Sometimes you probably get sick of me posting all the current research. But this article is pretty good and worth a read. Especially if you want to avoid cancer.
I dated a lot when I was younger. Of course, if you wait till you’re 27 to get married like I did, you’re bound to have a few dates. I went through a lot of frogs before I found my prince charming. And when I found Jeremy, or he found me as I’d like to think, he was quite a bit younger than me. I like to say he’s three years younger than me but for 6 months of the year it sounds like he’s 4 years younger than me. I know, it sounds horrible doesn’t it. I was a senior in high school when he was in eighth grade.
Here are some things he likes to tease me about. And I say tease, because it was our deal when I agreed to marry him that he would never ever, under no circumstances tease me about being older than him…..and well, that did me a lot of good now didn’t it! He teases me all the time. So one thing that happens quite often in the car is that we’ll hear a song I loved in middle school, and I’ll say “oh I love this song” and I’ll turn it up and then I’ll turn to him and he’ll have this blank stare on his face, like “I’ve never heard this song?” And this is because he was in first grade and WHO REALLY REMEMBERS ANYTHING ON THE RADIO IN FIRST GRADE! And I’ll be reminded of how old I am. The second thing that COULD happen is that he has heard of the song because of some retro station from the 80’s or because he just knows more music than I do. But anyway, music can say a lot about your age. And the other thing that happens is that I will have some memory of being some place and I’ll say “when have we been here before?” or “why do I remember this?” And he’ll groan and say…..”Jen, that was with XYZ boyfriend!” And we’ll both laugh because we both know that I dated a lot, especially for some reason in my 20’s…..I suppose I was trying to narrow in on the kill, but still, he thinks it’s funny. Partially because sometimes I say “oh, I went here with so-in-so.” Or something to that effect. Jeremy didn’t date as much, although he had a lot of “girl” friends…..you know…..or so he likes to say.
This is going someplace, I promise. So I dated a lot in my 20’s. And here’s maybe the reason why I dated so much. I was in my 20’s when I was in seminary (Jeremy is not a pastor nor did he go to seminary in case you were wondering), and I was a single woman on a campus with a 3 to 1 ratio of men versus women. Need I say more. There were lots of men to choose from and not so many women. And a good portion of those women were second degree students who were coming back to school as older adults. And a good portion of the men were younger and out of college. So if you were remotely attractive, you were KNOWN on campus. And because every man knows he needs a wife to be in ministry…..I mean who else is going to play the piano for you if you get placed in an old country church…..lol….and be the part-time church secretary. OK…I’m totally stereotyping here, but unfortunately that is the way it WAS for a long time. Thankfully not so much anymore.
So one day I hear word that a “Beeson Pastor” has been asking around about me. It’s a small campus and a friend of mine was a Beeson pastor. Now a Beeson pastor was an elite group of 20 pastors on campus that were invited to come and get their doctorate in a one-year type program. They were paid, given an apartment, and flown all over the world to see churches that were pace-setters, so-to-speak. So this guy just happened to be single, and seeing that he was a Beeson pastor, and decent looking, I gave word back that I MIGHT be interested. You have to play cool ya’know! So he calls me and we went on a date. For about a month, things seemed to progress. He seemed like a really nice guy. Then all of a sudden, I quit hearing from him. I think maybe I saw him around campus a bit and he just seemed to be aloof. At first I was sad. I moped around for a few days. I ate ice cream and didn’t care what I looked like. But after a few days I picked up the pieces of my semi-broken heart and got back in to living. In fact, for several days I purposely thought…..this man is NOT going to see me looking bad and I did my hair extra well, and dressed up. I not only looked better, but I felt better.
And so it is with cancer. I am putting cancer behind me. I’ve been looking good and feeling good. I dress up and do my hair because I can. I have hair and I have the energy to do it. I have a pair of red shoes that I love to wear. I have enough black and grey in my closet to last me a week, I live in neutrals, but lately I’ve been wearing my red shoes a bit more. I even bought some red lipstick. I’m feeling more bold. I’m feeling more courageous. I’m not as scared that cancer’s going to sneak up on me. I like my new breasts. I feel like I am beginning to resemble the woman I looked like prior to cancer….something I wondered might never happen. I’m feeling strong enough to pursue what it might mean to make myself feel whole again (I’m talking my breasts here and future surgeries to improve my breasts). Those red shoes represent strength and courage and my ability to recover. They remind me that I am no longer the wall-flower that I wanted to be when I didn’t have hair and wanted to sink in to the floor every time someone looked at me longer than 2 seconds.
