Monthly Archives: September 2009

Sit, Look, and Smile

This is the very reason why I’ve had a picture frame from Ikea laying in my room now for almost two years. No matter how many pictures I take SOMEONE is always misbehaving. Just look at him! I don’t know whether to be mad at him or feel sorry for him. He looks as if he thinks his sisters are the biggest headache EVER! Just wait buddy. They’re not even teenagers.
I really wish I knew how to get everyone to sit still, smile and even sort of look at the camera would work. Am I asking too much? Friends who have five children send me pictures and all I can think is “how many pictures did it take to get everyone to sit, look and smile?”  A true parental feat if I do say so myself. At some point Jeremy usually has to take the camera away because I start all sweet like ….”kids come sit down.”  I have candy for everyone who sits still and smiles for the camera. And then, a second later I’m all like “if you don’t sit still and look at the dang camera I’m going take away all the video games in the house, starve you for a week and lock you in your room.”  And as you can tell this works like a charm every time.



I wasn’t blogging much early in my diagnosis.  In fact, I didn’t officially start my blog till almost a month after diagnosis.  Sometimes I feel a need to go back and write down what I remember from the early days.  For my kids maybe?  So I remember how far I’ve come?  I don’t know.  Maybe because I really don’t want to ever forget.   Amazingly enough I don’t.  It’s a memory of weakness and of strength, and everything in between.  It marked the beginning of the hardest journey of my life thus far.  And so, it is forever a part of me.

I remember that it was a Monday.  I had my ultrasound on the Thursday before and was sent immediately over to the surgeon’s for her to dig around for an abscess.  We were all sure it was a bad infection since I was breastfeeding and it looked like mastitis.  I sincerely think we all wanted to find an abcess at this point and I remember Dr. Kalanowski digging for a while.  I laugh now at thinking how horrible it was that I had this little hole in my breast.  Little did I know she would be removing them completely less than 6 months later.  She did the biopsy even though we were SURE it wasn’t cancer.  In fact, she really wanted me to see an infectious disease specialist because it was probably something weird and strange and totally treatable.  Totally X-files or House worthy, I was sure of it.

So I waited over the weekend.  I remember them telling me I needed to stop breastfeeding on that side.  Which I did… not.  I am not always the most agreeable patient.  I actually called my midwife about this and when she told me if it was cancerI could be passing the cancer cells on to Elijah I became very agreeable.  Yikes!  And she also said this “Jen, you have no history of reoccurring mastitis.”  This is when it hit me hard.  THEY REALLY THINK I HAVE CANCER!  And I quit breastfeeding Elijah on that side.  (and just for the record there has never been a documented case of a baby getting cancer through breastmilk and they are pretty sure any cancer cells would burn off from the stomch acid.  And thank goodness for that info because breastfeeding is the only thing I felt like I was doing 100% right as a mom and I’ll be damned if cancer can take that from me as well…lol!)

So the call came around 12:15 pm 0n Monday, February 4th.  I think some people have this feeling that telling someone over the phone that they have cancer is pretty cold, but I don’t really think there’s any good way to tell someone they have cancer.  The optimal situation would be face to face, but if my surgeon had said, “you need to come in to the office,” I would have known right there and then that it was bad news.  So what could she do.  She had to do it over the phone.  I think I yelled obscenities at her….just kidding…actually, this is where it gets fuzzy.  I really think all I said was like “oh” or something really profound like that.  I remember her then telling me I needed to come in so we could talk about it and she could close me up because there was no sense leaving me open hoping for a crazy X-files infection anymore.

Here are some funny little things that I remember…..I was making macaroni and cheese for Meleah and Elijah and I think I called Jeremy because I remember him getting home quicker than ever before.  And I remember crying over the macaroni and telling Meleah how sorry I was and she had this funny little nervous laugh like “what the heck is going on mom!”  I think I just told her I was I was really sad about something and to go back to watching T.V.

And when Jeremy got home all I could say was “I’m so sorry” over and over again because I knew this would be hell for him and when you first hear the words “it’s cancer,” all you can think is “I’m going to die,” and since I had a few days to browse the internet because someone had accidentally muttered the words INFLAMMATORY breast cancer, not just breast cancer, I knew I was in trouble because none of the IBC info is really up to date and so the statistics look downright grim. 

