A letter to my cancer..

I have 6 radiation treatments left… I’m almost done with my therapies… All, I can say is… Thank You! Thank you to my cancer… you opened my eyes and my mind. You have forced me to become the version of myself I only hoped to be… You’ve opened my eyes… to thankfulness, kindness… true kindness!! You’ve forced me to become physically fit and become active! I feel amazing. Absolutely amazing! I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I am not going through radiation… I didn’t feel sick when I had cancer… chemo made me sick, surgeries, etc…. But, thank you, cancer…. for making me realize the importance of time, relationships, prioritizing, etc… Thank you for the life changes you’ve forced me to make!

Thank you.

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Last Year At This Time…

Yesterday during conversation… it was brought up, can you imagine if someone had told you last year…. at this time…. that…..

  • You would be diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer
  • You will completely change your lifestyle
  • You will lose 30lbs and be thinner than you have ever been in your entire life, except maybe when you were 12
  • You will have gone through chemo
  • You will have people help you in ways you never imagined
  • You will have new friends like you never ever possibly imagined
  • You will have lost all your hair, every stitch of hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes
  • You will have had a double mastectomy and have some sort of resemblance of breasts
  • You will not mind losing your own breasts
  • You will love having no hair and you’ll decide to keep a very short buzz cut… dyed platinum
  • You will be forced into medical menopause
  • You’ll have had a pulmonary embolism
  • You’ll have taken countless courses of antibiotics
  • You’ll take blood thinners
  • You will have insomnia from chemo
  • You will be half way through radiation
  • You will not be a photographer anymore
  • You will have to give up your studio
  • You will give up your photography business completely
  • You will have a new job working with a caterer
  • They will LOVE you A LOT!
  • You will walk almost every single day and you’ll look forward to it
  • You won’t drink anymore alcohol (is it possible?)
  • You will give up sugar completely (unthinkable)
  • You won’t eat hardly any meat except maybe some fish and occasionally some organic chicken
  • You’ll drink your coffee with only cream & coffee will be your new found treat
  • You won’t eat any wheat or gluten
  • Your best friend and her family will move across the country to live near you and you’ll see each other almost every day
  • You will have a circle of friends you may not have even known before
  • You will have a condition that causes your arm to swell from breast cancer
  • You will hardly be able to recognize certain aspects of yourself, your strength, your determination, your fears will subside, you are more able to conquer things
  • You will hardly be able to remember things as simple as “don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning” – thanks to chemo brain
  • You will have to wear glasses because you will have lost vision due to chemo
  • You will learn to love blue
  • AND PINK!
  • You will make it a focus to make sure people have an awareness about breast cancer
  • You’ll need to have a hysterectomy because the medication caused a pulmonary embolism
  • You will have to use your butt to make new boobs because you will have no other fat on your body
  • You will have a completely new perspective on life, what matters most, what doesn’t matter at all
  • Your family and friends will be never have been  more important to you in your life
  • You will have learned things about yourself never imaginable.
  • You will have a restored faith in humanity
  • You will realize that there are things in life that happen, sometimes really bad things and you realize that this is a part of change and as horrible as it can be… you learn to adapt and it becomes a part of who you are… but it doesn’t define you.

My newest change…

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Therapy & Focus

Today at radiation… I was talking to them about Greyson and the time he spent at the NICU. We talked about how I blogged about him and I told them that it was therapy for me and I pumped… it was the one thing I could control and it really helped me to feel like I was doing SOMETHING. And, I gained a lot of friends… Moms who had babies when Greyson was supposed to be born… These people have been there for me then…. and also now, through my cancer.

During my cancer, I’ve blogged…. it’s been therapy for me. Some people keep quiet… some people talk through things… I’ve always been one to talk through things, it helps me… And, no different than what I went through with Greyson, I needed something to control…. so during this traumatic experience, I’ve focused on my diet and exercise. I need SOMETHING to make me feel like I’m doing SOMETHING to help in the situation. You feel so incredibly helpless… I assured my radiation nurses that it was not because I’m a control freak, but rather that I just needed a focus…. something to work on.

During my cancer journey… I’ve been through a lot, both physically and emotionally on so many levels…. and I’ve mourned, so many things… my hair, my breasts, my vanity, my eyelashes, my eyebrows and my career….. but I have gained so much too, perspective, strength and motivation.

So, as many of you know I’ve started a new job…. I am enjoying it so much. They really appreciate me and respect what I am doing for them. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this because having your own business… you receive kudos from brides… But my husband and I owned a business together and it’s hard to truly appreciate what the other does when you work together. We did… but not nearly like it is when you work for someone else. It’s given me a new focus…. I’m loving it!

