We're in Breckenridge, Colorado now and I'm finally feeling normal... not winded and woozy from elevation.
But that's the price you pay to see this beautiful world up here!
Hiking Again... in Oklahoma
This isn't the first time I've hiked, since my cancer surprise a year ago. Last October, Don and I spent a week in Lake Tahoe, during my window between chemo and radiation.
I remember what it felt like when I took my first light hike. I had to admit, it wasn't just elevation, then. "I guess I'm not as normal as I thought," I huffed. It bothered me to recognize that chemo was still affecting me, when I thought I was all "healed."
Last week, we started our drive west and detoured, for a hike in Oklahoma. Not exactly a challenging elevation, but it was over 8 miles and steep and rocky at times. It felt good to suddenly say, "Now, I'm myself again!"
June 18, 2016 & June 18, 2017
This morning, Don and I woke early and hiked on a trail outside of Breckenridge. The trail began with stone steps and we laughed at the rustic stair master.
It wasn't a huge climb, but the elevation of over 9,000 got my heart pumping. My legs began to burn and the dry air had me sniffling. It felt wonderful. On this day a year ago, I was in the hospital having a lumpectomy. No complaints today!
No reason to look back and compare, anymore. What's next?
I don't know, but I kind of like the whimsical look of the balls (with people inside) floating on Maggie Pond, outside of our hotel. We'll see.
I'm growing weary of this lack of control. I've never dealt with curls and I'm at a loss.
The gray wasn't bad when my hair was short, but now, I look like a sweet granny with my gray-funky-style!
What can I control?
I have no control over the curls, unless I want to chop them off. But, it took me 7 months to get this far. I decided to look into changing the one thing I can control... the color.
I got this dandy (and cheap) bottle of Fanci-Full, because it washes out. I've never dyed my hair at home, so I thought it would be fun to experiment.
It was fun and only a little messy.
But I couldn't see a change at all! I tried the next day with a more generous amount. Forget it.
I look a little sad in this photo yesterday. I was really just snapping a "before" photo. I was excited to have Christina guide me with some options for color and to give me a tiny bit of a trim.
I couldn't have felt in better hands. Christina took all the time in the world to look at color samples with my skin and eyes. She knew my chemo hair might have issues with taking the color, but she gave me such support. I was ready to go.
Where'd my curls go?
Here I am with a different look. I'm sure I won't have the patience to blow out all those curls like Christina did, but at least I know it can be done now.
My gray is gone for now. I wish I'd felt content enough to keep it, but I was so ready for a change. I'm going to enjoy this for a while.
Books and a Bear
I hated finals as a student, but I was always happy after the last one was finished. Today I had my final exam with my radiation doctor and I was eager to get it behind me.
It was my 6 month follow up after radiation ended. I was sort of surprised when I was told no follow up appointment was needed. I was done. That was a nice and odd feeling.
I checked out and asked the nurse if she knew of a good place to donate cancer related books and magazines. I wanted to share some of the things that had been helpful to me. She showed me their basket and I filled it. At the last moment I decided to add the little bear to the basket. The stuffed Care Bear had been a gift and I had planned on passing it along at some point.
Suddenly this seemed like the perfect place. When I tucked the bear in next to the books, I heard a voice behind me. I turned saw this dear woman smiling and pointing at the bear. "Would you like it?" I asked. She grinned and nodded. I wasn't sure how well the woman understood English, but I tried to explain that I wanted her to have the gift that I had received. She couldn't thank me enough. I told her I would share the photo with Bonnie, who sent the bear to me. And I did.
So today, I passed my final exam. This impromptu bear adoption brought perfect closure to my year!
June 3, 2017 - Today is the Day
I didn't know there was such a day, but today is it. I don't love that survivor term, so I don't have much desire to celebrate it.
But my friend, Terri enlightened me. We met up for an event on Friday.
Healing Through Art
Friday morning Terri texted, "Want to check this out?" I thought she was kidding, since we both share the same reluctance about flaunting our Cancer Survivor status.
But I looked again and liked the theme of the event. Terri's an artist and we both have our own programs that help others through the arts. Why not?
