Thursday, March 10, 2016

I've moved my blog!

If you've been a faithful reader, I wanted to let you know I've moved my blog. It didn't seem appropriate to continue under my blog title "The Big C Has Found Me." It was time to move forward in my life and instead of constantly living under the banner of breast cancer, I decided to start a new blog called "Journey Out of Pink." You can visit me at

Thank you for continuing the journey with me!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I'm up at 4 a.m. Who does that??? I didn't want to be awake at 4. The room was cozy, dark, and cool...just the way I like it. My husband was in the bed next to me snoring his sweet little heart out. He'd be getting up soon to head out to work. I tried to re-adjust my pillows and close my eyes again but my bladder screamed NO. I hopped out of bed and padded into the dark bathroom then crawled back into bed. I lay there for a long time trying to drift off to sleep. I couldn't do it. Once I'm awake, I can't go back to sleep so I got up.

It wasn't long before I got a text from my daughter. Early morning texts from one or two of my four children are pretty typical. We exchanged a few texts and then my cell phone rang. I was surprised she was up early and ready to talk, especially with four little ones. We chatted for about half an hour while I inhaled a bowl of oatmeal. After we ended our call, I sat at the kitchen table and read my Bible. The early part of the day is always the best for my devotional and prayer time.

Glancing at the clock, I realized it was now mid morning. I hadn't even taken a shower! The day was getting away and I had so much to do. I headed into the bathroom and turned on the water. Oh, it was going to feel so good! I jumped in and soaped up. As I lathered up my bath pouf, I noticed my upper arms were already swollen. I get so tired of this aggravation, but know I'll deal with it the rest of my life. My lymphatic system has been disrupted. Lymphatic fluid pools around my arm pits thanks to breast cancer surgery and the removal of some of my lymph nodes. 

When I'd finished my shower, I glanced down at the shower floor. There amid the soapy bubbles were many strands of hair. I thought that would have stopped by now. I've been off of the Aromasin for almost 2 weeks. As far as I can tell, it's out of my system but I'm wondering why I continue to lose hair. I haven't studied a lot about Aromatase Inhibitors but I know hair loss is only one of the dark side effects I've experienced. 

Cleaning up the hair was gross. By the time I was done, I had a quarter sized wad in my hand. My poor hairs!!! I wondered if the follicles they used to be attached to had died. Perhaps that was the case and I'd never have hair in those follicles again. 

I towel dried and put on my clothes. Gently, ever so gently, I combed through my wet hair with a wide toothed comb. I didn't want to break or damage any of my remaining hair. I've always heard wet hair is weaker than dry hair.

I've been taking a Biotin supplement for the past few weeks and I've also been using Biotin shampoo. Biotin is supposed to help strengthen weak hair, promote healthier skin and provide stronger nails. Too much of it can make you prone to skin breakouts though so it's important to drink lots of water while taking it. 

My hair was almost completely dry now but I decided to use the hair dryer for just a few minutes to get the damp, underneath portions. As I was blowing my hair, I looked in the sink to see if any more hairs had given up and let go. There were a few dead guys lying on their backs, so I scooped them up when I was done. 

I looked in the mirror and saw a wide space on my scalp. My part had grown! I guessed this was where those rogue hairs had been attached before they'd decided to slide onto the shower floor. Hmmm...maybe it's time for a change in the way I'm wearing my hair. I took the boar bristle brush and gently moved the hair to the other side of my face. Yes, that was better! It looked a bit more full too. 

It's concerning to lose hair but I'm thankful I haven't lost it all. It's cold outside and I don't think my poor ears could go without some sort of warm covering for the next couple of months. If my part gets any wider, I guess I'll resort to wearing a scarf of some sort or a hat. If even more hairs decide to let go, a wig might be in order. I'm doing what I can to protect the hairs I have left and hopefully the Biotin will encourage new growth as well as strengthening the hairs I have now. 

