A Letter to the Girl Faced with a Mastectomy

To Whom This May Concern,

Hey!  My name is Meghan and this time last year… I was preparing for my tits to get chopped off!  Okay, I guess that wasn’t the BEST introduction, but it is 100% true! April of 2016, I underwent a double mastectomy after 12 rounds of chemo and pending 30 radiation treatments following my diagnosis of stage 2B breast cancer.  I have been through it all my friend, and since i’ve already been there and done that, here are some tips,advice, and what to expect in the next few months to come…

The Mastectomy.  

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Okay, plain and simple… its freaking scary.  It sucks going into any cancer journey, but when the treatments begin to take away every last bit of the “old you”, it hurts.  Emotionally, then physically. My first bit of advice is to celebrate! I am all about throwing a party, and what a greater celebration than becoming cancer free? Legit the cancer filled tissue/ tumor is about to leave your body… and your beloved boobies are simply a sacrifice for your life!  Even if it’s as simple as buying yourself a cupcake, lighting a candle and making a wish. This event shouldn’t be a funereal or even somber in nature, but instead a bright, sparkly, vibrant, celebration of life and BOOBS!

For me, my Tata to the Tatas celebration was the first step of closure with the process of my cancer journey.  It turned this very difficult and life changing moment into a positive, fun, and joyous occasion. Of course we has a boob cake and cupcakes, a massive bra for everyone to sign, it was fun and goofy, but also so meaningful. It was a chance for my family and friends to be apart of my journey, soend time with me, and get a fee laughs in before a major surgery! I mean, you dont ever truly know what is going to happen during a surgery… so if something were to happen, I was atleast going out with a banging celebration!

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Make sure to take one last photo of your precious boobies. I can almost put money on the fact that later on, there will absolutely be those days that you look down at your new chest and try to remember what the old twins used to look like. Even something as stupid as a nipple.  I wonder all the time what mine used to look like, what color or size they were— it seems so dumb but this is the post mastectomy reality.  In the day and age where mastering the “selfie” is of utmost importance… DO NOT forget to invite your boobies into the photo;)

 

 

Surgery day…truthfully, I was scared shitless as I was on the stretcher ready to go back to have my boobs lopped off! As I exchanged hugs and kisses to my family, this was the moment that I broke.  I was hysterical. It is completely normal for fear, anxiety, and yes DEATH to cross your mind.  My advice is, take a deep breath and hope for the best, it is all you really can do! I sort of kept it in the back of my mind that this is what I had to do to live and get the cancer out of my body, that helped too.

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Nerve block for pain management- because i’m allergic to pain medications

Next,  Expect pain.  I mean, you are having surgery… and everyone is different. The best way for me to describe mastectomy pain is tenderness, stretching, and sharpness.  Initially you will most likely have pain pills, and if your not allergic like me and can take them… DO!  Your body will heal quicker the less pain you are in because your body will be able to relax.  If you can’t take pain medicine like me, you will be completely fine with extra strength Motrin.  The pain is moreso a burning, pulling sort of feeling.  You are going to be most limited because you won’t be able to really use your arms the way you are used to. Do not be like me, take a bath when your home alone (without the water touching your chest of course) because you WILL get stuck. It is nearly impossible to get up and out of a tub without using your arms, I dare you to try this pre- surgery… take my advice and do not do it! BUT remember,  after surgery you have to keep moving!  This may be the therapist in me, but I was up and peeing on the toilet as soon as they got me to the doorway of my hospital room.  REFUSE the bed pan, get your butt up and MOVE, thats how you are going to heal.

Ps: Go out and get some comfy front opening pajamas– (wal mart has geeat button pajama sets) I pretty much lived in them for a few days until I was able to move my arms enough to get a shirt over my head. Or, just go topless, I did that a lot as well!
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You will have drains, lines, stitches, swelling, bruising, and exhaustion.  Your chest is going to look a bit Frankensteinish.  At first, you may not want to look down.  If you are like me… you may sneak peeks despite the doctors orders to leave the dressings alone!  I can tell you that I left the surgical tape along my scars for weeks, and quite truthfully… I was scared to take them off and actually see my scars because it made them real.  Take the time to adjust to your new chest, and remember the scars are a souvenir of your journey!

