This Girl is on Fire!

  • By Veronica Waldrop
  • 15 Jan, 2016

Olaf:  He makes me melt!

I'm so hot. Honestly, I've never been hotter. I think back to my twenties, when I had long hair, no laugh lines, and didn't touch carbs... Nope, I'm WAY hotter now.

But, it's not what you think. I'm not talking about sex appeal or physical attraction. I'm talking about hot flashes. This 37-year-old is officially going through menopause! Seriously. This is a side-effect of the Taxol, and it is brutal. Therefore, I would like to officially apologize to my mom for being so aloof every time she had a hot flash. I am learning the hard way that the struggle is real. Really hot.

I would also like to apologize to my husband for having a crush on Olaf--the character from Frozen .  Yup, I have a (snow)man crush. He is so attractive to me these days. When I get really hot, I like to imagine the two of us sitting on the beach, his branches wrapped around my back, gazing into the sea. We would be two pasty-white, bald-headed, peas in pod, melting away in the sunshine. We could drink chilled Prosecco, then dump the remnants of the wine bucket on our heads...kinda like the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

And, this could be the song playing in the background:

Do you want to build a snowman?
Then maybe dump it on my head?
My sweaty face is turning rosy pink,
I need a frozen drink
Looks like I wet the bed!!!

I used to call myself a tropical flower. I would joke around to W that I am a delicate creature, who needs sunshine, salt-air, and thrives in vacation destinations. Well, I'm not feeling very tropical these days. I just googled "cold weather plants" and the results showed something called the Atomic Mix Veronica. That sounds about right.  

This morning, I woke up and it was 36 degrees outside. It was glorious. I walked outside, felt the crisp air, inhaled a deep frosty breath, then scurried back inside. I thawed out for about sixty seconds, then had to step back outside. This was my at-home version of hot/cold plunge pool therapy, minus the steep spa bill! I think I'm on to something. Needless to say, this cool winter weather is a welcomed change. My inner tropical flower is hiding under the cold ground. But, she is waiting to bloom...hopefully sometime in February, after I finish chemo.      

The last time I soaked up the sun...

From the Heart

By Veronica Waldrop 22 Aug, 2016
I can't believe this is happening... I mean, I knew it could happen.  I'm not so naive to think that I am immune or invincible.  I just never dreamed it would happen to me.  

It feels like I was blindsided... Like I was sucker-punched!  Like I was floating along in life, just doing my thing... Then, BAM!

What do I do now? I don't even know where to begin.  How am I supposed to heal? I don't know the terminology. I don't understand the process.  Everyone is giving me advice.  Everyone keeps saying they are so sorry.  They want to help. I just long for yesterday, before this happened.  

What do my children think? Do they understand what is happening? I just want to protect them. God, just let my babies be ok. 

Ok, I need to get it together.  Why am I so worked up? I'm lucky to be alive.  It could have been SO much worse.  Now, I feel so guilty about feeling so sad. If I am a woman of faith, a believer, why do I feel so damn scared right now?

I know you are there, God.  I know you are with me.  You have ALWYS been here.  There is nothing in this world that we cannot handle together.  Let me find the good in this, Lord.  Thank you, God.  Always.  Thank you.

***

A year ago, today, I was thinking these very thoughts.  I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  And, I was terrified.  

Shortly after being diagnosed, I received an email from a breast cancer survivor that said, "I am two years out from the original diagnosis and it almost feels like it didn't happen...except I know it did."

This was one of the most hopeful, beautiful things that anyone could say to me.  I was elated at the thought that one day, life just might return to its blissfully uneventful state.  I took this idea and painted a picture in my mind. I could see myself with a head full of short messy hair, playing with my girls, smiling at my husband.  I played it over and over in my mind.  And, I held it near my heart.  

I would whisper to myself: One day, I will wake up and ask, "did that just happen?"

See, when you hear the words YOU HAVE CANCER, all the little things that seemed so important fly out the window.  For months, I couldn't look at my children without feeling sick and nervous, wondering if they would grow up without their mother.  Many times, I would look in the mirror and feel angry.  I longed for my hair and my breasts and my innocence.  (I have hair now.  And, I have temporary breast-like thingies in my chest.  But, the innocence is gone forever, I'm afraid.)  

As I write this, I'm sitting outside. The sun is peaking through a blanket of thin white clouds.  It is hot.  It is muggy.  But, it is glorious.  It is glorious because it isn't raining.  Baton Rouge and the surrounding communities are in a state of emergency due to extensive flooding.  Thousands of families are displaced.  So far, thirteen are dead.

My head is achy from watching the news.  My mind is spinning from the constant bing on my phone.  Another text from about another friend who had to evacuate her home.  My heart aches for this community--the very group who stood beside me, who loved me, embracing my family with prayer and time and resources when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Now, many mourn the loss of their homes; they mourn the loss of their normal.  In a way, I know the feeling.  I was just there.  

***

A few days ago, I helped a friend clean her flood-damaged home.  I could see the pain in her eyes as she sifted through memory after saturated memory, tossing them into large, black, industrial garbage bags.  The putrid smell of flood water lingered, just to add insult to injury.  

I know that cancer and flood-damage are different.  But, I recognize the emotions that I see all around me.  They are all too familiar.  

Why is this happening? I don't know what to do. I just want everything to go back to how it was.  

I get it.  

And, I'm here to say the very words that gave me so much hope.  

Here I am, one year out.  It's almost like it didn't happen.  Except, I know that it did.  

