Thursday, March 29, 2012

You're so simple

Dear Cancer-

The medical community might think I'm nuts, but I think you're simple. Spending time with kids shows just how simple you are. When I was diagnosed, my best friend's little girl Teagan, was three. When Teagan asked Crystal why she was upset, Crystal told her I was sick. As you'd imagine, the innocent questioning began. "Why doesn't her mommy just hug her? Why doesn't she just take some medicine to feel better? Why doesn't she just take a nap?" Through the online world, Teagan saw me lose weight, hair, eye lashes and eyebrows. She saw the funny bump and scar from a Chemo port. She asked more questions.  She wanted to know what hurt on my body.  Crystal told her, I was sick in my boobies.  She said doctors, much like her daddy, would give me medicine, but it would make my hair fall out.  Through treatment I'd get phone calls from Miss Teagan saying, "Don't be sad. You should be happy," and "Don't worry, Dan Dan, the doctors will take the buggies out of your boobies." In the eyes of a child, you were just some bugs. So simple.

Last night, as Teagan was playing on the floor she looked at me out of nowhere and said, "Dan Dan, do you have new boobies?" I said, "Yes sweetheart, I do." She said, "The doctors took those buggies out, and you got new ones." I choose to look at you like a child; simple, insignificant and not worth worry. Life is simply to fragile. I might as well, sit on the floor and play dolls with Teagan.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quality People

Dear Cancer-

Shakespeare said, "Come give us a taste of your quality." When you surround yourself with quality people, you just might absorb some yourself. I work with quality everyday. MSgt Shane Wacaster, an elite Air Force runner, started a beautiful sentiment a year ago. His love for running, and care for a fellow Airman inspired him. Shane ran 67 miles with two tiny charms on his shoe in multiple races. He gathered five other colleagues to run races with a charm as well. Together they ran 140 miles with one goal in inspire me.

What they don't realize, if they did so much more. When I run my first half marathon since you entered my life on Mar. 17, I'll wear this bracelet. With each step, I won't mourn where I used to be physically, but I'll celebrate with I am now. With each step, I'll feel the jingle of this superb gift from friends, and appreciate this blessed body of mine.

Thank you, Shane, SSG Christian Foster, TSgt Charity Wascaster, Ms. CeCe McRobie, SSgt Rebecca Graney, Sgt Robert Dea and SSgt Michele Lacerda.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Another medical marvel...

Dear Cancer-

One in eight women gets breast cancer. Out of those, 10 percent will get triple negative breast cancer. Out of those, 80 percent are African American. Even though my friend Driece tells me she thinks I have a "little bit of black" inside, my parents assure me our families came from Ireland. With no history in the family and negative genetic tests, I'm simply a medical marvel. So, as my docs figure, I had a less than one percent chance of getting you at age 29. My mom says, she always knew I was a unique woman. I just wasn't expecting to be this authentic. Needless to say, I'm overall rare in the medical community already. I can't tell you how many times doctors had medical students looking at my charts over the past year and a half. Well, it's happened again my killing friend...

Last week, I was told I have two uteruses. Yep, that's right, two uteruses. In case you want the stat on that one, it's less than one percent of all women. It's called a bicornuate uterus, and mine happens to be as separated as they come. Also, in the same week I was told the trial drug I was on, Avastin which aiding in your killing, was black listed by the FDA for ovarian failure. Yep, five percent chance of that one happening. All in all, this news means we'll do more testing to get a good grasp on the size of my uteruses for a future pregnancy. My prayers are focused on a big beautiful uterus able to carry a baby full term! Silver lining, the ovaries are doing just fine these days.

To recap, I'm now a 30 year old breast cancer survivor who had a less than one percent chance of getting you, and I have two uteruses (insert baffled laughter here). Seriously, how can you not laugh about this? It's official, my folks conceived me on top of a nuclear waste site. You wanta know the best part, cancer? Out of all that news last week, there was zero sign of you lurking. That, is the information to marvel over. That, and nothing more.

With two beautiful big uteruses-

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dear Cancer-

People don’t typically miss you. I've tossed a thought around for about a week, and finally came to a conclusion this morning in my local coffee shop.  The shop was swimming with people; all wrapped up in their D.C. lives. I wondered how many of them have dealt with you. How many killed you, cried over you or laughed through you. And then, the thought swept through my head again..."I miss cancer."

