…
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