October is here again; the obligatory post or video needs to be made because I’m part of this club that somehow, I became a member of. Not a willing participant at all, as nobody is in these kinds of clubs, but nonetheless it’s something I’m part of.

I sit back and think of all the new people that have come into my life over this last year because of this disease. I also sit back and think of who is no longer here because of this disease.

I have said this before and I will say it again, I hate everything about this month. I hate the word “awareness”, I hate the color pink, & most of all, I hate that they continue to promote mammograms and early detection as some sort of cure or prevention for breast cancer. So, what do I want them to concentrate on? Stage IV, breast cancer that has metastasized; METS. The breast cancer that people are dying from. The one that early detection doesn’t do anything for, the one that needs the most attention. The one that is too scary to talk about, so they don’t, instead they make you think that if you catch it early, no matter what, all will be good. Bullshit.

I’m what METS patients refer to as an “early stager”, one of the lucky ones. Someone that cannot begin to understand what they go through daily. I agree with that statement. How could I not? At this moment I show no sign of disease (term oncologist uses), something that they do not have the luxury of hearing. EVER. They will never hear that statement. Let me say it again, someone with Stage IV will NEVER hear that they have “no sign of disease” in their lifetime. They will die from this disease. I cannot compete with that, nor would I want to. This is one of the main reasons I never joined a cancer support group; I never wanted to be “out-cancered”.   This is of course is not a competition, but when your world is falling apart that’s really all you are thinking about, YOUR world.  And how bad it is in YOUR world & nobody could have it as bad as you. This isn’t always the case & I’m not ashamed to say, I wanted it to be all about me, and I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s story, because, it wasn’t my story.  I would be lying if I said I don’t understand someone looking at me and my situation and thinking that I had it easy. I get it, however, I still had cancer and I’m entitled to feel how I want with no conditions and no feelings of guilt for being one of the “lucky ones”. In addition, I have a 30% chance of this asshole coming back into my life so I’m going to be grateful for this moment & I’m not going to compare my story to anyone’s because that’s not fair to me or to them. But, what I will do is stand up for what I think should be done, and to me that is fighting for the proper research for the people who cannot fight anymore.

So, how do we do that?

DON’T get sucked into the pink hype. Don’t presume that the pink water bottle you just purchased is going to send any proceeds to a breast cancer organization. Anyone can put a pink ribbon on an item, the ribbon is not regulated & this fact is not known by many. I assumed at one time that anything I bought that was pink or had the ribbon was helping the epidemic, it was a cruel reality to find out that wasn’t true.

DON’T assume that anyone with stage IV (METS) must have missed their annual screenings, ignored a lump or didn’t notice a change in their breast. Unfortunately, some women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer were diligent about their annual exams or had no signs or symptoms.

DO donate to worthy breast cancer charities. There are some great organizations out there; one for example is metavivor.org, all proceeds go towards research and finding a cure. These are the people that need our money, these are the people who are trying to make an actual difference.

DO understand that being “aware” isn’t just about mammograms, early detection, and catchy taglines. It’s about knowing that this disease is relentless and doesn’t discriminate. It’s about knowing that every 14 minutes somebody dies in the US from breast cancer. It’s about knowing that stage IV is incurable.

Lastly, what you can do this October is schedule your screening no matter your age. If you have read anything I have written in the past you know I will always push for proper screening. So, whether it’s a mammogram, ultrasound, or an MRI, find the right method for you and be consistent. Because even though you can do everything right and still get cancer, in a lot of cases, catching it early can help stack the odds in your favor.

I love someone who is bipolar…

Someone I love suffers from bipolar.  If you don’t know what this mental illness is, consider yourself lucky.  It’s characterized as both manic (high energy) & depressive episodes.  These episodes can last weeks or months & unfortunately they never come with dates of when they will end.  You ride it out like a storm and hope the damage isn’t too extreme.

This person I love isn’t my significant other, or part of my “blood” family.  She is part of my soul family though; my person, my constant, my ride or die, my soul-sister.  We know each-other better than our spouses know us, and better than our parents do too.

We met at the bus stop when we were 8 years old, I liked her shoes.  I spoke first, and if you know us, that’s no surprise.  It was that moment that our friendship/sisterhood began. Obviously neither of us knew at that age that we were building an everlasting bond.  We went through the typical things through the years; bad relationships, good relationships, parent issues, lots of laughter, and of course some tears.  We both got married, she had kids who my husband and I are Godparents to.  I did not, but, I feel like her kids our mine, which is just an extension of our connection.

