Monday, December 7, 2009

Reconstruction is all done...

Thank G-d. My last surgery is now behind me (insert chorus singing "Hallelujah".) 

The last phase of reconstruction went well from a surgical standpoint but it seems that it just wouldn't be me if there wasn't some sort of issue that arose. Thankfully we caught the dropping sodium levels before there was a real problem (i,e: what we went through in June) so it basically came down to my spending an extra day on an IV, being monitored by a new doctor, having my labs checked every four hours and getting additional rest at PSJMC. My beautiful sister B was my overnight buddy both nights which was a big help. This time I wasn't so loopy so we were able to have some really nice long talks.

I am so very happy to be home and slowly getting back into the swing of things. I will find out later this week when I can resume driving. The key is to really take it easy in an effort to get the grafts to take. The pain is really minimal and Wednesday will be the big reveal when the bandages are removed and Mike and I will be  able to see Dr. B's handy work.

It is surreal to be at this point.

I am so blessed to have the treatment and surgeries now behind me and am ready to close this chapter in the book of my life.

Does this mean that I won't think about this journey? Of course not. But it does mean that I will be able to move ahead knowing I won't have to undergo another surgical procedure and knowing that I have really done everything in my power from a medical standpoint. Healing of my mind, body and spirit continues...

Thank you for your love and support.

Ancora Imparo


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The recent news...

We all have our opinions about the recent news this past week and the recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to change the age of mammogram screenings.

When we heard this, Mike and I were completely shocked. Here I am 45 years old and a breast cancer survivor. Thank g-d I was being monitored and having the screening tests I had been having regularly or I might not be sitting here writing this...

And to not teach women breast self exams... I know several women who found suspicious lumps/masses this way and thankfully had doctors that followed up on their concerns and guess what -- these were not high risk women and oh yea they were in their 40's!

Personally, I think we need another form of early detection since mammograms do not pick up on all breast cancers. It did not lead to my diagnosis. And doesn't seem to be an effective screening tool if you have dense breast tissue which most women have. And to want to make this recommendation because of the psychological implications with a false positive reading... Ridiculous.

It just illustrates that you have to really be your own advocate and fight for what you feel is important.

The following article seems to be a bit more on track.

Ancora Imparo

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Day...

Yesterday I went to a funeral for a dear friend's mom who lost her battle with cancer. I was incredibly moved by something the Pastor read. I know we all come from different faiths and have different beliefs but I truly think this is beautiful and want to share it with you.
Ancora Imparo

One Day
If God gave us only one day of life, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one springtime or fall, one summer or winter, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one day of laughter, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one beautiful meal, beautifully served in a secure home, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one friend to share the journey of time, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one child, sound in mind and body, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one storm that left us unharmed, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one day for a good time with friends, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one talent for creating beauty, it would have been generous.
If God let us laugh only once in the face of calamity, it would have been generous.
If God gave us only one moment's pride in the success of those we love, it would have been generous.

But God has given us life and time, joy and sorrow,
sunshine and storms, laughter and tears,
gifts to share and days to remember.
God has given us friends and lovers, children and parents,
you and me, and Himself as well.

It is God who gives us life,
who tells us ever after to choose life,
God who is our resurrection and our hope,
who dwells within our hearts as the spirit of life,
the vanquisher of death,
and the comforter of the afflicted.

-Donna Gordon

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall is here...

October already.
And mid October at that.
I am now another year older -- 45 can you believe it!

There is a chill in the air although I am hearing we will have some warm California weather over the weekend.

I had the honor of volunteering at the weSpark booth at the Taste of Encino (street fair) yesterday. S came with me. M would have loved to join us but had a ton of work to do for his D-project. After our shift, S was a good sport helping me distribute Wings of Courage fliers. Then we had a chance to go exploring which included him sliding down the largest inflatable slide we have ever seen and buying an extra large bag of fresh popped kettle corn to bring home to M.

Hoping the new season is treating you well.
Thanks for your continued support.

Ancora Imparo

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Feel the feelings without the story...

I am continuing to have the opportunity to go to my post treatment support group. Today we talked about allowing ourselves to feel the feelings we are experiencing without attaching a story onto them. I need to sit with this idea for a while.

It is easy to get ahead of oneself and plan out an entire scenario before it happens or in my case attach someone elses outcome onto my journey. It is not a battle but more of a reminder that my journey is simply that -- MY -- journey. Having cancer is in my past. My mom and Jack (step-mom) paved a path that preceded my diagnosis and treatment but that is where the similarity ends. So when I stop and remind myself to feel the feelings... it grounds me and brings me back to the moment.

On the follow up front, I had my 3-month oncology appointment yesterday. It was a bit of a comedy of errors when they went to draw my blood. For some reason the vein tapped wasn't compliant but after a couple of sticks they got what they needed. Because I am still dealing with some fatigue they are checking for a few things. But Dr. M does not seem to be concerned. According to him I look good and my hair seems to be a conversation topic. I am truly grateful to have hair. And I am trying to embrace and love the hair that I have. I am getting there. In a little while I should really be there. I am getting used to being a larger self. The numbers on the scale continue to go up. I am trying to stay active and get into a regular exercise routine. I will be having a bone density and hip X-ray as I am unable to sit cross legged. I am hopeful that is not from the Arimidex (aromatase inhibitor).

I am thrilled with the support that is getting. It is really a tremendous feeling to have an idea and see it come to life. I launched a Face Book page for my Wings of Courage pendant. Make sure you become a fan.

I continue to be touched and honored to have so much love and support.

