4 Years Cancer-Free

Today, February 10, 2019, marks the fourth year since my bilateral mastectomy. Four years since I was told by Dr. Hoagland it was the “best possible outcome” and my tumor had completely dissolved into itself. Woo-hoo!! 🎉🥳 I will forever remember that fuzzy, post-surgical moment for as long as I have breath in me.

There are two days each year that I will always harp on you to get your mammograms and do your self exams: July 27th and February 10th. I received the diagnosis of breast cancer on July 21, 2014, but I “announced” it publicly to extended family and friends on social media on July 27th. The other date is today, February 10th, the day of my surgery.

Between July and February, I had surgery to insert a port, a vicious and nasty chemo cocktail of Taxotere, Carboplatin, Perjeta, and Herceptin, x-rays, mammograms, genetic testing, consults, hospital admissions, puke fests, labs and heart studies (to make sure the chemo wasn’t causing problems). At the time, it was the hardest thing I’d been through. Of course, it wasn’t but I wouldn’t know that for a couple of years.

Because my tumor was ER+, PR+, HER2+, I was able to have chemo before I had surgery. I started chemo with blonde hair (well, light brown hair that had been highlighted blonde) and the intent to have a lumpectomy. Somewhere along the way, after several hospital admissions I had the feeling that I needed to consider a more aggressive surgical treatment. I spoke with my breast surgeon, Dr. Hoagland, about my options. I told him I was thinking about going with a bilateral mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. My thinking was that I had such a hard time with the chemo and its impact on my type 1 diabetes that I wasn’t sure I could handle it if it made a reappearance. He sent me to Dr. Noel for a consult and from then on, I was set on the idea of a mastectomy.

I have written before about the timing of my diagnosis and that I truly believe God led me on a journey with paths that would cross with a woman named Joy, another patient at Louisville Cardiology that, after seeing my scarf covered head, offered to show me her mastectomy scars, to the random woman at Kroger who saw me after I’d been released from a hospital stay and hugged me and told me she had been there, and to another stranger who saw my bald head in Oxmoor Mall and asked if I had alopecia (her son has alopecia and she thought it was so brave that I was walking about with a totally bald head). People I would never have met otherwise gave me courage and strength to persevere.

So, today I offer this reminder: take care of you as much as you take care of others. It’s ok to put yourself first sometimes. After all, if you don’t take care of you, who will?

Schedule your mammogram if you’re due or overdue for it. But, more importantly, do your self breast exams. If I hadn’t attended Joy’s funeral in 2012, I wouldn’t have promised myself and God that I was going to take better care of myself. I began doing my self exams more seriously after Joy’s death. Here’s an interesting timeline:

September 2012 – Joy’s funeral

February 2013 – I had a routine mammogram

April 2014 – I found a lump that I began watching

July 2014 – over a few weeks, I met with my GYN to check out lump, had a mammogram, had an ultrasound, had a biopsy, and ultimately received a diagnosis of hormone positive breast cancer

When I first found my lump, I was 41 years old; diagnosis came just after I turned 42. I have no family history of breast cancer on my mom’s side (my dad’s aunt and her daughter had breast cancer but genetic testing said those wouldn’t have impacted my type of tumor).

So I shouldn’t have ever been at risk for breast cancer. I was young(ish) and had no family history. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Don’t NOT have mammograms or self exams because you think you’re too young, or have no risk. Also, don’t not do them because you’re afraid that you might find a lump. I promise, finding it as early as possible can save your life.

xo,

Jennifer

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Out With The Old, In With The New

As 2018 made its graceful exit yesterday and ushered in 2019, a new year of opportunities, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what’s been going on for the last 365 days. Mostly, this is a reminder to me of the progress I’ve made in my recovery.

1. Stroke recovery is going pretty well. It’s the slowest dang thing ever but this type A person is trying to remember to add a dose of patience to my diet. It’s hard and I fail at least once a day, but I keep at it so that’s something at least. I am beyond happy that I made the switch to Max Performance Physical Therapy in November. They are so different in their thinking and that’s good for me. At Jewish/Frazier, it was like this: PT – every session was something different. Different exercises, no routine, randomness that didn’t really fit together. OT – the same 5 exercises every single time in the same order. PT and OT were like polar opposites. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good routine (type A and all) but it was timed. So I had 45 minutes of each and if I only got 4 exercises done in OT in 45 minutes, that was it. At Max, they want me to finish all the exercises so I’m not rushed (at least they don’t seem to want to kick me out lol!). Plus I had a spat with the old place when they told me I couldn’t come back because, from their perspective, I had used all the therapy benefits for the year, when I knew I hadn’t because of the way they bill. But they didn’t want to listen so I let it go and moved on. And I KNOW it was the right decision for me.

