Tag Archives: breast cancer

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

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…

Approaching My Two Year Anniversary…

9 May

May 9, 2012

Oh boy, I can’t believe I haven’t written since October. I’m sure my blogger’s license has been revoked by now, but I’m going to give this a whirl anyway.

It’s hard to believe that I’m approaching my 2-year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. Just recently I was going through a bin of “bits and bobs,” and came across my 2010 calendar…

June 21: Mammogram.

The day that would be the beginning of a journey that I had already traveled 14 years earlier. It gave me chills to actually see the words in black and white but it also made me realize that I don’t think about cancer very much anymore. Sure, there are days or moments when I go back in time, get scared, feel sad…but those days are few and far between. I know my cancer journey is never going to be over but it’s not a part of my daily life any longer. This journey has turned a corner.

So, what have I been doing these past 7 months since I’ve been away from this blog?

I’ve had 3 haircuts. It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was sporting (or should I say covering) this hairdo:

I started a part-time job for Hallmark. It’s been a good way for me to slowly get back into the working world, one greeting card at a time.

I got Shingles. Shouldn’t you be immune to getting things like Shingles, the flu, or colds when you’ve had cancer twice? Just doesn’t seem fair to me.

I’ve been making little Hope dolls…

(hey, a little privacy please. Can’t you see that we’re naked and bald?)

all dressed and ready to go to Advocate Good Shepherd hospital in Barrington for a show.

And most importantly, I’m just living life!

So as this anniversary approaches, what could be more fitting than to be at the Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Grayslake last month where I came upon this…

An engraved brick with the sweetest message was sitting along the walkway of the place where I first learned I had cancer again. The place where I felt warmth and compassion, the place that holds so many memories for me. What a perfect place for this little remembrance to be!

(To give you some background…when I was first diagnosed, Bob heard about a fundraiser for the new Cancer Center at the Grayslake facility. People had the opportunity to purchase a brick engraved with a personalized message for the garden area. As a surprise, Bob and Bobby donated money for a brick in my honor–but it took until just recently for the bricks to be placed.)

After donating the brick, Bob was interviewed for a story in the Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital magazine:

Bob Liginski wanted to do something for his wife Cathy. Although she beat breast cancer over 14 years ago, a recent mammogram at the Grayslake Campus showed that the disease was back.

“I wanted to give hope to future patients who walk into the center and get that kind of news,” Liginski says. “You could go into the garden, or spend time there while you’re waiting, and see the names of many survivors. We’ve been so happy with the facility and all of the doctors here. It wasn’t just a way to give hope–it was a way to say thank you.

Bobby Liginski, the couple’s seven-year-old son, gave his dad a dollar so that the brick would officially be a gift from him as well.

“It was a great way to teach him about money and the importance of giving back. Cathy was so surprised and happy. She can’t wait to see how it looks once it’s complete.”

And it’s finally complete. And I am happy!

Back in the Summer of 2010, I couldn’t imagine being where I am today, but here I am. I got through it. I’m cured. And I’m looking forward to celebrating my two-year anniversary…

as a very grateful wife, mother, and survivor!

Everyone Needs a Little Hope in Their Life!

13 Oct

October 14, 2011

And why is that?

Well, 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. Yes, hope is one of those things in life you cannot do without!

And Hope is the name of the little dolls I’ve been making this past few months. Li’l Hope …

These dolls are my way of giving back and being a part of the Pink Ribbon community that has given so much hope to so many women… hope for a cure, hope for a future. I’ve been so fortunate to have benefited from many of the advances that have been made in the fight against breast cancer and I want to contribute in my own way to this fight. All of the pink ribbon fabric used is fabric that gives back to various breast cancer research organizations through percentage of sales and when I sell a doll, I donate a percentage to breast cancer research as well.

Last October my treatments for breast cancer were just beginning and thankfully they’re all behind me now. It was a tough year but through it all I never gave up hope. And Li’l Hope, with her crazy hair, big smile, and pink ribbon skirt is a sweet and simple reminder for me to always keep that hope in my heart… to always keep dreaming and keep believing that it’s all going to be okay. That’s what her little face tells me when I look into those button eyes!  And you know what? I believe her!

Yep, everyone needs a little hope in their life!

 

Herceptin: A Piece of Cake

26 Aug

August 26, 2011

I just finished my very last Herceptin treatment–and 2 weeks early to boot. I guess I was sprung from the Big House early for good behavior! So now I’m officially on the maintenance plan (somewhat like Weight Watchers I guess.)

I didn’t realize until I walked out today (feeling very light-hearted) just how heavy these treatments were weighing on my mind. Even though I’ve been given an excellent prognosis and am considered cancer-free, walking into the doctor office every three weeks was still a constant reminder of cancer, and was quite unnerving.

Looking back at my post from last year on my first day of Herceptin (Herceptin: A Piece of Cake), I was feeling really sad. But today… not at all. I’m happy… I’m done… And I’m going to celebrate!

How am I going to celebrate?

With cake of course. A big piece of No-More-Herceptin cake…

Happy No-More-Herceptin Day to us!

Sweet Home Chicago!

30 Jul

June 29, 2011

Today Life In A Day officially premiered in theatres around the country! This little experiment that was supposed to live happily ever after on YouTube after its Sundance premiere has instead taken the world by storm. And how thrilling that we were able to travel with it from country to country–and then enjoy it right here in our hometown with our family and friends. We had a wonderful Life In A Day Chicago week…

The pre-screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown…

Reuniting with the brilliant, fun, and absolutely delightful Kevin Macdonald and Joe Walker again…

While back at the ranch, the air conditioning at our hotel wasn’t working…

Lunch the next day with Kevin and Joe at the Cheesecake Factory. When in the U.S., eat BIG. And that we did…

I don’t think Kevin or Joe ate again for a week.

On Sunday (July 24), we headed out to Rosemont with friends to see the special Anniversary showing at Rosemont 18…

It’s a real movie… right up there with Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter!

And if that wasn’t enough to keep our 15-minutes-of-fame clock ticking, we were asked to come to the NBC studios in Chicago to be interviewed for a segment on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams…

We didn’t end up on the cutting room floor either! Below is the segment that aired on Thursday night, along with an article in today’s Chicago Tribune…

NBC Nightly News – July 28, 2011

Chicago Tribune – July 29, 2011

So there it is. Life In A Day has come full circle for us. A little sad, yes… but the beauty of a circle is that it never really ends. Our Life In A Day journey will be with us forever!

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