You might wonder why I use so many bullet points and horizontal lines in my blog posts. I have ADHD and some mild chemo brain. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 16 and for years I was on meds that helped throughout college. As I got older I found ways to help myself without medication so I made an effort to wean myself off of meds and basically work through it. This means my work office is lit with lamps and twinkle lights- nothing overhead. My white noise machine is constantly running and I keep a weighted pad in my lap while I work on the computer to help me feel focused and grounded. This is not the case when I am blogging. I am usually squinting at a laptop in my glasses in bed or in the living room. I ramble, I jump around, I forget things I wanted to say. I apologize if this makes for a difficult read but I promise, it’s not easy on my end either. I just wanted to begin with this because I want to cover a lot of ground in this post and I think the easiest way for me to organize my thoughts is to break up my thinking into chunks. My last post was based on facts and medical updates but I want this post to be more about how I am handling things emotionally and what else has been going on. Ready?!
After my lumpectomy in early October and my initial follow up with my first oncologist, I felt a sense of panic. I was given options about several things and it began to make me spiral out of control. I was worried that I would make the wrong decision and end up regretting things later on down the road. In between these feelings and my second opinion, I began doing some things to help with my anxiety.
- Gratitude journal- I was given a small journal from a friend (great gift if you know someone with cancer) and I decided to begin writing 3 things I am grateful for every single night. So far these things have included: nausea medication, warm blankets, my family, moments without fear, bubble baths, and my husband. There are many more and they vary depending on my day. I really enjoy taking the 5 minutes a night to reflect on what I consider valuable. It has grounded me and ended my days on a positive note. I highly recommend it!
- Meditation/Mindfulness- I am not good at this. Not yet, anyway. Months ago a friend recommended a meditation app on the iPhone called Headspace. It’s great and all you normies (what I call those without cancer) should check out. If you happen to have cancer and are looking for more specific meditation guides, check out www.thisiskara.com. The website it extremely easy to navigate and the meditations are anywhere from 15-30 minutes. You have the time.
- Self talk- I don’t do this often but I immediately reach for self soothing when I am in panic mode. In the hospital my mantra was “I’m going to be okay, I’m going to be okay, I’m going to be okay” as I held my mom’s hand. When I wake up from a bad dream I remind myself “we can take care of this in the morning” or “don’t worry until we have reason to”. This doesn’t mean I don’t allow myself to go “there”, the dark places. I just have to know that this life float is near me and available to pull me back to shore when wading through my thoughts gets too tiring. *Remember that practicing self talk or self soothing when you aren’t in panic mode may feel silly, but non-crisis mode is when you need to prepare yourself.*
After my second opinion and getting some answers I felt hopeful. I kept thinking it reminded me of the time last January when Nick and I decided to go snow shoeing on our last day in Colorado. We headed up the mountain and rented some shoes before taking off for a 3 mile hilly trek with nothing but a confusing map and the desire to get the very best view. Well, about 1/3 of the way through our hike one of my snow shoes broke. The little rubber thing snapped and I was hobbling through the woods. Let me tell you, you don’t realize how important snow shoes are until you try and walk a trail without them and end up butt-deep in snow. So it wasn’t the greatest hike but we were too far along to turn back and we really wanted to continue exploring. I remember thinking at one point that we were lost while trying to find a particular overlook. At this point I was wet, exhausted, confused, jealous of Nick’s working shoes, etc. When we made it to the overlook it was an a-ha moment. It didn’t take away any of the suck I was feeling but it made the hike seem worth it. That is how hope felt to me after my second opinion.
I thought- I am in the suck. I have on one shoe and I am butt-deep in snow. I am jealous of others, I am uncomfortable, and I am tired. I couldn’t yet see the top of the overlook but something in my brain just kept telling me that it was coming. That all of this would be worth it. I know from my snow shoeing experience that it doesn’t get easier after the overlook. Nope. You still have to drag your soggy butt back to the base while a conversation may occur that may sound like this (super hypothetical):
Wife: Are we going the right way?
Husband: I don’t know, check the map.
Wife: I gave you the map.
Husband: I definitely don’t have the map.
Wife: We’re going to die out here.
Then it turns out the map had fallen out of someone’s pocket while someone was trying to fix their stupid snow shoe. It doesn’t really matter. It all goes back to the fact that I knew even after the overlook, after it got better, that I would still go through times of confusion and times of suck but that it was okay. I was going to be okay.
Then I ended up in the hospital.
