November 26, 2008

Pictures speak a thousand words

Hello folks...I've been very busy with my dd#3's birthday, recovery, chasing after a 2 1/2 year old and preparing for Thanksgiving break...that's me in my wig with 2 of the kids at my mom's this post will be mostly with pictures...many thoughts spin in my head...but mostly I've been tired and sore...Physical therapy has started and radiation will start in December...nerve endings fire all the time and my whole area of the incision is so sensitive...i don't even like water to hit fun...but on the positive swelling is down, my range of motion is better and I'm getting better each day...

Ellie got a horse from the American Girl doll company for her birthday...ya' think she's happy?
This picture of em came out so nice...the kids are still in counseling but doing well...Here's a shot of my eyebrows/eye lashes...they are falling out as they grow back...just stubble these days...
I got this package from Anhoki at etsy this week...oh my goodness it blew me away...I was really did brighten my week...Thank you so much!
I needed to say a huge thank you to the etsymom that gave me this necklace over the says "Survivor" on it...I wear it everyday...with embarrassment I have misplaced the shop name....i will keep searching...
Koryn from the Taffybox at etsy gave me this bracelet (it's georgous)...only to find she had to face this diagnosis herself. My prayers are with her and our friendship grows as we now have so much to share.
Crochet hat by
Margo Smith Designs
it looks like hair...but i may wait till i have some more of wear it out :)
Jen Hintz Yarn Knits
Happy at Home Made
So many wonderful family, friends and etsians have shared with me gifts, time and gratitude is just not enough but will have to do.
Blessings to you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 17, 2008

Faith Prevails

How long can one person sustain positive mental energy in the face of turmoil? For me it was about 7 months...

i had a huge cry...yes the ugly face kind...this weekend, I was just so overwhelmed. I won't go into the details of it all but my type A personality, cancer, all 3 kids being home and one stubborn man had just pushed me over the edge. Then to also find out about radiation this week!

Did you know that you get permanently tattooed?!?!?!?!? I am still in shock, little dots get marked on your body so the radiation hits the exact locations each day (5 days a week for 6 weeks) and they may also give you a breathing apparatus so they control your breathing and force you to hold your breath, so your chest is also controlled at the same level each time....not that i found this out from the doctor (grrrr)...but from a fellow survivor, Sara that went through chemo with me (via cyberspace). It's been awesome to have Sara and Koryn (who had her mastectomy the day after me) to share these moments with.

a little backround info- I was ahead of sara with chemo, but she travels ahead of me with radiation and her surgery was months ago. We share experiences and tidbits of the process. I pray for them both each day...and know in my heart that we will all be survivors together!

So anyway, I got through my huge emotional melt down with ideas I learned from al-anon: Humility, gratitude and Faith. I know I can't control anyone else's behavior, i can't be judgemental or self-righteous...i am faced with only reacting positively or feeling desperate...I chose to rise up and see the blessings in the situation...taking a pain pill helped too.
JOY= Judge Only Yourself

I guess my heart is mending and filling in the gap of where my breast used to be. Learning to let go, detatch and meditate (listening to what God has to tell me) was very helpful. I chose this picture (above), which was taken from Loudon Country Club, because it shows a simple waterfall...the water is always flowing, eroding the rocks underneath. I watched a show on the National Geographic Channel this weekend about Niagra Falls. It's mind boggling to me to imagine so many people trying to conquer the falls in barrels and try to win?! Is it about our will or God's will? Water can have such fury and power, just like Cancer.

God works in my life the same way...eroding my old ways of doing things and evolving me into a better me. At least i hope so anyway :)

Blessings to you to take a walk with my 2 year old to absorb some vitamin D *grin*.

November 13, 2008

Seeking Calm

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

I have to admit these last few weeks have left me sore (pain is more like it), tired and defeated....but I am not done fighting, I'm just low on energy. I am finding time to increase my range of motion and practice my PT exercises, taking my meds and trying to get the kids back home as much as possible. We even went out to a restaurant last Saturday night as a family...all of us, DH, all 3 kids and me in full wig attire :) So have no fear, I know that God walks with me and I am so grateful for it all. One step at a time, and I will get there.

November 8, 2008

Helpful Links for Cancer Patients

I'm in that part of the recovery process where my arm/left side of my chest is very sore and I need to eat lots of protein and I'm limiting how long I'm at the computer.
I wanted to share these links that I have come across in the past week...
Don't Waste your Cancer is 10 points about how to embrace your new life with a spiritual edge.

Lotsa' helping hands is a place to organize friends and family members that want to help. It's a personal group calendar specifically designed for organizing helpers. Now, unfortunately I haven't use it (yet) as my awesome friend Becky organized all my friends for me with a schedule and emails for after my first surgery. But when I told another friend (and cancer survivor) about what Becky did for me she shared this link and thought it might be helpful moving forward.

This next link came from a booklet sent by my health insurance company. Planet Cancer is a website for young adults faced with cancer. I didn't join and maybe you all can give me some advise about whether i qualify (I saw it written that it's for young adults in their 20's and 30's)...but if I'm too old (almost 41) of you may not be, and it looks like a nice place to meet others faced with surviving through this disease process. BTW, I'm totally ok if I'm too old...really :)

So much for not typing too much...I really hope these links are helpful to someone out there dealing with all these huge life situations. I've said from the very beginning, Cancer has been a gift to me. It has forced me to pause my life, reflect, prioritize and appreciate myself and all the wonderful people around me. I am grateful for it all, and with all the people around me giving to me and my family, I just want to pay it forward and help others in a small way.


