Tag Archives: Colon Cancer

Sacred Awakening

In June, I self-published a book on Amazon titled “The Gift of Cancer” about my year-long cancer journey.

About a week ago, I republished the book, with a new title and a new cover:

“Sacred Awakening: Healing on my journey of cancer through faith, family and gratitude”

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All of the content within the book has remained the same, save for a few grammatical corrections and the addition of a reference page.

Thank you everyone for your love, support and encouragement along my journey!

Big hugs to you all xoxo

Amber

 

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Colonoscopies are no pain in the @$$…especially if they save your life!

 

Today, I underwent my third colonoscopy since December of 2013 – when the first one determined it was cancer causing me to be sick, underweight and plagued by exhaustion. One year after that, I went in for a second colonoscopy (post Stage III Colon Cancer, post-treatment) which deemed me to have a clean bill of health. No cancer. No polyps. Ready to rock and roll into remission!

Today’s colonoscopy was seven months overdue. Life had become quite busy between being a Mom, moving, setting new goals and being fully present for the holidays.

Finally in February, I called the GI (gastrointestinal) specialist’s office. I hadn’t realized they needed to see me in the office, first, before the procedure could be scheduled. It would be another month before I was seen in the office. My insurance company had changed my policy but hadn’t sent out new cards yet. I did have a copy of my group number and everything I needed to schedule the appointment. Unfortunately, the office required a copy of the actual card since my current medical insurance provider now specified which hospital the procedure could be performed at. After waiting another two weeks for new insurance cards to come in, I was scheduled my colonoscopy.

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No matter how many blood draws or colonoscopies or check-ins I have, there is always a certain level of anxiety beforehand. What if the cancer-cell-indicator blood test says cancer cells are present? What if they find something during the colonoscopy? What if the doctor finds a lump or palpates an internal blockage of some kind? It’s easy to start feeling batshit crazy when pondering the “what-if’s” of oncology screenings and check-ins.

My rock-star Mama accompanied me today, as she always has for any hospital visit I’ve had during my cancer journey. She’s puts up with my anxiety-prone irritability, not knowing if I’ll be myself or stressed or numb, wonderfully well. In spite of the mood swings, she stays by my side, knowing it’s only temporary. When it’s over, I almost always go back to being her “little pumpkin.”

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While we were waiting for the nurses to wheel my hospital gurney away into the procedure room, I could hear music playing overhead in speakers on the ceiling. Colbie Caillat, Never gonna let you down was playing. A quick stream of tears ran down my cheeks. Emms.

Last year I sent that song to my soul sister, Emmylou, telling her it was our friendship one hundred percent. We have the kind of friendship where (quite literally) everywhere we go – people think we’re either sisters or romantic partners. We’re that close, that connected and always have been since the day we met.

When that song came on I felt her presence with me, even though she was probably painting an extraordinary mural somewhere or off to the gym in her current home of Mother England. I saw her there by my bed side, laughing with me and holding my hand. In that moment, I knew everything would be okay.

Immediately after that song played, Tale as old as time from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came on. It was my favorite Disney tale as a child and still is to this day. Hearing that song brought back childhood memories of  Belle gliding across a frozen ice rink during Disney on Ice. I remembered the “magic mirror” my Mom bought for me as a souvenir. When you pushed a little button, the mirror face lit up and made the kind of noise that made me say “whooooaaaaaa!” everytime.

I thought about my daughter, Izzy. How awestruck she was after I took her to see the Broadway musical version of Beauty and the Beast at our local university. How she tells me, “Mommy, you’re just like Belle because you kind-of look like her and you like to read and you’re like a little weird.” To which I always tell her, “Mommy has worked very hard to be a little weird and since you’re my daughter, that makes you my little weirdo!”

As I wiped tears from my eyes, I thought of my son Dominic. His bright yellow and green, rainbow-loom bracelet adorned my wrist. I thought about him hand-pulling every rubber band through to make it. How superficially upset (but secretly happy) he would be to see me wearing his bracelet. Even though he’s at a sleepover and Izzy is with her amazing Aunty Kimmy, I needed to feel they were with me somehow. And I did.

Two blown intravenous lines and one moment of waking up mid-procedure later – it was time to go home. I overheard Dr. S tell my mom she found three polyps, removed them and sent them out for biopsies. Other than that, I was given a clean bill of health. Because of my colon cancer history, and Dr. S finding polyps, I’ll have to have another colonoscopy in three years rather than the five I was hoping for. But if it saves my life and removes any chance of my body developing cancer again, I’m certainly not complaining.