Hair. It's a nice asset to have and it certainly helps define our style, but it isn't absolutely necessary. When I think about hair, I can't help but think of the Bible verse that says God knows the number of hairs on my head. What a concept! He knows the number of hairs on your head, too. I'm glad I don't know the original number of hairs allotted to me and I'm glad I don't know if that number has changed for better or for worse. I'm just thankful I've got some! It's certainly not my intention to sound vain here. I do have empathy toward other survivors or patients who've lost all their hair to chemotherapy. Thankfully, I didn't opt to take that form of treatment. 

I wish doctors could understand how hard it is for women to go through all the devastation of physical and emotional changes related to breast cancer. If they did, they'd be so much more understanding when prescribing anti-hormone therapy medications and they'd make sure to explain the potential side effects involved. But that isn't usually the case. It's up to us to read the information that comes with our prescriptions. It's up to us to do our research and talk to others. That's one of the reasons I wanted to share this post hopes of helping someone else who may have just started taking Aromasin.

It's important for us to realize our physical appearance is just an outer glimpse into who we really are...we're so much more than that! Even though I've lost a good bit of hair, I'm not going to let it cause me to feel bad about myself or to feel less than others. It's something beyond my control, but I'm doing everything in my power to put the odds in my favor by taking supplements and drinking lots of water. 

So long little're heading down the drain. I'm sad to see you go but I'm hopeful new hairs will grow in your place, and if they don't...well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! 

"But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered [for the Father is sovereign and has complete knowledge]." Matthew 10:30 Amplified Bible (AMP)

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Friday, January 22, 2016

MRI day

Today I had to have another MRI on my spine. I'm hoping for good results. Last time they saw a spot at L5 that was almost surely cancerous. Three radiologists saw and confirmed it was spreading cancer, but when I was sent for a PET scan followup, nothing was there! I am confident that was the result of much prayer and I praise God for it! I've been having a lot of mid to upper back pain and my radiation oncologist wanted to have it checked out...therefore another MRI. I guess the first 5 years after a cancer diagnosis, the doctors are always on edge.

The technician at the hospital was so short! It's rare for me to ever find anyone shorter than I am and I was a whole head taller than she was. She was so sweet and so kind. I was thankful for that. I was also thankful that I'd remembered to take 1/2 a Xanax before going for the test. I get so claustrophobic in those little tubes. Piedmont Newnan doesn't have the open MRIs like they do in Atlanta, but boy, I wish they did.

I put my things in a locker and Nancy, the short MRI tech, gave me the key. We walked up to the machine and she helped me lie down on the platform. She placed a large wedge under my knees and asked me if that helped relieve some of the pressure from my back. I told her it did. Then she fastened some sort of contraption over my chest, chin and head. She said it would help me remain still. I hadn't ever had that done before and it made me feel a little leary. I tried to relax as she handed me the foam ear plugs to insert in my ears. I'd forgotten how loud those metal marble things are in the MRI tube. Nancy patted me on the leg and said I'd be in the tube about 30 minutes. I prayed the time would go by fast.

As I slid into the tube, panic set in. The walls of the MRI were touching my sides and there wasn't much clearance over my head. With the restraint contraption on too, I felt like I couldn't move even if I needed to and I didn't like it. I closed my eyes and tried to focus. As I began to pray, the metal balls started whirring around me and the MRI machine was doing its thing.

The test seemed to take FOREVER! At one point I felt like I couldn't breathe because there was no air circulating in the tube. That was a very uncomfortable feeling. Nancy slid me out of the tube at one point and I thought the process was over, but it wasn't. She immediately slipped me back in...DARN! I closed my eyes again and tried to think of song lyrics that had a beat similar to the bopping metal balls.

Finally, I was ejected from the MRI machine. I was SOOOO VERY THANKFUL to be out of that narrow space. I sat on the table for a few minutes as I allowed my blood pressure to calm down. Removing the ear plugs, I told Nancy I appreciated her being so kind to me. She smiled and said she appreciated me being such a nice patient. Kindness does matter.

When I walked back out into the reception area, I saw the waiting room filled with people. It looked like Nancy was going to have a busy day. I'm glad that test is finally over. In a few days, I should get the results. I'm praying they come back clean as a whistle. The next test I have lined up is an EGD. At least I'll be sedated for that one!

