💖Pink Does Not Represent Cancer!💜

Most days, I’m able to focus on how grateful I am. Being diagnosed 5 years ago now with breast cancer, successfully completing treatment, and about to embark upon the last leg of this treatment journey by undergoing reconstruction surgery, I am usually able to focus on my blessings. However, because of the challenges I faced while receiving treatment, the empathy for others experiencing a cancer diagnosis and treatment occasionally permeates by being.

Today is one of those days. I picked up my phone this morning and the first thing that popped up was an obituary for and old friend who’d spent the last eight years battling brain cancer. I do not pretend to fathom the pain, discomfort, and struggles he faced throughout that time. But I do know that more than anything, he was fighting with all that he had to make it until his son graduated from high school…that didn’t happen.

I lost a dear friend to cancer over 10 years ago. What started as pain in her arm quickly became a nightmare of chemo attempts, reactions, and complications. She was so full of life and ready to embark on new journeys, but her adventure was cut short, another life ending entirely too soon.

I lost another friend from high school a couple of years ago. Because I’d fought breast cancer, she thought our battles were the same, and that she just needed to stay positive. She was fighting brain cancer that had progressed to the point that she was suffering severe symptoms at diagnosis. Her body was only able to withstand one round of chemo. She only lived a few more months. She was so brave.

My sweet Daddy was diagnosed three years ago with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, with metastasis to the brain. He passed peacefully 11 days later, with the assistance of hospice. Although the physical process was deeply maddening to watch, I never left his side. The beauty of those eleven days with him tops my list of precious spiritual experiences on this earth.

What I went through with breast cancer was not anything I would wish on one more human being. However, there is no comparison to the bravery and grace displayed by each of these precious souls who ultimately lost the battle against the enemy that is cancer.

This is why I reject the term “Survivor”, as it somehow indicates that I did something right or better than those we’ve lost. I was lucky that my body could withstand the toxic treatment. We are all warriors, fighting similar, yet such uniquely different battles.

The fact that we have a Pink month dedicated specifically to breast cancer makes me sick. I would love to see the start of an #antipink movement, and recognize that cancer is the enemy, in every form and at every stage. Regardless of the treatment, side effects, and end result, pieces of our lives are being stolen. After all, statistics dictate that we will all know someone who is affected by this disease at some point in our lifetime. It is our responsibility to hold one another up, walk arm in arm, and love one other through every stage of the process. Hope and peace do not discriminate, neither should we in our support of one another.

🙏🏻💜 peacefulahead.blog

Don’t Wait…Celebrate!

From someone who has had the give up the ordinary experiences that make life beautiful…please, don’t wait!!!

At any moment, your life could change as you know it. Plans canceled, dreams delayed, and hopes deflated. Please, don’t wait for that moment to come to start seeing the beauty in the everyday predictable moments of life.

When you can’t find the strength to get out of bed, or the courage to add one more thing to your “to do” list, it is the consistently simple things that you will miss…much more than the special events that are faint memories.

So, today, appreciate the energy to do laundry. Give thanks for the ability to plan for the week ahead. Soak in the sounds of your loved ones laughing.

Do it today! Just because you CAN!

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In the Pursuit of Peace, God’s Plan is Greater

I am a planner. I like to buy planners and pens, and use sticky notes. I have spent many hours of my life writing down my plans in a color-coordinated fashion, and marveling at the beauty of a month’s page filled with all of life’s daily details.

But, a breast cancer diagnosis and the related variety of surgeries and treatments (along with the never-ending list of unpredictable side effects) forced me to let go of my perceived control. Many days, I did not know what the next hour would hold, much less the next day, and certainly not the month ahead.

It has been five years since my world was turned upside down, and I’ve slowly returned to the beauty of planning. There are no words to describe the gratitude I feel for the ability to somewhat predict what lies ahead.

However, my mindset has changed in so many ways. Because I was forced to live with uncertainty, I grew more comfortable with the fact that some things are out of my control. Some days, my only plan involves maintaining my peace, in spite of my surroundings. For this reason, I started crocheting two years ago, following in the footsteps of my Grandmother’s talent.

She was the most peaceful person I’ve ever known, crocheting and praying every single day. She’s been gone for 15 years now. While I never learned to crochet from her, I quickly learned that I had an innate talent for using a hook and thread. I started with the basics, improving with each effort, with the ultimate goal of creating fine doilies like hers. I learned to read patterns, but found myself enjoying the experience more when I would “wing it”, allowing my soul to dictate the next stitch. I started the piece in this image with no pattern, and it became the one of which I’m most proud.

I couldn’t help but relate that to God’s plan for us, which we can not always see until we look back on how beautifully things worked together for our good.

As I embark on the final phase of my breast-cancer treatment (upcoming reconstruction), I am able to find peace, without needing to plan out every step of the journey. I know that whatever lies ahead will build strength, bring clarity, and form peace in my soul more so than any foreseeable circumstance that I could’ve planned…even with the prettiest planner and pen collection.

