Heartbreak

Last night I was mentally crafting a blog post about my grandmother in my head. Today I’m writing a different one instead.

In the last four days I’ve buried two sources of comfort and strength. Both loved unconditionally and were loyal to a fault. One was my Granny and the other just happened to be my dog.

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Our sweet Piper has been by my side for the last 12 1/2 years. I’d noticed last summer he started slowing down and he was given medicine for his arthritis. For the last 9 months we’ve tried to find the right combination that would keep his arthritis in check and his quality of life high. For a little while I thought we’d succeeded, but we couldn’t stop the snowball, no matter how hard I tried. Today we realized there was nothing more we could do for him in this life. His loyal little body was just too tired and hurting too much.

My heart is shattered into a thousand pieces. I know those pieces will eventually come back together, but there will always be two holes.

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Love. True Love.

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I lost my Granny today.

Actually, I lost her a couple years back when Alzheimer’s robbed her of her thoughts and memories. Today her physical body finally gave out and she’s gone on to her reward. I picture my sweet Pa waiting for her at the pearly gates with his arms open. I know she was ready and I thought I was ready to let her go. I’m so thankful for her love and support over the years. She is so much of the woman I am today.

I love you, Granny. Give Pa a kiss for me and tell my babies their momma loves them.

Best and Worst

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In the last (almost) five months since diagnosis, I’ve seen the absolute best in people. Our friends, neighbors, family, and church have been amazing and they have gone above and beyond in caring for us. I still get people checking in on me and at times it’s hard to admit that I’m not always fine. That I’m still dealing with the emotional turmoil that comes with having a doctor tell you that you have cancer and subsequently having your boobies cut off. Usually I smile and nod and say that I’m doing great. I mean, really, what am I supposed to say? The boobies thing? There’s just a whole lot of awkward and we all move on. Fabulous. Just knowing they took the time to ask is enough and usually brightens my day considerably.

Except for a few exceptions, the other kind of people are strangers. They don’t know what the past five months have entailed. They don’t know about Claude and I don’t really walk around playing the cancer card. When I get my tattoos, it’s not like I’m going to pick a giant pink awareness ribbon with survivor written on it. Across my face. What gets me is the assumptions and judgements that have come without me ever opening my mouth. I noticed it for the first time many weeks back, after my second surgery. I had gone to more of the stegosaurus look with my hair and was on my way to Mr. Dr. Plastic Surgeon’s for my follow up appointment. I still had my drains, so my clothing choices were limited to button up shirts. I wore a comfy flannel one, because it was cold and I am always cold for a week or so after surgery. I was waiting for the elevator when a lady came up next to me. As I started getting in an elevator, the one next to it opened up as well. My “friend” had already given me several up and down looks and decided to hurry to the other elevator instead. I didn’t think much about it, honestly, until I was sitting in the doctor’s office and in she walks. When she saw me, her face turned bright red and she averted her eyes. It took me a moment to realize that she was embarrassed and I couldn’t understand why. Then I realized she was embarrassed because she had gone out of her way to not get in an elevator with me. Seriously. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that someone had tried to avoid me based on appearance alone.

I started keeping my eyes (or at least the good one) and my ears open more and I’ve been shocked at the judgements people make about me without even knowing a full story. Really any of the story.  I wish I could say it doesn’t bother me, but it does. Little vanilla me has always been too afraid to do anything outside of the box. I finally get the guts to live my life to the fullest (stego hair included) and I realized all that I was missing. I thought I was compassionate to others in past, but now I cringe at the stupidity of my thoughts and actions. How could I ever feel like I was showing others the power of God’s love when I was too busy assessing how much better I was?  What’s worse is I didn’t realize it. My intentions were pure, but my heart was so full of judgement that it could have sunk faster than the Titanic.

I may not look like Susie Christian anymore and I’m not sure that God ever expected me to. God makes such a wide range of beautiful things and I firmly believe He loves me with stegosaurus hair. Let’s all do each other a favor and focus less on what other people are doing and more on loving and serving God with every ounce of our beings. We don’t know other’s story; only God does.

Buh-Bye Claude

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Last night was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I got to get dressed up in a gorgeous dress (it now beats out my wedding dress as my all time favorite) and hang out at a swanky club with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family. We drank champaign and celebrated that Claude is gone and I am cancer-free!

