Thursday, July 26, 2012


I found my first breast cancer lump in January of 2007.  That's the day I became a Warrior, with a capital "W".  Here are two definitions of Warrior.

a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier.
a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.

I certainly engaged in warfare.  I was at war with my own body, and after gathering intel on the enemy, researching the best weapons, and recruiting  my army (of doctors and supporters),  I charged into battle.  I charged into the battle of my life - a battle to save my life.

At times, I was filled with fear.  Fear of death, certainly, but also fear of the battle itself.  How hard would it be to fight, as I became injured, sick, and fatigued.  How long could I sustain my courage, while I poisoned my body over and over, had surgery after surgery, and even willingly submitted myself to radiation?  How long could I remain aggressive, while I lay sick, recovering from all those poisons- while I lay in pain, recovering from all those surgeries- while I lay asleep, recovering from the fatigue, caused not only by the radiation, but also by the many medicines, which were my weapons?

But, again, I was truly a Warrior with a capital "W", and I fought with the goal of conquering the enemy, that cancer that was trying to kill  me: stealthy, sneaky.  And, I did conquer the enemy.

I won the battle.  But, as it turned out, I did not win the war.

Today, as a woman  with metastatic breast cancer, I am now an experienced warrior, but no longer a warrior with a capital "W".  I am no longer a soldier on a short term mission to conquer the enemy, but a fatigued fighter, trudging along in enemy territory, fighting not to be conquered myself.  I am on the defensive, now.

The capital "W" Warrior was on the offensive, seeking out the murderous enemy, aiming to kill it, to drive it away forever.  This new warrior, the one that is not capitalized, is on the defensive, aiming to protect myself, my life, though I am now behind enemy lines.  For the enemy has made advances.

I still have my army, those whom I trust to fight alongside me, until my war is over.  My weapons change, as the enemy, cancer, learns how to outsmart them, and even as my own weapons cause their own harm to me, as occasionally, I become a victim of "friendly fire".  But, I have many weapons, many ways to keep the enemy at bay, and each time the enemy, cancer moves in, I will find another, different weapon to fend it off for a little longer.

This battle is forever, not short term, like the first one.  And this battle, will eventually, surely end with my death.  One day, the enemy, cancer will win.  But, being a warrior, even a defensive warrior, I will not give up.  Through triumphs and failures, gains and losses, moments when I am the conqueror and moments when I am the conquered, I will continue to fight.  Daily, I will put on my armor, pick up my weapons, gather my army around me, call on my God, and I will fight.

And, even though I have lost my capital "W", I will remain a warrior.  I will continue to fight.  I will play when I have energy.  I will sleep when I am fatigued, and I will love always.  And, because I will do these things while I can - whether it is for two years or twelve - in the end, even when the enemy, cancer finally wins this final, long fought battle, perhaps, just perhaps, I will have still won the war.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Great Thing I Did on July 14, 2012

I just want the world to know, that this metastatic breast cancer patient took her Girl Scout troop camping and hiked over three miles!  I almost "died", but thanks to my girls, my brother, nephew, sister-in-law, and mom, I  triumphed over cancer at least for this one weekend!

This was the most horrible hike ever!  It was a 45 minute hike that took me two hours!  Families passed us on their way up to a waterfall, played there, and then passed us on their return back - all while my group was still on the way up.  I cried 2/3 of the way there, sure I would never make it.  And, that was only one way!

But, I did!  This picture is shortly after I burst into tears (for the second time), but these tears were triumphant, for I had reached the treasure, the beautiful waterfall - the second largest in Southern California!

My troop (the one in the glasses is my daughter), and my brother and nephew (Boy Scouts), who made the trip possible.  Thank you, everyone!

And, believe it or not, I am planning a return trip in a couple weeks.  Minus the hike.  This time, I will play in the nearby creek and be just fine with that!

Missing the Gray Hairs

It's really cute. My husband, with blond hair that I would love on me but hate on him (envy is a bad thing), is just starting to gray. You almost can't tell, unless the light shines on it just perfectly, because his hair is so light.

I started graying in my very early thirties, against very dark hair, so I have been waiting for him to finally join me - he is almost 52.

I think he might be one of those men who are blond one day, and then, all of a sudden, you notice he has this great gray/white mane, that just snuck up when you weren't looking - because it will just blend in until he's all done.

I wonder how he'll look. I wonder if I'll be alive to find out. How can something as simple as a few gray hairs bring such sadness? 

It's knowing there is a future I will be missing. With my husband, I thought I would be missing empty nest vacations, dinners for two at a clean dining room table. Holiday visits, when the kids would come over with their kids.

And, it will be all these things. I just didn't know I would miss seeing his hair turn gray. I didn't know how sad I would be to miss that little thing. I'm not sure how to grieve "gray hair".

