“A Sharp Left Turn” by Guest Mug Upper, Ben

Ben & FamilyOn Mug Up Mermaid’s Facebook page, I asked if there were any guest bloggers who would write a blog based on the quote: “Behind every scar is a story of untold survival”. I’ve been learning that there is power, a “super healing power” of love that happens when we share the stories behind (and beyond) our scars. So today, I present my first guest Mug Upper, my cousin Ben. Ben is a Staff Sergent with the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion in Fort Hood, Texas. With this blog, I feel his super powers of love… love for family and country and for others through his message. When I asked him what we would drink for a Mug Up if we could be together, he replied, “Right now a water. But otherwise it’d be a sweet tea or a beer.” To understand why he chose water, here’s a hint… His suggested title for this blog was “AFib Sucks”.

~

I’m Ben. I’m 32 years old, I’ve been in the Army since I was in high school (13 years ago), I’ve deployed numerous times, I’ve been around the world, I’m a Night Stalker, and I’ve seen the worst combat has to offer on a daily basis over two deployments working Medevac. I’ve been a gym junkie, I’ve run circles around my peers, and have always sought out the next challenge to take it head on. Unfortunately in February 2018 all the momentum that I’ve had made a sharp left turn.

Ben working out

I woke up early to get ready for our first formation of the day and do my daily workout. At the time I was preparing for a physical fitness test and was trying to get my two-mile run time down. But I felt weird, I felt like I had a chest cold coming on. After I got back home for breakfast and get ready for the duty day, I took a hot shower and it made me feel worse. I debated going to see the doctor but decided against it. In the Army you can’t just call in sick to work. You have to physically go see the doc and convince him why you should stay home for the day. Unless there’s a plethora of bodily fluids, the doc just sends you back to work. So I work until noon and as I get up from my desk, I felt light headed, dizzy, like I stood up way too fast. That’s it, I had enough. I called the unit medic and asked him just if he could take my vital signs, maybe then I can backdoor getting some good cold & flu medicine without seeing the doctor or buying it over the counter. He convinced me to go with him to the ER just to get me checked out.

I get to the ER and I tell the admit nurse my symptoms, and she got me back to get an EKG done since she couldn’t get my vitals at the desk. I had four nurses working with me. One trying to take my shirt off, one trying to put it back on, one putting the stickers on my chest, and the fourth trying to get my name, date of birth, and admin data. One yelled out “Oh my God, he’s in A-fib!” and all four run out of the room. Well if there’s anything that was going to finish the job and give me a heart attack it would have been that. I texted the medic and he reassured me that I would be OK, and plenty of people have it. I get back into a room, and my wife shows up with her mother, they were running errands together. After I had some IV fluids, the doc said that I would be getting admitted for overnight observation so they can do an electric cardioversion the next day at another facility.

I’m in my duty uniform and I ask my wife to go back to my office and get my workout clothes (that I would have worn for my lunchtime workout) because I wanted to be comfortable and not wearing my OCP’s. As she’s out grabbing my clothes, the doc tells me that I’ll be observed overnight in ICU so they can keep a close eye on me and that I would be taken care of until my cardioversion the next day. Cool, it made sense to me, and I texted my wife “They’re sending me to ICU”… with no back story. So now she’s FREAKING out, hurrying up to get back to me, and yelling at me for not telling her that I was OK. AND YET FOR SOME REASON AT THE TIME I HAD NO IDEA WHY SHE WAS UPSET WITH ME…

Ben & Tanya

I get moved to ICU, my wife confiscated my phone (so I couldn’t keep up with my Clan) and after channel flipping for a few hours I finally decide to get some rest. My wife was resting on the couch beside my bed. At 4:30 in the morning the nurse that was watching me came in to do a lab draw from my IV line. She woke me up just to let me know. I sit up and I start getting hot, I started sweating like I was sitting on the sun, I kick the blankets off, and I feel my bowels start to open up. I tried pulling out my IV because I felt a panic that I needed to poop. I struggle with the nurse as she calls for help, pulls my emergency pull-cord, and the come rushing in with a crash cart. My wife woke up with me, and only went in to use the restroom and when she came out she saw all the commotion. I turned pale gray, my eyes rolled into the back of my head and my heart rate sank and the monitor started beeping “CODE BLUE”. After what seemed like forever, only lasted up to 45 seconds as the nurse pushed a heart rate increaser to get me beating again, and then a controller/reducer to get it back where it belongs.

