It’s been 5 months since our #TranscendCancer journey began. My first post was in May, after we found out about the diagnosis of Bien’s prostate cancer, but the journey really began months prior to that when we learned of his elevated PSA levels. From that moment, we’ve been living in the “unknown”. First the unknown of why the levels were elevated, then the unknown of the 2nd set of blood work, followed by the unknown of the biopsy result, on to the unknown of whether or not the cancer was present outside the prostate, then onto the questions about what treatment would look like, followed by the unknown of how we were going to pay for all of this, having an insurance policy that did not touch cancer…..moving into the unknown of what would transpire in surgery – to now, sitting in the waiting room at Mayo Clinic, waiting to see the doctor to give us the pathology results one week after surgery.
And here is what he told us, “It’s worse than we thought. The cancer is an aggressive and dangerous type, a pathological T3B that invaded the seminal vesicle on the left side.”
As a person who prides herself on being fairly intuitive, I missed the mark with this one. I held Brien’s hand on the way to Mayo telling him, “I’m confident everything is just fine – this cancer journey is over.” He, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. In fact – his intuition told him otherwise….so much so that we burned sage through the house after a terrible dream he had last night. He knew.
For at least the next two years, we will be at the mercy of routine bloodwork, testing the PSA levels for any sign of the cancer returning. At our first meeting (with a different doctor), we were told that the removal of the prostate would ensure 100% that the cancer would be gone. Before surgery, we were told that the surgery gave us 85% assurance the cancer would be gone. Today we were told that there is a high chance it will come back…50/50.
Although it feels like I just got punched in the stomach, I have a glimmer of clarity through this. Our new norm is living in the unknown, and when we are in the unknown, we are forced to be in the “now”. There is simply no way we can go the next two years waiting and wondering. So, our plan? Relax, enjoy life and take it as it comes. Isn’t this the way we should always roll anyways?
If you really want to know, not great. “How are you” – it’s such an every day question. One that typically comes with the same response, “Good, how are you?” If you know me, you know I’m a pretty straight shooter and certainly not one who goes for small talk. But most are still seemingly surprised when I give my honest answer of, “Not great” or “I’m falling apart at the seams.” In fact, most seem to not know how to respond. We are so conditioned to our rote conversations that anything outside of “good” seems to be a foreign language.
It’s the middle of the day on a Wednesday and I have a mile long list of things I should be doing including “taking time for me” – as I have repeatedly been instructed to do by my true blue’s. So here I am, writing away my thoughts and feelings in hopes of some reprieve.
Brien’s surgery is Monday….5 days from now. Logically, it will all be ok. He will go in, they will put him under, remove his prostate and the cancer along with it. He will wake up, take some time to heal and we will have our rock of the household back, cancer free. This is the scenario my logical brain follows. But once my heart starts getting involved, the scenario changes.. You see, on the human side of things, we have a situation that has changed everything. Anytime you throw the big C into the mix,, emotions run high. Medical needs change, relationships change and let’s face it, the entire dynamic that “was, no longer “is”. All of the “What If’s” play out like rapid fire constantly. My heart literally breaks on a daily basis at the sheer thought of the fear my husband must be experiencing right now. Every move we make to “prepare” feels like a game of Russian roulette.
In the midst, we have a business to run and it happens to be a highly involved one that doesn’t allow us to pause (think deadlines). The kids started school today – my boy’s last year before high school and I felt like a cloud hovered over this day that would have made me emotional in and of itself.
I try not to hide my cloud, which is why I’m honest when people ask me how I’m doing. It’s been months since I’ve said, “Good, how are you?” Yet, I feel somewhat guilty answering truthfully. Every time I do, I seem to get that “deer in the headlight look”. I can practically read their minds; “Oh crap, what do I say, what do I do?”
How do I know what they’re thinking? I’ve been on the other end. I’ve been on the other side of someone struggling and it IS uncomfortable. That feeling of wanting to help, wanting to say the right thing but just drawing a blank. It doesn’t feel good to be on that side of things either.