I have sat in dark rooms with her when she was in a depressive episode and I have watched her clean the hell out of our apartment when we lived together during a bout with mania.  None of this was new to me; I have been down this road with her, actually many times.  For the most part, I could see these episodes coming a mile away. However, this particular time was different.

This was not “typical”.  She was saying and doing things she would never have done in the past.  She was mean, spiteful, distant, engaging in behavior that she normally wouldn’t, and just all around unrecognizable.  This was apparent to anyone who loved her & anyone who really knew her.  It was almost as if she was possessed, she looked the same but she was now someone I didn’t know.  Someone that scared the hell out of me because I thought this “new” person could possibly be permanent.  That was terrifying. So many years filled with tons of memories and laughter to be shattered by something that I couldn’t wrap my brain around.

Over the 34 years, we of course have had disagreements, but we never really fought.  It just wasn’t part of our relationship.  If anyone would have told me before all this happened that she would ever hurt me, I would probably get pissed off and say they didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about. But, it did happen; she cut me so deep with one of the most dangerous weapons out there…words. She brought me down to my knees, I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of her mouth (or that I was reading on texts). This wasn’t just happening to me either, she was hurting all of the people she loved, not intentionally of course, but nonetheless she was hurting us.  We didn’t know what to do, we felt helpless, confused, angry and bunch of other emotions.  We wanted her to “snap” out of this which is completely ridiculous, by the way.  If it was only that easy…

She was pushing all the people that really mattered away.  This was an internal battle which she was completely aware of, she just didn’t know what to do, we were all in the same boat as far as that was concerned; none of us knew what to do. They say you hurt the ones you love the most & that was so apparent during this storm.

Then we found out she was in what they call a “mixed state”.  Which is depressive symptoms & manic symptoms that occur in sequence or worse, at the same time!  I had no clue that it was possible to feel those strong emotions at the same time.  Imagine having suicidal thoughts one minute and literally the next minute feeling tons of energy and racing thoughts?!  Talk about a mind-fuck! As with most mental illness these episodes defy logic.  You can’t look for logic, and you also can’t fix it. As you can imagine for the loved ones of people who suffer from this, watching from the sidelines, powerless incapable of taking any of this pain away is extremely difficult.  Being there for them is hard, I will not deny that, but it’s legitimately the only thing you can do. That, and also realizing that nobody more than that person wants to be back to “normal”.  Believe me when I tell you she would have done anything to feel like her old self, but its not that easy.  There is medication and therapy that have to be done which takes time, a lot of time.

This CANNOT be controlled.  Even with the proper medication, sure it can lessen episodes or make them less severe, but to eliminate them all together?  Nope.  Which to some, logically it doesn’t make sense.  You think cancer, now that’s a disease you can’t control! But, saying or doing things out of character, being mean, or being full of energy, that has to be something that someone can controlWRONG.  It’s an illness that people refuse to accept because of the stigma that comes along with mental illness.

I’m happy to report she is on her way to feeling better, like I mentioned, it’s going to take time but she is moving in the right direction. Thankfully our relationship is resilient and the love we have for each other, along with our unbelievable bond can’t be challenged. Ride or die, through thick and thin, we will never waver when it comes to that.

There isn’t enough compassion for people who suffer from many illnesses, but especially mental illness.   I’m hopeful that can change if people continue to share their stories so we all see we are not alone.

Denise, that’s her name.

Over the past 5 years that breast cancer has been part of my life, I have met and talked to a lot of people this disease has affected.  Sadly, some of those people are no longer with us; the disease took over.  My heart would break every time I heard about another death, but truth be known, I didn’t have a personal relationship with any of the people that passed away.  They were part of my “cancer world”, but not part of my “before cancer world”.

That is, until a few months ago.  Someone who I cared about, someone who I spent holidays with, someone who I had a special bond (a bond based on the cancer diagnosis that we shared) passed away.  Metastatic breast cancer; liver and brain, she was gone within 2 weeks.  Denise, that’s her nameNot “was”, IS her name.  Denise is my brother in-laws mother, a woman who lived with METS for 11 years.  When originally diagnosed, it was already in her bones.  11 years, she dealt with pain that most people couldn’t even begin to comprehend.  Pain that took over her life and made it very difficult to do things we all take for granted.  However, besides her inner circle, who were very aware of her pain and anguish, she never let anyone else in on it.  I never heard her complain, I only knew about the pain because of what my sister and my brother in-law would tell me, Denise would never utter a word.  Too proud, too scared, I’m not sure, but I know she didn’t like to talk about the elephant in the room, that her time here was limited.  Anyone who has read anything I have written knows how vocal I have been about everything cancer related, Denise was the exact opposite.  I remember her whispering in my ear one holiday, so that nobody else would hear, that she read one of my blogs and she couldn’t agree more with what I said.  I thanked her, and we started to talk about something else, because I respected her need to not talk about the cancer.   I always followed her lead; I screamed it from the rooftops, and she appreciated it, she told me, but that just wasn’t her.  Bitterness is part of a cancer diagnosis, no matter your age or stage, it’s very hard to let that go. And that was the case for Denise; she was pissed she was going to die, she was pissed she was in pain.  That bitterness was only shown to the people she loved the most and who loved her just as much.