I wake up to see two doctors staring at my monitor. They kept talking to each other “vagal… vagal… vagal…” “Why are you guys talking about bagels? Now I’m hungry” I asked them. “No, Mr. Wing. Vagal. You passed out and we brought you back.” So my nickname for the rest of the time was Bagel. Following that I was transported for a successful cardioversion (which by the way was a total let down. I was expecting Noah Wylie grabbing the paddles yelling “CLEAR!!!” Nope. They put a sticker on my chest, a sticker on my back, plugged it into a battery pack and pushed a button. TOTALLY ANTI-CLIMATIC!) And kept one more night for observation just in case I flat-lined again. I went home the next day without incident.

Ben & Tanya 2

Then it happened again ten months later. A lot less drama, and only took eight hours between reporting to the ER to being cardioverted. But this is the issue that has led me down this path. The military glorifies energy drinks. Don’t believe me? The main picture on the Army’s portal website is a kid in his vest and helmet with an energy drink sitting right in front of him. We use energy drinks as a pre workout, to get through our 24-hour duties, we hand them out as we go through our pre-deployment processing, and they’re in the chow halls. I had a habit in Afghanistan to cram as many as I could in my cargo pockets, ankle pockets, in an extra to-go plate, and in my hands to bring back to my office. I’d stack them all in a pyramid on my desk and drink them all within a 12-hour shift. I was hooked on them. It was essentially substance abuse. And this was the price I paid. I haven’t touched one since Valentines 2018, but even then I think the damage has been done. Am I saying I want all energy drinks banned? Not at all. I did this to myself because I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t have enough self-control to stop drinking two 20oz back to back within ten minutes of each other. I’m not picking one up ever again.

Ben & Family 2

So, this is my call to action to you, reading this. Stop drinking these things so much. Stop relying on them to get you through your day. We’ve gotten through life without them as a crutch for generations. But it is possible to go to a point that there’s no turning back from. I’m proof of it. The only reason I’m still here today was because I was in the ICU when my heart rate tanked. If I were at home in bed, then I would have died laying right next to my wife and down the hall from my kids. I already have one friend who died in bed next to his wife because of energy drinks. I’m lucky I wasn’t next. Hopefully you can read this and make a conscious decision that it’s time to cut back, if you’re going to do it, then do it in moderation. My career as a Soldier is up in the air because of it. What was my initial plan to retire as the Sergeant Major of the Army now turned to hoping I can keep up with these young bucks enough to make it to 20 years.

Thank you.

V/r

Benjamin Wing
SSG, USA
15th MI BN (AE)

~ Mug Up Mermaid

The Blessing of TIME

I’m traveling to Florida today. The last time I was in Florida was just before my mammogram. Yes, that mammogram. I was there for work and managed to get my toes in the water most days after the meetings ended. I had an extra day at the end of the trip and the weather was spectacular. My rental car happened to be a convertible so I went exploring with the top down, music turned up with my Red Sox hat on securely. I felt free.

Three days later my 3D diagnostic mammogram led to an immediate ultrasound. Next came biopsies, additional mammograms and ultrasounds, a breast MRI and the diagnosis. Breast cancer. For the better part of the 8 months since that mammogram I have felt anything but free.

Doctor appointments. Blood work. Bilateral mastectomy. Breast reconstruction. Complications. Chemo. Hormone therapies. Lymphedema. Physical and occupational therapy. More surgeries. Counseling. I don’t think a week went by without some type of doctor appointment or treatment. That carefree afternoon in the convertible was mostly forgotten.

Until this morning.

I’m at Logan Airport on my way to Miami. My first vacation since my diagnosis. A week without doctor appointments and treatments! I woke up thinking about that sunny day back in March and whispered a thank you to God for that spectacular day of joy and freedom before my world was turned upside down. Here’s hoping to capture some of that freedom in the next 7 days!