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*Something that was a life saver to me was my drain dolly or shower pocket!  My friend ordered one for me from Amazon, it is 100% worth the money.  It lays comfortably around your neck to hold your drains, I was even able to use it to keep them up when I bathed. Some people have more than 2 drains though, thats when you may want to get creative! I couldn’t really find anything that I thought would work for very cheap… until I decided to use my noggin.  Thats when I decided to buy a beer belt.  I found a super cute one on amazon for a few bucks and brought it with  me just in case I had 3+drains— lucky for me I came out with only two, but this is a good hack if you don’t want to spend 20+.00 on a “drain” specific item.

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If you have friends and family who are willing to help, teach them how to empty your drains, for me that was the greatest help.  Or how to shoot you in the stomach with a needle if they make you do blood thinner injections.  If not, you can do it! Pretend its a dart and JUST DO IT! Don’t pause 😉 Oh, having meals prepared ahead of time is also a great recommendation.  One of the BEST things during my recovery from my mastectomy was hiring a cleaning lady.  It sounds so ridiculous and I hate to admit it but the extra help was so so sooooooo greatly appreciated and needed at the time.


Now is the perfect segway into my recommendation for scars, healing, and skin care. You 100% must make a plan ahead of time if you want your scars to heal beautifully. Of course drinking tons of water and eating nutritious  foods helps. I will make recommendations, however please clear everything with your doctor! What worked for me and I say it all the time, it literally saved my life, is RxCanna Care. Following my mastectomies, I used their canna cream around my newly diminshed breasts— around the surgical tape and not near my drains. Once drains were removed and tape was taken off, my doctor recommended me to use lotions to promote healing. I waited until my scars were healed (with no drainage or open areas) and I began loading up with canna cream! This CBD based lotion is filled with natural healing properties and I swear that is why my mastectomy scars healed so beautifully!


Expanders and Fills.

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Boy I bet you cannot wait to get those plastic balls off your chest! Bet you didn’t know that sleeping on your back was so hard either! I remember it all too well. I bet you cant sleep on your stomach, or even your side right now because of how uncomfortable the rocks on your chest make it.  Well, one thing I did find that made sleeping a little better was purchasing a maternity pillow (I bought a Snoogle).  I was able to manipulate it so my shoulder was supported and my boobs sort of hovered in like a nest— sounds weird but it was the only way I found comfort as a habitual side sleeper the last 26 years of my life!

When someone hugs you, you probably arch a little so they dont get poked by your pokeball titties. It is completely normal to look in the mirror and give them a quick squeeze and wonder what the heck your doctor really slipped under your skin. Each fill is probably more and more painful, well for me it was atleast. Take a tylenol 30 minutes before a fill— and look into reiki or hypnosis I kid you not, it took away my pain to the point I could actually sit up and breath without being in horrible pain following my fills. For me, the expanders were one of the worst 8 months of my life!  You will be in constant discomfort and it won’t go away until they are out, so your just going to have to wait… sorry thats the honest truth:( *Rxcanna care CBD oil also has pain relief!

Breast Reconstruction

 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully!  If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Remember this is NOT a boob job… the difference between breast reconstruction vs. a beauty boob job is the simple fact that the surgeon is building a breast after taking off all your breast tissue.  I like to picture it as a sand castle.  Its a lot easier to build a castle on top of a hard form than with just sand and water when it tends to crumble.  Same sort of thing with breast reconstruction.  NOT every breast reconstruction will come out “good”.  There are a kazillion complications that could occur.   Please start with researching your surgeon.  Feel comfortable with your surgical plan, ask questions, and be an active part in decision making.

