Thanksgiving this year is very emotional for me. In fact, I'm fairly certain that Thanksgiving every year going forward will be very emotional for me and bring back many memories.
You see, last year the week before the Thanksgiving holiday, I found out I was pregnant. And I, like most, was excited but a little nervous.
The week after the Thanksgiving holiday, I found a lump in my breast. And I was scared.
About a week and a half later, I heard the words, "I'm sorry, you have cancer."
And my life changed.
I think back on the past year and all that has gone on. A good part of me is relieved that 2011 is coming to a close. This is not a year in my life that I will ever remember fondly.
However, this past year has made me so incredibly thankful.
I am thankful for my health. Today, I am healthy and alive and that alone is enough to bring me to tears. Before cancer, I took my health for granted. Today I am incredibly thankful for it.
I am thankful for my huge network of friends and family that supported me so much throughout the last year. I've made new friends. I've renewed old friendships. I've never, ever felt so loved or cared for in my life. If there is one good thing to come from cancer, it is to know how blessed I am in terms of family and friends.
I am thankful for my son. Having a miscarriage has made me even more thankful for how easy my first pregnancy was and for the blessing of my child. Every day I reminded how lucky I am to have such an amazing gift from God in that little boy.
In general, I am simply more thankful for my many, many, many blessings. I think so often, we get lost in our day to day troubles and stress. Stress about money. Stress about family. Stress about work. And we forget that a job is a blessing. Family is a gift. And the material things are not forever. We forget to be thankful.
Today, I give thanks for every moment. I give thanks for each day. I give thanks for every moment I get to see my son grow and learn. I give thanks for every moment spend with my husband, even when we're not agreeing with one another. I give thanks because no matter if the day was ideal or terrible, it is another day that I am here.
So I rejoice that 2011 is coming to a close. I rejoice that in just 2 weeks, I will have a majority of my treatment and reconstruction behind me. I rejoice that I am healthy and happy and lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends and family.
And I pray that I will remember to be thankful for every day, for each day is a gift.
So this post is a little late.
It's cancer's fault. OK, not really, but I intend to blame everything on cancer for as long as I can :)
This mother's day, I spent the day with family and friends doing the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in Sioux City, IA.
My mother-in-law organized a big group of family and friends as a display of support for me during this crazy experience. I think when all was said and done, there were over 20 of us that took part in the race.
Isn't that crazy? More than TWENTY people, familly and friends came out in support of the fight against breast cancer and specifically MY fight with breast cancer.
I mean, before being diagnosed with cancer, I just never thought I was that cool. I knew people generally liked me, but I didn't expect people to go out of their way or give up time to show their support for this battle.
And I know it's not all about me. I know that this is also in support of Chris' family (who has to go through this with me) and for all the other people that THEY know that have been affected by cancer.
But on my Mother's Day, there were 5 or 6 other moms who gave up their special day of breakfast in bed and relaxing at home to get to Sioux City by 7:30 in the morning to run/walk 3.1 miles... and that's just awesome.
I felt honored. And a little bit overwhelmed. Because it's still hard to wrap my head around the sheer number of people out there that have carried me through this battle with their support and love.
I'm not talking about 30 or 40 people, I'm pretty sure the numbers top a few hundred people have directly done something to support me during the past 5 months. There have been my coworkers (over 100 people made donations during our donation drive), my immediate family, my extended family, friends of my family (church members, their friends, my mom's sewing group, people from my childhood church), my friends from high school, friends from college, and complete strangers that I've never met before like my Chemo Angels.
I've gotten cards, quilts, blankets, candles, candy, emails, and so many other gifts from SO many people.
And I seriously don't know how I would've made it through this without all of that. I cherish every card that is sent (I've saved them all). I take my quilts with me to chemo. I cry every time someone sends me an email telling me that they wish me the best during this time.
And most of the time, I have no idea how to adequately say thank you. How do you say thank you for the funny card that made you laugh on the day that you felt totally defeated? How do you say thank you to the people that put so much love into a prayer quit that covers you and keeps you warm during your weekly trips to chemo? How do you properly thank the twenty-something people that came to Sioux City, IA on Monther's Day to just show their support for you and your family?
The answer is that there is no way I can possibly thank these people often enough. So I say thank you. And I'll say it again here in as public of a forum as I can manage, THANK YOU! You can never imagine how much your support means to me. It touches my heart every single time. Thank you.
And a BIG thank you to everyone who made my Mother's Day so incredibly special. Thank you Dawn for organizing this and making it a Mother's Day to remember.
Here are pictures of my "crew" during the big event:
World, meet my parents.
My parents rock. OK maybe not literally (unless you think Enya and Kenny G are "rock worthy") but they certainly have rocked my world throughout this whole experience.