It’s my annual Miami trip with my Dad. We go most years to see the Pats when they play the Dolphins. Everything fun seems even better now with my “new eyes” so I can’t wait to get there, soak up some sun (yes, with sunscreen), swim in the ocean, walk along the beach, and maybe even play some golf. But more importantly, I’m just so aware of the blessing of time. Time to heal. Time to be with family. Time to have fun. Time to thank God for all the love in my life.

After I get home next week, hopefully I’ll get the ok to return to work by the New Year… my friend Jill sent me this picture early this morning. Coincidence?

PS…

I’ve been promising a guest blog and as soon as my cousin (ahem – Ben!) finishes it, I’ll post it and then there are 2 more in the wings.

~Mug Up Mermaid

Puking Pepto Bismol

Pink Tie

Time for a Mug Up. I have been putting off a new post. I am back out on medical leave and trying to get stronger and build up my immune system while I still deal with the effects of chemo and now hormones with my still changing body. This caught me off guard – I thought I was going to just keep getting stronger each day and had started to work more and added in some other activities.

 

Making Strides

I did my first fundraising walk (thank you to all you “MugUppers” who donated!) as a survivor, went to a Patriots game, attended several large business meetings as well as a swanky fundraiser and ran my first Foundation Board meeting since my diagnosis. 

And then all of a sudden, I crashed. Actually, it was not really all of a sudden if I’m being truthful. I was willing myself to push through because I wanted to be tough and I wanted to “get back to life”.  It was too much too soon. Chemo fog/confusion, fatigue and pain from lymphedema are overwhelming my daily activities and the mental side of healing is becoming harder, not easier. I find depression and anxiety are hard to admit to. In fact, I wasn’t going to write at all about it, but that doesn’t feel authentic and this blog has been my truth… and it isn’t all pretty.  A lot of it just flat out sucks.

sad dayI imagine I’ll write more about the mental health side of all this healing sometime soon. I’ve confided in a few people and sought out specific help. My tribe is all around me. Don’t worry – I just need a few minutes of grief mixed in with the rest of the healing in order for me to be whole. I’ll get there. I do have to get through two more surgeries this month so I’m working on healthy boundaries, rest, exercise and trying to do something positive each day. Yesterday I took a writing class for cancer survivors and they encouraged me to share the below piece – an assignment about color and emotion. I am mostly posting it for them if they decide to find my blog. But for you regular MugUppers, I think you’ll hear a hint of Julie Ann… 

“I must have been about 8 years old. I was sick. Saltines and coke weren’t helping. Mom, being a nurse, always had the solution for making us feel better. This time, she gave me Pepto Bismol. I remember thinking how fun it was to have medicine that was pink. My wallpaper was pink. My favorite Barbie doll dress was pink. I really wanted pink ballet shoes instead of black ones. So when she held out that little cup with thick, pink liquid for me to swallow, well, something about the color seemed to make me have hope that the queasiness would go away. And it did.

Fast forward 40 years and the month of October where I couldn’t escape seeing pink for breast cancer awareness everywhere. Having pink “everything” all month did not give me hope – I actually found it irritating. Until now. Sitting here now I’m remembering the pink of Pepto Bismol and the hope it gave me. And all the pink things I continued to love before breast cancer.pink ring I loved my big pink Bible. I loved a pink stone ring my father gave my mother and now I own. I loved the pink nail polish my grandmother always wore. So, maybe next October I’m just going to tell myself that the world is puking up Pepto Bismol and splashing hope all around and for every time I get irritated, I’m going to try to remember something else I love that is pink. Oh, and for those that know me, in case you are wondering, I still don’t love pink Red Sox hats. That will never change.”

~Mug Up Mermaid

PS – If you wanted to donate to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraiser, there’s still time!  And don’t forget to check if your employer matches donations!  xo https://www.facebook.com/donate/341891289712175/

Being OK with Loose Ends

straighten crown

convertibleMy cancer journey began exactly 6 months ago today when I first heard the words, “you have breast cancer”. Almost three weeks ago, I had my last chemo session. Finishing chemo was a milestone long circled on my calendar. However, I had not spent much time thinking about the healing still to come in the days and months after. I had already started working a bit before my last chemo session and just figured with chemo behind me I’d be quickly getting back to a “normal” life, increasing my work hours, doing more with my family and friends and just feeling more like myself. Well, it has been a hard three weeks as I struggled to accept what the cumulative side effects of all the past 6 months have done to my body, mind and spirit and how much healing still needs to occur.

