Dream Creator

Dream Creator
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Just a small town Canadian dreamer... This started as the diary of a young woman's experience with breast cancer and continues 5 years later as the diary of a woman, like many other, who has decided to take her lemons and make lemonade. **If reading this blog for the purpose of learning about my breast cancer experience, PLEASE START AT THE OLDEST POST (October 2009) AND WORK YOUR WAY FORWARD**

Monday, August 16, 2010

"What are you going to do wih your life?"

The ultimate question that has been burning in my mind all year long.
"What am I going to do with my life?"
While I try to incorporate a little "live like there is no tomorrow" into my everyday life, one cannot obviously base everything on that. If I did, I wouldn't work at all, or do the dishes... I would only eat Dairy Queen Peanut Butter Cup blizzards and I would drink copius amounts of Coca Cola...or maybe margaritas...yah, margaritas for sure.
That is not reality.
Before I was diagnosed I wasn't happy with my life. For some of you who know me, this is a vicious circle I have been running around in for a while now. At first it was, I was a stylist and I wasn't happy in the salon, so I built my own salon in my house...then it was that I was sick of the intrusion in my home, so I bought a salon in a commercial space...then I realized I didn't like living in the city, so we moved to Nelson, then I thought I was sick of being self employed and wanted to be under a corporate wing, so I got a corporate job. Then when I was in my corporate job, I was miserable. Then I was diagnosed with cancer.
I know, I know, I sound like a hopeless cause, but I am not.
I know myself VERY well...I know my weaknesses, I know my flaws and I know my strengths.
I know what I like and I know what I don't.
I also know that I will not waste my life being anything but happy with what I am doing.
Even before the cancer I knew that life was too short to do something that you didn't love.
Especially when that "something" is a job that takes up 75% of your life!
I have spent the last year really digging deep within myself. I have privately explored many ideas. I haven't spoken much about these thoughts with others as I knew that until I was sure, I wouldn't really be sure. I knew I could change my mind at any point...
The security of my corporate job is a beautiful thing...benefits (thank the lord for them this year!) the consistent raises, nice!...but then there is the wretched hours, no weekends with my family...some evenings, limited time off, all of the rules...the extreme pressures put on me from the handful of bosses I have..not healthy.
The freedom of my trade (being self employed again) is tempting...being really good at something is priceless...making people happy is rewarding...more time with my kids and husband is great....but then there is the fact that when I am not at work I don't get paid, no vacation pay:(...and what if I get sick again, who is going to take care of me then??
I have juggled the idea of going back to school, of buying another business (YIKES!) and I have even thought about waiting tables like the old days...
In the end, I have to take a step back at the gigantic epiphany I had this year.
I need to acknowledge what feels good to me, what makes me smile. What I can pay the bills with, while still having a life and time with my family, and time to volunteer and give back to the world.
This, in the end, will be the right choice for me.
The answer is near...I can taste it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cancer and BRCA genes

A few weeks ago I was visiting my Mom and Dad in Calgary with the kids in tow.
One night as my six year old daughter and I lay in bed talking she asked me innocently,
"Mommy, do you think I am going to have cancer when I grow up?"
My heart broke, right then and there.
Funny thing, when I told my mom the next morning what she had said, I knew she too felt pain from this question.
My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in December '06', I was diagnosed December '09'.
I know the day I called my Mom with the news she felt the pain
My Mom and I were both tested for the BCRA genes.
With our family history of breast cancer, there is a bit of a "red flag".
If we test positive for either gene, it greatly increases the chance that other women in our family, including our kids, may have the gene and get breast cancer in their lifetime.
So when Lily asked me that night "Mommy, do you think I will have cancer when I grow up?"
All I could say was "I don't know sweetie, it's hard to know, all you can do is try to live as healthy as you can to try to keep cancer away."
I have explained to her before that exercise and certain foods can fight cancer and that certain things we invite into our life can encourage cancer, but it is a hard conversation to have with a child, because the last thing you want them thinking is that, IF they do get cancer one day, it is their fault. That is something I still struggle with, when I reach for a margarita or a piece of candy, or a bowl of KD.
The bottom line is that cancer affects us all, in one form or another. 50% of all men will get cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetime.
So I shouldn't feel guilt when my kids ask me about their chances...the chances for ANYONE are far too high.
I guess I am just mad that cancer came into our lives and planted "much too serious" thoughts into my daughter's mind. She should be laying in bed looking out at the moon thinking "Will I be a good mommy one day, or a famous dancer one day?" she most certainly should not be thinking about getting cancer.

(from the BCCA website)

-One woman in nine will develop breast cancer in her lifetime if she lives to age 80

-A woman's chance of getting breast cancer is:
    • age 30 - 39 . . . . 0.43 % (often shown as 1 in 233) * I wish my lottery odds were as good*
    • age 40 - 49 . . . . 1.44 % (often shown as 1 in 69)
    • age 50 - 59 . . . . 2.63 % (often shown as 1 in 38)
    • age 60 - 69 . . . . 3.65 % (often shown as 1 in 27)

-While rare, breast cancer can develop in males. For every 100-150 women who get breast cancer, one (1) man will get breast cancer. About 10 - 20 new cases of breast cancer in men are diagnosed each year in B.C

-Drinking alcohol is consistently associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. *BOO

-A woman who has a healthy body weight, exercises regularly and who drinks no or only modest amounts of alcohol has a lower risk for breast cancer. A BMI (body mass index) of 18.5 – 24.9 is recommended.

-The overall risk of getting breast cancer in your lifetime if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 abnormality is between 50% and 85%. But a BRCA1 abnormality tends to carry a slightly higher risk.