Listen, life doesn't look exactly like it did before.  My hair looks like Screech from Saved By the Bell.  I'm not quite as strong as I used to be.  And, I think about my own mortality WAY more than I used to.  But, one year later, I am still here .  My family’s normal looks different.  And to be honest, I like the post-cancer me better than the old me.  This Veronica loves harder, is closer to God, and wastes less time on the things that just don't flipping matter.  

***

Three days after being cooped up inside of our home because of torrential rain, the skies finally cleared.  The grocery stores were cleaned out, restaurants were closed, and the streets underwater.  That evening, I was feeding my four year old a delicious, nutritious dinner of Goldfish crackers and scrambled eggs, when my phone rang.

It was my mom.  "Go outside NOW.  Look at the sky. Just do it and call me back."

I scooped up Nani and we walked outside.  There, right above us, was the most brilliant, perfect rainbow.  It spanned across the sky like a vibrant love letter from God himself.  My babe and I sat down on the damp driveway.  (We were fortunate enough to not have flooding at our home.) I held her tightly in my lap and explained that a rainbow is a sign of hope...that God is here--even after the most terrible, tragic storms.  

That night, as W and I said our family family prayers, Nani chimed in, "and thank you, God, for ALL the rainbows.. they remind us that YOU are here and it's all going to be alright."

ALL. THE. RAINBOWS.  

She made me realize, in that moment, that there can be different kinds of rainbows.  There are the prisms of color, visible in the sky after a rainstorm. But, in my opinion, a rainbow can also be the coworker that swings by with Chinese takeout on the day you had chemotherapy.  A rainbow can be those friends who show up with cleaning supplies and empty bins, ready to get your back on your feet.  A rainbow can be a hug and prayer from the stranger who sees you are hurting.

I have seen and felt God's presence so much in my life--especially in the past 365 days.  I realize, now, that God has always been there.  I just needed to open my heart and eyes to see the rainbows.

God's promises, God's hope, God's rainbows are everywhere.  And, sometimes, they are easiest to see right after the storm.

***

To my beautiful Louisiana, thank you for being so full of love.  Thank you for being the face and the hands of God during these trying times.  I have seen so many of you give tirelessly and selflessly to people you don't know.  You are beautiful.  And, I am so honored to be a part of your spirit.

To my great native state of Texas and dear friends outside of Louisiana, I humbly ask that you consider donating time, resources, or funds to help this state heal.  Anything helps.  This will be a long road.  But, we will survive.  

Here is a link to my family's home church, First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge . 100% of proceeds and goods go directly to families in need. My family and I have been volunteering with teams from FUMC this week.  They are legit and efficient and ready to rebuild. There is an updated list of specific needs on the website.

Also, here is a link to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Hospital .  This is where I received six months of chemotherapy.  More than 25% of Mary Bird's current cancer patients experienced total or partial loss.  Cancer and flooding? My heart breaks...

Thanks for reading.  Be a rainbow today.  God bless you, V

By Veronica Waldrop 03 Jun, 2016
My clunky green Doc Martens were propped up on the wooden bleacher front of me. The high school gym smelled of sweat and CK One. I looked down at the gym floor. I watched the cheerleaders bounce around in their pleated skirts. Our mascot, the Lobo, was especially energetic. I remember him leading the student body in a 90s music conga line. Come on, it’s the choo-choo train! Woo! Woo!!  Everyone around me was bouncing to the music.

I couldn’t wait to finish high school. Pep rallies and teen life weren’t exactly my cup of tea.  And, I welcomed the day when my Doc Martens and I could drudge along a large, grassy campus, listening to college radio, feeling grown-up and intellectual. I imagined myself listening to The Cure in a poli-sci class, then eating sushi, while discussing twentieth-century poetry with my new college-friends.

I looked toward the gym floor, watching the cool football-players and pretty cheerleaders bop and clap.

 “I’ll probably never see these kids again,” I thought. They all seemed to be so "together."  And, I never really felt like I fit in.  

*****

Fourteen years, two student loans, and many, many sushi rolls later, I found myself sipping a French 75 in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. My Doc Martens were long gone. And, I spent more time reading US Weekly than T.S. Eliot (unfortunately.) I was wearing a long, black ballgown, gazing out onto the dance-floor, when I saw her...  She was blond and beautiful, just as I remembered. And, her face hadn’t changed a bit since 1995. It was one of the cheerleaders from my high school! Of all the places to see a ghost of pep-rallies past !

I took a sip of champagne and approached her. This was the first time she and I had ever spoken…Seriously—ever. She was so kind and friendly even though she had no idea who I was. But, she had taken some of my dad’s classes when she was in college. And, everyone loves my dad. So, that helped.

Fast forward seven years.

 She and I have kept in touch through social media. We even text sometimes. In fact, she recently reached out to me and asked if she could send me a book. Her text went something like this:
Hey V- I have to send you this book.  Last night we were down to five eggs, which wasn’t enough to make a meal, but plenty to make a chocolate cake. So my family ate cake for dinner. This book is a real mom telling her real story. It has changed me. It makes me believe that other people might have made their families chocolate cake for dinner too.

In that split second, with that single text, that beautiful blonde mommy made me smile ear-to-ear. My inner flannel-clad teenager stopped head-banging to Pearl Jam long enough to see what happens when we start being honest. I mean brutally, sometimes embarrassingly honest. It is what happens when you can’t make gluten-free, organic, Pinterest-worthy meals. You just make a darn chocolate cake. And, like that, I had this vision of the Cheerleader and the Theatre Kid sitting together eating chocolate cake on the gym floor. It was a delicious moment.