2. Walking is MUCH improved. Not 100% if even 90% but I’d say I’m at 80-85%. I still have foot drop which is so annoying and it impacts my walking. But in the last week I have noticed my knee isn’t snapping near as bad, and my walking speed is increased. I’m not running (yet) but I think I can outpace a lazy turtle! I remember when I had the wheelchair after I was released from the hospital and getting my footing back. I wanted to do laundry on my own (I love doing laundry!) so I put the laundry bag in the wheelchair and pushed it into the laundry room. I felt so accomplished that day!

3. I got my first tattoo in 2018. Actually I got my first THREE tattoos but you can only see one of them. It didn’t feel at all what I thought it would and I can see how people can get addicted to them!

4. I tried acupuncture for the first time. I started it hoping it would help my brain come back online. It was nice but I didn’t really notice much of a difference. I give it 6 months and then switched to medical massage therapy, which has been a total game changer! Sherry, my massage therapist is AMAZING anc I can tell a huge change. Before I went to her my right leg felt so heavy. Once I started seeing her, she worked on my muscles in an order and way that connected in my brain. My foot and leg don’t have that heavy feeling that they did before. Her office is on the second floor and there’s no elevator so I have the added “therapy” of climbing steps to get to her. Plus she’s half the cost of acupuncture so that’s a win in my book!

5. In May I took another position at my company and it was both scary and exciting at the same time. In my previous role, I felt like I wasn’t being used enough. I like to be busy all the time at work and I wasn’t busy at all. I told my manager that I needed more to do and I felt like it was just a matter of time before someone decided they didn’t need me in my role. I was contacted on a Monday in May by a Market Head in Ohio saying they were looking for a new position and would I be interested in it. She said she knew it was highly unlikely but she went out on a limb to ask. What she didn’t know was that I had just began praying the Thursday before for some guidance with my job. I had a great position, a great manager, and loved what I was doing but I needed to be challenged more. I took that as a sign from God that it was time to make a move. On paper, it probably didn’t make a lot of sense to others why I would want to go from reporting into the president’s office to go to a local market but I felt in my heart at peace about it. When the Market Head first contacted me with the pitch for the position, I responded with “do you know what’s been happening with me?” I was definitely interested but if she needed someone who could travel, I couldn’t commit to that. Eventually, I hope to be able to travel but for the time being, I couldn’t put a date on it. She said that wasn’t a problem and we could work around it. It was truly a God-sent solution to my problem.

6. My family and I have participated in the Color Run for 3 years. I missed year 2 because I was in the hospital, but 2018 brought the 3rd Color Run and it was HARD. There was clearly no running but even walking the 5k was almost too much. When I say I barely finished, I am not kidding. We had to pass the parking lot where we were parked to get to the finish line and it was SO tempting to just give up. But I finished and got that medal!

7. In June I was referred to an eye specialist because I was still having trouble with double vision as a result of my stroke. When I was in the hospital I had a eye patch because the double vision was so bad. My opthalmologist referred me to an eye surgeon because he thought I might need to be surgically corrected. I saw the surgeon in June and after examining my eyes he said the deviation in my eyes was so minor that he wouldn’t recommend surgery. He said my eyes should settle down in the next six months. And last week I realized I haven’t used my readers at all for a week and a half! I still have a very slight difference but it’s manageable and it’s a sign I’m getting closer to normal.

8. Our daughter, our first born, Taylor got engaged to a great guy. A date has been set for June 20, 2020, and planning is about to begin!

In 2019, there are some things I plan on accomplishing.

1. I don’t want to put a finish date on therapy because I think I’ll need it for a while. But, I do want to walk normally. I want my hip not to snap. I want to be able to rotate my ankle. I want to be able to pop my toes. I want to be able to do a plank. I want to try running (I wasn’t a runner before my stroke so we’ll see how that goes lol!). I want to my my fingers.

2. I will finish my bachelor’s degree in August

3. I want to type with 2 hands. Before my stroke I could type about 90 words per minute. I miss that!

4. I will complete the bible studies that I have but haven’t used, or haven’t completed (I tend to collect bible study books but am not good with completing them).

