wide-eyed at 4am

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A Calm Understanding

It’s new that stress is always on my mind. I know I was under stress prior to the cancer journey, but I never really thought about how I handled it or how it affected my physical well-being.

Now I do. Once you hear that stress can definitely be a factor in cancer’s occurrence, you think about it differently.

Some things have happened…job related….that I may have had a different reaction to prior to the cancer experience. I think they would have stressed me out MORE.

Basically, several folks moved on to other employment opportunities, we’ll say. These folks were the core positions of the team that I work on and some that made up a closely related team. Structure is changing over to match what customers need in a better way so it’s a good thing for the company. What is difficult is how departments change during times like this.

So the marketing team is now pretty much three contractors (me and a two graphic designers) and an interim manager.

And I’m OK with it. Even though my workload has greatly increased, it’s OK. A company that I’ve been with for almost 10 years needs for me to step up and be consistent and I will.

But I’m calm about it. It’s a funny inner peace.

After this journey – during which I worked full-time keeping up with everything for 4 clients – I’ve not been strikingly stressed over anything. Not even the surgeries and treatments.

Faith gives me the understanding that everything will work out. Support from loved ones gives me confidence that I won’t be alone during any of it.

So I learned that this concept doesn’t disappear as the most difficult parts of the cancer journey are behind me. It’s lifelong. It’s always with me and always has been.

My plastic surgeon’s nurses are amazing people. One in particular has been especially supportive. During a recent appointment, we were talking about the silver linings and gifts that do come from the cancer experience. For me, one of the most reassuring ones has been the discovery of this strength, assurance and calm that exists within us all – if we will just let ourselves find it.


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Gems of the Journey

This journey has amazed me.

So much emotion. Fear. Pain. Mystery.

But then there has also been support. Love. Compassion. Strength. Wonder.

There have been experiences and people. And they’ve truly been gems in a journey where you don’t expect to find them.

My doctors.

I’ve done this before so I won’t go into the detail, but my doctors are nothing short of fabulous. I couldn’t possibility have a better team. They are truly the dream team and I’m so thankful for that because their awesomeness has given me strength, energy and even enthusiasm during this year.

I don’t want to need them more. But I don’t want to not see them. I will continue to see my oncology surgeon and oncologist for a while and everyone once in a while as check-ups, but I feel so cared about and cared for under their watchful eyes, that I don’t want to give that up. And my plastics guy. What can I say. He won’t “finish up” for a while, but I know that I will eventually just not need the attention of a plastic surgeon. Eventually he won’t be checking up on me. I will miss that. He has made a very unnerving and mysterious component of this journey much easier to withstand and understand. My radiology oncologist is likely not to need to see me again after the follow-up I have with him this week. I’ve probably had less interaction with him than anyone but he’s been the comfort and resource through and the brains behind a scary radiation process.

I can’t imagine going through this with any one of them missing. They haven’t been just doctors. And I think that has been the difference for me. I was lucky to be placed with the team creator and forever grateful for the choices that she made when she assembled those who would usher me through this year.

I’m forever indebted and forever thankful.

Levine Cancer Institute.

The people who are LCI are absolutely who you want caring for you through a cancer journey. Not just the doctors but the nurses, the technicians, the administrative folks – everyone. They all embody what treatment for the devastating disease requires. It takes so much more than medicine. And it must be part of the LCI training and part of the calling that it also must be to work in this area of medicine.

It’s like they each know what you need during the particular part of your treatment where they interact with you.

The infusion nurses are a little different than the radiation technicians. And it’s because you’re in a different place in the journey. Your needs, your pains, your worries are different at various points. And it’s natural. It isn’t a forced type of care or compassion.

Part of it is also because some of them have been through the treatment and live the same journey as you. They aren’t immuned. But that isn’t something that you think about happening to them. As I sat in my plastic surgeons office, I saw a partner go by with her scarf covering her chemo balded head. Yes, doctors get that dreaded diagnosis too.


Most of my hospital experience was with CMC Main. All 3 hospital stays were there and I had a pretty amazing stay each time. The worst part each time was waiting to be discharged – which just takes a while in such a big system. But I have to say that the discharge process was the only time that the hospital FELT like a huge system. My nurses and all of the techs – even the nutrition people and financial office – were kind and compassionate and treated me like a person. My family and visitors were treated kindly. And my husband was spoiled by all who came in my rooms.

I had my CT and bone scans done at Mercy and my port placed at CMC Pineville. Each stay was short so I can only say that I felt the same compassion and caring there that I experienced in depth at Main.

I hear so many talk about horrible service at our hospitals and I’m just not agreeing. And it couldn’t have been a fluke. Flukes don’t happen 3 times.

My husband.