Ancora Imparo

Sunday, August 30, 2009

bad dream

I had a bad dream last night.
The first in I don't know how long.
I dreamt my chemo didn't work and I was going to need to start treatment again.
It was so real.
So scary.
And so profound.
The reality is that if we found out that I needed to go down the treatment road again we would without hesitation. But this really threw me.

What is not a dream and is very much a reality is my new sister site

I am still adding to it. But I am excited to see it taking off.
I have also created a wings of courage pendant fan page on FB.
Be sure to check it out and become a fan!

Ancora Imparo

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We have a date!

I can't believe it is already August. The summer seems to be going by very quickly.

All that talk so many months ago of what I am going to do post treatment has begun to unfold. I have just started interning at a law office as a legal assistant and have finished training as a territory sales rep for an art based fundraising company. I am enjoying both of those a great deal and look forward to the next few months to see where that leads. I never would have imagined either one prior to all of this.

Additionally, something I am proud and honored to be doing is to offer peer support to women that are either dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis and/or are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. There openness furthers my healing and recovery.

Another big thing is my hair! I kid you not it has its own zip code now -- 9-1-5-oy-vay. Honestly, I look like a cross between Annie and Eraser Head. I just remind myself that it is in transition.

My last surgery is scheduled for December 3rd. At that time Dr. B will put the finishing touches on my reconstruction -- I have affectionately come to call this surgery my garnish. I am hopeful that the lead time will give Dr. B and my ONC the chance to get on the same page and figure out the bleeding issue so as to avoid any complications.

I bought a brassiere recently. Let's just say I am no longer in between cup sizes and am very happy with the end result. My big push now is to get my much larger body into better shape. Primarily my midsection. Whoever said menopause slows down your metabolism was right on track and I am back to exercising as often as possible. The Wii Active is genius. It really is making exercise fun and who knew my left cross was so strong!

Mike continues to be there for me every step of the way. We have been having some incredible talks about cancer and what it has meant and continues to mean. We know this continues to be a journey for all of us. We look forward to March of 2012 when I am officially at the five-year mark.

None of us know what the future will bring and we really have to take the time to celebrate the special moments that surround all of us.

Ancora Imparo

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Saturday I went to our local Burbank Relay for Life event. While this was my second Relay event this seemed to hit me a bit harder. I think it was simply being truly in the moment and taking in everything that I was seeing, feeling and hearing. I really looked at all of the faces of my fellow survivors. We were all there proudly wearing our purple shirts, putting our hand-prints on the canvas and celebrating our lives. We shared understanding nods as if to say I respect you and the journey you have been on. I know it may not have been easy but look at where we are now...

The event also allowed me the chance to visit with some very special people. People that continue to touch and inspire me.

Sully came along and was quite the trooper through the presentations and speeches. He took most of the wonderful pics above. Following the survivor lap he and I went to all of the booths and looked at how they were choosing to "celebrate" the event. Then the two of us went to the playground where I caught a pic of the big little guy in action.

Ancora Imparo

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wings of Courage...

In late March early April I told Mike about an idea that I had to create a piece of jewelry. A cancer awareness piece. Something that would stand as a lasting symbol of the journey I have been on. I showed Mike the design. Something that I had doodled during one of my weSpark creative writing sessions. He believed in the idea and encouraged me to go forward and find a way to make it happen. With his blessing I began looking at a way to take this idea and turn it into a reality. My sister B has a dear friend who is an amazing jewelry designer. I reached out to L and showed her my idea. She loved it. Her enthusiasm and guidance enabled Mike and I to see this through. In July it will be featured as part of her Eco-Friendly Fall '09 line at in the meantime I am making pendants on a pre-order basis. I am touched and thrilled by the outcome thus far. It is one thing to have an idea and quite another to be able to make it happen. I am so truly blessed to have the support from Mike for this endeavor. He added so much to this piece. When we were brainstorming for a word that would mean something he cleverly said believe. I "believe" he is truly inspired.

This is the write-up that Mike came up with.

Wings of Courage….BelieveTM is the first piece designed by artisan and recent cancer survivor Marla Zack. Cast in recycled sterling silver, this original Butterfly & RibbonTM design stands as a symbol of healthy renewal, of the delicate beauty of life, and of the strength and power of hope. Each pendant is adorned with a single hand-picked bead of pink rose quartz, the color of breast cancer awareness.

This is the piece.

It's a family affair -- even Sully picked out the chain.

Ancora Imparo

Cancer Survivor...

Saturday, I attended the 2nd Annual PSJMC Cancer Survivor Day. One year ago I was a guest at this event. A newbie to the world of cancer diagnosis and treatment. A year later I am veteran. I have weathered the chemo storm. Seen my hair go and now come back. Thankfully I have recovered from four surgeries and even though there have been a few bumps along the road my attitude and appreciation for those that treat, counsel and care for those undergoing a cancer diagnosis continues to grow. I have encountered many of these angels in the last year. And they truly are heroes among us. I am forever touched and grateful to be able to have the team that I have.

At the event I and my new friend L were given the honor of being representatives at the weSpark table. Asking event attendees if they have heard of weSpark and if not making sure they left the booth with information on how they can get involved and have their own special place at that amazing haven that was instrumental in my healing and recovery.

An additional honor was having my Wings of Courage necklace as a raffle item for the Providence St. Joseph Breast Center booth. Sully picked the lucky winners ticket and I was given the chance to put the necklace on her. Her Dad, brother and cancer-survivor Mom posed for pictures and made for a truly memorable moment.

I am truly touched that I was given this opportunity. It was a very touching day and one that I will truly remember.

Ancora Imparo