My Living Bucket List…

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Skydiving, Rocky Mountain Climbing…. Maybe at least one will come true…. ūüėČ Most of mine have to do with vacationing and traveling… because it’s what I feel we’ve missed out on most… time & family & friends…¬†

If anything I’ve learned from this journey is to focus on ONLY what is important… taking the little accomplishments and rejoicing over them… ¬†Embrace the people who are there for you on every level. ¬†Life is honestly too short not to be doing what you love or aspiring to try to do the things you hoped to achieve in your life. Photography was always at the top of that list for me…. however, having taken a step back…. I do realize it’s important to me in the grand scheme, it’s what has paid the bills, it’s what has fulfilled me…. but it’s also robbed me of a lot… mostly, TIME. I have no choice at this point but to step back and honestly I think that is the best thing that could have ever happened to our family. This is my living bucket list…

1. Move to the beach… with my entire family. Make a new beginning…¬†

2. ¬†Go on a real honeymoon… many moons later…

3. Always keep close the people who love me… and spend as much time with them as I possibly can.

4. Learn how to ballroom dance… with my husband.¬†

5. Watch my children grow up to be successful, have babies and be happy. I want to be a Grandma half as good as my Mother.

6. Ride horses on the beach… in the water… any beach would be fine.. I am not at all picky…¬†

7. Go to Las Vegas and see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in concert… & maybe catch a UFC fight for my husband…¬†

8. Go for a night of Karaoke with my whole family.. 

9. ¬†Take a cross country vacation and see so many things I’ve missed in my life…¬†

10. Be healthy and fit, simplify our lives and live happy. Live an active lifestyle….¬†

Good Day…

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Sometimes you just have to make a conscious decision to have a good day…. There has been so much news lately of bad things happening to people… people losing their lives wayyy too soon. People are grieving their loss, children have lost their parents… and it really puts in perspective what I’m going through… yes, it’s going to be hard…. but it’s not the end of the world…. Can it come back? Yes…. could it be much worse? Yes…. But it isn’t right now. And that’s what I will choose to focus on…..

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And I think so myself… at least I can survive this…. For that, I am blessed. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Dawn… all of this is temporary…

Today, we have a lot to look forward to…. this has made me re-evaluate my relationship with God… He’s always been in my heart… but he’s not always been on my mind and right now I need him more than ever. Sadly, it takes things like this to make you think twice…. I hope he forgives for that… and I will be making it more of a habit to worship him… and be where I should be.

And, later today…. although Vinny is working all day…. Diane and Vinny have invited us for dinner after the Panthers game today…. and with all that she has going on with her friend’s loss, I really didn’t expect for her to keep these plans. I’m so grateful for all of my friends. I have some amazing close friends…. Tess & Lou… you have been by our sides through some good times and bad… on both sides and whenever I need you, you are there. I love you both! My bestie Tracey, I don’t get to talk to you often… and we don’t get to see each other nearly enough…. but it’s the kind of relationship that you don’t have to. It just is and remains… no matter what. And very recently, before all of this drama…. Diane and I connected… and hit it off… and I am so grateful for her presence in my life, especially now…

Have a great Sunday everyone…

 

 

 

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…

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! ūüėČ 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 ūüôā This time she can come hang with us….

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!!!!!!

Long Weekends…

Long weekends are wonderful…. unless you’ve had a phone call at 4:30 on Friday that your surgical oncologist wants to see you back in their office…. after having a conversation with your oncologist… ¬†I couldn’t get in until Wednesday… I imagine it means one of several things… 1. They want to change my treatment plan… 2. The oncologist saw something they didn’t… 3. My scans are in… ¬†She said it wasn’t because of my scans… so it’s probably one of the first two…. and boy does that make me nervous. Last night, I was grumpy… mad at the world… The stages of grief are shock/despair/anger…. and I went into anger mode…. I know it’s not healthy… so the best thing I could do is go to bed.

3:15am – Greyson wakes up having a coughing fit…. We both got up and were trying to calm him down with breathing treaments, vicks, meds… he managed to get a few more hours in and now we’re all up….

Unfortunately, I was awoken by a really bad dream…. I ¬†never have bad dreams… very, very rarely….

Today, we’ll be having a lazy day… for the most part. I need so badly to get caught up on some work. I’ve been trying…. but between visits, phone calls, appointments, texts, Facebook messages…. I’m not accomplishing much and it seems these days… I’d rather not work…. but I really have to! So hopefully I will get some stuff done today.

Tonight, my husband has planned a dinner… for me… with bunches of friends and family. He’s calling it ¬†a Cancer Party…. but it’s really just dinner…. but it should be a lot of fun! Grammy will watch Greyson for a little bit… hopefully he has a better night tonight…. ¬†And, hopefully I can keep it together….I haven’t cried in a day or so… ¬†Darrell wants me to have a good time before I start treatment…. if that’s my plan now. My thought is… maybe the Oncologist wants me to have surgery first? Then chemo? And radiation? What I don’t understand… is they told me on the phone that I have cancer… so I can’t imagine they can tell me anything as bad as that….