We’re having an event… and truly the support shown to me…. the people willing to donate their services, etc… it’s truly heart warming. I’m so excited about my future, it’s given me an entirely new focus! I’m so blessed to have so many people who truly just want to see me happy and successful, knowing how much I’ve had to give up…. Truly, thank you to you all!

I’ve talked a lot about focus… ironic, I know…. But, I am truly focusing on the future…and nothing else.

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Appreciation & Loyalty

0467d9daa1ea15e27aeefd041d86f7afThis post is directed to all of the wedding vendors and people who stood by my side during my cancer journey! I’m happy to say that I am halfway done with radiation and then I will be able to ring that bell and hopefully declare myself cancer FREE!!!

Never in my life, did I expect cancer to happen… and never in my life did I expect or anticipate the outpouring of support I received… and some people silently supported me… It has been a long, painful… journey! I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road… but I hope I’ve handled it with grace.

During this time, as you know… I was completely lost at the thought of losing my career… it’s my love, my passion…

However!! It turns out I’ll be staying in the industry with my new job working as Director of Weddings & Events for Chef’s Catering out of Matthews, NC.

What I think is absolutely so amazing is that now I can somehow pay back…. pay forward, however you want to say it… in some way. Maybe just referrals… and support… but it’s amazing to me and I’m so happy that I’ve been directed in this way!

So, I’d officially love to announce…. On August 22, 2014 we’ll be having an event for the wedding vendors… to come have have some “Cocktails, Cuisine & Conversation”… I hope to see you there! We’ll have Head Over Heels Weddings & Events helping us to coordinate the day, the fabulous Rick Hyburg and his brand new company “Celebration Sounds” to come and provide some entertainment…. Shutterbooth has committed to provide us with their fun photobooth,  The Bead Lady will be there to give the ladies some lovelies in beautiful Tiffany boxes… The Flower Diva has committed to make our tables beautiful…. Carolina Cake Artistry will be providing yummy treats, as well as Sky’s The Limit Bridal Sweets and Tasty Treats by Kelly will be providing some delicious yummy treats as well! Chef’s Catering will provide a full array of wine & beer, as well as their delicious cuisine for you all to come and try…. If you’d like to be a part in some way, the more the merrier! We’d be happy to have you…. but if not, please reserve the date! Come out and say hi and I honestly cannot wait to see you all there…. This is my future and that is honestly all I intend to focus on…..and helping make Chef’s Catering’s wedding & events division a smashing success!

I honestly cannot even possibly name all of the different people who’ve helped me in some way…. touched my life in some way… even just a simple Facebook message or a supportive comment….. has meant the entire world to me and honestly has helped me through this chapter in my life…. I’d love to close the book and move onto the next one! With open arms and a lot of smiles…. I can’t wait to see you!!! Some of you I’ve not even met in person…  This event is going to be Tiffany & Co themed as is our whole rebranding….

Feel free to stop by anytime you are in Matthews or if you’d like to grab a healthy lunch 🙂 1730 Matthews Township Parkway, Matthews, NC…

Please mark your calendars for our cocktails, cuisine & conversation, event!

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Life & Health Update

 

ffe2e207ade23795ab7f8d1c11ef0835I have been so incredibly busy these days… trying to get the weddings edited that we have on our plate… and also… I have been hired as Director of Weddings & Events for Chef’s Catering in Matthews. I’m so excited for this new career move! I have been shopping and getting our theme together! We’ll have a TiffanyBlue/White Theme… Tiffany Boxes, etc… I will be starting officially on Tuesday the 17th! I’ve been doing a lot off the clock… because they are investing a lot of money into the space and I wanted them to know how much I am vested in this!! I’m so anxious to get started… It’s going to be a juggling act! Lots of work on the evenings… I still have to be very careful not to sit too long because I’m still at risk of blood clots… I’ll be seeing my Oncologist on Monday and I’ll know what my next steps are!

I do know that chemo has shrunk my ovaries to non-existence…. like literally, they cannot be seen on an ultrasound. So… that will be interesting because that means, I’m technically in menopause, I think… so maybe my course of treatment will be different. There’s a medication called Arimidex that I might be able to take. I would imagine that means that I would not need a hysterectomy then? Or maybe then they’ll go ahead and take it because if they are non-existent… maybe it won’t matter? I will know soon… Also, I’ll know how long I’ll have to be taking blood thinners… They did say on my ultrasound that I have a fibroid that is 1.2cm… which concerns me…. My feeling is how do they know it’s a fibroid… just like they knew it was a cyst? I may encourage Dr. Brouse to take that crap out, honestly…… do I even want to risk it?

