Sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate it more. Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning for me this year. The holiday used to be about turkey and family and food… I have learned to take a moment to be extra thankful for the amazing family, friends, strangers and my fantastic husband that have all come together to take care of me and put up with me through all of life’s challenges this year.
I have made connections with my extended family that I hadn’t seen in years. I have spent more time with my immediate family, probably more time since we all lived together. We have laughed, we have cried, we have been scared together and we have loved. I don’t know what I would do without my mom, dad, and brothers. I lucked out in the marriage department and married someone who has been my shoulder to cry on (and when you face breast cancer, there is a new cry that you find out about, a deep sad cry that impacts every fiber of your being. You have to cry this cry, holding it in all of the time makes it hurt more). Mike would tell me I was beautiful even when I was bald, one-boobed, pale from chemo and cranky because I couldn’t get a freaking glass out of the cupboard.
Mike and I spent Thanksgiving in Mexico. It was a week that we had some days off work already, so it was easier for us to take a whole week off (for something other than hospital visits). We stayed just 15 minutes south of Cancun and just north of Playa Del Carmen on the Yucatan peninsula. I booked our trip when I was in the middle of radiation (I did end up adding the room upgrade once we got to the resort…). I was exhausted when I booked it. I still hadn’t quite bounced back from chemo and all of the surgeries. Life involved so many appointments that being more than 20 minutes away from the hospital seemed like an impossible dream, but I needed something sunny to look forward to to keep me (somewhat) sane (although I make no promises of sanity before or after breast cancer).
We had an amazing week of not accomplishing much more than sitting in the pool. We did head out to Chichen Itza for a day. We stayed at a resort where we had to get dressed up every evening for dinner (so I got to buy some cute sundresses to bring down). This was also the first time I felt really comfortable in my “new skin.”
Relaxing at the resort
Romantic Dinner for Two
Long walks on the beach at sunset
View from our room
Now we are just counting down until my surgery on December 27. I am not looking forward to it, but I am ready to have it behind me, start Tamoxifen again and have a few less things in front of me, and mostly everything behind me.
At work after my haircut and the new color.
Friday I had a couple people at work (in different departments, the ones in mine are used to me being around and annoying, haha) tell me how genuinely happy they were to see me back. I guess I forget that everyone worries about people under these kinds of circumstances and it is touching to know that so many people care (and like me enough to want to see me wandering the halls of work). It did take a little longer for people to know that I was fully back (with hair). What they said brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know why it impacted me so much, but I have always felt important in my organization, but I really had the moment of realization that my life is a bit more back to normal after fussing over my life being different).
I have a really stressful job. Part of me makes it stressful (I function best under pressure), but part of it is the reality of what I do and who I do it for. I try to keep the specifics of work and my cancer treatment a bit more separate on this blog. I don’t want this experience to halt my opportunities in the future and the opinion of me, but I also know that if someone looks down upon me for having had this journey, they can screw off.
I work for an unusual and amazing company and I have been able to play a big part in the growth of this non-profit organization for the last 5+ years of my life. It has been an exciting and emotional journey. What adds to this is that I have a great team of individuals under me. Seriously, they are the best team ever so much fun, sharp learners who are also passionate about what they do. I have watched the company grow from under 300 employees to over 1,500 employees. 30% growth year over year (which is kind of cool if you work in the advertising/marketing department). All of that, with minimal price increases over the price over the last 5 years.
Close up after my first haircut and dye.
On top of work I have been involved with a few local organizations related to my industry and Utah in general. Today I put my hand out to volunteer to take on additional responsibilities I used to have in one of the organizations. Two months ago I would not have been able to comprehend taking on more responsibilities on top of work. Work took all energy, if I had a teensy bit left I would accomplish a thing or two around the house and that was about it. Taking life back on has been an emotional journey every way you look at it. The ups of when “I can do it” the downs of when “I need to go home and vegetate” have haunted me from the day my treatment began.
Working with cancer is a topic that I don’t really seem to see out there as much. Let alone 31 years old with an established career and cancer. There were moments questioning why I spent so much time in school (I have a master’s degree) only to face death shortly after (not that I am dying, but the reality of death is something that comes with cancer treatment and after treatment when you face the fear of it coming back). I really feel like I have been in school since I was four. Which is almost true (I had this crazy idea that I HAD to finish my master’s before I turned thirty, and then after that I have tossed around the concept of a PhD – I think I am a glutton for punishment). The good part in this is that my education is paid for (mostly by me) so I don’t owe two pennies for getting to where I am (just a lot of time, studying and sleepless nights).
As each day passes I am finding more energy and more clarity.
Snow in our bushes.
The lack of drama in my health life at the moment is perfectly fine. The doctors had me delay starting Tamoxifen back up until after my reconstruction surgery. Starting, stopping, starting, stopping… it seemed counterproductive (Tamoxifen has a pretty decent increase in the rate of blood clots, so you have to stop a decent chunk of time before a planned surgery). Which means I am LIVING LARGE on estrogen. It is like a drug when you haven’t had it in awhile… Which is also a bit scary, estrogen is cancer candy.
I am still getting minor dizzy spells (nothing like before). I don’t know if they are stress or fall weather or what. The paranoid part of me drifts into “tumor in my brain” the logical side of me goes “body recovering from lots of trauma.” The battle continues on the inside, but the outside wants to just live without medical drama and not pursue it. I am sure it is innocent, but I will probably call my nurses because I have a new paranoid part of me that ignores medical issues a bit less then I did, say, two years ago…
I must admit, it is purely impossible to buy too many clothes for a vacation. My obsession started with swimming suits and then sundresses… Which should be pure insanity since it has been snowing here off and on. It has been a late fall (but summer didn’t really start until July). I need to stop buying new clothes (that I can’t wear to work)… but part of me is satisfied that now I know how to shop for “the new me.” I know how to hide my scars, but feel proud of how I look (I still can’t quite get used to the hair). Although the “new me” isn’t done until February-ish.
I don’t regret my bilateral mastectomy. I know young women question whether or not it is the choice for them. My surgery was able to preserve the skin and nipples, even though they aren’t what they were (luckily I don’t have a photographic reminder of quite what the breasts used to be). Surgery choice is an extremely personal decision that you make when you don’t have a clear mind. I prefer not worrying about the tissue in there creating tumor cells, instead I just worry about what could be “leftovers,” but everyone hates leftovers, so I don’t have any… I had so many stupid complications with my surgery (which these days I blame on not letting my body rest and heal properly). I wanted to do too much too soon.
Tomorrow I get my first real haircut. I haven’t a clue to do with this mess of brunette curls. I couldn’t decide who to have do the first haircut, but I decided that I wanted to have the hairstylist who chopped it all off cut it. It seems like a full circle that I am ready for.