Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rebecca Reeder

Rebecca and I were inseparable as preteens and into our late teens. We were cheerleaders together. Mostly I hung out at her place. She had an older sister that had lots of cool books about astrology, witchcraft and art that we would delve into. We would go to the beach or Salem, MA. We had lots of fun adventures together. 
I moved to North Conway, NH at seventeen, and she went off to college at URI. I was learning how to tattoo and pierce, and I pierced her eyebrow. I saw that she had two tattoos, outlines of moons on her upper arms. Honestly I can't remember if I did them or not! My memory is so great yet so poor at times... We had some more visits and correspondence, but we were doing our own things. I moved to the Virgin Islands and went wild for a bit. She went to Belize and was doing scholarly stuff. Cell phones weren't extremely prevalent at the time. We lost touch. 
 I always wondered about Rebecca through the years. I looked for her on Facebook and googled her. I found her blog years ago. She was doing some super spiritual stuff. She seemed into it. I was proud of her. I wanted to get in touch with her, but I couldn't really find her. I hadn't known she didn't use her last name anymore. Nor did I seem to ask the right friends.
 It wasn't until I saw a post two Saturday nights ago, that I found out what she had been up to. A mutual friend had posted that she had gotten cancer too. Yet her lung cancer had progressed to stage 4 by the time she got the diagnosis when she was 35 weeks pregnant. A year and a half after that, she died.
 Whoa... My heart was instantly broken. I couldn't focus. Drawing was impossible.  Luckily her husband wrote a blog about the whole experience. Of course I read it through the night and into the next day obsessively until I was finished. I reread parts. It was a great peek into her life and compelling story. It's so sad yet inspiring. 
 She was a true warrior. She wrote a detailed letter expressing how she had come to terms with her inevitable, impending death. It brought tears and comfort to me. I've never known someone to express so much understanding and acceptance of death at such a young age. 
 Really though... We all are birthed, will live- grow and flourish; Then someday we  all die. It's not a surprise. It's is the absolute truth and guarantee in life. Yet we are so afraid of death. Maybe more bummed out because FOMO, fear of missing out. Not to mention being there for your family.... It seems like she picked an equally awesome person as herself to raise her child. Yet still I feel horrible that another mother is taken from her baby due to the Big C.
 I cannot help but wonder why this happened. Why her? Was there radon in her home? She lived a healthy life. Sure we partied in our teens, but I'm pretty sure she quit all that in her early twenties. To put it simply... It seems like she lived a pretty wholesome, clean, organic eating, yoga doing, nature loving, balanced, low impact on the environment, and God loving life... I cannot accept that there is a reason behind this. No, not everything happens for a reason. Bad things happen to people and even especially good people like Rebecca. Unfortunately she got cancer and died from it leaving her husband and baby behind, by there is no
reason why. It just sucks.
Now we grieve. In her honor, friends and I plan to get together to light paper lanterns and send them to fly over the waters where she seemed to feel safe and at home. We plan to do this on the fall equinox because it seems fitting. If you're interested in reading about this wonderful persons life you can do so here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


 It's been awhile. I'm still here, alive and grateful everyday. I still count my blessings. Now the kids and I do it together often. I'm here to update you. 
 We're not living in New Jersey anymore. We moved to New Hampshire. Josh got a new job this summer. We both go tick of living apart very fast so we found s home in Durham, Nh. The schools are good here, and frankly it's beautiful. 
  New Hampshire is awesome, but I have certainly been dealing with lots of incidents due to "chemo brain". It's real folks, look it up. I never thought I had any more memory loss than the next person until I moved here and nearly burned the new house down. Then I forgot about my sons field trip, and he missed it. And on and on. Needless to say, I'm setting numerous automatic reminders throughout the day via my smart devices in order to try and conquer chemo brain with the help of modern technology.
 It's nice to live in a new place after going through a disease that is so traumatic. I rarely bring it up to anyone I meet unless I hear that they know someone close in the club that you never want to join or they're also in da club. It's a fresh start. 
 It's been 3 years since chemo. There are pics and updates that I look at through a time hop application on Facebook that remind me of what I went through. Sometimes I just wish uncoils forget since it plagues my mind so often. It was traumatic. I'm enjoying the longer time lapses in between not thinking about cancer, but I can also look back to remind myself of how much great support I had through those times. It also reminds me to count those blessings again. Yes chemo made my life hellish with horrible side effects but yes I'm lucky to be here. The addition of natural practices I still implement today also keep me sane and healthy too. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Breast feeding week is over

