Saturday, July 5, 2014

Climbing a Mountain

Independence first time celebrating the 4th of July without my children.  John picked the kids up at 8am.  Every time John and I have any interaction there is quite a bit of conflict and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.  Yesterday after he picked the kids up I felt myself brokenhearted.  I felt sick to my stomach that this is what all those years of work have turned into.  I needed to escape.  I needed to be on my clear my not just breathe.  I found myself longing to be out enjoying nature...alone.  I decided to head up to Ojai for a hike.  When I got home from the hike I was telling my aunt about my journey and the parallels with my life were just too here you have my journey: the analogy... I'll make the analogy in the beginning obvious and then you can figure out the rest on your own.

The hike began on a smoothly paved road...a simple walk on sloping hills where my footing was firm and stable.  The path was easy to follow.  It was laid out for me...clear as day.  This was much like my childhood.  Raised by amazing parents who always made me feel safe and secure, who I knew were guiding me in the right direction.  

The paved road led me to a dirt trail.  I stepped onto the dirt trail and found my way on level ground for a while.  But then the trail started to get rocky and the climb up the mountain began.  This trail was new to me.  I'd never experienced it before.  Sometimes the trail forked and I wasn't sure which direction to take.  I found myself choosing the path closest to the creek.  Even though it was more rocky and a harder made me feel safe knowing that I had the creek to follow.  Several times I had to do a balancing act...finding my way on slippery rocks across to the other side of the creek.  I fought my way up this mountain...pushing myself hard.  This wasn't a leisurely stroll to enjoy nature.  This was me fighting to prove something to myself.  It was 101 degrees out.  I was dripping with sweat.  I heard the rattle snakes in the brush just off of the trail.  A snake even slithered across the trail just as I was about to pass.  There were places where there was no shade and I pushed myself even harder when the sun was beating down on me until I could get to that next shady place where I could stop for just long enough to get a drink of water and push on up the trail.  At one point the trail got extremely rocky and I couldn't tell where the trail was going.  I got lost.  I was no longer on the trail.  I no longer knew where I was going.  I looked at my phone.  I was three hours into my hike and had no cell reception.  My face and my arms were bright red despite having applied sunscreen three times.  My legs were dark brown from the dirt sticking to my sweaty legs.  I was dehydrated and exhausted.  I looked around to try to find the trail again and I couldn't find it.  I looked up the mountain and realized that I didn't want to do it anymore.  I couldn't do it anymore.  I couldn't find the trail to take me to the top of the mountain.  I couldn't continue searching for it and trying to fight my way to the top of the mountain when I was already so exhausted and the trail had been misleading me all along.  I decided I was done.  It was so hard for me to make this decision because I had committed to this hike.  I wanted to finish it.  I felt ashamed of myself for turning back so soon.

Heading down the mountain I had to find my way back to the creek and follow it until I came across the trail again.  Once I found the trail, it was so easy to follow this time.  Going up the trail, I couldn't see where it was leading me...but on the way down I knew exactly where I was headed.  The trail was easy to follow because I could see it.  I could see the coming obstacles.  I made it down the mountain in about 1/3 of the time it took me to climb up it.  By the time I reached that paved road that was so easy to walk on the way up, my legs were exhausted and that paved road seemed to go on and on forever.  I finally reached my car I realized what a wise decision I had made not to continue up the mountain.  I had called it quits at just the right time...while I still had enough energy to find my way back to the safety of my air conditioned car.  

The other day I picked the kids up from John's house and my daughter announced, "Dad has a girlfriend and we got to meet her."  My response..."Oh."  On the drive home, Ephraim asked, "Are you and Dad still married?"  My answer, "Yes."  Daphne said, "You haven't signed the paper that makes you divorced."

The path down the mountain may be clear to me now but there are still many obstacles...many rocky places where my footing isn't always firm.  While I know I made the right choice to not keep fighting my way up the mountain...I am exhausted and path down isn't as easy as it looks.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pick and Choose Your Battles

A quick update on my lung... I had a follow up scan a couple weeks ago. The spot on my lung is the same or possibly a little smaller. It's possibly just scarring from radiation. We still don't know for sure. The good news is that the doctor isn't very concerned at all. I will have another follow up scan in 6 months. 

The real update on my life begins here....