I know you want to know about whats most important… thats size! The bigger the better is my motto, however with breast reconstruction this is a difficult subject.  Plain and simple, Expect smaller boobs.  If you get greedy and force your surgeon to place a larger implant, there is a high chance that the surgery will have some sort of complication.  Listen to your surgeon.  Tell them your wants and needs and meet in the middle. Its all about compromise, ive learned.

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There are TONS of different shapes, profiles, and materials that implants are made of nowadays— every person is different and you should always discuss ALL options with your surgeon.  My surgeon explained to me that the best material (for me) of implant would be a gummy implant which is a silicone mixed implant.  It is a harder consistency BUT this works for me because my implant is under my muscle and I there is less of a chance for rippling.  Saline implants tend to be jigglier and you can get easier cleavage however you most likely will see ripples because your skin is going to be thinner— remember, we don’t have breast tissue and fat like normal boob job candidates.

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My implants are also a tear drop shape.  These are a more natural looking option and literally look just like my old boobs.  They lay on my chest as a sort of ski slope style to give that natural feel.  For me, I actually would have rathered a high profile type implant where it would have more of a boob job/ barbie girl look however in years to come, and once i’m out of my 20s, I feel like these foobies will be perfect.I just want the big perky boobies, you know;)

Think CC’s vs. DD’s.  When you go for breast reconstructions, there really isn’t a way to say I want a DD implant.  Implants go by the amount of material inside the implant  or cubic centimeters.  Your surgeon will be able to provide you a better insight into size that may work for you.  I went from 360cc filled expanders to 470cc implants and i’m about a 36C bra. (pre-cancer I was a 34B). Remember size matters, but it isn’t everything.

Ultimately you want implants that aren’t going to fail.  If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction in the near future, here are some of my words of wisdom. Be upfront and truthful with your surgeon.  I can’t even count how many times I told my surgeon “I want BIG boobs”, “I want them bigger”… etc.  I felt annoying and selfish at times but HECK, this is my body and if i’m getting rebuilt, you better rebuild me right!  Most likely, you will not go into surgery knowing what size you are coming out.  My surgeon went in with 4 different sized implants, and lucky for me… I got the largest size;)

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Post-op day 1- significant swelling
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1 month post-op, assymetical due to radiation damage and tightness of skin/ muscle
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2 months post-op, starting to drop and loosen on the Right radiated side!

You will most likely not like what they look like when the bandages come off.  They will be colorful, swollen, and look smaller than what the final product will look like.  Even within the 1st month, my boobs changed dramatically! There is a phrase called “drop and fluff”—  and that is exactly what happens! Your implants will look like their sitting really high on your chest at first, as the tissue heals they will drop and look more natural.  You have to give them time to settle and heal.  They will puff out because the swelling surrounding them will go down and if there are imperfections, your surgeon can always do adjustments.  If you went through radiation, that radiated side may seem “crooked” for around 6 months! My surgeon will not even assess for revision until 6-12 months pass.

Don’t be surprised by a pretty quick recovery.  Once again, everyone is different… however plan to be back at work within around 2 weeks.  This surgery is NOTHING compared to everything you’ve been through so far. Literally they say it is instant relief once the expanders come out and I 100% agree.  I think I actually went out to dinner day 2 after my surgery! Now, I’m not saying you won’t be uncomfortable… because you will be for around 3 weeks, but week 4 its like BAM no pain.  I went from only being able to sleep on my back to week 3 sleeping comfortably on my side!  It is like eating dessert after months of dieting, ENJOY*

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Finally, I want to end this letter with a pep talk.  We all know that boobs make us feel feminine.  Breasts feed babies, cleavage looks sexy, and whether your mate is turned on by boobs or butts… well, you may be faced with a problem once they are gone.  BUT, we have to remember that WE are not just boobs! Whether you chose to go flat chested, use prosthetics, or don’t exactly get the outcome with breast reconstruction that you expected… please always remember that as long as your lungs are working, your heart is pumping, and your eyes open the next morning… You are YOU with or without your boobies.  Sure we all want to feel sexy and beautiful, but there are a kazillion things that make you beautiful… Go out and buy a pretty sparkly nighty and have some fun because YOU are a beautiful, sexy, survivor! Always #sparkleon

 

Sincerely,

Meghan, XO

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New Hair, New Me

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This is a post for all my sparkleoners.  Boys, girls, ladies, and gentleman… we are all in this together. Well, most of us anyways.  Cancer does not discriminate, and that is exactly why I am writing this blog.  I was 26 years young when cancer decided to strike!  It not only affected me, but it affected my family, friends, and well… now all of you!

