Category Archives: Chemotherapy

Book Launch Par-yay!

book signing

This past Sunday was the first official book launch party for my new book; The Gift of Cancer: A journey of transformation through faith, family and gratitude.

During the course of my initial diagnosis, treatment and surgeries – I kept a personal journal, kept friends and family updated on Facebook and published blog posts here on WordPress. I’ve spent the last four months compiling all of those entries into a 200-page book. (now, proudly available on Amazon.com)

Writing this book was healing on so many levels. Being surrounded by friends and family while sharing some of the most intimate, vulnerable moments of my life was beyond therapeutic. I know I’m one of the “lucky” ones, I was given a second chance at life. The opportunity to be here today, alive, to write this book is a blessing in itself.

My hope is it will inspire those going through it to keep fighting. Or that reading this book will help oncologists and doctors practice more compassion with their patients, understanding we are all so very different. I believe anyone serving as support to a cancer patient or cancer family can benefit from reading this book. While every cancer is different and every person a unique individual; there are certain things we all battle when facing this disease. The Gift of Cancer offers insight into that sacred, vulnerable world.

 

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Choose Love

(February 1, 2018)

Re-post from my IG page @amber.strong.journey

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Clearing clutter in my room tonight and came across photos a friend had taken of me and my kiddos for her photo journalism project. As I held each photo in my hand, I sobbed. Grateful tears streamed down my face as I felt each moment as though I were there again. The pain of needles going into my port, the joy of sharing moments with my children, the sadness of friends and family who I’ve lost to cancer since my own diagnosis, the deeply humbling sense of being grounded because of knowing what it is to face my own mortality.
Love your babes, cherish the little moments, let sunsets take your breath away and don’t ever be afraid to love too deeply or to laugh too loudly. Every day is a gift, a blessing and another shot at making the moments count. Choose love  

“Unbuttoning” My Cancerversary

 

Extending my sincerest gratitude to Julian Parker-Burns Photography for capturing these candid moments from open mic night

Writing short stories and creating poetry is something that, throughout most of my life, has helped me come through the darkest of circumstances with a healed heart – however bruised it may be. When I began my cancer journey, it was no different. 

This blog allowed me to connect with all of you, to not feel so alone on the road to wellness. For that, I can never begin to thank you enough  – for reading my posts, for following me on my journey, for sharing your own stories of how mine has impacted you – I am so truly grateful.

After listening to a “School of Greatness” podcast with Lewis Howes and Rupi Kaur, a few months back, something in me shifted. Rupi’s story inspired me. As much as I had spent the past year unearthing my truest self – another part lay hidden, beneath the layers of motherhood, being a woman, working hard and achieving my goals. A part of me lay buried beneath the ash of pain and sorrow, waiting to be brushed off with life anew.

A few days after listening to the podcast, a completely unrelated conversation with a friend led me to discovering a local open mic night. It offered poetry in the beginning and live music afterward, the second Tuesday of every month. It was pretty clear what I had to do.

The first time I sat down to write that poem for open mic night, was beneath the shade of a large maple tree. That is, until a group of ants decided to use me as their personal playground. I quickly moved my blanket out onto the open field. My best friend Emmylou from England was a few hundred feet in back of me, sitting on park grass, journaling away. I remember how warm the sun felt on my back, beating down without a cloud in the sky.

I was nervous about writing again. Would my poetic muse still be there for me after all this time? I had abandoned her when she was always by my side. For a good five to ten minutes, I heard that old “worrier” voice in my head, “You’re not a poet anymore, it’s been too long.” Followed by “You’ll never have time for this, it can’t be done.”

I hadn’t come this far, to give up now. I regrouped, put Lindsey Stirling on in my earbuds, took a breath and that’s when I heard her. My inner Warrior shouting to me, “It can be done, you’ve got this, MAKE the time for it!”

Like a distanced lover, who you never really had a falling out with, but instead just drifted apart from – my poetic muse embraced me with open arms. I did finish my poem that afternoon and read it that night, aloud at that open mic event. It was INCREDIBLE!