My parents live in Pennsylvania. I live in Minnesota. My mom has come to visit me for EVERY SINGLE TREATMENT. She flew out here to hold my hand when I was diagnosed. She flew out to take care of me when I had my surgery. She's been here for both of my chemo treatments so far and she'll be here tomorrow for my 3rd one. She does all that "real life" stuff that I just run out of time/energy to do. She cooks, cleans, does laundry, grocery shops, watches Caleb when I need to sleep, shovels snow, and SO many other things. She's amazing and I'm pretty sure I would not be as sane/happy/well rested if it weren't for her and everything she does. Thank you Mom. I don't think I could say that often enough for all that you do.
My Dad has been amazing in the fact that he's willing to share my mom for all of this. I know that doesn't sound like much, but my mom spends 5 full days away from home for each visit. That is 5 days out of every 2 weeks. That's like 1/3 of her time for almost 2 months. For any married couple, that is a HUGE sacrifice. And if you know my dad, you know how much he loves having my mom around so I just want to say thank you for sharing Dad.
I also want to thank my Dad for his many jokes. As I've stated many times in this blog, I'm determined to do my best to laugh at what many would consider a very unfunny situation. Whenever I call home and my Dad is there, he has a joke for me. The most recent joke still makes me smile when I think of it, so I thought I'd share.
My dad is bald. OK, maybe not bald, but he's totally rockin the whole "friar haircut". You know, bald on top with a ring of hair around the sides. I'm his first child to "follow in his footsteps" and lose all my hair. The other day he told me he was disappointed I don't look more like him now that I'm bald like he is. I laughed and laughed.
Then I went and looked at photos.
Hmmmm. I think you're wrong Dad. I look EXACTLY like you... only you have more hair. I can't say I ever thought I'd say that! Enjoy your brief respite from being the baldest person in the family, Dad, cause it won't last long!
In case you haven't noticed, the "theme" of this week is voicing my appreciation. This got kicked off by the bald soldiers and I just figured I should start saying thank you more often.
Today, I wanted to share with y'all the group that has probably been the most influential in maintaining my sanity.The Young Survivor's Coalition
This is basically a support group dedicated to women under the age of 40 diagnosed with breast cancer. It's this great online community of women. They have online discussion boards, online support groups, and even have an annual conference every year so you can meet all of your virtual friends.
Why women under 40? Because cancer at a younger age looks alot different than cancer when you're older. What I mean by that is there is a whole different set of "issues" that you face in your personal life when you're younger. Younger kids. Newer marriages. A desire to have kids after treatment. And lots more.
And this support group has been sanity saving for me. In the first 2 months after diagnosis while I was going through the whole awful mess that was my life, I could go there and say anything. And they got it. It was such a great outlet for me. I could vent all the dirty, nasty, awful that was pent up inside and they could relate. Not that my friends and family couldn't, but there are just some things in life that you HAVE to experience before you can say "I totally understand".
It was also a great resource for knowledge about cancer and treatment. Chances are if you had questions about anything, there was someone there that had been through it before and could share their experience with you. It made navigating that whole world of diagnosis and treatment plans alot less scary. Instead, it became almost empowering. I could go to my doctor with questions instead of having him just tell me what I should do.
I don't think I can say enough about this organization. I just wanted to share this with you so that if you are younger with cancer (and no 40 isn't a "hard" number, just a guideline) or if you know anyone that is, you can let them know about this group. I know support groups aren't for everyone, but its better to know about a resource and choose not to take part than to feel like you're missing that support.
To stick with the theme of the week, a huge thank you to all the YSC girls.
OK... so I haven't exactly had my breasts blessed, so maybe they're not exactly holy.
But in the spirit of voicing my appreciation this week, I thought I'd talk about the many prayer groups, prayer lists, prayer everything that I have become a part of.
I think that my breasts are on prayer lists in approximately 5 states that I'm aware of (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, North Carolina, Iowa and possibly Georgia). And it's not just one church in each state. No. What cancer has taught me is that my "network" of friends and family is HUGE.
And they all know people who know people who know people... and let's be honest, my life kind of reads like a bad Lifetime movie right now, so anyone who hears about me wants to pray for me.
And I'm totally cool with that. I figure me and my little family could use all the prayer we can get right now. This process has SO many ups and downs. We need all the prayers we can get for good health, strength and peace of mind.
So for everyone out there praying, we thank you. Thank you for taking the time to think of us and send a prayer God's way when you do.
And tell all your friends to pray too! If God had a top 100 chart of most prayed for people... let's get me on that list! Or if I"m lucky enough to already be there, I wanna move my way up! My goal is to be at least in the top 50 :) Now if only I could find a way to track this...
Seriously though, thank you. This really does mean alot to us. I don't think I'd be as positive as I am without my faith and the unending support of our family and friends.