Tag Archive | cancer

Final Post

February 17, 2015// When i started this blog I needed desperately to gather my thoughts, to sort though all that had happened to me, and to learn to accept this new version of my life. In the beginning I needed the companionship of other cancer survivors, to try to validate all I was feeling. I needed to get the thoughts that continued to roll around in my head under control.

Mission accomplished. January 28, 2015 marked four years cancer free. Perhaps the most notable change is that many, many days go by at a time that the word ‘cancer’ does not enter my conversation – or even my mind. Several months ago a message was put on my heart, and it changed everything for me.

The cancer, the changes to my life, everything I have lost, was not a punishment. It was a gift. I worked hard, sacrificed much to support and raise my children as a single parent when my marriage went bad when I was only 23. My children are now grown, but debt remains. At 43, I was looking at at least twenty to thirty more years of work. Retirement would have likely never been an option for me. Instead, I am now about to turn 48, been retired (on disability) for the last five years, and am free to enjoy my days as I please. Who knew cancer could be a blessing?

I was stage IV. It was bad. It could still come back at any time, that will be my reality for the rest of my life. But I’m still here, and will be for a long time to come. But this blog will not. It’s time to wrap it up, to clear it out and use the space to move forward.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, who shared their experiences and well wishes. My thoughts and prayers will remain with those of you who are still fighting, I will always hold a tender thought for the few who did not win the battle.




Cancer Made My Dreams Come True

First posted December 2013…..

I woke up a couple mornings ago, hours before sunrise. In past years I loved to wake early to enjoy the quite peace of the house before the kids and dogs and TVs came to life for the day. I do it now out of necessity. A recent fight with cancer has left me with chronic pain, becoming stiff and sore if I remain in one position very long. It now takes time and patience to get moving after sleep. While I go through the physical paces of the morning, getting arms and legs and body to all move in the same direction without too much ache, my mind goes through its daily process – thinking of new topics to write about.

Early morning routine complete, I stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee before launching into whatever I had been writing that day. Sitting there, it occurred to me I was happy. This was an unfamiliar feeling for me. I am truly grateful for simply being alive, but admit to frequent sadness over all I have lost. My career was everything to me. Not just means to support my family, but my success or failure at work was directly linked to my self-worth. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sad and empty since cancer brought my career to an end.

So I was really surprised to feel happy. Taking a minute to examine the change, memory flew back several years to a job interview I once had. This was a final interview with senior management, already being approved by the hiring manager and staff. The interviewer only had one question, “If you woke up tomorrow and a magic genie could grant you one wish – if he could remove all obstacles, guarantee money and success, what would be your dream job?” Without hesitation I responded, “To write. If I had time and money and no responsibility, I would love to spend my time writing.”

I thought about this for a minute. Lasting damage from cancer and treatment has rendered me unable to work. I have downsized my life and outside responsibilities to allow me to have a quiet but sufficient existence on disability pay. Thankfully my mind is still intact (as it’s ever been), so I fill my empty days doing the thing I’ve always loved best, writing. What an unexpected turn of events, cancer made my dream come true.

That Last Day

I have thought about that day a lot lately. I don’t remember much. I got up, went to work at a job I loved, in a new city I had worked long and hard to get to. Did my work, drove home. I probably had dinner and went to sleep. I wish I could remember more about it, but I don’t think there is much more to know.

The memorable thing happened the next day. The morning I woke up doubled over in pain, could not stand up straight, hemorrhaging, was diagnosed with cancer. There are details of that day I cannot stomach to recall. And many of the days to follow were worse. I am still standing four years later, but my body, and life, has been irreparably damaged. I will never return to that, or any job. I had to leave the city I loved so much, with its warm climate and white beaches. I will forever more have to search for a new, altered, sense of normal.

But I do not want to think about that day. I want to think about the day before. I the last day I had…. the last day I had. I want to think about the drive into work that morning. Was the sun rising over the cityscape as it often did? Were there dolphins in the bay? What did I have for lunch? Who did I chat with? Did I make any significant decisions on the job that day? Was there traffic on the way home? Did I leave my coffee cup on my desk? Did I rinse it? What did I have for dinner? Watch on TV? Read?

Why didn’t I pay attention to any of these things?

What would I have done differently if I had known what was coming the next day? Stayed an hour later at work? Called in sick and sat in my house memorizing everything as it was? Spent the evening sitting on the beach, watch the sun set one last time? What would I have done to soak up that last second of regular out of my life? Could I have appreciated the minutes ticking by?

If you knew this was the last day of your life as you know it, that everything in your world would change tomorrow, how would you spend today?

Get A Life!

An old acquaintance got in touch with me a few days ago, we hadn’t talked in several years. Parts of the conversation are still rolling around in my head. That typically means I have something to share.  I believe this is it:

I did not hate my job. I was one of the lucky ones, I thought, that enjoyed working. I was in a position that allowed me to constantly learn additional skills. As the years passed I grew, I thrived. I was proud of sleeping only 5 hrs per night. I welcomed running back to the office to approve projects or make last minute decisions for several departments – all hours of the night and weekend. My motto’s became ‘I thrive on impossible deadlines,’ and ‘My great joy is making order out of chaos.’ To be referred to as anal was a compliment. I loved the career I had built in a mid-sized national corporation. Every life decision I made revolved around the job. Then cancer pulled out the rug, and nailed me to the floor. The dust has settled and I find myself permanently retired on disability. There are 24 hours in each day, and 7 of them each and every week! What the heck am I supposed to do to fill the time? When they told me to get a life, I should have listened.

