There are two sides

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So often, I hear, “you look great.” It is such a double-edged sword.

 

I do not want to be defined by my disease.

 

We all live through our lives with not being just one thing.

 

Everyone has two sides, but both sides make up who you are. 

You can allow both sides to have a place in your life.

 

I’ve chosen to use the traumas as lessons to help or aid in becoming a better version of myself.

 

Cancer treatment and weight gain

 

Yes. Weight gain does take place during cancer treatment. Pharmaceutical treatment is always one of the culprits. Add other issues during a world panromantic. How many comfort foods have you prepared and enjoyed since March?

 

I’ve stopped baking the treats and fattening meals.  Yes, I eat it.  I just make sure I am making less fattening choices.

 

As I notice the looks or stares from people who have no idea why I am sporting a mohawk and scar on my head, I admit its best for my thoughts to quickly move forward.

 

It makes me giggle a little when I remember my “moon face” and the COVID mask that I wear.

 

No wonder it is both kids and adults.

 

If you haven’t had this experience, let me explain a bit more about a cancer patient’s appearance like mine.

 

Facial swelling, also often referred to as moon face, sometimes occurs while taking steroids like dexamethasone. It is one of the common side effects of prednisone.  A moon face is a medical sign when a rounded appearance on the sides of your face.

 

I will add that the swelling is also in my neck.

 

You may have heard of steroid rage.  

 

No, I am not experiencing anything like it.

 

I will mention, the internal buffer that I have had regarding my thoughts and words disappeared—my poor sweet husband. Of course, Steve is the safest person in my life, and the first person my buffer comes off with.   

 

Honestly, I like this version of myself. Because I have so much to learn from myself during my natural outbursts’.

 

When asking Steve about the situation, he was getting in trouble all the time. That was my red flag for sure.

 

Honestly, at about week two of my “naughty.” Lack of a better word. I at least knew to “stay in my lane” and tone things down. My experience was similar to a bad case of PMS.  

 

I am so grateful to recognize these “types” of things in myself. I know I am blessed to deal with things, learn from them, and grow.

 

Brain surgery and radiation.

 

June 3, 2020, one operative tumor was removed craniotomy.

 

I completed five-pointed radiation zaps on the two nonoperative tumors in early August and scheduled with one day in-between each.

 

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a non-surgical radiation therapy used to treat functional abnormalities and small tumors of the brain. It can deliver precisely-targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy, which can help preserve healthy tissue.

 

What I’ve learned physically and emotionally during the last five months of my MBC journey.

 

I still quickly forget that I have a terminal disease.

 

Having brain surgery and brain radiation is similar to having a brain injury.

You adjust as you heal.  

 

I was reminded again how healthy my body and mind are.  

 

Dexamethasone 

 

The struggle is real, and the face is affected. “moon face.”

 

Lessons learned from brain swelling.

 

The steroid dexamethasone was introduced to me in February 2020. It has been such an experience to go through this challenging COVID year.  

 

Laughing in hindsight, I can see the humor in my experience.

 

Steve and I learned a lot during the last several months while I have been emotionally and mentally affected while it has been necessary to have this steroid in my body.

 

It is the goal to not have any brain swelling from the invasive cancer treatment.  

 

At this time, I still have swelling and additional issues if we don’t treat it. 

 

My “normal” internal buffer that I have had regarding my thoughts and words tend to disappear while taking this steroid. My poor sweet husband. I must remember to be extra patient with him in this situation. Of course, he is the safest person in my life, and so the first person that my buffer comes off with. Honestly, I like this version of myself. I learn so much from myself during my not so buffered experience of my thoughts and mind.

When asking Steve about the situation, he was getting in trouble all the time. That was my red flag for sure.

Honestly, week two of my “naughty.” Lack of a better word. I at least knew to “stay in my lane” and tone things down. My experience was similar to a bad case of PMS. And Steve brought this to my attention.

I am so grateful to recognize these “types” of things in myself. I know I am blessed to deal with things, learn from them, and grow.

Dexamethasone has helped me find my true self during a very mentally tricky time.

 

As of today, moon-face and weight gain are such a part of my life.

Every day I am more accepting of this side effect. 

