I like to think of myself as a medical miracle. I survived four cancers over 8 years:
2009: Melanoma Skin Cancer
2010: Thyroid Cancer
2015: Basal Cell Skin Cancer
2017: Breast Cancer
By necessity, my approach to treating myself and my illnesses have changed over time. After experiencing VERY RARE side effects from thyroid surgery, I stopped automatically following ‘standard treatment’ protocols and took back control of my care and recovery process. I found that when I contributed to my treatment plans, I was better prepared for the inevitable side effects.
Although the melanoma was by far my most potentially lethal cancer, and the facial plastic surgeries for basal cell were incredibly painful, the breast cancer experience and treatment were the absolute worst. Perhaps I was overconfident about my youth and ability to fight it / overcome it, or it’s possible my fair skin was destined to react badly to radiation – it’s impossible to know. Regardless, despite thinking I would knock out radiation and be able to continue working full time and running half-marathons my body failed me and I was flabbergasted by my situation. There were two concurrent issues:
- It was incredibly difficult to predict what tools I would need to go through and recover from radiation until I was in the middle of it, scrambling for bra-alternatives, aluminum-free deodorant, and burn salves. A nurse made me a mini-pillow to hold between my seatbelt and breast so that the belt wouldn't chafe. There was no central resource, website, or retailer known for all this 'stuff' and I found myself up late at night researching page 20 searches on Google and Amazon looking for solutions. Most of the cancer-treatments and gifts online were pink ribboned cute/sassy t-shirts and mugs – I wanted relief not stuff.
- Friends and neighbors all want to DO something ... and they predominantly bring food/cook. It's super nice and appreciated, but honestly my husband and son are super picky eaters and would have preferred takeout. I wasn't able to exercise and would have preferred lighter / lower calorie fare. It was honestly frustrating because it was all so WELL MEANING but in reality, not awesome to receive.
I chose this featured image for so many reasons – it was taken at my “Finish Line” party, thrown by my dear friends Amy and Stacey after I completed my breast cancer treatments. It was a magical night, filled with cocktails and cake and laughter. The evening was made even more special by my friends Monique and Anne who flew into Kansas City from New York and Los Angeles to attend. In addition to my incredible family, I had – still have – an incredible support network of amazing women who are so smart, kind, hilarious, thoughtful, and FUN. They know when to bring the wine and when to enforce tough love.
The “Finish Line” party was where the seed for Balm Box started. Maybe there is some crazy kismet in the universe; the past ten years of cancer treatments leading me to the launch of something great. I certainly hope so.
Sometimes the finish line is actually the starting line.
And sometimes you've got to run the race again! That's right, Liz has officially gone from 4 time, to 5 time cancer survivor. You can read about that update here.