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The Next 365 … My Year After Cancer

My year of rediscovery

So I’ve Decided to Blog

Follow me as I share my rediscoveries one year after my cancer diagnosis (more in my About page). I can’t say I will post daily, but I will try to share words and images very often.

It will be a 365 day journey.

Maybe longer! ūüôā

#nanastrong

Featured post

It’s not you, it’s me.

EveIMG_6640ry month I have to have my port flushed. For those who don’t know what a port is, it is a disc implanted under your skin and used by medical staff during treatment so the patient is not poked to run an IV each time. Simple terms. Want technical term? Google it.

Anyhoo, like I said, on a monthly basis now that my treatments are complete, I must have my port flushed. According to my oncologist, this device will not be removed for a year from my last treatment. When this happens, there may be a party. Stay tuned.

I must add, all the medical staff I have come in contact with this last year have been amazing, understanding, patient, kind…. So my feelings on this subject are not due to them. I have been very fortunate and cannot thank my entire team enough for the care I have received.

Since the infusion¬†center of the Regional Cancer Center has been relocated to UPMC Hamot and St. Vincent, this is where we as patients have to go now to have this 30 second procedure done. For me, it isn’t an inconvenience. We are very lucky we don’t have to travel distances for our treatment. It is more a mental issue. Again, I can’t stress enough that the medical staff is awesome.

It’s not you, it’s me.

You see, when I went for my treatments at the RCC, I felt I was being treated for my illness/disease. At check in, I showed my cards and that was that.¬†Now, going into a hospital setting to have these procedures done, I am sick. I have a disease, I am sick, and I have to go to the hospital for treatment. At check in, I show my cards and¬†I have a hospital band placed on my wrist. A hospital band. Not sure if it is something you can understand or relate to unless you’ve been through something like this. But¬†this has been weighing on me since these treatment¬†procedures were moved from the RCC. Luckily I had finished my chemo therapy before the closing of the infusion center.

I just wonder how many other cancer patients feel this way? I find it hard to believe that it’s just me.

Community

I’ve worked in several¬†towns and cities¬†over the course of my nineteen year career in community development. What is happening now in my beloved Erie, the city “fighting back” with positive messages to the masses via social media, reminds me of some of the past attention¬†the national media placed on one of “my towns”.

My first experience was in Kane, PA, a borough of about 4100 people in the Allegheny National Forest area of McKean County. A bat, specifically the Indiana Bat, apparently made it’s way into the forest causing logging to halt. It was devastating to the community for many logging was their livelihood. The town and surrounding area saw strangers coming in and protesting, chaining themselves to trees, to entrances of businesses in the industry. Tree huggers. It was something to witness. Crazy. The community fought back, t-shirts stating Hug A Logger, You’ll Never Go Back to Trees were created and worn all around. Signs in storefront windows went up with the same message, and others too. Like the one comparing the use of toilet paper and a bat. Eventually the bat issue “went away” and logging in the ANF resumed. And all was right with the world.

The next instance involved chairs and the 4th of July in the borough of Canonsburg. You see the people in that area view the 4th of July holiday¬†like Christmas. Seriously! They have a massive parade that has been tradition for over 50 years. What happens, or happened, days before the parade is the story and one that was picked up by the Associated Press. You see, folks would claim their parade watching spot by placing chairs along the route days before the 4th. This was also tradition. Many have been claiming the same spot for years. So we thought, let’s have some fun with this. We created a contest¬†and asked folks to decorate their chairs. It was awesome! Really! People got so creative! Oh, and I might mention the grand marshal of the parade that year was Canonsburg’s own Bobby Vinton. The Polish Prince. So fun! Anyway, our story of chairs went vital, the AP featured images on their website for days leading up to the holiday. The parade went off without a hitch, and all was right with the world. Until the powers that be decided the chairs, which had been placed days prior to the parade for YEARS, was now a hazard. I mean, we even had Chair Watch – documenting the day the first chair was placed! The borough was not going to allow this tradition to continue. A Save The Chairs campaign started, a facebook page was created, people showed up at the borough council meetings with chairs and signs in protest to allow their long standing tradition to continue. Unfortunately, the community lost that battle. However the 4th of July celebration continues in Canonsburg as it always will. Just not with chairs lining the parade route days before. You win some, you loose some.

So now, here we are in Erie, PA getting the attention of mass media because of the Presidential election results. And Erie County turning “red”. We are being followed for¬†the President’s stance on the economy, and what that will mean not only to the nation but our region. The images that have been shared on national television and via the internet are probably some of the worst images of our community. What we are saying now with #MyErie is there is SO much beauty here. There is promise. There is development. There is investment. Please share THAT story of our fine city with the world. Yes, we have issues. Yes, we have problems. We are not blind to that. And not everyone will agree with me. BUT I choose to focus on the positive. If everyone focused on the negative all the freakin time, what a sad sad¬† place it would be, right??? So I’m asking you #MyErie friends, to keep the campaign going. We have their attention. Show the world why this place is your home. Tweet it, post it on FB. Use the hashtag #MyErie¬†and tag @cbsnews and @jamieyuccus.

I will proudly wear the shirt. I am a proud resident of #MyErie. Stay tuned.

Commitment Part 1 – New Car Day

Under normal circumstances, commitment isn’t something I find difficult. Making plans – short or long term – I’m all about it.

In 2016 that was a totally different story. My world stopped when we heard the words “you have cancer”. From that day forward it was all about doctor appointments, tests, and treatment schedules. Planning anything but felt exhausting to me. Will I feel up to it? Will I be too tired or sick? Will anyone else in attendance have a cold or virus that I could catch? UG! So, we went through the year on the fly. And that was ok, for the most part. We had plans to make, but thankfully my guy understood and patiently waited.

