Saturday, October 22, 2016

Making Strides

I want to tell you about the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk that I participated in last Saturday - Oct. 15th - & what an amazing experience it was for me. 

I had expressed some interest in walking to a few people but it just wasn't coming together. My husband had to work, I hadn't had the energy to fundraise, maybe next year. I wasn't planning on walking until my friend Lauren sent me a message on the 14th telling me she was planning on walking with me. Ok, cool! So it'll be me & her. Then another friend from church said she would walk. Then my friend Ali said she would be there & was bringing two of her friends from work. Then a woman I only knew on facebook from the Rustic Cuff page, Carressa, said she was coming. Carressa has had colon cancer & has been super supportive but we had never met in real life. She just wanted to know did I mind if she spread the word to our "cuff sisters" (women who are also into Rustic Cuff bracelets) who showed up in force! My husband got off work. Carressa found someone to make shirts in less than a week! This thing came together & came together fast! It was amazing! There were 20 people there to walk with Team #JerinaStrong - many of whom I had never even met! There were friends from church, work, old friends, new friends, cuff sisters, and my husband & children all walking with me & wearing shirts with my name on them. We laughed & talked & cried. At the end I was getting very tired but my team surrounded me, my husband took my hand, and we all finished together! It was an amazing experience & one I will never forget.

Not only was I blown away by the people that came out, but the support given to our fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society knocked it out of the park! I raised $1,272 & our team raised $1,702! We were ranked #3 our of nearly 60 teams and I was the top individual fundraiser! It was an exceptionally emotional day for me. I was in tears a lot of the day. I'm very aware that not everyone has the support group that I do & I do not take it for granted how very blessed I am. I want to say THANK YOU to everyone that came out to walk & that donated. I will never forget that day! I want to use what I'm dealing with to help others & make a difference & I hope that I can continue to participate in this walk. Maybe I can walk with someone who is also thinking "maybe next year." 

Double Digits

I just completed my 10th round of chemotherapy yesterday - Oct. 21st! That means I've completed 4 rounds of AC and 6 rounds of Taxol. The Taxol has been SO much easier than AC. I still have heartburn, my eyebrows and lashes have thinned a lot, and my memory continues to give me problems, but the exhaustion that I had with AC is gone! I get chemo every Friday now & I'm pretty beat that day, but I'm not losing a day or two like I was with AC. I'm very eager to get chemo over with but also anxious about the next step. 

I have met with my breast surgeon and learned a little more about what the plans for surgery are. I also met with my plastic surgeon & learned about what my options are for reconstruction. Assuming I'm able to finish out the next 6 weeks of Taxol with no complications, I will be done with chemo on Dec. 2nd. I will get the rest of Dec. off with no treatments or procedures. I will have my first of three surgeries the first week of Jan (possibly as early as the 2nd). That is where I will have a bilateral mastectomy - removal of both of my breasts. The breast surgeon will perform that and then my plastic surgeon will take over & begin reconstruction immediately. He will place two expanders under my chest muscle. These expanders allow them to add fluid slowly to stretch my skin for the permanent implant & allow me to have radiation before the second surgery to swap the expander out with a silicone implant. Radiation can make the silicone implant hard & mess reconstruction up so I don't have that second breast surgery until radiation is over & my skin has healed. I meet the radiation oncologist the first week of November so I expect to know more about radiation then. Sometime after that I will also have a hysterectomy since the BRCA2 gene means I have a higher risk of ovarian cancer &, since we are done having children, they recommend I have that third surgery 6 months to a year after I'm done with everything else.

Aside from my nervousness about surgery, things are going well. I've only missed one day of work throughout this & I'm pretty proud of that. My friends & family continue to give me encouragement & I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October is here...

...and with it comes pink. So much pink. Pink ribbons all over everything! T-shirts calling for people to "Save the Boobies" or "Hope" or any other number of catchy sayings. Even the NFL has players sporting pink. I've been "aware" & seen the pretty pink color all over everything during Oct. for years, but it took my own diagnosis to make me aware that there isn't anything pretty about having breast cancer. Please know what your breasts feel like. Know what your normal is & if you feel anything out of the norm, get it looked at & insist on a mammogram, even if you are "too young" to be worried about breast cancer. I was 32 when I was diagnosed - you aren't too young. Encourage the women you love to get their yearly mammograms & do self examinations. I care so little about "saving the boobies" - I want to save the women! Boobs matter so little when your life is on the line! I will sacrifice my breasts in a heartbeat if it means more years with the people I love & that love me.

If I ever do anything for you, I hope that I encourage you to pay more attention to your body. Spend a little extra time in the shower tomorrow & do a breast examination. You have to know what you feel like so you will know if something changes. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask a doctor to do more testing. Be your own biggest advocate! This cancer is ugly but I will wear that pink & those ribbons. If one woman sees that ribbon I'm wearing & thinks "I need to call & schedule a mammogram - it's been a while" then that ribbon has done its job & I will have made a difference.

Speaking of making a difference - I will be participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Tulsa on Saturday, Oct. 15th. If you are here in the Tulsa area & would like to walk, please come join my team. If you aren't local, you can still donate to Team #JerinaStrong. I would love to see a few of you there to walk with me. If you would like to donate or join our team you can do so at