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In that awful time just after diagnosis and before surgery, Nathan and one of my best friends decided that when everything was said and done, we’d have a party to celebrate. For four months it’s been the finish line in my mind. Something tangible to look forward to. The attire was “vintage cocktail” and it was fun to see how people interpreted that. I used it as an excuse to wear a poofy skirt. I think I may live in my dress for the next month.

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The Standard is one of my very favorite places in Nashville and it made the night absolutely perfect to have the party there. The food was amazing, the atmosphere perfect, the cigars smoky, and the champaign bubbly. I realized after we’d left that I forgot to bring my beautiful pink flowers home that the folks at the Standard gave me. If you’re going to have a vintage party, a vintage location is a must.

This handsome guy. I wish I had the vocabulary to describe how much I love and adore him. (I would use a thesaurus, but I don’t want this to get Joey Tribbiani’d.) I know I say it all the time, but he’s been my rock throughout all of this. My main cheerleader. The person I can cry on and laugh with, sometimes in the same five minutes. As our oldest says, I love him to Pluto and back. For 15 years I’ve leaned on him and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I have been blessed with some of the most amazing friends and family who have been there every step of the way. They’ve all come into my life in different ways and I couldn’t love them more.  I realized this morning that I didn’t get a picture with most of the guys. I suspect they were hiding from me during the photo blitz. I still love them anyway.

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It was such a perfect ending to the worst  part of this journey. I totally plan on doing this again in five years to celebrate five years cancer free!

Life Resumed.

My life has been seemingly on pause for the last four months; since Mr. Dr. Surgeon called me on September 18 to tell me that Claude was indeed cancerous. What a long, crazy four months. On Monday, my lifting restrictions were lifted and life has resumed. These past few months have been such a whirlwind. Sometimes I look back and can’t believe how fast this has all happened and then sometimes it seems like it’s been as slow as molasses. Now that the scars are beginning to fade, I need to deal with some of the emotions that got pushed aside with the speed of everything. Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of time to do it.

Bad Habits

One of the bad habits I developed after diagnosis was falling asleep with the TV on. I couldn’t stand the quiet and white noise didn’t help. I was overwhelmed with my own thoughts and I would turn the TV on to a rerun of a show or a 24 hour news channel and set my trusty sleep timer. The glaringly obvious problem with this plan is that sometimes I get too engaged in the TV and don’t fall asleep for hours. I’ve tried falling asleep without it and it takes even longer. So now I’m trapped in a really bad habit that also really annoys my husband.

This weekend I got hooked on the Serial podcast. It’s really the first one I’ve listened to, so with it’s discovery was that my podcast app had a sleep timer. Last night I put on an episode I’ve already heard and drifted off to sleep. In the dark. Pretty quickly. When the dogs and toddler woke me up a couple different times last night, normally I would have spent another hour staring at the ceiling. Instead, I put on another podcast and fell asleep rather quickly.

It’s funny how we adapt to things in weird ways. I’ve never needed noise to fall asleep in the past. In fact, my introvert self doesn’t usually like noise to sleep. Maybe this is temporary or maybe we’ll add it to the “ways cancer changed me” list. That list definitely seems to be growing.

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year from our Claude-less family! While there’s still more surgery on the horizon in 2015, we are so close to being done this year! Our first family beach vacation is booked for the fall and I resolve to lose the 10 pounds that I always seem to be finding again. May you feel God’s love this year, no matter what it brings.

And Roll Tide! Beat those nut thingies from Ohio!

Razzle Dazzle

It’s been a crazy couple weeks since my second surgery.  Since I’m having my Thursday Night Date Night with B tonight (ie, we’re tucked in bed watching documentaries), I’m going to make this short and sweet.

Thirty hours after surgery, I almost ripped a drain out. It’s still bruised two weeks later.

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I won the coveted Justin Bieber stocking at the local cigar shop’s tacky Christmas sweater contest. Drains and all (they were tucked under my sweater)  I also got another 2 inches cut off my hair so that I could wear it more “mohawk-y.”

