“Cancer is Good for the Closets”

That is what my friend Stephanie texted me yesterday as I was in FULL OUT NESTING mode.  I literally felt like the Tasmanian Devil as I cleaned out closets and threw away almost everything that was underfoot.  I had more energy than I’ve had in 6 months and could not stop.  I didn’t really think about why I was doing it, but after Stephanie texted, I realized that I was desperately trying to get everything in order before everything was seriously OUT of order starting tomorrow with my upcoming reconstructive surgery.

If you remember, Stephanie is my friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I was.  Until now, I have done everything first and been able to coach her through the procedures, surgeries and appointments.  But because Stephanie didn’t have to do chemotherapy, she was able to finish her reconstruction process first.  She just had her final reconstructive surgery a week and a half ago (this involves removing the expanders and putting in implants).  Therefore, she recognized my crazy house cleaning because she, herself, had filled up 8 trash bags in her own home the day before she went under the knife.  So you know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”?  I would improve upon that by adding, “If you really want something done, ask a woman whose about to undergo breast reconstruction”.

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(Stephanie and I today  – NOT AT THE SPA.  Just at a joint doctor’s appointment – not kidding – with our plastic surgeon.  #welovetheirwafflerobes)

As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t wish cancer on ANYONE.  But having a buddy to go through this with has been indescribable.  And in Jennifer’s absence, it was so sweet of the Lord to give me Stephanie who truly understands this journey so I don’t feel so alone.

Since my last post, I have several updates.  Specifically as it relates to HAIR.  Praise God and Hallelujah – my hair is slowly starting to grow back!  I honestly thought I would be the one calling the lawyer hotline on that commercial that says, “If you or someone you love has suffered permanent hair loss due to the chemo drug Taxotere, please call 1-800-IAM-BALD.”  I could not be more excited about this development.  And even though that means shaving my legs again, I WILL TAKE IT.

The one (gazillionth) thing I have learned is that I cannot compare my road to anyone else’s.  When I asked a few cancer friends about how long it took for their hair to start growing back, their answers varied from one day to two weeks post treatment.  Well, here I am at 8 weeks and mine is literally just now growing back.  EIGHT WEEKS.  Thank goodness for a book my sweet friend, Lezley, gave me called ‘The Silver Lining.”

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This beautiful book was written by a breast cancer survivor, who also happens to be a nurse.  She was the ONLY one that mentioned it took her about 8 weeks to finally start seeing sprouts.  I held out hope SPECIFICALLY because of her.

I know people mean well, but unless they physically document their cancer journey (i.e. WRITE IT DOWN), I’m learning their recollection of events can be a little fuzzy at best.  Similar to childbirth or the first year of your baby’s life (sure, your baby recited the alphabet at 3 months), we might not should rely on our memories past the age of 35.  Just sayin’.

So for all of you out there reaching and searching for answers to compare to your own story, take everything with a grain of salt.  God made each of us so unique (Psalm 139:14), and what is one person’s experience may not be another’s.  It takes lots of patience to learn this lesson but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

In a similar vein, a lot of people had told me they lost their eyelashes and eyebrows approximately 4 weeks after chemo.

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Wouldn’t you know I got all cocky after 4 weeks and thought I had finally beat SOMETHING?  Well, two Sundays ago, my eyelashes and eyebrows began to fall out.  Not even kidding.  And let’s just say that before my hair showed promise and my eyelashes were simultaneously hitting the floor, there may have been lots of tears.  I think I’ve explained before that this process feels like someone is slowly stripping away your femininity.  It’s so bizarre.  To not have my chest, my hair or my eyelashes makes me feel like I’m pulling the opposite of a Bruce Jenner.  So I’m trying to tap into that patience thing again and realize this is a marathon and not a sprint (even though back in the day Bruce could have totally conquered either).

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And because of the skin cancer debacle, I learned that my surgeon is ultra picky about increasing the risk of infection around surgery (so thankful for this – I’m not complaining).  As a result, I grew a little concerned about a horrendous cough I had a few days ago.  This cough had lasted for over a week and wasn’t letting up.  I tried to forget about it, but my mom and my friend Casey asked if I should let my plastic surgeon know about it.  Hesitantly, I called to see if the cough might be a concern with my upcoming surgery.  Unfortunately, it was a big concern.  They wanted me to go for a chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have an infection.  I got a little teary because anytime you go for a scan or an x-ray, a part of you gets nervous that they may find cancer somewhere else (in this case, my lungs).  It’s part of the curse.  Trevor was quick to allay my fears, however, and the chest x-ray was clear!  The funny part was I had made plans with my friend Kathy for lunch that day.  She lives in LoveJoy so this had been planned awhile back and I was really looking forward to seeing her.  We were all excited to go try a new restaurant in town, but I had to text her and see if she could meet me at the ER instead.  You know you have a good friend when…

