Our heart learns how to do it throughout our lives, we say goodbye to friends, jobs, homes, and places we love. But if we’re lucky, we only have to say sob out loud goodbyes a handful of times.
Today was one of mine. This afternoon I put to rest my sweet, hyper, eleven year-old golden retriever Ellie.
When we were 23, my best friend from home and I bought a house together. The morning after our housewarming party, another friend brought 3 golden retriever puppies to cure our hangovers. 10 minutes later I had a new love of my life.
Her puppy breath and little sharp teeth won me over after her sisters fell asleep. I knew immediately that she was smart. She needed a sophisticated name, so I named her Eleanor Charlotte and we called her Ellie.
She was destructive and hilarious and loud and perfect. She made my life full of joy and frustration and so much love.
Ellie was the first to show me what it is to be a mother–to put someone else’s needs ahead of my wants. She taught me what it feels like to be unconditionally loved by someone besides my mother.
When I moved to Chicago, she was in the car seated next to me staring up at the huge buildings for the first time. And when I left my ex, she slept beside me on the tiny couch that was the only piece of furniture I owned.
She was there as I started GiveForward, met my husband, and welcomed my two boys home. She was the first face I saw every day coming home from work and the last face peering out the window to say goodbye each morning as I left.
Ellie, when I found out that cancer would be the reason I had to say goodbye, I knew it would be hard. But thank you for showing me for the first time how to celebrate life until the very last minute. I will miss you, more than I can write.
Initially, I began reading his blog because we pitched one of his partners. But now, I read his blog (delivered to me as an email) because so frequently he provides me with a macro sense of what is happening within the part of the economy I operate.
But today, I read with simple appreciation for helping me and so many others feel like we’re not alone in this life that has become too busy, too full.
I knew that this year would be hard. Starting Pearachute, teaching at Kellogg, having to move houses, and being maid of honor in my sister’s wedding is a lot to have happen in the first six months of the year. Little did I know that my nearly 11 year old furry best friend would get cancer, my company would compete locally with four other businesses, my husband’s job would become more intense, and crazy opportunities would come to Pearachute (more on that another time).
At first I got a rush out of my ability to manage it all. I was seamlessly Instacarting, Chiming, and Luxe Valeting my way through weeks. I made it to activities with my boys. I worked out. I planned 3 hour classes for students. I beat aggressive goals with the company. Somehow it was all getting done.
And then, something changed. It wasn’t sudden, it was like a slow storm that takes all day, starting first with cold winds, then a darkening sky, and finally an oppressive downpour.
It’s not that it all came crashing down. It’s just that I did. I gained weight. I was tired all of the time. My fuse was short with everyone I love. And the world began to…dull. It’s hard to explain. I’m sure a therapist would call it depression, but I’d rather compare it to wearing literal, not metaphorical, blinders. The edges were dark but whatever was in front of me was in focus.
I was like that for weeks, telling myself that it’s just a few more months until it gets easier. But it took the third morning in a row of my son asking me “Am I having a babysitter tonight?” before I realized that it and I have to change.
I can’t not do any of the things on my plate, but I can stop adding to it, and I can do them in the right order. Last week I was feeling guilty about saying no to requests for mentoring and judging pitch competitions. I cringed when I left work early to sneak in a workout. This week, I’m not going to feel guilty. I’m going to do what is best for my family and friends first, me second, Pearachute and my team third, and everything else will come after.
Thank you, Fred, for inspiring me to put it in writing.
I’m thrilled to say that the results of my biopsy came back benign! Thank you all so much for the prayers and thoughtful notes of encouragement. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I 100% believe in the power of positive thoughts, and knowing I had so many people were sending them to me gave me confidence this would be the outcome all along.
If I can ever return the positive vibes to your or a loved one, please let me know!
Now, back to work and life…with more gratitude and less stress.
As it turns out, it’s not as easy as I thought to be open about everything that goes on after you find out you have a cancer gene. Naively, I thought that since I am young and healthy that the Chek2 positive test result was just some great information that will allow me to be proactive about my health. While that’s true, I’m realizing that anything unexpected is way more emotional than I thought it would be. I think that’s why it’s taken me a few weeks to post that the radiologist found some calcifications that he thought should get a deeper look.
I had my first mammogram and breast MRI earlier this month. Both were awkward and uncomfortable and I’m honestly not sure which one I disliked more. The mammogram’s compression on my small B’s was a little painful, but the maneuvering it took for the tech to get a good image was painful in a different way. After having two children, you lose a lot of embarrassment about people seeing and touching you naked. But the difference in pregnancy is that you’re creating a life. You have this energy and power running through you that blocks most self-consciousness.
