Happy Birthday, Michael Harley! 

Mike, 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you: my #1 favorite person in the Universe! I love you more each day that passes! You love me as unconditionally as is humanly possible, and that’s no small thing because I’m annoying AF sometimes. I don’t deserve your love yet here we are. I admire you so much because of your view of the world, your treatment of people, your love for humanity and animals, your passion for alternate transportation & cycle adventures, your beat boxing skillz, etc. 😎
I think you are incredibly handsome and love that you always make me laugh! I am so proud to be & there’s never a moment that I don’t want to be your wife. We are a perfect match for each other in so many ways and I love that you’re the yin to my yang! I don’t want to imagine what life would be like without you by my side. I’m glad we were able to celebrate your birth with our friends last weekend, and I look forward to another Labor Day weekend trip with you and our kids & extended family. 💗 I hope that today is the perfect day for you- everything you hope for in birthdays. No one deserves that more than YOU. I love you babe- forever & ever.
Always yours,
Jen

Life in Music City

I love living in Music City, USA. There are a lot of live music shows that I’ve attended, and many more coming in the future. I have a new love for vinyl records now. Mike got me a professional turntable for Christmas, and we’ve almost completed our surround sound system. I love going to record stores and finding my favorites (or artists I’ve heard about but not experienced yet) on vinyl. There’s something about sitting on the couch with a favorite beverage, closing my eyes and just LISTENING to the music the way the artist intended it to be heard. It’s a different experience than playing a digital album and skipping the ones you aren’t feeling at the moment.

Music is one of my favorite things about living in Nashville. I’m not out every night of the week, although if I wanted to I *could* be. This town has such a great VIBE and I love being a part of that! I also enjoy meeting the artists and telling them to their face how I liked their performance. They really seem to enjoy that personal feedback. I know I would if I was a musician. I love talking music with my clients that come in to the shop too. Getting out and supporting the local (and not so local) up and coming artists is so important to me, so if I dig their sound I usually buy something off their table whether it’s a shirt, CD, vinyl (if they have it!) and then I promote them on my social media. It may not be much, but it’s what I can do.

I just had a good idea. More blog posts about music coming soon…

XOXO,

Jen

A year later…and then some.

When I started this blog, I intended to keep everyone up to date with all the happenings of our lives. At the time I had a lot of changes going on, always something new to tell so I posted quite often. Since my last surgery over a year ago, I haven’t felt the need to update on any of that because I’ve been doing great. I’ve been living my life, working all the time, and quite honestly blogging hasn’t been my go-to method for updating people of the world (ok, mostly family and friends that are spread out all over) about happenings. I often turn to Instagram for pictures and push those photos to Facebook and Twitter because I like to think that I work smarter, not harder when it comes to social media. Apologies to those who follow me on all 3 and feel overloaded.

My absence from this blog could be blamed on the fact that I’ve had so much going on, there’s no time to sit and reflect and write about what’s happened. But perhaps I should be doing more of that. It’s been an interesting year to say the least. Lots of ups, several downs, obviously. That’s life in a nutshell, don’t you agree?

We moved to another apartment last summer and are still making it “ours”. This apartment is in a more convenient part of town. It also has a wood fireplace which I absolutely love, and a LOT more closet space which we are trying to take full advantage of. It’s also cheaper than the old apartment so it’s a win all the way around. It is also NOT in a basement/dungeon so it even feels more airy, cheery and light which is much needed. It’s a townhouse style so the only people that are walking around upstairs making noise is anyone who happens to be in our bedrooms. Heh. The parking situation is a little janky but hey, if that’s the only complaint then I don’t think we are doing too shabby.

We are looking forward to some travel this year. Nothing abroad, however we are planning for that in the next few years. Seattle and Portland in the summer. Asheville at some point. All places we have never traveled together. Last year we visited Boston and had a blast. I fell in love with that city! I would want to move to Boston if it wasn’t for the horrible winters.

