Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Personal PSA of sorts

10 Months...
It's been 10 months since my last post, yet it feels like a life-time ago. A lot has happened. A lot that has kept me away. A lot that I won't share here, because while this may be MY place to write out my thoughts, not all of what has kept me away belongs to me alone, and there are some things you just don't share...at least not yet.
I've missed this - this process of sorting through the daily act of living and putting words to life. I'm ready to get back to it. I feel the need to put words to the last 10 months. And I know that I'm going to need this safe place to put words to what is going to be an even longer next 10 months...or more... Which is what has lead me back here, to my safe place where I can say what is on my mind and verbalize my fears and joys to people who don't know me and see me on a daily basis...yet somehow, they do know me, and they care...
...So with that being said, THIS is what has led me back here. THIS is my next adventure. THIS is my personal PSA...or something like that...
I'm 34...
I've always been in good health...
I've always been active...
I don't smoke or drink...
I eat well (for the most part...if you ignore the chocolate and coffee consumption)...

I had two healthy, easy-as-cake pregnancies...
I breast-fed both babies...
I have no family history...
I'M 34...
...and I have Breast Cancer.
What the hell?!? (Sorry, I don't usually cuss, but this warrants a one-time offense.) That's not supposed to happen to me. I'm not old enough. There is no history of it in my family. It can't happen to me...
Well, it can. And it does. And it did.
I'm proof that anyone, of any age can be diagnosed with breast cancer. It's not just for older women, it's not just for those with family history. It can happen to any one of us. Last Thursday, it happened to me.
Thank heavens I am blessed with a physician who listens to me and to my concerns. Four years ago I went to her, concerned with some lumps that I felt. What could have been brushed off as just being a result of my thin body build and being able to feel everything, was taken seriously and looked at further.
Four years ago nothing was found, but that was the beginning of my doctor looking more closely at me each year and actually hearing my voice. So when I went to my annual exam in June of last year, she again looked closer, listened to my concerns about another "interesting" spot, and took action. Now I am not a hypochondriac by any means, but something in my gut made me speak up and she agreed it was worth a closer look. After a mammogram and ultrasound, the radiologist saw calcifications in my right breast and decided that a follow-up in 6 months was a good idea.
Fast forward 6 months...two days after Christmas I went in for the follow-up exam. The tech saw the calcifications but thought they looked normal. The radiologist, however, didn't agree. The amount of change in 6 months was concerning to him and he advised a biopsy to rule out anything serious. He reassured me everything looked normal but he wanted to play it safe and make sure. Two weeks and two biopsy attempts later (long story...sometimes being thin really sucks), my doctor was personally calling and leaving me a message less than 24 hours after the biopsy to call her back on her personal line. Yeah, that's never a good thing...
That was last Thursday.  
Less than a week later and I've had 2 appointments with surgeons, 1 additional mammogram, 2 additional ultrasounds, and a possible MRI in the next few days. And tomorrow I meet with a plastic surgeon - something I never thought I would be doing ever in my lifetime.
Diagnosis - Breast Cancer (caught very early) in the right breast; probable cancer in the left.
Treatment - Bilateral Mastectomy with Reconstruction
Again I say, What the hell?!?
I'm 34!!
So what? Cancer doesn't care.
And that's what spurred me to come back here.
To share my message...my personal PSA...
To all of my friends...the ones I see each and every day and the ones
that I have only met through these words we write...
Get checked.
Speak up.
Talk to your doctor and make them listen.
Listen to your gut.
If you don't think something is right, say it.
Be vigilant and do self-checks.
Know what is your normal, so that when something isn't normal, you know it.
Because it can happen to anyone.
I never thought this would be my message. Never thought this is what would bring me back here. But if I can use my experience to help one person to take a closer look or to speak up, then why waste the opportunity? That, and I'm going to need my friends through this. I don't do pity and I don't do sympathy...heck I don't even know how to ask for help when I need it...but I know I'm going to need a place to put thoughts into words and the support of my friends during the next several months.
It's going to be a roller-coaster of a few months, but I've got this.
It's just another bump in the road.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Ugly Confession

I don't like birthdays. 
At all. 

Every year when mine comes around I secretly hope that everyone will just forget about it so that I can pretend I'm still 24. I'd rather think of myself as the age I feel, versus the age that is says on paper. Honestly, if it just passed me by without note so I could forget about it, I'd be perfectly happy. 

But I have a confession - it's not just my birthday I don't like...I don't like my kids' birthdays either. 
GASP! I'm a horrible mother!!
Now wait, before anyone goes all "tsk, tsk" on me, let me rephrase...I love celebrating the day of my children's birth. Those were two of the best days of my life, hands down. And I love giving them a party in their honor and making their day incredibly special. What I don't like about them is purely selfish...birthdays remind me that they are growing up way too fast. 

And I cry.
Every. Year. 
I cry.

Not in front of them, of course. But the night before their birthday as I go to sleep, I cry. I cry about how quickly they are growing up and how much I still want to do with them and how awful a mother I sometimes am for yelling too much or being too busy and I cry because, OH MY GOSH...one day soon (sniffle, sniffle) Little Man will ignore me in the halls at school (sniffle) because I'm just not cool anymore and then the next day he'll be all grown up with a wife and kids of his own and...gasp...it's all JUST TOO MUCH!!

