THIS IS ME

For the last 8 months, since 7 August 2017 when I heard the words, ‘You have cancer,’ I have been dealing with a journey I never, and I mean NEVER, thought I would take.  As many of you know, it has been an incredibly difficult time.  There is light at the end of the tunnel though.  I am currently undergoing radiation as an additional preventative measure to (hopefully) keep any reoccurrence at bay.  I’ve done 5 weeks and have 2 more to go.  Yea!

None of this has been fun and it is my deepest wish that no one reading this will ever suffer through anything remotely similar.  Bottom line is, it sucks!  Cancer sucks!  There’s no other way of putting it.  And silly though it might be to a lot of people, losing my hair was HUGE for me.  As much as my hair has driven me crazy over a lifetime, not having it was worse.  My last round of chemotherapy was 12 December 2017, so, in theory, my hair has been growing back since then.  Let’s just say that all the other hair on my body has returned (one ‘benefit’ of losing it all is no shaving) and the hair on my head is taking its sweet time returning.  I am definitely growing a rug up there.  It’s thick and super soft. My oncologist, who happens to be half black, says it is coming in straight!  That’s what I am hoping for.

A couple weeks ago my therapist gave me an assignment…to stop covering my head.  She actually has been trying to get me to lose the hats and bandanas for even longer than that, but I just couldn’t do it.  Then last week after leaving the bandana I was wearing with her so that I would have nothing to put on my head when I stopped at the drugstore and grocery store on my way home, I thought, this isn’t so bad.  Nobody laughed at my hair, of lack thereof, at least not as far as I could tell.  Then the following morning the 21-Day Meditation series I was doing with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey resonated with me in a way that nothing else had.  It was titled “Taking Back Your Power!”

It suddenly occurred to me that I had lost my power and I realized that Beth (my therapist) was right.  I could come out of the closet (so to speak) and show other women that it is possible to survive and to still be beautiful (honestly, I am still working on this) even without hair.  That day when I went to my radiation appointment, I got nothing but compliments and praise for going au natural.  And the day after that, I was crossing a street in Ventura and a woman opened her window and yelled out, “I love your hair!”  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all to be close to bald.  I really am not bald anymore, I just have super short hair.

So this is me now:

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And while it looks like my hair is totally white, that’s just around my face.  It actually starting growing in dark.  My friend Lisa Michelle mentioned that it’s interesting that my baby-black hair has come back.  I was born with a head full of black hair:

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This is me at 3 months.  When I was a little older it started growing in blonde.  I never lost the original hair, it just grew in blonde.  This is what it looked like before I was completely blonde:

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Now I’m ever hopeful that at some point the dark hair will stop and it will begin growing in blonde just like when I was a baby!

Will I keep my hair short?  Probably not because even though I almost always wear my hair up, I like having enough length that I can put it on top of my head and forget about it.  So although this is me now, it’s not what I consider the ‘real’ me.  It is much easier to take care of…oh, yeah, I don’t have to do a single thing.  It’s even too short to comb.  I am also counting on the warmer weather to speed up the growth process.

 

 

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ULTIMATELY CHANGING BAD FOR GOOD

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my sexual assault.

And while I still feel the need to acknowledge it, I can say in all honesty that 24 September 2011 is no longer the worst day of my life.  Unfortunately that title now goes to 7 August 2017.  That is the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Neither of these events are things it ever occurred to me that I would have to deal with in my life.  Ever! And yet both have found their way into my experience.  The really weird thing is there are so many similarities between the two: neither were expected; I was/am fighting for my life; my body was/is in total shock; I had to/I have to now learn a new way to be, figure out a new ‘normal.’  Also, my startle response, which has never gone completely away, is back with a vengeance.  All I can think is, how did I not learn these lessons after my attack and why do I have to go through it all again, albeit from a completely different event?