As soon as the polyp biopsy results come in, I’ll be certain to update everyone!

Thank you for reading, for sending prayers and love and support. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes community to combat cancer. Sending big love to you all!

~Amber xoxo

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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  

Celebrating Two Years Cancer Free

The day before yesterday, 12-12-16, was my Two-Year-Cancerversary. It was also Frank Sinatra’s Birthday. Lucky coincidence? I think not.

It’s been two years since a follow up colonoscopy, post chemo completion, deemed me cancer free. What a feeling 🙂strength

How did I spend the day celebrating? The night before I attended a Reiki share with some fellow Reiki practitioners. It left me feeling super charged and ready to take on the day Monday. My Cancerversary itself was spent outdoors in the snow, acting like a five-year-old with the best teacher: my five-year-old daughter Izzy.

We built a snowman, as she yelled at me to stop singing Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Not sure if it was my singing or her inner demolition queen but our snowman didn’t stay assembled long. The Madd Queen from Alice in Wonderland may as well have shouted “Off with His Head!” Because that’s exactly what my sweet, little Izzy did. Without haste she belly-flopped into the snowman. His mid-section was transformed into a powdery mist, his head airborn as it propelled toward my dog – an innocent bystandard caught in the midst of our snowtastrophe. After we made snow angels, our leggings were so caked over snow clumps we had no choice but to go in the house and change. .

Honoring the parts of my life that mean the most; quality time with my love bug being one of them

Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to be outside with either one of my children in Winter. The side effects of chemo made it impossible for me to touch anything below room temperature, about 65 degrees. On a cold day, even touching the glass slider that led out to the patio, would cause INTENSE pain in my fingertips.  Nevermind what going outside in the snow would have done to me.

I’m reminded of that every winter. The precious gift of life I have. The gifts of health, of strength, of family and the immense support and love of my friends and family. I’m reminded of what truly matters. The cold reminds me of how far I’ve come, of the mighty giant I battled and won. Winning isn’t everything though. It’s the lessons I took away from that battle more than anything that keep me grounded, that remind me to keep a grateful heart and never forget those who were there for me while I faced my darkest hour.

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#5WordsToCancer #StrongerThanCancerISurvived

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In one of my usual bouts of insomnia tonight (this morning?) I decided to scroll through my Instagram feed before studying for an exam I have in one of my classes.

If you’re reading this then you know I’m clearly hard at work…

blogging…

but I digress.

In the midst of my thumb swiping, I fell down the rabbit hole into the Instagram page for the I Had Cancer website. It’s a great social networking site for those of us affected in some way by cancer; be it survivor, relative of a cancer patient or someone mid-treatment. It’s also a kickass social platform for people to share their angst, victories and everyday battles with cancer. Our cancer journeys don’t end when treatment does. For many of us, it’s a lengthy journey to take back our life and what little control we have over it.

“I Had Cancer” has launched their #5wordstocancer campaign again. It got me thinking… What if cancer was this tangible entity I could write a letter to? What would I say? What would my five words to cancer be?

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Dear Cancer,

You may not remember me but I will never forget you.

We met, officially, in December of 2013. You’d been watching me for some time, though only you would know how long that was before we became acquainted. Was it months? Perhaps years?

I had an inkling something wasn’t right. I could feel your presence lingering around me, dropping hints, robbing my curves of their soft flesh for years, leaving behind a frame comparable to that of a pre-pubescent boy. 

When you made your debut into my life that summer (2013), you didn’t introduce yourself properly. You told me your name was stress. But what’s in a name right? So I reserved doubt about your true nature only for conversations with overly concerned family members. 

Apparently their concern was warranted.

By the time you revealed your true nature to me, you had already begun infesting my life from behind the scenes. My colon, my rectum, my lymph nodes. You were a literal pain in the ass. I thought major colon resection surgery was enough to evict your sorry ass from occupying my temple. But being the persistent little fucker you are, I was wrong. 

Too many lymph nodes were tainted by your indecency and overexposure to the healthy cells in my body. So you introduced me to Chemotherapy and Steroids. I hated all of you but I never questioned why you (Cancer) chose me. I never wondered why in all the healthy people of the world you wanted me. You’re a selfish prick, why not me?

 Your friend Chemo took my energy. The steroids brought insomnia, and also an unbelievably strong desire to rotate furniture and clean at 2 a.m. (Who would have guessed right?) My sleep patterns are still somewhat fucked.  Being the bully you are, you taunted me by letting my hair thin just enough to make me self-conscious, but not enough for anyone else (but my hairdresser) to notice. Guess what fucker? It grew back in twice as thick and healthier than ever. 