*****

Several years ago, I met a tall brunette named Kate. We shared a mutual friend and happened to all go out one evening. She and I were friendly, but didn’t become instant friends. In fact, we haven’t seen or spoken a word to each other since the day we met.

Fast forward nine years.

Kate and I still have the same mutual friend, so one of my many “cancer status” updates popped up on her Facebook feed. After learning that I had breast cancer, she sent me well-wishes and I told her how precious her baby was. Kate and I have both changed exponentially since the day we met back in 2007. We are both married with children, now living on opposite sides of the Mason Dixon. We have casually emailed back and forth a few times. Typically, it has been nothing more than casual correspondence.
 
But, three days ago I received a letter from Kate—I’m talking old fashioned snail mail with a stamp and everything. Kate’s letter explained that several months ago, she found herself in the dark valley of postpartum depression. This was a time in her life when she expected to feel an overabundance of love and happiness.  Instead, she felt overwhelmed, scared, and exhausted. She felt like she was sinking, and the term “postpartum depression” hadn’t even entered her mind. One day, a worried friend suggested that Kate talk to her doctor. So, she did just that.  

Her doctor helped her to realize that her feelings were common, treatable, and temporary. But, if these feelings were left untreated, they cold lead Kate to a very dark place. These days, Kate is thriving and exhaling. She feels great and is so glad that she told someone how she was feeling.  She was so glad that she told the difficult truth.

She shared her story in the letter as a thank you , of sorts, for my honesty in my blog. But, as I stood in my kitchen reading her letter, I felt so moved by her bravery and honesty. I know it must have been hard for Kate to call her doctor that day. But, I’m so grateful that she did. And, I’m so honored that she took the time to write and tell me her story.

I once heard someone say that embarrassment kills too many people… Whether that means not wanting to talk to a doctor about that mysterious lump in that embarrassing place, or feeling ashamed of emotions, or feeling humiliated by bullies at school.    

We have this idea of how life is supposed to be. Perfect dinners. Perfect vacations. Perfect holidays.  Perfect pictures.   But it's all just an illusion.  Really, we are all struggling with something. 

*****

Two months ago, I sat in my therapist’s office at MD Anderson. It was our first meeting together.

“I read through your chart, Veronica. You’ve had a difficult year. How are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m so good! I’m a very spiritual person. I have great faith.  I know that God’s got this! I have revamped my diet. I have a blog. And, I just joined Central Houston Crossfit. I’m planning to do this brutal workout with my friends back in Louisiana on Memorial Day weekend.”

“Hmm…” he looked at me with those I-can-see-right-through-you , therapist eyes. “Are you in denial?” He asked.

I sat in his office.  I smiled.  Then, a tear rolled down my face.   

“Sometimes, I feel so together, so hopeful, so strong. And, sometimes I’m just a damn mess. Does that mean I’m a fraud?”

He sat silently for a few seconds. Then, he smiled.

“No, Veronica. It simply means that you are human . And, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Wow.  

Sometimes, I feel so angry that cancer hasn’t made me some instant mommy-version of wise old Master Splinter, running around spitting knowledge in the sewers of life. (Yup, I just made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reference.) And, I am still sometimes scared that cancer is going to kill me. I wish I could turn off the fear like a light switch. And, I wish I could be this perpetually peaceful enlightened person.  But, it isn’t that simple.  And, that's ok.  I'm learning to manage.     

*****

So, tonight, in honor of the Cheerleader, my new friend Kate, and my shrink, I officially promise to cut the caca . If you see me at a restaurant and you ask how I’m doing, I’m not going to say, “I’m hungry and angry and my pants are too tight. I’m having a hot flash and I’m jealous of anyone with long hair.” I promise I won’t say that. But, I do promise to be more real—especially with other moms. Something beautiful happens when we share our failures and fears, not just our successes. We are all human . We are ALL fearfully and wonderfully made. Now excuse me while I go make dinner for my crew. Tonight, we are having chocolate cake!!

***

PS- That awesome book that my friend gave me is called Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life   by Glennon Doyle Melton. I highly suggest that you drop your latte and buy this book STAT. Glennon is such a powerful spirit. Her message of truth, love, and redemption is healing and empowering.      


By Veronica Waldrop 13 May, 2016
Sometime between ages 27 and 32, I realized that I wasn't 21 anymore. Maybe it was that time I saw a video of myself doing the Cupid Shuffle. In my mind, I looked like Britney Spears circa 1997 (the "Oops, I did it again" era) but I really I looked like Britney Spears circa 2007 (the "Starbucks and Cheetos" era.) Either way, it was a reality check. The universe was saying, "Toto, we're not in our twenties anymore." And, honestly, I was fine with that. I've never been one who was afraid of aging. My grandmother lived to be one hundred years old. She was lifting weights and doing the Cumbia (a fun Latino dance) in her final years. So, I view aging as a gift, not a curse.

However, there is something delightful about those moments where I'm taken back (even just for a few minutes) to those younger days---those days of feeling invincible and carefree.

Back in November, W and I had a night that, looking back, was one of the best nights ever! But, before I get to that, I have to tell the backstory.    
By Veronica Waldrop 06 May, 2016
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last August, our baby was only three months old. As soon as I "went public," my little family was flooded with so much love and support. I was, and continue to be, so humbled and touched by the incredible acts of kindness that we received.

W and I are both from out-of-state. We didn't go to high school here. We didn't go to college here. In fact, many people who reached out to us were strangers or acquaintances, at best.  

I remember saying to W, "I don't know them very well... Why are they being so nice?"

W replied to me, "Well, babe. You're a mom with a new baby. They probably see themselves in you. They see their families in our family. And, many of them are moms."