What I really would like to do now, though, is change my mindset around my current situation.  To me, this means thinking about it in completely different terms.  For example, I am refraining from calling the chemotherapy that is running through my body as poison.  Instead, I think of it as the sweet elixir of life that is shrinking my tumor away to nothing.  Instead of lamenting that I cannot walk as far or play tennis for as long, I am doing my best to enjoy being able to rest during this time.  I know when it is all over, my strength and stamina will return.  I’ve always been more of a go-go-go-all-the-time kind of person, so this is simply as opportunity to relax and slow down.  Instead of wondering what I did wrong or what I may have done to deserve this, I am learning to accept that I did nothing wrong nor did I do anything to deserve this, it just happens and, unfortunately, it happens to millions of people.  All the care that I’ve taken up to this point most likely has saved me from far worse diseases, and will play a huge role in my beating and defeating the cancer I do have.

I am very fortunate.  I have a loving, supportive husband. I have great doctors and nurses and all kinds of support from family and friends.  I have people sending prayers and positive, healing energy to me from all around the world (thanks Facebook!)  So as much as I hate what I am going through, as hard as it has been on my body and will most likely continue to be, I am actually very, very lucky.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT IN MY LIFE

Is this a good thing?  Well, at times it can be very exciting.  At others, not so much.  It seems I barely get through one thing and another rears its not-so-pretty head.  I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that whatever it is, it moves us along our path.  Take my sexual assault–I knew right from the moment it happened that it would teach me many things, that it was, in fact, necessary to get me to the next phase of my life.  And as difficult as it was, I was okay with it.  Truth be told, though I am 98% healed from that whole ordeal, I still have certain triggers that set me off and either make me cry or really piss me off.  I am beginning to realize this may be a life-long thing, that I will never be 100% over it.  This, too, is okay.

For what is happening now in my life, however, I am definitely not seeing the big picture yet.  I know I am still in shock, and it still does not seem real.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This is something I never, ever, ever thought would happen in my life.  I have no family history of any type of cancer.  I am super active and have been my entire life; I mostly eat very cleanly, though I definitely have a serious sugar addiction, which I fight sometimes more successfully than others.  Still, overall, as my wonderful husband put it the other day, “You look too beautiful and too healthy to be sick.”

Currently I am being biopsied and ultrasounded and MRId and PET scanned and poked and prodded to make sure I am, in fact, as healthy as I look.  The type of breast cancer I have is very rare; I am triple positive, which as I understand it means that estrogen, progesterone and a hormone called Her2 are over-expressing and have caused a tumor to form.  As of right now, I begin chemo on Tuesday.

I have told very few people of my diagnosis, until this very moment, that is.  I am still getting used to it and talking about it makes it more real, which I don’t want it to be.  My reason for sharing this with all of you is I am asking for your prayers.  I do know that prayer is powerful and I need all the help I can get.  Thank you in advance.

So begins another journey I do not wish to be on.

VERY MIXED FEELINGS TODAY

Five years ago, on Saturday the 24th of September, my life changed in ways I could never have predicted.  And though my life now, 5 years later, is amazing, the road to where I am now has been challenging.  Understatement of the year.  All in all, for the majority of the time, I am happy, healthy, newly married (in May) and ‘completely’ healed from my attack.  I have to put completely in quotation marks because I am not sure I will ever be completely over what happened.  That has been very apparent this last week.  Physically I have been a bit of a wreck.  My body seems to understand what my mind is incapable of grasping:  my attack is still stored in my cells, in the muscle memory of my physical self.  Well, crap.

On Monday I decided I needed to know exactly when DCD was being released from prison.  According to my calculations it should’ve been right around now.  He received a 6 year sentence and has to serve 85% of it, less time served at sentencing, which was 317 days.  When I put his name in the ‘who’s in jail’ web site, I got nothing.  I remembered he had used another name, looked through my files to find it, put that name in, and got the same result…not in the system.  I thought I had signed up to be notified when that happened, but, it turned out, I had not.  Crap, again.  So I called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to find out his status.  The officer I spoke with asked for his prisoner number, which I did not have.  He asked if I was the victim.  I told him I was.  He gave me the number I was lacking and told me where he is now housed and that he would not be getting out any time soon.  He also suggested I call the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to find out more information about his release date.  I did this and that’s when I found out I neglected to actually sign up to be notified when he would be released.  It’s not that I am afraid he will come after me once he is released.  I simply want to know when he is out.

Life does go on, and as much as I’d love to never have had this happen, it did.  The following quote pretty much sums up how I feel about it now:

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We all get to choose how we react to what happens to us.  I choose to see it as a blessing, and to share my ongoing, ever-changing story.  My hope is that I am making a “difference by being the difference.”

