10.11.18 – 6 years later.

6 years later. It seems long, but not distant. Does that make sense? The pain memory has faded, but the muscle memory holds it all. Strange, isn’t it?

6 years later and I find myself in another conference room. On this particular morning, I don’t receive a call from Dr. Huo (thank God!), instead, this conference room is where I busily work away at my new job as a People Partner at a cool company, working with, and supporting, really smart and motivated people. I feel really happy on this particular 10.11.

4 weeks ago I started a new chapter and went back to work. The adjustment hasn’t been that bad. Paul’s been a great support and has taken on a lot more kiddo duty so that I can ramp up. I really love working and I think I’m doing a good job keeping it all in perspective and maintaining balance in my life between the kids, the hubs and self care time. That said, I’m only 4 weeks in, so the train has plenty of time to come off the tracks!

In all seriousness though, things are good, really good. Life seems to have reset itself. This will never be something that I forget, that I don’t think about often. In fact, I continue to take cancer booty calls from PAMF on a regular basis. But, it’s sort of become woven into my fabric. My close friend circle is filled with so many BAYS pals. The lines are all blurred and I love that. I love it. It’s who I am now, and I kinda dig the new me.

This is what 6 years later looks like for me – a full head of hair – lots of chaos – never a perfect family photo – and most importantly, crazy fun with Paul, the kiddos and Maisey, Maise…..

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STATS:
6 years
1 amazing hubs
1 amazing Maisey dog (whose namesake is now pretty well known – Maisey Hirono)
2 beautiful, amazing kiddos
1 amazing new job!…..

 

10.11.17

As I sit here and type this, Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera is replaying in my head over and over. I distinctly remember my mom singing that song to me (as I do for Nora & Peter) when I was a little girl. It’s always stuck with me and I feel like it’s been my anthem for life over the past few years.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It’s hard to believe that 10.11.12 was FIVE years ago. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.

Thankfully, I’m happy to report that my latest test results indicate that I’m still NED (no evidence of disease). Wahoo! Happy 5-year cancerversary to me!

As most of you know, making it 5 years without a recurrence or distant metastasis for a triple negative-er is a really big deal. At this point (assuming the scientific literature out there is still accurate) my rate of recurrence drops significantly. Metastasis could still rear it’s ugly head one day, but I’ve learned to embrace the Que, Sera, Sera part of life!

Does this mean that I’ll rest on my laurels and go back to “normal” life? No my friends, there is no such thing as “normal” life anymore – just the new normal – which includes exercise (ugh.), self-care (read: switching to non-toxic make-up, personal care products, laundry detergent, household cleaning items, and trying to eat “clean” while balancing ALL of that against just living my life and enjoying myself!) and continued check ups with Garrett every 3 to 4 months.

But seriously, as shitty as things have been, they’ve been equally as amazing. I wouldn’t trade a thing about the past 5 years because I’ve grown so much as a person. Of course, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody, but for me, it was (and is) a profound experience. I’ve met so many beautiful souls along the way. Without my community, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I thank all of you who have been there for me and my family — holding space for us and holding us in your hearts and prayers when we needed it most. I hope to return the favor as many times over as I can.

For now though, I’ll happily continue cruisin’ along in this lane. It’s not a bad lane to be in…

xoxo,
Andrea

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Photo Credit: Piece of Heart Photography

 

This one snuck up on me

Yesterday was my 4-year cancerversary. It snuck up on me for sure – but it’s not like I forgot about it. It’s always in the back of my mind. Happily though, Paul totally forgot about it. Which I’m fine with. It’s not a ‘versary I like to dwell on too much.

I spent a cozy, delicious day snuggled at home with Peter. I had plans to run an errand or two – but ended up nesting at home with my new little bug instead. It was heaven. Until the witching hour that is. Around dinnertime, literally, everybody in our house was grousing. Peter was crying for a feed, Nora was melting down after a long day at daycare, Maisey was plead-barking at the back door to be let out for a potty – and Paul and I were divided in separate rooms tending to the tiny humans. It was perfectly imperfect. I felt like crying, but chuckled in my head instead. I suppose these are life’s little moments!

Some updates for you on the cancer front:

Earlier this summer, I was accepted into a clinical trial for TNBC survivors. The trial is by Cynvenio and they believe that they can perform a biopsy on our blood to detect whether we’re having a recurrence up to 8 months before current tests could catch it. The trial is specifically for triple negative folks like myself. I don’t have to do a whole heck of a lot except give my blood 4 times a year. I thought I’d get kicked out of the trial b/c I missed the second draw due to bedrest with Peter. But they were cool about it and let me miss one draw and stay in the study.