And that’s how it was.  This is the first recollections I have of my diagnosis.  It’s a blur after that for about two weeks.  Nothing but a hazy fog.  I walked around in a complete daze and threw up a few times before I caught my bearings.

Take Another Look….

My oncologist at U of M told me to get moving when I was completely done with treatment and I have not taken her wisdom lightly.  I have been running.  I have actually recently strarted training for a 5k.  I think it’s been about 10 years since I ran a road race and my T-shirts from those races are falling apart so I figured it was about time to get off my duff and start collecting them again. 

I wish I could tell you I’m training for a really meaningful race, like a “race for the cure,” but alas, the race I have chosen is called the Hot Chocolate Run somewhere in Chicago.   Jeremy registered us.  He’s been running too at work with some guys during lunch because I won’t let him run with me.  Don’t ask me why I won’t.  He doesn’t get it either.  I think it’s something sacred with me.  Like “I have to do this by myself” mentality.  Either that or I’m afraid he’ll see how really slow I am, and I’m accepting that I am not the runner I was in my early 20’s.  But the race looks like a hoot.  Anything that comes the day after halloween and we’ve all gained 50 pounds from raiding the plastic pumpkin after the kids go to bed has to be fun.  I….will……..nice…and…..slow…..thanks……..all…..the….snickers…..and twix….I…raided…..from…the….kids….

The kids always wonder why their candy is gone so fast.  I try to tell them it isn’t good for them and I threw it away, when really half of it was gone that very night thanks to mom’s love of chocolate.  I will admit that I am only 90% crunchy and this is the very reason why I never buy pop or candy because if it is in my house I WILL EAT IT!  I am not like my other crunchy friends who say “I’ll give you $20 for that bag of candy” and then throw it away.  I just eat it and make it look like my kids did it.

I digress, so my sister just moved to Naperville, IL and happened to invite me to come run it in the same week I finally went to Hal Higdon’s race training site with the hopes of getting around to eventually running a race.  So I am doing it.  And today I was out doing short distance intervals.  I did 6×400’s.  Up and down the street I went.  And a weird thing happened.  I had this funny sensation in my breast.  I wear sports bras when I run because I actually can feel pain in these numb breasts.  (can’t feel my husbands touch but I can feel them bouncing around when I run… is that fair?)  And I don’t want my new foobs to get too saggy.  So I had this pain in my right foob, which I have now and again and I’m assuming it’s from necrotic fat buried in there that I suppose will just absorb in to my system eventuually.  But it was a mysterious little shoot of pain that so reminded me of the pressure you get in your breast when you have a let-down from breastfeeding that while I was sprinting along on my 400, I actually reached up to grab my breast just like I did when I was breastfeeding and wondering how full I was and if I needed to feed on that side.  And for a very split second I actually thought….I need to feed someone (one of my babies of course, not just anyone ya’know….lol).  And then I was quickly brought back to reality that I, in fact, do not have a single mammory gland in my body and the sensation is not from full breasts but from reconstructed fat tissue, and I had a little chuckle and was seriously glad no one was around to see me grab my breast.  Because as a mom who breastfed for almost 6 years, I was caught one to many times grabing a breast thinking….”boy, do I need to get home to that baby or someone better get me a pump!” 

And if this sounds like a sad little post, it’s not really.  I had a laugh and it brought back some good memories of when my breasts were working right and my babies were little.  And once again I’m thankful for the 6 wonderful years I had nourishing my babies through my breast and I’m so thankful I’m out pounding pavement and am healthy once again.

Jeremiah 33:6 from the Message says this: “But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation, working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jerusalem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.

Every day that I run, every time that I look at myself in the mirror naked, every time that I pick up one of my children and it doesn’t hurt, I am seeing and being reminded that God is bringing restoration to me.  He is slowly bringing healing both physically and emotionally.   I am being restored through my daily walk with Jesus.  Just knowing Him and His constant companionship is my blessing.  Through my ever present (and what seems like daily) failures and my ever needing reliance on Him, I am under rennovation, and I’m quite OK with that.

