Grieving

I’ve been sitting here… for a bit, trying to find the words…. I feel like everyone wants me to be positive… stay positive, be positive… you can do this! But it’s SO freaking hard…. in 3 weeks my life has been turned completely up side down sideways…

At first, all I cared about was surviving… when you hear the word cancer… you automatically think the worst….

Now, there’s so much to work out… so much to think about… so much to grieve. Last night, when driving through our neighborhood… my husband said. “It doesn’t feel real, does it”…. no, it doesn’t… but then again it does. It will soon feel real enough.

I’m seriously grieving our business…. I feel like it’s something that we’ve babied, nourished and we’re just having to give it away…. or allow it to die… It feels like… “hey here’s my child…. I can’t take care of it anymore”…. How can you just be OK with that? I am having a very hard time. Yes… I know it’s all about surviving, trying to be positive to beat it…. but I feel like it’s perfectly normal to grieve…. I know that people want to encourage me, to lift me up…. but unless you walk in my shoes, there’s no way to understand…. just how hard this is.

I have never been a vain person… but I’ve always taken pride in my appearance…. I’ve mentioned, I have my own insecurities… and I feel like this is just going to take it to another level… I won’t have breasts for awhile…. I’m grieving all of this…. I’m adjusting to my short hair…. I feel like I’ve aged, 10 years… I see photos of myself and I just feel like I look old… will this age me even more??

Everyone is trying to help me, I mean everyone and people I never, ever expected…. and I’m so amazingly grateful. The smallest thing sends me into tears…. The outpouring of offers, it’s seriously hard to even grasp…. or express my appreciation. I feel like I’m slipping into a state of “numb”…. so I pray that I will be able to continuously express my gratitude…. I don’t want anyone to feel like one gesture means less to me than another…. so if I become a state of “numb” or “too sick” please, please know how much I appreciate everything. I may not be able to blog or Facebook or recognize everyone who’s helping….

I’ve been reading a book, that helps prepare you for this journey… it’s raw. It’s honest. It doesn’t sugar coat…. Everyone reacts differently, so I pray I am one that doesn’t react adversely to chemo… I don’t know if it’s best that I’m reading…. or maybe I should be taking it as it comes. Sometimes I feel like reading about it, makes me dwell…. and worry. I may just stop reading this book… but then again, maybe it’s good to know what to expect. When I was pregnant with Greyson, I read everything I could and prepared myself for what I was in store for and I feel like it strengthened me so much. I honestly don’t know what’s best in this situation.

I feel like everyone thinks I’m so strong…. and I should always be strong. But, I’m not. I feel very weak, a lot lately…. I’ve been through a lot… I’m sure this won’t be the last life altering event I deal with…. and for that I’m grateful…. I can survive this and I will TRY to focus on that….

But, please allow me to grieve, please know I can’t be strong 100% of the time…. thank you to my bestie from NC for letting me chat with her this morning on Facebook… and I simply sent my BFF in Nashville a message this morning that said… “I’m having a bad morning” and she said… “do you want to talk?” I told her.. honestly no…. but she called anyway and I’m glad she did…. I found my words again. For a while, I literally lost it….

Thank you to Juliet Harless for fulfilling my Mom’s request for a specific photograph… I appreciate you doing this for us…

That’s all I have for today…. Maybe one of these days, I’ll add more photographs to make this more interesting…

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Losing Your Way…

I won’t advertise every blog I post, some are for me… because this is my therapy..

Most everyone knows I’m a wedding photographer… For the past 4+ years… we’ve cultivated and nourished this business to a point where we were peaking… The magazines were starting to recognize our work, we’ve won countless awards, referrals were pouring in…. we were finally going to achieve our goal, next spring…. for my husband to join me full time.  And then we found out I have cancer…. all of this is very new, news… still within a couple of weeks and during these two weeks…. it has been both amazing and devastating…

Yesterday, we were finally given the information…. we were dreading. After my mastectomy.. this summer, I will not be able to shoot weddings… for several years… and I will explain…

Someone asked me why? I got a little defensive… I could tell that they felt we were being too cautious….

My diagnosis is… Left Breast – Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and it’s positive in my Sentinel Lymph Node. Right Breast – I had 3 spots on MRI that they were concerned with… when biopsied, my surgical oncologist is unsure that what was biopsied was what was seen on MRI…. What was biopsied… has something called Atypia (pre-cancerous cells)…. which means that in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years… it will most likely develop into cancer.  The doctor recommended mastectomy due to the size of the tumor…. on the left breast. We opted to go ahead and do a double because of the atypia… we do not want to risk going through all of this again. So therefore my course of treatment…. 6 months chemotherapy/double mastectomy/radiation… I will have to wait 6-8 months and then I can start reconstruction.

