Thursday, October 12, 2017

Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k

Hey, Y'all!

It's been awhile, and I have a lot to talk about. I've started making some BIG changes to my diet, but I will discuss those changes in another post very soon.

Today I want to share a bit about my first 5K in over a year! The Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k walk/run.

I wasn't entirely sure that I would be able to do 3.1 miles. I signed up a while back and even formed a team-Pam's Pink Posse! This event seemed to be the perfect 5k since it was being held one year after my diagnosis. I was officially diagnosed the beginning of October of 2016, and this walk/run was held on October 7, 2017! Another big plus was that the money raised from this event would go to support the very hospital and cancer care center where I received my treatments. How could I NOT sign up for this one??!!

After I registered for the 5k, my good friend Laurie, who fought and won her battle with breast cancer 7 years ago decided that she would fly down from Connecticut to be a part of the team and to spend a few days with my family and me! I was BEYOND excited to have Laurie visit!


I was so happy to also have our dear friends, Randy and Sherry Fortenberry come down from South Carolina to participate! Sherry, in addition to being a great friend, is also a bit of a miracle worker! She convinced my 16 y/o, Conor to wear a tutu! Randy and Sherry's daughter Randi made the adorable tutus in South Carolina (she's awesome!), but Conor said that he loved me but that he would NOT wear a pink tutu, so she didn't make him one! After Sherry convinced him to change his mind, she quickly made him one (she just HAPPENED to have the extra tulle with her??!) on Friday night after checking into their hotel! When she delivered it to him at Cool Ray Field, he still wasn't completely sure about the whole thing!! Watching him put it on was priceless!!

Sherry and Conor



Randy and Sherry

I felt so blessed to have my old friend Judy join us! Judy and I have been friends since we were 12 years old and she has always been one of my biggest supporters in my crazy running adventures! She doesn't run herself, but she was more than ready to join in and walk! Judy provided the adorable hats for the team! 

Laurie and Judy

In addition to my old friends-I had a new friend join in! Angelle works with Ray, and she came out to show her support! Such a sweet woman!


Angelle and Ray

Yes-that's my sweet hubby wearing the tutu! Oddly enough, he was pretty quickly convinced to wear the tutu and tights!!




Ray, Pam, Conor, Alex

I had so much fun, but I also got very emotional at times. Seeing my name on the Survivor board evoked so many different emotions.


As I mentioned, I wasn't sure that I would be able to complete the 3.1-mile course. I had some lab work done on Friday, and I had been feeling unusually lethargic. However, once out on the course with my family, friends and all of the other pink wearing warriors-how could I NOT finish?? Actually, by mile two, Sherry and I were planning our next marathon! NYC-2018!!! Alex said she's in for her first full marathon! Judy and Laurie said they would be there to cheer us on!

It's amazing how empowered you start to feel after making it through such a terrible year! I realized that I really AM a SURVIVOR!!!

Pam's Pink Posse



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lumpy Breast or Breast Cancer?

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me......

Exactly one year ago, I was at my Primary Care Physician’s office trying to convince her assistant that I did INDEED need a referral for a diagnostic mammogram.

I was taking a shower when I realized that my right breast was feeling really heavy compared to my left one. I immediately did a self-breast exam. I could not believe what I was feeling-not a tiny lump, but a huge knot in the bottom portion of my breast. HOW was I just noticing something that BIG?? I just stood there frozen for what seemed like forever. And then I promptly finished showering-got dressed and called to make an appointment with my PCP. I was told that she would not be in the office for a few days, but after I explained the situation (and possibly begged a little bit), I was told that I could see the PA  that same afternoon. I wasn’t thrilled about seeing the PA because when dealing with her on a couple of previous occasions, I felt that she was a bit “incompetent.” However, I needed to see someone to get the referral. I didn’t want to wait.

I was so shocked when the PA sort of laughed after examining me and said, “It’s NOTHING. You have lumpy breasts. The left one feels the same way.” NO, lady-it does NOT! I usually tend to trust what medical professionals tell me (well-up until then I did,) but I KNEW that I needed a diagnostic mammogram and I insisted that I get that referral! This woman made me feel silly and somewhat hysterical for insisting, but I stood my ground on this one, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.