Mike has a new job which is a fantastic move for our family. He’s even ridden his bike there a couple times though at first we were skeptical about the route. He works for Bridgestone Americas and they will be moving to a new building downtown in 2017. I fantasize about living downtown and being close to all the things, but the way the housing market is going, who knows what the prices would be. Sigh. I’ll take 10-15 minutes away for affordable housing though.

My job is going swimmingly as a manager of my shop. Hard to believe this summer will be 2 years there. I celebrated 2 years with the company in January. This coming fall I fully intend to go to Minneapolis to claim an award for our salon. We still have a few months to seal the deal, but it’s looking like we will get it. My staff is so hardworking. I am proud of them!!

I turn 40 in a month. I’m not freaking out about it. I’m embracing it and already have my glittery party dress for that night! My mom and stepdad will be coming into town, and we will celebrate in style. I am very much looking forward to their visit and celebrating with them. 40 is the new 30, or so I hear.

It’s been nearly three years since my cancer diagnosis. Life has changed dramatically since then. I haven’t had surgery for over a year now, and I think I could probably go for one more tweak. I just don’t know if I *want* to. Every time I have surgery, they want me to be out of work for 2 weeks. I’d much rather be working, traveling or what have you. The scars and lumps that only I see can wait, but I still don’t like them. It’s a constant reminder of what I went through. I hate being self-conscious about people being able to see a scar indentation through my clothes. SIGH. I want to get either nipple tattoos or artistic tattoos also, but if I’m wanting surgery then that also needs to wait. I hate how long and drawn-out this process can be. I know my complaints don’t even begin to compare to what metastatic patients have to go through,  but it’s still my experience and cancer sucks no matter what stage you are in; all of it is awful. I just want the old me back. I must keep plugging and be happy with the new normal. I’m not always successful with that.

The boys are all doing SO well. T is finishing up his freshman year at UT Knoxville, H is in his junior year of High School and working a part time job. A is in his freshman year of High School & still playing tuba in the band. H & A both live with their dad up in Maryland… I miss them so much! T will be home tomorrow and all next week since it’s his Spring Break. I enjoy his visits so much. I hope we get some good 1 on 1 time while he’s home.

Ok, enough rambling for now! I promise it won’t be a year before I post again.

XOXO,
Jen

 

 

Surgery Recovery update: 2/3/2015

Drain came out yesterday! Woohoo! Nurse Amanda explained that it wasn’t necessary for the drain to be in as long as when I had the mastectomy because less tissue was removed/manipulated this time. So glad to have that thing gone. Still having to sleep on my back stinks, but it’s for the best not to mess up my doc’s work, or risk the incisions coming open. We all know how I hate that!!

Yesterday was a good day. I was able to venture out for the first time since surgery. First to see Amanda and have her check out my incisions/take the drain out. Later was an in-store performance by my favorite, Butch Walker. He released his album today but wanted to do a free, 40 minute set of a few songs the day before. I didn’t know until yesterday morning that I was definitely going to be able to go. Asked the nurse if I could drive, and she said as long as I’m not on the pain meds and felt like I could, then yes. I really only drove to Abbe’s house and then she did the rest of the driving. The short amount of standing that I did there was enough. I’m tired today, but it was SO worth it. If he had played on Friday, I would have had to miss and that would have bummed me out so hard.

Today and the rest of my time off, I’m lying low, doing some online training for work, and generally trying to rest. Healing is happening! Fingers crossed this is the last time I have to do this. Sucks that I have to be off work but I’m trying to make the most of it. Usually being home like this brings back memories of those awful 6 months when I was home all the time and depressed. To some it might seem like a nice “staycation” but for me it’s not so much.
XOXO,
Jen

Revision surgery 1/29/2015

jenMy check in time was 11:30 and surgery not until 1:30, so I stayed up til around 1am the day of surgery. I ate dinner around 10:30 and took my last drink just before midnight. Then I passed out. I slept so hard that I didn’t get up for the normal 6am alarm. I woke at 8 in somewhat of a panic because my middle son sometimes needs to be woken up, mostly this year he doesn’t, but I always check. I looked to see where he was (Love Find My Friends app for my kids!) and saw that he had made it to school. Whew! I went back to sleep…this time Mike had to wake me, because it was 10:30 and we needed to leave at 11. He said I had been snoring…a sign of how deeply I was sleeping!

