Long Overdue Update
I keep meaning to write an update. I take out my computer. I sit down to type…and then I stop. I have started and stopped more times than I can count. Unsure of what to say.
July 1st will be one year since my official remission date. One year since I was told I am technically "cancer-free."
There have been so many joyous days in the past year.
Rick and I are engaged and planning a small, intimate wedding ceremony in October. In April, we merged our families into one big Brady Bunch home filled with lots and lots of testosterone (I am grossly outnumbered-lol).
After so long of being highly locked down from seeing people due to the cancer/covid double whammy, we were finally able to see family and friends.
Greer decided to play baseball out of the blue despite having never played the game before. I am so proud of his bravery in 6th grade to attempt this, and I love seeing his excitement for the game, positive attitude, and perseverance. I was worried for him and wanted to shield him from a possible negative experience, but I let him take the lead, and I'm so glad he did. And I know my dad (who went to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship and was a baseball coach and umpire) would be so proud of him too. It hurts my heart that he is gone and unable to be there to cheer him on and give pointers. I miss my dad terribly. I know he would have loved this so much. Greer is fired up and in love with the game. He has a summer filled with baseball camps and the only thing he wanted for his birthday was baseball lessons and batting cage time.
Many birthdays were celebrated: Rick turned 49, I turned 47, Erick is now 17, Evan is 15, Seeger is 14, and Greer is 12. Erick is going into his senior year of high school. Evan will be a Sophomore, Seeger a freshman (we just celebrated his 8th-grade graduation last week!), and Greer, a 7th grader.
We are remodeling parts of our home and can't wait to have it all done (currently, our garage is our kitchen, living room, dining room, AND garage). We are counting down until the construction is complete.
My hair has grown, and my extensions have been removed. It's short, but it will continue to grow. It is not the thick, beautiful hair of my dreams that has grown back, but it's mine. My actual hair. And that is enough.
I am taking a step back from teaching at school and in a classroom. I love working with students and families; however, I have learned that I have a hard time with boundaries and was not helping my own health and well-being by prioritizing other families and children over my own and working an obscene amount of hours a week, not sleeping and having incredibly high anxiety.
I am excited to start my own business where I will work with families concerned for their children's education, unsure of the next steps, and who don't know if they need an IEP or further support. I will also consult with families to review IEPs for changes that should be made based on their child's learning profile and break down IEPs, and Psycho Ed reports into easily understood language. I aim to teach families to advocate for their children independently and help them work together with the school, so everyone is on the same team—your child's team. I aim to empower them enough that I joyfully work myself out of a job. I look forward to working with families all over the county via Zoom. Please consider passing on my information if you know someone who feels lost or needs more support. I am passionate about this and have spent countless hours outside my job description working with worried and concerned families to hold their hands and partner with them to feel confident and educated on their child and their needs. I have worked with families to help give them the words to explain to their child how their brain works, what their "disability" is, and how to embrace the support they are receiving. I hope to be able to work with many, many more families.
It's also been a tough year since remission news:
I realized that this all didn't end on my remission date. Which I naively thought was the case. I thought I would need to come in for check-ups and the occasional scans several times a year. I did not know that cancer would be a part of my daily life for years and years to come.
I take seven pills daily. These medications all have different functions. One helps with my hot flashes (from medically induced menopause). Another drug keeps my hormone-related mood swings regulated. At the same time, another blocks hormones (that my particular kind of breast cancer loves and feeds off of) from my body, and one that will give me a 9% better chance of cancer NOT returning. It's a lot. I also meet with my oncologist every three months, periodically get scans, and go in for weekly blood work. I get bone density scans every four months ) because one of my medications can cause bone density loss). I go in for an injection in my stomach every couple of months (the needle size is unlike anything I have ever seen, and it leaves me with horrible, painful bruising) and go in for an IV infusion of another medication every few months.
Cancer is a part of my daily life. This regimen will continue for at least the next five years. I am having a hard time coming to terms with this. "At least the next five years." Five years feels incredibly overwhelming, and I must catch my breath with the weight of it all. At the same time, I feel grateful for modern medicine and that I am alive and able to create memories and experience all that life has to offer with the love of my life, our four boys, and family and friends. How lucky am I?!
It's strange. I would have thought chemo would have been the worst part of cancer. (I'm guessing that is what you thought also? I've come to find that is what most of us assume.) However, I think the worst part of cancer for me has been post-remission this past year. It is coming to terms with all of it, going through that realization's emotional ups and downs, and the hormonal craziness. It's been hard. Maybe because I didn't expect this part? Maybe because life seems to go back to "normal" after chemo, and it's a silent struggle that isn't visible to everyone? I'm not sure. But it's real. If you know someone that has finished their treatment within the past year, let this be your reminder to check in with them and see how they are doing.
It turns out that being thrown into menopause also plays some crazy games with weight—specifically weight gain. I am trying to ride it through and not let it bother me, but it's tough for a former anorexic like me to wrap my brain around. It's a mind f**k. I am so thankful for this body and how hard it has worked and fought for me to be alive now. I want to appreciate my body. I am actively trying to enjoy it, no matter its size. And I will move forward balancing that appreciation with a closer, healthy, increased focus on diet and exercise.
I have helped two friends through their journeys with cancer in the past year (man, so I hate the word "journey" now). And I am beginning to help another friend through hers. PSA: please, please, please get your mammogram if it is time for you to get one. Even if it's past the time, I can't even begin to tell you how many people have reached out to me to tell me that they went in and things were 100% okay (the highest percentage) or maybe that they had to get a biopsy, a lumpectomy, or go through radiation. Or the whole shebang like me. Do not wait. Do not pass go. Do not collect your $100. This is not a game. CALL AND MAKE THE APPOINTMENT NOW. You can do this. Waiting does not help. If you need someone, I will be there for you. Call me.
Covid. Greer came home from 6th-grade camp and brought home an unwanted souvenir. "Camp covid" resulted in half of the 6th-grade contracting the virus. Unfortunately, we didn't find out about it until after Greer managed to expose myself and Seeger. We immediately isolated, and it's a miracle that Rick, Erick, and Evan did not get it. I had a rough time but was immediately prescribed Paxlovid, which kept me from getting sick to the point that I would need to be hospitalized. Again, three cheers for modern medicine. I am so thankful for the vaccine and know that had I not had it; this would have been a different story and outcome based on how sick I was. Unfortunately, I ended up with the "Paxlovid rebound" effect and continued to test positive for eighteen days after a brief break of negative testing for a few days. We are now all healthy, safe, and thankful to be on the other side.
I wish I would have written an update sooner because I know this was a really, really long post. If you have made it to the end, you may deserve a "new best friend" award. I love and appreciate all of the love and support each of you has provided.
I will joyfully and with great humility celebrate one year of remission on July 1st (this Friday!!!). If you are inclined, raise a glass with me wherever you find yourself. Cheers to us all for making it through such a challenging year. And three cheers to this beautiful life we are fortunate to live.