He had a point. Many of the women who reached out to me during this time were mothers.  This community was feeding my family. This group was nurturing my brood. 

There's something about mamas, specifically mamas who have children my age. One of my friend's mom sent me daily prayers and Bible verses for months. Another mama in Maryland (her daughter is one of my best friends here in Louisiana) sends me daily messages of encouragement. Sometimes she sends haikus, sometimes an inspirational quote, sometimes a funny meme. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a note that simply said: How cool is it that the same God that created mountains, oceans, and galaxies looked at you and thought the world needed one of you too. How beautiful. How maternal. She didn't know it at the time, but when she sent that message, I was alone in a waiting room awaiting test results.  This act of kindness did wonders.  It was a blessing.    

W's mom has been a saint. Just months after celebrating her retirement, she traded in me-time to return to changing diapers and loving my children as her own. Then there's a mom, whom I had never met, who is a two-year Triple-Negative breast cancer survivor. When my pic appeared in her Facebook news feed, she felt compelled to reach out to me. For eight months, she's been a survivor mentor of sorts. She sent me tips on what to expect during chemo. She consoled me when I felt extremes sadness with hair-loss. And, to this day, she encourages me about the wonderful life that happens after cancer . Last week, I finally got to meet her. She told me that her gift to herself post-cancer was to audition for the Houston Rocket's Space City Seniors, a half-time dance squad comprised of dancers ages 55 and up. She winked at me and said, "there's a little candy left in this piñata!" Well, she made the dance team. And, she shimmies with the best of them during the halftime show at the Rockets games. Go, mama!

***
Then there's my mom...

She was and will always be my first love. When I was a baby, she would put tiny drops of honey on little satin bows, then stick them on my head, so my outfit would be complete. She decided, when she was thirty-six years old, to do something that no one in her family had ever done...take her first college class. For four years, we lived off of Hamburger Helper and student loans.  But, when I begged my mother for a pair of Guess jeans, she somehow convinced my father that their ten-year-old daughter "needed" that elusive triangle on the pocket. (By the way, she graduated four years later with Honors, all while working full-time and raising two little kids. *Shout out to my dad who would make the best cheeseburgers when my mom had night classes.)

My mom is unapologetic for her love of bread and Jennifer Lopez. She has the most beautiful laugh I've ever heard--it's one of my favorite sounds in the world. And, she's nursed me throughout cancer with homemade tortillas, head-massages, and magical play-dates with the girls (so I could get some rest.)

I used to get frustrated with how easily she could fall asleep. She rests so soundly, and seems to never really worry. For years, I interpreted this trait as lack of concern. When I told her how I felt, she explained to me that she does worry. But, she also told me that she handles her worry with prayer. She told me that, in the scary teenage and college years, she would pray that my brother and I would make good decisions. She would pray for our safety. Then, she would fall asleep in the gentle peace of God's promise.

She is my mother. She is a beautiful example of resilience, joy, and certainty. God matched our souls together for so many reasons. But, one is so that I can watch and learn how to live this glorious life with faithful surrender.

***

On the other hand, I've never been a good sleeper. I go through seasons of insomnia, where my mind battles my body, and the subconscious surfaces into a state of worry and exhaustion. So, when my baby falls asleep in my arms, I consider it an honor to be a part of something so healing and precious. As I hold her close, and feel her heart beat through her soft cotton blanket, I feel a combination of joy and sadness. I'm so grateful to be in that moment...to experience this miracle of peace and rest. But, I lament what feels like stolen time. Wasn't it just yesterday that the rhythm of her heart was just flicker on a screen? It just was nine months ago that, in a state of shock, I was forced to face my mortality. Breast cancer at age 36. That was hard enough. Then two days later, I was told that I would never nurse again. I didn't even get a chance to savor that last moment, with her tiny lips pressed against my body...when I was all she needed. Now she is weeks away from her first birthday. And, we are just now getting to know each other. But, I'm here. And, I'm learning to be more present than ever. Cancer has taught me that these moments are fleeting. That's why I must embrace the everyday : the beautiful, messy, sleepy, God-given everyday.

So here's to the mamas. Here's to those who eat the burned toast. Here's to those who pull double shifts so that there will be gifts under the tree. Here's to the home-cookin' AND the pizza-nights that mean just as much (because what's really important is that you spend time together.) Here's to remembering that everyone is somebody's baby.  Here's to giving that other mama a break because you never know what she's battling at home. Here's to those who have never "given birth," to those who don't have children of their own, but make the world a better place by mothering others anyway. Here's to loving ferociously and gently and abundantly. Happy Mother's Day!
By Veronica Waldrop 27 Apr, 2016
I just completed radiation #11 and I'm officially one-third finished! Woo-hoo!

Last night, I had a great visit with a friend who asked me to describe radiation.  So... Here goes.  

When I arrive at the machine that is MD Anderson, I check in, recite my seven-digit medical ID number to Jennifer (the coordinator), give her a high-five and head to a dressing room. There, I do a quick outfit change into a spiffy ensemble I call (in a lovely French accent) le robe de treatment . Ok, it's not exactly Tom Ford. It's a hospital gown. But, I can pretend, right? From there, I go into a a small waiting room that usually has a few other ladies awaiting treatment.

