Category Archives: Life

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

 

 

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

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! ❤️

Surgery, Work, Anxiety and all the things.

In less than a week I will be having my surgery to get implants in, tissue expanders OUT! Can I have an AMEN? I’ve appreciated the look of the tissue expanders under the clothes to make me feel “normal” again (what ever does that mean anymore?)

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement though. I have anxiety about surgery. I had a bilateral mastectomy last July, and after that had some edge necrosis that needed debridement, creating a wound that didn’t fully close up until just a couple of weeks ago. Chemo not only slowed that process down, it completely stopped it…even reversed the healing of that wound. This surgery is happening not a minute too soon, although I am still anxious about it because my first one was 7 1/2 hours with everything they had to do, and the recovery slow and painful. The tissue expanders are HARD. They are uncomfortable. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have “real” boobs. I mourn the loss of my nipples. I want to feel normal again.

I don’t want any more healing issues. I’m sick of bacitracin ointment and gauze and tape. I’m sick of skin irritation due to bandages and tape. To say I have PCSD (Post Cancer Stress Disorder) would be accurate. I’ve since returned to work and work stress has sent me into anxiety overload. The stress was rare though and I’ve since relocated to a better fitting salon for me. I’ve had feelings of wondering if I jumped back into work too quickly, trying to gain some sense of normalcy in my life again. Then being expected to be “normal” all the time when I’m clearly still recouping from a stressful 6-9 months? It’s all just too much sometimes and tears want to spring up just typing this. I should seek therapy. Bless my husband…he’s heard it all and even felt it directed at him although it’s never intentional. He’s still madly in love with me and not running for the hills. Yay for patient loving men! I’ve felt like a raving lunatic at times. Pretty sure I’m blaming Tamoxifen for that one. Oh yeah, and the fact that I’m a cancer patient but I “Look so good.. handling it so well…taking it like a champ…am an inspiration…staying so positive…” Sure I am upbeat and happy but I am not perfect and I lose my cool sometimes, especially when people act like nothing should be wrong with me and why are you acting so strange? Please be patient with me, y’all. Cancer is hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. In fact, if my worst enemy had cancer I’d cry with her too because I know what she’d be facing. (Just kidding, I don’t have enemies!)

I do have an appointment on the 10th to see my Primary Care doc, and I will be talking to her about all the feelings and the anxiety. She knows about some of it though. I was supposed to see her last month but that appointment got canceled due to weather. My surgery is the very next day, at 6am. It should be a 90 minute procedure, in and out. Wham, bam thank you ma’am and I should be good as new (not really) and ready to go home that day.

Let’s hope and pray for no surprises this time around, shall we?
XOXO,
Jen

A New Normal

It’s been just under 2 months since I returned to work & life is beginning to feel like a new normal again. I go for my 3rd Herceptin only infusion & visit with my medical oncologist tomorrow. I was supposed to have the wound on my left side stitched up about 3 weeks ago, but it was healing on its own so we postponed that. Now it’s VERY VERY small & will be closed within a few days. I’m glad I opted against that procedure. I love seeing all that new pink skin that’s grown there! Hopefully tomorrow I can show Amanda & can schedule surgery for my implants…. FINALLY! This process has been a long one.

My hair is returning! I have been buzzing it to a 0 guard though because it is still thickening up. The thin spot at my crown isn’t noticeable now so hopefully I can just let it BE for awhile. Yesterday was the first day I worked with NO HAT! Everyone just thinks I have a buzz cut unless I tell them why. I know I’m one of the “lucky” ones in that regard, I can totally pull off the buzzed/bald look & it’s nice. I do miss doing funky things to my hair sometimes, but the no maintenance thing is awesome. My eyelashes are thickening up again and I’ll have to wax my eyebrows soon too. Now if the leg hair would just stay away.. hehe.

Last weekend (Feb 26-Mar 2) was the first weekend I traveled since my cancer journey started. I flew up to Minneapolis to be with my family for my brother’s wedding & then “girls weekend” with my mom, sister & stepsister for Mom’s birthday. It was TONS of fun & I really needed the family fix. Not everyone was able to make it, but I enjoyed the time spent with the ones that could. Mike stayed home & held the fort down. (I LOVE HIM.)