5. I want to drive with my right foot. I currently drive with my left foot which is only possible with an attachment to my car. I can’t rent a car or drive one of our other cars until I have more flexion in my right ankle.

6. I will do the Color Run in the summer. Hopefully faster than last year!

7. Plan a wedding!!

8. Do more PT exercises at home. I’m going to talk to my PT on Wednesday and tell her I need her to expect me to do therapy on the off days. The thing I’ve figured out about me is that I won’t do it if it’s not expected that I’ll do it. So I’m going to be purposeful in that this year.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far for 2019. I’m sure there’s more I haven’t come up with that I’ll think of later.

Cheers to a happy 2019! Here’s to a successful 365 days!

12/31/2018

This morning I had an appointment with my oncologist, the incredible Dr. Geetha Joseph, at 8:30am. I made this appointment 6 months ago and I remember thinking that it was the last visit of 2018 I would have while my out of pocket was met.

So I have known all along that 12/31 I would see Dr. Joseph. What I didn’t consider is that having been off work for the last week and a half that I would lose track of days. So while I knew I had the appointment, I didn’t realize that today was, in fact, 12/31. Until I woke up at 8:20am. I about freaked. Actually, I did freak out. I can’t believe I didn’t wake anyone else up with my crazy ranting. I called the office and they told me to come on in. So I brushed my teeth, ran a brush through my hair, threw on some deodorant and clothes and headed to the Eastpoint office. I looked like a mess!

I HATE being late for anything. It makes me anxious and I feel bad. Never mind the fact that most doctors I see are usually running late on their own. Whatever.

So I got to the office, waited for labs, and then to see Dr. J. She sat in the chair in the exam room while I was on the table and we talked for a long time. She said she can’t believe I haven’t gone into menopause yet since I’ve been on Tamoxifen for 4 years. My body is just really stubborn. Go figure. She really wants me to be in menopause because my breast cancer was fueled by hormones so she wants to stop the hormone production to prevent any type of recurrence.

I knew this conversation was coming because I’ve known that I wasn’t in menopause and I needed to be. My thought was that I was really concerned with gaining weight while being in menopause. I am finally (FINALLY) to my pre-cancer diagnosis weight and I am happy there. Dr. Joseph wanted to run some additional labs (requiring a second blood draw!) and talk to another doctor for his opinion.

The thing is my tumor had a “complete response”, which is the best possible outcome. All the chemo was worth the end result. So I told her I wasn’t sure if I wannted to change from Tamoxifen to a combination injection and oral medication that will put me into immediate menopause. She understood and said she wanted this other doctor’s input because I had such a positive result to chemo I’m probably at a lower risk for recurrence. She said she would run the labs and call me with a decision.

As soon as she left the room, I started gathering my things and a thought hit me. I’ve had a couple of these types of thoughts and would swear it was God speaking to me. It was a “booming” feeling in my heart as the thought came to me. I thought “Stop being vain and just do it!” I immediately geared up but was also at peace with going in the new direction. So when she calls me with the lab results, I’m going to tell her to go ahead with the new plan.

I told my bFf about all this and my weight gain concerns and she responded with “weight won’t matter in a casket” which pretty much sums it up perfectly!

So the Lord knows how to get my attention rather quickly, huh?

Happy Dia-versary to Me!

Today I celebrate 35 years of having Type 1 Diabetes. I think, that is. I don’t know what the date was but my mom said it was the week after Thanksgiving 1983, so I picked today as the day to remember when everything changed. I have a yearly reminder in my phone called “Death of my pancreas” to make me laugh. Lol!

I don’t really have a lot of memories before I was diagnosed. I guess it’s because that was the one defining thing that changed the way I live. I remember going to my pediatrician, Dr. Hinkebein, (the dad; his son is in his practice now) and I remember my mom crying when he told her. I didn’t understand at all but it scared me that she was crying, so I started crying too. I think remember going home, packing a bag, and then going to Kosair Children’s Hospital. It was in the evening, already dark. I also remember him saying “They will find a cure for this in her lifetime”. I’m still waiting…

From there everything was a blur but I think I was in the hospital for 2 weeks. Nowadays, I don’t think you’re admitted to the hospital unless you are in DKA. I learned how to give myself shots, practicing first in an orange. I checked my urine for keytones with urine strips. Glucometers weren’t out for home use st that point, only in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

I remember the nurses coming to check my blood sugar. They used these lancets that I called “swords”. They were awful and made my fingers hurt SO much! I was like “Please, PLEASE, not the SWORDS”. My fingertips looked so beaten and bruised!

