Saturday, January 15, 2011

More AZ 2010 3 Day Pics

Tents at night - it was COLD this year, glad I brought my super warm new sleeping bag

Our home for the two nights


Three days of portapotties and hand sanitizer

View from the Survivor's Circle of the main stage at the closing ceremonies

Finishing the walk with big smiles

Sore feet


Many of the reasons we walk

Everything Team Grand Canyon needs for the 3 Day Walk

And we named him Kyle

Not sure where to go? Follow the ladies in the pink tutus

Friendly cross walk guy

View while taking a nap during lunch

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two Years After Cancer Treatment

It was two years ago today that I walked out of the Northern Arizona Cancer Center after finishing my final radiation treatment. They gave me a certificate of accomplishment and a violet plant.

It was almost exactly six months from my biopsy to finishing treatment. My treatment consisted of a lumpectomy, four chemo treatments three weeks apart, 33 radiation treatments, and a five year prescription of tamoxifen. When I first started treatment I couldn’t wait for it to end. When it finally did end, I was not so sure. At least we were doing something before and now, all of a sudden, I was thrown back into “normal” life. My parents went home, I was in constant pain, I was bald, and the bills were piled up. I was exhausted and struggling to get my life back in control. Everyone expected that I should be tickled pink to be finished and able to move on with my life. The constant struggle to be positive and strong was taking its toll. I even shocked myself with how low my outlook was after my final treatment. I was given a second chance, why was I so sad? If I didn’t have to get up for work, I often spent the entire day in bed. I was a physical and mental wreck.

I can see why depression is common in cancer survivors. For six months all of my efforts were pointed towards beating cancer. Now there was time to face the fear, the pain, and the grief of my cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t sure I was ready to spend the rest of my life as a cancer survivor. Plus there was the fear of recurrence. Since my diagnosis, I have spent very little time thinking “why me” but I have driven myself sick with worry wondering “what if” it returns. The thought of recurrence is always with me. What if I just went through all of that and it didn’t even work? I have a piece of paper that says I have a 13% chance of my cancer returning and killing me. Yikes!
Also, I have to admit I look nothing like I did the day of my first surgery. I’ve gained a whole bunch of weight, my hair is taking forever to grow out and it is way too dark, I have numerous scars and radiation tattoos which keep me from wearing low cut shirts, I will never give birth to a child (this one makes me weep even writing it), and I am deformed. Every time I look in the mirror I am reminded of what happened and I grieve for the person I was. I know I am more than just my scars but I am still not comfortable with them. I hope to someday look at them with pride.

It has been a hard uphill battle for me ever since treatment has ended and I am a bit embarrassed to admit it. I guess depression is never easy to talk about. I wish I had spent some time with the cancer center therapist two years ago. It might have gone easier for me. I encourage anyone out there experiencing depression after cancer to talk to their doctors about it. Or talk to other survivors. From what I read 25% of cancer survivors experience depression so there are plenty of other people out there who know what you are going though. I have had this blog which helped me express some of what I was thinking and I spent time talking with others on various breast cancer web sites. I am also blessed to have a supportive family, awesome friends, and the best boyfriend ever. While I never really talked to them about what I was going through, just having them in my life made things better. Time and distance have also helped but if I am not careful I can find myself descending into depression again.

I have been told that I am an inspiration to others and while I am not sure I deserve the accolade, I am proud of where I am today. I would like to think that others can look at me and see that there is life after breast cancer and it can be wonderful.

While it has been easy for me to spend too much time looking backward, as each day passes I spend more and more time looking forward. I do not know what my future will bring but I will continue to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, I will continue my commitment to improving physically, I will do my best to be a support to others going through the same struggle, I will continue to feel better about myself, and I will continue to be a breast cancer survivor.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Arizona 3 Day Walk - Cheer Stations

By far one of the best parts of the 3 Day walk was the spectators. At almost any given time during the course there are people cheering, handing out goodies (Steph calls it Halloween for adults), holding up signs, dressing up, yelling "thank you for walking". There are two or so official cheer stations everyday with lots of people and pink. There are also all sorts of "walker stalkers" who are found several times a day all along the route. The people who live in the neighborhoods we walk through also come out, cheer, and decorate their lawns. Entire schools come out and line up to give us high fives. It is amazing to see the number of people are there to encourage us. And it is easy to get used to feeling like a rock star. Walking into work on Tuesday is kind of a let down - no one yelling "good job" and giving me otter pops. Here are some of my favorite pictures of our cheering spectators.

Team Grand Canyon with the sign my parents made.

I like this picture because one of the main reason I walk is for my friend Gladys who died way too young from breast cancer. Note the sign to the right - all along the route there are signs put up by the walk organization. One of my favorites reads - "Lunch One Mile"

Super heroes against breast cancer! That's me on the left.

We saw these two at almost all of the cheer stations.

Not just surviving...thriving!

Love, Love, Love This One!

Rock Stars Against Breast Cancer - it is the same group as the Super Heroes above. They changed outfits numerous times during the walk and we saw them many times each day.

Steph is Nacho Boobre.

We also saw this young man numerous times a day - he was always smiling just like this.

A couple of Judy's friends cheering the walkers along.

All sorts come out to cheer.

Look! It's my favorite cheerers!

These guys are great!

What it kind of looks like walking through a cheer section - without all of the noise.
If you are in the area next November, come out and join the fun!