She was so much more than a woman living with METS; she was a wife, a mom, a grandma, a nurse, and a fantastic cook!!  And I’m not talking about a home cook, I’m talking on the gourmet level.  Thanksgiving was her holiday to really show her skills and she never disappointed! One year she made Spatchcocked Turkey with anise & orange; the only 2 words I recognized or could pronounce for that matter was turkey and orange!  However, it was delicious, as everything she made always was.  Another year, the menu included a rye, kale, mushroom & pumpkin seed stuffing.  No traditional dishes for Denise, the more complicated & challenging, the more she wanted to do it.  She not only made 90% of the food for dinner, but she made most of the desserts also.  All homemade, from scratch, no shortcuts.  The planning, the time, the effort that went into those meals would be hard for anyone, but for someone like Denise with the level of pain she endured daily, this was an achievement that wasn’t lost on any of us lucky enough to sit at that table with her.  Thanksgiving will never be the same.

I’m glad she is no longer in pain & I choose to believe she is truly in a better place.  I will never say cancer beat her, in fact, I refuse to say that, what I will say is Denise quit cancer; she had enough.  So, now I sit here trying to accept the reality that I have lost someone who I cared deeply for to a disease that has personally affected me.  Denise, that’s her name.

I thought I was over it…

I thought I had mourned the fact that I would not be able to have a baby.  I accepted it.  Just one of the things breast cancer took away from me.  Fine.  I’m over it-or I thought I was.

My husband and I were recently at a family wedding and they had all of the married couples on the dance floor.  You know the drill, depending on how many years you have been married you get to stay on the dance floor.  My little 3 year old cousin refused to get off the dance floor (a precursor to the years to come for this little one).  SO, I picked her up and she danced with my husband and I.  She put her little hand around my neck and her other little hand on his shoulder.  It was at that moment that I felt a pain in my heart, a pain that unless you have felt can’t be understood.  Smiles from others on the dancefloor just made the pain worse.  They didn’t know who this kid was to me, they assumed it was our kid, I would have too.  Here is a secret, I wish it was.  I wish that cell never mutated.  I wish I had the life I had before cancer.  I wish I wasn’t the reason my husband wouldn’t be a father.  I wish that asshole of a disease stayed the fuck away from me.  I wish it didn’t hurt.  I wish I was still in my little naïve non-cancer bubble thinking it couldn’t happen to me.

But, it did happen to me & at this moment it really sucks.

Intro blog

Hi & welcome to my blog.  I have been wanting to do this whole blog thing and finally took the leap.  Who knows how far I will go with this, but if you are reading this, thank you for taking the time to visit.  My name is Jeannine, I live in a town about 25 minutes outside of Chicago, I’m married to an awesome guy with no kids and I work in the financial industry.  Before I go any further I want to give you a little insight of who I am, how I write and what to expect here.  I write as if I’m having a conversation, I’m not too worried about grammar and if you are, this isn’t the place for you.  I swear.  I swear A LOT, and I will not filter myself, so, if you have an issue with that, this isn’t the place for you.  I’m a breast cancer survivor & I’m a survivor because of science, so if you believe in snake oil & all the other holistic bullshit, again, not the place for you.  Now that I got that out of the way, we can move on.  I will end up writing a blog about my cancer in a future post, but quickly, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 with no family history.  I started writing after my diagnosis because it made me feel good and was extremely therapeutic.  I also suffer from anxiety & a little bit of OCD which usually comes along with an anxiety diagnosis; throw the cancer in & you have me, a hot mess (not always, but a lot).  Basically, I’m just going to write about what I want with a focus on my cancer, anxiety, family, and a true love of mine…beauty products!!!! Odd combination?  Yep, but it’s my reality, so, lets see where this goes and thanks for taking a ride with me.

Much love!