And I’m done.

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Six weeks is a long time. A lot can happen in that time. They say it takes 3 weeks for a habit to form so imagine the changes that can happen in 6 weeks time.

The last six weeks for me have been filled with almost daily trips to radiation. At arrival, I say hello to the receptionist and head back to the women’s changing room. I grab a gown from the cabinet, remove my top and tie it around my neck and waist. It’s usually chilly so I sit as close to the oscillating heater as I can. Well, until a hot flash hits.  I wait for the technicians to come get me and chat with the ladies waiting beside me while catching up on our HGTV.  Sometimes the wait is quick and other times it can take a while.

Once called, I lay down on a hard table lined with a sheet, untie the top of my gown and remove my arms from it. My head fits into the pillow, turned to the right. My arms rest above my head in their spots on the pillow. The pillow is actually hard to hold me in place, not like a typical pillow.  A soft, triangular pillow is placed under my knees for comfort. If I’m cold, a warm blanket is placed on my legs and arms.

The technicians work their magic and ensure that I am placed perfectly for treatment. We chat and joke while they work.  The first 25 treatments were 5 sets each day plus films. The last 5 were each 1 25ish seconds of treatment. When ready, the technicians leave the room to watch me on cameras and work the machine.  The “Beam Ready” light clicks on then switches to the “Beam On” light and a buzzing sound can be heard while the radiation occurs.  Today, as usual, while the buzzing sound was heard in my ears, I silently counted the seconds that passed. When I hit 25, the buzzing stopped, the light switched off and the technicians returned.

Only this time, the light switched off for the last time and I wiped tears from my eyes.  There were big hugs from the technicians, a certificate of completion and I was done.  I quickly changed, walked out of the radiation center and returned to my car.  I’m done.  Radiation is over and I survived.

My skin should begin healing over the next week. Although it still looks rough in a few places, there is drastic improvement in the areas that haven’t been radiated since last Monday.  This part of the journey seemed so far away initially and now it’s over.

Here’s to new beginnings, the end of an era and to new growth.

Off we go!

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Anytime we travel, we always end up going to bed way too late the night before preparing and yet we wake up bright & early ready to get moving. The excitement immediately kicks in and caffeine is almost unnecessary because my mind starts working immediately to accomplish the last minute tasks and get out the door on time.

I was asked to come in early today for my final treatment because the machine will be down from 8am – 845am. I had the option to go after but I didn’t want to risk not having treatment if the machine needed more time. So today we are up extra early and starting our day before the sun has fully risen.  It is the end of this journey and the beginning of something great that is rising on the horizon.

Jacob wasn’t really feeling the excitement this morning but Joe & I are giddy with it. And thanks to my sweet friend, my necklace is on point for today! (That’s a saying, right?)  Oh, and the Phoenix Alex & Ani bracelet my husband spotted (the last in stock) and surprised me with!

Happy Wednesday, friends! What new journey are you starting?

My husband

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Last, but certainly not least, today’s third blessing is my husband.

My sweet husband and little man traveled with me this past weekend to upstate New York. Despite it being a mostly girl activity filled weekend, he came to help me, both physically and mentally. He traveled along without complaint through the sister giggles that often made no sense, the bridal shower prep panics and the last minute errands. He snuggled little man to bed each night, ran out to grab me an iced coffee and Jacob some milk when needed and woke up early to help me attack the days activities.

And yet, this is only a glimpse into what this man does for me and our family. On top of all of these activities and the ins & outs of life and work, this man cares for me. He ensures I take all of my medications, attends every single appointment (the radiation oncologist almost had to write a note to get him to stay home from daily radiation appointments!), bandages all of my radiation burns every day and checks on my water intake regularly.

He wears the hat of a nurse, a pharmacist, a cook, a caregiver, a best friend, a husband, a father and about a dozen other hats…and he does them all without complaint. Not once did he hesitate to jump into action and care for me in whatever form that it entailed throughout this journey. He has continued to be my safe haven, my voice of reason, my sounding board and my shoulder to cry on. He is my motivation to be better and do better. He is my reason for wanting the best of life.

He is the man who gives me strength and compassion and happiness and so much more.  He is the love of my life and the man of my dreams.

He completes me.

Sister snuggles x 4

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Growing up with 3 sisters, we had our moments of anger, frustration and tears. We had one and a half bathrooms, we shared bedrooms for many years and we had a minivan that we crammed into for weekend road trips.

