Showing posts from 2013

Turn Pink with Tipton, A Breast Cancer Awareness Event

I am so excited to share this event with you all.  As many of you know, I work for my county foundation.  Not long after my diagnosis, one of our board members who works at a local car dealership, helped organize a car wash to raise money for breast cancer awareness.  The proceeds were put in the Women's Fund at the Foundation.  With that, I was able to partner with IU Health Tipton Hospital to create "Turn Pink with Tipton," a breast cancer awareness event at Tipton Hospital on Tuesday, October 29.  Ladies, no matter your age, if you are in the Tipton area, please plan to attend. It is never too early or too late to learn about this cancer that will be diagnosed in 1 out of every 8 women throughout our lifetime. We have two wonderful physician speakers.  We will have many different health related booths.  And of course, we have many fun, pink door prizes to give away.  I am so thankful for the wonderful women at IU Health Tipton Hospital who have helped me make this hap…

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I heard the words that no one wants to hear.  "You have Cancer."

Since that day, I have had...
4 Mammograms
     3 Ultrasounds
     4 ECHOs
     5 biopsies
     17 Herceptin infusions
     11 Taxol chemo infusions
     12 Lupron shots
2 surgeries
     4 expander fill'er ups
     (That is a lot of needle pokes!!)
     To sit and wait in 13 different waiting rooms
Since that day I have seen amazing acts of kindness...
     12 Cleaning fairies
     Somewhere over 50 delicious meals
     24 rides to my infusions in Indy or Carmel
     Over 100 Get Well cards
     Many useful gifts and care packages 
     Inspirational gifts
     30 women joining my Dirty Girl Run team to raise money for breast cancer research
     Catholic school children giving their penny mass money to my oncologist's research
     4 children's soccer teams dress in pink to support breast cancer awareness
     A car dealership car wash to raise money for breast cancer awareness in my honor
     And wha…

Preparing for a Mastectomy...Care Package Ideas

The Double Mastectomy Decision
     The decision to have a double mastectomy is not an easy one.  In your head, it quickly makes the most sense...get rid of the boobs, get rid of the cancer.  But of course, it is not that easy.  Your breasts are a part of your body, a part of your self, a part of your sexuality.  Unfortunately, women often have to make this decision quickly.  Suddenly they are not only faced with a cancer diagnosis, but the difficult questions of removal and reconstruction.  It is important to remember that removing both breasts does not completely take away the risk of having breast cancer again. Though it is minimal, there is still some breast tissue left.  Many women choose to remove both for symmetrical reasons, with the hope that they will look the same. 
     In August 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on one side, and only needed a single mastectomy. I was suddenly face with this difficult decision.  A few days later, I was offered a chance to participate …

Surgery Update

I am happy to say that I am home and functioning after my reconstruction surgery today!! 
My surgery was scheduled at 1:00 pm today.  So of course, I had to stop eating and drinking at midnight.  For those of you who know me well, I love to eat, so this was a bit of a difficult task for me! 
We arrived at IU Health University Hospital right on time at 11:00 am.  After confirming my name, date of birth, medications, and procedure to be done about 12 times, and having two doctors draw all over my chest with a black Sharpies, I was ready for surgery. 
They let me walk down to the OR.  What a strange feeling it is to walk into your OR and jump up onto that very skinny table.  After one more round of confirming my name, date of birth, and procedure to be done, all five people in the room got busy.  The anesthesiologist was attaching very cold stickers to me.  One nurse was covering me with warm blankets, while another was putting on the blood pressure cuff.  Another nurse was putting on th…

Ready to Fly

This is a poem I wrote in Bonnie Maurer's "Healing Power of Writing" breakout session during the Cancer Support Community's Survivors Symposium that I attended a couple weeks ago.  We were given about ten minutes to write a poem using "I am" to begin each sentence. 

Ready to Fly

I am suddenly a changed woman.
I am breast cancer woman.
I am a HER2+ and ER+ woman.
I am a surprised woman.
I am a scared woman.
I am a tough decision making woman.