With a mammogram, the experience is very different. Suddenly one of your most beloved body parts is being handled roughly and photographed for flaws and irregularities. It’s psychologically numbing in a place that has been so physically and emotionally charged before. Perhaps my reaction is stronger than most women’s because I’m pretty confident I’m going to do preventive surgery.
After the mammogram, the tech took me to the waiting room while the doctor looked at my images. She told me that I needed to go back in and do three more shots…which I knew wasn’t exactly great news. So, basically, I got to have two mammograms in one day. And then the radiologist came in for 90 seconds and told me that I had some calcifications that normally we would just watch, but given my genetic results, he suggested a biopsy.
I followed the mammograms with an MRI. I thought this would be the easy part, but as it turns out, lying on a hard table with your arms above your head while a loud machine scans your body at a glacially slow pace is less fun than the smashing of a mammogram. I was really grateful that I had practiced hypnobirthing with my first labor because I used a lot of those tactics to shut out the throbbing pain in my shoulders as my arms went numb and the noise that sounds like you’re in a car manufacturer.
So basically, September 15th was pretty miserable and stressful. I firmly believed that I had nothing to worry about, but it’s hard not to leave such a physically invasive experience feeling a little low that there is more to come.
And the more to come was not awesome. The breast specialist said “a biopsy is a lot like a mammogram but with novocaine and a needle.” I can tell you that is not true…not even a little. A biopsy is way more like a mammogram mixed with an MRI mixed with a speargun…followed by spiking waves of pain.
I would not consider myself a wimp about pain. I’ve endured 30 hours of back labor, recovered from two c-sections, and experienced a surgery in college that should have been done under full anesthesia but was given only local. I’m not going to say a biopsy is as bad as any of those…but I will say that it is not something to take lightly.
If I were to do it again, here’s what I would do differently. First, I would not listen to the person who said you don’t need to bring anyone with you. It’s emotional…and painful enough that it makes driving hard. Second, if they let you, I’d bring headphones and some music. I think finding a way to enjoy moments of the experience would be great. Third, I would work out that morning if possible…or have sex 🙂 Do something that makes you feel good and burns off nervous energy. Finally, I wouldn’t schedule anything else that day and would try to get someone to take care of your kids for the night. Not being able to hold or pick up your kids for a day is hard, guilt-inducing, and tiring.
Now, begins the two day wait until I get my results. If you think of it, please send good thoughts of cancer-free results for me.
Today, I’m headed to Advocate Masonic for my first mammogram and MRI. I almost didn’t write anything about, because there’s really no reason to be worried. I have no symptoms or indication that anything is wrong.
But in an effort to be honest with myself, I decided to post something…because I want something. I want your positive vibes and good energy.
As a tireless optimist, I know I’m fine. But there’s still that little scary voice in my head asking me “What if you’re not? What if today begins a journey you never expected to travel?”
I know how powerful fear is…but I know that positive thoughts, optimism, love, and support are so much stronger.
So, if you have time today between 1pm and 5pm CT, will you send a little thought into the universe of healthy, happy boobs for me 🙂
A couple of months ago, I lost a high school friend to cancer. She left behind a 3 year-old little boy which, needless to say, broke my heart as the mother of two young boys. But her passing did something unexpected for me–it inspired me to be more proactive about my own health. Having had several of our family members go through cancer, most of them breast cancer, I decided to ask my doctor about screening.
Given our family background, I qualified for a screening of several cancer genes, including BRCA, which we’ve been seeing with increasing frequency on GiveForward.
Yesterday I found out that I do not have BRCA, but I do have a cancer gene called Chek2 with a 48% chance of getting breast cancer.
This doesn’t mean I have cancer…it just means I could get it.
I haven’t decided exactly how aggressive I want to be about prevention yet, but I have decided to make my journey public. As a 33 year-old woman with a microphone, I think it’s important to help bring awareness about testing and options for prevention to as many people as possible.
At the same time, I realize that it will probably be emotional and somewhat alienating to be public about this. So, I have a couple of requests:
1) Please don’t treat me like I’m sick…I’m super healthy. My blood work is awesome, I feel great. I do need to get screened in the next few weeks to makes sure there’s nothing there, but in the meantime, send me healthy vibes!
2) If you’ve gone through this and you have any advice, will you please email me: desiree (at) giveforward (dot) com
And one more…
3) Get tested! if you’re at risk, please talk to your doctor.
Most importantly, I want you all to know what a blessing I think this information is. I have the power to be able to get in front of something most people never do. I truly believe that this news has added years if not decades to my life, and I am grateful that the work we do at GiveForward gave me the information I needed to be this proactive.