We got to the surgery center at Vanderbilt to check in, then sat and waited. It wasn’t too terribly long, maybe 30 minutes or so until they called my name & took me back to get my vitals, ask all the important questions and get my IV started. One of my favorite parts of the pre-op stuff is putting on this purple paper people cover up (OK, OK, a gown) that hooks up to the most glorious air warming device on the wall. I could sleep at this point because I’m so cozy. Also got a swanky head covering and blue hospital grippy socks. Man, is that attractive or what? 😛

I met with everyone from the surgery team and Dr. Braun came in last.. when he came in it was around 2:30. We discussed all that he was going to do, and he marked all over me with sharpie. Then the nurse that had taken care of me was curious and had all kinds of questions 🙂 I feel good knowing I educated her on the process.

3pm they came in and got my sedation meds going, then wheeled me into the OR. I moved myself onto the table and then they started the process of putting me under. I remember everything (I usually don’t) up until they put the anesthesia into my IV. It was kind of neat… the OR is smaller than I’d imagined. When I woke up, I was very groggy & in pain, but no nausea. I’ve not been sick one time!! They gave me a patch behind my ear, and not having an excess of pain meds has done the trick. My pain level was about a 5-6 when I woke up but once they gave me some more meds, I was down to a 3, and since my vitals were good, they let me go home.

I feel after being through breast surgery 3x now that I’m getting pretty good with making sure I have all the pillows I need either on the couch or in bed. I slept fairly well last night, propped up etc. I usually sleep on my stomach or side, and even though I wasn’t able to last night, I was still comfortable.

I did have to have a drain placed on the left side where he did most of the work…they’re THE WORST, but much-needed. I can deal with a drain if I don’t develop a Seroma.

I see Dr. Braun a week from Tuesday and can hopefully get the drain out, and stitches. Oh right, I forgot to tell y’all that I have external stitches this time, to help suspend the work he did. I feel like he really knocked it out of the park this time. It’s so hard to get everything right in the first or second surgery. We got the big stuff out-of-the-way, and this is just fine tuning. He gave a great report post-op to Mike which he recorded so I could hear it later. I’m so thankful he did that! He also said that the scarring on my right side would be fixed pretty well if I opted to have nipple reconstruction. Depending on how this revision heals, I may change my mind on not doing nipples. The last 2 times I had surgery, I had wounds for months…so if nothing goes wrong this time then I’ll consider it. You never know how much you’ll miss seeing something as simple as nipples in the mirror until you don’t. I still plan on doing a chest tattoo piece in the future too
I feel like I’m rambling so if you’ve made it this far and my run-on sentences aren’t annoying to you, THANK YOU 🙂 Going to eat my delicious breakfast that Mike made for me. He’s such a good caregiver & husband to me. He makes sure I get my meds on time & writes everything down. He’s keeping the drain log for me as well. I am a lucky woman to have him as my partner in life. I know not everyone has that, so I’m forever grateful!!!

Let me thought vomit for a minute.

Recent events have had my brain stewing on this one. I’ve been just as guilty of this in the past too, which is part of why it’s bothering me.

Why is it that when someone dies, we choose to focus on only the best about them? I’m not complaining. It’s a good thing. But I picture the deceased person on the other side (wherever that is) saying… “Aww, that’s sweet. Why the hell couldn’t you rave about me like that when I was alive?” 

Why do we think it’s okay to nitpick others’ behavior and actions instead of seeing the best in them at all times? As if we have every duck perfectly lined up & have never made any mistakes. No one is perfect, we all have our flaws, we are all on different paths and even on the same path, we all move at different speeds & learning curves! We all supposedly know this and want to be treated as such… So wouldn’t it be a much happier & peaceful life spent if we chose only to see the best in people? Negativity breeds negativity, but positivity has the same effect.. and a much more pleasant one!