After receiving the referral, I made an appointment at the Gwinnett Breast Center. First up was the diagnostic mammogram, which is a bit more painful than the normal mammogram, and it took much longer. The technician took a LOT of images and then took them to be examined by their doctor, after which she took MORE images. She then took those in for the doctor to see and was told to take even MORE images. At that time I was escorted back into the waiting area to find out what the next step would be.

I have to say that although I was very anxious, the staff at this Breast Center were so kind and accommodating-offering warmed blankets, beverages, snacks, and kind words that made the wait somewhat more bearable.

Then came an ultra-sound, followed by waiting for the doctor to look at the results. And then the doctor came in and did another ultra-sound herself. Things started to get a bit blurry around this time, because my fears were starting to be confirmed, even without actually hearing the words. The technician who did the mammograms was especially kind, and we chatted quite a bit during my trips back and forth from the waiting area to different examining rooms, and after the last round of images she had to take, she looked at me, grabbed me and gave me a hug. And that was when I knew for sure.

When I left the Breast Center, I was given a referral for a breast biopsy and written on the paper were the words-Highly suspicious for breast cancer.

After the biopsies (one on my breast and another on the lymph nodes under my arm), I was told that I would see my surgeon on October 3rd for the results. October 3rd was a Monday, and I have to say that it was a VERY long weekend.

Monday, October 3, 2016
As I sat with Ray in Dr. Quill’s examining room, I was wondering exactly HOW he would tell me that I had cancer. Up until that point, no one had said those words to me. I also wondered if he would tell me I was going to die.

As it turns out-Dr. Quill was very matter-of-fact. He walked into the room and said, “So, you are positive for breast cancer.” He didn’t give me very long for that to sink in before he said, “Are you ready to fight this thing?” I vaguely remember babbling something about how I had no choice…..I had a 15 y/o at home, a daughter in college and other kids and grandkids and that I HAD to fight! He then said, “Good-this thing is curable. We are going to fight it with every weapon available-chemo, surgery, and radiation. The treatments are going to suck, but we can do this." He then explained the expected treatment protocol and said that I should see Dr. Saker, my Oncologist right away so that we could get started immediately. And so the fight began.

Chemo

Have you ever doubted and/or questioned a medical providers diagnosis or advice? Have you ever found out later that you were misdiagnosed at your doctor’s office?

I believe that we have to be our own patient advocates. We need to listen to our bodies, ask questions, do research and if at all possible with something potentially serious-get a second opinion.

So today, September 21, 2017- I CELEBRATE! No, I'm not celebrating the fact that I found a lump in my breast one year ago. I'm celebrating that I stood my ground, got the proper diagnostic tests done and started my journey toward healing!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Good News (mostly!)

Good morning, Y'all!

I have some good news to share today! I received the results from my CT and bone scans and there was no cancer showing on either one! It seems that the pain I have been experiencing is due to a small (ish) fluid filled cyst. The cyst was most likely caused by my surgery. The doctor said that for now, he's hoping that it will get better with the use of a heating pad and some exercise. If it does continue to get bigger I will have to see a surgeon so that he can drain it with a needle, but hopefully, that won't be needed.

The scans also showed that I have a cyst on my pancreas and a gallstone.WTH?? Anything else??! Anyway, the doctor didn't seem too concerned about either and said that they are just something we need to keep an eye on. Today I'm doing a bit of research on both gallstones and pancreatic cysts to see if there is anything I can do to prevent them from becoming a bigger issue. Maybe a change in my diet?? We'll see. 

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday that I had been in a bit of a funk, but I'm happy to say that I am feeling much better emotionally today! Obviously, a big factor is the good news about my scans, but the other reason is that I got outside for a walk on this glorious, cool, sunny day!




As much as I've missed getting outside for a walk or jog, I'm pretty impressed with myself for getting out there today! I was so tired this morning and didn't have a lot of energy, most likely due to the fact that I was up later than usual watching my beloved New England Patriots getting their butts kicked.

NOT how that game was supposed to go!





I only went 1.18 miles and it felt like 18 miles, but I'll take it!!

I'm hoping to get some mileage in this weekend because I have to get ready for that upcoming Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k!

I will be praying for all of those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and those who are being or will be affected by Irma. We have been told to expect some stormy weather here in the Atlanta area early next week due to Irma, but it's still a little unclear as to how much of the effects we will feel.

Do you live in a place that's being affected by either of the hurricanes? Let me hear from you.

