Monthly Archives: July 2015

What I am actually fighting

When I decided to get serious about bringing more awareness to metastatic breast cancer, I was thrilled that Susan G Komen asked me to be part of a national campaign. Three women were profiled on “What gives me strength.”  One got her strength from her voice, the other were her kids, and mine was fighting back. I was thrilled to be a part of this as a “lifer”. I was the only one who is stage IV and I viewed this as a conscious choice that the organization is including metastatic breast cancer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t viewed this way by all.

IMG_3712[1]

Some were offended by the implication that metastatic breast cancer can be beat by fighting back hard enough, but that was never how I saw it. I know that 110 people worldwide die everyday from it, fighting with everything they’ve got. I’ve lost so many of my friends that fought as hard as they could to the very end. That isn’t why I went back to the martial arts studio as soon as my radiation oncologist cleared me.  My friends, don’t underestimate my  neuroses.

I worked out so hard because there is no way to check to see if the radiation in my lungs worked. We couldn’t get a clear scan for three months, so in the meantime I worked out as hard as I could to see how far I could push my body. Little did I know that doubling up on the kickboxing classes softened the scar tissue and I got 100% breath capacity back. Who knew? That experiment could have had a different outcome and had been very messy.

So I kept up that pace, pushing toward the next goal and never in a million years did I think I would be testing for my third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I also have to give credit to my 3 kids who take the same black belt class with me. They refused to go to class if I didn’t, so I have to admit I took some of those classes begrudgingly. They did too. It also made for some interesting sparring classes. That also could have been messy.

What am I fighting? Not cancer.  I think that is the job of researchers, physicists and oncologist, and I leave it up to them and I think my team is doing an excellent job. As for me, I fight fear, anxiety, and depression. I fight exhaustion, loneliness, and I fight to keep my family together. Fighting these things back is what gives me strength.  I am blessed that I don’t’ have to do this alone, I have so many in my corner.

Did martial arts change my DNA? No. Do I have an incredible community and support system? Yes. That is what helped keep me going.

At Victory Martial Arts our saying is “Yes, I can.” When it gets tough, I get tired or I want to quit, I think of my friends with bone mets that is so painful that it is so difficult to follow the doctors orders of walking around the block. In my mind I say “Yes, I can, so I do.” I’m working out for them and me. I can, so I do.

Hip to be Pink?

11144987_10206537175735341_1245285536252927630_n

I had a blog years ago, long before everyone and their tumor had a blog. I guess you could say I was a hipster long before being a hipster was even a thing; as soon as something was too trendy it was time for me to move on. This applied to everything from haircuts to cities.

I started my adult life living in Orlando in 1991, right as Nickelodeon opened its studio and all sorts of movies and TV shows were filmed there. Next I moved to Seattle right as the grunge movement hit, the city inundated with young adults wearing plaid and rejecting any form of cleanliness. I was not into that movement.

Two years later, now married, we moved to my homeland, Boston. I never thought Boston would be so “in”, thanks to Ally McBeal and other legal shows making it look so cool to be young and hip in Boston.

In mid 2000’s we moved with our 2 kids to Las Vegas. But in 2004, who didn’t, for goodness sake? An estimated 5,000 people moved in every month. I really didn’t see that one coming. But I stayed in Vegas, wearing my yoga pants until I ditched those when it became the housewife’s uniform in the Summerlin area.

In 2008 I found out I had breast cancer and my whole world went pink. Yes, I knew pink was one of the most recognizable ribbons, and still I felt that at stage IIB it was my duty to help spread awareness. Every October I would color my hair pink so that when people asked about it, I could tell them a little bit about the less common type of breast cancer I have, Triple Negative. A few Octobers later strangers stopped noticing, for pink hair was the trend and way too many people in Las Vegas wore it on a regular basis. October was becoming a big explosion of pink! There were now pink blenders, pink deodorant, and pink feminine products. (OK, I guess they always had those)

In 2010 I got the news that my cancer was back, and it had metastasized to my lungs and statistics showed I have about a year left to live. Suddenly, multiple songs hit the radio waves about living like your dying. Really?? How can this be a thing!? The big hit that year was the song “If I Die Young”. At the time I was 41 and could only be in Young Survival Coalition because of my age at diagnosis, but I considered myself to be young. My kids sure were- ages 9, 6, and 3. Let me tell you, these songs and videos about “living like you were dying” didn’t have a clue- it is exhausting. Living life frantically and trying to grab hold to remember every minute isn’t something that can be done for long.

After completing many rounds of brutal chemo, it looked like the cancer had stabilized so I asked what we are doing here. Am I living, am I dying, what is this? My oncologist explained it as we are trying to get me as strong as possible for the next round of treatment. Spoiler alert-I haven’t died yet. In fact, it has been almost 5 years since any evidence of disease.   I just found out there is a name for me; Exceptional Responder. I’m thinking that’s the medical term for miracle.

But I had those words stuck in my head, and this is how I live. I am trying to get myself as strong as possible for the next round of treatment. Even this August when I hit five years NED, I still want to be eating well and trying to be in the best shape I can be because I will always be stage IV. This is my story of living in between worlds.