This  post is for all the pretty ladies who do not feel pretty.  It is for the guys who are going through chemo and have heard something along the lines of “well, atleast your a guy… your hair doesn’t matter that much”.  Its for the mother or grandmother who feels the need to shop in one of those gawd awful wig catalogs so their kids/ grand children don’t feel “weird” around you.  This is for the husbands and boyfriends/ girlfriends/ wives who have to wipe the tears of their loved one as their hair falls out in clumps or they take a razor to their head to not face the inevitable. We are all in this together.

This exact time last year, I finished chemo!  I was as bald as Mr. Clean, and practically wasting all my tears on how I looked.  I remember writing an early blog post and quoting Mulan “When will my reflection show, who I am inside”.  That is exactly how I felt.  I looked in that mirror and could practically make myself feel nauseous because of the reflection looking back at me.  I had dark sunken eyes, pimples, a round steroid face, and yes BALDNESS!


Today, I am one year from chemo and it wasn’t until today (one year + one day) that I have felt pretty for the first time throughout my entire cancer journey! I was that girl who hated how she looked, who hid behind my wig and makeup because that was the only way I could hold onto my “normal”.  If you are reading this and tears are filling in your eyes… I am here to tell you that is okay!  You are completely normal to feel upset about how you look!  I questioned myself all the time if I was vain or really that materialistic and attached to my hair.  The truth is, God gave us hair… and allows it to grow.  If you are anything like me, you spend hours styling, dyeing, cutting, and pampering that lovely  mane… you have every single right in the world to HATE cancer and what it has done to you!

I’m writing this blog today to tell you that you are not alone.  You are not vain, and even though on the outside you may not feel beautiful… deep inside, that original sparkle still exists!  The whole idea of my #sparkleon movement is for people to realize that your outward appearance isn’t what makes you pretty, beautiful, or sparkle! It is truly what is on your inside, what is in your heart that brings on that glow!

I have some very important words of advice, to you that young girl or woman who has recently been connected to a chemo pump and your hair is holding on by a few strands.  My advice is shave it… hold on to that inkling of power that you have over your looks.  I shaved my head short then straight razored is about 3 sessions into chemo due to follicular pain of my existing hair.  Looking back now, It would have killed me to lose my luscious locks in clumps as I took a shower. Shave your head, buy a good wig, style it, and stock up on hats, wraps, and glitter because all those things will make you feel more “normal” until you feel comfortable enough to rock a bald head.  Oh, and TAKE PICTURES!!!! I only have a very few pictures of me in my raw form and looking back today, I wish I would have documented more because it is a reminder of just how far i’ve come, and how #imasurvivor!

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Get yourself some makeup, the brighter the lipstick the better… and start YouTubing how to apply fake lashes.  It is a MUST.  I mean, I guess if your a girly girl like me anyways.  Once I lost all my hair, my brows and lashes were next.  My sisters saved me when it came to having the best products and taught me application of these now hairless regions.  Oh ya, after fixating on how upset you are at your new naked mole rat self— cherish your hairless private parts and chocha because… lets just say, it won’t last forever!

Do not feel awkward around friends, family, and strangers for that matter.  I remember after I shaved my head… I was so nervous to see my husbands little cousins and go out in public.  I felt like I always had to explain myself. The whole “I’m going through chemo” or “I have cancer” quotes were hard to roll off my tongue for a LONGGGGG time! Heck! I still get teary eyed when I say “I had cancer”— simetimes I dont even know what to say! But heck, thats a whole blog post in itself! I hated that I had cancer, I was ashamed in a way.  I still wanted to be the old me, and at the time I didn’t want to admit that the old me was gone.  Today… I am finally able to see that the “new” me is a much better, polished me.

