Another year…..

This is something I will always write about…..because it had such a great impact on my life.  Another year will come and go…..without my baby sister.

I’ve talked about her before….we lost her a couple of weeks before her first birthday from meningitis.  It devastated our family.  She would be 29 this year…..and it’s just one of the really weird things that line up for this year…..

I was 10 and in the 5th grade when she passed away 11/9/1990.  I remember the day….it was a half day at school on a Friday.  I was excited to ride the bus home without the high school kids…..we got to sit in the back when they weren’t there.  This year…..my oldest daughter is 10, in the 5th grade, and has a half day this friday, the 9th.  Crazy, eh?  She was also named after my sister, her middle name is Rebecca.  And just a little bit of a stretch….I had Hailey a couple of weeks before I turned 29…..    I can’t help but look at my daughters and the relationship they have with each other.  I’m so extremely thankful I had all girls…..because I missed out on having a sister in my life.  I love seeing them together and knowing they have something so precious.

And at this age……I can look back and see just how many “sisters” I have and had in my life.  They always say that if you can find just a few close friends in your lifetime you have been extremely blessed.  I can say that I’ve had so many amazing women in my life that I can call sister….and even though I still feel heartbroken over the fact I didn’t get to go through life with mine….I’ve had so many women to step in and help fill that void.

So in this anniversary month where I remember my sister, I also count my blessings.  I have 3 beautiful daughters who will get that sister relationship, and I have so many beautiful friends that are like sisters.

Katie 🙂

 

Those Same Old Feelings….

I was sitting at my daughter’s soccer game a couple of weeks ago, enjoying the cooler air and the kids running up and down the field.  This is my favorite time of year…..I enjoy just about everything about it.  As I was watching though….a familiar smell caught my attention.  It was cologne, one of the dads was wearing.  I was immediately taken back to the time of my cancer treatment….in the fall of 2003.  My husband wore the same cologne…..and now the smell makes me sick.  And even though I love the fall…..sometimes the feel of fall brings on all the ways I felt during that time.

I remember the way the leaves would dance across the road as I drove to my treatments.  I remember the feel of the cool crisp air as I would walk in to the office.  I remember the smells of the chemicals and treatments around me as I sat in my recliner receiving poisons in to my body.  I remember the dark and moody clouds on Saturday mornings when I had to be driven back to get my Neulasta shot.  I remember feeling sick as death as my fiance would get ready to leave for work….and put on that cologne.  All of those smells, sights, and feelings bring it all back.  It makes me sad that I can’t just enjoy this time of year.  I don’t feel it every day, but there are times when the memories hit me and I can close my eyes and be back there!

Every.   Single   Year.  No matter what, or how long it’s been…….it always comes back.  I’m thankful to be out of it…..but those feelings will always linger.  It hangs over my head.  I can’t walk in to any medical facility without getting a touch of upset stomach and flashbacks.  I will still enjoy my hats and sweaters, coffee on the beach, and beautiful fall colors…..and I will reflect on all I’ve been through that has made me who I am now.

 

Katie

I Don’t Hide My Scars….Anymore

I’ve lived my whole life with scars.  Well…..since I was almost a year old, but since I have no memory of that time, I say my whole life.  I’ve told this story more since I went through the cancer thing because it was the time I really started embracing my scars and not caring what people thought. 

I was about 11 months old…..I don’t remember the exact date, obviously, but I was young. I was doing the baby walking thing…..holding on to surfaces to keep myself up, probably grabbing things off of those surfaces and making a mess.  I have 3 kids, I know I was probably the same!  My parents had boiled water for some reason…..I don’t know the reason, just that they did.  I bet you know where this is going……and yes.  I pulled that boiling water all over myself.  I can only imagine the flurry of panic in my house at that moment.  I’ve been told that they were able to get some cold water to my face, which prevented any scarring…..but other parts of me were not so lucky. I had a long recovery time, and spent my life with visible scars. 

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As a young kid, I didn’t care much about them.  As I was in school…..that’s when the fun started.  Being called Freddy Krueger….made fun of…..teased…..it was always.  And the constant stares.  When someone is talking to you and their eyes dart from your eyes to your scar.  I mean, come on people!  You think we can’t see you when you do that???? 

I started from an early age covering my scars and never letting anyone see them.  Even close friends.  It was too hard, and sometimes too much of a conversation I just didn’t want to have. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer and went through all the surgery and treatment, I added to my collection of scars and body issues.  I even had my wedding dress altered to create some kind of sleeve to cover it. 