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Lastly, with the upcoming surgery tomorrow, one question remains:  To Nip or Not to Nip? (Why yes, I went there.)  Dr. Potter, my amazing plastic surgeon, is so gifted and is able to create an actual nip using my own skin.  Y’all.  These things look real.  It’s truly incredible.  I really hadn’t even considered doing this until Stephanie endorsed the process.  Once I saw what they looked like, I realized it made the ‘girls’ seem real.  Like ACTUAL girls.  Not like I’ve-had-breast-cancer-and-this-is-what-I’m-left-with girls.  It’s totally the difference between the winners bracket and consolation bracket.  Anyway, I’ve spent the better part of a week polling my girlfriends about whether or not to nip.  The consensus is a resounding nip nip hooray.  Cons include I will now need undergarments as the nips aren’t operable (read non retractable).  But pros, as my friend Angela noted, are that I’ll always be ready for Mardi Gras.  So there’s that.  On a more serious note, however, I am really giddy about feeling like a female again.

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I want to thank you all again for taking this journey with me.  It helps so much to have your encouragement, support and prayers.  Your love for our family is so evident in all you do and I wish so badly I could express my gratitude in words.  As for tomorrow’s surgery, I would appreciate your continued prayers.  I go in at 6:30am and the surgery is scheduled for 8:30am.  It is a day surgery, so if all goes well I should be in my pjs and my own bed by early afternoon.  The recovery from this procedure is not nearly as difficult as the one from the mastectomy.  THANK THE LORD.

In closing, I wanted to wrap up with the sweetest card & thoughtful gift I received from Kim.  She says it better than I ever could…

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2017 has been a tough year for our family, but I love the reminder to remember all of the LOVE we have received instead of all of the pain.  Thank you, friend, for the gift of perspective.  I love you and all of our boys!

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Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

PS: When Jen was alive, we started a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with Amy’s kids, my kids and Lincoln.  Last weekend, we were able to get together and churn out some incredible houses if I do say so myself.  I would venture to say that the closets in these houses may need some cleaning out, however.

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18 thoughts on ““Cancer is Good for the Closets”

  1. Jamie, you are such an inspiration and a wonderfully funny writer. I’m sorry I’ve been such a bad friend through your cancer journey but I’d like to try again! Please let me bring your family dinner one night – tomorrow if you don’t already have arrangements- to simply a little for you. I love and admire you so much! You are a blessing to many and I miss seeing you dearly!!

    Please let me know what night is available to bring dinner.

    Much love for you and prayers for tomorrow, Paige

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    1. Paige!!! You have been a great friend – don’t even know what you are talking about!!! We are covered for dinners for the next few days, but thank you for offering. I will let you know if I need anything! Hope you guys are doing well!!!! Love you!

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  2. I am praying for you and will be praying for you and everyone involved in your care tomorrow. Thanks for always being an example of hope and faith to all of us. You are amazing.

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  3. Again I say Our God has given you an amazing attitude and gift of relating your thoughts…. Prayers and blessings to you!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  4. Good luck tomorrow! You’ll be swimsuit ready in no time! And you sure don’t need eyelashes to be beautiful! Hoping 2018 is a much quieter ( and hairier) year!😘

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  5. Things I would rather do with you: eat lunch, shop, talk decorating, plan for Armour Up, go for a walk, even watch baseball!!!! But if I had to choose to have cancer with somebody, it would undeniably be YOU!!!! You have been a gift and precious blessing to me from diagnosis (blowing down the back of my shirt so I wouldn’t pass out, all the way to post reconstruction nipple evaluation). You have been a cheerleader, hand holder, confidant and the true definition of FRIEND like I’ve never known before!! We are going to CELEBRATE each day of 2018 and hang out in the shallow end of the pool as much as we can tolerate😘. I love you dearly and can’t wait to see you post surgery tomorrow!!!

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  6. Cancer may be good for the closets but you Jamie are good for the soul! You are amazing, beautiful and such an encouragement to so many!! And a brilliant writer too! praying for all to go well tomorrow. Sending much love and prayers your way!! Love you!

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  7. Dear Jamie,
    What another wonderful witty, inspiring and raw post. If one thing I hope you take away from this, is that you are an excellent writer and should start a blog! Prayers for you and the surgeons this morning during your surgery. Love to you all this Christmas season! Anne

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