Family...the ones you live with, laugh with, and love

Family...the ones you live with, laugh with, and love
Summer 2009

Friday, July 15, 2011

Surgery #5...Phase 2

Steve and I met with Dr. Ferguson on Wed. It has been 3 months since my DIEP surgery. I cannot believe how quickly the weeks have gone by. After examining me to see how things have healed, the doctor said we can go ahead with phase 2. He was not thrilled with the way the abdomen incision has healed since it has pulled to one side and there is a lot of scar tissue that has built up. He wants to go in and revise the scar and remove the scar tissue. Also when a DIEP is done because they pull the stomach tissue so tight, there is always puckering on the sides. The doctor calls the puckering "dog ears". He will have to cut the sides a little and pull them tighter. He will also be doing a little bit of revision on the left breast because of the way it has healed as well. Fat grafting will also be done to help build the breast mounds up a little more. I guess I should be happy that I am getting a little lipo to harvest the fat, and bigger boobs. Every woman's dream right? However, I was a little disappointed because it is more cutting than I had anticipated. My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, July 19th. The surgeon promised us it would only be 4 hours this time and it is an out patient procedure. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be easier than the first.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DIEP Surgery

On April 18th I had my surgery. We had to be at the IMC hospital in Murray at 5:30 in the morning since my surgery would be starting at 7:30. Murray is a 45 minute drive from our home so it was an early start. The nice thing about being the first surgery, and the only surgery for the doctor that day, is that surgery actually started on time. Dr. Ferguson told us that the surgery would take about 8 hours. Steve was in for a long day of waiting. Every few hours the operating room would call Steve to keep him updated. But he then started to worry when it was 5 pm and the calls had stopped. After about 10 hours they then updated him but said they still were not finished. In all the surgery took 14 1/2 hours long. There were no major complications, just some minor things that occurred from my mastectomy, enough little problems that it took almost double the time.
I remember waking up in ICU and trying to focus on the clock on the wall. I finally asked the nurse what time it was and when she said it was 11:30, I said "At night?" she said, "Yes you were in surgery a lot longer than expected." It is a very strange feeling to have missed an entire day.
I was in the hospital for 5 days. The recovery was very difficult and the pain was excruciating. Because of risk for blood clots, the doctor required me up and walking the next day. It was so hard. I barely made it out into the hall and took 5 steps. I was done. My body was so weak and in so much pain. Also because I was in surgery so long and they had pumped so much fluid into my body, I gained 17lbs in water weight. My fingers were huge, my feet were swollen, my face was awful. I can look back now and laugh, but at the time it was not something I was happy about. Luckily that weight was easy to get rid of. But the extra fluid in my body made me hurt all over.
Recovery has taken a couple of months to finally feel myself again.
I now have an incision that runs from hip to hip. And major incisions across my chest. There will be a phase 2 surgery where the surgeon will go in and contour the tissue and make it look a little nicer. But that will have to wait for 3 months. I can hardly wait to be a little closer to the finish line.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Where are we at now

I have been horrible at keeping this blog up to date. I hadn't even realized my last post was in November. Wow how time does fly. I decided I should give another update as to where we are now on this journey called cancer.

I had decided to wait until after the holidays to get my port-a-cath removed. So in February I had my port taken out. Ironically it was exactly one year to the date that I had it put in. It was an easy surgery despite the fact I still had to be put under. I am not fond of anesthesia or the effects afterward. I have a definite scar on my chest near my collar bone that will always be a reminder of the device that helped me through chemotherapy.

In March I decided it was time to start thinking about reconstructive surgery. I had already researched the options that were available. Having had a bilateral(double) mastectomy, there are very few options. The first option is that I could do absolutely nothing. I had already decided that I did not want that choice.
The second option being to have implants. In speaking to several doctors, and also several women that had chosen this route I learned that because I had radiation, implants would not be a good choice for me. The radiation causes so much damage to the tissue that my body would most likely reject the implant, or infections can occur on a regular basis. I decided that I did not want to deal with more complications.
The third option was a surgery using my own tissue called a microsurgery to rebuild the breasts. The surgeon can take it from the backside toward the top of the hip, this is called an S-Gap, or they can use tissue from the abdomen called a DIEP.

