Monday, October 24, 2016

My Tribe Will Understand My Memory Issues

I can’t thank this community enough for your support after my last post. I have cried reading through your comments and emails, Facebook messages and texts. I was scared to share this part of my story. I was worried about what it would mean for my identity (because once you put it on the Internet there’s no going back). I was afraid about what it might mean to break ties with a community that’s become a second home.

I shouldn’t have worried. This is my tribe, and its members are not victims who cry foul when another gets good news. Instead, I mostly heard: this is a miracle, and we love you. One friend said, "We are not kicking you out just because you lucked out!"

I love you all right back.

I still had cancer. I still experienced nearly five years of metastatic cancer. Now I just have different appointments and different doctors to figure out what the best path forward is for me. I’ve got more pain and sometimes even miss the damn steroids. I’ve got similar levels of fatigue (apparently it wasn’t just the chemo). My chemobrain might be slowly retreating, but it’s been replaced by an anxious fear that perhaps none of my doctors know what they’re talking about.

I still feel scatter-brained most days.

And Chris occasionally makes fun of me, but keeping track of it all, then and still: the appointments, kindergarten volunteering, and now, also, a job search, is not something I can seem to manage on my phone. Calendars don’t sync, I fumble with my thumbs when trying to enter new appointments into my device at the end of one doctor’s visit and get frustrated, and inevitably ask for a print out of my follow up visits anyway.

I know. I sound like a dinosaur.

I prefer paper. I prefer a hardcover book, too, although I recognize the convenience of my Kindle for travel. But for my calendar? For keeping track of my life? It’s a spiral-bound monthly planner all the way. My 2016 one has photos of Quinn interspersed throughout, and I'll probably hold onto it forever for that. And because this year has been something else, amiright?

The cover of my 2016 planner. Photo taken by Jodi Lynn Wall, April 2015

A few weeks ago, a woman reached out to me to share her breast cancer story, and to ask if I’d be interested in trying out some of the products she’d designed for the company she works for, Erin Condren. You might have heard of them?

Would I like some paper and pens and organizing pockets and even a journal, too? Yes, please! Sign me up. In ink.

{photo source:}

And then I learned that a portion a full FIFTY PERCENT of the proceeds of these products would be donated to the Pink Lotus Foundation, which aims to provide treatments for underserved communities. To help women who don’t have the means or insurance to help themselves when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. See, corporate America? There IS a way to do Pinktober correctly!


Side note: do you know how much DISPARITY exists in breast cancer survival rates? That African American women are more likely to die of the disease, and that women of color are less likely to be given information about reconstruction options? That death rates are falling overall for breast cancer, but not nearly as quickly for women of color?

This is why I’ve walked the Avon Walk these past 5 years, with my team raising more than $100,000 to help underserved communities (and provide money for research). It is a cause near and dear to my heart because I have been fortunate, and I hope I don’t take a dollar of that for granted.

Do you remember my SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR shot? One shot. That I received probably fifteen times for just the cost of my copays.

Cancer is expensive. Treatment is expensive, transportation to/from doctor's offices is costly, and taking time off work to receive and recover from treatment isn't a viable option for many, many women. That's where organizations like the Pink Lotus Foundation and Avon come into play. I will support them as long as I'm able.


Last week, I went in to have my thyroid checked, because I’ve gained an unusual amount of weight since stopping treatment. My thyroid appears fine, but my joints all ache. I’ve got an MRI of my knee today, and tomorrow an ultrasound of my right armpit for a painful lymph node (or possibly just the spot where my implant is sewn into scar tissue).

I missed the third presidential debate to be on a flight to Houston to attend a metastatic breast cancer conference as a patient advocate. From what I understand, SNL did a fine job of summarizing the two candidates. I'm going to order my "Nasty Woman" coffee mug as soon as I'm done writing this.

Before my flight to Texas, I helped Quinn's class of 27 kindergarteners plant beet and carrot seeds in their class garden. Friday was a school book fair, this weekend we had two birthday parties, a soccer game, and ASU's homecoming. Tomorrow is our 8th wedding anniversary. I can’t keep track of all that in my head! Pre-chemo, I might have been able to, but now I rely on writing everything down.

And I never do sponsored posts here. I don’t even know if this counts as one. But I did receive some free products, and I am vouching for their awesomeness, so here is my disclaimer. Also, send some love to our tribe member Sam if you get a chance. She’s doing good work, and keeping me a little less scatter-brained in the process.

1 comment:

  1. I have to write everything down. If it isn't on my calendar, it doesn't exist. Chemobrain stuck with me after early stage treatment, I can't imagine how long my brain would take now with radiation, chemo, more meds.... stress also impacts memory! I hope your doctors DO know what they are talking about and I think you said you have a good therapist - PTSD is a reality for cancer survivors/thrivers/tribe members. *hugs*