  And I'm happy about it.  Don't get me wrong. I'm all about breast feeding, but I'm just a little bummed out.  I wish that I could still breast feed because it was what I wanted to do.  I would've done anything I could if she didn't latch or if I had IGT or I had thrush or whatever the problem would have been, but it was breast cancer.
 My breasts, they had to go. As the tears well up in my eyes, I know that there was no choice.  It still hurts, though.  Especially when I see breast feeding meme's or questions, or practically anything on breast feeding, a little dagger stabs my heart.  I wanted to be one of those extended breast feeders where my daughter lifted my shirt and fed at will, but no.  There were other plans for me - a bilateral mastectomy, infection, many surgeries from problems with reconstruction, chemotherapy, and being the recipient of many thousands of ounces of liquid gold. 
 We are blessed.  I feel like I shouldn't be upset because so many people reached out to help.  Despite my ailment, my daughter was exclusively fed breast milk.  Countless moms out there wanted to feed my kid and they did.   I'm healthy now.  My baby is healthy too despite the loss of my breasts when she was 5 months. 
  Thank you to the many amazing milk donors.  To the women who selflessly pumped into bags for my daughter, who met me in parking lots to exchange something so personal to them.  Thank you to the moms who even brought it directly to me, packed in ice with their little ones in the cars sleeping.  Thank you to the couriers, the women who baked lactational cookies for other women who were pumping because they couldn't pump or weren't lactating.  We didn't have to formula feed, not once.  Words cannot fully express the gratitude I feel in my heart for all of you.
  Honestly many people just wanted to do so much for my whole family. They wanted to feed us all.  We were sent endless donations of grocery store gift cards and money to help with our bills because I was unable to work.  People brought us their home cooked food.  They helped me watch my kids, cleaned my house, sent me books cards, Reiki, did EFT with me, prayed and listened when I needed some comfort.  They brought my kids Christmas presents so we had some to put under the tree.  We didn't lose our apartment because of the help.  We made it through.

  I'm still amazed thinking about it the kind faces flashing through my mind as I reminisce of last year.   I was shown the hands of God through human kindness and compassion.  It truly kept me afloat.  I felt so loved.  I still do. 

  Tonight is the night.  We are giving her the last bottle of breast milk.  She almost made it to 20 months, about 4 days shy of it.  I could get more, but it's ok.  Joslyn is extremely healthy and tall for her age.  She had the milk almost as long as my son did when I had breasts to make it, and that's a miracle.  There are lots of other babies who need the milk out there more than my sweet little toddler does.  It's really an amazing story from my perspective.  Perhaps from yours it's quite intriguing as well.  It's a beautiful story that arose from a horrible tragedy, and it has a happy ending.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

The new girls

The last surgery was on June 14. My surgeon swapped out the tissue expanders for Silcone Memory gel shaped implants. They're supposed to be more natural looking then other options.  They've been in the US for a year and Europe for about 10.  i chose those ones over the saline becayse they look way more natural.  It's not the same as just getting a normal boob job.  You have nearly zero tissue left there so all you see is the implant.  Saline are very rippled and so are some silicone ones.  Memory gel are better and this textured, memory gel silicone memory gel shaped ones are the best out now. I hope when I get them replaced in 10-15 years, they have even better ones.  My doctor went for an oval shape with medium projection.  They're not the real thing, but hey they're pretty awesome and way better than nothing.  I had one fake boob for awhile and nothing on the other side.  I've practically had it all- none, itty bitty, large, extra large...  Now I have a perfect set of Tatas with clothes on anyway.  

Healing went well. He used vertical incisions, which kind of threw me for a loop, especially since he cut into my tattoos. I was pretty keen on NOT cutting into them and saving what I had there to feel pretty since my nipples are gone. We briefly discussed some nipple reconstruction details, but I'd have to get more surgeries and tattoo removal since he said that nipple recon was sort of like "skin origami". So if I went that route, I'd have to get my chest tattoos lasered then covered up with something else. It sounds pretty expensive to me. Insurance has to cover the charge of breast and nipple reconstruction for breast cancer patients for life by law, but tattoo removal wouldn't be covered nor would the new tattooing. Decisions, decisions. Although the nipples are purely aesthetic, I yearn to have a normal looking chest again. 

That's all cosmetic stuff, which isn't too important to me. As long as the cancer doesn't come back, I'm good!  Heck even if it does come back, I'll fight like a warrior again.  But its not coming back!

 Despite the lingering effects of chemo, I continue on with my life.  Oh wait you didn't know that there were lingering effects?  Well the toxins can still be in my body for up to a year.  Chemo causes brain damage.   I have short term memory loss.  I screw up my schedule.  I can't remember words.  Instantly a thought will come, and it slips my mind.  My once straight and silky hair has come back as curly as a poodles.  I hope that it will come back as beautiful as it once was or I can learn to manage it.  It's also not coming in as fast in the front so I have a mullet starting to grow.  But hey.....  Those are little things, and the little things don't matter.....  Remember, it's all little.  

