Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chemo Anniversary and a 5k!

Two years ago today.



WE DID IT!!
It was tough going at times, but by the grace of God, and with the help of my family, friends, and some wonderful folks at the Cancer Center, I made it!




Getting ready to ring that bell!
Receiving my purple heart from my favorite nurse!

When these photos were taken, I still had a lot of scary unknowns ahead of me. Next up would be surgery and radiation. Nonetheless, I was delighted to have chemotherapy behind me.


I have to say that even though it has been two years since I finished chemo, and a year and a half since the end of radiation, I feel that I am in a constant state of trying to figure out how to cope with my "new normal." I have come to the realization that recovery from cancer and the ensuing treatments isn't just about the body, but also about healing the mind.

One of the Bible verses that helped me through some bad days--

Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.”

Although my oncologist often reminds me that I am at high risk for recurrence, I am trying not to worry too much about what could happen, but instead focus on doing everything in my power to keep myself as healthy as possible, both physically and mentally. From everything I have learned either from my cancer care team or from reliable sources on the internet, I know that a healthy diet is essential, especially when dealing with estrogen-driven cancer such as mine.

Exercise is equally important for both mental and physical well being. Having been a marathon runner (yep-26.2 miles of crazy fun!) BC (before cancer), I am trying hard to build up my endurance for running again.
In fact, I will be doing a 5k on Sunday!

Aren't the medals cool??!

Randy and Sherry. Aren't they adorable??

My great friends, Sherry and Randy Fortenberry are coming in from SC to do this with me! They were members of my team (Pam's Pink Posse) when I did my first 5k- post cancer treatments. I can't tell you how much these two people mean to me!

As you can see by the medals, there is a half and full marathon as well as the 5k. Initially, we were registered for the half, but due to me being severely undertrained, and some IT band issues of Sherry's, we decided to go for the 5k instead.

At first, I was quite bummed about dropping down to the 5k, but I know it was the right decision and it will be fun, no matter the distance!

Did I mention that Sunday is Saint Patrick's Day????



Are you doing a Saint Patrick's Day race?? If so, please share details!





Monday, February 18, 2019

National Drink Wine Day

Today, in the US we celebrate George Washington's birthday. Actually, this day is now widely known as President's Day, which also seems to be a big day for mattress sales in our country, judging by all of the ads I have seen on TV for the past week!

But did you know that today is also the day to celebrate a historical beverage? I'm pretty sure there are no congressional records or presidential proclamations for this holiday, but nonetheless, it exists!


I read on a social media site that this holiday was started to, "spread the love and health benefits of wine."

Unfortunately, several studies have shown that for someone who has been diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer (me,) even several alcoholic beverages per week can increase the risk of recurrence. Due to these findings, I really try to limit my alcohol intake to no more than a couple of drinks on special occasions.

You would think that National Drink Wine Day would absolutely qualify as a "special occasion" to be celebrated with alcohol, right??

Yeah, you would think! But since I've been practically shouting from the roof-tops that today would be the day that I would begin a new diet/healthy eating plan, which calls for NO ALCOHOL during the first two weeks...... there will be no glass of wine for me! Great timing, huh??

So those of you who can indulge, go ahead and celebrate with a glass of wine or two!! I'll be celebrating making it through Day-1 of my diet, with some refreshing water, and a splash of lemon! I've GOT this!!




OMG, my daughter just walked in the door with these......



I might need that glass of wine now! LOL! Seriously, if anyone needs me, I'll be in my bedroom reading and trying not to think of those evil cookies in my kitchen! Or wine!

For those of you who are on your own weight loss journey, how do you deal with roadblocks along the way? What motivates you to stay strong and stick with your diet plan?



Thursday, February 7, 2019

Celebrate Good Times

Hey, Y'all!

I just got back from a hot walk/jog. Yes, it's February 7th, and yes, it's quite warm!


.
I was SERIOUSLY overdressed. However, this little guy didn't even work up a sweat! LOL!!




Since I need a shower ASAP, I'm just going to share some quick info and photos from this past Sunday, before I go hop under some cool water!

Celebration

My birthday was on Monday and Conor's was on Tuesday. Since he has lacrosse practice every night until 9pm, we decided to celebrate both birthday's with a nice lunch at Papadeaux on Sunday afternoon. We had a delightful meal, and they gave us both a birthday treat! Yes, we shared with Ray and Alex!



My baby turned 18! I am now older than dirt!


















Alex and Ray

More Celebrating

Sunday evening was spent watching the Super Bowl!