JOE BIDEN’S OPEN LETTER TO THE VICTIM OF THE STANFORD RAPE CASE

From UPWORTHY.COM:

“The case’s convicted perpetrator, Brock Turner, was given just six months behind bars, despite sentencing guidelines that could have resulted in him facing up to 14 years.
Why? Jail could have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old criminal, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky had determined.”  Really?  REALLY???

“I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages.

Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.

I am in awe of your courage for speaking out — for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity.

And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.

It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.

You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine.

I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance. Anyone who dismissed what happened to you as “just another crazy night.” Anyone who asked “what did you expect would happen when you drank that much?” or thought you must have brought it on yourself.

You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted — year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.

The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.

And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.

I do not know your name — but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles.

Those two men who saw what was happening to you — who took it upon themselves to step in — they did what they instinctually knew to be right.

They did not say, “It’s none of my business.”

They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think.

Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander.

To do otherwise — to see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene — makes you part of the problem.

Like I tell college students all over this country — it’s on us. All of us.

We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all.

I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.

I see you.

You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”

His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.

What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.

And that is why we will continue to speak out.

We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses — a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions: What were you wearing?

Why were you there? What did you say? How much did you drink?

Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?

We will speak out against those who seek to engage in plausible deniability. Those who know that this is happening, but don’t want to get involved. Who believe that this ugly crime is “complicated.”

We will speak of you — you who remain anonymous not only to protect your identity, but because you so eloquently represent “every woman.”

We will make lighthouses of ourselves, as you did — and shine.

Your story has already changed lives.

You have helped change the culture.

You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference toward sexual violence that allows this problem to continue.

Your words will help people you have never met and never will.

You have given them the strength they need to fight.

And so, I believe, you will save lives.

I do not know your name — but I will never forget you.

The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.”  ~Joe Biden
And if everyone who shared your letter on social media, or who had a private conversation in their own homes with their daughters and sons, draws upon the passion, the outrage, and the commitment they feel right now the next time there is a choice between intervening and walking away — then I believe you will have helped to change the world for the better.

Biden’s words — as well as the survivor’s letter she read aloud to her attacker — are rippling across the internet for one very important reason: Millions of us are disgusted, fed up, and demanding change to a culture that’s allowed this atrocity to happen.

To every warrior with a spine of solid steel: We hear you, we support you, and we stand by your side.

What I know for certain is as violent as my attack was and as hard as it was to recover from it, it was incredibly lucky.  I had a judge who understood that I was not at fault, that what my attacker did to me was not okay by any stretch, that he made a choice to sexually assault me and because of that decision, he would be sentenced to the maximum allowed by California law for the crimes he was charges with.  I am grateful every day that my case went the way it did.  If he had gotten just 6 months or probation, as his attorney asked, my healing process would have been that much more difficult and lengthy.  My heart goes out to the victim of Brock Turner’s rape.  Understand this, though, she is NOT a victim, only the victim of a rape.  In time, with a lot of support and hard work, she will recover.

A BETTER THIRD WEEK

Just a quick update…

I am definitely feeling better, though still haven’t had the burst of energy I’ve been waiting for.  I am still sleeping a ton more than normal, too.  It’s all good, though.  If I really think about it, it took me pretty much 55 years to get my body into the state it is currently in, no matter the reasons behind it, and realistically I cannot expect to be all better in just 2 or 3 or even 4 weeks.  Of course, that doesn’t stop me from expecting it.

I saw a friend yesterday I had not seen since we started The Whole30 and she noticed a difference.   Said my skin looked really good.  That must be the bone broth I drink every morning.  I also ‘convinced’ her that she should be doing it as well.  Since she was just diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome, eating clean on this program will most likely help her out tremendously.  Even if it doesn’t exactly cure her carpel tunnel, she will at least still be wheat, sugar and processed food free, and that’s a very good thing.