I met with 2 surgeons in Salt Lake City. The first surgeon would only rebuild one breast at a time which meant 2 separate surgeries. I did not want to go through this 8 hour surgery twice so I decided to meet with another doctor. I am so happy that I did. Dr. Robert Ferguson is wonderful. We were able to come up with a surgical plan that I was very happy with.

I decided to do the DIEP surgery which stands for deep inferior epigastric perforator. This is the name of the main blood vessel that runs through the tissue is used to reconstruct the breast. In DIEP flap reconstruction, only skin, fat, and blood vessels are removed from the lower belly (the abdomen between the waist and hips). No muscle is removed. Tissue from the abdomen feels very similar to that of breast tissue. The DIEP is a called a "free" flap because the tissue is completely detached from the belly and then reattached to the chest area. Hooking up the blood vessels from the belly tissue to chest blood vessels is delicate work. The doctor has to use a microscope during surgery, therefore a DIEP is known as a microsurgery.

I was a little concerned because I was told by 2 other surgeons that I did not have enough tissue on my stomach to rebuild both breasts, but Dr. Ferguson felt confident that he could do it. So I put my trust in him and scheduled my surgery.

On April 18th I went in for surgery.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Radiation is Over!

Several people have been asking me where I am at in my treatments so I thought I should post an update.

October 14th I finished radiation. In all I ended up having 25 treatments. Looking back I really don't know how I managed to get to the hospital at 7:00 a.m. and then go and teach 1st graders each day. Wow! I still am amazed that Steve and I was able to make it work out. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who supports me through all of this. Steve was able to go into work a little later each day which allowed him to take the kids to school for me. I think he really enjoyed having that 25 minute drive to school in the morning with the kids. He says he misses the chats they had. It is one of those things I take for granted. How lucky I am to get that alone time with my kids during the morning drive.

Radiation was actually not that bad. It was more or less just an annoyance to have to go every day. But the radiation itself didn't hurt. I didn't even notice burns until about the 3rd week and because of the doctor's great advice of using aloe vera, the burns were not that severe. It ended up being more like a bad sunburn. The muscle under my arm was a little sore because the radiation went deep into the muscle as well. But with time that has gone away. Now that it has been over a month, I really don't notice any side effects.

Overall I am doing quite well. I probably feel the best I have felt in 11 months. My energy is returning, my emotions are getting better and my hair has even starting growing back. It is nothing to brag about and I am still wearing hats, but it is growing. Now I am looking forward to having time to heal both emotionally and physically.

The next phase of this cancer road is taking a hormone blocker medication called Tamoxifen for 5 years so that cancer can't reoccur. The worst part of the medication is the hot flashes. I am grateful that it is winter right now, but man summer is going to be brutal! My oncologist also said I can have my port-a-cath removed whenever I am ready. Since it is still a small surgery I think waiting until after the holidays will be the best time to have it removed. Then the final step is reconstructive surgery. The Radiologist Oncologist suggested I wait 3-6 months to make sure all the tissue has healed after radiation. So waiting is what I will do. I hope to have something planned for spring or early summer. For now I am content. Surgery is not fun at all so waiting sounds pretty good. But it will be nice to be somewhat back to normal.

So far it has been a very hard journey, one that I never want to go on again. But looking back I have been very blessed with so many people to help me and love me through this journey. I am thankful for so much in my life. Here are some thoughts that was given to me that I think says so much.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness,
you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation,
you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death,
you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace,
you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder,
you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing touch.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

With Love,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For the last couple of months we have been consumed with FOOTBALL. I don't think we realized what we were getting into when we first signed Seth up. Yes practice EVERY DAY for 1 1/2 hours. And then 3 hour games on Saturday. Wow what a shocker. Our second son Seth is quite the football player. This year he played center and even tried his hand at quarter back a couple of times. He loves the sport and I have to admit I love watching him play. What we do for our children.