After thirteen and a half years of marriage I have decided that it's time for it come to an end.  The battle I fought for my marriage was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in all my life. Fighting cancer was a breeze compared to the battle for my marriage. Several years ago I left my husband. We were back together after only a month of separation. This time it's much different. Last time I left because I wanted him to change. I was acting out of a place of control. I was insecure and desperate. This time....this time it's different. I am a different person. I have looked at my life and stared immortality in the face. I have spent my entire adult life fighting....for marriage...for my life. I now choose to fight a different battle.  This new battle is for a healthy life. I might be a little melodramatic....but I feel beaten down. I've been beaten down by an unhealthy life. I now choose to take control of what I can. I choose to only allow people into my life who will build me up.  I choose to only allow people into my life who are worthy of my trust...who choose to be trustworthy...who are honest...who are loyal.  I have never in all my life been so certain that I am doing the right thing. I am terrified of the unknown but I feel completely at peace. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Falling Apart

I've fallen apart...plain and simple.  I finally feel broken.  I realize that I've been broken all along.  I was just really good at faking it.  I had even convinced myself that I was holding it together...all the while just stuffing every uncomfortable emotion deep down inside.  It's how I survived.  If I had acknowledged all the emotions I felt I would have fallen apart and you can't fall apart when you're busy trying to fight cancer.

In January I went in for a lung biopsy.  A little spot had shown up on my lung and they didn't know what it was.  I honestly handled it really well.  I experience a little bit of anxiety at the thought of having a needle inserted into my lung but I was so eager to just get the biopsy done and find out what was going on that I couldn't grasp the depth of the situation.  I was informed I needed to have someone attend the biopsy with me because complications could include a collapsed lung.  The biopsy was done at the imaging center.  They placed me in the CT machine and took images to locate the spot on my lung.  The doctor came in and asked me how I was doing and asked if I needed any sedatives.  I kinda laughed at the idea.  I mean...I went through an open biopsy under just a local anesthesia.  I birthed three children without pain meds.  I can handle a simple needle biopsy.  What I forgot to take into consideration is that cancer has caused me to be claustrophobic.  It's not an actual fear of small confined spaces.  It's the anxiety that comes from knowing that your body is being scanned to see if there is death growing inside of you.  Well, I refused the meds and they went ahead with the procedure.  I laid down on my stomach in the CT machine.  They scanned me, the doctor numbed up my back right under my shoulder blade with a local.  He inserted the needle and scanned again to make sure he had it lined up in the right place.  They pulled me out and inserted the needle deeper into my lung, scanned again then pulled me out and took 5 samples of my lung.  Let me tell you it is the strangest feeling to have a needle inside your lung plucking away pieces.  They removed the needle and scanned me again to check for bleeding.  The bleeding was minimal and I was so happy to hear this because cancer has it's own blood supply.  Minimal bleeding...could I actually let myself hope for the best?  I had the biopsy on a Friday and had to wait until the following Tuesday for the results.  I was scheduled to go into the pulmonologist's office to receive the results.  I thought those 4 days waiting would be horrible.  I was able to function normally and not think about it at all.  I stuffed that fear deep down and ignored it.  Tuesday morning came around and I decided I would go to get the results by myself...another protection.  I can do this on my own.  If I allow someone to go with me then I will be vulnerable.  I can't be vulnerable and ask for help if I'm going to hold it together.  And I did hold it together...until it was time to leave for the appointment.  Panic...fear...a heavy heart.  My heart was racing.  I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I made the 30 minute drive and didn't remember any of it.  My phone rang and I missed the call.  It was the pulmonologist's office.  I called back immediately but their answering service picked up because they were still out to lunch.  The panic set in even worse.  Were they calling to tell me to bring someone with me because it was bad news?  The only thought going through my head was...I need to be sedated...I need those meds they offered me for the biopsy that I refused...I don't need to be sedated for fear of pain...I need to be sedated for the pain of fear.  I walked into the doctor's office.  The medical assistant took me back to get my vitals.  As we were walking to the exam room the doctor walked past me, paused, gave me a thumbs up and said, "good news".  The rest of the appointment flew by.  I don't remember much about it other than the fact that the spot on my lung isn't cancer.  I walked out of the office and couldn't get to my car quickly enough.  As soon as I slid onto my seat and closed the door I began to sob uncontrollably.  All of a sudden I was hit with every emotion I had been bottling up for months.  I didn't feel happy.  I didn't feel sad.  I felt broken.  I am broken.  I've fallen apart.