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I got an early Christmas present two days before Christmas when I got my drains out. Both the nurse practitioner and Mr. Dr. Plastic Surgeon cringed when they saw the bruises. It looks like third surgery, which will be nipple reconstruction, will be sometime this summer. I’m most likely swapping out my implants then, since I’m not a hundred percent happy with the ones that went in. They are still loads better than the expanders, though.

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The week before surgery, B and I picked out a roll of peppermint sugar cookies for our cookies for Santa. He decided that defeating Grammy in Wii bowling was more important than cookie making, so I ended up knocking these bad boys out by myself. I’m so glad that I’m here and healthy for another year of our family Christmas traditions. We even started some new ones this year.

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Nathan and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on the 28th with a trip to Steak ‘n Shake followed by seeing the amazing movie Unbroken. I’m so blessed to have this man in my life. He’s walked every step of this journey with me.

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The newest development is that I have developed a selfie addiction. I’m pretty sure it’s a direct result of the newest incarnation of my haircut. When I started this blog, I could only find one selfie. I’m afraid to even count how many I’ve taken in the last two weeks….

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I realized that I haven’t posted the best Christmas gift of all: my genetic testing came back all clear! 25 markers tested and nothing showed up as a concern. Not that I’m  super attached to my ovaries, but removing them would have caused some hormonal problems I’d rather avoid.

All in all, 2014 has been full of highs and lows. I’m ready to see what 2015 brings.

The Great Switcheroo

Yesterday was the day I’d been waiting for over two months for: The Switch.

Unlike my mastectomy, I was so ready for this to happen. Two months of burned biscuits made me very amenable to another round of drains. Thankfully this time I was allowed to shave and keep my toenail polish on. We had to be at the surgery center at 11:30 and I was so excited to get there that we showed up at 11:15. Thank goodness for phones and apps, because someone left her book at home and they didn’t get me ready until a little after noon.  I was also that person in the middle of the hospital parking lot taking a pre-surgery selfie.

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After I got checked in and taken back, we had the usual battle to find a vein for an IV. The one in my hand kept running away (I made the mistake of looking and that was almost the third time I’ve ever passed out. Almost.) We finally got me hooked up and conversing with Mr. Dr. Anesthesiologist  and various nurses who would be in the operating room. Mr. Dr. Plastic Surgeon had an emergency at the hospital, so he was about 30 minutes late and felt really bad. He got me marked up and even laughed at my burned biscuits joke (His demeanor is pretty much what you would expect a plastic surgeon to be.) Once he did his drawing and headed off to get scrubbed, the nurses descended like locusts so we could get the show on the road. It was around 1:30 when the put the loopy meds in my IV and the next thing I remember is waking up around 3:00. By 3:30 we were headed home as I cat napped in the car.

I cannot get over how much easier and simpler this recovery is. The only nap I took all day yesterday was the one on the way home. I feel about like I did two weeks after mastectomy. Little sore and stiff at the drain sites and I’m tired this morning, but I’m having to make myself rest. I need to call Mr. Dr. Plastic Surgeon and see when I can take the Ace bandage off, since neither of us can remember when he said I could. I do know that I can shower once it’s off and since I can raise my arms above my head, I’ll be able to do that by myself. I’m ridiculously giddy about that part.

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This is such a huge step to getting back to my life. Not necessarily my old life, because I have changed. Cutting my hair off was sort of the defining moment. I’m trying harder to live life more fully and not be afraid. Embracing my own quirkiness. And apparently that includes potty training Squish. So maybe quirkiness is borderline insane.

Now it’s time for a Percocet induced nap.

Goats and Eat Eats

The boys and I had the opportunity to go with some of our dearest friends to visit a dairy goat farm. Squish kept loudly saying “WOW!” with each different animal we saw. I think one of the funniest moments was when Mrs. Farmer told us we were headed to see the chickens. Squish got super excited and started yelling “eat eats!” Thankfully he wasn’t disappointed by his new feathered friends.

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After the chickens we met the ladies. The goats loved having their noses scratched and all of the kids kept trying to feed them straw. We also got to see the milking room, which was incredibly interesting. I also snagged some goat milk soap with lavender in it.

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The best part about not working right now is getting to have these experiences with the boys. I cherish these moments. If Claude has taught me anything, it’s live every day for all it’s worth. You just don’t know what’s on the horizon.