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If you are going through chemo, have a friend that is going through chemo, or see someone on the street who looks a little bald and not old man bald with a cigar hanging out of his mouth… say “hi”, and if they are a girl… tell them they look beautiful, but not in a creepy way;) Pick one thing on that person that you can compliment, “You have the most beautiful eyes”, “that lipstick is such a great color”, or simply “Have a great day”… those few statements will hit them in the pit of their stomach and truly make their day! I remember times when people complimented me when I felt like I was ugly and looked like a sick piece of poo, and it made that day a little brighter!

Right now, the mirror may be your enemy.  For me, the mirror has been my nightmare for about a year and a half.  Today, one year chemo free and I actually loved looking in the mirror!  Read that again sparkleoners… ONE YEAR AFTER MY LAST CHEMO, I FINALLY am able to look into the mirror and accept my reflection.  One year is a long time… but your time will come!

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Legit my ugliest selfie, however I just love my smile, and awkwardly how round my head is! 😉
I have a challenge for you. And anyone can do this too- cancer filled, remission, friend or family member…  Before bed tonight, I want you to take off your makeup, hang up the wig, get naked— this is the most important part!  I want you to turn the light on (fan is optional 😉  I want you to take a selfie.  DO NOT EDIT IT, DO NOT DELETE IT.  Now I want you to find 1 single thing that you find beautiful/ handsome about yourself, your outward self.  It can be as simple as I like that I have two working eyes, and a nose that smells!  I don’t really care.. but you must give yourself the credit you deserve!  You may not be able to find one thing on your outside core that you like right now… but that is okay.  Deep down… very deep for some of us, we do still sparkle— it may take you a year and a half to believe me, but I promise… you are still beautiful!

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Today I had an amazing experience for the first time getting my hair styled. I woke up, went live on Instagram and shared with all of you a monumental moment of straightening my hair for the very first time since it grew back! After I got it as straight as I could considering the thickness and crazy chemo curls, I looked in the mirror, remembered it was pay day… and decided to treat myself! I am tired of feeling like Meghan stuck with chemo curls in an outside core that I just deal with. So, I packed Izzy up and went to a salon I used to go to pre-cancer. (the amazing Dani’s HairLoft in Mckees Rocks PA- right outside of Pittsburgh)

It is always so awkward for me because Ive gone there to get my head shave fixed and my brows done a few times through my hair re-growing journey… and I always have to prepare myself because I know they arent going to recognize me and I just always get that awkward feeling like they know! Im the cancer girl, i dont know its just awkward right… they look in the computer and see ai havent had my hair done in over a year, not because Ive gone somewhere else, its because I havent had any hair to get done!

Anyways, I went in and asked if they could fit me in for a quick cut. They are always soooo nice and said they could fit me in. I was waiting on one of their adorable wait chairs (councidentally the chair I sat in the day I shaved my hair and had to go get it fixed because it looked like I got attacked by a lawnmower), anyways. The hairdresser finished up and invited me into her spinny chair.

As we started talking I of course had to go into detail about my hair, my chemoversary, my first time straightening it (yes im practically a born again virgin!)… you know, explaining the cancer journey which im sure my cancer fam knows all too well. I got into products that I use… and it was like a firework went off! Turns out, Sandy (my hairdresser) is a Pureology rep— flipping match made in heaven right here. Of course I then go on and on about my love for their products, then she taught me things I didnt even know. Like, Pureology is vegan, and doesnt have carinogens! Awesomeeee… so why isnt every cancer crew member using it?!


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Long story short, we have an immediate connection. She did a dry cut on my mane and woolah… I felt like a whole knew gal! For the very first time in over a year, since I was diagnosed and forced to shave my rapunzel pony… I felt pretty, feminine, and like me! A new me, but a good me and I am just so greatful!

