Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Charmed Life

Prior to getting breast cancer, I had lived a charmed life. It's not that I didn't have challenges like everybody else. I was the oldest of 5 kids and we didn't have a lot growing up plus my parents divorced when I was in high school, but I took great strength from my childhood. I thought that if I had the right attitude and postive thoughts, I could will everything to go my way and it pretty much did except for when I got cancer. That was not on my bucket list. Truely, everything else in my life had always gone my way. I had gotten to do so many great things in my life. I had been an officer in the Army, lived and worked abroad, including Germany and Israel and traveled the world, had my own marketing company, did my graduate studies in something I just wanted to it in, Religious Studies, had a great husband and two incredible kids. I always felt like I was very lucky, even though I don't like that word anymore because I don't think bad things happen to people because of bad luck, but that's another blog day, Why We Suffer. You know when people say if you have your health, you have everything, well, it's true!!! When you get sick, the only thing you want back is your health, and you'd pretty much do anything to get it back. No one had ever died or gotten sick in my life before so I was really surprised when it was ME getting sick with something that could kill me. I was so not prepared for real suffering in my life. I was very naive. I didn't know bad things could happen, so when it did, I thought I could still will the cancer to not be in my lymph nodes, but that's not how it works with cancer, not with life and death issues. It was in 3 lymph nodes with a turmor in one lymph node that broke open. So, I had a lot of catching up to do on how to deal with the bad. I learned more during the year and half of my cancer treatment than I had learned my entire life, the secret to happiness, how to live and why we live. I realized that a "Charmed Life" hadn't really gotten me anywhere. I love the quote from Elizabeth Edward's, God rest her soul, "We are defined by the way we handle the bad times in our lives."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mixed up with Somebody Else

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was SURE my doctor had me mixed up with somebody else. I mean there was no breast cancer in my family. My mom and my sister had never had breast cancer. My mom had lots and lots of sisters and no one had had breast cancer or any lady cancer for that matter. My grandmother had lived to be 98 and my other grandmother was alive. Actually, no one in my family had ever even had any type of cancer YET. Plus I didn't meet any of the typical lifestyle risks. I had never smoked anything. I wasn't a drinker either, rarely drank in my youth and at the time, not often and when I did, it was with dinner and only one and a glass of red wine because of the health benefits. I thought I was the perfect picture of health. I was never sick!!! I never even got a cold when everybody else did. My kids could vomit all over me and I still wouldn't get sick. Never had allergies like everybody else either. I would brag about it too!! The only doctor I even went to was my OBGYN. The only time I had been in the hospital was to have my children. And excuse me, I had breast fed for a total of 3 and half years of my life which was suppose to decrease my risk of breast cancer. I couldn't find any lifestyle choices that fit with someone who got breast cancer. I was thin!!! I had never been overweight!!! I only weighed 138 pounds when I had my children and I lost the weight quickly both times. I exercised a lot plus I was an avid runner. The day before I was diagnosed, I ran 6 miles and I remember thinking, I'm in such good shape, but little did I know the cancer was already in three lymph nodes, and I just didn't know it. I ate healthy, salads mostly, because that's what I liked...I was a granola, no preservatives, organic freak long before it was trendy to be one and had been a vegan for a big chunk of my life. When people heard that I had cancer, they would were like WTF??? My sister would tell people, "If Donna can get cancer, then we all better be very afraid." BECAUSE I was the last person in the world, they thought would get breast cancer. The C-word was something that happen to other people and definitely not to me!!!! So, when I heard those three words "You have cancer!" I was sure the doc had mixed me up with somebody else.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Okay, before I share anymore about my unexpected detour to Cancerland, let me give you a little background info about me. The year prior to being diagnosed with BC, I had a lot of "justs" in my life!!! I had just had a baby (in my 40s), well not just, 2 year ago, but close enough. We had just moved back from a 4 year tour in Israel (foreign service family). I had just stopped breast feeding. We had just brought a house. My husband had just left (5 months earlier) for his second tour in Iraq. I had just decided to go back to work (and had a couple of great job offers too). I had just gone back to school to finish my advance degree. Eizabeth Edwards' BC had just come back earlier that year and I recall reading about how she may have been at a higher risk of BC because she had babies late in life. The Channel 7 news anchor had just been diagnosed with BC. My huband had just arrived for a visit from Iraq. It was just Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cancerland Tour

This blog is about my Cancerland Tour. Think of Cancerland like Hotel California. You can checkout anytime you want, but you can never really leave for good until there's a cure (and there's no cure for cancer if you haven't heard). So, you're saying, why not just move on now that you're finished with treatment and forget it...well, breast cancer is one of those cancers that you're never really cured from, you're just in remission for now, and it can always come back and if you got it young enough (under age 50) and live long enough, it often does. I don't obsess about it coming back or anything like that, but something happened to me that changed me forever and that's what I want to blog about.

The story starts here. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 17, 2007. My life as I knew it ended right then and there. I had no idea at the time (or maybe I did). I thought you go through treatment, you live, hopefully, and then, you go on, but it's not like that at all. I mean sometimes, I wish it was, but that's not the way it works with cancer.