Take care and stay safe, Y'all!
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sunshine Tomorrow

Hey, Y'all! It's been awhile!

I really did intend to write something sooner, but I've been in a bit of a funk and didn't want to write a post that was full of whining and complaining. I guess I was waiting for the storm to pass so that I could write a happy, sunshiny (is that even a word??) post. Today I realized that it might take a bit longer than I would like for this storm to pass. Since my blog title sort of indicates that my life isn't always filled with sunshine (whose is??), I thought I would go ahead and share some things that are going on in my life right now.

One morning about a week and a half ago I woke up with a lot of pain in my upper right shoulder and back. I thought maybe I had slept in a weird position, causing the pain and that it would get better after being up for awhile. Unfortunately not only did it not get better that day,  but it got a little worse each day after that. I finally called my PCP to see if I could get in to have her take a look. She was out of the office the first day I called, and on the second day of not getting a call back from her, I decided I should call someone at my Breast Center. By then I was also having problems with numbness in two of the fingers on my right hand as well as a lot of pain in the area where the surgeon removed the eleven lymph nodes.

My Oncologist was out of the office, and I saw his assistant. The PA spoke with my doctor after examining me, and together they decided to have the CT and bone scans that I was scheduled to have the end of September moved up since I was now having these symptoms.

So, today I went in for my scheduled scans. I had to be at the hospital at 8:30 am so that I could have some dye injected into my veins. I then went in for the CT scan which didn't take very long and was only slightly uncomfortable. The bone scan could not be done until 3 hours after the dye was injected, so I had to hang around the hospital for quite awhile.

I have had many different scans done since being diagnosed, but this was my first bone scan-not to be confused with a bone density scan!

I was told that a bone scan can reveal bone problems associated with:

  • arthritis
  • bone cancers
  • cancer that has spread to the bones from other parts of the body
  • fractures
  • infection involving the bone

The bone scan was a bit more of a challenge for me because I had to lay flat on my back for 25 minutes and it was a bit uncomfortable, especially with the pain in my upper back. Also, WHY is it that when you have to lie flat on your back without moving, everything starts to itch, you have to cough, you get cramps or something to make laying there so much harder?! Anyway, I made it through without too much squirming, and now I just have to wait for the results.

As stressful as the back and hand issues have been, the REAL stressor has been the fact that my insurance has been canceled and I am now paying out of pocket for all medical care, including the scans that were done today. I won't go into all of the gory details because I would be ranting for DAYS, but I will say that it's a shame when the stress of dealing with insurance issues is more stressful than having breast cancer.

It hasn't helped that I haven't been able to get out for any real walking, much less running since this back issue began, because exercise is such a great stress reliever for me, as I'm sure it is for most of us. I'm really hoping to be able to get out tomorrow since my back is feeling so much better and I don't have any doctor's appointments or anything.

Now that I have shared some of the reasons I have been in a bit of a funk and uncommunicative, I will leave you with something that popped up on my FB feed a few minutes ago.......



May we all enjoy some sunshine tomorrow!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back Into The Crazy World Of Running!

Hey, Y'all! It's the middle of August already??! I can't believe how quickly the past few months have flown by!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am now slowly beginning my journey back into the crazy world of running! After many months of going through treatments for breast cancer, it will take some time to regain my energy and strength, but I am happy to say that I managed to get in three days of walking/jogging last week and each time I headed out the door- I felt stronger and more empowered!




One of my favorite hats is the one that I am wearing in the photo below, and I wore it last week for the first time in months.The reason I had not worn it in awhile was that I felt like a fraud somehow, wearing a hat that says's 26.2 on the front, when I hadn't been running, much less running marathon mileage! I absolutely love this hat, because after all-it's adorable! Also, one of my oldest and dearest friends Judy Ballew gave it to me! In addition to being such a good friend, she has been one of my biggest supporters in all of my crazy marathoning and fundraising adventures (I guess that makes her an enabler??!) So why did I suddenly decide to put this hat on for my walk/run? To remind myself that I AM a marathoner!




After my breast cancer diagnosis, I felt that surely I had run my last marathon, but now....I'm rethinking that! Maybe I have at least one more marathon in me??!! The idea of picking the perfect race to run, trying to figure out the financial aspects of running a marathon, putting together a training plan, getting in the long-painful training runs......Funny-just writing that excited me to no end!! LOL! I guess it's true what they say-




Having said that-I'm not planning to run that next 26.2 miles in the immediate future! Seriously, do you think I'm insane???? Oh, wait-maybe we've already established that?!!

