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Day Fourteen…#31daysoflove

14 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Stephanie Thomas – I remember getting an email from my breast navigator with Stephanie’s name saying that she would LOVE to volunteer with Reach to Recovery when she was healed from her surgeries. I knew the name rang a bell but I couldn’t figure out why. Come to find out – she is my neighbor! She was in the middle of her surgeries and she already wanted to help other women. I tell you all, the hearts of the volunteers we have is amazing. Then Stephanie signed up to be a Primax Pink Warrior Princess last year and she raised over $3,400. She is amazing and very passionate about the cause and raising awareness. For this year’s walk she has already raised over $3,000!

Claire Rutledge – she is in the middle of her reconstruction surgeries and she is constantly asking me what she can do to help me and where her talents can be utilized. She helped us paint Michelle’s bedroom a few months ago and is always at our TNBC meetings being open, honest, and present. She is a real trooper doing this in the middle of reconstruction and she is terrific. I am honored to know her and call her a friend. I am also thrilled she is walking with us this year on the Primax Pink Warriors.

Chris Vilchek – my oh my, what do I say about this woman? I remember when I first met her she kept telling me how she could never go through what I had been through and how strong she thought I was. Then she was tested for the brca gene mutation when her sister was diagnosed, so she ended up going through exactly what I went through; a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and reconstruction. I remember sitting with her a dinner before her big surgery and we both got teary eyed trying to figure out how we got from being healthy to having cancer, fighting cancer, and then having our breasts removed and having reconstruction. It is a big pill to swallow sometimes and what I learned from Chris is that no matter what you say – you CAN do anything! Even when you think you can’t. You rock girl…

Doris Troutman – another Reach to Recovery volunteer, TNBC support group attendee, and friend. She is so very sweet, open, and loving. She is just terrific. I didn’t know her during her breast cancer battle but I know her now and I am thankful that I do. She has been very supportive during my last surgery and I know our patients love her!

Moira Quinn – what to say about Moira? When I was first introduced to Moira I immediately was taken with her strength and her honesty. We had lunch, we became friends, she helps me with all kinds of things breast cancer related – and now we are friends. Good friends. I believe that Moira will be one of those women who will stand by me – no matter what. We may have some hard times ahead but she will be right with me, as I will be with her, encouraging each other to keep going and to keep making a difference. It’s what we are doing. I didn’t know Moira during her breast cancer battle but I do know she is one tough lady and she took breast cancer by the throat and knocked the living crap out of it and threw it down into the gutter. Stupid cancer. But without cancer, I wouldn’t know this fabulous lady – so…as usual…silver linings are everywhere!

I am in my jammies today helping out with my new grand-daughter – so here’s to you in pink jammies!

Day 14


The Biggest Silver Lining Ever

14 Oct

As I write this blog entry this morning it is pouring rain, it is dark outside, I am drinking coffee and everyone is sleeping. The last few days have been so perfect and so special that I figured I better write some of these things down so I remember every moment.

On Thursday night my daughter Morgan started having contractions and they were regular, consistent, and pretty strong. I thought for sure my new baby would be here on Friday. I was volunteering at a golf tournament so I kept obsessively checking my phone. The contractions had stopped and Morgan mentioned how weird it was to be home from work while “nothing was happening.” I remember trying to remind her to be patient and that Haley would come in God’s perfect timing. Friday night brought very few small contractions but nothing to count on. At 2:30 am we got a text that they were heading to the hospital with contractions that were two and a half minutes apart and were very strong. They would text asap if they got admitted into the hospital. Time went crawling by as I dozed on and off waiting for news. You see, Kevin and I live two and a half hours away from Morgan and Mike, and Mike’s parents live three and a half hours away. We needed some advance notice because Morgan had asked Linda and me to be in the room with them when the baby came. The text came early that morning to come on down. Morgan had been admitted and was dilated to 5 or 6 cm and there were definite signs that she was in labor. I jumped in the shower, grabbed my last-minute items and took off toward SC. I have been really struggling with a lot of different emotions in the last two weeks which I will blog about later, but on my way to SC I was distracted and upset. To say the least. I ended up missing my turn and the next thing I knew I was in Huntersville NC. I missed getting off 485 and getting onto 85 South. By the time I knew it, I had gone out of my way about 20 minutes. So….I turned back around and found my back to where I needed to go – another 20 minutes. By this point I was sobbing. I had wasted 40 minutes and was now extremely worried I would miss the birth of my granddaughter. I still had many emotions swirling through my mind as I was speeding south on 85. I got a text from Mike that said “Morgan wants to know what exit you are at?” – Gaffney – I answered with a bug gulp expecting a call back saying she was ready to go. The doctor had come in earlier with her epidural and her dilation had stalled at 7 cm. Onward I raced with my heart in my throat, fully knowing this could be the only grandbaby’s birth I could see, and miss. Another text from Mike “she is still at 7 cm” – onward I sped.