One of these days when I have some time I’ll post more details about the trial itself. I’m sure you can google it if you’re really curious. Who knows if it actually can detect what it says it can — but that’s the point of the trial, right? I’m happy to participate and do my small part to help advance science.

I’ll leave you with some scrumptious pics of the kids and a hilarious video of Nora and Peter, enjoy!

1st Birthday Party

Dearest Nora,

You’ve brought me pure joy this year. You’re beautiful, smart, happy, curious, expressive and kind. You’re the most active kid I’ve ever met! I love that you keep me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you. Below are pics and video from your birthday party. I love you so much my darling!

Photo credit goes to our amazing babysitter Ana (check out all of her work at www.anabrazaityte.com)

#TBT – Full Circle

Throw back Thursday — I wrote this piece when we were on vacation last month:
Here I am, once again, blogging by the pool on the magical island of Kauai.  My absolute favorite place on this earth.  We came here on our “cancermoon” in 2012 to center ourselves before my surgery and chemo.  The island worked its magic and we got back to San Francisco ready to face my cancer head on.
We were also here on Kauai that dreaded day when Dr. Smith called to tell us that IVF didn’t work.  Earlier today we walked by the store and bench we sat on in Hanalei when the sad news was delivered to us. We got a little emo remembering that day – then looked down at Nora in her stroller and felt like we won the lottery!
This trip, we’ve come full circle.  It’s been 2 years since I finished treatment, I have a full head of hair again and my beautiful, perfect daughter is here with us (only piece missing is crazy Maisey).
It feels so nice to be reclaiming those sad times and to *finally* rewrite our story.
But I can’t help but wonder and feel scared when Paul says things like “we have our whole lives to watch Nora grow and take her on adventures”.  Last night at dinner he said something along those lines again (a perfectly natural statement for any new parent to marvel about) and I quietly whispered “what if I don’t have my whole life to watch my baby girl grow and thrive?”  And told him that I feel scared and sad when he makes grand, long-term statements like that. I could see Paul processing my statement and; for the first time in a long time, he just sat quietly and looked at me with love. Normally he’s so quick to say “You’re fine now. And you’re going to be fine” but this time, he didn’t give me a canned answer. He just accepted my feelings and didn’t try to fix the situation or dismiss my fears. His eyes were sad, I could tell part of him wanted to be the cheerleader and dismiss my negative nelly thoughts — but I’m so glad he didn’t.  It was only a 2 minute exchange, but I felt closer to him than ever.  The reality is that I might get cancer again. or I might not.  That’s it. There’s nothing more to it. It may or may not happen. But having already been there, I really don’t want to go back.
I also think that all new parents feel a sense of mortality when they bring a baby into the word.  I think it’s natural to want to be there for your child no matter what and to wonder what would happen to your child if you weren’t there.  It’s scary to think about whether you’ve had a history of cancer or not.
I look forward to every milestone with my precious, gorgeous, smart Nora. But I don’t allow myself the luxury of looking too far into the future. I just enjoy every single moment of every single day with her and my wonderful husband. Life is damn good right this very second and I am so thrilled to be living it!
   

Another year, another cancerversary….

Happy two year cancerversary to me.  Wow. Time really does fly. I can’t believe another year has gone by.  I also can’t believe that I now mark time by my cancercerversary — more so than my birthday. Weird.

As I get further and further away from my diagnosis date, I’m learning some important lessons and coping skills.  While cancer (and it’s potential recurrence or mets) are still at the forefront of my mind everyday, I’ve gotten much better at acknowledging those thoughts, and then filing them at the back of my brain and carrying on with my day.

I’m not sure what changed or why I’m coping better these days. I suspect it has a lot to do with the life that’s growing inside of me! I put our daughter before myself now — even though she’s still in utero. I don’t have time to let the past haunt me.

Don’t get me wrong though, while I feel less afraid of recurrence (or perhaps more at peace with the fact that I’m not in control of whether or not I have a recurrence) this year saw a new set of issues crop up…  Recently I’ve struggled a lot with survivors guilt.  How is it possible that I had cancer, took all the steps that the doctors recommended — and it all WORKED.  I’m still NED and I’m pregnant on top of that. So much good luck and fortune smiling down on me.

Yet, I know people who did all of the same things I did, but their cancer didn’t go away. In some cases, those people are no longer with us.  It’s so hard to wrap my head around all of this.  But it’s my reality. Though I can’t help wondering why them and not me?

I don’t have the answers to any of this at the moment, I’m just slowly trudging through these waters and trying to remind myself that my feelings are legitimate and normal.  And I focus on our family – I marvel every time baby girl Sieminski kicks inside my belly. It’s such an amazing feeling that jolts me back into reality and reminds me to be happy — to revel in all of our good fortune.

