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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Looking for the beginning of the blog?

Hi everyone,

If you're looking for the beginning of this blog, to read about the experience in order, scroll all the way down and look for the year 2011.  I began my journey in the spring of that year.

At this point, I have had my 3 year anniversary of being in remission.  I am mighty, deeeeeeply, thankful for that.

I hope that my blog will help you ... or help you help your friend.

I'd be thrilled and honored to help in any way.


Here's a recent picture of my little family (not at our house! Ha!)

Monday, December 2, 2013

What to Buy for a Breast Cancer Patient

I remember when I learned that my colleague and friend, Pam, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I searched the internet for ideas of what to do to help someone in her boat.  I couldn't find a great list anywhere.  So, here's a list that hopefully will help future survivors and those that care about them.
  • gift certificates for restaurants
  • gas cards
  • Biotene mouthwash (helps with dry mouth)
  • Biotene gum - for dry mouth on the go
  • Claritin - helps with joint pain which may be intense after their neulasta injection every 3 weeks
  • Tea Tree Oil (helps with skin reactions to chemo)
  • Immodium
  • Stool softener
  • hemorrhoid relief
  • pretty pajamas to help them feel attractive
  • hats, hats, hats
  • scarves - long ones and square ones
  • gift certificates to a hat/scarf website...American Cancer Society "TLC" for example
  • Clorox wipes (to help keep germs away....due to the higher risk of infection)
  • button down shirts (makes port access easier during chemo)
  • snacks to take to chemo therapy
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • protein drinks
  • subscription to "Coping" magazine - for cancer survivors
  • chap stick - lips get very dry!
  • hard candy....strong flavors....lemon drops were the best for me.....your taste buds will be pretty affected by the chemo...and sometimes having that hard candy can really help....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Best Wishes & Love to the West Coast

A sweet friend of mine shared with me recently about her daughter's recent diagnosis.

I wanted to post "love, hugs, prayers, and wishes for strength" to you both as well as your loved ones.

One of the most amazing, 'full of love' times of my life was the months following my diagnosis.

So, to "I" who is facing her new journey on the West Coast, I encourage you to reach out (or be open) to the people in your life who love you.....let them be a part of some of the toughest times, and you will find more love surrounding you than you can imagine.

I'm here....and my personal email is:  thehappyclicker@gmail.com   for you and anyone else who would like to ask questions or share thoughts about being a cancer survivor.


1 Year Mammogram

Hi all,

This past Monday, I went in for my first mammogram since my fateful one in April of 2011.  I was worried about this experience for the obvious reasons and for 'flashback' types of reasons.  So, I made sure it was scheduled for a time when Charles could go with me.

This was the building that I had walked into not thinking much of my painful lump....because things happen to other people, not to me......at least not big time bad things.  I walked out that day last April realizing that it very well could be cancer.  It was a Friday and I had to wait until Monday to get the results.

ANYway.  Great news.   Great news!!  Once my mammogram was done, I thought I was going to need an ultrasound, too, which would have brought back more memories.  But, the technician took my images to the doctor....then she came back and he said that it looked all good.  No ultrasound needed!  (Saves money, too.)

Woo hoo!!!!

1/2 of me expected to hear that I was going to go through treatment again.

I went to the lobby, sat down with Charles, told him.  He soaked it in.  We walked out and I cried several times.

On another note, my energy level is sooooo much higher than last summer!  I'm thrilled that I don't even hesitate when it is time to give the girls a bath, or load them up to go to the grocery store.  I get tired, but it is a 'normal' kind of tired.  Last summer, it was so hard to push forward to do the things that needed doing.  I look back and am so thankful for the friends and family who helped me so much.....and THRILLED to have the energy to do all kinds of things with my girls this summer.

My hair is growing like crazy.  And I do mean C-R-A-Z-Y.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My 1 Year Milestone

Hi everyone...or anyone....  :)

My 1 year anniversary came and went and I didn't blog about it.....and I've been wondering why....I know there's some deep psychological reason, but I'm not sure what it is.

I'm absolutely thrilled that I can say I'm a one year survivor.

I'm not sure if my blog silence has been because I feel more busy than I have ever felt....or if it is some other reason.  I've been working my 2nd job...doing photography sessions because I love it and because it helps us make 'ends meet'.   It is a wonderful creative outlet which I love!   So, between teaching, photography and lovin' on my Macy and Molly, time is so hard to come by.