I don’t know where you are in the process. Cancer is an awful diagnosis. I can’t promise that you will ever feel completely whole again. I can’t promise that you can or will move on. But I hope that at some point you will. I hope at some point you can pull out those red shoes and stand tall and strong. I’m amazed that I can, but I am!
I’ve started following a new blogger (non-cancer BTW). She’s the daughter of someone I work with and I’ve been checking in lately to see how she’s doing because she’s just getting started on two things: Blogging, and raising money by running a marathon. And the thing I enjoy most about reading her blogs is that I don’t think she’s really figured out how to do either yet, so if you can stop by and encourage her, that would be great…..in either the blogging or the running….lol! Here’s a bit about her cause and what she’s doing:
Life is normal. Everything is normal. I eat. I sleep. I feed the kids. I water the kids. They grow. I study. I work. And life goes on. This is good. This is very good.
I’m enjoying my kids. Although, I have an (almost) three-year old little boy, and this makes life rather challenging. I was at the family doctor the other day and I had Elijah busy with my iphone playing games through most of the visit, but at the very end, my lovely little boy got bored and started throwing a very monstrous fit about something (there are so many these days I can’t remember why he throws them anymore). The doctor, who is very cool and very patient with all my kids, looks at him for a few seconds and says…….”Yup, there’s that testosterone kick’in in.” So he’s a bundle of energy. And thanks to my class (I’m taking Lifespan and Development) I’m reminded that at age three a child will be busier than any other point in their life. So we’re just holding on for the ride right now and we’ll weather the three-year-old storm. At least I think we’ll make it…..well, at least Elijah will make it. He may leave a mess in his path, a little hair in his chubby little hands from his sisters maybe, a tidal wave from the tub, but we’ll get through somehow…..lol.
So I’m doing well. I’m taking a class finally. And I’m doing pretty well. Even my teacher has told me I’m doing well. I think she wants to encourage me…..here I am, 37 year old woman, three kids, recent cancer survivor, pastor…..I’d be encouraging me too….lol!
I’ve lost the weight I gained from radiation. I know, don’t ask me why I ballooned during radiation, but I did. I gained 20 pounds. All I can theorize is that I was so tired that my body slowed down. I was completely opposite with the weight gain/loss expectations. I think you’re supposed to gain in chemo and lose in radiation. I did the opposite. I lost in chemo and gained in radiation. Now, it would have been nice to have been the other way around because then the losing would have been last. But no,of course not, that would be too easy. But after some diligence and some pavement pounding, I am almost back to pre-radiation and pre-baby weight.
I’ve been running. I ran a 5K race last weekend at my college reunion. It was just a fun run, but I ran it in under 30 minutes which was a nice little achievement for me. That, and I didn’t walk. It’s always good to run the entire race when you actually set out to do so. And I did. And I’m relieved, because it would have been really embarassing to have to walk during a race at your 15 year college reunion (especially when I ran cross country for 4 years in college!)
I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love being in ministry. I love praying with people and for people. I love the care aspects of ministry. I like planning new ministries.
I like my new breasts. It’s taken a while, but I finally feel like they are either adjusting to me or I am adjusting to them. It took us a while to get aquanted, but now I think I like them. I’m going to let them stay. I can see the scars lightening. Post-digger is relaxing a bit so things are evening up. I’m heading back to see Dr. D in November. I’m still undecided about implants. But if you asked me today I would say “I’m doing it.” The problem is, that tomorrow might be different. And until I can feel really sure about it, I’m going to wait. So when I go back for my visit I’m going with a boat-load of questions to ask him.
And finally, I love not having doctor appointments. My next appointment (besides seeing Dr. Plastic) is an actual physical in December. I haven’t had a physical in 2 years since life has revolved around only cancer.
It’s good to be healthy.
