Friday, February 17, 2012

There's no reason I can't

Yesterday I signed up for my third 5K. This particular one I did last year with Sean, literally the day after my fine needle aspiration. It was my second ever 5K (the first being on April 1, and also the same day I later found the lump), and it was right when we were "waiting." The next day we went to Philadelphia for the weekend for Passover with Sean's family, and that Monday we got the news.
The 5K is in May, and at that time, I won't be near any surgeries. I'll be where I am now. With one implant (and breast), and one "nothing area," as I like to call it. I am not scheduling my left mastectomy with expanders on both sides until the June-July timeframe, so in May, there's nothing stopping me. There's no reason I can't run a 5K in May. I have plenty of time to train (I can start now.) I'm allowed to run and have no medical or physical restrictions. So the timing is perfect. I always said I would run after breast cancer, and here is my chance to do it. I'm sure I'll do many more 5Ks (and hopefully one day marathons) after this one, but this one marks the first one post-breast cancer. It's not the first one after ALL my breast cancer surgeries (since I'll be having at least two more), but it is AFTER breast cancer, and after four surgeries. This one marks me coming full circle. Running again after all this. And running a 5K when I'm not waiting for results. Running a 5K AFTER breast cancer.
If I'd done it twice before, I can certainly do it again. It gives me something to strive for. It gives me more ways to stay in shape and feel good. I am going to do this.

"There is running after breast cancer. And I'll be doing just that." - July 22, 2011

In other news, this coming weekend is a busy one, though we'll not be traveling. I have my first session of physical therapy, and we've got puppy training, THON, a Penn State wrestling match, and other fun stuff. And we are well in the swirl of wedding planning. Lots of emails and lists circulating. Times being finalized. Things being ordered and put together. RSVPs still coming in, fast. I'm excited, glowing, busy, happy. Still worried. Still anxious. But I work on that, every day. But we're in this. All in this. If this is life, I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Through it

I heard this song on the radio this morning, and wanted to post the lyrics because I think it's so beautiful. (As I'm sure it does others, it makes me cry every time I hear it.)
I think of me and Sean when I hear the song because he's done just as the song describes: loved me through everything I've been through this past year. And I know he'll continue to love me through - the rest of life, no matter what happens.
I could search for 1,000 years to find the right words that describe how I feel about Sean's love for me. But I wouldn't be able to find them. Because no words are right enough, perfect enough.
Valentine's Day may have been yesterday (thank you, honey, for my pink roses and beautiful card!) but it is every day I love Sean more and more. And I am so excited for that love to keep growing every day.
So here's the song. This is for my wonderful, loving, strong fiancee, Sean, who has been my rock and my best friend, and guided me and supported me through perhaps the most difficult time in my life. And what's more - he's loved me through it, more every day, and more in every way. I have found my soulmate. And I get to marry him next month!
This song is also for anyone else it touches. Friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives, who not only love their partners "through it," but love them more both because of it and in spite of it.
It's true love that doesn't just withstand hardships; it grows and thrives with them. And it's Sean who taught me that existed.
Here's to love. Every day.

"I'm Gonna Love You Through It"
Martina McBride

She dropped the phone and burst into tears
The doctor just confirmed her fears
Her husband held it in and held her tight
Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38
With three kids who need you in their lives
He said, "I know that you’re afraid and I am, too
But you’ll never be alone, I promise you"
When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.
She made it through the surgery fine
They said they caught it just in time
But they had to take more than they planned
Now it's forced smiles and baggy shirts
To hide what the cancer took from her
But she just wants to feel like a woman again
She said, "I don't think I can do this anymore"
He took her in his arms and said "That's what my love is for"
When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.
And when this road gets too long
I'll be the rock you lean on
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.
I’m gonna love you through it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hurry up and wait