This year it was a little more challenging to get him to practice every day because of surgery, which I had his first week of practice during the drafts. Then having to go to radiation everyday was also a little tricky, but we managed to get it all in. It was actually quite nice to go and SIT and watch him practice each evening. Sitting and watching is not usually something I get to do much, so this year it was nice to get that opportunity.

It was also fun to get to know a lot of the other moms from the team. We became quite close actually. I guess spending so much time at practice can make people become close.

All together Seth's team ended up playing 7 games with the last being played on October 2nd. It is that last game that will stick with me forever. It is not because my son played an outstanding game or scored the winning touchdown, it is because of the touching gesture that was made by the boys from his team and by his coaches and coaches wives.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month the boys decided that they wanted to do something special for their last game. They decided to wear "the pink cancer ribbon" on their helmets in my name. How touching that was to see 20 young men with those pink ribbons placed on their helmets with such pride. Not one young man was ashamed to wear pink. They held their heads high and wore it with pride.

Before the game each football player and coach was given a pink balloon. Just before the game the balloons were all released. How touching it was to see all those balloons fly through the sky. I can't describe to you the feeling that was present before that game. It didn't matter if we won or lost that game because we all had such pride that day!! What an outstanding group of people!

Friday, September 10, 2010


I started my journey of radiation therapy this week, but first I had to undergo some initial preparations. Last week during a 4 hour appointment I met with Dr. Ingersoll so she could explain the treatment that would take place during the next 6 weeks. I was then taken into the radiation room, placed on the table and raised a few feet in the air. The radiation therapist placed a big rubber band around my feet and then jokingly told me it was so I wouldn't kick him. My arms were positioned above my head in a cradle type thing with my hands gripping some sort of post. Several laser beams were lined up across my chest making sure that everything was in position and then I received my 5 "tattoos". (The part I was dreading the most.) I have to admit it was probably a good thing that my feet were tied together so I couldn't kick him because OUCH it really did hurt! The worst part is that he did it by hand with a needle. A needle that was bored into my skin to make a hole. A hole that was filled in with ink to make it permanent. Because of this pain I have no intentions of ever getting a real tattoo...not that I ever did anyway. In reality they look nothing like a tattoo. Just 5 tiny little pin pricks with blue ink, as small as a freckle. Five little dots that will be with me forever, a constant reminder of the many challenges I have had to face during the last few months.

I was then taken down the hall to have a CT scan so they could map out the part of my body that needs to be radiated. This is how the doctor decides on a treatment plan. Since it does take some time to devise the plan, I had to wait about a week for my first actual treatment.

Everyday (M-F) for the next 6 weeks I will drive 35 minutes from Syracuse to McKay Dee Hospital. I have chosen to go early in the morning at 7:00 so my treatments don't interfere with my kids' daily activities after school. I think the morning drive will be good for me. It will give me time alone to reflect on how far I have come on my cancer journey. Each treatment takes about 15 minutes. It almost takes me longer to change into the hospital gown than it does to have the actual treatment. I'll have to learn to be quicker at changing. At least I don't have to worry about my hair getting messed up in the process. Once I am changed I am placed on the table, my body positioned, my tattoos lined up with the laser beam and then I receive radiation. The machine rotates into about 3 different positions to complete the treatment.

