Tag: cancer

Happy Last Year

Cancer. It is something ugly that I dealt with in 2014. But that was then and this is now.

When the big C hit me in January 2014, there was still a Happy New Year Balloon dancing around the house, all cheery and colorful. When I bought it for the kids, it was with the belief and hope the new year would be an even better year than the one before. When that ball drops at midnight and you kiss your loved ones  while clinking your glasses, you never think that maybe the new year won’t be that awesome and happy. You want it to be a great one, better than the last.  But you just don’t know. I remember when I was diagnosed just staring at that damn balloon thinking how ironic it was because happy new year turned into crappy new year for me. I wanted to take a kitchen knife to that thing several times, but I just couldn’t do it. Call me superstitious.

It was a rough 2014, no doubt about it. But that year came and went, and I spent that NYE with my husband, kids and close friends in one of my favorite places, Disney. I always forget about things at Disney and I was so happy to see 2014 go. So when the fireworks started going off at midnight, I was thrilled to usher in 2015.

2015 was a pretty good year. I finished my treatments, and saw some new places. First time visiting Las Vegas (now I am hooked), Colorado, Seattle and to finish it off, went on a cruise to the Cayman islands and spent Christmas at Disney with my parents. I hoped 2016 would even be better, and it was.

I had a lot of quality family time–my husband, kids and I went to Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon. We then went on another cruise and back to Disney, this time staying in a childhood favorite hotel of mine The Contemporary. It always makes me happy to see my kids at Disney enjoying themselves so much while remembering my childhood there. Nothing compares. I also celebrated my birthday with old friends and new ones watching Duran Duran perform in VEGAS. (I told you I am hooked!). That concert had me on my feet the entire time, I was even jumping up and down for many songs. I don’t dance like that, but there was something about seeing them and the music and what I had been through that just got me. I cried, sang, laughed, screamed like a teenager. The only thought I had about cancer was that I was so lucky to be there enjoying myself and that it was behind me.

One memory about 2016 that stands out is one that I firmly believe was arranged by a higher power.

Let me start this by saying that Duran Duran has  not only gotten me through my cancer, but life in general. I am working on a book that goes into more depth on how their music has been my therapy, but lets just say that some of my darkest hours have been made better by simply hearing one of their songs. As I wrote in a previous post, the song “What Happens Tomorrow” got me through the darkest time after my diagnosis. I hadn’t listened to the radio in my car for about a week, I would just drive around numb in silence. One morning, I was really scared and asked for some sort of sign that I would get through it. I decided on the way to work that morning to turn on the radio for some noise in the car, and what came on blew me away. “What Happens Tomorrow” was just what I needed and I know someone from above was giving me the sign I begged for.

So, fast forward to September 2016. I had just gone through my second and last surgery for reconstruction (my 4th surgery since diagnosis) and Duran were playing at a small venue downtown. My husband got me really good seats and my friend Tina came down to see them with me. Side note: Tina is also a survivor, we met through an online support group and have become really close–proof that something amazing can come out of something horrible. When we met, we quickly learned that we both love Duran Duran so we always said we were going to see them together when they toured, never thinking it would be twice!

The concert was amazing, though I didn’t have quite the energy I had in Vegas because of my surgery. But that couldn’t stop me and I didn’t sit down,  determined to keep going for my guys and show them the love they deserve.

Tina and I joked that maybe we would run into them downtown after the show, but never really thought it was possible and it never happened. The next day, Tina went back home and I went back to work after my surgery leave. A coworker and I were scheduled to go to lunch, but I tried to cancel, telling her we should just stay in the office and not venture out. It was too hot to walk around, and I was really tired from the surgery and the concert. She insisted, saying that she wanted to treat me for my birthday since we never celebrated. After several minutes of going back and forth on it, I gave in. We went to one of her favorite downtown restaurants in her favorite hotel. Before going to eat, she showed me around the hotel, pointing out the history and the beauty. What happened next blew me away.

