August 2014: Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard

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Chronic Pain flare-up

Despite the fact that weeks before this scheduled trip, I was dealing with a pain flare-up in the right knee; I was going on the annual Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

I have struggled with chronic pain since 1993 related to diagnosed conditions of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyaglia.  Over the years, I developed various self-management tools to control the pain levels.  However, my bone-on-bone knee pain needed either an injection or surgery.  And, neither was available before this vacation.

Since there was nothing I could do to make the “Pain Go Away”, my only option was to “Grin and Bare It” 

Wheelchair Transport Through the Airports

Since Hubby was not going, he ordered a wheelchair to transport me through the Orlando Airport.  This is a long walk through one terminal, a short train ride, and a longer walk through a second terminal.  Trust me the need for a wheelchair was the topic of more than one discussion in the days leading up to my departure.   Finally, I gave in.

My son picked me up at the Milwaukee Airport and we were off to meet-up with the daughters.  After the traditional hugs and kisses, they said, “Mama, you are limping.”  While the limp was noticeable, I am certain Hubby had telephoned with his concerns.

After discussing the pros and my cons of a wheelchair; I lost and they ordered one for the next leg of my trip.

When I arrived in Milwaukee, I was an “Unhappy Wheelchair Traveler”;  but, I left as the “Grumpy Wheelchair Traveler” as my 14-year-old grandson pushed me through the Milwaukee and Boston Airports.

Was it not just a few years ago that he depended on me to push him around in his stroller?  I was not ready for this.

Having someone push me around in a wheelchair was not a pleasant experience; and, I felt —

  • Stressed
  • Powerless
  • Depressed
  • Angry
  • Embarrassed

The Airline Flight

On the airplane and seated comfortably; I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and let go of the negativity.

Through Self-Talk, Self-Awareness and Self-Acceptance; I embraced and accepted the gift of wheelchair transports from my hubby, son, two daughters and grandson.

No longer did I feel —

  • Stressed, I enjoyed Relaxing
  • Powerless, I gained Power
  • Depressed, I discovered Peace
  • Angry, I achieved Happiness
  • Embarrassed,  I reflected Pride

 A Few of My Favorite Mother-Daughter Vacation Photos – 2014

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The 14-Year-Old Grandson, CJ with His Friend – Lunch on the Ferry
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The Ferry Deck
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First Night. First Order of Business – Glass of Wine
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My Play Daughter from Another Mother, My Youngest Daughter, and Their Two Boys Playing Monopoly on a Rainy Day
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The Moms Won
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Could This Be The Reason The Moms Won At Monopoly? IPhones, IPADS, Laptops, X-Boxes, etc.? I’m Just Saying!!
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Main Street – Downtown Oak Bluff
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Oak Bluff Pier
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Love The Old Vintage Homes on Main Street – Downtown Oak Bluff – Facing the Atlantic Ocean
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Lunch on The Upper Deck of Nancy’s Seafood with Grandson, Two of His Friends and the Daughters
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Surprise from The Daughters – My Favorite Appetizer Before the Crab Leg, Lobster and Shrimp Boil
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The Grandson CJ – Adding Crab Legs to the Boil
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It’s Crab Boil Night – Because CJ Hates Seafood, He Had A Burrito. His Friend Enjoyed the Crab Let Boil and the Burrito.
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Relaxing and Sitting on The Oak Bluff Pier
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Look Up In The Sky – Air Force Helicopters Flying Over Prior to The President’s Vacation Visit in The Next Several Days.
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Beautiful Sunset View Sitting on The Front Porch
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Last Night. Busy Week. Grandson Massaging Mom’s Feet. He Is Special!!!
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Goodbye Rental House – See You In August 2015

A Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor – Part 3

 

If the fear of cancer keeps you from moving forward,

enjoying life, being with loved one, laughing,

then the cancer won, even if it never comes back.

But if you reclaim your life, then even if the

cancer comes back, it didn’t win, because YOU, the PERSON, survived.

Lisa Weissman, Hematology/Oncology

October 1, 2013 the beginning of Breast Cancer Month, I made the choice to eliminate the fears about MY condition.

For more than five years, after a diagnosis of Breast Cancer, I lived in fear of the unknown —–

  • Fear of monthly self-breast exams;
  • Fear of periodic mammograms; and
  • Fear of appointments with the oncologist.

Since MY diagnosis, these unknown fears always ended with “no sign of cancer recurrence.”  A  welcomed, temporary reprieve until I had to undergo the next monthly self-breast exam, mammogram, and/or oncology visit.

Last month, as I prepared to write this four-part series on MY Breast Cancer Journey, I visited a number of blogs written by breast cancer survivors as well as breast cancer organization websites. These blogs and websites served as MY first introduction to Metastatic Breast Cancer and a new fear to deal with.   The question is why MY oncologists never once discussed this condition with ME.   Rest assured, on my next scheduled visit in December this will be MY first question to the oncologist.