Yes, this little cutie's name is Brady!!




This cutie is named Brady also! His daughter is pretty adorable too!

Super Bowl win #6 for Brady and Boys! What a great early Birthday present for Conor and me!!

Off to take that shower now!

Later, Y'all!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

DEAR BLOG-I AM SORRY FOR NEGLECTING YOU


When I logged onto my Blogger account this morning and took a look at my blog, I was shocked to learn just how negligent I have been. I knew it had been a while since my last blog post, but October 9th?? That was last year! This neglect wasn't intentional. So what happened??

WRITER'S BLOCK?

It seems funny to call it that because Lord knows I am not a writer. So maybe I will call it, "bloggers block." Whatever you want to call it, some days there is just nothing there. Nada. I stare at the keyboard determined to write something, and yet...NOTHING!


And then there are those times when I want to write about EVERYTHING. At once. Like today. My brain is all over the place, and I don't know how to go about paring it all down into a single blog post. When this happens, I find it hard to focus on any one topic, and I find myself hitting the backspace button repeatedly. This is sometimes worse than having a total block!

Occasionally I will just be completely overwhelmed by the everpresent chemo brain. Yes, we have discussed this before, and YES, it IS a thing.

Also, there is the plain old self-doubt. Do I actually have anything of value to share??

Sometimes I'm not even sure what this blog is about! Is it a running blog? A blog about aging? Weight loss? Healthy eating? Breast cancer? Lifestyle balance?

YES! ALL THE THINGS! 

After giving it some thought, I realized that this blog is about all of those things and more. 

This blog is about ME and MY journey. 

Some of you know a bit about who I am, but for those who don't--
Please allow me to introduce myself (I just totally sang that out loud in my best Mick Jagger voice!) If you don't know what I'm referring to, you are probably too young to be reading this blog! But wait-I'm getting off-track here, which I tend to do a lot these days.
Anyway, my name is Pam. I am a wife, mom, grandma, doggy mommy, woman of faith, runner, marathoner, somewhat over-the-hill, slightly overweight, somewhat sassy, slow-talkin' southern gal! I'm a great southern chef wannabe, and have recently begun making jewelry. I am also a breast cancer survivor.

I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, especially now that chemo brain seems to be a permanent part of my life. However, I'm hoping that maybe something I have to share might be in some way beneficial to someone out there in this little corner of the blogosphere! Also, I am sort of fond of this blog!

Has there ever been a time when you felt you were severely neglecting your blog? Have you questioned whether you should continue on with your blog? How did you get back on track?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we all know what that means.......THINK PINK!


Two years ago on October 3, 2016- right at the beginning of the month that most of us have come to think of as the, "Think Pink-Breast Cancer Awareness Month," I first heard the words, "Pam, you are positive for breast cancer."

It was a bright and sunny Monday morning, and Ray and I were nervously waiting for the results of the ultrasounds, biopsies and other diagnostic tests that had been done on the previous Friday. After sitting in a small room for what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Quill, whom I came to know and trust very much over the next few months walked into the room. He didn't beat around the bush. He looked me in the eye and said, "Pam, you are positive for breast cancer. Are you ready to fight??"

Although I already felt in my gut that it was cancer, just hearing those words made me feel as though I were in the middle of a tornado and my life was spinning out of control! At that moment, I felt a bit like Dorothy must have felt when she was on her journey along the yellow brick road! 

Dr. Quill said this was curable and that we were going to hit it with every weapon available to make sure that we got rid of every cancer cell and to ensure they didn't come back. 

He explained that I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I would later learn that it was-

Grade 3
Stage 111C
Estrogen-Positive
HER 2-Negative 

Over the next few months, I received 3 rounds of a type of chemo that is lovingly referred to as "The Red Devil." Yep, pretty accurate description! 

Almost immediately after beginning treatment, I lost all my hair. I also lost my eyebrows which for some reason bothered me more than going bald! I tried to paint on eyebrows occasionally but usually ended up looking like..........



I was quite nauseous most of the time, I had mouth sores, bone and muscle pain, and I couldn't sleep, but I got through it because I was so determined to be stronger than that old red devil!




I also had 12 treatments of another type of chemo drug called Taxol, but that wasn't nearly as bad. The worst part was probably the fact that my white blood count was so low all the time that I couldn't go out around people or have visitors for fear of picking up a bug of some sort which my body would not be able to fight. Since I was no longer nauseous all the time, I wanted to get out and LIVE again! Talk about cabin fever!

