Monday, July 25, 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles! aaaaaaannnd Ships... :)

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of the unknown.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my choices to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more determined to overcome;
to loosen my chains
until they become a gentle embrace,
a comfort, a support.
I choose to be present,
to live so that which came to me encased in a cocoon
goes to the next as a butterfly,
and that which came to me as a butterfly,
goes on as the bearer of my love.

This is a poem that I wrote a while back when I was taking a writing course for those whose lives have been affected by Breast Cancer.  At the time I wrote this I was beginning to come full circle from the standpoint of early diagnosis when I did not believe I would ever be able to feel happy and content again to almost a year later when for the first time I realized that my life was not over.  There is still so much I want and can do.  I have now moved into acceptance and it has brought me a surprising sense of peace.  I know that one day my body will eventually succumb to the cancer lurking inside it, but until that happens I will live each day fully and will do my best to love my friends and family so well that hopefully my presence will continue to thrive and bloom through memories of our time together.  I thought it was an appropriate time to share this poem with all of you because this has been a summer with much to celebrate! 
What are we celebrating??  Well, for the first time since my diagnosis last July 2015 my PET scan showed that I am currently NED!  That means:  No Evidence of Disease
For stage IV cancer patients we know that NED is only temporary.  One day my cancer will progress.  It does mean, however,  that for now my cancer is in a deep sleep, not spreading and this is definitely something to celebrate.  NED is a little different than stable.  Stable means that they still see areas of active cancer but perhaps it's smaller or shrinking.  Or, maybe it's still the same as it was before but nothing has changed.  NED means they do not see any evidence of active cancer.  So, my medications are working brilliantly for the moment.  We have no idea how long this will last so we're going to take advantage of the time I do get and treasure every single moment!  This is just a gentle reminder that I am not Cancer free.  I will never be in full remission.  There will be progression at some point.  But, not today!  :) 
The second thing we are celebrating this summer is the big silver anniversary.  Yes, my husband and I are celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary this year.  Last year I was afraid I wouldn't see this day.  This year I am not only celebrating that I am here for this one but also because my oncologist believes that there is a very good possibility for many more.  I sure hope so. 
My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in a big, big way.  We went on a 12 day cruise through beautiful Alaska.  Our first stop was the beautiful city of Vancouver where we got on our ship. 

Lookie, Lookie!  There's our ship:  The Celebrity Millenium

Our vacation continued with a stop in Ketchikan, The Icy Strait, Juneau and finally Seward.  From there we went on a 4 day land tour to see even more.  By the end I was exhausted, had swollen feet and nearly had to crawl home on all fours.  But, it was so worth the trouble.  We saw whales, eagles, bears, glaciers...  we rode in boats, planes, trains, buses and taxis...  we did it all...  and we loved it all...  but mostly we loved...  being together. 
What a precious memory to have shared all of these beautiful moments with the man I love.  My best friend.  He takes such good care of me and I so wanted to be able to give him the gift of my presence. 

I hope we get to do more of these trips together.  But, even if we don't, I couldn't have planned anything more perfect for our 25th. 
I really wish I could share each and every wonderful moment of our vacation with you but to be honest, the entire trip was absolutely perfect. The weather was warm and gorgeous and clear every single day.  A photographers dream in Alaska.  Here is my man behind the other woman in his life..  CANON...  lol... 

Every outing, every stop and every meal was a memorable event. It was almost as if someone somewhere had carved out these few weeks just for us. It was full of rare and memorable moments not only for us but for those around us.

It was as if the powers that be realized that we'd been through enough hell over the last few years and decided to grant us a reprieve. And, we were grateful for every moment of happiness we gained together on this trip. It was needed so badly and it was very healing.  It reminded me of another poem I wrote in our class:   

Healing is
Difficult but not impossible
It takes great courage and strength

Healing is
Accepting the Unacceptable
To continue living when it seems pointless

Healing is
Realizing you've never truly lived
Life is more visible now

Healing is
Knowing that you still have worth
You are able to still give, share and love

Healing is
Understanding your true purpose
Life is not ending, It is only changing

During our trip we had a conversation that I'd like to share with all of you.  Basically we asked each other, "Would we be sitting in Alaska right now if I had not been diagnosed with stage IV Breast Cancer last year?"  The answer is...  probably not.  If it's possible to have a silver lining to my diagnosis, then that is it without a doubt.  We have made a commitment to stop waiting to do those things we really want to do together.  If there is somewhere we want to go we will go now.  There is no we'll do that someday...  only, let's do it now!  I want to let people know how extremely important it is to take advantage of the present.  I know that I am going to die sooner than I want.  I have motivation that those who live not knowing the when or the how do not have.  And, in some ways I do feel lucky, because I do not want to waste any more time.  I wish that everyone would take time to stop and do the things that they dream of doing.  Because as I've said many times before, we are all terminal.  No one knows how much life lies ahead for them.  So, start living today!!  Please don't wait... 
We are both in a pretty good place right now.  We have accepted what we cannot change and are trying to make the best play we can out of the horrible hand of cards we've been dealt.  I will never have my old self back entirely, but cancer will not take my perseverance to live despite what it has taken from us both.  And, I will strive to be happy and not allow it to take my spirit.  It's so easy to throw up your hands and say, what's the point?  Well, for me the point is to leave something good behind.  Good memories, happy moments and a whole lot of love! 

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