So for everyone who I’ve recently encountered – you simply asking, smiling, hugging, joking or being kind – it’s enough, and it’s appreciated.
My very closest friends keep telling me, “don’t be afraid to ask” so here is my request:
- Positive thoughts and energy
- Prayers for strength and healing
- Compassion & understanding
- Love & kindness
If everyone who reads this shares these 4 things- even from afar, I am confident we will have all we need to get through this experience. And for my besties who are holding my hand every step of the way, you have no idea how much I appreciate and love you.
Thanks for loving us. We love you back.
It’s that time again. The therapeutic time to write from a vulnerable and transparent place. Why do I do it? Because it’s cathartic, and because many of our beloved friends have been asking for an update.
To each person who has continued to reach out during this time, we cannot tell you how impactful it has been. Not one message, text, email or phone call goes unnoticed. Each one adds to the mounding strength we are needing to draw upon.
Prostate cancer is a tricky thing. Physically, Brien is fine. He really is not feeling any symptoms nor would anyone know he has cancer just by looking at him.
It’s the mental and emotional roller coaster that can take it’s toll. With the looming surgery date of August 7 just over a month away, things are getting real again.
I’m a busy gal…always have been. I get more busy when I don’t want to focus on something. Some people eat, some people drink, some people check out completely. Me…I “do”. So if I seem extra busy right now, you can understand why. The thing about it is – all the busyness in the world can’t change what is on our plate right now. So I find myself in unchartered territories. I can’t “busy” my way out of this one.
Fortunately, food, alcohol and checking out don’t work for me either, so I guess I have but one choice – to be present, to accept our situation and to pull that strength from deep within. Not only for myself, but for my family who is all going through this too.
Brien is my hero. I can’t even imagine how scary this must be for him. Just having cancer is enough, but the fact that he lost his wife (and daughter) 14 years ago to cancer must create some intense emotions. You would never know it though. He continues to be the emotional rock of our household. He is working diligently to ensure that everything will be taken care of when he is out for surgery. And you know what? I haven’t heard him complain once. He’s taken blow for blow this year but continues to uplift me and our family, reassuring us all that everything will be ok. So for everyone asking how Brien is doing….he is amazing, true rock star status.
There you have it, my update in a nutshell. I can say one thing about this journey; I am learning so much about myself….my strengths, my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities – so many blind spots unveiled. And as for what I’m learning about Brien? Well, I always knew he was incredible, but I now know without a doubt, (thank you Jerry McGuire) – he completes me. Even through his own trials, he is helping me grow and become a more real version of me. My knight in shining armor will be just fine, because he has to be.
A dear friend of mine, someone who I connect with at a soul level, told me to keep writing….every thought, every emotion. Well, I’m not sure if can get everything down as these thoughts and emotions run deep, but I do find it therapeutic to journal the journey.
I’m not the one with cancer. It’s something that should feel like a relief, yet it’s quite the contrary. I feel guilty at times for the toll it’s taking on me. This is my husband – he needs the love and support, yet I feel like a walking lunatic many days. Plain and simple, it’s unconditional love. Like my children, he is a part of me. He owns a large portion of my heart and soul. I have that longing to do anything to help and comfort him through this process, yet I am helpless. Prayers, pleads, bargains – all the stuff you never imagine yourself doing as an adult with the ONE in charge, they are real. Always wanting and trying to control things has finally proven to be pointless. I have zero control and no choice in any of this. There it is, that darn lesson that has been hitting me over the head ever since I can remember.
Any time I have taken my husband for granted in the past 11 years is now a regret. Sometimes it takes something big to realize how much you really have. Those little external things that tend to rile me up just don’t have the same power anymore. Nothing holds the same importance as my family. Mama Bear here has two kids trying to make sense of all this too. Mama knows that this experience has changed us all forever. The power now is in gratitude, hope and faith.