One thing I've learned over the past eight months is that not all cancer-peeps think the same. I had to learn the hard way that not all of us are prancing around in unicorn-uniforms, blasting Marley, praising Jesus, and living to love. In fact, I've had a few terrible experiences with fellow breast-cancer survivors. I've learned that some women may mean well, but love to share their horror stories. I've heard about deathly allergic reactions and cancer coming back because of chemo and radiation... Once, someone even told me that she's been cancer-free for years, but lives every single day afraid. (Awesome. Sounds fun. Sign me up.) I usually leave the conversation feeling like I just rolled around in peanut butter and bird-seed heading onto a Hitchcock movie set! (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google "The Birds by Hitchcock.  See what I mean?!)

I've had enough fear and drama. I don't need anymore. Therefore, when I'm in the MDA radiation waiting room, I resist the chit-chat, duck down behind a Vogue, and pretend like I'm awaiting a spa treatment.

Once my name is called I walk into a room with a machine called a linear accelerator. My team of three awesome radiation techs mark up my chest with sharpie markers, put a few little monitors on me, and place some virtual reality goggles on my head. These goggles show me my breathing patterns. Then the team leaves the room and goes into an area that reminds me of an airplane cockpit. I can hear their voices through a speaker.

"Breath in and hold," one says to me. I take a deep breath and listen for the soft buzz of the radiation machine as it shoots into my chest.

"Breathe," I hear. And, I exhale.

While this is happening, music is playing in the room. The techs usually play a fun variety--a little pop, hip-hop, 70s rock, jazz, and reggae.

The very first day I received radiation, I heard "Dream a Little Dream" by Louis Armstrong. I remember closing my eyes and pretending that I wasn't topless on a medical table. I listened to sweet Satchimo's serenade and envisioned an evening stroll with my mister... Then the dream turned into us tucking our girls into bed, big brown eyes getting heavy...  Sleepy children wrapped up in the comfort of mommy and daddy's presence... It warmed my heart. It was a perfect daydream.

****

After my first week of radiation, I felt like I was on a roll. I was in a groove. I knew what to expect. And, radiation is a cake walk compared to chemotherapy. (FYI, radiation doesn't hurt.  My skin is getting a little pink--like a sunburn.  And, I'm a little tired.  But, it's not bad at all!)  My hair is growing back, my body is healing. Heck, I even get to wear mascara these days! (Ladies, never take your eyelashes for granted!)

So, when my doctor ordered an ultrasound to verify that my lypmph nodes were clear, I felt a little uneasy. Remember, my lymph nodes were clear before chemo. BUT (and this is a big but --not the kind from the Sir Mixalot song) the chemo didn't shrink my tumor. So, my doctor at MDA wanted to be certain that the growing-tumor hadn't reached my lymph nodes.

The ultrasound tech stared strait at the screen. I've become obsessed with trying to read the ever-mysterious medical poker face. She didn't say a word, she just pressed buttons on her keyboard, while sliding her wand around my chest. She smiled at me and offered me a warm blanket, then came back with the doctor.  Then, the doctor called for two more doctors.  

They found something.

A mass on my right side. And, a swollen lymph node on my left.

Take a breath and hold.

I'll cut to the chase. After two needle biopsies and thirty minutes of waiting alone in an exam room, pathology determined that both were benign. The mass on the right side was scar tissue from my mastectomy. The node on the left was slightly swollen, but not because of cancer.

Breathe.

In that thirty minutes, I sat alone, staring at the ceiling. I prayed the entire time. But, I didn't pray for my plans. See, six months ago, I prayed for twenty more years of life--for God to allow me to raise my babies to adulthood. But, somewhere along the way, I realized that these prayers gave me anxiety--almost like I was expecting God to go along with my vision. Like I knew what was best for me, and I was begging for God to agree.

Now, I pray for peace, grace, and understanding. I especially pray these two phrases, " use me " and " thank you ." These words instantly give me peace.

I've come to the conclusion that what I want most is for God to use me. Truthfully, I really, really hope to grow old with my husband. I want to see graduations, weddings, and anniversaries. I want to be around to see a cure for this ugly disease we call cancer. But, I'm also at peace knowing that His plan is far greater than mine. I trust Him. I don't have to hold my breath. I can just breathe.
By Veronica Waldrop 12 Apr, 2016
Three weeks after my double mastectomy, I found myself feeling a little antsy. I was technically cancer-free. But, I was also waiting for my surgical wounds to heal so that I could start radiation. I made the mistake of turning to Dr. Google to learn more about life after TNBC (Triple Negative Breast Cancer.) What I found was terrifying!

33% recurrence rate.
Not enough research.
No known cause.
No known treatment after chemo, radiation, and surgery. (Most breast cancer survivors can take a pill for five years that helps block the cancer from returning.)

So, W and I decided to make a call to MD Anderson in Houston. Currently, MDA is ranked as the #2 cancer hospital in the world. (Most years it is #1!)  If anyone had cutting edge or new research on this dreadful and aggressive form of breast cancer, it would be them. Please note, we have had a wonderful experience with our medical team in Baton Rouge. My surgeon and oncologist and nurses were/are incredible. But, since TNBC is so tricky and I have lots of life to live, we decided to just make a quick trip to Houston in search of more information.

****
A week later we found ourself deep in the center of Houson's medical district, which seemed like a small city in itself.  

My heart raced as we rode the elevator up to the second floor of the MD Anderson Mays Clinic. We had an hour before my appointment, so we spotted an outdoor area with adirondack chairs. W and I sat next to each other in a shady area looking out at the buildings of the Houston medical district. I spotted a lady sitting in the sun, knitting a scarf. She was wearing a hat to cover her bald head. Then, I saw a young man lying in a lounge chair. He was pale and frail and young. There were probably twenty people out on this big, spacious balcony. And, we were all connected by cancer. It's been seven months since I was diagnosed, and I still have moments (almost everyday) when I wonder if this is all real.

