How Do You Do it???

Sorry for not being around for the past three months… I started a new job in an old field and had to relearn the skill during my probationary period. I’m a dental assistant and was a “tad” rusty, to put it mildly.

Now, I’m back, but this has all made me so aware of something… I’m blown away by how many of you survivors are working through your treatment! I couldn’t have done it! I was a complete mental case and would likely have lost my job. I couldn’t concentrate, was crying all the time and truly was a danger to myself and others (slight exaggeration, but only a VERY slight one).

How do you do it? I’ve met several of you that have worked through chemo and other aspects of treatment and hold you in the highest of esteem, because I honestly am at a loss to how you made it through (or are currently going through it).

Because I’m sure others would like to know how you “get through” treatment and work, I’m writing a new post on how some survivors do this and would love your input. Please feel free to post how you work or worked through treatment and what helped you through.

Talk to me, friends… Let’s help each other get through this beast we know as cancer.

Check out this great video from Megan Kowalewski and some of her others, as well… She’s an inspiration.

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Perceptions…

Hot Air Balloon 0734Before cancer we tend to be naive about life and death… We know, logically that everyone dies, but we often never seriously think it’s going to happen anytime soon. We know we’re not immortal, but we don’t want someone to tell us that it could happen and it could happen sooner than we want.

That was my life until my family doctor had to burst my bubble…

From there I went straight into “rabid dog in corner” mode and it was UGLY! Anger was my friend and fear added to that created a blind rage that carried me through most of my treatment. It’s not generally recommended, but it was all I had.

I read books on finding hope and the Bible, as well, but found no solace in either. I was beyond reason, just wanted a way out, and didn’t care how I found my way out.

During the early days of cancer, fear consumes us and we want relief that seems to be nowhere. I don’t know about you, but I wanted concrete answers and guarantees… Which no one will give you. It was a vicious circle and this can often be the case.

If you’re newly diagnosed, you often are looking for guarantees and hope, which no one can give you (even for those without cancer). Once you’re in battle, you need to focus on that and try not to allow setbacks destroy you.

I’ve also noticed that those fighting a recurrence have a different mindset… More of the seasoned veteran going back into battle and this is overwhelmingly inspiring to someone like me. I’ve watched friends with this “kick butt” attitude live a vibrant life with cancer.  These individuals can be amazing and encouraging to the new fighters.

There’s also those post treatment that are still trying to gain their footing in life after the battle. Living with the fears of it coming back and adjusting to the fact that their life isn’t what it used to be and will NEVER be what is used to be (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Long term survivors should reach out and guide these individuals, as it’s (in my humble opinion) the most difficult part of the cancer treatment process because you feel like you’ve been just thrown out there on your own.

The long term survivor (which is a group that I’m always grateful to be a part of) comes to realize that life, though different, can be more vibrant and beautiful than it ever was before cancer. This person often feels that they have a responsibility to reach out and help those in the other stages of the battle. That is where I am.

I find no more joy than helping other survivors maneuver the race and sharing the “spark” that gives hope to others.

This is my perception and I hope that it helps and inspires…

Thank you for visiting and being a part of my world.

 

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”  ~Ivy Baker Priest

 

 

What the Heck?!?!

I’ve noticed in the years since I was diagnosed that this time of year (End of May and into June) there are a lot more people getting their dreaded diagnosis. Whether it is a first time or recurrence, I see a rush this time EVERY year. Can this be coincidence or am I just taking notice because this is about the time I was nailed? I don’t know, but this year it has been hitting unusually close to home and well… I’m taking it personally!

These are my friends and loved ones and loved ones of my friends! I feel like I’m going to war all over again! This time I’m wanting to get all up in cancer’s face and showing the vicious side that it gave me in my own battle!

We can’t fight the battles for others, but we can hold their hands, give them a hug and especially not walk away when it feels like the world and their body has turned on them.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Take no one for granted and especially remember live for now!

Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day and remember those doing battle (whether on the battlefield or in a hospital room).

Hugs!

Getting Your Bounce Back!

iStock_000011459857_ExtraSmallJust because surgery and treatments are over, doesn’t mean you’ll feel like your old self again… No matter how much you might want it. There’s going to be a new “normal” and time needed to adjust.

Now, don’t panic… The new normal isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. You may not like it at first, but be aware you are now likely headed to a better place. It takes time and sometimes a new stage of “treatment” that you likely hadn’t considered… Psychological.

When you think about it, it really is a form of PTSD. You’ve been doing battle for a long time and it takes time to leave that mindset.

I was in treatment for close to a year. From diagnosis in the beginning of June; radiation all summer; surgeries in June, September and December, and physical therapy through April; it was May before I stopped having some sort of treatment nearly every day or week and then there was nothing, no safety net or someone to hold my hand.

After treatment, you experience fear with every scan and that’s normal. Over time, with each clear scan, you get where you can handle it better. You never get where it’s completely easy, but it does get MUCH easier.

There are support groups (online and on site), as well as psychologists trained in post cancer needs. There are always places to look for people that are just like you and know exactly what you’re feeling and dealing with. You just need to look for them. I wish there were so many when I went through my treatment. I did use The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network (CSN) and it was unbelievably helpful, but truly needed more.

I struggled for close to a year on my own and was nearly at the breaking point before I gave in and sought treatment for the depression. No one wants to admit to depression and honestly, I was at the end of my rope, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was “weak.” Now, the kicker… I went from wanting to drive my van off a bridge one night, to my first belly laugh in likely two years or more and all in just twenty-four hours of starting the medicine.

