#MyLeftBoob Breast Cancer Journey and Awareness Campaign

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Thanks for visiting! I’m Wendy, a 40-something-year-old wife and Mom of 3 kids and a rescue puppy named Sadie. And in February of 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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We’re a hard-working family of artists and musicians who work hard, play hard and laugh a lot. But on Feb. 4, 2015, World Cancer Day, we stopped laughing for a little while…..that’s the day my doctor told me the lump I found in my left breast was cancer. Since then our world has turned upside down and inside out. There have been more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride so if you like fast moving rides and high drama, buckle up.

On Feb. 17, 2015 I had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor. I thought I’d only have to have surgery and radiation, but after the biopsy my doctor told me I had a “very rare and aggressive type of cancer only 1% of women are diagnosed with called ‘Metaplastic Carcinoma.'” Meta-what? Oh, and I’m also Triple Negative which only occurs in 15% of women— double whammy. Both of these types have a higher recurrence rate than other cancers and require very aggressive treatment and careful follow-up.

As soon as I found the lump (while dying my fiery red hair), I knew the diagnosis had to be about something much more than just me. I was low risk, had no family history and get a mammogram each year since I turned 40, yet I still got cancer. So I began a #MyLeftBoob awareness campaign to remind people to do monthly self breast exams. Click here to read more.

This page will be updated as I chronicle my journey with wit, sass and heart.

 

~ WENDY’S BLOG POSTS ~ 

The most recent blog post is first. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read my story from the beginning of my diagnosis and share my website with someone whose life has been impacted by cancer.

#MyLeftBoob2017 is Celebrating 2 Years #CancerFree with a Benefit for Ann’s Place!

IMG_2739#MyLeftBoob is celebrating 2 years being cancer free with a musical celebration! Join us on Saturday, Feb. 11th at the Danbury Elks Club, 36 Sugar Hollow Rd., Danbury (Route 7), from 7 p.m. – 12 a.m. for live music, awesome food, raffle prizes and tons of fun! It’s all for a great cause!
From the day I was diagnosed with the evil “C’ word I’ve worked to raise awareness of self breast exams for early detection. I was low risk, went for a mammogram every year but got Metaplastic Carcinoma (MpBC), a rare, aggressive, fast-growing type of caner found in only 1% of women. I was lucky enough to have caught it early at Stage 1 while dying my hair (dropped hair dye on #MyLeftBoob felt the lump and the rest is history). Many women who get it don’t find MpBC until it’s at Stage 3 or 4. I’m also Triple Negative, something only 15% of women have, so I can’t be on any follow up meds. I say it’s kind of like walking on a tightrope in high heels with no net. It’s scary at times but as long as I stay balanced, keep my chin up and keep moving forward, everything will be okay!
After 16 weeks of dose dense “red devil” chemo, 30 rounds of radiation, 5 surgeries, 5 lumps and numerous complications, I’m happy to say I’m now 100% cancer free and planning the 2nd annual #MyLeftBoob celebration to raise funds for Ann’s Place a nonprofit that provides free services for cancer patients and their families. We’ll have live bands, delicious food prepared by Odeens BBQ, raffles by local bands and much more!
Bands include:
Traveling Danburys (featuring Tim Sheehan & John Perry of i95FM)
$2 Hat (featuring members of Future Tense)
The Knockoffs (featuring members of HED & Leadfoot)
Sugar Hollow Band (featuring Elks Club House Band)
Tickets are $25 each and include hors d’oeuvres, live music and one free raffle ticket. There is a cash bar. Proceeds will go to benefit Ann’s Place.
Raffle prizes include:

****THANK YOU**** to all of our sponsors, bands and volunteers!!!! Thanks to John Robertson of Create My DVD for filming!

To read my survivor story from the beginning visit:
To learn more about Ann’s Place visit:
For questions about this benefit or to donate a raffle prize, please contact wendyannmitchell@live.com or call/text (203) 501-7424.
Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased in person at Bach to Rock Music School, 15 Danbury Rd., Ridgefield or by going to PayPal.com and entering wendyannmitchell@live.com.
Image by Lisa Kosarko Sotero, Gruntled Design

#MyLeftBoob Breast Cancer Chronicles 2017: Out with the Old, In with the Boobs!

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Boobs— we know them, we love them and some of us, such as myself, can act like one from time to time. For anyone who has known me pre #MyLeftBoob cancer diagnosis, you might say I can be a bit coo-coo. I love hard, play hard, feel deep and pursue dreams and aspirations passionately. I am persistent and tenacious and (mostly) don’t give a crap what people think (unless I really care about you).

And for those who met me post evil “C” word, you might be thinking what a completely insane loony I am….. and you’d be right. In addition to recovering from the biggest, baddest type of “red devil” chemo, 30 treatments of radiation and five surgeries over the course of 18 months, having constant aches and pains in my joints, still struggling with exhaustion and roller coaster emotions, cancer patients can suffer from PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Pile on financial burdens, getting let go of a job you loved and worked hard at for nearly seven years, family and relationship issues with people close and I might have a teeny bit of a good reason to act like a boob. Heap on a few thick layers of insecurity from not having your once-fit body, hair, or eyebrows back, and you’d have the perfect recipe for one big, humongous hot mess. That’s me.

The holidays can be particularly emotional. People we call “family” don’t call anymore and it seems like they don’t care if you’re alive or dead. Those who were once so helpful and present while I was sick, bald and weak are now suddenly “forgetting” to invite us for Thanksgiving or are having Christmas with their “own family.”

Getting upset about this can lead depression, anger and a “valid excuse” to over drink and/or over medicate. And so the vicious cycle continues and repeats.

According to Cancer.net, it’s normal for cancer survivor to experience feelings of anxiety, worry, fear and dread.Cancer survivors who have PTSD risk developing depression, alcohol and/or drug abuse, eating disorders and loss of relationships and employment.  Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Avoiding places, events, people, or things that bring back bad memories
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drug or alcohol abuse
  • Frightening or unwanted thoughts

So how do cancer survivors deal with this anxiety, stress and fear on a regular basis? If we listen to our doctors, we pump ourselves full of Zoloft, Xanax and other anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants. Unfortunately these don’t mix well with alcohol and can make a person do and say crazy things….and then not remember them after….and then have to live through the next few days, weeks or months with embarrassment, humiliation and shame.

I said all that to say this— I’m sorry to anyone I hurt, annoyed or pissed off this past year. I’ve been struggling with a lot with my health, finances and relationships. My goal for 2017 is to try to be a better person, be more giving, more loving and more forgiving and to leave the past in the past. Unless you live in a vacuum, or Amish Country, you’d have to agree that most everyone shares the same sentiment about 2016- it SUCKED.

Personally, in 2016, I lost a strong and inspiring woman from my cancer support group who passed away after battling breast cancer and then stomach cancer ten years later. I lost a full-time job that helped pay for the mountains of hospital bills from Sloan Kettering and Danbury Hospital. And I lost a few people that are not worth keeping in my life anymore.

Whether they realize it or not, I’ve decided that it shouldn’t take so much effort to try to keep people around that don’t want to be. Life is short. A cancer patient faces that reality as they’ve stared death in the face and continue to do so over and over again.

I need to remind myself to count my blessings and appreciate all the good things I do have in this life. In 2016 I celebrated being one year cancer free on Feb. 17th, we celebrated my daughter’s “Sweet 16,” my son’s Star Wars themed 21st birthday, got a new house, a new job, moved to a wonderful new town with a great new school for my girl and made some amazing new friends.

Also, I’m cancer free! But yet I still feel like I’m being stalked by that the dreaded “R” word– recurrence– that keeps waiting to rear its ugly head. During my dark dance with cancer, faith, optimism and a good sense of humor helped get me through so why does the depression keep creeping in?

Dana Farber’s website states that it’s important to focus on wellness to stay as healthy as possible:

“Don’t blame yourself for your cancer. Some people believe that they got cancer because of something they did or did not do. This is usually not true—and you should not dwell on feeling this way. Remember, cancer can happen to anyone. You don’t need to be upbeat all the time. Many people say they want to have the freedom to give in to their feelings sometimes.”

I believe in the healing power of the stories we tell each other help us cope and not feel so alone. It’s never too late to start over, follow your dreams and be who you want to be. Life is short. Do what you love. Try, fail, try again, and if you fail again at least you won’t live with a giant cloud of “what ifs” lingering over your head. And who knows? Maybe you’ll succeed?!

These are my resolutions for 2017— work less, write more, cry less, laugh more, stress less, relax more, sit less, run more and find my ohm. Oh, yeah…..and try my best to stop acting like such a boob!

PS: Stay tuned to my blog for details on my 2-year cancer-free party on Feb. 11th and round 472 of my ongoing battle of the bulge….and scale…and kale.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Post War Wounds & Battle Scars

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Photo by Alan Barry

After a bloody battle, most warriors would lick their wounds, or at least clean them with hydrogen peroxide and slap a Band-Aid on and then move on with their lives, never looking back. Been there, done that, not going back. A cancer survivor has no choice but to keep looking back to see how far they’ve come, how much has changed and keep fighting— day in, day out, as the dark shadow, the “R” word (recurrence) hovers overhead, haunting our days and nights.

It’s been four months since I last updated this blog and since then I’ve had four more people reach out and tell me that they, or someone close to them, got the horrible news nobody ever wants to hear— you have cancer. One woman told me that she was so scared to hear not only did she have cancer but it was Metaplastic Carcinoma, a very rare, very aggressive “new” cancer (same as I had) and that she stumbled across this blog from a Google search. I’m so glad my writing is able to help others and let them know what to expect along the way.

I wish I could tell you that life goes back to normal after surgery, chemo and radiation, but it doesn’t. People who said they’d be there are not. People who were so scared that you might die and promised they’d make an effort to be in your lives break their commitments and carry on with their lives just like before you got the news. You’ll try to hold on to those who are there, sometimes a little too tight. You’ll try to live life to the fullest because life is short, you almost died and, heck! You beat cancer— this time. You’ll wish you could stop thinking about and talking about and writing about cancer but this is your new normal.

YOU ARE A SURVIVOR. You’ve been through WAR- you’ll tell yourself while being reminded daily as you look in the mirror that the scars are still there, on the flesh and deep down beneath. The battle rages on and most times it’s a battle in your mind.

Sure, neuropathy from ACT chemo comes and goes, your joints ache, your eyelashes and eyebrows aren’t as thick and full as they used to be. You’re exhausted and have major mood swings that makes everyone around you think you’re insane (you kind of are, learning how to hide that is key).

On the outside to someone who met you after the “C” word, you might seem crazy. But that’s okay. You’ve been through WAR. I’ve read that cancer patients can get PTSD because they’ve been through something so incredibly traumatic. Staring death in the face over and over is enough to make anyone go a bit crazy.

You get mistaken for a 40-something when you used to get mistaken for a 30-something. It’s because of the short hair, and tired look that never seems to go away.

Depressed yet? Don’t be. YOU CAN RISE ABOVE. It’s a choice. Through this almost 2-year-long fight, I’ve learned that I won’t base my feelings upon other’s actions (or inactions). I’ve learned to be thankful for those who are always here for me day in and day out, through all of my mood swings, ups and downs and craziness, and they still love me no matter what— my husband, my kids, my super sweet therapy dog Sadie, my cancer support group (that I haven’t been to in way too long) and a handful of friends.

The holidays can be particularly draining, especially when there are strained relationships with family members. You’ll rationalize in your head that  your whole family should be together, after all, you almost DIED! Don’t they care? The sad truth is, nope. Many do not. But that’s okay. Why waste your precious time and energy trying to fit a square peg in a round hole? Doesn’t fit. There are plenty more people out there just like you that have walked through the fire and came out the other side stronger, fiercer and full of moxie to take on anything life throws at them. After all, you almost DIED! And you kicked cancer’s ass! If the people around you who you think “should” appreciate that don’t, it’s their loss.

When I went to a strict Christian church years ago the preacher would always say that the “Us four and no more” mentality was wrong and selfish. I disagree. Sometimes that’s all there is (sometimes five for us). I’ve volunteered countless hours of time and money to help others in my community and to give back as my way of saying thanks for all I’ve been given. Whether you want to call it karma or reaping what you sow, being a good person and putting good out there into the world does come back to you. And if choosing to only surround myself with the four or five closest to me around the holidays helps me remain sane then so be it. I’ll be selfish for the sake of my sanity.

I’ve been so blessed with an outpouring of love and support from strangers-turned-friends from around the globe for which I’m so grateful. I was given a second chance in life and won’t take that for granted. Some of my warrior brothers and sisters are no longer with us and that is so unfair.

I think of my friend Pat Nagle who left us this past September after battling breast, then stomach cancer. She was always there for us, was a gentle, sweet soul and a huge encouragement through my cancer journey. Although I only knew her for less than two short years, Pat touched my heart in a tremendous way. No matter what she was going through physically or emotionally, she always managed to give  a word of encouragement and bring a sense of calm to our cancer support group. Pat was instrumental in me staying sane during difficult times by sharing the battle she fought. If she knew I was going in for chemo or surgery she would reach out and send me a quick note to let me know she was thinking and praying for me. I will miss her gentle spirit but I am glad she is no longer in any pain.

I think of Maria Fowler, an award-winning photo journalist for USA Today who welcomed me into an online support community for women with Metaplastic Carcinoma. It’s been one year since she passed away and many of her sisters are still struggling. We had plans to raise awareness for the little-known cancer that only 1% of women diagnosed get called Metaplastic Carcinoma. I was going to help her with her website, she was going to be filmed as our expert on the subject. Sadly neither happened. Life (and death) had other plans.

I don’t know why I’m still here and they are not but I do know that while I am here on this earth that I will make it my mission to help others through my writing and through reminding people to squeeze their boobs! Early detection does save lives, not all but many. If I hadn’t found the lump myself while dying my hair it could have progressed to stage 3 or 4 and spread. Thank God it didn’t.

When the fear tries to grip me at night I say a prayer and think of what my oncologist told me— “You caught it early, it’s stage one and hasn’t spread. You’re going to be fine!” I know that no one can predict the future and anything can happen. We’re not promised tomorrow or even today so we must love the ones we’re with an enjoy and be grateful for each day we’ve been given.

I know this sounded like two parts self-help with a dash of Hallmark card clichés but that’s my life now— sometimes sappy, many times goofy and crazy and always something to be grateful for. There have been many ups and downs, twists and turns and loop-dee-loops but I’m still strapped in with my hands inside of the car (most of the time). I hope that by my sharing my story it can help you or someone you know to feel that they are not alone.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: #Cancer 101— What to Expect When You’re Expecting the “C” Word

 

Hello! It’s been a while since I last updated this blog because life has been a  whirlwind— in a good way. I am now 100% CANCER FREE and on the road to recovery. Praise the Lord!

For those just joining me, I’m the mom of 3 awesome kids and an incredible rescue-turned-therapy puppy named Sadie. I’ve been married to the most amazing hubby a girl could ever ask for going on 22 years this August.

Just last week I celebrated one year post-chemo and I’m still waiting to feel “normal” again after fighting an 18-month long complicated, harsh battle with the evil “C’ word. Here’s what I looked like before “IT”……..

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In case you didn’t know, in January of 2015 life threw me a 99-mile-per hour curve ball and I was hit with “IT.” You know— the thing you never want to be hit with or told— “You have cancer.” I found the lump while dying my fiery red hair and from Day #1 I knew the diagnosis had to be about something much more than just me. So I began a #MyLeftBoob awareness campaign and began writing to remind people to do monthly self breast exams.

On Feb. 17, 2015 I had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor— Surgery #1. I thought I’d only have to do the one surgery and 6 weeks of radiation and be done with “IT” but after the biopsy my doctor said I had a “rare and aggressive type of cancer only 1% of women are diagnosed with called “Metaplastic Carcinoma.” And I’m also Triple Negative which only occurs in 15% of women. Both of these types have a higher recurrence rate than other cancers and require very aggressive treatment and careful follow-up.

Here’s what I looked like post-surgery #1 of 4 before I knew I had “the bad kind” of cancer……..

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There would be 3 more surgeries after this photo was taken, 16 weeks of dense dose ACT “red devil” chemo, 6 weeks, 30 treatments, of radiation, tons of complications and emergency room visits along with terrible side effects.

What I know now that I didn’t know then was that life will never return to “normal.” I can’t just wrap up my cancer, put it in a box on the top shelf of my closet, shut the door and forget about it. It is who I am and what makes me stronger, more grateful, more positive, more forgiving and less stressed about the little things that really don’t matter when looking at the big picture.

In the past few weeks I’ve had several people, some complete strangers, tell me they or someone they love have cancer and they don’t know what to do or how to stay positive. They came across my blog and asked for advice and “words of wisdom” to help get them through. I’m so glad I can help others and pay it forward for all the good I’ve been blessed with.

A woman who was recently diagnosed with endometrial cancer asked me— “How did you get into ‘Warrior Mode’ and stay strong throughout your fight?” The truth is, I wasn’t strong all the time. It’s because of an army of angels that I was able to keep moving forward. I tried to only write when I had something positive to share, but there were many times I wasn’t feeling so bright and shiny. There were some really low days and some nights I felt like I might not wake up after chemo kicked my butt HARD.

What Can You Expect When Expecting Treatment for the Evil “C” Word?

I can share what I went through but everyone’s cancer and everyone’s treatment is different. I heard someone say cancer is so common now it’s like getting a cold. If only it was that easy to deal with— pop a couple of Alka Seltzers, slug back some Nyquil and voila! You’re healed! Unfortunately it’s not quite that easy. Some warriors I met along the way will never be done with their treatment— those with Multiple Myeloma, those whose cancer is resistant to chemo, those who have to deal with it spreading and recurring…..for them it’s a  living hell every day.

What Can You Expect if Expecting the Red Devil?

They call it “red devil” chemo because it is actually bright red in color and feels like the devil has invaded your body. The stuff is so toxic the nurse who administers it comes all covered up in a hazmat suit, gloves and goggles. It takes (4) huge 6″ long, 1.2″ wide syringes to get the full dose and after the fact it literally turns your pee red. You can’t touch or hug anyone for 24 hours. Not fun.

What About Losing Your Hair?

It may sound vain but losing my hair was the hardest part. Since Bible times hair has been associated with strength (Sampson and Delilah) or beauty (Jezebel) and femininity. So losing it is a tough pill to swallow. It means everyone will now know you’re sick. They’ll look at your with pity.

There were some days I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t recognize the bloated, frail, hairless person staring back at me. The worst was last August after I just completed 16 weeks of chemo and had to get another lumpectomy for another abnormal lump found in #MyLeftBoob. This was that day, two days before our 21st wedding anniversary………

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Weak….hairless….nauseous….bloated but still alive and trying to squeeze out a little smile. I know I’m not special and hundreds of thousands of people go through this battle every day. But I feel I can use my writing to help others and I feel that is what I’m meant to do.

So what is my “Cancer 101” advice and tips for the newly diagnosed patient?

1. Put Your Blinders On

My doctor told me this and I wished I listened. People will say the dumbest things in the beginning. You have to have tunnel vision and focus on your treatment and taking it one day, sometimes one hour at a time and get through.

2. Don’t Check “Dr. Google”

Another thing the great Dr. Cooper advised— but the reporter in me naturally wanted to gather as much information about my type of cancer since many at Danbury Hospital hadn’t even heard of Metaplastic Carcinoma, only just discovered in 2000. A lot of the information online is scary…… and old. Your doctor knows best. Listen. Get a second or third opinion if you have to— especially if it’s rare.

3. Let It Go In One Ear and Out the Other

Everyone and their mother will try to give you advice, figure out how and why you got it and try to blame something or someone. They might even ask you— Did you take birth control pills? Did you smoke? Did you dye your hair a lot?

They will tell you— smoke pot, eat almonds, take oatmeal baths, rub coconut oil on it, buy these magic pills and it will cure you. If all of that could cure cancer thousands wouldn’t be dying each year. A nutritionist may have studied nutrition for 20 years but have they studied cancer for 20 years? No. But your doctor has. Listen and trust your gut.

4. Surround Yourself With Positive People and Get Support

Make it a point to only be surrounded by positive people who will lift you up, make you laugh, make you feel loved and supported. I went to a faith-based cancer support group at Walnut Hill Community Church.  Words can’t describe how grateful I am for their love, prayers and support. I also went to Ann’s Place which provides free therapy for cancer patients and their families— another amazing place  I can’t thank enough.

5. Start Journaling

Research has shown that a cancer patient who begins journaling does better in their treatment because they are less stressed. MD Anderson says on their website: “Journaling is one way patients can care for themselves. Writing down your thoughts gives you an opportunity to work out your feelings and emotions, which may help you relax and find reasons to be happier and more hopeful about the future.”

5. Make Time for Yourself

Get a massage, go to the beach, shut off the phone and take time for yourself. People you haven’t heard from for years, or even decades, will crawl out of the woodwork wanting to take you to lunch or a movie. Now is a time to be selfish, do what makes you happy and helps you relax. Time is precious. Choose to spend it with those who love and support you “in sickness and in health.”

6. Distract Yourself by Focusing on Others (or a project- or both)

While undergoing chemo I organized a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. It took a tremendous amount of time and energy to plan a 9-hour-long, 9-band concert, to coordinate schedules, round up volunteers and raffle prizes but in the end we raised $2,600 for the ACS. I also headed up a Relay for Life team as team captain for Wendy’s Warriors which was a great way to give back as my way of saying thank you for how many angels on earth helped me. Read about them here…

7. Cut the Negative Nellies & Ignore the Jealous Ones

People might actually get jealous of the attention, money and gifts you may receive. The ones who gave me a hard time over creating a GoFundMe page have never volunteered an hour in their life.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve been a volunteer for 15+ years and gladly do it to help those less fortunate, to be there for troubled teens or help my community heal in the aftermath of the tragedy in Sandy Hook by volunteering time and money to offer a free space to heal through the power of the arts. I was grateful to have faithful volunteers by my side that enabled us to provide a safe haven when it was needed most.

When I was learning gymnastics, my instructor used to tell me to do a somersault to look down, tuck my chin and roll and I look at fighting cancer the same way. Obstacles will cross your path in the form of people who “just want to help” and may not realize their version of “help” is actually hurting and stressing you out. People might get jealous and even tell you so and try to make you feel bad for asking for help. Just ignore them, tuck and roll.

 

8. Find Your Village and Let Them Help

It’s hard and embarrassing to ask for help. It takes a humble spirit to open your hands and ask, “Please?” And it takes a village, a small army, to nurse a cancer patient back to life after staring death in the face.  I’m so incredibly grateful that my village was ready, willing and able to support me each step of the way. I am blessed beyond words and only hope I can help half as much as I have been helped. I believe what goes around comes around. Do good for others and it will come back to you.

9. Get Info Warrior Mode

To get into “Warrior Mode” you will have to choose your weapons wisely—

  • Choose to fight obstacles with perseverance.
  • Choose to fight weakness with inner strength by feeding your spirit.
  • Choose to fight criticism with kindness.
  • Choose to fight fear with confessions of faith.
  • Choose to fight cancer with dignity, grace, thanksgiving and optimism.

I did and that’s how I got through, and continue to get through, the after effects of this horrific war.

I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy and would never dream of being jealous of someone who had to go through what I went through. I’ve been blessed beyond measure and am happy I’m still here to pay it forward and to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, I am a warrior— thanks to all of you!

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I had the opportunity to share my journey at Bethel’s Relay for Life a few months ago and hear the amazing stories of warrior sisters just like me who fought, or continue to fight the good fight. This is a club none of us ever wanted to be in and that’s why I feel it’s my duty to advocate for early detection since I was given a second chance. By the grace of God,  I’m still here. Some are not as fortunate.

Thank you so very much to everyone who was there for me every step of the way.

What are the Next Steps for Me?

With this type of cancer we don’t use the word “remission” due to the high recurrence rate. I must be diligent with follow-up which is why I’m now going to a “Functional Medicine” doctor to get my diet on track.

Because I’m Triple Negative, I can’t be on Tamoxifen so I describe my life now as walking a tightrope in high heels over the Empire State Building. I can look down and be afraid of falling off and plunging to my death, or I can put one foot in front of the other, take one step ahead and keep moving forward. I choose the latter.

If you know someone going through this battle feel free to send them to my blog. You can read from the beginning here if you scroll all the way down…..

https://wendipoprock.wordpress.com/myleftboob-breast-cancer-awareness-campaign/

Or they can email me at wendyannmitvhell@live.com.  Be well!

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Surgery #5, the Battle Continues

 

Surgery #5? Aren’t you DONE yet? Yes, I know that’s what you’re thinking. Imagine how I feel!

After a year of hell, I’m so ready to be done. Cancer is like war— a war on the body, mind and spirit and treatment doesn’t end the minute you’re done with chemo, surgery and radiation. For many like me, chronic pain, swelling, anxiety attacks and the fear of recurrence is something we have to learn to live with.

It’s been a few months since I’ve updated this blog so here’s what’s been happening since I last updated on Feb.2:

February:

David Bowie and later Prince, the legends and the bookends of my musical youth, passed away. Because David Bowie died of cancer and was a huge influence on me, being a weird goth kid, I knew I had to do something to honor him. I reconnected with old friends and we created a Bowie tribute band called Diamond Dogs…..

Photos courtesy of Lisa Weir or Autumn Photography

I celebrated one year cancer-free with friends, family, the wonderful people in my cancer support group and generous musicians who donated their time and talent to play for the benefit. It was a wonderful night, a celebration of life. I’m not sure exactly how much we raised since some sent donations directly to Ann’s Place, but I believe it was over $1,700. Thank you to all the generous donors, volunteers, bands, musicians and business owners who gave raffles and to everyone who came out to support me and Ann’s Place.

March:

My husband and I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Ball and had a shamrockin’ good time! Last year at this time I had just finished surgery and was just about to start 16 intense weeks of ACT dose dense chemo. What a difference a year makes.

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April:

I wrote and directed an original play based on Irish folklore called “The Princess and the Pirates.” It was a benefit for the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Foundation. The play was a success and we were able to raise funds for the foundation to help them fulfill their mission of keeping Irish culture alive in the community.

Last Week/Today:

I got a brain MRI and a shoulder MRI due to persistent headaches and shoulder pain. Of course any time a cancer survivor gets a new lump or pain we always think the same thought— “Oh no. What if it’s cancer?”

I got the results back today and am happy to say— Thank God it’s not cancer!

The brain MRI results said that the headaches were probably being caused by inflammation and my diet. The doctor said I need to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and change the position that I sit at the desk on the computer. But it’s not cancer. Good news!

The bad news is that the shoulder MRI results show I have a torn rotator cuff and will probably need surgery. Who knew you could actually injure yourself while dreaming? Apparently sleeping with my right arm over my head and chest for 9 months to protect the chemo port did a number on me and there are torn ligaments and a hole in my shoulder which is causing pain whenever I do basic things like get dressed, lift, scrub, work at my desk, etc.

Doc said I have a torn rotator cuff, tendonitis, bursitis….which is it doc? All three?  I tuned out when I heard the word “surgery.” I’m getting a second opinion just in case.

I’ve been going to an occupational therapist and a physical therapist 4x/week to help with the shoulder pain and lymphedema (swelling) in my left arm and hand.

My oncologist said early on that to prevent recurrence I need to do things to feed my body, soul/mind and spirit. I also need to keep stress levels down, avoid alcohol, animal fat and exercise for 30 minutes 5x/week.

Since the orthopedic doc said physical therapy won’t help the torn rotator cuff, at least now I’ll have my mornings back and can begin my 5-step plan to take control back of my body, soul and spirit!

Going Forward:

Step 1: Get my diet under control. I met with a doctor who believes the health/food connection to illness so that means listening to what my sister (who is a nutritionist) has been telling me all along. Check out her Core Nutrition website here and like Core on Facebook. Diets don’t work. It’s better to make small changes and think about what I’m putting into my body and why.

Plan this week:

  • Drink the required amount of water each day (take your weight, divide in half, that # is the amount of ounces of water per day you should drink)
  • Start each day with lukewarm lemon water and Celtic sea salt
  • Have a kale shake 3x a week

Step 2: Start walking and doing yoga. I got 2 walking buddies and a yoga buddy— now I just have to stick to the commitment, even when they can’t. All are working moms which can be crazy. I work full-time as well. Add a husband who works 2 jobs/nights to my mix (so I don’t have a lot of help driving the girl to activities), plus 2 part-time projects and way too many doctor appointments each week and I’m juuuuust about to go insane. I know the regular routine of walking and yoga will  help to “stop the insanity.”

Plan this week:

  • Walk for 30 minutes 3 days this week, increast to 4 next week, 5 the following week
  • Do yoga once this week, increase to 2 next week, 3 the following week

Step 3: Make time for church, spirituality, God. A nutritionist came to our cancer support group and shared a study about where the oldest living people in the world are and what they have in common. Of those 5 places it was noted that those who lived past 100 had a very strong spiritual life.

Plan this week:

  • Start each day with a daily devotion from the new book I received as a gift from a friend— Daily Peace, 365 Days of Renewal
  • Go to church on Sunday

Step 4: Make time for family. Self-explanatory and should be #1. Family is everything!

Step 5: Make time for FUN! I’ve been playing in my band again which is good for the soul. Music is a healer and scheduling time to do what I love will definitely help destress.

Now let’s see if I can stick to the 5 steps.

I’ll start blogging about my progress begining tomorrow. Cheer me on or give me  a virtual kick in the pants of you see me slacking.

#MyLeftBoob Is Almost One Year Cancer Free!

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It’s been a while since I’ve written an update and wanted to let you know I’m almost done with with this year-long fight! The final surgery to get the chemo “Power Port” removed is Feb. 2, 2016! Woo hoo!

In some ways it seems 2015 flew by and other times it seemed like it would never end. We started the year with a bang with a broken bed, oven and dryer in week 1, my middle son almost dying from a ruptured appendix and torn intestine in week 2 and 5 days in the hospital (thank God he is still here!), and then me finding “the lump” in week 3, the day he came off of bed rest from his surgery. It’s all in the rearview mirror now as we look forward to the future with optimism.

On Feb. 17, 2016 I’ll celebrate one year cancer-free with a big party in Bethel, CT on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. If you’re reading this, you’re invited! It’s a benefit for The Scotty Fund and Ann’s Place, two organizations that helped our family tremendously over the last year.

There will be dinner, cocktails, live music and a David Bowie tribute band! (R.I.P., Starman). We’ll post a Facebook event once bands and details are finalized, but please save the date! For more info, email wendyannmitchell@live.com.

Some people recently emailed, confused and wondering what happened after the last update? I’m still here! I spent 2 Tuesdays in December in the E.R.

On Dec. 4 I was admitted after having bad pain in #MyLeftBoob. When I felt another lump, my doctor felt I should get it scanned. Thank God it was not cancer (again!) and was just another side effect from the last surgery in August.

It’s a seroma- a collection liquid that forms sometimes after surgery. I’ll have it checked at the end of January to make sure it dissipates on its own. If not they will have to drain it.

The second time was exactly one week later for throbbing back pain in the middle of my spine. Because of the high recurrence rate of Metaplastic Carcinoma, my oncologist felt I should go and get an x-ray to make sure it wasn’t something serious.

After a CT scan, x-rays, blood work, EKG, etc. it was determined that I have early onset arthritis due to chemo. After breathing yet another HUGE sigh of relief I asked what I can do to stop the arthritis and the doctor replied, “Stop getting old!” Very funny. I did get a chuckle but realized many of these side effects (joint pain, back pain, hot flashes, tiredness) are something I have to learn to live with.

Part of writing here is therapy, some is to raise awareness for early detection and mostly I write to educate the many newly diagnosed people with cancer, and their families and caregivers, so they’ll know what to expect.

Now that treatment is almost done, many times if I suddenly get a hot flash or feel tired/achy, people ask why. I say it’s from treatment. Almost always the response is, “But I thought you were done with treatment?” Yes, technically I’m done with chemo and radiation but the symptoms don’t magically stop the minute chemo and radiation is over.

My doctor said it could take 6 – 12 months for all the harsh ACT (Adriamycin, Cytoxin and Taxol) chemo drugs and side effects to leave my system. While I may look somewhat normal, most days I don’t feel normal due to joint pain, sleepless nights and anxiety.

Here’s some information to help you better understand the conditions I still suffer, as many cancer patients do when treatment has ended, due to the side effects from chemo:

Chemo Brain:

“Research has shown that chemo can impact the thinking functions of the brain for up to 10 years after treatment. Some of the brain’s activities
are affected are concentration, memory, comprehension, and reasoning.” (Cancer.org)

Body Changes:

“Hot flashes at night and can disrupt sleep. This can cause mood changes and make it hard for to make decisions. You may feel tired or have trouble getting to sleep, getting up early, or getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. You may experience memory problems, depression, mood swings, and irritability.” (Dana-Farber.org)

Emotional Side Effects & PTSD:

“Some people with cancer may develop an anxiety disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although PTSD is most often associated with traumatic events such as war, sexual and physical attacks, natural disasters, and serious accidents, the disorder can also affect people with cancer. For example, a recent study found nearly one in four women newly diagnosed with breast cancer experienced PTSD.”

Many cancer patients will experience the same side effects months, or even years, after treatment. It’s been 6 months since the end of chemo and 3 months since radiation ended. I know I’ll get back to my “new normal” soon (and hopefully the gym) but I’m learning to listen to my body and rest when I need to…. which last weekend was 14 hours one day!

I’m happy to embrace 2016 with optimism, excitement and hope for more good things to come…. and more opportunities to pay it forward– especially with the benefit dinner/dance/concert on Feb. 26.

Thank you for your support, prayers and love. May 2016 be filled with all good things for you and yours.

Peace,
Wendy 🙂

*Pictured: Me & my medical oncologist, Dr. Robert Cooper, at his retirement party in Nov. 2015.*

Thanks to 1,001+ People Who Helped #MyLeftBoob #KickCancersButt

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“Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.”

~Alfred Painter

The end of the year is a time for reflection, a time look at resolutions made that weren’t keep and maybe a time to commit to do better next year. This blog post is by far the longest (3,000+ words) and took the most time to write (3 hours) but it is the least I could do for the love and support I’ve been given by all of you.

Looking back to last year at this time I was partying like a rock star and acting like I didn’t have a care in the world– all while an evil demon called cancer was secretly growing inside of #MyLeftBoob.

In early January before I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Metaplastic breast cancer, I knew “something” didn’t feel right in my body and began a rigorous clean eating and exercise plan. I eliminated alcohol, sugar, carbs, dairy and red meat from my diet and went to the gym 4-5 times a week but I still didn’t feel right. Little did I know that starting 2015 by being healthy was preparing me for the firestorm that was about to come just a few weeks later.

There are so many “what ifs” that make me feel someone up there was watching out for me.  If I hadn’t been dying my own hair instead of going to the salon like I usually did, I would not have dropped the Vampire Red Manic Panic hair dye on my left boob and felt the lump. If I hadn’t gone immediately to get it checked out it may have grown larger and progressed to Stage 2, 3 or 4.

I’m so grateful to be here and for the support showered upon me from Day #1. I didn’t feel I deserved it but you gave anyway. I felt awkward asking for help since I’m used to helping others through volunteering at The SHACK (Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids), the Irish Cultural Center and the churches I’ve been involved with over the last 10 years but when I got sick I had friends tell me “it’s your turn now.”

If you’re looking for a charity to donate to as 2015 comes to a close, I highly recommend donating to one of the ones marked with an *asterisk below. If you’d like to check any of these on Charity Navigator, click here.