My doctor is not concerned not for the breasts…. but for the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are what cause the cancer to spread…. I have a distinct tumor on one of the lymph nodes… but they do not know how many lymph nodes it affects.  Yesterday the reason for my appointment… was…. they wanted to give me the option of biopsying the right breast to either confirm or deny diagnosis…. but also they are concerned about the lymph nodes… the reason is…. if they have to remove even 3-4 of the lymph nodes.. which they will during mastectomy…. I could end up with lympedema… it’s a 1-5% chance… that may seem small… but it’s large enough to not risk it…. If you’ve seen how ugly lymphedema can be…. it’s not worth it. Plus it’s limiting when/if you get it…  If we opted to go ahead an biopsy the areas of concern…. we have to wait for another month before I can start chemo… that gives my body another month for this cancer to spread. We decided to move forward right away with chemo… to start attacking this beast inside me…. and take the slight chance of lymphedema…. but that risk is extremely lowered…. if you do not do anything strenuous with your arms. At the time of surgery… if the chemo has not shrunk the tumor in that main lymph node… and she said with the type of cancer I have… she’s just being real…. that there’s a higher chance it will not kill it completely… My cancer is hormone driven and I have a continuous supply that is feeding these tumors… IF it’s positive in that main node… she will take ALL of the lymph nodes on that side… and my risk goes up to 15-30%. I’ve seen lymphedema…. and I will do everything I can to prevent it. It does not go away. I’m not an older woman in her 60’s-70’s…. I’m still very young… and I have lots of years of sleeveless shirts, swimsuits, etc… that I’d like to enjoy… and not worry about hiding my arms.

I’ve had so many worries and concerns…. 1. our business…. what will happen to it, all this work we’ve put into it… will just slowly die 2. having no breasts for a good long time…. 3. losing my hair (it may seem trivial… but it’s a loss)… 4. losing my studio  5. losing myself…. I’m a photographer, this is what I am…. not to mention that… but I already had self confidence issues… I’m a woman….we all have them… but this… puts it at another level…

And then I remind myself… but you will survive. Yes, it’s going to be a really tough couple of years… financially, emotionally and it’s going to take a toll on my health… but I will be alive… I will be here for my children. Then I’ve had people cause me to worry about my husband leaving or cheating…. and so I talk to him… and he assures me he isn’t going anywhere… This has caused so many vulnerabilities to come out…. and it’s not attractive, at all…

I’ve been through a lot since I’ve been with Darrell… more than one man should have to deal with.. honestly, in the past 6 years… we lost a child and I grieved, terribly…, we went through the premature birth of another child.. where he had to care for me 24 hours a day… and then visit a baby every day in the NICU for months… and now this….plus on top of all of this… the stress of our business…. it’s a lot. It’s only normal for me to worry that it might be too much for him to deal with… He assures me, he’s not going anywhere…. I’m going to need him….

A friend of a friend sent me this… and I was actually wet with tears….

http://vimeo.com/57648966

I pray…. that I find my way like this woman has…. I pray that I can inspire someone, like she has…. I pray that I find my way… and that losing my photography career…. does not mean that I’ve lost my way…. but that I will find my way in another direction….

Good News…

There was good news today… the cancer does not appear to have spread… they still are not convinced, I don’t have breast cancer in the right breast, but we decided rather than undergo another biopsy and surgery, we are going to move forward with chemo first/mastectomy/ radiation if necessary… and we’ll be taking a risk that I may get lymphedema… but it’s a small risk 1-5%… I will have to be extremely careful not to do anything with my arms for 2 years following surgery, no lifting, nothing at all strenuous. If I have to have all lymph nodes removed… my chance of lymphedema will go up to 15-30% and then I really need to make sure I don’t do anything with my arms for 2 years or longer… It appears for the next 2.5 years at least… my career in photography is over. I feel extremely sad about that…. but, I will survive and I will be here to see my children grow older…. and that is really what everything is about, now… and we’ll have to pray to God that we figure out a way to manage through it all, financially and emotionally…

A New “Do”…

I have so many people here in the Charlotte area, across the US…. truly who are rooting for my recovery! But locally, I have the support of a bunch of ladies and gents… but yesterday.. 4 very special ladies were part of this day…. which is representative of my new journey…. In preparation for chemo and so I don’t shock my 4 year old… I decided to cut my hair very short…. in doing this, Diane Esposito asked me if she could treat me at her hair salon (Planet 21, Arboretum)…. which was so generous and as I’ve probably stated in every single post… I love her!!! In the process of doing this… a friend in the wedding industry asked me if she could do anything for me… I asked her to come with me to my hair appointment…. I love you Katie O’Neil…. and in the process of all of this… Dayna Robidoux another friend from the industry… told me she’d love to come and donate her long locks… to locks of love and I love you Dayna for doing this with me!!! It was an amazing day…. truly an amazing bonding moment…. It was such a fun day…. a really special girls day…. which honestly, I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have had a day like that…. way too long.

I love you girls… and cannot thank you enough for being there for me during this journey…. boy does it feel strange! To put a shirt on and my hair not get stuck…..

