Road to Recovery

My road to recovery, and my battle against cancer started one year ago today. At this time last year, I was recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. When I woke up from my five hour surgery, I was surrounded by my husband, my parents, and my dear friend Katie. Katie, a nurse at the same hospital, pulled some strings to get me a large, private room at the end of a quiet hall so I could rest peacefully through the night.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my book, The Journey of My Jugs.

~

Waking up from surgery was a blur. I remember opening my eyes to find my family sitting in a large private hospital room at the end of a hallway. The surgery lasted five hours, two more hours than they planned. While my plastic surgeon was finishing his handiwork, the pathology report came back from the lab with devastating news. There were trace amounts of cancer found in three lymph nodes. The lab insisted on removing more lymph nodes so they could be tested.

As I looked around my room, I reminded my mom of the three magic questions I wanted her to answer when I woke up from surgery. Was I alive or dead? Did they go straight to implants or did they use expanders? Did they find cancer in the lymph nodes? I was alive, and they were able to go straight to implants instead of having to go through the pain of expanders. (Expanders are temporary fluid sacks filled weekly so the skin can stretch slowly. Apparently, I had ample skin leftover to stuff and sew.) I was so happy to hear this news, but she had saved the worst news for last. The cancer was found in my lymph nodes. They removed several nodes; the surgeon wasn’t able to guess how many were taken. The news crushed my spirit for a moment. I couldn’t find any tears to go along with the disappointment, so I smiled and reminded myself to be grateful for another day on this planet. I am sure the anesthesia helped bring a smile to my face as well.

~

Thank you for stopping by and reading a part of my journey.

Nicole

Advertisements

False Hope

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, so I’m sharing a few paragraphs from The Journey of My Jugs. The following excerpt takes place a few of weeks after I was diagnosed. There was a brief moment when we thought my cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, and I was given good news for a change.

~

Chapter 9: Good News

While I waited for the biopsy results, I tried to continue living a normal life. I tried to exercise and go to work and pretend my life was perfect. I received the phone call around 3 p.m. on a Friday. It was good news for a change; the first good news in four weeks. There were no traces of cancer in the lymph node they biopsied. I let out a sigh, smiled and started to cry—finally, some tears of joy.

That weekend, my thoughts were spiraling. I imagined the pain I would suffer after the double mastectomy. I realized the importance of having a grateful heart. I saw the importance of rest; working seven days a week wasn’t healthy. Most importantly, I realized I needed to start paying attention to my husband, who some days I wondered why he stayed with me.

I learned so many valuable lessons early in my journey. I learned to be grateful for the body I had because it could change in a heartbeat. I needed to stop criticizing my plump and dimpled rump, my short legs, my saggy boobs and my squishy tummy. Instead of criticizing her, I needed to love my beautiful body because it was merely housing my soul. I needed to spend more time creating a more beautiful soul.

A part of my body was about to be banished forever, and I wanted to hold on tight and tell her how sorry I was for treating her so poorly. But, it didn’t matter. She didn’t care. She was going to change whether I liked it or not.

~

Unfortunately, when I went in for surgery, cancer was found in my lymph nodes. I had 18 nodes removed at the time of surgery, which subsequently led to 25 radiation treatments. I am still undergoing physical therapy because of this.

A big thank you to all of you who continue to follow my journey and who continue to support me. You are all loved and appreciated more than you know.

Have a great week!

~Nicole

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A Wave of Sadness

When I was diagnosed at age 42 with stage 3 breast cancer, I knew I wanted to write a book about the journey. I knew the writing process would be cathartic for me, and I wanted the end result to inspire others tackling breast cancer or adversity of any kind.

One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime, so another goal I have for this book is to bring more awareness to younger women. It’s so important to do your monthly breast exams and to make that appointment for your first mammogram when you turn 40.

Many of you may have followed me on my CaringBridge site for the weeks following my diagnosis. I mused about my double mastectomy, the strength and courage I was given from family and friends, shaving my head, and a few other milestones.

The next few paragraphs are from my first journal entries, moments after I received the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis.

~

There was still no fighting the tears and the ugly cry that had taken over me, so I called my husband Adlai, and I heard those famous words, we’ll get through this together. Another wave of sadness hit me. One deeper than anything I have ever felt. I haven’t been giving our relationship the time it deserved; instead I have been working full-time and picking up freelance writing jobs to grow my byline. My weekends were filled with writing assignments while my week nights were filled with teaching fitness classes or preparing for 5k and 10k races. I made my husband entertain himself. I felt like a terrible wife. Now, I was a terrible wife with cancer and a pity party was already in progress.