Yup, I'm that irrational. 

I just love the age that they are at. Whatever age that is, I love that one and I don't want them to grow out of it. The phrase, "I wish they could stay little forever," I've repeated at least a thousand times. I've even thought that if I could just keep them (this age) forever, I would. But then something happened...

Little Man's birthday is this Sunday. He'll be 9. 
(9!?! Oh my, that's one year away from double digits! Cue panic attack!!) 
He has been talking about his big day non-stop for weeks now. During one of his excited conversations about all he wanted to do, I looked at him with a wistful smile and said, "You're growing up so quickly. You need to stop! It makes me sad!" 

Little Man stopped what he was doing and after thinking about it for a few minutes, nearly in tears, he said, "I'm sorry Mom. I don't mean to make you sad, but I can't stop growing up. And I want to grow up. I'm sorry."

Worst. Mother. Ever.

Such simple words, spoken in what was meant to be an endearing way...those words were some of the cruelest words I could have said. I wish I could take them back. But this interaction certainly opened my eyes and made me think. A lot. And I came to some realizations...

While I said what I did because I love each age my kids are at and I can't imagine the day they are grown and out on their own, it was completely unfair of me to say. For one thing, they can't control growing up any more than I can control this crazy Midwest weather. And telling them to stop growing up - even in a loving, completely un-serious way - makes them feel like they are doing something wrong and that they have disappointed me. When in fact, the way they are growing makes me so proud and in awe of them. And as much as I love this age, I honestly can't wait to see them at 10, 16, 21, and every age beyond.

But even more than it being an unfair statement to say to my kids, this conversation made me realize something even deeper...wishing my kids could stay this age forever, or that they would stop growing up, well, what does that really mean? That I would freeze them in time, denying them the opportunity to live their lives and experience all the wonders they are yet to know? Or by saying that I wish they would stop growing up and stay 8 or 6 forever, if you really think about it, if they stopped growing up then that wouldn't mean that they stopped living? And that's as far as I go with that one...

What I said was never meant in any of those ways - not even close - I had never thought about those statements and their impact. Of course that's not what I meant. I love watching my children grow. They amaze me every day and I am so excited for their futures. It does make me sad to think of the days when they are no longer living under my roof and are out on their own, but I will be so proud of all that they have accomplished and who they have become. 

This simple conversation, which I'm pretty sure Little Man has forgotten yet I never will, has made me change my thinking. Yes, I still at times wish we could all remain in our current state, it's only because I love where we are all at right now. But I will love us tomorrow, and next year, and 10 years from now too. And instead of wishing that my kids could stay this age forever, I will enjoy the age they are at and the memories we will make. 

I've also changed my words a bit. Now instead of saying that I wish my kids would stop growing up or wishing that they could stay 8 and 6 forever, I've started telling them that I love the way they are growing up. That I love the kind, wonderful people that they are turning in to. And their reaction to these statements? Oh, their smiles. Let me tell you, they reach from ear to ear. These simple words make them light up and make them feel good. That's how I want them to feel, not guilty for something they can't control. 

So while I'm still not a fan of my own birthday, I'm looking at my kids' birthdays in a new way from now on. Instead of crying over the things that I can't control and the mistakes I've made in parenting, I'm going to take that time to look at all they have accomplished and reflect on the memories we've created. We will celebrate their growth and their futures...and eat lots of cake :)


Monday, March 25, 2013

Get Connected at the 2013 Military.com Spouse Summit

One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with others. J had just left for Iraq and in an attempt to not feel alone in this crazy situation, I wrote my thoughts down here while searching for other bloggers who understood. I never knew that this community of military spouses existed before. It was a whole new world where I fit in, when at the time I didn't fit into the world that I physically lived in. We were the only military family that we knew of in our area and it was a great relief to be able to connect with other spouses, even if they were people that I had never met in real life. They were the support group that I lacked at home and the just understood what we were going through. I've said it before, and I'll say it forever, I am incredibly grateful for the military spouse community.

Making these kinds of connections is so important as a military spouse. The friendships I made kept me sane in some of the most insane times of J's deployment. Just knowing that someone else understood what I was going through or how I was feeling, no matter how crazy I felt, kept me grounded and helped me get through the deployment successfully. These online friends felt as close to me as some of my friends that I see on a daily basis. So when I had the unique opportunity to meet some of these amazing ladies in person last year at the Milblogging Conference, I jumped at the chance. 

The conference was a rare opportunity where many of the bloggers I had met online would all be in one place at the same time. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet the faces behind my favorite blogs and get to know them even better in person. It was also a great networking opportunity for my blog, which eventually led to the amazing experience I had participating in The Home Depot's Celebration of Service Blogging Network. So many great things came out of the conference, it truly was one of the best experiences I have had.