Speaking of good fortune — we’re currently in Buffalo visiting our newest niece, Anna Yasodhara! She is the cutest, smushiest, yummiest love bug I’ve ever seen.  Paul is madly in love with her! I can tell he’s beyond excited for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Watching him coo over her makes me love him even more (didn’t know that was possible!).

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Our lovely sister-in-law, Sandy, is throwing us a baby shower this afternoon.  I truly can’t think of a better activity to do on this cancerversary! OH! Here’s another tidbit for you — today is not only my two year cancerversary — but it also marks the first day of my third trimester! Whoot!

Obligatory bump pic below:

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Breast v. Bottle

Guys! I can’t physically breastfeed so PLEASE, for the love of all things sacred, stop asking me about it!

Ever since I found out I’m pregnant — I joined a new club — the “mom-to-be” club. I’ve waited years to gain entrée into this one and am elated to finally be here! As I suspected, people crawl out of the woodwork to offer support, guidance and helpful tips. It’s incredible!

Most notably, however, is the ease with which people talk at you about breastfeeding. The conversation always starts from the assumption that you’ll be breastfeeding.  For the oodles of women out there who choose not to breastfeed for their own personal reasons, this is a terribly invasive and rude conversation.

For me, it’s just a kick in the gut.

Obviously perfect strangers that I meet now have no idea I had cancer.  All they know is that I have weird, short hair (what can I say? I’m in that awkward grow out stage right now!)

20140902-124635-45995478.jpg and I’m having a baby. Great! inevitably, the requisite baby small-talk commences: “OMG, congrats! Your bump is so cute! When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? How are you feeling?” Then comes the breastfeeding convo: “Are you going to breastfeed? It’s a total bitch – hands down, it’s the hardest thing about being a mom. Natural Resources, which is in your neighborhood, offers great classes on breastfeeding — they’re worth the money.”

Since they’re strangers, I politely explain to them that I can’t breastfeed because I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  I give my 2 minute cancer bio and that usually quiets the conversation. Only the most special people like to return to the topic 5 minutes later. It’s usually in the form of “Well, since you’re not breastfeeding, your boobs are going to KILL after the milk comes in and you have to let them dry up.”  Ummmm, no they won’t. I’m not sure how many ways I can tell you this — but while my breasts are anatomically stunning (!) and easy on the eyes, they’re 100% silicone.

It’s shocking to me how many people who are fully aware that I had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy STILL mention nursing to me! OH EM GEE, for real? This includes family members and fellow BAYS (my breast cancer support group) friends.  As for my BAYS ladies, there are many paths to treatment for cancer. Some of my BAYS friends had lumpectomies, or single mastectomies and the possibility of breastfeeding still exists for them. Some breastfed their children before being diagnosed, so they don’t stop to think about having a baby post DX. But still, I expect more from this group of people.

Now that I’m showing, these conversations happen pretty frequently. I’ve heard a lot of silly things come out of people’s mouths. But this next one is by far my favorite: “There’s so much pressure to breastfeed, it’s like you’re a monster if you don’t want to do it — you’re so lucky, at least you don’t have to choose whether or not to do it — the decision’s been made for you — AND nobody can give you grief about it because you don’t have boobs” WTF? That one is up there with my favorite breast cancer insult “Well, at least you got the easy cancer.” Not comforting people, not comforting.

Here are my conclusions:

1. People are so damned excited about a brand new life entering the world, they get amnesia about any and all sickness you had in the past.  Essentially, babies are blinding! (This helps me explain away close friends and even family members who talk to me about breastfeeding.)

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2. People don’t really understand what a bi-lateral mastectomy entails. Little refresher for you – all of your breast tissue is removed in surgery. You are left with skin, pectoral muscle, anatomically shaped implants and rib cage. In that order. I assure you, there’s no breast tissue. No milk ducts. Nope, no possibility of milk comin’ outta there.

In all, it just sort of sucks to be reminded so frequently that I had breast cancer because it makes me think about the limitations I’ll face after giving birth. It makes me sad that I don’t have a choice in whether or not I nurse our baby. I’m also really sad that my chest is still pretty numb, the skin on my chest is cool to the touch (silicone implants aren’t a great heat conductor) and my implants are pretty hard. I wish I could give our daughter a nice warm, squishy landing pad to snuggle up to (and that I’d be able to physically feel her laying on my chest). But I can’t, and that’s sad to me.

If there’s one lesson I want you to take away with you from this post, it’s this: the breast v bottle conversation is as taboo as asking someone who they’re going to vote for. It’s really not your business, so please don’t go there.