Holy smokes it’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog. I am one who likes to go in order, so I’ve kept coming up with excuse after excuse why I couldn’t just sit down and update the darn thing. It’s kinda funny because as I drive around town running my kids here and there in my mind, I do blog. I talk to myself and let my feelings and emotions out. I told Chad last night that I wish I had a recorder I could just turn on and record my thoughts and then type it later. So even though it’s been months since I’ve updated, I want you to know I blog almost daily in the car or in the shower. My kids think I’m losing my mind because they catch me having a conversation with myself and the good man above quite often.
I just have to tell everyone right off the bat how awesome I am doing! In fact, I’m typing this post as my family and I are headed down to California to spend an entire week away from everything that has been going on at home….this includes doctors, weekly appointments, football and homework! Lol I’m coming off of a high this past week as I was given some much needed good news! On 10-11-12 (very cool date for more reasons than one), I had my fourth PET scan. I had initially told the doctor that I didn’t want to have this scan done until after our little vacation just in case the results weren’t exactly what I was hoping for. But I just couldn’t handle the wait any longer and asked to have it before we left. I’ll be honest, my mind has wondered off the “being positive” path the past month and I just haven’t been feeling as confident about everything.
Back in July, my original doc, Dr. Rupart, move unexpectedly back East in order to be with his father, who physically wasn’t at his best. My case was then transferred to Dr. Haslam. He is the doctor I initially requested back in January, but due to the high demand for this man, he was unable to take on any new patients. I’m pretty sure he just didn’t know what he was missing out on by having me as a patient. :0 Dr. H is a man who is just a few months younger than I, has five young children of his own, knows his stuff and most of all he gets my humor. Yes, I did ask him if it was legit to ask for a handicap pass at Disneyland because I indeed had a prosthetic. Nowhere does it say that it needs to be associated to your legs, so I thought maybe being a uni-boob would qualify me for such a coveted pass. I could get off balance real easy you understand! Lol
Anyway, I had an appointment on September 14th with Dr. H. that will go down in my book as one of my least favorites. Just prior to this appointment I had a friend, whose cancer had returned, and presented itself in several new locations of her body. She was just shy of making it to her year anniversary of being in remission. This really bothered me…..I basically started out the appointment by putting my hands in the air, not to give anybody a hug, but to say….“What the crap?” How/Why does this happen? You can just pull out your little surgery- scheduling book now because I want you to take out every organ that’s inside this body that I am able to live without. The thought of anything that is just sitting in my body waiting to be seeded by the cancer cells is driving me nuts! I want to do everything and anything I can right now in hopes of keeping this cancer at a distance. My own mother is ready to pay to institutionalize me somewhere for a few weeks to get my body, eating habits (Alkaline diet) and lifestyle in check!
Dr. H chuckled a little and said, “Now don’t go and do crazy things to yourself like eating an all asparagus diet Ashley because your body needs more than that and FYI, the alkaline diet has been debunked by two different studies as well. I think he could sense and see the urgency I was feeling inside. He looked at Chad and I and said, “Ashley, there is only one thing that is proven to help in the fight against cancer.” I’m thinking he is going to say chemotherapy at this point, but he doesn’t. Dr. H says, “Eating healthy and having a healthy lifestyle. By keeping your body in the best shape with exercise and eating ALL the food groups recommended, in reasonable portions, is what is going to help you fight the cancer the most. Don’t get me wrong, you can try all of these different ideas out there, but you need to let me know exactly what you are doing so we can both be on the same page in your treatment.” He continued on by saying I came to them in January as a healthy, positive, young woman, who was on board in being as aggressive as one can possibly get. That is what you have done thus far. You need to know that you can lay your head down at night and KNOW you are/have done everything possible to this point. But………you also need to know that we will never cure you either. We can’t cure someone who has stage IV metastatic breast cancer. It just doesn’t happen.
Insert, Why don’t you just throw a brick right in the middle of my stomach while you’re at it my friend!!!!
Ummm, did I miss something back in January when I asked Dr. Rupart what my prognosis was and his reply was, “Ashley, I am in this to cure this with you?
