You Just Never Know…

21 Oct

I know that everyone who knows me knows this story, but it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month… and it’s a happy story… so why not tell it again!

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You just never know what’s around life’s corner…

In June of 2010, I was busy being a wife and mother when I was given news that would change my world as I knew it. I was blindsided by a second breast cancer diagnosis. (The first diagnosis was 14 years earlier.) Thankfully, both were caught early (stage 2 in 1996; stage 1 in 2010) by my being diligent and having yearly checkups and mammograms.

Since this was my second diagnosis, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have a double mastectomy. I had a young son and a husband (who needed me!), so I was going to do everything in my power to not have this happen again. That would mean surgery, chemotherapy, Herceptin, and 5 years taking the drug Arimidex.

But my cancer story would take on an interesting and amazing twist.

While I was in the hospital, my husband read about a documentary feature film project called Life In A Day. Producers were asking people from all over the world to film their day on July 24, 2010 and send in their footage. This was an experimental documentary time capsule directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) and produced by Ridley Scott documenting one day on Earth.

July 24th, “filming day,” happened to be the day I came home from the hospital following the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. My husband Bob was hesitant about participating in the film project, but I reassured him that I was fine with documenting our personal day. I thought it sounded like an incredible project and right up his alley. (He’s a Video Editor/Producer). We thought it would be a great family project and something positive to focus on that day.

Neither of us realized at the time though, the positive impact it would have on our family. Our footage was chosen to be a central storyline in the film! We were flown to the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere, to Berlin Germany for the Berlinale Film Festival, and to London for the European premiere. Considering that we’d never been out of the country (and our son Bobby hadn’t been anywhere besides Wisconsin), it was beyond amazing for us to now be world travelers (and in a movie!)

During our film tour, we met many people who were impacted by our story of a family dealing with cancer. Many women approached us to thank us for sharing our story and they shared their cancer stories with us. The message of the movie was further evident to us when talking with families all over the world: Everyday, we all share common bonds as human beings no matter where we live on this amazing planet.

Looking back at this time in my life, some very important life lessons come shining through for me:

1) Take care of yourself by having annual checkups and mammograms. It can save your life and is as easy as scheduling an appointment. I never skipped a yearly checkup and I get chills thinking of the “what if’s”…

  • What if I didn’t have a breast exam in 1996 because I was only 37?
  • What if I had decided not to see the surgeon after the doctor felt my lump and said “I’m not worried, but I’d like you to see a surgeon.”
  • What if I had decided to skip my yearly mammogram in 2010 because I had been cancer free for 14 years
  • and what if I was just too busy being a mother?

2) Be your own advocate. If you think something doesn’t feel right or if you’re not happy with your doctor’s advice, seek out a second opinion. Go with your gut feeling because it’s telling you something important. I was blessed with incredible pro-active doctors but that’s not always the case. I’ve sat next to people during my chemotherapy treatments and listened to some heartbreaking stories in which people wish they had done just that. Listen to your heart and take action.

3) There is always a silver lining. Don’t let adversity stop you from living life to the fullest. We could have decided not to film our day, but we didn’t. We decided to keep living our lives by saying “yes,” and in return, our lives were enriched and immortalized by this incredible experience. Not only did it give us amazing memories of a lifetime, but it brought our family closer. And on a larger scale, we formed bonds with human beings all over the world—and had the time of our lives doing it!

I am a cancer survivor. I traveled the world, met amazing people and walked a red carpet with my family at my side. When I heard the word cancer again in June 2010, I could have never imagined the positive things that were ahead of me… but isn’t that the amazing thing about life?

You just never know what’s around life’s corner!

January 2011

January 2011

October 2013

Hey Hey, Holy Cow! It’s Our Home Opener…

8 Apr

April 8, 2013

Time to bust out your uniforms…

Dust off your good luck tchotchkes…

And cut a rug…

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… because this is the year!

I Hope…

25 Jan

January 25, 2013

In my last post, less than 2 weeks ago, I said I would be very happy to not talk about cancer… so I’m not going to talk about cancer.