Anyway… there probably won’t be a lot to report on the weekend… and if there is… I’ll get back on…. but I plan to take this long weekend…. to just be…. and try to make some peace out of all of this….

Tests, Treatment & Other Randoms…

Yesterday, I had a blood boiling moment… it wasn’t good… But they weren’t going to schedule my tests until December 3 and the Oncologist wouldn’t call me back for 24-48 hours to schedule my appointment… ¬†The holiday is coming up after all… I was like seriously? I told her.. that means… I won’t see the Oncologist until after that… and chemotherapy won’t start until after that!!!! I called the nurse navigator.. and left a message, said that was just not acceptable…. that means this will have been left to grow… for 6 more weeks… I was a mess. I posted on the support group…. and someone suggested I call the Oncologist myself… I did. I was able to get the appointment pushed up… to December 2nd with him… and I’m going today for all of the scans, bone, abdomen, chest, etc… It angered me so badly, I told the nurse navigator in the message…. if you were in my shoes… would you want to wait another 2 weeks before even having these tests done? Seriously? They were worried about doing all my tests on the same day… I told her.. this is not about convenience… I’ll go wherever I have to go! Let’s just get this started! By the time she finally called me back… I said… I think I have it all worked out…… Not my best moment. But seriously, all this waiting… is so backwards…

Onto other topics… I’ve been asked what Greyson knows… Greyson knows that Mommy’s boobies are sick…..¬†He is especially careful not to hurt my boobies, it’s so sweet… I told him that I am going to get my hair short, just like him…. and then when I lose it… I’m going to tell him that I wanted to be just like Daddy…. (at least I have that advantage since he is bald)… Greyson always tells me… I want to have big hair like you….¬†So, I would not doubt it… if after I lose my hair, he’ll want to be bald too…. My husband jokes… that we’ll have portraits done…. maybe we will!? Greyson currently has the funk that I have had… so I’m taking him to the doctor hopefully this morning… when he gets sick, due to his Premature Lung Disease… he gets very sick in his lungs right away…

I can’t remember if I updated about my hair cut on Tuesday… I’m looking forward to it! Diane Esposito from Split Second Sound is taking me to her salon, Planet 21.. and treating me to this haircut… she is so incredibly amazing. Along with that… Dayna from Carolina Cake Artistry is coming along… and she is donating her hair to Locks Of Love, I was so honored that she’d cut her hair off in honor of me…. and Katie O’Neil from MakeUp Your Face is coming along… to support us all… I told my husband… it’s so amazing how people have come together to help me… I’ve been so incredibly humbled by all of the outpouring of support… A special thank you to Lisa Walsh from Magnolia Room … they sent me an incredibly generous gift of meals from Dream Dinners. I’ve been so incredibly blessed. Thank you so much… with all of this help and love… I don’t think there is a chance I can’t beat this….

This weekend… I have several things on the agenda.. I need to find some organic hair dye.. and I’ll be dying my hair au natural (dark) until it falls out in a few short weeks…. and I need to go buy some slippers. I’m constantly freezing… I guess because of the way I’ve changed my diet, I’m losing weight…

My humblest love and gratefulness… ‚̧ Dawn

Mourning…

Yesterday, we were at the surgical oncologist for a good little bit… I had so many people texting, calling…. worried. I put on my brave face and told my story at least 10 different times yesterday….

This morning… I woke up in tears… My husband and I just laid together talking about it all…. It’s all very surreal…

This morning. I’m mourning…. I’m mourning the loss of my hair, I will never again complain about my hair… or wanting to cut it or dye it or whatever I’ve ever complained about in the past… I’m also mourning the loss of my breasts… and more than anything, I pray my husband still thinks I’m beautiful…. it’s going to be a long time coming before I have the reconstructive process… it appears almost a year and a half… and then that takes awhile…

Tuesday I will be cutting my hair off…. to prepare… I want to prepare mostly my littlest son… and I don’t want it to be such a shock when my long hair starts to fall out… so I was going to do a bob, but now I’m thinking more like a pixie…. it will only be there for a few more weeks… and then it will be gone for six months…

I pray that I tolerate chemotherapy well. I pray that I tolerate radiation well…. but I thoroughly appreciate what the doctor is trying to do… by saving my arms.. potentially… if you’ve seen lymph edema… it’s not something you want if you can at all avoid it.

