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August 3, 2013

Beta fish drop and so much more...

July 7, 2013, quietly come and went, marking the two-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. Today, I am doing well, feeling great on most days, and glance in my rear-view mirror less frequently. As I reflect over the past six months, I am reminded of several challenges and giggle slightly – let me explain.

Several months ago, I was experiencing frequent and painful headaches along with being increasingly focus challenged. I was terrified that I was developing brain cancer – statistically, this is the next stopping place for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). I was not sleeping; my mind was carrying my thoughts to a lonely, fearful, and irrational place. Filled with fear and concern, I made an appointment with my oncology nurse practitioner. Walking through the doors of clinic, I was resigned to the idea that I would need a brain scan to locate the brain tumors, despite my concrete objection to scans. I sat nervously in the exam room waiting for Christy Lee, NP to make her entrance; she bounced cheerfully through the open door greeting me with “how are you doing?” I must have paused a little too long… she sat down, pulled out a pen, and a paper towel to write on while remarking, “I know you are not a fan of seeing us, what’s up?” I proceeded to frantically rattle off all of my concerning symptoms – forgetting to breathe and feeling faint as I was sweating uncontrollably. To say that I was a hot mess is a gross understatement! Christy Lee tried to rein me in as we processed one symptom at a time. In-between my symptom exploration, I had a light-bulb moment. I took a deep breath and said, “I know what is going on and it has nothing to do with cancer”. The symptoms all pointed to my ADD, which left untreated, rapidly elevates anxiety. Christy Lee continued to reassure me there was no evidence of brain cancer however; she would complete a series of interactive movement tests to confirm. Nearing the end of the testing, I was to track her moving finger with my eyes, reach out, and touch my finger to hers when the movement stopped. After a couple finger touches, I reached out and missed her finger, she gasped! I laughed and said, “I am just kidding!” We both laughed; we needed a moment of levity. SO, there is no suspicion of a brain tumor. 

Then there is Auntie Flow whom is overstaying her welcome – 18, 21, and 32 days at a time. Ironically, September – December 2011, while in the throes of a chemo-induced menopause, riddled with hot flashes and ridiculous night sweats, I longed to have Auntie back in my life to signal my body was coming back into balance. Now, I just want her to leave me alone! Crazy, frequent, chunky, and lengthy, is an accurate description of my experience during Auntie’s multiple visits. I was thinking, what the hell …. Really?!?! It looked and felt like I was delivering multiple beta fish every time I stood up. During these visits, I welcomed varying sizes of maxi-pads back into my life, my boys forced to do emergency maxi-pad store runs, along with an impromptu grocery isle celebration when I discovered the BIGGEST night night pads – whoop whoop! My Ayurvedic Practitioner, Sharon Kapp adjusted my daily herbal regiment. My Acupuncturist, Mandi Schwendiman provided TCM treatments to address Auntie’s extended stay. My GYN sent me for blood work and an invasive internal ultrasound. I did my research on how to get Auntie to vacate and ordered two essential oils from Young Living, Geranium and EndoFlex. Today, all signs point toward Aunties departure and/or reduction in length of stays. 

I love the way the universe/higher-power/God provides opportunities of support and enrichment when we need it the most. During my challenges, I experienced support and encouragement from not only my treatment team but also my family and chance encounters. My sister-in-law Athena was supportive and offered words of encouragement including urging me to embrace Auntie’s visits. I found myself sitting upon my throne, talking to Auntie Flow and asking her questions – such as what are you trying to tell me? Why will you not leave? What am I missing? While waiting for my ultrasound, a frail and soft-spoken woman, using a walker, made her way into the waiting room. The young woman walking with her excused herself to grab a cup of coffee. I let the young woman know that if her mother needed anything, I would help her out. The young woman remarked that her mom was stubborn and would not ask for help. After the daughter left, I struck up a conversation with the frail woman. I told her that I too was stubborn. We exchanged our reasons for our visits. She has been battling cancer for a while and now suffers with spine and neck pain due to the cancer metastasizing in her spine and limiting motion in her neck. She told me that she had exhausted her treatment options and accepted her life may be ending, “it is no longer in my control.” I shared my diagnosis and alternative treatment philosophy along with Auntie’s prolonged visit. The woman told me not to worry about Auntie; it was simply my body’s way of cleansing itself. I agreed. 

I recently participated in an unfamiliar alternative modality with a new practitioner. The experience was interesting and revealing, not from the modality perspective, but rather my interactions with the practitioner. It was clear that the practitioner required empirical and scientific validation that her treatments were effective. Among other things, she asked when I was getting my next scan. I asked why. She wanted a way to scientifically prove she was an effective provider. I explained to her that I do not believe in scans however, I do monitor my blood work every three months. I went on to let her know that I am doing well and that I did not need anyone to tell me that I am okay…I know that I am okay. I did not need scientific proof, she did. That is it … I KNOW I AM OKAY! 

July 2011 – When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was completing my undergraduate degree, had been accepted into the University of Houston: Graduate School of Social Work, and was working on an exciting project with Arrow, a Foster Care agency in Houston, Texas. 

July 2013 – I am entering year two of working with The Children’s Farm Home as a skills trainer with the Intensive Community Treatment Services program, accepted into George Fox University: Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that begins in September 2013, and am in the process of developing a program that will provide support to underserved youth. I feel like I am back on track, more grounded, and better prepared to continue my work serving children and families. 

I am excited about my future! I am eternally blessed to have my husband Curtis supporting, loving, and encouraging me each day. I am watching my boys grow into responsible young men. I am beyond thrilled to be starting graduate school in September. I am hopeful and dreaming big as I continue to develop my program to support underserved youth. Life is good.

Today, I am hopeful~