   Letting go of the past and things that we cannot change has been my mission. That's a difficult task for me especially since I had such a traumatic childhood. The memories haunt me as an adult. In fact,  scientists are linking the Triple Negative Breast Cancer to social stress and especially childhood trauma. I'm working on stopping negative cycles, thinking and anger. Let's see how it goes once I'm finally off of the antidepressant that also worked to stop hot flashes from amenopause from chemo. Cancer can be depressing!  I'll hopefully be done weaning at the end of the month.  Watch out world, here I come. 

Life is good. Things are more normal here.  They're a new normal.  Yet I try not to let anything bother me.  Even though it still does, but I'm working on that too.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The new normal

It's odd how going through complete hell can shift ones perspective completely. I can't stress enough how important it is to care for yourself and reverse depression before disease manifests like it did in me. Fill your cup first before you fill the cups of others.
Negativity and stress are the worst things for a human beings health. I spent many years dwelling on the past and worrying about so called problems when I could've been enjoying life. After going through having cancer, diagnosis, and treatment, I can't stress how important it is to enjoy life while you have your health. Count your blessings on what really matters. It's not the house, the car, thw diamonds, the clothes, your pocketbook or bank account that will make you happy. It's the friendships, the love, the fun, and family around you.
After months of being underwater, I came up for air during my last chemo. I was put under water again just two days after the last infusion, but I've come back up on top and hoping that I'll stay here for awhile.
How trivial it might sound, but I posess a deeper appreciation of the simple, meaningful things in life. Worrying is a waste of time when there is so much that I can enjoy in the now. Love, caring, happiness, creating art, laughter, sharing and helping others is what matters to me. The veil is lifted, and I experience all of those things day to day. Don't get me wrong. I'm not living a perfect life, but the moments of despair are fleeting these days.
I've lived such a full life. I've traveled and met so many interesting people. I've pursued a career which has been my passion for the past 17 years. Next year around this time, will mark an anniversary of 18 years of tattooing. That will be half of my life. I'm hoping to tattoo at least another 18 years or more.
Being a mother has also changed my focus. My life revolves around my two little ones. I rarely go out without them, but it's worth it. Although sometimes I can't wait to go to work. I see it as a healthy break from them. Seeing them grow and learn has always caused me great joy. I hope that I can instill in their kinds how important it is to seek happiness and love themselves first and foremost.
Now almost a half of a year from my last chemo, my cancerversary is almost around the corner. My last reconstruction surgery for the final implants is June 14. I can wait to see my new chest. I see my oncologist in August for a check up. I think I'll see him every 6 months. Then every year. Then never again.
People tell you that there will be a new normal after cancer. There is. That new normal for me is a much happier and grateful place. Going through the trauma last year, I could still be grateful. It's just different now.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Triple negative

If you didn't know, 3/3/13 was Triple negative breast cancer day. That was the type of cancer in my right mammary. The bad ass kind. The kind they know nothing about, but they're doing more and more
research. Despite my effort not to think about it, it consumes my brain throughout the day regardless if the day commemorates it or not.

Let me tell you what I think about cancer throughout the day every single day. Mostly I think, "fuck you cancer!" Sometimes "why me?" I wonder how I got it in the first place- karma, the environment, smoking, alcohol, sweets, sexual behavior, negative thinking, aspartame, Splenda, salt, drugs, new car smell, vaccinations, BPA, not being breast fed, dairy, too much meat eating, MSG, carcinogens at work, getting tattooed, subpar drinking water, living in NJ, cell phone usage and on and on. I don't know why I keep revisiting those thoughts, but it's tough not to.

The reality is there isn't an answer for that except it isn't genetic. Tests proved that. I'm just the unlucky one that had the displeasure of joining a club that no one wants to join. The cancer club.

Perhaps when my hair grows back a bit more and I finish reconstruction, things will be different. I can't wait to have a new normal beyond chemo and reconstruction. I never thought much of cancer until 6/6/12 when the dr spoke those words on the phone to me. "Tegan... I have bad news. You have breast cancer. " The day that I don't think about cancer once, will be a joyous day. With that being said, it may never happen. Cancer touches everyone and will soon beat out heart disease as the number one killer in the United States.

Before the diagnosis, thoughts of mortality rarely traveled through my mind. I never thought that my own death bothered me, but now I was scared as hell since I have kids. The reality has set in. Wow... Some day I really will die.

Hence a different perspective has shifted. Music sounds better. The sky is more blue. The simple things are highly appreciated. I cherish moments even more with people I love. Happy is happier. The gratitude I feel for every blessing in life is bigger and comes from a greater depth in my heart. I've always been emotional and introspective, and now that's heightened.

As we get closer to my next surgery on Friday, March 8, the nervousness creeps in. The anxiety of anestethia for the fifth time in less than a year isn't extremely appealing. The impending discomfort is unnerving. Yet it's a step closer to putting closure on this chapter in my life.