And my curves? They’re back too. In one year, I’ve gained more weight than I could have hoped for. I fit into my jeans in all the right places. My thighs are so sexy they can’t stop touching each other 🙂 I finally feel like the beautiful woman I am. The warrior. The survivor.

I should really be thanking you Cancer.

You brought me closer to my family. You’ve given me new found friendships that continue to change my life for the better. I’m inspiring those around me and taking better care of my mind and body than I ever thought I would. I’ve tapped into an inner strength that I didn’t even know existed. You tried to take it all from me, but in the end Cancer, all you did was give me everything.

I know there’s always that slim possibility we’ll meet again someday. Just know if we do, I’ll be ready for you. You’ve been warned.

Never or truly yours,

Amber

#StrongerThanCancerISurvived

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Rise and Shine Pumpkin!

I’m exhausted. What most (non-cancer having) people don’t know is that the effects of intensive chemotherapy treatments linger on for months and even years after treatment has ended.

I can remember picking up the phone to call my mother to ask her a quick question a few months ago. In the time it took for me to dial her number, let the phone ring and hear her answer…I forgot what I was going to ask her. Once we started talking I finally remembered what the question was. It was like that feeling you get when you walk into a room to get something – but completely forget what it was in the first place until you retrace your steps.

Usually big events or scheduled dates on the calendar I can remember. I also have literally about three calendars I plan everything on but I know my brain cells aren’t quite the same since chemo. Brain game apps are great training exercises and intense reading for work and school helps. But I still often wonder how much longer the effects will linger in my body.

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Fatigue is another thing that comes and goes. Sometimes I have energy for hours on end; cooking and cleaning, doing homework and running errands. Wake up at 4 to work out for two hours and then go home, get myself and my kiddos ready for our day.

Then there’s days like today when I’m wiped out. I have the motivation to do what I need to but lack the energy to follow through. Or maybe I give myself that jumpstart and motivational self talk to get my ass out of bed on time to get moving, but halfway through I lose the energy to get everything done. I also think I try to accomplish way too much in a day since it’s just me who’s here to do it.

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I also wonder if it’s the chemo, being a single mom of two high-energy munchkins or a combo of the two.

Either way, right now I need to get my ass in gear and get these babes of mine up and ready for another busy day.

Happy hump day!!!

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.

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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.

 

 

Arrivederci!

There’s something about the giant, sterile, surgical light that hovers above you in the surgery room. Whether it’s minor surgery or major, it doesn’t matter. Seeing that lamp sent me into a panic.

I was fine when I checked in to have my port removed. Fine sitting there as the nurse came and checked my vital signs and then escorted me into the room where minor surgery is performed. My surgeon, “Dr. D”, went about preparing what he needed to open me up and literally cut out my chemotherapy port-a-cath.

Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a "post port removal" selfie :)
Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a “post port removal” selfie 🙂

I started breathing heavy, hot tears flushed down my face…and I had just laid back onto the surgical bed. The nurse took my hand as Dr. D started prepping my skin, adding the dressing to the area that isolated the spot where he needed to remove good old “Penny”. He hadn’t even applied local anesthetic and I was quickly losing my composure.

Thank goodness my surgeon is the smartass that he is. The first needle was nothing. I’ve had blood draws taken that were far worse. I didn’t know he was going to inject about four or five more (possibly more, I lost count after the fourth injection).

It felt like someone was digging around, underneath my skin, with a miniature hot poker. Dr. D says to the nurse “Would you call that a whine or a whimper?” And when I wasn’t laughing he told me it was time to start manning up! Believe it or not, his sarcasm put me at ease.

Dr. D isn’t the type of doctor to coddle his patients. Tough love maybe but it’s the kind of attitude I grew up with and the reason why I probably got through my cancer treatments with such an optimistic attitude. It’s the “suck it up buttercup” mentality that allowed me to say “Okay, I’ve got cancer, what do I have to do to kick its’ ass ad move on with my life?”

He got me to calm down, that and a combination of the local anesthetic kicking in. I started taking slow, deep breaths and made small talk about my munchkins with the nurse.

I was done about ten minutes after Dr. D opened up the port site.

245b6a3786bfe4aaf8a939164f3d1bf5On the way out, the nurse asked me if I wanted to give a single finger salute. I said “What? No, I really like Dr. D” After bursting into laughter, she said “I didn’t mean to Dr. D, I was talking about your port!”

I looked over toward my surgeon and saw it there on the counter next to him. In a little plastic, specimen collection jar was my chemotherapy port.

That part of my life, for the most part,is over now.

A new journey begins…