*The Scotty Fund

The Scotty Fund is dedicated to providing financial support to children affected by cancer and their families. It was established in memory of Scotty Anderson who passed away from the disease when he was just three-years-old.  The Scotty Fund helped our family financially and provided dinners during treatment because I was too tired to cook. It was such a huge help to have the meals delivered which often included fresh cut flowers, a card with encouraging messages and homemade cookies. Words can’t express how grateful I am to this organization. In February 2016 I will be one year cancer-free and I’m planning a benefit for them as my way of paying it forward and saying thank you for all they’ve done. Stay tuned for more details on that.
*Swim Across the Sound (SWIM)

SWIM is a nonprofit that holds a swim marathon across the Long Island Sound and other events each year to help families touched by cancer. A friend who I met through my work in Sandy Hook after the tragic shootings introduced me to Kyle Lyddy, a huge supporter of SWIM. Kyle lost his father Tom to cancer and ever since had worked tirelessly to raise funds in his dad’s memory. Each year his family holds an event called Light Up the Point with proceeds going to SWIM. Kyle took it upon himself to introduce me to the SWIM folks who approved my application for help with rent and utilities. With over $30K in medical bills, this was such a huge blessing. Thank you Kyle, Maribeth and SWIM for helping relieve some of the stress associated with this horrible disease.

*Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center (GDICC)

The GDICC is dedicated to preserving Irish culture in the greater Danbury area through Irish language and music lessons, monthly sesuin and Irish dance. Over the last few years, I’ve volunteered to DJ kid’s Halloween and Christmas events and help with their website and marketing. When I became ill, the club held a fundraiser “Tip Night” for our family, which was a huge help to us. Thank you to Pam Fedigan for organizing, bartenders Pam, Abbey, Dean and Norm for donating tips and to all who contributed. We are so grateful!
*Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH)

The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians is one of those groups that do so many good things for the community but fly “under the radar.” I became a member in April 2014. Some of the charitable work they do include donating food and funds to help the needy in the Danbury area, donate to the Women’s Center, help teen moms, participate in Adopt-A-Family and so much more. They held a Ladies Tea last spring and donated all of the proceeds to help our family during our own time of need. Thank you so much to my sisters in green!

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*Bethel High School Sports Boosters, Grid Iron Football Team & Field Hockey Team

The sense of “community” our family felt during the fall season of field hockey was overwhelming. Each year the teams participate in “Play for the Cure” and donate funds to the American Cancer society. This year, the team decided to donate to “one of their own” – our family. My daughter is in her second year playing field hockey and we are so grateful that the pink games were dedicated to us this year. Families baked goods and donated funds from the proceeds of the bake sale and ticket sales to help us. Chick-fil-A and their cow also came and gave sandwiches to sell to contribute to our family fund. It was nice to have my sister Dawn there with me after she was gone for such a long time working on a yacht. The Grid Iron Football Team also decided to donate to us through their own fundraiser. We’re so grateful to the coaches, players, volunteers and all who contributed to help.

Chick-fil-A of Brookfield

In addition to donating sandwiches mentioned above, the owner of Chick-fil-A Brookfield also had one of her staff members bring a HUGE fresh-cooked dinner for us consisting of delicious chicken tenders and a gigantic salad. Devon and her team are one of the most giving, community-minded group of people I have the pleasure of knowing and I gladly support them in all of their endeavors.

Gilleoghan Irish Dance & Families

My daughter has been part of the Gilleoghan family since they came to Bethel in 2010. Anyone who has been a part of Irish dance knows the lessons, dresses, wigs, and feis (competition) can be costly. When I was diagnosed, the teachers not only comped her tuition, but also were there for me every step of the way for support. Mr. Philip even introduced me to a friend who is a Triple Negative breast cancer survivor and had many encouraging words for me. The kids made get well cards for me and the families drove my daughter back and forth to her lessons since I was too dizzy to drive. They all ensured she was able to participate in a sport she loves. Go raibh maith agat as do cineáltas!

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*Walnut Hill Community Church (WHCC)

We used to me members of this non-denominational Christian church but my husband wanted to go back to the Catholic Church, as that is how he was raised. When I was diagnosed, WHCC prayed for me and invited me to come to a monthly support group of other cancer patients and survivors. This was just the “medicine” I needed. The members of this group listened, prayed and instilled a sense of peace and calm into my spirit during the scariest moments of my life. I will be forever grateful for the spiritual medicine provided by this group of faith-filled believers and continue to keep all of them in my thoughts and prayers.
*Ann’s Place

While I didn’t take full advantage of all the free services this wonderful place has to offer to cancer patients and their families due to being so sick the last year, I was able to go a few times to reiki, yoga and a free therapy session. I know that once my treatment is done I am never truly done and will need lifelong support- mentally and physically. I’m glad to know they are here for me when I need them.

*Relay for Life Team – Wendy’s Warriors, bands, business sponsors and volunteers

There were SO many bands, volunteers, businesses and supporters that came together to help us raise over $2,600 for the American Cancer Society. I wish I could thank each one of you personally but I’m afraid I’d forget someone. Click here to see who helped and donated raffle prizes so you can support their businesses. Thank you!

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Gruntled Design

You may have noticed the cool cartoon-like logo of my face that we used for our t-shirts for Relay for Life’s Wendy’s Warriors team. They were designed by the uber talented Lisa Sotero, owner of Gruntled Designs. I went to Newtown High School with this amazingly talented artist and she donated her time and talent for our team. The buzz at the Relay for Life event was that everyone “just has to see these totally cool t-shirts!” Thank you Lisa!

Which leads me to…..

New Fairfield Press

I’ve known the owner of New Fairfield Press, John Parille, for over 15 years. I was his daughters’ youth mentor at a church we both used to attend. He is now the Pastor of Gaylordsville United Methodist Church and has been there for me every step of the way on my long, scary journey. John donated all of the programs for the children’s play I wrote, directed and produced at the GDICC. Not only that, but he gave me a discount on the printing cost of the t-shirts, using Lisa’s design. If you ever need business cards, t-shirts, banners or anything else printing related, I highly recommend this honest and giving businessman.

Laura Skutch, LMT

My friend Julie introduced me to Laura via email after learning of my back and neck pain. Laura offered me 3 free massage sessions and taught me that so much of the pain in my neck was due to stress. Stress can have a profound effect on the body and mind and my doctors have also told me that reducing stress is one of the best ways to prevent recurrence. Thank you Laura for your healing touch.

Attorney James Saraceni

Something a person never wants to think about is doing a Living Will. When I went for my first surgery back in February, Jim met my husband and me and explained the unimaginable in a calm, caring way that helped us more easily deal with difficult decisions. He donated his time and services to us, just as he did when I was running the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids. Thank you Jim for your giving heart.

The Maids of Brookfield

A friend told me about this wonderful company that donated through Cleaning for a Reason. The Maids donated their services to clean out house, free of charge, four times while I was going through chemo. It was so nice to be able to have my house cleaned, as I did not have the energy to do it myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Shine Salon of Ridgefield

A friend I went to high school with in Bethel said that although she wasn’t commenting, she was quietly following along in my journey and wanted to give me a free day of beauty at the salon she works at. Along with the owner and her co-workers, they organized and donated a free day of beauty to me and I was pampered from head to toe- manicure, pedicure, facial, reiki, massage, haircut and color. Thank you to the entire staff for making me feel like a princess for a day.

Salon Kamala – Bethel

My sister Becky owns this salon and she has been there for me for all of my hair cutting (and coloring) needs. She also did a month-long fundraiser and donated to our Relay for Life team. Thanks Becky for always making me smile and for your support.

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Bethel Day Spa

After reading about my horrible experience at another Bethel nail salon I’d frequented for years, the owner of Bethel Day Spa came to our Relay for Life benefit and presented me with a $50 gift certificate to her place. I have yet to use it but I was so thankful for her going out of her way to let me know that she would never discriminate against a cancer patient the way Toe Toe Nails did. Read more here.

Figs Wood Fired Bistro

I met the owner of Figs when I had The SHACK in Sandy Hook center. She said she was reading my blog and one post in particular touched her heart, the one where I wrote about practicing real love. A charity she supports, The Ana Grace Project, uses the phrase “Love Wins” as their motto because it was the family motto of the founders. Ana Grace was only 6 when her life was cut short in the Sandy Hook School shootings. After reading my blog post, Figs’ owner said she felt compelled to offer a free dinner for our family, along with a beautiful card, yummy dinner and a special necklace, which I wear often that says “Love Wins.” Yes it does.

Bethel Fitness and Wellness

Tracy DeLuise welcomed me with open arms and offered her gym to me, free of charge as I healed. Tracy texted and sent encouraging messages to help me get back to the basics of working out- starting slow, listening to my body and not over doing it. Thank you Tracy for offering me a safe, supportive place to get my health back on track.

Occasions

Gail the owner helped me find the perfect gown for the St. Patrick’s Day ball, just a few weeks after my first lumpectomy surgery. She discounted the dress so could go to the ball feeling like a queen.

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Mary Kay by Liz Rosiello

One of my theater student families nominated me for a free chemo care package with Liz hand-delivered to my house. The package included lip balm, moisturizer and cleanser, which was a great way to pamper myself during treatment.

Alan Barry Photography

Alan did a free photo shoot right before I began chemo to document the start of my journey. While he’s used to working with perfectly fit models and celebrities like Martha Stewart, Kim Kardashian and P. Diddy, he made me feel very comfortable and the pictures came out beautiful. Check out his website here.

Rachel Marie Artistry

Rachel did the first round of makeup for the photo shot, free of charge. Thanks Rachel for your professionalism and support.

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Taylor Dombroski Makeup

Taylor did my makeup and set design for the above mentioned photo shoot and helped to make me feel comfortable as well. I’ve known Taylor since she and my son have been friends for 6 (?) years through school. She is very talented and has a huge following on Instagram: @hold_on_til_may

r Media

Alicia and Renato filmed the beginning of my journey in the hope that we will one day turn it into a documentary to raise awareness  and funds for Metaplastic Carcinoma (MpBC) research, a highly aggressive disease with a high recurrence rate. Unfortunately the woman I was hoping to collaborate with on this project, Maria Becker Fowler, sadly passed away just last month at the way too young age of 51. She was a huge advocate for MpBC research, a fellow journalist with USA Today and was on the Board of the Elizabeth Smider Foundation. Maria was one of the first women to reach out to me after she came across my blog and I’m so glad to have known her but so sad she is not here after battling so hard for 3 years. I’m not sure where the documentary stands at this point but I’m thankful they got a lot of that important footage on film and hope we can make it into something one day.

My Left Boob Donors on GoFundMe.com/MyLeftBoob

Thank you also to my family for cooking meals- Mom, Denise, Cheryl, Sherri, Debbie, Shari, Dawn, driving kids and being there for me…sorry if I’m forgetting anyone- chemo brain!

Thanks to my prayer warriors Michele, Sherri, Pastor John and Pastor Karen for praying and calming me down every time I got a new lump or bump or was scared.

Thanks to my doctors: Dr. Cooper, Staradub, Hall, Sanghavi, Sandhu, Dr. Lake at Sloan Kettering, Nurse Nancy and other chemo nurses and staff of Danbury Hospital for the incredible services you provided.

And a huge thanks to the angels who sat with me all day for 7-8 hours when I got chemo: Pastor Karen, my sister-in-law Sherri twice, my sister Shari, my brother Dennis, my son Cullen, my sister Debbie, my husband twice for chemo, every surgery and about a zillion doctor appointments. I know it must have been hard to sit and watch while I was so sick but your love and support made it so much easier.

I could not end this blog post without thanking my husband, my rock, my self-taught therapy rescue puppy Sadie who never left my side and my kids- Dillon for always making me laugh, Ruby for helping with chores and always telling me I am beautiful no matter what and Cullen who was my #2 caregiver when the hubs was busy working 2 jobs. Cullen drove me to chemo, drove me to get the Neulasta shots the next day, sat with me for 8 hours while I got chemo drugs pumped through my veins and was there for me for anything I needed.

While all of that must have been so scary to watch their mom go through, my kids never showed their fear and were all such pillars of strength for me when I needed it. I can start a whole new blog post about how amazing my husband and kids are but it would take at least a month to write.

There are not enough words to describe the amount of gratitude I have for everyone who helped me walk through this fire virtually unscathed. Just as a diamond is put through the pressure, cutting, purifying and polishing by a jeweler to show its true beauty, I feel that everything I went through has helped me to leave the junk, the old me, the impurities behind and I’m not able to be the best version of myself I can be,

I know I still have a lot of work to do, physically, emotionally and spiritually, but as I’ve said before, I feel as if I’ve been given a second chance in life and I won’t squander it.

I will continue to raise awareness for early detection to help others. I am so fortunate, blessed and grateful to have found the lump while it was only Stage 1 and had not spread to my lymph nodes. And I’m firmly believing in faith that it won’t come back because of the 16 weeks of dense dose ACT chemo and 30 radiation treatments I went through and because we got it early.

I believe I’m here for a reason and I am not a statistic. I can use my writing to help others remember to do self exams so they have a fighting chance. Yes, I know early detection doesn’t help everyone (which is so unfair) but it does help a lot and for that reason I won’t be silent. I can use my life, my survivor story and my voice to help others.

Thank you all!

#MyLeftBoob Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

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“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

~Charles Dickens

I’ve met a lot of boobs in my life and I’ve certainly been a boob a time or two hundred myself. Since enduring this year of hell battling Metaplastic breast cancer, I’ve learned none of that matters. What matters is focusing on here and now, people who love and support me and those who say they want to be in my life and actually are.

So why am I going to visit the ghosts of Christmases past? Because sometimes those ghosts resurface and try to haunt me, pull me down to their level and try to make me walk with them on their scary path.

I also visit these ghosts to show you that no matter how dark you may feel, there is good in the world. You can find it too if you change your perspective. There is gunk that can attempt to cloud your vision, just wipe it away and focus on good people and doing good things and your days can be merry and bright! (<– Sap alert! I should be a writer for The Hallmark Channel!)

I have a love/hate relationship with Time Hop (an app) because it reminds me at this time last year of what an ass I was many times and also how I was knee deep in a big old s#*t storm and had no idea the hell I was about to go through just a few weeks after Christmas 2014, a “celebration” devoid of any holiday spirit.

Forgive me family and friends, for I have sinned, but I’m certainly not the only one. The difference between you and me is that I actually apologized…even when at times I wasn’t wrong, because that’s what mature people do to make peace. That’s what people who call themselves Christians or Catholics are supposed to do. Some still have not. I can’t make them. I can only try to be the best version of myself I can be.

I boycotted some Christmas celebrations last year because I let someone get the best of me.  I lost a couple of friends and gained a foe. I sent an angry drunk text after being provoked by someone who misunderstood my attempt at making peace and threatened me. I apologized. They still have not. I deleted people from Facebook and removed some from my life who were important to me and some who I thought were. I tiptoed on a high wire 500 feet in the air with no balancing stick. I wrote a trashy novel and lived vicariously through my main character drinking her signature drink, an Orange Tundra. I almost got myself fired….twice. I said a few dozen Hail Marys and even more Our Fathers.

Most of that was due to an evil spirit called alcohol.

Booze has not been a part of my life since March 8, 2014 and I’m better for it. Alcohol clouds perspective, encourages danger, impairs judgement, makes people say stupid things and leaves a trail of tears so deep, you may be forced to give up your territory and migrate to another area due to its devastating effects. And sometimes it ruins Christmas.

Although hooch hasn’t been part of my life in nearly a year, thanks to another evil demon called breast cancer, unfortunately it is still a big part of the lives of people I have to come into close contact with– some of whom have tainted others’ views of me due to gossip and lies, some of whom have made awkward situations even more unbearable and forced me to go play with two-year-olds rather than face the 800-pound elephant in the room.

So who are these ghosts that have crept up to remind me this Christmas of how blessed I am, that I’ve been given a second chance and I don’t have to be like them or like my old self?

Meet the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Ghost #1 – The Martyr

I encountered this ghost a few times this holiday season. This person claimed to be a good friend but was nonexistent during my breast cancer treatment. I had complete strangers-turned-friends donate, cook dinner and send cards and gifts, yet this “friend” didn’t bother to call, text or email once in 9 months. When she did finally text the day after I was done with chemo and radiation she told me her therapist said I was “toxic” for not being there for her to listen to the drama of her current, ex or future abusive husbands. Sorry hun, I was too busy fighting for my life. Did she remember to tell her therapist I was battling a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer? Probably not. The difference between her and me is that she chose to have these men in her life. I didn’t choose to have breast cancer in my life.

Ghost #2 – Metaplastic, Triple Negative Breast Cancer

This is a ghost I hope never to have to come into contact with again. It will try to haunt me when I go for my 3 month follow-up visits over the next 5 years, when I get tests and scans hoping it didn’t rear its ugly head and when I hear of others “losing their battle” to the disease, a term I loathe. If they fought hard and didn’t give up, they won.  I will continue to look to the the present and the future with my head held high- proud of my valiant fight. There is nothing I did to deserve to be given a second chance in life. There are so many others who passed away and shouldn’t have– strong, brave women who left behind heartbroken sons, daughters, husbands, brothers, sisters and parents. It’s not fair. I don’t know why they died and I didn’t but I do know I’m here for a purpose and that I’m supposed to use my writing for something good. My goal for 2016 is to try to figure out how exactly to do that.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Ghost #3 – The Befuddled

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Befuddled/Dizzy/Woozy: This ghost comes in many forms, mainly alcohol. I run into it at parties, gatherings of family and friends and work-related functions. This ghost hurts, name calls, spreads lies to make others think poorly of me and tries to ruin my reputation. The Befuddled is often disguised as an inebriated person who shares amusing anecdotes, makes folks laugh by putting others down and embellishes stories to make them much juicier. But what they don’t see is now gross they look at the end of the night when they’re nodding off in public, passing out with their face in their cake or incoherent while trying to carry on a normal conversation. Deep down they’re the one who needs help or they wouldn’t be drinking themselves into oblivion.

Befuddled/Confused: Sometimes The Befuddled come in the form of a confused zealot who is so obsessed with their own beliefs that they can’t respect someone else’s. While fighting for my life, a few of them called me a showboater, a narcissist, defensive, negative and immature….all because I disagreed with their way of fighting cancer, a disease they never had. All because I chose to listen to my doctors. How dare me! Thank God and my doctors that I am still here to tell you this: Nobody has the right to tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. Even if they think they’ve gone through the “same” thing. Even if they think rubbing coconut oil on your boobs three times a day while eating almonds, smoking weed, juicing wheat grass and doing the downward dog will save your life. No two cancers are alike just as no two people are alike.

I was recently told by one of The Befuddled not to write about them on Facebook or any other public platform. Well guess what?

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My doctors told me that reducing stress is one of the best ways to prevent cancer recurrence and writing is a huge stress reliever. So anytime the ghosts of Christmas past and present try to haunt me, instead of downing an Orange Tundra, I write. It’s way less dangerous for the environment and has much fewer casualties.

And who knew blogging could save a life? #MyLeftBoob did and I won’t stop writing just because an angry ghost or two is embarrassed because they’ve been forced to look in the mirror. Anger and drunkenness doesn’t look so cute under those 100 watt vanity lights now does it?

The Ghosts of Christmas Future

Ghost #4 – The Flake

This ghost floats in and out of my life, every time promising things will be different, promising they’ll be there and spend more time with me in the future, but they’re not and they don’t and that’s okay. Deep down we always hope people we care about will change but sometimes they don’t so we have to. This ghost has their own demons they’ve never dealt with. But being treated poorly in the past should not be used as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. So how do we deal with The Flake who floats hither and thither on another plane entirely? Just think of them like a beautiful hummingbird, always moving quickly on to the next big thing.

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Photo by Bill Gracey via Flickr Creative Commons

From Wild Birds Unlimited:

“Hummingbirds are very small birds. A great deal of energy is spent flying, so they must feed almost constantly. Hummingbirds are able to perch and will do so at feeders regularly. Because they fly so much, they have poorly developed feet. They can barely walk at all. The hummingbird is much more comfortable in flight.”

Just as hummingbirds have poorly developed feet from lack of landing, The Flake has poorly developed relationships from lack of being grounded. Enjoy their beauty when they land, if only for a moment, and wish them well as they fly away once again.

Maybe you have people like these ghosts in your life. They could be your family, friends or co-workers.  Maybe you can relate to what I went through or what I’m still going through. I’ve changed for the better but some people, unfortunately, have not. What matters now is how I react (and learn not to react) to them.

I know some will say I dwell on the past but I don’t. I use it to learn from so I don’t get hurt again- https://www.youtube.com/embed/dZfGTL2PY3E“>

Just like Rafiki said to Simba in one of my favorite stories, The Lion King.

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Moving past these hauntings can be done by looking at our ghosts in the light of day. No amount of gingerbread cookies and eggnog can bring happiness to a person determined to cling to their ‘Bah, Humbug’ past and  conversely, nobody can steal the joy of the season if you don’t let them.

I hope this post has helped some of you heal as I am healing- physically from the battle I went through, emotionally from mini-wars along the way, and spiritually as I learn, grow and mature and think about what is truly important in life- God, family, a few friends I’m lucky enough to have and doing good for others.

May your 2016 be blessed with all good things!

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: A Smile is a Gift

 

I haven’t updated the blog in a while but here are my last two posts from my GoFundMe page. I decided to keep it up not to beg for money, but to show a year in the life of a cancer patient to those who may not follow this blog.

The picture you see here is me finally feeling well enough to take my middle son to NYC for his 20th birthday. We spent an awesome family day together and walked and walked and walked, something I could not have done a few months ago, and for that I’m grateful.

My battle began January 22, 2015 when I found the lump while dying my fiery red hair. The rest of the months and days have been a whirlwind, a roller coaster ride, and I’m still waiting until I can get off. There have been twists and turns, hills and valleys but thankfully I’ve had someone holding my hand every step of the way. And I’ve had so many cheering me on from the sidelines. And for that I say a most heartfelt thank you.

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Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, 3:40 a.m.

Last Tuesday I was admitted into Danbury Hospital’s emergency room for the 4th time in the last year. Do I get a plaque yet? I was having pain in my chest at the port site and shortness of breath for a few days. So my oncologist said I should go to get checked immediately to make sure it was not a blood clot.

Blood clot? The thought had not even crossed my mind. I was thinking “recurrence, lung cancer,” not blood clot. One more thing to add to the slush pile. Yes, unsolicited thoughts being sent to my already overloaded brain.

After 4 hours in the E.R., a CT scan, EKG, blood work, vitals, checking for blood clots it turned out that the sore chest was because my puppy jumped directly on my chest in a fit of exuberance upon my return home 2 days prior. And the shortness of breath was likely anxiety attacks.

One of the sweet women in my Metaplastic Caner support groups recently passed away at the way too young age of 51. She was a wonderful, funny, vibrant advocate for this type of rare cancer and one of the first people who reached out to me and calmed my fears when I was first diagnosed. She touched thousands of lives and was taken far too soon and it is very troubling because she was an expert.

Another amazing, fierce fighter I know has recurrence in her lungs after a 10 year battle and one gentleman I know through my journey has had recent recurrence after being cancer free for 10 years. Both are strong, faith-filled fighters.

I am only not even one year out yet and have had complication after complication. How do I stay strong and positive and healthy if these knowledgeable advocates and warriors are still battling? This is what keeps me up at night and why I write- partially for you, my supporters, partially for those who are currently fighting, but a lot of it is for me so I can remind myself:

1) I am not alone
2) I will get through it
3) There are blessings around every corner

Some of those blessings this week include:

~My middle son who just turned 20. We celebrated is birthday in NYC yesterday and had an awesome day. I am blessed that he has taken such good care of me during my battle, driving me to chemo, helping drive his sister around and so much more. And he never complained once.

~Shine Salon in Ridgefield who gave me a free day of beauty after reading my blog and saying they were inspired and wanted to pamper me because of all that I’ve been through. Thank you so much to Erin, Stacey, Carrie, Ryan, Orlinda and staff for your generosity. I truly felt like a princess!

~BHS Sports Boosters/Grin Iron Team who presented me with a check for $300. The woman who organized the fundraiser said they read about my story and, rathe than donate all the funds to the American Cancer Society, wanted to help a local family. Thank you! We are so grateful!

~My new editor who is getting the book I wrote last year pitch ready for sending to agents. We were supposed to do it last year before the evil C word temporarily knocked me down. I’m back up now and ready to rock and know that 2016 has awesome things in store!

~The kind fellow who gave us 4 free train tickets. The hubs said it worked out that was because I volunteered to do kid’s crafts that morning (even though I was exhausted) so God blessed us for it. Thank you!

~And last but not least, I am grateful this week and every week for my amazing family, Ruby, Cullen, Dillon and my husband who have been there for me every step of the way offering physical and emotional support, prayers and so much more. My hope is for lots more pain-free family fun like we had this weekend- getting our fresh-cut Christmas tree at the farm, seeing the humungous tree at Rockefeller Center and celebrating lots more birthdays.

In a few hours I’ll go back to Danbury Hospital for the umteenth time for more follow-up and more testing. The E.R. doc was concerned that I’m still in pain in #MyLeftBoob 4 months after surgery. My surgeon said I could be in pain for up to a year later but my oncologist is concerned enough to have me come back in for an exam, radiology follow-up, ultrasound and whatever else. And hopefully they’ll say it’s just fluid build-up or scar tissue because I’ve had enough! Ain’t nobody got time for this!

I will leave you with this: One of the feisty red-haired ladies who battled the evil demon not once, but twice said she has been doing the “Cancer Dance” for years. At first that pissed me off. Dancing is supposed to be fun and freeing. How is dancing with cancer enjoyable? But then I recently was reminded of a song that made it all clear…..

Warning: Atheists/Agnostics can check out now…

A woman who prayed with me 15 years ago passed away from cancer a few years back. I was in a band with her daughter and we worked at a Christian school together. Her daughter shared a song with me by Israel Houghton called “With Long Life” which is based upon a promise God gave His believers in Psalm 91. “With long life I will satisfy you and show you my salvation.”

I put the song on over the weekend and my spirit leapt and danced on the inside of me. THIS was the Cancer Dance- one step forward, two steps back, it was the Cha Cha! I knew my friend, the wise woman who prayed with me, sent that song to my spirit so I would be encouraged. And I was.

Yes, sometimes cancer can knock me down and make me feel like I’m going backwards but as long as I keep moving forward, even if it is only in my spirit, I WIN!

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Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 – 2:40 a.m.

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” ~Kak Sri

I am beyond grateful for the most recent test results that came in and I’m happy to share some good news! The lump was not cancer! It wasn’t “nothing” but it wasn’t the “bad thing” that every cancer patient worries about, thank God!

I went to my oncologist last week who definitely felt a lump (#4 if you’re counting) and she sent me immediately to get an ultrasound. I was laying there thinking about the first time I saw the first lump in January 2015. Here we were almost a year later and here I was again, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When the ultrasound tech rolled over the spot on #MyLeftBoob there it was again, another black spot. My heart sank. I tried to read her face and she didn’t look worried. This dark spot looked more like a long jellybean than a misshaped quarter with a scraggly tail. I breathed a huge sign of relief when the tech told me it was just a “seroma,” a mass of fluid that forms sometimes after surgery.

I asked how she can tell the difference between a seroma and a lump to be concerned about and she explained it was due to the shape and how it felt. So far the last 2 times I went to the doctor I received good news- no blood clots and no cancerous lumps.

I’m hoping 3’s a charm because the latest pain is in my back. I have another follow-up visit on the 21st and will ask the doctor once again to check this new pain. The hardest part of battling cancer is the battle of the mind, the fear of recurrence and trying not to think every ache or pain is a new type of cancer. I know many women who have fought two, three and sometimes four times and wonder how they can be so brave.

In the last few weeks two beautiful, strong women have passed away from cancer after both waging long and fierce battles. One was 51 and had the type I was diagnosed with- Metaplastic Carcinoma. It came back and spread to her spine. She fought for 3 years.

The other woman was 79 and battled for 7 years. She had ovarian cancer and left behind an amazing legacy in her 5 children.

Both women had such strength, grace and dignity in the face of adversity and left their mark on the world and on other women who are still fighting, myself included. I will always be grateful for their positive attitudes and the examples they set for others.

Fighting cancer is a full-time job and it’s not over the instant treatment is “done.” As we’ve seen so many times, it can come back and symptoms can linger–symptoms like numbness from neuropathy which I still suffer from, pain in the joints which I still have and extreme fatigue which I battle daily.

Trying to juggle the stress of working at the full-time job that pays some of my bills and work at fighting cancer while balancing doctors appointments and family time is definitely a challenge. But I know there is an end in sight, hopefully in the very near future.

Never in a million years did I think I would be in this position of being a cancer patient, fighter and advocate but I know that I can and will use my writing to raise awareness for early detection and the power of prayer and positive thinking.

I know there are some women out there who get mad or upset when they hear people like me “preaching” about early detection because it didn’t save their sister, mother, daughter or friend, but it does save many many lives, including mine. So I can’t be silent about it.

My heart breaks for those whose lives were robbed from us, for those who found their cancer fairly early at Stage 2 and they still passed away. It’s so unfair and that is why I must continue to encourage people to check themselves regularly, because for so many it does matter.

My life will never be the same but I feel that is a good thing. In a way I can say that cancer saved my life, saved some very important relationships and it gave me a purpose. I have a new perspective, a newfound appreciation for so many and a sense of gratitude I never imagined I could feel.

I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of love and support I’ve received along this journey and I promise to make my life matter. I won’t squander this second chance I’ve been given. I will work to help others, to support fellow warriors and show women that they can get through it too.

For the two special warrior sisters who are going through treatment right now– I’m praying for you daily. Stay strong. You will get through this.

To everyone who has loved and supported me along the way, I could never thank you enough. Life is a gift.

Yesterday was the three year anniversary of the most horrific tragedy our nation has ever seen, the Sandy Hook School shootings. 26 innocent lives were ripped away from this earth by a tortured soul and thousands of others who lived through it, lost a loved one or are living with someone who was affected will never be the same.

I struggle with the right words to say or the right thing to do to honor the precious lives lost. After the tragedy I had the honor of opening a nonprofit that helped families heal through the power of the arts called the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids, the SHACK. It has since closed due to lack of funding but I still carry fond memories of those we were able to help in the months immediately following that day.

I met a few of the parents who lost children and am amazed by the grace and astonishing dignity they’ve shown. Their children and loved ones did not die in vain because the message they share is causing The Butterfly Effect and it will change the world. Their message sounds simple but what would happen if we all truly chose to live by these words? Love Wins, Be Kind, Choose Love.

Being kind could be as simple as a smile for those who need strength, for those who need love. This smile is for you.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” ~Mother Teresa

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Journey: Fighting An Invisible Battle In My Mind

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“”If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.” ~Lance Armstrong

I choose the latter.

It’s Thursday, Nov. 17, 3:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep again. I’ve heard people say fighting cancer is like being in a war zone. Just when you think the battle is over, another attack comes. Shards of shrapnel fly at you burrowing just under the surface, causing twinges of pain depending on which way you’re positioned. You think you may die….you have another pain in your head, your chest, you have indigestion, is that bad? What does Google say….uh oh, more cancer…..you feel another lump….is it back? No. I can’t go down this road again. But those thoughts are our reality each day.

I can’t wait to get through an entire day without thinking about it, without talking about it. I was so proud that I got through my new writers group without talking or writing about it. But I know sometimes I must. I continue to write and update because I get so many lovely messages from readers, many of whom I don’t know that say- “Me too. Thank you for sharing.”

It’s been 5 weeks since radiation ended and 4 months since chemo ended. To look at me you’d think I’m back to “normal.” I fight through the tiredness and pain.

It’s been said that people who go though cancer treatment can experience PTSD. I wouldn’t say I have that but I’m definitely not back to normal. I still battle fatigue, hot flashes, neuropathy, twinges of pain at the surgery site and roller coaster emotions. But most of all I battle those darn thoughts spinning around in my head.

The people around me, my boss, my co-workers, friends, acquaintances and extended family act like everything is miraculously okay, “now that treatment is over” but it’s not. I still have one more surgery in 2-3 weeks (my 4th) to get the chemo port removed, one more time I will go under anesthesia and then the knife and hope everything goes okay, one more day, or week of pain. I’m still “in treatment” and will be until we know this evil demon is gone for good. I’ll still go to doctor’s appointments every three months for the next few years until I reach the “Magic 5” when I’m cancer free and chances are slim to none it won’t return. Until then it’s a crap shoot.

So I do everything the doctors at Sloan Kettering and Danbury Hospital tell me to do….almost. They say to prevent recurrence I need to:

1. Avoid alcohol
2. Avoid animal fat and processed meat
3. Exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes
4. Keep stress levels down

I’m doing really well with #1-3 but I’m having a hard time with #4, especially working very long days in a fast-paced, deadline oriented job. Thankfully my bosses are understanding and I do my best but I still worry about the $30K in unpaid doctor bills.

And then something good happens…. a nice person reads my story and shares info about a charity that can help me….SWIM Across the Sound pays one month’s rent and one month’s electric bill. And I worry less and breathe a big sigh of relief. THANK YOU SWIM! Thank you Kyle! You’ve helped reduce my stress.

So what else can I do to help with #4? Go to yoga. See a play. Laugh! Play music. Don’t lose my sense of humor. Do things I enjoy, says my favorite now-retired Dr. Cooper who is being honored this evening. And then I remember what he said at one of my first visits: “You’re only Stage 1, it was all contained to one duct, it didn’t spread to your lymph nodes…….

” YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE.”

And I have to believe that. And my hope is that you will be too. If you are fighting, keep going! It will get better. The more you focus on others the less you think about yourself. This is why participating in Relay for Life & raising $2,600 for the American Cancer Society during chemo was so good for me. It took the focus off myself. It made me remember there are SO many out there fighting this nasty disease….the disease that doesn’t care if you’re young or old, fat or thin, black or white, Catholic or Jewish, vegetarian or carnivore, runner or couch potato– It touches all of us.

This is why I continue to write– to show how those of us in the “Cancer Club” really feel, to educate people and raise awareness for early detection. Maybe your loved one will have to go through it and you’ll be more prepared to help and encourage them along their journey.

Cancer is not just about pink ribbons during the month of October. It’s about people from all walks of life every day who have the misfortune of hearing those three awful words, “You have cancer.” I use my writing to help others and to make a difference in this fight.

There may be two women in particular who are much more private in their breast cancer battle and I want you to know that I pray for you all the time and can’t wait until you’re on the other side with me in the survivor’s seats, cheering others on in their fight. Stay strong!!!!

I’ll update again when I know when my next, and hopefully last, surgery will be.

Today begins 26 Days of Kindness, in memory of the 26 angels who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook School shootings. Please remember to do something nice for someone today. Day 1 honors Jessica Rekos, a 6-year-old who loved horses and whales. Search “26 Days of Kindness” on Facebook to see the rest of the dedications.  Click here to read more about the victims.

Be kind. Choose love. All lives matter.

Click here to support #MyLeftBoob breast cancer battle.

#MyLeftBoob Breast Cancer 201: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” ~Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life

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Tonight, as I sit here coughing with a bright red nose like Rudolph, I’m reminding myself to focus on the GOOD among the bad and the ugly.

The BAD: This week, the one week in 9 months I only had one doctor appointment compared to 5-7 over the last 9 months, we all have terrible colds. My daughter stayed home yesterday and I stayed home today…..

The GOOD? I get to work from home (most of the time) in my cozy jammies, sipping tea with honey and lemon and a monster-sized box of tissues nearby.