I'm thankful for medical technology and all the various ways doctors can perform tests to look at our insides. It's amazing how things keep advancing for the better. I had a friend ask me today how long I've been in remission and I didn't know what to tell her. I haven't had a single doctor in the past 18 months tell me that I was in remission...that's something I'm definitely going to bring up at my next appointment.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Thursday, January 21, 2016

After you have suffered for a little while...

"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. 11 To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10-11

I read this verse over and over again. After you have suffered a little while... I couldn't help but stop and think about that. I let the verses sink deep down into my spirit. Yes, Lord...I think I've suffered a little while, 18 months to be exact. Is that long enough? Is it over now? I so wanted to hear Him answer a loud, resounding YES straight from Heaven's front door, but I heard nothing. There was complete and utter silence. I re-read the verses and this time, the part that stood out to me was that God would complete, confirm, strengthen and establish me. Is that what you're in the process of doing right now, Lord? 

Every day, since I stopped taking my anti-hormone therapy, that nasty little drug called Aromasin, I've felt like I'm waiting for something...maybe the other shoe to drop...maybe a recurrence...something. I don't like the feeling and I don't want to even think about the possibility of recurrence. So what am I waiting for? 

I look outside my office window. I can see the lawn very well. The grass is dead, ugly yellowish brown, but that's what Bermuda grass does in winter. It lies still and dormant waiting for the warmth of Spring to revive it. I look at the leaves...they are dead and brown too. The trees are bare and it's evident that Winter is here. It's cold and barren...lifeless. I feel that way a little too. But that feeling of anticipation is stirring. 

In the next few months, I know Spring will arrive with budding leaves and new life. The sun will be warmer and the days just a little bit longer. With the new life, comes a feeling of hopefulness. Maybe I'm just tired of being in the midst of the Winter doldrums. Maybe I'm just ready for Spring to come and bring with it the excitement of newness. 

While I'm waiting, even though it seems that nothing is going on inside me, I know that God is at work. He's been speaking to my heart, drawing me near. I hear Him whisper, "After you've suffered for a little while..." and I feel a promise that my suffering is almost over. I think He's already begun the process of confirming, completing, and strengthening me. 

Today I go visit the oral surgeon. I have to have 2 teeth pulled and I'm not happy about that. After I heal from that surgery, I'll have to have a bridge made so I can eat. That means a couple of months of liquid only diet. While I'll certainly miss the taste of many of my favorite foods, I'm hoping to shed a few pounds during that time of healing. 

On Friday, I go for an MRI on my spine. I've been having a lot of upper back pain and they want to find out what's causing it. I'm praying it's nothing but a few slipped or bulging disks...I'm thankful for the technology we have today where machinery allows doctors to get a glimpse at your innards. Wouldn't it be great if those diagnostic tests could show spiritual growth? I can just imagine my doctor whispering to his assistant..."See that vine over there? That wasn't there last time we did this test. I'm concerned about it." It would make me feel so good to see and know there's evidence that God's been at work in me. But while I doubt seriously I'll ever experience test results like that, I'm so glad to know that God is constantly working in me...doing a new thing. He doesn't ever want us to stay the same. He wants to grow us up and mature us. 

Winter is hard and I don't like it, but without the cold, ugly Winter, we'd have no Spring. I feel a stirring in my spirit, that something new is about to happen and I can't wait to see what it is...after you've suffered a little while...Yes, Lord! AFTER...

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Utterly frustrated!


Facebook. It can be such a marvelous place to connect with old friends and stay in touch with distant family members, but it can also be a place of frustration and heartbreak. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I've found a whole community of ladies through various Facebook sites. Some of the sites are very uplifting and filled with hope while others are filled with negativity and dread. When I first joined these groups, I was just looking for a little camaraderie and helpful advice. It's hard to figure things out when there's no manual for surviving cancer. I learned a lot and I met some nice people but I also learned very quickly how constant negativity can pull you down.

