08 February 2014

Who I Was Born to Be

Sleep Woes

A month ago, I had my last chemotherapy treatment.  Honestly, it felt like the slowest month in many months. Over the weeks, the nausea has diminished to almost never.  Yeah!  The fatigue is still an issue, and will be for several months as my body detoxes from all the chemo chemicals.  Adding to the fatigue is the matter of not having good sleep.  The medications for the nausea helped me to sleep as well as the addition of the Neurontin for the neuropathy.  But, I don't need the anti-emitics anymore, and the Neurontin was not doing what we had hoped it would. So, now my body is also detoxing off those medicines and I am left to my own efforts to sleep at night.  I am using a combination of essential oils and a Melatonin plus other herbal additives to help in this transition time.  I am falling asleep better, but I have interrupted sleep all through the night.  Part of that is because I am having vivid dreams, and often BAD dreams.  Not really nightmares, but I am having really stressful dreams.

Aches and Pains

Another crummy thing I am dealing with is the return of the cursed Fibromyalgia.  And it is back with a vengeance. There are two reasons why I believe this is so.  The first is that I have found in the 21 years since my diagnosis that the pain is always worse when I am going through stressful situations.  Sometimes my body is stressed, sometimes it is emotional stress.  These last months were BOTH!  

The second reason is that I have been on a steady dose of steroids for almost 6 months and steroids, for all the terrible side effects also have a beneficial one - they reduce inflammation.  So, I guess I should count my blessings that I was spared that pain during chemotherapy.  

The pain keeps me from getting comfortable to go to sleep, and wakes me up out of sleep when I move around.  The worst pain is in my hips and knees and shoulders. 

Isn't aging wonderful?!

Good News…no GREAT NEWS!
I had my CT scans on Tuesday this week.  I didn't think that I would get the results until next Tuesday, when I have my follow-up appointment with Dr. Lee.  But, Wednesday night I got a notification in my Duke My Chart with test results.  And here are the words I longed to see:

CT Scans are negative for disease!
Huzzah!  And Hooray!

Of course, I know what that really means is that there are no visable evidences of cancer growth.  We really can't know if there are still any microscopic cells hanging out in wait.  But, it DOES mean that my cancer responded well to the treatment.  The hope is - and truly it is the miracle we for which we pray daily -  that we don't see the cancer cells begin to grow again.  The simple fact is that for someone whose cancer was as advanced as mine, there is a 90% chance that I will have a recurrence within the coming years.  I don't live there, but I do know the odds.  I just choose to believe that I am one of the 10%!!!

Something I Just Needed to Do
About a month ago, I was sitting on my couch (yes, the "new" couch where there is a huge divot from where my behind has sat for the last 6 months) and an idea came into my mind.  I fought it for a few hours, until I had the feeling that the idea didn't come from me.  It was something that would ordinarily fall in the category of Completely out of my comfort zone. 

I wrote this email to Amber Adamson, who is a local photographer, that I had heard about through a friend.  I had not ever met her before.  I know many who have used her talents to photograph their families and I had a good feeling about her.  I explained to her who I am and how I heard about her and then wrote this:

I have just completed six months of chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer.  This is my second go around with cancer, I am a four year survivor of Breast cancer.  And today, I had this idea, which is very much out of my comfort zone, but something I really 'want to - feel I need to' do.  I've lost all my hair, including eyelashes and *eyebrows, but I am trying to embrace my "beauty" in this very natural way.  Before my hair starts to grow back, I would love to have you take some creative head and shoulder shots of me.  It's more of a statement of acceptance than anything.  Since this cancer is likely to recur and I will have to go through treatment again, and lose my hair again, this may indeed be the "new me"!  In short, my hope for these photographs is for them to be peaceful and joyful.  I am SO open to your ideas as well.  At this point, I am game for about anything.

As I tried to sleep that night, I couldn't stop thinking about what I had asked for.  I was scared.  I have never been a fan of being in front of a camera, even when I was young and thin.  And certainly, I had never considered having "beauty shots" done.  Seriously. Me?

So, I did a Google Image search with these words: Bald Woman Cancer Beauty Shots, and was delighted to see that there were many women's photographs in the search.  One set of photographs I saw was on a photographers blog.  A much younger woman, who had lost her hair to cancer treatments, wanted be photographed for a portfolio she was creating as she was interested in modeling.  Yes, she was VERY pretty.  In fact, here are two of her photos:

Except for Amber Adamson, I told NO ONE about what I had planned to do.  I think that I felt if no one else knew I'd feel like if I chickened out, I wouldn't have to account to anyone.  Also, I had the ever so slight fear of someone chuckling over the idea.  I kept it to myself for so many days.

Originally we had scheduled Wednesday, January 22nd. But the temperature was hovering right around 20 degrees that day, which with no hair and no coat would be impossible for me to relax to do this thing that was already so challenging for me.  We rescheduled for Monday the 27th, which also happened to be my husband's birthday.  We were meeting at a farm in Holly Springs at 4:30 that day, when the light would be best.  And, the gift and perhaps even miracle was that it was that one day where it was 64 degrees.  It was the day before the 5" of snow came. Anyway, I needed a ride, but I didn't know who to ask, because I was trying to keep it a secret.  So, I asked my youngest son, Benjamin, to take me to "meet someone in Holly Springs".  He asked what I was doing.  I told him I would prefer not to tell him.  He asked if he could ask questions.  I said "No!".  He dropped me off and drove away, unaware. 