Instead, I’ve chosen to talk about hope because hope is positive and optimistic. Hope keeps you going when times get tough. Hope keeps you dreaming. Hope looks forward to a happy tomorrow, even if today isn’t so happy. Hope is believing and trusting. Hope is one of those things in life you cannot do without. I’d rather talk about hope than cancer.

There’s the kind of hope you use in your everyday life…

I hope I get a good parking spot…

I hope that sweater is still on sale…

I hope I remembered to set my DVR…

And then there’s the kind of hope and longing that fills your entire heart and soul.

I’ve known that kind of hope all too well. First with my own diagnosis, then with my father, and now for my cousin Jenny and her husband (my cousin-in-law) Charlie. Just a short while ago we found out that Charlie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was one of those sucker punches that came from nowhere. One day you’re celebrating Christmas, then you turn around and you’re dealing with cancer.

We’ll never understand why these things have to happen so the best we can do is to hold on to hope, and to give hope in whatever way we can. I sent Li’l Charlie, my superhero of Hope, off to Charlie and Jenny to watch over them and to remind them that we believe in them and that we believe in the power of hope.

Li’l Charlie

Complete with a purple ribbon heart!

Jenny has been writing about their journey on their Caring Bridge website and I wanted to share the site because the more positive, good thoughts heading their way, the better.

Real Charlie

I recently came across a sweet quote…

“Hope is knowing that people, like kites, are made to be lifted up”

Charlie, as you begin your treatments next week, our hope is that you and Jenny will continue to feel loved and lifted by all those around you.

Please know that your aunt, uncle, cousins, and cousins-in-law are sending our love to you!

A New Year and a New Direction…

13 Jan

January 13, 2013

It’s been 2 months since my last post about my dad’s fantastic news. We had a wonderful holiday season with so much to be happy and grateful for. Topping that list of course is that my dad has continued to receive positive news from his doctors and he feels stronger and healthier every day. Look at him…

Doesn’t he look amazing? (and my mom too of course!)  To look like he does after all he went through–and at age 80–is absolutely incredible.

So it’s January 2013 and I’d like very much not to write about cancer. Happily, my blog needs a new direction and until I figure something out, I suppose I’ll do what I did back in 2009. I’ll post pictures of the dolls I’m making…

And the food we’re eating…

And feel grateful that I can take a blog break from cancer.

Here’s to a very happy and healthy New Year!

Short and Sweet…!

14 Nov

November 14, 2012

Yep, it’s WONDERFUL news!  My dad is CANCER-FREE!!!

Just as I was texting my sister to see if she had heard anything, my phone rang. At 3:28 my world stood still… until I heard his voice. Even before he said it, I knew the news was good just by the tone of his voice.

And when we hung up, I let myself cry. The good kind of cry though. There’s nothing like a good happy cry!

And I let myself listen to the Christmas music station. (I know mom, it’s not Thanksgiving yet but it was just a song or maybe two!)

And now I’m drinking a glass of wine…

And homework? Who cares about homework…

And I’m really happy!

And yes dad….

IT TURNED OUT OKAY…!

With a little help from our friends of course…

I must say, we have quite a few angels up in heaven and here on earth who have been with us these past few months. Thank you for all your prayers and good thoughts. It means so much and we are forever grateful.

Dad, I hope you’re enjoying a good dinner and have a good night’s sleep.  You SO deserve it!

I love you so much!

Waiting…

14 Nov

Wednesday, November 1410:30am

Waiting is the hardest thing to do.

When you’ve done everything you can and there is nothing left to do but wait, it’s absolutely the hardest thing in the world. Today my dad is having the scope that will tell us that he is cancer-free.

I feel numb. Void of emotions. I’m on auto pilot. It’s a very familiar feeling for me, as it’s how I survived between the time I was diagnosed with cancer and the day I had surgery.

I remember feeling normal as I went on with life as usual after my diagnosis. I scheduled appointments and saw doctors. We went swimming, had cook-outs, laughed, and drank wine. We went for bike rides, walks, and even took a 4-day trip to the Wisconsin Dells.

