Posted in fearless

BEING THE BREAK

After a long day at work, I stopped to get some takeout. As I was walking in, I was approached by a young black man, who asked me for money.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me.  I get approached quite often, and most of the time the person has an outlandish story about why they need the money.

When I looked into this kid’s eyes, however, he seemed genuine enough.  He did not set off any of my “creep-o-meters” or “danger, danger,” feelings.  Believe me, in many situations like this, regardless of race or gender, I feel like I should walk away because my instincts tell me to do so.

The young man was calm and polite, so I paused to listen.  He held out his hands and showed me his paycheck.

“See, I work. I’m trying so hard.  I have a roommate and we both just got jobs last week. I’m working at Jamba Juice by the mall. I am now $20 short and I need to get a cashier’s check to pay my rent by tomorrow.”

I told him I was sorry, I didn’t have any cash and went in to order my food.  While I was sitting there, I remembered that I had been paid with a $20 bill earlier that afternoon.  When my food was ready, I went back out to the car and I saw the young man asking someone else for help.  The person was so rude to him I wanted to cry.

I got in my car and motioned him over.  I told him I remembered I had some cash on me.  I pulled out the $20 and gave it to him.  I thought he was going to cry, but instead he reached in the window to hug me.   He told me that he had just moved to Houston to get away from his parents who were both on drugs.  He was trying to raise himself up and he was confident he would get a second job soon and then he’d be ok.  He just needed a break.  This break.

One of the clerks at the restaurant came out to see if I was ok and I heard him say, “soliciting.”

The kid’s face fell.  “Please, don’t come at me like that…this…this is my aunt.”

I gave the clerk the thumbs up and said, “Everything’s ok here.”

I mean, yes, I am a regular there and yes, a man did dive in my window so I understand why the clerk came outside.  He was not rude in any way, either, but the clerk looked at me like, sure, this kid is your nephew.

I looked at him as he was backing away and said,   “I’m proud of you!”

The kid smiled so big and he looked at the clerk. “See, that’s my aunt!”

I really am proud of him.  I hope he makes it.

Posted in breast cancer, fearless, tamoxifen

DEAR TAMOXIFEN, IT’S NOT ME – IT’S DEFINITELY YOU

I’ve been off the Tamoxifen for a week now and I’ve already seen improvement.  The joint pain has lessened, and today I did a series of stretches that felt so good.  I will see how I feel tomorrow.  Lately when I’ve tried moving around quite a bit I hurt like hell the next day. I’m hopeful that trend is about to end.

Tuesday, I was hungry. Not ravenous, but the feeling that I hadn’t eaten in a while was present.  My weight doctor wants me to eat more calories in a day and quite honestly, I just haven’t felt like eating at all.  Maybe I will now.

I’ve actually slept a bit better, my brain is firing better, and feel less foggy. I am looking forward to getting back to more photography and writing, both of which are satisfying and fun for me.

I had a physical on Friday and my blood pressure was perfect, and she said I was in good health for the most part.  She could see something was different and I told her I was no longer taking Tamoxifen. At first, she was surprised, but she calmly asked me why, she listened, and she suggested before I make a clean break to get a second opinion.  She also warned me that my oncologist would be angry and upset.

I fully expect my oncologist to be angry and upset, but I am resolute. I already feel so much better that I can’t imagine willingly taking a carcinogen daily again.  I can imagine by my appointment in October that I will feel so much better that I will have a hard time taking her anger seriously.

I have reached out on several support groups/forums and I am getting quite a bit of support.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not alone, I’m not insane for taking back control of my body.

Oh, my dear Tamoxifen, this breakup is going better than I thought – and it’s you, it’s definitely you.

Posted in breast cancer

NATIONAL CANCER SURVIVORS DAY

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day!

In April, I had another mammogram, another “clear” mammogram, which declared me cancer free for the fourth year in a row.  I do not, and will never, take negative results from a mammogram for granted.

I find it difficult to balance my gratefulness to still be a living, breathing member of the human race, and the sadness, and if I’m honest, guilt, that I feel for still being a living, breathing member of the human race when so many cancer warriors don’t get the opportunity.  Even before I had cancer myself, I lost family and friends to cancer, and even now, through every diagnosis someone receives, and some losses and funerals of people way too young to not be living, breathing members of the human race.