There's one woman I met recently on a Facebook breast cancer site. Her name is Jenny (I won't share her last name to protect her privacy.) She's in her mid 30's, the mother to 2 young boys, and the wife of a good looking man. She's got stage IV metastatic breast cancer I have stage 2B with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She's Triple Negative, which means none of the usual hormones (Estrogen, Progesterone or Her2Neu) feed her cancer. My cancer was fed by Estrogen and Progesterone. Triple Negative is nasty stuff. It is one of the most agressive, hard to treat breast cancers out there and it attacks many young women each year. I was really thankful I didn't have Triple Negative breast cancer.

When I first read Jenny's story, I was just comparing our lives. There were so many differences in our views on cancer and that didn't really surprise me because I don't think Jenny is a Christian. In every Facebook post and every Youtube video she puts up, Jenny is very matter of fact and very negative. I was so saddened by things she posted that I started to focus on reading between the lines. I wanted to hear what she wasn't saying. From what I could tell, Jenny was most certainly scared, as are most women diagnosed with breast cancer. The thing that really bothered me most was the fact that she didn't seem to have hope in anything. Every single post contained the words, "I know I'm not going to survive this," or "I know I'm going to die from this." Those words frustrated me so much. I believe there is a huge amount of power in the spoken word and I wanted to scream at Jenny and say, "Wake up! Speak life over yourself! You don't have to see things so negatively."

Let me make this clear. I don't know Jenny personally although we have had some exchanges via Facebook. I don't know her entire story, only what she's shared online and I'm certainly not judging her. I know each person comes from different backgrounds and upbringing. I know many people don't have a deep faith to sustain them. Maybe Jenny's just a realist or maybe she's truly come to accept the fact that she may not be around much longer...I don't really know. What I do know is your brain believes what you tell it and it acts on what it hears.

I want so badly to share my heart with Jenny and help her see how the negative words she speaks over herself affect her. I want to share Jesus with her and help her know there is a reason for hope even if she is in the last stage of her cancer journey, but I have to tread carefully here. She's posted on her Facebook wall that she doesn't want any unsolicited advice, so where does that leave me? It leaves me in a position to only pray for her and that is what I'm going to do.

I'm committing to pray for Jenny daily and I'm going to use every opportunity I get to post words of encouragement on her Facebook wall. I'd like to ask you to join with me in praying for this dear one...I know God allowed us to meet through the internet for a reason and I also know she's precious to Jesus even though she doesn't know and understand it yet.

It's hard to be a person of faith knowing there are so many lost souls in the world. It's even harder to be a breast cancer survivor and a woman of faith. It's a great responsibility to be a breast cancer survivor who is also a Christian. I want to walk out my faith in all aspects of my life and I want to help reach lost ones with the truth. It's important to me to let others know what God has done for me and how He's blessed me on this journey.

Poor Jenny...I can only imagine how challenging life must be for her without an anchor of hope. Please pray for me as I attempt to witness to her through loving words and deeds. At stage IV her cancer has metastasized into her liver, her lungs and her brain. It definitely doesn't sound good for her but God is a God of miracles and I believe with all my heart if He wants to heal her this side of heaven, He will. It may not be in His plan to heal her but I surely hope it is, even if it's not until she reaches glory. I just hope she makes it to glory and she won't if she doesn't hear and understand the truth. The Bible says, in Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." If Jenny doesn't hear Scripture, how can she know the truth and how can she be set free?

I think God's given me a responsibility here to bring truth into Jenny's life. I want to be very tender and compassionate in my sharing. Please pray for opportunities in the days ahead for me to speak the truth in love. Thank you in advance and I'll keep you posted on how things progress. 

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Monday, January 18, 2016

Grief when you least expect it

There have been a few days when I've found myself grieving. Who grieves over the loss of their breasts, you might ask? Well, women who've had them taken through no fault of their own...women who've gone through the agony of breast cancer. It might seem strange to hear me say I've grieved over my breasts, but it's the truth. I didn't realize that was what I was doing at the time, I just felt really sad. It didn't hit me that I was grieving until I spent a day in my closet going through clothes I no longer wore.