While heading over to the restaurant, we turned the corner and right in front of me was John Taylor. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at my coworker, not even believing what was happening. She knew how much I loved Duran and that I had been at the show the night before, so she put two and two together and realized that I was standing in front of one of them. I was speechless and borderline crying. Then Roger walked over from the concierge desk joining our little circle. This was too much–I had met John a couple of years ago, but he was behind a desk signing books and there were a lot of people in line, so it was rushed and not as personal. This was like magic. They were on their way out, so had we not walked around or if we arrived at that spot just a few minutes later, I would have never seen them. I couldn’t even relay how I felt to them and why I was so emotional. I wish I could have told them what their music has done for me and how it got me through. But I couldn’t utter much at all. John could see the emotion on my face and actually consoled me, he must have known the impact they made on me by my reaction. This meant so much to me– they were really nice about the whole thing, confirming my devotion to this band.

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When I went back to work the next day, I couldn’t help but share my story with others. I told one person how the song came on that day giving me hope, and then how I ran into them at the hotel. She said that my guardian angel closed the loop for me–that I was given that song for hope and then arranged that meeting to signify the end of my surgery and cancer journey. It made so much sense and I truly believe that is what happened that day.

So 2016 was a great year. I am yet another year out from cancer, and I have memories I will never forget. I am going to spend the final hours of 2016 cherishing these memories.

I will admit tonight won’t be the easiest night–Duran Duran are playing in MD and my fellow Duranie Tina will be there ringing in the new year with them. I tried to make the trip work, but decided that it was too much to try to go. Now I regret it. I wish I could ring in 2017 with Tina and Duran Duran, but I will have to just live through her posts. Now I know how she felt when I met them after she headed home. I have heard they are adding dates in Texas in March, so I will hold onto that. I have to see them again, I’m kind of addicted.

Happy Last Year!

This song sums it up for me. Enjoy!

 

 

I won!

Let me start by saying that I never win anything. I’ve entered countless raffles, sweepstakes, bought lottery tickets, entered my name into various drawings. Nothing. I don’t gamble much for this very reason. I can’t stand to see my money disappear.

One day I was in one of my favorite beauty supply stores, and upon checkout I was asked if I would add some money to my bill for a donation. I will do this occasionally if it’s a cause I believe in. Like the American Heart Association–I think of my uncle who had a heart transplant. Or St. Jude’s–I think of my own kids and how lucky I am they are healthy. So when they said they were raising money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, I didn’t hesitate. I guess when I donated, they had me fill out a card to enter a raffle for a prize. I don’t even remember doing this–I probably didn’t give it much thought since I NEVER WIN.

Now granted, this prize is not a million dollars, nor is it a week long trip to a five-star hotel in a tropical destination. But I am just as excited about it. It’s just a tote bag with some beauty products in it. I won’t have to buy much for a while, I’ve got everything from perfume to lipsticks. Shampoo to moisturizers. I’m pretty psyched!

When I went in to claim my prize, the girl working there thanked me for my donation to breast cancer. I had forgotten about filling out the card  and the donation until she mentioned this. I replied, “Breast cancer? That’s why I won this? Well it’s pretty amazing that I won THIS prize because I’m actually a survivor.” She put her hand to her mouth looking emotional and said that it was meant to be.

Lately I have been worrying about the metastis thing. I’ve had some neck pain that is nagging me and of course I think it’s cancer. I hate that for the rest of my life, I will feel this way. When the call came in that I won a prize, the neck pain took a backseat to my cheer. As soon as I got it home, I felt like a kid on Christmas opening their stocking, going through all of my little treasures, pulling out this and that, opening the packages see what was inside.  It helped me forget about the stupid neck pain. I believe it was God’s way of telling me to stop worrying so much. It was just the diversion I needed.

This is how I feel about cancer and metastisis , from one of my all time favorite Duran Duran songs:
I walk out into the sun
I try to find a new day
But the whole place
It just screams in my eyes
Where are you now?
Cuz I don’t want to meet you
I think I’d die–
I think I’d laugh at you–
I think I’d cry–
What am I supposed to do,
Follow you?

 

 

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Hair

Seen better times than right now
But I’m not runnin’ away
No nothing’s gonna bring me down

It’s just been one of those days…

 

This past week, I was able to put my hair up in a ponytail for the first time in over 2 years. That’s progress!