It is necessary for many cancer patients just like me.

Fear is to be understood

 

 

𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥 —

This is a loaded statement.

The elephant in the room that people are not comfortable talking about is death.

I believe that anyone who is traveling on a late-stage cancer road, death is a conversation they are willing to have.

Or at least that is my experience.

Mind you, not everyone wants to hear what I have to say about it. And sometimes I walk away, biting my tongue because of the uneasiness that it has caused.

People who know me well will confirm that. 

I am always an open book.

If you don’t want to hear my opinion, you shouldn’t ask me.

My argument if I really need one,

is it is time to understand more,⁠ ⁠so that we may be fearless?⁠ ⁠ ⁠ 

When I say understand more, I’m not saying my thinking is right or wrong.

It is merely what I have found to be the truth for myself.

How do we understand our fear or at least accept our fear?

Inner peace

What brings me peace when I think of my fear “death” as my example won’t necessarily feel the same for you.

I have learned to develop an inner-peace through my experience.

Over time I’ve found what works for me. I refer to it as “my personal way” of mediation.

 

This is the beautiful thing about meditating — 

It is what you decide it is for you.

 

Sitting still in a room and trying to meditate has never worked for me.

 

A few years ago, I noticed that when I was disconnected or found myself in an unfamiliar physical space– my thoughts were less restricted. 

 

I was training my mind to way to drift into a different place.

 

When I have the opportunity to be in the silence of nature, my own meditation process becomes very natural.

Laying in an MRI machine is obviously the furthest thing from being in the great outdoors.

But I’ve learned to trick my brain.

 

Whatever it takes to “let go,” this is when my mind clears of the everyday thoughts.

 

I begin by moving my thoughts to gratitude.

 

I use memories that bring my loving, grateful, and peaceful moments.  

This helps my mind to go from one grateful thought to another.

 

Each time I’ve had the opportunity to travel, I collect memories specifically to recall for a needed time.

This works well for me.

When I need to, I can mentally and emotionally travel to different destinations by using my memories.

This is what calms me.

 

I use this method when I undergo cancer testing and scans.

The times when I need to release anxiety.

 

I have noticed that when I’ve completed my own meditative experience, I often have my best ideas come to mind.

 

an example

 

When I’ve needing to reach out to a family member or friend. Not knowing how to handle a situation.

 

It is very affirming to me that I have reset my mind and spirit and am ready for comes next.

 

Again, there is no right or wrong way to meditate.

You don’t need to call it meditation.

 

Do the discovery that is waiting for you.  It is there for you to reach out and touch it.

Your personal journey to experiencing inner peace.

⁠ ⁠ ⁠

Funeral Potatoes

 

I’ve always had an issue with leaving work at work.

It has been an exciting scenario working at the same company for the past six years.

Between our eight kids and having a full understanding of what takes place during our work hours has always provided us talking points.

I’m sure he has drawn tired of hearing the woes of my team of younger employees.

But I have to admit I think of these guys like my own. And as HR inappropriate as it can be, they have referred to me as “mom.” And I honestly don’t have an issue with that.

Steve and I love where we work, and they are family.

Getting official news of furlough was bound to happen due to the COVID situation.

And watching two of my team members hear that kind of news for the first time in their lives was unsettling.

I was not a part of the decision. I learned who would stay and who would go.

As a gesture to “help” or make things possibly less stressful for me because my employer knows fully about my current medical situation

I had a decision to make if I choose to stay on as a fulltime employee, I will need to take “take up some slack” because of having fewer members on our team. Or I can myself choose to furlough. And depending on my decision, this will affect another member of my team.

Whichever choice I make will determine if this young father of three and fulltime college student has a job or not.

It was not a good day.

And it got worse.

There were six people in the company that lost their jobs.

Why, of course, was the question. Coronavirus is the reason.

I will be on official furlough starting this next week.

A forced break that I know I need for all kinds of reasons.

However, Steve was one of the six people who lost their job this week.

Yes, indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs because of Coronavirus.

It is a hard pill to swallow.

And yes, the situation sucks.

Steve and I are grateful it is us.

This next chapter will be new.

I wonder what we will have to discuss.

