Friday, August 23, 2019

Six Year Survivor

Six years ago this week, I found a lump in my breast and it turned my whole world upside down. What was once broken, has been made whole again.  Scars have healed.  I've clawed myself out of the deepest hole of my life.  I've gone from Stage IV Breast Cancer, broke, jobless, and living on food stamps to now... nearly 47 years old, healthy, happy, and the Director of a functional medicine clinic.

#breastcancer #mastectomy #stageiv #cancer #thrive #proud #functionalmedicine #holistic #yeahthatgreenville #gvltoday #gvl360 #wellnessbydesign #greenvillesc #anncredible 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Moving on With Life

People always talk about living an authentic life.  What does that even mean?!  Life can be hard.  I feel lucky that I've had success, but it's difficult to navigate in changing times.

I had to make major changes to my life recently.  I felt stuck, unhappy, and like I was drowning in a mess that I chose and created for myself.  It started with my job.  I LOVED what I did for a living, and I was very successful at it.  I was the Director for a functional medicine clinic that reversed Type II Diabetes for the past year and a half.  In that time, I brought in over $2.5 million dollars.  Unfortunately, my pay structure changed several times, and by the beginning of May, I wasn't even going to make enough money to pay my bills. So I reached out to another local clinic.

Turns out, I found the most brilliant medical doctor, who specializes in Natural medicine, hormone balancing, and stem cells (to name a few things).  They saw my value and hired me immediately to run their practice.  It was a match made in heaven!  Not only have I helped them get organized, hired the best team, and helped make some good money, but this doctor teaches everything I have spent years researching and believing, and I get to benefit and learn from the best. One of the benefits is getting my hormones in balance.

Dr Connie and I on a weekly morning show.

I've struggled for YEARS with too much Estrogen.  That's one of the things that put me at high risk for breast cancer. No doctors really test to see how out of balance the reproductive hormones get, so I tested a couple weeks ago.  Just to give you an idea of what Estrogen dominance looks like, here are my numbers.

Estrogen   253  (should be between 60-100)
Testosterone  13.5    (should be over 50)
Progesterone  .5    (should be over 2)

What this means is, if I were to keep it as is, I'm at high risk for getting cancer again.  So, Dr. Connie was able to do natural hormone replacement.  Meaning, I got some Testosterone pellets placed in my hip and they time release over three months.  Then I take a progesterone supplement at night before bed.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!

I feel like a new person.  I have energy, stamina, and I even had a kissing dream the other night.  I feel like a teenager. Hahaha!

The clinic I work for also does the best stem cell treatments.  Stem cells can become more than 200 different cells in the body.  They can turn genes on and off.  They can heal brain damage, stop seizures, and repair the brain and body.  See where I might be going with this?  MY SON

Granted, my former husband needs to do his own research, and we must agree on treatment, but the world could be so different if we treated Eliah with stem cells. It could cure his Hemophilia.  It could allow him to walk or talk, or at least improve what he has. I feel like his world could be so different with one small treatment.  The possibilities are endless!!

Eliah is getting too big for his own good! 

Now, onto the other changes in my life.  I recently broke up with my boyfriend of five years...several times actually.  I never wanted a long distance relationship, but I did my best to make it work. The most embarrassing part, that I shouldn't admit publicly, but does show that I'm being completely honest about my life, is that he proposed to me in November of last year, but then rescinded two days later.  I felt like I wasn't enough to want forever. Wasn't GOOD enough.  I still tried to make it work, with all those feelings lingering.  And then I started to feel like I was sinking and drowning into feelings of NEVER being enough.

And then I realized, I'd rather stop trying to give someone every bit of my love, even taking from self love, and start focusing on investing my time and energy in to the things that make me happy.  I like to think of it like the movie Groundhog's Day.  Stop trying too hard for the things that will never work, day after day.  Start focusing on learning, growing, and becoming who I'm meant to be.  When I do that, things will fall into place....hopefully.  Regardless, saying goodbye, whether short term or for the last time is difficult.  I've grieved the loss of this relationship since November.