I was pretty much dumb founded. Not speechless, that usually never happens, but certainly dumb founded. Almost immediately the tears began to swell up in my eyes. I knew better than to look at Chad because I would lose it for sure. It was as if I was being told all over again, Ashley, you have breast cancer. Those initial feelings that I had buried so many months ago, quickly made their way back to the surface.
“Then what am I doing all of this for?”
He explained that their goal is to give me the best “quality” of life we can all while buying me time. Good Quality Time as we wait for the next “big breakthrough” in the treatment of breast cancer. So many advances have been made in just the last five years and many more are bound to come.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this was why so many people were amazed by my positive attitude. Did they know something and understand it better than I did myself?
The next words Dr. H said to me is what really made me think about myself, as well as many others around me. I was encouraged to treat my cancer as a chronic disease. This is now my new life, a life with cancer that is not going to go away completely so I just need to maintain it like any other person who is dealing with a chronic disease.
I had never thought about this disease in that way at all. My goal was to beat it and move on, not maintain it! Heck, I can’t even maintain the living flowers in the pots on my front porch. How am I supposed to maintain a life with a disease that is looking to attack my body at any given chance?
Chad and I left the appointment in a hurry. I was late for my chemo treatment across the hallway where my friend, Miss Molly, was awaiting my arrival. Chad would be going back to work and she was coming to keep me company. Before he left he took a hold of my arm and said, “Hey, what do you feel about what the doctor said to you in there?” All it took was for us to look into each others eyes and we both lost it right then and there in the middle of the hallway. Hugging each other tight…….we cried. (We are supposed to grow old together and basically someone just told us it won’t likely happen!) I can’t remember a time during all of this when we both just let it out. Usually, he has been the strong one and held me when I needed to cry. All of a sudden the future was not so clear anymore for either of us.
Chad left and I sat down next to Molly, who knew something was up, so I filled her in. I was so grateful to have a friend by my side that day, so my mind would be distracted just a little. I have some very cool people in my life who have taken this ride with me. Since I have had the “opportunity” to have chemo on a weekly basis recently, I told Chadwick I would be fine on my own and he can go back to work. There were plenty of people who would come pass the time away with me. It’s weird, but I actually look forward to treatments now. You become good friends with those who are there to treat you, those getting treated and then bringing friends with you makes it just one big ole’ party! I love these girls to death!
And some days when I come home from chemo I get sweet little surprises from friends like these and beautiful flowers to help brighten my day or a package in the mail from a stranger that knows the importance of the YELLOW Sunshine Bug! These make me smile……
Over the next few days, I tried to wrap my mind around what I had been told. I was in a slump you could say. I think I actually for the first time let it show that I was scared, really, really scared. And for the first time as well, I also realized it was okay to feel that way, show it, and let my tears fall. I set the “Positive Ashley” aside for a brief moment and just let myself be scared for the first time.
The phrase, treat your cancer like a chronic disease……kept running through my mind over and over again. I then realized there really is no difference between cancer and someone who is dealing with diabetes, heart disease, MS, arthritis, depression or even what my own child deals with on a daily basis, cerebral palsy….the list can go on and on. Nobody actually gets in line to receive any of these diseases (well not during this life on earth anyway), but we all go through daily struggles some are just different than others. You never know what someone is silently dealing with on the inside.
I personally think that cancer has been made such a big deal primarily because the one known treatment that has been proven to help is so brutal it usually changes the outward appearance of the person who is fighting the disease. The big boys label you with a “stage” and immediately everyone knows just how bad it is. I will never forget a particular day in January, before they had actually placed a stage with my diagnosis, my father asking questions and saying, “It’s my understanding from reading on the internet (an absolute No No if you have cancer) that if you are a stage IV you are pretty much a goner! Hey, dad……I’m still here! lol
So once I changed my thinking a little bit I decided, I can handle this. Even though its a chronic illness, I can do this (I was also quick to let my mother’s know that this was chronic and her laundry services would be needed indefinitely! BONUS!). I also know that doctors and God are not always on the same page and I pray that they are on completely different chapters for a whole different series in my case. There is definitely a plan for me and I’ve learned that I’m just along for the ride and although the ride can be bumpy, and it certainly has been the past 10 months, my first pit stop on 10-11-12 was just what this girl needed. Now I’m off for some much needed family time away from everything!
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