I have worked, just not as much as I planned. I have done a few fun things with family and friends, just not as much as my heart craves. I have more therapy, hormone injections and Tamoxifen in my near future. I’m still bald. Chemo brain is real (this week I put toothpaste on a razor…). My immune system is compromised and I get sick easier now. I have to wear a mask on campus, in grocery stores and in crowds because of all the germs. I get anxious, confused and depressed. My body just shuts down from exhaustion and I am not able to finish things. Work projects have been delayed over and over. I have 3 blog posts started that I haven’t gone back to edit and post. Laundry piles up. I’m behind in thank you notes, calls, bills, and all the “should do’s” like buying a pumpkin and mums for the front door and putting away my summer clothes and…

And yet…

inhale love

I am inhaling love every day.  Not a single person in my life has made me feel like I am behind schedule or that I need to hurry up and get back to “normal”. The pressure has all come from myself. So today on this six month milestone, I am letting go of that pressure. I am so grateful for the army of angels that surrounds me with love. This army has helped me know that I have a new normal and we are in this together. I am not alone in the new normal and I accept that it will keep changing. And that is ok. The loose ends will get tied together in their time. In the meantime, I’m inhaling love and exhaling gratitude.

~Mug Up Mermaid

 

Just Keep Swimming

just keep swimming

Chemo brain struck again. Yes, chemo brain is a real thing and I have been adjusting to this new reality. I forget things. I walk into rooms and can’t remember why I am there. Conversations apparently get repeated. Too many people talking confuse me. Usually I can shrug it off. Sometimes I get really frustrated or down about it and sometimes I laugh. This week, chemo brain made me laugh again. This time, it was about my underwear. On Tuesday, my underwear felt strange, but then again, pretty much everything on my body feels strange these days. So, I just tried not to think about it and figured it was just one of those weird texture things that happens to me that has been known to make me change my clothes 6, 7, 8 times until they “feel right” and this has gotten worse with each chemo treatment. My skin feels strange… very dry and papery and it cuts and bruises easy. I have to be careful with how tight things are on my surgical arm due to lymphodema (another fun side effect…). I like being in soft clothes. But Tuesday, I had things I wanted to do so I , I just kept “swimming” like Dory. Until I got undressed. The strange feeling was my own doing and because I was stubborn and didn’t try to make it feel better, I spent the entire day with my underwear on backwards. Yup. Good going, Julie Ann. Thank you chemo brain.

It’s so easy to question everything about how my body feels. The chemo brain side effects have me doubting seemingly normal things. Or not doubting when I should. At least it was good for a laugh when there haven’t been enough funny moments in the past few months. So if you see me out and about and my shirt is on backwards or my shoes don’t match or I seem confused, please just tell me to “Keep Swimming”… it’ll be our secret.

Percolating…

PercolatorA new Mug Up has been percolating for almost a month. I think I started it right after my 2nd chemo treatment, but the draft has been lost. Or I didn’t save it. Or I created it in my sleep. I blame chemo brain for not knowing where it is. Yes, chemo brain is a real thing. Julie Ann doesn’t feel the need to explain the lack of a blog post in more than a month, but Julie has been thinking about the post as it percolates, seemingly too long. So, while it continues to percolate, a brief update…

 

Murphy

Chemo #3 is tomorrow. Besides chemo brain, chemo fatigue has taken control. It is a tired feeling from the inside and makes your limbs feel heavy. Not just like you didn’t have enough sleep, but a deep, gnawing exhaustion that makes even getting up off the couch feel like exercise. I can manage about one “thing” a day. Work, church, a meal out or a visit with a friend, a ride to Dairy Queen or the beach with Tom. That’s about it and then I can barely move. I’m trying to push through it as best as I can, but some days the big accomplishment is finishing a chapter in whatever book I’m reading or doing the dishes. And that is ok. I’m percolating.