While, I am Grateful for the excellent treatment provided by MY oncologists; I am a bit disappointed that they failed to discuss and explain Metastatic Breast Cancer.   I may have made different lifestyle choices if they had shared information like the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance facts:

  • Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body:  bones, liver, lungs or brain.
  • early detection does not guarantee a cure.  Metastatic Beast Cancer can occur 5, 10, or 15 years after a person’s original diagnosis and successful treatment checkups and annual mammograms.
  • An estimated 155,00 Americans are currently living with Metastatic Breast CancerMetastatic Breast Cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
  • 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop Metastatic Breast Cancer.
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer is not an automatic death sentence.  Although most people will ultimately die of the disease, some will live long, productive lives.

Despite the above-information, I overcame the FEARS of Breast Cancer.   How?

Rather than focus on fear, I seek information, encouragement, and self-empowerment by connecting  with:

Rather than focus on fear, I seek spiritual uplifting, inspiration, strength, serenity, happiness, and peace through MY daily readings:

  • 100 Perks of Having Cancer – Plus100 Health Tips for Surviving It, Florence Strang, B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed. and Susan Gonzalez, R.N., B.S.N.
  • The President’s Devotionals  – The Daily Readings that Inspired President Barach Obama, Joshua DuBois
  • Simple Abundance:  A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach
  • The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
  • Simple Abundance Living by Your Own Lights (Audio Book), Sarah Ban Breathnach
  • Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin
  • The Pink Bible an Invitation to Hope

I have chosen to “eliminate the fears” and “embrace the present”……..

  • “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future, I live now.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • “Forever is composed of nows.”  (Emily Dickson)
  • “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future,, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” (Buddha)
  • “We are always getting ready to live but never living.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • “Today is life – the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.”  (Dale Carnegie)
  • “We steal if we touch tomorrow.  It is God’s.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
  • “If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine.” (Morris West).

I am Grateful for the positive changes in MY lifestyle since the Breast Cancer diagnosis.

I am most Thankful to the Divine Spirit for guiding ME to write about MY Breast Cancer Journey.

A GRATEFUL FIVE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR – PART 2

 INTRODUCTION

I designated October as the month to read everything MY 70-year-old brain could absorb on Breast CancerAlso, the goal was to write a four-part series about MY five-year journey as a Survivor.   

Relying on Google searches, I visited Breast Cancer:

  • Organizations
  • Personal Blogs
  • Support Groups Online
  • Support Groups for Family
  • Forums and Discussion Groups

But, before I could finish Part 2 of the series, a bout of bronchitis entered MY space and gained control.  For almost three weeks, I was totally out of commission.   But thanks to an excellent primary care physician, nebulizer inhalations, antibiotics, and cough medicine; I am bronchitis-free, feeling great, and ready to complete what I started.

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PART 2 – SURVIVING AND OVERCOMING BREAST CANCER

In the beginning of my Breast Cancer journey, I was frustrated, depressed, anxious, fearful and just plain angry.

Without warning, this “unwelcome” and “unfamiliar” condition, Breast Cancer, invaded MY body and changed MY life.  There were so many unanswered questions about life expectancy, diagnosis, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Did I really want answers?  No, denial and rejection of any topic related to Breast Cancer served as MY safety net I chose to make Assumptions rather than face Reality.

Assumptions:

  • MY Five Year Survival Rate for Stage 1 Breast Cancer was 97%.
  • Stage 1 Breast Cancer was serious but not life threatening. 
  • After five years, Breast Cancer was no longer a risk.

Sadly, for more than five years, I relied on these Assumptions.

But I was left with no choice but to face Reality as I prepared to write this four-part series on Breast Cancer.  After reading a number of blogs written by Breast Cancer survivors and caregivers as well as visiting different Breast Cancer organization websites, I confronted —

Reality

  • American Cancer SocietyThe five year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live after their cancer is found.  Of course, many people live much longer than five years.”
  • Oncology Practice, Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer:  A Global Patient Survey – “Worldwide, one-third of patients who present with early-stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic disease.”

Now, I must face the Reality that MY

  • 98% five-year survival rate has ended; and
  • despite an early diagnosis of Stage 1 Breast Cancer, I may be among the one-third who develops metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer.

As I continue down the path of this Breast Cancer journey, I will strive to improve the quality of MY life, on a daily basis, through:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Pacing
  • Distractions
  • Sleep Health
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Massage Therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Spiritual Growth

I plan to put forth an extra effort to remain optimistic and stay positive in preparing to write Part 3 of this series on metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer.    It’s a topic that I fear but I no longer will rely on Assumptions to avoid Reality.

