Category Archives: breast cancer

Two Coyotes

Training to walk 39 miles takes a large part of the day.* Ed and I often trained in shifts, since Lily and Emmy could walk far, but not as far as we wanted to walk. One chilly spring day we all really pushed to walk 12 miles, and that was a little too much for the girls. (And almost too much for me and Ed!)

One Saturday last spring Ed walked a few miles while I took the girls to piano lessons. That afternoon, we walked with the girls in the forest preserve along the Des Plaines River. It was a beautiful spring day; the trees had tiny green leaves and the forest floor was covered with flowers.

Spring violets

I don’t remember how many miles we walked that day, but when we got to the parking lot, I decided that Ed could drive the girls home, and I could walk the rest of the way to get in about 3 more miles. We figured it should only take me about an hour to walk home, and we said our goodbyes, along with plans to pick up Chinese food for dinner so that I wouldn’t have to cook!

Ready to enjoy my solitary walking time, I started off on the path and opened up a granola bar for a snack. I took one bite…and saw two coyotes on the side of the path ahead of me. The darker coyote stayed to the side, unsure of what to do. I wrapped up my remaining granola bar and froze, unsure of what to do. The lighter colored coyote started loping on the path toward me. He seemed very sure of himself! I wondered; did he want my granola bar? How close was he going to get? Should I start making some noise?

As soon as he crossed a small bridge that went over a shallow gully, he dashed back into the forest and disappeared. His black companion decided the bridge was not for her, and she crossed the path right where she was and soon followed after him.**

I breathed a sigh of relief, continued on my way while eating the rest of my granola bar, and made it home in about an hour, just as anticipated and without any further excitement.

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*Ed and I were training for the Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer, which we completed in June.

**I have no idea what the sex of the coyotes were. Assigning one as male and the other as female just made sense.

 

 

To Survive or Not to Survive

On the second morning of the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, Ed and I ate breakfast in a big tent with other walkers. One of the fun things about walking 39 miles with a bunch of strangers is that strangers share stories, and then become friends.

Ed eating oatmeal for breakfast!
Ed eating oatmeal for breakfast!

One of our new breakfast friends was walking for her sister, and when I began to ask the details about her sister, the answers were astonishingly tragic. Twenty-five years ago, her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 26. She died just a few years later, when she was 32 years old. “She was so young!” I exclaimed.

“You were young, too,” said the woman, who had just heard that I was a 20 year survivor after being diagnosed when I was 27.

Yes, I was young. And how different my breast cancer journey would have been if I had had different doctors. For years, I resented the way I was treated; how I was shuffled from the exam room to radiology to the surgeon’s office, all in a matter of hours. I was never given the opportunity to call someone for support. (Let me remind you, this was before everyone had a cell phone! I had a “car phone,” one that needed to be plugged into the car because the batteries were too expensive.)

The surgeon scheduled a lumpectomy for the very next morning, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to have surgery so quickly. After all that shuffling around, I called my parents as soon as I left the clinic. My parents made a phone call to my mom’s doctor (At the time, Mom was a 13 year breast cancer survivor) and made an appointment for me. We cancelled the lumpectomy and picked up my mammogram films the very next day. After a second opinion, I eventually did have a lumpectomy, but I wasn’t rushed to make that decision.

The DeKalb clinic left a really bad taste in my mouth, and yet it has taken me 20 years to realize that the doctors there served a very important purpose in my survival. The urgency those doctors gave my situation probably saved my life. I wasn’t told to wait and see; I was told I needed to take action immediately. Through that sense of urgency, I was diagnosed at Stage 1 and had no cancer in my lymph nodes. Many young woman have more advanced breast cancer at the time of diagnosis because they are simply considered too young to have breast cancer.

Fortunately, now that young women are diagnosed with breast cancer more often, doctors are less likely to just “wait and see” when a woman has a breast lump. While I still am unhappy with the bedside manners of the doctors during my initial mammogram, I am so grateful that 20 years later, I’m still here with no recurrence of breast cancer.

Twenty years and counting!

Ed and Ginny
The start of our second day of walking

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The Gift of Another Birthday

In my preschool class, it is a tradition to have Oreos as a special treat on someone’s birthday. As I was passing out Oreos this week for my birthday, one of my students asked me, “What’s your number?” I had to chuckle at that one! I’m not one to hide my age; I’ve only been 39 years old once.

Speaking of 39, in June I’m about to take on a big challenge. I’m going to walk 39 miles with my best friend and husband, Ed. But perhaps an even bigger challenge is raising the amount of money I need to walk in the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. In order to participate in the Avon 39, both Ed and I need to raise $1800. That is a daunting number!

AVON39
Walking the Chicago #AVON39 in 2011

Here’s where you come in! I am looking for sponsors for the AVON39. To become a sponsor, all you need to do is donate $1 for each mile I plan on walking. Donating just $39 to Avon 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer is an easy way to support me in my fundraising. If you have a blog or own a small business, your donation can also benefit you!

With a $39 donation, I will put your logo above the fold on my sidebar until June 30. That’s a premium advertising space for less than $10 a month! I will also personally thank you at least 4 times for being a sponsor on my Facebook page and Twitter, with a link to your website, Facebook page, or other social media link (whichever you prefer). My blog is small yet mighty, and you’ll be making a donation to a great cause!

