The Unwelcome Journey…

Okay, so I’m welcoming myself to the world of blogging, for a bunch of reasons.  I’ve been on a “journey” for a while (I’ve always hated the word–it feels so cliche).   I’m a mom living with metastatic cancer trying to do all the “mom” stuff with this shadow on my shoulder reminding me about my mortality.  It became apparent over the last few months the feelings that I’ve been struggling to identify are those of purpose–searching for it.  I have my beautiful children who are such a source of purpose in my life.  But I want a little more. Enter my new blog.

Although I’ve been in the workforce since age 15, I’ve recently found myself unable to continue at my job outside the home.  Sad in a way, but admittedly loving all the perks of a stay-at-home.

So here’s the scoop: I’m approaching a milestone in #cancerland of 5 years post diagnosis.  A lot has happened over those 60 months.  It finally feels like it’s time to for me to talk/write about it and in doing so, treat myself to a little catharsis and maybe help someone else out there grappling with it all too.  It’s been 5 years to the month since I sat in a room with my brother and sister staring with disbelief at a doctor who just continued to apologize for having to present me with life altering news: you have cancer and need to undergo chemotherapy.  He handed me a pamphlet on breast cancer and sent us on our way.  It took about 8 minutes of shock before my siblings and I started making jokes.  Typical.

I’m a 40 year old single mom who in the Spring of 2013 was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, one of the biggest cancer bullies out there.  I started chemo (all the good ones like Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Taxol).  That was followed by a mastectomy, radiation and then a hormonal treatment plan which carried me for 10 months.  Then metastatic became a new word in my vocabulary.  I had a port placed in my chest in order to administer chemotherapy.  It got infected and had to be removed, awesome.  So I had a PICC line for treatment.  I lost my hair.  My body changed.  Those first months and years were a lonely existence.  I didn’t know what to do except keep turning the calendar pages.  I was in a sort of cancer daze—trying to work at my job, deal with an unrelenting ex, take care of my kids and gain perspective every day on what really matters.  Helloooo, pressure.

So with all that, I know a few things for sure: no one has a squad of the best family and friends like I do.  I can’t help finding the funny in just about everything.  And as a girl from central Pennsylvania with a degree in journalism, writing has always been a go-to for me.  So here’s hoping I can find my way in this new endeavor.  TIA for all the support.


Tell us a story

“Hey mom, tell us a story…”

These are words I hear from my 11 year old daughter and 7 year old son several times a week. They never tire of hearing tales about my sister’s hilarious sleepwalking antics when she was a little girl. Or of the time my brother cranked the family car into gear and “drove” it into a street sign. They laugh every time as if they were hearing the stories for the first time. They can’t get enough of hearing about their family and all the mischief we got into and the stuff we pulled when we were kids.

For me though, it’s the giggles I can’t get enough of. I want to bottle that sound up so I can hear it anytime. Because for a 40 year old single mother with metastatic breast cancer, it’s unlikely I’m going to be around to soak up enough of those guffaws that a lifetimes deserves.

Thankfully, I’m in an area of stability with my illness. I’m on the part of the cancer ride where people say “but you don’t look sick.” I don’t wear a wig—despite chemo treatments every few weeks. I’m not frail. I’m not burned from radiation.

But the truth is: I’m nauseas and tired the week of treatment. I had to leave my job because I couldn’t keep up. I deliberately go hard on the weekend knowing that Monday and Tuesday will be spent under my covers. My stamina is low. My body keeps betraying me.

I basically operate on energy reserve. It’s a give and take between family gatherings, birthday parties, field trips, basketball games, dance recitals and then daily living. It is laundry, packing lunches, grocery shopping, cooking…attempting to keep the process as “normal” as possible for all of us. Cancer mom is our reality. I wish it wasn’t. But it is.

Some days are pretty haunting when that thought of not being here for my kids creeps up and I don’t have the energy to chase it away. So I let it stay. Those are the empty days—except for the tears.

But I’m determined not to dwell for too long on those days. The kids keep it so real for me, forcing me to live in the moment with them. It’s like we’re filming our own home movie. It’s woven with laughter and all the stories that I’m determined to tell again and again.

They don’t know it, but we’re counting on each other to preserve those memories in a sort of soundtrack of life that they can replay anytime. Today’s memories are their tomorrow’s stories.

So as long as you ask darlings, I will continue to tell. And I’ll hold so tightly onto the giggles.