But something happened over the years…..I started to care less.  Maybe it came with age and maturity, but I started to go out with tank tops.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?  BUT IT WAS!!!!!  My arms were free! LOL! I covered myself all the time, there was freedom in revealing to the world what I’ve been through.  I started a slow process of accepting my scars, and even embracing them! I started buying things knowing my scars would be seen.  I’ve gotten a little better at ignoring the eye darting during conversations.  I’ve become so much better at just answering people’s questions about what happened.  Life has become a little more freeing….and it’s so much better.

They say that your scars show you what you have been through that didn’t kill you.  They are evidence of a life lived to it’s fullest and you are still here….showing the world you can’t be stopped.  It’s sad that I came to this realization so much later in life…..but it’s my hope that I can teach my girls to embrace what they go through to help make them stronger and ready to conquer the world. 

Life has been so much fun since I stopped caring. There is freedom in accepting what life has thrown at you and using it to help yourself grow and move forward.  That doesn’t mean I still don’t have  bad days, but overall, I’m happy!  I’m actually considering tattooing the scar on my shoulder to represent all the things I love in my life.  Not sure yet…..but know…..it’s in no way so that I can cover them up and make life easier.  Life became easier once I accepted and embraced that this is me……and it’s all good.

Katie 🙂

No Words….Just Tears…and Remembering

This is a post I’ve been thinking about since I started this blog.  I’ve started it, deleted it, started it again….and nothing ever sounds right.  And that is because the subject of this blog isn’t right…or fair…..and honestly just so heartbreaking.

Today is the 2 year anniversary of the day I lost my friend, mentor, and pink sister.  She was one of my heroes.  And I had something amazing written…..finally……and lost it all due to a computer glitch.  Maybe that was better…..to keep my words and just share what I was hoping to add.

I’m going to post the video we created for all the pink events.  This was the day I met Denise….and started a relationship, friendship, and partnership that I’m so extremely grateful for.

So here are my good memories of Denise…..even though today I will be reflecting on mostly the sadness…..I always want to remember the happiness.  She would want it that way.

Katie

 

Lymphedema Sucks

Anyone who’s had lymph nodes removed knows there is a chance you will develop lymphedema sometime in the future.  Not everyone does…but many do. I had 18 lymph nodes removed ,and 13 of them were positive for cancer. I’m not sure exactly when I noticed any changes, but it did happen to me.  The worst I remember was when I was pregnant with my first child….I remember just how swollen my arm and hand were.  I lovingly referred to it as my Popeye arm….it was awful.  You can see here just how bad it was….I felt like a monster.  Thankfully with the help of therapy, it got back down to a “normal” swollen state that I could live with.

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Over the years I’ve lived with my permanently swelled arm.  I’ve stretched out clothes, can’t wear most button up shirts (tight sleeves), can’t wear watches, and sadly….I can no longer wear my actual wedding ring.  I’ve resorted to buying various wedding rings at any location I can find and I wear them until they turn my finger green or fall apart.  It’s sad, but this is my life.

I don’t have many flare ups…..I have to take precautions with exercise, I shouldn’t be in hot tubs, and I should be wearing a sleeve to help prevent additional swelling.  That last one…..I’m not so good at.  Really bad at.  Like a toddler…..bad.

When I went through therapy I had to wrap it with all sorts of gauze and bandages every night at day.  It was HORRIBLE!!!  I hate feeling constricted and uncomfortable.  The sleeves make me feel that way too.  They get in my way….hold me back….irritate me.  I also really hate how medical they make me feel.  My insurance at the time covered some of a sleeve, but it was brown.  Medical sleeve brown.  Or beige.  It  doesn’t matter….I hated it, hated it being on, and hated being seen in it.  So I didn’t wear it.

