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I Am A 4 Year Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor

1 Mar

Today is a day that honestly, I wondered, if I would ever see. Four years ago my world was turned upside down and I was faced with my own mortality. And in looking back, it was the greatest gift I have ever been given.

It’s a little odd to be writing about this survivorship milestone considering the last two weeks we have had, so this year, it will be low-key and understated.

I have been very open with my cancer battle, all that I have learned, and how much I have changed. I have also been very honest about the stress and drama that has gone on, in my own house, since my cancer diagnosis. When I look back at some of my blogs I do not regret being so open and giving people a raw view into cancer, chemotherapy, 6 surgeries, and living in the stressful environment of a newly blended family; especially one that has been under constant attack from Kevin’s ex-life. His children and I will never have the relationship we could have had and this has never been as clear to me as it’s been in the past few weeks. But on we go. Moving forward, different people with different relationships than we would have had if the situation had been decent. But you know what? I have come to terms with it and I realize that I cannot spend one more moment of my valuable time trying to make certain people in our lives see the reality of the situation. As always, the cream always rises to the top – it’s just a matter of time.

So today, my two children are busy with other important things in their lives and I want to spend my day of survivorship quietly. My kids and I will celebrate my four-year survivorship with Kevin and Haley later in March. But for today, you cannot imagine how grateful I am for the gift of the last 4 years I have been given. It has made me appreciate my own life, it has made me change my priorities, and I am truly carving stress right out of my life now for my long-term health – however that looks. Fighting cancer four years ago has allowed me time for the greatest gift ever – seeing my daughter become a Mom and me being able to hold her and Mike’s baby in my arms. Hands down – that is the best thing I have experienced in the past four years….and I have been blessed to experience some very cool things.

Tonight – I think I might have a glass of wine and open the “50 Memory Box” that is still sitting on the table in our family room. My friends put this together for my 50th birthday in July but it wasn’t ready to be delivered to me until Christmas Eve. There is a note in there from Michelle, my friend who passed away in October, and I have been waiting to open this box. I might seal the importance of today, in my own heart, by reading words written by a lot of my friends including Michelle. If my heart is ready tonight – then it will make today all that more special…after all, today is a “birthday” in its own way.

Today is a true day of celebration for me and I am looking forward to spending it by myself – quietly. Four years in the world of triple negative breast cancer is big big big. Each year of having no evidence of disease is another step away from the day that rocked my world, in a bitter-sweet way.

Thanks for all of your friendship, love, support, and understanding. You guys are an awesome part of me and I thank God, every single day, for each additional day I am gifted. I say this with complete humility and love still honoring my friends with metastatic breast cancer. There are quite a few in my life now and my celebration of 4 years being a survivor does not, and will not, taint the seriousness of what they are fighting. My thoughts and prayers are with them each day as they battle on and as we all hope for more days with their children, more time with their parents, and more special moments with their precious husbands. As happy as I am today – I am still well aware of the severity of this disease for many of my friends. And in a lot of ways, that makes today even more special.

4 years

 

Finally….At Peace

28 Feb

Birds

As a lot of you know, we were finally able to have the Celebration of Life for Kevin’s Day yesterday. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday but at the last-minute it was postponed due to the snowstorm in Fayetteville.

Yesterday was a beautiful day – chilly but clear, Carolina blue sky, and sunny. I felt like I haven’t seen the sun for a month and I found that very fitting for the celebration for Kev’s Dad – my bonus Dad.

The service itself was beautiful and so heartfelt. The Pastor obviously knew, and loved, Kevin’s Dad. I think that’s the coolest thing to hear a Pastor speak about someone he knew personally rather than a Pastor speak about “someone who attended his church.” This speaks volumes about Kev’s Dad and his involvement in the church. Kevin did his Dad’s eulogy and did a fantastic job holding it together and delivering a loving meaningful story.

I sat in the row behind Kev’s Mom and I had a very difficult time keeping my eyes off of her. I kept looking at her to see what she understood. She was very sad on and off and there were moments of confusion and vacancy on her face – but over all you could tell that she knew what was happening. Yesterday, when you looked directly into her eyes you could see the extreme loss and sadness that losing your spouse of 70 years looks like. I am so afraid for her. Afraid for her loss. Afraid for her loneliness. Afraid that she has to continue to remember, and forget, that her husband is gone.

After the Celebration of Life the casket was taken out of the church and treated with military honors and respect by 7 military men and women. I have never seen a military service before – so for me – this was very cool. These men and women also moved the casket from the limo to the gravesite and there were groups of military people standing around on the outskirts of the tent covering the burial area. The group to my left did a 21 gun salute and the group to my right played Taps. There were two Navy Officers in the tent with us that removed the flag from the casket, folded it with their ceremonial honors, and then handed it to Kevin’s Mom. One Officer got down close to Kev’s Mom and said something about presenting the flag from the President of the United States and the entire country as a token of the appreciation for the service her husband gave. It was quiet and very personal and touching and I could hear it at the time, but you know me, I cannot remember what he said. Regardless, it was an extremely cool thing to see and I was proud to be considered “family” of this honorable and loving man.

With all of that being said, it has been a very emotional few weeks for Kevin’s family and I appreciate the thoughts, prayers, and good wishes you all have covered us up with. I know Kevin’s Dad has been lifted in prayer across the US and one friend even prayed for him while at the Vatican. Now it’s time to focus our attention on Kevin’s Mom and making sure she gets all of the love and attention she needs and deserves. Just as he was an honorable and strong man driven by integrity – she is an awesome woman too –after all, they have been together almost their whole lives…and birds of a feather – flock together.

