In October 2013 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had an estrogen based breast cancer, probably from taking hormones during menopause for too long. I made the choice to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I made this choice to avoid radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As much as I complained about my naturally curly hair, I didn’t want to lose it and start over. I didn’t want to go through the days and weeks of feeling miserable and sick from the chemo. I didn’t want the burned skin from the radiation treatments that would hurt more than any sunburn and would turn my skin black from the treatments.
My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer two years before me and went through a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. I watched her lose her hair, saw her burned skin and stood by as she lost her sense of taste and sensation in her finger tips. I marveled at her strength throughout the treatments, her smile and the way she made cancer insignificant as she fought and won, beating breast cancer. She is my hero and the strongest, most courageous woman I know. I also knew that I couldn’t be that strong in my fight against breast cancer.
Sometimes I feel like I cheated. Like I took a shortcut in my battle by having a mastectomy and reconstruction. I eliminated the cancer by having my breasts removed and all of the surrounding tissue. I healed up and went on about my life, returning to my normal routine. I take a pill every day for five years to keep my body from making any estrogen and visit my oncologist every six months, but for the most part, my life is the same as it was before cancer.
I read about all of the people battling some form of cancer how they fight, their strength of purpose and will to live. I admire their courage and strength. I always feel a bit odd when I walk into my oncologist’s office and see the really sick people waiting for treatment like I’m taking precious time away from each of them for me.
No, I don’t want to experience the sickness and pain of fighting cancer in order to legitimatize my personal battle; that is not what I’m saying, I admire everyone that had or has cancer and their personal decisions on how they wage their battle. I just feel that I’m not worthy as all of the others are who have fought and either won or lost their battle against cancer.
I don’t know if this is a survivor’s crisis or just me. Maybe this is the truth that people who take shortcuts feel guilty later for taking the shortcut or a quicker way of getting to the endgame. The same way people that are given money squander it as opposed to understanding the value of the effort to earn it. Maybe that is the crux of my quandary, I don’t feel like I earned my win.
Today the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky. It’s a bit cold, around thirty degrees, but no wind. We went for a walk around the Gene Coulon Beach Park and got some nice shots of the Olympic Mountains to our north and to the south on the walk back we got to see Mount Ranier in all of its glory.
A perfect way to end the year.
We took a mini road trip, 30 miles or so, and visited the snow. We drove up to Mount Baker in the Cascades to take the dogs for a bit of hiking in the snow. The dogs had a great time and got to run around off leash for the first time in a long time.
Definitely not a term that is ever used when describing a Labrador retriever. Friendly, playful, loyal, gun dog, excellent retriever and most popular family dog are all words and terms used to describe the Labrador retriever, see no stealth mode. The breed originated in Newfoundland, originally called the St John’s water dog and was bred to retrieve in the cold waters. Today the Lab is a great family dog, loyal and playful, always in the middle of everything family.
To describe a Lab, you start at the head. His head is large and square or “blocky” with soft eyes that always melt your heart and make you smile. They have amazing hearing with ears that perk up at the slightest sound of the peanut butter jar lid being turned, even if they are on the other side of the house. A Lab has a big deep chest housing a stomach that can and has eaten almost a whole fifty pound bag of dog food in one sitting. Tip, never leave a bag of dog food unsecured.
At the end of the Labrador retriever is the tail. The tail was designed to be wide at the base and strong, to help steer and keep him afloat in the icy waters. The tail also has to be very large and strong, because that is where his heart is. The tail tells you everything you will ever need to know about a Lab. The happier the dog is faster his tail wags. The faster his tail wags, the bigger his smile gets on the front end. As far as happy goes, the Labrador retriever takes top honors.
With our goofy schedule, I work days and Mitch works nights. I get up at four am to start my day while Mitch is still asleep so I try to move around quietly and get dressing without making any noise. Well no matter how quiet I am, it is all canceled out with the banging of tails wagging, thumping against the bathroom door, the wall or the closet doors. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to give them space to wag in silence, they find a hard surface to bang their happy out. Good thing Mitch sleeps like the dead.
Stealth mode, not in this home.
You know, that hidden talent. The one thing you excel at, something you do better than anyone else. For me, I have a special talent that I can do better than anyone I know or possibly in the world. Sound a bit arrogant, I don’t mean to, I’m just pretty sure no one else can do this as well as me. I was getting a bit worried that I had lost my special talent, because it has been a long dry spell.
I have walking route I take almost every day with the dogs. It is a mile circuit with a narrow steep trail at one end and a long winding road at the other end. If I choose to take the long winding road first I have to walk up the road which has a 15% grade and three switch backs. By the second switch back I usually regret my decision, even though I know it’s good for me. Then I take the narrow trail down to the slick wooden steps hoping that the dogs don’t pull me off my feet.
