Sunday, October 6, 2013

One year out of treatment and feeling fine!

Well, HELLO there!

     I keep saying that I haven't written in "a while."  A while ended up being more than a year!  I finished chemo in May 2012, radiation the following July, and my body and mind have been gradually healing ever since.  I'm not sure if I'm 100% yet, but I really feel like my brain and personality are as close to human as I've been in a long time.  I'm surprised how long it took for the chemical and physical damage to diminish.  One or two months after chemo, I thought I was feeling better.  I WAS better compared to a few weeks before! But, a year out, I'm still learning about how bad it was. I compare it to the inversion that we're so familiar with in the Salt Lake Valley.  When you're in the thick of it, downtown, you can't tell that there are particulates in the air because you can see the buildings across the street just fine.  But the farther you get away from the cloud of nasty air, the higher you get up the mountains, the more you can see how thick that dirty fog is, and realize how nasty it was even though you could see across the street.

    While I credited getting back to volleyball right after radiation last year for helping me push to accomplish more, at mid-season this year, I am realizing that I don't remember a lot of last volleyball season! I discovered that the chemo inversion prevented me from seeing that I was not all there. I thought my brain had to be clear to coach sophomore girls at the high school level.  I was wrong, and the girls, coaches, and parents were VERY patient and tolerant of my chemo-brain recovery.  We are doing drills this year that I honestly don't remember running last year...and we did.  Just like work, there are some things I just plain don't remember!  I look at videos of how puffy my face was under the uncomfortable wigs and fake eyelashes...and that was the crappy stuff you could see.  My brain and body were even more uncomfortable, but I tried hard to not let that show.  I know my co-workers had to pick up the slack, energy-wise, and for the work load...and I hope I let them know how much I appreciated it!  (Yes, I only missed four days through all of it, but some of the days I was "there" I was probably not "all there.")

    I think writing while I was going through the treatments was a bit of therapy for me.  While I had my husband/confidante to talk to every ugly day...putting it down in visible words helped me come up with better ways to explain things, not only to others, but to myself. The spider analogy when I saw the CANCER sign...totally cathartic for me!  Just Keep Swimming...Dori's motto, and what I thought every morning when I woke at 3am.  The photo and feelings about the soaked wig and eyelash glue running down my face at Universal Studios in Orlando...so horrible, miserable...and FUN! Unforgettable fun that I'm so glad I didn't miss out on because I had silly radiation treatments!

     I haven't even written about my sisters surprising me for my birthday last year!!!  I know it was out of pity for what I had been through the past year, (I HATE pity) but when all five of my sisters showed up on my front porch the night before my Friday BIRTHDAY, I had kittens- right there! We spent the whole weekend together...at my house, with my awesome husband and kids...and it was THE MOST SPECIAL gift anyone has planned for me ever!!!  I still tear up that they all came and spoiled me, knowing we were coming to Seattle for our family Christmas visit a week later.  Susie, Toni, Jean, Betsy, and my little sister Sally are seriously the best sisters in the whole world!!!  They even sat through the sophomore, JV, and varsity basketball games...just in case Zach had a point. They embraced bleacher-butt for the nephew they don't usually get to see play!  When our car needed a ton of work to fix the brakes that weekend, they pitched in the money they planned to spend on a fancy birthday dinner for me...to pay toward our car...and we stayed home and had home-made tacos, watched movies, and sang The Sound of Music instead.  PERFECT.

    Really, everything I'm learning about the world and about myself this past year is that I am SO LUCKY!  Lucky to come from the big, amazing, smart, funny, strong family I am from.  Lucky to get the education I got on a volleyball scholarship. Lucky to find the job I wanted in a small market (Yakima.)  Lucky to meet the man who is the yin to my yang and my best friend for life.  Lucky to get a job in a big market like Salt Lake City, and have a connection with the people here.  Lucky to have boy and girl twins that are the perfect combination of love, fun, beauty, talent, and challenge.  And lucky to have found the aggressive cancerous tumor because of my job...and to turn that horrible discovery into a message that might help other women discover health challenges early enough to beat!  Just lucky...in so many ways...and still finding new ones.