Before I left, I went by the Pretty In Pink boutique and purchased a compression sleeve for my arm on the side that I had lymph nodes removed. It’s to wear when I fly or exercise, as a prevention measure against lymphedema. I fell on my arm on Valentine’s Day and had a huge (though heart shaped!)  bruise on that side.. never had any lymphedema so I’m being really cautious now about that. Better safe than sorry. The compression sleeve is kind of a pain to put on/wear & it’s not the most attractive thing in the world but hey, neither is a big swollen arm. I’ll take precautions any day.

I have been working working working except when we have traveled to Crossville (Mike’s mom’s bday) and last weekend. This weekend coming up I’m finally getting a couple days off (without having to ask for them!) and Jess & Carter will be here to visit. I’m excited, and hope the weather is as gorgeous as it was this past weekend.

That’s all for now!

Cabin fun

The weekend getaway to Lake Cumberland with our friends was a great time. I drank a little too much the first night (hello, lightweight!) and passed out by 9:30pm but the next evening took it much slower and was able to partake in all the game playing. No hot tubbing for me this year (damn wound is still open). We were introduced to a new game (to us) called Werewolf. We had such fun with it that we’re now talking about getting together once a month to play it and other games. There was also Cards Against Humanity & Twister played. Also a drinking game called “Never Have I Ever” in which I had to drink on almost every question, and our good friend Jenn kept holding her phone up with the word “Prude” on it because she was staying quite sober through the game. There was yoga lessons happening in the basement and other crafty things happening. No mani/pedis this time since we were at a coed event. Although I think some of the guys would love to have pedis done on them! 🙂 Sam Bradley made one of these and it’s awesome! I want me, my sisters and my mom to make them when I go up to MN for my brother’s wedding at the end of this month.

All in all, it was a great time away with our crew. I love all of these people and am so happy they’re in our lives. Good friends are priceless, especially when family is so far away.

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Update on all the thangs

I’ve been back at work now for 2 weeks. I started a job working at Great Clips (love the company, have worked for them before) in Green Hills here in Nashville. It’s been quite the adjustment going from being at home all the time during the day to working 35 hours a week, but I have been feeling like myself again after finishing chemo, and since we aren’t sure when the next surgery will be, I felt it was time to get back in the game. The guy called me an hour after I applied, and I interviewed and accepted the job the very next day. My first day was January 25th. It was perfect timing for a lot of reasons.

My schedule is not set but I do know in advance when I’ll work. Sometimes I open and work 9-3/4 (or like yesterday until 5) and sometimes I work a mid or closing shift. I’ve been working the last 2 weekends, both Saturday and Sunday. It’s a given that when working in a salon like this that Saturdays are a norm. However, since we are open Sunday too, I think I prefer working those days. Most don’t want to work on Sunday whereas I’d love to have Saturday off to go do fun things with my husband & boys. Sundays are good days to work because I can make $1 more an hour. So I told my manager that I don’t mind working weekends and I can do both days but I don’t want to do that every weekend. If you need me to work a weekend day I prefer Sunday vs. Saturday. Hopefully the schedule will ease up a bit. My manager and the staff there are all pretty cool, so I’m sure it will work out great. Like I said, it’s just an adjustment for me. The salon is trying to rebuild after a “meh” year in 2013, so I am committed to helping them do that however I can. I do believe I work for the best Great Clips in Nashville as far as clientele and staff.. the numbers just need to reflect that! And they will.

Yesterday was probably my best shift that I’ve worked as far as feeling in the groove with the salon operations and my work *at the same.damn.time!* (running joke Mike & I have) I felt like I made great connections with the customers, my haircut times didn’t stink & I even sold some product. It was an 8 hour shift so when I felt like I needed a break, I clocked out for one. Usually on a 6 hour shift I don’t and it doesn’t even faze me. I can eat or drink during slow times usually but yesterday I really needed to take a load off for 30 minutes off the clock, eat my lunch, and just chill. It helped.

I’m continuing with my infusions every 3 weeks. The last one will be August 5th. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep my port in after that, but it doesn’t really bother me, so if they recommend keeping it longer, that’s OK by me. I love having that available for them to access for blood draws and thangs. I have good veins, but if I had them stuck every 3 weeks like I do now, they would probably not stay in great condition.