Anyone see The Shining?? Cause I was starting to feel a bit like........



Next up was the removal of my right breast and 11 lymph nodes.



And then came 33 radiation treatments. I had to take some time off at one point due to the burns and blisters on my chest, but overall, radiation wasn't too bad!




As bad as things were at times (I won't even go into the part where I lost my insurance while undergoing these treatments and how I now owe roughly a gazillion dollars to the hospital, doctors, etc.) I saw so many people who were having side effects that were so much worse than mine. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch some of these people.

I am so thankful for the arsenal of weapons that have been available to me during this battle! From the meds, doctors, nurses, and medical research, to the MOST essential weapons-my friends, family, and faith-I am grateful and blessed! 

As I have mentioned before, there are many differing opinions on the whole idea of wearing pink for breast cancer awareness. I talked about my personal opinion here in a previous post. Many of us are buying pink and wearing pink to show our support, and to raise awareness and funding for some much-needed breast cancer research, support, and services.


Whatever your personal thoughts on the subject may be, I urge you to PLEASE use this month of "awareness" to remind yourself that you should NEVER put off that mammogram that you may think can wait until a less busy time. 

Also, if you know someone (who doesn't?) who may be in their own battle against breast cancer, or any other type of cancer-please reach out to them and let them know you care. Don't worry about not knowing what to say, or perhaps saying the wrong thing. Send a card. Make a phone call. Even a message on social media. Just let them know you care because believe me, it can get lonely and scary sometimes while battling that beast.

Blessings-





Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Purpose. Reflection. Renewal.

Hey, Y'all!

One year ago I signed up to participate in this study-
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Fitbit are partnering to support a potentially ground-breaking study that investigates the impact of weight loss on breast cancer recurrence. The Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, will enroll nearly 3,200 overweight and obese women with early-stage breast cancer to test if weight loss can help prevent their disease from returning. You can read more about this study here. 
Although I enrolled in the study in September of 2017, I wasn't actually assigned a coach and didn't get started until the beginning of December of 2017.


I recently received the goodies below as a one-year anniversary gift from my BWEL Study Team!




During my first session with Coach Judy, I was asked to think about my "why," or my "purpose" for wanting to be involved with this study. I was asked to write down my answer so that I could look back and reflect on it whenever I needed an extra boost of motivation.

I didn't really have to spend any time thinking about my answer to the question about my "purpose!" During my cancer treatments, I never once asked, "why?" or "why me?"....I just kept praying, "Please, not YET, God! Please just let me be here for my family for a while longer." My family has always been my purpose.

I was also asked to answer a few questions in my Bwel workbook.

Here are a couple of the questions along with my answers.
  • Why did you join the Bwel study?

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I have read quite a bit about the role that being overweight plays in developing some types of breast cancer. I WAS overweight when diagnosed and there is nothing I can do to change that, but if there is even a tiny chance that losing weight can prevent a recurrence, then I want to do everything in my power to get to a healthy weight and stay there. When my doctor told me about this study, I felt that it would be perfect for me.

  • What do you hope to achieve by taking part in Bwel?

Obviously, I hope to lose weight in hopes of preventing a recurrence. I also hope that my participation will provide the help I need to get healthier overall so that I can be around for my family for many years to come! Last, but certainly not least, I hope that this study will help future cancer patients.


  • If you'd like-write down a "pep-talk" phrase to repeat to yourself when things get tough during the program.

I've GOT this-I am stronger through the storm!

REFLECT
to think deeply, or carefully about.
synonyms: think about, give thought to, consider, give consideration to, review, mull over, contemplate, meditate about/on, muse on, brood on/over, turn over in one's mind.
"She reflected on her responsibilities."
Here is the question I am asking myself today-

Have I been giving enough thought and consideration to the responsibilities that go along with my participation in this program?

I am ashamed to say that I have not been giving enough thought and consideration to those responsibilities.

On the first day that I spoke with my Coach, we discussed how this would be an opportunity to build a healthier lifestyle for myself. I had already taken the first and most important step in that direction-I had made the decision to make some changes that could improve my health and well-being!

But this study is not only for me. I have a responsibility to countless other women. This study will test whether losing weight through diet and exercise can help women avoid a breast cancer recurrence. The results will determine whether weight loss programs should become a part of the treatment for women with breast cancer. Important stuff here.


