Breast cancer, infertility and me

To help bring Pink Ribbon Month aka Breast Cancer Awareness month to a close, the following is a guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Nicole McLean. Nic was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer before the age of 40, making her a member of a small group of young women who can count themselves as breast cancer survivors. Please stop by her blog, My Fabulous Boobies, and show her love as she continues her journey of living life vivaciously after diagnoses. 

Breast cancer, infertility and me.
by Nicole McLean

1420010_10151776901295892_752483596_nCan I ask you a question? You never wanted any kids?

It is such an innocent, innocuous question. I have heard it more times than I can remember. But as a breast cancer survivor and a young one at that… it isa far more loaded question than most people can understand.

I’ve grown accustomed to the pity look that people give me when they learn that I’ve survived stage 3 breast cancer and that I was diagnosed in my 30’s. I know, it doesn’t normally happen to women who look like me. Except when it does. Nearly a quarter of a million young women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. (Young women are defined as women under 40) However, when people realize that I am childless and breast cancer treatment will likely keep me that way, the look of pity in their eyes deepens a bit.

What do you say to a young(ish) looking woman who appears healthy and doesn’t have kids? We naturally assume that people who want children, simply have children. The reality is that infertility is real and as in my case, is often pushed forward thanks to the same treatment that saves your life from cancer. How is that for a conundrum?

Just before my diagnosis, I wanted a baby. I wanted to get married, buy a house and have a family. I would have been late in doing these things — I was diagnosed in my late 30’s — but I was preparing myself mentally for the change from sassy single girl, to happy wife and mother. In the blink of an eye though, I was sitting in my oncologist’s office listening to the plan for my cancer treatment and learning that chemotherapy could push me into menopause. I was forced to consider (very quickly) if I wanted to freeze eggs for later use, put my ovaries to sleep or just accept that having a natural birth child wasn’t going to happen for me. I couldn’t ponder these deep life changing choices for a long time because my cancer was advanced and my team worried that it would be fast moving and get beyond their ability to cure if they did not move quickly with my treatment. I opted to have my ovaries put to sleep. That meant 2 years with no menstrual cycle. The medical team couldn’t dictate when my cycle returned, whether it would actually return and they had no idea what my fertility would be like after they were done. But their job was to cure my cancer, not figure out how to resolve my motherhood fantasy.

In many chats with the nursing staff and many other people at the cancer center, I heard stories about women who completed treatment and went on to have happy, healthy babies. I never thought that I would be that woman though. One of my friends who is also a breast cancer survivor, just had her first child about 7 months ago. (and she is a gorgeous baby too!) I know that it is possible. I know that it happens. I never believed it would happen for me. And it hasn’t.

Now that I’m in my early 40’s (and still unmarried, thanks for asking)… I have given up the idea of having a child. It is a difficult acceptance but not much of a choice for me. As much as I wanted a child before, now I think that I’m too old and the fear of recurrence could mean awful things for my child(ren).

Some days, I am quite fine with my life without kids. You can’t miss what you never had, right? Other days, it is far more challenging. Watching my friends and family members raise their children and share those precious moments on facebook, sometimes hurts a little. But each year that goes by makes it a bit easier to deal with. I love children but I am truly okay with not having any. The twists and turns of my life have shown me that, for me, a life without motherhood can be very fulfilling as well.

Fear of the Big “C”

It’s almost the end of October, so naturally that means you have seen pink EVERYWHERE and it’s very likely you have seen plenty of “save-the-boobies”  signs. I know many are tired of them. I myself have been tired of seeing the arguments going around social media about whhhhyyy is breast cancer considered so important when there are other, deadlier cancers out there, or about how the money raised from all of the “pink” campaigns you see don’t really go towards breast cancer research and so on. October is exhausting. I have felt pretty neutral for plenty of years on the subject until this year, for this is the year I found a painful lump in my left breast and fear haunted me.

My left breast has given me trouble for the past 5 years. Whenever my cycle is near, it hurts like nobodies business. The vein in it pops out real bright and green, looking completely gross, and I’m a mess. When I was pregnant with Johanna one of my first signs was nipple pain, only in my left nipple, that felt like someone was taking a burning hot ice pick and stabbing me repeatedly. I was in tears often. Nothing seemed to sooth it. It wasn’t very surprising that before I gave birth that was the breast that had milk first, and the one that leaked the most. Thankfully, the pain subsided not long after I had to stop breastfeeding, so I was back to just having the pain around my cycle, which was more acceptable.

Then October hit. It was as if my body new it was breast cancer awareness month and it wanted to play a little game with me. My nipple was incredibly sore and then…the fear of all fear for me…there was a discharge…and then I felt a lump. My whole left breast was on fire, as if it had an isolate fever. I swallowed hard and kept pushing forward. However, I don’t play when it comes to my health, so I also immediately made a doctors appointment with a doctor that could see me that very day. He could barely examine me because even breathing on my left breast had me in pain. He took a look at it and decided it was an infection. Even though I had Johanna almost 3 years ago, somehow I had mastitis:

Definition (via the mayo clinic)

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. If you have mastitis, you might also experience fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren’t breast-feeding.