What would I say on my deathbed? I would tell him to find someone else, to remember me, but find someone else to love. I would tell him to find someone who will share a hunting experience with him, someone who loves to ride in boats that go really fast, someone who is a better wife than me.

I sobbed the entire way home. I felt like there was no hope for a new life after cancer even though my doctor was positive about my prognosis. My doctor drank from the glass that was half full, while I was drinking pulp at the bottom of a glass.

~

I hope you enjoyed this passage from The Journey of My Jugs. Be on the lookout for future posts that include more excerpts from my book. If you want to read more, please check out my CaringBridge site for longer passages.

The Diagnosis

Flowers from Mom_2

On Monday, July 3rd, the day before my 8th wedding anniversary, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The devastating blow left me speechless. I didn’t have my husband beside me, nor did I ask friends or family to join me at the doctor’s office on this fateful day. Although my gut feeling was right, I didn’t think I needed anyone by my side until minutes later when the flood gates opened. I cried walking out of the hospital doors, I cried sitting in the car calling my mother, husband and friends. I cried the entire car ride home. And finally, I cried as I fell into my husband’s arms when I arrived at home.

There’s nothing that can prepare a person for the start of this journey. But the love and support I have seen over the last several weeks has been astounding. It’s truly amazing to see and feel how many people love you and want to help you.

Breakfast Delight!

Hello Friends!

I survived day one of the Whole Life Challenge, and day two is shaping up nicely as well. Yesterday, I completed a workout, stretching session, stayed hydrated, wrote in my journal and managed to eat very well.

For those interested in a tasty, but healthy breakfast, I have a recipe for you. I made Yellow Squash pancakes courtesty of the blog, Baker by Nature. Before you turn up your nose, I am here to say they turned out quite well. I too was skeptical as I mixed all the ingredients together. I had to substitute a few things because of all my restrictions, you’ll find those in italics.

Healthy Greek Yogurt Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (Oat Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (unsweetened plain)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (Stevia-here’s the conversion chart)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional, but if you don’t add it sub in an extra tablespoon of brown sugar) (I had to omit honey, so I added a bit more stevia)
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded zucchini (yellow squash because I had it on hand)
  • Butter, for the pan (I typically use 2-3 tablespoons for one batch of pancakes)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks, Greek yogurt, vanilla, brown sugar, and honey.
  3. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, and stir just to combined; do not over mix! The batter will be thick, so don’t worry if there are a lot of clumps left.
  4. Add egg whites to a large bowl or the body of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks begin to form.
  5. With a rubber spatula fold egg whites into flour/yogurt mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Stir in zucchini, mix until just incorporated. Always be sure to watch your mixing, as over-mixed batter = rubbery, tough results.
  6. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  7. Ladle 1/3 cup scoops of the batter into the skillet, only cooking a few at a time so they don’t blend together.
  8. Cook pancakes until the edges begin to brown and the top of the batter bubbles, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat for all pancake batter.
  9. Top pancakes with honey, syrup, berries, or anything else your little heart desires! Serve at once.

 

Squash pancakes

Yellow squash pancake with a drizzle of butter and a few blackberries on top. Yummy!

 

 Today’s Haiku:

a breakfast delight
moist squash pancakes and berries
to please my palate

Whole Life Challenge

Hello Friends!

January 16th marks the first day of the Whole Life Challenge. It’s eight weeks of nutrition, exercise, mobility, sleep, hydration, lifestyle practices and reflection. I’ll be joining several other people from Studio 223 in this lifestyle overhaul. I have been teaching fitness classes at Studio 223 for the last nine months, and I enjoy the energetic like-minded people that surround me.

I’ll be doing my best to eat only whole foods on my approved eating list, exercising and stretching for at least 10 minutes each day, drinking one gallon of water per day and cheering on my fellow fitness friends. Here’s the compliant food list.

Healthy Smoothie

 Today’s Haiku:

delicious berries
blended with watermelon
fresh start to the day

Wish me luck and feel free to ask questions as I complete this journey!

~Nicole

Girl on the Go: Writer’s Retreat

Hey everyone!

My schedule has not allowed me to post as often as I would like. I miss writing haiku. I miss dreaming of far off places to travel. And, I miss the interactiion with all my blogging friends.

I do have a post to share this week, and I hope to be able to start posting again very soon. Have a wonderful weekend!

This week my Girl on the Go adventure is taking me to a remote cabin for a writer’s retreat. Doesn’t that sound fun? I thought so. A long weekend with my journal, computer, coffee, wine and snacks!

writer's cabin

Today’s Haiku:

manuscript born
from dancing fingers
and clicking keys

~

Are you looking for bucket list items? Check out some of mine here. Or, feel free to suggest a fun activity for my list! I love adventure!

~Nicole