Last week I returned for open mic again. The poem I prepared was “A Letter to Cancer,” about both the struggles of treatment and the people who pulled me through. Just minutes before going on stage, it hit me that it was also my three-year Cancerversary. What a beautifully raw, emotionally charged, empowering way to celebrate being three years in remission!

A LETTER TO CANCER

Dear Cancer,

You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But instead…

You breathed into my life

a power I had yet to know.

More fulfilling than the first breath that, 

into newborn lungs, flows. 

Dear Cancer,

You gave me,

bee sting pinches

for port access

just below my collar bone.

Toxins,

every other Tuesday

that took away my glow. 

Nine months of…

treatment

for

every

one

of

those

I

fought

through.

My son lent me his strength.

My daughter guided me with her light.

You thought I’d give up

when I got you.

But I had butterfly kisses

and little league baseball games to go to.

Berry bubblegum serenity

lingering on my little one’s

freshly shampooed hair.

Dear Cancer,

 Chemotherapy caused me pain…

physical pain.

I walked on invisible shards

of broken glass

each time bare toes touched cold concrete.

Put on socks

to go in the basement.

Wore gloves

just to wash clothes.

Dear Cancer,

I had enough!

In spite of You

I didn’t give up.

One week on treatment,

the next at the gym.

Protein shakes,

power lifting,

then chemotherapy again.

Slowly…

5 pounds on.

Steadily,

ten more.

Dear Cancer,

I’ve gained weight now. 

You have…

forged a fighter,

within me.

A survivor, 

an inspirer. 

Dear Cancer,

I dont hate You

anymore.

You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But I see now,

You were never my disease…

You were..

my CURE.

 

Unwrapping the “Mummy”

Photo on 7-31-15 at 9.16 PM Friday night. Two days after my chemotherapy port-a-cath removal. It was time to remove the bandage covering the suture site where my port had once been. My surgeon warned me about possible bruising but I didn’t know what to expect when the bandage came off.

Slowly I began peeling back the thin, clear layer of water-resistant tape that covered the bandage. A corner here, the sides there until finally I could remove the bandage altogether, exposing the steri-strips protecting the suture site.

One layer of dissolvable sutures beneath the skin, one layer of sutures in the outter layer of skin. I thought back to when my surgeon was stitching me up. I tried to look away but could see him threading the skin in the reflection of the nurses’s glasses. I could feel the taught tugging of my skin as he brought the layers closer together until the hole was whole again.

But there wasn’t any bruising.

Photo on 8-1-15 at 5.14 PM
Not for the faint of heart, a close up of my former port site. Sutures and all.

Maybe it was the self-Reiki I had given to the area, on and off, the day of my procedure. Maybe it was a combination of that, having an Angel or two on my shoulder and being a quick healer.

The unveiling of my former port site was odd. Not seeing that triangular shape beneath my skin or feeling the three, tiny, silicon dots in the center of it – the marker that guided my nurses time and time again where the chemo needle needed to go. Strange.

Just my skin. My flat, sutured, sore skin.

 

 

And for my next trick…

amber
This is it! The last photograph that will ever be taken with my port in the photo 🙂

And for my next trick ladies and gentleman…I shall make this port disappear!

In about ten minutes I’m heading to the hospital for a quick day procedure/minor surgery. Today my chemotherapy port-a-cath is being removed!!!

Getting it removed is much easier than having it put in place, according to my surgeon. When I called to ask the receptionist if I would need someone to drive me to and from the hospital, she replied “It’s just like going to the dentist and getting novocaine.” They numb the area, make an incision, remove the port and glue me back together. Not quite like going to the dentist but I understand what she meant.

No more port, no more chemotherapy.

When I dropped my four-year-old daughter off at preschool this morning I told her that when I picked her up later, my port would be all gone. We had this conversation yesterday as well but I wanted to reiterate it to her again just to be safe. She smiled at me when I told her this morning. Then she brushed my hair aside and moved my sleeve to the side of my arm, exposing the port. She looked at it for a second then looked back at me, smiled and gave me the biggest hug. Her way of saying “be brave Mommy!” after leaving a kiss on my cheek and telling me she loved me.

I’m ready.