My message? Enjoy your job, earn money, learn and grow your career. But above all, make sure you GET A LIFE. When the job is gone, what will you be left with?

Seeing Sunrise

End of August 2010 I woke up in pain.  A 15 minute doctor’s appointment ended with the words, “It’s cancer. And it’s bad.” Another visit with another doctor towards the end of January 2011 ended with the words, “We can find no sign of your cancer.”  The weeks and months between the two visits passed in a frenzy of action, allowing little time to process all that was happening…

continue reading…

Coming to Grips with Your New Colostomy

“You need a colostomy.” Not something you ever expected to hear. But now that it’s a fact, let me share some information from my personal experience that might ease your transition to becoming, as some of us call ourselves, an Ostomate.

1. Lighten up! Hard words to swallow I know. But I’ve always found everything is a little easier to deal with if you can find the humor in it. You will poop in a bag. Not the end of the world!

2. Get educated. Read everything you can find on the web about colostomies. Ask both your regular doctor and your surgeon any questions you may have. Each doctor may explain things slightly different, giving you a better understanding.

3. A home health nurse will likely visit the first few weeks to teach you to maintain your colostomy. These nurses are usually very well versed in ostomy care. Don’t be shy, ask them anything.

4. There are several different brands and styles of ostomy products. Most companies will send you free samples so you can try them each. Find the brand that is most comfortable for you.

5. When it comes time for you to begin self-care, a free standing mirror that can flip to a magnified side can be helpful. Currently it is easiest for me to do my changes in the bathroom with my mirror and supplies set on the counter next to the sink. In my previous home the vanity was not the right height, I did better with the mirror set on a few books stacked on my bed.

6. I was very squeamish the first time I had to do self-care. My home health nurse made one comment that changed everything for me. She said, “What’s the big deal? You’ve wiped your butt for the last 40 years, now it’s just on your stomach.” That really is kind of true.

7. I was very unsettled by the idea of having no control over my bowel movements. That they would flow whenever they wanted, in public, while I was standing talking to someone, disgusted me. But then I realized I did not need to treat this any different than I ever had. Now when I first begin to feel it happening, I excuse myself to the bathroom, just as I would have before. When I am finished I empty and rinse my bag, wash my hands, and return to what I had been doing – just as any other person would do.

8. In the beginning I played around with my diet a bit. Some food digest easier than others, some pass through the ostomy a little easier than others. I also pay close attention to foods that may make me gassy. I avoid these foods when I know I will be in public since that truly does defy control.

9. Unless I share the information, no one has any idea I have a colostomy. Chances are good someone you deal with on a regular basis has one and you would never know it.

10. You will feel normal again. This may be hard to believe right now, but a time will come that you don’t give your colostomy a second thought. I promise. And hey, you’ll save on toilet paper!

7 Symptoms Women Should Never Ignore

As a member of the Female Over 40 group, I know we are busier than ever. The pull to multitask our lives – be the perfect wife, mother, employee, boss, student, and caretaker to the world – is only increasing as time goes by. Despite our best efforts we know we cannot do everything, be everything to everyone. The only area we are willing to compromising is ourselves. Even if we manage to squeeze in hair and nail appointments, run to the gym, schedule and keep our annual pap smear and mammogram, we certainly don’t have time to stress over our periods. We want and need them to pass as unnoticed as possible, not interrupting the rapid trot of our fast paced lives. But if we don’t want it all to be brought to a crashing halt, we must be aware of the seven symptoms listed below that WE MUST NOT IGNORE!

1. Change to menstrual flow. A period that is heavier or lighter than normal should be noted.

2. Stronger than normal menstrual cramping. Most women experience some pain during their menstrual cycle, but if you experience more pain than normal during one or more periods, pay attention.

3. Menstrual cramping that lasts after period (menstrual flow) has ended. This should not occur.

4. Menstrual cramping at other times of the month. Many women feel slight discomfort during ovulation, mid-way through the monthly cycle when the egg is released from the ovary. Regular full strength menstrual cramps or other abdominal pain during ovulation or any time other than the days of your period is reason for concern.

5. Unexplained feeling of bloating or fullness in lower abdomen and or pelvic area. These feelings can sometimes be attributed to a urinary tract or vaginal infection. If these are ruled out and the sensations continue, it should be investigated.

6. Unusual pain or pressure during intercourse. Any unusual pain, feeling of pressure or odd unpleasant sensations during intercourse could be a sign something is wrong.

7. Gut Feeling. Trust your instinct. Women are uniquely in tune with their bodies. If you feel something just isn’t right there is a very good chance that you are correct.

My doctor explained that any of these symptoms could happen once and individually and be nothing serious but if recurrent and or grouped together, they could be indicators of serious conditions, including cancer. I wish I had know this sooner. I experienced and ignored each of the symptoms listed above, but since I had recently had a normal pap smear, I made excuses and assumed I was fine. I was not. When I finally saw my doctor after dealing with these symptoms for several months, I was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. It was inoperable, having spread to one kidney, my bladder, colon, lymph node, and grown into the tissue of my pelvic wall. I had fantastic doctors who threw every known treatment at me. I am now just shy of three years cancer free, but my body is damaged in irreparable ways, and it was a battle I wish on no one.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please do not wait for your next annual pap smear to discuss with your Gynecologist, schedule an appointment right away. The hour or two the appointment takes out of your schedule now will be well worth it to catch a serious and possibly life threatening condition in its earliest and most treatable stages, and could possibly save your life.