Meeting at the Hospital
A few hours later, Terri greeted me in the hospital lobby with a hug. I was tempted to "skip school" and drag her off to have a 3 hour lunch instead. But we bravely moved towards the exuberant staff, dressed in pink. A few giggled and did can-can kicks as we walked by. We were handed name tags and given free goodie bags, before moving into the conference room.
We slapped on our name tags and Terri turned to greet me, with only a hint of smile. "Hi, my name is Survivor." We sat at a round table and introduced ourselves to 2 others, before using our gift pens to write our real names.
The tables filled as a slideshow of photos and affirmations, played on 2 screens. Below one of the screens, a young man played some "welcoming music" on a keyboard. It sounded like we were gearing up for a church service.
A while later, the young man's smooth voice began to sing, a hymn like piece, about Jesus guiding us with our disease... or something of that sort. Suddenly, I really felt like I was in church and I was 13, trying to keep from looking at my friend, to avoid giggles. This is serious. I reminded myself. I sobered myself by studying the table decoration. A paint can with flowers and paint brushes. That was cute.
Speakers, Food and Lots of Celebration
A number of different people spoke, encouraging cheers and applause for cancer survival. Special guest, Miss Houston 2015, painted a tree with leaves and "ribbons", as music played. At one point, the Cancer Survivors were asked to stand. I wish I could have whooped and fist bumped Terri, but I was feeling like a moody teen. I didn't roll my eyes like a teen, but I did eye the standing group of about 30. And I pondered.
Was this emotionally hard for some? Embarrassing? No one looked ill or new to cancer. Where were the people with chemo curls, like mine? Am I not really a survivor yet? It's only been a year since diagnosis. But we were told, you are a survivor the day you're diagnosed. Whatever. This survivor label is odd and I don't quite want to be in this club.
As we moved into our second hour, I hoped to hear more about healing through art restoration therapy. I'm no longer so focused on my own healing, but would love to help others. Terri and I have both been open to this and had hoped to leave with some ideas. Instead, we left with Cancer Coloring Books. I'm afraid that didn't thrill me. Maybe this is just bad timing, but it's now been a year since my world began revolving around cancer. Unless I'm helping others, I'm ready to not think about it! Coloring the words Cancer and Hope doesn't sound healing or appealing to me.
Am I a Cancer Snob? I sound like it. But really, I'm just uncomfortable. The term survivor sounds like I've fought a huge battle and survived. My battle was small compared to most. Yes, I'm worthy to be in the club with those who fought harder than me. But the survivor group is a huge one that I'm supposed to feel bonded with. I've always had a hard time cheering with a group of people I don't know well. Whether it's in a church or a concert arena, I feel silly throwing my hands up along with the crowds. I just don't know if I'm comfortable in this Club of Survivors.
After the 2-hour program we were invited to take Survivor photos with the frame. They also wanted a group photo of all the survivors. Terri and I were close to sneaking out the door.
It felt like we were the bad Girl Scouts... too cool for school. But we headed over and stood up tall and smiled through the big white frame. I'm glad to have a picture of me with my buddy, who paved the way in this breast cancer thing. We clicked years ago, before cancer. We connected through art programs and now we connect even more because of our common experience.
Before rushing out, Terri and I did join in with the group photo. We left, chuckling and shaking our heads. Our meet up with other Cancer Survivors shouldn't have been a hard thing to process. But we both drove home through rain, feeling a little confused. I got a text later saying, "I think we're just closet survivors." I think we are. I'm not sure how much of my reluctance is with the word survivor and how much is about being labeled anything at all. But we're planning to work on this together. We'll see if these Closet Survivors come out.
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast CANCER and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. This time it was the invasion of COVID and it affected every person. I ranted for a year, until I got my COVID vaccine in March 2021.
CORONARY Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was my hubby Don, who was dealing with a worry that started with the letter "C".
Coronavirus and Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease! All are evil, but none can totally get me down... if I vent! I usually end up feeling a little more positive at the end of each post!
Navigating This Mess!
The most recent post is at the top, from coronary posts in 2022, back to cancer posts in 2016.
To find past posts, look below the "Archives" section, to find "Categories".