Gray hair is a clock - it keeps the time, shows where the past is becoming the future. Not on a wall, not on a piece of jewelry, but on a person. Shows how the future is coming, and I may not be here for it.

We all die. I know there are many things I will miss. But, it is oh so hard, when I know what those things are, that I will miss. And, when I think I have grieved for all the things I surely will miss, I am surprised to find, there are even more things.

Simple things, like a few gray hairs.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The emotional effects of remaining poor

This is the rant that resulted from my last post-

I know I shouldn't dwell. But, I do. Every day - every single day, I worry about finances. I hate the fact that I will never have the opportunity to "get ahead".

I hate the fact that I am thinking about adding hours to my work schedule, because I need to get health insurance, need to make more money, but am afraid to make more, because I have to remain poor to remain a live - unless that money is from hours that get me insured.

I hate that I can't afford to actually leave my job and just relax and take care of myself, while I fight my cancer, and that I will have to work until I'm almost dead, because once I receive my retirement, I will not qualify for my govt. insurance.

I hate that I can not afford to do anything on my bucket list (except get my house clean - and really, how exciting is that?)

I hate that I am so afraid and worried all the time. All the time. All the time!

Cancer Keeps Me Poor

As I write this, I am looking at a notice from SSI, stating that they have overpaid me apx. $1,800 between Nov. 2011 and Mar. 2012.  I think they expect me to pay it back.

Today, 7/2/12, I have $500 in the bank (and no income until Oct.), and apx. $400 in bills that I pay, per month.  This does not include gas for my car, my car payment (which gets a two month hiatus, and will become due again, in Sept.), nor does it include one fun thing - such as a dinner out (or order in), a movie rental (because we can not afford to go out to the actual movies).  Nor, does it include summer tutoring for my children.

In the fall, when I return to work, my monthly bills will raise, because I have a few debts that take a summer hiatus, along with my paycheck.  I help my husband during his slow months, and by May, I will have "caught up" enough to start saving, and I will receive my last paycheck in June (except, maybe a teeny partial paycheck in July to help get me through the summer, where once again, I will receive no income, but still have bills)

My husband, who owns his own business, makes just enough to pay the bills he pays (we separate them), juggling between paying business expenses and household expenses.  During the summer, when he is finally making more, he covers my bills, after I run out of money.  He struggles during his slow winters, and I struggle during my slow summers.

We seriously, eek by.  Year after year after year.

When I started my part-time job in 2006, I thought I was going to start saving money.  Instead, I have incurred new and bigger debts (which is the norm, I believe).  Some debts have been forced upon me, and some, I'll admit, I have contracted willingly, but for important reasons. They are pretty major debts,but they are over the course of six years, and some have been paid off.. Some debts, I have absorbed from my husband, to help him out.

I expected to move from my part-time position to a fuller work schedule, but got cancer four months later starting my job.  Fortunately, I was "financially challenged" enough to qualify for the federal breast and cervical cancer insurance program.  Unfortunately, in order to stay alive, I have to remain that way.

It is very frustrating to worry about finances every day for years.  It is frustrating to know that my children will grow and move out before I will ever pay off my debts and be able to save enough to do something fun, take a vacation - that is, if I'm still healthy enough to do so.

It's frustrating to know that I could own a house, but I am not allowed to save up to buy a house (which I can't actually do, at the moment, but one can dream - except in my case, with my cancer).  It's frustrating to know that, if I do get my debts paid off, I still can not save any money, because I risk losing my insurance.

And, it's frustrating to know that, when I do have to stop working, I will receive my retirement fund, and must spend it immediately, in order to keep my insurance.

It's frightening to worry that I will have to quit work before paying off my debts, thus leaving them to my husband.  And, it's frightening to think that I might die, and my husband will be left, still struggling, alone.

It's frightening to know that, should my husband die first, I will have to spend his entire life insurance immediately, so that I may keep my health insurance, effectively, leaving me homeless, for how could I pay rent, plus bills, plus food, plus misc necessities, when I am receiving his small social security stipend  (and earning apx. $1,000 more, so long as I am able to work)?  Together, the stipend and my paycheck do not equal the monthly bills, and should I not be able to work, his stipend alone, will not even cover any rent in our general area.

Along with the stress of fighting cancer, these worries attack me, daily.  I can not afford to make more money.  I can not afford to make less money.  And, all the while, I am not making enough money.

Daily, finances and cancer combine to wear me down.  Mentally and emotionally, they wear me down.

Yet, I struggle on - imagining what it must be like to have money, be able to keep it.

Sometimes, I am angry. Sometimes, I am reduced to tears.  Sometimes, after dwelling too long, after budgeting for another year, where I will make no headway, I will crawl into my bed, and just beg God to get me through another day.

And yet, I have to remain thankful, because I do receive health insurance, simply because I am so challenged, financially.  I get to live, because I am poor.  So, I do (truly) remain thankful.  But, I also have to remain poor.

And sometimes, it is so hard......