XOXO

Meg

One Year Chemoversary

 

Last day of chemo to one year chemoversary

 

February 23, 2016. One year ago today, we were sitting in treatment room #2 of chemotherapy singing “its all about that drip”, a song I made up to pass the time. I remember so clearly how the doctor came in prior to this chemo session because we were changing up my medicine from Taxol which I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to the week prior, and we were ready to try a drug called Abraxane which is a Taxol derivative. The doctor specifically came in and said “don’t worry, no one is allergic to this drug”. To our surprise I am a rare person that had a “true” Taxol allergy.

I was so nervous for them to administer this new drug, and truthfully I was just waiting for hives, pain, or the worst, to be unable to breath! Up until this point, I have had allergic reactions to all of the drugs that they have tried with me within time. In my pre-chemo concoction, they would load me up with fluids, benedryl, and anxiety medications however soon enough my body built up a tolerance to the benedryl and BOOM a reaction would occur.

You often hear the quote, “its all in your head” and for the first time in my life I realized that isn’t always true. There were reactions that I had literally after being in a deep sleep where I would wake up feeling my throat closing, not being able to breath, and my family rushing to get a nurse to come and help. (Thank you to my sister Jillian, that literally happened). Allergies are scary, your body is reacting and your mind cannot do anything about it!

Side note: and also important for anyone with seasonal allergies!  Taxol is a chemotherapy drug that is part of a group called “plant alkaloids”.  Basically, it comes from a plant or part of a plant.  In the case of Taxol, it is made from the bark of a Pacific Yew tree.  Taxol is a specific plant alkaloid that is cell-cycle specific, meaning that they attack the cells before they divide causing cell death and in my case hopefully CANCER DEATH!

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What is interesting about Taxol is that I have many allergies to the outdoors.  I love flowers, camping, hiking, etc. however come spring I always have a stuffy nose.  Another side note, I am super allergic to different fruits with skin especially.  It doesn’t matter if I de-skin them, buy organic, or cook them… apples, peaches, and cherries turn me into a ball of itch!  So, looking at where this very powerful drug comes from it isn’t surprising that I was severely allergic!

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Chemo 12… 4 more to go, NOT!

So, basically with four intended chemo treatments left of my initial (16 dose) planned course, my doctor threw in the towel after getting my breathing back and scaring my mother half to death! (literally). Pretty much I exhausted all of the drugs they could try to treat my exact cancer, and she took this as a sign that my body had had enough.  And that basically meant, no “last day of chemo” party for me.  No making cupcakes, taking pictures with a pretty sign, once again I missed out on yet another occasion to throw a party! (however not a party that most people would look forward to throwing)

My anxiety was so bad that with them simply running fluids through my port my heart rate was sky rocketing! I never really had anxiety before… because I never really had anything to be fearful of. Chemo literally brought the fear out of me.

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One year later, I am finally getting my life back. Although I added on to my already serious list of allergies, (knock on wood) I havent had any serious reactions with my concurrent surgeries other than annoying rashes and ichiness. Today, I am finally starting to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a “me” that I love! I have hair again!!!! And a lot if curl I must add! Although I pray everyday it miraculously will grow past my booty… it is crazy to see just how much it has grown in a years time!

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12 months of hair growth

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For me, losing my hair was THE worst part of my cancer journey. Truthfully, I would say it was even worse than losing my boobies! People may think im crazy… but to me, my hair is on the outside for everyone to see. My boobs are covered for the most part, and I can always do the tricks of my inner 13 year old self and just stuff my bras with socks or tissues right;) Being bald made the cancer real. A random person off the street could see bald therefore see that I had cancer, no matter how much glitter or lipstick I wore.

But really, cancer not only made me fight for my life… but, I was moreso fighting for my identity. I looked in the mirror and cried because a bald beast was starring back at me. It was cancer that I saw, raw, bald, and at the time I felt far from beautiful. My dark circles, sunken cheeks, and fake smile were only some of the outward side effects of chemo. Though these poisonous drugs were attacking all the evil little cancer cells in my body, sadly they cant pick and chose good from bad and therefore the inner side effects were also prevalent.