Expressing Gratitude for the positive changes in my life after Breast Cancer.  Everything happens in accordance with God’s Plan.  

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Also, Appreciation and Thanks to Amanda, Living in Another Language, for creating the new blog design.

Weekly Wishes #7

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Wish is a “desire or hope for something to happen” (Merriam-Webster.com).  I write about the failure to fulfill past Wishes because I choose to hold ME accountable for MY failures.  Especially, when they are under MY control.

Unfulfilled Wishes Weeks #3, 4 and 6

Since I failed to complete the Wishes below, I added them to MY Wishes for Week #7:

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 Learning to use the Digital Camera is the only remaining Wish from Week #3 and #4 that remains unfilled.  However, it is a work-in-progress; this week, I viewed a number of instructional You Tube videos and reviewed the manual.

I failed to Prepare a Healthy Dessert as Wished for in Week #6.  Devoted quite a bit of time looking at a number of recipes to find just the right one; finally, I settled on a Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe found in one of my cookbooks,  “Fantastic Food with Splenda,” by Marlene Koch.

Things “outside-of-my-comfort zone”, I will push to the bottom of MY “mental to do list.”  This is the case with Desserts whether healthy or not, I can recall only a few successes; and, the last camera I used was a Kodak Instamatic in the 1970s.   Yes, I am on a mission to overcome these challenges.   Facing them week after week may open ME up to bringing  the “unknown” and “uncomfortable” into my “comfort zone.”

 Fulfilled Wishes Week #6

This past week was busy.  Despite, the number of things on MY “to do list” and the “scheduled appointments”; I completed the following Wishes:

  • Viewed instructional YouTube Videos on Canon Digital Camera;
  • Created a Calendar of Activities:  Breast Cancer Awareness;
  • Posted “A Grateful Five-Year Breast Cancer Survivor; and
  • Visited and commented on Six Breast Cancer Blogs

I opened MY eyes, looked and learned so much from the Six Breast Cancer Blogs, I visited this week:

  • Misifusa’s  Blog“Life is about the now, not the past, not the future.”  I am inspired, motivated, and uplifted after reading her posts.
  • I Hate Breast CancerI had just graduated from high school and seen my mom die from metastatic breast cancer.  Now I have it.  But this isn’t about me – it’s about making a difference for other people.”  Reading this blog peaked my interest to learn more about metastatic breast cancer. 
  • Telling Knots  “Empty Promises:  If we’re not aware of metastatic breast cancer, we’re not aware….About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis.”   Living as a five-year breast cancer survivor unaware of these facts until I started to explore the cancer blogs
  • Rethink Breast Cancer –   Young women get cancer too – Their concerns are unique.  Their needs are distinct and their survival rates are lower than those of older woman.”  I plan to share the link to this blog with my young survivor friends.  This advocacy and support blog as well as the listing of over 30 books recommended by young breast cancer survivors may be helpful.
  • The Perks of Having Cancer “Being a survivor is not all about being cancer free….it is about attitude.”  This blogger and her blogger friend have joined together and published a book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It.”  Ordered the book from Amazon.com; and, I look forward to reading about the “perks” and “tips.”.
  • ChemobrainIn The Fog “I was the person with an organized spice cabinetToday, I may not bring my mail in for three days.  Might not open it for another three.”  At this blogger’s suggestion, Signed up to with the Army of Women, I want to be a part of their “mission to move beyond a cure to find a way to prevent breast cancer.”

I am Grateful to God that “MY eyes were opened” to review and comment on the Six Breast Cancer Blogs.   The lack of knowledge about Breast Cancer is a “self inflicted wound” that could well affect the quality of MY life; and, I choose to become a knowledgeable and informed Breast Cancer Survivor.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Weekly Wishes #7

In addition to the two Unfulfilled Wishes; I Wish to:

October is dedicated to increasing MY awareness of Breast Cancer and sharing MY five-year journey as a Breast Cancer Survivor.  Every day, I will express Gratitude to God for His Gift of Life.

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Why I Blog

Seeking to expand my “Little World,” I entered the “Blogosphere World” in mid-January 2013.   Retired in 2010, my husband and I relocated to a new state thousands of miles away from children, family and friends.

Some three years later, blogging “Launched ME” into Cyberspace.”   My ever expanding “Online World” has “Opened the Door” to new people, places and things all around the world.   Blogging allows “ME to be ME.”  Blogging is the “Voice” that had remained silent for many, many years due to my own self-inflicted anxiety and low self-esteem.

Though, I am a novice blogger, my confidence level is growing daily.   Why – the people, who have supported, aided and guided me since I embarked on this new journey.