The UGLY: So far this week for work I’ve been threatened with a lawsuit for posting a letter to the editor (baseless), I’ve been accused of impartial political reporting (not true) and last night I was yelled at from across the room of a standing room only crowd because I was videotaping a First Selectman debate for work…..and it’s only Wednesday.

The GOOD? Also through work- I met a wonderful and inspiring woman who is also battling the evil C word for SIX years now. Wonderful because I could see her inner strength beneath her outer beauty which put my perspective back into focus.

The BAD: I’ve been having anxiety attacks because I feel like I can’t keep up at work, or with laundry, or sleep, or a second part-time job I’m about to begin tomorrow to try to help pay off some of these mounting medical bills. I only slept for 2 hours last night because my heart was racing and the worry warts were invading my mind in between coughing fits.

The GOOD? Among the 30+ political letters to the editor I’ve received today, there was one bright ray of sunshine from my now retired Medical Oncologist who stumbled across my “Behind the Pink Ribbon” series. I’ve been sharing stories this month of survivors for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Google “Patch.com, Wendy Mitchell, Behind the Pink Ribbons” to read them).

He told me he loved the articles and that I was doing a great job raising awareness for breast cancer. And he told me to keep on fighting which I will do! #MyLeftBoob is winning the battle. And if you’re just joining me, sometimes mammograms are not enough. You HAVE to feel your boobs!

The UGLY: My scars, my peeling skin, my growing waistline….I’ve been meaning to get to the gym for 2 weeks now and haven’t been able to due to my work schedule, my daughter’s field hockey games/practices 6 days/week, or me being sick and/or exhausted.

The GOOD? As Clarice in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” once said, “There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Tomorrow is not far away.” I have to stop beating myself up and realize I JUST finished radiation treatment and still have one more surgery to go. I’m not going to feel better overnight.

The BAD: I keep getting woken up by hot flashes due to chemo induced early menopause (I know, TMI for some, but for the newbies out there, this is what you can expect).

The GOOD? “This too shall pass” and at least I won’t have to go through it when I’m 55+.

The BAD: Numbness in my fingers and toes still plagues me.

The GOOD? It doesn’t last long and is getting less and less frequent.

The UGLY Truth: The dark shadow of “recurrence” still haunts me, which I hear is a common fear among survivors.

The GOOD: My new Medical Oncologist said that even though I can’t take any post-chemo drugs because I’m Triple Negative, there are things I can do to help prevent recurrence:

1. Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week.
2. Avoid alcohol
3. Stay away from animal fats and processed meats
4. Reduce stress

I’ve got 2 & 3 under control but I still need to work on 1 & 4. I will get there…baby steps….little by little.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~Mark Twain

CLICK HERE to support my breast cancer battle on Go Fund Me.

Almost Celebrating End of Treatment for #MyLeftBoob

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A week ago I was getting radiation for a “rare and aggressive” type of breast cancer only 1% of women get. Two days later I was on an insanely fast roller coaster with my kids, screaming my head off, celebrating no more treatment (almost). That brought to mind a quote from my oldest son’s favorite movie, Ferris Bueller:

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Today marks one week since I completed 6 weeks of radiation, Today is also 3 months since I finished 16 weeks of dense dose ACT chemo for Metaplastic Triple Negative breast cancer.

It’s 4 a.m. and I can’t sleep again, which seems to be the norm lately due to radiation burns and other issues. Later this morning the hubs and I will travel to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY for my 3 month checkup.

In the week since I’ve updated, there have been 2 more women in my life who are just starting their cancer journey. They are both private so I won’t write about them, but I’m so glad to be here to answer questions and lend support.

The best advice I’d give to anyone just starting out is:

  1. Listen to your body – rest when you need to
  2. Learn to say “NO” – so many people will want to pop over & spend time with you & that’s the last thing I felt like doing. I was just trying to get through each hour of each day while working and being a mom.
  3. PUT YOUR BLINDERS ON! My doctors told me this so many times and I wish I listened. People will tell you every cancer horror story & the truth is that everyone’s diagnosis and reaction is different,
  4. STAY POSITIVE- pray,meditate, watch comedies, don’t answer your phone/texts/email if it’s from someone who will stress you out or make you fearful. This is a time to focus on your treatment and recovery.
  5. Find a support group that is truly supportive and positive.

If you are a family member or friend of someone going though treatment, the best thing you can go is to stick with your patient the whole time and let them know you care. It’s a long, hard road and some people drop out after the first couple of months. Maybe they’re tired of hearing about it. Maybe it’s depressing. Maybe they feel like they don’t want to bother you. Getting a quick text or Facebook message to let us know you still care and are still here for us is certainly no bother and is very much appreciated.

And when the treatment is over it doesn’t mean we’ll be back to “normal” right away. It takes months for all the chemo drugs to leave our bodies and for the symptoms to go away.

So how am I doing 3 months post chemo?

  • Chemo brain (Google it, it’s a real thing) is still here. I forgot about 2 appointments this week and feel like I’m forgetting to do something, or I can’t remember the words I want to say.
  • Red, bumpy, burning, itchy skin from radiation is still a problem but getting less and less.
  • Neuropathy in hands and feet is still bothering me but not as much. It hurts most when I first wake up in the morning and hurts to walk sometimes. The numbness comes and goes in my fingers which is a challenge because I do need to type for a living.
  • Chemo induced early menopause– not a fun thing to talk about but it happens….and that could be why I’ve been waking up in hot sweats and getting horrible sleep.
  • Eyebrows and eyelashes are back. Hair is coming back in and super short still. IMPORTANT beauty tip: If you have red or blonde hair and are thinking of dying it right away- don’t. Mine turned orange….one of the things people forgot to tell me. It has something to do with the new hair coming in- or red going on top of grey hair or something. I’ve been told I look like Mia Farrow and Annie Lennox, which I’m taking as a compliment.
  • The “X Marks the Spot” scar is still prevalent but I don’t mind, it’s one of my warrior scars- surgery area is still sore 2 1/2 months later.

Sleep escapes me because I have so many questions firing through my brain…. sort of like those firecrackers you threw on the ground when you were a little kid….bang! bang! pop-pop-pop-pop! It’s so loud I can’t keep up enough to write them all down so I write here. Studies have shown that writing is one of the best forms of therapy for someone going through this battle.

I still have one more surgery to go and due to the type of cancer I will need follow-up checkups every 3 months for the next 2 (?) years because I can’t be on any follow-up meds since I’m Triple Negative. After the 2 years it goes down to every 6 months for 5 years I believe.

The aftermath will be long-term. It’s a war we’ve fought, and are still fighting, and there are physical, financial and emotional scars that need time to heal. I’ve read that cancer patients actually can get PTSD from the trauma of what we’ve been through. I can definitely see how it can mess with your head. The key is to keep your mind busy with good thoughts, focus on other things, and even helping other people. A small act of kindness goes a long way and makes you and the recipient feel so good.

I was supposed to start at the gym this week but lack of sleep, my daughter’s field hockey games and 3 doctors appointments threw a hitch in my giddyup, so I’ll have to start small next week. I’m not going to beat myself up for not beginning on time. I know I will get there eventually.

The past month has been tough- 3 of my husband’s friends’ fathers, and his aunt, all passed away. A girl who goes to my daughter’s school lost her dad unexpectedly due to a heart attack. Another friend lost a lifelong childhood friend in his early 50s who took his own life. Life is rough, life is short but it’s also amazing and wonderful and full of beauty and grace if you look hard enough. Nobody is promised tomorrow and when you stare death in the face, as I have, you learn to let the small stuff drift away and enjoy each moment you’ve been gifted because life is a gift.

Life moves fast. So stick your head out of a sunroof, scream loud and beep the horn every time you go through a tunnel, go on roller coasters and celebrate each breath.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

#MyLeftBoob Radiation #26: It Takes a Village of Vikings and Warriors to Battle Breast Cancer

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 1.13.45 AMMy brother (center with viking hat) and my middle son (on the right) modeling the awesome Wendy’s Warriors tee shirts, designed by Lisa Kosarko Setaro. The crazy dude on the left is our good friend Shadow who came out last April for Relay for Life to support me in my fight.

I sit writing this update propped up on 8 fluffy pillows under my arms and neck and one firm one on my lap for the MacBook. I just popped a pain pill and am waiting for it to do its job, in extreme pain under my arm and chest from radiation burns.

Just yesterday I was enjoying a nice visit with two of my four sisters, our kids, my dad and his girlfriend. It’s been years since we were all together, since my sister has given up her footloose and fancy free glamorous life of yachting. Juuuust kidding! She actually did just come back from a decade on a yacht, but it was far from glamorous. She worked her butt off as an executive chef on a one of the world’s largest yachts and, after my cancer diagnosis, decided to return to dry land for good to be close to our family and I’m so happy she’s here.

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So, like an annoying aunt, I made us all take a lot of pictures. Life is short. Life is unpredictable. You never know what tomorrow holds. We ate like kings, danced like fools and acted like, for a brief moment, I wasn’t battling the evil demon. And it was good.

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And then…BAM! Reality slapped me in the face like a jealous girlfriend. You’re not allowed to have fun, it said. You’re supposed to be giving all your attention to me. I hate for my kids to see me cry but I couldn’t help myself tonight. The pain was awful. I’m sick of not being able to function normally. Imagine you have a horrendous sunburn and you’re forced to go back into the sun over and over, the very thing that caused your burn. Not fun. But it’s almost over.

The past few nights I haven’t slept well because I wake up in a pool of sweat from the burns. Not so fun fact: Did you know that chemo brings on early menopause? It’s just one of many side effects from treatment– dizziness, numbness, pain, nausea and if that wasn’t enough to deal with all at once, why not throw on some hot flashes?

I know there are people in worse shape that me. There are people who have had a double mastectomy. There are women fighting alone, single moms, struggling financially or emotionally.  There are women just starting their journey who are asking themselves, “Why me?” There are women who have endured multiple surgeries like me and we are all entitled to our feelings. Just because I write about it more often or more publicly doesn’t mean I don’t think about, try to help, and pray for those who are fighting. We are all warriors.

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My sister Becky with her adorable daughter Juliet sporting their Wendy’s Warriors tees.

Speaking of warriors, last April our Relay for Life team, “Wendy’s Warriors,” raised over $2,600 for the American Cancer Society. We did it in honor of all those we know who lost their lives to cancer: My sister-in-law who passed away four years ago at the age of 51 from pancreatic cancer, my mother-in-law who passed away in 1986 at the age of 55 from ovarian cancer, my aunt who passed away in 1999 from brain cancer, our friend’s father who suffered and passed away from stomach cancer. I’ll never say they “lost their battle with cancer.”  Anyone who fights and doesn’t give up is a courageous warrior and a winner.

warrior: noun

a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill

Our family and friends were an amazing support for me throughout my journey and during Relay for Life. I was tired, and probably shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard, but it was something I was determined to do to help others. I believe if you do good things “what goes around comes around” and “you reap what you sow.” If you’ve been following from the beginning you’ve seen how much good has come out of all this and we are so grateful.

Many of you will never know what it’s like to fight and many of you will need to know…like our friend whose mom was diagnosed just last week. Our friend has watched me through almost all of the stages and I’m sure never thought it would touch him personally. But now, unfortunately it has. That’s why I write. So they can know what a cancer patient goes through physically and emotionally. So they know what to say and what not to say. So they can be prepared to support their loved one as they take each step one day, and sometimes even one hour, at a time.

 

And in the spirit of  supporting warriors would you consider purchasing a Wendy’s Warriors tee shirt or bracelet? We ordered (and paid for)  way too many and they’d look much better on you than on my couch! A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society so they can continue their lifesaving work.

Tees are white, 100% cotton and are $20. Bracelets are purple and are $4 each. Honor your warrior and make a difference in the fight against cancer. Paypal: wendyannmitchell@live.com or mail a check to: Wendy Mitchell, 9 Evergreen Drive, Bethel, CT. 06801.

If you know someone who is fighting or has fought any type of cancer, please share my blog with them. It takes a village to fight the evil demon but together we can make a difference in the war on the C word! As always, thank you for your support!

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Battle: 18 Doses of Radiation and I’m Seeing Red

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This is what someone’s chest looks like after 18 doses of radiation- red, bumpy, itchy and raw. Not a pretty sight but a necessary evil to kill the beast. And I still have 12 doses left. I can do this!

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” ~Walter Elliott

It’s been nine long months of fighting the evil beast so far… nine months of deep breaths through the pain, sleepless nights, surgeries, nausea, chemo drugs, dizziness, worry, hot flashes, crazy emotions and pure exhaustion. I feel like at the end of these 9 months I should at least get a cute baby or something?! 🙂

I started my fourth week of radiation Monday and my chest is starting to itch and burn, despite slathering up with a thick layer of Aquaphor every night. I have 12 more treatments, the last 5 of which are targeted to the area where the two lumps were removed.

Friday I go in for another “mapping” session so the physics team can mark me up with more purple Sharpie to ensure my vital organs are protected during this intense last part of treatment.

I’m probably not getting as much sleep as I should throughout all of this but a mother’s work is never done. I feel a twinge of excitement as I think that in just two-and-a-half weeks I’ll have my life back, almost completely. The last 9 months have been filled with 5-7 doctor appointments per week, hours and hours each day spent getting poked, prodded, injected, drugged, cut, scarred, checked and double-checked.

Yes, it’s a long time since I started fighting this battle that completely turned my world upside down and made me look at things from a whole new perspective. Yes, I’m sick of talking about it and I’m sure many are sick of hearing about it but the fact is, cancer touches everyone and I won’t be quiet until I feel my work of raising awareness is done.

Here is my message: Sometimes yearly mammograms are not enough. You HAVE to feel your boobs on a regular basis. If I didn’t find the lump myself while dying my fiery red hair, that is no longer there (how ironic), I might not be here to tell this tale. I consider myself blessed and I feel it’s my duty to spread awareness for early detection so others can have a fighting chance.

While I will be “officially” finished with treatment in just 16 days, I won’t truly be “done” because the dark shadow called “recurrence” will TRY to follow me due to the rarity and aggressiveness of this type of cancer.

Since Metaplastic Carcinoma was only recently discovered in 2000, not much has been done in the way of clinical trials and research. It is a rare cancer, only occurring in 1% of women, and an aggressive cancer with a high rate of recurrence, especially in the first 3 years.

I was also diagnosed with Triple Negative which also has a high recurrence rate. Being Triple Negative means I lack estrogen, progesterone and Her2 receptors so I can’t take any follow-up meds for “insurance.”

BUT my Radiation Oncology doctor told me today that I have a different type of insurance- the long, harsh and fierce treatment that I’ve endured over the last 9 months. This will kill any last trace cell that tries to mutate and change in form to lung, skin or bone cancer. The meaning of Metaplastic is “change in form.”

AND my Oncologist, who has worked with thousands of patients over the last 30 years told me, “You caught it early and it didn’t spread. You’re going to be fine!” I have to believe him.

This is also why I felt so strongly about getting a second opinion at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. On March 9th I was told after my PET Scan that I am officially cancer free. And that’s why I will go back there at the end of October to make sure I stay cancer free for years to come.

My hope is that I can be healthy, strong and not drowning in debt from this battle so that I can be in the position to help others.

Often times life’s not fair but that’s not the lesson I try to teach my children. Through my battle I’ve tried to show them that there is always something to be thankful for. And that it’s important to help others because there are a lot of people out there who don’t have friends or family for support like I do.

Through your love, you’ve all helped keep me going. Because you’ve surrounded me with your prayers, dinners, donations, gifts, hugs, calls, emails and laughs, I’ve been able to stay strong. Thank you!

CLICK HERE to support #MyLeftBoob  breast cancer battle on Go Fund Me to cover medical costs related to my treatment.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Nursing Battle Scars on the Inside & Out

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It’s 1:30 a.m. and I’m sitting on the couch coughing, writing, editing and trying to juggle all of the duties of working mom, loving wife, community news editor and dance/band/field hockey mom- not an easy task when radiation and a bad cold is wearing on me, but attainable nonetheless.

I have about 2 hours of work left that I should’ve gotten done during the day but had to go to 2 doctors appointments and take care of regular wife/mom stuff. But after a stressful end to the very long work day, I must take a break and remind myself that life it too short to let someone else’s negativity affect me. I can rise above the muck and not let their bad mood drag me down.

Today marks radiation #13 of 30. I’m almost halfway there with minimal side effects which is a huge blessing! The doctor said if I am to experience skin burns from radiation it will most likely happen towards the end of this week or next. I’ve been slathering up with Aquaphor each night so hopefully it won’t be too bad. The waiting is the hardest part.

At 10 weeks post dense dose ACT chemo, my eyebrows and eyelashes are finally growing back, my hair is almost 1 centimeter long (woo hoo!) and the neuropathy (numbness) in my fingers and toes is subsiding.

Yet still that gnawing feeling lingers in the back of my mind, 17 more treatments left and then what? This type of cancer has a high rate of recurrence, although it has not spread and was caught early. But still, I think almost every cancer patient faces these fears. Learning to live with them and combat them is the challenge.

I’ve cut alcohol, sugar, cold cuts and red meat out of my life completely. I’ve switched to all organic produce and rarely eat eggs, cheese or anything with artificial anything. I’m not vegan completely but working towards it. While my doctor said Metaplastic Carcinoma is not caused by anything external or anything I “did” or “didn’t do,” I’d rather be safe than sorry.

And after the battle is over, I’m left bruised and scarred. I wear my battle wounds proudly; a scar under my left arm from the Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, two scars in an “X Marks the Spot” design on my left boob, a bump and a scar on my upper right chest from where the port still remains.

And I’m left to pick up the pieces of this war on cancer- a few broken relationships, a lot of lost finances, an ever-changing role at my job, new perspectives and realizations and a newfound appreciation for every day of live I’m blessed with.

Some battle scars I’m left with are obvious while others lay beneath the surface of a smiling face. I can’t force people to be in my life if they don’t want to be, even if they are family, so I need to learn to be grateful for those who have been there for me, and are still here, since day #1.

While I’ve been beat up by dentists, surgeons, horrible chemo drugs and even now a slight fever/bad cold along the way, the blessings far outweigh the bumps in the road.

I have my 3 month follow up checkup with the doctor at Sloan Kettering scheduled and after that I will be checked every three months for a year. From there I’ll be checked every 6 months for a year and then when I reach 3 years cancer free I believe it’s a yearly checkup. Five years is the magic number when the recurrence rate going down drastically. I will be 50. Start planning a huge party!

Because I’m also Triple Negative I can’t be on any follow up medications as other cancer patients take when they’ve completed treatment. Because I’m Triple Negative I can’t take the Onco test to see if or when the cancer will return. All I can do is live a healthy live, try to stay positive, pray a lot, pay it forward by helping others and enjoy every single day I’ve been given.

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT #MYLEFTBOOB BREAST CANCER BATTLE.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Fighting Fruit Flies and Managing Madness

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I’ve always had a rather large melon-like forehead, as shown in the left side of this photo. I call it a fivehead, but this here is definitely a sevenhead. Don’t know what I mean? Place four fingers on your forehead and see if they cover it all. Mine normally takes 5 but after being bald for 6 months it now takes 7. Hopefully when my hair grows back in it will got back to “normal.” I hear I can expect “chemo curls.” Guess “it’s better than a poke in the eye,” my father-in-law used to say, God rest his soul.

Pardon my sevenhead story- just a little something to make you chuckle before I tell you what’s really going on.

Getting cancer takes a toll not only on your 4, 5 or 7-head and body, but also on the purse and wallet. But I’m not going to harp on that. We’ve been so blessed with all of the donations and help and I know if I think positive and just keep truckin’ we will get there.

One of the biggest challenges throughout this journey has been how to manage stress. Ann’s Place has free yoga for cancer patients which is awesome, but between 5-7 doctor’s appointments a week, work and my daughter’s crazy schedule, I haven’t been able to get there. Now that my neck and upper back muscles are so tight I know I have to make it a priority to calm down.

So what’s causing all this stress? A dead car battery, bill collectors, lost backpack, teen drama, a sick kid, plans changing too many times and fruit flies. Yeah, fruit flies. I’ve been battling them all week, annoying lil buggers. They follow me everywhere and there is no evidence of fruit anywhere in our house. It’s all in the fridge. But still, as I sit here and type, the pesky varmints fly in my eyes and up my nose.

Of course I looked on WikiHow as to how to get rid of them and tried this:

Day #1) Open a bottle of apple cider vinegar and leave the lid off. The fruit flies will go in and won’t be able to fly out due to the shape of the vessel. This didn’t work.

Day #2) Pour cider vinegar into a paper cup. Place Saran Wrap over the cup and poke holes in the top. The fruit flies will fly in, not being able to resist the smell of the cider, they won’t be able to get out and will die. This didn’t work either.

Day #3) Take Saran Wrap off the cups, pour 3 drops of Dawn dish detergent into the cups. The fruit flies will fly into the cup for the smell of the cider but won’t be able to get out as the dish soap will create a film on the surface. Is 3 a charm? Nope! Not in this case and still these fruit flies plague me.

Day #4) Open large bottle of wine, insert straw, drink up. You will no longer care about the fruit flies.

Okay, so I made that last one up and didn’t try it but I can’t say I haven’t wanted to. It’s been 8 months since I’ve had wine and I don’t miss the after effects. But I do need to learn what to do to calm down when little things in life, like fruit flies, get me all riled up.

I need to remind myself to look at the big picture, think positive and fill my spirit with uplifting verses like this:

“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Cor. 4: 16-18

Cancer has been a bit more than a “light momentary affliction,” but I do know it will all soon be over and remember the good that’s come of it.

According to CalmClinic.com:

“Stress has a physical effect on the body. When you suffer from anxiety, you’re putting your body through extensive, long-term stress. Your body is in fight or flight mode, and that means that it’s releasing hormones that tense muscles and create an overall feeling of general unpleasantness that, in many ways, contributes to further anxiety. Neck pain is one of the symptoms caused by persistent anxiety. Many experience a degree of neck pain that ranges anywhere from slightly irritating to severe, all as a result of their anxiety symptoms.”

How can I deal with all of these stressful situations without wine and without going completely insane? Just breathe. And pray. And follow my doctor’s orders:

  • Put on your blinders: Don’t listen to the cancer horror stories which will be swirling around in my head late at night, keeping me worried and awake.
  • Keep stress levels down: Yoga is good if I can make time to get there. Minimizing contact with Negative Nellies is also good.
  • Get enough rest: This has been tough with working full-time and trying to keep up with laundry, dishes & my daughter’s schedule but I’m trying to force myself to go to bed an hour earlier each night. Lack of sleep makes people emotional and isn’t good for a weak immune system.
  • Make time to do something you love: Check! I have an audition Tuesday for a British rock cover band that likes to dress up and play goofy songs. They wear wigs so I’ll fit right in! Fingers crossed I pass the audition!
  • Spend time with people you love:  Again, trying to find time to do this.
  • Take a pill when you need to: This one is scary- I don’t want to get addicted, but I do need to sleep… and not be in pain.
  • And last but not least….

FOCUS ON THE GOOD NEWS

~ I’m in week 5 of 6 weeks of radiation and I’m blessed with the sweetest radiation techs! So far, besides tiredness, there have not been any symptoms. They said I may get a sunburn-like burns on my chest but if that happens it won’t be until towards the end. Hey! At least it will keep me warm in the winter! 🙂

~ A DJ saw my photo on Instagram and will be using it in a video he’s making for breast cancer awareness for the #BoobProject The Boob Project is a collaborative charity song written by an 8-year-old boy whose mom is fighting breast cancer. The song/video features Florence + the Machine, Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Hozier, Michael Franti, Vance Joy, Matt Nathanson, Spandau Ballet, Graham Nash (CSNY), the Grateful Dead, Jack Antonoff (Fun/Bleachers) and many, many more. It will be released October 1st to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

~ My hair, eyelashes and eyebrows are starting to grow back!

~ I lost 10 pounds but still have 10 more to go to get back to pre-chemo weight. I met some nice folks at a festival today who will help get me back on track since the last gym basically forgot about me….but this is the good news section so I won’t say anything more on that!

~ I still have slight neuropathy that comes and goes in my fingers and toes but it’s getting less and less.

~ There is a good chance that I’ll be teaching an after-school theater class but I can’t expand until details are finalized. <— That fulfills the “doing what I love” Rx my doctor gave me.

I know this has been long and rambly but it’s therapeutic and I hope it helps others too. There are good days and bad days. When we take the time to stop and look at the big picture, there is always something to be thankful for.

A good side effect I’ve experienced along the way has been the people who take the time to send emails or write on my blog or Facebook page comments like these:

“Thank you for sharing your personal story. I feel exactly the same way.”

“Your writing has helped me as I go through my cancer journey. You’ve been able to vocalize exactly how I’ve been feeling.”

“Thank you for raising awareness for self breast exams and early detection.”

“Thank you for writing about your battle. I’ve shared your blog with my daughter who is going through treatment and it’s really helped her.”

Thank YOU all for taking the time to let me know this blog is helping others.

CLICK HERE to support #MyLeftBoob breast cancer battle on Go Fund Me.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Battle Phase 3: Walking the Tightrope While Accentuating the Positive

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“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” ~William Shakespeare, Othello

Many think cancer robs people of so much and they’re partially right. Yes, it can rob us of strength, finances, hair, appetite and sometimes relationships, but it doesn’t have to steal our sense of humor or positive attitude.

It also gives us something invaluable that many take for granted- appreciating every day of life and those around us.

My doctor told me brain studies were done on cancer patients who maintain a positive attitude during treatment and they showed they have a much better prognosis than those who don’t. One thing I’ve had throughout this journey is an attitude of gratitude. I am so grateful for your donations, prayers, love, well wishes, dinners and everything else I’ve been blessed with.

This week I’ve gotten so many well wishes of people asking how radiation is going. Thank you! The only thing is- I haven’t started it yet because I’m still recovering from surgery #3.

Last Friday I met with the radiologist who discussed what to expect during the next phase- 30 doses of radiation, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday for 6 weeks. I can’t start until the surgery scar heals or there could be “irreversible damage” to my tissue. And we can’t put it off anymore because radiation is supposed to start 4-7 weeks after chemo is completed. But because I had to get the abnormal lump removed, it’s cutting it pretty close.

Next up at this appointment was yet another surprise. I didn’t realize going in that I was going to get tattooed. Those “little blue dots” the doctor told me about last week were actually 3 permanent painful tattoos on my chest and either side of my belly to guide technicians when they start. If you’ve read my earlier posts you know how I feel about needles…..not a fan.

I had to get a CT scan and get marked for the tattoos. The nurse positioned me on the table to map out a plan for treatment so the radiation doesn’t hit my vital organs…you know, the heart and the lungs? This was another thought that hadn’t crossed my mind. Oy! They found the best position, tatted me up and sent me on my way.

Next up was the surgical follow-up on Monday. The doctor removed the surgi-strips and said the scar, although still red and very tender, looked good. She gave the OK for me to start radiation on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Since talking about the next phase, a lot of people are offering tips, advice and horror…ahem, I mean first-hand experience stories. I’ve been told I’ll feel extremely tired, my ribs will hurt, I’ll have to think to breathe, I’ll lose 70% of my lung capacity, I’ll get severe burns- especially since I’m so fair-skinned, and the list goes on and on.

As I did with chemo, I’m trying not to let those comments get to me. I’m putting blinders on, going in with a positive attitude and hoping it’s not as bad as they said it will be.

One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that people really do mean well. What I haven’t learned yet is how to get people to stop telling me their horror stories or other things to instill fear into me- something I don’t need right now.

It’s scary enough to be told you have a life-threatening illness, and that it’s really rare and very aggressive, and that it has a high recurrence rate. Then on top of that to be told how someone knows someone who died from this or didn’t get the best care or had it come back to their lungs or skin or bones or brain 2 or 3 times. No, I don’t need to hear any of that. Keeping my mind in a good place it of the utmost importance right now. And that’s why I must again remind myself to focus on the positives:

1. We caught it early at stage 1
2. The tumor was contained to one milk duct
3. It has not spread to my lymph nodes
4. With dense dose ACT chemo and radiation there is a 90% chance it won’t come back
5. March 5th’s PET Scan said I’m cancer free!

A few people have asked why I had to get chemo and radiation if I had a lumpectomy and they got it all out. It’s because Metaplastic Carcinoma (MpBC) is a very aggressive cancer so my treatment needs to be aggressive as well. And MpBC grows very quickly.

They want to make sure to kill any last trace cell that’s too small to show up on a scan. Metaplastic means “change in form” and this type of breast cancer is known to come back and change in form, spreading to the lungs, skin or bones.

Others have asked what follow-up meds I’m on and when I say “none,” a look of shock comes over them. Because I’m Triple Negative I have no estrogen, progesterone or Her2 receptors so there’s nothing I can take for prevention. It’s a frightening thought and sometimes I feel as if I’m walking on a tightrope in high heels with no net. But I do have my balancing stick and a fancy outfit. As long as I keep my eyes straight ahead, focused on the end result and don’t look down, I’ll be okay.

As Sam Cooke once said, I’ve “got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, but don’t mess with mister in between.”

And as God once said, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10

So I will keep walking the tightrope, peach fuzz topped head, with a smile on my face and slight numbness in my fingers and toes. And I’ll do some really big jazz hands when I finally get to the other side. TA DA!!!!!!!!

CLICK HERE to support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe.com. Any amount, no matter how small, helps with my medical bills. Thank you! 🙂

#MyLeftBoob Preps for Phase 3: 6 Weeks of Radiation

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My fancy long-sleeved hospital gown matches my chemo cap perfectly.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.” ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894

Today marks four weeks since I completed 16 weeks of dense dose, kick-your-butt-and-make-you-feel-like-a-Mack-truck-hit-you-while-having-the-flu-every-day-for-four-months, chemo. I wish I could say I was done with treatment after 8 months of this crazy, fast-moving roller coaster ride, but I still have a few months to go. We’re getting closer and closer to the finish line each day and that’s something to celebrate.

I say “we” because cancer affects everyone- the whole family. I can see the toll it has taken on my husband who is working so hard for us but is emotionally drained. The last surgery was the hardest, he said. It’s tough to see someone you love in so much pain, he told me. The kids seem fine and have been extremely helpful, but I know underneath their smiles they worry too.

This morning I met with the radiologist who checked my surgery scar (my 3rd since February) to see how it was healing. For those just joining, the first surgery was to remove the tumor, the second was to place the port for chemo and the third was for an abnormal lump they found post-chemo. Everything looked good, my doctor said, and I should begin 6 weeks of radiation, 30 treatments, in about 2 weeks. That means tomorrow I go in for “mapping.” The doctor explained that it will take about 2 hours. I’ll get tiny blue “X marks the spot” dots on my left breast so the technicians know where to shoot the radiation.

Radiation will be 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Appointments will last about 45 minutes. Thankfully I work from home and can schedule my work around my treatments. I tried to get a second part-time job recently to help with the doctor bills since the hubs already works 2 jobs, but I couldn’t keep up. I was just too exhausted all the time. I need to learn to listen to my body and rest when I feel tired. My doctor said my treatment will go better if I take naps and get plenty of rest.
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As far as the after effects of ACT chemo (Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol), I still have neuropathy in my fingers and toes. I’m still tired many times throughout the day and sadly, still hairless– no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and no fiery red crazy hair. But it’s a small price to pay for my health.
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Learning still to ignore silly comments has been a big test of my patience. While in line at a retail store the other day a woman who obviously had no filer loudly proclaimed, “You’re wearing fake eyelashes!” I said, “Yes!”  She continued, “Oh how fun!”
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While everyone in line stared at my fake lashes and penciled-in eyebrows, I thought to myself, Yes Ma’am, what fun it is to be told you have a rare and aggressive type of cancer with a very high rate of recurrence. What fun it is to go through 4 months of dense dose chemo, 3 surgeries, 2 E.R. visits and 6 weeks of radiation. Yes what fun indeed.But alas, I held my tongue and smiled.
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My “hair” now, A.K.A. “peachfuzz,” is currently in the crazy Brittney phase, and closely approaching the Pope bashing Sinead phase. I’m quite ready for the Demi-length GI Jane ‘do after 5 months of this ‘bald is beautiful’ nonsense, but for now I’m wearing the scarves and head wraps. The wigs were way too hot and itchy.
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As long as everything goes well I should be completely finished with treatment by the middle/end of October. My doctor says I can expect hair to be back by November- just in time for Thanksgiving. And boy is there a lot to be thankful for this year.
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After treatment is complete, I’ll need to be seen every 3 months for the first year for follow-up since Metaplastic and Triple Negative both have a very high rate of recurrence. Because I’m Triple Negative I can’t take the traditional preventative medicines they prescribe to “regular” cancer patients because my body won’t respond to them. My oncologist and radiologist both said that because the tumor was contained in one duct and it did not spread to my lymph nodes, that my prognosis was very good. But still, I need to be vigilant about follow-up and get the second opinion at Sloan Kettering.
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Life has been a whirlwind since first finding the lump in January, and I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but having a small army of supportive friends, family, bosses and co-workers makes my fight so much easier. Thank you.
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CLICK HERE to support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe.
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“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” ~Isa. 40:31
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#MyLeftBoob is #WinningTheBattle

#MyLeftBoob Continues to Kick #Cancer Butt 3 Weeks Post #Chemo

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It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since I finished 16 weeks of dense dose ACT chemo and I wish I could say life has returned to “normal.” After last Tuesday’s surgery for “abnormal cells” and another lump they found in #MyLeftBoob, I’m still sore and bruised.

I won’t go into gory detail about the radioactive seed implant but I will say it was brutal and nothing like the last time. This time they stuck 2 needles in me- one to numb the breast and one to guide the seed implant. I had to sit perfectly still while a needle was sticking in my boob, then get my boob mashed and squeezed with the mammogram machine. I’ve been told I have a very high pain tolerance, but this was one of the worst procedures so far….because I was awake.

We got through about 15 minutes of pain and a few images before the doctor declared, “We have to do it over again. You moved.” I moved? If you count breathing as moving then yes, otherwise I wasn’t sure why she was blaming me. So here we go again, two MORE pokes into my already tender breast, more squeezing and compression. Thankfully I had a super sweet nurse to help calm me down.

Okay, so I ended up telling you most of the gory details. I was left a blubbering mess, almost passed out and later that night swollen and bruised. Five days later I was in for it again. I had to have surgery, my third in 7 months, to remove the lump.

You’d think I wouldn’t be nervous after two successful surgeries, but when the nurses call you the night before and ask if you have an “Advanced Directive” (living will) it gets your mind wandering to places nobody should have to go. Surgery went well and I got my biopsy results in a few days.

“Good news!” the nurse told me on Friday, “Everything looks normal, the biopsy results came back as abnormal cells that are non-cancerous but there’s nothing to worry about.” I got to bask in the joyful glow for a few days before seeing my oncologist today who interpreted the results a lot differently.

“They found more abnormal cells around the lump, but we knew that going in.”

Wait……WHAT? I thought the results were normal, they got the lump out and there’s nothing to worry about? He saw the distressed look on my face and said, “Maybe I’m reading this wrong. I’ll have to talk to [the surgeon] and I’ll give you a call.” He ended the visit by telling me I have a very “active breast” with “a lot going on.”

Well that doesn’t sound good. If there is so much going on why not just go for the mastectomy and be done with it instead of all this worry? He reassured me that if any of the abnormal cells were to grow into “something” that the radiation would kill them before it got too far.

I wasn’t satisfied with that explanation and didn’t waste any time calling my surgeon, radiologist and second doctor at Sloan Kettering, none of whom where available.

My surgeon called back to tell me what the oncologist said- that radiation should work and that would be the next step.