It's been two months since that appointment and I haven't recovered.  For over a year and a half I went through a continuous stream of chaos.  I held it together the only way I knew how.  Here I am trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.  I haven't blogged.  I quit following Facebook.  I stopped answering my phone.  It took me sometimes days to respond to text messages.  Figuring out life after cancer has proven to be the biggest challenge for me so far.  I'm supposed to be happy right?  I'm cancer free after all.  I tell myself...just pick up the pieces and move on...get it together.  Apparently it's not that easy.  I've picked up the pieces but they're not fitting back together how they did before.

Last night I logged on to Facebook and saw that another one of my sweet friends who was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy has found out the cancer is back.  Please pray for her.  Her name is Adrienne.  She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer which is the most aggressive kind.  I'm angry.  She's 30 years old, has a sweet husband and her baby who isn't even a year old yet.  They should be worrying about how to treat diaper rash...not having to figure out what treatment can save her life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Over the past few months I've been withdrawn, escaping from reality any way I could.  I've done the bare minimum to get by.  I stopped reading email, letting them accumulate to thousands of unread messages.  I started my Christmas shopping about 5 days before Christmas.  I didn't send out Christmas cards.  I put lights on my Christmas tree but no ornaments because I just never got around to it.  I haven't sent out thank you cards from our party in October.  This is totally not like me.   If you came to my house, it might appear like I've been functioning like a normal stay at home mom of 4.  The dishes are done, floors are clean, homework completed, weeds pulled, clean laundry piled sky high waiting to be folded... The fact is that I'm worn out.  I'm only getting done what needs to be done to get by.  I've had a year and 8 months of doctors, surgery, medication, pain...  I'm not discounting the numerous blessings that have occurred during that time as well.  I'm just explaining why I've become withdrawn from the life going on around me.  Maybe it's a little PTSD.  I find an escape where ever I can...anything that will keep my mind off of cancer.  It has worked pretty well, I think.  I have learned how to disconnect from feeling fear.  I have learned how to resign myself to the things I can't control...and I'm completely aware that this is unhealthy for me.  I feel like it's just a part of the recovery process though.  It's just a phase in figuring out this life after cancer. 

Sitting here typing this out, I'm realizing when this whole disconnecting thing began.  I think it began when I got the results from the MRI showing the spot on my lung. Well, today I went for another CT scan followed by an appointment with the pulmonologist.  The spot on my lung has grown from 1.2 cm to 1.8 cm.  When the doctor came in the room to tell me, he said, "The spot has grown so this means we need to do a biopsy.  I'm sorry.  After everything you've already been through you shouldn't have to do this too."  My response... "Eh, whatever."  After I said it I felt like a jerk but I had nothing else to say.  I feel nothing.  I was a little surprised that the spot had grown.  I was expecting it to be the same, smaller or gone completely.  Other than that little bit of surprise, I felt nothing.

The good news is that the PET scan I had two months ago showed no cancer in this mysterious spot.  I asked my oncologist if there was any form of cancer that wouldn't look like cancer on the PET.  He said if I was really old there is one type of very slow growing cancer that doesn't "light up".  So, guess what?  I'm kinda happy that it has grown.  That means it's not this slow growing form that doesn't show up on PET scans.  The pulmonologist also says it doesn't look like cancer to him or the radiologist who examined the scans.  It could still just be infection.  No matter what they need a biopsy to figure it out.  I'm waiting for a call to get it scheduled.  The doc requested the next available appointment and results will come within 3 to 4 days.  Update to come.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Lung Update

I don't have cancer in my lung.  My oncologist called me the same day of the PET scan to inform me of the good news.  I was so relieved that I cried.  So...why has it taken me so long to get on my computer and share the good news?  I am so emotionally exhausted and burnt out on cancer that I am just completely unmotivated to talk about it.