Once I completed my new patient registration, I was asked to wait in a sitting area for my appointment. As W and I walked toward the waiting room a woman in a white coat greeted us.

"Are you Veronica?" She smiled. "My name is D. I'm friends with Marie... She said you would be here today."

This beautiful breast cancer survivor was a professor at MD Anderson. We shared a mutual friend, and she had been waiting all day to meet us. She told me her breast cancer story, hugged me, and before heading back to her office handed me a pink scarf.

"Someone gave this to me when I started treatment. I've been cancer-free for two years now. So, I'm giving this to you."

I was so emotional. I was shaking.

Just then, two ladies approached me. They were hospital volunteers. They were both breast cancer survivors. They sat on either side of W and me and asked me my story. Five minutes later, we were exchanging phone numbers and hugs. That's when I heard my name.

*****

At my first meeting with the oncologist, he shook my hand and gave me a warm smile. We spoke, at length, about my diagnosis, my treatment, and why I was in his office.

He looked through my lengthy chart, rapidly reading through my medical history, occasionally looking up and verifying the notes.

"You had a baby...found a lump...Triple Negative...you did 15 rounds of chemotherapy...double mastectomy...pathology reports that the cancer did not respond to the chemotherapy...You want to know if there is anything else you can do. Is this all correct?"

I nodded.

"I have wonderful doctors in Baton Rouge. They did a great job. I'm cancer-free. But, I need to know that I am doing everything that I can to prevent recurrence ," I explained.

"Well, Ms. Waldrop," he said, "you DID have Triple Negative breast cancer, which has a 33% recurrence rate. If it comes back, it will be in your brain, lungs, bones, or liver... And, it would be incurable."

He went on to describe a series of clinical trials that are available. But, I couldn't really focus...

My heart raced and I felt a lump in my throat. I'm not sure that I knew this. And, if I did, maybe I was in denial. I thought that if it came back, I would just put the gloves back on and fight it again and again. I appreciated the doctor's honesty, but I hated hearing the word "incurable." It felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

If the cancer comes back, it will most likely kill me. Future visions flashed in my head. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduations. I begin to cry. And, W held me tightly.

The doctor then sent me to meet to meet with a radiation oncologist to discuss radiation, which has been my plan from day one.

After sitting in the radiation oncology exam room for a few minutes, we were greeted by a young resident. He was fresh-faced and green, maybe twenty-seven, at the oldest. He was holding a folder with my medical files.

Just like the first doctor, he skimmed my history.

"Here I am, doc," I said. "One in eight women gets breast cancer, and only ten percent of those have Triple Negative, AND, (lucky me) I have the kind that doesn't respond to chemo. My mom always said I was special..." I joked. "I guess it's just special in a really crappy way."

"Hold on," the doctor interjected. "There's also some really good news here. Your doctor removed twelve lymph nodes and they were ALL clear. So, that's huge!"

I started to cry. I didn't mean to, it just happened.

"Before you go on, please listen," I whispered. "I have been going through this for seven months. And, I needed someone to say the words 'good news.' I have a four year old, and a ten-month old. I have so much life to live. You have no idea what the words 'good news' mean to me."

Then something beautiful happened. The young doctor's eyes welled up. I felt like he was truly looking at me. He could see my desperation. He could see my vulnerability. And, in that moment, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The radiation oncologist joined the resident in the exam room. We discussed the process of radiation and how it could substantially decrease my chances of recurrence on the chest wall. The doctor then gave me his personal cell phone number.

"Look, you are a mom with two young kids. I have four kids. I can't imagine what it's like to throw cancer in the mix. You need to do what is best for you and your family. But, if you want to receive radiation here, I can get you in with my pediatrician and help you find babysitters for your munchkins."

My head was spinning. Radiation in Houston? Six weeks away from home?

Will and I drove home that evening. We prayed about it. We discussed with situation with our parents. And, we decided that this was what we needed to do.

So, here we go. Today, April 12th, I will start my first of 32 radiation treatments at MD Anderson in Houston. We're not sure how this is going to work, but we do know that we are in great hands. The plan is for various family members to come stay with me, so that I will not be alone. We will do our best to have our babies in Houston some of the time. And, I will be back in Louisiana every weekend.

All of this should come to an end just before Memorial Day weekend. And, we will all be due a huge celebration!

Dust off your boots, kids. We're moving to Texas!
By Veronica Waldrop 17 Mar, 2016
My father is a retired college professor. He taught journalism, news writing, and video editing, and it only seemed fitting that I shared the same love of video story-telling. For years, I have dabbled in video-production. (I have worked for various production studios, run sidelines with ESPN, and have even produced a few corporate videos.) But, these days, I mostly just create really fancy home-videos. So when a friend recently asked me to help her create a wedding video for her niece, I was eager to assist. The wedding was two weeks after my mastectomy, so I thought this would be a great project to distract me from my thoughts. I’ve been a stay-at-mom for almost four years now, so sometimes, it is nice to feel like I have a job-job again.

My friend gave me a couple of CDs filled with pics of the young couple and a list of their favorite love songs. I didn’t realize that their wedding day was one day before my seventh wedding anniversary! As I cropped and edited and dragged and dropped their pics, it made me think back to the days leading up to W’s and my wedding. What an eventful seven years! I am honored to create something for this couple’s special day. In addition, I have a written an open letter to the couple.   

Dear Bride and Groom,

When I see pictures of you two, I can’t help but feel so full of hope and love. I’ve spent several hours over the past few days looking at your baby photos, adventures with your friends, fun times with family, and your engagement pictures. It is obvious to me that you both are loved. Beautiful bride and handsome groom, your smiles are so sweet and sincere. Your eyes glow in your photos. You both are vibrant and young and have so much ahead of you.

