Rearview Mirror

By Katie Austin

As I log into my laptop to write my next Every Woman Blog article, I close my eyes to allow my mind to wander as I try to come up with a topic to write about.  It feels good to sit still, thinking about life in general. It’s not often that we find those quiet times in our busy days to just think without having a deadline or having to be somewhere.   I try to come up with something and look at my calendar to see if there are any life events coming up I should write about.

Then it hits me.   The day on the calendar is the only one I see.   It’s like there is a glow around it and my mind begins to race, my emotions flooded with memories of that moment.  When my life stood still and everything changed.

I will never forget that day.  It was Friday, March 5th 2010 and the time was 11:15.  My parents and I were at the house waiting for a phone call.  You see, I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy the day before and the hospital’s breast health nurse navigator, Kelly Jeffcoat, was planning to call me by 11:30 with the results.  I already had a feeling there was something wrong just by the reaction of those around me the day before.  I tried to take my mind off things all morning but all I could think about was wanting to know.

Then the phone call came.  Nothing can prepare you for that moment.  I actually let it ring two times before picking up because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I needed to know but I knew picking up that phone could change everything.   I was right, my life was going to change forever with that phone call.   I was told that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

From that phone call, I underwent eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy), 26 days of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy (Herceptin).  Shortly thereafter I had my port removed and then was on medicine to lower my estrogen levels for almost five years.   I met the most amazing people along the way and their friendships continue to this day.

Katie-Sharon

Katie with Sharon Nipper (her infusion nurse)

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Katie with her breast friend Brandy

It’s hard to believe that on March 5th of this year it will be eight years since I was diagnosed!   As I let my fingers move across the keyboard, I think back to the day I rang the bell and how much I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.  Over the years, I would try to motivate myself to get healthier and it would work, but then I would fall back into the same habits.  I would allow myself the excuse that I am lucky to be alive so I shouldn’t worry about that.  But that’s not true.   It’s been almost eight (8) years since that fateful day and I am no closer to finding that new normal than I was then.

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I spend more of my time thinking back to when I was in shape, when I felt better, when I had more energy, when I didn’t have cancer.  As I type this, I realize that during my cancer batter I had to be strong.   After my treatments were done, I had to be strong and to get back to life I had to put those feelings aside so that I could enjoy myself again.  I realize now I never dealt with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the diagnosis.   I need to take the time to deal with those emotions.  It’s ok to think about and miss my survivor sisters who are no longer here.  I need to be ok with being afraid of my cancer coming back but not allow it to hold me back.  I need to put God first and my health needs to be a priority.  I want to be ready if/when my cancer rears its ugly head

As I sit here writing down my thoughts, I realize I wrote quite a bit and my next blog post 🙂

I can’t change my past but my future is what I make of it.  I can’t expect things to work out on their own.  Sometimes they do, but for the most part I know that I need to heal before I can move on.  Then I will be ready to take on the changes I need to make in my life.

Life isn’t how quick you get there, but the steps taken to get to where you want to be.” – Katie Austin

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog,

Katie Austin

 

What to Say?

By: Katie Austin 

I sat up late at night recently thinking about my friends that are fighting cancer. I read their Facebook posts and my mind wanders back to the time when I was fighting cancer. I started crying as I was reminded of the thoughtful, wonderful things that my family and friends did for me to keep me strong throughout my struggle to stay positive.

What’s crazy is that I find myself not being sure of what to say to my fellow survivors. I don’t want to say anything that might upset them in any way.

Then I remembered something. I read an article a few years ago that really helped. It was something that I wished I would have come across when I was fighting cancer. Something for me to give those close to me some insight and not to be afraid to talk about normal stuff.

I’ll provide you with a link to the article at the end but here are a few to get you started:

  • “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you.” It’s ok not knowing what to say. Sometimes being honest about not knowing what to say keeps the conversation real/open. The person fighting cancer may not know what to say either or remember because of chemo brain…LOL.
  • “I’m here to listen.” This is always something that can be shared, as it is so reassuring to know that there is someone that can listen. Remember that they are sharing their feelings and that it will be good for them to get out any frustrations, which will help you to better understand where they are coming from.
  • “Let me help with…” This is a good one! It was always easier for me to say yes/no to something specific that someone was offering to help with rather than an open question, “What can I help with?” They may be too overwhelmed at the time and it may be too much pressure to come on with something specific on their own.
  • “How are things going with you?” or “How is your family?” Talking about things other than cancer was a relief. I wanted to just talk about normal stuff too and it was a break from the daily cancer treatments, doctor appointments, and everything else that came with it.
  • A simple text can mean the most. The littlest things do mean a lot. A simple text to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” doesn’t require a response but lets that person know you care.

You can find more ideas here: https://www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/10-things-cancer-patients-love-to-hear.

Remember, that this is a journey not only for the cancer patient but for their family and friends as well. No matter what you do or say, it will help them to stay positive and they will know that you care.

Do you have an idea or quote that was helpful for your friend or family member?  If you do, post it here so that we can share with our Every Woman Blog family.

Moving On

By: Katie Austin

In my last blog post, I talked about living life with purpose. This has been a tough thing for me to do as I want so badly to get back to the person that I used to be.

Then again, do I remember who I was before cancer?

Katie

Before I could begin to answer that question, I needed to come to terms with where I was in that very moment. After being thrown into the whirlwind of cancer treatment, doctor’s appointments, and many sleepless nights, I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I couldn’t see straight. I often found myself going through the motions of daily life instead of enjoying what I was doing. My mind was thinking about what I needed to do next while also worrying that my cancer would come back.

You go from fighting cancer to living with cancer.

I had to come to terms with the fact that my cancer is in remission and that I will never be cancer free.

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In the 6 years since my last cancer treatment, I have been keeping myself busy. Trying to get to all of the things that I love to do. But what I realized earlier this year was that I was covering up the wounds and never letting myself truly heal. I haven’t faced the reality of my life as it is now. I need to face my fears before I can get myself to a healthier place.

I will never be the person that I was before cancer. I have to stop trying to be the person I was before. My mindset has to change before I can live my life with purpose.

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This is going to be a year of change and a lot of firsts.This is going to be a work in progress and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Life After Cancer Treatment

By: Katie Austin

While battling the big “C” four years ago, I quit doing almost everything.  I put all that I loved to do aside so that I could focus my energy to rid myself of this demon.  After treatment was over and I was declared to be in full remission (applause!), the challenge for me was, what next?  What am I going to do now with my life?  Will I ever be normal again?

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What I discovered is that I was so focused on fighting my cancer that once the treatment was over, I wanted to jump right back into the pool of life and do EVERYTHING that I had stopped doing. I got back out onto the competitive volleyball court (physically wasn’t ready), worked long hours at the computer and went back to college (mentally wasn’t ready), and put aside all of the emotions that come with fighting cancer. I was able to keep things going for a few years, myself going all the time and everyone around me thinking that I am happy, doing well and on the road to a complete recovery.  What I didn’t see coming happened this year.

Sometimes it takes just one situation to bring everything to a complete stop. A good friend of mine at work recently passed away from cancer.  I was devastated.  Two years ago, when she returned to work after beating colon cancer the first time, we would spend time talking about diet, foods we found that helped to offset the side effects we were experiencing, and how excited we were to be in remission.  I hadn’t seen her for almost a year after her cancer came back.  When I heard of her passing, I collapsed at my desk, in shock, as I couldn’t believe she was gone. I wouldn’t be walking the first lap of next year’s Relay for Life with her.  Our talks were gone.  My friend was gone.

I went to her funeral the following Sunday to say good-bye and remember the beautiful spirit that had come into my life. This was the icing on the cake, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the card on the house of cards that would tumble everything downward.

I was depressed.  I wasn’t happy and I had to stop long enough to allow myself time to heal.  Plain and simple.  I hadn’t dealt with the emotions that come with fighting cancer and the fear that it could come back that will be with me forever. I needed to find out what my new normal was.

“If you are always trying to be normal,

you will never know how amazing you can be”

–Maya Angelou

I am making small changes to my diet, adding exercise to my routine, and staying active. When those emotions come out, I allow myself time to process them.  I am re-prioritizing things in my life so that my focus is where it needs to be.  My health was farther down on the list than I thought it was.  How can I do all the things I want to do if I am not healthy?  What was I thinking??