-A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Such a woman has an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (before menopause) and often has multiple, close family members who have been diagnosed with these diseases. Harmful BRCA1 mutations may also increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical, uterine, pancreatic, and colon cancer (1, 2). Harmful BRCA2 mutations may additionally increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, gallbladder and bile duct cancer, and melanoma (3).

-Men with harmful BRCA1 mutations also have an increased risk of breast cancer and, possibly, of pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, and early-onset prostate cancer. However, male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer appear to be more strongly associated with BRCA2 gene mutations

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Massage Miracles...

A while back I mentioned my fortunate part in a specialty massage class.
I was one of the recipients that the massage students got to practice on daily for a week.
That week just happened to be the week I arrived home from my major surgery.
I cannot tell you how this massage has helped my healing.
The instructor is extremely educated and taught massage for lymph drainage and incision massage to help speed up healing a fade scars.
Here are a few pictures of this beneficial experience!

This is a photo of my kids learning massage...this is before my surgery as you can tell by me laying on my belly...

...Don't worry, Be Happy for me.

I have always wanted a Mini Cooper.
But I have always been riddled with guilt about so strongly desiring a "material object".
As a mother, I have also always felt guilt buying MYSELF anything at all!
For some odd reason, I never felt worthy and I would always feel I should spend money on my kids or husband or home etc, etc...
As a mother you often put yourself last.

So when I decided I should reward myself with something I have always wanted, after completing treatment and surgery...I had some reservations.
I have followed numerous breast cancer blogs over the last year, and one thing was always the same....once the woman finished her treatment, she rewarded herself with something.
There's been Vespa's, Car's and Trips...
I thought early on this was a good idea, and kind of a motivator for me along the way..."Megan, if you just get thru this chemo, you can go on a nice trip....Megan, I know you're scared about this surgery, but keep your eye on the prize!"
I didn't know what my prize would be all along, but when our old van starting costing us too much and the km's got really high, I knew we needed a new vehicle and I thought..."Why not kill two birds with one stone!"

Last week, after much research and HUNTING, and I mean HUNTING for the best deal, I came home from Calgary with my reward.
And when I drive it and think about all of the things I went through this last year, you know what?
I don't feel guilty.

It's funny though, how people try to make you feel bad, it's funny how people can't just be happy for you. People judge and people analyze...and that's their own issue.
Ultimately it is no one's business but ours, and it puts a big fat smile on our faces,

So to any of you, who go through anything hard in your life...
just remember, life is truly TOO short to deprive yourself of realistic indulgences...
you never know when your time is going to be up, so REWARD yourself at the end of a struggle.
Hell! Reward yourself BEFORE the struggle!!
You deserve it!
Enjoy life!

I read somewhere once, there was a woman fighting cancer for years and thru this journey she was trying to be so healthy and eat so healthy to beat cancer, she deprived herself of the things she really loved...when she lost the battle, she layed on her death bead and on her last days, she said
"I should have just eaten the fried chicken!"
...it was her favorite...


Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's been over a month now since my surgery and I thought I would update everyone on how I am feeling over all since the chemo, cancer and surgery.
In general I have been feeling the best I have since this year began...
I have a little numbness left on my upper arms, breast area and part of my belly, I get a bit swollen in all of these places, but lately my belly has been swelling the most (with the heat of summer)
Everything is LOOKING great! My incisions are cleaning up nice and fading and the shape of my breast and belly are fantastic!
Overall I can't complain! I was finally able to lay on my belly for a few minutes this morning in bed (my favorite way to sleep!)
Getting up from laying or sitting us easier, but I am still a bit stiff and some positions are just akward.
Reaching my arms is a bit of a challenge still but vastly improving as well.
I must admit the surgery was a success and I don't regret it for a minute, it was a small price to pay for peace of mind and health.

One issue I have been dealing with that has been negatively affecting my life is my inability to cope with stressful situations (or control my emotions)
Early on in my journey I experienced so many enlightening moments that I felt as though I could conquer the world! I truly was able to see the important things in life and understood that I was always sweating the small stuff. I laughed at myself for having done so for so long.
Health was (and IS) the most important thing.
But since then, well, really, since the chemo (more specifically the steroids) I have been a bit of an emotional wreck. I cannot say for sure it is the steroids that caused this, or maybe it is "mental menopause" or maybe it is "frazzled nerves" from the trauma I faced over the last year...
Either way, I am struggling with my "coping" abilities.
When something stressful happens I often find myself having a complete panic attack or melt down. I cry A LOT!
It sucks because it affects my kids and my husband (well, everyone around me I guess). When thinking about stressful things I am ok, I am able to change my thoughts and calm myself. This I have mastered....it's just the times when I am caught off guard in certain situations, or when the stress piles up...that's when I break.
I am currently emailing with a psychologist about these issues and am hoping to resolve them soon....

The only other symptom still remaining to remind me of my cancer is the fatigue.
I find I tire out a lot quicker than I used to.
I find I have to listen to my body regularly and stop what I am doing to rest and recharge. This issue is very common as I have never spoken to someone "post treatment" and them say they didn't deal with fatigue. I know that this too will pass.

So that's about it. I just figured I would fill people in, as I have been getting a lot of emails from people wondering how I was doing.
The fact that I haven't been blogging as much means I am up, feeling good and having fun with my summer!!

I will post soon about my new baby...the 2005 Mini Cooper I just bought myself with my critical illness insurance money. I decided to reward myself for beating cancer. It just so happened we were needing a new vehicle and I have always wanted a Mini, and I know that life is too short sooooo......:)