Mom life in a blink is gone
Breathe deep and jump in
Last week I introduced you to Wildfire Magazine. This week I am directing you to a blog post I read there a while back.
I am forever thankful that the lump in my breast was right at my bra line, because I don’t think I would have otherwise found it so early. Though mastectomies and breast reconstruction suck, I’m also thankful that they were my course of treatment, and my cancer is gone. My chances of a second diagnosis are low, and I don’t live in fear of its return, but for some women it does return. That’s just reality.
There are many many women out there living with Stage 4 breast cancer. They will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. I found the following blog post at Wildfire educational and sobering, and I hope you will too.
If you’re like me, you like concrete how-tos, clear directions, tried and true recipes, do this not that, that sort of thing. There is nothing so frustrating as wanting a map of a new place and not having one. That’s how I have felt the last several years when it comes to breast cancer awareness and Metastatic Breast Cancer. I want to know specifically how to be a good friend to those with MBC.
Lacking the map, I’ve decided to simply ask. So, recently I’ve spent a lot of time talking to women with MBC, asking how I — an early stager — can support & advocate for women in the breast cancer community whom have been diagnosed Stage IV. The women I talked to were very happy to help me and now I have for you (and me) this list.
1. Being metastatic is just awful luck, not something a person did or didn’t do. Many are diagnosed de novo metastatic, before they even knew that was a thing.
I’d like to introduce you to Wildfire Magazine. I came across it while doing some breast cancer research online, and it’s a fantastic resource. Real stories written by real women who’ve had a wide variety of experiences with breast cancer, from the early stages all the way to Stage 4.
This month’s theme is Infertility, and the magazine is filled with beautifully written, raw stories.
Next month, the theme is Body Image, and I am honored that I will have an article in that issue.
Wildfire is a wonderful community of women whose lives have been changed by cancer. And it’s led by creator and editor in chief, April Johnson Stearns, who made my day last week when she sent me a little gift in the mail – a copy of this month’s issue, some coffee and some chocolate (pictured above.)
I’ve added a link to Wildfire in the sidebar on my homepage. Go ahead and take a peek.
When I discovered a lump in my breast on January 9, 2016 (there are some dates you don’t forget), I opened a new Word document on my computer and started typing. The title of the doc? When You Think You Might Have Cancer. By the time I stopped adding to that document months later, it was 55 typed pages long. Add to that all the journaling I did with my handy ink pen and I have close to 80 pages of my cancer experience on paper. Yowzers.
This week will mark the 2nd anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy, and I’ve been reading and remembering and at times riding the wave of emotion. The following is an excerpt from my journal days before surgery. Reading it was a reminder to me that God often makes us walk through “I don’t want to” moments. The big “I don’t want to” was obviously the cancer, but along with that big thing were a million little things I didn’t want to do. Read More
So Happy Happy Birthday
And Happy Valentine’s too.
I am far beyond blessed
that I get to do this life with you.
I remember the day Carter started kindergarten. The eldest and most timid of my children, I can say with certainty his first day of school would still rank somewhere in the top 5 if he kept a Terrible-Horrible-No Good-Very Bad-Day list.
That was a long day followed by a long difficult year of adjustment. But he got through it.
I remember the day Owen realized he didn’t have super powers. It was a blow to his self-confidence when his dad broke the news that it was a remote control turning on the ceiling fan; not the super-spin motion created by Owen’s alter ego, Flash.
You can imagine his disappointment. But he got over it.
I remember the day Lewis’ buddy, William, moved away. My little guy was quite dejected. But he bounced back.
Maybe your life is kind of like that. No major life altering challenges, just little potholes in the road here and there. Aside from the occasional broken bone, bombed test or fender bender you’ve made your way through life relatively unscathed.
But what happens when someone you love receives the diagnosis they didn’t want? Or loses the job they loved? Or falls into periods of depression that leave them not wanting to get out of bed?
When I don’t know what to do, I’m tempted do nothing.
When my friend’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer years ago, I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t do or say enough.
In hindsight I would have visited the hospital more than one measly time. I would have sent her more cards of encouragement. I would have bought her Tirimisu and told her how often my thoughts and prayers turned her way. I would have. . .
I know my friend holds nothing against me. In fact we are much closer now than we were before her family started their cancer journey. And I’m guessing thoughts of how much or how little I did to support her didn’t cross her mind as she was swimming deep in an ocean she didn’t want to be swimming in.
But regardless of her thoughts and feelings, I know my regrets.
What if it was my child? What if it was me?
I met author Shirley Corder (virtually, not physically) after my Aunt Connie gave me her book Strength Renewed to read during my breast cancer year. A breast cancer survivor, she graciously provided this post insightful post for us today.
When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer with glandular involvement, I found my family members and friends reacted in one of several ways.
This included my family members who lived at home, and I hate to think what my year of cancer treatment would have been like without their support. But it also included many of my friends.
The evening following my surgery, I had so many visitors it was embarrassing, so I did what all post-operative patients are allowed to do and went to sleep on them! Once I returned home however, the visitors spread out, and it soon became evident those who were going to truly support us through the time. And there were a good number of them, for whom I praise God.