If I choose the trail at the beginning, I have to climb the flight of steep wooden steps up the hill. It is steeper than the road but shorter. I always feel like a heart attack is one short breath away. Also good for me to get the workout, but I’m not so fond of the reminder that I need to work out harder. Then when I come to the long winding road which now a downhill 15% grade is easier for me, but I feel like I’m cheating a bit.
Yesterday, I chose to take the trail up and the road down, the dogs were cooperating walking sedately. I marveled at the fact that I didn’t have the usual stabbing pain in my chest as I walked up the path, thinking maybe I’m getting back in shape. We walked across the parking lot of the apartment complex and headed down the road. We had passed the second switch back when my left foot hit a slick spot on the road and I went down hard. My right knee slammed against the pavement, eliciting a few choice words. Both dogs stopped and waited patiently for me to get back up on my feet. They are used to me falling down for no apparent reason. The biggest embarrassment was that a car drove by just as I went down.
I waited until I got back home before looking at my knee, which I’m now sporting a nice bruise and an abrasion that spans across my knee. Yep I still got it. I can fall down better than anyone else I know.
It’s good to know that I excel at one thing.
Mitch had a rare Sunday off and with the upper elevations getting tons of snow, we opted for a day at the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. We thought that since it is the last weekend before Christmas, the new Star Wars Movie opening and the Seahawks playing at home the crowds, wouldn’t be too bad. It was cloudy and chilly but it wasn’t raining while we were at the top of the Space Needle. I was able to get some shots that I thought were pretty good.
I couldn’t believe the beauty of the glass sculptures, true works of art and oh so delicate. I’m here to tell you, I walked around from room to room, keeping a lot of distance between the glass pieces and me. Anyone that knows me knows just how graceful I am and walking among pieces of fragile glass valued at tens of thousands of dollars each, was a disaster just waiting to happen. I have a gift and I had no desire to be the lead off news story of the evening.
Christmas is just two weeks away and this year is so different from previous holidays. This year instead of planning and preparing dinner for one son, his wife and daughters on Christmas Eve and doing it again on Christmas Day for the other son, his wife, daughters and the rest of us. Christmas Eve was usually prime rib and Christmas Day was chicken parmesan with spaghetti and meatballs. Two whole days spent cooking and baking, cleaning and making sure everything was perfect. A bit obsessive, maybe but I love cooking and baking and creating food that people enjoy eating. This year will be a lot different from our past holiday dinners, this year Christmas dinner will be something quick and easy, maybe pizza, maybe leftovers, it will be just the two of us and Mitch will have to leave to go to work.
I have been feeling a bit off, a long way from everything known, routine and comfortable, not that I don’t love where I’m at now and what I’m doing, it’s just a lot different, out of my comfort zone. Since we are still in an apartment, the majority of our belongings are still in storage, most of my cookware, all of my Christmas decorations and cookbooks are not here to put up or use, so I feel like we’re living in an extended stay hotel. Not really home.
Up until now I hadn’t been lonely, even though I work from home and the regular outside contacts I have are my hairdresser I see once a month and our realtor who is patient beyond belief trying to help us find our dream house. Our friends that live here are wonderful, but with our crazy work schedules, social life doesn’t exist, not that we had much of a social life before. So I’m not missing out on that here.
At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, what my problem was, then it dawned on me, I have no problems. I have a husband that loves me, two dogs that make me crazy and would eat anyone that tried to hurt me, (I am the giver of food) and living in a beautiful wonderful place that I get to make new memories. We won’t have the hustle and hectic days of cooking and cleaning, but we will have each other, and that’s what really matters.
Yes, it’s been a very chaotic year with so much upheaval and change, but maybe that’s what you need sometimes, great change. Life, like water that doesn’t move grows stagnant and complacent, forgetting the truly important things in our world. Our family may be thousands of miles away and I won’t be there to cook for them, or watch them open their presents, but I can call and talk to them anytime, not just on Christmas.
The year is coming to an end and the New Year brings promises of hope and change, yes there must always be change, not all changes are good but all changes are not bad either. I embrace the future and all the changes to come.
The Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is right across the street from our apartment complex and I’ve been told that every year they fill the park with these beautiful lights. So last night Mitch humored me and armed with my camera we headed down to try my hand at night photography. I had some luck for my first attempt. But then my subjects were amazing.
Mitch is such a good sport and maybe even a bit of a saint. He definitely has the patience of Job, he has to, he puts up with me. We are on vacation this week, which normally this is our pheasant hunting week, but this year we are a two and a half day drive to Nebraska so we decided to skip that this year and do some exploring here in Washington. Every day this week we have tried to make the two and a half hour drive to the coast so that I could take pictures of the Pacific Ocean and let the dogs run around in the surf. Today was the day we finally were able to go and guess what, today was the day that the big storm hit the coast moving inland with heavy rain and high winds. Yep perfect planning, that’s what I do. Mitch was still game so off we went.
We got to Ocean City about noon, and as you can see by the photos, it was brutal. Mitch deserves the saint of the week award. Maybe tomorrow I can get him to take me to Mount Rainier and play in the snow.