The boys have been great.. Tyler is taking part in a research study through Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital on sleep patterns, cortisol and melatonin levels in autistic kids. (Obviously he’s part of the study where they get data from non-autistic kids) He signed up to do it himself and we met with one of the women leading the study last week. This week he’s been wearing the watch they gave him that monitors activity and sleep (like my fitbit!), keeping a diary of when he’s sleeping and when he showers or swims because that’s when the watch has to come off. He also has been taking spit samples every morning and evening just when he wakes, and before he brushes his teeth. I have to deliver those to the Children’s Hospital on Monday along with the first watch from this week. The second watch he put on this morning and will wear through the remainder of the month. He’s doing so well keeping up with it himself! Of course the initial reason he signed up to do this was for the cash, but he told the lady last week that once he read about the study, it all sounded very interesting to him. He makes me proud! He’s still interested in becoming an Anesthesiologist and we’ve been talking a good bit about college prep. It’s so crazy to think that I have a kid starting his Senior year THIS fall. Just wow.

Hunter is in the stage of freshman year where he’s deciding which Academy he will go into. Nashville Metro Schools offers this program and I think it’s really cool because It gets kids thinking about career paths. Every student studies the same core subjects, but the Academies are for their elective courses, and those are categorized by what will serve their career path best. Hunter chose to go into the Art, Design & Communication Academy, and I think that is a perfect fit for him. He’s also joining the Debate club at school. Kid LOVES to argue, and loves to be right. A lot of times he is right, and it’s kind of annoying (I too, love to be right so we butt heads sometimes) I love this kid. He’s probably the most challenging of my three personality wise, but his strong will & determination will definitely take him far in life. He’s so creative too.. he could go into Law, acting, web & logo design, or whatever the heck he wants! I know every parent says this about their kid, but because of his determination, I know that he can (and will) do whatever he sets his mind to. Steering him in the right direction to where he can flourish is the trick. He seems to be going in a good direction, so this momma is happy.

And then there’s Austin. My schedule and craziness has not allowed me time to FaceTime or text with him lately and I hate it. I miss him so much, I just want him HERE. He’s doing well in school and still playing the tuba there, so I think he’s happy. I know he wants to move back to TN though. We are wanting to move closer to Mike’s work (closer to everything in town too) so are on the hunt for a 4 bedroom apartment or house if we can find one in our range. It can even be 3 bedrooms, if the one bedroom is large enough for Hunter & Austin to share.

This weekend should be fun. We are heading to our annual adult cabin getaway with friends. This time closer than Gatlinburg. I can’t wait! Then Monday, Leah (one of my Traniac friends from Australia!) will be here & we are having breakfast with Karen & Abbe. I’m glad I finally get to meet her. There’s a Train cruise next weekend that I can’t go on, and she’s touring Nash & Memphis before heading to FL to get on the boat with a bunch more of our friends. I’m jealous, but know the opportunity will most likely happen again next year. This year just isn’t good timing for me for that.

That’s enough of an update this time around. TTFN!

Farewell to 2013

2013 was a horribly stressful year. Most of you know the basics and a few of you know all the ins and outs of just how stressful it was. Totaling the Jeep in late 2012 & the consequences from that…being without a vehicle of my own & all the court stuff. I’ll be done with that soon though. Having a full house of people, kids & pets for a good portion of 2012-2013. Cancer, moving, surgery, “what about the house”, relationship stresses. Etc.

The main great thing is we made it to Nashville. I’m done with chemo and am moving on with treatment that’s a lot easier to handle. The next surgery won’t be as rough recovery wise. The boys are doing well in school & have adjusted to the move pretty well. We don’t have the dogs & cats anymore. We miss them sometimes, but we are not stressed with the responsibility of them that we really couldn’t handle before. Even through cancer treatment and all that comes with it, we have been able to explore our new town some. It makes me want to do even more. Gives me a lot to look forward to. Mike & I are enjoying the present, closing the door on past junk and looking forward to 2014. I’m not too crazy about new year’s resolutions because a person can make a resolution for change at any time of the year. It’s a great time for a brain reset though and that’s what I’m doing. All I can say about 2014 and my intentions for the year are that I strive to be a better me than I was in previous years. Healthy, happy & whole.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. However you celebrate, be safe.
Cheers!

Music is awesome.

Sometimes a song you’ve heard many times before plays during a special moment & suddenly it’s a meaningful & romantic song.

“Nothing Else Matters” ~ Metallica

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they say
Never cared for games they play
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
And I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
No nothing else matters