So my doctor's appointment went very well yesterday. I recited my "prepared dialogue" about me not wanting any tests done until after the wedding because mentally I can't handle it. While trying to explain everything I got all flustered and started crying a little (as expected) so Sean jumped in.
My doctor was VERY understanding and accomodating, just as I expected he would be. He understood completely, and agreed I deserved a "break" from now until the wedding. Ya know, the whole breast cancer, four surgeries and Li Fraumeni Syndrome diagnosis - thing.
So basically, here is how the appointment went: we went over my blood tests - everything (LOUD, HARD KNOCKING ON WOOD!) was perfect: iron levels, thyroid, liver function, CBC, even my vitamin D went from in the 30 range to the 70 range, so yes, that means I'm taking my supplements daily!
My doctor also got a copy of my vaccination records, and I am up to date on everything except two vaccines, but he said those could wait until May, when I will see him next. As far as the neck lump, I asked him what he recommended. He felt it to see if it changed, and he was comfortable with the next step being a CT scan, which also can wait until May. Of course I'm still panicky about having this so-called lymph node in my neck enlarged since November or before, but I have to remember I've had two ultrasounds on it, and bloodwork done, so nothing is an emergency at this point. I don't like just leaving it there, but I don't want it removed either. I have to learn to wait for the next step, and feel comfortable in the way that it's being monitored.
So this was my final doctor's appointment before the wedding. A long-awaited one! And I'm all scheduled for post-wedding appointments in April: mammogram, dermatologist, plastic surgeon AND colonoscopy.
It's weird. I've wanted to feel "free" of all this medical anxiety for so long, and now that I am, it feels weird. I'm a little nervous but mostly OK. I mean, I'm wonderful. This is my "break" before the wedding - what I've wanted starting months and months ago - BEFORE the LFS diagnosis, and definitely before January's unexpected surgery.
So now, I can fully be in all my zones. My appointment went so late that we weren't able to make it to Campbell's last day of Puppy One and his graduation, so we rescheduled for Feb. 18, the next free day me and Sean have, believe it or not!
Seven weeks until the wedding, and I feel like, with my doctor's appointments over and the rest of the wedding planning and preparations scheduled, I am hurrying up to wait. I'm excited for the wedding, but that's nothing new. What is new is now I feel "in the clear" medically speaking, which is a little scary, but also makes me even more anxious/excited for the wedding, if that makes sense.
Everything that needs to be done for the wedding is either done or scheduled to be done: our tasting and my trial hair run is this weekend, my dress fittings are scheduled, all of our wedding gifts for the wedding party and family are either already put together or ordered, and literally all of my manis, pedis, massages and facials are on the calendar. From now until a few days before the wedding. What's left is meant to be left: making the seating arrangements and ordering the place cards. We can't do that yet. RSVPs are due by the end of the month, and our hotel block is almost filled, and will probably need to be extended. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.
The hurry-up-and-wait part is that the wedding is now 51 days away. What that means to me is that it's both REALLY ALMOST HERE and also SO, SO VERY FAR AWAY. I feel like, when I think about it and get excited about it, I am running on a hamster wheel, really, really fast. The wheel is moving but my feet are getting nowhere. And I'm not talking about plans or preparations or pre-wedding festivities. They are all here or have gotten here. Everything is moving along wonderfully and everything has BEEN wonderful. My little hamster-ness is me on the inside being more and more excited every day, anticipating the moment before I walk down the aisle, picturing how I'll feel, how I'll look, and what I'll think to myself: "Is this really happening? Is this day really here? Am I really getting married?" Maybe I'll laugh, maybe I'll cry. Maybe all of the above, for hours on end. I try to picture March. Is it snowing, raining? Am I in less pain? Is Campbell still biting me? How will my rehearsal dinner outfit come together? What will it be like when literally all of my friends and family are in the same place at the same time?
But mostly, though, I wonder how I'll feel. Will I feel like this? "This" is me slowly healing, physically and mentally. "This" is me working hard every day to balance life and new normals. "This" is me having pain when I lift my right arm. "This" is me having upper back and neck pain, since May, from all my surgeries. "This" is me working hard, playing hard, having tons of plans, living life and planning my wedding, all the whole working, every day, on being OK. On moving forward. On not living in fear. On not living in doubt. On looking to the future, believing in myself, and not dreading my upcoming surgeries, and years upon years of tests and screenings. On learning about the new me, the me that looks at myself before the LFS and thinks I'm a different person, and looks at myself before the breast cancer, and sees not only a different person, but a different person in a different world. How will I be in March?