Someone at work commented on my hair the other day. “Wow it’s getting long!” Flashing her my boyish photo on my work ID, I replied “you could say I’ve come a long way from this”.  She smiled, and asked the million dollar question. “What made you cut it so short?”

I could have just said something like “well I was going through a phase” or “wanted to try something new” but I have a hard time lying. So I fessed up and told her about my treatment.

I remember that part of my journey through hell vividly. It was the worst part for me, worse than surgery and treatment itself. Everyone with cancer handles this differently. Some people I know proudly showed off their bald beautiful heads. But not me. I think for me, it was officially telling the world I was sick. And I didn’t want people to know.

Grab a handful of your hair. Give it a firm tug. Kind of hurts when you do that, right?  Now imagine taking that same handful of hair and pulling it, but instead of feeling an ouch, the hair just comes out with ease and no pain. You never think you will experience that. You never think you will know what your head looks like without hair.

I remember when I started wearing the wig, I still had hair underneath. My long thick hair had been cut very short by my stylist in preparation of the big day it would start falling out. When I came home after work, I could not wait to remove the itchy wig and let my head breathe. Every day, I would give my hair a tug to see if it was the day. I remember the first time I pulled and didn’t feel the usual resistance, it was still shocking even though I knew it was coming. Once it started falling out, I would just sit down at night and pull out clumps, just wanting it gone but not ready to shave it.

One day, I pulled the wig off and it was really bad. I had hardly anything left, and what was there was  really thin and limp. There was no reason to hold on anymore, so I asked my husband to get the clippers. I cried, I laughed at his bad jokes. But we got rid of it.

Here are some of my wig looks and the first time  I went wigless in public when it was growing back. That was rough, but I was on a cruise so no one knew me. Not ready to share the bald look, but I will eventually. It is still hard to see myself like that.

On Halloween, I was trying to put together a costume. I thought a wig would make the look, but the thought of wearing one again gave me the chills. No thanks.

Really?

I know you’ve said this before. Maybe it was on that cold and dreary Monday morning when you slept through the alarm, and your child couldn’t find matching socks which made you even later, then your dog threw up on the carpet, and just as you cleaned the last of it the hem on your pants ripped and then you had to drive to work in the middle of a torrential downpour in stopped traffic which made you late for an important meeting.

Really?

Or maybe it was opening the door to the house on a 100+ degree  day and rather than feeling the cool relief of the a/c, you realize that there was no a/c — and bonus, you can’t fix it– you need a brand new unit.

Really???

Or maybe it was that one time you actually did a full-on grocery run, filling up the cart with a whole week’s worth of high-quality meats, organic milk, cheeses (you are the type of person that gets a few things here and there and goes to the store several times a week) only to put it all away and during the night the power goes out which spoils all the food.

Really?

Or maybe it was when you were sick during chemo and every day you begged your 13 year old sweet yellow lab to hang on for you through all of this. You could see her slowing down, but pleaded with her to be there to comfort you. You then watched her pass away right in front of you.

Really?!

Or maybe it was right after surgery when you finally ventured out in public. You still had tubes coming out of both sides of you and you were still walking a little hunched over from the pain of your incisions. You were so excited to find that perfect decorative vase to go on the ledge by your front door, only to realize when you got up to the cash register that your wallet had been stolen right from your purse. But on a good note, in the midst of this you get the call from the surgeon that they found no evidence of cancer.

REALLY?!

Life is full of “really” moments. And you can get hung up on them. I used to.

I now know that a plan has been written for me, but I was not given the details. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.

Woe is me.

Why me?

It’s not fair.

Yeah, I could have said that many times in my life. When I got the cancer diagnosis, I never said “why me”. I’ve always remembered that as bad as I thought things were in my life, there are people out there that have it much worse. I was dealing with a life threatening illness, so I could have really been pissed off and feeling sorry for myself. But I didn’t. What about the parents that lost their child while on vacation at the “Happiest” Place on Earth? What about them? What about the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary? The horror that they went through and the incredible loss the parents will never get over.  What about people in other countries that are sick but can’t get medical care or even clean water to drink?

