Oct 2, 2014

Everything's about to go pink

I don't write about, or talk about, having breast cancer that often. There's a simple reason why: It doesn't define me. That's not to say that it didn't affect me (or still doesn't).

I found out I had it in November of 2012--the day before Thanksgiving, to be exact. By May of 2013, I had gone through my last surgery. Over and done. Quick. I had 2 options: Remove my left breast (the one practically riddled with cancer), and go through radiation--hoping that it hadn't spread to my lymph nodes; or remove both breasts, no radiation, and hope that it didn't spread to my lymph nodes. Because of my age at the time, 38, the board at MD Anderson encouraged me to remove both breasts (there would have been a 45% chance that the cancer would have reoccurred). It didn't even occur to me or Chris that I should keep both.

On December 28, 2012, I underwent a double mastectomy. It hurt. A lot. If you know me at all, you also know I don't like to take pain meds. So I tried not to--Chris was pushing my morphine pump when I wasn't looking. After we came home, I still didn't take much. We have a stock of hydrocodone.

So why the blog post? Because I think "Breast Cancer Awareness" month is weird. It's strange to see pink stuff everywhere. It's strange to be constantly reminded that I had cancer every time I walk into a store. I'm going in to get milk, people. Believe me, i'm reminded that I had cancer every time I take off my shirt. And many times, even when i'm fully clothed. Imaging having a part of your body removed that you've had all your life, then it being replaced with a new one. It's...weird. It looks weird, it feels weird. No, my breasts didn't define me, but there were a part of me.

I hear of women going through a depression after having them removed. That didn't happen to me. I honestly had adopted the mindset of, "They're just boobs." That's not to say that I didn't have moments where I was upset. Not really sad, but just exhausted with the process. Particularly, for all those months when I had those horrid tissue-expanders in my chest. Lord, those things are awful. Every week, i'd go to the plastic surgeon, and he'd fill these balloons under my skin with saline. A little bit at a time, to stretch my skin for the implants. Those months, I felt ugly. My chest was uneven, hard as a rock, and oh-so-painful. Jenna wouldn't look at me; Clairey was intrigued, but honest enough to tell me that it was 'ugly.' But I already knew it was ugly.

Right after I had my last saline expansion, an amazing photographer took pictures of me. I wanted these pictures. I wanted to see what I looked like from the outside. And really, what those photos captured was more than that. Sure, you can see the raw scars, the oddly-shaped expanders...but my favorite picture doesn't show my chest at all. It's just my face and shoulders. In fact, I think it was an 'out take.' He was adjusting lighting and I was turning away. To me, I look peaceful. And accepting. And I like to think that's how I took the whole cancer diagnosis. Accepting. Non-blaming. And that's what I wish for any woman going through breast cancer. Peace. Acceptance. And the ability to kick its ass.

Photo credit: Brett Chisholm

So, this is 13...

Happy, happy birthday! I can't believe you're actually a teenager. Since the day you turned 10, you've been calling yourself a "pre-teen." And we'd constantly tell you, "Don't try to grow up too fast!" See? We told you that it wouldn't take any time at all.

Thankfully, although you're 13, you ARE 13--in every sense of the word. And this is a good thing, because you're still a kid. You don't want to wear a lot of makeup, you will still just pile your hair on your head and leave the house--in fact, I often have to ask, "Did you even brush your hair?!" It's all good. I would much rather be asking you to go upstairs and brush that mop of hair than telling you to go wash off eyeliner/lipstick/eyeshadow. Believe me. These are the things I love--you have all the time in the world to grow up. Please, don't rush it. You only get to be a kid for so long.

Much to the extreme happiness of me and the dad, you don't like the clothes that most girls your age like (thank you!). Shorts are always too short, shirts are always too tight/too cropped/too low, and skirts don't even make it into your closet. You will happily wear jeans and a sweatshirt any day of the week, if it's not just jean shorts and a t-shirt. I love you for this. I love that you simply do not care. You have a confidence about you that I wish all young women had--it's so strong and beautiful. (But, yes, I still want you to brush your hair.)

 At 13, you love Marvel Comics, Ninja Turtles, cheetahs, and the band 5 Seconds of Summer. You have your earbuds in 90% of the time, and you walk around, regardless of where we are, mouthing the words to whatever song is on at the time. It's hilarious. And you don't care. You have gone from a little girl with about 2 friends that would put up with your 'cheetah-talk,' to a young woman with a cacophony of friends who adore you because you are silly, quirky, loving, and have a kind heart. These are the friends that you will grow up with.

13 is such a weird age--you're still so very much a kid, but still so very much a young woman, too. I love driving in the car with you, holding your hand. I told you, just last week, that that simple act makes me so happy. When I was a young woman, grama used to hold my hand in the car all the time (she still does). It's such a perfect connection--it makes me happy and sad, all at once. Happy because when I found out I was having a baby girl, these are the times I just couldn't wait for. Sad because I'm now holding a hand that's larger than mine. Thank you for letting me hold your hand.

Also, thank you for letting me still love you and kiss on you in front of people. I hope you never grow out of that, because I won't. There's nothing in the world that can fix a rough day like you 'hanging' your limby-self on me. You just walk up, put your head on my shoulder, and lean into me. And you totally sit there while I cover your cheeks in kisses. I love you so, so much. More than you could ever fathom. I adore being your mom and I am so glad that you're my baby.

