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Breast Cancer, Life & Parenting

Summer and Roses and MRI’s

Summer… If I could drink up summer and absorb it in every pore in my body, I would. I love it. The heat, the warmth, the green, the flowers, the wildlife, cold mountain streams and rivers, trips to the beach or lake or river, seeing friends and family, the long days full of daylight, thunderstorms, sweet tea and lemon, fireflies, lizards, sand, dirty kids, cool and questionably unclear pool water, the sound of crickets (outside of the house – because inside the house is enough to drive you just slightly insane), cicadas, frogs by the pond, even the mosquitoes and giant spiders (actually, not really those giant ones, but they are a part of it). I love it. All of it.

Y’all know this, I’ve written about it numerous times. I’m sure there’s an “ode to summer” floating around this blog or Facebook somewhere…

Look kids!

Look kids!

This summer we have been traveling and it has been amazing. Never before traveling “across the pond,” I was fortunate enough to finally go to London with my sweet husband for a week in June. I’m not a city-girl, but I fell in luuuv with London! It was simply fantastic and I loved every single minute of it. We saw so much and were even there while they voted to leave the EU. It was the trip I had always wanted to take. Jason had to work some, but we still managed to see so much!

We’ve been to the beach several times, to the river and visited family more than we usually have been able to. We are fortunate to have been able to do this. And unbelievably grateful.

Because last summer, I trudged. Like trudged through the summer, hell bent on making it a good one. We got through it, but with a lot of fatigue and daily mental processing of what we had just been through. And I was seriously exhausted from treatment and my body just had not caught up yet. In fact, I’m realizing only recently that I’m finally close to feeling how I use to feel (albeit an out of shape version) and that I pushed through most of this past year. Sure I could get out and do things, and I did. We did. But it left me more tired and irritable at the end of the day than I could put in to words. (I really should find another analogy, because I keep putting things into words…)  Combined with residual chemo brain, and it was hard to find the mental and physical energy to get through the day after 3-4 pm. That still happens some, but with a lot less frequency than it did.

Like I’ll be cooking dinner, and suddenly realize that I still have energy at that time of day, and it makes me smile. Because one year ago, I did not. And 6 months before that – I wondered if I would ever cook dinner again. Cancer does that to you. It steals something from you. Or I should say, it can steal something from you, if you let it. It tries to steal your ability to think about or plan for the future. And firmly plants itself in your brain in the area that “worries” about the future. Now I just savor the moment, even if I’m tired. You know, working on that whole “love yourself where you are at” thing… :)

Back to summer… Our trip to London was tinged with a bit of worry. Three weeks before we left, I was having pain on the upper right side of my abdomen. After over a week, I finally went to the doctor. They did an ultrasound, thinking that it was probably related to my gallbladder. Only a little showed in the duct of my gallbladder, but it looked mostly normal. But there was a shadowy spot on my liver. Damn.

No, no. No shadowy spots. Shit.

My oncologist was great. She told me it’s probably fine and just fat on the liver, but we need to check it out. It could be my gallbladder causing pain or it could be an ulcer. Either way, we would treat about the same. But she wanted me to have an MRI and that involved contrast dye.

Did I mention that I’m allergic to contrast dye? Yep, found that little nugget out during my breast MRI when I was first diagnosed. Full blown reaction, but treated it quickly and was fine. She said she wanted my stomach better before the MRI because I had to pre-medicate with steroids. Oh no, steroids. Yeah, I don’t always handle those well (insert giant understatement).

We collectively took our deep breaths, and put our past year of learning mindfulness to work, bound and determined to enjoy every minute we could on our trip and not to worry about that shadow-y spot on my liver. For three weeks.

So off we went starting summer. With a little looming worry hanging over our heads.

I don’t love that looming worry. Not at all.

I put all I have learned in this past year into practice. And ultimately, I felt a peace about it. I really didn’t think it was cancer. But even if it was cancer, then it is what it is and we deal with it. Which is what we tell the kids when they worry about my cancer coming back. Because, unfortunately, those are conversations we have now. Simply put, if it does come back, then we deal with that then. But worrying about that now, just means we are missing out on what’s right in front of us.

We celebrated graduations with cousins and family. We swam in the river and spent time with family. We went to England. And in England you know what we did? We smelled the freakin roses. Like really smelled them. And you know what? It was breath taking.

We took the train out of London on our last day to visit Hampton Court. As we rounded the corner into the rose gardens, the wind was blowing and all you could see or smell were roses. It wasn’t overpowering. It was just the absolutely one of the most beautiful and calming things I had ever experienced. And it set the tone for the rest of the day, trip and the wait until my MRI.

Even in the midst of worry, I was able to truly let my worry go and enjoy the moment. If nothing else, it taught me that I could. Now, I won’t lie, I’m pretty sure rounding a corner into a rose garden at a castle on a beautiful 70 degree day in England would “cure what ails ya” to most people. But we chose to let go that day. And to continue to let go of our worries from that point forward. In a real way.

Then I had my MRI. ALL GOOD! Not a damn thing on my liver. Though we didn’t tell many folks about it, I’m kinda surprised everyone didn’t hear us collectively exhale. My oncologist’s words were, “Normal, normal, normal!” I’ll take those words from her any and every day. And every so often throughout the last few months, Jason walks by and says, “Normal, normal, normal.”

Whew.

Another milestone we passed this year and felt like we could breathe again. This year has been full of these. Worry over a toe, lungs and other things. So far we have been fortunate. And I appreciate health more than I ever have before. Each time something is off in my body, I work hard not to let it send me into the dreaded fear spiral.

So let’s all continue on appreciating where we are at. While working on trying not to worry about the future. And definitely loving ourselves where we are at.

Much love,
Shannon

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1 Comment

  • Reply Rita Hart August 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Shannon, as We sit here at Duke to see Ned’s oncologist, I so enjoyed reading your blogs! You are so helpful to so many folks!!!! All My Love To you!!!!

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