If you think this is all way too dramatic, you’re absolutely right. Imagine how I feel. I’m living it. The only thing I can do now is make sure I stay healthy, eat healthy, get lots of rest and educate myself so when I do see the doctors I have a battle plan.

Except the “get lots of rest part” is hard since I’ve recently taken on another job to help pay for the mounting medical bills. With a high deductible insurance plan from February’s procedure and now this one being in a new insurance year as of July 1st, we have two whopping bills to cover.

I’m trying to stay positive and focus on what the oncologist said in one of my first appointments: “You’re only stage 1 and it hasn’t spread to your lymph nodes. You’re prognosis is good. You’re going to be fine.”

I’m still in treatment for a few more months and need to stay focused on my fight right now. When I’m done with treatment I’ll try to save the world and help raise awareness again but for now, I’m just trying to get through each day and remember to breathe.

Staying busy is what got me through the first few months and I think that’s what will get me through the next few months. And before I know it, my doctor tells me, this year will be one small blip in the grand scheme of things.

So what are the next steps you ask? Waiting for 2 doctors to call me back to interpret confusing pathology results, getting a second opinion at Sloan Kettering, starting radiation soon and above all enjoying each moment I’m blessed to have with the special people I love.

“Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.” ~Dr. Seuss

CLICK HERE to support My Left Boob battle on GoFundMe.com. Any amount you donate, no matter how small, is so greatly appreciated!

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Chemo Day 105: Counting My Blessings

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Sunset Over Long Pond, Cape Cod, by Ruby Mitchell

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. ” ~Rabindranath Tagore

Today is the one week mark since my last chemo on July 16, 2015. I’m writing this blog post with slightly numb fingers and toes from one of the most beautiful places on earth, Cape Cod. Due to the kindness and generosity of family, we were able to get away for a week for a family vacation to celebrate the end of chemo. We hadn’t been on vacation since 2013 so this was a nice treat.

Breathing in the salty sea air, tasting and smelling the fresh-caught Cape Cod seafood and gazing at the breathtaking sunsets painted in the sky, all do wonders for the soul after feeling like I was at death’s door more times than I care to recall over the past 7 months.

The week has had its fair share of mishaps; from car troubles to a cut/skin infection on our puppy, from a slip and fall with a hurt back for me and a yellow jacket bee sting on my finger (almost on my eye) to the “usual” side effects of chemo, we’re taking it all in stride and focusing on the good times and the beauty that surrounds us.

My husband came with me for the last chemo and I slept through about 2 of the 7 hours we were there. One milestone marked and on to many more.  I’m so glad I chose to be treated where I felt comfortable and well taken care of. Every single one of the nurses, receptionists, assistants, doctors, volunteers and staff at Danbury Hospital were all so kind and caring and made me feel so welcome.

At the end of the last Taxol the nurses came in and clapped and cheered to celebrate. Nurse Nancy retired a few weeks ago but it was nice to have the others there to share in the occasion. They presented me with a beautiful silver breast cancer bracelet and a signed certificate of completion.

While that was the last chemo it was not my last treatment. I still have another radioactive seed implant on July 30, surgery to remove another lump (the 4th) on Aug. 4 and another surgery a couple of months after that to remove the port. Then there’s radiation, 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

After 16 weeks of chemo, 3 surgeries and all that radiation, I can’t imagine ANY last trace cancer cell could linger anywhere in my body and that is the hope I am holding on to.

Follow-up care is so important with Metaplastic Carcinoma due to its high rate of recurrence so it’s crucial I continue to get excellent care and be seen every 3-6 months to make sure it doesn’t come back.
My doctor told me that he will be retiring after 30+ years as an oncologist so I will need to decide whether to go back to the big cancer center for follow-up or stay put. I’m glad my doctor was with me until the end but it’s a little scary moving on to someone new, especially being diagnosed with a rare type like I had.

The last 7 months has been a crazy, whirlwind roller coaster of a ride and it’s not over yet. There are still more surgeries, more treatments and unfortunately a lot more bills. Thank you everyone who has donated to my medical fund. Thank you to the scholarships and grants we’ve been blessed with. Thank you for the dinners, donations, gifts, cards and love. You have all made my burden so much lighter and have taken away so much of the stress of this already stressful journey.

We will enjoy 2 more days of vacation before worrying about the next steps of this battle (surgery, radiation and that dreaded 5-letter word: BILLS). For now we will choose to live in the moment and enjoy the time we have together in this beautiful place, counting our blessings for being part of such an amazing family.

To support my breast cancer battle on Go Fund Me, please click here.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… to feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”  ~Kevyn Aucoin

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Chemo Day 92: Beginning of the End

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It’s 8 days post chemo #7 and I’m excited there’s only one more left!

I’m finally starting to feel a little better today after a week of extreme pain in my joints, watery eyes, numbness in my feet and overwhelming fatigue. I don’t like to update when I’m in so much pain and an emotional blubbering mess, which has been my state this past week, but I’m glad to be feeling somewhat like myself again today.

My sister came with me to my last treatment which was 7 hours long. It was so nice to spend time with her and I’m thankful for her support and sense of humor, always leaving me with a smile during this difficult time. And she bought me some pretty cool purple dangly earring to match my shirt! Thanks sis!

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Me and my beautiful sister Shari, one of 5 girls and 1 boy in our family. I’m the youngest of 6.

I never expected the Taxol to kick my butt as it has been doing but I’m looking forward to the end of chemo on Thursday, July 17.  End of chemo does not mean end of treatment though. It just means the hardest part is over. I’m only about halfway done. I still have another radioactive seed implant, another biopsy, another surgery and 6 weeks of radiation in Sept-Oct. to look forward to. Then another surgery to get the port removed. Yay me! If only the radioactive seed implant could give me special powers this would all be worth it! 😀

Then I wait until about December for my hair to grow back. Who knows about the eyelashes? For now I’ll be fancy and wear fake ones when necessary.

I met with my surgeon yesterday who said the surgery to remove the new lump and abnormal cells will be on Aug. 4th, just 2 days before our 21st anniversary. My doctor said as far as the fear and emotions go and worrying about each new lump, bump and symptom, wondering if it’s cancer, it does get easier.

She likened it to the over protective mom dropping of her baby at the daycare for the first time…. you call 10X, you cry when you leave and worry about them all day. But as time passes it gets easier. And then before you know it you’re sending them off on the school bus with some dude wearing baggy pants and a baseball hat, driving a bus full of screaming kids…. and you’re okay with that.

Yes, before I know it I will be one year cancer-free, then two years, then the Metaplastic magic mark- 5 years cancer free. After that the chances of recurrence go down dramatically and I breathe a HUGE sign of relief knowing I WILL be okay. I already know it deep down.

This is something I will always have to live with. It doesn’t go away when treatment is over. I’m now part of a new club, one I never asked to be in and one I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Cancer does not discriminate- old/young, black/white, rich/poor, men/women, Christian/Jew- cancer affects us all.

Even with everything I’ve been through, with everything cancer has taken and tried to steal, I am so grateful for all of the positives that have come out this: new relationships with family and friends, the ability to pay some of our bills due to your generous donations, stronger faith, a new appreciation for life, my kids and my husband, and so much more. I’ve been so very blessed and will not take that for granted.

I spent a good part of last week looking for a second job, to no avail, to help pay off $27K of medical bills. I love my regular full-time job that allows me to work from home, but sadly, even with my job and my husband working 70-80 hours a week at 2 jobs as a custodian, 6 days a week, we still can’t cover all of our medical expenses.

I’m hoping that by posting this update, it will strike a chord and someone will find it in their hearts to give, or forward it to someone who can help.

I hate to even have to ask for help but when I see people posting Go Fund Me updates for silly things (which I won’t mention for fear of offending someone), I figure the worst you can do is say no. If you can’t donate, don’t. But if you can forgo that $5 latte for one day and throw it my way, I would be forever grateful.

Anyone who knows me knows that for the last 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time helping others and even in this case I’m finding ways to help- by raising $2400+ for the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life during chemo, by raising awareness for early detection through #MyLeftBoob campaign, and hopefully by raising people’s spirits through my writing.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening and if you’re one of my supporters I’m sending you a HUGE virtual hug along with an even HUGER THANK YOU!!!

Click here to support  my breast cancer battle on Go Fund Me.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Chemo Day 80: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

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My mom had a rule with all 6 of us kids growing up- we each had to take a sport and play a musical instrument. We could pick any sport or any instrument but we had to do both. I don’t know if she did this to get a few moments of peace, to make us well-rounded, or a little of both, but I’m grateful she did. I played violin, clarinet and sang in concert choir and still love to play bass guitar. And I did learn more than one thing from it, the biggest being– I stink at sports.

In high school I was on the cross-country team and I was horrible. I had long legs and was skinny so you’d think I’d be good. Nope. I was always he the last one, pushing myself to finish that last 1/4 mile, wheezing, coughing and struggling. The last part of our practice runs had a huge hill– Judd Ave. in Bethel. They call it “the beast.” The hill has what seems like a 90 degree incline and it’s brutal– especially when you’ve already just run for an hour or so and you’re hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty.

Now I find myself in another race but this one is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and so I must pace myself. In the beginning of my race I bolted out of the gate running full force saying things like, “I’ve got this,” “I’m a warrior,” “I’m strong.” I had my sassy new haircut and my cool, fancy t-shirt. I had a lot of cheerleaders cheering me on from the sidelines. I was ready, full of energy with a positive attitude.

But now I find myself in the hardest part of the race, not quite the finish line but getting there. Some of the cheerleaders have gone home now. I’m tired– mentally and physically. And it’s a lot harder to stay positive when I keep getting bombarded with words like “rare, aggressive, unique, atypical” from the diagnosis of Triple Negative, Metaplastic and now Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia, but I’m trying. I’m focusing on the positives: Stage 1, has not spread, I have an excellent team of doctors, I’m young and strong, God and my prayer warriors are on my side.

I came across this verse this week which is exactly what I needed this week to build me up again. It’s from Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-3 from The Message Bible.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Another version says “let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way” or “hinders” us from finishing our race. In my case this could be people who put fear or negativity in my mind. When people find out you’re diagnosed with cancer it’s like telling someone you’re pregnant. Everyone and their mother wants to tell you every last gory detail of their childbirth story. The only stories I want to hear right now are good ones- survivor stories. I need to stay positive and calm. I can’t let anyone or anything stress me out, or scare me, not at this important part of my journey.

The Bible verse says we need to strip down before we start running the race. Of course the race the writer is referring to is spiritual, but I feel this applies to me right now where I am in my battle. I see myself stripped down when I look in the mirror– no hair, thinning eyebrows and eyelashes, a visible port scar on my chest and a big “X” marks the spot on my left boob where my lumpectomy was, bags under my eyes. I’ve been in a fierce battle and it shows. I have war wounds and I wear them proudly. And now I need to focus on the end of the race because it’s very near.

I’ve had 4 Adriamycin/Cytoxan and 2 dense-dose Taxol and it’s been kicking my butt. I get it every 2 weeks instead of every 3. I’m tired, my muscles are achy and my joints hurt. Think of how you feel when you have the flu. That’s what I’ve felt like for the past 4 months… all the time. But I only have 2 more chemotherapy treatments to go before surgery #3 and 6 weeks of radiation. I’m at the bottom of that huge hill right before the end, looking up and I need to psyche myself up for one more big push. I can do this.

So I turn my eyes upward and ask God to give me the strength to finish my race. I’m not going to worry about the bills piling up. I’m not going to listen to horror stories. I’m going to try to ignore the calls, texts and emails from “well-meaning” people who want to tell me why I got cancer or how some miracle cure will heal me. No. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on the finish line because it’s nearer than ever.

Even though my body feels weak right now, I know I’m stronger on the inside than I was before. I’m not the same and I never will be. I’m a stripped down better version of myself than before. I’m grateful for my family, friends and every moment of every day and won’t take that for granted anymore. And when I’m all done I’ll be there to cheer others on until they reach their finish line because I’ve “been there, done that” and know how it feels.

And so now I’m lacing up my kicks for Thursday’s chemo #7 and get ready for the last big push. Seventeen days to go. Yeah, I’ve got this.

To support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe, please click here. Any amount, no matter how small, is so greatly appreciated. Thank you!

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Chemo Day 74: Pain, Scars and Superstars

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I haven’t updated in a while because I was waiting to feel better….waiting to have something positive and inspiring to say…..waiting for the pain to go away and well, it hasn’t. The last few days have been rough. And I’m not a wuss. I popped out an 8 1/2 pound baby, my first-born, with NO drugs whatsoever. The nurses in the delivery room kept saying, “Wow! You have a really high pain tolerance.” Or, “You’re doing really well considering how hard and fast your contractions are coming.”

Fast forward 26 years to a new kind of pain caused by harsh chemo drugs to kill any last trace lingering, unwelcome cancer cell. Everyone kept telling me how much easier the Taxol would be- it’ s not. Everyone kept saying how I’d have less side effects with Taxol- I don’t. I have more. The pain was so bad in my knee last weekend that I could barely walk. The pain was so bad in my joints and back last night that no matter which position I turned, I was still in extreme pain. Plus I have tingling in my feet and toes.

The only thing positive I can say about all of this is that I’m almost done. I have two more treatments left, then another surgery, my third (fourth if you count a tooth extraction), and another scar. I’ve heard someone say before that scars are tattoos with cooler stories.

The new surgery will be at the end of July to get rid of another weird, rare, abnormal thing I’ve been diagnosed with- Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia (ADH). As if being diagnosed Triple Negative (15% of women get) and Metaplastic (1% of women get) was not enough. This new surgery will push back radiation by a few weeks, depending on how my scar heals, but at least it’s not cancer. Phew!

One thing I’ve learned about all of this over the last five months is that no two cancer treatments are alike because no two people are alike. So when people who have been through it make generalized statements about what to expect, I can truly say, speaking from experience, don’t listen. Expect the worst but hope for the best. That may sound negative but until you’ve been through dizziness, nausea, hair loss, extreme fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, back pain, neuropathy all at once, on top of facing a life threatening illness, you have no idea what it’s like.

It’s physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually draining. It will test your faith. It will test your inner and mental strength. It will test your relationships and maybe even end some and that’s okay. It will show you who truly loves and cares about you and that’s a good thing. It may be shocking at first to realize those you thought would be there are not. Maybe because they can’t deal with the C word. It’s too scary. Maybe because they offered you advice and you politely declined. Maybe because cancer is too depressing…or too inconvenient. So many times I’ve wanted to say to this one person who has not been there for me, “Sorry my cancer diagnosis has inconvenienced you,” but I won’t apologize for something I didn’t ask for and have no control over. This person has shown me time and time again that other things in their life are more important than me. And so I just slowly let the relationship fade away. Yes, that’s depressing.

Then I try to fill those sad places with thoughts about the tons of love and support I’ve received from so many and I am grateful. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Each day I never know what to expect and this has become my new normal.

So how have I been coping? Prayer. Support from family and friends. Relaxing yoga and therapy sessions at Ann’s Place- thank GOD for that place! I wish I had gone sooner but I was too busy trying to distract my mind from the fear that tries to creep in…from the what ifs.

And finally, I must mention the excellent care I have been receiving from Danbury Hospital and Physicians for Women. I have the best doctors and am getting excellent treatment. My gyno called today just to check to see how I was doing and to tell me he was praying for me. My oncologist always makes me laugh and calms me down when things get scary. My radiologist is straight-forward, efficient and doesn’t mince words. My surgeon is the one who took out the cancer and to her I am forever grateful. She respects me and explains things in ways I can understand without talking down to me. My team of doctors are all superstars in my book. We are on top of things and taking care of business.

And me? I’m taking things one day, and sometimes one hour at a time and I know that one day soon it will all be over.

Click here to support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles Day 64: Another Lump, Another Biopsy, Another Few Days of Waiting

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When I told my Facebook friends my doctor wasn’t too concerned about anything when I went for my follow-up, that was only a “half truth.”  She wasn’t concerned but I was.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I went for my follow-up visit with the surgeon Monday expecting for an “all clear” but heard the news no woman wants to hear….ever….they found a lump. Another lump.

“There seems to be a little bit of a lump underneath the scar tissue,” the Nurse Practitioner said with an all-too-cheerful voice for this type of news. Another lump? But I’m going through chemo? I’ve already had three lumps. What does this mean? Is the chemo working?  I tried to remain calm while all of these scary thoughts started racing through my mind. This would be the fourth in five months.

The first they took out during a lumpectomy on Feb. 17. The second was just a swollen lymph node. The third I had checked at the “big” cancer center and was told it was just a cyst. That doctor ordered a PET Scan which came with great news– No Evidence of Disease. I am “NED” as on March 8, 2015. So then what is this new lump?

I sat quietly in my pink hospital gown praying and trying to remember all of the healing scriptures I had meditated on before. The surgeon came in and didn’t seem to be too concerned with the news from the nurse.

“It’s unlikely for something new to grow while you’re going through chemo,” she assured me.

“Then what is it? I’m just nervous because of the type of cancer I was diagnosed with and its high recurrence rate,” I said.

“It seems to be a nodule underneath the scar tissue that we will want to watch,” she said. “You can wait until your next mammogram at the end of August or get an ultrasound sooner.”

I opted for the latter, hoping for them to tell me it looked normal. No such luck. I went down the street to the radiology department and waited for good news. The ultrasound technician said it looked like normal scar tissue and fluid to her, but the radiologist would have to look to be sure. Yay! That sounded hopeful. The radiologist came in and looked but he was not as reassuring.

“This dark area could be scar tissue but I can’t tell you with 100% certainty that it’s not cancer without doing a biopsy. It’s up to you whether you want to wait until your next mammogram in August, or we can schedule a biopsy for this week if you want to put your mind at ease,” he said. “I’m sorry I don’t have better news but I can’t tell you for sure 100%.”

I called back the surgeon to tell them to schedule the biopsy and waited to hear back regarding the appointment date.

Tuesday, June 9

More waiting. Try to stay positive. Try to think good thoughts. Focus on the good: “Stage 1. Has not spread. Not likely to be cancer.” I waited all day for the doctor to call me back. I just wanted to get this over with. I finally called them late Tuesday afternoon after hours of waiting and pushed them to give me an appointment A.S.A.P.

My biopsy will be on Wednesday. Tomorrow. Oh boy. We didn’t tell the kids anything yet. I wanted to wait until we had some news before I told them anything. It was hard to put on a brave face but I managed to for most of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 10

I did all my work and scheduled out my posts ahead of time in case it would take a while. My husband drove me because I didn’t know how I’d feel after. I had the same radiologist I had for my first biopsy in January so that was reassuring. The mood in the room was light and casual. I had a good feeling about this. I talked to the ultrasound tech about her tattoo which she told me was the bleeding heart of Mary, A sign. God is with me. Everything will be okay. It has to be. I have a lot more living to do! I have a book to write and a documentary to finish. And it has a happy ending!

The doctor came in and explained what he was about to do: stick a big long needle in my left boob to numb it. Then I would feel some burning and he’d stick me again to make sure I was good and numb before he cut me open. I’m not looking at the needle. Deep breaths. Good thoughts. I was now numb and he started working. He took about 4-5 samples, which sounds like a very loud staple gun right in your ear,  while the tech pressed down hard with the ultrasound probe to guide the doctor on the screen as to where to take samples from. He inserted a titanium clip in my boob in case more surgery was needed at a later date. The whole procedure took a little less than an hour.

After two allergic reactions I’m always concerned about follow-up so I asked him about the wound care. He apparently went into auto-pilot while explaining to wait 24 hours to shower but when I do shower that I can wash my hair, just don’t let the shampoo run over the wound.

“Ummm, that won’t be a problem because I don’t have any hair,” I told him. We all got a good chuckle out of that.

Next I had to go get a mammogram to photograph the site- pretty uncomfortable after just being cut. I went home with a gauze pad and an ice pack on my boob, holding on to hope that they will tell me “it’s nothing.”

My mom came over to drop off some veggies for my shakes and I wanted to tell her what was going on but couldn’t because my daughter was there and I knew I’d break down. So I had to hold in this scary news for another day.

Thursday, July 11

More waiting, more waiting, more waiting. As bad thoughts swirled quickly through my head I tried to combat them with good thoughts, prayers and healing scriptures. I waited half the day before I couldn’t stand it anymore and tried calling the doctor for results.

Finally the nurse practitioner called me with the news. Her delivery was very similar to the way I got the news back in February that I had a “rare and aggressive type of breast cancer only 1% of women get called Metaplastic Carcinoma.” She basically dropped the bomb and ran.

She told me that I have ADH – Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia. HYPER WHAT? Another weird, unusual, rare, abnormal thing I couldn’t pronounce and it didn’t seem like she knew much about. Or I wasn’t understanding her explanation. Again, I was left with no info and now had to wait for the doctors to call me back when he/she has time. The nurse said it’s not cancerous but something that will have to be surgically removed and watched. Great. MORE surgery… as if 6 cavities, 1 tooth extraction, a lumpectomy, port surgery, 2 E.R visits all in 5 months was not enough.

I called my husband to tell him the news. As I began talking I lost it and my sweet puppy immediately jumped in my lap to try to comfort me, hugging me with her paws and licking my face. I tried to act normal when the kids got home. I was still waiting for the doctor to call to explain what this all means.

Then finally, not one, not two, but three doctors all called back at the same time! I had 2 on the cell and one on the home phone, trying to juggle who to speak with first. I chose my surgeon and called back the other two. She said the lump will have to come out but it has to wait until after I’m done with chemo. She said again that it is not cancer,  just a few abnormal cells. I could barely focus on what she was saying, my mind distracted with the other 2 doctors on the other lines. She said we’d discuss more on Monday at my next follow-up.  “I hope that helped,” she ended the call with. “Yes, thanks.” I didn’t hear a word you just said.

My oncologist called back next to explain that the lump is very small, in a single duct and there are just a few atypical cells. He said some may say it’s pre-cancerous or an indicator that I could get cancer but we already know I had it and we already got it out. And I’m getting chemo so he said it’s like getting an abnormal PAP smear– it’s not cancer but it’s something to watch.
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My oncologist, radiologist and surgeon all agree the new lump needs to come out but said I don’t need a mastectomy. I’m going to get a second opinion anyway because I don’t want to have to worry that it will come back.
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I feel like I got the wind knocked out of me all over again but I’m trying to stay positive and keep the faith. It’s tough when I keep getting pummeled over and over again but I guess that’s what it means to have your faith tested.
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There’s a Bible verse that says if I have the faith of a mustard seed I can move mountains so that’s what I’m believing…..that the lump is the size of a tiny mustard seed and once it’s out this huge mountain I’ve been trying to climb over will MOVE and be gone for good!  I just need to get through this bump in the road and keep fighting hard.
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Friday is Relay for Life which will be a nice distraction. It will be something good good to do to help others, honor those we’ve lost to cancer and support those still fighting like me. Our team has raised $2,400 for the American Cancer Society which is awesome! And I continue to blog and write to raise awareness for early detection so something good has come out of this horrible thing.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles – Chemo Day 60, 5 Down, 3 to Go

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Chemo #5 is under my belt and I have 3 more to go. The side effects I’m feeling from Taxol so far is fatigue, watery eyes and pain in my joints, muscles and balls/heels of my feet. Thankfully I had no plans this weekend so I was able to get some much needed rest.

My doctor and nurse said I may also feel numbness and tingling in my hands and feet but so far it’s only been slight. From what I understand if this is to happen it will be more likely on the third and fourth doses of Taxol and may linger for a few months afterward.

I have 3 more treatments and 38 days to go until I’m done. Then after that they will check every 3-6 months to make sure I’m okay. After a year I believe (not positive) that it goes to checking every 6 months for 3-5 years. After that chances get better each year that it will not come back.

I was diagnosed at Stage 1 and it as not spread so I am holding on to hope and faith that it won’t come back. So start planning for my 50th birthday/5 year cancer free party in 5 years! smile emoticon

This past week has been a struggle with the fear of recurrence filling my mind, something very normal for people to go through, according to my doctor. He said it would be best to limit my interaction with those who can exacerbate this fear and to take advantage of the resources at Ann’s Place in Danbury such as free therapy.

Life has been a whirlwind since finding the lump on January 22, almost 5 months ago, and I can’t believe how fast it has gone by so far. I’m grateful for each new day and for everyone I’m blessed to be surrounded by. This journey has not been an easy one but it has taught me so much about life, love and helping others.

Today on National Cancer Survivor’s Day, I am so grateful to be a survivor and to have been given a second chance. I will use my pain and suffering to help others who are affected by cancer.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

To support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles – Chemo Day 55: Nervous Today, Taxol Tomorrow

 

 

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Tomorrow begins one of four Taxol treatments and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I keep hearing that Taxol is so much easier that Adriamycin and Cytoxan, but with the allergic reaction I had after my surgery and a semi-long list of allergies, I will breathe a sign of relief when it’s over. Here is a list of side effects (from Chemocare.com):

Common side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%):

  • Low blood counts
  • Hair loss – I don’t have to worry about that one since it’s all gone already
  • Arthralgias and myalgias, pain in the joints and muscles. – I’m taking Claritin for this
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet)
  • Nausea and vomiting (usually mild)
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores – This has been an ongoing issue, hoping to resolve w/pills & mouthwash
  • Hypersensitivity reaction – fever, facial flushing, chills, shortness of breath, or hives.  The majority of these reactions occur within the first 10 minutes of an infusion. – This is what’s making me nervous, but I hear they will give me Benadryl so hopefully that will help.

Less common side effects (occurring in 10-29%):

  • Swelling of the feet or ankles (edema).
  • Increases in blood tests measuring liver function.  These return to normal once treatment is discontinued.
  • Low blood pressure (occurring during the first 3 hours of infusion).
  • Darkening of the skin where previous radiation treatment has been given – I haven’t received radiation yet so this won’t be a problem
  • Nail changes (discoloration of nail beds – rare) (see skin reactions).

I guess it’s a good thing I was so busy over the last couple of weeks so I wouldn’t think about all of this. And I’m coming down off a huge high from last weekend’s fun-filled festivities.

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On Saturday I organized an all-day benefit for Relay for Life and we raised $936 for the American Cancer Society. The day began with Tim Sheehan and Guy Tino playing some awesome 80s and 90s hits on the sidewalk. Lindsey Howard Edwards and Carolyn Peterson and some students from Bethel High painted kids’ faces and sold raffle tickets for 20 prizes from generous local businesses. After a few hours in the hot sun, and me hiding my ghostly white skin under the tent, we moved inside.

Gilleoghan Irish Dance entertained us with some extremely fancy footwork, preceded by the talented Allison Kellogg on guitar, ukulele and keyboard.  Next up we had the amazing trio- Wry Bread- followed by yours truly, Wendy’s Warriors’ trio consisting of my husband, my brother and I. Julie Sorcek, Renato Ghio and Jim Lynch played on a few songs with us too which was fun. Next up we had $2 Hat (plus some change) with an awesome set and amazing musicians: Mike Walsh, Jim Lynch, Cappy and my husband on the cajon.

Fred Ball entertained, sounding very much like Johnny Cash, followed by Good Medicine Rx consisting of partners in life and music, with Michel Driscoll and Jeff Duggan. Our headliner was Split Decision who played pop and rock tunes to a full house. At that point exhaustion had set in from being there for 9 hours and I could only stay for two songs. Thank you everyone who played, volunteered and donated.

It was so nice to see my Godmother, two former band mates, my boss and co-worker and many old friends who stopped by to show their support. Thank you all for your hugs, love and donations.

Renato was able to get some good footage of me playing bass and singing (hopefully minus a few mistakes) and our documentary continues filming, slowly but surely. There’s no rushing art! I will post the trailer when it’s ready.

We still have a LOT of Wendy’s Warriors tee shirts and bracelets we need to sell! All proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society. Bracelets are $ + $2 shipping. Adults tees are $25, kids’ tees are $20 + $3 shipping. Please email wendyannmitchell@live.com if you want one of the awesome designs.

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On Sunday we celebrated my daughter’s confirmation and a party of 20 turned into a party of 10 with lots of pizza left over. Thank you to Lori Mott for sponsoring her! It was a great, busy weekend. And now I get ready for a low-key, resting and recovery weekend as I prepare for treatment #5 tomorrow.

I could use your prayers please! Thank you!

#MyLeftBoob #Chemo Day 49 – Angels on Earth

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Fighting cancer truly takes a small army and thankfully my amazing army is comprised of some of the sweetest angels on earth. From the doctors, nurses, volunteers and receptionists at the hospital, to volunteers with The SCOTTY Fund who prepare meals and drop off gifts cards and flowers, I am surrounded  by angels and blessings and I’m so grateful.

From the moment I walked into our local hospital, I felt welcomed. All of the smiling receptionists greeted me so warmly and, after telling my story, one blessed me with a “random act of kindness” bag that included a hand-knit blanket, toiletries, a scarf and some other goodies to make my chemo treatments more comfortable. It is that personal touch as to why I chose to be treatment at my local hospital. I am grateful for the second opinion at the “big” cancer center, but when going through something this intense you want to be able to speak to a doctor and/or nurse quickly and feel a more personal touch.

I felt peace in my heart after getting the second opinion because it lined up exactly with what my local doctor recommended.

We have gotten so many donations, house cleanings from The Maids of Brookfield’s Cleaning for a Reason, free therapeutic massage from Laura Skutch, LMT from Norwalk and so many more I am forgetting blame it on chemo brain. THANK YOU!

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But a group of special angels I want to highlight today are two amazing organizations I am a part of, the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH) and the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center (GDICC). These two organizations have rallied together to do not one, but two separate fundraisers to help our family with our medical bills and we are so grateful.

According to LadiesAOH.com, the LAOH is a “sisterhood of Irish and Irish-American, Catholic women, a National organization officially recognized in 1894 as the “Daughters of Erin.” The Ladies AOH motto is “Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.”

I first became involved a few years back after going to the cultural center for karaoke nights and other social events. After getting to know some of the members and learn about their mission and values, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.  The members have been so incredibly supportive throughout my breast cancer battle, sending cards, well wishes and emails of support. Some of my Ladies Hibernian sisters have been through this journey themselves and know firsthand how hard it can be,

I am so grateful for the love, generosity and support I’ve received from the GDICC the LAOH and all of the other wonderful angels on earth who lift me up daily.

I’ve been doing okay this week now that I’m done with the Adriamycin and Cytoxan, but the last few days were tough as far as tiredness, nausea and other side effects go. But who wants to hear about that? Not me!  Thankfully I had the week off from work to recuperate. I’m halfway done with chemo and have 4 more Taxol to go!

This is a very busy weekend. We have a huge Relay for Life fundraiser on Saturday, click here for details, and my daughter’s confirmation and party is on Sunday. I think I’ll need to sleep a week to recover!

Thank you to all of my angels on earth and everyone for all of your love and support. It is because of amazing people like you that I can stay focused and positive.

#Chemo Day 45: #MyLeftBoob Goes into #Warrior Mode for #RelayforLife

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Day #45: I’m halfway through 8 treatments and feeling pretty good. I’m getting in Warrior Mode as I hunker down for the last 4 treatments of Taxol.

I heard ACT chemo #3 & 4 are the hardest so I took some time off from work and limited my commitments. I would have loved to go to my nephew’s baptism today but felt tired and nauseous after chemo on Thursday which has seemed to be the norm. I get chemo every other Thursday and then start to feel tired Friday night, get progressively worse Saturday and Sunday and start to feel better by Monday or Tuesday.

I had a nice hour acoustic band practice with my brother tonight in preparation for a benefit concert we are planning this Saturday, May 30 for my Wendy’s Warriors Relay for Life Team at Greenwood’s Grille in Bethel. You may be asking yourself, as some have asked me, how/why I am planning a benefit concert in the midst of hard, intense chemo and I will tell you why:

#1) It is for a great cause, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay for Life on June 12 at Bethel High School. All proceeds go to benefit our team and help find a cure for cancer, my rare type included. In 2010 the ACS gave the Elizabeth Smider Foundation a $1,000,000 grant for research specifically for Metaplastic breast cancer.

#2) My doctor says I need to do things that make me happy that are good for the soul which playing music is/does.

#3) It is a great mental distraction from Googling my type of cancer and/or thinking thoughts I don’t want to be thinking.

We are selling Wendy’s Warriors t-shirts and bracelets with the logo pictured, designed by my talented friend/classmate from Newtown High School, Lisa Kosarko Sotero. Click here for more details.

If you’d like to order a Wendy’s Warriors white t-shirt ($25 adults/$20 kids) or a Wendy’s Warriors purple rubber bracelet ($4) please email me at wendyannmitchell@live.com.

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The first 4 treatments are the hardest and they’re now done so I’m looking forward to feeling good for Saturday’s benefit concert and getting through the next 4 with flying colors!

Thank you all so much for your love and support! If you’d like to support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe.com, please click here.

“If there’s one thing that I pray for, as I live my daily life, it’s that I may be courageous when I’m faced with bitter strife. So, I humbly pray for courage to be with me morn and night, Thro’ the coldness of the Winter and the Summer’s bright sunlight!”

~Gertrude T. Buckingham, “Courage”

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: My Heart and Bald Head Will Go On!

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Test results are back and like Celine Dion once said, my heart will go on! That’s right folks, the echocardiogram results came back and my heart is GOOD and STRONG! So chemo #4 for my last A/C (Adriamycin and Cytoxan) will go on as planned tomorrow and so will my heart . It must be all the love and support I am getting from all of you.

Tomorrow is also a very special day because it is my youngest child’s 15th birthday! My precious gem, Ruby Joan, turns 15 on Thursday, May 21, and hopefully I will be done with chemo in time to greet her from the bus with her birthday gifts in hand…. too bad I can’t wrap up the $7K braces the dentist said she needs! 😉

We’re planning on taking her out for a hibachi dinner tomorrow night and I know I will feel good enough to go (power of positive thinking). We already had a big party for her and a teens sleepover before I started chemo because I wasn’t sure how I’d react, but we’ll celebrate again tomorrow. She is such a sweet, smart, special girl and I am so blessed to have her, especially now as I fight this battle.

I’m hoping the pain in her hip is just “growing pains” like the Orthopedic doctor said because she really misses her Irish dancing!

After tomorrow’s A/C treatment #4, I am halfway done and will only have 4 more Taxol before I’m completely done. Then we celebrate in Cape Cod, my favorite place in the world (only because I haven’t been to Ireland or Hawaii yet!). After chemo, I get a 4-week break and then it’s on to radiation…. I don’t want to even think about those side effects yet. One day at a time!

Besides last Friday’s fever and the constant burning eyes, my symptoms were not as bad last week. I go in for a follow-up with my surgeon in 2 weeks. Hopefully I won’t need anymore surgery.

My hair is still peach fuzzy so I’ve been wearing the scarves mostly because the wigs get too hot and itchy. I did wear a glamorous long one to a friend’s wedding last weekend, which was fun, but it got uncomfortable after a while. My oncologist said my hair will start growing back in 4 months after chemo is done so I still have 6 more months of wearing scarves, wigs and hats.

I’m trying my best not to lose my cool when people tell me to “just rock the bald look,” “vanity is overrated” or”hair is overrated.” Some of these people telling me to”just get over it” are men who have absolutely no idea how traumatic it is for a woman to lose all of her hair. Being a bald man is socially acceptable. Being a bald woman is not. Case in point; Sinead O’Conner and Britney Spears. But I can deal with it for 6 more months, as long as I get better soon so I can get on with my life!

