Thursday, April 29, 2010

I feel a change a comin'

and I don't think it is just me. I feel like we are on the verge of a world changing event. It is time don't you think? We need to blur the lines that seem to be seeping into every corner lately. The lines between rich and poor, conservative and liberal, old and young, black and white, sick and well. I feel like soon we will bond together as humans. I don't think this change will be wrapped in a pretty package though. Kind of like my life changing event was packaged in "cancer" paper. It might be an earthquake or climate change but I think God is sick and tired of hearing us complain and complain about every tiny, little thing. I think He wants to wake us up. I don't think this is what He had planned when He gave us this life and this beautiful world. I think He wants more from us. I think we should want more from ourselves.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I did it!

Today I registered for the Susan G. Komen 3 day walk in November in San Diego. I am confident that by then I will be feeling great and be completely cancer free. I plan on dancing my way through those 60 miles not just walking. I need to raise $2,300 in order to participate and if any of you want to join me we can dance to the finish line and find a cure together!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


So I was thinking - it seems pretty strange to me that half of our country (at least) is overweight and then there is a large percentage of people - especially children - that go hungry each day. Not a good balance. So, my idea when I am back on track to to start a group - a walking group or bootcamp group (some sort of fitness) and charge $3 -$5 a time to come. All proceeds would be donated to feeding the hungry. I would gladly donate my time to this cause. I figure many of us want to lose weight but have trouble motivating ourselves and if we just take our latte $$ and help others at the same time we are helping ourselves it is a win/win situation. What do you think? Would people come?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Surgery

I keep forgetting that most of you don't know the "nitty gritty' details of my diagnosis - so here it is in a nut shell.

I have had 5 of 6 rounds of chemotherapy - the last of which is in a little over a week - Woo Hoo!!! Then on June 14Th I will have a double mastectomy with latissimus flap reconstruction. "What is that?" you might ask. Well, if you are squeamish I would just stop reading now. Basically they will take a large flat muscle from my back and bring it around to the front to create a new breast. The muscle is attached underneath my arm so while it is still attached they will make a "tunnel" underneath my skin and swing the muscle around to the front. They will remove all of my breast tissue in both breasts including the nipple but conserving as much of my skin as possible. They will make a circular incision in my back that will match up with where they removed the nipples. Complicated - but I will end up with two long scars on my back and two circular scars on the front. The surgery can take up to 7 hours with both Dr. Wonderful and a plastic surgeon working together. Pretty amazing really when you think about it. I will not be quite done with the reconstruction until a second surgery down the line when they put in small implants.

After the surgery they will run the tissue through pathology to determine how well the chemo really worked and if I need radiation afterwards. I am also having quite a few lymph nodes removed to be tested. After radiation, if needed (which we are all praying is not needed at all), I will take tamoxifen for 5 years.

My plan, which I hope God is on board with, is to be back to teaching and normal life this fall completely free of cancer. Please keep me and my family in your prayers - I know God can hear all of you because I feel it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dr. Wonderful

When Julia was in kindergarten she had the most amazing teacher. This teacher went WAY above and beyond what was expected and surprised us at every turn with her commitment and dedication to the children. Julia has not had a teacher since that even compares and I am pretty sure she never will.

I feel the same way about my surgeon. When we first met her she explained things in such an easy way for us to understand. She presented us with all of the facts but somehow made it so we were not afraid. She called me on the weekends or at night to check up on me (who does that?????). This woman is unbelievable. She makes me smile and her sense of humor has me laughing for days. She is also becoming my friend. She invited John and I to sit at her table at our churches fundraising event to feed the hungry in our community. I was so honored that she even thought to invite us - I am sure she has many, many patients so for her to think of us blew me away. We had such a fun evening getting to know her and her husband better. She is my kind of gal - full of life and wants to live it. You couldn't meet nicer people. She is so beautiful both inside and out. It is so obvious that she cares so much about her job. She specialized in breast cancer and you can just tell that she treats all of her patients as if they were family.

You would think I would be very nervous about my upcoming surgery but I am not. I know I am in the BEST hands possible. I am a little nervous about what I will find out when I wake up but I know it will be her telling me and that makes it so much better. It makes me wonder why God is so good to me - how he brought her -this amazing new soul - into my life.

