1 in 8

After months without posting, I dived into my blog once again this past week. The peace writing brings me along with the tinkering of widgets, layouts and uploading pictures is so meditational for me and that is huge in terms of quieting my brain. This was originally intended to be an outlet for me. A way to express myself. A way to come to terms with how my life had been flung into a different trajectory almost mid-course. It was a visual way for me to organize my thoughts, fears, dreams, hopes, goals, and somehow compartmentalize them in such a way that I could manage them all without losing my mind. Cancer has a way of doing that to a person. It is an insidious snake that wraps itself into every crevice of your being and makes you doubt everything you ever thought to be safe or predictable or comfortable.

What I found through this cyberjournaling is that I was not the only one feeling this way. I was not the only one going through this. I was not going to be the last. I made online acquaintances that stretched out their arms across thousands of miles, oceans, and continents to befriend me, to lift me up, to support me, to walk in spirit with me. I found friends near me that were willing to do the same. In this past year, I have become one of those spirit friends myself to many women both locally and far away. I have tirelessly advocated for early detection with my growing number of friends on facebook. I have reminded both the women and men in my life and those I randomly run into weekly, if not daily, to take care of their boobs. I have passed out self-check breast exam flyers to random strangers. I have done things in the name of breast cancer awareness and I have made it known to all that if you EVER feel you are having a scare, or you need information or you want to talk or you just need someone to pray for you or with you–I will be there for you.

I have had women I barely know and many I do contact me this past year. I have talked into the wee hours of the morning with strangers across the country. I have facebooked and I have messaged and I have emailed back and forth with others who are in the middle of a scare. I have begged and pleaded for everyone to get a mammogram–and to NEVER blow it off, and I have just sat and listened and cried with some who have been diagnosed. I never really thought in the beginning that I would later go on to become someone that would be a source of comfort to another that was fearing her worst nightmare coming true. I never thought that there might be a former high school enemy that would be inspired to go get checked for the first time because of me or become someone I actually appreciate now that we have grown up. I never thought that people would really read this blog. But, all those things have happened and continue to happen.

When I submitted my post a few days ago after a 5 month hiatus, I was astounded by the irony of what happened later that night. I was reminded once again that because of me putting out there the good, bad, and ugly, a woman somewhere would also be reminded that they could call me–to talk, to cry, to vent, to plan, to question, and to ask questions. I never thought I’d get a call anytime soon. But I did.

A long-time friend of mine messaged me through facebook. The urgency in her tone led me to believe that something was very wrong. This same woman began reading my blog from the onset and two weeks after I launched it about a year and a half ago, she found herself thousands of miles away going through a similar scare. She found me then on facebook and we talked and talked and talked. Her scare was just that at the time. I have learned that if you are a woman and you have a scare that is in need of biopsy or MRI imaging or you are told you have dense breasts or there are just a few “normal” looking calcifications showing up on a mammogram, you should be diligent in your self-care. My friend has done just that. However, her followup mammograms have been proving to be more questionable. Without telling many people, she went in for the suggested biopsy last week. She thought nothing of it because she had been told since that first scare she was fine. She wasn’t nervous at all.

She has just received the news. She listened to the woman over the phone tell her those words that change everyone’s life when they hear them. “You have breast cancer”. It wasn’t 24hrs. after posting my blog that here again was my friend–now facing the same form of cancer I did–DCIS–Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. I stopped everything, didn’t care if I was an hour late to a meeting, because I knew I was the person she wanted to talk to. I listened to her and I shared with her–the tears silently streaming down my face. She will be seeing her surgeon tomorrow. I am asking for prayers please.

Yesterday–I couldn’t help but feel a heartwrenching ache in my gut. I was mad. Mad that a cure hasn’t been found. Yes, early detection is the key and there are many pieces of health news always swirling around puporting to be something for you to do in order to decrease your risk of getting the disease. But ya know, I did most of those things and I still got it. Sometimes, no matter how you live your life, manage your stress, what you eat, or drink, or how much you exercise–sometimes you still get cancer. Sometimes it’s just predisposed in your genes and you don’t know when that snake will raise it’s head to strike, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to swallow. That pill still gets lodged in my throat and it makes me really mad. My status updates since finding out have been filled with angst. Many of them reminding everyone that 1 in 8 women (or men) will be diagnosed. Let me rephrase that–1 IN EVERY 8 INDIVIDUALS WILL HEAR THE WORDS–“YOU HAVE CANCER”.