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  I'll try to write more in the coming months.  In the meantime, share your survivor story right here on this blog.  My hairdressers are donating a make-over for a Breast cancer survivor this month.  Share your story here within the next couple of weeks, and we will choose someone to get a new do! Casey Scott will feature the makeover with Jef Williams and Michael Peterson at "Sequel" in Salt Lake City.

Follow me on Twitter at Marynickleskutv  and Instagram at mcnickles


18 comments:

  1. We were swimming at the same time......

    Hi Mary, my name is Kandas and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was 6 weeks ahead of you in my treatment. My diagnosis came on July 31, 2011. I remember it well. I was getting ready to go to a family reunion when the call came that no one wants to hear. I hung the phone up, turned to my husband and told him the devastating news. I could hardly process what I had been told. There is no history of breast cancer in my family....and I was only 44 years old.

    My surgery was scheduled for the middle of August... 4 days before my son opened his mission call, and 5 days before my husband was put in the Bishopric in our local ward. What a whirl wind. Life had to move forward, and so did I.

    I endured 6 rounds of chemo, and 35 rounds of radiation. My last chemo was 2 days after we dropped our son off at the MTC. That was a very emotional week for our family. It was so difficult knowing what a hard time my son was having leaving a mom that still had one more chemo treatment to get through. We are VERY close. But he knew he wanted to serve a mission from the time he was little....and he pressed onward like a trooper...and so did his mom.

    I work at a local elementary school, and I'm proud to say I never missed one day of work. I'm also proud to say while working with nearly 300 kids on a daily basis, while they were sick, coughing, and spreading germs.....I NEVER HAD AS MUCH AS A SNIFFLE that whole school year!

    Keeping life as close to normal was all I ever wanted during that year. I got up every morning, put on my "hair" and make-up and went to work. Some days I don't remember exactly what took place that day, and some days I couldn't even see straight....but I was there, pretending life was normal. That was very important to me. The adults in the school were the only ones that knew the battle I was fighting. I never told any of the students. The wig I wore looked so much like my real hair, the kids never knew I was bald! I never left the house without my wig. In fact on more than one occasion while out in public, I was asked who cut my hair! Two ladies in Walmart almost tipped over dead when I told them I was going through chemo and I was wearing a wig!

    I have an overwhelming amount of support from my little town, friends, and family. I didn't know so many people could care what happened to little old me. My family and I are blessed to live in this little community, and I'm proud to call Nephi my home.

    I watched you closely Mary as you were only weeks behind me in your treatment. I remember thinking...okay, about now that Diet Coke Mary is going to have with her lunch is going to taste like the metal can it's in, or, about now Mary should be feeling "semi-normal" from her last chemo treatment. I know what you went through first hand. And you know what? I think all breast cancer survivors are stronger than we were before. We don't take things for granite, and we appreciate the small things in life. I know when someone complains about having a "bad hair day" I just smile and say.....I'm just glad to have hair because it wasn't in the to distant past that I would have given anything to "have a bad hair day!" And when someone complains about Mondays....well, I can't help but think how happy I am to be alive to see another Monday!

    Cancer has changed my attitude.....and I'd love to have someone change my hair style!!! My missionary comes home January 1, 2014 and I'd love him to see his mom's new hairstyle! Remember! When he left......I WAS BALD!!!!!

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    1. What an amazing journey you've had during your son's mission and while your hubby has been in the Bishopric! But, oh, what a blessing it must have been not to have gotten sick from any of those children at Nephi's Elementary school. I admire your faith; your story along the others posted here, are really what life is about when the phrase "Enduring to the End" comes to my mind.

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  2. Watching you go through treatment was very emotional to me, as it was remisescent of my own journey.