It has taken me a while, but after nine years, I no longer need the meds and feel amazing! Better than I have in YEARS! I survive scans well and try to reach out to other Liposarcoma survivors, so they don’t have to go through the process alone (we are a rare breed and it’s often difficult to find the support we need).

So, to wrap this up… Don’t expect that just by being cancer free is going to make you feel “normal” again and that is fine… It’s normal, so to speak, to not feel normal. It’s all a part of the healing process.

The new “normal” can be the best part of your life, if you just give it time. Bouncing back will happen.

Hang in there and if you have questions, you can contact me through this site.

 

“Fear makes us feel our humanity.”  ~Benjamin Disraeli

Beware of the Snake Oil Salesmen!

One of the aspects of the cancer experience that seriously burns my butt is the con men that come out of the woodwork with their “miracle” cures to cash in on your misfortune. These nut cases actually believe the nonsense they spew and offer hope for something simple to make everything “right” again.

It blows me away how some talk as if cancer is one disease… The “butt wipes” are so ignorant that they are a menace and danger to others! I didn’t like radiation any better than anyone else, but there was proof that it worked and that has strength, at least for me. No one knows what causes my cancer, so how the heck will they know that some crazy diet will make everything better?

Sadly, there are many that are grasping for hope and getting taken advantage of by these fools and you need to beware of the so called “miracles.”

Just don’t throw away what has the best chance of working for something that has no proven results, just because someone is making promises. This is cancer and as much as we want promises, there are no guarantees. The best of doctors won’t make those sort of promises and no one should. If someone does, walk away. They are likely after your money and don’t care about your health.

My thinking is that bad things do happen to good people and we can spend all of our time wondering what we could change or do to get through it easier or we can dive into the battle. Life is about balance. Eat better, exercise and do what it takes to get better…

For me, a little ice cream made the battle easier… But it didn’t cure me (insanity did that).

Have a wonderful week and be better…

Surviving Cancer and the Holidays

When dealing with a cancer diagnosis, life is hard enough, but toss in the holidays and the stress that comes along for the ride it can seem insurmountable. You need to face that your energy needs to be focused on getting well and those around you need to be equally aware. A challenge, yes, but doable.

I was dealing with surgery complications, a second surgery (actually third) and three different infections, but somehow found a way to do the shopping and give the kids a great Christmas. I looked like “heck” and couldn’t leave the house most of December, but thanks to the internet pulled it off.

There are things that you can do to make life easier….

1)      Get help! Don’t be a martyr. You shouldn’t go it alone. I never asked for help, when I should have and it made things harder than it ever needed to be. Whether we want to believe it or not, there’s usually someone willing to step in.

2)      Fall in love with your computer. You don’t need to be out on Black Friday to get deals. There’s always wonderful bargains online. ALWAYS!

3)      Learn to say “No.” You have cancer, you have a reason to say no, without guilt. This became the time I cleared my list of commitments and NEVER allowed it to get that full, again.

4)      It doesn’t have to be perfect… Your family wants you well and knows that is what matters most. It doesn’t take the perfect dinner, party or baking dozens of cookies to make the holidays special; it takes being together and making that time matter.

So slow down, have a cookie, hug a child or whatever it takes to get through the day and remember that the holidays don’t have to be complicated or cluttered to be memorable. Simple is most often best.

Enjoy the moment and remember that you have an important job to do this holiday season, beat cancer.

Nothing else matters that much.

Hugs!

 

Let’s Get Chaotic!

There are some pretty amazing cancer survivors out there.  They go through their treatment with grace and style; courageous throughout… Get over that, that’s not me. I was all about insanity, banging head against the wall crazy… Yeah, that was me (as I curtsy semi-gracefully).

Through cancer we learn that it isn’t necessarily how well we survive, just that we DO survive. You can do it with style, making it look easy or again, like I did it and get chaotic… Hey, it’s okay! You just do it and when all is said and done, know you did your best. Sometimes just finding a little humor in the situation can help.

Here are just a few of the fun Chaotic Lessons cancer offers:

Radiation “Perks UP” muscles in areas that are zapped.

During rads, it pulls fluid out of the tissue that it’s making toasty and this creates some entertaining after effects. I had a seriously pumped up looking calf and from what I hear, other nifty areas get “perky” too.

The music they play when you’re stuck in a MRI machine is NEVER loud enough to cover the trash can banging sound.

I don’t care where I’ve had it done, no matter how much you tell them to “crank” it up, it ain’t going to do it. Oh yes, their radio stations are generally lame also.

A doctor with a wicked sense of humor can make some of creepiest procedures fun (yes, I said fun).

Even having something like a PICC line installed… Let me explain PICC line. When you have a severe infection and need to be on heavy hitting antibiotics for a length of time this line is installed in your arm and ran through increasingly larger veins over to your heart. When installing it they are X-raying you to see that it’s going where it needs to go. When lying on your back you can see it going by your beating heart…. Creepy, huh?  Now toss it a comedian of a doctor telling cooky stories and it actually can turn into a game. Normal people don’t usually get this, but once you have cancer, your sense of humor gets a bit twisted.

Getting creative with explanations about obvious scars makes it easier to deal with.

Okay, this is a true example of a twisted sense of humor, but when you can’t hide it or refuse to become an artist. Liposarcoma left me with a nifty scar on my right leg and in the beginning it deeply bothered me, but after a couple of times of saying that it was a shark bite from the rare Fresh Water Great Lake Great White and enjoying the look, my point of view changed. It’s all a matter of how you look at it.

Cancer is a terrible disease and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but if you’ve got to go through it, get a little crazy, find the humor, and you just might kick it’s tail.

Have fun, get chaotic and be well…

Oh yes, the picture was chosen because he made me laugh! ;o)