I’m so grateful to have connected with a wonderful group of cancer and prayer warriors at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel. The leader is a 10-year bladder cancer survivor with an amazing survival story that I hope to write about sometime. He shared an awesome scripture with me which has remained with me all week. Last week was scary with the fever and getting nervous about the echocardiogram and “what ifs,” but this scripture helped to calm my nerves. And now I want to share it to encourage all of you!

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Then the God of peace will be with you.” ~Philippians 4:6-9

T-minus 12 hours until I’m halfway done with chemo! Yay!

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Battle – #Chemo Day 35, Almost Halfway There!

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Day #35 -Almost halfway there……

I thought I had escaped a week free of “most” of the side effects from A/C chemo but woke up this morning with extreme nausea and pain in the back of my head again. Ugh. It’s so strange how it can have such a “delayed reaction” and then hit me an entire week later out of nowhere. But this is something I am learning to live with…. for now.

My eyes have been burning for about 2 weeks. I thought this was due to allergies but apparently it’s yet another symptom to heap on to the list, along with dizziness, nausea, fatigue, metal taste, mouth sores, bone pain, headaches, etc.

The Claritin seems to be helping with the rib and muscle pain and I only have one more Neulasta shot to endure so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I just found out today that I will have to get another echocardiogram to ensure my heart is strong enough to endure the last A/C treatment on May 21. This is a standard procedure to test heart function and I expect everything will be fine.

Next Thursday 5/21 is the last of the 4 A/C part of my treatment and then beginning on June 2 I will start 8 weeks of Taxol, followed by 6 weeks of radiation. 62 days of chemo left. The countdown is on!

To support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe, please click here.

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#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Cancer is Not Contagious but Ignorance Just May Be…

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Today my daughter and I went to our (no longer) favorite place to get manicures/pedicures right near our house. We are usually pampered, treated very friendly and have a nice mother-daughter bonding day. My doctor said it’s important to do things that are relaxing and make me happy so we thought this would be a fun little indulgence.

After a year of  going to this nail salon, today was the first time I went in with my head wrap. Maybe they didn’t recognize me without my wild and crazy fiery red hair. Maybe they instantly saw the “chemo hat” and thought “she’s sick….” “she’s contagious….” “I don’t want to deal with that one….” The normally welcoming Korean ladies were suddenly aloof, didn’t smile or give eye contact… didn’t make the normal small talk.

One woman started working on my daughter’s feet while the older “lady” (I used that term loosely) who was supposed to be doing my pedicure puttered around, mumbled in Korean, went to the back room, and shouted across the spa at the girl at the desk and the other girl across the salon. She clearly did not want to wait on me and after seeing her cough, sneeze, pick her nose, and make her disdain so completely obvious, I didn’t want her near me either. There is such a thing as manners and clearly she had none.

I sat there, my feet in cold water, for a full 30 minutes while the second girl did my daughter’s pedicure, before the young lady at the desk came over to tell me someone would be right with me. The older nose picker swapped clients with the younger Asian girl mid-pedicure which made it very obvious she didn’t want to wait on me.

I felt like saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not contagious.” I felt like telling the no-manners lady that picking her nose in public with a tissue is still picking her nose in public. It’s unhygienic and not classy….at all. I felt like telling her that I hope cancer never touches her family because she will never know how it feels to be discriminated against simply for having the misfortune to get sick with something you can’t control. But I sat there, casually ignoring the 800-pound elephant in the room that everyone was trying to ignore.

Sorry my cancer makes you feel uncomfortable. Sorry I’m trying to go out and feel somewhat “normal” when my life is upside-down and in turmoil. Sorry to inconvenience you with my illness which, by the way, is not contagious.

I had a similar experience at a public event (before I lost my hair) with someone who I thought was a friend who snubbed me…. even after I said hello right to her and she just turned her head, giggled and laughed with her other friends. Yes, cancer is uncomfortable but just by saying hello to me won’t make you get it. Don’t worry. Yes, it’s awkward and makes people act weird. How do you think it makes me feel?

The worst part of getting cancer is not losing hair, feeling nauseous or feeling tired and dizzy all the time. It’s being ignored by those you loved when you thought your life meant something to them. Above all we just want to be treated normal with dignity and compassion. I would never wish this upon my worst enemy. Cancer has killed a few of relationships I would have never thought could be destroyed. And it has also help to heal a few that I am so grateful for.

If I have learned anything from this journey so far it’s that I have a choice as to who I let into my life and those who I won’t waste any more time, or money, on. I can choose which businesses I support,which “friends” and even family I allow in my life and which ones are no longer worth it.

And although getting snubbed at the nail salon today royally sucked, I am so incredibly grateful for each moment, and each teaching experience I have with my teenage daughter where I can show her how not to act. I can teach her how to ignore idiots, be the bigger person and rise above the rude ignoramuses. Through my battles, I can teach her something about strength and character. And that is priceless.

To support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe to help cover medical expenses related to the very rare type of cancer I’m fighting, Metaplastic Carcinoma, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles – Chemo Day 30: Showers of Kindness are Still Flowing!

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Chemo #3 is done and so far so good. Hopefully the Claritin is helping to keep the bone and muscle soreness at bay that I had last time from the Neulasta shot.

Nausea is not as bad this time although it is still there every day, which is not fun, but I’m learning to live with it. Keeping the Saltines, oyster crackers and ginger ale fully stocked. I had a bit of muscle pain in my left arm this time and am hoping that it is not going to swell up from when the nurse took the blood pressure on the wrong arm. It’s called Lymphadema. We shall see.

The showers of kindness are still flowing…. got a lovely surprise gift basket from The Scotty Fund filled with tea, mugs, snacks, a soft blanket and pillow and lots of other goodies. It is so incredibly nice of so many people to show this kindness to me and really helps to keep my spirits up. Thank you!!!

The Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center also did a Tip Night to benefit our family and help with the medical expenses related to my illness, which was so awesome. The 4 bartenders (Pam, Dean, Abbey & Norm) volunteered their time to help raise money for us. Thank you SO very much!!!! We are so grateful!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I’m hoping that I don’t feel as sick tomorrow like I did with the last treatment because I’d really like to go out for brunch with my family. Fingers crossed, prayers said, positive thoughts swirling through my head.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

Thank you everyone for all of your support. It means the world to us!

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. ” ~Author Unknown

“Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.” ~Marion C. Garretty, A Little Spoonful of Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul

99 Ounces and Still Not Enough – Chemo Day 29 #MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles

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3 down, 6 to go!  Last chemo is July 16, 2015

I’m 28 days into 16 weeks of ACT chemo (Adriamycin and Cytoxan and Taxol) and parched as a desert cactus! The first 4 treatments are the “A” – Adriamycin and “C” – Cytoxan every other week, followed by 4 weeks of Taxol every other week. After that I get a 4-week break before starting 6 weeks of radiation.

I know I have some new readers who are just beginning their breast cancer battle (Welcome!) so I will give a quick recap. To read my full story from the very beginning of when I found the lump on my left boob while dying my red hair, click here and scroll down to the bottom.

Chemo #1

I was pretty nervous about my first treatment because of the complications and 2 E.R. visits ( from an infection and an allergic reaction) I had from the lumpectomy surgery and the port placement surgery. I get my treatments on Thursdays so I felt sick (tired, dizzy, nauseous, mouth sores) Friday through Monday.

Chemo #2

Two weeks later, the second treatment started off okay, because I got medication for the mouth sores and figured out the dosages of all the 3 nausea meds they prescribed. But then out of nowhere…BOOM! The following Thursday night, a week after chemo #2, I got hit with pain in my bones (knees), pain in my skull, ribs, lower back and at the base of my skull. I also had bad muscle pain in my thighs. This lasted 2 days. The nausea, exhaustion and dizziness lasted 7 days.

Bye Bye Hair

My hair fell out on Day 17 which was 3-4 days early (according what I was told) and pretty traumatic, because it was not shaved short enough. Read more by clicking here.

Fast-forward to May 7, 2015

It’s been 106 days since I found the lump on Jan. 22 and my life was turned upside-down, swirling in a crazy up-and-down roller coaster ride ever since. I call it “The Whirlwind” which includes 5 free-fall drops, 4 loop-dee-loops, lots of climbs and falls and more than a few twists and turns.

I’m now 28 days in with 68 days to go and waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far the only symptom today is extreme thirst…..like, I’mreeeaaallly thirsty. I drank (3) 33 ounce water bottles (Nalgene BPA free – 99 ounces) so far and I’m still thirsty.

My 19-year-old son brought me to treatment today but had to go to work so my Pastor came to do “2nd shift” which was very comforting. Pastor Karen is a perfect balance of quick wit, well-rounded intelligence, girl power and modern cool forward thinking.  I’ve only gotten to know her better within the last few months after my daughter signed up to go on a missions trip but I am very glad to have gotten reconnected to this church (Bethel United Methodist) and the people in it.

I’ve worked in, and have gone to, a lot of different churches and denominations over the last few decades but stopped going a few years back after being hurt by “the church.” What I have recently realized is this: There is no perfect church. There are problems in a lot of churches, just read the newspaper. As long as the message is real none of that petty stuff matters. What I’ve also realized is that there are many more loving, kind, generous, selfless people who give their time, talent and money to bless others. And many do this, all flying under the radar- not wanting accolades, just wanting to bless someone. I have been the recipient of some of those blessings and I’m eternally grateful!

Chemo #3

Today’s treatment went well, except for a couple of glitches… the first nurse forgot which arm not to take blood and blood pressure on and I was too tired to remind her not to take it from my left. The reason is being because they took out my Sentinel Lymph Node and if they do blood pressure and/or blood work on my left arm it increases the risk of My Lymphedema (swelling).  My doctor said I probably won’t have a problem and I’m hoping he’s right.

For those just starting chemo, what happens is every time you go in you will be weighed, you’ll have to pee in a cup (pregnancy test), get your blood pressure taken, and then get your finger pricked so they can check red and white blood cell counts and platelet counts. Mine were all fine. My doctor even laughed when he asked me how I was doing and said “You’re so calm!”

My nurse is wonderful. There was another minor problem at first with drawing blood from the port site. This is a different blood test so they can check liver and kidney function. She couldn’t get a full tube at first and said it could be because after a while the tube that goes up form the port to the jugular vein could get a little clogged. They can clean it out with something but she tried one more time, while I prayed because I hate needles and didn’t want her to have to prick me in the arm with one, and, viola! It worked!

Next was the steroid drip, followed by anti nausea drip, followed by the 4 giant tubes of Adiriamycin. Next was the Cytoxan which gave me a head rush and made me feel dizzy so she had to slow down the drip. This whole process takes about 4 hours.

Tomorrow I expect some tiredness but my Oncologist said I shouldn’t have the bone and muscle pain this time around since I began taking Claritin on Monday. Yes, Claritin, the allergy medication. It’s supposed to combat the adverse effects of the Neulasta shot I get on Fridays to help boost my white blood cell counts. Weird, right? Good timing through since air quality is supposed to be poor tomorrow.

I plan on relaxing over the weekend and listening to my body when I need to rest. I have a week off from work to allow me to recover. My wig (top left) should be looking pretty snazzy soon. I dropped it off to my sister to tone it down a bit for “everyday use.” I’m diggin’ the new scarf gypsy look but it will be nice to go out sometimes, blend in and look somewhat “normal.”

Fingers and toes crossed that the other shoe I’ve been waiting to drop is firmly planted on the ground this week!

99 ounces of water in my belly, 99 ounces of water, you chug one down, swish it around, 99 more ounces to chug again tomorrow! Now that’s song’s stuck in your head. Ha!

Thanks for your support everyone! 🙂

 

To support my breast cancer battle to cover the cost of medical expenses, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: Gripping Fear and Grappling with Wigs

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Two-and-a-half hours of sleep can do a number on your emotions….. even without going through chemo. It was another rough one last night…. not with much physical pain this time…. more like mental anguish. This is when projects and distractions come in handy.

Last night’s project was to find the best wig. While my scalp is still pretty sore from the hair falling out, and I am not completely bald yet, I’m growing tired of trying to cover the splotchy peach fuzz with one lone scarf. So I decided to try on some of the wigs that I ordered. I put the 4 options (pictured) out for a vote on my Facebook and Instagram pages. Most people seemed to like the bottom left.

While the hair loss is only just one of the many side effects I’ve been experiencing from the Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Neulasta, it is a big one. It’s important to keep a positive mental attitude throughout my treatment and feeling like I look halfway decent will definitely help with that.

Last week was unexpectedly rough with the delayed reaction to the ACT. Thursday and Friday the muscles in my legs and bones hurt so bad I wanted to cry. But instead I downloaded an app (Bible Gateway) and listened to Psalm 103 over and over to soothe me to sleep.

It seems the darkest part of my battle comes very late at night….

The fear says:

*What if the chemo isn’t working?”

“What if it comes back?”

“What if this pain in my ribs is ‘something?’”

“What if I end up like so-and-so who didn’t make it?”

The faith says:

“The chemo IS working – that’s why my hair is falling” out”

“Trust that the doctors are checking me continually, and I know my body, so any new lumps and bumps will be checked.”

“The pain in my ribs is bone pain, a side effect from the Neulasta.”

“So-and-so waited too long to go to the doctor, the other so-and-so was misdiagnosed, and the other so-and-so was at a completely different age and stage. I am only stage one. It has not spread. Focus on the positive.”

Last night I couldn’t sleep because all of those dark thoughts swirling through my brain.

So…. if you are one of the people sending me stories about your loved one who passed away from cancer, I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you and your family. You were robbed. Cancer sucks. I wish that didn’t happen. I wish your loved one was still here with you.

But until I am done with my treatment, please don’t send me stories like that. It only adds to the fear that we (cancer patients) already experience daily. Right now as I go through treatment, I need to only hear positive and uplifting stories. I need to hear about survivors. I need to be surrounded with hope and strength. This may sound selfish to you but I have to be selfish right now for my mental, spiritual and physical health.

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to understand. And unless you’ve been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer that was only just discovered 15 years ago that not much is known about and has a higher rate of recurrence, then it’s even harder to understand the gripping fear that takes over at times.

That is why it is so important to feed my faith and feed my spirit. I’m so grateful to have been connected yesterday with a wonderful support group at Walnut Hill Community Church, right here in my hometown, Bethel, Conn. I know this will play a huge role in keeping my spirit strong and help in my recovery.

The leader is a 10 year cancer survivor. The ladies in attendance are survivors, full of faith, prayer warriors. They have been through it and and are all wonderful!

Here is a scripture that the leader read that really touched my heart from Romans 8. Those who are believers will “get it” and those who are Atheists or Agnostic, think of these words as beautiful poetry, because that is what it is!

“18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 38 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thank you all so very much for your love and support, for your donations and well wishes, for your continued prayers. You are all helping make my battle so much easier and I am forever grateful!

And now it’s time for a nap!

There’s No Whining in Baseball but There IS Whining Through ACT #Chemo

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I was searching old photos to try to find one of me playing softball or some sort of sport and couldn’t find one. But I did find a bunch of me with some pretty crazy hairdos over the years.

In my last blog post I told you how I was never very good at softball…. that was my sister’s department. She was the star pitcher and hitter I was the stinky catcher who always struck out and almost always missed the ball she’d pitch directly into my glove. Each of us have our own unique gifts and talents and mine definitely was not sports!

But now, figuratively, I’m looking at this Metaplastic Carcinoma breast cancer battle as a game in the game of life. I can either try my best and try to hit back at the curveballs I’ve been thrown, or curl up in a ball, cry and give up.  I think we all know how I’ve chosen to play this game. As Tom Hanks once said, “There’s no crying in baseball.” But, unfortunately, there is crying, and some whining, while undergoing ACT chemo.

I was hesitating to update my blog because I didn’t feel I had anything uplifting or inspirational to say. The last few days have been pretty tough. So far I have had 2 of the 4 A/C part of the ACT chemo. A stands for Adriamycin and C stands for Cytoxan. My doctor said I may have some of the following side effects, but not all. Info from Chemocare.com.

Adriamycin Side Effects:

  • Decrease of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Nail changes
  • Discolored urine
  • Severe sunburn with sun exposure
  • Nausea, dizziness, fatigue

Cytoxan Side Effects:

  • Decrease of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets
  • Mouth sores
  • Decreased appetite
  • Taste changes (metal taste in mouth)
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Bladder irritation
  • Nasal congestion/bloody noses

I get my A/C treatments every other Thursday, followed by a shot of Neulasta on Fridays to boost my white blood cell counts.

Neulasta Side Effects:

  • Bone pain
  • Pain in your arms or legs
  • Bruising, swelling, pain, redness, or a hard lump where the injection was given

Unfortunately I have had almost all of the side effects listed for the A/C and Neulasta. I’ve had pain in my back and ribs, mouth sores, and pain in my scalp due to the hair loss. I’ve also been very nauseous and dizzy since last Thursday’s treatment and don’t feel safe to drive. Last night the muscle pain in my legs was really harsh which made me nervous for the next 2 A/C treatments to come.

The doctor prescribed three different anti-nausea meds which, unfortunately, mess with the digestive system. So do I want to be nauseous or have proper digestion? That’s my choice.

Do I sound like I’m whining? Maybe. Do I have the right? My breast cancer sisters say YES! ACT chemo is very harsh and its effects last for over two years in your body even after you’re all done. Anyone who has been through it knows exactly what I am going through and how tough it can be. One woman I spoke with said she used to carry a pot in her car in case she had to get sick. Another said she did nothing but sleep for 18 of 24 hours in a day. I am somewhere in the middle.

Some days it’s hard to stay positive when every part of your body hurts, you’ve gotten 3 bloody noses and your hair is still painstakingly falling out strand by strand. But I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will get through it.

Over the course of the last few months I have met some of the fiercest, strongest warrior sisters who have inspired me to stay strong, keep a positive attitude and keep smiling. Two A/C’s down….. 2 A/C’s to go….followed by 4 Taxol……75 days and counting! Then there’s the 6 weeks of radiation after the 16 weeks of ACT, but who’s counting?!

To support my breast cancer battle on my GoFundMe fundraising page, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles – Chemo Day 21: Zombie Fog Brain

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Day #21 – 3 weeks in, 77 days to go….

Today threw me for a loop….. I wasn’t expecting to still feel sick after last Thursday’s treatment. Yet here is another curve ball I’ve been thrown (I was never very good at baseball!).

I’ve had a few rough nights with the hair loss, emotionally and physically, because it actually hurts my scalp as it keeps falling out. It feels like someone is pulling my hair which is a very uncomfortable feeling. So I had to take pain medication and another pill to help me sleep last night. I’ve never been a pill popper, not even for headaches, so this is all new to me.

I also woke up this morning with more mouth sores and pain in my ribs, I’m assuming from the Neulasta shots. But the part I wasn’t expecting is that 6 days after A/C chemo #2, I’m still very dizzy, still very nauseous and feel like I’m walking around in a general zombie-like state of “fog brain.” This is not cool for a “Takin’ care of business” type of gal like myself.

This is something new that I’m going to have to learn to live with for the next few months. I need to learn to listen to my body, slow down when I need to and rest when my body says so.

I was telling a friend who has gone through ACT chemo that I’m surprised by how hard it’s been hitting me. It comes in waves, out of the blue and I don’t know when it’s coming. She said it hits redheads harder….. but I’m not a real redhead….. I have brown hair with red highlights….. which is now peach fuzz with no highlights. It’s just so strange feeling dizzy ALL the time.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because a lot of people keep asking me how I am doing. Thank you for your concern! I wish I had better news but these are the hard facts of ACT chemo.

(ACT stands for A-Adriamycin, C-Cytoxan, T-Taxol)

Here is how I am doing:

Physically: Tired, dizzy, nauseous, pain in scalp
Emotionally: Drained, sometimes still in shock
Spiritually: Blessed! FULL of faith and hope!
Mentally: STRONG and ready to keep fighting!

My heart, head, body and spirit are all working together in harmony to get me better and stronger. And I am so grateful for all of you too!

Next up:

~ 3rd A/C Chemo – Thurs. 5/7
~ Last ACT chemo 7/16
~ 6 weeks radiation Aug-Sept.

To support my breast cancer battle and help fund my mounting medical expenses, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles – Chemo Day 20: Practice Real Love, Pay it Forward

relay meeting

Day 20 Chemo Update – April 28, 2015

It’s been nearly 3 weeks of chemo and symptoms are not getting easier,but are getting easier to predict after the fact. I know I will be tired, dizzy and nauseous on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with some lingering symptoms on Mondays and Tuesdays. So as long as I know this ahead of time, I can plan around it and still work and have a life.

Last night was pretty rough. Day #3 of large clumps of hair falling out in the shower was not fun to deal with at all at 3 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep. I’d finally had enough so I grabbed my trusty scissors and cut it off.

My sister gave me an awesome sassy haircut last Thursday that I was able to enjoy for 3 days but I think the buzz cut would have been much easier to deal with. Live and learn. And hopefully I’ll never have to go through this ever again like some of my other super strong Warrior Metaplastic breast cancer sisters.

Speaking of warriors….. we had our first Bethel, CT Relay for Life team meeting last night which was awesome. Fourteen teammates showed up for my team “Wendy’s Warriors,” two donned with silly hats to show their support of my first day out in public rockin’ the chemo scarf.

One of my friends wore a huge turban and the other wore a bandana made entirely of bubble wrap! It was so nice of them to support me and make me smile. I still have a ‪‎buzz cut‬ under but the ‪scarf but I think after a few more days the “‎bald is beautiful”‬ look will be hiding underneath.

We have decided to plan two separate fundraisers: One will be in May and is for the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Bethel Relay for Life on June 12, 2015 and we are doing this through “Wendy’s Warriors” t-shirt and bracelet sales. We will also have a small music night with giveaways and raffles to benefit ACS.

The second fundraiser will be a benefit concert in late June or early July in support of the #MyLeftBoob documentary which is being produced and filmed by Danbury-based “R Media Productions.” The purpose of the film is to raise awareness of this very rare cancer that only 1% of women are diagnosed with by chronicling my journey with Metaplastic Carcinoma since the beginning.

All proceeds from the documentary will go directly to Metaplastic Carcinoma research, testing and clinical trials. More info on both fundraisers, and the trailer, is coming soon!

The main point of all of the work I am doing throughout my battle is to raise awareness for early detection to help others. I am so fortunate, blessed and grateful to have found the lump while it was still only Stage 1 and had not spread to my lymph nodes. And I am firmly believing in faith that it won’t come back because of the 16 weeks of ACT chemo I’m going through and because we got it early.

I believe I’m here for a reason and I am not a statistic. I can use my platform of being an editor to help others remember to do self exams so they have a fighting chance. I can use my life, my survivor story, my voice to help others.

I’ve heard some people say they are worried about me because I am doing “too much” in the beginning of my battle with work, kitchen makeover, Wendy’s Warriors Relay team, awareness campaign, etc. And to them I say….. thank you for your concern but you don’t know me very well. 😉

I have always been one to juggle multiple tasks and now more than ever I need these distractions so the madness, fear and depression doesn’t take over my mind. I need to know that my fight is for a reason– not just to help myself get better, but to help others when I am well. These are welcome distractions.

Since I work from home, I am able to rest when I need to and relax and let the helpers help…. the wonderful friends, family and volunteers from The SCOTTY Fund who have been helping with dinners, a cleaning crew from The Maids of Brookfield who will be coming once a month beginning in May and the list of awesome people supporting me and lifting me up goes on and on. I could not do all that I do without all of you! So thank you!

 

Staying positive, uplifted, strong and sassy is how I will win the battle…. having faith, praying, laughing, loving, living, paying it forward. If you look very closely at the bottom left corner photo you can see my new “Love Wins” necklace that Figs Wood Fired Grill owner Kristin Tartaglia gave me. The necklaces were made to honor the life of Ana Grace Marquez, a Sandy Hook student lost in the tragedy of 12/14. Ana Grace’s memory lives in in our hearts when we share her message. #LoveWins

Whether or not you believe in God, the universe or karma, when you share goodness, kindness and love you will always win.

“This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially….and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear….let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly.”

~ 1 John 3:16-18 The Message Bible

To support my breast cancer battle on my GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of mounting medical bills from 2 hospitals and 3 surgeries, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Chemo Day 18, Bye Bye Hair, Hello #WendysWarriors

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The Fall…….

Day #17 of chemo is when “it” happened. Really it was Day #18 late at night when I went to take my shower. It’s the moment every chemo patient dreads; when the hair starts falling out. For me it was a shocker because my doctor said it would be on Day #19 or #20 which would have been Tuesday or Wednesday so I thought I still had a few days left to mentally prepare. Nope.

You’d think going through 2 surgeries, 2 biopsies, 5 dental visits and a tooth extraction, waiting for test results would be the hardest part of this fight, but no. It’s losing the hair. It is very traumatic and part of everyone’s identity. It seems so vain to be worried about it but until you have walked in our shoes you really have no idea how difficult it is. I am not quite ready to post bald photos or do henna tattoos or have friends draw with Sharpies on my hairless skull so you can save those suggestions for now. I will come to terms with it in my own time. It’s just another new symptom to deal with.

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Yucky, Sucky Side Effects…..

My sister-in-law Sherri brought me to chemo #2 on Thursday and I was feeling nauseous all day. The dizziness came Thursday night, along with lingering mouth sores. Thankfully my sister Shari and Figs Wood Fired Grill in Newtown brought us dinners for Thursday and Friday night. And The Scotty Fund, based out of Bethel, has been awesome with delivering on Mondays and Wednesdays so we are covered. More info on The Scotty Fund and founder Linda Anderson’s award coming soon! We are so incredibly grateful for the army of dedicated volunteers and family who are helping us through. But nothing makes me feel better like my Mom’s homemade chicken soup! Thanks Mom! 🙂

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On Friday my sister Debbie brought me to get the Neulasta shot to keep my white blood cell counts up and then we had a nice lunch at Plain Jane’s. It’s so nice to be surrounded by such a loving and supportive family during this time. Friday night my face and chest was pretty red and thought I had a fever but then remembered my doctor said since I’m so fair-skinned that the Neulasta will probably do that to me.

Nausea lingered all weekend because it’s really hard to keep up with taking 3 meds for it, plus pills for mouth sores and something to help me sleep. I’m not normally a pill popper. If I get a headache I ride it out or have some tea…or wine….but I have not had any wine in months. So this whole pill popping lifestyle is something I am learning to deal with for now.

Say Goodbye Saturday….

Then came Saturday night when I said goodbye to a lot of my hair in the shower. Thankfully the kids were already asleep and didn’t have to hear my meltdown. But my husband, my rock, my biggest supporter, helper, caretaker and best friend was right there for me to clean up my mess and my tears. I can’t imagine going through this battle alone. My husband, kids and family of course all said I still look pretty which is very nice. It’s just hard to feel pretty when you don’t feel good. But I will keep fighting and keep trying to stay positive and focused on my fight. And I let others lift me when I am down as they have been. And pray. And laugh. My brother Dennis especially always makes me laugh! 😀

Sleepy Sunday……….

I slept 10 good hours finally which was very much needed and was pleasantly surprised by my sister-in-law Karen who brought over a pot roast. This was so helpful after my husband and kids are giving the kitchen a much-needed makeover. Don’t worry- paint fumes aren’t bad and are going out the door with 4 box fans. I’m in the other room. Doc said it’s okay as long as it’s well ventilated. Pix coming soon!

Stay Sassy!

On a brighter note, I created a Relay for Life team called “Wendy’s Warriors” and we have our first team meeting on Monday. I thought I would have one more day with my sassy new haircut given to me by my sister Becky at Salon Kamala. Oh well. Pictures last longer. Thanks Beckells!🙂

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Now I will wear sassy hats  and scarves and bandanas. The t-shirt design for Wendy’s Warriors was created by my amazingly talented Newtown High School friend Lisa Kosarko Setaro who donated her time to create it for me. Check out her work  at www.gruntleddesigns.com.

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If you want to order a t-shirt please email me, wendipoprock@gmail.com, with your size. T-shirts will be white with the face on the front and the warrior logo on the back. Adults $25, kids $20. 100% of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society to find a cure. If you want to donate to Relay for Life our team please visit Wendy’s Warriors Team Page:

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY15NE?team_id=1843056&pg=team&fr_id=64813

#MyLeftBoob Documentary….

Filming is still happening. Trailer and website will be coming soon. I will keep you posted!! It is a lot to juggle with kids, hubby, puppy, full-time job, treatments and I need to rest and focus on my fight. When I am done with my treatment there will be plenty of time to keep working to raise awareness. So for now it has to be a “Me Party” until I get better.

Looking ahead…..

My next chemo #3 is on Thursday, May 7th and then I’m looking forward to my sister Dawn’s visit for chemo#4 on Thursday, May 21st, which is also my daughter Ruby’s 15th birthday! The first 4 treatments of the ACT are the hardest I’m told because of the harsh A– Adriamycin and C-Cytoxan. After May 21 then I get 4 doses of T-Taxol which has its own slew of side effects. But I’m taking it one day at a time, one step at a time.

Last chemo of 8 is Thursday, July 16 so I only have 80 days of chemo to go! Then I get a 4-week break before I start radiation 5 days a week for 6 more weeks. I can do this!!!!

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Chronicles: Chemo 2 Done, 6 to Go, #LoveWins

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Today was chemo #2 and again I am blown away by the kindness and generosity of family, friends and even total strangers donating, delivering meals and blessing me with rides/and a scholarship so my daughter can continue lessons at Gilleoghan Irish Dance, books, gifts, haircuts, cookware, massages, and love. THANK YOU! Love always wins. Good always wins. And kindness keeps flowing forward like a river as long as you share it.

Speaking of kindness… my sister-in-law took me to my appointment today and got a crash course in what a chemo patient goes through: First you get weighed, then the precautionary “pee in a cup” to make sure there are no more wee ones on the way (there isn’t), then it’s a lovely little finger prick to top it all off to check red/white cell counts, followed by blood pressure monitoring. My heart rate was pretty high but I hate needles so after the needle was put away it slowed back down to normal. Phew!

The doctor gave me a prescription for mouth sores, another side effect of ACT. My chemo nurse hooked me up to the I.V. through the port and started the steroid and anti-nausea meds. After about an hour came the red medicine, Adriamycin, that I like to call hummingbird nectar. I was okay at first but then started feeling very light-headed so the nurse switched to a slow drip.

The whole process takes about 4 hours and thankfully I had my sister-in-law with me because the hubs had to work his 2 jobs to try to keep up with these bills!

As soon as I got home my sister greeted me with a home-cooked dinner for 4: roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes and green beans. It’s so nice not to have to worry about cooking when I don’t feel well.

Then the doorbell rang again and it was Figs Wood Fired Bistro in Sandy Hook delivering us another dinner! The owner reached out to me to let me know she read about my illness on Newtown Patch, the online news site I work for, and wanted to help. The young man who delivered was so sweet and said he read my story on my GoFundMe page and was praying for me. I was moved to tears when opening the card from Figs’ owner Kristina, who I had the pleasure of meeting when I opened a non-profit healing arts center (SHACK – Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids) after the tragedy of 12/14.

The card read in part, “It made me happy that you’ve felt God’s presence in your life and shared the scripture ‘God is Love.’ I immediately thought of a slogan [Love Wins] from Ana Grace’s family. Stay strong!” Figs recently began a service where they deliver delicious dinners, free of charge, to people in need. If you know of someone who could be helped by this, please click here.

 

In the box that came with the dinner, was a beautiful necklace that says “Love Wins.” I will cherish it as a reminder of Ana Grace Marquez, one of the children who passed away in the tragedy, and all of the Sandy Hook angels. Even on the darkest days I will remember that love does always win, good can come from evil.

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Another amazing organization I have been blessed by is Bethel-based,SCOTTY Fund. They’ve been delivering meals twice a week which has been a huge help. It’s completely volunteer run and was started by Linda Anderson in honor of her son, 3-year-old Scotty Anderson, who passed away from cancer. THANK YOU Linda and anonymous angels. Linda will be honored with an award this Saturday for all of the work she does to help others. Congratulations Linda, it is very much deserved!

The last blessing of the day was my sister Becky, owner of Salon Kamala in Bethel, CT., giving me a wicked cool, super short, 80’s do. But you’ll have to wait until later tonight or tomorrow for pix when my daughter shows me how to make a Pic Stitch collage. Stay tuned!

Thank you again everyone so much for your kindness. Please visit the links below to learn more about these amazing, generous organizations:

http://www.scottyfund.org/

http://anagraceproject.org/

http://www.figswoodfiredbistro.com/

http://gilleoghan.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Salon-Kamala/292010257491577

Paying it forward is something I plan on doing after I’m better, and something I do now by raising awareness for early detection. Click here to read more and to see a #MyLeftBoob photo gallery.

To anyone who is currently battling cancer: STAY STRONG! Stay sassy! Stay connected with positive people. Only fill your mind with good thoughts. And when you think you are done fighting, let others pick you up and help you fight some more. You can do this!!!!  And if you don’t think you can, please look at the beautiful smile of this gorgeous 17-month-old’s face while he is going through chemo…. click here. If he can do it with a smile on his face then so can I! You inspire me to keep smiling Riley!!!! 🙂

I want to end this post with one more scripture that has brought me comfort when fear tries to creep in….

“6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds.” ~Philippians 4:6,7 New Living Translation

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Battle: Mind Over #Cancer

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I’m gearing up for chemo #2 on Thursday after a week of ups and downs, physically and emotionally. The homeopathic nurse at the hospital told me there are 3 important things to focus on to get better: Mind, body and spirit.

Mind: Think good thoughts, stay positive, keep a good sense of humor

Body: Eat healthy, drink lots of water, avoid carbs, sugar and processed foods

Spirit: Do relaxing activities like yoga, meditation and anything to keep stress levels down

Last Thursday was my one week post-chemo follow-up. My oncologist said my white blood cell counts are low, which is normal, but everything else looked good. The side effects below are what a chemo patient can experience from the drugs I’m taking- Adriamycin & Cytoxan (A/C). For me the worst has been the metal taste, mouth sores and difficulty concentrating.

Adriamycin & Cytoxan side effects:

-Decrease of white & red blood cells
-Decrease in platelets
-Hair loss
-Mouth sores
-Nail changes
-Discolored urine
-Nausea
-Fatigue/exhaustion
-Severe sunburn with sun exposure
-Decreased appetite
-Taste changes (metal taste)
-Changes in menstrual cycle
-Bladder irritation
-Nasal congestion
-Difficulty concentrating
-Problems with short-term memory
-Confusing dates and appointments
-Misplacing objects
-Fumbling for the right word or phrase

Then there’s nausea and digestive issues from the anti-nausea meds. I could be feeling good one minute and then BAM! I get hit with a wave of nausea and/or exhaustion.

Another big problem I’ve been experiencing is what they call “chemo brain.” According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, chemo brain is “difficulty in efficiently processing information, is a legitimate, diagnosable condition that may be caused by chemotherapy treatment, the cancer itself, or secondary medical conditions such as anemia.”

So please be patient with me if I ask you the same question twice, mixup a date, or forget if you already told me something. It’s just another terrible side effect I must deal with over the next few months or even two years.

When I went for my first treatment on 4/9, the nurse said they don’t call A/C “red devil” anymore but it still is pretty scary. The medication is red in color and is so toxic that they warn you to flush twice with the lid down and wash your hands for 45 seconds during and after infusion.

It can only be administered by hand into a vein by a specially trained Chemotherapy Nurse in a cap, gown and gloves by hand through an injection. My dosage was four huge tubes that look like 4 monster sized syringes. It’s shot directly into the port in my chest because it’s really tough on the veins in the arm.

After 3 more A/C treatments over the next 14 weeks, I will then get 4 doses of Taxol followed by 6 weeks of radiation (30 treatments).