    I was 37, newly divorced, with 2 and 4 year old boys, and no family history of cancer when I found a lump that hurt. My doctor dismissed it as a cyst, but being the stubborn sort that I am I didn't accept that. 4 weeks later I was on the operating table having a 1.5 cm cancerous lump removed.

    8 rounds of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation later I was living in the fog as well! I too never missed a day of work, aside from the days that I had chemo infusions. My sister flew down from Canada for a week when I had surgery, and my mother spent a few weeks with me in the middle of chemo, but aside from that it was just me and my new boyfriend (who I had started dating just a few weeks before my diagnosis), who got myself and my sons through that dark time.

    This week I celebrate 8 years cancer free, with my then-boyfriend-now-husband of 4 years by my side, and my now 10 and 12 year old boys! Who, I am happy to say, remember very little about the whole cancer experience. My 10 year old is confused when he sees pictures of me bald! But the 12 year old remembers shaving my head, one of the memories he still has of that time.

    Not sure that I am a great candidate for a new hairstyle, as I have kept mine short since treatment. But, I wanted to share my story with you, and let you know that life does go on! As for the chemo-brain, I'm not sure it really goes away....I think I just got used to it!

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  3. Hi Mary,
    My name is Talisha Johnson, I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November 2010. I was 28 years at the time with a 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Those sweet angels are my whole life. I had few obstacles' to go through before the Doctor's figured out I had lymphoma. I had my right kidney removed (but luckily you can function fine on one kidney). I remember when I started chemo they told me I was going to be sick and loose my hair. I was totally fine with loosing my hair. The being sick part is what frightened me the most. I told my self that I did not have time to be sick, between working full time and raising my little children. I remember praying and praying that I would not be sick. My prayers were answered. I did not throw up one time through out my treatments. I was so grateful. In March of 2011 I competed my treatments. When I went for my PET Scan it showed I was Cancer Free!! That was the best feeling ever. I was so excited to move on and live my life. When I started Chemo my Doctor told me that my chances of having any more kids would most likely not happen because Chemo is so hard on the body. My husband and I were ok with the news, we had a girl and boy and I was thrilled I was going to be around to raise them. In September of 2011 (6 months after chemo) I remember not feeling very good. I decided to go the doctor for a checkup and I received the news I was pregnant.. I could not believe it. Once again I was shocked ( this time happy shock) I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl In May 2012. We could imagine life with out her.
    I learned a lot about life during this hard time. You definitely learn not to take things for granted. I have a much more positive out look on life. I have had the opportunity to use my story to help a close friend through her battle with breast cancer. She has a great attitude and I believe that is 90% of the fight!!

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  4. Hi Mary,

    My story began, as yours did, with an annual mammogram that I had put off about 6 months due to an onerous work project. I had not totally completed the project but just felt I needed to not put it off any longer. The day of my mammogram appointment, a co-worker started asking me questions about it because she had never had one. I told her how easy and fast it was - No big deal - was the works I think I used. And she asked me a question I had never really considered - "what if they find something?". It took me by surprise and when I thought about it, I said "Well, that's what it's supposed to do cuz you want to find it as early as possible".

    Little did I know when I got a phone call (at work) on Dec. 7th 2011, that was exactly what would happen to me. Stage 2 but still early. I remember climbing the flight of stairs back to my office trying not to let it show on my face until I had time to go home, talk to my husband, try to get my head around all the info I'd been told and not to imagine the worst as I proceeded down an unimaginable road.

    That week I found out you (Mary) had the same thing going on in your life, you were facing it on air, and sharing your story. I hoped I would somehow cross paths with you during this journey but never thought it would happen.

    While at work that week, my co-workers and I were reading our horoscopes and mine hit me like a ton of bricks. It said something about facing challenges and being open to others about it. I'm usually pretty private about personal things but I turned around to my co-workers, told them I'd been diagnosed and everything that I knew about what I'd be facing up to that point. I started a blogspot account and shared my story with family and freinds. I had no idea of the compassion, concern and kindness that would flood me and my family. I realized then that every individual, no matter how insignificant we feel at times, really does touch a web of lives and we all matter to someone. It helped me so much as I traveled down this uncertain, scary path.