And to our friends who showed up at our house this afternoon with funeral potatoes in hand — we will always remember that moment.

A Gem of A Woman

 

It has taken me some time to accept the difficult things that I have learned regarding my biological family.

The circumstances and story I’ve learned are not at all what I was expecting when I decided to search for my birth mother.

It took several years for me to come to terms with my adoption. However, eventually, I did find peace in the knowledge that my biological mother had wished me dead from the time of my conception. You may think I’m being dramatic or exaggerating; however, I am not.

The only information that my sister Darlene was willing to share with me about our biological mother was that Pearl tried to use a coat hanger to abort me herself and end the pregnancy. The thought of this still makes me nauseous.

I tried to put this thought out of my mind by telling myself Darlene was trying to be hurtful and perhaps was jealous of the life I had led because of my fortunate adoption into a “normal” family if there is such a thing.

Darlene was fifteen years old when Pearl was pregnant with me. Oh, and I want to make sure to mention that that year was when Pearl abandoned her oldest daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 1963. That day was the last time Darlene ever saw her mother.

You might be wondering if I ever found Pearl and if we had a conversation.

The answer is yes. I had one phone conversation with my birth mom. Her words are etched into my soul like a knife to the gut.

The short conversation went something like this.

Hi, my name is Shari. I am trying to find out a few things about my medical history, and I am hoping to talk to you regarding my biological family.

Pearl said, Who is it you are trying to call?

I went on to tell her that I had been adopted by a family in Utah when I was two years old. I also mentioned that I was born at the LA County Hospital on October 17th, 1963.

Pearl told me that she had no idea who I wanted to talk to, but it wasn’t her.

I repeated myself by mentioning again my date of birth, that I had grown up in Utah since the age of two. I also said the names of her parents and even asked her about Darlene.

I will admit that I did throw her history in her face. I wanted her to be clear that she was the person I needed to find. And that she was the person who could answer my questions.

Pearl was forty years old when I was born. This conversation took place thirty-five years later. In my mind, I thought that she would have come to terms with the fact that she had given a child up. I also assumed that at seventy-five, she might be interested to know what my life had been like if nothing more than to have closure before her death.

But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Let’s get back to that conversation.

I told Pearl that I didn’t expect to have a relationship with her. I had a fantastic childhood, was married and had children of my own. I didn’t need anything from her besides information about my medical history.

There was silence on the other end of the phone,

and then Pearl said, “why would I want to talk to you; you are dead to me.”

That was it, and she hung up the phone.

Queue dramatic music.

I am not sharing this with you for you to feel sorry for me.

I share this with you because we each have something from our past. We have a choice to make; we can continue to have that chip on our shoulder to carry around with us for a lifetime. But if you are willing to deal with uncomfortable emotions, I recommend that you put your big girl pants on and dive right into the sludge. In the end, you will be better for it.

Now back to Pearl, the “Gem of a Woman” that carried me in her womb for nine months.

Later that day, I chose to write her a note. I apologized for catching her off guard and expecting a conversation with her. I included my address and phone number just in case she ever had a change of heart and wanted to get in touch.

I never heard from her, and she has since died.

Every year, International Peace Day rolls around on September 21st. For that reason, I chose peace to be the topic of September.

Picture your families, communities, colleagues, and schools. Think about the people who have something in their lives that they carry around from their past.

I’m sure you are aware of how often our issues and burdens affect us.

On that thought, remember how we all need to be accountable for what we carry into our relationships as well as how it not only affects us each day but everyone around us.

Do you have a chip on your shoulder because of something that happened to you?

I know that I had been carrying a large boulder.

Since my adopted mother passed away recently, I have been looking at photos from my past.

I was shocked as I carefully looked at pictures of myself from the age of 25-40 years old.

There was something about what I saw in my face that was different. It was a lost look. And was someone I didn’t recognize.

I thought about those photos for several days. And then it dawned on me.

I hadn’t realized how important it was for me to go through the ugliness and sadness of knowing the truth of “my beginning.”

I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted for so many years of my life. But through experiencing the hard journey, it led me to understand and believe in who I am today.

As difficult as it is to face our demons, once you do the work and get to the other side, similar to myself, you may not recognize yourself from the past.