I fear I will never meet another doctor like her - but I can live with that. Just like Julia's teacher this woman will forever be ingrained in my heart.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Better Version

Recently I came across our old VHS wedding video. I dusted it off and decided I would transfer it to DVD. When I picked it up from Costco a week later I brought it home to watch for some good laughs. There is something about film that translates so much more than still images. I watched my younger self and almost had to close my eyes a few times. I cringed. I wanted to slap her around a bit. I was so caught up in the event that I am pretty sure I missed the moment.

There was never doubt written on my face - I knew I wanted to marry John. That was never a question. What I saw more was this insecurity and obsession with what other people were thinking about me. Not John but everyone else. I saw a girl trying way too hard to be perfect. A girl who was all surface and no substance. A girl who was upset with the way her hair turned out and was constantly aware of how she looked, how the event looked.

What I should have been doing was paying attention to what my new husband was thinking - how he felt. That was the moment - the music was right, all of the players were there, it was a beautiful day and God was present - and I missed it. I wish I could go back and do it again - do it right. I wouldn't care about the flowers or the cake or even the dress - I would care about the moment our souls became one. In reality that moment happened long before we said our vows. In reality it may have happened before we even met - but our wedding was a declaration to the world that it would always be that way. A promise to each other before God - a life moment.

Ah youth. I am glad I can look back on this moment in time that happened 16 years ago and know that I am better now than I was then. I hope I continue to look back on moments throughout my life and know that I am a better person in the present than I was in the past. No regrets.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I have always thought I had a high tolerance for pain. Not that I am puffing up my chest and thinking I am tough but things that tend to hurt other people don't usually hurt me. I have never broken a bone and the most severe pain I have ever felt was giving birth to Julia without meds - but I was so caught up in the moment I hardly remember it. This tooth thing has given me a new appreciation for people who deal with pain on a daily basis. For most of the day yesterday my pain was manageable but it was still there - I am guessing like arthritis. It seems extremely hard to put on a happy face and go about your day without letting every tiny little thing aggravate you when there is this nagging pain. It pushes you to a mental limit. Perhaps you grow used to it - like the eye twitches I have all of the time from chemo. They use to really bother me but now I hardly notice them. Maybe your brain learns how to deal with it like learning to wear glasses.

I am reminded of people from the gym who power through workouts just to go home to ice their knee. Or people who suffer from scoliosis and just the act of walking can cause spasms of pain. People who live with physical pain are strong people. They have to overcome the physical with the mental to function. I know they must relish the moments when they are pain free - those days must feel like a breeze. I am thankful that we live in a time where we have ways of managing pain - extra strength Tylenol has been my friend. I am thankful that I don't normally have to endure pain. I am thankful to those of you who must endure and carry on anyway - you are an inspiration and the definition of strength - this is a high tolerance for pain. I am purely, and thankfully, a wimp.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


What the heck? My tooth from last week is hurting again and on top of that my entire mouth is completely raw from chemo. The mouth part I can handle but the toothache is driving me crazy. The thought of seeing the dentist today when my mouth is like someone ran a sander all over it makes me cringe. The pain was worse last night and then when I was still I could sleep. So, I am trying to just get through today and let my mouth heal a bit before heading to the dentist tomorrow if things are not better. I am not talking at all or chewing anything. It seems to be working out alright. I had greek yogurt and honey for breakfast - yum. I am not answering the phone today and my family is loving the silent treatment. Tucking in and being quiet - not a bad day.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I know you are not suppose to brag about your own children but I just can't help it today. This our daughter Julia. She is 9 and for the last 4 weeks she has been working very hard attending voice lessons and band rehearsals so she could compete in the "Search for Stars" competition. This was a local competition but some big casting directors and talent scouts from Los Angeles were the judges. The competition was set up like American Idol where the judges gave critiques after every performance and was open to all ages. Julia was the youngest. We couldn't be more proud of her. She handled the enormous pressure with grace and maturity. She made it into the final round which meant that she was at the venue basically from noon until 9:30 at night. She was not one of the top 5 but that certainly didn't matter. She had an incredible experience singing with a live band, performing in front of a lot of people and having big wigs tell her she has great potential.

I was a complete wreck. She has such drive to pursue this field and loves music so much. I want to support her in any way that I can - especially since she already knows what she wants - but my heart almost can't take it. She is so strong and courageous and deep down I know she will be just fine but she is my baby and the last thing I want to see is her heart broken.