I began to make arrangements for when I’d be away. I made play dates for Bobby. I cleaned the house, washed clothes, stocked the kitchen. I made sure that phone numbers, directions, and instructions were all available to whoever might need them. I had to know that everything would keep running while I was away because if I didn’t do all of those things, everything would fall apart. Or so my mind kept telling me.

My mind kept itself busy with the logistics, the plans, the checklist… always the checklist. I didn’t really start crying until the surgeon began drawing all over my back. Drawing where he was going to cut. Then the tears started… and they didn’t stop for quite a while.

I feel that way today. I woke up and thought, “Good, it’s Wednesday. It’s finally Wednesday.” I got Bobby off to school, I made coffee, I’m writing this blog and thinking back to 2 years ago. I’m thinking of what homework will need to get done tonight, who was eliminated on Dancing With The Stars, what I have to pick up at the store. So much to think about…

Or so my mind keeps telling me.

But once I peel away the layers that my mind is working so hard to bury is the thought of my dad’s scope. Waiting to hear the words that we so desperately need to hear. The words that he’s okay.

Waiting is the hardest thing to do…

And we’ll know soon.

Sweet October…

28 Oct

October 28, 2012

What a mixed bag of emotions this October has been…

The month began with the sweetest surprise, both literally and figuratively. Bobby’s good friend Jacob surprised me with this adorable cake…

Not only did he make the cake from scratch, but he designed it all on his own. Using a pattern he made himself, he cut the cake into a ribbon shape (no ribbon shaped cake pan for this baker), rolled out fondant, made the frosting and the cake…everything from scratch. It was beautiful, and probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. Bobby obviously agreed…

I see a future Food Network star here… and future CEO of  Jake’s Cakes Inc. Thank you Jacob for this incredibly touching and tasty start to Breast Cancer Awareness month. You are a special guy with a special family, and we are so blessed to have you all in our lives.

Then the October issue of Lake County Magazine came out with an article about Hope and Fundraising. A few weeks earlier I had received a call from a writer who was doing a story on fundraising. We had a lovely conversation which resulted in a wonderful article that touched on my blog, ACS fundraising, my dolls, and our Life In A Day experience. We were so excited to see the magazine when we were out one night that I grabbed 8 copies. Bobby then told me that I should have left some for others to read. Hmmm, how did he become the voice of reason at age 9? Well, the article is below!

Cathy in LC Magazine

On October 21st, my team Cathy and Her 2 Bobs took to the pavement and walked in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event at Independence Grove. My sisters-in-law Diane and Jennifer, and nieces Kylee and Nicki (in spirit!) made the day so very special for me. They surprised me with our team sweatshirts…

Diane made the greatest team sign…

And of course, we had our traditional post-walk breakfast at Wildberry…

Along with hundreds of other people with the same idea.  But we waited it out HALTS and all…

And left HALT-less and happy.

Our close friends Jill, Robert, Laura, Nick, and CJ rounded out the team with the quote of the day going to 5-year old CJ when, after having walked long enough, he said “Mom, why are you making me do this?”

He doesn’t know it now but someday I hope he’ll know that he made his friend Bobby and Bobby’s mom very happy by being there that day!

And of course in my thoughts and prayers all the time is my dad. This has been a rough month for him. He’s been through hell and back but the blessing here is “back.” He’s on his way back.

The combination of chemo and radiation has been brutal. There is really no other way to describe it. It took a toll on him both physically and emotionally but even so, he was determined to keep going for his radiation treatments. The will he had to keep pushing through is none other than amazing, and a testament to the human spirit and my dad’s amazing strength.

He’s now 3 weeks out of treatments and feeling stronger day by day. Not by leaps and bounds but just little by little. And we’ll certainly take that.

The next milestone will be confirmation that the treatments did what they were intended to do. In my heart I know they did but we just have to hear the words from the doctor.

So yes, October was a mixed bag of emotions with many ups and downs. It was very tough and we felt very sad at times, but it was also very happy and we felt very grateful at times. Through it all though, we felt hopeful. We feel hopeful. Always hopeful.

And that’s a sweet way to end October…

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