For the first time ever, I don't see myself in an unfair or unfortunate situation. Sure, all of this happening when it did, WAS and IS unfair and unfortunate. And yes, I'm a special bride. But I'm not the only one whose life sometimes takes a scary turn when planning for something amazing. I'd always talked with my psychiatrist about how I hated that this all happened when I was planning my wedding, and in between engagement parties, bridal showers and my bachelorette weekend were surgeries and tests. I hated it. And I still do. But now, I realize, even after saying it and writing it for nearly a year - THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO ALL THIS. I had figured that out before: a wedding is a wedding. But the real blessing is GETTING MARRIED and getting to spend the rest of my life with Sean. And now, I finally believe myself when I say it: I can't and don't expect life to pause itself just because I'm getting married. Enter the breast cancer and LFS diagnosis, and unexpected surgery. But I'm not the only one. I'm not the only special bride. After talking with the women at my boutique where I got my prosthesis, I learned that OTHER women had prosthesis's sewn into their wedding dresses, which means OTHER women got married with one or no breasts. I'm not the only special bride. Other brides have dealt with personal tragedies before their weddings. Life doesn't stop. If we postponed weddings everytime something bad happened in life, nobody would ever get married. A dear friend of mine, whom I met through LFS support groups and the blogosphere, is getting married at the beginning of March, all the while dealing with chemotherapy for her breast cancer returning. I know I've mentioned Lainie before, but I'll do it again. I Gchat with her, and have spoken on the phone with her, and Facebook chat with her. She's also 27. She's also a bride. And she also has Li Fraumeni Syndrome. And she is strong. And she keeps going. I won't have one of my breasts for my wedding, but she won't have her hair. Another breast cancer blogger, I learned, got married in between breast cancer treatments. There are so many special brides out there. Strong, beautiful, powerful women. I look to Lainie and find new levels of courage and strength. If she can look beyond the actual wedding and look to life, so can I. If I can believe that my wedding is actually going to happen, I can also believe my life is actually going to happen. The honeymoon, having kids, and every part that comes after that. I know I've said it a million times before, that LFS isn't going to define me and it isn't going to take over my life. That I'll still LIVE, despite all this. And maybe sometimes I've believed it. And I think it took other people to inspire me, but now I do believe it. If Lainine can do it, so can I. If other women can wear prosthesis on their wedding day, so can I. It may be unfair and it may be terrible and it may be sad and it may make people cry and it may be devestating. But, look beyond that. Beyond that - we're getting married. All of us. Breasts or not, hair or not, healthy or not. I can't even begin to group together other cancer fighters who get married WHILE they're fighting cancer, with myself, because they're on a different level than I am. All I can do is find strength in myself from learning about their stories.
Every girl dreams about her wedding day since she was little. When I was a little girl, I envisioned my wedding day as this huge day, with lots of flowers and people surrounding me. And that's all I could ever picture; it all seemed too big to imagine. But every girl dreams about her wedding day, for pretty much her whole life. Me included. And I, probably like these other women, never imagined they'd be getting married "this way" - as in fighting cancer, or lacking something because of cancer. I never thought only having one breast would be an issue at my wedding. How could I imagine that, at 10 years old, at 22 years old? But turn the tables a little. I never imagined I'd ever become this strong, and this blessed. And that my life would turn out this happy-ending-y.
It's such a little, tiny sentence: life is what you make it. But it is. Those words have so much more meaning. No, I didn't want any of this to happen while I was planning my wedding and I didn't want to have to wear a prosthesis on my wedding day. But BECAUSE of all this, I am better. A little shaken, a little broken, a little anxious, a little scared, in pain, tired, exhausted, stressed. But I am better. I am a better me. Today. And tomorrow. And March 31. I'll keep changing. I'll keep evolving. Through the difficult times I'll be better.
Bad things happen. All the time. To everyone. What makes us better, though, is not so much about becoming stronger or learning or growing. It's about WANTING, with all your might, to be better, no matter how long it takes. It is our desire to be better. It is our trying, every day, with all of our heart and soul. Better doesn't happen overnight; it's a process.
For me, it is physically moving my body through the debilitating pain I've felt since May. Lifting my right arm above my head, as much as I can, even though it makes my cringe from the pain. Even though it causes my chest to spasm, where I had the breast removed, expander in, expander out, implant in, implant out.
It is feeling pain every time I reach for the popcorn on the top shelf of the pantry, or lift my arm to put my hair in a ponytail. But I have hair.
The looking really, really hard inside myself to find the beauty in only having one breast on my wedding day. The effort in finding balance, and adapting to this new life, this new diagnosis, every day. To seeing myself as a bride, and in the future, as a wife. With a life. Full, happy, blessed. I do have a full, happy, blessed, life. Today I am healthy and I thank G-d every day for that. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that, or pray for the health and safety of my loved ones.
Every day is work. Working at being better and getting better.
Sure, I'm a special bride. But aren't all brides?
Everyone has their own challenges, struggles and pain. But we are so lucky and so blessed that life moves on, despite all that. Weddings still happen. People still get married. And I will too.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Magical moments