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Partners in Pink

ribbonFor all you Michiganders who hail from the Kalamazoo area.  I’m happy to announce a new “support group!”   Starting October 7th, there is a new support group for women who have been impacted by breast cancer.  It will meet at the Portage Free Methodist Church the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:00 pm.  Here’s a really cool thing too….there’s free childcare!  As a young woman with breast cancer I totally love that!  Call the church office if you need more info:  (269) 327-5312.  I’ll be there!


Mini-Vacation to Middle Earth

After a tough week Jeremy and I got to escape. Not to Middle Earth or Snow White’s house as the pictures might lead you to believe. We were actually in Charlevoix, Michigan for a staff retreat. Besides a lot of laughter, good food and great fellowship, we got to walk on the beach and look at these adorable, fable-ish little homes designed by architect Earl Young. If you’re ever in northwest Michigan it’s worth the trip. Such a cute town too.

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Well. What a freak’in relief. Seriously. I feel like someone just lifted a mac truck off my shoulders.

So the official report is that the cyst they saw is benign. But I have necrotic fat above my new right foob which is probably the tenderness. This is because to give my foob good projection (don’t you love it….this really is a technical term) Dr. D had to stuff some fat up there. So I’m sending the MRI on to him and he’ll tell me what to do. Hopefully it will heal up on it’s own. The thought of opening up for another wound healing does not excite me. But actully….who knew I’d be happy to only be dealing with some fat that won’t cooperate. And hey…. When does fat really ever cooperate? It wasn’t cooperating when it was in my belly so why would I think it would in my new boobs…!

Thanks so much for all the kind words and facebook messages. It really is so nice to share quickly through Twitter or blogging. I want my friends to know so they can pray but I don’t especially want to talk about it because then I start to get stressed. It’s best to keep your mind on other things when waiting for test results:)

I am so blessed by your support, encouragement and prayers.

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What if….then.

It’s hard for me not to worry about this whole wierd ultrasound thing.   recurrence is always something in the back of any cancer patients mind.  I remember thinking that when I finished radiation I could move on with my life.  But then I went through reconstruction.  And then I had a 24 hour scare when I thought my platelets were seriously low, and it ended up being a false alarm.  And here I am again today, waiting.  Waiting to hear the results and wondering which path my life will take tomorrow.  Because seriously, if cancer is back, I have to head down a whole different path again.  And it’s that path that has me worried.  Because it’s really not the path I want to take.  I am realizing that as a cancer survivor there really is never a complete “moving on” point.  You will always have hang-ups.  You will always haves scares.  You will always wonder about any discomfort, and when it lingers more than a couple days you will probably start to get nervous.  So here I am this weekend and I’ve been deciding whether I want to panic or stay calm.  One moment I feel pretty good.   I feel absolutely certain they are seeing scar tissue and nothing more.  And then the next minute I’m sure the cancer is back and I dread what that will mean for me and my family. 

So this weekend I’ve been thinking about the “what-if’s” again.  What if my cancer does come back.  Here is what I’ve come up with:

What if cancer comes back?  Then…

1.  I will cry, and kick and scream and be angry.

2.  And then I will go into some form of shock for a while.  This happened first time around.

3.  Then I will go in to some form of depression probably.  Because this is what happened before as well.  I felt defeated.  Chances are, I will again.

4.  Then people will support me and encourage me and remind me that I am loved and I am worth fighting for.

5.  Then I will probably cry a little more.

6.  Then I will look into the eyes of my sweet children and remember they are worth fighting for.

7.  Then I will get off my a__ and start reading about recurrence and where to get the best treatment, and what to eat and if there are any natural things I can do to help.  I will once again immerse myself in cancer.

8.  Then I will get in gear and go see the right doctors again.  I will seek second and third opinions.

9.  Then I will once again cry, because I do cry a lot. 

10.  Then I will plan treatment with my doctors.

11.  Then I will start treatment and face losing my hair or burning my skin in order to get better.

12.  And I will cry again because loosing hair for a second time when it was crappy the first time will be very hard.

13.  Then I will rely on my friends and family to help me once again…..and they will….and this will bring me great comfort.