I have the most amazing husband. He’s my love and my best friend. I never had to wonder about if someone would take care of me or who that would be. I knew he would be there every time I opened my eyes and every time I needed something. He has been there for almost every appointment, treatment and procedure. There were only a few that he missed. I did a quick estimate and came up with 100 appointments, treatments or procedures. That doesn’t count the three hospital stays.

He practically gave up his Tuesday golfing (even though I didn’t ask him to) and arranged everything he did around what I had to do.

He’s never questioned or doubted. He’s my rock.

I know that this is what it means to be devoted to each other. I don’t have words to describe how that makes me feel.

My daughters.

They feel like mine. They’re mine in heart – even if I didn’t give birth to them. This has made me appreciate and love them even more. And they’ve made me feel their love too. Each break – after surgery in the summer and then after chemo and after radiation – we immediately traveled to Tampa. It was good to be around the love and energy of their families.

Family support.

I know that, through this, I have the complete support of my parents. All I have to do is ask. They are there. They’re way to into their “years” to have to go through this. I know it has been hard for them because they weren’t able to travel back and forth and see me much during this. They wanted to be there to hold my hand and to see for themselves that I was OK. That I was getting through this.

I’ve been lucky my entire life because I’ve always had this support. Everyone doesn’t have it. I’ve seen those who struggle without it. And it’s not just to lend some money or help with a down payment. It’s emotional, moral support. Knowing that you’re never alone.

Friend support.

I’m fortunate to have friends who are there. I can’t even remember everyone who brought food by and sent cards and offered to spell Dennis on things.

Again – I knew I just had to say the word.

This came from choir members and church staff, co-workers, from our trainer and others at Charlotte Athletic Club and even from restaurants where we’re regulars.

I’m fortunate to work for and with some incredible people. Rare is it that you can be friends with people who hire you and people that you work with. Usually it doesn’t work. But somehow I’m lucky enough to work for an amazing person of faith whose support along this journey is unwavering. And my “team” has been – and still is there regardless of what I need and what I need from them.

It was amazing. I’m blessed.

On being taken care of…

I truly know what being taken care of feels like. I have had to be totally dependent – which is VERY hard for me. I’ve NEVER been dependent or even needy. There have been times during this journey when I couldn’t do anything for myself. Four of my chemo treatments left me unable to focus my eyes for more than a day. It’s frightening to feel it coming over you. It’s strange to know it’s going to happen – almost down to the minute – and just wait for it to wash over you. You can’t stop it so you just have to let it happen and get past it.

It’s scary but it’s comforting to know that someone is there with you and that your doctor is a phone call away if it gets too scary.

I didn’t want for anything except for it to be over with. And I know that if some of my family and friends could have done it for me or with me, they would have.


On faith…

I don’t think I would even be here without faith.

God provides me with an inner strength that is what gets me by the fear and the unknown and I’m sure that is what will sustain me through the worries of the future – as I continue on my journey.

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Therapeutic Fun

It’s always good when what you think is going to be just a busy, tiring day, ends up being good for the heart and soul.

My day of meetings and training, ended with happy hour and dinner with one of the most awesome groups of people that I know.

BLOG_JDMugs_092015It’s such a blessing to have a strong support system. I’m blessed by having a spouse who is walking beside me – every step – he’s there at appointments, therapies, treatments and shots. He’s there when my head is spinning and I can hardly get off the sofa after chemo. He gets me whatever I have a taste for at the particular moment that I need to eat, making on-the-spot runs to the Teeter down the street if we don’t have anything in the house that sounds good to me and fetches the endless bottles of water I consume.

I have family that is there with love and any kind of support you can imagine.

I have a choir family that has provided prayers, love, food, company, gifts and understanding.

I work on a team that has also been by my side as I make this journey. More than co-workers, they are dear, dear friends. They have taken on extra work when I’ve had things that had to be done when I was down (or at an appointment) and been very understanding to the way I feel (physically and emotionally) along the way.

Then there is the entire group of employees at Jackrabbit. They have been amazing support individually and as a group. Everyone shows their concern and support. And takes part in ways that we don’t even imagine will happen.

For instance – the company dinner last night was great. I had the chance to sit with a couple of team members that I don’t get to talk to as often as some others. We talked about my particular predicament and all sort of other things.

There are 3 of the guys (including one of the company founders) who sport bald heads. I thought a memorable photo would be me with the three of them. It turned in a wig show – for them.

You can tell in the pictures that we were almost laughing until we cried. It was hilarious. And the rest of the group was laughing so loudly that I’m sure the rest of the restaurant’s diners wondered what was happening.

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It’s a memory I won’t forget – and it made my day/week/month!

In their own way they were letting me know that they are right there with me.

Support – it’s an amazing thing.

Laughter – it’s healing and uplifting.

Both were good for my spirit and the effects have stayed with me.