I think when people see me getting down, they think they need to remind me that I will be ok…. I know I will be ok, I know I’m a strong person…. I just need to get my feelings out and this is all part of the process. If I don’t grieve the loss, that is unhealthy…. they told me… tears are absolutely part of this process…

Anyway, I have lots to do today…. I need to clear my plate of what I have left…. Many thanks to¬†DeLayna¬†Kenney¬†McCallum from D. Kenney Imaging and Levi J. Wiggins from www.photographersedit.com for helping me make this possible.

It’s going to be a long year….

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First off I’ll update about the right breast…. it did not have cancer.. YET… but it has the cells that lead to cancer, but she was not confident with the biopsy results and wants to biopsy again… more on this part later… She sat and showed me my mammograms from 2012 and April 2013… you could not see anything… they looked identical… then she put this past one up and she said ONLY because she knows… could she locate a tiny blip on the mammogram… This is VERY scary!!! I only went because I felt something… what I felt didn’t even show up on the mammogram last April…. And what I have this year… was barely detectable… and only because she knew where to look… she saw something VERY small, not nearly the size the tumor actually is…

The ultrasound showed like a 1.2cm area of concern.. it was the MRI that showed the tumor being 4cm.. she said by the time they would do a lumpectomy it would be half of my breast… so, she would recommend a mastectomy on the left breast… well, we said if my right breast is going to get cancer in 6 months, 1 year… 5 years… we don’t want to go through this again… so, we’ll go ahead and do a double mastectomy… so she said the biopsy would not be necessary in that case… So, her suggested course of treatment… Chemotherapy for 6 months – 1 month off – double mastectomy¬†– 1 month off – 6 weeks of radiation… 6 months off… and 8 months of being flat chested… and then I can begin the reconstruction process… ūüė¶ I will be on a drug for 5 years called Tamoxifen… to reduce my hormones… and this will put me in instant menopause…

She told me that clinically I’m a stage 2… but, it could be different after surgery… She said… she could go ahead and do the surgery first… but, that may actually upstage me… to a stage 3 or 4… but the course of treatment would be no different UNLESS the cancer has spread… and over the next week I will have testing to make sure of that… lots of appointments upcoming. She feels good that it has not… ¬†But, if she does the surgery first.. that means they will have to take all of my lymph nodes under that arm and potentially under the right arm as well… that would be determined during the surgery… based upon pathology findings… But, if she removes all the lymph nodes.. I will end up with lymphedema… which makes the arm swell 2-3X the size…. So her theory is do chemotherapy first.. (Yes I will lose my hair)… and shrink the tumors as much as possible first.. and hopefully reduce the amount of lymph nodes affected… so that maybe 3-4 might have to come out and not all of them (that will be determined at the time of surgery)…

Over the next week… I will have a bunch of scans, bone, body… etc… I will have some baseline tests on my heart to make sure my heart can take chemo… I will have genetic testing to see if it’s a gene mutation. If it is… then my kids are at risk of certain cancers… If it is from a genetic mutation… they will actually do a hysterectomy so that it prevents all hormones from being created in the body since it’s hormone driven… I will also see the Medical Oncologist and start treatment probably within the next week – 10 days.. I’ve been asked how I’m emotionally holding up… I’m doing ok… ¬†I feel better about everything… of course this is not going to be any fun at all… I have no idea what my future holds… but I’m sure feeling much more confident that I can beat this.. I’ll be documenting my entire journey… because it’s so therapeutic for me… I feel like I am a fairly strong person and I can get through it, with a little hand holding from God… and my family.

On another note… I’d love to thank Kymm McLean for allowing me to use her juicer… I plan to juice a lot… to get the most nutrients from my foods as possible… I’ve stopped drinking alcohol, coffee, eating any refined sugars… etc… Additionally, I’ve changed my diet to an alkaline driven diet… to hopefully stop the cancer from growing… In doing this, I’ve started drinking Kangen water… which is alkaline… I started using natural deoderant, which doesn’t work… when using the 8.5… I still had body odor… but since switching to the 9.0 my body odor has almost gone away… It’s going to be a long, unpleasant year…. (plus)… I don’t know if I’m ready to lose my hair… I don’t know if I’m ready to look at my flat, unattractive chest…. but these are only temporary things… which I am reminded by so many… So many people I need to thank…. Diane Esposito has been literally a rock for me through this… my husband & family of course…. Kymm McLean… who has assured me she will show me how to draw brows and attach lashes… Katie O’Neil who plans to attend my big hair cut next week… Amelia Old & Monica Brady Reid who worked so hard to help me find help with editing… Amelia has offered to attend chemo with me… Diane too…. Athena who has graciously helped provide meals… Sharon from Total Tranquility Salon for helping me with my Kangen Water and delivering it to my door….Ines from Sky’s The Limit Cakes… she sends me daily thoughts and prayers…. ¬†So many people… I’m probably forgetting… Thank you… forever, from the bottom of my heart!!!!