Rethink Blog – Support

My latest blog in the Rethink Breast Cancer series is live! This entry poured out of my heart one night and that doesn’t surprise me – it’s all about support. I was (and continue to be) very blessed in that department.

Click this link to check out out!

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Rethink Breast Cancer

I’m struggling to find the words to express how much this means to me. I was asked to be featured on Rethink Breast Cancer’s blog and it was published today (click the link at the bottom of this story to check it out!). I was fortunate enough to find Rethink after my interview/post on Flare.com. Connecting with Rethink was like coming home. Their mission is to β€œempower young people worldwide who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer.” When I was on their website and read, β€œno pink ribbons required,” I cheered. Literally.

I find the timing of the blog post poignant – I quietly observed my four year anniversary of finding out I had breast cancer on Sunday (11/12/13). I feel completely inspired to help young women who are affected by breast cancer (and all other cancers).

Please visit Rethink’s website and check out their absolutely incredible work. (They even have a Give-A-Care package: β€œThe first line of products for young women with breast cancer, that actually understands young women with breast cancer. You can build a personalized care package that acknowledges what she’s really going through, and gives her the care she really needs.” #amazing)

Link to blog.

Flare.com Article

Well, this is amazing. I was interviewed for an article on Flare.com (!) featuring seven women who get “brutally honest” about having breast cancer in their 20s and 30s. What an honour it is to be included with these incredible women. Just… wow. Girl POWER. Click the link below to check it out. Awareness is critical – please give it a read.

7 Women Get Brutally Honest About Having Breast Cancer in Their 20s and 30s

Third CHEMOVERSARY!

You guys… tommorow is my THREE YEAR CHEMOVERSARY! Smile with me, friends! To mark the occasion, here’s the video of when I rang the bell, signifying the end of chemo (after seven “treatments”). Much love to my family for attending and causing a ruckus with me. πŸŽ‰πŸ””πŸ””πŸ””πŸ””πŸ””πŸ””πŸ””πŸΎ

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Surgery. Again.

Writing this is going to be somewhat difficult since my vision is mostly blurry. But here it goes! I’m thankful for auto correct…

A huge thank you (once again!) to my family for taking such special care of me and to our friends for all of the thoughts, prayers and well wishes. It means the world to me. 

As many might have guessed from the picture I posted on Tuesday, I had (another) surgery last week. If you lost count, that’s my fourth surgery in three years. I know, right? Crazy. I kept pretty quiet about this surgery because I was trying to forget about it. The more people I told, the more I had to admit it was happening. I actually kept calling it a “procedure.” As if changing the word would eliminate my anxiety.

I required surgery to fix an issue I had/have with my eyes. I’ve always had astigmatism, but it had improved a lot over the years. Enter cancer. My body took on the biggest threat(s) – the tumour, surgeries and chemo – and stopped taking care of my eyes. Literally one day, out of the blue, I started seeing double. Not all the time, but enough that it was causing problems. 

Although this surgery is considered minor compared to my others, it held its own risks. The surgeon cut into the white of my left eye, which they describe as similar to skin, pulled two muscles back and sewed my eye back up. (Yes, you’re put fully to sleep.) I knew it wouldn’t be as painful as any of my other surgeries, but I couldn’t help but think… what if I go blind?! What if he slips or there’s an infection?!

Blessedly, the surgery went well. I hadn’t intended to look at my eye so soon, but I peeked before we even left the hospital (surgery ended at 3:45pm and I was home eating pizza by 6:15pm. Lol.). 

Friends, it’s wasn’t great. My eye was literally dripping blood for the first 24 hours. It’s still a ball of red – no white. At times, it feels as if there are 100 eyelashes in my eye. It’s sore, only open about halfway (even though I think it’s normal) and waters almost constantly. I’ve been given antibiotic eyedrops and they’re working… albeit very slowly. I’m brutally congested, which is a result of the eyedrops. I can’t win! 