He put in some prescriptions for me, one to help with the pain, the other to clear the infection, and then sent me home. Oh, but not before asking me to go to some website to rate him (rolls eyes). Needless to say I did NOT make a follow-up appointment with him. Oh, but I will rate him. It will be a horrible rating for even asking me to rate him!

Anyway, I got my prescriptions filled and continued to walk around in pain. I was in so much pain that I had a band aid over my nipple just so my bra would stop rubbing against it. The pain medicine did work but it also made me incredibly drowsy, which is no bueno. Trying to explain to Johanna why she couldn’t body slam mommy like she was used to doing wasn’t successful. She just didn’t get it, even with me yelping in pain.

Fast forward 2 weeks. My nipple no longer has a discharge, but it is still quite painful. Fear tried to grip me, but nope, nope, wasn’t falling for it. I remained prayerful. Few people in my life knew about this simply because I didn’t want to tell anyone I thought would just offer me pity, and I wanted to make sure that those who knew were prayer warriors and could help get me through this, no matter what it turned out to be. So with the pain still there, I made an appointment with a new doctor. This one actually sent me to be tested, thank God, but she also gave me stronger antibiotics. I had the test done that very same day.

So began the waiting game. And I waited. And waited. And prayed the whole time. I just thanked God for being God and for me knowing him. That’s all I could do. Monday I got a letter in the mail from the diagnostic center. It stated that my results were normal – benign. Relief washed over me. Thank you Jesus! It so could’ve gone the other way! I am very happy to say that I no longer have the nipple pain and there isn’t any discharge or anything. He (God) did that!

So, what is my point? My point is that I know people are weary of the pink this month, but just bear with it. You never know your neighbors struggle. You never know when it will be YOU. Also, if something is off with your body, go get it checked out. It could be very minor, or very serious, but you won’t know until you go to the doctors. Take care of you!

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Kidriffic Events for October 26-27, 2013

I know I have been MIA, but our team is incredibly short staffed at my job and I’ve been putting in more hits than usual. I’m sorry. That means no kidriffic events major post this weekend. However, I can quickly tell you that Glen Echo Park is having an event Sunday from 1-4 p.m. The Halloween event celebrates the arts through hands-on crafts, live performances, and activities for all ages. Today and Sunday Mount Vernon is celebrating harvest days. There will be horse-drawn wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, a straw bale maze, early-American games, music and demonstrations. Also enjoy boo at the zoo and the white house fall garden tour! Have a great weekend my luvs!

~JM

Not My Child

Monday started out as a glorious day. It was Columbus Day *sucks teeth* and that meant a day of rest *yay*! Even more so than normal. Johanna’s school was open Monday, so we were able to drop her off, then return home to sleep, watch movies, and do, well, grown up thangs lol. It was quite the yummy day! Until we went to pick her up from school…

When we walked into the classroom we saw a kid laying on the circle time rug and it took a minute for us to realize that the person laying there was Johanna. We immediately thought she didn’t feel great, so we went to lie down beside her. She still looked quite blah, so we got her up and ready to head home. We kept asking if she was ok, what was wrong, etc., but she didn’t feel like talking. Finally dh asked “did someone hurt you?” Yes, she whispered. When asked who she said TJ. TJ hit her in the back of the neck and it hurt.

Right now, I’m laughing to myself, but it’s that laugh that psychos do. I just about flipped my ish when Johanna said that. I know what you’re thinking. The little girl is 3, that’s what they do at that age, yadda yadda yadda, but I can promise you that I gave exactly zero dayums about that in the moment. I pivoted so fast and slightly jogged back into the school, it took Jonathan and Johanna a minute to catch up. I don’t play when it comes to my kid. This is the second time this TJ has laid a finger on my child and I was not here for that! The first time the school alerted us AND Johanna came bouncing up to me telling me she fell because TJ pushed her on the playground. However, that time she did it clearly trying to get sympathy from me. You know, the overly concerned mommy voice, giving hugs, kissing booboos, etc. But this time my child was actually upset about it, visibly sad.

So I walk back into the classroom breathing fire, looking to see who TJ could be, as if the name would be etched on the clothes. I was ready to give that kid the look that would put the fear of God in him. Then I was gonna tell him real stern like what was gonna happen the next time the thought of even touching my kid crossed his little mind…

Well since I obviously couldn’t figure it out, my dh was over there speaking with sense to the teacher, telling her what happened. I on the other hand was slightly pacing back and forth asking “Where’s TJ? Who’s TJ?” Well, apparently that wasn’t the child’s name. It was something that sounded very similar though, and the child wasn’t a he, but a she. So, I began to calm down, and the teacher said she would keep an extra close eye on them and make sure they weren’t around each other.