I saw an Integrative Oncologist this past week…. She told me a bunch of things…. She said that the best thing I could have done to help my survival is to lose 30lbs… My body mass index should be less than 30 and mine was 22. So, that’s incredibly helpful. The 2nd thing I do is walk at least 5 times a week. She said walking for 150 minutes a week reduces your breast cancer risk by 34%. She said it’s easier for doctor’s to prescribe pills…. because most patients won’t do what I’ve done…. to help their prognosis, so give them a pill…. and they know they can count on them doing that.

I want to be around for my kids!!!!! I’m so determined to live! If it means I have to give up another thing…. I’ll do it! It’s so important to me to be here for them… and my friends and family.

She told me to add some things to my diet…. walnuts and cherries are a staple anyway, but they are estrogen fighting…. so eat up, she said! Also, I’m adding some additional supplements like Tumeric, Fish Oil and Melatonin…. Melatonin is important, she said… and I’ve had a hard time staying asleep. I fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep. That’s a chemo side effect….

I’m half way through radiation! They just changed my routine…. My radiation takes 3X as long as most other breast cancer patients, it seems…. They are so precise with it.. and they just changed my margins. They were so worried about those lymph nodes that had extracapsular cells (the cells were trying to break out of the lymph nodes) that they are basically not only radiating the area…. but the areas beyond the areas….. so they changed the routine so that they get any stray cancer cells…. When I’m done with my radiation on July 8th…. I’ll get to ring a bell….. which will mean, to the best of our knowledge that hopefully I am CANCER FREE!!!! Then hopefully at 1 year, 2 years, 5 years… 10 years….. I can proclaim the same!

My hair is coming in like crazy! I’m seriously considering keeping it this short… however, it’s definitely a shade of mousey blonde…. or pewter as my husband lovingly said…. I said, you mean it’s Grey! Um….. ok, we’ll call it pewter 😉 It’s hair…. I do not honestly care, but as soon as it’s humanly possible… I want to dye it…. It’s baby fine right now and also baby soft…. I feel like a baby bunny. My eyebrows are coming in every which way…. and my lashes too…. but not nearly as thick as they were…. I had nice lashes… so I pray they come back! I’m terrible at putting lashes on….

Having lost my ovaries… lol has been a good thing. I feel like my emotions and my state of being….. are just even. So much more even than before my cancer…. I just have an overall feeling of calm, content and honestly, happiness. It’s everything in my life…. my friends, my family, my job, my future…… Having a boss believe in me… trusting in me….

I have a hard fight ahead of me…. staying on track with my diet and exercise…. will help a lot, I pray! If nothing else… it’s what I can control!

On a fun note… I’d love to share some pieces of our theme…. for my new studio/office/tasting space….

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New Ventures…

When I found out that my breast cancer not only stopped my career in it’s tracks, but it also would prevent me from carrying on…. it honestly devastated me! I’ve been lost for months… I’ve tried not to worry about it,I’ve tried to rely on the fact that I’ve been guided in so many ways and this would be no different… but, how could I take my diverse skill set and make it work for another employer? Well, as it turns out…. my first interview, my first encounter…. appears that it could not be more perfect. The location, their flexibility, their openness to my input and suggestions…. everything. They have told me how excited they are for me to help branch out with their business…

I was offered a position on Friday with a company local to Charlotte. I won’t go into details just yet what I’m doing and who I’ll be working for until I have a signed contract… But, this company is family owned… I’ll be able to keep up with the wedding industry and all of the amazing friends and contacts I’ve made… They’re allowing me to basically breathe fresh air into their business… Taking my suggestions, changing their space… allowing me to help revamp their branding… They told me, it’s like my business within their business. It’s given something to be excited about…. something I can own. Something I can spend my wee hours designing and calculating in my head. I gave up a lot when I had cancer… my career which I’m really, really good at! I loved every aspect of what I do… but most of all, what I loved was my brides. And I’ll be able to continue to have a relationship with brides…. and hopefully to the degree I have had with Greyson Steele Photography. Loving what I do… and believing in what I do…

We had mulled over all of our options, but having been forced to take a step backwards… and really losing all our income over those rough winter months, that really set us back financially… there would be no way to re-start over… My husband works a full time job and has for years while we’ve grown this business. We were right on track for him to quit this year and join me full time…. and then cancer happened. I was resentful for a good, long time….. BUT… now, I realize…. that may not have been the best decision, it may have been difficult on our marriage, our finances…. I’m not exactly sure the ramifications of  what would have been. We thought.. maybe Darrell could continue photographing with another shooter and I manage it….. but after really considering all of the options, we opted it was best for me to find full time employment… One of the biggest reasons is health insurance. Especially now, I need benefits….

