2016…

As I reflect on this last year, I realize many people are over it, meaning they are ready for the bright new year that 2017 will bring. They are ready for positive change, new beginnings and a fresh perspective. While I am also ready for 2017, I am not closing the chapter on 2016 in sadness or anger.

This past year has brought a lot. I had a double mastectomy with 21 (21!!!) lymph nodes removed, I had expanders put in place of the breasts that once fed my son, I experienced radiation- twice, I had brain surgery, herceptin every three weeks from January until July, two new chemo pills that equate to about 686 pills yet well over $25k, 4 injections totaling over $28k, I had a few colds but many stomach aches, Jacob had pneumonia once and a cold twice and Joe had a sinus infection. We have traveled to 6 separate cancer centers across the east coast and Texas, met with countless nurses and doctors throughout the year, and the list goes on…I am sure this is just the beginning of what this year has brought in terms of medication, treatment and, well, cancer. 

Yet I can’t help but think about what else 2016 gave me. I made a few dozen Love Jars trying to brighten someone’s day, worked fulltime between my surgery and radiation, bought a new-used vehicle (for the first time in 8 years) to celebrate being “cancer free”, made sure each cancer visit was filled with some sort of adventure, I’ve had 2 paint parties that were filled with endless laughter, was blessed by Team Gina – who not only gifted my family my medical deductible and a weekend away but also new friendships that I didn’t know I NEEDED in my life, a fundraiser in New York to help pay the insane cancer costs, more new and priceless friendships that formed by a simple hello, an unexpected (free!) weekend cruise getaway that my husband and I needed more than we realized, a first ever sisters weekend, a trip to Savannah to meet my baby sister, my baby sister’s WEDDING – and a wonderful visit with family and friends, wonderful inlaws, my best friends wedding!, a few hundred blog posts, probably a million pictures and enough belly laughs for me to have a 6 pack (not happening).

This year also brought dozens of new words for Jacob, a hundred or so walks, a new bedtime routine that includes my bed, a new food change for me, countless sunsets mixed with a few late nights where little man was up until it was “too dark”, snuggles that are worth their weight in gold, 2 clothes sizes changed for Jacob and he went through a lot of shoes as his tootsies grew. He had his first haircut and another one recently, he met Mickey, Minnie, Pluto & Goofy, he picked out pumpkins and his very own Christmas tree, we have said a lot of prayers, talked to the stars while pointing out the moon, went on boat trips around the intracoastal, fished a whole lot, visited my happy place (never enough!), and giggled…oh, how we giggled.

We have read hundreds of books and visited the book fair, learned to count to 17 (and 10 in Spanish!), we have sung the alphabet song more times than I can count, done tons of arts & crafts, rode his strider bike, he is no longer afraid of his four wheeler, looked forward to his advent calendar all month and celebrated each holiday.

I haven’t read nearly enough books but discovered a love of audio books to take over the trip to work. I didn’t write nearly as much as I wanted but took a leap of faith and attended a writing seminar – and learned so much.

I imagine that this just barely scratches the service of what this year has brought. I began the year by celebrating my cancer free future but quickly learned that the cancer has taken up permanent residence. The emotional toll of that sentence is hard to process and yet I refuse to let it take over. This year has brought a lot of BIG events and change but it’s the little moments, the day to day life, that I focus on most. Our daily routine and snuggles sessions are what I look forward to most. 

There are no words to describe the gratitude that I have for each & every day. I am glad to do the mundane things that I once hated – laundry, dishes, etc. These things mean that I feel well enough to do the day-to-day tasks.

I don’t know what 2017 will bring but I hope it brings stability, wellness and inspiration. I hope it is filled with belly laughs, endless snuggles and priceless memories. I plan to travel as much as I can and see parts of this world that have only filled my dreams. I intend to make memories with my family and friends. I want to experience new things and embrace the moments that make life so wonderful. 

What has 2016 brought you? What plans do you have for 2017 to be new and different?

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?