When we got home we thought that was the perfect time to talk to Johanna about touching. We instructed her to say NO! and go tell a teacher if someone touches her in a way she does not like. We practiced it a few times and she really has the hang of it. I know some people instruct their kid to hit back, but…this is Johanna. She looks real sweet and stuff, but when you give her the green light to hit she tries to beat you black and blue while giggling about it. Well, at least that’s what she does to me.

About an hour later her mood changed back to normal and she was ok. I think the biggest thing for me was that Johanna loves school and I didn’t want anyone or anything to change that. “TJ” has one more time to touch Johanna inappropriately. I really don’t want her parents to find out that I’m THAT mom. I’m a little psycho about mines, *shrug*.

How do you handle school altercations with your child? What lessons do you try to teach them after the incident?

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Kidriffic Events for October 12-13, 2013

In light of the government shutdown, and knowing how many families in this area are effected by it, I’m only listing free events for this weekend. Have a great weekend everyone!

18th Annual Alexandria Arts Safari
Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria, VA 22314
When: Saturday, 12-4
Admission: Free
The Torpedo Factory will host the eighteenth annual Alexandria Arts Safari with a day of hands-on arts and crafts activities for kids and their families.

POP ART FUN: FREE FAMILY DAY
1101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia
When: Sunday, noon to 4
Admission: free
Families can play amongst Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds and engage in pop art “make and take” projects with the Albus Cavus art collective, including how you can “Warhol” favorite everyday objects.

Free Fall Arts Fair
1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE   Washington, DC
When: Sunday, noon to 4
Admission: free
Spend the afternoon immersed in D.C.’s rich artistic community. Featuring everything from face painting to food trucks to an instrument petting zoo, WPAS connects families, the neighborhood, and the arts through interactive performances and imaginative workshops.

Dancing On The Tables

I have a confession to make. Ever since I was a child I was petrified to have a party. As I have mentioned quite a few times, I am an introvert, but I LOVE people. I have a true affinity for [smart] people. But I’ve always been afraid to have a party because I feared no one would show up. That is a nightmare of mine. That is also why I make it a point to go to everyone else’s party. I want them to know that I love them and I care, even if no one else shows up. However, this summer I put my big girl panties on and decided to have a party. There are quite a few friends of mine that I don’t get to see very often. A lot of us have kids, or are just generally busy. I missed them and wanted to get them together just to relax, eat, drink and be merry!

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It went down this weekend and I am so ecstatic. I had a party and people came. They really came! And they liked it. They actually liked it! Yes, i do realize I sound like a 5 year old, but it’s so serious for me. I had a great time, and they said they did as well. I love planning events, but I really only plan other peoples since I have my own business as an event planner. This was one of the first times I did it for myself.

Here are some of the pictures from the party. I of course did the decorations. The wine glasses I actually make and sale online, but I thought it would be awesome for my guests to have them in their favorite color. makeup done by my beautiful new friend Tee Jay.

I had such a great time and my confidence has been boosted. I love my friends. They totally made my weekend!

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Kidriffic Events, October 5-6, 2013

 

 

Kid Friendly DC  has a wonderful list of fall festivals taking place in the DMV. Please go check it out!

 

Fall for Fairfax Kids Fest
When: Saturday, 10am – 7pm and Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Where: Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Admission: Free to attend
Activities include scarecrow making*, pumpkin painting*, public safety and recycling-themed exhibits, pony rides*, petting zoo, hay rides, model trains, instrument petting zoo, and the KidWay MidWay* (with more than a dozen rides and attractions).

Washington DC Premiere of Thomas and Friends: King of the Railway DVD
When: Saturday, 10:15am
Where: Avalon Theatre
5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.
Admission: Tickets are free, but limited

 

The event is held along Norfolk, Fairmont, St. Elmo, Cordell and Del Ray Avenues in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. Admission to the Taste of Bethesda is free. Taste tickets are sold on-site in bundles of four tickets for $5. Food servings cost one to four tickets.

Adams Morgan PorchFest celebrates local talent by turning the front stoops and porches of several Adams Morgan homes into performance spaces where local musicians will play for the community for free! The sounds will be spread throughout the residential side streets of the neighborhood, making the stunning architecture the backdrop as you follow your ears from house to house.

Fabulas Mayas Open Rehearsal
When: Saturday, 1pm – 3pm
Where: Gala Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20010
Admission: Free to attend
The Gala Hispanic Theatre presents an Open Rehearsal of Fabulas Mayas, a bilingual children’s show for GALita. In this entertaining children’s play the Creator and Shaper provide lessons about life through the creatures they create to populate the earth. An adaption of traditional Maya legends and fables that features puppets, music, and song.

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