I’m not sure when we got a glucometer to use at home. But the lancet device was less archaic than the “sword”. Not anything like it is today but at least I didn’t feel like I was cutting my fingers off with it. I found pictures on Instagram of the “swords” and the first lancet device I had. Oh, the memories!

The “swords”

The first “lancing device” I ever had.

I had a lot of trouble when I was in middle and high school with erratic blood sugar and spent a lot of time in the hospital getting me regulated. Thankfully, I haven’t been in the hospital, specifically, because of my diabetes since I was in high school, a long, long, long time ago!

Technology now is so much better than back in the “old” days. Now I have an Omnipod insulin pump and a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor. I remember it feeling like such an out of body experience when I had low blood sugar. I would feel shaky all over and everything felt so slow. Now, I’m not able to feel when I’m getting low so I rely so much on my Dexcom CGM!

Dexcom checks my sensor glucose every 5 minutes and is about a 20 minute lag behind real time. I gotta be honest, the first time I saw the applicator, I kind of freaked. If you look closely, you can see a long ass needle inside the inserter. (About mid-way down the clear tube – I’ll mark it in the pic below.)

That’s a hard mental image to get over when you have to insert that thing into your body. So once you insert the applicator, you attach the transmitter. The transmitter “talks” to the receiver, which in my case is my iPhone. There’s a 2 hour warm up period where you get no readings and then you calibrate it twice to get going. From there, readings update every 5 minutes unless there’s a problem (like if the phone is too far away from you, etc). You’re “supposed” to change out the sensor after 7 days. My endo nurse practitioner said to go 14 day. Other people go longer than 14 days. I’m in that category, where I only change it when I absolutely have to (I mean, have you SEEN that needle?!) so I get about 3-4 weeks out of one sensor. Those suckers are expensive! A three month supply of sensors runs $1,700, and transmitters are $910 for 2 (1 transmitter will last about 3 months).

Side view of the sensor:

The transmitter isn’t very mig, maybe 1-1/2″. The issue is that the adhesive doesn’t always last on the Dexcom so I’ve found Stay Put Patches that are really good. Sometimes they stick too well so i have to use Unisolve to get them off! Once the 2 hour warm up is up, I start getting the readings on my phone and Apple Watch – technology is SO cool! It will sound alerts when I get to my low (<100), high (>170), or urgent low (<50) levels. So if it says I’m at 100, reality is that I’m probably lower than that because of the lag in real time.

Stay Put Patches are the BEST I’ve found! Even after 4 weeks, I don’t get lifting around the edges of the patch. The longer I can keep the Dexcom sensor on, the fewer times I have to think about that needle going it!!

My Omnipod insulin pump delivers a set amount of insulin every hour (this is the basal rate) and I “tell” it how many carbs I’m eating and it calculates and delivers the correct amount of insulin to cover the food I’m eating. I can adjust the basal rates as needed and I’m finding that season changes tend to make me fluctuate. I’ve now got a “Summer” and “Fall” basal rate. Probably will add a “Winter” and “Spring” but I just realized that season changes make me run higher or lower. Weird!

It’s a little bigger than Dexcom, and thicker. A 3 month supply is $1,225. I open the packaging and inject enough fast acting insulin (either Novolog or Humalog, they’re basically the same thing) into the reservoir to cover 3 days. For me, that’s about 85 units, which is the least amount you can put In Omnipod. Unlike Dexcom, there’s a hard stop after 3 days with Omnipod. If you get to that limit, it will start to sing the song of its people. Which is a super shrill, incredibly annoying, alarm. Seriously, they need to make an alarm clock with that sound and it would wake anyone!

It’s controlled with a PDM, which is basically the pod’s “command center”. You enter your current blood sugar, the number of carbs you’re eating and BAM, it does all the calculations to tell you how much insulin you will need.

Omnipod allows me to set a temporary basal which will deliver an increased or decreased amount of my regular insulin over an amount of time I choose (like ⬆️ 20% over 1 hour). That way if I’m eating a carb-heavy meal, or if I’m running low, I can adjust my insulin to handle that.

The cannula is the little blue thing at the top of the bottom side of the pod. That’s what goes under my skin to deliver the insulin. I barely feel the cannula being inserted when it’s time to switch out sites.