The renewed life I’ve been granted is not without its challenges.  I still loathe Tamoxifen and all the things it does to my body while preventing cancer’s return.  I’m disappointed in all the doctors that refuse to acknowledge the side effects I’m having and trying to deal with outside of the medical world – their only concern is that I’m alive, not with the quality of my life.  That does not mean I am not allowing Tamoxifen to rule my life, it only means that I’m living with Tamoxifen and dealing with the side effects on my own.

The biggest problem I’ve had is joint pain and the need to detox my body constantly.  I’ve also stopped losing weight and have gained 10 pounds back from the original 50 I lost – something that my weight loss doctor would like to crucify me for. I wholeheartedly disagree with him on all points because I am doing everything I’m supposed to be doing within my ability right now. He refuses to acknowledge any part of my life or the things I am doing outside of his office.  He also tries to act as if he’s an expert on cancer survivors and all the meds I’m on that clearly state weight gain is an issue.   I’d like to slap him because he is overweight, but he can be happy about it, yet I cannot be happy that I’ve kept off 40 pounds for two years.  His reverse psycho-sorcery doesn’t work on me and I know it frustrates him. I’m frustrated enough for the both of us.

Since I’ve been detoxing more often, I’m sleeping better, but still not that nourishing sleep I crave. That doesn’t help with the weight loss either. I’m caught in this cause and effect loop that I can’t seem to break, but mark my words, even if it takes YEARS, I will break it.

The one thing I’d like to remind people who haven’t had to deal with chronic illness, pain, fatigue or cancer, is that a cancer survivor’s life never really goes back to “normal” or back to the way their life was before cancer.  Life cannot exist as it was before – either physically, mentally, or emotionally.  All of our experiences are different – but our common bond is, that though life has been altered forever, we are still living it in our own way, on our new timetable, with our life’s new boundaries.

The best way to honor a cancer survivor is to understand, as much as you can, their new reality and allow them to live it as best they know how.  Support them as they try to figure out what works for them so they can live their lives as fully as possible. Acknowledge to yourself that they can no longer live life on your terms or the terms you were comfortable with. It’s not about you.

Hug your cancer survivor today. Remind them that you are so glad they are still with you. Allow them to celebrate however they choose – solemnly, excitedly, prayerfully, boisterously, or with a nap.

Posted in fearless

THE YEAR OF FEARLESS

Tomorrow is no different than today as it relates to goal-setting and self-promise making. Still, each year, people chose this day to make huge (and often unobtainable) changes in their lives. From losing weight, saving money, finding love, and a host of other well-intended resolutions, people hope that the coming year will be “their” year to accomplish all these things and to finally reach the pinnacle of their self-imagined happiness.

I set some goals last year and limited the amount so as not to go insane in the pursuit of reaching them.  I did better than I ever have. I also did something that, for me, was a life-changer.  I changed my “life word.”

Up until the end of 2013, My life word had been, “hope.”  Hope is a fine word. It still applies in my life. To me, however, hope implies waiting, not action.  Hope was about waiting for life to come to me, and I was still hoping.

For 2014, I chose the word, “fearless,” as my life word.  I started out the year with the best “Suckuary” I’d had since Suckuary began in 2001, mostly in part to a life-changing song by Pharrell Williams called, “Happy” and my determination to reclaim January as part of my life. For the most part, it worked.

I kept the momentum going after a promotion in March and a trip with my BFF to Maui. Most of that came about because I would look at a pile of obstacle to things I wanted or wanted to do and say to myself, “WHY NOT?” Then I’d go do it.

In May, I became a certified Lead Auditor for ISO 9001. That may not seem like such a big deal but I had to go to Philadelphia to train and take an EXAM (I really haven’t done that since 1991). Still, I attacked that test fearlessly. I had nothing to lose except pride. I trusted my instincts. AND I PASSED.

Then I spent the next six months traveling 25,000 air miles for work. I questioned whether I had the stamina for all the travel, but I managed and I had some great experiences, especially when I was traveling by myself. I was fearless and I embraced my new reality.

I could list so many things of how living fearlessly has changed my life. I am more outgoing, I’ve had wonderful new experiences and met some great new people. I enjoy my job so much more than I ever could have imagined, because every day I approach it fearlessly.

I am grateful for all these new opportunities that I didn’t hope for, but chased down.  The Year of Fearless changed my life, so, with that in mind, I’m going round 2 with “fearless,” in 2015.

You haven’t seen anything yet!