In at least one case this was because the lady had lost two family members to cancer, and couldn’t handle a third. She didn’t live in our town, but kept meaning to answer my email. However the days went by and, believe it or not, she forgot I had cancer! A couple of years later, during a phone call, she realized what had happened, and was mortified. How could she have forgotten me during that time?
On my side, I was confused that she didn’t reply to my email. She wrote to me, but it was as if she’d never heard I was ill. Only after we opened up the subject, years later, did I understand what had happened.
She had tiny children and was already stressed to her limits trying to adjust. She didn’t forget—she wrote and emailed me whenever she had the chance. But her comments showed me that although she hadn’t forgotten my diagnosis and treatment, she didn’t have a clear understanding of where I was at. That hurt me, and I took it to mean a lack of interest. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Months later, a psychologist gave me this explanation: She had so much going on in her life, she couldn’t also cope with someone she loved dearly who had cancer and whom she couldn’t visit. Her subconscious mind created a “mental cupboard” in order to protect her emotionally, and whenever she received news from me, she skimmed through it, then stored it in the “cupboard”. When she sat down to write to me, she couldn’t bear to re-read my emails so answered it from her “filtered” memory. When I heard this explanation, it helped me so much and alleviated the hurt I had felt.
They were dealing with their own shock, and they didn’t know how we were coping. I wish they’d sat down and spoken to me. Perhaps they thought I wouldn’t notice their absence, but I did. Read More
Every woman is different and there are a lot of varieties of reconstruction surgery, but the following are 5 things I greatly appreciated while walking down the road to reconstruction. If you have a friend who’s going through this bizarre and challenging life circumstance, she might appreciate something from this 5 Breast Reconstruction Gifts list.
Sherpa blankets are super-soft, ultra warm blankets that you can just sorta hibernate in. My friend Marti gave me one, and I called it my magic blanket. I slept with it for months. Even when I finally went back to my bed after a couple months in the recliner, I slept on top of my bed covers and under my magic blanket. My children have since claimed this blanket for their own. 🙂
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
Best gift ever really. Bake her casseroles or give her gift cards to restaurants. Anything that takes away the stress of “what am I going to feed my family tonight?” Our deep freeze was so packed with meals that I didn’t have to cook for more than two months. Some of the meals we received tested the range of our bland Harms family taste buds, but all that food was an amazing gift.
Some of my friends had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to my house. Why is this such a good gift you ask? Because it’s extravagant. It’s one of those things a girl like me would never do for herself. But it made me feel loved and valued. And eating chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast was pretty darn sweet. Read More
The flowers are gone, but I’m keeping the card forever.
The writing part of my life was challenging this fall. I diligently researched and interviewed and wrote and worked on a lot of things that have yet to come to fruition. So many hours of brain-power with so little to show for it.
Between September and December, I submitted a lot of work (devotions, articles, queries) to various places.
From those submissions I’ve received:
I was also contacted by Woman’s Day Magazine for an article they were doing on forgiveness and spent several hours answering a list of questions. I meticulously reread and edited it to make sure my thoughts were clear and accurate. They later decided not to use my input.
In addition to actually writing, I’ve put hours and hours and hours into the technical side of this website knowing that my time put in would not have a monetary value. And I still get super frustrated with it because it just doesn’t like to cooperate with me.
On top of all those things, I’m working on a big project. A book. My first. I have a completed proposal, three chapters and lots of research done, but felt God leading me to wait during the fall months. Every time I wanted to push ahead on it, He pulled me back. “Wait, Kimberly. Wait.”
Oh my goodness, waiting is so hard. And writing so much and getting paid so little is so frustrating. Sometimes I just want to go be a greeter at Walmart because I think I could handle saying hello and putting stickers on people’s return items, and I think they’d probably pay me for it.
One day in December, when I was feeling particularly disheartened about my career choice, I kind of fell apart on Corey. He thought we were gonna have a relaxing little sit in our hot tub, and was met with my emotional chaos instead. (Sorry Honey.)
The next day I received a big beautiful bouquet of flowers and the card pictured above.
To Kimberly, A woman of strength, courage, capability and worth. Love, Corey
My hubby is a man of few verbal words and even fewer written words, so the value of each drop of black ink on that tiny little card is immense. If he can watch me work my butt off for pennies and still believe in what I’m doing, then I need to shift my perspective, stop focusing on the world’s version of success and trust the path where God is leading.
Though, if at the end of that path I found a bigger paycheck, I wouldn’t complain. 🙂
I had the opportunity to talk with Tori Haverkamp several weeks ago about body image and learning to live with my altered form after a bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
There are so many pieces that come into play when walking through breast reconstruction process, but body image is not something that I thought I would struggle with at all. As it turns out though, losing a piece of me changed the way I looked at myself. And it kind of broke my heart.
But God is good, and he continues to stay close to me and bring healing to each and every piece of me that needs his touch. If you want to hear my story follow the link below to the Cornerstone Church Walk with Me Podcast .