November 4, 2008

Art Therapy: Special healing for kids facing cancer in a parent.

So for those of you that don't know, I'm an art therapist, I got my master's training at Eastern Virginia Medical School and although I'm not working as one right now, I am glad to have the training through my cancer journey as it has helped my kids cope.
Here are some ways that you can help children express themselves when faced with cancer in the family.
***Encourage them to talk, dedicate time to each child if there are multiple siblings...but we know some kids are too little to verbalize their feelings or sometimes older children are afraid to express negative emotions (like anger) for fear of disappointing a parent that has often told them to go to "time out" to pull it together. Creative expression is FREE of guilt, it's a POSITIVE way to sublimate all feelings and it's SAFE for the child and not so scary to put feelings on paper or manipulate clay. Try to look at the creative process as Active Mastery over an unknown...they can play and give words to characters...the characters can say and feel what they can not.

Body tracing was a successful project that we ended up bringing into a therapy session. The kids have seen a therapist for a few weeks now and I am relieved to have him work with them through this difficult time.

We took mural paper (but you could also tape paper together), I laid down on top of it, and each of them traced my body. Then they each had a life size version of "mommy" to work on and help heal. This project was done prior to my surgery as the therapist and I both thought that anxiety was building in them and a sense of lack of control. So this one (above) was done by my 8 year's the "inside of mommy". She made sure to add the chemo/medicine (yellow) that is still fighting the cancer and my blood (red) that carries it throughout my body. And the Cancer (blue) that has yet to be removed in surgery. She made a key just in case we were confused. She was able to demonstrate in increase in control over her mural despite lack of control on a daily basis.
This next body tracing is by my middle daughter she is almost 7 and in first grade.
She wanted to focus on my "skeleton" and she showed my blood flowing by encapsulating the drawing in a thick outline of red. Interesting to note, she added an umbilical cord in my "tummy" and she made a point of referring to that part of my anatomy as where she came from. She even wanted to sit inside the "tummy" for this picture.
We brought the murals into a therapy session and it was wonderful for mommy not to be the therapist but allow the kids to share with another adult their images. He encouraged them to add more to the images and they drew and cut colors (construction paper) and made shapes, glued and pasted. What warmed my heart most was when they traced their hands and then cut and glued them onto my was their way of laying hands on me and helping be heal.

In past posts I have shared images of the dolls we have made. Here is another picture of the medicine/angel and cancer/monster dolls...can you tell which is which? Emily had fun holding the cancer doll by the hair in a disrespectful way...again showing domination over the disease and letting it know who was in control. She is even showing in her expression that sense of control...such sass!!! It is great for her to give it to a doll instead of mommy...*grin*.
Ellie has made a story with a beginning, middle and end for the dolls to act out. We have actually tried to act it out on video too...but we agreed that we weren't loud enough and we needed a script to follow a little bit. The story starts by the character on the right singing at a microphone and the "monster" sneaking up behind her. The "angel" sees this and...
with all her power and faith (medicine/chemo) shrinks the "monster" so it isn't so destructive...After the "cancer" looses it's power it transforms into "color girl" and helps make rainbows for the world.

It's important to note that with school age children dealing with cancer in a parent can be quite traumatizing. Emily has asked me several times if I am going to die. Don't underestimate the thoughts that are going through their minds. We have chosen to share the diagnosis and treatment with the kids to a degree that they are able to understand it. Using art and creative activities has helped them sort out the huge emotions that come with a mom being sick. Children who are unable to express themselves can often exhibit difficulties in school and can have difficulty concentrating in class. Children who are younger can even demonstrate regression to earlier stages of development as a way of expressing their inner world of confusion as to why mommy is so distracted. My youngest was just starting to use the potty but she has slowed way down in using it on a daily basis. But she is able to scribble and draw and express herself each day.

Whether a child draws a story, writes a story, makes a doll (with clay or fabric) or manipulates a body tracing....artistic outlets help kids express their inner turmoil. Cancer is a big deal to anyone, but helping give a child tools to master it and feel like they have some say in what's happening is very empowering and will help them through a difficult time in their childhood. I have seen first hand how my kids have benefited from art therapy. I hope sharing this helps others somehow too.

November 3, 2008

Drain Free

I say those words but sing it to the song "Born Free" do you know that song? Here's a blast from the past for ya..

I always loved that song...but I digress...

I got my drains out glad too because it was painful (I yelled really loud in the exam room that another nurse came into help, squeaky wheel gets the grease right?) and there's no telling how much more the skin would have secured itself to the tubing by Thursday...i know it's really gross...sorry, but cancer isn't pleasant....I'm having a hot flash while i write this...those haven't seemed to go away either...::sigh::

one more hurdle down though, onward and upwards! (I added the picture of the turtle for that symbol of perseverance...wish the turtle was facing towards the right though...well, i know I'm moving forward and not backwards.)

... friends are still coming to visit me, each one is an angel, and today a dear friend called first and we decided together that she didn't need to come as I was at the doctors and went to lunch with my i just wanted to rest for the afternoon....what a offer to not come by...if you are reading this and you are a friend of someone recovering from a cancer surgery, sometimes we need a break and also need to sit with our's's even healthy for us to sort through our dad came back later with the kids which was really nice too...

Tomorrow I get to have dd#2 all to myself after school...she is going to sleep over...she's almost 7 and can help me make an easy supper and we are going to work on her turkey that she needs to do for's a tag board image that we have to glue beans/pasta/rice will be nice to do with just her and no one else...she's excited too. :)

So that's the update...radiation is the next big thing and physical therapy....the saga will continue...but just imagine...a year from now it will all be a memory....yae!