Keeping It Real

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I bet some of the readers of our blog (mostly our family members) are probably thinking that its looking a little different lately since we started our health journey. Although we've made a lot of changes and although some may have appeared "sales-y", that will never be the intention of this blog.

I started this blog almost SIX years ago now (whoa) so we would have a way to share our pregnancy journey with our long distance family members. We kicked this baby off with the announcement that Emma Kathryn was on the way. We have been through our ups and downs with the blog. I've taken breaks from it when I've needed to. I've posted things that have upset family members before. But I've always been open and honest and all these changes that you are seeing aren't going to change that. It's always been an unbelievable outlet for me, a way to share our story, no matter what that story looked like.

It just feels indescribable to finally be able to share our new story. We are happier then we have ever been. And we just want to share how we got here.

I've been in the market for a new phone lately and I was just realizing that I'll finally have to avoid my fears and upload everything to The Cloud so I don't lose all of my pictures and videos since our home computer is still somewhat out of commission. So that started me into looking back through all my pictures and of course there are tons where the kids were little that just struck me how much time was flying by. Then there were the pictures that came after my diagnosis. Those pictures are much harder to look at.

Like this one. This picture is from October 15th, 2013. This was the day right in the middle of diagnosis. The Monday before was when I went in for my first mammogram and pretty much got diagnosed right then and there. The day after this was the day I got the call with the biopsy results that sealed the deal. But that day in between? That was the day I went on Jack's first field trip to the pumpkin patch. I had those sunglasses on all day because I just kept crying. I kept getting phone calls from the hospital, trying to set up meetings with surgeons. Probably one of the hardest days out of all of them. But you know what, I kept up with life, and my Squishy had an awesome day at the Pumpkin Patch. Even though Mommy was a hot mess.

This picture was taken on October 19th, the Saturday after diagnosis. I didn't know what to do with myself this day. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball under a blanket with the babies. It still didn't seem real. I think the kids knew something was wrong, but maybe just not sure what. But they stuck by my side that day. I remember being so torn with my thoughts because I just kept saying to myself that I didn't FEEL sick, so I should get up and do something. Then the next minute I just kept saying to myself, no, you have CANCER, you need to rest. I didn't know what to do.

Here's another tough one. I both love and hate this picture. I love it because it's probably the best picture I have of me and my girl. She was so excited to go see the photographer for pictures. But I hate this picture at the same time because of the reason behind it. This was ten days after my official diagnosis and it was a spur of the moment family photo shoot because I was afraid I wasn't going to have any pictures of my family for a long time. I had no idea outside of surgery what kind of treatment I was in store for, but deep down I just had a feeling that chemo was in the cards. And I was scared. I have a smile on my face but I was scared to death as to what was to come.

Here is another picture that is pretty high on the list. It's probably the cutest picture of my kids like ever (but seriously, they are pretty damn cute right?). This was less than a month after my surgery and I was still having trouble recovering. I had a ton of trouble sleeping, and it took me a good six weeks to be able to get out of sleeping in a recliner in our bedroom. This was the first snow day of the season last year, and the kids were begging me to go play outside with them. But I felt awful. So I had to sit back and watch as Daddy got to build a snowman, make snow angels, you name it. They were so excited. I remember walking outside just briefly to snap a few pictures and they just didn't understand why Mommy couldn't play. It was heartbreaking.

This was on December 16th, exactly two months from diagnosis. This was the day I was headed to meet my oncologist for the first time and figure out what the plan was. I never wore my hair down. Like ever. But I just knew what was coming that day. I just knew I was going to get signed up for chemo. And for some reason, I felt like as soon as my oncologist said those words, my hair would fall out. So I felt like it was the last picture I would ever take with my hair down. I know, seems stupid. But that's what it felt like. That appointment was like getting kicked in the stomach repeatedly. Too many phrases like "because of the higher risk nature of your breast cancer..." and "worst possible side effects are heart failure and leukemia..." and "complete genetic counseling/testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes...". That last one is what scared me the most. To this day I have yet to fill out the paperwork to get the genetic testing done because I'm scared to death to find out that I'm a mutation-carrier, and could have passed that on to Emma.

My oncologist gave me until after the holidays before starting treatment, so right after the new year, on January 3rd I headed in for my pre-chemo visit. I got six different prescriptions that day, and we talked IN DEPTH about all the side effects of both the AC and the Taxol chemo treatments. For the first time I saw the schedule, that had procedure for port placement on January 7th, a start date of January 13th and an end date of not until May 28th. I could barely even see past the next day, let alone five months from then. It felt like as soon as you picked yourself back up from getting kicked during the first appointment, you were back there before you knew it, still getting kicked. Needless to say I left that appointment and drove straight to the mall to a hair salon that accepted walk ins. I got most of it cut off and donated my hair. One of those I'm smiling in the picture but secretly full of sadness on the inside.

This was taken on January 13th, my first day of chemo. Wes and I actually laughed a lot that day because it was our defense mechanism. We didn't know what to do. We didn't know how to act. We didn't know what I was going to feel like. We were still having trouble with our insurance company clearing my nausea meds and we didn't get that all sorted out until too late. I had always heard "Day 3" was the worst, so I wasn't expecting it when it hit me a few hours later. That night was probably the worst I felt the entire time. It's much harder to chase down the nausea after it's already set in, then when you keep up with it so that night the medications basically didn't work at all.

This was the last of my four big AC treatments. Man, these were gnarly. Looking back I honestly don't know how I worked the week after each treatment, especially near the end. By the third and fourth treatment I was having a lot of issues with anticipatory nausea. Basically, my body started to realize what was coming so I would feel very sick before I even started. By treatment number four, I couldn't even look at those vials of the red devil. I couldn't watch the nurse push it into the IV cords. I just wanted to leave. I had to BLAST my music so I couldn't hear what was going on. I had to almost completely leave my body, go somewhere else mentally. I couldn't bare to think of that stuff coursing through my veins anymore. I couldn't bare to think of the smell of it as I sweated it out laying in bed. I couldn't bare the smells of the oncologist lobby, or of the alcohol wipes that were being used every time you turned around. I can't wear that little white hoodie anymore because it's what I wore to almost every treatment so they could easily access my port.

But you know what...

after all that...

the pictures on my phone now look like this...

They are proof that I am taking time out for MYSELF. 
I'm becoming a better person. Better friend. Better wife. Better mother. Better everything.

I'm facing my fears because my self confidence is building by the day.
I'm back to being me again. And maybe even a better version.

I'm having a ton of fun with my family. 
These are genuine smiles. Not fake ones. Or ones where I'm dying inside.

I'm happy. Like, stupid happy. 
Like, the happiest I've ever been.

I have big goals and big dreams for our family now. 
Not just goals of how much money I want to make in life.

I'm straightening out my priorities. 
They still may not be perfect yet, but I'm on the right track.

I'm focused on helping my family THRIVE. 
I'm no longer focused on just "making it through each day".

I'm focused on all the things we wanted to do before, but couldn't. 
Or that I couldn't truly enjoy.

So the next time that one of our posts seems "sales-y", just know that's not our intention. It's just a by-product of what has helped us get to this positive, happy, fulfilling place in life. We don't want to sell you. We just want to share what is working for us because if it worked for us, it can work for anyone.

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