I know I personally perform better when I’m being praised vs. criticized. I promise you, I am the hardest on myself & critique myself enough as it is without others piling it on for me. (Let me take a sidestep and add: I’m not talking about abusive behavior or not calling others out when they’re in a situation where intervention is necessary. I’m purely speaking in general terms.)

We gossip about family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers (this is a big one!) about their appearance, life choices, LOVE choices, finances, what have you. Unless it directly affects you, what business is it of yours? I mean, really! Ask yourself… “Does this harm me or someone I love? Why do I feel the need to express my opinion about this?” I promise you that the opinions you put out there only reflect negatively on YOU, not the person you’re so focused on. If we simply focused on bettering ourselves & being kind to those around us, our world view would instantly improve.

Everyone needs love & understanding. We never know what battles someone is facing. Usually the people who appear the strongest have the thickest mask on. I’ve also discovered in working with the public that the people that seem the most hateful usually need the MOST kindness. Think about that one for a minute.

Human life is so fragile. Everyone has emotions. Be kind… especially to the ones closest to you. Everyone has their own shit going on.

Thank you for reading, humans.

XOXO,

Jen

Update! 9/16/14

It’s been awhile since I updated so I figure I’d let y’all know what’s been happening in the last month or so. My last infusion was Aug. 5th and I’ve been very well since. Work has been great! Mid July, I transferred to another new salon at work (this time I had the choice.)  It is the location that I originally applied for, just about a mile from where Mike works. It’s in a part of town that is rapidly growing and changing, very hip & we would love to live in, but just not in the cards yet. That’s OK by me. I love the area & the clientele. My franchisee bought this shop from the previous owner & little tweaks here and there will hopefully bring more business in. I have been promoted to assistant manager so even when we are slow, I have things I can be doing and that is VERY fulfilling for me. Even as “just” a stylist I always take ownership & pride in whichever salon I am in…to the point where customers think I’m in charge. I don’t even care about titles or “being in charge” per se.. I just want the customers to be taken care of. They are after all, our bread and butter.  I guess that comes from the experience I have and also owning a business before where I was the only one responsible for everything. I was also the only one “employed” there. I’ve never had a strong desire to manage other people, so this is where I need to be in learning mode. That part of management is always challenging to me, especially when others aren’t doing what is expected of them. I absolutely HATE confrontation but it is necessary sometimes. Yesterday we had to let someone go, and it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t even the target of name calling, etc. and it still took me a minute to get back in the groove of things! I’m just thankful that no customers were in the building at the time. It’s amazing how just one person can stunt a salon’s growth…so this was a much needed change in order for the morale & business to improve at this shop. Onward & upward! We have hired 2 more stylists to the team and I’m looking forward to helping to train them so our shop can run smoothly & the customer service level will be the same no matter who is working. 

As far as my health is concerned, I’m still having minimal issues. I went to see my endocrinologist last month, and he ordered my TSH and other thyroid levels to be taken. We did them twice, and my TSH is super low, with my other levels being perfectly normal. I don’t think he’s super concerned. The TSH being really low indicates hyperthyroidism, but I have no symptoms of that & with the other levels being normal it doesn’t show hyperthyroidism. My uneducated theory is that chemo did a number on my thyroid hormone level. *shrug* I will wait for further instruction on that as I feel completely fine, albeit a bit tired. I haven’t been exercising as I should so that’s probably the reason for that. 