Dear sweet couple, I know you have a vision of what life together will be like. You will learn, like all of us eventually do, that life doesn't always go according to plan. But, chances are, life will be better than your wildest dreams. My prayer for you is that you will grow to love each other more and more every single day. I pray that you are gentle and kind and patient with each other. And, I hope that you never lose that sparkle in your eye. 

People will tell you that marriage is hard. The truth, I've learned, is that life is hard. Stuff happens. People make mistakes. Pregnancy isn’t easy; sometimes it doesn’t happen. And, sometimes it ends with loss. Parenthood is beautiful, but scary. People get sick. And, sometimes you’ll feel alone.

But, hear me, sweet couple. You are not alone. You have each other. I pray that you two have many, many years of abundant health. And, if you don’t, I pray that you trust each other, trust in God, and love each other hard. 

I pray that you can look back at this video years from now and smile. I hope you don’t say, “those were the good old days.” No matter what life throws you, I hope you can say, “we were just getting started and these are the great days!” Here’s to a beautiful life together full of love! Congratulations!

Love,
The stranger who made your wedding video

*****

My husband and I have a saying:  It just gets sweeter everyday . It comes from a song that we heard when we were driving around Oahu in a convertible. We had been married for a year. We were carefree and living for the moment. I loved the song so much, that I jotted down the lyrics in my phone so I could download it later.

Several years later, I look back at our wedding pictures... at pictures of us in Hawaii, the day we heard that song, my hair blowing in the wind... We were so young and naive. We had no idea what was in store: two beautiful daughters, many great adventures, new jobs, new friends, and most recently breast cancer... Our life hasn’t been picture perfect, but it is ours together. And, there is no one on earth I would rather live this life with than Will.

Truly, it just gets sweeter everyday. And, for that, I am grateful.
By Veronica Waldrop 11 Mar, 2016

May 2015

Here we go. It's 5 AM, our bags are packed and we are on our way to Woman's Hospital. W and I say a prayer as we roll out of our driveway... The interstate is dark and empty... My stomach grumbles, my mouth is dry, but I'm following strict instructions: no eating or drinking after midnight. I feel nervous, but ready... It was time to meet our new baby girl. Let's do this!

Nine months later...

Here we go again, making the same drive. 5 AM, packed bags, empty streets, driveway prayer. We were nervous, but ready. After six grueling months of chemotherapy, dozens of doctor appointments, MRIs, PET Scans, vials and vials of my blood extracted and analyzed, it was time for my double mastectomy. My, how things can change in just nine short months!

We parked the vehicle, checked in, and waited for the nurse to escort us back. I wasn't allowed to wear any jewelry, any makeup or lotions. I felt so bare without my basics: lipgloss and my wedding band. As W asked a few questions, I reached down to the receptionist's desk. I took her pen and wrote 4:13 on my left ring finger, where I normally wear my wedding ring. It was for one of my favorite Bible verses, Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)

I was ready. Let's get this cancer out of me!

***

The last thing I recall after starting the general anesthesia was glancing to my left. There was my breast surgeon. He had been with me from day one and I trusted him. "The Dance" by Garth Brooks was playing. How appropriate. I looked up, there were bright lights shining down on me.

"Y'all should serve mimosas back here," I joked.

"Veronica, we are starting you on oxygen. Just take deep breaths for me," one of the nurses said.

I could've missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance...

***

"Veronica... Veronica... You did great."

I opened my eyes. It was over. I was surrounded by women in blue scrubs.

"Hey! I know you. I think I was your nurse for your biopsy!" one of them said.

The next few minutes were a blur. But, I'm pretty sure that the nurses and I had a deep conversation about sushi.

***

While I was chatting about spicy tuna, W and my parents were in a consultation room with my surgeon.

The tumor came out easily. It was peanut shaped and measured just over 5 centimeters. They found some benign cysts in my left breast. Overall, the surgery was successful.

***

Nine days ago, I was in surgery. The past week has been a blur. Truthfully, I have been in quite a bit of pain. I had drain tubes hanging out of both sides of my body. I had gauze covering my chest, and I felt like I had spent an hour in the ring with Ronda Rousey.

My brother and his wife and new baby flew in from Texas to surprise me. I immediately broke down when I saw their faces. My nephew was born a few days after my diagnosis back in August. This was the first time for me to see him in person. I looked into his big blue eyes and ached to hold him close to me. But, I couldn't extend my arms or raise myself up out of bed. I yearned to hold my baby, to hug my big girl, to feel free.

I think back to a few weeks ago.

"You hold her too much," my mom said when I complained of shoulder pain after holding Baby Girl for an hour. But, I knew that after my mastectomy, it would be weeks, maybe months before I could hold her again. Every shoulder ache, every sore arm moment of holding that child was worth it. Absolutely worth it. Now, I hope to hold my baby again before her first birthday in May.      

The drain tubes were removed Tuesday. The nurse counted to three and yanked roughly six inches of tubing out of my body. I wanted to scream, swear, cry, and celebrate. It was a small victory to get those suckers out of me. The pain and the tightness decrease gradually everyday.

I looked at my naked self in the mirror several days ago. I didn't cry. In fact, I looked at my stitched chest, my bald head, my pale skin and expected to see a ghost: a battered, broken version of myself. Instead, I saw the reflection of a woman who would do anything for a chance at more life. Anything to hold my nephew, anything to snuggle with my beautiful girls, anything to dance with my husband again. Anything . And, If this is what it takes, bring it the hell on!

