Happy and Healthy

I can't believe it's been 6 weeks since surgery - so much has happened, time flies once summer hits!! My surgery on April 22 to replace faulty tissue expanders was a huge success. When I came out of surgery, I learned that the reasons the tissue expanders failed was twofold: the surgeon originally put in expanders that were far too big, due to the fact that I was not even two weeks post-partum (AKA 35 pounds heavier than I am now!) and, perhaps as a result of them being too large, they both flipped over, causing the "port" that they access to fill with saline over the course of time to be inward (AKA not accessible). Since no one knew that they had flipped, they just kept trying to fill them with saline, which of course was not working. I was ecstatic to emerge from surgery with functional expanders that, in the words of my surgeon "almost look like implants." I must admit, they really do look good - by early summer I will be "at capacity" and rockin perky, nicely sized gals for a few months before I swap them out for the final implants. That surgery will be in the fall, September or October, depending on fall vacation plans, and yes, triathlon and race plans. Two more minor surgical procedures later, I will be done with reconstruction, and will have sporty new fake boobs that will look pretty damn close to real.

Speaking of triathlon (I know, I always do!)... over the weekend, I did my first post-baby, post-cancer tri. I was super nervous the night before, but was excited to try out my new road bike (a gorgeous Specialized Ruby Expert named Stella) and just to be out there doing tris again - how lucky am I?! I awoke to a beautiful morning, got a little weepy on my way to the tri, and then pulled it together and just soaked it all in for the new few hours, loving every second. I did what I love to do - help and encourage first time triathletes (one of my favorite things about the HR Tune Up Tri is that it attracts first timers and seasoned triathletes both), cheer other triathletes on, and give it my all to accomplish my own personal best for the day. I was elated to see Brian, Drew and Ty on lap two of the bike course - I hadn't wanted to get my hopes up too high, as Drew had a T-ball game early that morning, and I knew getting the boys out the door to the game, let alone to cheer on mama, would be a huge feat - which brought tears to my eyes and made me so proud and happy. And then my rock star friend (and triathlete) Gaye and her son Tyler showed up to cheer me on at the end of the bike/start of the run, which was just awesome, especially since Brian, Drew and Ty couldn't be there at the end of the race. The tri gods were smiling on me that day - I had an absolutely incredible race, even if I hadn't been diagnosed with cancer 10 months ago, had a baby 9 months ago or had surgery 6 weeks ago (and been given clearance to train again just 3 weeks ago!), shaving 6 minutes off my bike time, and ALMOST going sub-30 min off the bike (run time was 30:09), a goal that I have strived for in every sprint tri I have ever done, but has alluded me every time. My fastest 5K run time (at the HR tri two years ago, so on the same course) was 30:35, so this was pretty huge for me. I felt like I was flying the whole run, and every time I thought about being tired, I reminded myself that if I can get through chemo, I can get through a damn 5K run!! I haven't been able to wipe the grin off my face yet - I think it may carry me through to my next triathlon, Boulder Peak (Olympic distance). I love this sport, love what it makes me feel like, and love the people in my life that support me, encourage me, and help me reach my goals. Thank you - you have no idea what it means to me.

I've had some encounters lately that made me realize how others might view me in this post-cancer world. In my mind, I'm done with chemo, done with major surgeries for the time being, and done with cancer - I'm stronger physically and mentally, not to mention fitter, eating healthier and skinnier than I've ever been in my life, I feel awesome and very positive about my near- and long-term future. I have goals that include not only half- and full-Iron distance tris in the next 5 years, but continuing to raise boys that I am proud of, supporting my husband in his own goals, and living my life to the absolute fullest every day. In my mind, I've kicked cancer's ass and am living each day as if I have nothing to fear. Yes, cancer has changed my life in so many ways, but I can't live in fear that it will return - ask any cancer survivor, it's not a way to live. So sometimes I'm caught off guard when people say "So, how are you feeling? Are you in remission?" I guess they are doing it to be polite, maybe they don't know what else to say, or they want to know what next steps are? But it comes off very cancer-ish, and makes me shudder to understand that I will always be "cancer girl", people will always look at me and know that I had "the c-word", and that makes me different. What I want them to know is that, yes, it was (and is still) hard at times, but that I'm done now, back to being the happy, fun Amy that loves to enjoy wine on the patio, travel with my husband, hard workouts, etc. and I plan to live life to the fullest for however long I can... hopefully for a long long time. I'm not really sure when/if I can officially say I'm in remission - I have yearly PET scans starting in November, and regular blood work as well, but although a clean PET scan will definitely ease my mind, I can't be resigned to living my life in fear of that test result. Who knows? I could get hit by a bus tomorrow (as could anyone reading this) and this could be my last day on earth. So I might as well live like it, as should all of you. There's no time like the present to "live in the moment" (trite but true) and enjoy every second you have here - it's a gift.

I've had so many people say "wow, you are an inspiration" - while I do appreciate it, and am honored that I can inspire people to live their dreams, I am just a girl trying to deal with the cards I've been dealt. And the reality is that I've been dealt a pretty damn good hand in this life - I have everything I've ever wanted, and as I've said from the beginning, if breast cancer has to be my "thing", it's worth it because the rest of my life rocks - from a phenomenal husband to the best kids to great friends to living an incredible life.

Here's to living fully and appreciating every moment!! Now get out there and enjoy the sunset on your deck with the ones you love (and a glass of pinot and some cheese and crackers!)

Love Amy