I got to the hospital with a trip that took 40 minutes longer than it should have and I ran across the parking lot and upstairs. Still 7 cm…..”Thank God!” I thought. Morgan was comfortable but tired and nervous. About 15 minutes later Rob and Linda arrived. We spend about 30 minutes with Mike and Morgan checking out the birthing room and spending a few moments with them before they became parents….everyone was tense but happy. The nurse came in to check on Morgan and Mike came out and told us she had dilated to 10 cm. She was ready to push. Linda, Mike, and I went back into the room and assumed our positions behind Morgan’s shoulder. The labor nurse was getting Morgan ready and struggling a bit with Morgan’s modesty but as the contractions came, the baby’s heart rate began to drop. It was mentioned. And then mentioned again. And again. The nurse called for the OB doctor to come on into the room. She did and as Morgan was being prepped and coached to begin pushing with contractions, the heart rate continued to drop. Things became a little tense and Linda and I could tell that the tension in the room creeped up a few notches with the doctor and the nurse. The doctor then mentioned that the baby was stuck or wedged or that the cord was over the babies shoulder. She explained very quickly that they would use a suction machine to help the baby come out quickly. The doctor was very clear about everything she was doing and she was very fast. The next thing we knew Morgan was pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing. All of a sudden Linda and I leaned forward and saw baby Haley’s little face and shoulders around one of Morgan’s legs. She was here! There was lots of activity – the baby was taken to the other side of the room. No crying. Patting. Poking. Cleaning up. No crying. They said all was well – but no crying. Her lungs were clear – she was placed on Morgan’s chest. No crying. We were all in awe of this miracle but still worried about the lack of crying. They said not to worry that all was good and Haley was healthy. Mike and Morgan bonded with the baby with the rest of us watching in awe.

Haley had come in God’s perfect timing. We were all in the room…Morgan was ready. Mike was ready. The OB doctor was available, and my small car debacle on the way to Anderson didn’t make me miss the birth of my first grand baby. I don’t remember feeling this way when my own babies came, not at first anyway, I think I was scared to death, but being a Grandma is the best feeling in the world. Just like everyone said it would be. And the last few days have been awesome. This week is what I fought for three years ago. This week is why I chose to have my breasts and ovaries removed after my cancer was gone. This is the reason why I chose to do every possible thing I could to secure my future. And boy am I glad that I did! If you are debating about cutting your treatments short or not doing radiation because they are giving you a choice of yes or no – do it if that’s right for you. Do everything you can to secure your future so you don’t live with regrets on what you can possibly miss. And while you are driving to a very important event in your life, pay attention to where you are going! Don’t let your emotions drive your car and keep you distracted. One thing that did happen on my way to SC that morning was that I saw a HUGE rainbow in front of my car. A very big beautiful perfect rainbow.

Morgan, Mike and Haley Grace


Day Thirteen…..#31daysoflove

13 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Sharon Belton – our meeting was definitely meant to be. Sharon found me on the internet while searching our mutual surgeon’s information. She followed my blog and one day she came to a support group that I was speaking for. She came up to me all nervous and excited and she said she came there to meet me. She also told me that she told her co-workers how excited she was that she was going to meet me in person. She told me that when her hair fell out – she went back in my blog and read what I said when mine fell out, she went back and researched my chemo blogs, she went back and read my blogs about the bilateral surgery and reconstruction. I remember being very shocked finding out that I was actually meeting someone who I had helped. Not just writing my blogs to whine out into the universe and update my friends about my process. I had helped someone. Fast forward a few years to the present – I just adore Sharon. She is strong. She is one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. She took me to an eye doctor appointment after my surgery and then took me to get my drains pulled out (yanked as I call it)….she is active in the triple negative support group and she just hit her three-year cancer anniversary. She is just precious to me…and we met because of Dr Appel and she was able to find me through the internet. See? The internet isn’t ALL bad! HAHA…I think it’s awesome that I was able to accept help from Sharon a few weeks ago after she has been saying I helped her all along and didn’t even know it. Still waiting on my turtles…but I think this will also come with time. Xoxo