    The day of my first of six chemo treatments, I had just settled into "the routine", when I was told a camera crew would be filming in the treatment room that day and asked if that would be okay. I was so into myself and what was being introduced into my body, I didn't even realize what they were talking about. Then in you walked followed shortly by your camera crew. It took my mind off of the scary new treatment and I felt "lucky" just to have the experience of watching your story being captured.

    As I had the rest of my treatments, with my sister there to support me, those of us there and new members of the club we didn't want to be in, discussed what foods did and didn't work for us, shared our weekly challenges and formed lifetime friendships.


    I watched all my new friends finish their treatments and ring the bell upon chemo completion, hoping I'd see them again as we all started our radiation regimen.

    I chose a newer less invasive reconstruction option knowing it may not work for my situation and that it would take alot longer to get to the end result. After months of trying, It ended up not working and I moved on to my second reconstruction option. I have one more reconstructive surgery left this year. I can finally see a bright light as I near the end of my journey.

    I now can help others as they travel the same road, with kindness, grace and dignity, as I learned from my friends and those that helped me. It has forever changed me, made me stronger, more compassionate and in alot of other ways I had never imagined it would. I look forward to the "Cancer Free" statement from my doctors in four more years!

    Thank you for putting your story out there for those of us going through it at the same time. And for the others facing the same challenge in the future.

    With sincere appreciation,
    Nancy

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  5. Thank you so much for writing your story down and sharing with everyone. I have been watching the newscasts and wondering if you were okay, now I understand why you seemed to be so tired at times. I hope that all goes well for you now.

    I haven't personally experienced cancer, though my Father is battling with Lung Cancer and my brother is a survivor of Testicular Cancer. Dad is almost 82, and holding his own with his treatments and medication.

    But I would like to nominate my high school friend and cousin, Camellia Seely Walker ( https://www.facebook.com/camellia.walker1?fref=ts ). She found out on May 24, 2012 that she had Breast Cancer, she tells a bit of her story on her Facebook page.
    On June 10, she posted the following "Oh Happy Happy Day! Every three weeks for the past year, I have gone to the cancer clinic to get my anti cancer medicine administered thru the port in my chest. Today was my last treatment. Today I rang the bell. Today I can say I am cancer free. Today I get to celebrate a new beginning. I am so grateful for all the love and support I have been given this last year, especially the many, many prayers, I know that is what helped get me through everything. Thank You!"

    I am happy that her husband and 6 beautiful children will still have their wife and Mother to be there with them.

    Those of you who have also posted your stories on here, thank you so much for sharing them. I enjoy reading about people who don't allow diseases like cancer to get them down, who survive and go on. Many thanks again to you all, you inspire me.

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  6. Hello to all of you survivors,

    I debated adding to this blog because emotionally it is still hard for me to recount experience but I feel like it is worth sharing, in hopes mostly that someone may relate and feel like they're not alone or share a word of encouragement.

    My sister, who is 18 months older than I, and am very close to, found a lump in her breast at the young age of 28 while pregnant with her 3rd son. She didn't want to risk losing the baby even though her gut told her that something wasn't right. She continued to nurse the baby until he was just about 6 months old and she found more lumps in her armpit. She silently made an appointment with her Doctor so as not to worry anyone; I got a phone call from her, at the hospital, telling me that she needed someone to watch the baby while they ran more extensive tests. By the end of the afternoon, me, my sister and my mom and 2 other sisters were at the hospital, eventually being told that she had Stage IV breast cancer and 14/16 lymphnodes were testing positive as well. At the time my sisters babies were 4, 2, and 6 months old. Cassie endured a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation, left-side mastectomy and radiation; she battled and won!

    Eleven years later at a routine mammogram, Stage 2 cancer was found in her (spared) right breast. It was devastating; her boys were now 16, 14, and 11 years old. She underwent a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation w/partial lymphnode removal as they again tested positive.