My apologies for, once again, going nearly a week without posting! It's just, as one would expect, a really busy time. This past weekend began what I like to call "Aufruf Season" meaning we're having (or started having) our Aufrufs, both in Virginia, which was this past weekend, and in Pennsylvania, which is this coming weekend - in Dresher at the synagogue where we'll be getting married. This coming weekend is also our tasting, and my trial hair run! Talk about crazy! This past weekend, besides an amazing Aufruf my mom put together at the synagogue where I grew up (there was dancing on the bimah, candy-tossing and seeing about 50-some family and friends, many of which I hadn't seen in months or even years!), Sean and I also hosted a successful Superbowl party (think 10 friends all cudding with Campbell at once and a pineapple fruit tree made by Elizabeth), and we attended Lloyd's birthday celebration, which was a community service project in which we all helped paint a mural at a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C.
So we're halfway in the middle of Aufruf Season, plus I'm in my "zone" which I talked about in the last blog post, which is basically me focusing on me: setting up all my manis, pedis, massages and facials in prep for the wedding. Also, we're in another zone. I don't know what to name it, so I'll just call it (yet another) level of pre-wedding craziness, where we have something going on EVERY weekend between now and the wedding, except for one weekend in March. We've got THON, Pink Zone, my cousin's Bar Mitzvah, another wedding, and other fun things. Life is crazy, but it's good.
This week (Wednesday) I have my final doctor's appointment before the wedding. This one is a follow-up with my oncologist in State College. I met with him last month before my bach weekend, in which he put me into a tizzy saying he was going to "test for Lymphoma" because of the lump in my neck that's been there since November. So, I've been worried about this appointment for a while. Because, apparently, I never know what to expect. But, I am prepared for this. I'm going in with my own dialogue of what I'd like to happen, and how I'd like the appointment to go, and even what I'd like to see happen in terms of follow-up care for my neck lump. (repeat ultrasound in April. If it changes size, get it removed. If it remains the same, keep monitoring it.)
So I'm nervous about Wednesday but I'm going and I'm prepared. I'm hoping for the best, and I'm ready to say NO to any tests before the wedding. I just want to have these next 7 weeks (is it really?!?!) to focus on the wedding. Just, please, these next 7 weeks. No more tests. Medical stuff can wait until after. And it WILL. It's my decision as an informed adult. We're not looking for anything right now. I'm going to heal and I'm going to plan my wedding, damnit.
Ok, so back to the pre-wedding craziness: after this weekend's Aufruf, tasting and trial hair appointment, my dress fittings will begin, we'll be ordering place cards, putting together the favors and out-of-town gift bags, and, come Feb. 28, can start the seating charts. (RSVPs due then!)
Am I having fun yet? YES! A big, bold-lettered, "YES" at the top of my lungs, arms in the air, balloons and streamers flying around me. THIS.IS.AN.ABSOLUTE.BLAST. I love this moment. This is a truly magical moment.
All of these moments are magical.
Now, here's a fairly new picture of Campbell, who will graduate from Puppy One training classes this Wednesday, and a photo from my friend Leah's 90s-themed birthday party not too long ago.

In the past few days that have passed, here is what we've celebrated:
on Feb. 1: the first day I can say "my wedding is next month," one month of welcoming little Campbell into our family, Sean's first day at his new job
on Feb. 2: one year of me and Sean being engaged

I'm not sure how much posting I'll do in the weeks that follow, but I will tell you I love these moments, I am healing and getting used to my prosthesis, and I'm READY (even if it means I'm wearing some battle gear) for Wednesday's appointment. I'm also doing really well, I think, on focusing on my zones, instead of other stuff I could be focusing on. 50-some days. Really?! REALLY?!
Photos by me

Still Being Molly


Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie