Monday, April 6, 2009

Michigan State to the Rescue

If you have read my blog for a while, you know I am a sports fan. I love watching sports and I am a Michigan State grad. So, you must know how exciting these basketball games have been for me.
Me and Chloe celebrating after the elite 8 game win against Louisville
I kind of stopped writing about sports for a while because I needed a focus for my blog so I chose health and my life living with my diagnosis. Not that people wouldn't benefit from hearing what I think about sports, but I think more people would benefit from health hints I have learned as well as how someone learned how to enjoy life with such a diagnosis as stage IV breast cancer.

Well these past few weeks have proved that sports are a part in making my life happy while living with my diagnosis. I haven't given anyone a "Shannon health update" in a while. It doesn't mean things have been good or bad, it just means I haven't felt like talking about it. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I would do anything to live ONE DAY without thinking about cancer. Since diagnosis in October 13th 2005, there has not been a day I haven't thought about it once. NOT ONE DAY. Crazy huh?? I don't obsess about it, but there is always some reminder. My lack of hair, eyelashes, eyebrows. Now, even though my hair is back, I would prefer to pull it in a ponytail, which I cannot. My eyelashes still randomly fall out on me (frustrating) even though it has been a year since I have stopped chemotherapy. I still have dark spots on my face from chemo (I cleverly cover up). Of course I have my lovely infected port scar and a couple more from breast surgeries. Those are just the reminders I get when I look in the mirror.

How about when I have a doctors appointment and have to get infusion for my bones? Or when I have to get the tumor marker blood test and I torture myself before calling wondering if I am mentally ready for the results. Even worse when I get a scan and they are actually taking pictures of what is going on inside my body. Think I want to call for those results and it doesn't weigh on my mind every day??

Then, there are times that I cannot avoid or complain about because it is a reminder that people love me. When they ask how are YOU???? or How ARE you????? They all want to hear that I just went to the doctor and that there is no longer a trace of cancer in my body. Or they just want to know how I am doing and my warped mind has to make everything about cancer. It can make a person go crazy and I have had many crazy days. I read about cancer - not focusing on cancer, but how people have brought their bodies back to health. I think about it with every food choice I make. "Is this food on the good side or the bad side?" If I choose something from the bad side I even find it hard to enjoy because I might later beat myself up for eating it.

Now is where I have to give you all my health update.........I had a blood test come back higher (which is not good). It was almost 100 points higher (moving faster than we would like) I started the hormone therapy and sometimes it can cause a spike before the drop it is supposed to, but the spike in the test was a little higher than we planned for. Nothing too terrible. Then, lately I have started to have some aches and pains. At first I was really scared since these came at the same time my blood test came back so you know where my mind was. Every little pain came with the fear that there was a new tumor in my body. Luckily, I just read that the hormone therapy I am on, Femara, comes with a major side effect of pain in bones and muscles. Wouldn't you know it, once I figured this out, some of my pains lessened. Seriously, how much of this is in my head?????

With all of this going on my mental health has been a little off. Another slump and a big one. They never last long, but they suck. I have had my crying spells and negativity spells. If you could hear the way I talk when I am really depressed and scared, you wouldn't believe it is the same author of this blog. Kevin knows. He is there for the good the bad and the ugly. He has also gotten really good at understanding what helps me through these times.... Distractions.

First thing he does is get Chloe and plops her on my lap. He tells me to list things I do have that I am grateful for. He understands that distractions help me a lot. A majority of my burden is that I just want to forget about it all, but I never can. Every day has its reminders and it's struggles.
These games did come at a good time and my brother-in-law came to the rescue yet again with some well needed Spartan Final 4 and Championship basketball tickets. What a perfect distraction.

My friend Todd, got Kevin and I tickets to the slam dunk contest for Thursday night. I had my last break down about my stress and my situation on the way there and that was the last of it. I wiped my eyes before we met up with Todd, and had a great time. Smiles the rest of the night. The next day I went to the Spartan's open practice at Ford Field (with 25,000 other fans) and had a great time all by myself. Then, we got to go out with my friend Jason to Canada where we gambled with some college coaches until 1am.

Saturday of course I lost my voice screaming out of excitement at the MSU game. I was jumping out of my seat the whole night. Everyone had the biggest smiles and Ford Field was filled with happy MSU fans. NOT ONCE DID I THINK ABOUT CANCER. Not once. I told you earlier that there isn't a day I don't think about it. Honestly I would not want to do the study where I find out how long of intervals I can go without thinking about it. They wouldn't be long. So, these 5-6 hours I was wrapped up in the Spartan game were a well needed rest from things.