Maria Costa – I remember the first time I met Maria. We were at a survivor painting event to paint a small 4 x 4 canvas square that would be used in a large mosaic piece of art that is now hanging in the Novant Health cancer wing at the downtown hospital. It is beautiful. Maria was sitting next to me and she seemed to know a bunch of women there (there were ten survivors and then different artists and teachers)….I didn’t know anyone and I was nervous. I had just had my lumpectomy and was having chemotherapy the following week. The news cameras came in and I froze. They asked who would be willing to be interviewed and I wanted to crawl under the table. Maria agreed to and I remember thinking “wow, she is so strong”….she had very short hair so was done with chemo and she was just sassy and cute and being herself. Fast forward a year and she became a Reach to Recovery volunteer so now I get to interact with her often. She is just precious to me and I am thankful for how many women she helps!

Susan Haverstrom – another internet blessing. I met Susan on a triple negative breast cancer group on facebook. I found out she was moving to Charlotte and I invited her to our group. She came once and she is ALL in. She jumps at the chance to volunteer when she can, she helps out with our group members who need help, she is walking with our Primax Pink Warriors this year for the first time, and she is awesome. She has battled tnbc TWICE and beat it – TWICE. She is the voice of hope for some of the women in our group and she is kind and loving. I am glad she has come into my life and that she has moved to Charlotte. We are lucky to have her!

Priscilla Henley – what a sweet spirited girl Priscilla is! I met her while she was going through Reach to Recovery training and we have been friends ever since. She is always willing to help out, volunteer, support others and just be a healthy, happy, smiling face with a precious spirit. Everyone that meets her falls in love with her in two seconds…just like I did!

Day 13



No #31daysoflove post today…

11 Oct

I had a grand baby instead! My daughter, son-in-law and baby Haley are all doing well !!!!

Day Ten….#31daysoflove

10 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Sandra Niven – she is the super volunteer that is always behind the scenes, at everything breast cancer related, generously giving of her time and energy. I knew Sandra from a distance because we both volunteered for Making Strides. Sandra was on the committee volunteering all of the time and I was gathering and leading a large team in Charlotte. I remember the night it came out that I was diagnosed 7 days earlier with breast cancer. We were at a Strides event and it was “announced” – there were tears in the room and quite a lot of shocked faces, right along with my own….and Sandra came up to me first thing and she told me about the support group she had been attending for years, she told me that a lot of women would be by my side, she gave me her phone number, and she said “you are going to beat this”…she smiled, hugged me, and walked away. Little did I know back then how much interaction I would have with Sandra over the years. I really admire her and think she is super!

Terri Andrews – a survivor right smack in the middle of reconstruction. She had a bilateral mastectomy and is recovering from that and continuing on with her Herceptin treatments. I have never, and I mean never, seen a woman cruise through chemotherapy like Terri did. She took chemotherapy on like most of us fight the flu. She is amazing…and very blessed to have not struggled so horribly through chemo. She is one tough lady and I admire her strength and positive attitude – no matter how tough things get. I am looking forward to seeing you on the 18th my fighter friend!

Brenda Reid – another super volunteer, always smiling, always willing to lend a hand, always helpful and wanting to help other newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Brenda has always been super nice to me and very supportive of our Reach program, our team efforts, and anything I need her for. I didn’t know her through her breast cancer treatments, but I have a feeling that her faith carried her through her fight just as beautifully as it continues to carry her through her survivorship!

Cathy Jo Young – one of my TNBC peeps! Cathy is a very strong survivor that I didn’t know through her treatments, but she taught me something very important…to celebrate and cherish the “half years” we are gifted with post cancer. Not just your regular birthday – but each half birthday too! I may not have a party to celebrate mine, but I can tell you that I thank God on those days for another half year of memories I have been gifted. She is also a super volunteer helping out in so many areas of life, not just breast cancer. She is a terrific friend and a great supporter of mine, and many others. She rocks.