RENEW 
renew (an activity) after an interruption.
restart, start again, come back to, give fresh life or strength to.
"She would face the future with renewed determination." 
Renewed determination?! YES! Instead of beating myself up over the fact that I have veered off course occasionally in regards to my eating, exercising and living an overall healthier lifestyle over the past year, I intend to acknowledge my achievements, as well as my failures and move forward.

Although I am far from reaching the weight loss goal I had set for myself last year, I AM down over 10 pounds from last year at this time! So, at least the scales are moving in the right direction! Maybe not as fast as I would like, but hey...I'm striving for progress, not perfection!

So what is the number one thing that I feel I need to focus more attention on in the coming weeks as I renew my commitment to this program? 

Using my program tools!

I received many tools to help maximize my potential for success with this program. A Fitbit Scale. Fitbit Charge 2. Food Scale. Workbooks. Cookbook. Lifestyle Coach.

So I need to utilize these tools EACH and EVERY day. It's hard, but in the long run, I think it will be well worth the effort! I will share more about these tools and how they are helpful in an upcoming blog post.

Stopped for a selfie on my 2.11 mile run/walk this morning!
Another thing I'm really trying to focus more on is stress management! I'm currently working on some new (for me!) stress management and relaxation techniques that I will share with Y'all soon!

So what is your purpose? What keeps you striving for a healthier, longer life?? 



Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Importance of Exercise-6 Tips To Help You Get Back To Running After A Break

Hey, Y'all!

I am linking up with Running On Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday 5 2.0 linkup.

Today I want to talk about the importance of exercise! Everyone benefits from an exercise program, regardless of sex, age, or physical ability. It can be especially beneficial for cancer survivors like myself.

Research has shown that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many cancers recurring, including breast cancer.

Living an active lifestyle can:
  • Promote a healthy weight
  • Increase happiness
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Build strength and endurance
  • Improve self-esteem

And my own personal research has shown that it can be an effective way to keep the crazy away! 

Although there are many forms of physical activities that can be beneficial, my chosen activity is running.

I have never been a fast runner (well, not since high school), but for most of my adult life, I have considered myself a runner. There have been long periods of time when I would let "life" get in the way of consistent running, but there was always that runner lurking inside, just waiting for a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or even MARATHON to present itself and fill that runner with a longing to participate in the said event!

I thought a lot about running while going through cancer treatments, but unfortunately, I was too sick and weak through most of it to actually get out and run. I did some walking, but even that became difficult. And yet-I never doubted that one day I would become a runner again. A slow, tired, OLD runner, but a runner nonetheless!

Now that I have made it through the treatments being older, wiser and even SLOWER than before-I have no expectations for my running, other than putting one foot in front of the other and moving this old body forward! I'm sure as I progress I will set goals for myself, but for now, I will just keep plodding along. Some days I will only manage a pleasant walk, some days I will run. And I will try to remember that the "inner runner" inside is at this time, a work in progress.

I thought I would share some tips that I hope might be of use to anyone who is trying to get back to running after a long break. Regardless of what made you stop running, whether it was an injury, illness, lack of motivation, or just life in general, getting back into it after a hiatus can be a bit difficult.


6 tips to help you get back to running after a break:


1. Think baby steps. 


I'm sure you've heard the old, "You need to walk before you can run?" It's true. Walking will not only help re-establish the exercise habit but will also recondition muscles, and improve your lung capacity. After walking for a while, you can progress to a walk/jog, and then on to a full blown run.

2. Don't be too hard on yourself. 


Even after progressing to running, if at any time you need to take walk breaks, that's okay. If on some days, you only feel like going for a walk, that's also OKAY!

3. Listen to music. 

Listening to some of your favorite tunes can make a big difference. Just remember to use safety precautions when using headphones.

4. Find an event to work toward. 

Working toward a goal such as a 5k charity run can be a huge motivation. Knowing that what you are doing can help raise money for a cause you believe in can help get you out the door on those days when you might be a bit low in the motivation department.

5. Find a partner. 

Having someone to run with can make a big difference. Perhaps you can find someone who is also returning to running after an illness or injury.

Last, but certainly not least-

6. Listen to your body! 

If it hurts, stop! Now is not the time to ignore pain. You don't want to hinder this process by ignoring signs that you may be doing too much too soon. Also, if you are just feeling too exhausted to continue, it's okay to end your exercise session earlier than you had planned.

I know it's difficult, but we must all learn to find the balance between challenging ourselves, and just being stupid!

Have you had to start back to running after a long hiatus?

Do you listen to your body when it comes to planning, modifying, or even skipping your daily workout? 

Please share any advice or tips you might have that I have not mentioned here.