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Looking Forward While Staying in Today

As any cancer patient can attest, once we have a treatment plan in place, we look forward to reaching the finish line! We can't get there fast enough! We count down the chemo treatments, knowing that as we complete each treatment, it gets us closer to beating cancer! Closer to feeling healthier again and moving on with our lives without cancer to find a sense of "normalcy" again. Bumps along the road sometimes throw us off track (aka "side effects"). It's hard when our plan doesn't go "as planned," but, we trudge forward, knowing there is an end in sight! As we get closer, we think if all the things we are going to do when we are done. We find motivation in having events and experiences to look forward to. We look forward to the celebration, whether it is "ringing the bell", throwing a party, going on a trip, or simply being able to rest, recover and "move on."

The first time I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer (TNBC), I was 34. I became engaged while going through treatments, so planning a wedding was a nice distraction while going through a Lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation. I looked forward to having hair again so I could plan our engagement pictures. I had lots of friends and family, a decent job with supportive coworkers, and I "just knew" I was going to be ok.

I got married "as planned." I went back to college to finish my Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration at Wesleyan here in Lincoln, then after being in remission for three years, my oncologist gave us the ok to attempt to have a child. I was able to conceive and a few months before my 39th birthday, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Throughout those 3 years, we faced many challenges in our relationship. Long story short, our marriage didn't survive and we were divorced shortly after my daughter turned 1. Life did not go "as planned.".

I was awarded full custody of my daughter, I put an offer on a small 2 BR house (the day after our divorce was finalized) and life went on. Life was good. I was perfectly content with being a single mom and raising my daughter almost entirely on my own. After about 6 years of being in my own, I decided I was ready to try online dating. OMG! That just sucked! It was weird, scary, and just plain awkward for me! So I gave that up, and just about that time, I ran into an old friend, who I secretly always had a crush on 20 years prior to meeting up again. Pat had 4 kids and I had my one and only child and our little family of two became a family of 7. Yeah! That was quite the change. Never a dull moment in our household.

In August our blended family took a trip to Moab, Utah. We had a blast and it was a nice change of scenery and adventure. When we got home from our trip, I felt a hard spot on my right breast, the same side I had cancer in 15 yrs prior. So, I went to my primary care physician (PCP) since I had been released from the care of my oncologist after being in remission for 10 yrs. She didn't think it felt like a typical cancer mass, but we got the mammogram scheduled.

After the mammogram, an ultrasound was recommended, as well as a needle biopsy...just like the first time. I remember laying on the table with tears rolling down my face while I waited for the Dr to perform the biopsy. I "just knew" it was breast cancer again. I got the call at work from my PCP confirming the results were positive for breast cancer. Triple Negative Again! Who gets diagnosed with TNBC twice before she turnsĀ 50? This Girl! This was NOT in my plan for my life. I hadn't lived in fear of BC returning

I went back to my oncologist's office after not seeing him for 5 yrs. He and his nurse walked into the room I was waiting in and I experienced what I can only explain as a PTSD moment. I experienced flashbacks. I was in the same exact room, the same seat, and the picture on the wall of My Oncologist's family flashed back to his family of 3, instead of the picture of his now family of 5. It was an experience I will never forget.

The good news was there was only one tumor and it was only 1 1/2 cm and theĀ scan showed no other sign of cancer. This gave me hope. We decided on a bilateral mastectomy, then 4-6 rounds of chemo. At this appointment I didn't absorb the fact that each round consisted of 3 chemo treatments per essentially 12-18 treatments over the next 6 months....which was over my daughter's entire 5th grade year. I dropped a "F Bomb" in front of my oncologist and his nurse. Then my fears turned more to how this was all going to affect my daughter and my relationship with my partner. This second diagnosis and journey were definitely different from the first. I felt like I had so much more to lose. I had applied for a Federal job 3 times over the last 20 yrs and finally was offered the job, the day after my diagnosis.

So, it was game on! I accepted the job and on the 3rd week of my job I started round 1 of chemo. As each treatment came and went, learning a new job became more challenging. I scheduled my treatments for Fridays, but Day 3 was always the worst so pretty much planned to take Mondays off on the weeks I had chemo.

The people at my work were amazing! Being a federal job the insurance and leave options were great! People I didn't even know donated their annual leave hours to me when I ran out. I couldn't have had a better supervisor either. I made it through all my treatments and was able to successfully get past my probation period at work and I am still there today! Chemo brain was worse this time around. I had to write things down over and over again and still couldn't "get it.". Thankfully, after being almost 2 yrs out from chemo, my ability to learn and retain information has gotten better.

For people who have had multiple cancer diagnoses, I believe each journey is different based on where they are at in their life!

This time after I was able to celebrate finishing all my treatments. The side effects lingered. I was anemic and had to have a blood transfusion. I had (and still have) neuropathy in my feet and hands. I developed edema so severe in my legs it caused cellulitis in one of my legs. My skin in that let has a different texture today and still causes me issues.
Anxiety and depression took their hold on me. Being accepted into Project Pink'd was a blessing and gave me hope.

I had been "stuck" in "survival mode" and Project Pink'd was there for me. I was given a kit, a bag full of goodies to help me after my mastectomy. I was able to go to my first Project Pink'd event I November of 2019 and being in the same room with other survivors and supporters lifted my spirits more than I could ever put in words.

The relationships I have been building with the ladies in the Dare To Thrive Program is changing my life! I have been given tools and inspiration to make myself a priority again. I am worthy! I cannot be of service to others if I don't take care of myself first.

So, now I am looking forward to new experiences and growth. I look forward to each and every Thriving Circle to be able to connect with these amazing and inspiring BC Survivors. COVID was a bump in our road, but it has not stopped us from connecting. Thankfully Cynthia, Laura, and the others at Project Pink'd made it work and adapted to the COVID times. ZOOM is a Blessing. I am focusing on living each day, improving my physical, mental, and spiritual health daily. Staying in today is my goal, every day. Every day I have something to look forward to and to be grateful for.

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