Fair warning: This post is long, completely personal and has absolutely nothing to do with design, decorating, color or trends.
Life as we all know is a cycle of both good times and not so good times. Just recently I was thinking about how at the moment I was in one of the good times. Everything is going so well both with my business and my personal life. My kids are “launched”, busy creating a business of their own, living in Boston and supporting themselves. My husband is employed at a job he likes and has the flexibility to work at home. I have what I consider the world’s best friends and I could not ask for better clients. I have the amount of design projects that feels just right and I was invited on two different BlogTours with Modenus and the awesome Veronika Miller. I had the time of my life on both trips and met some of the most inspiring creative people who I am blessed to say are now my friends. Yup, everything was more or less perfect.
Then in an instant my life was completely derailed. Three weeks ago I was blindsided with a diagnosis of invasive breast Cancer….wait what??? I’ve always been the healthy one. I have been eating “clean” since before it was even a thing. I exercise (at least I try to), I’ve never smoked and I do my best to keep stress to a minimum. I feel great so this must be a mistake, besides, I’m way too busy to deal with Cancer. My mind flashes to two friends, both who died in their 30’s from breast cancer, both leaving toddlers without a mom. I think of my friend Christine who is currently fighting metastatic breast cancer. I think of my Dad who died a slow painful death from lung Cancer exactly 25 years ago this week at the young age of 62, and my Mom who died 17 years later from an equally terrible struggle with brain Cancer. I think, am I going to die? This will destroy my family. I feel like I can’t breath, I feel sick, I cry.
On the drive home I think about all the things I still want to do. I have never been to Italy, I want to attend Maison and Objet in Paris and swim in Caribbean waters again. I want to visit London and I want to tour the wineries in Sonoma. I want to go back to High Point with my friends Kim, Kelly, Casey and Jeffery and see all my long distance designer friends. I think of my kids. I want to see them get married and maybe one day have a grand daughter that I can take to the Ritz for tea, and the ballet. Silly things too, like I need to paint the front door and I still haven’t ordered a new sofa for the family room.
I tell my husband, I tell my boys, I tell my close friends.
We meet with the surgeon a few days later. She is calming and very reassuring. She stresses that my Cancer is small and that I am extremely lucky it was caught early. My Cancer is stage 1 (on a scale of 1-4). The initially pathology report from the needle biopsy shows it is a type 2 Cancer (on a scale of 1-3). Not great, but thank God it is not a 3. As long as my margins and lymph nodes are clear I will not need chemotherapy, only radiation.
I try and stay as busy and distracted as possible waiting for the surgery but the word Cancer, becomes an all present loud voice in my head. I am checking out at Whole Foods and the perky 20 something cashier smiles and asks “how are you today”? I smile back just as perky and say “fine thanks”… the voice inside my head screams “I HAVE CANCER!”. I am at the bank making a deposit and the teller asks, “Anything else I can do for you today?” I smile back, “Nope, all set”. The voice screams “YEAH, CAN YOU CURE MY CANCER?”
I had the surgery two weeks ago and the news was the best it could be. Both the margins and the lymph nodes were clear. No chemo needed!!! I tell EVERYONE the good news. My husband brings home champagne, the boys come with my son’s girlfriend. We all celebrate. I feel like I have dodged a bullet. I don’t need to go public with the news because I know radiation won’t be fun but it will have minimal impact on my life and business. I have four days of bliss thinking I am in the clear.
Then we meet with the Oncologist. She is very sorry to have to tell me some unexpected bad news. The final pathology report comes back and the Cancer I have (had) is clearly type 3 (fast growing highly aggressive form). I need chemo, I will go bald, I will be tired, I will be sick, I will be a Cancer patient. For the second time in just two and a half weeks I feel completely blindsided. I can’t breath, I feel sick, I cry. This time the news seems even more devastating because I had already told EVERYONE the good news. I can’t bring myself to tell anyone the new bad news. I slowly tell people, everyone is shocked and sad.
In ten days I have Pre-Chemo “class” (I find this quit humorous because I always describe myself as a life long learner). I start treatment a few days after that. It seems somewhat surreal because I feel so healthy yet in just a couple weeks I will be bald, tired and sick. After twelve weeks of Chemo I will then have 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments. It will be almost the holidays until I’m done. I have no idea how I will feel since everyone reacts differently to chemo. My Oncologist says she has patients in their 30’s that can barely get off the couch and patients in their 70’s who hardly miss a beat.
My intention is to stay positive and work as much as possible. My friends, family, and clients have been and are, incredibly supportive. I cut my hair short(er) in preparation of what is to come. I am working like a fiend getting some painting, cleaning and house projects finished before chemo begins. I’m already scheming about how I can turn chemo treatments into a design related blog post. It will be interesting to see what colors they use in the treatment room, hopefully they are uplifting.
So my friends, my next step is a trip with my good friend and wardrobe stylist Susan kanoff to pick out a wig. I’m thinking “short and sassy” might be a good look for me.
But then again…life is short!
Enjoy the little things my friends and whatever you do, don’t put off those yearly screening tests!