My doctor said my hair will start falling out on day #19 or 20 after the first treatment which will be on 4/28 or 4/29. I’m getting a buzz cut this Thursday because my breast cancer sisters say it’s less traumatic when it falls out in 1/2 inch clumps instead of 4-5 inch clumps. Thankfully I have a very generous and talented sister who owns a hair salon (Salon Kamala in Bethel, CT) and I know she will make me look cool.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by such amazing friends, family and even complete strangers who have been delivering meals, contributing to my fundraising page so we can pay our hospital bills on time, leaving trinkets, books and cards in my mailbox, and constantly praying for me and lifting me up.

One thing I have not yet spoken much about is how much I have felt God’s presence throughout this fight through the kindness and blessings of so many. Here is a scripture that’s helped me get through some very scary experiences, 2 surgeries, 2 biopsies, a tooth extraction, 2 emergency room visits and my first chemo:

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry…. There is no room in love for fear.” ~1 John 4:17-18, The Message Bible

Thank you all for making my fight easier by blessing me with so much kindness.

Looking forward to:

***84 days until last chemo!

***85 days until family vacation!

Peace,
~Wendy 🙂

#MyLeftBoob Day 6 Post Chemo: Measure Your Life in Love

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“Remember the love, share love, give love, spread love….measure your life in love.” ~Rent

“Love” sand drawing done by Ruby Mitchell, Centerville Beach, Cape Cod, 2013.

Later today I will have the honor of being treated to one of three therapeutic massages to help with the 3 herniated discs in my neck,thanks to the kindness of a complete stranger.

I am blown away by the number of good-hearted folks out there whom I’ve never even met who support me in my battle. It makes me sort of sad for those who I thought would be there who are not. You learn who your real friends and family are when facing something this serious and you really learn tho value and appreciate those who are there.

Life is about more than holding on to the past and petty disagreements. Life is about the here and now and the future. If someone wants to throwaway a relationship after numerous times were made at making peace, then it’s out of my hands.

At this point in my life, for my physical and mental health, I can only be surrounded by positive, uplifting people who support me in my treatment decisions and respect my wishes.

This battle has not been easy and I’ve had to deal with many struggles along the way but I have tried to maintain a positive attitude throughout because I know this season of my life is only temporary and soon new life will bloom and spring will come.

It’s very hard to be told that you have cancer, then that yours is rare– Triple Negative that only 15% of women get, then, on top of that, that you ALSO have an even rarer type than that called Metaplastic that only 1% of women get. AND even after treatment is done, it can come back. Then imagine having to tell that to your 3 kids, your husband, your family.

Oh, and that the only treatment is 3-4 hours of long, hard ACT chemo every other week or 16 weeks instead of over 3 weeks to make sure they kill every last cancer cell after removing the tumor on 2/17.

Then there was the 2 E.R. visits due to infections and allergic reactions, 5 dental visits followed by a tooth extraction before I could begin chemo, and a lot of emotional challenges with mostly well-meaning people.

But despite all of this, I am reminded over and over that GOOD always prevails over evil. Actions speak louder than words. LOVE WINS. What matters in life is how you treat others, the legacy you leave, and the GOOD you put out there in this world- the giving you do for others.

For the last 15 years I have strived to do just that through charitable work, volunteerism and however else I can help out in my community. And now I feel that God, the universe, karma, or whatever you want to call it is showering with me with blessings on a daily basis and I am so eternally grateful.

EVERYONE is touched by cancer. Cancer does not discriminate between age, gender, race, religion, political parties, rich, middle or lower class. Everyone knows someone who has battled or lost their life to cancer and THAT is heartbreaking tragedy.

I don’t believe people “lose” their cancer battle if they pass on. As long as they fight they are not losers. They are winners. They fought the good fight and they live on in the hearts of all those who love them.

I’m only in the beginning of my journey but I know that after I WIN this battle I will do all that I can to pay forward all the goodness and kindness others have shown my family in our time of need.

So this is my long-winded way of saying THANK YOU for the prayer shawls, and the hats, the cards, the gift certificates, the crosses, Mass cards, books, breast cancer socks, the donations, the care packages, the meals, and prayers, and well wishes, and funny videos to make me smile, the constant daily support, and the list goes on and on.

I couldn’t fight this fight with positivity and humor and dignity without all of your help. May it all come back to you in abundance.  Next chemo #2: Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thank you all for the LOVE.

“Measure your life in love.” ~Rent

To support my breast cancer battle, please click here.

#MyLeftBoob Day 4 Post-Chemo Update: A Season for Strength

My daily "bread"

Day #4 Post-Chemo Update:

A Pastor once told me that in all of our lives there will be seasons; good ones and bad. Springtime and winter. Blooming and beautiful and full of life sometimes and other times dry and barren. But we need to remember that these seasons are only temporary, just like this treatment I am going through.

And…..Wow. Never did I think I would be so knocked out from just the first treatment, yet here I lay on the couch, my self-taught therapy dog faithfully by my side. And seven more ACT treatments to go.(Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol)

My oncologist said that after chemo on Thursdays, I’d feel sick on Friday, it would get progressively worse Saturday and still bad on Sunday. Then on Monday I’d start feeling a little bit better. I hope he’s right!

I’m still sore from the port placement surgery, but thankfully no bone pain from the Neulasta shot last Friday. I feel like I need to listen to my body, rest when I need to and eat what will settle my stomach which right now is only very bland foods like chicken soup or oatmeal. I had the dropsies Friday night and some dizziness but that has passed now, thankfully.

I’m about to attempt to down a healthy green kelp shake because I know the vitamins will be good for my body. Cheers to hoping it helps raise my energy and immune system, which chemo takes a toll on (which is why I need the Neulasta shots to boost white blood cell counts).

I’m so grateful to have such an amazing support system, all of your donations to help with the hospital bills, an army of prayer warriors and an incredibly amazing family who is here to lift me up and take care of me when I am feeling weak.

This battle will have to be fought hour by hour, day by day, and is certainly not what I expected. But when all is said and done, I will get through it and I will do everything I can to help others. I will raise awareness for this very rare Metaplastic type of breast cancer that only 1% of women get and I WILL win this fight!

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you for your support. To donate to help me fight my battle, please click here.

Peace,
Wendy 🙂

#MyLeftBoob Goes to Chemo #1

wendy flower hat

A lovely hat given to me by the receptionist at the hospital who excitedly said as she proudly presented it, “I saved it just for you because it matches your eyes!” So sweet!

First chemo done? Check! No allergic reactions? Double check! Waiting for the other shoe to drop and/or kick me in the patootie over the weekend? Hmmmm….

Got first chemo treatment over with yesterday during a span of about 5 hours. My chemo drugs will be given every other week over the next 16 weeks and are called “ACT,” which stands for Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Taxol.

I had a lumpectomy Feb. 17 and the biopsy showed it was Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma, Stage 1, no lymph node involvement.

According to Chemocare.com, “this treatment is given after surgery to try to prevent or minimize the growth of microscopic deposits of tumor cells that might grow into a recurrent tumor.”

“One standard regimen for adjuvant treatment for breast cancer is a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, and more recently, Taxol has been added to hopefully enhance disease free survival.”

Today I had a shot of Neulasta (a white blood cell count booster) which I was told can cause bone pain. Hopefully the side effects will be minimal. So far I only feel a flush face and a few hot flashes, no bone pain. But I did get the dropsies 3 times tonight while trying to cook dinner. Thankfully my daughter said, “Go lay down mom, I’ll clean it up. You’re probably tired.” Sweet girl. She’s 14 and is my nighttime caregiver since both my husband and 19-year-old son work nights.

So far we’ve filmed 2 days of the ‪#‎MyLeftBoob‬ trailer, directed and produced by rmedia. The purpose of the documentary is to shed light on this very rare and aggressive type of cancer that only 1% of women are diagnosed with, compared to other types of breast cancer that 80% of women are diagnosed with.

Because it’s so rare, there is not much written out there and not much research or clinical trials being done. We hope the #MyLeftBoob documentary can put us Metaplastic fighters on the map and start gaining traction with the big cancer researchers.

We have a third filming day scheduled for next week and hopefully soon after that the trailer and website will be ready to be released. Stay tuned!

As the evening progresses I’m starting to feel more tired and nauseous so it’s time to get some rest. Chemo #2 is on 4/23.

Thank you so very much for all of your donations, love and support. It makes this battle so much more bearable! I really appreciate your kindness, prayers and well wishes.

To donate to support my fight to cover hospital bills, please click here.

Peace,
Wendy 🙂

#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: The Port is Placed, the Battle Begins

jugular

It’s been an eventful week so far and it’s only Tuesday! I went in for the port placement surgery on Monday, feeling prepared and ready to go…..that is, until the radiology surgeon started telling me how and where they were going to insert the port…..through my JUGULAR vein? What the???? I had never heard of that before and had NO idea they’d be doing that. You never hear anything good when people mention the jugular vein.

So, nervously, I was wheeled into the operating room. The nurses and physician’s assistants were wonderful. Apparently I was blabbing away and cracking jokes before I drifted off to sleep while they worked. When I woke up a few hours later I had the port placed and with it, a lot of pain, dizziness and nausea.

We got home and I slept for a few hours, took more pain meds, and tried to go back to sleep but I began having shortness of breath and muscle twitchiness in my legs. I called the doctor at 4 a.m. and was told to come into the emergency room.

After 2 chest x-rays, an ultrasound on my legs to check for blood clots, blood work and heart/lung tests, 5 hours later the doctor told me that I probably just had “an adverse reaction to anesthesia.” Phew!

After spending the better part of 2 days at the hospital, I go back tomorrow (Wednesday) for chemo training and start chemo treatment #1 on Thursday.

I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the good: I’m only Stage 1 and it has not spread. But I am nervous with 2 surgeries and 2 adverse reactions. Maybe 3’s a charm? Hopefully I will be fine. I believe in prayer and the power of positive thinking and am holding on to faith and hope.

Tomorrow we film more of the documentary we are working on to raise awareness and funding for Metaplastic Carcinoma. My hope is that more women can catch it early like I did by doing self breast exams and can have a better prognosis than those I’ve met thus far.

Many women who have Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma don’t find it until it has progressed to Stage 3 or 4 and has spread to other places in the body. Both Triple Negative and Metaplastic have a higher chance of recurrence but since we caught mine early I am believing we will kill it for good with 4 months of chemo and 2 months of radiation.

Even when I am “done” with my treatments I am never truly done because it is something that will always need to be checked every 3-6 months for the next 7-10 years because of its higher rate of recurrence, I consider myself very lucky to have a good prognosis and that is why I feel the need to write and make this documentary so there can be more funding for research and clinical trials.

Documentary filming continues Wednesday as the team follow me to work, my office at my favorite local coffee shop. After that I’ll try on my new scarves and wigs. My Medical Oncologist tells me I can expect to lose my hair 19-20 days after the first chemo treatment on April 9  so I need to be prepared.

The trailer will be done soon and of course I will share here when it is completed.

To learn more about Metaplastic breast cancer, please visithttp://www.metaplasticbc.com/

To support my breast cancer battle please click here.

#MyLeftBoob Begins Documentary Filming

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#MyLeftBoob in happier times, summer of 2013.

Yes, it’s true. My left boob will make its screen debut in a documentary coming soon to a video screen near you. My Left Boob, the documentary, is being filmed, directed and produced by rmedia, a Danbury-based film production company.

I met the owners, Renato and Alicia Ghio, about 3-4 years ago at a show where Renato’s band, Mighty Ploughboys, was playing at a local club. But we actually met before, about 22 years ago, when his old band, Vitamin F, and my band Leadfoot, played together in CT during the early 90s grunge days. I think I did a backbend on stage that night and offended quite a few people, but that’s a tale for another time.

The story of my left boob is one we will be telling together and I was so excited and happy when Renato and his wife Alicia agreed to take on this project. I didn’t want to work with strangers on something so personal and so important.  Already they have been so kind and caring and have made me feel completely comfortable talking about this very emotional topic.

We began filming last Thursday, bringing viewers up to date since the day I found the lump while dying my red hair. Ironically, later that day we filmed at my sister’s salon, Salon Kamala, while she cut my hair super short in preparation for chemo which begins this Thursday, April 9. It was more emotional to talk about getting my hair cut on film then actually going to get it done. Becky did a great job and I’ve already been compared to a cool video game character, Bayonetta.

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bayonetta

Today I go in for one-day surgery to have a port placed in my chest to help with chemotherapy treatments. Since the lumpectomy was done on my left side, I can never have my blood pressure or blood drawn from my left arm. With all the times they will have to take blood to check my red and white blood cell counts and insert IVs over the next 4-6 months, the port placement will save my veins and arms from abuse.

For those of you like me who had never heard of this before, a port is a small metal disc about the size of a quarter that sits just under the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein where chemotherapy medicines are given through a needle that fits into the port.

I would be lying if I said I was not a little bit nervous about getting this procedure done. Before the lumpectomy, I had never had surgery in my life. Yes. I’ve had 3 kids but surgery is different- going under. I had an allergic reaction while under sedation last time so yes, I am nervous. But I know I am in good hands.

I’m more nervous about getting the chemotherapy drugs this Thursday because of my many allergies. As I’ve said throughout this journey so far, it seems the waiting is the hardest part. The not knowing what to expect or how I will react. But I get over each bump in the road and keep moving forward with courage, faith, a positive attitude, and love and support from everyone who has stuck with me throughout this battle.

We’re not allowed to film in the hospital due to privacy issues but we plan on filming more this week and we’ll post online as soon as the trailer is complete. In the meantime, please like/follow My Left Boob, the documentary here:

My Left Boob Facebook

My Left Boob Twitter@MyeftBoob1

Website coming soon!

Wading Through Life with the Help of Some Mermaids #MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer Battle

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Part of what kept my spirits up during the last 10 weeks of my journey was teaching a children’s theatre class each Saturday morning. We got through about 10 or more snowstorms, 20 doctors appointments and lots of ups and downs, but in the end the play was a huge success. Seeing the smiles of the kids faces each week helped me escape my reality if only for an hour or two. 

Update from my GoFundMe page:

All’s been quiet on the medical front the past couple of weeks while I patiently wait for phase 2 of my battle to begin….. chemo. Just wrapped a 10-week children’s theatre class and threw 2 birthday parties for my daughter since chemo #3 (one of the hardest) will be on her actual birthday May 21st.

The mail and calls are starting to come in for the hospital bills and I’m hoping I can maintain my full-time work schedule during treatment to pay them. I went back to work last Monday after my leave ended but I’m not done with my treatment yet. There’s still 4-6 more months to go. Hopefully through good nutrition and the power of positive thinking I can stay physically and mentally strong throughout.

As I’ve written before, the worst part of the fight has been the waiting….for results….for doctors to call back….for surgery….results of biopsy… lumpectomy…another biopsy…results of the PET Scan……and now waiting for the worst…chemo drugs, also known as “The Red Devil.”

They call it “Red Devil” because it’s red and the biggest, baddest cancer drug out there. The medical term is Adriamycin and its side effects are very harsh- hair loss, nail loss, nausea, extreme fatigue, heart issues, and the list goes on.

As with any fight, you can psych yourself up (or out) of it and, depending on the information you put into your head. You can go into the fight scared or empowered. My goal is to be mentally, physically and spiritually prepared.

I’m hearing about all of the horrible side effects of chemo, fears and other negative and symptoms of this illness. But for me, this is all just fear of the unknown. All of us are different, at various age ranges, health and fitness levels, mental states, stages of cancer, etc. so I have no idea if my reaction to the chemo drugs will be any better or worse than someone else’s.

Being a positive thinker, I have to psych myself up to remember that I am young and healthy and strong. I’m trying to fill my mind with good and uplifting stories and info as I wait for treatment to begin.

Another hard part of this battle has been dealing with the many miracle “quick fixes” I’ve been sent — Just eat this and you’ll be cured! Just have an alkaline diet! Don’t do chemo and try homeopathic remedies instead! If only it was that easy.

It’s interesting to note the many disclaimers at the bottom of the alternative remedies websites and articles I’m being sent on an almost daily basis:

“No statement on this website has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

“Any product mentioned or described on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. ”

“I’m not a doctor and can’t give medical advice. I don’t prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure disease. I do not practice medicine. I have no certifications of any kind.”

As I’ve said before, I should not have to defend myself, but each day when people send the latest miracle cure, miracle food, webisode, PBS special, etc. I find myself defending my decisions over and over. And it’s not just one person so please don’t think this is directed at you. It’s MANY good-intentioned people and I am grateful I have so many who care about me. I know you all mean well and it is coming from a good place and so I truly do thank you for your concern.

But I must say once again: It is my body and my fight. It is my decision as to how and where I will be treated. So just to recap:

  • YES I am eating healthy- no preservatives, no chemicals, no sugar, no carbs, no alcohol, lean proteins, all organic veggies….as I have been doing since Jan. 1, since before I was diagnosed.
  • YES I am doing chemo.
  • NO I will not skip chemo or do alternative methods while doing chemo and “just don’t tell your doctor.” That is VERY dangerous.

My three-part regimen known as ACT, stands for Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol, starts in 9 days. This battle is about to get REAL. This is the time I need the most love and support.

Next up on the agenda:

  • 4/2 – final consultation & sign papers to move forward with treatment
  • 4/6 – port placement for chemo
  • 4/9 – first chemo treatment

Thank you so much for your support.

~Wendy 🙂

To donate, please click here.

Warrior Wendy Prepares to Slay Evil Demons #MyLeftBoob

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Photo by Gabrielle Siegel

Now that I have returned back to work, I won’t have as much time to update my blog. This update is from my GoFundMe page. Please share with anyone you know who is currently fighting this battle or with those whose lives have been affected by cancer:

Wendy’s Triple Negative Metaplastic Cancer Battle

http://www.gofundme.com/myleftboob

If only I could slay the C-word with the huge pike (pictured) this whole process would be so much easier! You may be wondering why I am holding a large medieval weapon. It’s because I’m a member of Danbury’s Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and marched in the St. Patricks’ Day parade last Sunday.

Generally the men hold the weapons but they let me hold it for a minute for a photo op. The weapons represent overcoming oppression that the Irish experienced. For me, this pike figuratively represents the army of demons I have to slay to throughout this battle.

The first demon I slayed was “the suspicious lump” that turned out to be breast cancer. But not the “normal” breast cancer that 80% of women get. Don’t get me wrong, ALL cancer is wicked and evil and horrible and hard to deal with. But mine just happens to be harder because only 1% of women get this and so little is known about it. And it has a higher chance of coming back. BUT I am only Stage 1, it HAS NOT spread and that is what I am focusing on.

The next demons I fought off were the 2 additional worrisome lumps that turned out to be a swollen lymph node and a sebaceous cyst. Waiting for days for results is tough but I’m so grateful that it turned out to be “nothing to worry about.”

Next on the war tour was a year’s worth of tooth issues being treated in one month. Unfortunately I’ve already used up all of my dental insurance for the year (and it’s only March) with 5 dental appointments since February, so that is why I have this site up, because the medical bills related to this cancer battle seem to be never-ending.

I write this as I sit here with an ice pack on my cheek to help with the swelling of a tooth that was pulled yesterday. Don’t worry- I don’t look like a hillbilly, it was just a back molar. It has to be extracted due to “an advanced infection that has been there for quite some time and has gone into the bone.” I just had dental work done in the beginning of February and, according to the last dentist I went to, somehow it was missed. At least it is taken care of now.

My choices were to get a root canal and have to wait 6 -12 weeks for the infection to clear OR get it pulled and wait 2 weeks. The choice was easy. Generally after surgery the doctors want to wait 4 weeks before starting chemo. But then I got a skin infection. The day that cleared up I found out I have a tooth infection.

So as you can see this battle has not been an easy one but I feel confident because I am fully equipped with my weapons of mass destruction:

1. A positive attitude
2. An incredible husband and children
3. An amazing support system of family & friends
4. Knowledgeable, compassionate doctors
5. Cancer killing medicines
6. Help with my new diet to keep cancer cells away

Next up on the agenda:
*4/2 – sign papers to move forward with treatment
*4/6 – port placement for chemo
*4/9 – first chemo treatment

Thank you so much for your support. I know I will win this battle and when I am done I will continue to battle and raise awareness of this awful disease to support my fellow cancer warrior sisters who are still fighting.

~Wendy 🙂

CLICK HERE TO DONATE
———————————————————-
IF YOU’RE JUST JOINING ME, thanks for reading, here is my story:

I am a 45-years-young Mom of 3 amazing kids, a one-year-old black Lab rescue puppy and an incredible husband of 20+ years. I sing, play bass and am the editor for an online group of news websites.

I found out on 2/4, World Cancer Day, the same day doctors told me my teenage son would be okay after life-threatening emergency appendix/intestinal surgery, that I have breast cancer. They originally said it was Invasive Ductal Cancer (IDC), a very common, highly treatable cancer. My prognosis was good. I had a lumpectomy on 2/17 and I thought I’d have surgery, do 6 weeks of radiation and then be done and ready to rock.

I thought wrong. My doctor told me on 2/23 that I actually have Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma. This is a very rare and aggressive type of cancer. Triple Negative only occurs in 15-20% of women and Metaplastic is extremely rare, only occuring in 1% of women compared to Invasive Ductal which occurs in 80%.

The good news is that it has not spread to my lymph nodes. I am only Stage 1. The bad news is that this type of cancer can come back and spread to other parts of the body (bones, skin, lungs, etc.) so I will need to monitor it closely. I will need lifelong care and this is something I will always have to deal with.

As soon as I found my lump (oddly while dying my red hair), I knew that my cancer diagnosis had to be about something much more than just me. I was low risk, no family history and get a mammogram each year. But I still got cancer. So I began an awareness campaign on my blog:

http://www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com

I did this to remind people to do monthly self breast exams. Through posting selfies of their clothed left boob, and using the hash tag #MyLeftBoob, dozens of women and men are helping me remind people of the life-saving importance of doing monthly self breast exams.

Because my cancer is an aggressive kind, treatment will be aggressive. I’ll be doing chemotherapy beginning in early April. I’ll lose my fiery red hair, dark eyebrows and long eyelashes. But I won’t lose my sense of humor, inner strength or fighting spirit.

The best thing I can do now to get better is to eat healthy, get lots of rest and stay calm. Part of keeping stress levels down will be not worrying about all the bills piling up since my son’s surgery (his 3rd in 3 years) which are now adding on to mine. My husband has a high deductible insurance plan that we have to pay before it kicks in. Then there are the prescriptions, the treatment (many months chemotherapy followed by radiation), a special cancer killing homeopathic diet plan, chiropractor bills (I also have 3 herniated discs in my neck) and other expenses related to my illness such as housecleaning, travel and wigs. Wigs are expensive!

For the past 15 years I have volunteered thousands of hours to church groups, community groups, arts groups and many more organizations through volunteerism. In 2012 after the tragedy of 12/14 in Sandy Hook, I helped my hometown heal by founding the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids (SHACK).

Through art, music and pet therapy we ran free events and classes so children, youth and families could heal through the arts. I donated thousands to pay overhead expenses when the donations stopped. I did this gladly because I felt this was the least I could do to help.

Whether you want to call it good karma or reaping what you sow, I’m hoping that the good I’ve put out over the years will come back to help me and my family in our time of need. Any amount you can spare will be so greatly appreciated.

I will fight as hard as humanly possible. And when I’m done I will call upon divine inner strength from above to fight for me the rest of the battle. And I will win. I will stay positive and keep my sense of humor. Read more on my blog- http://www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com

Will you join my fight?

Thank you for reading my story and for your donation. Please share if you know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

Peace,
~Wendy Mitchell

Follow me on Twitter & Instagram: @WendiPopRock

Dumb Things You Should Never Say to a Cancer Patient – #MyLeftBoob Chronicles

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“Does your cancer make me look stupid?” Yes. Yes it does.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer (on Feb. 4th), I’ve heard some pretty dumb comments. Since being diagnosed with a “rare and aggressive” type (on Feb. 23) called Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma only 1% of women get, they’ve gotten worse.

If you Google the words “What not to say to a cancer patient” you will find a seemingly endless amount of articles from the New York Times, Huffington Post, Dana Farber, Caring.com, Livestrong, and countless others. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Three days after surgery I wrote a blog post called, “Please Don’t Talk About Death, My Focus is On Life.” Even after undergoing two biopsies and lumpectomy surgery, the biggest battle I faced was the constant daily barrage of unwanted advice and negative comments from “well-meaning” people.

Here are some of the “best” worst remarks people have said to me.

“This is hard for everyone” or “This isn’t about just you.”

It’s not? My cancer is actually about you? Great. So then you’ll do the surgery, chemo, lose your hair, get nauseous and tired and face all of the fears for me? Awesome, thanks!

“I know EXACTLY how you feel. My mom/wife/uncle/neighbor/co-worker had it, but he/she died…..” (awkward pause).

No. You don’t know exactly how I feel. You are not a 45-year-old woman diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer only 1% of women get. You don’t have 3 kids you have to tell this to and a husband who is trying his best to be calm and strong for you but is scared on the inside because his mom died of cancer when she was only 55. You don’t know exactly how I feel because you are not me.

You may mean well, but right now I only want to hear survivor stories and information that makes me feel like there’s hope.

“I think God was trying to get your attention,” “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” “God is in control,” or any other religious clichés.

First, since when is discussing religion with people you barely know socially acceptable? Second, if God wants my attention, all He has to do is paint a rainbow or a sunset in the sky. I didn’t need to get cancer to see God in the world around me and in the smiles on my children’s faces.

“You should get a henna tattoo! You will totally rock the ‘bald is beautiful’ look.”‘

Thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted to be different and rock the henna tattoo look I would have chosen to shave my head before I had cancer. This is not a political or religious choice. Telling a cancer patient what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do, eat, wear, get treated, etc. is not your place. We know you mean well but it is just another painful reminder of what we are dealing with every moment of every day.

“At least it’s only Stage 1. You’re so lucky.”

Nobody who has to face the possibility of death sooner than expected is “lucky.” Nobody who has to undergo surgery, be pumped full of toxic poisons to kill cancer cells for months and months is “lucky.” Nobody who has to lose all of their hair and worry for years if the cancer will come back is “lucky.”

“You should really eat kelp/almonds/sour fruit. You should really bathe in oatmeal.  You should rub coconut oil on your boob and eat a spoonful a day. You should start juicing.  I heard that all of these things have magical cancer killing powers.”

Don’t tell a cancer patient that their treatment isn’t good enough, your way is better, or chemotherapy is just a big conspiracy between the government and pharmaceutical companies. Respect my wishes of how and where I will be treated and don’t get mad if I disagree with you. It’s my body and my choice. I choose to listen to my doctor who has had decades of experience treating cancer.

“You never know, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.”

Well gee, that’s comforting….and so could you.

“At least you can get perky new boobs….for free!” or “Now you can get DD’s like Pamela Anderson!”

Actually no, and having to go through what we have to just to get free perky big boobs is so completely superficial.

“At least you’ll save money on shampoo and hair care products!”

A few cents per week to put towards the thousands of dollars worth of doctor and hospital bills? Yay! Why didn’t I think of that?!

“Are you really scared? Do you think you’re going to beat it? What does your gut tell you? Do you think about it ALL the time?”

These questions are not welcome or helpful. Yes, I do think about it a lot but I also am trying my hardest to focus on the positive: Caught early at Stage1, I’m strong and healthy, and there is no lymph node involvement.

And finally, for the love of Cheese-Its, do not make that “Aw, you poor thing” pouty face.

Yes, I have cancer and I am learning to accept it as well. I don’t need your pity so please don’t look at me like I’m that one-eyed, three-legged, emaciated dog on the Animal Humane Society commercial.

So now that you know what not to say, what can you do to support a cancer patient in their battle?

  1. Be there.
    • Don’t disappear. Yes it is hard for you but it is hard for us too. We are the ones living it.
  2. Be positive.
    • Even if you are scared, telling your loved one with cancer is not helpful and brings us down. If you “can’t handle it” or “don’t know what to say” then go to a therapist. There are lots of great resources out there for support.
  3. Be supportive and listen to their story.
    • Don’t wait until they are done talking so you can  tell them “your” cancer story. If you don’t know what to say don’t say anything.  Just listen.

Still not sure about saying the right thing? Check out this great article a friend shared about the “Ring Theory.” Click here.

Will you join my fight? Click here to support my breast cancer treatment and share if you know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

Lucky Charms and Inspiring Stories About #BreastCancer #MyLeftBoob

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I wish I didn’t have to have bad days but I know they will come.
My challenge throughout this journey will be to try to find the good in each and every day, no matter what happens. Today for example, I started out the day thinking my purse had gotten stolen. I even called the police and canceled my bank cards before realizing I had left it out on the back porch… whoops.
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Now how will I see good in any of that? Because after it was all over I got to watch my beautiful and talented daughter dance for a crowd for a St. Patrick’s Day event with her incredible dance school, Gilleoghan Irish Dance.  She has the most loving, funny, kind and compassionate teachers in the world who have been here with us since day one of my battle. They have not only taught her about excelling at Irish dance, but about respect, good sportsmanship and what it means to care about others in our community. I am very lucky to be a part of this family and count them as one of my many blessings.
lucky blessings: 
  • I am only Stage 1
  • It did not spread to my lymph nodes
  • I am young, strong, and a stubborn and sassy Irish lassie
  • I am being treated at one of the top cancer centers in the country
  • I have a huge support system through friends, church and my daughter’s dance school
  • I have an amazing, supportive family
  • I have the best readers who lift me up and encourage me.

Here are some of their wonderful letters. Some are heartbreaking. Some are inspirational. Every story here is worth telling and represents another brave woman who fought this hard battle.

“Our daughter was 43 years old and had her last baby a couple of years earlier. She felt the lump but thought it was from breast-feeding and delayed going to a doctor. She was misdiagnosed at first, but by the time she got the correct diagnosis of Triple Negative it was too late and it cost her life, leaving 3 children behind. Stay positive and think positive.” ~J.C.

“I am also second generation with Braca 1 mutation. What you are doing to spread the word of early detection is amazing and I pray all is well in your journey. Blessings to you and your family.” ~S.R.

“I admire that you have already taken this time to increase awareness of the importance of monthly self exams. You have already helped others in such a short time! Your selflessness is admirable. I wish you all the strength, comfort, and peace a person can have as you take your cancer journey. Here’s to kicking cancer’s butt and taking its power away!” ~K.D.

“I was diagnosed with BC last January, although mine was not Triple Negative. Like you, I went every year and there was nothing visible in a mammogram a year before. Mine was a low grade tumor-slow growing that I finally found because I noticed a teeny dimple on my breast. I had a single mastectomy (left too!) in early March of 2014, finished 4 rounds of chemo June 20th. I want to tell you one simple thing that another BC sister told me early on. You can do this. It won’t always be easy, but you will get through it. Women are amazingly strong and facing tough times is just a part of our DNA. Lean on the people around you, take the help that is offered and remember: You can do this.” ~J. B.

“My wife was diagnosed over 2 years ago with Triple Negative breast cancer.  Unfortunately, she was breast feeding our daughter so was initially misdiagnosed as having an infection.  That allowed it to spread to 11 of her lymph nodes (stage 2b).  We had a very tough 2 years and moved in with her parents as she went through treatment – all with a 1 year old baby. It was a nightmare, made all the worse with this ‘Triple Negative’ label.  A word of advice – don’t give up, get angry to beat it. I truly understand now how fragile life is. One hour in a doctor’s surgery can turn your whole world upside down.” ~P.G.

And here is the story of a friend who asked that I fight my battle in honor of her mother.

“My mom had breast cancer. Her name was Frankie. Her doctors misdiagnosed her at first and they lost 6 months while they treated her for thyroid problems. She fought with everything she had, but with the doctors missing it, she lost the battle. Would you consider fighting for her as you go through this journey? Take strength from her. I would be so honored if you would stand on her shoulders and stand tall!” ~C.W.

Yes Frankie. This fight is for you.  And I also will fight in honor of all those women who fought hard and strong and are no longer with us. And for those brave, strong women who are still fighting like me, stay positive, stay strong. We are all in this together.

Will you join my fight? Click here to support my breast cancer treatment and share if you know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

I Have Not One, But Two Scary #BreastCancer Diagnoses and Feel Like I’ve Been Diagnosed All Over Again…

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“The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.” 

~Mignon McLaughlin

It’s hard enough to be diagnosed with cancer at the age of 45 when no one in my family has had it and I get routine mammograms every year. Then on top of that to be told you have Triple Negative, a rare and aggressive type of cancer with a higher chance of recurrence. Then, as if those two things were not enough, you’re told that you also have Metaplastic Carcinoma.

I don’t know why it took me two-and-a-half weeks to process this information, but I just realized today that I have been diagnosed with not one scary thing, but TWO. I have Triple Negative, which is only found in 15-20% of women with breast cancer AND I also have Metaplastic Carcinoma which is only found in 1% of women with breast cancer. ONE percent.

Not even a nurse at one of the biggest cancer centers on the East Coast has heard of this. “You mean metastatic” she asked me when I called to speak with the doctor today after an emotional breakdown. “No, it’s called Metaplastic.  Metastatic is Stage 4. I only have Stage 1 but it is called Metaplastic and only found in 1% of women with breast cancer.” Yes, I was actually educating the nurse on this rare disease.

To say that I feel like I was kicked in the gut upon realization of this is putting it mildly. The reason it struck me now is because I found another lump, my third in less than a month, under my left arm today. I was Googling, which you should never do, while waiting for the doctor to call back and stumbled upon some disturbing information about Metaplastic Carcinoma. The doctor said the lump is probably a swollen lymph node like the last one they found last Wednesday, but my PET Scan was clear, so I “shouldn’t worry”…..easier said than done.

Triple Negative means that the cancerous tumor, which they cut out of me on Feb. 17,  is Estrogen, Progesterone and HER2 negative. Triple Negative can’t be treated with “normal” hormone suppressing medication because the cancer is not fueled by hormones.

Metaplastic Carcinoma is a type of cancer. There are women that have Metaplastic Carcinoma that are not Triple Negative but 90% of women with Metaplastic are Triple Negative as well. Metaplastic is not to be confused with Metastatic. Metastatic is Stage 4 cancer. Mine is only Stage 1. Metaplastic is a completely different type. No wonder my brain did not accept all of this information at once when I was told on Feb. 23. It is all a lot to take in and very overwhelming.

A woman in one of my support groups said that her oncologist told her the survival rate for Metaplastic Breast Cancer (MBC) is the same as for other types of breast cancers so that’s what I need to focus on. Here is how some of the other ladies said they feel about having this double whammy of a diagnosis:

When learning I had MBC I “felt like I was being diagnosed all over again but this time with something even rarer than Triple Negative.”