I will admit that while I never felt sorry for myself, I did complain and whine. It was my way of dealing with it. But then I think how could I complain that my water tasted so bad on chemo–at least it was clean and available and SAFE!

I don’t have it so bad.

Sometimes when you have a  moment of despair and feeling sorry for  yourself, you have to ask yourself if there are people out there that have it worse. Most times they do.

I just watched a news report about a family coming home from their kids football game. 4 kids in the car with their parents. Both parents killed.

It puts things into perspective.

I had cancer. I got treatment. I have scars. But I’m extremely lucky and blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just be.

image This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being with 4 amazing women from my support group “The Chemo Sabes”. Cancer made us sisters. But love and laughter makes us friends.

Thinking of how people come into your life and how things happen is quite mind-blowing. It is hard for me to believe that these women were not in my life at all BC (Before Cancer). 3 years ago I did not know them, but I feel like I’ve known them forever. They are part of the reason that I would not change a thing about what’s happened to me.

People meet in all kinds of ways, in all types of situations. At work. At the gym. Through their kids. At school. And during chemo. We’ve been through hell and back and thanks to technology, we got through that hell together. Say what you will about the evils of Facebook, but without it we would not have this bond and friendship. The Sabe Sisters (we dumped the chemo from our name when we were finished with treatment) span the country-and the globe. From Seattle to Pennsylvania. From Hawaii to New Zealand. And with Facebook we were able to be with each other at all hours, day and night. When I was on the couch, so sick that I couldn’t really do anything other than go to the bathroom, they were there, always ready to comment on a gripe. Some of us had it worse than others, but we all had our ailments. From battered nails to bloody noses. Stomach pain to bad skin. I could always count on chatting with someone that could relate.

A little over 2 and a half years ago we were all in that fragile state, watching the outside world go by while ours was on hold, but we had each other. When I was so depressed that I couldn’t enjoy good food or going on fun trips, I knew that my sisters were out there too, feeling the same way. While you don’t wish this on anyone, it does help to know you aren’t alone. It is amazing that many of us are still close, and have formed true lifelong friendships. We went from gagging on water on our couches to sipping Chardonnay on the deck watching the sun set over the water. From sitting in the chemo chair while the medicine flowed into our bodies to sitting around the breakfast table with our mugs of coffee, watching the sun come up and chatting about how Jan is about to embark on something exciting in her career and about Anita’s recent trip to Australia. From being in bed early feeling sapped from treatment to looking at the moonlight reflect on the water on a party barge singing RESPECT at the top of our lungs into the night. We aren’t dwelling on our cancer, we are celebrating the “gifts” it gave us. I can say that now that I am out of it.

Sure, we talk about the nasty c. That’s what brought us together. No one gets it like us. We know more about each other than most people know. Intimate details of the worst times of our lives. So yeah it does come up. And that’s okay. But it is no longer the only topic of our conversations.

Thinking about my weekend I can’t help but smile at the highlights:

Tina and I sharing a guest bedroom with 2 twin beds, watching old Duran Duran DVDs and feeling like we were back in high school, talking into the night. I feel like we have been friends since high school and we’ve only known each other for a couple of years. We were meant to meet for sure.

And just watching Anita dancing in her seat and singing to the music and having a GOOD TIME. Not drunk on wine but high on life.

And hearing Jan talk about the passion she has about her job and the work she does now and hopes to do in the future as she prepares to run for office. And “meeting” her precious children on Facetime.

And seeing Susan in her element at the lake–I got a glimpse of how much she thoroughly enjoys life all the time with her family and friends. We should all live like that!

I sat back and soaked it all in.

We are living our lives again.

I hope that one day more of our sisters can get together with us at these gatherings. They are truly inspiring. I still haven’t met all of the girls, but I hope to one day. It’s funny when you finally meet a Sabe that you only knew online. You just feel  like you are hugging a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.

I am happy to say the sun is shining. Again.

