#cancersurvivor, #mentalhealth, #selfcare, #pten, Random Rambles

Dear 2020,

This was supposed to be my year, where things could really start moving in a favorable direction.  But you proved to be a formidable opponent, one really insistent on raining on my parade and that of everyone else.

Weekend hospital stay for a blood clot. One of moments where 2020 proved to be 2020.

You’ve made me question my self worth more times than I’ve ever done before.  I’ve learned to say I’m lonely because of you and that is never easy to say.  I’ve learned to say that I need help because you brought me to the precipice of losing all hope.  Because of you I’ve learned that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Shrine of the Little Flower church, some how always there when I feel my life is falling apart. In 2020 it was there when I lost my job for the second time in 2020.

But your lessons haven’t all been bad.  I learned that stuff I liked to do as a little kid is still fun as an adult.  I learned that my family is always there and always loves me.  Travel is fun and something I am destined to do more of.  Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to believe in the idea that things take time but eventually I’ll get to where I’m supposed to be.

Throughout all of this I’ve done my best to keep smiling. I don’t always but I try.

So 2020 I’m glad to see you go and I can only hope the new year gets better because after you there’s really no direction to go but up.

Regards,

Amanda Greenwood

#cancersurvivor

Are you happy with your life?

I was listening to a podcast this morning and the host asked the guest if they were happy with their life. Heavy question for the guest, heavy question to hear on a Monday, and a heavy question for me to think about myself. I spent all day thinking about this question and my answer is that I am not happy with my life. That’s a really hard sentence to write, I’ve never said it out loud.

The even harder part of not being happy with my life is trying to figure out what would make me happy with my life. I’ve been working on this a lot in therapy and I’ve been trying to get back to things I liked to do as a kid. I plan to try cross country skiing if there’s enough snow this winter because I loved playing in the snow as a kid. I also might here about fashion type things because that was another thing I loved as a kid, fashion and all the glamorous things like Barbie had, different outfits for each occasion.

But will these things make me happy with my life? I have no clue. All I know is that I’m trying to figure it out because I don’t want to regret things. I don’t want to look back and think I should have lived more.

A happy part of my life.

#cancersurvivor

Don’t tell me what to do!

The other day I saw an Instagram post about finding someone who you can share all your baggage that has resulted from cancer or some sort of genetic mutation and it got me thinking. First, I got to thinking about the Instagram “cancer influencers” that I found and followed on and off for a couple of years.  Second, I got to thinking about all of the reasons that being single right now is pretty awesome.

A lot of the cancer influencers I have found fit an easy to describe mold. They are usually married and were married before their cancer diagnosis. Then they are skinny and fit, comfortable showing their scars naked or in a swimsuit. Perhaps most the best way to describe it is that in the Cancer High School for Young Survivors they would be the popular cheerleader types. I can’t think of anybody I’ve found who has some sort of similarity to my story. I was single before, during, and after cancer. I’m not skinny and fit where I would feel comfortable showing my scars to anyone let alone the whole of Instagram. I don’t even like wearing a bathing suit without putting my long sleeved rash guard over top. (The rashguard is also skin cancer prevention, but I digress.) I don’t want kids, never have wanted kids, and now can’t have kids, which is hard for my fellow “breasties” to understand. What I’m getting at is I have a lot of ducking baggage that I can’t handle sometimes and continues to impact me still, so how the hell am I going to worry about finding a potential partner who is willing to help with my baggage? I know this person’s post meant well but it was really a reminder of how different people’s journeys can be sometimes.

It also got me thinking of all the reasons why being is awesome.

  1. I get the whole darn bed to myself, if I want to lay diagonally across the bed then that’s what I am going to do.
  2. I don’t have to worry about how much money I spend.  If I want a $99 eye cream then I’m going to buy it, I don’t have to worry about anyone else.  Well except for future me who gets the AMEX bill and might yell at past me for spending too much on eye cream.
  3. Maybe the biggest reason being single is awesome is I get to figure out who I am on my own before finding someone who might want to hold some of my baggage.  