This technology has been life saving, truly. I can no longer tell when blood sugar is low until it’s very low (<30) and I can’t always feel it at all, so I can’t rely on how I feel to measure reality. One thing that really helps me is eating low carb meals. I still eat carbs, but I limit which meals I have them. If I eat a bunch of carbs at dinner, it takes longer to digest them, so I end up running higher overnight than if I don’t eat them.

Sometimes, though, mama just wants some carbs! Happy carb counting!

xo,

Jennifer

T1D 35 freaking years

Jesus and Joy

I’m going to start this with the statement that I never, NEVER, thought I’d get a tattoo. Like, never, ever, ever. I had absolutely no opposition to them, I just didn’t see myself tatted up. But, then, life happened.

My 19 year old son, Justin, met a kid in elementary school named Connor G. They became fast friends and were both excited to learn that they shared the exact same birthday. They got to be really good friends in middle school and that carried into high school. Over the years, I have watched them grow from young boys to middle schoolers to high schoolers to grown men. I’m not even sure how they’re grown men with facial hair already?!

As young boys, they would have sleepovers, watch movies, play video games, ride bikes, and whatever it is that boys get into. They played on the middle school soccer team together and then later on the high school soccer team.

When they were in 6th grade (I think – I’m sketchy on the timeline. I know the boys were in middle school.), Connor’s mom, Joy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m not sure if it was the first time she’d been diagnosed with it or not though.

Joy was the first person I actually knew who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn’t imagine how Joy, her husband John, or their two young boys Connor and Noah, were feeling. At that time, it was several years before I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, so I just (naïvely) assumed that you had surgery and chemo and you’d be fine. Joy and John walked in the Oaks Day Survivor’s Walk the day before the Kentucky Derby in 2011 and 2012.

What I remember most about Joy is her smile. She just lit up when she smiled. I so wish I had known Joy much better than I did as “Connor’s mom”. Of course we talked when the boys spent the night at each other’s house, at school functions and soccer games. But, I wouldn’t say I knew her well. Still, I prayed for her all the time, that the Lord would give her success in her breast cancer journey.

Unfortunately, Joy’s cancer could not be healed on this side of heaven and God called her to Him on Saturday, September 22, 2012. I remember the great sadness I felt that she wasn’t going to be here to grow old with her husband and to watch her boys grow up. My heart hurt so badly for them and for those that knew and loved her.

Tony, Justin, and I went to visitation services a couple of nights before her funeral. We stood in line and hugged John, Noah, and Connor. Then, in a beautiful, heartfelt display of pure sportsmanship, the entire high school varsity and JV soccer teams showed up in their uniforms, giving support and love to their team member’s family. It was an incredible moment that generated a flow of tears and almost brought me to my knees. To this day, I still tear up when I think about that moment when I turned and saw the whole soccer team come in. It was truly beautiful.

Justin and I went to Joy’s funeral on Tuesday after she passed. What I remember most about the day is that it was pouring rain. I mean, it was raining SO hard and SO heavy. I remember sitting in Shelby Christian Church and thinking that the heavenly angels must be crying alongside every one of us in that church. It was a beautiful service and one that truly changed me. I distinctly remember sitting in the church, promising God and myself that I was going to take better care of my health. That I wanted to be here with and for my kids and to do so, I needed to cut out the junk food and start exercising.

Throughout my life, I’ve never really struggled with my weight so I didn’t find it necessary to exercise routinely before. But I knew it would help me with controlling my type 1 diabetes. I’d always had a perfectly acceptable A1C, but I knew I could do better.

Because of Joy, I also began being serious about performing my own monthly breast self-exams. (If you aren’t doing them, please, PLEASE, don’t let the sun go down TODAY without starting this very important and life saving task). And because of this, I found my own lump in late April, 2014.

I have always credited Joy and Jesus with the finding of my breast cancer so early. I’d had a routine mammogram in February 2014 and if not for the self-exams I was doing, if I was only relying on my routine mammograms, the earliest my cancer would have been discovered would have been February 2015, or even February 2016 (I can’t remember now if at that time they were recommended every year or every other year for my age group). You couldn’t feel my lump if I was lying on my back, only if I was sitting up. My gyn said she couldn’t even feel it when I was on the exam table.

Regardless, my point is, if I hadn’t sat through Joy’s funeral, with tears flowing and rain pouring, I probably wouldn’t have began taking my own health so seriously. And I probably wouldn’t be here today. Joy and Jesus, I’m telling you. I.am.telling.you!!!