I hope you are all doing very well.  I'm feeling pretty great.  Pretty often, I get flashbacks about the type of tired I was during chemo.....the flashbacks end quickly with a feeling of 'I'm so glad that's over.'

Speaking of flashbacks, right around my 1 year mark (March 18), I had LOTS of flashbacks.  Pretty emotional.

I was surprised that I started crying as we drove into the parking lot of SC Oncology Associates on the day of my doctor's visit to do a check up and blood work.  Charles and the girls were with me.

As ALWAYS, my conversation with Dr. Butler was brief.  He said all was well.  I was of course curious about the results of the blood tests.  The next day, I got a call from the nurse and something about the way she said things at the beginning of the conversation made me terrified that she was about to tell me some bad news.  But, all was fine.  When my cancer was first discovered, my tumor marker # was 24.8.......a few months ago it was 12.5 and now it is 13.  They've assured me that I will never get down to 0, and that my number is fine.

So, I wish I had some eloquent words to say.  And I can't think of enough ways to say 'thankful' .... but I am continually aware of how blessed I am....and the joy that Macy and Molly bring me is indescribable.  I'm very happy to be working on my 2nd year as a survivor.

I hope all is well with you.  Thanks for keeping up with me!

Here are some pictures of Charles wranglin' the girls at my doctor's appointment.


Friday, January 13, 2012

My First Haircut since June

Hi everyone!

I had to get a haircut recently!  Can you believe it!?

I decided that before school went back in session, I should have somebody trim the many hairs that were longer and sticking out in crazy ways.  It had gotten to the point where I started to feel sorry for the people who had to look at me and try to keep a straight face.

So, I stopped in to a salon that I'd never been to....and the stylist who was there was fantastic!  In fact, as we talked, she told me that her Mom was a retired oncologist!  So, she was great and understood that I didn't want any "length" (ha ha) cut off....but rather, just a 'shaping up'.  She did great.  So, I went back to school with a fresh hair cut.

I am feeling great these days.  I know my energy is not fully restored, but, compared to how I was during chemotherapy, I feel GREAT!!!!  Every now and then, my energy will take a drastic dip and I am reminded of how hard those days were.  I'm so thankful to be past them!

I hope you are well!

Remember to get your mammogram!  People are still telling me when they schedule theirs and I absolutely love it!!!!  It is a 'sweet' sounding word to me.

This is my nephew, Jeremy.....we played in his
new spaceship on Christmas Day!
Have a great Friday the 13th!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hair Growth Report

Yesterday, I brushed my hair for the first time since June.  Ha!

Even though I had thought I'd have "longer" hair by now (most estimates say that you grow a 1/2 an inch of hair every month)....I'm still pleased to have hair!

If you could be inside my thoughts you'd laugh....I think a lot about how excited I am that I can run my fingers through my hair....so to speak.

Yesterday, while talking to a lady with pretty, shoulder length hair, she did her fingers through her hair to readjust it and get it away from her face.  I reached up to do the same thing.  To no avail.  It is funny that even after all this time, I still have those phantom type feelings that I have long hair still that needs to be pushed away from my face....even to the point that I will lift my hand up there to move it and then realize how silly it was.

Here's a little collage of my hair growth since my last chemo on August 29.    The girls are about to wake up, so, I'm feel good about having had time to catch up on my blog entries.

Have a great day!

Post Treatment Follow Up Appointment

Radiation Ended - December 2, 2011
Chemotherapy Ended - August 29, 2011

Yesterday was the first time I had been to the medical oncologist since my chemotherapy ended.  It, as always, was a very short visit.  

I told Dr. Butler about the shooting type pains on both sides of my chest and he explained that it may be ligaments that I'm feeling.  I told him about how my legs are EXTRA tired all the time....they're weak and they hurt more than I can ever remember....he said that over the last six months or so that I'd been through "a lot" and it would take time to build up my strength....walking was mentioned as a way to build it up.  (Personally, I don't know how I'm not the skinniest and person in the world - exaggeration of course - chasing after Macy and Molly.)