I am suddenly a changed woman.
I am a humorous woman.
I am a strong woman.
I am a tough woman.
I am a don't need help woman.
I am superwoman.

I am suddenly a changed woman.
I am a scarred woman.
I am a woman without breasts.
I am a woman with little hair.
I am a woman who doesn't feel beautiful.
I am a woman whose body has changed.

I am suddenly a changed woman.
I am an accepting woman.
I am a woman who had cancer.
I am a woman who grew new wings.
I am a thriving woman.
I am ready to fly.

~Lori Tragesser

Butterflying from a Cancer Survivor to a Sur-Thriver

Cancer Survivor...not something I ever dreamed I would be calling myself, especially at 42 years old.  But here I am...a survivor joining a group of over 13 million Americans other survivors.  Now while that is a large group of people, it is actually only about 4% of the population.  So now that I am a survivor, what do I do?  Because the journey certainly doesn't just end here.  Somehow the survivor now needs to become the sur-thriver.
     The first thing I decided to do was attend the 9th Annual Cancer Support Community's Survivors Symposium in Indianapolis.  On June 15, I had the privilege to share my day with about 100 other cancer survivors.  It was on this day that I realized how important other survivors are to my journey.  It is such a powerful moment when others confirm your feelings, isn't it?  The reality that you are not the only one going through this.  You are not the only person who is dealing with these is very comforting!
      The hi…

The New Normal...How Do We Establish a New Normal in Our Lives After the Cancer is Gone?

Two weeks ago, I was so happy to be finished with my chemo treatments!  Wow, what a relief!   I went to get that chemo infusion every week while keeping my family's schedule together and going to work...somehow I pulled through it. You can walk away with a real sense of pride, because you did it!
   I knew the 12 weeks of chemo would be the worst of what I would go through. So I thought that even though I wasn't finished with everything else, I could still get my life back to normal. And of course, I felt like everyone else was waiting for me to get my life back to normal.  But I am quickly learning that what we are really talking about is a newnormal.  How do we establish this new normal in our lives after the cancer is gone?  I know that this is a question that many of us are struggling with right now.
   I just want to feel like me and feel wonderful again. But I don't feel wonderful!  I am still exhausted everyday with weak and achy muscles.  I still have one more su…

Lori's Lady Lumps Getting Dirty at the Dirty Girl Mud Run

I had the pleasure of getting dirty with my team of 30 wonderful women yesterday at the Dirty Girl Mud Run.  Several months ago, my friend Dawn told me she would like to put a team together for the run in my honor.  I never dreamed that we would have such a large team. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the Dirty Girl Mud Run, it is a 5K run and obstacle course with the added feature of MUD! You have crawl through the mud, climb over mud, wade through a muddy creek, slide into a mud pool and more. It goes on all day long with a new wave of women starting every 15 minutes.  Our wave started at 8:00 am which we all whined about beforehand...but in the end, I think we were all glad we were in the first wave.  After the run, you are covered in mud...mud in your hair, mud in your ears, mud in your shoes, and a few other places where you do not want mud to be! However, you do get a cute T-shirt, a necklace and one free beer...which yes, we drank at 10:00 am. 

I had such a fun day...o…

Celebrating Mother's Day on Cancer's Road to Recovery

I woke up extra thankful this morning as my five children surrounded me with hugs and a delicious breakfast in bed. While Mother's Day always makes me feel so thankful for the women in my life, today was different. 
     I am so thankful to be alive, and that I was given a chance to beat the cancer that tried to invade my life.  When you become a mother with cancer, at first you can't breathe because you realize how much you have to lose. Upon hearing those dreadful words, I was prepared to do whatever I had to do to beat it and not miss a moment of my children's lives.  When I think about the fact that if I hadn't scheduled my mammogram when I did, if I had waited maybe even 6 months, this could have been a very different story. 
     I am also thankful for all of the women who are and have been blessings in my life, especially in the last 9 months! This shouldn't be a day dictated by Hallmark and the best "sales of the season."  This should be a da…

Breast Expanders...What are They and How Do They Work?