As my best friend would say, "WTF, Candice?!"  I know, it's actually insane and crazy to miss you.  Why would someone ever miss the intense fear that comes with you? Why would anyone miss being sick, or littered with medications?  Every time I thought it, I shook my head in disgust at where my brain was going. And then this morning, it came to me.

I don't miss you, specifically. I miss the powerful adrenaline that comes with fighting something. I miss the intense, overwhelming thrill of putting every fiber of my being towards accomplishing something. I miss the drive to live against a threat I can't control. For a year of my life when I opened my eyes, I pushed towards defeating you. For a year of my life when I walked down the street, I made fun of you in my mind. For a year of my life, I showed others what it's like to live through you. It was the most empowering experience of my existence, and I miss it.

So, WTF! I don't miss you. I'm now ADDICTED to what comes from conquering you.

Wuv you-

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't let faces freak you out.

Dear Cancer-

Facial expressions in response to you are comical. Last night, I was explaining my next surgery to a curious Public Affairs colleague. She thought I already had boobs. I saw all the typical facial expressions in a five minute period. The, I’m so sad for you face. This is gross face. I’m happy it’s not me face. I have no idea what to say face. I’m uncomfortable face. I’ll just pretend cancer doesn’t exist face. And finally, I’m proud to know you face.  After thousands of these conversations, I’m used to the rollercoaster of emotions people go through when talking to me. Even doctors and nurses do it when I’m new to a clinic. “Wait a second, you had breast cancer? But, you’re so young (Insert perplexed look here).”  No shit Sherlock, my story isn’t the norm, but is still happened. I just smile, and agree. Sometimes, I have fun with it and say, “My parents always told me I was an old soul, guess it finally caught up with me.” Or, “I really just like pink so I joined the club.”

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter what ends up on faces. What matters is people walk away with a story that is true.  Hopefully they walk away, educated about you.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting back on the train...

Dear Cancer-

So there’s this train I’ve been on my entire life.  I think it started down the tracks with my parents mandating I “play outside.”  I threw some coals in the engine with track, field hockey and lacrosse through college. An old friend, Angie, pointed out something interesting when she looked at a high school field hockey photo. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their life. There are eight young women in the photo, and I happened to be that one who "took one for the team."  Through the military, the train just got faster as I discovered triathlons, Alaska sports and racing. I was in the best shape of my life right before I found out about you.  I was the epitome of strong.  I remember doing push-ups with my best friend’s little girl on my back, and pumping my body full of good protein multiple times a day.  At the time, it was all in an effort to look awesome for when Ryan returned from Afghanistan.  It’s ironic how everything happens for a reason.  If it wasn’t for gaining muscle and being in shape, chemo would’ve crushed me.  I didn’t eat a lot, and it was extremely difficult to find energy to maintain muscle mass. I lost 20 pounds, 3 pants sizes, and got tired walking up stairs in six months.

Today is day two of my new running program. I’m running a marathon in my 30th year. I figured the year I beat you, I might as well do something else crazy hard. So here I am, jumping back on the train from the platform. Only this time, I respect my body so much more.

Whoot, Whoot!!

Denise Burnham, Megan Issac and me Nov. 8, 2011
My work out buddies who motivated me to simply just...start.
PV Seniors 1999
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hair is just an accessory...

Dear Cancer-

Two weeks after my last Chemo in March, I went to Cleveland, Ohio. I was finally allowed to fly, and not worry about blood clots from meds. Now, I got looks before while sporting a bald head, but apparently people that frequent airports don’t see women without hair.  After getting a bit annoyed at the looks, I threw on my 1920’s Jean Harlow hat, and went to the bathroom.  I took one look at myself, and laughed. No hair, eyebrows, or lashes, isn’t exactly normal.  So what goes best with no hair?  Crazy red lip stick of course! When my friend Anna picked me up, her little girl Stella said, “Miss Candice, you’re bald headed like my Daddy! I like your lip stick.”    

This week, I got my first haircut since my hair has returned. I hoped in the car, looked in the mirror, and laughed again.  My memory went back to the airport bathroom.  Only this time I saw hair, brows and lashes. Hair is truly, just an accessory.


No hair any where...

My first hair cut...