This is how I feel about being single again

That brings me to the latest "authentic living" event .  I really hate that term.  Anyway, I FINALLY got my breast reconstruction tattoo.  It's been five years since my reconstruction surgery, and I've been walking around with this great (naked) breast.  I chose not to get a reconstructed nipple or the 3D tattoo of a nipple.  Those seem fake (I know, it's all irony here) to put a make believe nipple on a reconstructed breast, but I wanted something that expressed my personality.

I needed to feel pretty and less like Frankenstein. I feel like I'm put together like Sally from Nightmare before Christmas.  And with potential dating on the horizon, and this exhausting search people have for the perfect body, proportions, and the endless paradox of choice of "is this one better than the last" mentality, I'm extremely self-conscious and self aware of the challenges I face.

My best, and most tolerant, friend Brenda came with me for this momentous event.  I found a place in Asheville that would do the tattoo.  I had to call several places, because not everyone is willing to tattoo a breast.  One man actually said, "Um, ew" when I explained what I wanted done.  But I found the perfect spot, and she was so open and willing to come up with a design I liked.  I went in with no expectations, just some ideas.

And an hour later, this was happening....  Thank GOD that breast was completely numb.  I only felt 10 seconds of pain when she went near a scar edge.

And three hours later, it was finally done.

When I sat up and saw myself in the mirror, I was not only happy to see such a beautiful tattoo, but I was also overwhelmed.  We got to the car and I cried.  I felt completely emotionally drained.

This was such a big deal for me.  It changed who I am and what I look like forever.  I'm proud and scared and insecure.  I see myself differently and I felt every bit of weight that carried.  Even today, I get queasy wondering if this will be a deal breaker for someone in the future.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  If it's a deal breaker, you don't want them anyway.  But there's always that insecurity of  "will I be enough?"

It's going to take time to rebuild who I am, my self esteem, and my life.  I feel like I have to do it over and over again until I get it right.  Will I ever get it right?  Who knows.  I do feel like I'm going in the right direction.  It took almost 47 years to figure out what I want to do for a living.  And I love every second of it.  It may take another 20 years to find the love of my life.  I'll wait forever if I have to.

In the meantime, I'll just be over here living authentically (vomit). 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Changing it Up

When I got diagnosed with cancer about four and a half years ago, I was dreading losing my hair.  I was known for LOTS of hair.  This was me at 22....

Then came chemotherapy, and I started losing hair by the second week.  It was so painful, that I finally had to shave it all off.

After chemotherapy, it started growing back THICK!  But it was weird, I lost my eyelashes every three months.  My guess was that chemotherapy was still in my system and showed itself on a cyclic basis. The hair on my head though, grew fast and stayed.  I LOVED it!

Then, about a year ago, my hair on my head started falling out.  I was losing handfuls at a time in the shower.  It was almost just like when I was going through chemotherapy.  I increased vitamins, like Biotin, Silica, Collagen and other things to help stimulate growth.  I've been trying to balance my hormones.  I've been sleeping on a silk pillow.  And I just flat out tried everything I could. It kept falling out though.

By August of last year, I had lost about half my hair.  So, I got hair extensions to keep it thick looking.  And for the past eight months, I've been wearing them in the hopes that my hair will start growing back.

But my hair kept falling out, and even with extensions, it started looking too thin.  I did note, however, that I had some new growth in the past couple months.  I've been slowly cutting my hair to try and get the growth to eventually match the length of my hair.  Not being a patient person though, I got fed up on Monday of this week.  I went ahead and got it cut!

Now it's right back in that awkward phase of growing my hair out.  But I'm going to embrace it for the time being, and hope that Chemotherapy will finally leave my system so I can grow my hair back out.

Onward with short hair!! (for now) 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween- Game of Thrones Style

It probably won't be all that great unless you've seen the show, but here's my Three Eyed Raven on the Iron Throne...

Brother and sister (Arya Stark and Bran Stark)....

And the whole crew before the big candy hunt...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, I just realized it's been several months since I posted.  Life has been BUSY!  Let's see if I can give you some updates....

Back in May, I discovered another lump in my right armpit, where I originally found cancer.  The Oncologist and I agreed to keep an eye on it to see if it grew.  It was hard and fixed in place, and the doctor suggested that it's most likely cancer.  Because it was still there in July, we agreed to do a PET Scan to see where else cancer may have spread.   Turns out, it was scar tissue and there is NO CANCER in my body.  Even the tumor that used to be in my left shoulder is gone!  

