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“I Have Cancer”

28 Feb

I got a call today from a friend of mine I haven’t talked to in a while. As soon as I heard her voice, my heart sunk….and I knew why she was calling. She was diagnosed today and she has breast cancer. I consider it a great gift to be one of the girls that some women call when they are diagnosed – or their Mom or friend is diagnosed. It truly is a gift for me to spend time in that sacred space with these women, some of them I know and love, some I vaguely know, and some are strangers – if only for a moment. The gap between strangers is quickly filled with a bond that no one else can fathom, until they experience it. I have many cancer survivor friends that I know and love, yet have never met face to face. And some of you reading this know exactly who you are.

Tonight is a big night – it is the night before my 6 year cancer anniversary. Everyone was woot-wooting and celebrating my 5 year anniversary – right along with me….but, I couldn’t deflate their energy and love last year telling them that my Mom recurred between her fifth and sixth year. Twice.  So last year I was thankful and happy to hit 5 years. I was not patting myself on my egotistical survivor back because I did nothing to get to that 5 year mark. I certainly didn’t live a stress-free life, I didn’t eat clean, and I didn’t do yoga and load up on supplements. You see, I am a firm believer that I am just living out the story that has already been written for me. God has my story all planned out – even the cancer part. What He did was He put me in a volunteer position in the breast cancer community before I was diagnosed. I had connections and survivor friends all over the place when I got my call. Then He put it in my heart that I should be focusing on other women along with getting well…so I did. Then He allowed these women to openly trust and confide in me so I could be a safe place for them; so we could all heal and put our lives back together. Now He has opened pathways and doors for me to step back and start taking time for myself. This is still in the process of happening but it is happening!

So as I wake up tomorrow morning knowing that I am hitting a milestone that many hit, and some don’t, I know that I will be so very thankful for the past 6 years and all of the memories I was allowed to make; some in the cancer community and some in my regular life.

I am happy to be investing my time, energy, and love into helping women who need a friend, a shoulder, or some cancer tips rather than being at the mall, buying new cars, or trying to keep up with the neighbors. I couldn’t have said that with a straight face 7 years ago. I did some volunteer work, sure….but I wasn’t investing in people. I think that our culture has become so stuck on immediate gratification that people are forgetting that how we live here, and now, affects our eternity. And there is nothing better, in this world, than investing in people.

So regardless of all of that mumbo-jumbo – March 1 is my day….a big day in the world of a breast cancer survivor…six years. I cannot state that I am cancer free. Or in remission. What the docs say to us – there is no evidence of disease (NED)…and you know what? I will take that and I am thankful for it.

For my friend who called me today – I am praying for you and please know that you can call me anytime at all. Questions, tips, resources…if you have a question that I cannot answer – I will find someone who can.

For all of you that walked beside me, behind me, and in front of me for the past 6 years – thank you. And for those of you who prayed me through it and who carried me when I couldn’t carry myself….there are not enough words in the whole world I could say to you.

Now I am excited to see what the next 6 years of my story look like because the last 6 years have been amazing.

#giveGodtheglory

 

 

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Post Valentine’s Day Shock

15 Feb

6 years ago this morning I grabbed my buddy/boss, Andrea, and dragged her into the restroom at work.

Me: I think I found a lump

Andrea: What?

Me: To make sure I am not nuts, will you see if you can feel it?

Andrea: Sure…..

I show her the area – left side of my left breast – about 1 o’clock…she puts her two fingers there. She moves them around…we are both silent. I am beginning to think I am crazy. After all, I just found it the day before. Even though I felt for it 9 million times since I first found it…I am hoping and praying I am nuts. Yes, that’s it…. just another bit of “Laura crazy”…that’s what my mind is saying until I hear her say  “I do feel something, its right there, isn’t it?”

My heart sinks. She and I agree it’s just a little bump of nothing. It’s got to be nothing, right? I call my OB/GYN and he tells me to come in right away. I go to his office and I tell him which breast but I don’t point out the area. He does his exam and yup – he found it too.

I go back to work feeling as if my world has been tilted sideways. A lump. Me. My Mom’s 3 battles with breast cancer start ruminating through my mind. It’s nothing – it has to be nothing. I found it on Valentine’s Day and I JUST had my mammogram last week (more to come on this part later). They would have seen something, right? It was only last Thursday. I would have been able to tell if they thought they saw something…their mood, their body language…something.