I had a huge walk in closet and it was full of clothes. I stood before the massive amount of material and realized it was a sin to hold onto things I didn't wear any longer and never would wear again. I purposed in my heart to discard every single item of clothing that I would not wear over the next year. I had several large garbage bags and was ready to get busy. "Goodwill was going to love me," I thought to myself.

Each article of clothing had some memory attached to it. There was the long dark blue evening gown I'd worn to my daughter's wedding. I'd only worn it that one time and knew I'd never wear it again, so I tossed it into the bag. There were all the suits and dresses I'd worn when I was working full time. No need to keep those any longer either, so in they went. Piece by piece, I looked over each item and made a decision whether to keep, donate, or give it away.

As I continued with the process, I realized I was now not only trying to be practical in my selections; I was also considering the fit. No longer would I wear anything with darts in it. Since I didn't have a bustline, there was no need to keep those things in my wardrobe. Sure, I could have strapped on my prostheses and worn them anyway, but I felt much more comfortable without them. I was learning to embrace being flat and fabulous.

Three large Hefty cinchsacks later, I had completed my project. There weren't many clothes left hanging on my side of the walk in closet. As I looked at the items I'd saved, I realized most Americans have too much anyway. It felt good to purge.

When my husband came home from work, I showed him the closet. He was impressed. I helped drag the bags we were donating across the carpet and out to the carport. They were heavy! As he loaded them into the car, I hoped someone would appreciate getting these gently worn items. I was so glad to be able to share our good fortune with those less fortunate.

That evening, I went into my room to get something and all of a sudden, I burst into tears. I didn't know why I was crying. I was just so full of emotion and felt the need to let it out. I cried and cried feeling the emotional release of pent up frustration. As I cried, I asked God to reveal to me why I was so upset. I felt Him speak to my spirit that I was going through the grief process. It was hard to accept. Shouldn't I have grieved over a year ago when I first lost my breasts? Thinking back, I had grieved some but not in the way I was grieving now. Today, I grieved like I had lost a dear friend.

The tears continued to flow and flow and flow. I don't know how long I cried but when my husband came into the room to see what was taking me so long, he knew something was wrong. He held me in his big, strong arms and asked me if I was okay. I nodded my head and cried a little longer on his shoulder. When I was done, I told him what had happened. "I guess God knew the perfect timing for me to release all of this pent up emotion," I said.

I would never have dreamed I'd still be grieving a year and a half after having lost my breasts. I guess it's just the knowing a vital part of me is gone...the part of me that fed my babies, the part of me that kept me from playing tackle football with the guys next door after I'd reached puberty, the part of me that attracted attention from the opposite sex, the part of me that made me feel like a woman...that part of me was gone. No wonder I was grieving! My identity was tied up in my femininity.

I looked in the mirror and stared at my face. I still had my hair. I still "looked like a girl" from the shoulders up and from the waist down. That was something. I'd just enhance my best features. I'd make sure my hair was always clean and fixed in a becoming style. I'd don makeup and make sure I emphasized my girly-ness" without going overboard. And when it came time for my bi-annual trip to the prosthesis shop, I'd pick out a new pair of girls in a cup size bigger than last year, but still hold on to the AA cups I kept in little pink hat boxes in my bedroom. It never hurts to dream, does it?

Yes, I was sad over the loss of those parts of my anatomy but I was thankful to be alive. My husband still loves me and for that, I'm very grateful. Neither of us ever expected cancer to devastate our lives but it did. I could either continue to mourn or move forward in gratitude. I chose the latter.

Spring will be here soon and it seems my closet doesn't contain any warm weather attire. It might be time to do a little shopping! Or course, I'll look for things without darts and focus on items that provide a little camouflage in the chest region. I promise I'll be frugal and thrifty. I'll take time and choose items I'll keep for a long time.  Since I didn't have reconstruction, I know I'll be flat-chested forever...unless I decide to put on my fake boobs and go out on the town.