There is so much we can learn from these young little people. Things we forget as we age and get jaded. Life is about jumping in with both feet and feeling the racing of your heart. The thrill of achieving something you were not quite sure was possible. Sometimes it doesn't work out perfectly. Sometimes, you have to fall a little bit to learn - but in the end it is worth it.

I am so proud of you Julia. You are a beautiful, courageous, powerful and determined young girl. You will light this world on fire. I learn from you every single day.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Psycho Saturdays

I have a different opinion about Saturdays now. It used to be a day to look forward to but lately it is one of my tougher days after chemo. I turn into a complete witch. I am pumped full of steroids and if you cross me the wrong way a second head might just come out of my shoulder and bite your head clean off. I feel so bad for my family who has to endure this side of me. I try and do everything I can to keep myself in check - deep breathing, calming self talk - but sometimes the drugs are stronger than I am. I can turn on a dime too - reminding me with full force of the days when I was a teenager. This is not me. I know it is not me. I hope my family can remember that it is not me. I hope they can forgive the monster that looks like me and sounds like me but really is just a drug that keeps me from vomiting and has a really bad temper.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


One of my sister (I have 5 and 2 brothers) thought I should put more details in my blog - the nitty gritty. I have to say I don't have a lot to add as far as that goes. I think our fear of the unknown temps us into getting as much information as we possibly can about that unknown. The fear I had before diagnosis and right after diagnosis was significantly worse than the actual (so far anyway). Imagine having the flu with the nausea and aches - that is about as bad as it gets. The emotional element could easily do a number on you though. I can completely see someone falling down a pity party hole that is so deep it would be hard to climb out of.

Six months ago my life was perfect - I thought. I was at the top of my game. I had a job I couldn't wait to go to, I was in the best shape of my life, I had beautiful long blond hair (thanks to Todd, my hairdresser), my family was healthy and we were all getting along and I had great friends. I had a lot to lose. A long way to fall. And I could have fallen - but I didn't. Instead I am sitting at my computer finding out more about myself than I could have imagined. I have a better relationship with my husband than I ever thought possible. I am 10 pounds heavier, my skin breaks out every 3 weeks and I have menopause symptoms, I don't have any hair and exercise is something I am dreaming about doing. From the outside looking in it may seem like I should feel sorry for myself but I don't. I have an entirely new perspective on life and faith.

I think we can all make the best of our situations. When we are handed a challenge - be it illness or loss - the challenge is finding the good in it. I think it is OK to grieve and acknowledge the people or things about your life that you will miss but what is the point of feeling sorry for yourself. Where do you go from there?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting old

OK so this one is going out to all of you who think you are "old". We have all heard the one liners "getting old is not for sissies" or "Getting old - I wouldn't recommend it" or "It sucks getting older". OK so what is it about getting "old" that is so terrible?

Aches and pains - check
Loosing your hair - check, check
Lack of energy - check
Having to take medication that you don't want to - check
Watching your body change right before you eyes - check
Forgetting things, loosing things - check

Now I personally don't consider myself "old" yet but I think I have experienced many of the issues we equate to age. So..... It is not getting "older" it is just life. Some of us have these experiences before others. And so what. I say we shouldn't let it get us down. We still wake up every day and "try" to sleep every night. We can still contribute to the lives of others and live in the moment. Complaining just gets old and nobody wants to hear it anyway. You may be 60 or 70 or maybe even 80 but lets try and act like we are 8 or 9. Dreaming and living without a care in the world. That is my goal anyway until I leave this earth.

PS Sorry if I am not making sense - chemo brain today. Chemo went very well - I was out in record time. One more to go!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly.....

The good - I had an ultrasound today and my tumors have all shrunk by at least 2mm. Very, very good!

The bad - I spent last night with the most excruciating tooth ache. That kind of pain goes straight to the core and kept me up for most of the night. That leads me to....

The ugly - I went to the dentist this afternoon needing to take care of whatever was wrong before chemo tomorrow. I had a chipped tooth and he repaired it - I am still quite numb so we will see how I feel when the novicaine wears off. I am looking quite ugly right now but thankful the pain is gone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hot Flash!

A wonderful side bonus (NOT!) of chemotherapy is hot flashes. I had always been kind of curious what these were and now I am here to tell you at age 40 what they feel like.