I’m percolating and the chemo has slowed down the process a bit. I know the cup of coffee will be brewed just right at the end.

~Mug Up Mermaid

 

 

Hot Stuff

Queen Anne's Lace

I felt well enough this morning to go for a walk with Tom and one of the dogs. Knowing we would walk by the market and that we were out of coffee and cream, I grabbed my money and a light reusable grocery bag and headed out. Yesterday we had crazy storms and rain, but today the sky was clear and a nice breeze blew the raindrops off the leaves of the trees onto my skin. Delicious. The simple actions of being able to go for a walk, smelling roses mixed with low tide and seeing the new crop of Queen Anne’s Lace along the creek bed were blessings I did not know I craved.

And then…

We did the usual loop that takes us by the harbor full of boats, then by my church and library, and finally we were at the little market.look up I popped in to get the coffee and cream and placing them in my bag, joined Tom and the dog for the walk home.

A few minutes later I noticed how good the cold pint of cream felt leaning against my hip through the bag and told Tom it almost felt like an ice pack (one of my recent bff’s with the awful bone pain from chemo). Then, this made the walk even better… Tom said, “Watch out you don’t melt it. You’re hot stuff, you know.” I smiled the rest of the way home. Really smiled. Despite all the changes my body is going through, my man still thinks I’m hot. OK, I know it’s shallow and certainly not solving world peace or even my cancer, but the endorphins that were released from all that smiling must count for something. Mostly, I’m just reminded once again how good it is to have someone who loves me just as I am and makes me smile every day.

My hope for each person reading this blog is that you have someone in your life that makes you smile. Really smile. A smile that lasts for several blocks of a walk. And just in case no one has told you recently, YOU are hot. SMILE!

~Mug Up Mermaid

 

 

Magic Potion or Malicious Poison?

Cheerios 2

I have three new blog posts almost finished. They have sat with me for a few days and I thought one might get finished today. They just need a nice pretty bow to wrap them up. Nope. I don’t have it in me today to attempt witty observations or share funny cancer stories (yes, they do exist). All I can think about today is that tomorrow is my last day without chemo in my body. I don’t even like how my body feels when I have too much caffeine, sugar or alcohol, and usually, those choices for me are combined with fun. Putting chemo in my body is not fun. Earlier this week I kept trying to re-frame the thought of chemo entering all my cells by calling it “magic potion”.  I know…my “glass is half-full” personality at its normal state can be annoying. But for those who are annoyed by sunny dispositions, don’t worry. Julie Ann is back. Tonight, I’m convinced chemo is a malicious poison and not a magic potion at all.

It all started this morning with a bowl of Cheerios, bananas and almond milk. Yes, benign Cheerios. Julie likes Cheerios and even their name. After what happened, this morning, Julie Ann says F*** Cheerios and their stupid name that doesn’t live up to expectations because after I ate, my stomach was upset. That never happens with Cheerios. Suddenly my eyes welled up and before I knew it, I was crying and couldn’t catch my breath. While Tom held me and tried to figure out what the hell was wrong, I squeaked out that if simple Cheerios made me sick to my stomach, how the hell would I handle chemo?

So, this is the raw truth for today. Instead of finishing the “fun” blogs about showers, bras, wigs, swimming again and deodorant (really – they are fun!) I feel I need to honor where I am today. Cancer flat out sucks and lest anyone think that a naturally positive person approaches cancer with all smiles and confidence, Julie Ann reminded me to let you know the real truth. I’m scared of how my body will feel with not only the chemo in my body but also the steroids that I have to take the day before, day of and day after chemo. I’ve had scary experiences with steroids in the past. I’m scared some cancer cells will not get captured and destroyed. I’m scared that despite all the assurances from doctors, nurses, friends and loved ones, my nausea will TAKE ME OUT. I’m scared the scars will not heal – both physically and mentally. I’m scared about going back to work with no hair. I’m scared I’ll miss yet another summer of fun activities. My mind goes to dark places and sometimes having to put on a smile and answer the question that always gets asked with a head tilt, “How are you?” is more than I can handle. I can rally for small moments, but in truth, I feel like an imposter more times than not when I put on the “brave” and “PMA” (positive mental attitude) face.