Looking at life through pink colored glasses

Let me start off by saying that while I am very open about my cancer diagnosis and health situation, it is still really hard to share some of the “gory details” unless I am talking to someone in one of my support groups or a close family member. It’s sad to admit that, but there is still a level of embarrassment I feel because of where this cancer was–the ta-tas. Writing this really puts it all out there for all to see and this is kind of new for me at this level. I did a Caring Bridge journal, but I didn’t even share my diagnosis in the Facebook world when I was in the throws of treatment, only a select group of people knew what I was dealing with. And forget about posting bald pictures. I just love the women that embrace it and own it. But I was not that person.

I remember sending a few of my closest friends a bald pic one day in a text, telling them to delete it immediately after seeing it. It was like an action spy movie– I wanted the message to self-destruct in 3 seconds. One friend said that I have a cute little head. Most women will never see themselves that way, and as I sit here it is hard to remember those days, where I had to wear a wig and a hat all the time, even to bed because my head would get cold. You don’t appreciate hair that much until you lose it. I now find myself playing with it, stroking it to feel how silky soft it feels, smelling it and inhaling the delicious smell of a fresh shampoo. Because I CAN. I still go back and forth about posting the Mr. Clean look here in my blog. We’ll see. It is just so hard for me to see myself that way, looking sickly, though I know it was necessary to get me to where I am right now. Alive.

I believe in intuition and gut instincts. My mom, working for oncologists for most of her career, always harped on me to do self-exams through the years. She even gave me a fake boob (a foob), made of squishy rubber with hard little lumps in it to practice on. Even well before my 40s she stressed the importance of this, telling me that you could get it even when you are young. So I got to know my girls pretty well.

I was always well-endowed. And dense. And lumpy. And always had this odd feeling that one day I was going to get the dreaded C. And I did. I just thought it would be years down the road from now maybe in my 60s. Not when I was 44. I always wondered when my time would come. I guess that’s why I never asked myself the “Why Me” question, I always asked “When Me”. Even though I had a feeling those ta-tas would cause me the ultimate grief, I was still in complete shock when it happened.

I’ve never been fond of my “jugs”. Being bigger on top meant that I could not wear some of the cute tank tops that I would see friends wearing in the summer. Being bigger meant if I wore something a bit tight, I would get comments, ogled at, pointed at and yes, called names. So I became very self conscious over it, covering myself up with baggy clothes and turtle necks. I always said I would love to get rid of them. Well,  I did get rid of them. Completely. Maybe they were pissed off at me for not showing them much love over the years, I don’t know. But I have a new set and quite honestly, I really like them! Out with the old, in with the new. I don’t have to go for mammograms any more and that is huge. The first time I went for one after this all happened, I had hot flashes, felt like I could not breathe and was having major heart palpitations. PTSD. I get it any time I go to a doctor now, but to get the mammo again was pure agony for me.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Women need to be aware and check themselves along with the mammos. I found mine myself, because I had that little mom-voice in my ear telling me to always do a self-exam. But I feel that this month should not be just for talking about breast cancer. If you are one of those folks that just does not go to a doctor, you need to start. Get the dreaded tests, as crappy as they are, that come with age. If you think something is off, your gut will usually tell you what to do. Mine did.

Along with this month comes a lot of pink stuff. Friends of mine that have gone through cancer have mixed emotions on this. Some do the walks waving pink survivor flags wearing pink from head to toe, while others call it “stinktober”. I don’t participate in all of the pink activities but I am not against them. I just wish there was more awareness about other forms of cancer, more focus on metastatic cancer, and focus on rare illnesses that don’t really get any attention. I don’t walk around in a pink haze. I don’t go out and do the events. And pink is my least favorite color. But I am writing about it. And if that helps just one person, I’ve accomplished something.