He said, "You're doing great.  We'll call you if anything doesn't look right with your bloodwork."  Well...those of you who know me well know that I wanted to know exactly what the bloodwork said.  This appointment has been looming over me for a while and I needed more than just a general, 'you look great' kind of statement.  So, the nurse sweetly offered to call me with the results.  The blood cancer test they do for 'breast cancer tumor markers' is called the CA 15-3 test, and it takes about an hour and a half to process.  

She called me when I was just two minutes away from my photo session appointment of a precious 10 day old newborn.   I was having a hard time hearing her, but she said that my number was 12.8.....down from 28 in April of 2011.  My immediate question was, "What is the normal range?"  She explained that 35 and below was considered normal.  Hmmmm.   I want ZERO.  I said it to her nicer than that and she explained that there are lots of people who get lots more treatment than I have had and they never make it to zero.

So, when I got home and had some time, I read what I could about it.  This website was the best one I could find.  Basically, I'm less concerned after reading this website than I was.  It is kind of hard to sum up...so, please check it out if this interests you or would help you.  

Every time that I'm typing on this blog, I think about who might be reading my post later.  And, being the big sap that I am, I think about all of you who were caregivers to me throughout this process.  Thank you again.  I wish I could send this card out to all of you, but here's our Christmas card this year, with all of you in mind.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday!  


A week before my radiation ended, one of my long time and dear friends, Ruth, got in touch with me to tell me that her sweet Mom had passed away.  My heart sunk, fast and hard.  This family is a very loving family and very close....and I had always marveled at how close my friend was to her Mom.  Mrs. Lackey's funeral was incredibly special....a thoughtful and meaningful tribute to the Godly life she lived and the investment she made in her family and the community.  Sitting in the sanctuary, listening to the service, I learned many things...and realized many things.  Too many for me to do justice to here.  Not only was the sincerity of the words spoken that day incredibly touching, but, as a fellow cancer patient, I sat there realizing that several of my caregivers were seated in the sanctuary, too.  So much love and so much emotion go into helping someone through their struggle with cancer treatment.  Ruth and her Daddy had cared for Mrs. Lackey so sweetly.  That service kind of sent me in to a quite time of reflection...hence my absence from this blog for a while.

The pastor surprised me that day when he made a point of saying that Mrs. Lackey had not lost her battle to cancer.  Months ago, I told Charles that I don't like that phrase "lost the battle with cancer"....because, as weak as the cancer patient may look on the outside, there's a great deal of strength on the inside.   So, I was glad to hear the pastor's twist on that phrase that is so commonly used.  (I've used it too, it is one of those "thoughts and prayers" type phrases that just rolls out of us, along with great intentions.)

Mrs. Lackey's life was one well lived and her memorial service made me want to be a better person and inspired me to be a better mother and wife.

My love continues to go out to you, Ruth, and your Daddy, and all of your family.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Radiation Waiting Area

Each day, for just a few minutes, I wait in the ladies' waiting area for radiation treatments.  Once you undress and put your gown on, you wait for your name to be called over the speaker. 

Today, as I sat there, I struck up conversation with a lady who just recently started her treatments and the daughter of another patient.  As we talked, I realized how much you get out of talking to other 'survivors' (I still feel wierd using that word).  She had been diagnosed with cancer before...about 20 years ago....and was now dealing with it again.   Along with radiation, she is taking herceptin.  I mentioned that I didn't qualify for herceptin or tamoxifen because my type of cancer (triple negative) doesn't respond to those treatments.  The other lady sitting there asked me what triple negative meant, so I explained.  Many people don't realize there are different types of breast cancer, and very few have ever heard the term 'triple negative'.

A lot of stories are exchanged in that little waiting area.  It is like a little chat room.

When I mentioned how tired I was to the technician, she explained why fatigue is usually experienced.  She said that the radiation is killing cancer cells and other cells in the area.  So, your body is working hard to make up for that and that results in feeling tired.   I am definitely more tired than I have been recently.  It is hard to tell what to blame it on...but her explanation somehow gave me comfort. 
Meanwhile, another patient, Marcia, was celebrating her 33rd and final treatment today!  She was so excited that she was practically floating around.  Her story is quite a doozy...she's been through so much and just recently had several scans that all came back with great news.  She's in remission and finally at a point where she can breathe a bit!   She is the only other person I've met with my kind of breast cancer.  So, we exchanged contact information.  After ringing the bell, she 'be-bopped' into the sunset.  I'm so happy for her!

Next up, it is your turn, Teresa!  :)