I want to cry, kick and scream more than you’d believe if you know me. Even when I pray. Maybe especially when I pray.

Tomorrow brings more blood work and if all is well, chemo starts on Tuesday morning. I still have another day to re-frame my thoughts about chemo and maybe I’ll believe it is a magic potion again that will bring amazing powers and love, light and all things unicorns and rainbows. Right now, it is a malicious poison that I did not ask to drink and I think some witch is trying to turn me into something unrecognizable.

A friend sent me a message earlier in the week that I keep thinking about. Last year, his wife has gone through a similar diagnosis, surgery and treatment plan and I had reached out to him even though it had been years since we had spoken. I just wanted to connect with someone who knew what I was going through and about to step into with this next phase.

In his message back to me, he was clearly writing to Julie Ann and it was exactly what I needed to hear. He said, “There are no kinder words regarding cancer than it sucks. No way to candy-coat the situation.” Truth. And then a few messages later he said, “…and I won’t call you brave, you are strong.” I can do it

The being called brave thing has bugged me since the beginning of my diagnosis and having someone recognize the annoying label of “brave” – as if we choose it,  and re-frame it to “strong”, well, that does give me a glimmer of hope that both Julie and Julie Ann will soon be happy to get through the magic potion phase of cancer. I think I can do this. Anyone have a magic wand?

~Mug Up Mermaid

Introducing Julie Ann

Julie Ann

Let me introduce you to my new friend. I kind of like her. Her name is Julie Ann. Watch out. She speaks her mind. She’s fierce and focused. She definitely does not have “Geneva” as one of her nicknames. Oh wait, Julie Ann wouldn’t want me to waste time telling you she speaks her mind. She doesn’t really care if you care. So pour your coffee (or Julie Ann suggests whiskey or tequila…) for this Mug Up. First, a little background…

 

My middle name is Ann, but I have always liked it when people called me by my full name, Julie Ann. When I was little, my parents had one friend who Juliealways called me “Julie Ann”.  It never failed to catch my attention. Like did she she recognize something in 10 year old me that all the others didn’t see? While maybe Julie was playful and went along with the flow, read Trixie Belden books and Tiger Beat magazines and did what was expected, maybe Julie Ann challenged authority, took the lead to get others interested in things no one else did in the neighborhood, read more serious books and of course, was able to kick ass?

Enter cancer. From the first time I went to the hospital for the mammogram that lead to my cancer diagnosis, everyone there called me Julie Ann. I corrected them at first, but then, I decided I liked it and started saying my name as “Julie Ann” when asked. So much has changed in my life since Diagnosis Day…changes I had no control over. By claiming “Julie Ann” as my name, a bit of control comes back each time I hear it said. And with that, came a sense of letting down the walls of politeness and I began really saying what I needed and didn’t need. Yet at the same time, I put up some barriers around who I spend my time with, and where I choose to be. This has made my immediate world a bit smaller right now, but it feels right. MurphyAnd when that changes back, Julie will want to throw her arms around you and give you a big hug and go out for a drink and hear all about your sister’s husband’s great aunt that had cancer. Right now, it doesn’t help. Certainly there is a down side to this no-bullshit Julie Ann – just ask my sister Jody how I spoke to the nurses when I was readmitted after my double mastectomy. I’m pretty sure Julie would send flowers. Or chocolate. Or wine… Julie Ann says they’ll get over it.

But guess what, just because I have cancer and I’ve reclaimed this “voice”, I’m still Julie, too. I am playful. Just ask my dogs and read through some of my text threads with certain friends and family. I still read “light” books mixed with “serious” reading. Currently in the rotation are Andy Cohen’s “Most Talkative – Stories from the Front Line of Pop Culture”, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles (Jim – I’m almost done!), an assortment of beach reads by Kristin Hannah and Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Pastrix – the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and a Saint”.