I was so excited this year to hear about the Spouse Summit, being put on by Military.com in Washington DC this April 11-12. When I first heard about it and found out that this conference would be just for Spouses, to gather and to connect, I knew it was going to be an amazing event. Unfortunately for me, it was being help the same weekend as J was set to leave for his next deployment and there was no way I would be able to attend. Que the sad, mopey feelings....I didn't want to miss out and I was really looking forward to making more amazing connections! But of course, I would not miss the last weekend with J before he left. Now that the deployment has been cancelled (more on that later...) I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to get out there!! It will be such an amazing opportunity for military spouses - to connect, to form lasting friendships, to listen to and talk with some amazing speakers and to just be with others who share the same crazy, military life. 

And the best part - It's FREE to attend!! These days, nothing is free anymore, but thanks to their outstanding sponsors, Military.com is able to offer the Spuse Summit for free! It's definitely too good to pass up!

Need more reasons to attend? Here's what the creators of the Spouse Summit have to say...
"Military.com’s Spouse Summit is not your typical conference. First of all it’s free! And we’ve banned the PowerPoint and 30 minute speeches in favor of interactive sessions with experts you can actually talk to and network with. The summit will focus on the issues that really matter like connecting with other spouses-on and offline, military mental health, what works when raising kids in the military, spouse career options and what you need to know about that looming transition to civilian life that faces every single military family at some point in their lives.
Our speakers are top notch: we have representatives from the Center for Deployment Psychology, The US Chamber of Commerce, The Warrior and Family Support office of the Chairman of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, University of Southern California's Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and we are so honored to have as our keynote speaker Sal Giunta, the first living Medal of honor recipient since Vietnam."
 I can tell you from personal experience, attending the Spouse Summit will be an amazing experience. From networking to a new job or forming new, in-person relationships, the Spouse Summit can offer incredible opportunities that you don't want to miss! 
To register for the Spouse Summit or to get more information, visit http://spousesummit.com/


Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Look, Something Shiny!!"

Other than it being a girl in the above picture, that describes Little Man exactly. That joke about being distracted by shiny objects...yeah, that's a constant occurrence. 

He and I were walking today, having a nice conversation and mid-sentence the kid immediately whips around and giddily exclaims, "Ooh look! Something shiny!!" 

Oh my, I could have lost it, although I wasn't sure whether to cry, laugh, or throttle him. 

Of course, our nice conversation ended there because now it was all about the shiny object that he had just picked up off the floor (which I had told him not to as I saw him lunge for this new treasure). He had no idea what we had been talking about before the shiny came into his awareness. And what was this shiny object that required all of his attention? I have no idea...and neither does he. When I asked him what it was, he replied, "I don't know. But it's shiny," all while wearing the biggest, most ridiculous grin on his face. 

Oh this kid keeps me on my toes. He frustrates me to no end some days, but he amazes me all the time. His delight in the little things reminds me to look for and enjoy the little things too. And tonight as I put him to bed, I noticed the new "shiny" on his shelf sitting among his collection of random objects. After he's forgotten about it (probably after being replaced by some new "shiny" I imagine!) I may snag this momentary treasure of his, to hold on to as a reminder to myself. A simple reminder from a wise, sweet 8-year-old to look for and get distracted in the shiny things in life. 

Thanks buddy :)


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Big Reveal

I did it!
13 inches of hair...gone!
And it feel amazing :)

I really should not have waited this long to make this change. The stylist was incredible and gave me exactly what I wanted, even though I had no idea what I wanted!

Now to send off the hair to Locks of Love! Although I do have to say, seeing all that hair cut off in a ponytail is kind of creeping me out a bit. All the more reason to get it into the mail! 

Now that I got over that hurdle/fear/laziness, I wonder what other changes can be made around here... ;)

REALLY lousy photo, but gives you an idea of how much hair was chopped!!


New Year, New Do

First things first...I want to wish you all a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope it was wonderful for everyone. I am way behind on this but what can I say...I'm a slacker. But that is a confirmed and documented fact so we'll move on!

A few months ago, October I think, I wrote a post about my hair. It needed to go. That was 3 months ago...and the hair is still here. Tangled, straggly and WAY too long. So it's the new year, right? And what better time to make a change than right now! Like, really, right now. (Actually, in an hour but who's counting?) 

The hair is coming off. At least 9 inches is! I made myself call the salon yesterday and got the earliest appointment I could so that I wouldn't chicken out. So far so good. I think I'm actually looking forward to this! I have no idea what style I'm going for but I'm hoping the stylist will have some good ideas. 

I can feel the panic rising though. I have not cut my hair of any significant length since 2008 and then I ended up with the "Rachel" hairdo from Friends. The 90's Rachel. Uggh. I suppose if I actually looked like Jennifer Aniston it might have looked good, but um, well, obviously I don't. And it didn't. So I go into this cut with a bit of hesitation. To be honest, I hide behind my hair and to have a lot of it go is a bit scary for me! But it's time to step out and make a change (I'm beginning to realize that as I get older, the more I resist change!). Do something different. Start the recently-begun new year with a fresh look. And hopefully a good one :)

A close-up of the "before" hippie hair.

The "before" hair

Bad photos, but gives you an idea of how long it is! I'll post "after" photos later today if I have time. And hopefully I will get around to a catch-up post soon too. We've had a lot going on lately and I need to get it written down before I forget :)