Who’s Counting

Seven.

The amount of surgeries I’ve had within the last year. Approximately $750,000 in treatments, surgeries and medications.

Over 100 appointments since last June.

I’ve been completely without hair. No eyebrows, no eye lashes, no nose hair (I went through my body weight in tissues. Daily), no leg hair….

I’ve lost feeling in my feet and fingertips from chemo, I’m in medical menopause and I have no lymph nodes on my right side from my neck to my hip.

My scars are gnarly. So damn ugly.

My lungs will never be the same from radiation. Neither will my skin. My port scar is awful. I can still tell where it attached and entered my jugular AND my heart. There is a large scoop of muscle and tissue gone where it sat proudly next to my breasts that USED to be there.

In 5 days I’ll have the last of my surgeries from cancer ( fingers crossed). It’ll be my eighth time being put under general anesthesia in 15 months. I’m not taking any time off of work and I’m planning to be back to regular workouts by Monday-ish.

The thing is, I was diagnosed with stage III cancer. Stage. III. One more factor and it would have been no chance of surviving and completely eliminating cancer. I still have a 28% chance of dying within 5 years from cancer. Probably in my lungs or liver, maybe my brain. All of these things I’ve been told by my doctor or his representative. All of these things might happen.

Today I choose to kick ass at the gym, pop wheelies on the lawn mower and smile every chance I get. I don’t care about my statistics most of the time. I don’t usually count how many surgeries I’ve had or symptoms I woke up with. I’ll either live or I’ll die.

Friday is surgery day. My dad will come make sure the littles are safe off the bus and I’m sure Mom will send goodies or a meal. My bro will make fun of me for not getting my steps in for the day (so old), but I hope to make it out as the best version of myself.

Whether I get hit by a bus or die on the spin bike at the gym from exhaustion, it’ll happen. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I know that I have today.

Past surgeries in pictures:

One More Plea

Every night I pray. For my family, health and for discipline. For the people I love that I can’t be with (oh, my heart aches with missing my Kaylabelle), but the last few nights I’ve been praying for all the women who did what I did, but didn’t have the same results. The women who are forced into a sisterhood that they didn’t ask for.

You are so brave ❤️

Please check your body. Every. Single. Month. The cancer may be gone, but I’m just starting to heal.

Who’s body is this anyway?

It’s been almost 4 months since reconstruction surgery. Before that, I went 6 months without breasts and nearly a year with cancer treatments. Let me tell you something, that $hit will change your life.

I’ve been in a funk of sorts lately. I’ve always been incredibly self-conscious, but never to this extent. I find myself electing to stay-in, or only choose to go to events where I will be with people I know in a familiar setting. I spend the majority of free time at the gym or with yoga (wowza, I’m getting strong and stretchy). My family has been so accommodating. I can’t imagine how hard this has been for them.

My body has been through the ringer in just over a year. So many surgeries and treatments I can hardly keep track. I’ve been sliced and diced, some things removed, some added, some just relocated? I feel like my confidence is reflected in the way my body now looks. With all of the outward scars matching what my brain feels. I’m still numb on my right side where all the lymph nodes were removed, but it’s totally doable. It starts at my shoulder and goes all the way to my newest incisions at my stomach. That area is still numb, too.

I’ve been challenging myself lately with what beauty really means to me. How is it measured? I’m an educated woman with an open mind. Is that beauty enough? Is it simply just what you’re born with? Can I work to change the way I look to be perceived as beautiful? Is there a softness or symmetry that is missing that would “look” better? Does any of that even matter?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t put that much stock into outward appearance. Really, very little at all, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t matter. I notice that people pay attention a whole lot more to the woman that doesn’t look sick anymore. Just recently, I recognized a man smiling and paying attention (to me? I literally looked around the room to see who he was looking at 😏) but if you know me at all, I just get really uncomfortable, smile back and slink away. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than unwanted attention. Especially if I don’t know why.

Counting down the days until surgery. For the first time ever, I’m looking forward to this one.

Here are a few photos before, during and after cancer…

“Please, Don’t Forget me When I’m Gone”

Music. I find so much therapy through music. Listening to it, playing instruments, dancing to it, singing it (usually at the top of my lungs), writing it… I love it all. It’s something I’m really good at. It feels nice to say that. Little known fact… I had earned a scholarship to college by playing my trumpet. Of course, as a young adult, I declined that scholarship to that particular college (so dumb) because I wanted other things (again, so. dumb). Music.

When I was young, concerts were a priority. A weekly adventure. It didn’t always matter who was performing. It could be theatre or concerts, the ballet or jam sessions. Even drum line was amazing.

I measure so many of life’s milestones with music. I remember the song I was listening to when my car was all packed up and ready to leave my small town. I had hours and hours of music playing throughout each of my NATURAL childbirths, but very intentional music for the time to work through labor. I remember the music played at my grandmother’s funeral when I was a little girl and how I cry every time I hear it.

I think through my day with a soundtrack in my mind. When I hear phrases I’ll pick a song with a similar line and make reference or if I’m around my children, belt it out at the top of my lungs (with jazz hands 🤗). I sing to wake them up, too, usually “seeing” my Sunday School music teacher holding up the big tack boards with the lyrics. They get to “Rise and shine and👏 give God the glory, glory”.

It gives me so much happiness to sing and dance around while doing laundry or working in the kitchen. I remember when my littles were much more little and I could say “dance party!” anytime and they would drop what they were doing and we would all shake our butts right then. Singing and dancing away….

When I was sick, I had many conversations with Brad about what would happen when I was gone (um, dead). Things like what I wanted the kids to remember and how to remind them of me. I was so scared that they would forget about me after a couple of years. Or that they will go days without thinking of me. Who was going to play that really old music really loud when dropping them off in middle school and honking the horn? Who will take them to their first concerts? Who will sing in the car with them when our favorite songs are on? Who will teach them the love of music?

Me.

I will.

Kayla and her mom at her first concert.

Lyrics in title belong to the band that gave me my first high school soundtrack and my first great love. The one, the only, Gear Daddies