And boy have people surprised me. The love and support have been surreal. True colors are blinding. I am in tears every time I get a message from someone just checking on us – offering unconditional support. And then there are the jerks- they are real too, but you know what? They have their own crap. Lord knows I can be a jerk too. We humans have the tendency to get stuck in our own mud and forget that our brothers and sisters are often in four wheel drive themselves.
As much as I would like for the world to pause so we can just take this all in, it doesn’t. Responsibilities are real as ever, but so is the strength we have been blessed with. At the age of 43, I finally feel like a real grown up, experiencing the real world, thankfully surrounded by real, unconditional love.
Two weeks ago we heard the dreaded words, “It’s prostate cancer.” Over the last 14 days we continued the waiting game that had already been going on for what felt like an eternity.
It started with elevated PSA levels in January. After my incessant nagging and finally a call from the matriarch, Judy (yes, I pulled out the big guns and “told on” Brien to his Mom), Brien scheduled the Free PSA test. There was a 2 week waiting period for those results. A level of 7, prompted the scheduling of a biopsy – which was yet another 2 week waiting period. Brien had the biopsy and you guessed it, we had to wait another 2 weeks for the results. On May 1, we learned of the prostate cancer.
So here we are, two weeks later again. Today’s appointment was to learn what the scans showed….did the cancer spread or was it contained to the prostate?
We are beyond blessed to learn it has not spread. Although there is a good amount of cancer in the prostate, it is localized to this gland and can be removed.
And so, another waiting period begins. This time we wait for the scheduling of surgery. Although today’s results left us in another whirlwind of emotions, I know one thing….my husband has a positive prognosis or as the doctor put it, “the results are favorable.” As usual, my mind goes to the big picture of things – but this time it goes to envisioning him walking our daughter down the aisle, giving our son parenting tips, and holding my hand for many, many years to come.
We are blessed. #Transcend Cancer
There is no room for hate….period. Hate is destructive, hate is a cancer in and of itself. Hate is a word we don’t even allow our kids to use in the home. Hate is contempt of the heart.
I know that I write this in the early stages of Brien’s diagnosis, but we have decided to welcome this journey as a way to transcend. This is not something we are looking to fight because when you fight you have a 50/50 chance to either win or loose. If we are open to growth, we never loose. A dear friend of mine and owner of New Direction Coaching, Linda McCarthy reminded me that everything that comes into our lives, comes to serve us. Everything we are faced with is an opportunity to expand our soul.
So do I have moments of anger about cancer? Absolutely! But I can be angry without hate. Brien and I have made a decision that we would rather Transcend Cancer, than fight cancer. We are not going to win or loose, we are going to grow. Will you join us in our journey to Transcend Cancer?
Huge thank you to Bill Windish at Gecko Grafix for the awesome logo.
I write this in blog format because I figure if you take the time to click on and read the blog, we are likely close enough for this to matter. Some have asked, “Why this way? I was shocked you shared via a blog.” Here’s my answer to that….there are so many out there who I know care and who I know will join us in prayer. I simply don’t have the energy to call or text every person I know who will join us on this journey. I believe in the power of positive, collective energy as well as prayer – so anyone taking this journey with us with those intentions is welcome and appreciated.
We know Brien has cancer. We know the doctor feels 99% confident that it has not spread. Brien is having the scans and tests to confirm that. If the doctor is right (and I believe he is), this cancer can be cured.
We are holding on to that and we are loving and supporting Brien every step of the way.
Thank you for all the kind comments on my previous blog. Thank you for the array of love and support on the FB post. Thank you for the private messages, texts and phone calls. Thank you for all of the advice. Thank you to my amazing neighbor for marching over here with a homemade banana bread, giving me a hug and letting me cry. Thank you for walking with us and not judging us for our method of communicating or handling this.
We feel your love and support. Brien is ridiculously strong right now. I know he will #TrasnscendCancer.
In this journey of life everything can change in an instant.
One minute you can be fretting about the most insignificant stuff like if the kids cleaned their rooms and the next minute be hit with life-changing news.
