Train Derailed- Next Stop: “Build-A-Bridge-And-Get-Over-It-Ville” #LifeAfterCancer #MyLeftBoob Chronicles

 

 

 

Last week I posted a very self-absorbed blog filled with glum thoughts swirling around in the pity party in which I was wallowing. After getting several concerned messages and emails from friends, I am happy to report I have drained the tub of tears I was drowning in, have built a bridge and am getting over it.

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How did I pull myself out of the depths of darkness and despair you ask? Signs. They are everywhere if your spirit is open to receive. Whether you want to say they are from “God” or “The Universe,” I know they are out there and I’m thankful for all that were sent my way today.

As you may or may not know, I work in a church, have worked and volunteered in several churches and have had many experiences (good and bad) that have shaped me into the person I am today. I am so grateful to my spiritual mentors for their teaching and the example they have set for me and know I have a long way to go. I have also learned a lot about those who judge in the church world and hope to never be like them.

The difference between the “Bible Thumper Christians” and the rest of us is that the Bible Thumpers shout at you in their tan skin, $3,000 designer suits and porcelain veneers from atop their gold-plated soap box telling you how horrible you are for your sins while they are busy embezzling money, having affairs or watching porn.

People like me, “The Mainstream Christians,” (I just made those two terms up) are fully aware that we are sinners and do not claim to be perfect, but we try our best. When we fall down we admit it, apologize and get back up again because we know there is a job to be done and people need us. We are not perfect leaders but we   know that we are called to do work in our community and world by helping others.

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Last night was rough— our 4-year-old lab mix rescue dog was whining and scratching all night which left us sleep deprived and worried. We believe she was stung by bees on her face and then got hives from the bee stings because she had big bumps all over her body. We brought her to the vet who gave her a steroid shot and then breathed a huge sigh of relief that she was going to be okay. Anyone who reads this blog knows how amazing our sweet little Sadie Lady has been not only for me during my breast cancer treatment, but for the whole family.

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Lack of sleep and extreme pain (in my back) can do a number on one’s emotions. If you crossed my path today and thought I was acting crazy and emotional, you were right. Research shows that sleep deprivation plays a significant role in regulating our emotional stability, according to Mathew Walker of Berkeley’s Sleep Laboratory, and author of the study.

“This is the first set of experiments that demonstrate that even healthy people’s brains mimic certain pathological psychiatric patterns when deprived of sleep…..deep emotional centers of the brain were approximately 60% more reactive when you’re sleep deprived.”

So yes, lack of sleep can make “even healthy people’s brains” act crazy.

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This morning, while scrolling through Facebook, instead of starting my day by working out, doing something positive, or reading, a smack of the pettiness of my self-sorrow hit me right in the gut— a Sandy Hook mom  who lost her beloved, beautiful butterfly posted about how painful the simple act so many take for granted— posting your child’s first day school photo— is for her and how her son is forever frozen in time… in first grade. I met her through the volunteer work I did in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy of 12/14 and am astounded and amazed that this remarkably strong woman can pry herself out of bed every day and fight for the legacy of her son so that no other parent has to endure the gut wrenching pain she lives with every single day.

Another sign that showed me I needed to be shaken from the self-centered mentality I had been wearing as of late was evidenced at the doctor’s office. My appointment was for 5:30 p.m., but was changed to 3:30 p.m. because I was in so much pain. Good thing, because this was just what I needed.

I ran into an incredible church leader who, when I asked how he was, said their congregation was busy getting ready for their response to the Texas flooding. Busy getting ready to help others…and what was I doing? Nothing but thinking of myself instead of others. Rather than feel bad about this and fall into a deeper hole, he inspired me to think about what I can do rather than what I can’t…. about how I can spend my time instead of letting the hours waste away…. about what I was going to do to help out as soon as I possibly could.

So thank you Pastor for always being such a steadfast and faithful leader. I have so much to learn from you and I’m so glad to be able to have you as a great example of someone who walks the walk and talks the talk.

Also today, another wise and caring person said this to me after I tried to explain (and justify) my foolish behavior— “Everyone you meet has been through something or is going through it right now. You are not the only one. Maybe people are worse off than they appear.” Wow. The truth hurts but is sometimes so needed to snap us back in line.

The last thing that happened made me reflect deeply and realize how fruitless it is to only think of yourself.  I got the news that another person in one of my cancer support groups had earned his wings after a courageous, hard-fought battle. This man leaves behind two beautiful children and a loving wife.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all who loved him. I did not know him personally, as I have not attended the meetings in months due to my new job, but I have joined in on the prayers for him and his family as I got news from my group about his condition.

My breast cancer surgeon said to me early on in my battle, “I don’t understand why cancer has to happen to the nicest people? Why not the criminals and evil people? Why does it always have to be someone who does so much good?” I still don’t have an answer for her but I do know that all of those things made me realize how ridiculous I was being by staying stuck in my funk for this long and I am grateful for all of the signs that helped me out.

Thankfully, tomorrow is a brand new day and a new chance to make the most out of the time I have been given. Life is fleeting and nobody is promised another tomorrow.  I am so grateful and can’t wait to get back to work.

“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

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#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.*

#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!

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.

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 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.

#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 have cancer.

#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

#MyLeftBoob #BreastCancer is ‘Rare and Aggressive’ Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma

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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.

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