Despite age differences, we were all close. We stood up for each other when needed, cheered each other on during games & practice and when we were lucky, hung out at each other’s sleepovers. It wasn’t until my baby sister & I moved away that I truly understood how important my relationship was with my sisters. I had only ever known it being there physically and without it, I needed to adapt and learn how it worked long distance.

Sure, we all talked when we could, visited when able and called every holiday. We have continued to be there for each other for every marriage and every baby. But there is one thing that I never truly understood the importance of and that I took for granted when I lived in New York.

Sister snuggles.

They are the moments on the couch, where there are legs hanging off and we aren’t quite sure which leg belongs to who.

They are the funny moments that make you laugh so hard your abs hurt.

They are smiles so big that your cheeks are sore and yet you can’t stop smiling.

They are conversations that you’ve had 5 times and yet can’t stop talking about because the 4 of you keep distracting each other.

They are hugs and cuddles that I couldn’t live without.

Today’s second blessing is my sisters.  Each one of them brings a different perspective, a unique idea and a creative outlook. Each one I am blessed to have in my life. This past weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend 3 whole days with them. And oh, how wonderful it was.

*Pictures include our sweet momma and Kate Sr, our newest honorary sister!

This chick.

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The other day I wrote about one of my very best friends since childhood. I am incredibly blessed to have more than one of these amazing women in my life.

See this chick up above? She is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and giving women that I know. She adapts to whatever life throws at her and she does it with a smile. She makes me laugh constantly and stays strong when I need her to.  She inspires me every day and keeps me on track when I try to veer to the left.

This chick has faced her fair share (and more) of life challenges and has come out stronger and more determined than ever. Family is her priority and the way she keeps her family going is truly an inspiration. I don’t know how she does everything that she does and yet still has time for me every day.

This chick right here…I am blessed beyond words to call her my best friend – and an honorary sister to our family. This chick right here…has gotten me through some of the most challenging times in my life and didn’t think twice about it.

So today’s first blessing is for her and for how lucky I am to have her in my life. 💗

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If you are lucky, your best friend from childhood remains your best friend for life. It’s a promise we made to each other wholeheartedly in an age of pure innocence and followed through on during the hardest and happiest times of our lives.

I am blessed with more than one of these. Tonight Jacob, Joe & I enjoyed family time, dinner, wine and laughter together with one of my oldest friends.  Despite the time in between visits we don’t miss a beat.

The fact that we bought almost identical bottles of wine for each other basically sums up our friendship.  💗🍷

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A day off…sort of

Today I headed to treatment for my first day on the new machine. The machine that I was previously on had lead parts that moved to form my treatment area. I would be treated a total of 5 times each day and would have to hold my breath for each treatment. I also had films done each day to ensure my breath hold and positioning was perfect.

The new machine that I’m on is a bit different. No more breath holds or films needed – wahoo!  And instead of lead parts forming my treatment field, a lead mold is cut just for me. It is cut based on the CT scan that I had prior to treatment. The radiation used on this machinr is a different type than the previous radiation.  The mold forms the treatment field on my skin, which is my entire scar and 2 cm around it on all sides.

When aligning me today, the mold wasn’t quite perfect for the shape of my scar.  This can be manipulated to some degree but after trying to manipulate it many different ways, the doctor decided that today’s treatment was a no-go. Basically, the mold would be over-radiating the section and the doctor was not comfortable with the way the treatment field was on my skin.

So, no treatment today.  I still have 5 to go but they should have my new mold cut and ready tomorrow to begin my boost treatment then.  I appreciate that they need everything to be perfect!

My radiation oncologist checked out my skin today and aside from the area under my arm that is a hot mess, she said that my skin is healing beautifully! It’s irritated, itchy and bright red but it’s healing so that’s exciting! Since my boost treatments will be aimed directly at my scar tissue, everything else should start healing nicely within the next few weeks.  It’ll get a little worse before it gets better but I’m glad it’s looking good to her!

Happy Tuesday, friends. How was your day?

25!

My 25th birthday was a big deal for me. I felt as though it was a milestone birthday like turning 18 or 21 except for me it brought a lot of questions. What am I doing with my life? What have I accomplished? What do I want to accomplish?  A lot of big questions that I didn’t have the answer to – turning 25 created a little chaos in my brain.