So many people have been concerned for me to start radiation. I get the constant questions, "How are you feeling, How are you managing the pain, Are you in pain?" Radiation doesn't hurt, it is more the uncomfortable feeling of lying on the table with my chest full of scars, completely exposed, having beams of radiation shot into my body. The first treatment I had tears rolling down my face because I was so scared. But I kept thinking about my 3 beautiful kids and my wonderful husband and how they are counting on me, how I need to be strong for them. I think more than anything it is an emotional pain of knowing radiation is entering my body and wondering what it really is doing. And of course anytime you are lying on a table and they tell you "Don't Move!" that is when you always have to sneeze or cough right?

With each treatment my skin will turn a little more pink, then turn a tan color and may eventually burn. So after each treatment I use 100% aloe vera. This will hopefully help my to not burn as badly. On my first appointment the therapist drew out the area that is being treated with a green marker. I was actually surprised at how broad the area really is. I am hoping that the burns won't be too intense because the radiation does go up onto my neck, around the side of my chest and up my arm. That could be painful. It also explains why people were looking at me strangely as I left the hospital. The therapist could have warned me that my neck was covered in green marker. I laughed when I got to my car and looked in the mirror. Good thing it wiped right off or I'd be wearing turtlenecks.

I am looking forward to having this next phase over with. I know that after radiation my family will have a well needed break since it has been recommended by my doctor to wait at least 6-8 months to start the reconstruction process. This will give us time to heal from the physical and emotional pain that cancer has brought to us these past 9 months. Time to be somewhat normal again and to not worry about cancer. I do realize how blessed I truly am. Tears fill my eyes each night as my 3 sweet children kneel and pray that mommy's cancer will be gone forever, that I will start to feel better again. It is so comforting when I am feeling sorry for myself to have my sweet husband wrap me in his arms and tell me it will be all right. I am lucky to have been given many priesthood blessings from Steve so that my body would be able to fight this cancer and to heal quickly. I am blessed to have SO many people that care about my well being.

I realize now that this journey has made me a stronger person. I never thought I could endure such a trial in my life. I think about the sacrifices that Christ made for us and realize my trial with cancer doesn't even compare to the pain and suffering he endured. And because of him these scars that are so apparent on my body now will someday be gone. That even with all the many tears and pain that I have encountered there is always someone that is going through something more challenging. I realize I have no reason to complain. This journey was a gift to me so that so many wonderful people could be brought into my life. I have been deeply and forever touched by these people.

Being a teacher I also get to touch so many lives each day. However, one of my students that I taught four years ago, and her family are an example of those that have deeply touched my life forever. They decided that because of the hardship my family has gone through these past few months they wanted to help us in some way. Without my knowledge, they came up with a plan to have a fundraiser for me. They created a flier with all the information and circulated it to all their neighbors, family, co-workers and friends.
All summer long that sweet family sold Tony's pizzas to earn money to donate to my family. In the end they sold around 225 pizzas. The tricky part was that all the pizzas had to be picked up at the pizza place the same time and then delivered on the same day to those who made a purchase. Seats had to be removed from their van, a shell had to be borrowed for a truck so that 220 pizzas could be loaded and then delivered. I can't image how long it must have taken to deliver all those pizzas. I still get a tear in my eye thinking of how they came to my house to give me their gift. I was handed 3 frozen pizzas and then told to make sure we liked the "toppings" they had picked. I was in shock and had tears rolling down my cheeks when I saw the pizza had been covered with 6 one hundred dollar bills. How this sweet family unselfishly gave time and love to help my family. How grateful I am for kind people in this world. I will never be able to repay all the wonderful things that have been done for me and my family. Yes I will continue to say it...I am blessed!

Love you all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It seems like just yesterday that I was up all night fretting over my surgery date to arrive. I can't believe a week has already passed and that I am home healing from a bilateral mastectomy. Several people have asked how it went so I will try to share the experience. I am horrible at taking pictures so I apologize that there are none to share.