If you are unable to make a donation at this time, support me by liking and sharing my #AVON39 posts. Do you know someone else who might want to be a sponsor? Please share this post with them. It’s as easy as that!

To make a donation and to read more about why I’m walking, visit my AVON39 Fundraising Page. After you make your donation, please email me at lemondroppie@gmail.com to let me know you’ve made a donation, and to share the links and the logo you would like me to use. If you don’t have a logo, I’ll be able to provide one for you.

Click here!
Click here!

Back to the question of what my number is; I am proud to say that I am 47 years old, and I plan on adding many years to that number!

*Here comes the small print: Please note, my sidebar is not visible on my blog’s mobile setting. I will share your links enthusiastically, but cannot guarantee the number of click-throughs your link will receive. I am walking the AVON39 under my real name. Please visit my AVON39 page for information on how to donate. Thank you for your support!

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Motherhood After Breast Cancer: Pregnancy

Tonight as we were chowing down on burgers and shakes at the Choo Choo (our favorite birthday restaurant), Lily asked me to tell the story about the day that she was born.

My due date was November 20th, although when I first had gotten pregnant, I calculated my due date to be Nov. 10th. When I woke up on Nov. 5 (I always say my due date was more accurate than the one my doctor gave me) I started to feel cramps. I called my mom, Ed at work, and my doctor’s office in that order. Since I already had a doctor’s appointment at 11:00, the nurse told me I could wait until then to come in. I had told Ed to come home from work so he could drive me to the doctor’s office. It was a beautiful fall morning, and Ed spent the time waiting to rake the leaves into the street for the leaf truck. I usually went to doctor’s appointments by myself, but this time, I didn’t go home after my appointment. The doctor told me I was going to have a baby that day!

I’ve always thought of both of my daughters as little miracles from God. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get pregnant and have children after undergoing chemotherapy and taking Tamoxifen at such a young age. Many young women are pushed into menopause or become infertile due to cancer treatments. Before Ed and I got married, we talked about the possibility of adoption if we weren’t able to have children.

So it was unbelievable to me when it took only about three or four months for me to become pregnant with both Lily and Emmy. I was also quite fortunate to have healthy and happy pregnancies. Being pregnant was a wonderful experience for me, and the morning sickness I felt was nothing compared to the sickness of chemotherapy. My hair grew thicker instead of falling out and I was gaining weight due to a healthy baby growing inside of me. Ed and I felt truly blessed.

As we watch both our girls growing before our eyes, and celebrated Lily’s 11th birthday today, we still feel extremely blessed to be the parents of our miracle babies. Because as you know, our girls will always be our babies even as we celebrate birthdays and watch our little girls grow up.

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Discovered in a Drawer

wig

I really don’t know why I keep this thing; this mop of hair that insurance paid for and that I hated from the moment I put it on my head. I wanted a fun blond wig, but the hairdresser thought I should match my natural, mousy color. I thought it would be fun to have a shoulder length bob, but my mom thought I should match my current short hairstyle. So I ended up with a wig that wasn’t really my choice. When I started running my fingers through my hair and it drifted through my fingers, falling to the ground, I began to wear hats. My favorite was a baseball cap I bought at Princeton when I visited my sister there.

Princeton hat
After my first chemo treatment, summer of ’96

While I was teaching, I wore dressier hats. But I never wore my wig, and I never took my hat off while I was teaching second grade. My students knew why I was wearing hats, and as 7 and 8 year olds, they accepted it easily and without many questions. To them, my hat was a part of me. I, however, dreamed of a time when hair would once again brush my cheeks as I leaned forward; to a time when I could run my fingers through my hair again.

breast cancer hat
A picture drawn by a student

The chemo nurses told me about wig burning parties some of their patients had had when their hair started to grow again. I really didn’t feel like burning a wig I never wore. It would have been a useless gesture. (I was also never going to burn my beloved Princeton cap!) And so the wig was thrown up on a closet shelf, moved around a few times, and came with me to a couple of apartments before my husband and I bought a house. In the back of my mind, I kept the wig in case I needed it again. But if I hadn’t worn it the first time, would I really wear it a second time? My wig finally ended up in my top dresser drawer among spare shoelaces and fuzzy sock-slippers, buried away and forgotten.

straw hat
On a field trip with my students

Forgotten, that is, until Emmy rediscovered my wig. As any eight year old would do, Emmy tried it on for size and then kept it on. She began walking around the house saying in a deep voice, “I’m Mommy!” She even wore it outside when she was playing with the neighbors.

My expensive wig, reduced to a plaything. Am I okay with that? Yes, I am. After 19 years, I’m pretty sure I won’t need it again. If I ever do lose my hair to chemo, I’m getting a wig that I choose. Maybe it’ll even be pink.

Maybe it'll even be pink.
Maybe it’ll even be pink.

I started this post last week for the prompt “discovery,” but I didn’t finish it in time. Since October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m using this as my fall post. Link up your Fall post below, and be sure to visit our other Spinners!



Spin Cycle at Second Blooming
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