Mary Stabasefski – my little Miss Mary Mac – I am so blessed to know you! We met through the Reach program when Mary was first diagnosed and our friendship was immediate. We have so much in common and so many bonds that tie our friendship together. She is just precious to me and I am proud of how she has come through chemo, bilateral mastectomies, and reconstruction. Mary also has the brca mutation and had tnbc so we also have that common bond…and what a bond to have! Mary is now reaching out to help other women and I think she is just precious and I treasure her!!

See? Many more women to love!

Day 10


Three Weeks And Two Days Post Op….

9 Oct

So here we are three weeks and two days post surgery and I think, all things considered, I am doing great. Other than tiring out easily…I am good!

I went to see Dr Appel yesterday and he removed my exterior stitches and all of the glue from the incisions. I had some extra stitches in my armpits that he pulled and some of what I thought were stitches were actually sticky adhesive with fabric fuzz stuck in them. He and I laughed over that but I was afraid to go scrubbing on some of these areas thinking they were stitches and they were NOT. I cannot tell one from another, come on, give me a break.

Dr Appel said my healing process has gone extremely well and he is very very pleased with the outcome of my surgery. He is amazing. My incisions don’t look so much different than they did going into surgery – so that’s a bonus. My fat seems to be staying in my upper chest area and my tube wound areas, and other puncture areas around my body, are doing well. All in all, even with the hard time I had post surgery this time, I am so glad that I did it.

We also talked about how fast this process was for me this time. My annual check up was August 5. I took a few days to think the surgery over and then I booked the surgery for September 15 (I had an event September 13 or I could have gotten this done even sooner). Here we are 2 months from the date of that first appointment and the surgery is over and my stitches are out. I don’t even need to see Dr Appel for three months unless I have a problem – how lucky is that? No lifting for three more weeks and no exercising. He wants my body to really attach to the cadaver skin and fat grafting and let the implants have a chance to settle in. So, that is that!

I am so thankful for this doctor…he has put me back together and I just love him and his staff.

I have to tell you that when it comes to surgeons, my breast cancer fight has included two of Charlotte’s finest surgeons and I just adore them both! How lucky am I? Very.

Day Nine….#31daysoflove

9 Oct

For my #31daysoflove I will be wearing pink and posting a picture of what I am wearing. I will also be tagging several breast cancer survivor friends and saying a few words about each of them. I would like you to see, what I see, about these women.

Kim Derry – always such a sweet smile on your face…always willing to help out newly diagnosed women and always willing to help me out too! I didn’t know you during your breast cancer fight – but I am sure glad I have known you for the past few years. You have such a sweet, quiet, and calm spirit about you. It’s just great spending time with you! AND our patients love you too.

Kathy Pruett – we met by chance and boy were we lucky. It was cool going though our treatments around the same time and seeing each other recover from breast cancer and get better each time we see each other. I love how many friends we have in common but don’t love that we don’t get to see each other often. You are such a great asset to the board of Carolina Breast Friends – and everywhere else you go! Glad to call you my friend.

Darlene Roller – meeting you in Jamaica, just by chance, was really awesome. I knew I was drawn to you – I could feel a physical connection to you and scolded myself and told myself that I was obsessed with breast cancer. Then a day or so later when you and your hubby and I were talking and you said something about bone pain I knew…I just knew you were a survivor. See? I am NOT obsessed with breast cancer, I am just drawn to awesome survivor women! So glad to have met you and we were able to share some dinner, some laughter, and some fb connections…you were the icing on my cupcake for my trip last year – I will always remember my moment of clarity when I figured out you were a survivor and I knew why I was drawn to you from the beginning!

Jackie Garner – helping you along the path of your breast cancer battle was such an honor for me. When you called me and told me what the resources you used did for you, I knew that in that moment, if I never did anything with breast cancer again, that my work has been worth it! Giving you that information was regular protocol for me, but those people changed your life! Meeting you pre-cancer and getting to know you better during cancer and post cancer has been my pleasure. I am glad you are walking with us again and you are letting us honor you!

Noreen Guglielmo – even though we have never met I am in awe of your strength as you battle metastatic breast cancer. Always positive, always looking for something to laugh about, always lifting other women… you do this – I have no idea! It’s been really nice getting to know you and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you continue to fight this tnbc battle – smiling and kicking cancer’s butt!

I am still the luckiest girl alive being able to tag the survivors in my life for #31daysoflove.

Day 9


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