My surgery was scheduled for August 5th at 10:30 am. We arrived at the hospital at 9:00 a.m. to have the pre-op stuff done. My nurse was very nice and we hit it off from the beginning since we had one thing in common...cancer. She is currently going through chemo treatments to fight lymphoma. It was nice to have someone take care of me that has the same understanding of the cancer world. I think it made her a little more sympathetic. She probably thought Steve was a little crazy because he started right from the beginning with the teasing. I think she was really convinced that he was my boyfriend and that my husband was a loser. I hope he set her straight before we left. Some people aren't sure how to handle him. But I must say, it is nice to have him to try and lighten the mood. We sure haven't had very many laughs lately.

She took us to the surgical waiting area and then started my IV. I still like her even though on the first try she had to dig around in my hand looking for the vein and then ended up "blowing the vein". She had to try again with a vein in my forearm. Luckily on the second try she was able to get it started. I have to say it was one of the most painful IVs I have had in my lifetime. It even made Steve get a little light headed just watching how much pain I was in, and Steve never gets queasy. He is the one who always takes care of the battle wounds at our home.

She then told us it wouldn't be long. We were the surgeon's third case for the day and he had been on schedule all morning. Well we ended up waiting 2 hours longer. The case before us had complications so it put the surgeon way behind. It is so hard to lay there waiting to go to surgery. I don't think my nerves could have waited any longer when finally it was my turn.

The surgery lasted for about 2 1/2 hours. I actually woke up in recovery pretty well. Luckily I didn't feel nauseated. Funny that I just remember looking at the clock on the wall and panicking that Seth had football practice in an hour and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get him there and that he would be late. The nurse then wheeled me to my room. In the hallway I saw my neighbor who is a nurse. I remember trying to get her attention but feeling so out of it. I'm not sure what I said to her but I know it was pretty slurry. I'm sure she sees it all the time when people are coming out of anesthesia, but still how embarrassing.

Once I got to my room my mom was waiting for me and I just slept. I don't remember much more of that day. Steve had to leave to get the kids and bring them back up to the hospital so they could see me. Then we planned for them to spend the night at grandma's house. I was very happy that Steve was able to stay with me at the hospital that night. I think however he slept better than I did. Hospitals are not a place to get rest.

I was able to be discharged the next day with directions from the doctor that going home and going to bed is NOT a good thing. He wanted me up and walking as soon as possible. I was a little nervous to go home with fear of the pain I was about to endure. Surprisingly, I was in very little pain. I was able to manage it with just Ibuprofen. My kids were shocked to see mom up and walking so soon after surgery.

The last week has consisted of just taking it easy and trying to not over do it because I do feel so well physically. Emotionally I have a harder road ahead. I have not had a day go by that I don't break down in tears 2-3 times. I know it is just an adjustment and that with time it will get better. I have a lot of people around me that support me so much. I know I won't have to do this alone.

We met with the surgeon on Wednesday and he was able to take out my drains...ouch!!. He also had a great pathology report for me. The report showed that there was residual cancer still in the breast, which I fully expected because the tumor was so big to begin with. And the plan was to only shrink the cancer with chemo. However, he was able to get negative margins(which means he was able to get ALL the cancer). He also took out more lymph nodes during surgery and they all tested negative as well. It was great news!! That means no more cancer in my body. Hooray!!

The plan now is next week physical therapy, radiation will start at the beginning of September. It will be everyday for 6 weeks. When radiation is finished we should have 6-8 months to just heal both physically and emotionally. It will be a nice break from chemo, surgery, radiation, and test after test. A break we all need in our family.

I feel very fortunate to have made it this far. I never thought I could do it. I'll be honest I have very little faith in my own strength. But somewhere I was able to reach into my own inner strength to get this far. I still have my very bad days, but overall I feel pretty good. And my hair is starting to grow back!! So things should only get better from now on.

Thank you for all your prayers! I know that because of your prayers I was able to come out on top!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Treatment is Finished!!!

I am finally to the point where I feel well enough to update this blog. It has been 11 days since my last treatment. And when I say last, I mean the last one! 8 in all. Hip, Hip Hooray! It is a great feeling to be finished with chemo.