Now…..I recently had shingles for the millionth time.  This particular time was really bad.  It usually hits my left arm and torso area that was affected by radiation and surgery.  The whole cancer area.  It was a terrible experience.  I had rash, fever, overdosed on ibuprofen….just a bad time.  It passed quicker than it does for most, which I’m truly thankful for, but I’m guessing this caused my latest flare up.  My arm got sooooooo swollen.  So did my hand.  Popeye was back 😦

My really amazing breast friend Jamie let me know she was in touch with LympheDivas….a wonderful company that offers sleeves, gauntlets, and gloves that are truly amazing looking!  Colorful designs, cool patterns, and special themes.  I’ve always loved them, but could never get my insurance to cover anything.  And honestly as time went on, I just gave up.  She was talking to them about blogging about their products.  She doesn’t have lymphedema….but she knows she is at risk and she needed something for an upcoming trip.  She mentioned to them that I do have active lymphedema and also have a trip coming up.  They contacted me and said they would do the same!  I was so excited….felt like I was shopping for prom looking at all the options!  We couldn’t wait to receive our special products….and even found out that we picked the same styles 😉

When they finally got here we did a little video!  She is used to doing them, I am not 🙂

I wore mine immediately! Every day….and of course it ticked me off, but I kept wearing it.  I got so many compliments on it from strangers….I actually didn’t feel so medical when I was out in public.  That was a HUGE thing for me….as open as I am about what I’ve gone through, I don’t like attracting attention because of it.

Last weekend we flew to Utah, as you saw on my previous post!  I was all geared up for it and fully prepared!  I wore my sleeve there and back, and even while I was there.

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Now…..I’m a person who expects instant results and miracles.  They don’t usually happen, but I do expect them.  I can say that since I’ve worn my sleeve and glove I have noticed my arm size reducing.  That is exciting….even if not instant.  I’m happy to be able to wear this in public and feel ok about it, which helps me wear it more often.  The sleeve is so soft too…..but it still does it’s job.

Lymphedema sucks.  It really really sucks.  There is no way around it.  I know my case isn’t as severe as others…..but it’s really difficult and just another reminder of how much cancer has changed my life.  Look at this!  Even leaning on a counter for a bit shows how much fluid I have in my arm…..

It looks grotesque!!!!  And this is something I deal with daily.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to be treated and not ignore any signs of lymphedema.  No….I am not a doctor, but I am someone who regrets ignoring it all these years and just hoping nothing bad would happen.  I should have taken more precaution and been a whole lot more proactive with my condition.

And I really love LympheDivas!!!!  It was so hard to pick which design I got for my first set….and I know I will be getting more.  Here is a link to their site!  LympheDivas

Check them out…..and also make sure you check with your insurance to see about any kind of coverage.  And thank you LympheDivas!!!!  You made me feel ok about being in public with my stupid Popeye arm!

Katie 🙂

Update!!!  I want to share some information that was passed along to me to make it easier to get a sleeve!!!

First, on the topic of insurance. If you  are unsure about getting coverage for the garments, LympheDivas does work with two specialized DME boutiques that will check benefits/process insurance for our garments for anyone in the US.
Luna Medical: http://www.lunamedical.com/products/elastic/lymphedivas/

Second is that they have a budget option for our garments, they are called 2nds, and they are medically effective garments with slight aesthetic imperfections like misprints in the patterns. In the last month they have purchased a new printer and can now get more vibrant colors, so they took their entire inventory of existing garments and put them into 2nds, just because they have a slightly less vibrant color to what they currently offer. So, if there is any interest, this is a great time to look at those options because all the garments are 50% off retail price:  https://lymphedivas.com/discount-seconds-1/

You Can….and So Can I

Why do we have so many people telling us we can’t do something?  Why are there so many negative people out there who seem hell-bent on stealing another person’s joy, dreams, and goals?  Jealousy?  Hate in their hearts?  I don’t know….but I’m so tired of it.

When I was told by a friend when I was younger that her parents thought I was immature because I laughed too much…..I kept laughing.

When I was told by a parent that I’d never amount to anything without them….well here I am.

When I heard whispers that I may not make it through chemo….I fought harder.

When people said I wouldn’t be able to work full-time and go through chemo treatments….I worked harder and not only passed probation, I excelled.

When I was told I shouldn’t try to have kids….I did and I have 3 beautiful daughters.

When I got my dream job and a person I trusted was behind me telling others I wouldn’t ever be successful…..I was.

And now I see so many people being told they can’t.  And it makes me angry.  Don’t let another person dictate what you do in life.  Keep going for it, don’t give up, and pursue your dreams.  This is your life, not their life.  If you give up on what you want, you will never know if you could have done it or not.  And if you give up, you are giving those people what they wanted….to see you fail.

Just a rant for a change….surround yourself with people who love and support you….and leave the others behind.  You don’t need them.  And is this a plug for praise….no….I have those people around me too and need support and reminders that I don’t need it either.

Katie 🙂