I still can go with the flow, but more and more it is when I chose to. And as for doing what is expected of me, well, Julie Ann (or maybe that is cancer itself?) might be overpowering that part, but sometimes I still hold my breath a bit when I start questioning what people will think if I tell them how I think. Honestly, doing what was expected of me still got me cancer. So what do I have to lose? Really though, when you are facing cancer, doing what is expected of you feels pointless. And not authentic. Neither Julie or Julie Ann have time to live that kind of life.

Authenticity

Julie has been working on her next blog entry and you’ll see the more expected celebrations of small victories and appreciation for the graces that are WITHOUT A DOUBT, in abundance all surrounding this journey. Julie is warning you though, one of these days the blog will be taken over by Julie Ann. When that happens, you might want to hang on and pour a double.  She has a lot to say…

~Mug Up Mermaid

 

 

Things Cancer Gave Me

ending

When I started this blog in January, it was to help me get used to people reading my writing. I always loved the phrase “a mug up” (more info about the phrase on the blog’s homepage…) to describe a time to connect with friends, co-workers, strangers and I thought a blog would be a good electronic way to mug up and also practice letting people read what I wanted to write. I shyly told a few people and pretended that someday I’d have something interesting enough to write that the # of readers would magically increase. And then cancer happened.

Writing about my cancer journey here was initially just an easier way to share information without having to keep telling the “cancer story” over and over in person. I adopted the first blog on cancer from my Facebook post and then decided it was better to just use the blog format to share my thoughts. Surely, cancer is taking much away from me, but apparently cancer gave me something interesting to write about and people are reading and asking when my next post will go up. I’m getting used to people reading my writing. So tonight, as I get ready for tomorrow’s double mastectomy and all that follows, I’m feeling grateful for the blessings, yes the blessings that cancer has already given me.

Cancer has given me…

…a man who doesn’t care that my physical body is changing. Tom just wants me alive. The ways he has shown me real love would astound you. Not me. His love is constant and cancer didn’t take that away. It just multiplied.

…a kick ass short hair cut (nephew approved) to feel powerful before I lose it to chemo.  Deb was able to save 11″ for me to donate and she so lovingly helped me feel ok about the next steps.

hair

…sisters and brothers by blood and by choice who have showered me with love, laughter (goose shit!) prayers, mug ups and lunches, gifts, scripture, hugs, permission to cry and swear…and a few (ok maybe more than a few) glasses of prosecco.

prosecco

…time to enjoy more sunsets and NOT from my car window on my way home from work but sitting quietly at the ocean, on the lake, in my yard, out at the pier…having time to stop and enjoy God’s evening art show is always a gift, but right now, it is a balm for my soul.

sunset

…caring doctors, nurses, counselors and pastors who go above and beyond and even share their cell phone and home emails.

…a support group of other survivors who answer my questions, check in on me, give me good tips and always know exactly what to say.

…a recently diagnosed friend to go through this together with – we are not alone in this journey and can uniquely understand each other’s challenges of trying to work through breast cancer treatment, which will surely include humor, shopping for wigs and hats and eating chocolate whenever we feel like it!

…hearing from far away friends and family at always JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT!

…space to be alone when I needed to be quiet and not busy with everyday life. I’ve had more than a few days of not leaving my home and tightening my circle. People have stood by me with this desire and respected my need for less, not more.

lonely girl

…having the initial surgery date delayed by two weeks while I recovered from bronchitis. This allowed me to really rest my body and mind in preparation for tomorrow. I am at peace.

And yet with these positive things that cancer has given me, it has also given me dark times full of fear, sadness and yes, even anger. Being a naturally positive person, this “gift” from cancer took some “learning”, but from it, there is a deep satisfied feeling of authenticity… and maybe a few more interesting things to write about on the other side of the surgery.

So, surgery tomorrow. My sister or Tom or Lisa will keep people updated as able.  I probably will be offline for a bit. Chemo starts in about 4 weeks. I wonder what cancer will be bringing in the days ahead. I’m embracing it with as much “kick ass” attitude I can and with a little dose of Joshua 1:9 and appreciation that you have to be careful what you wish for.  I wanted to write and have people read my blog.  Cancer gave me that, and that is ok.  It is well with my soul.

joshu

~Mug Up Mermaid