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“It is extremely scary when we are first diagnosed.”
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“I felt so lonely like I was the only person in the world to have such a strange-sounding cancer.”
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“A few friends try to tell me about their family member that had breast cancer and that I can beat it because I’m younger. I just want to punch them in the face because they just don’t get it. I wish it were that simple!”
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I’ve been told I will have good days and bad days…today was definitely a very bad day. I don’t feel positive or strong or brave. I feel alone and frustrated because I don’t have a lot of information. I was also told I have every right to feel these feelings and so I won’t feel bad even though one person told me I am being “negative.” One out of 100 that said I am “positive, strong, brave and inspiring.”
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And also- Really? You try being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive life-threatening illness and tell me how positive you feel 100% of the time. You try staying calm and putting on a happy face in front of your kids. You try finding three lumps in less than a month and tell me how positive and calm you feel. You try thinking about being injected with a powerful poison, losing ALL of your hair for a year, feeling exhausted and sick and tell me how super dee duper you feel. You try dealing with the fact that you will lose three or more months of income because your medical leave doesn’t cover this long of a treatment period. I think one bad day out of 51 since finding the lump is pretty good. That means I have been positive 99% of the time….if my math is correct….but my brain huts now so I can’t think about it too much.
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I asked my doctor is she has ever treated anyone with Triple Negative, she said yes, many. I asked her if she has ever treated anyone with Metaplastic Carcinoma. She said yes. She also told me that I should “try to relax and get off the internet for the weekend.”
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I am going to listen to my doctor’s advice. I am also going to focus on the good– that it was caught early and it has not spread.  I am going to go to church. I am going to binge-watch a bunch of Disney movies, spend time with my family and prepare for my next treatments…..
  • Port placement for chemo, one-day surgery, Wednesday, March 18
  • First chemotherapy, Wednesday, April 1, every other week for 16 weeks
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“The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart.” ~Nikolai Lenin
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Photo: Alan Barry Photography

Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow… Will #MyLeftBoob Rob My #Femininity? Heck No!

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This was taken on the veranda of a hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1990. I was 20 and while my hair looked fabulous, I definitely had a “bitchy resting face.” This was one of the few times in my life that I was actually having a “good hair day.”

Society places so much power in people’s hair. So much of our self-esteem, beauty and femininity is wrapped up in “good” or “bad” hair. We see it on TV, in magazines, plastered all over billboards; beautiful women with long, luxurious hair.

In Biblical times, Sampson’s strength came from his long hair and when it was gone he was just an ordinary person. In fairy tales, Rapunzel lets down her long hair so her lover can visit her and rescue her up in the tower. And in Greek mythology, the goddess Athena was jealous of Medusa’s beauty and turned her into a monster with snakes for hair.

In modern times, Sinead O’Connor and Britney Spears were both scorned when they decided to take the shocking “F.U. everyone” step to shave it all off. And soon, I will join them in the “bald is beautiful club.” But I won’t be going bald to make a political or religious statement. My hair is being taken from me, against my will….because of cancer. It is not a choice. But what I can choose is my attitude about it.

With all of the scary, uncomfortable procedures a cancer patient will face, losing their hair is the hardest for many. I was told by a lot of women who went through this that I should cut my hair very short so that when it begins falling out, about two weeks after the first treatment, it will be less traumatic. I haven’t had short hair since I was a teenager.

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This is my niece and I when I was 16 and rocked the bi-level Madonna-wannabe new wave look.

I think my teenage daughter is having a harder time at the thought of me losing my hair than I am. We were looking at pixie undercut hairstyles online recently and she said, “Do you have to get it cut that short? Right before my party?” We’re celebrating her birthday two months early so that I can feel good and we can be “normal” before I begin chemo. I had an appointment scheduled for next Friday but after seeing her reaction to such a huge change, I’ve decided to wait to get my haircut until after her birthday party so I can still look “normal” to her and her friends. She’s 14 and at that age looks are everything.

On April 1st I will begin my first of 8 chemotherapy treatments over the course of 16 weeks for Triple Negative breast cancer. I’m really not looking forward to the “chemo curls” I’ve begun to hear so much about. As I wrote in my last post, I’ve always had a hate-hate relationship with my curls. My hair never feathered like Farrah Fawcett’s in the late 70’s and I could never get that roller skating queen feathered-back look in the 80’s because my hair was always naturally curly.

When I learned I had Triple Negative breast cancer I joined an online support group because I had a hard time finding anyone with this rare type of cancer. Women were  joking about their new “chemo curls.” I had no idea what this was. They explained that chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells and the cells responsible for hair growth which is why it falls out. Chemo damages the hair shaft and the cells that determine hair texture which is what causes the chemo curls.

While breast cancer robs so many women of their breasts, their hair, some of their friends and sadly, sometimes their lives, I refuse to allow cancer to steal my femininity. And it won’t take my life. I am Stage 1 and it has not spread. It will be a hard battle but one I will fight with strength, dignity and sass. There will be some physical changes, including the loss of my hair, but nobody and no disease can steal my fighting spirit, inner strength or femininity.

There are other ways a woman can look and feel feminine besides just having beautiful hair. She can have a smart brain,  a beautiful  spirit and a pure heart. A little makeup, a flouncy skirt and some heels can’t hurt either.

Top 10 Amazingly Weird Things You Didn’t Know About #Cancer from #MyLeftBoob

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Are these those newfangled fake eyebrows? Wigs for your face? She’ll never tell….

Did you know they make wigs for eyebrows? Me neither. But it turns out I may need some one day. In the last month I have learned so much about cancer, my patience level and strength. I didn’t learn this at Cancer 101 class. No, I am a self-taught cancer connoisseur. I learned by being thrown into the fire, not by choice, by force.

And here I share with you the top 10 amazingly weird things I’ve learned so far in the last five weeks since finding out that I have Triple Negative breast cancer.

Did You Know There is Such a Thing As….

#10 Chemo Brain

Since being diagnosed, I’ve been extremely forgetful and sometimes feel like I’m in mental fog. If I ask my kids something I just asked them a few hours earlier, they can’t understand why I’ve already forgotten the answer. And I do weird things like put the milk in the pantry or put the car keys in the fridge. The American Cancer Society describes chemo brain as “mental cloudiness…. before, during, and after cancer treatment. Research shows that some cancer drugs can cause certain kinds of changes in the brain….that can cause thinking and memory problems in people with cancer.”

#9 Cancer Rubber Neckers

These are people who slow down and turn around to watch every gory detail of your accident but don’t get out of the car to see if you need any help. They don’t offer to call 9-1-1 or ask if you’re okay. They just stop, glare and slowly move on. Then they tell everyone in town the horrible, sad story. If they have the misfortune to see you in public they say things like, “Oh, yeah, I saw your accident….” and then there’s that awkward pause.

#8 Boob Pillows

When you get a lumpectomy the nurses may give you a cute little pillow to place under your breast to help relieve some of the pressure. Mine says “Love” on it and was hand-made by some local high school students. After the pain finally went away three weeks after my surgery, I still find myself sleeping with that cute, comforting little pillow, even though I don’t technically “need” it anymore.

#7 Celebrity Wig Lines for Cancer Patients

You too can look like Raquel Welsh! Even with grey skin, sunken cheeks, no eyebrows or eyelashes, a weak frail body and no hair! All you need is $800 – 1,3000 for one of her fancy shmancy wigs! Oh and maybe some fake eyelashes and some makeup and some high cheekbones and some…..

#6 Eyebrow Wigs

Until I began searching for regular wigs and fake eyelashes online (because I heard mine may fall out), I had no idea that there was such a thing as eyebrow wigs. Many are made with human hair and are available in all different shapes and colors. They’re applied with adhesive or stick-on tape, depending on the cost and quality, and can last up to seven days once applied. Prices range from $30-150.

#5 Chemo Curls

This one threw me for a loop. I’ve always had a hate-hate relationship with my curls. My hair never feathered like Farrah Fawcett’s in the late 70’s and I could never get that roller skating queen feathered-back look in the 80’s because my hair was always naturally curly. For the last few years I’ve straightened it with a flat-iron but noticed recently, before I knew I had cancer, that it wasn’t growing. So, reluctantly I let it go back to its natural state of curliness.

When I learned I had Triple Negative breast cancer I joined an online support group because I had a hard time finding anyone with this rare type of cancer. Women were posting pictures of their bald heads before and after chemo and joking about their new “chemo curls.” I had no idea what this was. They explained that chemotherapy attacks the cancer cellsand the cells responsible for hair growth which is why it falls out. Chemo damages the hair shaft and the cells that determine hair texture which is what causes the chemo curls.

#4 Cancer One-Uppers

Some people will try to “one-up” you with their sad story, even if it is not cancer related. I recently spent a good hour trying to explain to a woman why I needed financial assistance for my treatment for this life-threatening illness….that my husband has a high deductible health plan, that my son just spent five days in the hospital for emergency appendix and intestinal surgery….that he works two jobs, 70-80 hours a week but we still can’t afford our medical bills. Instead of being understanding, she began saying how hard she had it because she couldn’t pay her bills and needed  medical procedures and couldn’t afford it.  Oh, I’m sorry. I havecancer.

#3 Cancer Cockroaches

Long-lost relatives, elementary school classmates, old neighbors, former co-workers will come out of the word work, like cockroaches, to scamper around your kitchen and look for something juicy to feed on. Just ignore them. They were out of your life for decades for a reason. Like cockroaches, they have a very hard shell. They must also have a thick skull because no matter how many times you try to say politely that you don’t want their advice or help, they keep lingering. They stick around to feed on your crumbs and only disappear when you turn a bright light on and expose them.

#2 Cancer Cracker-Jacks

These are the cancer know-it-alls who insist on jamming their knowledge and “expertise” in the field of pathology, radiology, oncology and surgery down your throat even though they only graduated from Google University or the College of Word-of-Mouth. Some of these cracker-jacks may actually know a thing or two and may advise you not to listen to the doctors because they know more, even though they do not have an “M.D.” behind their name.

Anyone and everyone is an expert. They will tell you what you “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, drink, sniff, do or not do as far as your treatment is concerned. And they will get really offended if you don’t listen to them, because after all, they’re the experts.

I’ve been told to eat almonds, kale, avocados, kale, wheatgrass, soursop fruit and many more. The Cancer Center of America warns against using soursop fruit to treat cancer because “it has not been studied in humans. Eating the fruit could lead to movement disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease. In addition, a study suggests tea made for the leaves and stems of graviola is associated with neurotoxicity.”

Regarding wheatgrass, the American Cancer Society states, “scientific evidence does not support the idea that wheatgrass or the wheatgrass diet can cure or prevent disease. Because it is grown in soils or water and consumed raw, contamination with bacteria, molds, or other substances may be a concern. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”

Cancer Center of America states, “using herbal supplements while undergoing chemotherapy could reduce the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents due to possible herb-drug interactions.”

#1 Cancer Cut-Outs

These are the worst. They are the people who cut out on you just when you need them most. They could be one of your best friends or a family member. In the short five weeks since I’ve been diagnosed I’ve had a few that I found shocking. I’ve been reading about the changes that happen in friendships and relationships after a cancer diagnosis. People you’d think would be there disappear. They’re scared, weak or don’t want my misfortune to ruin their happy place.

Then others you’d least expect to step up and fill the empty space. Letting go of those you cared about is hard but you realize they were never good friends to begin with. Actions speak louder than words. It takes two seconds to send a text or email saying “thinking of you” or “stay strong.” When you ignore or don’t say hello in public, then I know you don’t care. I won’t chase you, it’s your loss.

And no matter how mad you might get if your cancer patient is not listening to advice you think they”should” listen to, resorting to name-calling to someone facing a life-threatening illness is so completely heartless, rude, mean, callous and insensitive. (Yes, that happened to me)

I’m so grateful to those who are strong and brave enough to fight along with me. Like my dear friend said to me, “Cancer is not contagious. Yes, it depressing and sad but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you. You’re Wendy– cancer or no cancer.

Will you join my fight? Click here to support my breast cancer treatment and share if you know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

Photo: The Style Insider

Why Be Treated By the Best for #MyLeftBoob #TripleNegative #BreastCancer ? It’s a No-Brainer!

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Last Wednesday I went to Sloan Kettering for a second opinion because I did not feel comfortable or confident at the hospital where I was being treated. On the day of the consultation the new doctor found a second lump, something three doctors at the other hospital missed. Scary. They recommended I go in for a PET Scan so I went last Friday. I am still waiting on pins and needles for results. What’s a PET Scan you ask? It stands forPositron Emission Tomography.

The nurses draw blood, poke me with an IV, shoot me in the vein in my hand with saline, followed by a radioactive tracer, make me drink sugar-water and sit still for an hour, then stuff me into a hollow tube. There I am told to lay perfectly still for about 45 minutes, trying not to sneeze or scratch my nose, so they can see if my insides glow and if the cancer has spread.

I’m still waiting for the “official” results but the doctor said it is nothing to worry about. She said it’s probably because I got the infection on my left side that the lymph nodes got swollen on my right. But alas, I am still waiting on that “official” word and the waiting is the hardest part.

So many people have asked me why go “all the way there” (a whopping 45 minutes) when I can go somewhere closer. That’s why. And this…

My doctor never spoke to me after lumpectomy surgery or checked in the next day. After the pathology reports came back, the doctor told me over the phone that I have “a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer,” a call lasting less than two minutes. I tried asking about treatment, prognosis or anything to reassure me that I’d be okay. The doctor didn’t answer any questions and told me I’d have to wait until the following week to ask the oncologist because that wasn’t their department.

On the same night I found out I had Triple Negative and was still processing the news, I had to go to the emergency room for a skin infection at the surgery site. I felt uncomfortable about letting a young and admittedly inexperienced physician’s assistant work on me so I called my doctor to ask if there was another doctor who could see me. The response I received was as follows: “I’m on call every night but I’m home now. I don’t LIVE at the hospital.”  Did someone say something about bedside manner?

Also- I had an allergic reaction to the soap they used during surgery and they never put it in my chart. If I hadn’t said something, they could’ve made the same mistake and my reaction could’ve been worse next time.

Why be treated by a doctor who treats their patients like this, didn’t document my allergic reaction and missed a lump? I feel very good about being treated at Sloan Kettering and at peace knowing I am in good hands. I will be treated by the top cancer doctors in the country.

The next procedure is getting a port put in my chest to make it easier for chemotherapy. Every time I go for chemo they need to draw blood to test white cell counts which can be very taxing on veins, especially mine, which are small. I can only get blood drawn from my right arm since I had surgery on the left side.

Chemo begins April 1st every other week for 16 weeks followed by 6 weeks of radiation. These are 2 1/2 to 3 hour-long treatments (compared to “regular” 45 min. they give to other cancer patients). Chemo goes through an IV straight through the port. From what I’ve heard, treatments #1 & 2 will make me tired and sick to my stomach, but #3 & 4 are “horrendous” and feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck. Yay me! Maybe all that boot camp and clean eating I did before my diagnosis will pay off and it won’t be as bad for me? Maybe.

When chemo and radiation is finished, I’ll be checked every 4-6 months for 5 years because this type of cancer has a higher chance of coming back. When I reach the 5-year mark the chances get less and less. Then at the 7-year mark the chances get even lower.

BUT…..I am focusing on the positives: It’s only Stage I and has not spread to my lymph nodes, as far as we know at this moment. Once the PET Scan results are back we’ll know for sure. I am young, strong and healthy.

Last weekend and today was a real struggle dealing with so much drama and unwanted advice….not something I need to be dealing with while Ishould be focusing all of my energy on staying positive and getting better.

I’ve been dealing with numerous people, not just one, sending advice: friends, acquaintances, classmates, blog readers, social media followers, followers of my “work” articles, and people I haven’t been in my life for decades but now suddenly feel the need to tell me what to do.

There is nothing that I did that caused my Triple Negative cancer- not diet, not birth control pills, not food or drink or any outside environmental factors. It is found in African-American and Latin women and is caused by the BRCA gene. It is hereditary. And even if it was a “normal” type of cancer caused by any of those factors, what good is bombarding me with messages on what caused it going to do?

From medical marijuana to teas, from cleansing and cancer killing vitamins to herb and veggie juicing, I’ve heard it all. But the funniest so far was from a person who is manic-depressive and weighs 350+ pounds counseling me on proper diet and nutrition. If those same people spent half as much time researching Triple Negative as they tell me about what I “should or shouldn’t” be doing, they would understand my situation a whole lot more and make all of our lives easier.

Here is the best explanation I’ve heard of what I’ve been going through with dozens, if not hundreds, of people who are sending me articles or commenting about why I got cancer:

“Just like when you slip and fall, it doesn’t matter how it happened. It only matters that someone nearby offers to help you up. The one that comes over and starts telling you why you fell, how you can stop from falling, criticizing your choice of shoes, how fast you walk, etc. should keep their opinions for someone who isn’t just getting up off the ground. Offer a hand and save the words for soothing, supporting, not criticizing.”

Click below for more info on Triple Negative:

http://www.tnbcfoundation.org/

Will you join my fight? CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

When You’re Engulfed in Flames and Nobody Has Heard of a Fire Extinguisher #MyLeftBoob

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I wrote last week about my week from H-E-L-L when I learned that my type of cancer was not the “normal” “easy to treat” kind, then I got an infection and had to spend the night in the emergency room, among other some of the other figurative flames I have been battling.

But the hardest I think was learning that I have Triple Negative breast cancer, telling some people the news and having them completely lose it on me. I found myself comforting them instead of the other way around. Maybe it is because I have a knack for staying calm in situations like this.

I’ve always been pretty good in times of crisis. A sort of peace sweeps over me and I have the ability to calm myself and others. One time at my son’s 9th birthday party, one of his friends fell on his face onto the corner of the Game Cube, making a huge gash right underneath his eye. There was a lot of blood and everyone started freaking out. I immediately took charge of the situation, calmed everyone else down including the boy, stopped the bleeding and brought him to his parents so they could bring him to the Emergency Room.

Other people it seems are more prone to the “OH MY GOD!” screaming, freaking out, over-reacting and generally causing a panic. This is not a good way to act  and does not help anyone.

It becomes tricky to try to stay calm when you are engulfed in flames and nobody has heard of a fire extinguisher. Can you imagine being in the middle of a blaze, waiting for help and the firefighters tell you, “Sorry, we’ve never heard of this thing they call ‘a big fire.’ We’ll try to put it out with this cup of water but we really don’t have any experience with fires this large.” This is how I felt when my doctors told me I have a “rare and aggressive type of breast cancer” that is “harder to treat” and is not receptive to “normal” hormones and drugs they give to people “other ‘normal’ types of cancer.”

After seeing three doctors locally who all had the same reaction, didn’t offer much insight or give me any useful information, I decided to see the experts at the “big” cancer center. Thank God I did. They don’t call them the best in the country for nothing.

My new doctor has had a lot of experience with people who have Triple Negative and was able to explain it in a way that was easy to understand. She asked me a bunch of questions that none of the other doctors asked, explained which treatment would work and why. I felt calm and at peace knowing I am in good hands and will be treated by an experienced and knowledgeable doctor who will make sure no stone is unturned in my treatment and recovery.

I go in tomorrow, Friday, March 6, for some testing that needs to be done before I am “officially” admitted but I feel very good knowing I will be treated by the top cancer doctors in the country.

My chemo begins on Weds. April 1st and it will be 16 weeks (every other week) of hard, intense treatments to blast it all out. This lasts through the end of July. After that I have 6 weeks of radiation through the end of August and then I’m all “done.” (sort of……)

When my chemo and radiation is finished, I will need to be checked every 4-6 months for the next 5 years because this type of cancer (Triple Negative) has a higher chance of coming back. When I reach the 5-year mark the chances get less and less. Then, at the 7-year mark, the chances are virtually non-existent.

This is a lot to take in and can be hard to stay positive but it is critical in my treatment and recovery. My new doctor said that brain studies have shown that patients who stay positive and have a good attitude do much better. So I am focusing on the positives: It’s only Stage I and has not spread to my lymph nodes. I am young, strong and healthy.

Even though I am engulfed in flames now, thankfully, someone has heard of a fire extinguisher and will be putting out my flames really soon. If you “get” the reference in the title, comment below.

If you want to support my treatment please check out the link below.

http://www.gofundme.com/myleftboob

For more information on Triple Negative breast cancer, click here.

Joan Lunden Has It, Jennifer Griffin of Fox News Has It, and I Have It- #TripleNegative #BreastCancer

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If you’ve been following along, you know that on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, I found out I have breast cancer. This was a scary thing to think about, but something more and more women are faced with each day, regardless of family history. I am not alone, they caught it early, I can deal with this.

But on Feb. 23 my doctor dropped a bomb on me; I actually have what is called “Triple Negative” breast cancer.

After my pathology reports from my lumpectomy came back last Monday, my doctor called to tell me I have “a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer,” a type that only one percent of women get compared to the “normal” type of breast cancer that 80 percent of women have. The phone call lasted less than two minutes. I tried asking about my treatment, my prognosis, anything to reassure me that I’d be okay and the doctor didn’t answer my questions and told me I’d have to ask the oncologist the following week.

Of course I went straight to Google, which is the worst thing to do, and read phrases such as, “higher mortality,” “very aggressive,” “difficult to treat,” “resistant to ‘normal’ hormone drugs,” and the list goes on and on. I felt like I had just been handed a death sentence and my doctor left me in the dust to fend for myself.

For an entire week I scoured the internet looking for people who have this or any information and all I could find from the ’big cancer websites’ was vague descriptions– that it was only discovered in 2000 so there has not been much testing or research done on this type.

Since writing about my diagnosis, Jennifer Griffin, a journalist from Fox News, reached out and directed me to a great website, Triple Negative Foundation. It has a lot of helpful information for women going through this and their families.

I also discovered Joan Lunden has this type of breast cancer and is at the end of her treatment and dong well. Her website has lots of videos and useful information.

Today, March 3rd, is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day. If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of this. And if you have TNBC, then you know that there is not a lot of information out there about this rare and aggressive type of breast cancer. Even many doctors had never treated patients with this because it is so new and rare. That is why I am going to a specialist tomorrow to ensure I have the best care possible from experienced doctors.

Triple Negative does not have to mean a death sentence. There is treatment and there is hope. I am so lucky I found my lump when it was only as Stage I and it has not spread to my lymph nodes. Treatment will be intense but I will get through it with a positive attitude. Some other women and families I have met so far along the way have not been so lucky with their TNBC diagnosis and so I fight my battle in their honor. But there are so many women who are not as lucky and so now I fight my battle for them.

My mission is to raise awareness and remind people of the life-saving importance of doing self breast exams. If I didn’t find mine when I did, by accident while dying my hair,  it may have been too late.

Below are some facts from the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • A diagnosis of TNBC means that the tumor in question is estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative and Her2-negative. In other words, triple negative breast cancer tumors do not exhibit any of the three known receptors.
  • Receptor-targeting therapies have fueled tremendous recent advances in the fight against breast cancer. Unfortunately, there is no such targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer.
  • TNBC tends to be more aggressive, more likely to recur, and more difficult to treat because there is no targeted treatment.
  • TNBC disproportionately strikes younger women, women of African, Latina or Caribbean descent, and those with BRCA1 mutations.
  • Approximately every half hour, another woman in the US is diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

CLICK HERE to join #MyLeftBoob awareness campaign.

CLICK HERE to go to my GoFundMe page to support my breast cancer battle.

Photo: Mayo Clinic

3 Good Things About #MyLeftBoob #TripleNegative Diagnosis

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Original artwork sent to me from The Netherlands called “Power Against Poison” by Dutch artist Esther Ziher-GinczingerE-ster-art

Since posting about my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis yesterday some good things have already been happening.

#1) I have received SO much support on my GoFundMe page to help with medical costs and am so very grateful! Thank you to all who donated, shared my page and sent well wishes. This will definitely help with my medical expenses.

#2) A fellow journalist and Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor reached out and shared a great website with me that I had no idea existed,even after a week of researching all of the national cancer websites. Click hereto visit the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

#3) Through my article on Newtown Patch about my diagnosis, someone told me that this coming Tuesday, March 3, is Triple Negative Awareness Day. How timely!

My mission since finding out that I have breast cancer on Feb. 4 is to raise awareness for self breast exams through #MyLeftBoob selfie awareness campaign. Click here for more info.

My new mission since finding out on Feb. 23 that I have the “rare and aggressive Triple Negative type of breast cancer that can mutate and come back to other parts of your body such as your skin, bones and lungs” is to raise awareness for research and clinical trials. Nobody should have to feel helpless and alone without resources.

Getting a TNBC diagnosis is so scary, it feels like you’ve been given a death sentence. But it doesn’t have to be that way if your doctors know what they are talking about. When your 70-something-year-old doctor tells you  that in all his years of treating women with breast cancer that he has never treated someone with this type, and that there is not much known about this Triple Negative, is frightening.

So many people with the”normal” kind of “highly treatable” breast cancer reach out and share their survival stories, which is awesome, but with Triple Negative you feel so alone and helpless because it is so rare.

People ask me how I can share something so private and personal. It is because more needs to be done; more research, more awareness, more clinical trials and testing and definitely more education for doctors at smaller hospitals so they can help the 1% of their patients who are diagnosed with this so we don’t have to live in fear.

Click here to support my Triple Negative Breast Cancer battle and awareness campaign.

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer is ‘Rare and Aggressive’ Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma

DSC_6527Alan Barry Photography
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As you know if you’ve been following along, I found out on Feb. 4 that I have breast cancer. I found the lump myself while dying my hair. Doctors said it was Invasive Ductal Cancer (IDC), very common, highly treatable and my prognosis was good. I had a lumpectomy on 2/17. I thought I’d have surgery, do 6 weeks of radiation and then be done and ready to rock. I can deal with this.

What I am having a harder time dealing with is the “new” diagnosis I received last Monday that I actually have Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma (TNMC). Triple Meta WHAT? It’s a very rare and aggressive type of cancer that only occurs in 1% of women, compared to the “normal” kind– Invasive Ductal– which occurs in 80%. I found this out last Monday and was putting off posting because I was hoping I would find more info on any of the major cancer websites since my doctor didn’t really reassure me. I searched Susan G. Komen, American Cancer Society, Sloan Kettering, BreastCancer.org and countless others to no avail.

What makes this diagnosis scary is that many doctors have never had patients with this. It was only recently discovered in 2000 and there has not been much research and clinical testing. TNMC is resistant to the “normal” drugs that they give to most cancer patients. Women with triple-negative breast cancer don’t have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER2. Breast cancer that is ER, PR and HER2 negative cannot be treated with hormone therapies, according to Cancer Centers of America. Fortunately, triple-negative breast cancer can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

The good news is that it has not spread to my lymph nodes and I am only Stage 1. The bad news is that this type of cancer can come back and spread to other parts of the body (bones, skin, lungs, etc.) so I will need to monitor it closely….for the rest of my life.

Because my cancer is an aggressive kind, treatment will also be aggressive. I will need specialized care from doctors who have worked with patients who have this. So far none of the doctors I’ve spoken to locally have much information or experience with TNMC. I’m going for a second opinion next week and praying the new doctor I see has more insight.

I’ll be doing some intense rounds of chemotherapy beginning in early April. I’ll lose my fiery red hair, dark eyebrows and long eyelashes. But I won’t lose my sense of humor, inner strength or fighting spirit.

The best thing I can do now is eat healthy, get lots of rest and stay calm. Part of keeping stress levels down will be not worrying about the bills piling up since my son’s surgery (his 3rd in 3 years) which are now adding on to mine. My husband has a high deductible insurance plan that we have to pay before it kicks in. Then there are the prescriptions, the treatment (many months of intense chemotherapy followed by radiation), a special cancer killing homeopathic diet plan, chiropractor bills (I also have 3 herniated discs in my neck) and other expenses related to my illness. There will be housecleaning expenses, travel expenses and of course the wig fund. Wigs are expensive! I will most likely be bald for 8 months during and after the treatment according to the oncologist.

I have set up a GoFundMe page since some of my friends, family and readers have asked how they can help. Any amount will be so greatly appreciated. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

For the past 15 years I have volunteered thousands of hours to church groups, community groups, arts groups and many more organizations through volunteerism in Sandy Hook, Bethel, Danbury and surrounding towns. Whether you want to call it “good karma” or “reaping what you sow,” I’m hoping that the good I’ve put out there over the years will come back to help our family in our time of need.

While this diagnosis is not something I was expecting and it’s completely out of my control, I made up my mind on Day #1 to STAY POSITIVE. I will fight as hard as humanly possible. And when I’m done I will call upon Divine inner strength from above to fight for me the rest of the battle. And I will win.

Thank you for reading. If you know someone who has been touched by cancer, please share my story with them. And if you find it on your heart to donate, thank you so very much.

If you know anyone who has had this type of rare breast cancer (Triple Negative MetaplasticCarcinoma) PLEASE have them contact me: wendyannmitchell@live.com.

My Fiery Week From H-E-L-L #MyLeftBoob

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They say, “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” But what if you’re standing in the kitchen crouched in a corner waiting for the firefighters to arrive and put out the fire? And you CAN’T get out? You’re frozen by the flames….they have backed you into the corner…you’re stuck….waiting….feeling the intensity of the flames but helpless to do anything about it. That’s sort of how the last few weeks have felt for me.

The spark that started my fire began with a lump I discovered while dying my fiery red hair. The embers sat for a while, heating up. Then came those dreaded four words: “You have breast cancer.” Embers turned into flames…… then comes more fuel for the fire that starts increasing a bit more rapidly….lumpectomy, radiation, possibly chemotherapy….and Monday?

I waited all day Monday for pathology test results that I was told would come Friday. After fielding many texts, calls and emails  from family and friends who were also anxiously awaiting results, I finally got “the call.” It was not the news I was hoping for but it was not a death sentence. My doctor who is supposed to normally have such a great bedside manner was suddenly not so wonderful anymore. She matter-of-factly dropped a bomb in my lap but didn’t wait around for it to go off. “See ya.” she says. “I’m done with you. NEXT!”

The flames are getting hotter now. But I do have a fighting chance.

After the emotional reaction from some of my family members after telling them this news, I have decided that I am going to hold off on telling the world until after Friday’s doctor’s appointment.  I am just not mentally ready to explain it all over and over again.

I know the title of this post was my “week” from hell and it is only Tuesday, but it feels like I have been though a week’s worth of events and information already……

After hours on the phone with the doctors, nurses and family members, I spent late Monday into early Tuesday in the Emergency Room.When I stood up Monday night to get ready for bed my left breast was red, sore and swollen. I called my doctor who told me to go to the E.R. After hours of waiting around I called a third tome to ask if she, or another doctor, could come check out the infection on my breast since the 20-something-year-old Physician’s Assistant has never worked with breast cancer patients and didn’t even know there was a breast surgery department at the hospital. I told my doctorI would feel more comfortable if she or another surgeon could check it out to which she replied, “I’m home right now. I don’t live at the hospital.” Alrightey then. Did somebody say something about a “good” bedside manner? Strike three.

The nurses hooked me up to an I.V. and pumped me full of antibiotics. More tests. More blood work. I have an infection. More questions.  Less sleep. Less is not always more. It’s getting really hot in here and I am starting to sweat. I’m only supposed to sweat at boot camp…..

Tuesday consisted of another doctor’s appointment, more medications and calls from four different doctors and a nurse.  Wednesday I will meet with my primary care doctor,Thursday with my gynecologist and Friday with the medical oncologist. This is like a full-time job!

All I can do now is focus on the end result- getting better and trying to be strong for others so they won’t fall apart. The fire is going full force now as I sit and wait for others to rescue me from the blaze. I know help is on the way, I just have to sweat it out a few more weeks,months, years, however long it takes. I can and will do this.

Let’s get #MyLeftBoob trending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If I didn’t find mine when I did it may have been too late.
All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob #CancerSucks
  3. Tag your family and friends so they will do it too!

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, rahul rekapalli

Thoughts From Me and #MyLeftBoob – I’m Not “The #Cancer Lady”

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One of my many personas, “The Puppet Lady,” with Harry and Molly at a street fair in Bethel, Conn. Photo: Chris Mitchell

Over the years I have had a lot of jobs and have volunteered with a bunch of different non-profits and churches. In the photo above I was posing with two of the most popular puppets that I use for original, educational puppet shows at churches, schools and birthday parties. I love working with kids and have always tried to use my creativity to benefit my community.

One such “job” I did was lead a group of 300+ children in a cowboy-themed morning “round-up” song before Vacation Bible School at my old church. Those who have just met me over the past few years are thinking– She goes to CHURCH? I know, GASP! Yes. I go to church sometimes and I have worked in five different churches as a children’s and youth director. Not so shocking that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine- just sayin’!

That year’s Vacation Bible School was a western theme so each morning that week I led children in songs and dances dressed in my cowgirl hat, cowgirl boots and chaps. The following weekend I was walking my son into his baseball game dressed in my “normal clothes” and a little girl stopped, pointed right at me and exclaimed, “Look Mommy it’s the Cowgirl Lady!”

I’ve had other little ones say, “Look Mommy, it’s the Puppet Lady” or adults who remember me from my jobs, “Hey, aren’t you the Karaoke Lady” ( used to be a karaokeDJ). Or they’ll say, “Hey, it’s Wendy from Patch!” Patch is my full-time job where I am an editor of a family of online news websites in the greater Danbury area. I am currently on medical leave as I battle this evil thing called “breast cancer.”

It’s nice to be recognized and noticed for good things that I do. What I don’t want to happen through all of this is for people to now see me as, “That Cancer Lady.” I will not be defined by a nasty and unwelcome visitor who invaded my body and uprooted my life. I refuse to let something I have no control over define me. I am so much more than that.

Yes, right now in my life I have been writing a lot about cancer. This is the season I am in and it is only temporary. I write to raise awareness and save lives, not to depress people or bring them down. I hope that my writing will encourage people to do the simple act of posting a #MyLeftBoob selfie to remind others to do a self breast exam. That is how I found the lump.

Please join me in my awareness campaign. All you have to do is:

  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob
  3. Tag your family and friends and challenge them to do it too!

Alan Barry Photography Helps Tell Journey of #MyLeftBoob Through Photo Shoot

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Photo Alan Barry Photography. Photo gallery at bottom of this blog post.

I approached Alan Barry in mid-January about doing a boudoir photo shoot to surprise my husband for Valentine’s Day. We’ve been married for 20 years and I thought this would be a good way to “spice things up.” I knew I needed to get in shape before the shoot and Alan and I agreed to meet the week before Valentine’s Day to give me time.

It was in early January that I decided I wanted to get my health back on track and lose weight. I had been going out too much, sleeping too little, drinking too much, working out……not at all. My doctor told me at my last physical about a year ago that I have high glucose in my blood and am pre-diabetic. She said if I cut all carbs I can prevent diabetes with my diet.  I hadn’t been feeling “myself” and knew I needed to do something on the inside and the outside to make changes for the better.

I joined Max’s Best Bootcamp on Monday, Jan. 12 and on Day #2, Tuesday, Jan. 13 I found out my son had to have an emergency appendectomy… and it was infected…and there was a tear in his intestine….and we camped out at the hospital for five days until he was better. Then there was the two weeks of recovery at home. The same  day I found out my son would be okay I found a lump on my left breast while dying my hair.

If you have been reading my blog you know the rest of my story. If not, here is a condensed version:

  • Found Lump 1/22
  • Had Biopsy 2/2
  • Diagnosed with Breast Cancer 2/4
  • Had Lumpectomy Surgery 2/17

Now we wait on pins and needles for results that I will hopefully have by Monday to determine if I go for radiation in 4 weeks or chemo and then radiation. I’m hoping for no chemo of course.

When I found out I was going to have a lumpectomy I knew I wanted the photo shoot to be something more than pictures for my husband. I knew I had to do something to raise awareness for the importance of self breast exams to as many people as possible. I started #MyLeftBoob campaign and called Alan. He agreed to turn our boudoir photo shoot into an awareness campaign. And he decided he would do this free of charge as his gift to me. This is from someone I had just met a few weeks ago. Thank you Alan. Your generosity is amazing.

I was so touched by this gesture and began the process of setting up hair and makeup people and a location. All of these kind-hearted people also gifted their services to me for this important awareness campaign and I am so very grateful to:

Thank you all so very much!

Alan was a complete professional throughout the entire shoot. He talked to me at length before the shoot to let me know what types of photos he would be shooting. This helped calm my nerves. I knew he was used to working with gorgeous women and my “Mother of 3″ body was far from the model types he is used to photographing.