Seriously though, I do have my first race as a survivor planned! On October 7th, 2017 I will be doing the Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k with some of my family members and closest friends. I was looking for a goal race to do, whether walking or running and this one just sounded like it was meant to be! Since I live in the Gwinnett community and received my treatments through Gwinnett Medical Center, this event is very close to my heart.

Paint Gwinnett Pink was born out of the hearts of two passionate women, Bobbie Menneg, breast cancer survivor and Gwinnett Medical Center's (GMC) Women’s Support Group facilitator, and Jennifer Griffin, GMC's Oncology Community Outreach Navigator. Both women having worked closely with cancer patients, began to realize patients were not only battling breast cancer, but also many other worries associated with a cancer diagnosis.  The two ladies agreed the Gwinnett community could help make a difference and Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K Walk was born!  The proceeds from Paint Gwinnett Pink provide the following:

  • Funding for the latest diagnostic technology for breast cancer.
  • Providing access to mammagrams and surgical concultations.
  • Patient access to comfort items needed during treatments. 


 Also, making this event so special for me will be running it as a team with some of my family members and closest friends. Our team name is Pam's Pink Posse. 

Did I mention that the week of October 7th will be the one year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis?? What better way to celebrate kicking cancer's butt than doing a 5k with some wonderful people for such an important cause?!! Like I said, it's meant to be!

So, for now, I will concentrate (mostly) on this 5k, but soon I will be planning a 10k, a half marathon and then...........

                              
   

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New Beginnings-August 1


Hey, Y’all, I’m Pam. I am many things: a wife, mom, grandma, woman of faith, slightly overweight runner, and a cancer survivor.

This is my first post on my new blog! Some of you may have visited me at my old blog-Just Another Stupid Marathon. I'm not altogether sure why, but I have been feeling the need to start over with this blogging thing, and I felt like a whole new blog might be in order!

I have been a runner and marathoner for many years, but since last October, I haven't done a lot of running. Instead, I have been using all of my energy-battling breast cancer. I have been through chemo, a modified radical mastectomy, and 33 radiation treatments. Hopefully, I will have reconstruction surgery at the beginning of the new year-assuming I get some things straightened out with my insurance company.

When I received my cancer diagnosis, I was determined to be one of those women we have all heard about or even known who just went on with their normal activities while going through treatments, but unfortunately, that was not the case. I experienced a lot of the usual side effects from chemo-nausea, digestive issues, fatigue, hair loss, etc. I also experienced extremely low white blood counts for the duration. I had to have injections from two to four times per week to temporarily raise my numbers so that I could get my treatments as scheduled. The low blood counts made me highly susceptible to any and all infections and illnesses, and I was pretty much confined to my house the entire time, other than going to the cancer center.


Chemo Day

I did venture out for a walk as often as I was able, with a bit of very slow jogging thrown in, but that was an infrequent occurrence over the many months of treatments.



Run/Walk Selfie!





Me and my sweet hubby!
Surgery Day
                                                     


Radiation



Last day of radiation! Gonna miss these crazy, wonderful people!

Now that I am officially DONE with my cancer treatments, other than the hormone therapy that I will continue for the next ten years, and some follow-up doctor's visits, I am ready to become a runner again! Of course, I will be starting off with a lot of walking/jogging and work my way slowly into running. I can't tell you how happy and simultaneously nervous I am about lacing up my old running shoes again! I no longer feel like the experienced runner that I once was, but instead, like a beginning jogger.

Yes, I'm starting over on a brand new adventure back into the world of fitness! Maybe that's the reason I feel the need for a new blog?? A new beginning with both my running and my blogging!

I will still be blogging about some of my experiences with breast cancer in hopes that I might be able to help someone else who has just experienced a life changing cancer diagnosis. I will also be talking about my efforts to lose the excess pounds I am carrying (yes-I'm one of those people who GAINED weight during cancer treatments!), as well as my efforts to get back the energy and endurance that I lost over the past few months. I'm hoping to talk a LOT about running in the very near future as I make the transition from cancer patient to cancer SURVIVOR!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you will stop by often to check out my progress!