This recent "scare" was not actually as scary as I expected it to be.  I continued to go on with my daily life as if it wasn't even happening.  There was such a huge difference in the way it felt this time as opposed to when I was first diagnosed.  I have become used to the fear that comes along with a cancer diagnosis.  It's just a part of my life now.  I have to think about cancer on a regular basis with blood work, scans, and appointments.  I've done this all before so cancer no longer scares me.  Death scares me though.  There were a couple times where I looked at the kids and the thought of their lives without a mom made me weep.  But I don't need to think about that because I do not have cancer in my lung.  We don't know what it is but I'll be going to a pulmonologist for a consultation.  My oncologist didn't appear to be concerned and if he's not concerned then I'm not concerned.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  I have definitely felt the blessings pouring down on me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hoping its Nothing

Last Monday I finally had my MRI for the bone infection. Two days later I got the results. No bone infection but there is a 1.5 cm spot on my lung. So, today I am off to get a pet/ct scan. Strangely enough, I haven't been thinking about it too much over the weekend. I felt happy and light hearted despite the upcoming test and the possibility of cancer.  I was extremely nervous before I got the results of my blood work. The cancer antigen levels came back very low. Actually one marker was lower than my last blood work 2 months ago. That gave me a little peace of mind but it doesn't mean that this isn't cancer.

Yesterday I was on a meat and greens only diet.  Today I am fasting before the scan. The only thing I am allowed to consume is the plethora of meds. Antibiotic, estregon blocker, vitamin, and today I took some diazepam. Anything to help with the anxiety I know will hit once I get into that machine. I'm already feeling a little loopy from the meds.  Prayers please for clear scans. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Adam Gave Up a Rib... I Guess I Can Too

Infections are a nasty thing.  I've been battling this stupid infection at my mastectomy site for I don't even know how long.  I know the severe pain started when I was going through radiation.  I suspect that the infection started long before radiation back to almost a year ago when I had my expander surgery one week after Zeek was born.  That makes the most sense to me.  That would have given this infection plenty of time to wreak havoc in my body.  I went back to the infection doctor yesterday because the infection symptoms keep coming back every time I go off of antibiotics.  He thinks it's a bone infection.  Bone infections are very difficult to treat.  When he said that, it scared the crap out of me.  Are you saying I'm winning the battle with cancer but an infection could kill me?  He said no but he will need to be very aggressive in treating the bone infection and possibly need to surgically remove the suspected rib.  Zeek and I left his office and I started crying tears of frustration.  I want to be done.  I don't want to lose any more time or body parts.  I've lost my hair.  I've lost a boob.  I've actually had to go through the emotional loss of my breast three times now.  The first time when I had my mastectomy.  The second time when we found out the expander was put in the wrong place.  The third time when I had to have the replaced expander removed because of infection.  Now I might have to have ribs removed?  How much more disfigured can I become?  Yes...poor me...poor me...but today all I can think of is... You can take my hair, you can take my breast, you can even have some ribs... but you cannot take my life... you cannot take my joy.  Cheesy, I know.  I'm feeling the cheesiness... especially today when I'm feeling down.  But I believe in the power of positive thinking, fake it 'til you make it, denial... whatever works to keep me out of the dumps.  Most of all, I trust God with my life.  My suffering is nothing compared to what Jesus endured here on Earth.  I don't say that lightly either.  It's not just the good Christian thing to say.  I truly believe it to the depths of my soul.  My suffering is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 

Well, on to bigger and better things.  The party in celebration of Ezekiel's 1st birthday, my being cancer free for one year, and a housewarming party all together on one big happy day.  October 27th is the day.  I would really love for everyone to come.  I want to celebrate with all of you who have walked with me through the past year and a half.  You have supported, encouraged, loved, and prayed for Ezekiel and for me and I am so grateful for you all.  I sent out a FaceBook invite and sent an evite to those who I have email addresses for but if you haven't received an invite and would like to attend, please send me an email and I will send an evite. (Lisa Gallardo- you have been a huge blessing to me through all your encouragement and love and meals.  I don't have your email address but I would love it if you could come.)

Sunday Zeek and I will be doing a 5k fundraiser for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.  This is where I received all my treatment.  All monies raised will go towards research for clinical trials.  Last year my friend Heidi did this even in my honor.  I was 9 months pregnant and bald and had tears in my eyes as I watched her cross the finish line.  I get emotional just thinking about what it means to me to be able to do the event this year while pushing my precious little breast cancer survivor in the jogger.  If you are interested in sponsoring me, here is the link for my donation page.