I’m proud of how I handled/am handling this surgery. It could have gone either way – it was possible that I was going to have a complete mental breakdown. I could feel it coming like pressure on a gate – if I pushed enough, it was going to open and a floodgate of fear would come rushing through. Instead, I was almost in a state of disbelief. I couldn’t believe I was going to be cut into. Again. 

I was sent to the final holding pen to wait to go into the OR. I had to wait on my own, which I hated. I would have liked to take mumsie with me. At one point I was with the anesthesiologist and two nurses. They go over tons of info with you and there they were, listed all in a row – my surgeries. One by one they shook their heads. The anesthesiologist was curious about my genetics and asked if I was BRCA and I confirmed that yes, I’m BRCA1. 

One of the nurses was standing next to me as we were waiting to walk down the hall into the OR. I mumbled to myself, referring to needing another surgery, “this is bullshit.” I didn’t expect her to reply, but she did. She said, “you’re right. This is complete bullshit that you have to do any of this. And at your age.” I looked at her, kind of shocked. She sounded pissed off! And I liked it. That made two of us! I said thank you, took a deep breath and walked with her into the room. 

The medical team was amazing. They greeted me with smiles as I walked in, which made me feel comfortable and gave me courage. When I saw the table I said, is this it? They said yes and I was shocked. It was a plain old gurney. No sections on the sides for my arms to be taped down. No blood pads along the bed for me to lay on. That gave me hope. I stared up at the ceiling as the team prepped me and told myself, you got this you own this surgery this pain can’t hold a candle to what you’ve been through you’re a beast you’ve smelled your skin burning and felt your blood fall down your back you’ve had to deal with drains you got this you’re gonna be fine. 

And I am fine, thank God. But I’m also done. I really hope it’s a long time before I have another surgery. I need a break! And I think I’ve earned it. 

Fun facts / answers to questions I’ve gotten a lot:

  • The surgery took about a half hour. 
  • I’m super sensitive to light. 
  • My eye still has a stitch in it, which will dissolve over time.
  • My eye also has a lump in it. I don’t know why. I just know that it’s normal and it will go away. And if it doesn’t… they’ll fix it. I didn’t ask how. 
  • Marc the hot faux anesthesiologist (featured in the blog post, Love in the OR) was there that day. Despite aggressive encouragement from mumsie, I did not ask to see him. 
  • The first concern the doctor has for any patient who has had cancer is that the change in vision is caused by a brain tumour. That was ruled out due to a clear brain scan I received a little less than a year before. 

Cassandra   xo

11.12.13

11.12.13. Hands down one of the worst days of my life. Even still, I hate the feeling of leaves falling on me because they were falling in abundance as I walked into the doctor’s office for my biopsy results. 

There are many words I could choose to focus on when thinking about this day – terror, sadness, anger, grief, shock. Those words still cross my mind. But the one I decide to focus on – love. 

I find it cathartic to share pictures on these types of anniversaries and I pulled this one out of the vault… 

This picture was taken after my first mastectomy + reconstruction on November 27, 2013. I was being wheeled out of recovery (in the middle of the shot – you can only see the back of the stretcher and the nurses), my family saw me and along they came (even though they weren’t immediately allowed to come with me). Mom, Dad, Nonnie, Aunt Angie, Aunt Mary and Rusty – all in a row. I was so drugged up and in serious pain, I could hardly move or open my eyes. But I could hear them asking the nurses questions and calling my name. I wasn’t able to show it, but I was cracking up. What a hilarious group they made – slightly angering the nurses with their questions and comments that came in quick succession. “How’s she doing?” “Cassandra?” “Sweetie, can you hear me?” “Where is she going now?” “Is she okay?” “Can we go with her?” “When can we see her?” “Cassandra?” 

As I was wheeled down the hall, I thought – my God, I love these people. They would follow me anywhere just so I wouldn’t be alone. To make sure I knew that I was loved and safe. And to make me laugh. 

That kind of love has serious, life-altering power. I was filled to the brim with it. I inhaled it, held my breath and kept it there until April 11, 2014 – my last chemo. (I can’t rid my mind of these dates.) For that long, brutal winter that love helped me survive. I think it still does. 😊❀️