And I am ok with that. Getting to the other side is exhilarating. Shari

 

 

 

But First, Dessert

I want to introduce you to my friend Denise.⁠ We have known each other since we were little girls.

Our mothers had been friends and were in a bowling league together. So that is how our friendship began.

Dance lessons and play dates were part of our early years. Time flys and our last memories together were decades ago when we would take ski lessons at Snowbird.

Life happens, and people grow apart. ⁠We lost touch with each other for many years.

But then unexpected circumstances brought us back together again.⁠

It started on Facebook about seven years ago when I reached out to her to say hello. Now that I think about it I’m not sure who requested the FB friendship.

We would comment on each other’s post once in a while, but that was all.

One day I read Denise’s FB status and I’ll never forget the feeling I had learning that Denise was diagnosed with Breast Cancer stage 3B.

I followed her breast cancer story on Facebook. She had a fierce battle and finally was in remission.

Shortly after my own metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, Denise posted about her cancer recurrence. Her breast cancer had spread to the bone, and she was now also a metastatic cancer patient.

Denise and I have leaned on each other for advice as we share a similar diagnosis.

How can it be that we both are the same age and are triple-positive metastatic breast cancer patients?

Both of our right breasts is where cancer had started.

We both had the BRACA test and neither is a carrier of the gene that can trigger breast cancer. Yet here we are with the same disease.

Denise came to visit some of her family here in Utah, and I was so appreciative of the time she and I had to spend with each other.

She shared childhood memories with me that I had not thought about for so many years.

We have both lost our mothers, and we shared those vulnerable emotions.

We went to dinner, and Denise said: “let’s have dessert first.” And so we did.

We could have talked for hours, but Denise had another plan.

I found myself taking her Tao Tao for a test drive in the dark. And of course, I fell and skinned my elbow.

Denise’s son had given her a Tao Tao electric bike, and we took turns riding it around the neighborhood.

It was getting late when we hugged and said goodbye. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever see Denise again.

But then we laughed knowing that someday we would.

 

Side Effects? — There’s an App for that

 

You go through months of chemo, and you have a follow-up scan which show’s improvement. Hooray!

So now what?
What’s next?

An oncologist’s primary purpose is to slow the progression of cancer and improve your outlook. There are a few different treatments that you may continue with.

Yes, these treatments can help prolong your life. The bad news is that these treatments also cause side effects that can make your day-to-day life difficult.

Common side effects of metastatic breast cancer treatment include:

constipation
diarrhea
fatigue
hair loss
headaches
hot flashes
increased risk of infections
joint or bone pain
loss of appetite
mood swings
mouth sores
nausea and vomiting
numbness or tingling
vaginal dryness

There are the obvious tips that can help with side effects from all cancer treatments, such as making sure that you get enough rest. The simplest tasks can wear you out very quickly. Drink fluids often. Drink even more water when you have any type of infusion.

Other tips to keep in mind.

 

Up your fiber intake –

Bowel movements might not be at the top of your list of concerns right now, but when you ‘can’t go for days at a time, ‘you’ll feel bloated, crampy, and miserable. Cancer treatment will most likely leave you constipated.
Add more fiber in your diet from fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods or take a fiber supplement. Stool softeners can also be helpful.

 

Exercise –

You most likely are not going to feel like but a ten-minute walk will help you feel better and actually have more energy.
This will help you sleep better as well as improve constipation. Start small when it comes to exercise.

 

Divide up your meals –

I have found eating smaller meals more often has always been helpful. You may have learned this when trying to control nausea.
Treatments can affect your appetite and cause mouth sores that make eating more difficult and painful. Because you need proper nutrition to help your body heal, try to eat smaller meals that are high in nutrients and protein. Include foods like peanut butter, whole-milk yogurt, milkshakes, and granola. You can also add nutritional drinks and snacks throughout the day.

 

Keep a notebook –

There is always an App for that! Like I’ve mentioned in other posts, the best way to be your own medical advocate is to keep track of your side effects. Honestly, it is difficult at times to determine what is a side effect of your treatment as well as your possible progression. By keeping track of what is going on with your body, you will have a better discussion with your oncologist.

 

Don’t Give Up