I took stock of just the people on my facebook friends list and realized that many of these women had already had scares. A few had already been through their cancers. I wondered how many more in just that list alone would have to go through that. I put out a request for everyone to stop and go through their own lists and to take a moment and pause for a prayer for each person on their list. I might seem melodramatic to some and that’s ok. I get it. They just have never had to go through what I did and there is power in prayer, I do believe that. 1 in 8. That is too large of a pill for me to swallow. I sometimes don’t know what else I can do though. I have wondered what else I was meant to do. Maybe I’m doing enough. Maybe I could do more.

Maybe we could all do more. Maybe we could all just take the blinders off and stop trying to pretend its not one of the leading killers for women. Maybe those that are scared of having the pancake masher hurt them will be reminded that having your boob CUT OFF hurts more–emotionally, psychologically, physically, etc. All I can do is put it out to the cyber world now and scream!! GO GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS!!!!! Maybe we’ll find a cure. Maybe…Maybe…Hopefully…I do hope. For now, “L”, you are in my heart and prayers as you embark on this road. Good luck tomorrow, dearheart. I am with you in spirit.

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Circle of Friendship

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In this past year, I have come to grow a new circle of friends. An international collection of women and some men that have followed my story and been an ever present support to me as I have battled with many demons. When I started this blog it was to mainly keep a few far off relatives in touch with my progress. As the weeks and months have passed, an army has marched into my life. Some of these soldiers that keep me motivated are friends from my childhood that I have reconnected with through Facebook. I’ve even been getting the hand of Twitter-something that has been driving me a little nuts all summer. Many of my new friends now mingle in with my old friends and it doesn’t matter who drops me a line, I am always happy to know that someone is thinking of me. Many of my old friends now read my new friend’s blogs as well. Technology sure has had a way of connecting everyone.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this network that has spread across the world. My hits have surpassed 10,000 –something I never expected. It’s like opening up a present every morning when I wake up. I check stats to see where hits are coming in from and I quickly check for messages. Love getting them, but don’t get as many as I would love. I check world locator and find that people in Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, Finland, Africa and beyond must be subscribers because of the regularity of their visits. I have also been surprised to see that my blog has been rated 4th in the top 100 blogs out there about breast cancer on Networked Blogs. That is fantastic! Now if I could just get all my readers to click follow on that widget in the sidebar–those ratings would shoot up even faster! (That’s a hint! ­čÖé ) It is really the one thing that has helped me process this mind-boggling year. Learning how to build a blog, learning how to set up new accounts that support that blog such as flickr and youtube, learning how to grab code and install widgets, learning how to format posts and hyperlink are all newly learned skills that I now really enjoy playing around with. Through it all, I have maintained a clear vision of what I want to do with the blog and where I ultimately want it to go. “If you build it, they will come”, I keep reminding myself.

The way I look at it is this, I am providing my children with a glimpse into their mother’s life. Years from now, whether I live or not from this, my children will be able to understand what their mom went through. My grandchildren will know something of their grandmother. My friends will remember the fight and have a newfound appreciation. It is always humbling for me to see that as I lurk around in the middle of the night checking out other blogs that I find mine in other’s blogrolls. They may be commentators or just part of that silent army that keeps me in their prayers, but either way–to all of you, I want to thank you for your continued support. Then, there are a few that have really helped my army grow. Friends across the country and the world that have quoted something from my blog and hyperlinked your readers back to me. There are community forums that I am blessed to be a part of and in doing so, I have met even more wonderful individuals.

One such woman came into my life just recently, friended me on FB and also proceeded to quote me in a post she wrote for an online news source blog out of Seattle, WA. Her name is Carolyn Harris and she is a writer with a very interesting background. She pens a blog called Lyn’s Circle: Chronicles of a Married Feminist. I encourage you not just to check out the excerpt she wrote about me, but also to check out her bio. When I read it (and to clear up a misprint–my nickname is cj not cy but no worries here) I couldn’t help but close my eyes and imagine what RVing through New Zealand or Sailing to Cuba must be like. I have had the pleasure of chatting with her and am glad once again that in this giant world, I know that there are others that are equally impassioned about spreading the word.

At the end of her bio she states:

“Lyn invites you to join her circle of friends. She feels sometimes women get stuck in their seats because it’s easier to sit there, do nothing and stay miserable than risk a change. She wants you to reach out. Your problem is not unique. Somewhere in this circle you’ll find another woman who understands your scars. With a little help from our sisters, we can laugh a little, cry a little, and figure out what to do with the rest of our lives”.