People ask me all the time what I do to prevent recurrence. The two big things are: lots of raw fruits and vegetables, (I also eat cooked, but I always try to have several raw during my day. And I eat lots that are high in antioxidants like brocolli and any close relative of the broccoli, like Kale or cauliflower.), And then I excercise at least 5 days a week. What I don’t do is drink alcohol. I know, you’ve all heard health benefits, but with a history of breast cancer I stay away from it. Here’s why.
OK, I admit it. Given two bottles of soda (or crackers or yogurt or….well you get it, since everything is pink right now.), during the month of October, I will choose the one with the pink ribbon. Even though I am skeptical about the use of the pink ribbon. Looks like I’ve got reason to be skeptical. Check out this article on “Pink Overload.”
We were eating a lovely breakfast at our hotel this morning and in walked a young woman with a sweatshirt that said “radiation therapy.”. Hmmm. I love t-shirts. I like remembering a special trip, a favorite store, a great event. But I don’t think she had ever been on the recieving end of radiation therapy because if she had she wouldn’t be wearing that sweatshirt! There are some things I just don’t care to be reminded of.
Here’s the deal. If I were to read in the newspaper the word “pastor” showing her “reconstructed breast” in the same sentence I would be checking it out too….lol! I don’t know why I find this so hysterically funny but I do. I’m actually super glad this article came out in Chicago because if my congregation caught wind here in Michigan that I was showing my chest around on the internet I’m sure I’d be dooced.
The whole blogging and writing about my breasts thing is sometimes a bit weird for me as “clergy” girl. As I was talking to my plastic surgeon last time, we were discussing the implant option because I am a bit small for my size, and I told him it might just be an occupational hazard for me. I mean, if I worked at hooters…..not so much. But I’m a pastor and I preach and I don’t think my congregation wants Pamela Anderson in the pulpit. Ok….so he’s not going to make me THAT big, but still….implants? So when and if I decide to do this I will NOT be asking my church to pray for that surgery because can you imagine….everyone checking out my breasts that next Sunday. Seriously. It will be one of those very secretive events and because it would only be a little bit bigger I think I’d get away with it without too much distraction. Don’t believe me? It is so natural for people to glance at my chest that I am becoming very used to it. If I say I’ve had a mastectomy (glance) I then tell them I’ve had reconstruction. And when I had my mastectomies and told someone I had just had mastectomies (glance) and was wearing my prosthetics, I always had to explain they were the fake ones. And even now with my new reconstruction (glance) whenever I tell someone….they want to look! We with breast cancer are very much used to the glances. And just so you feel better, go ahead and glance, by the time I finished breast cancer treatment I was so comfortable with talking about breasts that I would flipantly throw around the word like it was as comfortable to talk about as my kids or my car. I have to remind myself that some people just aren’t that comfortable with it.
So I’m sorry to say, that if you came to my blog site looking to see my bare chest, well, you’re not going to find it. Not that I really haven’t shared almost everything else in this blog, but I have not posted my breasts. Nor is this saying that I never will. I mean….for the sake of the greater good I might think about it. But probably not. There are all lines we won’t cross and nudity is that line for me. I’m thinking my parents are pretty happy about this line I’ve drawn for myself. I’m sure it makes them proud. In fact, I told my parents about the article and of course they wanted to read it, so I had to email it to them and I had to write extra in the email something like this….”but Dad….I promise I did not bare my chest to the entire world on my blog.” Because, although they are not blog readers, and this includes mine, they surely do not want to find out their daughter is going topless on the internet….lol!
And just to clarify, because I think it was a little misunderstanding, that I did in fact post a blog about my post-surgical wound after my reconstruction with pictures and it is so gross I think about taking it down everyday. But the emails I get from people going through this tells me I should keep it up for the next gal going through this crud.
So if you are facing a DIEP flap reconstruction, I am happy to send pictures of my reconstructed breasts directly to YOU, and not the entire blogosphere. So email me privately and I would be ever so happy to email you faceless photos….because it’s always good to know what to expect. And I for one am totally thankful for women who sent me pictures of their body after mastectomies and for all the faceless women in the plastic surgeon’s office that helped me visually prepare for what I was going to look like.