Because I am still having a lot of hip pain and wasn’t sure if I should really be walking/stretching/playing tennis/doing yoga or just resting, it finally occurred to me that my pain was probably being caused by my old walking shoes.  When I used to walk 60-90 miles a week, I was very good about replacing my shoes every six months.  Lately, I’ve not been so good.  Plus, I’ve been wearing the shoes that have absolutely no support.  So yesterday I went to Road Runner Sports and got myself analyzed on their ShoeDog machine.  I already knew I had high arches, but, dang, when I stood on the blue pad that records the bottom of your feet, the only thing that showed up was my toes, the pads that my toes are connected to and my heals…nothing in between.  I have an extremely high arch, which basically means any kind of non-supportive shoe is probably a bad idea.  It also explains the hip and IT band pain I’ve been suffering from.  So I got new shoes and custom molded arch supports.  I walked this morning and what a difference!

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As far as the eating goes, no cheats.  Sure I miss some particular foods, cheese and yogurt the most, but I see no point in eating them until we start the reintroducing process, which we may not even do.  I mean, why ‘gum’ up a clean system?   I can already tell that dairy is probably not my friend.  Bummer!  Really, nothing is off-limits expect the crap we shouldn’t be eating anyway, so I haven’t felt deprived in any way.

A CHALLENGING SECOND WEEK

And by challenging, I mean it SUCKED.  Not in the food sense, but when I thought that my nonsense (itty, bitty cold) was cured in one day with the cherry bark syrup, I was overly optimistic.  And while it is true that I spent the entire day Saturday in bed/resting before I got the cherry bark, and that I woke up Sunday morning feeling all better, after I wrote my update on Monday morning I started feeling worse.  As the day progressed, my nonsense came back with a vengeance.  I never felt horrible, just blah, like I needed a lot of sleep.  And don’t even get me started on the weather we’ve been having.  Okay, relatively speaking, it has not been terrible, but it has been much cooler than usual and we had (true, much-needed) rain.  None of that, though, is good for my mental heath, especially when I am feeling so crummy.

I thought I would be feeling better doing The Whole30.  I do, however, realize my body is going through a major transformation, what with no sugar, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no sugar, no wheat or grains, no sugar and no processed foods of any kind, especially the kinds with added, you guessed it, sugar.  I just didn’t know it would be so difficult.  What is also even more clear to me is the fact that body has not been the same since my assault.  It’s nothing major, a lot of small things, but added altogether, it’s a lot to deal with and accept.  And this is with intense therapy and a huge desire and effort to not let my attack change me.  The best intentions, right?

As if to add insult to injury, Sunday morning at 3:02AM I was awakened with a shooting pain down my right leg.  Now I’ve had back issues for, well, ever, but I’ve never had anything like this before.  I got up and stretched and hung on the inversion table, but nothing was helping.  I got back in bed and tried to sleep.  No such luck.  I could only be on my back for a few minutes before I’d have to turn to my left side.  Then in a few minutes that would become unbearable and I’d have to turn on my back again, where I would only last for a few minutes…you get the picture.  So I got up to take a shower a little after 4AM.  The funny thing was, it did not really hurt to move around.  While in the shower I decided to wash my hair and shave my legs, just in case I ended up spending the next week in bed with my back out.  It did not really feel like it was going to go out, but never having experienced this kind of pain, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

When I got back in bed, I googled ‘sciatica’ on my phone, decided that it was probably that, and slept fitfully, in pain for the next several hours.  After consulting with a doctor (my mother, as it happens) and a couple of people who have had to deal with sciatica, we decided on the best course of action, which was really no action at all.  I was advised to take 3 ibuprofen and 1 Tylenol, move as much as the pain would allow, and basically, allow it to rest.  So I spent another entire weekend day resting.  I am sensing a pattern here.

This morning I woke up and realized I had had no pain in the night, at least not the shooting down my leg kind, and I slept half-way decently.  I am still in need of much more sleep than normal.  I guess that’s okay.  It is also dawning on me that I may need more than the 30 days to clean out all the built of whatever that has accumulated over the last 4 1/2 years.  And, really, I guess that is okay, too.  Just like with most everything, I want it now, I want the results yesterday and I don’t want to have to wait a minute longer than I think it should take.  Yeah, and how’s that working for me?  Clearly, it will take as long as it takes.

The good news is, as they say in The Whole30, I have been completely compliant for the last two weeks.  No slips, no forbidden foods;  only good, whole, real food.