During this time of worry, my boyfriend talked me into putting in an above ground pool for the kids.  It would help us ALL relax....  And in my brain, I'm thinking I'll just put it all on the credit card because I'm going to die from all this cancer anyway.  Yes, I realize this wasn't a great idea, especially because it turned out to be scar tissue, but it made sense at the time.  My kids wanted to have some summer fun, and this inflatable was not what they were looking for. 

But what I didn't realize was, my medically fragile child, Eliah, would make HUGE strides in learning to use his body in the pool.  I have been so proud that it brings me to tears.  He loves the freedom, and he tries so hard to move and swim.  He can even hold his breath under water!  

Here's what the pool looks like, and video of Eliah trying to swim is included.  I still have to build a bar top, but that will probably happen next year.  Who knows, I might even put a surfboard up there as the bar.  We'll see what I come up with.

My swimmer!  It takes him a long time for his brain to move the right parts of his body, but he is trying to figure it out.  It's exciting, because it's the ONLY time he is not restricted by a chair, floor, weight of his body, or someone holding him. 

We even installed a lift to get him in and out of the pool.

I also tried gardening again this year.  FAIL.  My tomato plants turned out to look Charlie Brown Christmas trees.  I will admit it wasn't a priority this year.

Now, on to my other projects this year.  Christmas day last year, I decided that I needed the wall down between my dining room and kitchen.  It's a small dining room that only gathers mail. And I would rather have a huge kitchen than a small galley kitchen and small dining room.  So, without asking, I volunteered my supportive and patient boyfriend to help me.  He was not too sure about doing this on Christmas....

Nevertheless, construction started, and we both worked really hard to turn this into a modern kitchen.  I sold the dining table, an armoire and an aquarium, which paid for some new cabinets.  The rest of the cabinets were either already there, or I got them free from my old work.  Pretty much everything stayed where it was in the kitchen, and I just added the island top, new floors, and new lighting (which I installed all by myself with the help of youtube videos).

Here are the before pics...

And here are the after pics....

Needless to say, I LOVE cooking in the kitchen now.  We did all the work ourselves, with exception of scraping the popcorn ceiling and laying the floors.  By that point, I was done messing with it and hired a neighbor to do it.  But I think overall it's a huge difference, without having to spend a whole lot of money.  It doesn't hurt that it increased the property value.  In the six years I've been in this house, I've gained about $100k in equity with the market and improvements.  That's exciting!

Now on to the people in my life...

Natalie is now 13years old and in the 8th grade.  Not sure how that happened so fast, but I'm so proud of her.  She works hard, reads lots of books, and is one of the kindest souls I've ever known.

Eliah is now 10years old and in the 5th grade.  He LOVES school and his teacher.  The best part is that they see how smart he is and work with his skill level.  They don't talk around him, they talk to him.

I got to see my dad, stepmom and niece a few weeks ago.  It's hard to believe it's been three whole years since I've seen them!

And me, I'm having a good year I believe.  It wasn't my favorite starting out, because I hated my job as a hospice rep.  HATED IT!  Part of it was because the company I worked for didn't have a clue what they were doing.  And part of it was because I just didn't enjoy the work I was doing. I was miserable.

But, aside from work, I reached another milestone.  I am now a four year cancer survivor!  How on earth did these last four years go so fast?   I still take my supplements every day.  My blood work looks fantastic.

And, if you don't recall, I posted a while back about weight gain. Well, I finally got a handle on the weight gain after chemo.  I had too much estrogen, few too many carbs, and I was miserable from my job.  I also discovered that not all calories are created equal.  After four months on the Ketogenic Diet (which is also good for cancer survivors), I'm down about 30lbs.  I'd like about 10 more gone, but this has been a good start.  I have so much more energy, great bloodwork, and I still get to eat bacon.   This is kind of embarrassing, but here is a before and in progress pic.  Note the stomach area in the before pic (yuck).  The before pic was actually after I had lost 8lbs.  Geesh.

Anyway, that's about all that's been going on this year.  I will try to do better in keeping up.  I know I always worry when a cancer survivor that blogs goes silent.  But I'm here, very healthy, and doing my best to keep up with life!