The big news re: breast cancer is that 8 days ago, I had my port removal surgery. YES!!! As someone commented to me yesterday, that’s always a good thing when ports can come out. For me, this was the easiest surgery to date! I still had to fast beforehand & my surgery wasn’t until 11am Monday, so by the time I went back to the OR, I was parched & ravenous. (We made a beeline to Chipotle immediately after my release.) The surgery lasted less than an hour. I was under local anesthesia for where they actually cut me, and IV sedation so I would be extremely comfortable during. I was so comfortable that I fell asleep. I woke up when they were putting the steri strips on me, as I could feel the tugging of that (with no pain) and could hear everything but I kept my eyes closed as I was very groggy. No nausea this time, and minimal pain afterward that only required prescription doses of ibuprofen for the first couple of days. I took it easy the rest of Monday and Tuesday, returned to work last Wednesday afternoon. I’ve been ordered not to lift more than 10 lbs with my right arm, and am already limited to 15 lbs with the left because of lymphedema risk, so I’ve had coworkers take the large garbage bag out of the back, or sometimes carrying my work supply bag for me. This limitation for my right arm is only for another week however, so I won’t feel at a disadvantage for too long. The main complaint I have right now (and I can be a whiny biatch sometimes) is that my port incision is itchy. It’s like I’ve had about 10 mosquito bites all in a row. My steri strips are still hanging on and it’s a no-no to pull them off, so even though they’re curling up on the edges, I put bandaids over them to keep any mishaps from causing them to be pulled. I’ve had an excessive amount of adhesive exposure thanks to wound care, surgery & whatnot over the past year so my skin really gets angry with bandaids and other medical tapes. I will most likely have one more revision surgery for my reconstruction before April, but I won’t know the plan until I see my Plastic Surgeon next month. For now I’m really just enjoying not having doctor’s appointments each week & not even having the port to remind me of what I’ve been through this past year. Of course there are the mastectomy scars that are a blatant reminder, but I’ll save those sentiments for another blog post. 

XOXO,
Jen











Last infusion 8/5/2104

Today was my last “chemo” (not the bad chemo that makes you sick, but a biotherapy targeted medicine that’s administered like chemo.) I’m all done! No more! We scheduled my port removal surgery for September 8th, which will be the easiest surgery to date. I’ll only be out of work for 2 days for that one. 

I expected today to be a long one at 100 Oaks because I had four appointments scheduled, and there’s usually a long wait especially when I’m to see doctors. First was labs at 8:30, then my medical oncologist at 9am, surgical oncologist at 11, then 11:30 infusion. I was prepared to wait wait wait for everything. Labs were done in a timely fashion (they usually are) but then I got called back within minutes to see my first doctor. It wasn’t even 10am when I was done with her, then they put me in another room (thanks Amanda!) and I got to see Dr. Hooks & was done with her before 10:30. Went back to infusion and got called back, hooked up to my IV & Herceptin started right around 11:10. Amazing. After an hour infusion, I was done. It was a little anticlimactic. We were talking about doing a happy dance because it was my last treatment, but all I wanted to do was hug all of the nurses and tell them goodbye. I hugged my favorite.. Linda. She always sent me cards after she would be in charge of my treatment. She was telling me how this is the beginning of the rest of my life. That because I’ve been through this, I can go through anything.. tears started streaming down my face.. I just couldn’t believe that the day had finally come to be done with every 3 week visits. I’ve “graduated” as they said. I didn’t see Jenny today, she’s the first chemo nurse I had, but it’s ok. I plan to go back and visit now and then. 

After we left infusion, I had to make one more trek down to the Breast Center and get a hug from Cheryl, the receptionist there. When we were going back to the Infusion center, she was busy.. But I couldn’t just leave without a hug. She’s been there the entire time that I have been a patient, and she always remembers my info so I never have to say my name or birthdate or anything. I thanked her for being wonderful and again, the tears started flowing. 

The tears are again flowing as I type this. I just don’t know how to express the feelings I have about this whole process. I know the ones who have been through it get it. I don’t know how to explain to everyone else, but maybe that’s ok. I’m glad that I’ve reached this milestone in my treatment. I’m forever grateful for the care of my doctors, nurses, the friendships I’ve made and the support of you all, my family and friends.

And now.. it’s time to “Get busy living” 

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Five years…

5 years ago today, I married the man who loves me beyond my wildest dreams, who makes me want to be a better person. The most patient & loving person I’ve ever had a relationship with. I knew when we said “I do” that I was making the right choice. The last 5 years have not changed that…in fact, this previous year he’s been the most supportive partner I could have ever had. I love our life together & look forward to spending the rest of my life with you. Happy Anniversary, my love! I love you x infinity! ❤️

Post Surgery Update!