Overall I am doing fine. I didn't realize how much chemo has really taken a toll on my body emotionally. The physical pain is always apparent but the emotional pains didn't seem to come to the surface until this last treatment. I think my body has finally said enough!! I have cried more this last treatment than any other time. I think it was a let down of the last 8 months of an emotional rollercoaster. My sweet kids, especially my little Maddie, have all learned to comfort their mommy and wipe her tears. They love to curl up next to me and just cuddle. I realize now just how much this has probably affected them as well. They have a lot to celebrate also. They may finally get their mom back.

As far as the actual treatment I wonder if they didn't give me a double dose of Taxotere because my physical symptoms were the worst ever. I have neuropathy in my hands and feet. The tingles are constant and my fingers feel like they have been smashed. I have a hard time holding onto things especially with my right hand. My fingernails feel like they are falling off. I hear this eventually goes away. I pray that is the case. My body aches were again severe. I had to resort to taking Lortab along with Ibuprofen 800. I was even a little nauseated this time as well. Thank goodness for pain meds. And for those of you that have seen me while taking them, please don't hold me accountable for anything I may have said. I even caught myself slurring my words at one point. Scary! There were several days this time that I physically could not get out of bed. And then with the neuropathy in my feet, it was a little tricky to walk. My eyes constantly water (not from all the crying). Most likely the chemo has done something to my tear ducts. I shouldn't even put make up on anymore because I just end up wiping it off. I have sores all over in my mouth and all over my tongue. Food just doesn't taste the same. I have acid reflux like crazy. But even with all of these yucky symptoms they eventually go away and then I feel fine.

My surgery plans have changed. We will no longer be traveling to New Orleans for the surgery, for now. I think this has also played a part in the overwhelming emotion of sadness. I was really looking forward to having an immediate reconstruction. The change of plans was mostly due to the fact that my insurance company wanted me to pay $20,000 out of pocket, plus my out of network deductibles of $4000.00, plus the cost to travel and stay in New Orleans for 10 days. I am still working on them to see it my way, but it takes time to appeal. Time that I don't have since my oncologist gave me 3-4 weeks from my last treatment to get this cancer out of my body. If we wait too long to do surgery the cancer will start growing back. So for now a double mastectomy along with the axillary node dissection is scheduled for next week, August 5th. Dr. Alder at McKay Dee will be doing the surgery. He is the same surgeon that did my sentinel node dissection and put in my port-a-cath. There is a comfort in having someone I am already familiar with do my surgery. Radiation will follow 4-5 weeks after surgery. I will have radiation everyday M-F for 6 weeks (30 sessions). After radiation we actually may have some time to just heal, both physically and emotionally. Reconstruction will most likely have to wait 6-12 months following radiation. So maybe by next summer we can try to finish up this so called cancer trip we have been on.

Thank you again to all of you that send cards, emails, messages on FB, phone calls etc.... And also to those that have brought wonderful meals to my family. The hardest part of this battle is to make sure my kids are still being taken care of. There have been chemo days that I know my kids have lived on PB&J, not that they are complaining. I am so lucky to have a wonderful cheering section. So many of you wonder how to help. Just your kind words and love and support make a huge difference. To look beyond the bald head, the pale face with no eyelashes or eyebrows and still love me. To know that I truly love each one of you. I am so thankful that I have Steve to be my sounding board. He has endured a lot. He is my rock, he is where I pull my strength from. I admire and love him for that. I don't know what I would do without him. I am so blessed!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

