Ann-Marie is kicking cancer’s ass

The story of my journey

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Back to the beginning

I was looking through my pictures trying to find one that represented what I wanted to say tonight. I have a lot of emotions and thoughts running through me, most that I don’t actually understand. Probably they are related to fear; that nasty negative emotion that can stop you dead in your tracks.

As I was going through them, pictures of all those so close to me flashed by, making me feel a little less stressed, and a lot of love. It’s odd to be sitting alone yet feel love surrounding me. I think I am finally more… more sure, more peaceful, more happy, more accepting, more alive.

Two years ago on this day I lost my breast. It was the beginning. Tomorrow I will have the other removed, along with reconstruction of both. I will no longer be a one boob wonder. It will take time, and it will be painful, but it’s what I need to do.

It won’t change what I know now though. And what I know is that you can be strong alone, but you are a million times stronger when you are surrounded by love 💕



Surgery – take 2 (or 1 and build a boob)!

2 years and 1 day. October 6th, 2017 was the day I had surgery for my mastectomy. You will recall that Tammy provided a hilarious blog post in my place since I was a tad out of it. Soon – Monday – I will again undergo surgery. Exactly 2 years and 1 day since my original one. This time I will be doing a left side mastectomy (to reduce the chance of cancer in that breast) with immediate reconstruction and a latissimus dorsi reconstruction on the right side. Basically what that means is that the surgeon will take my back lat muscle and pull it forward to build a boob that will hold an implant eventually but for now an expander.

Sounds intimidating doesn’t it! And painful!

I won’t sugar coat this.. it’s scary scary and I think it will hurt like hell! But I know it’s what I need to do. So I’ll get thru the next few days without thinking of the pain, or the risk.. or anything else. Upwards and onwards.

No pain no gain: I can do this!



Not sure what this title should read as?

Sorry? I should have written earlier? I suck?

Time has gotten away from me… obviously. It’s been too long to actually say since I’ve written. I’m not entirely sure why.. but here I am now.

We are a couple of weeks short of my diagnosis 2 years ago. I could say a lot has changed since then; I live differently, I prioritize differently, I think differently. That last one is a conundrum and poses the greatest challenges to the other two because sometimes what I think is beyond the means of how I can live differently. If I had all the money in the world, we would take the kids and travel the world.. but that’s no realistic. However, those thoughts are definitely challenging me to think creatively in how we could make that happen.

I think living more in the moment has been a big lesson (and challenge). However, often what is encouraging that way of living is because of that little but really big voice in the background telling me that cancer could come back. And it could kill me. So live now, because who knows what time is left.

Really we should all live that way. Cancer is just one disease. We are surrounded by tragedy and loss. Our (my) goal is definitely to live more life and experience other cultures and communities. Somehow we will get there..

Life since my last post has changed. I’ve made major life decisions that have taken me out of my comfort zone and challenged me even though it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted.

Of course the secondary effects of cancer continue to be the bane of my existence. Over the winter I found out I have pulmonary toxicity (lung damage due to radiation). Exercise is now a definite requirement because it helps my breathing. So I keep trekking along, especially with the running as it’s now more important than ever.

I’ve also committed to going through reconstruction and the mastectomy of the left breast (with reconstruction). I’m ready for it, yet I’m not. It’s major surgery, twice. Of course my blood disorder continues to throw wrenches into all health issues and has limited my options. Thankfully I’ve found a good plastic surgeon who was able to guide me in the right direction.

And all the while, life keeps going as it should. Madison is 15 1/2… enough said. Shane is almost 12 and enjoying life. Dan is working for himself and doing great. My circle of support remains strong. I have exceptional people who I am grateful for every day.

I’ll end this with an affirmation (because it can’t hurt!)

I am healthy, I am strong, I am determined, I am loved, and I am unstoppable 💪🏻❤️😊😘



One year ago today

Dear Tammy….

Today, one year ago, you wrote this post for me, my post-op post, the beginning of what I know now. More than that though, you were here. You brought me and Dan to the hospital at 6am, you sat with us, then with Dan. You heard the news, the bad news, with Dan. You made sure he ate, you took care of him, and you took care of me.

Today this post is for you. I have so many people who I am grateful for, but today I’m making it about you. Sometimes we really don’t see or understand our value or our importance. If there is ever any doubt in your mind just remember how you took care of us. You are a true friend, a forever friend. I’m so grateful Kayla was stung by that jelly fish in Mexico 6 years ago…. I can’t imagine having lived this year without your energy and light ❤️❤️❤️



Bye bye summer

I love the heat, but only when I’m by the pool 😉. We have been so lucky this summer with the weather. But I’m ready for it to change.

It’s been a long year. Last year I was just starting this adventure, I had a full head of hair, two breasts, more lymph nodes than today and ovaries. I wish I could really see it that way, as an adventure. The reality is I am mutilated, physically and emotionally. But people tend to prefer to hear the glossed over, the not so realistic version. Just like we all know that our perfect family pictures are sometimes a fake. Of course there are good, happy moments. However let’s be honest; we all have struggles that we hide, negative thoughts of feelings that overwhelm our every day, and darkness that sometimes cannot be escaped.