When I received my own breast cancer diagnosis, Joy’s husband, John, brought me a huge plastic bin filled with chemo caps. Everything you could possibly imagine was in that box. Thin caps, wooly caps, scarves, bandannas. And I was so grateful for his kind heart. (And I still have that box that I need to get back to them – so embarrassing that I’ve had it this long! ☺️) I felt close to her wearing the same chemo caps that she had worn going through a similar journey.

A couple years ago I was writing the Fruits of the Spirit in my planner. I didn’t keep that planner and I wish I had. Anyway, I do NOT really like my handwriting, especially when I write in cursive. I type just about everything because my writing gets sloppy and unreadable as I write. But on this day I was actually writing something other than doctor appointments in my planner. (Lol!) I remember writing “joy” in my planner in cursive lowercase letters and somehow my planner got shifted as I took a phone call, so that I saw the word in a totally new way. And it was in that moment that I knew it would be a really cool tattoo, as a tribute to Joy, and to our journeys with a beast called “breast cancer”. What I saw as my planner sat turned upside down was two cancer ribbons in the loops of the “j” and “y”.

I thought it would be a cool tattoo to have, but I didn’t know any tattoo artists (then, anyway!) and I didn’t really know if I’d be able to actually go through with getting one (this type 1 diabetic was afraid of the needles!). Since that time, I have met a super sweet, super talented, tattoo artist (Louisa Kleinert at Bluebird Ink Beautique) and have gotten my aerola tattoos from her (they’re AMAZING! No, you can’t see them!). I asked Louisa about this “joy” tattoo idea and she was on board with however I wanted it to look, but she suggested placing it on the side of my wrist, as opposed to on the top or bottom of my wrist like I’d initially thought. Like, I am N-O-T an artist so I didn’t know if it was a terrible idea or what. But, it’s very simple, yet totally meaningful to me, personally.

So I saw Louisa today and got my first tattoo that can be seen, unlike my nipple tattoos (lol!). I selected the placement to go on my right wrist. My cancer was in the right breast and it just seemed to make more sense. I originally thought I’d do the placement on the top or bottom of my wrist but Louisa suggested the outside edge of my wrist. It’s different, but I thought long and hard about it and decided that’s what I’d do.

Joy, this is my tribute to you; a pink ribbon for your journey, and a pink ribbon for my journey. I have loved watching Connor become a man and I know you’re so proud of him and Noah. Thank you for your brave battle, and for waking me up to take better care of myself. I’ll forever be grateful to you and your family.

Jesus, this is my thank you to you for covering me with your protection through that storm. I am so grateful and thankful that I’m still here, breathing, living, fighting through another day.

I have been writing this post for a couple of weeks now and I have shed MANY tears every time I add to or edit this post. This true story is so deeply personal to me and I hold the memories close to my heart. If you take anything from this, please don’t skip out on your monthly self breast exams and mammograms. Don’t let the sun go down TODAY without making a plan for both. Both are vitally important and life-saving. Don’t not do it out of fear of “what if”. Trust me when I say that your odds are much better if you catch anything early than later. You are your own best advocate for your health. It’s easy to put everyone else in your family first, but, Mama’s, you’ve got to take care of you. Whether it’s a dental cleaning, routine physical, mental health therapy, mammograms or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you’ve got to make yourself a priority. Because if you don’t take care of you, who will take care of them? (Yes, I know dads care take care of them too, but we all need our mama at certain points in our lives.) Please, promise yourself (or promise your kids if you need a stronger push) that YOU will take care of YOU. It’s not selfish. It’s absolutely necessary.

So this is my story of breast cancer, Jesus, and Joy. My story of how of how a woman with no risk factors or history of breast cancer, ended up fighting and beating the snot out of that pink ribbon cancer.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm‬ ‭126:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The verses that carried me through my cancer were these words – the Lord created me (and us all) to handle the hard stuff and for me, this reminder is what got me through:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm‬ ‭139:13-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Sweet Joy (I swiped this from her Facebook page so I don’t know who took it and I hope it’s ok I am using it!)

Connor (left) and Justin (right) from 2014 (top) and 2015 (bottom). I wish I had this picture all the years they played high school soccer together.