So I had the much anticipated implant surgery on Friday morning. Got up early to take a shower, and make sure the boys were getting up and around so they would catch the bus for school after we left. We had to be at the Surgery Center at 6:15 for my 8:15 procedure. As I was to undergo general anesthesia, I had been fasting since midnight. No food, water, candy, gum, nada since midnight. My mom & John flew in late on Thursday night so they could be here for us. Friday morning they met us here at home, then we left for the Outpatient Surgery Center. We all got there and got passes for parking since the Valet wasn’t open until 8am. There was one other patient there having surgery when I was (different surgeon, obviously) and her daughter looked older than me. She looked at me and asked if I was having surgery. I think she was thrown for a loop because of my age. (Yes, I know I look younger than my age, but I’m still too young to have this!)

We waited until it was my turn to get registered and then I got called back for the pre-op tests. Small urine sample (good thing, I hadn’t had much to drink and used the bathroom before going to the Center!), BP and vitals taken, all the questions asked that needed answering. Undress and get into the lovely paper gown with the hole for the warm air tube to keep me warm 😀 They call it “Bair Paws”.. lovely invention, I tell ya! After I was all prepped and IV inserted, Mike, Mom & John were allowed to join me in the pre-op room. Hard not to have flashbacks to the first surgery. Somewhat emotional but kept those in check mostly. Had visits from the anesthesiology team, nurses and finally my Plastic Surgeon made his arrival and was able to mark me up (right after John took that as his cue to leave :p) and get me ready to go.

Said bye to Mike and Mom, then they wheeled me across the hall to the operating room. This time I do remember entering the OR (I fell asleep before this time last time because it was a much longer distance at the other surgery center) I remember getting into the room and getting some instruction but before they could move me to the Operating Table, I must have gone to sleep because before I knew it, I was waking up to people talking to me and it was all over with. The surgery took about 90 minutes as they expected it would, and I woke up with a surgical camisole in place to support my new implants. The new implants are much more comfortable as promised. Doctor Braun was able to get rid of the wound scar but he had to cut what looks like a smiley face on that side (Happy boobie!) and used the same vertical incision on my right to access that one.

I experienced some nausea post op due to anesthesia, which is never fun, but by Monday morning was feeling good enough to come off the pain pills and just take Ibuprofen. My soreness is very minimal, if any. I’m on restrictions not to use my arms excessively in the first week, not to lift more than 5 lbs (a bag of sugar), not to lay on my stomach for 4 weeks, not to have direct contact with my breasts for 4 weeks. No excessive exercise for 4-6 weeks. Had to wait 72 hours before I took my first shower. But the best part? No drains this time, and no steri-strips. The incisions seem to be healing normally which is a relief. I see Dr. Braun again on the 22nd, and look forward to hearing what he has to say about my recovery and what to do next. He did have to do some scar tissue removal and “sculpting” on my left side, and hopefully in time the implants will settle in and be symmetrical. I’m trying to be patient. I don’t expect perfection, but I do want to feel as normal — It’s such a tricky word anymore–as much like my old self as possible. There, that’s more like it.

I was able to come home by 12:30 that day and spent the rest of the time relaxing and being waited on.

Saturday afternoon was Tyler’s prom and I was able to get out to the park and take pictures of he and his date before they went. That was nice to be able to do that at least. I got some good shots and the fresh air on a beautiful day did wonders. I even wore one of my new dresses!

The biggest part of surgery recovery that’s hard for me is not being active. Especially after being home for 6 months after my last surgery and going through chemo, I like to get out of the house. I need to take this time to let myself be lazy, not overdo anything, and to enjoy the time “off” so that when it’s time to return to work, I’m really good & ready.

Thank you for all the good thoughts, vibes, prayers, love and light you all have sent me. I feel and appreciate it ALL.

XOXO,
Jen

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