Grieving over the loss of a body part is normal. It might have been easier to understand the grief a little better if the body part I'd lost was an arm or a leg...something vital to my day to day functionality. But breast cancer survivors do grieve over the loss of their breasts. Some survivors opt for reconstructions and some do not. Each woman has to decide what is best for her. It's not easy to talk about this side of breast cancer but I have tried to be open and honest and real from day one. There are no manuals that tell you what to expect and how you are going to feel. It amazes me, after 18 months, the effects of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment still affect me. I keep thinking one day I'll forget all about it and get back to normal. Many breast cancer survivors talk about their "new normal." I don't like that term. I'd rather talk about life B.C. (before cancer) and A.C. (after cancer) and what I'm finding is, my life after cancer is so much richer than my life was before cancer. The reasons are because of things God has taught me and shown me throughout my time of suffering and trial. If you read back through my blog, I hope you'll see that He has always been faithful to me. I think God was okay with all the questions I asked throughout the whole process. I know He understood all my WHYS and HOWS and WHENS and IFS. He's such a compassionate God and without Him, I wouldn't be where I am today.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Don't look for trouble

I've been off of the Aromasin for 4 days now and I feel so much better! I know it's still going to take some time to get all of it out of my system, but I can feel a marked difference. 
Saturday morning I began to get very nauseated. At first, I thought it was something I had eaten, but I quickly ruled that out as I remembered I'd gone cold turkey from my cancer medication. It was terrible! My stomach felt worse than it ever had before...even worse than morning sickness or the flu! I couldn't keep anything down, not even saltines or ginger-ale. I was pitiful. My sweet husband tried his best to take care of me. I spent the entire day in the bathroom clinging to the toilet or in the bed moaning and groaning. It was not a pretty sight. 

Maybe I should have researched the medication a little before deciding to abruptly stop taking it. I didn't even think about the dangers of going cold turkey...I just knew I had to stop because of what it was doing to my body. I prayed before deciding to stop and felt a peace about my decision. My husband agreed with me, so I knew it would be okay. (I haven't discussed it with my oncologist yet, but I plan to call him soon and let him know. I'm sure he won't be happy about my decision, but he'll just have to accept it. I have to do what is best for my quality of life, after all, it's my body.)

It was no surprise when fear came creeping in later that day and the "what ifs" started filling my head with nonsense. I had to quickly rid my mind of wondering about a recurrence of cancer now that I had no medication to keep it away...funny how Satan always tries to attack me with that, but my God is bigger! And why would I go looking for trouble anyway??? 

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how often we worry needlessly, seek out problems, or fret over things we can’t control? God tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6. Our minds can get so wrapped up in worry that we miss the blessings of the day. I have a choice to worry about the cancer coming back or to celebrate the fact that it is gone. I want to spend every day praising God for healing me and giving me cancer free days, not anxiously wondering if it will return.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matt. 6:25-34

What does worry do for us anyway? There is no good in it. While we are to be responsible with our lives and our health, there is no need to fear. I plan to take good care of my cancer free body: eat nutritious food, exercise, actively manage stress, rest well, praise the God who saved me, spend time with family and friends, and refuse to worry! I'm not going to go looking for trouble. Each day God chooses to give me is a gift and I plan to look forward to it and celebrate it. 

This is a new year and it's high time I start focusing on the blessing of life God has set before me. I refuse to let fear have power over me any more. I am no longer going to allow those thoughts of recurrence to enter my mind. The Bible tells me I am to hold EVERY thought captive. 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. But the weapons of our warfare have divine power to destroy strongholds.[First,] we destroy arguments and every lofty or proud opinion raised against the knowledge of God and [second,] we then take every thought captive.” 

I know I'm in the midst of warfare. Satan wants me to be fearful and worry. He wants me to wonder every day if the cancer has returned and is growing somewhere in my body. But God wants my focus to be on Him and to remember He is in control! That is why it's so important for me to keep my blinders on and to keep my eyes fixed on Christ. If I don't keep looking straight ahead, I might just find myself looking for trouble and I certainly don't want that!

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

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