But more about that story in Commitment Part 2 coming soon.

So how’s this for looking to the future? This past week I traded in my 10 year old VW New Beetle for my brand spanking new Soul Sister! Oh I was sad to see her go, my lil red bug. We had been through a lot together, moves, trips, you would not believe the amount of stuff I could get in that little car! But, it was time. So, I said bye-bye bug, hello Soul! And hello car payment………my new commitment to the bank which will last x amount of years. And that’s ok, cause the future is bright…..I kicked cancers ass after all.

#nanastrong

 

Aha!

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself!

Totally had an epiphany, aha moment, what ever the heck you want to call it this morning! Lot’s to do to make this happen. For me, but more importantly, for other fighters and survivors!

I will share more details as the plan begins to unfold.

EEEEEE!

#givingback #nanastrong

Milestones – the first trip to the salon

Life after cancer is full of milestones. But the one I was anxiously waiting for was my first trip to the salon.

Not counting that time my eyebrows started coming in and I thought I looked like Groucho Marx. Seriously. My stylist had to talk me off the ledge of plucking them back out, reasoning with me that they looked so pronounced because I was still hairless on top of my head. I went home that evening and left the tweezers alone.

The time before that was about a month out from my first chemo treatment. I thought I would “take control” and have my long, straight,¬†bottle blond hair cut shorter in anticipation of you know what. My sister went through chemo a number of years ago and never lost a hair on her head. She had also cut hers short. I thought well that might be in the “genes”, I’ll cut mine and it might not fall out even my doctors kept telling me “You are going to loose this beautiful hair”. So I went, cried at all the hair on the floor as my stylist Deedee worked at giving me a fabulous new doo. One my daughter said when she saw the end result was classy, sassy, and a bit badassy. ūüôā Your kid thinking you are badassy is pretty awesome if you ask me!

Fast forward. Treatment #1. Less than two weeks after, it started happening. I noticed it on my bed pillow. A few strands at first. Then gobs as I washed my hair in the shower. The first morning that happened, I sobbed. One, cause my hair was falling out and I could not do a thing about it. Second, because it felt horrible in my hands. You know how seaweed feels wrapped around your feet or ankles? Kind of like that. Stuck in my fingers, I couldn’t rinse if off fast enough. The next morning when it happened, I sobbed again. Same reason. Same feeling. I believe it is one of the most traumatic experiences I have encountered thus far. Silly, I sometimes think, there are worse things. But………this is my story. And my cancer journey. No two are the same.

Anyway, the morning of that second day, I messaged my bestie. She came to my home that evening with the clippers and shaved what was left off and onto the floor. And she cried with me. Her and my fiancé reminding me that it will grow back.

My wardrobe grew by leaps and bounds with scarves,¬†bandana’s and hats that were gifted to me by friends or that I purchased myself.¬†My prep time¬†to get to work every day¬†was shortened. Oh, and not having to shave my legs all summer? Bonus.

Fast forward. It’s the day before Halloween. My hair had started growing but it was hard to see. Still very VERY short, and coming in grey and mousey brown (natural colors that I¬†nor anyone else has seen since¬†I was 25 years old). I thought, I should color this lil bit of hair.¬†Then I could go hatless again. Annie Lennox came to mind. So chose Halloween as my “brave day”. I’ve been hatless ever since.

Fast forward (again – last time I promise!). FINALLY! The wait was over. It’s grown, and coming in curly! It was time to see Deedee again, get rid of the Bozo The Clown ear wings that were growing. It felt awesome to be in her chair again. Oh, it was a short session. She fixed my “wings” and cleaned up the new growth. And I love it. These curls!!! I know there is a really good chance they will not last but hey, for now, how fun!

PS – The money I saved those months¬†between not going to the salon, shampoo, other hair product, and razors was spent…..on shoes.

PSS – Every time I loose an eyelash, my stomach drops and I panic a little.

#nanastrong

 

Celebrating

Today we celebrate my first grandson’s 3rd birthday.

Blessed beyond belief. Thoughts of him (and his lil brother!) bring an instant smile to my face and joy in my heart. Being a grandmother………the BEST!!

Have a blessed day!

 

#WorldCancerDay

Will be doing some reflecting today.

#WeCanICan  #nanastrong

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That Time My World Crashed

One year ago I was laying in a hospital bed listening to doctors as they diagnosed my condition that brought me there, telling me how they were going to treat said condition by sticking a tube through my nose (not pretty). And they said “Oh by the way, you have cancer”. The bottom fell out of the world as I knew it, my world, my life “before cancer”. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The memory of this caused me pain and anxiety the last couple weeks. All the memories and “feels” still SO fresh a year later. I didn’t really expect that. I’m typically a positive person. But, we are truly changed by this, this cancer. I suppose I will realize just how much as time goes on.

I spoke with my radiologist about it when I met with him the other day for a follow up appointment. He said it is not uncommon. A PTSD. Trauma. “You experienced quite a trauma”. Hell ya I did. Me, my family, my friends….. But talking to him, realizing I am not alone in these types of painful memories, made me more comfortable in where I am now. and that is, not alone!

I share this for you, a fighter or survivor, so you know, you are not alone. Life after cancer, MAKING plans, moving on, seeing so many things differently, not taking the crap you may have before cancer, helping others with words and encouragement and great big hugs or *hugs*.

I’m stronger than I ever imagined I could be. I beat you.

#cancersucks #nanastrong

positivity

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