    There is so much in-between that I have left out in the interest of time and the main reason that I am sharing is because we have all watched her fight 2 of the biggest battles for her life but it seems that reconstruction and making herself feel whole again is killing her more than the cancer had ever threatened. She has undergone close to a dozen surgeries to try and re-construct to no avail. She is battling depression and daily has to remind herself that she is at least living another day.

    My hopes is that someone may reach out with stories or connections that I can share with her as it is killing me as a sister to watch her struggle. I have tried support groups but it is hard for her to connect and share with strangers; she is a young survivor, just turning 42 and I think is just tired of hearing bad news.

    I am so thankful for everyone who fights the battle against breast and every other cancer and for those who stand by their family and friends to help them win the fight. I hope that all of you find peace with your trials and happiness in your victory.

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  7. I would like to nominate my best friend, neighbor, soul sister and biggest cheerleader ever. Her name is Sheri Vigil, she is a two time survivor of breast cancer. First time at 24 and second time at 44. She has beat it. I was diagnosed November 2 2012, i'm currently going in for treatment every three weeks, until february. Its been a long road for me as I have two types of breast cancer and I am also triple positive. I have been allergic to the meds and have had all kinds of trouble. Through it all from the day I was diagnosed Sheri was there taking me to my Doctor appointments to all chemo transfusions and driving me or my children wherever we needed to go as I lost my eye sight and could not drive safely. Sheri has helped me cope with life when I just could not pull my head up off the pillow. When I couldn't wrap my brain around what was being said or see the light at the end of that long tunnel, Sheri was there to help me hear what was being said. I could not have done this with a smile like I did without her, as my husband works in SLC and we live in St. George. I owe my life to my friend Sheri. She has given me a peace of mind that most mothers with children at home fear, how to take care of them and yourself too. I cannot ever repay her what she has done for me. Now Sheri has custody of her two grandchildren and are raising them. The only way I can semi repay her for what she has done for me is to help as much as I can with tending her grandkids when possible.
    I would love to see her have a makeover.
    Thanks from Ilona Ence

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  8. Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... specially those on IPT (Insulin Potentiation Therapy)
    For Cancer

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  9. I was fighting against a stage IV cancer and i won, lucky my husband who helped me all the time.I think it is very important that family support to win, because i was very weak;really helped me participate in one group of victims of cancer, so my mood improved, also helped me a adviser of advisercancer-diseases.com(they are doctors).I recomended not surrender, because sometimes the first treatment does not work as me, and change doctors if it is necessary.Read positive thinking books gave me more energy.During my cancer,i changed my diet,now i eat vegetarian organic food(now i not eat meat).I think is a set of things that help me.
    Xoxo
    Wendy

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  10. It feels good to read stories of survival. Facing a dreaded disease can eventually lead you to lose every drop of hope and believe that it's gonna be the end for you. However, with various stories about being healed, it's best to keep the light of hope in our hearts. We can also prevent these diseases with the help of doctors that can check our breasts and their physiology. With their evaluation and facilities, we'll be able to see the possible problems.

    Alfred Park @ OCBreastWellness.com

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  11. January 21, 2013 was the day I got the phone call I had been dredding. Stage III breast cancer. Mastectomy, 6 rounds of chemo and 33 radiation sessions later I am just starting to feel like myself again. I still have 5 more Herceptin infusions left (once every 3 weeks, because I was triple positive). As my hair has started to grow back in I am more appalled to see that it is completly gray, more than I was shocked to see myself bald! I still wear my wigs when I leave the house. I appreciate hearing everyone's survival stories. It gives me hope for my future. Thanks for sharing your story/journey with us.
    Kathi S

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  14. This is a great story of encouragement for everyone. God sustains us through life's good times and bad times. He offers a higher way of living -- not a life without pain, but the strength to endure. Great job!

    Laguna Beach Cancer recovery

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