  • First, thank you to those who “visited, liked and/or commented” on my posts.  I am grateful and appreciate your taking the time to enter my “Online World.”
  • Second, to those bloggers “I follow,” thankful and appreciative for your enlightening and informative posts.
  • Finally, a “special thank you” to Misifusa’s Blog, http://misifusa.wordpress.com.  I look forward to reading your posts.  I connect with you on a personal level — a “Sister Breast Cancer Survivoras well as your February 19, 2013 “What’s in a Name” post.

So to my new Blogosphere friends the following are a few  —-

Random Facts About Me

  • I am one of the 198,682 people in the U.S. with the first name Yvonne
  • My daily routine upon rising, is writing my “Morning Gratitude Note.”  Beginning with “Bless be the Day for ME and Mine,” and generally followed with a word or sentence expressing why I am grateful.   This note is placed into my “Gratitude Jar.” 

Gratitude Jar

  • Nightly, just before retiring, I write in my online Gratitude Journal” five things that happened during the day for which I am grateful.  I finish with, “Blessed be the Night for ME and Mine.”   If expressing gratitude to a specific person, place, or thing, I attach related digital photos.

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  • Unrealistic FEAR prevents “ME” from performing monthly self-breast exams.  For the past five years, I have lied to my oncologist when asked the dreaded question about self-breast exams.  Hope, sharing this fact in “Blogosphere” will rid “ME” of this phobia.

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  • I meditate for thirty minutes every day for relaxation and inner peace.
  • On my special “Sabbath Day,” which can be any day during the week, I choose to do only what honors, pleases and uplifts “ME.”

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  • I blog because it makes “ME” happy.
  • I took my first Yoga class this past week.
  • When someone or something enters my space and creates toxicity, my inner voice says either:  (1) “This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalms 118.22 (NIV), or (2) “I will not allow anyone to steal my joy.”  Then, I will immediately seek a way to disengage.

Loving This Season of My Life!!!!

Dedicated to A Breast Cancer Warrior

Mentor, best friend, and the sister God placed in my life shortly after I married her younger brother more than 52 years ago, died in December of 1988 after a long battle with Stage IV Breast Cancer.  During her four-year fight to survive, I never heard one complaint.  With confidence, I can say every one who watched her go through the repetitive rounds of chemotherapy; radiation treatments and hospitalizations will agree that she exemplified all the following “Pink Warrior Symbols.”

    • Power and Courage
    • Plants for Life, Growth and Survival
    • A Feather for Kinship
    • A Dove for Peace in the Battle
    • War Paint, Showing Readiness to Battle
    • A Tree for Love, Standing Tall
    • A Heart, for Standing Strong
    • Angel Wings, to Honor Those Who Have Died

Four years my senior, she was the big sister I dreamed of growing up as an only child.  What a Blessing!!!  I was gifted with the opportunity to spend quality time with this very, very special person during the last days of her life

You see, in August of 1988, my husband invited her to live with us in Madison, Wisconsin.  She had reached a point where she needed around-the-clock care.  The two of us cared for her evenings and weekends. Her daughter, brother, sister, cousin, nieces, nephews, and aunt provided care on weekdays.  Fortunately, all of them lived in Madison and were available during the day due to retirement, student status, evening work, or paid time off usage.  Our family knew she would prefer a home setting rather than a sterile hospital room.   Although the spare bedroom, in order to accommodate her needs, was set up much like a hospital room with a hospital bed, over-the-bed table, and oxygen tank.   Yet, it was a lived-in home environment.  Family members were providing the needed care.

The best reasons for her move to Madison.  It placed her in the same city as her youngest child, a daughter, who graduated from high school in June of 1988.  She was scheduled to start classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Fall 1988 semester. Though away from her own home, she was able to maintain a close connection with her husband and adult son.  Madison is only a three-hour drive from Chicago.

On November 25, 1988, she celebrated her 50th Birthday in our spare bedroom.  Less than three weeks later, she quietly passed away in this small spare bedroom surrounded by members of her nuclear, extended family and close friends.

This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Shirley Mae Thomas Conda, a Breast Cancer Warrior, who bravely fought the fight, but lost the battle.

Through the many seasons of my life, I have faced my share of trials and tribulations.   However, nothing challenged me more than the diagnosis of Breast Cancer in February 2008.

Thank you Shirley.  You were still my “role model, some 20 years later” as I went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.   Being in your presence as you fought Breast Cancer, continues to give me the courage to fight this condition for which there is still no known cure.

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On this 5th Anniversary as A Breast Cancer Survivor,  I am:

  • Thankful for my husband, children, grandchildren, extended family members, PMTC family, and friends who went beyond anyone’s expectations in sharing their love and support as I went through the early, and sometimes scary times, of my cancer treatments.

Finally, I give praise and honor to God.  Thanking Him for bringing me this far.