So back to my “adventure”. Last year at this time we were in Cape Cod. I remember the emotions I was feeling so clearly, like it was a moment ago. And that has been the trend throughout the year: I remember it all. Some expect me to forget and go on… but it doesn’t work that way. This is with me e-v-e-r-y moment e-v-e-r-y day. This isn’t gone. It will never be gone. I am not “cured”, yet. And because I’m not cured, I need to be very very careful.

I cannot fall back into my same habits… they will be my demise, they will kill me. Call me dramatic, I call it the truth, I call it smart because I do not want to die. So, as I head back to work, mindfulness is key. Not just for me, but for those closest to me also.

This week I did go back to work. However before I did, I had a treatment called Zometa. It’s to help prevent osteoporosis due to my lack of estrogen, and it also increases my survivability by 3 or 4%. And I will do whatever it takes to help me live longer. But boy did it do number on me… it felt like my docetaxel chemo all over again, it just didn’t last as long thank goodness! I will need to do this treatment every 6 months.

Anyway, I went back to work regardless of my pain. Because I just want to get on with my life. My kids need to see me going to work, and I need to feel useful and accomplished. But, I must always be mindful and fully present in my new reality. I cannot forget, I will not forget.

Forgetting would be like forgetting Michelle, Victoria and Hope. 20 years later I still remember every second like it was a moment ago. These moments will last an eternity, they are what I am made of, they are who I am… and they will be the reason I beat this…. so I can never forget, not for one moment. My life depends on it.



So many dates….

Dates, markers of time, memories of events. I have so many important ones; February 11th, 1995, February 23rd, 1995, November 3rd, 1995, January 22nd, 2003, February 10th, 2004, September 27th, 2007, and finally August 25th, 2017.

They are all dates about me, yet only the last one really is. All the others are births and deaths, of part of me, but not me. They were more than the last date. But the last one can determine my future, my death. The last one is the hardest to accept because I don’t want to die. I want to live. But I have absolutely no control over it.

The only option is to embrace it, learn from it, be more determined than it, overcome it, and survive. That’s my only option… nothing else matters. August 25th, 2018 will be a celebration.. we will make it so. We will replace something terrible with something so much more worthy and meaningful.

In the meantime, I will remember the dates, the markers of time, the memories that have shaped me to fight this battle that will never let the disease win… because I am still needed, I am still worthy…



Calmness

A year ago at this time we were on vacation like we are pretty this same week of every year. This year is much different than last year. Last year I was a nervous wreck because I had been to the doctor and they were going to send me for testing, but none of that had started.

So during that week my mind went to all the worse case scenarios which, as we all know, pretty much came true.

This week I am calmer but with different stresses and different fears, probably worse fears. More so because for the first time since long before my diagnosis, I am also sick. It’s just a silly little cold but it has made its way into my lungs. It actually bypassed all other usual cold venues and planted itself directly in my lungs immediately. Also, it seems like my chemo body doesn’t really appreciate being sick… so I sort of feel like I did during that second type of chemo in the winter. Fun times!

No one tells you this stuff… no one tells you what is going to happen after chemo and radiation. They prepare you for the during, but the after is pretty unexpected. Not only how your body will react to every new scenario it experiences after but also how your mind will immediately find itself analyzing worse case scenarios. And given my very accurate instincts from last year, the fear of this cold in my lungs is quite terrifying.

August will be filled with doctors appointments and testing. August 25th will be the one year anniversary of this new journey we are. I’m not sure how I feel about that …. stay tuned…

From the calm lakeside of Zebulon Cottages…



Everyday

Everyday I am reminded. Everyday I see my scars, even when I’m not looking. Everyday I remember. Everyday I’m forced to face my new reality. Everyday fear fills my world. Everyday I know what could be. Everyday…

Everyone else has moved on. But everyday I still live this. One day I hope I can be everyone else…



Reminders

Chemo… it seems so far away in the past. Yet I am still reminded on a daily basis of its effects. My body is still riddled in pain; joints and bones creaking and cracking.

And then there are my nails. I have been hiding them under nail polish because looking at them is frightening!!! The picture below is so much better than what they were… but scary they were; peeling, blackening and threatening to fall off!! Eventually they will grow out, but until then I cringe in anticipation every time I look at them.

I consider all this to be part of the lesson… but sometimes I’m not sure what that lesson is…

I have recovered well from surgery. But its incredible how quickly I can weaken and become so tired. This week my bestest friend came to see me, Sue. Sue helped mold me (or forced me LOL!) into the person I am today. Without her I think I would still be shy and timid. She embarrassed me on a daily basis and showed me it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. She taught me self respect and strength.

Her visit reminded me of my past, of my struggles, of my accomplishments since then, and of all the people who mean so much to me. Too many to name by name… For a while I think I went back to the numbness I’ve felt since I had my twins, but for some reason Sue has triggered my emotions.. once again I am feeling, and I am loving ❤️❤️❤️



Surgery update

Hi,

Much like the post Tammy wrote for me back in October after my first surgery, I am in quite a bit of pain and a cranky b*tch. Anyone looks at me sideways, watch out.

Carla will be happy to hear they had a hard time getting through my abs because they are so firm and strong.

I was in recovery longer than I was supposed to be because my oxygen levels kept dropping. That has stabilized and I was moved to post op. Hopefully I go home soon.




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