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(I just realized I probably drive people crazy with my lack of proper punctuation and instead (…) that is me! 😉 I’ve always done this) lol

Today… we’re back to the surgical oncologist… Diane will be coming, as well as my NC bestie…. Tess…. just to support. I have no idea if they’ll be allowed back… but if not, they’ve both said.. they are happy just to come along and support…. and if I remember correctly last appt…. Diane about died in suspense…. and I will not do that to her again 🙂 This time she can come hang with us….

The Weight Of The World…

If I can ask for anything today.. it’s that you pray for my husband. He’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders…. He’s worked 6- 7 days a week for the past 4+ years… maintaining a full time job that offers great flexibility and insurance…. and worked with me doing weddings and engagement shoots… he’s stressed, he’s frustrated, he’s angry…. he’s panicking.

Everything is so uncertain… we’ve stopped all advertising, we’ll be forced to give up our studio, we’re going into survival mode. I have yet to let my brides know of my condition… so that looms. We are both scared…. petrified… that they will not be understanding… they will not be accepting of the fact that we will have to hire a second shooter.. and  photo editor… (we will wait til after Thanksgiving to call them individually). Then what will we do? I will have a good period of time where I may not be capable of being on my feet for 10 hours… surgery, reconstruction… etc…

I’m trying not to worry… but it’s impossible, when I can see that my husband is not sleeping and generally frustrated that the smallest things are bothering him….

All of this sucks… we were peaking… we finally have features in magazines… we have amazing reviews… vendor referrals, bride’s referrals….. more bookings going into 2014 than ever before….. and now it’s all about to spiral out of control, in his words “like an engine that ran out of fuel”…. we depend on this income, hugely…. so I understand what he’s feeling… he’s worried about me.. he’s worried about this business….

So, everyone’s asking me what they can do… please pray for my husband and my family to remain strong and try not to worry….

Fighting… With An Army…

Through this journey, I have made some amazing new friends…. I’ve felt the love and support from the dear close friends in my life and you know who you are…. I know that I can fight this, even if I am upstaged or the news on Wednesday isn’t the best of news… I feel the love of what feels like an army standing behind me…. cheering me on. I cannot believe the offers… the offers of random strangers making me hats… little girls making me bracelets in support of my cancer… people offering to help with fundraising, people offering to make me meals and delivering them to my house and committing to once a week making meals…  random emails from people with gifts with a weeks worth of meals from Dream Dinners…. People bringing me water… borrowing me a juicer so I can juice for my health… My husband’s co-workers… I received a shawl that every stitch was prayed over… My husbands boss has allowed him to attend appointments with me and he was out of vacation time and his check was not docked…. DeLayna from D Kenney Imaging… is helping me edit some of my weddings… And also Levi Wiggins from Photographer Edit…. they are helping me so incredibly much, that was one of my biggest worries…. I have people praying for me… all over the country. It’s truly so incredibly humbling…. I’ve probably overlooked things…. I’m just me… My journey into the wedding industry has not been an easy one… I’ve kept myself very secluded with very few people I held near and dear…. and so to see people who are just contacting me randomly with offers of support…. truly means so much. My family… has been amazing. My Mom… will be someone I will have to depend on….. one of my best friends… Love her so much!

All of it… every single little thing… to huge, monumental things… even just extra long hugs… and allowing me to cry… mean everything to me… My husband…. who has been my rock, seriously…. tells me…. don’t be worried about being weak, just lean on me…. <tears>  making sure I’m eating properly, eating enough…. so I don’t lose too much weight…. My doctor…. She’s on my facebook page… and sometimes I message her with worries….

I have no idea what the future holds… as far as photography for me…. it’s so dependent on so many things…. It’s been so hard…. a lot of very hard,  large, life decisions being discussed…. Please say prayers that our decisions are the best decisions…

I hope, since you can’t hear my voice…. that through my words… you will all understand how much I appreciate everything single thing….. I’ve NEVER been one to ask for help… I just did it myself… so when people ask me… what do you need? It’s so hard for me to say…. and honestly, I do not know what I need….. so thank you…. all….. for EVERYTHING!!!!!!

Going back to my roots…

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To begin my journey… and progress towards what is happening, I’m trying to embrace it…. (trying!)… First step before I get my hair all cut off on Tuesday… was to color it back to close to the normal color… I found the attached hair dye (nothing but henna) for $11.99… We are going out tonight so I thought it would feel good to have my roots covered up…. This will probably be one of my last photos with long hair…. 😦

Before you begin the process.. you wash your hair and do not use conditioner… then you put the Henna in…. Leave it on for 1 hour…. and rinse. Nothing else is needed… and my hair came out with NO tangles….and it dried smooth… and is baby soft…  Once I have hair again, I will definitely remember this line of hair products… if the shampoo is anything like this, I will definitely need to add it to my beauty products…

Attached is the hair style I’m planning to hopefully achieve… maybe with a shorter bang…

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