Of course, I have to end my blog with something Duran related (because that’s what I do). So in honor of this month, here is a song called Sekret Oktober. I am going to make you non-Duranies fans, you will see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinary is wonderful

What has happened to it all?
Crazy, some are saying
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away

But I won’t cry for yesterday
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive…

Ordinary World

Duran Duran

 

I’ve been going back through my Caring Bridge journal entries to get material for this writing project.  As I sit here, I know this happened to me but as I read some of the posts, it kind of feels like I’m reading someone else’s story. Although I just had my second surgery to put myself back together and still have doctor appointments every 3 months with the Oncologist, it all seems surreal. I think sometimes that I was keeping a stiff upper lip during it all and not letting it get the best of me, though at times I was scared shitless. But for the most part, I was strong. Stronger than I ever thought I’d be.

One thing that happens when you have cancer is you immediately miss your boring and uneventful life. You miss being a normal person– that is gone and now you are classified as someone with cancer. You are someone with a disability. And you never thought it would be you.

You miss the everyday routine things like lying in bed at night watching TV and laughing at an old episode of “King of Queens” before going to sleep. You miss bad traffic in the morning. You actually miss going to work, even if it’s a job you hate. You are jealous when you see others  laughing and happy, because you are not. You miss the days when you complained about stupid stuff like endless laundry and kids shoes scattered all over the house.

I bought my kids their Valentines early, before any of this happened. I was at Target one day in early January and saw the candy, cards and plush on the shelves, thinking it was too early (I mean, Christmas was barely over), but I decided to get some things anyway since I was feeling festive. I put it away in hiding, having no idea what would change in my life between then and Valentines Day. It’s funny how you just assume in a few weeks, nothing will be different and you will just be celebrating a holiday with your kids like every other year. Here I was be-bopping along with my life, doing things like picking out candy and running to the post office.  All while I had cancer growing inside of me, trying to kill me.

Trying to keep normalcy about everything, I helped the kids make their Valentine boxes for school and took them to the movies to see The Lego Movie. The song “Everything is Awesome” played over and over and that was all I could hear, I couldn’t even focus on the movie. How could everything be so freaking awesome when my life was such complete shit? Ironic.

This post is from the beginning of the cancer chapter of my story. I guess finding the humor in these things is the only way to go.

Journal entry by Kelly Dobrowolski — 2/17/2014

 

Well I went for my Pet Scan today. For those of you that are not familiar, it basically shows if this nasty Cancer is anywhere else in my body. Nerve wracking to say the least. Waiting for these results has me a bit anxious, but I have to think happy thoughts. I was cranky when I went in because I hadn’t eaten since 7 am and they delayed my appointment because they were running behind. So I was famished and caffeine deprived, and then given a huge container of banana “smoothie” liquid chalk to drink. UGH. The only highlight was that they put me in a private room with a comfy recliner, dim lights and a TV while I waited for my turn. I almost fell asleep it was so peaceful. Getting the test is kind of strange–they fasten your head so you don’t turn it and your hands are fastened to the table. Kind of felt like I was the subject of some sci-fi experiment.

When I went to pick up my kids, my mother in law had a big steaming bowl of pasta and a salad waiting for me, and boy did I eat! I think that’s the most I’ve had since I got this news.

So there are a few things that have happened so far that I just think are entertaining. I will share.

The report from the mammogram I had on February 5 states the following:

Findings were discussed with the patient in detail. The patient wishes to have this biopsy performed as soon as possible, however, did not want to have it performed today as she wanted to sleep with her husband.

FUNNY. What I said is that I wanted to talk to my husband, so not sure how that got mixed up. My mom says we can fix it, but I don’t know, I kind of like it the way it is. It is something that would happen to only me. And it made Michael and I laugh.

Right after I found out (he didn’t know anything at the time) my son Luke was whining about his runny nose, yelling that he hates being sick and it isn’t fair. Then he stomped out of the room yelling “I wish being sick was never invented.” True that.

Two “Happy New Year” balloons I bought the kids are still floating in the kitchen. I thought about going all crazy and stabbing them both with a kitchen knife, but I decided to let them float. The way I look at it is this may not be the best year of my life, but I have confidence that it will turn out happy in the end.

When you are going through cancer, or anything else traumatic, you don’t think you will ever see normal again when you are in it. But as I sit here, I am watching TV and laughing, annoyed at the kids shoes that are not put away.

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDLiVwpv89s