I really don't know what else to say. You are beautiful. I mean that in every aspect of the word. Jen, you are such an
amazing kid. You've accomplished so much in this short life, that I can't wait to see what the future holds for you. I am thankful for you every single minute, of every single day. I am so lucky to be your mom.

I love you all the spots,
Mommy xoxoxox

Sep 10, 2014

And...The Munch turns 11



No matter how I type that number, it still seems surreal. How can you possibly be 11? It seems like yesterday that I was in a delivery room with a team of L&D nurses yelling at me to push harder so you wouldn't be born on 9-11. And now, here we are...here I am...with an eleven year old.

The 11 years that you've been in my life have been so full of sunshine. I know I say this every year, but it's so true: You are a light. Every day, you remind me of the song, "This Little Light of Mine." You are my light, and you are the light for so many others. You are the light in this house, that's for sure. We can all be having a bad day, and your presence just makes everyone happy. You shine so bright, and so strong. Your aura must be blinding to see.

Not a day goes by where you don't smother me with kisses, and tell me that you love me a million times over. There are some silly people who say, "Oh, enjoy it while it lasts. Pretty soon, she'll be too embarrassed to kiss you!" or "Just wait until she's a teenager and wants nothing to do with you!" I always just smile; they have no idea. I can't imagine a time where you won't crawl on my lap, where you won't nestle your head in my neck, where you won't whisper, "I love you, Mama, SOOOOOO much!" in that raspy voice. Let there be naysayers--I refuse to believe them. Your gift is that you love--your age has nothing to do with it.

It amazes me how loving you are--if everybody was as accepting and kind as you are, this world would be such a better place.

When I pray over you and Jenna every night, the words may be the same, but they are full of meaning. The most important part: "Please bless her life like she has blessed mine..." If this is as much as I'll ever be blessed, it's enough.

I love you all the stars,

Jun 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

My Mr. Wisdom,

Today is Father's Day, a ridiculous, Hallmark holiday of sorts, that neither one of us deem important. However, because it IS Father's Day, I'm going to use this opportunity to tell you a few things that I do not tell you on a daily basis, but that I think often:

You are amazing. I love you with every inch of my soul. You are a crazy-brilliant father to these babies, and we are blessed to have you. You came into this relationship/marriage as a 'boy' dad. You didn't have little girls of your own, and when we married, the chicks were 3 and 5--just babies. You didn't hesitate at all--you jumped right in and became a dad to them. Over the past 9 years, you have wiped away tears; brushed long, tangled hair; played 'Cinderella dress-up' (complete with jewelry and crown); and listened copious amounts of Broadway showtunes--all things you probably thought you'd never have to do in your life.

But I'm so glad you did.

You work fulltime, then often come home and head either right up to the gym, or right up to the theatre. You spend your 'extra' time building set pieces for a show, listening to one of them rehearse lines/music, watching 'my beam routine' one. more. time.

You support Jenna with her Cheetah Conservation cause like no other. You tell her, repeatedly, how proud you are of her and what she's doing. You'll tell anyone who will listen how smart she is, what an amazing kid she is, and how she's going to follow her dreams. You steadfastly listen to her discuss, in animated detail, whatever her passion is of the moment. For nearly 3 years, you would sit and open your ears to whatever Monster High discussion she was having with you at the moment. You created a place in her room where she could display all her dolls, and sit quietly and draw. You've spent countless hours creating costume props for her; making them perfect down to every last detail. 

You'll sit with her at the piano and work on music with her; you'll learn music that she likes, just so you can play your guitar and she can sing along. You do more for her soul than anyone in this world. And when I tuck her in at night, and we talk about her day, when she says, "WeWe watched 'Heroes of Cosplay' with me, and we talked about 'How to Train Your Dragon' and ComiCon--he is the BEST. DAD. EVER." my heart melts because you ARE the best dad ever.

That little Munch of ours is a handful, and she's needy, and she requires attention--none of which make you balk. She spends a great deal of time on your lap--granted, she's often trying to show you how she can put you in a headlock...but you taught her that, so you can't complain. That little one adores you, and you know it. You're a sucker. At any gymnastics meet, you're the dad yelling the loudest: "Go CLAIREYBEAR!!" or "Let's go MUNCH!!" You are her biggest fan.

You calm the 'too tired' meltdowns with snuggles and kisses, and you allow her to sleep on our floor more than you should (Yeah, I do, too). You watch a million renditions of new floor routines that she makes up to 80s rock, and even more 'shows' that she puts on in the backyard. These are all reasons why, when she's gone for a week at camp, the first thing she says when we get in the car is, "Let's hurry up and get home. I miss WeWe." She loves your hugs, she loves that she can climb into your lap, and she loves that you will pick her up and snuggle her.

The girls are so very lucky to have you. You are the kind of man that I want them to marry. You show them every day, through your actions, how a husband should treat a wife--and I will forever be thankful for that. They will expect no less than a husband who treats them with adoration and thankfulness, never raises his voice to them, and is full of affection. Thank you for being that model of a man to them. 

Thank you for being the kind of daddy that will hold their hand--no matter how old they are.