You know what I didn’t do in the hospital? Write in my stupid gratitude journal or meditate. I didn’t self talk after my admission and I didn’t give an eff about an overlook. The only memories I have from the hospitalization come from photos on my phone and tid-bits of info from the doctors. My most vivid memories are of being scared in the emergency room and then the night before I was released. Nick was laying in bed with me that last night and I felt like I suddenly snapped out of a fog. I began bawling and telling him that I hadn’t thought I was going to make it. You would think when you’re afraid that you may not leave the hospital that you will cry the entire time but honestly you mostly sleep and (your body) fights like hell. Not a lot of room for thinking. This is what I considered “checking out”. I had mentally just tapped out at some point and I wasn’t sure I was coming back. Nick and I exchanged our fears that night and I decided that I should begin writing letters to those I love in case something were to happen to me. I was profoundly upset that I wouldn’t have gotten to say goodbye to people that I cared about.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that after I was released, two girls I had been talking to in some of my Facebook cancer groups had been placed on hospice within a few days of each other. Both under 40 and both seemed healthy just weeks earlier. This freaked.me.out. It made me realize how sudden everything could change. While sometimes these Facebook groups can be great sources of inspiration and advice, they can also be super depressing.
This all brings me to my newfound thoughts about friendships and holidays. Everything has made me extremely nostalgic. I found myself reaching out to old friends and reevaluating current friendships. It made me think about upcoming holidays and how I would envision them if they were my last. I wished I had done more on my mom’s birthday (October 18th) but was happy I at least got to spend the day with her (even if we were at an appointment). It made me anxious and devastated that I wouldn’t get to spend Nick’s birthday with him. He headed back to Waco for work the night before his birthday and it was the hardest it has ever been to see him drive away. I wrote him a card, had his present delivered to Waco, asked his friends to help make his day special. I just wanted him to feel special and to feel loved.
I wish there was a way for everyone I love to know that I loved them every single day.
Speaking of people that I love…. I was asked to be the Matron of Honor at a BFF’s wedding before this whole cancer thing. I gladly accepted but obviously was not able to make it to the Mexico wedding. This was extremely hard because it was cancer holding me back but it was made better by the fact that I had the opportunity to record a speech and have it played at the reception a week or so after my surgery. [Sidenote: The bride and groom donned pink ribbons as well as every guest which meant the world to me]. I had the chance to be Facetimed in to her bridal suite before the ceremony and I BAWLED (I seriously don’t cry as much as this blog makes it sound like). TECHNOLOGY Y’ALL. What a time to be alive. So anyway, I’m telling you this so I can brag real quick about being able to wear the most comfortable MOH/speech outfit OF ALL TIME. Please witness the compression/post surgery bra that I paired with my finest pair of Nike shorts. I added the cardigan, jewels, and champagne glass (full of water) because I’m a classy B and my BFF deserves the best. I feel like I need an award for how much it looks like I have real clothes on.
I understand that photos where my hair is done, my makeup is done and I am not in pajamas, seems pretty convincing that I am doing okay. If you think that looks normal, check out these photos that were taken in San Antonio with my husband before my surgery. We decided to take a small bit of our honeymoon money from the wedding and go on a mini vacay to celebrate my boobs before they were to be cut off (at that point they were all going to be cut off) and to get away from it all for awhile. I dubbed the last night “boobapalooza”. All this meant was that my dress was low-cut and I didn’t care.
I look normal right?! It doesn’t look like I have cancer! The bottom photo I look a little ghostly but I’m naturally translucent so I just have to be thankful for whatever bronzer I can get on my face. All that to say- it’s basically all an act, fake-up, if you will. Let me draw on some eyebrows, stick on some eyelashes, whip my wig on and we’re out the door. This doesn’t mean I’m okay. This doesn’t mean I am not in pain or that I don’t feel pukey. I have felt the need to uphold this look of normalcy for my friends, my family, my kids, and myself. I’ve had several women ask about my new skin/makeup routine and would love to share that in a future post.
For the first time last week I went out in public without my wig. Nick and I went to a movie/dinner theater and I was bald. It was weird. I have a little bit of hair growing in (it should all be falling out soon) and it’s grey because pigmentation takes awhile to come back. It wasn’t terrible! I definitely received some stares and we got free movie tickets (because they messed up our ticket or because I’m bald- you decide). It was liberating and Nick told me the next day that he was proud of me. Have I done it since? No. Has it made me want to post a picture of my head? Yes. I feel the need to pull back the curtain I’ve created to give people a more realistic view of cancer and what I look like. I’m nervous and I’ll probably regret this but I feel like once I do it I will feel a sense of ownership that I haven’t felt so far. Maybe not. This could potentially suck.
So here I am. Cancer patient or 70 year old grandma who took a chance at Great Clips?
Let’s get even more real:
This is cancer. This is little bobble-headed Maegan in the hospital mirror. No makeup Maegan coming home to Wedge after 6 days apart. Sickly wife next to devoted husband watching The Twilight Zone in the hospital bed.
I didn’t feel pretty and that’s okay. You know what never popped into my mind when I felt like I wasn’t going make it? “How do I look?” Not once. This was the first time I genuinely did not care. Maybe that’s a glimpse of the outlook I was talking about earlier. Maybe.
No big final thoughts this post except I feel like I need to tell you that I bought a pill organizer the other day and it confuses the crap out of me. It did not make my life easier. I bought it with some Ensure and applesauce so it was a well rounded elderly shopping spree.
That’s it. Happy Monday.
If you want to buy a T shirt check out the website Click here as there are only a few more days for orders! We are almost at our goal!!