My brain chaos hasn’t gotten much better over the years but I am learning to embrace birthdays as a reminder that I am alive, well and able to continue working towards whatever it is my heart desires. What better reason to celebrate?

Speaking of celebrate…today’s 25 is another reason to celebrate. I am officially done with my 25 regular radiation treatments! I know, I know, I can’t believe it either. 5 weeks down and just 1 to go – wahoo!

Of course, my final regular treatment couldn’t go off without a hitch.  😉  For whatever reason, a smidgen (my radiation oncologist’s word) of my heart kept showing up in the films and the technicians were having a hard time aligning me (one little thing can throw it all off!). An hour later, a visit from the doctor to help and some numb arms and my heart was safely out of the way to begin treatment!  Yeah!  Next, five boost treatments aimed at my tumor area and scar tissue and I’m all done.  So close!

My skin continues to look a little worse every day. My entire left side, including my chest, armpit, neckline and side, are all bright red like a horrible sunburn and peeling.  It itches and hurts but the creams help as much as they can.  While aligning me for treatment today, one of the technicians suggested I stop down and see the nurse at the doctor’s station because of the changes in my skin from Friday. Yikes.  So I did and the nurse gave me some special gauze to help keep the area under my armpit and around where my tumor was hydrated.  So 4 creams, special gauze and regular gauze now…all wrapped up with an ace bandage!  I feel sorta like a walking mummy with my chest all wrapped up like this.

Anyway, 25 down! Tomorrow I start on a different machine and after a short visit of 5 treatments I’ll be done. That is definitely something to celebrate!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Long before I became a mom, I was a teenager. Despite being what I would consider a “rule follower” for the most part, I had moments where I didn’t like a decision that my mom made and I would say things like “I will never treat my kids this way” or “When I have kids, I’ll let them do xyz!”. Hindsight is 20/20, right? I know now that my mom was doing what was best for me and making decisions for reasons that I couldn’t even fathom at the time in my still-growing teenager brain.

There are moments since my son was born that I catch myself doing or saying something that I think “Oh, I sound like my mom!”. (“Time for a happy-nappy, Jacob!) It makes me laugh and gives me a little smile. You see, despite growing up thinking that I didn’t want to be like my mom, there are things that I desperately want to do just like she did.

I want Jacob to…

…pick fresh flowers from our garden to bring to his teacher on the first day of school.

…feel pride in growing a vegetable and herb garden that he can pick from every night for dinner.

…get off the bus every day and see me, just like she did, and spend the entire walk home talking about his day.

…learn how to make homemade salsa and give it away as gifts for the holidays for people to enjoy.

…learn how to make gifts for the teachers like my mom painted tins and filled them with fresh baked cookies every year.

…look up from whatever sport he is playing and see me standing there, cheering him on.

…always know that he can talk to me about anything and everything. I want to offer him a “quarter for his thoughts”, as my mom did, and know that he will open up to me.

…know that even when I’m angry or frustrated, I still love him. And although I can’t fix all the wrong in the world, I can offer him a little peace from the chaos. Even if that peace is in the form of baking cookies together.

…go on adventures with me. Spur of the moment adventures with no planning or destination in mind. Those are some of my favorite memories with my mom – skiing around the block, spelunking, learning about ruins and Thatcher Park.

…know that a hug from mom can make a lot of the world’s worries go away.

…know the importance of a cooked meal at home as a family, even on a busy night.

…know the importance of church on Sunday and giving back to the community.

…know the love of family, not just his parents but his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone in between. Near or far, the love of family is priceless – my mom never failed to show us that.

…know a mom that is involved – in his school, his sports, his community, his interests. My mom support everything I did (and do!), whether it was Girl Scouts, softball, track, cross country, cheerleading (even when I was horrible!) and everything in between.

…know tradition. Even though they may not always be perfectly planned, they are something to look forward to every year and enjoy a bit of sameness in an ever-changing world.

…value time. Whether it’s time celebrating, relaxing, planning, preparing or just being…I want him to value the importance of every moment life offers.

…to love a lot. To love life, people, friends and adventures. Because my mom still does.

I am sure that my mom, like any mom, looks back and thinks that there are things she would do differently but I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me into the person that I am today – and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the incredible moms out there. The moms who sacrifice daily, who love unconditionally and who would do anything and everything for their children. You are amazing, inspiring and loved. So loved.