Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Utah on My Mind Thanks to Image Reborn!

Last weekend I was blessed to be a part of an incredible weekend retreat in Park City, Utah. Image Reborn Foundation offers retreats to breast cancer THRIVERS and I attended a one that was specifically for "young survivors".  While I was one of the oldest participants (I'm 43 in case you were wondering), I felt like it was where I needed to be and the women who were there were amazing.

Never mind that Park City had something like 2 feet of snowfall while we were there and it was a mere 9 degrees on Sunday morning before I had to board the plane to return to sunny, WARM Tennessee.  The snow was absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't believe views - the mountain terrain, ski slopes and unbelievable homes in the area.  We were fortunate to stay in a "cabin" that had a fireplace in just about every room.  It was about 10,000 square feet and was fabulous!

Our hostess, Shelia, made us feel pampered and loved.  She is truly a generous and precious soul and I feel grateful that I was able to meet her and her sweet daughter.  There were rules that we were required to follow: 1.) don't carry your own bags...anywhere and 2.) don't do anything (like clearing the table, cleaning up the dishes, etc).  This is a woman who works full-time elsewhere and manages to pull together about 11-13 retreats each year.  Shelia is an angel here on earth!

Image Reborn (with the help of Sheila) provided us with time to rest, time to connect and also time to be restored.  One way was by offering us each a chair massage and facial.  We were also thrilled to have almost two hours working with someone who shared the benefits of restorative yoga with us.  She generously allowed us to take video of her so that we could practice some of the poses that she taught us.  Now we can go to our  (private) Facebook group and view the video whenever we need a refresher.

During lunch on Saturday we had the opportunity to talk to a doctor who discussed some of the unique issues young breast cancer survivors (AKA thrivers)  have to face, such as chemo-pause (chemo-induced menopause) and all of the side effects it offers, as well as fertility issues, the risks of facing other gynecological cancers, etc.  He patiently answered our questions and used the word "vagina" more than I think I've ever used in my entire life.  I think he helped us find some ways to manage the unpleasant side effects many of us are experiencing as well as how to potentially reduce some of our risk factors, if at all possible, or just face them head on.  He even told us that we are free to call his office if we have questions later.

We had a chef who helped us prepare our Saturday evening meal and most of us, I think, were surprised to enjoy the chopped kale salad (I even prepared it tonight for my family).  She joined us for dinner and shared information from her website.  I was part of the prep for the Irish soda bread with caraway seeds and raisins and it was a hit.  I didn't expect to like the raisins in a baked bread (for me raisins belong in oatmeal cookies or cereal),  but it was a really good bread.

One other visitor to the cabin allowed us to discuss more private issues related to self-esteem and intimacy.  She was amazing and, again, patiently answered our (many) questions and offered as much practical advice as she could.  We were thrilled that she stayed to have dinner with us and chatted more and provided examples of simple ways to improve our lives.  It was serious and fun all at the same time and I was so thankful for the time she spent with us.

I don't know what else to say about what Image Reborn gave to all of us last weekend.  They gave me women who understood what I am dealing with right now.  They gave us incredible accommodations in a beautiful part of the country.  We learned a lot about how to live our lives despite being diagnosed with this stupid breast cancer.  Friendships were formed and I feel so fortunate to have spent just a couple of days with such strong, loving, compassionate women.

Thank you Image Reborn Foundation.  Please check out the link if you would like more information about their retreats or how to support what the foundation.


Monday, November 5, 2012

It's a Boob, Not a Bomb!

I am preparing myself to take a little trip this weekend.  I'll be flying out early Friday morning and returning Sunday evening.  The Image Reborn Foundation is graciously allowing me to participate in a retreat for young breast cancer survivors.  And yes, I did confirm that I fit into the "young" category, because there is some debate.  There is a little trepidation on my part as this is the first time I have traveled (flown on an airplane) since my surgeries and treatment.  

Today I discussed my concerns with my sister and we laughed as I tried to figure out how to handle my prosthesis situation.  You know?  The one boob that is fake and that I store in a box at night.  I don't really know what it is made of, but I would prefer to not have some sort of intense search done by TSA when I'm trying to make it to my gate for a 7a flight.  I am still not familiar with the rules and regulations that came about after 9/11/01 as I have only flown a handful of times since that time.  I always have to read up again just to be sure that I have items packed correctly.  

So, you see, is this prosthesis filled with fluid that would require some sort of disclosure?  Do I mention it before I walk through the scanner?  Will they just "know" because breast cancer seems to be running rampant around here these days and surely they have seen more than one of these things in their time working for the TSA?  Was I supposed to ask my surgeon about some sort of letter to carry with me?  Who knows.  But people, it's a boob, not bomb, so surely they can figure it out, right?  I mean, I'm basically bald so it should be pretty obvious what is going on in my world.  

And just to make things a tad more complicated, I also have a port.  This is the little contraption that was placed during my first surgery and is used to get blood samples and also for infusions (chemotherapy and now Herceptin).  Again, I'm assuming they have seen more than one of these things and I also have a little card that I carry in my wallet, so I can at least explain this one easily.  I have no idea what it is made of either, but I'm sure that the card will tell them what they need to know to allow me to board the plane.

I just don't know what to expect and that makes me uncomfortable and nervous.  How will things go at the airport?  How will I feel all day without hair and stuck wearing a hat even when I like to take it off at times when I'm home?  I'm so self-conscious out in public sometimes that I don't know how I will be feeling while I travel, but I'm going to pray for people around me to appear understanding as it is certainly helpful.  

I'm headed to Park City, Utah and have never been there.  According to The Weather Channel app, it appears that the high while I am out there is in the low 30s (actually only 28 degrees on Saturday).  I'm NOT a good packer to begin with and really hope to have as little as possible since it is such a short trip.  Plus, I'm still such a weenie that I don't want to have to lug around too many bags.  It will be cold, so that means warm clothing (sweaters, jackets, boots, etc) which always takes up lots of room.  And I am lousy at making wardrobe decisions ahead of time.  I'm a person who is usually in the "mood" to wear something in particular and if I don't have that particular item I end up feeling uncomfortable or out-of-place.  

That's it folks.  I'm BLESSED to have the opportunity to take this trip but stressed about the logistics.  And hoping that no one thinks I've tucked a bomb into my super-unflattering bra.  Good times people. :)  I had hoped to be funnier, wittier and just plain make myself laugh, but once I started typing it wasn't happening.  I hope you had a little chuckle at least.  I've had some messages that I've left the blog inactive for too long, so I thought this was my time to post.