Kevin, me, my brother-in-law, Kevin and friend Chris all enjoying ourselves at the final 4 game
The scoreboard right before MSU had the victory in the history books.

Thank you Michigan State Basketball. (One of the things I listed that I am grateful for)

Thank you to all of you as well. Every single personal interaction is helpful to me. Maybe I cannot be left alone to my own thoughts?? I work hard on my thoughts and keeping them positive. One thing I noticed is that when I am around other people my thoughts are always positive and I am always smiling. If I'm smiling, you know I am not thinking about cancer.

Please do not think of this as an un-invitation to ask me about my health and how I am doing or for advice or anything. I love helping others and I love knowing that people care about me. Do what you want to do, say what you want to say, and contact me whenever you want to. Thoughts about cancer would be on my mind whether if people ask me how I am doing or not. It is my mind and what I choose to think.
90% of the time I am thinking good thoughts and everything is well. 5% of the time I am thinking about cancer, but not is a negative way. I am thinking if I am doing something to make my body healthy so I can live a long life. The other 5% of the time I am worried about cancer; if I am doing enough, if my test will be good or bad, if I'll make it past the predicted 2 years, if this pain in my abdomen is a tumor growing or if it's being surrounded by white blood cells trying to wipe it out. Maybe I can consider it a blessing that this 5% usually gets clumped together into a few days. I can get it all out and then get on with life.

Anyway, I want to propose a toast. Here's to the Michigan State Basketball team. May we all get inspiration from them doing what the sports analysts said they COULDN'T do and to doing that three times now. (Kansas, Louisville, and UConn. And some crazy people even said they couldn't beat USC) Here's to them playing for the state of Michigan (almost like this run is dedicated to Michiganders). Here is to the sea of green we saw Saturday and the sea of white we will see tonight for the big white out. Here is to high fives being really cool for one more night. Here's to watching the news and it being a positive experience. Here's to making 70,000 people jump out of their seat and scream out of excitement in one place. Here's to bringing smiles to so many people from Michigan (not forgetting my spartan friends in Texas). Here's to bringing some well needed money to our economy. And here is to well needed positive distractions for everyone.

Go State!!

Now let's raise our glasses whith whatever you have to drink (I have wheatgrass : p and drink to Michigan State Basketball) Why not really celebrate the positive moments in life?

(my friend Jason wrote an article about me and how this experience has been for me. He kind of opened my eyes and really made me notice how things like this can make a huge difference in my life. It gave me the idea to write about my apreciation for what is happening with these games and how I went from feeling like a zero to on top of the world at the game. Thanks Jason)


  1. Every time I hear anything about MSU, I think of you and how geeked you must be. It's so funny. I'm glad we can be friends even though I know nothing about sports. Thanks for not judging me. Haha.

    The cancer stuff though? I get it. Fortunately/unfortunately. Whatever. I know I don't need to remind you, but I will anyway -- we are in this together and I am here if you ever need me.

    See you tomorrow! We'll go to group and then eat a sensible dinner at Inn Season. No splurge there is THAT much of a splurge, except for dessert, which we'll skip anyway. :)


  2. P.S. You're gorgeous with that cute short 'do and scars just make you more bad@ss anyway. :)

  3. Hello from a fellow survivor,

    I was originally diagnosed in 2000 with Stage 2b breast cancer, and was re-diagnosed w/mets in June 2006. So, like you I have outlived my 'expiration date' and have proven the stats wrong (thus far).

    A friend forwarded your KC Star story in Jason's column to me:

    I'm no b-ball fan, but I'll be rooting for MSU tonight...and for YOU every day!

    Stay Strong & GO SPARTANS!!!

    Hugs & Love from KC,

  4. I read that same article in the Free Press this morning. It's like you're traveling the globe in newsprint!

  5. Hey Shannon,

    What an amazing run by the Spartans! That's awesome that you and Kevin got to go to the game. I wish I was there watching it with you. Say hi to Kevin for me.


  6. Let me just say that I think most everyone at Alli and Matt's wedding are a little jealous that you were at Saturday's game. The wedding was a great time (don't get me wrong), but watching the last 5 minutes on a bad internet connection and watching it all on VHS tape Sunday morning, was OK, but not quite the same. :) BUT, not to rub it in or anything (OK to rub it in a little), I did go skiing all day Friday and I didn't break a bone. Success to me!
    Hopefully, we can get together soon!

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