Of course there was nausea, loss of appetite, and for me allergies… but there were also side effects that the normal person doesn’t want to talk about. Oh ya, I’m talking about my booty! And not how cute and perky it used to be either! Im talking constipation, hemorrhoids, the cancer life is tough let me tell you! And lets not even get into the awkward initial stages of when hair decides to grow back! I can tell you that it doest come back on your head first…

But for reals, this was a HUGE deal— a girls coochie is beautiful bald and I hate that I have to shave/ wax nowadays however… hair growth is hair growth people! AND YES it deserved a group text message to my sisters (and now the world) that my COOCH HAS HAIR!!! *I may have embraced the bush for a few days too… I promise I’m back to naked mole rat now 😉

Luckily, today that is all in my past!  Hopefully anyways:)

Although I still have frequent check ups with my specialists.  Life now a days is getting back into a routine.  It’s forcing me to get up everyday and eat healthy, begin working out, loving my job, being thankful for my family, and most importantly… living every single second of every day to its fullest, because truly– tomorrow is NEVER EVER a guarantee!  I wake up each and every day with a smile on my face, I look into the mirror and see a strong, beautiful, determined me! I get to roll over and kiss the most amazing husband and puppers in the whole entire world.  And I make numerous phone calls throughout the day to my family and friends! Life is so so so good, and I am just truly thankful!

I am looking forward to where my future is leading me.  I was dragged along this path and journey for a reason, and in this year to come Sparkle On Inc. WILL come to life! Stay tuned 😉

XOXO

Meg

Friends: Where Did You All Go?

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I feel like in the past year and a half, my life has become surrounded by my diagnosis.  Yes, I had cancer, I had to go through treatments that significantly changed my look, my life plans, view on life, and relationships.  My Timehop pops up daily, and my posts from the past year are all bald headed, chemo filled, shit. I look at my posts from 2+ years ago, and I have long blonde hair, am carefree, living the life of just another 20 something year old.

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I was cruising my instagram the other day, and went to answer some of my DM’s and it hit me.  I am sooooo thankful that because of my journey, I am able to now advocate, counsel, and guide young girls and women like me just entering this journey or whom aren’t as open as I am. I have the opportunity to share tips, answer questions, and inspire women daily, and that is simply magical! Although I am “cancer-free” technically speaking, the thing that many people don’t realize is once you are diagnosed with any cancer… it is with you for the rest of your life!  I wonder if my “old friends” are embarrassed, don’t feel like they can reach out to be a part of my life because I’m now “different”. It literally feels like ai have cooties! I’m not sure many of my friends understand this new “me”…

Growing up through middle school and high school, I wasn’t the most popular however I was a cheerleader and tried to be nice to everyone.  I wasn’t really part of any certain “clique” however I had a lot of friends and aquaintences  from all different groups.  When I went off to college, I felt like it was a new beginning.  I instantly made friends, many I know will be a part of my life forever!

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When I was initially diagnosed, I know it was a major shock for many people. Heck, I announced it to hundreds of friends and family through one single Facebook post!  I instantly had my inbox and cellphone absorbed in messages from people I would consider my closet friends, and many other I haven’t talked to in forever but once had a significance in my life.

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After our magical wedding, and once I began treatments, it was as if my friends and their communication started dwindling away.  When at one time, my hubby and I would always be invited out on a Friday night… my days began to be filled with fatigue and weakness and basically I didn’t have the energy to party anymore.  Not that drinking was everrrr a big part of my life, however I would drink a “jolly rancher” here or there and have a good time.  Once I got cancer, became bald, and “sick” those calls and invites began to dwindle.