Our assistant Taylor was also amazing and was there not only for moral support for me but was able to help with hair, makeup, technical and lighting assistance.

As we all spoke before the shoot we realized that cancer has touched us all. Alan had just completed a photo shoot for someone who works to further awareness for cancer. And Taylor had just lost her best friend from childhood a few weeks earlier to brain cancer. She was only 18. As I hear more and more stories like this I realize that “my” cancer is about more than just me.

It is about inspiring others who are going through the battle to stay positive and keep fighting. It is about showing my kids that even though life throws us curveballs, we don’t give up. We stay calm, stay positive and fight back because we are strong.

If I can use my writing to help others and my awareness to help people remember to do self breast exams, then the fight is all worth it. I will use these photos on my blog posts and Alan and I will brainstorm on how we can reach an even bigger audience to get this very important message out there.

Post Surgery #MyLeftBoob Thoughts: Please Don’t Talk About Death, My Focus is on Life

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How am I feeling? I am feeling hopeful and looking forward to positive test results, hopefully in the very near future… a future filled with hopes, dreams and lots and lots of time with my precious family.

Photo: Alan Barry Photography.

Two days post surgery I am a little sore where the two incisions are, one on my breast where they took out the lump, and one under my arm where they took the sentinel lymph node sample they send out for testing. I had not been able to use my left arm until today, but I am hopeful and mentally strong.

I am trying to focus on the here and now, get through each hour of each day and do what I need to do to focus on my health. I am trying to keep stress levels down. And get a lot of sleep. So please don’t be offended if I can’t respond to texts or messages because I am taking a nap. All of this is exhausting and emotionally draining. Unless you have been through it yourself, it is hard to understand.

But the biggest thing that I am battling now is the constant barrage of negative thoughts and comments disguised in “well meaning” people who are sending me messages of what I “should” and “shouldn’t” do for treatment because their friend, girlfriend, mother-in-law or neighbor also went through “this.” The truth is, no they didn’t.

Each person’s journey is different. Each person’s diagnosis, body, age, fitness level, type of cancer, mental state, and stage of cancer are all different, therefore there is not a magic pill or cookie cutter treatment plan. One plan does not fit all. I need to do what the doctor tells me and what I feel is best for me.

  • I don’t want to read about Oliver Sacks’ terminal cancer. He didn’t have breast cancer. He is not 45. Terminal = death.
  • I don’t want to read inspirational quotes from ESPN anchor Stuart Scott. He died. He was 49; just 4 years older than me. He also didn’t have breast cancer.
  • I don’t want to hear which treatment you think is right for me because, no offense, you are not my doctor.

What I do love to hear is inspirational stories from people who DID kick cancer’s ass; like my 60+ year-old DJ friend Sean who kicked it not once, but TWICE! He went through 14 months of chemo and still DJ-ed over 300 events. AND he did not lose his hair. This is what I love to hear. And then to top it all off, he sends me great messages like this:

“Positive power and big love coming your way.”

“Just a quick hug and a smile for you.”

“Good morning. Hope you’re on the way UP!”

I also LOVE the tons of emails, texts, calls, dinners, flowers, cards, rides and support from a huge network of family and friends. My Mom arranged for my sisters and in-laws to cook all week so I wouldn’t have to worry. Parents and teachers from my daughter’s dance school, Gilloeghan Irish Dance, took the worry away from me getting my daughter to and from dance. My attorney James Saraceni did my will for free. My photographer Alan Barry, hair stylist Becky Roman, makeup artists Rachel Brewer and Taylor Dombroski and trainer Max Barry all gifted  their services to me for an awesome photo shoot to raise awareness for breast cancer and self exams.And then there are my PRAYER WARRIORS – John, Michele, Sherri and Jess and the elders of the churches I used to attend (and one I still attend). And so many I am probably forgetting.

THANK YOU!

What also keeps me hopeful is the support from my sister, owner of Core Nutrition for Women, who is helping with food advice and shared that one of her nutrition clients followed her holistic eating plan and his tumors disappeared.

My trainers Max and Jess are always giving me good, sensible advice on healthy eating and exercise as I follow Max’s 6-Week Bootcamp Challenge. The 6 weeks will be more like 8-10 weeks because I had a “week off” after my biopsy and another week off this week after my lumpectomy; doctor’s orders. But Max has been able to offer what foods are best and worst to eat for cancer patients (Hint: NO SUGAR!)

But still, the reality is that my mind can’t stop thinking about  a young local mother in her 30’s who had Stage 4 breast cancer and died, leaving behind her three young children. And she fought….hard. But I have to keep reminding myself that my breast cancer is only in Stage 2 and I don’t know the circumstances of her illness or treatment.  I don’t know how soon she found it or if she went to yearly mammograms like I did. I just don’t know…….

This is not a good thing to focus on. Facing the “maybes” and “what ifs” is not something I wanted to do as I filled out information for my Living Will and Last Will and Testament. Thankfully I made it through surgery and didn’t need that Living Will.  I have the will to live and a fighting spirit  so what I need to focus on is stories of LIFE and HOPE and POSITIVITY.

I need to remember the doctor’s words when he said, “We found it early and your prognosis is good.” And my surgeon when she said, “This is the most common form of cancer found in women and is highly treatable.”

I feel SO horrible for the millions who have lost the battle, many of whom I know, friends wives, friend’s parents, so many,too many. My heart goes out to you and I am so very sorry from the bottom of my heart that cancer unfairly ripped away your loved one.  BUT I can’t think about that right now. Not at this stage of my battle. Maybe that sounds selfish (?) but this is what I need to do to keep my spirits up and keep a Positive Mental Attitude.

So please forgive me if I don’t respond to your messages if they are not something that will lift me up. I don’t want to talk about death because my focus is on life. And that is why I started my awareness campaign. Please join me.

All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob
  3. Tag your family and friends and challenge them to do it too!

Check Out #MyLeftBoob #Selfies for @WendiPopRock #BreastCancerAwareness Campaign

Thank you to all the 60+ people so far who have posted your boob selfies or group shots to help raise my spirits and raise awareness for the importance of doing monthly self breast exams. We need more people to join in! My mission is to get men and women to do a self exam, then post a selfie to remind others about the importance of doing monthly self breast exams. This is how I found “the lump.”

Sorry if I forgot anyone, brain’s been a little foggy. Just shoot me an email (wendyannmitchell@live.com) to let me know and I will add your photo to the gallery.

Join my cause, post yours, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob and ‪#‎CancerSucks‬ to save a life. Challenge your friends to do the same. Man boobs (moobs) are welcome!

#50Shades of Support for Breast Cancer Via 50 Selfies for #MyLeftBoob

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Wendy Ann Mitchell’s breast cancer awareness photo shoot, Feb. 12, 2014, Alan Barry Photography

For those of you just joining me, here is my story.

I decided after New Year’s Eve that I needed to slow down and take control of my health. I wasn’t feeling well and knew I needed to cut back on drinking and get myself back to the gym. Little did I know at the time  that a storm was brewing on the inside of me.

I joined Max’s Best Bootcamp on Monday, Jan. 12 and Max mapped out a plan to get me in shape over the next six weeks. The plan included cutting carbs, sugar and my precious WINE! But I knew this is what I needed to do to start feeling better. My plan was to go to boot camp 2-3 times a week, go to personal training sessions twice a week and stick to a strict 1,300/day calorie carb free diet.

January 2015 started out with good intentions for my health but also the challenge and scare of two huge life threatening illnesses. On Day #2 of Max’s Best Bootcamp Challenge, Jan. 13, we rushed my middle son to the E.R. for a potentially life-threatening illness. He had a hole in his appendix which leaked fluid, causing an infection and causing a tear in his intestine. We were camped out at Danbury Hospital for five days, praying for him to be okay. Had I waited one more day….the doctor trailed off…. thank God he was okay!

Over the next couple of weeks of his at-home recovery, I stuck to the plan, worked out and started feeling good. I lost 11 pounds! I was determined to finally take control of my health and stop making excuses. But then on Jan. 28, Day #18, I found a lump on my breast while I was dying my hair. I tried to convince myself that it was just a cyst.Went to the doctor who said I needed to go to get a mammogram ASAP, like TODAY. But I just had one less than a year ago and it was clear?

The mammo and ultrasound techs said “If it was just a cyst we would have told you. You need to come back next week for a biopsy.” Maybe it’s just a calcium deposit? Maybe it really is just a cyst and they were wrong? Maybe it’s just a calcium deposit? Maybe it’s just……. or maybe not.

After the biopsy I had to stop working out because my boob was SORE. The first thing I did after the biopsy was go to the diner and eat my “comfort” breakfast; 2 eggs over medium with bacon, rye toast and home fries. YUM. It had been 28 days since eating carbs of any sort. But it was really easy to slip back into “regular” food for a few days after that.

On Feb, 4, coincidentally also World Cancer Day, I found out the news all women fear- I have breast cancer; Stage 2 Invasive Infiltrated Ductal Cancer which is “highly treatable”and the “most common” in 80% of women who get this bad news. But there is no history in my family, I just got a mammogram, I was still in shock.

Thankfully Max called me a few days after I found out “the news.” My doctor gave me the all clear to go back to the gym so after a week off I was back at it and very out of shape. Max gave me the inspiring pep talk I so desperately needed and made me realize a few “cheat days” was not something I could afford right now. My health and life depended on it. We need to “starve” the cancer cells that “thrive on sugar.”

Jess, my trainer, is very patient and, along with Max, customizes my workouts to target each area of my body without hurting my bad knee, my bad lower back, or my sore left boob. So where do I stand now? I am down 6 pounds, gained 5 back from my “cheat days” but I will back get there again. After  a week “off” in the hospital with my son and a week at home recovering from the biopsy recovery,  my 6 week goal may turn to 8-10, but I am still headed in the right direction.

On Feb. 6 I started a campaign to raise awareness for the importance of self breast exams. Since then I’ve gotten boob selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to help raise awareness for this very important mission.

On Feb. 12, about a week and a half later, Alan Barry of  Alan Barry Photography, also Max’s father, agreed to work with me on a photo shoot to help further my cause.

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The next day, on Friday the 13th, I got a radioactive seed implanted into my left boob, although I’m still waiting for my super powers. The only unlucky thing I did that day was waste a tube of numbing cream I didn’t need to apply for that procedure. It was supposed to be for the actual surgery. Whoops! Had to go back to the doctor for a new tube of cream and a new big bandage to cover myself with for Tuesday’s surgery.

So after 50+ boob selfies posted by male and female family, friends and strangers in a less than a week to support my breast cancer fight and to raise ‪#‎BreastCancerAwareness‬, I figured it was high time for me to post one of my own. So here, today, I give you part of ‪#‎MyLeftBoob‬.

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My mission is to remind people of the importance of doing monthly self breast exams. This is how I found “the lump.” Join my cause, post yours, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob and ‪#‎CancerSucks‬ to save a life. Photo by Alan Barry of ALAN Barry Photography. Hair by Becky Roman ofSalon Kamala. Makeup by Rachel Brewer of Rachel Brewer – Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist, Hair/Makeup & Technical Assistant Taylor Dombroski, set location Maximillian Barry of Max’s Best Bootcamp.

I will be posting the first 50 selfies I’ve received in a separate post shortly. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, please join my mission and help save lives.

Alan Barry Photography Joins #MyLeftBoob Mission for Breast Cancer Awareness

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Technical Assistant, Hair/Makeup Assistant Taylor Dombroski applies touch-ups on location at Max’s Best Bootcamp, Danbury, Conn. Photo: Alan Barry Photography, Hair- Becky Roman/Salon Kamala, Makeup- Rachel Brewer/Rachel Brewer Makeup Artist.

Last night I had the pleasure of working with an amazing photographer, Alan Barry, to help raise awareness for my mission of the importance of self breast exams. I first met Alan at my gym, Max’s Best Bootcamp, the place I’ve been writing about for the past few weeks. I am currently doingMax’s 6-week challenge, although it may end up being a little bit longer due to my current health “bump in the road.” I’m not calling it a “crisis.” It’s too melodramatic!

I interviewed both Alan and Max separately for articles for the website where I am an editor:

I had originally approached Alan to do a boudoir photo shoot to surprise my husband for Valentine’s Day. After 20 years of marriage it’s always a good idea to throw some spice into the mix. (I know kids, “Ew! Gross!“) My plan was to lose 20 pounds on Max’s Bootcamp Challenge and then do the photo shoot. As you now know, life had other plans.

On Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, I found out that I have breast cancer. I found a lump on my left breast accidentally when I dropped some hair dye there. After undergoing some tests over a period of two weeks, the doctors confirmed my worst fear; I have breast cancer.

What started as a way to cheer me up by asking friends and family to post a boob selfie with the hash tag #MyLeftBoob soon turned into something so much bigger. I realized that I can help remind others to do something I forgot every month because in my head I was low risk. In less than a week, over 50 friends, family and strangers began posting boob selfies to show their support of my fight and to join my mission to help raise awareness for self breast exams.

I couldn’t believe that I have breast cancer at first- I get a mammogram every year, I thought, There is no cancer in my family, I said, I just had a mammogram less than a year ago and it was all clear, I reasoned with myself. None of that mattered. What matters now is getting treated and helping save lives so others can catch it quickly like me.

After explaining to Alan that the subject matter, and mood, of our photo shoot will now change, without hesitation he agreed to join my mission and took pictures of me last night to document my journey. Everything fell into place very quickly and I am so grateful to the people who donated their services to support my cause:

I appreciate each and every one of you being so giving in supporting my fight and helping to promote my cause through your generosity.

The shoot was amazing. Alan was a complete professional and made me feel very comfortable. Taylor was also incredible and so strong. She just lost her best friend Sara to brain cancer less than a month ago and was still able to be there to support me. Click here to read about Sarah’s life and to donate to help her family.

Alan just finished up a shoot working with someone who is also very involved in cancer research and said that this is just the beginning of our journey together. Who knows what the future holds? For now I am taking each day as it comes and doing my best to enjoy every minute.

I am very excited to see the finished product and will post photos as soon as they are ready.

Do you want to help me raise awareness for self breast exam and save a life? Please join me in #MyLeftBoob mission to raise awareness for self breast exams. Guys AND girls are welcome!

All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob
  3. Tag your family and friends and challenge them to do it too!

Check out #MyLeftBoob stream:

#MyLeftBoob Will Soon Become Radioactive Like Marvel Superhero Dazzler!

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Dazzler is a fierce female superhero who had a brief stint of fame during the mid-80s’s in Marvel’s X-Men comics. This summer she will make her big comeback with an all-female team in A-Force. Why is she so awesome? She is a mutant singer and performer who has the extraordinary ability to turn music into light beams. And she roller skates everywhere! 

As part of my treatment for breast cancer, I recently found out that I will have a radioactive seed implanted into my left breast. This is now used instead of a painful placement of a wire to mark the location of the tumor.

Doctors call it radioactive seed localization (RSL). The radioactive seed is placed directly on the cancerous lump to guide the surgeon in removing the lump, the seed and cancerous tissue surrounding it.

Of course my first thought was— Hmmm, I wonder what kind of super powers I will acquire with this implantation? Will my left breast now have the supernatural capacity to see, hear and feel things beyond its normal abilities? Will I be able to carve bulletproof glass with a single nipple? Only time will tell.

Alison Blaire, A.K.A. Dazzler, didn’t find out she has special powers until she was a teenager. She was performing at a high school show when her mutant powers manifested, and she was forced to blind all in attendance to save herself from persecution. She tried hiding her mutation for years before embracing it in her college years. Joining forces with X-Men, getting imprisoned and having her DNA stolen, among other battles fought, including defeating The Hulk, has made this fierce female fighter a force to reckon with.

Like Dazzler, I am a fighter and I didn’t find out about my “special” characteristics until my teen years as well.  No, I didn’t know I’d have breast cancer back then, but I did know that my left boob was always different.  You can stop reading now brother, kids and Dad.

As my left breast developed, the nipple grew a little bit differently (like me). No, I don’t have 3 nipples, just not one that is perfectly formed. I was always self-conscious about my “imperfect” nipple but now I see it as just another part of me that makes me unique. I was hoping that after surgery that they could “fix it,”  but now I’m thinking maybe I will just leave it as is. It’s part of who I am and what makes me special.

So what does Dazzler the superhero have to do with me kicking breast cancer’s ass? Dazzler had her DNA stolen to make more mutants before Magneto rescued and brought her to the X-Men to be healed. I had my good health stolen and now it’s time for me to take it back.

And I have superpowers too. They are called: positivity, strength, faith, determination, humor and support. I have a Magneto in my life and X-Men who surround and support and lift me up so I can be healed.  My X-Men are doctors who will take out the bad so the goodness can shine through like Dazzler’s special light beams. My superheroes are my kids, my husband, my family and friends who uplift and inspire me every step of the way.

My super powers are strength and positivity that will defeat cancer when it tries to rear its ugly head and steal my good health or positive thoughts. And, like Dazzler, I will keep on singing through all of my battles. I will  keep on rocking and keep on kicking cancer’s ass.

Screen shot 2015-02-10 at 9.52.34 PMPlease join me in #MyLeftBoob mission to raise awareness for self breast exams.

All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob #CancerSucks
  3. Tag your family and friends and challenge them to do it too!
Sign up to get email notifications each time I post by clicking “follow” in the top left corner of this page.
“Stay calm and think positive!”

Top 10 WendiPopRock #MyLeftBoob Questions

wendy pink gown

I got to be “pretty in pink” in this lovely gown 3 Mondays in a  row, 3 snowstorms in a row, 3 doctor’s appointments in a row. And finally after a 4-doctor 7-hour marathon appointment all day Friday and another one today, we finally have some answers!

Because my texts, phone messages, emails and IMs all keep dinging with the same questions, I figured I would answer them all here in a handy-dandy short ‘n sweet blog post. THEN we can get on with the important stuff.

Here is your need-to-know info based upon your most asked questions:

  1. What stage are you in?
    • Stage 2. Not sure if it is in Stage 2A or 2B but we’re getting it taken care of A.S.A.P. That was an unplanned rhyme because I’m just that good :p
  2. What type of cancer is it?
    • Invasive Infiltrated Ductal Cancer. Yep, it invaded my ducts but I’ve already served the eviction notice so get packin’ ya lousy lump!
  3. What caused it?
    • The doctor nothing I did caused it. It was not any outside source or my cell phone. It is a very common type of cancer that occurs inside the breast.
  4. When is your surgery?
    • Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.
  5. How much of your boob are they taking? Uummm…really? Yes. I really got this question.
    • They did not give me an estimate but from what they can tell from the ultrasound/mammogram, the lump is about 1 1/2″ x 2″ so the plan is to take out the cancerous lump, along with a bit of the surrounding tissue. This is called a lumpectomy.
  6. Will you have to get a mastectomy?
    • We’re not sure until they take out the lump, have it tested, and take some lymph node samples to have them tested to find out the extent of it. But I saw this chick who had a mastectomy post something really funny that made me sort laugh: “Posted for your friend. The left one is real, the right one man made. And it used to be my stomach! Now when I do too many sit ups, my right boob goes flat!”  
  7. Will you have to do chemo?
    • Not sure until the test results are back about a week after the surgery.
  8. Will you lose your hair?
    • If I have to have chemo then yes, possibly, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. And it’s only temporary. I will survive and my hair will grow back. And if I do have to go through chemo, we can plan an awesome benefit concert for my daily scarf fund since I will want only the most fashionable ones.
  9. How are you?
    • Good– positive, focused and determined….most of the time….but when I don’t hear from you but see Buzzfeed quiz posts, it makes me wonder.
  10. How are the kids and your husband taking the news?
    • Husband is quiet/worried/concerned, kids are pretty much the same- all are okay as far as I can tell. Prayers and positive vibes for them would be cool.

This has all been a lot to take in since last Wednesday, just four days ago. I am sure there will be ups and downs but I have an amazing support system and lots of people praying for me and wishing me well. I went to church Sunday and was prayed for. I jokingly asked my friend’s husband (who is a member) if he orchestrated the service because it seemed the songs, drama and sermon were all just for me. Pretty awesome the way that works.

I have peace in my heart knowing I am in good hands with my surgeon and I am keeping a positive attitude.

Let’s get #MyLeftBoob trending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If I didn’t find mine when I did it may have been too late.
All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob #CancerSucks
  3. Tag your family and friends so they will do it too!
Sign up to get email notifications each time I post by clicking “follow” in the top left corner of this page.
“Stay calm and think positive!”

#MyLeftBoob Makes its Rock ‘n Roll Stage Debut for #BreastCancerAwareness

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My left boob made its stage debut last night with my all-time favorite local band, Mighty Ploughboys. Not only do these lads kick ass on their various instruments, they are all humble, nice human beings and genuine good eggs inside and out.

My left boob, along with my right, has been in the spotlight when I used to play in bands- I sing and play bass- but it has never gotten so much attention as in the past few weeks for something so life-changing. In case you’re just joining us, I have breast cancer. I found out less than a week ago, purely by accident (read how here) and, ironically got the news on World Cancer Day.

Mighty Ploughboys were playing a benefit show Sunday night to raise money for Danbury’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and they let me hop up on stage for a couple of minutes to talk about my challenge to raise awareness for self breast exams. Find out how to join the WendiPopRock #MyLeftBoob mission at the end of this blog post.

I decided on Day #1 of my diagnosis that the way I will get through this fight is with humor and by writing so that I can help others. I’ve already gotten so many awesome messages from people who tell me how much my writing is helping them. Here are just a few:

“I have always admired your strong will and determination. Your writing gives people hope whether they have breast cancer or not! You have already saved lives by showing the importance of self-examination, which I know. I should do but don’t. Now I definitely will. Thanks for being a lifesaver and for always speaking your mind!” ~M.B.

“Cancer, especially breast cancer, has been an important issue in my family. Your writing is spectacular.” ~D.L.

“You’re blowing my mind woman- you’re amazing! Thank you for sharing.” ~E.B.

“I am in awe of the way you are handling this news. I couldn’t be more inspired, as I observe you taking control of your future and deciding to focus on the CAN in cancer. Please know that my spirit is with you – even if I can’t bring myself to do a left boob selfie! Love ya big and rooting for you all the way, lady!” ~S.S

“What an amazing and brave awareness campaign you are doing!!” ~K.P.

I’ve also gotten many messages from people who fought their own private battle with the “C” word and have said that they are glad that I have chosen to go public because there are so many people out there, male and female, who need to be reminded of the importance of self breast exams.
SO! Let’s get #MyLeftBoob trending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If I didn’t find mine when I did it may have been too late.
All you have to do is:
  1. Take a selfie with your clothed left boob prominently displayed
  2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram an/or Twitter, tag me @WendiPopRock and hash tag #MyLeftBoob #CancerSucks
  3. Tag your family and friends so they will do it too!

Check out #MyLeftBoob selfies so far on Instagram, this is not all of them, just a few.

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Check out #MyLeftBoob on Twitter by clicking here.

Follow my social media accounts here:
What are the next questions everyone keeps asking me?
  • WHEN are you having your surgery?
  • HOW MUCH of your boob are they taking?
  • WILL you have to do chemo?
  • WILL you lose your hair?
  • HOW are the kids?
All these questions and more will be answered in my next blog post. Be patient and stay tuned!
Sign up to get email notifications each time I post by clicking “follow” in the top left corner of this page.
“Stay calm and think positive!”

#MyLeftBoob – How #DIY Hair Dye Saved My Life

carrie

“Ode to Carrie”  As you may have already guessed, I am not a natural redhead. It takes 4 rubber gloves, 45 minutes, 4 hair clips, a shower cap and 2 bottles of Vampire Red Manic Panic hair dye to get the desired results.

But now, more than ever I am so glad that I am a do-it-yourselfer. So what does DIY hair dye have to do with breast cancer? A LOT. I used to go get my hair done at the salon like many women do but since last fall I have not been able to go due to the expense. So I followed my Mom’s lead and decided to do it myself. Except, instead of Clairol, I used Manic Panic that I get from Hot Topic at the mall….because clearly I am a teenager on the inside, and it is only about $12 bucks.

A few Thursdays ago I was dying my hair Vampire Red, as I do every 6 weeks or so, when I dropped a glob of it on my left boob….. ’cause I’m a clutz. When I went to wipe it off I felt “it.” A lump. THE lump.  I told my husband who said, “Oh, it’s probably nothing,” and I tried to talk myself out of it. My family has no history of cancer. I just got a breast exam 11 months ago and everything was fine. Maybe it’s just hormonal changes…I just turned 45. But I couldn’t shake the worry and tossed and turned in bed that night for hours.

The next morning I called my doctor who brought me in to the office within a few hours of making the call. I was hoping when I got there he was going to say “it’s nothing,” or “it’s just a cyst.” But that was not the case.

He sent me  to the receptionist area to make an appointment for an ultrasound and mammogram. I could barely get the words out of my mouth to tell her what I needed, trying to choke back tears. The credit card machine was broken. The other woman didn’t know how to access my records to send to the next doctor. The radiology place doesn’t make Saturday appointments. This was not starting out good. More tears.

I had to wait until Monday for my appointment. There was a snowstorm. I got to the office and found they didn’t have my records so now I might have to wait some more. Some lady was coughing all over the place while we sat there in our matching pink gowns watching the Weather Channel. The nurse finally came in and rescued me from the germ-infested waiting room. She did the mammogram, squeezing my boobs from the top to the bottom and gripping them in a clear vice-like contraption on the sides.

Next was the ultra sound. The originally chatty nurse suddenly became silent when she saw a dark black spot on the screen showing my left breast. It looked like a misshaped egg with a tail on it. I asked her if that was “it.” She tried to sound optimistic when she said, “I can’t say for sure, the doctor has to tell you that. But if it was just a cyst I would tell you.” Greeeaaat.

The radiologist came in and confirmed that this dark spot would need a biopsy. Unfortunately I was going to have to wait five more days since I had Advil in my system for my tooth pain. Apparently if I have Advil in my system it can cause bleeding and/or hemorrhaging during the biopsy. The next available appointment was the following Monday.

Was this all really happening? How will I get through another week of worrying? Another week of not knowing for sure?

“It’s a good thing you came in when you did. Your last mammogram looked clear,”the doctor said. I tried to let the words sink in before he continued, “This grew really fast.”

We set up the appointment for next week and my husband and I decided not to tell the kids yet. Maybe it was a calcium deposit. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe….. and so we waited some more. I tried to focuson the doctor’s positive words.

 

Had I not dropped the glob of hair dye in my boob I would not have felt the lump. I probably would have pushed off my mammogram because the end of February in my son’s birthday, March is filled with Irish dance, Irish ball, St. Patrick’s Day and a children’s play. I may have even pushed it off until June or July. But thankfully I was a clutz and trusted my gut to call the doctor.

More to come tomorrow.

So how much do you love and support me? Enough to get #MyLeftBoob trending on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Everyone who wants to help me in this battle, guy or girl, and raise awareness for the importance of self breast exams should do this:

1. Take a selfie with your left boob prominently displayed (clothed!)

2. Use the hash tag #MyLeftBoob & tag me @wendipoprock

3. Invite your friends to do the same!

#Irony – I Got ‘The News’ on #WorldCancerDay About #MyLeftBoob

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The Empire State Building was lit up in orange and blue for World Cancer Day on Wednesday, Feb. 4. Ironically, that’s when I got “the news” that I have “it,” “that,” the awful thing many simply refer to as “The ‘C’ Word.” I have breast cancer but it doesn’t have me so until it’s gone I shall think of it as“The ‘Other’ ‘C’ Word”…. you know the one.

If there is anything I have learned over the past week it is this– people do not act the way you’d expect them to act when you tell then “the news.” That’s because people are people. We are all different and unique and have all been through our own tragedies and triumphs.  The ones who you’d think would be there for you the most may disappear entirely and not even call you for days.

Most people have the same reaction; “I’m so sorry,” “hang in there,” “my thoughts and prayers are with you,” or “let me know if there is anything I can do.” This is sweet and nice and good. Others want to help and fix the problem right away. Unfortunately cancer doesn’t “work” like that. Cancer is a stubborn bitch but I am way more stubborn. I am Irish and the youngest of 6. I always have had to fight to be heard. So there, stupid cancer.

The ones who know you best will say “you got this,” “you’re strong,” “you can do it” or “kick ass, you’re a tough Mama.” But then there are those who respond, “Oh man.” Or worse, don’t respond at all.

I’ve realized that you can never expect people to act how you want them to. You can only choose your reaction. And my reaction is this: I need to stay calm and think positive thoughts. I have a battle to fight and can’t waste time or energy on people who are not there when I need them most. What I have also realized in this short time is that I don’t need them. I have my family, my friends an awesome support group beyond what I ever imagined who are here to lift me up, make me smile and keep me in good spirits.

This chick wrote an article about what it feels like to wait in a waiting room and find out whether or not you have cancer. She didn’t have it. PHEW for her! Well how about what it feels like to go through an exam on Friday, get an ultra sound and mammogram on Monday, get a biopsy and another mammogram the following Monday and have to wait all the way until the following Wednesday to find out over the phone that you DO actually have breast cancer? Here is what it feels like:

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For a few seconds, you can’t breathe. You feel like you’re choking. Life comes to a screeching halt. The doctor’s words echo in your mind before settling down into your head and into reality, “You have breast cancer.” After you hang up the phone and tell your husband, who already knows by the look on your face, you hear yourself say it for the first time, “I have breast cancer.” Nobody in my family has this so how could I have it? It is so surreal. So many thoughts swirling through my brain. Wait, is it in my brain? How will they know?

The week before you find out you think about your life and if you’ve made a good life for your family and your children. You think about what you could have done better. How you could have spent more time or been a more positive influence and role model. And then you are slapped with that reality. NOW. Each day counts. Each moment counts. But it’s okay. I am strong. I WILL beat this.

THAT is what it feels like to get “the news.” It sucks.

So before you go making a cancer faux pas, check out the 3 questions someone going through this does not want to hear or talk about:

  1. What stage are you in?
  2. What type of cancer is it?
  3. What caused it?
It doesn’t matter what type, what stage or what caused it because the only thing that matters is that it is getting treated….SOON. What matters is that we found it early, I am a young, strong sassy Irish/Latina lassie and we are going to get it taken care of.  My Mom is from the Bronx and taught all 6 of us how to fight so I got this! 🙂
My new motto is “Stay calm and think positive” so I don’t want to worry or focus on anything else but getting myself better as soon as possible and keeping a good frame of mind. I will update as details and test results are revealed.
The best thing to do for me or anyone going through this is not react with an“Oh man,” or “Oh my God, Stage___? Are you serious? Mine wasn’t THAT bad,” or anything else similarly negative.
BE POSITIVE. BE SUPPORTIVE. BE FUNNY. THIS is what we need.

So how much do you love and support me? Enough to get #MyLeftBoob trending on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Everyone who loves and supports me in this battle, guy or girl, should take a selfie with their left boob prominently displayed with the hash tag #MyLeftBoob and tag me @WendiPopRock.

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What a looonnngggg #strange week it’s been! #TGIF#wildchild #crazy #redhead I used to hate my hair, now I’m embracing my #curls because #Dove told me to…among other reasons. #keepcalm & #thinkpositive I’m not really a #deadhead #MyLeftBoob

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Conroy
    Mar 01, 2015 @ 15:02:00

    Wendi, Welcome to the “Club” I have so enjoyed reading your Fighting Irish blog in which you lay BC bare. It is/will be so inspiring to your many readers. As a surviving 2 yr double breast amputee, (now a member of breastfree.org) you brought back memories which have faded and which I now see with your sense of humor. Wish I had kept my own blog!
    Keep up your fighting Irish determination and good luck with any follow-up treatments.. Remember, as your mother said, we never give up! Best wishes, Anne Conroy
    p.s. Can you get over that doctors give you the BC diagnosis over the phone! I was driving when I got mine!

    Reply

  2. Peggy
    Mar 01, 2015 @ 17:14:25

    Wendi,
    Sorry you have joined the the “club.” I am a 7 1/2 breast cancer survivor, double mastectomy reconstruction with tram flap tissue from my abdomen. The best thing i ever did was join a cancer support group. And you are right – there are many ways to treat breast cancer which I found out from my group. For me there was nothing like this group – who were going through the same thing as myself. The 5 of us still keep in touch. We had a big celebration for our 5 year survival date. We each travel this journey deferentially but you don’t have to be alone. Thank you for sharing – there is always hope.
    Peggy S. Calif.

    Reply

    • wendipoprockct
      Mar 01, 2015 @ 17:32:17

      Thanks so much for sharing Peggy and I’m glad you’re okay. The most frustrating part of my journey is that my type is so rare (only 1% compared to “normal” BC at 80%) and even my doctors had never treated anyone with Triple Negative BC. Hopefully the more I get the word out there, the more people will send me info on where to go to for support for this type or rare cancer. Thanks for reaching out! 🙂

      Reply

  3. Peggy
    Mar 01, 2015 @ 17:58:10

    I know you live a distances – but City of Hope in Duarte , Calif.is fantastic for cancer research and up to date info. I am sure there are many more. I did a lot of my own research for mine. check this out: http://breakthroughs.cityofhope.org/tag/triple-negative-breast-cancer
    If i come across anything that might be helpful – i will send it your way. After-all, when one hurts, we all hurt.
    I would like to give you a little caveat – in my support group – one of us was diagnosed with aggressive stage 3 breast cancer. She went through chem, radiation, a mastectomy and an experimental drug. She is thriving – with us other 4 – 7 1/2 years later.

    Reply

  4. David
    Mar 02, 2015 @ 10:43:06

    Good for you with the Left Boob campaign – I hope it gets thousands of women to self-examine and protect themselves better. I (a guy) had superb care for a cancer at Sloan Kettering and superb care for a heart problem at Cedars-Sinai, so I understand a lot of what you’re saying about the care.. Keep kicking ass and blogging about it – your honesty and energy is inspiring!

    Reply

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  6. Stephanie Winter Dunham
    Aug 29, 2015 @ 03:16:50

    Hi Wendy, I’ve been wanting to stop by and read your blog for a while now and I’m glad I did. Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of the details that go into this rare and unique journey. I am on the same path and many of your details are the same as mine. Triple negative, MpBC here in Cali with an osteosarcomatous variation. 6/22 skin sparing mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy with 4 clear nodes, and the pectoralis muscle were all clear margins. So I feel so blessed they got it all. Now in chemo, just finished #4 AC, with 12 weeks of taxol beginning middle Sept. and going through the day after Thanksgiving. Then a month break followed by 6 wks of radiation. I was stage 2B with a small focal area of angio-lymphatic invasion with a high grade and as you know very aggressive cancer. I feel blessed though not only with my outcome but to meet people like you along the way. Rare individuals who just happen to get a rare cancer. This past week I found a lump running under the sentinel node scar, bout the size of a pencil eraser, very hard and getting big fast like my original tumor. Surgeon will ultrasound it and probably biopsy it on 9/8. I’m going to keep reading your blog and have liked you on FB. With 3 almost grown children, I’m out on SDI and hoping Medi-Cal holds out. The children’s father past away in 2011. I’m surrounded by much love and support though and would love to count you amongst that team!

    Reply

  7. Stephanie Winter Dunham
    Aug 29, 2015 @ 03:19:40

    Oops, forgot to check boxes below but want to get the notifications, so here goes!

    Reply

    • wendipoprockct
      Aug 30, 2015 @ 00:54:00

      Thanks for visiting Stephanie! Best wishes to you on the rest of your journey. Stay strong and keep fighting! 🙂

      Reply

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