What in world are breast tissue expanders and how exactly does that work? I answer these questions often. As many of you know, I am going through this process right now. Like so many others, I wasn't even aware that this was a possible step in breast reconstruction. I had my bilateral mastectomy on February 14, 2013. After my breast tissue was removed, my plastic surgeon put in tissue expanders. Expanders are implant like devices that are used to expand the breast tissue and muscle to eventually comfortably fit breast implants, creating a more refined breast shape and better symmetry.

When the tissue expanders are first positioned on the chest wall, they are partially filled with saline. A few weeks after surgery, the expansion or "fill'er ups" (as I called them) are started.  As you can see in the picture above, the expanders have a fill port that is built into the front. They are filled every week or two until you get to the desired size you would like.
I had five fi…

Chemo, Hair, and Surgery Update

Update....  I just finished #9 of 12 Taxol chemo treatments. I still have my hair although it is getting very thin on top.  I just wear hats everyday now because the longest of my hair is curly and still looks good with the hats. Thank goodness I had a ton of hair to begin with.  I still lose a small pile of hair everyday, which has slowed but gone on for five weeks now. It is emotionally draining and stresses me on what to do with it, as I just have to take it day by day. 
I have to say in general that my spirits aren’t what they have been. I am trying very hard to stay upbeat, but it has been a struggle the last couple of weeks. I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally worn out.  There are so many things that I just can’t do. And if you know me, you know that I am struggling with that! I really hate feeling so weak.
But the good news is...I only have three more Taxol chemo treatments and five more Herceptin treatments. We have moved my implant surgery to July so I can get some time to get my b…

My Kids Are My Heroes Through It All

These five children are my heroes everyday!  I just can't even imagine life without them. They are all so encouraging and supportive of me.  Don't get me battling cancer doesn't instantly make them perfect little angels.  They drive me crazy sometimes bickering and whining, but you'll have that. They make the messes that I have to continuously tell them to pick up. But they have been amazing through all of this. They have had to work together and make up for all the things that I cannot do right now. They can all cook and do laundry.  That doesn't mean they always want to do those things, but they can and they will.  But it is the extra little things that they do or say on their own each day that make them awesome!

We couldn't go anywhere this spring break with my weekly chemo treatments and having to work.  So my kids were home all week reading tweets and seeing photos on Instagram of their friends having fun all week.  I felt a little bad for the…

Taxol Chemo Update

I have just finished my fifth of twelve weekly Taxol chemo treatments.  The treatments take about an hour and a half.  First I get a little bag of Benadryl which instantly makes me loopy.  Next I get a little bag of steroid, which makes me endlessly hungry for the next 24 hours.  Then I get a little bag of Zantac to help my stomach.  The bag of Taxol takes about an hour.  It is going better than I expected.  I can't do much but rest the following two days as I am exhausted and achy.  But I am able to work most days.

My hair has been falling out for almost two weeks now.  I lose a pretty decent pile of strands and strands of it everyday.  I tell you though, I had a head full of hair because while it has really thinned out, if you didn't know, you may not be able to tell.  I do pull it back and wear a hat everyday to contain it.  Otherwise, it is all over my shirt and desk all day!  Luke uses a pet hair roller on my shirt before I leave each day. As you can see he thinks it is qu…

The Thought of Losing My Hair

Week 3 of Chemo...
As I continue to wait to see if and when my hair is going to fall out, I ran across this really interesting booklet on the internet that I am I really excited to share with you!

"I Couldn't Stand the Thought of Losing My Hair" Edited by Kathleen Avegno Bonie, Ph.D. and Kirsten York Harrell, Psy.D. 

In this booklet, 84 courageous women share their strength, their pain, their humor, and most importantly their feelings as they dealt with hair loss from chemo.