Today we found out that my husband has prostate cancer. Right now, the only thing that matters is him and our family.
My husband is the bravest, strongest person I know and would never ask for anything from anybody. And so in this moment where I don’t know if I’m going or coming, I find myself doing something I’m not comfortable doing either and that is asking you for something. I ask you, whoever is reading this, for support, love and prayers. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Teaching Yoga brings me joy. It is a light in my world that is filled by helping others and connecting with people from a very vulnerable place. Teaching has helped me grow in ways that my personal Yoga practice could not. Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- Our mood and energy penetrate the class. Regardless of how hard we try to put on our “teaching hats” – students can feel where we are at spiritually and emotionally.
- Yoga Groupies are real. These individuals latch on to teachers and create cliques. These folks put teachers on pedestals but will just as easily kick them down and replace them with the new “flavor of the month.”
- We teachers need to beware of the Groupies and avoid involvement at all costs. Even when we are on the pedestals.
- We gain just as much from teaching a class as students do from attending.
- Teaching a class is therapeutic and can turn the day around in an instant.
- Not all students are “friends”. It is ok to have a teacher/student relationship and set proper boundaries accordingly.
- Real, genuine connections can be made in the Yoga room – but it must come from an authentic place.
- Many teachers compete with each other. Even if we want nothing to do with it and know this is the farthest thing from what yoga should be about – it is real, and very unhealthy.
- Expectations are high of teachers. Because we offer guidance during the hour of class, we are often expected to be saints in every area at all times.
- We are not saints and we are not perfect. We are human beings experiencing the same ups and downs of life as everyone else.
I love teaching. I love the lessons it has taught me. I love each person who reads this and understands it is coming from a wide open space. Truth is important. I find it to be a necessity to always live and speak the truth.
Have you ever been wronged? Of course you have, it’s part of the human experience. Since we’ve all been there, we all know what it feels like – the pain, the anger, the helplessness. It’s what we decide to do with it that defines our character. It’s what we decide to do with it that determines whether it will hurt us or ultimately help us grow.
Integrity can be a bitch. That north pointing moral compass is a tricky thing to manage. We must always discern just how far we are willing to go for what is right. My spirit animal is a bear. I have that relentless fighter in me – the one that has a very hard time turning a blind eye to injustice. This can be a curse or a blessing, depending on how it is used. I’ve always know that things might be easier if I just didn’t give a damn. But that’s just not who I am. I do give a damn. That probably will never change.
And so here I am – on the other side of a string of situations that rattled me to my core. I was faced with matters that tarnished my soul and I was slowly transforming into someone I didn’t want to be. Feeling like an alien in my own skin, I slowly started unraveling – I didn’t know how to come back. So I prayed….. for direction, for wisdom for a sign – any sign!
The sign came, the wisdom came. Like a fast moving roller coaster, I started putting one foot in front of the other. My bear came out, and I fought for what I knew to be right. On the surface, it may look like I lost. The career that defined so much of my life is over. The people and places that I loved, suddenly swept away. Income, gone. I’m in the middle of what feels like a bipolar emotional episode, yet there is one thing that is very clear; I did the right thing, so I won.
Through all these crazy emotions, I choose peace. I choose love. I choose light. Do I still feel anger and sadness? Absolutely. But it’s the vengeance and retaliation that I’m steering clear of because it is THESE things that take me from winning to loosing.
So I’m ready to scream from the top of a mountain; I WIN! My integrity is something no one can take away. And you know what? I am one blessed girl. I have friends filling me up with more support and love than I thought humanly possible. I have a family holding my hand as I journey on and find my new way. I have a soul that is clearing out the tarnish and reconnecting with my truth.
And so to close this chapter, I send love & light to my former employer. I send out to the Universe an open heart for what is yet to come. I send the most sincere and humble thank you to my friends and family.
It is time for the bear to hibernate now and transcend the bullshit. It is time for this girl to be free.