So my story began to unfold 6 years ago yesterday. The story that was already written for my future – I just didn’t know it. As my tests began 6 years ago, my mind was reeling and I was not doing what I should have been doing; leaning on my faith. I know I was praying for a clear test, a cyst, a mistake, a little bump of infection, a clogged duct, something – anything…but I wasn’t praying for help to accept God’s will or help to face what was coming. I was praying for a free pass – a way out – an innocent lump.

I look back now – six years later and have such a different view of my story  – and how I would handle it if it ever came again. I know it’s hard to deal with looking “up” in the middle of a crap storm. I know it’s easier to cover your eyes, crouch down, cover your head and pray for relief. I just wish I had spent those weeks of tests and uncertainty praying that I would be able to accept what was coming,   instead of asking for a free pass and a harmless lump. But now I know. It’s taken my story a long time to unfold, and it’s been an amazing story, but the best part of my story is how God used my situation to help other women and how my own faith has been stretched and deepened.

Six years ago today, Andrea and I we were on the tip of the ledge and had no idea what was coming – but knowing what I know now – I am humbled by how God lead  me so I could, in turn, comfort others.

Valentine’s Day will always be a bittersweet day for me. I am first saddened to remember how my world tipped over that day and for many many months to follow. Then I become so deeply grateful l that not only did my life change in so many ways ……6 years ago my life changed into a life that truly mattered.

 

Dr Carey’s Teleconference Link – What’s On The Horizon for TNBC

18 Oct

As promised – here is the web-link for Dr. Carey’s teleconference last night with our local TNBC group. She is amazing….watch and see. We cannot thank her enough for taking time to educate us on what’s new in TNBC research and treatments.

What’s On The Horizon For Triple Negative Breast Cancer 10/17/2016

 http://unccn.mediasite.mcnc.org/mcnc/Play/bc14b4d84b204a8f9d799d6a1c4ba7421d

 

If you have any trouble viewing the video, additional information is available at:

 

https://unclineberger.org/unccn/about-unccn/mediasite-at-unccn

 

 

 

I Am Retiring!

17 Oct

Tonight we had our second teleconference meeting with Dr Lisa Carey and our local triple negative breast cancer group. When she spoke to us three years ago we were so honored that she would take time away from her family and give that time to us. We were a brand new support group and hearing what she had to say gave us all some relief, some more than others. Here we are three years later and the research being done and the findings this research uncovers, is beyond amazing. We still do not have targeted therapy for TNBC but we are getting closer and closer – I just know it.

I will post a link to her teleconference in a day or so in case you are a TNBC survivor and would like to see it. She gave us so much information I will be glad to watch it again, maybe a few more times, to absorb some of this information.  I am happy that they seem to be peeling away the layers of triple neg a little bit more each day!

So, good news peeps! I started the TNBC group in Charlotte 3 years ago with a teleconference from Dr Lisa Carey – and tonight was my last event for the triple neg group and it was with Dr Lisa Carey! How lucky am I? I am turning the group over to Sharon and Ellen (who I call Rocket) and they are going to bring fresh ideas and new energy to our group. It has been a fabulous 3 year run and I am ready to step back a little bit further from the breast cancer world. I went right from being diagnosed, to going full steam ahead into chemotherapy and 6 surgeries, three volunteer positions and I had a full-time job. Now I have reduced hours and I am going to slowly step back out of the cancer community and take more time to be with my JellyBean, dig down deeper into my faith, slow down a little, settle into a new home eventually (soon I hope), and just breathe. I know Sharon and Rocket are going to do amazing things with our group and I cannot wait to see it grow even more. The friendships that have come out of this group are life changing – and for that, I could not be more thankful.

There Is A Hole In Our Family – Again

21 Sep

There have been a few sad days in our house lately. Kevin’s Mom (Avonell) has been in assisted living for a few years, but last Wednesday her kidneys shut down. The Hospice nurse told Kev and his siblings she had 24-48 hours…but as we all know, God is the only one who knows our timeline. So, the family has been doing the bedside ritual, waiting, praying, talking, playing music, reliving memories, and bonding. Kev has been home for a few days but this morning his Mom was called home. As usual, you think there will be some relief after long suffering, but there is none. Yes she is in a better place. Yes she is happy and whole. Yes she is now with her hubby Gray – and her Jesus. But here we sit, with another hole in the family.