Cancer is a battle, if it was easy it wouldn’t be such a bitch. Life after cancer can be of a bitch as well. Because of this I’m not really concerned about finding someone to help with my baggage. I also need to stop paying attention to the cancer influencers because they’re nothing like me and it is a good thing.

Really not nice but a good reminder!
#cancersurvivor

PE, DVT? Sure just add them to the soup.

It seems that in medicine everything gets shortened to some sort of acronym. Earlier this month I got to add PE and DVT to the alphabet soup of my medical history.

I had gone in for a routine CT Scan to make sure I was still NED or no evidence of disease (again the shortening of terms). On a Thursday night, the oncologist called asking if I was experiencing any sort of pain or shortness of breath. I said no and was trying not to freak out the oncologist was calling at 7:30. He explained that a blood clot showed up on my CT in my lung and I needed to go to the emergency room right away. So off I went and didn’t return home until Monday afternoon. Long story short I spent the weekend hooked to an IV receiving blood thinner and feeling healthy other than the blood clot in my lung (the PE) and the one found in my leg (the DVT). I was sent home with a prescription blood thinner that I get to take for as long as I am on my cancer drug Anastrozole.

What I have realized in the days since my weird hospital stay is that I can feel sorry for myself and ask why me? Or I can ask why not me? There were a lot of events that led up to the finding of my blood clot that at the time seemed like shitty life blows. But those things that sucked helped in the best way to find the blood clots early on and keep it from becoming a potentially life threatening situation. So PE and DVT join the alphabet soup of DIEP, HER2, ER/PR and others. Also, I’m still in a steady relationship with NED!

The worst may have been wearing a heart monitor all weekend. So many cords.

#cancersurvivor, Random Rambles

These are a few of my favorite things…

For the last few weeks at work I’ve been singing the song from the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favorite things. So I thought I would write about a few of my favorite things that got me through my cancer journey. (I also recently renewed my plan for this website so I figure I need to write more!)

During chemo I think sweatpants were definitely my favorite thing. I got a couple of $7 pairs at Target from the men’s department and I lived in those things all weekend following my Thursday treatments. In an attempt to stay hydrated I drank only Boxed Water is Better water because it was the only water that tasted like water. Thanks to the Carboplatin everything I drank tastes like what ever the container was like plastic or metal. The other thing that stands out is Entenmann’s mini Muffins, any flavor those things some days were the only thing I would eat.

Only type of water I could stomach

Other favorites that I picked up during cancer and all that it’s had to offer. First, EO hand sanitizer it is clean ingredients and comes in a variety of sizes. I had a tiny little vial that fit in my pocket because germs are everywhere. Cocoa Butter is another favorite, my plastic surgeon recommends using it on scars, it is nicely moisturizing and you smell great after putting it on. She also recommends using mineral sunscreen on scars because I guess once they are exposed to sun and turn brown they will never fade. So I have become a big fan of mineral sunscreen in stick form, it’s super easy to make sure you have covered your scars and the little stick is easy to take anywhere.

Hand Sanitizer, Cocoa Butter, and Mineral Sunscreen Stick

So those are a few of my favorite things. Ironically, the Sound of Music, not one of my favorite things.

#cancersurvivor

Making Progress Everyday

Lately, I feel very stuck. Yes, some of it is due to my terrifying fear of coronavirus so I still try to stay home as much as possible. But the majority of my feeling stuck stems from life and all that every new day has to offer.

For a few years now I have been looking for a new job but to no avail. Everyday I feel a little more stuck in the job that is making me miserable. So with the help of my therapist we created a mantra that boils down to making progress everyday. But what if at the end of the day I can not find anything that makes me feel as if I have made some sort of progress?

Basically, this sums everything up.
#cancersurvivor

More than cancer

Real fast and unedited. I’ve been trying lately to figure out “who I am” beyond cancer. Sometimes, I feel like its all that I am, a cancer survivor. I’m currently in a job that I don’t like and makes me feel less than great a majority of the time. I’m not a wife or mother. I don’t have a dog or house so those as a part of my identitiy are out.