14.  Then, along the way I will be reminded of some of the promises that God has given me.  Here is one I have been reading this weekend thanks to Matthew’s account of what Jesus said:

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

That middle verse has just stood out to me over the last day.  Cancer cannot kill my spirit.  So what if the answer is “yes, it’s come back?”  Well, then I’ll deal with it.  But the bottom line is, that it CANNOT have my spirit.  Someone else has that and His promises far outweigh the promises of cancer.


Cancer is really like having a conversation with one of those really anti-social people who dominate the conversation all the time.  Like the people who only talk about themselves and never let you talk.  Or when you do talk they cut you off.   Sometimes it’s so obnoxious that all you can do is stand there in sheer bewilderment because you just can’t believe they don’t get it.

My life has just been getting back to normal lately.  I started working again this summer.  I decided to quit talking about taking a class towards my long-term goal of becoming a midwife and actually doing it.  My children are keeping me busy.  Meleah, my middle child, turned five on Thursday.  And like all children’s birthdays, we celebrated once on her birthday and then we threw a shin-dig on Friday night.  On Thursday I also got a call that they had an opening for me to get my ultrasound done with Dr. Jacobs.  Take note:  It’s never a good idea to have scans done on important days.  Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day.  These are all off-limits for scanning.  They really should just shut the scanning machines down on days like Valentine’s Day because it really isn’t fair for anyone to find out they have something suspicious on a day like Valentine’s Day, ya know.   Seriously.

So here’s why cancer is like an anti-social interrupter.  Because when they looked at my scan, they didn’t like what they saw.  They actually weren’t totally clear on what they were seeing.  And they were honest, they don’t see a lot of post-diep patients in Kalamazoo.  They see a lot of implants, but not a lot of diep.  But something looked weird, and weird enough to say “let’s do an MRI.”  So I get this dang interruption on my daughter’s 5th birthday.  And when I get home, what I really want to do is go hide under the covers of my bed and have a good cry, but instead I get to put a smile on my face and celebrate her birthday.  And today I went to my first class and tried really hard to listen to the topic and not think about my interruption, and this afternoon I ran around like crazy getting ready for the party and I’ve decided that in order to truly get your mind of something you must remain very, very (did I say very) busy.  And surprisingly enough, I did forget my interruption tonight at the party and had a very good time celebrating Meleah’s birthday with friends. 

But now the house is quiet.  I am dreading my MRI scheduled for 6 am tomorrow morning.  I can’t sleep and I find this strangely familiar to the blogging in the middle of the night I did in my early diagnosis when I couldn’t sleep.   And to be completely honest, I’m angry about this interruption.  I really want to scream obscenities at this cancer interruption.  I want to stop the madness of the interruptions so I can be completely given over to things like my daughters 5th birthday because this was afterall her day, her special day,  and dang it cancer, you weaseled yourself in once again.

Lumps and Bumps

So I went to see my oncologist today.  I’ve been feeling a bit tender under my armpit and above my right foob.  So the lumpy bumps we felt both above and then right below where digger (my post surgical wound as you may recall) was, are probably hardened pieces of fat, to put it…um…nicely, since they moved my fat north to make breasts for me.  But we’re going to do some ultrasounds just to be certain.  I’m really not worried.  But I suppose worried enough to make it public and ask for a quick prayer if you think about it.  I’m guessing this is just a day in the life of being a survivor.

Here’s what is amusing (mildly) to me is the my ob/gyn office ( the one that put me off when I had IBC and an ovarian cyst), had once again put me off for 6 weeks when I called a week ago for my ob/gyn to look at my new lumpy bumps in my chest.  What!  With my IBC history!  Anyway.  This confirms my theory that receptionists ARE NOT DOCTORS as they would sometimes like to think.  Sorry if you are a medical receptionist, but I struggle with this one.  And just for the record, I have seen my ob/gyn because I pushed and left a message directly for her.  And now I have seen my oncologist.  Nothing like a little overkill, but I just want to make sure that the tenderness and the lumpy bumps really are nothing. 

And, one more thing.  Both doctors said, “Jen, always try to talk directly to me and I will get you in.”  So ladies (and gentlemen, if you read my blog…, advocate for yourself and do not give up if you think something is wrong!

Ok, coming down from my little soap box now…..