I met Amber and we started the shoot.  I told her from the beginning that the only way I was going to be able to get through it was to imagine that I looked like, well, …. the girl in the ABOVE photos!  No joke. That's who I saw in my head the entire 45 minutes.

Truthfully, Amber made me feel so comfortable, that I was able to let go and just be in the moment.  I wanted to embrace the authenticity of the whole experience so that nothing was forced. 

The sun was moving lower in the sky and our time was coming to an end.  Amber had this idea to have me sit in the middle of the road that led into the farm.  I sat down, and she started shooting from the distance.  Then, I started looking up at the sky and noticed how beautiful it was.  I was overwhelmed in the same way that I felt at the beach in September (for those of you who remember me writing about our week at the beach).  I felt the power of Heavenly Father's presence in His creation and in my life.  And then something happened that I did not expect.  I began to weep.  And then smile. And then, I started feeling a full range of emotion.  As Amber moved in closer, she asked if I was all right.  I told her I was fine and to keep going.  I stayed in the moment and I felt every emotion that I have felt during the last few months.  She got really close and I said "Make me laugh!  Laughter through tears is the best emotion!" (Steal Magnolias).  But, then my tears returned, but they were joyous tears, perhaps I was feeling relief, until I felt complete peace.  I knew then, that I was done.

So, here are only some of the amazing shots that Amber took.  This is me.  Nothing to hide behind.   Most with no makeup.  At the end I added a little color on my cheeks and lips. Every line in my face and the extra chin are exposed as I really am.  But, it doesn't matter.  I was actually able to find my own beauty and feel comfortable seeing myself as I really am.

The video at the end is a composite of the photographs taken, sequentially, from the time I sat in the road. The song I selected was written for Susan Boyle, who won Britian's Got Talent back in 2009.  This is a song they wrote for her to sing in the finale.  It became really meaningful to me because it came out while I was going through my breast cancer treatments, surgeries, etc.  It still makes me cry.  I even had the opportunity to perform the song a few years ago.  It was a hard one to get through because I feel that it tells my life's story, as well as Ms. Boyle's.


When I was sitting in the middle of the road, one of the things that came to my mind was how there was so much road behind me, and very little in front of me.  And isn't that how it is for all of us.  All we have is our entire life's experiences to help us as we look to each new day or each new challenge.  It's the perfect act of faith. We draw on our faith in our Father in Heaven - who we have already seen work in our lives - to give us the confidence to know that no matter what is facing us in the future, we know with assurance that HE WILL be there for us again.

I think that one of the lessons that I keep learning through the challenges I have faced in my life, is that you increase your burden by fighting it.  I mean, with an eternal perspective we must also remember to look back as well as forward.  Our lives, before we got here and after we leave this earth are one eternal round - it's not linear.  We each have been given a personalized tutorial to guide our life.  Personalized experiences and relationships.  Perhaps we need to more gracefully accept the situations with which we find ourselves, especially those that bring the greatest physical and emotional discomfort.  We need to allow the Grace from on high change us and rise above the worldly to the Godly.  With this sacred process, we can come to accept the fact that we are, everyday of our lives, who we were born to be.

click on photos for full size view

If there appears to be no video click on this for a direct link:

*In the weeks waiting for the photo shoot, suddenly my eyebrows started growing back, and a few of my eyelashes.


Marisha said...

Sally I LOVE the photos and the video. You are such a fighter but these pictures show perfectly the journey you have been on. Thank you for sharing! Love you, Mishy!

CourtneyMarie said...

I just adore you. You are such an example of beauty, strength and love. Thank you for being willing to share these authentic and amazing moments with us! Love you!!!

Shalyse said...

I also love the pictures! So beautiful! You are one of the most amazing women I know. I am so grateful I know you and live just down the street! Thank you for sharing! Love you, Shalyse

Heather Carter said...

Love these pictures and the video. I admire your strength, beauty and courage. Thinking of you. Love, Heather

Beth Brubaker said...

My favorite quote is, "I think that one of the lessons that I keep learning through the challenges I have faced in my life, is that you increase your burden by fighting it." I'm going to try to live with acceptance and not negativity. Too much time is wasted on thoughts like, "I don't want to go through this." Well, too bad. I AM! ha! And I want to think about how much more road is in front of me, and how little is behind me. That perspective will make all the difference. I love you, my friend.

Unknown said...

I am so happy to hear that the CT scan was negative! Good for you! Thanks for all the insights you give in your writing about your challenges.

Anonymous said...

I am a Hospice volunteer. People continually ask me why I would want to do such work? My reply is the same every time because there is so much wisdom in these beautiful people. I just found your blog. I love the wisdom you share. Thanks. I really needed this wisdom today.

Amy said...

I love your blog. I love the pictures of you. I love your understanding of the atonement. And I love your family!

Post a Comment