Some of who I am consists of a daughter, a sister, and aunt, all pretty great things to be. I’m also a genetic mutant and a rare one at that so that’s cool minus all the tests and the anixenty those tests bring once or twice a year.

I’m also a reader and I like to read it all, from fiction to non-fiction, light and fluffy chick lit to self help books. I relectutanly say that I’m a runner. I mean if you get jealous when you see people running outside in the winter I’d say that makes me a runner. I’m also a dailyish mediatator. I’m not always good about meditating everyday but I try to do it a number of times a week because I find it keeps me present and from going to far down the rabbit hole of dark scary emotions and wondering what if. I’m also a fan of learning foreign languages, for seven years I’ve been perfecting my Spanish with Duolingo while attempting to also learn French and Italian.

Some other things that I hope to be outside of a cancer survivor include a blogger. I don’t necessarily want to be famous, I just want to more frequently but my thoughts out there in hopes that it might help somebody. I want to a be a world traveler because I think that’s been my dream since I was a child, dreaming of one day going to places like Morocco, Cuba, and Japan. Mostly, I just want to be more comfortable being me, I think that is going to be the best way to figure out who I am.

Too much of this lately
#cancersurvivor

See ya 2019 and the whole darn decade!

I keep seeing things about the tops of the year and the tops of the decade. I realized the other day that the decade thing is something that really upsets me. This decade has been long and hard and I’m not sad to see it go. Between cancer and it’s endless gifts there has been plenty of other crap in this decade I’m happy to forget.

Instead of dwelling on the negative I’m trying to think of the positive. I made a career transition where I have learned so much more about myself than I thought I could learn in a job. I went all over the state and got to see just how awesome Michigan is and why I don’t ever want to leave again. I made some friends and said good bye to some others.

Truth is though the tough times of the decade really outweigh the good times, so I’m ready to say good bye and embrace this new one. I’m ready to go after my dreams and live the life I’ve imagined.

The one true vacation I took in 2014 and my day at the beach

#cancersurvivor, reconstruction

Reconstruction Part Two: DIEP Flap Surgery

Almost a year ago I had my DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction surgery. The main surgery was an experience in itself. The year that’s followed as been its own crazy journey to try and conquer.

The cool thing about surgery is the time travel you experience when you are the patient. My major surgery where part of my abdomen was just to reconstruct breasts was something like six hours, for me it was like the blink of an eye. Being sliced open from hip to hip really hurts. My abdomen hurt, my chest hurt, my head hurt and think all of me hurt. The worst when was I vomited, twice never before have I experienced such pain. Five days later I left the hospital and started the recovery phase of my surgery.

Eight weeks later, I went back to work and quickly scheduled the next phase of my reconstruction. Revisions. Basically, I think of revisions as the nip and tuck portion of the reconstruction. We cleaned up some shapes and scar lines. Recovery was pretty easy, honestly the drugs are really what took their toll. It was hard though to once again get used to a changing shape of my body, suddenly my muffin top from surgery was gone and the shape of things was a little different.

Three months later because both myself and my plastic surgeon weren’t quite pleased with the results I had some fat grafting done (basically its liposuction or moving fat from one place to the other). This is surgery number three in the whole diep flap reconstruction process for me. What I thought was going to be tough with bruising and pain was easy, I barely bruised at all.

I thought maybe I would be done after surgery number three but I still wasn’t quite satisfed. So three months after fat grafting I went back in for another revision surgery. My plastic surgeon is some sort of sorcerss because she really fixed what I wasn’t liking.

So in a year since the major surgery, my diep flap reconstruction has included three more surgeries, its been a journey to adjust to an ever changing body and accept that I continue to put myself through so many surgeries. I wonder sometimes when I’ll reach a point of satisfaction. Thankfully, I don’t ever have to go through the major surgery again. Most important is that overall, I’m so incredibly happy with the results. I know I made the right choice.