Over these past months… the wedding industry came together and rallied in support to help me. The outpouring was amazing. Truly unbelievable on many aspects. So many individuals silently supported me and went out of their way in some way to support me! All of these individuals…. didn’t expect anything in return. I didn’t think there was any way I could repay them….. Honestly, just being kind  and thoughtful to me…. is enough for me to feel like I would love to repay in some way…. I’m terrible at thank you cards, even though I received stationary from Three Little Birds… I had so many people doing so many things for me and during chemo, I just became overwhelmed…. I’m way off track in the thank you card department….. BUT, it turns out…. I will not be leaving the industry altogether. And… I intend in some way, whether it’s through vendor recommendations…. or blog posts or something highlighting their business. I will find a way to pay it forward….. Not because I feel like I have to…. but because I genuinely want to! There are some people that truly have been so unbelievably kind to me at just the right time…. I have not forgotten you…. I promise!

The position I’m taking on, is not going to be an easy one… I’m going to have to honestly work my hind end off… Networking, relationships…. but if anyone knows anything about me after all of this… I’m DETERMINED, I’m STRONGER than I ever thought possible and I’m UNSTOPPABLE. My husband said it perfectly…. Anyone who hires me, will be getting an MVP… I’ve had the opportunity to catch my shining star… and now I’m going to hop onto someone else’s train and latch onto theirs…. Could I fall flat on my face? Maybe… but there is one thing about me, I work VERY hard and I do not give up!  I’m forced to do something completely different, yet the same in a way…. I lost my career and now I have to create an entirely new one. I pray that I’m received within the industry with open arms, I have no desire to discuss anything that happened in my past, I want to focus solely on my future…. I want to shine and I plan to do everything within my power to do that…. I REALLY needed this new focus.

I can’t wait to share my plans, my dreams for this new company and my new ownership of my new role…. I could not honestly be more excited!!!!

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I’ve done it before….. and I’ll do it again! ❤ I can’t wait to see all of you in my near future!!! ❤

 

Thankfulness…

Today at radiation, a very wise woman that I spoke to yesterday about my fears… came to me and asked me if I’m giving it to God… she asked me if I pray. I said “I do pray… a lot”… she said use those 20 minutes while you’re staring at the ceiling and just be thankful… be thankful for everything, be thankful for the warm air coming through your car, be thankful for the medicine you’re receiving, be thankful for the healing, be thankful for every little tiny thing and thank God for providing it for you… and the rest… Give to God. I’m so bad at this… I forget to throw my burdens on him and I try to tackle it all on my own. I’m receiving the best medicine, I’m receiving amazing care, I have doctors who truly care about me… who reach out and want to know genuinely how I am…. I’m very blessed. I’m not unheard, they are listening…. and I’ll continue to press and voice my thoughts and worries….

At the beginning of this, I didn’t have medical coverage… and now, I have been granted the best care…. I have so much to be thankful for…. It was a very powerful radiation appointment today… the tears streamed down my face. I needed that reminder. She told me… plan the next month, the next year, the next 5 years…. plan those vacations and things to look forward to, they will give you a reason to live…. and things to look forward to and just remind yourself… “you don’t have time for this”….

Yesterday was an emotional day, feeling very out of control… I thought we had a plan, now there’s a hiccup in the plan… it makes things uncertain for me again…. But, I have no control. I am doing everything within my power to do what I can do to eat better and take care of myself…. I can’t really do more than that. Other than to nurture my soul….

I’ve been worried about my weight, I’m not going to worry about it anymore…. maybe this is the benefit I get to reap for having done all this hard work…. nourishing my body. I doubt it, but… let’s hope that is what it is….. I talked to a friend today… we laughed and said, bet you never worried about having to gain weight…. She said it’s fantastic… I said, all but the saggy skin where my butt used to be…. Now, I have an excuse to let the doctor take it and make boobies…. I’m sure we can make up a word for my boobies that are made from my butt, I’m not that quick witted at the moment….

My doctor sat and told me last week… what do you do for relaxation… whatever it is… do that. Very wise people… I’m sure at the end of this journey, they see all types of mental states that people are in…. It’s waring, it wears you down….. and they are so kind and loving about it. I’m thankful for them….

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