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Surprise… this is my reality! Sorry, not sorry
I must say, many friends and family gathered around, mailed me gifts and packages and that truly made the awful situation a little brighter, and those special gestures will be forever cherished.  However, some of my friends who I would consider the closet in my life began to slowly drift away.  I have over 8,000 followers on my instagram– about 1500 of those I had prior to my diagnosis, and I have realized that hardly anyone from my “pre-cancer” life “likes” or messages me regarding my journey. Is it that you don’t know what to say? Are you embarrassed that I flash me scars? Does it seem that I’m not the same me? I completely apologize that this is my life now, and I can tell you I post selfies and my tits because I want to save the life of one young girl like me!!!  You truly don’t understand how awful this journey is until you live it… and if I can help one girl feel a little more comfortable in her skin, than I will post away!

There has been times where statements have been made that I don’t “like” to go out anymore, i’m not as “fun” as I used to be, or John and I are stuck in our own “bubble” and don’t like to hang out with people… however that is far from our reality! Please understand that our life simply isn’t the same however WE are the same! (its quite the concept, it is confusing)

I want to write this post not the shame anyone, that is the very LAST thing I would ever want to do because I completely understand that life goes on and its hard sometimes to find the time to check in etc.  I do however want to give some recommendations for people with friends or family going through a cancer or any disease journey!

  1. Be supportive: This doesn’t mean just day 1, this doesn’t mean send a kazillion gifts, this doesn’t mean you have to absorb yourself into their journey… however a friendly text now or then goes a longggggg way! While they are going through treatments, a lot of time is spent doing more sedentary tasks, sitting in a chair for hours at a time at chemo, or resting in bed because they don’t have the energy to get up.  By you reaching out and saying a simple “hi”, it can make someones day.
  2. Offer realistic assistance: We have ALL been in the situation when someone is going through a rough time and we say the famous line, “if you need anything… let me know”, but do we really mean it? Well, I can be the first to tell you that many people don’t mean that at all.  Instead of saying, DO! If someone is going through treatment, bring them dinner, find time to plan an afternoon visit, sit down and watch a movie or paint nails together, just show up… it is truly those little “visits” that mean the most!
  3. Dont disappear:  Looking back on my journey, hell it is scary!  I completely changed on the outside, but I promise… deep down I am still the fun, carefree, goofy girl I used to be.  I may be bald but I still like to break it down, and drop it low ;).  I might be tired all the time, but maybe this Friday night we could go out for dinner.  If you live far away, check in… a simple “how are you doing”is difficult to answer truthfully because most likely I feel like shit, look like shit, and don’t really want to tell you about my reality.  Instead, ask me about my day, familiarize yourself with what is going on in my life.  Send me a freakin quote or riddle that is going to make me smile.

**The best gifts are the most meaningful and thoughtful… a handwritten card addressed to me with a memory of when things were “normal” are the absolute best!

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I am beyond thankful for my family and close friends for getting through my darkest times; without them, I wouldn’t have the sparkle and strength to be where I am today!  However, it truly breaks my heart that I feel like my journey has caused me to lose friends that I thought I would have forever.  In a way, it might be me being selfish, and of course I am able to reach out to them… but a part of me remains salty as hell that you couldn’t be there for me during my lows, but yet I jump when people need my help. Grrrr…. I feel so awful writing this but I just simply have to get it off my chest.

Those just entering your journey, know that nothing will be the same.  Deep down you are still “you” however that “you” will soon become a much stronger, more courageous, and determined “you” than ever before.  If you are lucky like me, you will meet new friends that are or have also been through a journey like yours… and you will be able to text or call them at the wee hours of the morning because you feel an ache or pain because, they “get it”. Many of your “friends” will not understand what you are going through because they have never experienced a journey like “cancer”.  Be kind, be patient, and take my advice and speak up and tell them how you feel instead of holding it in like me and holding a grudge.

To my “friends” and family that I talk to daily, thank you! You have kept me going and I forever owe you for that.  I promise to see you soon! And to my friends that I haven’t talked to in months…  Hello, my name is now Meghan Koziel, and yes I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26.  I went through chemo, lost my hair, had my boobs cut off, and am fearful everyday that my cancer is going to come back… however, deep down, I am still me.  I miss you, and I would LOVE to hear from you or go out like the old days.

 

XOXO Meg