📸: Louisa Kleinert 😘😘

Marathon Training

A year ago today, I began telling the story of my stroke. Today it popped up on my Facebook memories and I began reading what I’d written a year ago. Here’s the post I had written last year: https://jennclaspill.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/april-24-2017/

Whew. It was hard to read it again. The thing about my stroke is that I know it was awful, but I also have no memory of it. I remember none of the chaos or pain or surgeries or recovery from the 2 brain surgeries I had. For me, it was as if I fell asleep in the ER and woke up a month later, on my 45th birthday. I know that I did have pain from the incisions but I am just blank on that time. So I get that everyone is more cautious about me than I am with certain things. I would rather try something and see if I can do it myself, or not. Then again, I didn’t break my foot when I was home alone. Lol!

I videoed myself on the treadmill today because I’ve figured something out. If I put a tall mirror beside the treadmill and watch myself while I walk, I don’t have hardly and knee or hip snapping at all. But if I don’t pay attention or don’t watch myself, it’s snapping like chewing gum. It doesn’t really hurt (more uncomfortable than anything), but I know it’s not supposed to do that. The first video is me focused on watching my leg move in the mirror and the second is toward the end of my walking when I’m less than focused. I have found that anytime I can see myself in a mirror, I can usually improve the way I move. But it’s not really reasonable to carry a full length mirror everywhere so I tend to fall back into bad form.

One of the PT exercises I did this week was me laying on my back. Then I would tighten my right knee, lift my leg up, then back down, then release my knee. I’d never done that before but I can really tell that it’s doing something. My knee is just starting to feel like it has more strength and not so wobbly.

I noticed the night after my first PT with Alice that it felt like my right groin tendon/muscle (whatever it is) felt HUGE. I was like “what is going on with that thing?!” And I felt the area to see if I had something stuck to me or something. So I can tell that the exercises she had me doing on Wednesday were actually doing something.

Baby steps, baby steps!

I saw this on a shirt a while back and was like “Hey, I can make that!” So last night, I got my Cricut out and I did it! Sweat from today’s treadmill walking included. Lol!

A Good Night’s Sleep

I’ve figured something out about me. So this past Saturday I had a sleep study done. Although I wouldn’t call it a “sleep study”; move like a “wake up a lot study”. It was rough – I was hooked up to all these wires and felt like I was tied to the bed. And it wasn’t my bed with my pillow and my blankets. I think I fell asleep around 11:00pm and woke up at 4:00am. And it was very interrupted sleep. VERY.

The sleep study was ordered by my endocrinologist’s nurse practitioner because apparently sleep apnea can cause a stroke. Since it’s not believed that my diabetes or chemo caused my stroke we’re at the point of ruling things out and this is one of them. I don’t look like a typical sleep apnea patient – I mean I don’t even weigh 115 pounds, I don’t snore (unless I am congested), and I don’t wake up gasping for air. I will have the results sometime this week. But I’m not expecting anything to come of it.

After I got home at 6:00am on Sunday and wasn’t able to fall back to sleep so I was up all day. I noticed I had a really hard time seeing clearly all day. I tried wearing my contacts and even my dreaded glasses (Kate Spade glasses do not make it better it turns out!). Nothing helped and I struggled all day until I crashed that night. The next morning I meant to put in a new pair of contacts, thinking that a new pair would help. So I put in my old lenses (I switch them every 2 weeks so they weren’t technically “old”) and I could see pretty well, not 100% but that’s typical. I have just a touch of unevenness between my eyes. I saw an eye specialist in June and he said he could see just a slight deviation between the eyes and it should clear up in 6 months or so. Sometimes I need readers while I’m working just to see my computer monitor clearly.

So I got to thinking and I have realized that the amount and quality of sleep I get the night before has a direct impact on the way my eyes see the next day. When I get at least 12 hours of sleep, I am able to see better, more clearly, than if I get less sleep. I wish I could adequately describe how frustrating it was on Sunday to not be able to see quite right.

But now that I know that sleep directly impacts how well I see, I know that I need to get a good night of sleep every night. Hopefully my sleep study is normal and we can cross off this “maybe” cause of my stroke. 🤷🏻‍♀️

UPDATE: I got the results of my sleep study yesterday and was told I had “mild sleep disturbance” (insert my most sarcastic face – of course I had sleep disturbance – they woke me up all night!!). Anyway I have to go back tonight for another sleep study with the CPAP mask on. So after church I’ll head over to the sleep center for another night of feeling strapped into bed, wires running off me everywhere, probably full of “sleep disturbances”.