Monday, January 6, 2014

salt & sun!

I apologize for the delay in blog updates. The good news is it's because I was busy LIVING. Surgery went really well overall and I am happily living my life without a bra. After radiation I'll have all of the cosmetic parts of the surgery finished up and then that'll be that!
Recovery sucked and I cannot imagine ever having that surgery just for "fun" (ladies-that's for you. little boobies are ok too, enjoy how God made ya)

Fake boobs are pretty ok so far in my book!
Once I was up for it, I left the cave I was living in at my parents (cave in my opinion is a positive term btw, ultimate sleeping and resting set up) and went to Racine to relax by the lake with the Oneils and was fed amazing meal after amazing meal.

Then I headed east for a few days in NYC with two of my best friends. I caught a Rangers game at MSG and had the best burger of my LIFE (Trifecta burgers don't count, totally different level of goodness there).

From NYC I went out to California where I have been since mid December. My whole family came out here for the holidays. We had a really great time catching waves and soaking up rays here in Newport Beach. It ocean is probably the best therapy I have received so far. The sun has its own kind of magic, but there's something about getting in the water. Nothing else matters. And with the downs that have come with all the ups that 2013 brought, an empty head and a happy heart have meant a lot for me. Being fully present in what I'm doing and where I am is rare. I am always exactly where I am when I'm in the water. I hold those special moments in my heart.

I've been hiking and biking and just enjoying the chance to be active again. It's been a very long time since I've been able to play around and feel "sporty". I'm sort of getting into biking a lot… and by a lot I mean I've been watching lots of Lance Armstrong videos and interviews lately while I log (not many) miles on a stationary bike. It's something, right? Side note-- Lance is the man. I have a lot of respect for him, regardless of any mistakes he made. Also I do realize that I'm like a year late on all of the Lance stuff (the Oprah interview I've been watching was from jan 2013) so if he's done something scandalous since then maybe ignore everything I just said.. I have been swimming a little bit here and there too which is always a treat outside! I am still trying to be a little cautious about my arms and chest. Ocean swimming doesn't count! More than anything I have just been doing a lot of smiling. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty stressed over this radiation pickle that I'll touch on next and just over cancer life in general, but I have been pretty darn happy. I went weeks without being around doctors and lived like a happy, normal, and at times quite dumb, 25 year old. 
But I am back to trying to take really good care of my body, get my strength back, eat lots of dark greens, etc. I'm ready to fight again. The break was great for my head and spirit but it's time to gear up for radiation. I hear it's a cake walk after chemo, once it starts. I've been in this waiting game since the beginning of December trying to figure it all out. I met with my radiologist in Evanston and he told me that my case was really controversial to treat for a couple of reasons and didn't feel comfortable treating me without the Mayo Clinic's consent, which happened a couple of weeks later. Basically I'm tricky for a few reasons:
-I was a stage 2 cancer based on my tumor size and had a clean scan post surgery which would mean no need to radiate
-the number of positive lymph nodes I had bumped me to a stage 3 for treatment and that means radiate regardless of post op results
-My age makes radiation risky. They don't like treating kids because they should be alive to see any potential long term side effects of radiation,  most adults that are radiated at like 40/50 aren't around to see them. Side effects can include secondary cancers or heart problems in my case because they are radiating my left side
-Not radiating runs the risk of any residual cancer cells going bananas in me and since I have no more breast tissue, the only places breast cancer can return are in the chest wall or bone, and well then I am screwed.
So from the get go I voted radiation. The Mayo Clinic agreed to radiating me but wanted to consider a special proton therapy kind of radiation for me first. It would be better for my heart and reduce the risk of secondary cancers. I don't really understand much about proton therapy because it contains a lot of medical mumbo jumbo and big words that I don't understand. I think it just has the ability to be more precise? My dad tried his best at explain it to me too and I tuned out almost immediately. My tolerance for medical talk has gone WAYYYYYY down. Here's a link if you care to make any sense of it..

The tricky thing about this therapy is the locations of these machines are few and far between. California (they won't take me because of my positive lymph nodes), bufu Illinois (aren't quite advanced enough), Indiana (no..), Minnesota (gosh no…), Houston, and Boston (will take me! and cousin is an oncologist here). There are a couple other locations that aren't worth mentioning but basically they are in a few big cities in the world.

So the best idea of a plan I can give you with right now is Boston will most likely where I will be getting radiation. This is all brand new news. I thought I could swing regular radiation out here after Loma Linda's proton center turned me down, but I guess I really have to consider the proton therapy more than I thought I did. I'll have a consult out there and see the turn around time. If it's long I am in favor of opting for regular radiation, because I'm tried of my life being so heavily about this and just want to get it over with. Regardless, radiation will be a 6 week long period, 5 days a week, for about an hour a day. And I fully plan on using those 6 weeks as a gift, to further myself in some way and hopefully others. I don't think I am doing as good of a job as I was before with having my cancer journey be a blessing, but I guess there's still hope for the big picture! I just want this experience to be positive for myself and OTHERS. I am praying that what that means will continue to be revealed to me. And in the meantime not kicking myself for the days that I have my tight fitting crabby pants on. I just get so tired of all of this sometimes. Gotta remember that this is just a small blip. It's all temporary and short term. So if you want some prayer requests, I'd ask that once again the best possible treatment plan is created for me in the best location for me. And that I make the best of whatever that ends up being! I will have to start by February so all of this will get going soon. Limbo periods are the worst, aren't they?

So it looks like my time in perfect, happy, sunny, lovely California is slowly coming to an end. It's been great. No better place to recover, get treatment, and wait out news. I am so thankful for my time here and the people that made it wonderful. My family, Tim, Ing and Katj and cool homies, the new friends I've made, the peninsula and all of the kooks that live on it, Mr. Mulroy, Sally and co (but really you're family too), the Fanticola family, baby Annie and I guess her mom.., both Balboa Candy locations employees, the Simos, the HC folks, Frog House bros dancing with their surfboards, and all the lovely people here who make me smile out on walks, bikes, hikes. I'll be back soon :)
(actually tho, ducks kings at dodger stadium and hawks series in ca in feb.. so don't get too sad)

And to everyone back in Illinois. I miss you guys a lot. Like, SO MUCH. You've probably heard that from me in mopey texts and whatnot. I can't wait to be back with my class. I love you all and owe everything to you guys. Still breathing and smiling because of my homies back east. Love, love, love, love you all.
Hope to see ya soon! (when it warms up)

Until then, toodles!


  1. Thanks for the update! Love your outlook lady as always. We miss you sooooo much in Illinois! xoxoxo

  2. Enjoy your time in the sunshine! I bet you are glad you didn't experience the insane cold we had here in IL.