When I read this, I thought you were talking directly to me. When you came along, I was beginning to retreat once again into a pit of despair, thanks for pulling me out. It’s a never ending struggle to get my head back in the game, just when I think I’m making progress, I have a major setback. Unless you’ve been confronted with something of such life changing magnitude–whether it’s a health related or not, whether its directly or indirectly, you can only try and imagine what another individual is going through. Reality is quite a different story and since we are all on this Earth together, it’s comforting to know that although someone may not actually KNOW what you think and feel, there are common bonds that tie us all together. The biggest of these are love, compassion, and empathy. Thanks for coming into my life, Carolyn. Your presence is appreciated.

cj

Shout Out

I received this Sisterhood Award from Marilyn Campiz on August 16, 2009

I received this Sisterhood Award from Marilyn Campiz on August 16, 2009

At a moment when I was standing face to face with some of my worst nightmares last week, a complete stranger living in South Korea sent me this adorable award on my Facebook wall. I have seen many blogs that have these proudly displayed in the sidebar and wondered how the blog author’s got them. I have found out after much effort that I am unable to do that. I believe it takes a certain code that WordPress doesn’t support. So, I thought I’d display it here. I have been randomly reading blogs from around the world and in all subject areas now since being turned on to it. I have been looking for specific blogs to follow based on areas of interests–breast cancer, spiritual, philosophical, art, and some random parenting blogs that are very funny. It was by chance that I stumbled upon Marilyn Campiz’ blog The Lotus Sutra Chronicles through the blog frog of Networked Blogs on Facebook. There was just something about it that drew me in. I also love to see what kinds of blogs the people I follow read, follow or author themselves. I figure if I like theirs then I may enjoy their favs as well. One blog she’s affiliated with, The Womens Community Blog had a very interesting platform.

Women from all around the world encourage each other with their writing. I made a mental note that I thought it might be fun to join such a cooperative effort and to reach out to others by networking around the world. Before I could contact Marilyn or some of the other authors about joining the community, I received a post on facebook from her that said, “For you Christina…an army of cheering coming your way”. There was an accompanying link to the Women’s Community Blog and when I opened it, I was really humbled and honored. I’ll let you discover what was written about me (you’ll need to find my name in the sidebar and click on it) for yourself and be sure to bookmark the site if you want to read more from some amazing women! I believe Marilyn added me as a new member–and I hope to be able to post to that site soon.

Some people live by the premise that there are no accidents. In fact, I know I read that in one of Marilyn’s comments to another reader. I think that’s why my curiosity was initially peaked when I came across her bio. I had been thinking about joining writing groups both online and here locally and have been encouraged by many. I had no idea that when I struck up my initial conversation with her that I would later find out through The Author’s Den that she is actually a writer, author, and poet. Was this a sign? …an indescribable force or collision between two far off stranger’s blogs? I mean really-what are the odds that on this worldwide super information highway, I meet someone on the other side of the world who is originally from the midwest, is a published writer (something I’d love to be), and also works with children. A woman who was drawn to my blog as I was to hers. This woman who is originally from Chicago, Illinois (not terribly far from where I live) was put into my path for a reason. Would she last for a season or a lifetime–I wondered? Was she put here in my life right now to help me grow creatively, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Was this divine intervention?

Through the past week, while I have made countless arrangements for my oldest daughter to be transferred to yet another hospital nearly 6 hours away, I couldn’t help but stop every once in a while and think about this new friend I had made–and it made me smile. Its so exciting to make new friends. It’s also exciting to see a glimmer of hope in a year that has been filled with hopelessness. I have been unmotivated to re-energize myself, my family, my business, my schooling, and my creative spirit but…I feel the stirrings of life once again. They are fleeting, but I remember them. I do think that for the majority of this summer, my world was like a made for TV movie–so anxiety ridden, suspenseful, and drama filled. Those feelings were fueled by the incessant nagging in my gut that I didn’t know where my child was or what kind of terrible trouble she was in. Something about this week, though. Something about knowing where she’ll be for the next few months has helped me settle–a bit. I pray the knowing of where she’ll be will allow me to breathe. I hope that breath will contain the energy I need to regroup. Even this evening, as I prepare to leave in the morning for the weekend to move my daughter across the state of Iowa, I am not as restless.

So, was this a sign? I think so. I think I needed the reminder that I’m not in this alone and even though I am fortunate to have so many friends and family members that are praying for me and my family, I have to admit–hearing it from total strangers never ceases to knock my socks off. Knowing that there is a common thread that really holds all of us together–compassion–is enough hope to have filled my cup this week. Thank you Marilyn, for the newfound friendship, your kind words on your blog, and bringing me an army of women to help cheer me on. Thanks to all my new friends from around the world that I have met through this forum, and to the friends I have made recently here, and for those I have known through the years. Thank you for holding my hand in spirit or in person. Thank you everyone for continued support and for believing in me as I have stumbled repeatedly through this year. I am far from where I need to be, but
with your help and God’s help, I’ll get there.

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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