There seems to be a precursor that gives you a warning that it is coming about 2 seconds before it starts. It is almost like you can't catch your breath and your heart starts to beat a bit faster. Then comes the "wave". Heat like you can't imagine. All you want to do is take all of your clothes off and have someone hose you off with the garden hose. If you are lucky you will have something to fan yourself with. If you are not, you are likely to grab the newspaper from the stranger next to you so you can cool off. This phase can last anywhere between 2 and 4 minutes. Then comes the cooling, which you would think would be a relief but instead you start to shiver and try to bundle up. Eventually you body evens out again until it starts all over..... randomly.

I did find a strange connection. My hot flashes are much stronger and more frequent right after chemo. The last round I was alone watching TV waiting for John to come home. I was doing quite well until he called and the moment I heard his voice I had a major hot flash. We hung up and he called me again about 45 minutes later, and once again - hot flash. When he walked in the door about an hour later -you guessed it - hot flash. I guess my husband just makes me hot :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010


You know before I had kids I was in the advertising business so my brain does go there sometimes. I had a funny idea the other night. Some friends of mine are just opening a new store and I went to see it the same night as our very large farmers market. I thought I could walk around the farmers market - all 5 feet 10 inches of me - with the name of their store and address painted on the back of my head. I actually think it would work....

Have I just gone off the deep end? Am I like that woman who sold the space on her forehead and tattooed an 800 number on there?

Friday, April 9, 2010

My New Normal

So it has been about a month since the last time I tried my wig on for my family. It freaked us all out so much I haven't done it again. It didn't look like me anymore. We are all so used to me being bald now. Of course most of the time I wear hats - even around the house. My head does get cold fairly quickly ( I sleep with a blanket on my head ). It is not like I am trying to hide anything by wearing hats either - it is quite obvious that there is no hair underneath. In the last week though I am finally feeling comfortable in public. I don't mind the stares anymore - or the glances and the quick looks away. This is me - take it or leave it. I may never grow my hair long again. I am pretty sure I was hiding all of my insecurities beneath that long blond mane. I will be happy to donate my glorious wig to another cancer patient - I have nothing against wearing wigs - it just isn't for me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I used to be one of those people you see who parks their car and before they leave they check themselves out in their mirror. I had to make sure I looked alright - no smudged lipstick or mascara. I would be hard pressed to pass a mirror and not look into it. I had to make sure that mask of perfection didn't have any cracks in it. I don't do that much anymore - some days I see myself in the morning and then at night when I brush my teeth. I used to think that mirrors helped you when you were working out - learning a new move in yoga or dance. I still think it can be a tool but after teaching facing away from the mirror for so many years I think the better tool is if it feels right.

I think I have spent my entire life so far hiding from my true reflection - thinking that if I kept my outer image in line with what others expected I would be accepted. What if we didn't have mirrors? What if we could only see the reflection of ourselves in the eyes of others? What would we do? Would we be kinder? Would we be more honest? What if our reflection showed us beauty or ugliness only by our actions - or non-actions? Maybe if we didn't know what we looked like on the outside - we wouldn't care what others looked like on the outside.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Days

I have many, MANY good days. They outnumber the bad days by a long shot. When I open my eyes and the sun is shining - that is a good day. Even if I physically don't feel great I know I can at least sit outside and soak in the warmth and the light. Then there are the days when I have enough energy to clean my house and run errands - those days are beyond good - they are fantastic. I also have unbelievable days when I can take a long walk, have lunch with people I cherish and settle into bed at night knowing I will sleep well.

Little things that I used to let bother me don't anymore. Things like taxes, or allergies. I don't worry about the small stuff as much - like what to wear or if my floor is clean.

I challenge you to see the good in every single day. We are all allowed bad days but I believe they like to multiply like rabbits if you let them get a hold of you. I try not to give them much weight - I acknowledge them for what they are and move on. Bills are just a piece of paper. Sore throats come and go. The laundry will be there again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

We wish you the specialness that is Easter and hope that it keeps you fulfilled every day of the year.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Spark

So here is something to ponder.... We have these amazing minds that can produce things that were once thought impossible - like the light bulb, or a car engine, or a computer that fits in your hand. The one thing that all of these products need is electricity. Without at least a spark these things are just glorified paper weights. Hunks of metal or glass with hard edges.

Now think about what God has created in us - this amazing machine with pumps and valves and moving parts - capable of endless possibilities - even the ability to heal itself. But without a "spark" we are just a pile of soft tissue. Our spark is our spirit - God's electricity.

As amazing as we are with our ability to create and produce, God is infinitely greater.