What I learned is that life after cancer is a process.  I am not where I want to be, but I have to be ok with where I am right now.  It’s about taking small steps to make small changes that will become lifetime changes.  More to come on this in my next blog post. 🙂

For those fighting cancer, I am praying for you and sending many well wishes your way!  Remember to stay in the moment and allow your body time to heal and rest. Remember that this is a process.  I wanted to share a link from the National Cancer Institute (below) that found to be helpful in my healing process.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment.pdf

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog!

~ Katie Austin

LMC Nurse Notes

LMC is hiring nurses with at least one year of experience in Med/Surg, Critical Care and Labor & Delivery to work night shifts with a $2,500 signing bonus. Learn more:
http://www.lexmed.com/careers/career-paths/nursing.

Katie Bedenbaugh, RN, OCN is a nurse for cancer patients at LMC. She has received the hospital’s Award of Excellence and LMC Gold for her great work. In this video, she talks about the experience of taking care of cancer patients and what she enjoys about being a nurse at LMC.

T.G.F.A.D.

By: Katie Austin

By the middle of every week (sometimes by the end of Monday), I find myself looking forward to Friday, knowing that the weekend is almost here.  Then, come Sunday evening, the Monday blues settle in as I prepare myself for another work week.  I wonder where the time has gone and notice the weeks are moving faster as I get older.  Even as I write this, I can’t believe we are almost to May! I begin to wonder how I can capture the Friday-feel-good feeling every day during the week. Wouldn’t it be great if every day were Friday?!  Of course. But how can I bottle up this feeling so that I can spritz it on at the start of each day?

Then, it hits me! The light bulb over my head is aglow and I realize that I can feel like it’s Friday every day!  How, you ask?  All we need to do is change the way we look at those “other” days during the week. Yes, even Monday 🙂  Now, I look at every day as Thank God For Another Day.  Instead of being thankful for just Friday and being happy that I made it to the end of the work week, I try to remind myself that I am thankful each day that I wake up. I am thankful to have a job, a wonderful group of family and friends, and the opportunity to make each day one to remember.

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I know some of you are thinking, “Katie, take off those rose-colored glasses!”   But as I bring those rose-colored glasses to the end of my nose, I peek over the top of them to ask one simple question: if you knew today would be your last, would you feel the same way??  No matter what is going on in your life, you can find something positive when you look at life differently.  Believe that no matter what happens today, if you are given another day, things can change. We should look forward to tomorrow!  I am thankful even for the bad days, as I realize I am a strong person and that life events prepare us for future challenges.  I wouldn’t have made it through my breast cancer battle without first getting stronger from my past struggles.  You can and you will get through life hurdles, small and tall, when you believe that you can and when you are thankful for every day.

Life has a way of speeding up as we get older.  I think we should pause often, be thankful, and appreciate each day for what it’s worth.  Seize the day and make it one to remember!

Katie

Pink Glove Dance Voting Extended to Friday, Nov. 2!

Medline has extended voting for the Pink Glove Dance Competition until Friday, November 2!

We still have a long way to go and voting for our video has slowed down. Please keep spreading the word to family and friends across the country and encouraging them to vote for us.

You can also bring your friends and family to Lexington Medical Center Gamecock Village and the Lexington Oktoberfest to vote for our video. Pink Glove volunteers will be at Lexington Medical Center Gamecock Village, located next to Williams-Brice Stadium, from 8:00 – 11:30 a.m. and Lexington Oktoberfest in downtown Lexington from 12:00 noon – 3:30 p.m. Both events are this Saturday!

And if you haven’t already, please go to www.pinkglovedance.com, scroll down the “L-M” page for LMC and click “VOTE” on our video. If you need access to a computer or a Facebook page, please come by Marketing at 107 West Hospital Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. We’ll be happy to help you.

It’s because of the incredible support of our LMC family that we’ve come this far. The world is watching, so let’s show them what we’ve got and bring back-to-back National Pink Glove Dance Championships to Lexington Medical Center!