7 treatments down, 1 more to go

Monday I had my 7th chemo treatment, the 3rd of Taxotere. It was actually quite uneventful. I guess that is a good thing. The doctor was detained at the hospital when I arrived so they took my vitals and sent me straight back to the chemo room. Usually I meet with the doctor first to talk about any problems that may have occurred. I guess several people had been sent straight back as well because the chemo room was very full. And because I had already taken 2 Benadryl before I left my house, I ended up napping in the recliner for an hour before my treatment was actually started. The nurses were definitely hopping that day. The doctor did end up visiting with me for a few minutes in the chemo room, but I didn't have much to report. Again I guess that is a good thing. So far this treatment has been about the same as the others. My symptoms are severe body aches, mostly my legs, fatigue, hot flashes, and a little nausea. The pain meds don't seem to help very much. I am just trying to be brave. I am looking forward to finishing chemo treatments. July 19th will be the last treatment. YAY! So far my surgery date has not been finalized. It will most likely be August 10, 11, or 12th in New Orleans. We are trying to coordinate 2 surgeon's schedules so it takes a little time. In all everything is going well. My hair has even started to grow back a little. Thanks again for all the love and support. We love you all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

38th birthday and 20 year high school reunion

Friday, June 25th was my 38th birthday. I will be honest I wasn't looking forward to having a birthday. As I get older birthdays are a reminder of...well getting older, but this year my birthday was different. It was more about celebrating my life. Celebrating how far I have come in my treatments, about celebrating all the challenges and trial I have overcome. Celebrating my wonderful husband and my 3 beautiful children. Celebrating all my blessings around me. Celebrating me!
I have learned that in the cancer world birthdays are seen so differently. Birthdays are a reminder that we are still here, that cancer didn't take birthdays away from us. They are a celebration of being a survivor, a celebration of life, a celebration of triumphs, a celebration of blessings. These are things I have always taken for granted.
On many occasions I have sat in the chemo room visiting with the patient next to me and they all say the same thing, "I'm just so glad to still be here." So now as I have birthdays, I do plan on having many more, I can honestly say "YAY it's my birthday. I'm so glad to be here."

On Friday and Saturday it was also my 20 year High School reunion from Weber High. I will be honest again, I did NOT want to go. Of all the years to have my reunion it had to be the year I am bald, and thanks to chemo, steroids and not being able to be active I am far from my ideal weight. I have no eyelashes, no eyebrows, very pale skin since I am forbidden to be in the sun...oh I could go on and on. This is definitely not how I wanted to see people after 20 years. I guess I am vain because I have had a really hard time with my image these past few months. But as I stated before I am learning to celebrate what I do have. To celebrate the little bit of hair that has grown back, to celebrate when the pain goes away after each treatment, that I have 2 arms and legs that work, that I am still somewhat healthy, that I have a beautiful family, a wonderful husband who loves me no matter what, that these little things that I am so vain about will all grow back. So yes even though it has been very difficult, I am happy for what I have. Needless to say, I decided to go on Friday night, on my birthday, to the alumni only social. They also had a dinner on Saturday night, but emotionally that would have been pushing it so I did no go to the dinner. But I hear it was a lot of fun.

It was very fun to see everyone and to catch up on the past 20 years. And I will admit I had a fun time. It was kind of comical how many people that I grew up with, or that I was very close to in high school, just walked right past me because they didn't recognize who I was. I'm sure there were many others that I didn't even talk to because of that same reason. I could see the shock on their face when they looked at my name tag and saw who I was. It amazed me that I really do look that different. How easy an image can change in just a few months, or in 20 years. In the end I was tired of telling my cancer story. And I was tired of hearing, "Wow you are so brave to be here, I couldn't have done it." But if anything good came from my reunion, it was that I had my own personal triumph. That I did something that was very difficult for me to do. And I kept telling myself it just doesn't matter what people think! Because the people that really matter in this world love me for who I am, not what I look like!

Aren't my friends cute! Most of us in this picture have known each other since 7th grade and we still keep in touch. They even brought me yummy dinners during chemo treatments, bought me a cute scarf, lotion, mints to suck on during chemo, and an i-pod to listen to during chemo. They have been so supportive. Thanks you guys! You're the best!