I am so lucky, and so thankful, that Kev’s family welcomed me into their lives with open arms. Especially his Mom and Dad. I think they knew that Kevin was finally happy, after a long time of being unhappy, and maybe they gave me some quiet credit for that. His parents were always loving and kind to me and they filled some gaps that my own parent’s deaths had left. I was happy, and still am, to be a Renegar.

There are many memories I have of Avonell, but two really stand out in my head, and heart, today. In 2010 Kev and I were spending time at his parent’s house trying to help do some stuff around the house and yard. They were in their eighties and just couldn’t keep up. One thing she asked me to do was to help clean out and organize her closets. Well, we started, and we only got one closet, and the rest of that guest room, done. We had some trash bags ready and I remember being shocked and wondering how in the world anyone could ever use over 15-20 Christmas center pieces. There were all kinds and all different types with all different combinations of Christmas colors. But still, I knew she didn’t have that many tables, so I tried to get her to part with a few of them – but she just asked me to put them right back in the closet – so I did. But the desk – now that was another story. Drawer after drawer after drawer were filled with red candles…some tall and skinny, some short and fat, some tall and fat, lots of them were a little melted and some were melted crooked. We would look at each one and I would say “we could get rid of this one, it’s not straight anymore”…..but she would look at it and tell me to put it back in the drawer, that it was still ok, she could still use it. After several drawers of red melted candles, I started chucking some when she wasn’t looking. The drawers were still full; as I am sure they are today, of melted, tall, skinny, short, and fat, red candles. She never knew I threw any of them out – even though we left that room with three trash bags full of stuff. She was so fun to spend the day with and as I watched her looking at her things, I know she saw perfectly good red Christmas candles – many more years of use in them, right? That’s how her mind worked – keeping everything because someday you might just need a red candle.

She had a knack for buying things on sale and giving very interesting gifts – that were, no doubt, purchased on sale. I always thought it was super cute because, after all, I didn’t have a Mom anymore and I loved having a mother-in-law. Her kids mumbled and grumbled after years of getting interesting gifts but I found it fun. The best one was when we opened our gift one year for Christmas and in that box was a Precious Moments ornament. I thought it was adorable – and then Kevin told me that it had the #2 on it. It was for a baby’s second birthday or second Christmas! We laughed…boy did we laugh over the past few years about that ornament. Kev thought about not keeping it last year when we were downsizing out of our big house and I was adamant about keeping it. I know what it’s like to lose a Mom and I know precious a memory can be. I also know how something so simple – like an ornament – can bring back many other memories each year while decorating for Christmas.

So now as I sit here typing this, getting ready to pack for a trip to attend his precious Mom’s funeral, I I cannot help but look forward til we unpack for Christmas and find that ornament. I bet you that this ornament, as funny as it was a few years ago, will be Kev’s favorite ornament ever.

My heart breaks for the loss his family is feeling. They had their wonderful Mom for so many years and she was really good to them. I am sure she had her moments – like all of us Moms do. But how lucky is it to have your Mom live to be 93 in good health up until the last 2 or 3 years? Having lost my Mom at 61 – that is an extra 30 years of memories they were able to make. I know it is all part of life and the normal circle of everything, but it still stinks to say goodbye to someone you love. No matter how old they are.

A Friend of a Friend…

15 Sep

I met a friend of a friend a few years ago…and you know how that goes – they become your own friends. I am so thankful Christine is now MY friend because she is amazing. We are so lucky and blessed by the support and talent she gives to the Primax Pink Warriors each year. Can you believe that she donates her photography talent to our Silhouette of a Woman art show each year? And guess what – our pictures are beautiful!

How lucky are we to have a professional photographer??!! Need a photographer for your family events? Then this is your girl!

Christine Bittler

A Survivor Party – September 26, 2016

12 Sep

If you are in the Charlotte NC area – please join us for a night of fun and survivor fellowship….I will definitely be at this event, so please join me! survivor-reception

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