Here’s to fully trusting Him for a life that’s peaceful ahead.

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Email: peacefulahead@gmail.com

Patiently Waiting to Turn the Page

Update: Pre-surgery appointment with plastic surgeon this morning. We are a GO for April 9! Now, to get everything prepared to take off work for about 6 weeks. So very thankful…IT’S TIME!!!🙌🏻

Below post from my former blog

Well, it’s been 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and 4 years since I completed treatment (including a double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, followed by a hysterectomy 3 years ago to wrap things up). Because I had implants before my diagnosis and my awesome surgeon was able to save them, I’ve been able to delay reconstruction until I felt ready to conquer another challenge. I’ve spent the past few years focusing on healing and accepting my new normal, all with the help of an amazing counselor and precious friends and family who’ve stuck by me throughout the journey. I’ve adapted my wardrobe to disguise my misshapen breasts, one which displays a dimple since there was not much tissue removed on the side that didn’t contain cancer (it’s like it is winking at me in the mirror). The other is stretched thin due to the large amount of tissue removed where the cancer had been and the 35 doses of radiation to reduce the risk of recurrence. I refer to this one as a “microwaved donut” as it feels just like the bicep that rests nearby.

So, I’ve finally decided that it’s time to take on the reconstruction process. Having time to accept that my body is forever changed has been critical to my ability to move on. The surgery is called DIEP Flap reconstruction. Put simply, the surgeon will use my belly fat (thank you, my child, for being transverse breach, necessitating a c-section, which created the “pooch” that will serve me in a way I could’ve never anticipated) and creating breasts that will be constructed from my OWN tissue!

PSA: I’m NOT getting “new boobs”…those are gone, along with the sensations they possessed, and neither of those will never return. I am removing damaged parts of my body. I’ll be getting back the chance to dress in clothing that does not resemble a tent, and the possibility of feeling feminine when I go shopping and get ready to step out into the world every morning, without the constant reminders of the most challenging time of my life.

This surgery will not be easy on me or my family by any means. However, I know that the feeling of truly being able to close the door that breast cancer forced open in my life will be such a blessing. I’ve stopped “waiting for the other shoe to drop” (fearing a recurrence). I also realize that having cancer changed me in ways that I never could have imagine…not just physically, but spiritually. It has given me the beauty of friendships that I may have missed out on, and shown me that some people can not handle me at my worst. This has allowed me to focus my energy on those who love me in the good times, and the bad. I’ve been able to forgive those who weren’t there for me, realizing that we each have unique opportunities for enlightenment in this life, and it is not up to me to create those moments for others, but to value and appreciate my own experiences. I am grateful for the fact that I know now what truly matters in life, and I look forward to using the insight and perspective gained to love and live more fully for years to come.

Also, I get to have my port removed! What a blessing it has been for medical staff to access veins easily. However, it has been a constant reminder of life with cancer as I must visit the Cancer center once every 6-8 weeks to have it flushed. C’est la vie!

As you can see in the photo, I’ve cut my hair super short in preparation for surgery. I’ll also use this time to transition to my natural hair color (mostly gray), because…I really just want to be ME! (So thankful to be able to say that and mean it…freckles, wrinkles, scars, and all). Here’s to being comfortable in my skin at 44!

Saying a prayer for peace today as I wait for the surgery date to be set. I see a new beginning ahead, and I know it’s time to leave behind all of the things that no longer serve me. Thank God for second chances.

Beauty: It’s Not a Competition

As a child, my perception of beauty was formed by actresses, cover models and Miss America pageant contestants, all of which were blonde, thin, and tall. It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy, and I’d like to add that it also steals our ability to see our own unique beauty. As a short, freckled, curly-haired girl, I was convinced that I didn’t have what it took to be beautiful.

Although my perception of beauty had evolved over time, I still had certain limitations ingrained in my mind. It took me 40 years and surviving the life-altering challenges of fighting breast cancer to finally recognize my own beauty. The disfigurement of my breasts after a double mastectomy sent me to a true living hell, trying to find my confidence, despite missing the most feminine part of myself. After all, those pieces of me were not necessary health-wise. But, oh, the mind games that were started by losing them. Looking at others, I could only see that they, once again, had something I did not.

Although my body quickly recovered, it’s taken several years for my mind to heal. I am now able to see that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. My definition of that beauty has evolved, including strength, grace, and faith. I am certain that we are all made exactly in God’s image, and that this journey is so much more than fitting into society’s ideal of “beauty”. While I wouldn’t wish the devastating journey through breast cancer and treatment on one person on earth, it is my hope that by seeing my own true beauty, others may recognize their own. What a blessing it is to marvel at the beauty of others, no longer feeling inferior or less-than. May your confidence grow from what truly matters in this life, and may you have hope, knowing it’s peaceful ahead.