I thought these pictures were very special and I wanted to share them with you so you could see a glimpse of the special service I experienced yesterday. Kevin has some pretty special people in his family and I am lucky to be part of them!

Navy Flag

Flag

 

CURE – Joan Lunden and Triple Negative Breast Cancer

24 Feb

Here is the new article in CURE with Joan Lunden. I wish she would focus more on TNBC instead of “breast cancer” and dense breasts. But I guess we all wish someone with a public platform would speak more about what’s important to us specifically, now don’t we? Regardless, this is a good article to read and she talks about TNBC a bit…and some light on TNBC is better than none – right?

Joan Lunden

http://www.curetoday.com/publications/cure/2015/winter2015/a-two-way-street-joan-lunden-shares-her-cancer-experience/1

A Hole In Our Family

21 Feb

Kevin came home last night at 11 pm after being in Fayetteville, with his siblings and parents, for the past week. He did come home once last weekend to bring me home and to get more clothes for the unknown amount of time they would be spending at his Dad’s bedside. But he has only been in Charlotte for about 12 hours during the last week and I know he was glad to be home but torn by leaving Fayetteville.

Yesterday Kevin’s Dad was moved from the hospital to Hospice so they could make him more comfortable during these final days. Kevin and the sibs went to pick up their Mom, for what they thought might be the final time, so she could see her husband of 69 years. She sat at his bedside and talked to him a little bit, but no one really knows what she truly understands and what she doesn’t. But the photos that I saw were very sweet as she sat by her husband and telling everyone he looked better than he did at her last visit – Valentine’s Day. I am sure, from her point of view, he did look better. No scary breathing machine and tubes; just oxygen. No beeping machines and leg cuffs to keep circulation moving; just his legs being comfortable on his bed. No blood pressure monitors and oxygen level monitors. Just her husband and a small and quiet oxygen mask, so yes, from her perspective, he did look better.

Kevs Mom n Dad

Thinking back to one of my sweet memories with Kevin’s Dad, and I wish I had many more years with this man, was when I first had breast cancer. Kevin, his Dad, and I were sitting on the back deck at their house and he was leaning forward listening closely to Kevin describing my diagnosis and the surgeries and treatments I would be facing. He had tears in his eyes and asked if we were sure that they had to remove my breasts. “Pretty traumatic and devastating” I am guessing was the thought in the pit of his stomach. He was so sweet and so loving that afternoon, his somewhat gruff nature put aside for this conversation. He was supportive and loving and told us that anything we needed – anything they could do – they would. I remember thinking that I would have never gotten that kind of response or support from my own father and how lucky was I to have a “bonus Dad” at this point in my life! We sat there for a while, all of us digesting the situation and he leaned forward and said “who found this lump?” – I told him that I found the lump and he looked over at Kevin and gruffly said “why didn’t you find it?” To say Kevin and I were a little shocked by this would be a true statement but then his sneaky little smile started at his eyes and continued down his face…and Kevin and I began laughing. A lot. It was funny to hear an 87-year-old man sternly reprimand his son for not paying enough attention to my breasts to have found the lump. I will always remember that conversation and the sweet and loving support he gave to me at a very sad time in my life. And the icing on the cake? His gruff attitude with a crinkle in his eye followed by his big smile – and laughter.  A moment in time, a memory kept safe in my mind and heart forever. To say that I am simply grateful for having my bonus Dad would be an understatement.

We got a call around 3 am this morning from Kevin’s brother. Kevin’s dad had just passed away.  There is no flood of relief that the suffering is over. I am not sure that ever came for me after my Mom passed away either. I was happy that she was whole, her pain was over, and that she was in Heaven. Relieved she was gone? Never. But I am glad I will be able to help Kevin through the adjustments he will be facing as he digests this loss. There is now a permanent hole in Kevin’s family….a great man who served our country for over 23 years in the Navy….a man with a gruff exterior who loved his family deeply and allowed his true heart to be shown often….a very generous man….a strong Christian man, gone.

When the pastor is speaking at the service later this week I know, without a doubt that the thoughts in lots of minds will be Matthew 25:23 (NIV) “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Well done “bonus Dad” Gray Renegar – you lived your life well and now you are whole, healthy, and happy in Heaven. What more could the Renegar family ask for?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer – Free Workshop

20 Feb

Please see the info below on a free workshop for what’s new and informative about TNBC on March 3, 2105 (National TNBC day)….you can call in and listen or you can go online for the webinar. I don’t know about you – but I am using my lunch break at work that day and paying attention to THIS!

tnbc page 1

tnbc page 2

Michelle’s Blog Post

19 Feb

Just left my computer without the link….go back to the email you just got and click on the title of it. It will go to my blog and the link is there. Check it out peeps!

Our Tribute To Michelle Belt

19 Feb

Here is the long-awaited link for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer awards ceremony which includes Michelle’s Dad and sister-in-law accepting Michelle’s award. If you continue watching it you will see my story about Michelle. The speech I was so nervous to do because I didn’t want to break down and not be able to pull my emotions back in. When I saw it today it seemed like I was speaking so fast but that night I felt like I was speaking in slow motion. Isn’t it funny how your mind works?

Thanks Kelly McKay for being our emcee – you are a rock star my friend. Love you girl.

And the rest of this is for you Michelle….we miss and love you so much!

 

http://youtu.be/tCFal6Yndm0

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