I wanted to share this with you for a couple reasons.  First of all, I think that many times, when a loved one or a friend is beginning a battle with cancer, chemo, and hair loss...we are lost for words to say.  We want to say the right thing, something that is going to make someone feel better.  This booklet shares helpful as well as hurtful reactions to the hair loss of others.  It really gives you a deep look into the how these women felt.

I am also hoping that you will please share this booklet with…

Starting Chemo...The Search for Miss Wiggly

I believe that waiting to see if, when and how much of my hair is going to fall out is kind of like Ben and my boys (who are loyal Purdue fans) waiting to see if Indiana University will win the National Tournament or just how far they will go. 

I am not going to lie to you, the thought of losing my hair sickens me. But I have a new friend, Miss Wiggly.  She is quietly waiting on her stand in my bedroom to keep her fluffed and beautiful.  I have asked her not to stare much at me right now when I walk into the room.  Our bond isn't that strong yet...we just met a week ago. And there is always that chance that I may not even need her. You see, my hair loss is unpredictable.  They say that I could lose a little hair, a few clumps of hair, or possibly... probably all of it.

I started my first of twelve weekly Taxol chemo treatments on March 7.  My friend Becky went with me.  God love her, she was trying to help me deal with the thoughts of losing my hair.  I told her that I would rather…

Keep Calm and Hurdle On

As most of you know, I live in a small town.  And what happens in small towns? News travels quickly! And like a good ol' game of telephone, the story changes a bit as it goes down the line.  So I decided the best way to share my journey is with this blog...the good and the bad. 

As most of you know, I had my bilateral mastectomy on February 14th.  Recovery has really gone well!  I have visited with both surgeons, and they are both very pleased with how everything looks. My plastic surgeon has placed expanders in to help stretch my tissue and skin for a future implant surgery.  My cancer surgeon was pleased with the tissue removal. 

I visited with my wonderful oncologist, Dr. Miller, today which brings me to that next hurdle on my track we need to talk about.  The removed scar tissue from the original cancerous tumor still contained a few live cancer cells.  Now while they are gone from my body and my margins are clean, and my lymph nodes clean; I need what Dr. Miller and I will …

Cancer Free Me

Well I am excited to share very important life changing events have happened here in the last two weeks! I am bummed that I have not been able to get an updated post on here in two weeks!  I would sit down and try to write something, but my pain and meds would just not let me focus on what I was trying to type.  But now I am coming out of the clouds, and feel like a I am thinking clearer. However, I am not 100% sure my family would agree with that!

I had my bilateral mastectomy on Thrusday, February 14.  Happy Valentine's Day to me!  The surgery went very well. It was a long day as surgery days usually are.  After our one hour drive, Ben and I arrived at Indiana University Hospital at 7:30 am.  Surgery was scheduled for 9:30 am, and they had me ready to go.  I felt like a walking white board for a while as both surgeons made their marks. And as you can see, Ben sent me off with a little heart as well.

Unfortunately, my operating room wasn't ready for me until close to 11:00 am. …

My New Chapter

I just want to take a second and thank everyone for your prayers as I head into surgery tomorrow.  I am having a double mastectomy.  I will give an update as soon as I am feeling better.  I have received so many heartwarming messages from friends and family.  I am so thankful for the wonderful support system around me. Here's to my new chapter!

How Do We Tell Our Children I Have Cancer?

Telling my children that I had cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Upon my diagnosis, I was instantly anxious.  What is the best way to tell them?  How are they going to react?  How am I going to make them feel like everything is going to be okay? 

For those of you who do not know, my husband, Ben and I have five children...Jake 16, Luke 14, Levi 13, David 11 and Lydia 9. With five different personalities, I was likely going to get five different reactions. As you can imagine, we are busy...very busy!  Our children are in three different schools, and at the time, they were on five different soccer teams.  And of course, the list and the schedules go on and on. If it wasn't for my iPhone calendar alerts, I am not sure I would know where my children all were at any given moment. So as you can imagine, just finding the best time to sit down and talk about this was a challenge.

Ben and I felt it was important to tell our children right away.  It would be way to…