***

Yesterday, W and I met with my surgeon and my oncologist for a post-op follow up. The results: the cancerous tumor was completely removed. It measured at just over 5 cm. So, the chemo didn't shrink the tumor as we all had hoped. But, the doctors do think that the chemotherapy made the tumor easier to extract. It was soft and peanut shaped, rather than rock hard and spherical (like it was in the beginning.)

The next step is thirty rounds of radiation: Monday through Friday for six weeks.  Then, I will see both the breast specialist and the oncologist every three months for at least five years. See, my cancer, which is called Triple Negative, is rare and sneaky. It is very aggressive and has a lower survival rate than the other, more common, types of breast cancer. But, when (yup, I just said "when" not "if") I make it to that glorious five year anniversary, the odds of recurrence decreases drastically.

So what does this mean? It means that I am cancer-free.

So, why did I sit in the Woman's Hospital parking lot and cry my eyes out when I heard this news? Maybe, I was hoping to get a better report. Maybe, I wanted the doctors to say, "You're in the clear, sister! Go celebrate." Maybe, because I know this isn't over. This will never really be over. Maybe, because I'm a worrier. And, I'm afraid that I will spend the rest of my life (however long that may be) worrying if today is the day that cancer will return.

W said it best. "I thought confetti was supposed to fall from the ceiling."

We both had false expectations of what that elusive "cancer-free" moment would be like. Shouldn't it be something like a gameshow? Confetti falling, a woman in a sequin gown pulls back the curtain to expose a guy in a white coat holding a larger-than-life check that says "Cancer Free"! Then, Ed McMahon's voice bellows over an imaginary loud speaker and says, "Veronica Waldrop....THIS is your life!" W and I would watch a slide show of images of our future: trips to the Caribbean, watching our girls graduate from college, holding grandchildren, growing old gracefully, eventually dying at the age of 99 in each other's arms like that couple on The Notebook .

Well, that's not what happened. Instead, I cried. W and I both cried. And, just like the day I was diagnosed, we held hands and prayed.

Over the past seven months, I've learned so much. I've learned that I'm stronger than I ever imagined. I've realized that the world is full of love: from the encouraging texts, to V Team t-shirts, to the flowers in my hospital room. I've seen the absolute best in people. And, that feels so good, so hopeful. I've learned that my husband and my family are more amazing, more caring, and more courageous than I ever realized. They are my everything, my reason for living. I've learned that so much of what used to bother me is trivial. It just isn't that important. What's important is family, God, and how we spend our time.

So, here's to the next step, to new beginnings, healing, and, of course, the dance ...

Photos Below:  The day before Baby Girl arrived; post-surgery; W holding Baby Girl and Cousin B (our nephew)
By Veronica Waldrop 29 Feb, 2016
It's a beautiful day.  The sun is shining.  Birds are chirping.  And, my confused azaleas are convinced that spring has sprung.  As I sit in my kitchen drinking coffee thinking about the past and present and future, I can't help but to feel a gumbo of emotions.  

Twenty-four hours from now, I will be undergoing a double mastectomy.  I would be lying if I said that everything in my mind is rosey.  It's not. I'm a little nervous... Not because of the surgery.  I'm not afraid of being unconscious for four hours while people slice open my body and change it forever.

I'm nervous because I'm losing my last visible sign of femininity.  I've already lost my hair and eyelashes.  But, I'm about to lose my breasts: the part of my body I prayed and wished for when I was twelve (I must, I must, I must increase my bust!)...the part of my body that fed my babies (yup, I used to spend hours on the La Leche League message boards)...

I'm scared of that moment when I remove my bandages post-surgery to see stitches where my nipples used to be, wounds that will soon be scars.  I'm scared.  

But, I'm also excited. I am excited to be, God willing, cancer-free. And, if this is what it takes, let’s do it. Let’s get this bastard out of me. For more than six months, I have obsessed over this alien life form in my right breast. When I first noticed it, I was nursing my two month old baby girl. I remember it like it was yesterday. Baby Girl was having a difficult time latching onto my right breast. I was holding her head in one hand and maneuvering my breast with the other hand when I felt it... A marble-sized ball deep under the skin. I thought it was just a milk-duct. This was very common when nursing. Milk ducts sometimes get clogged. They can be massaged and treated with warm compress. So this is what I did.

But, it didn’t go away. It seemed to be growing. I remember googling “breast cancer while nursing.” For some reason, I thought breast cancer was impossible for a nursing mother. I had heard (and I still hear all the time) that nursing decreases the odds of breast cancer. And, I had nursed my first born as well.

By the time I went to the doctor (roughly three weeks after discovering the lump), the tumor measured at 3.25 cm--about the size of a golf ball. It was growing at an incredibly rapid rate. The day I saw my OBGYN for the “clogged milk duct,” I told our beloved family babysitter that I thought I had breast cancer. I don’t know why I said it. She looked at me like I was making a sick joke. But, I told her, “I think I really do have breast cancer. But, I’m going to do what I have to do. And, I will win.”

Now, here we are...

Chemo: check!
Surgery: tomorrow!
Radiation: in a few months!

Hopefully I’ll be finished with all of this just in time for my baby’s first birthday at the end of May.


*****

Throughout this whirlwind six months, I have learned so much. I have always done my best to have a sense of humor. From sending silly pics to friends and family members...to making up funny new lyrics to pop songs...I have done my best to make this whole “cancer thing” as light-hearted as possible. And, it’s helped. It truly has. Laughter is the best medicine.

When I was diagnosed in August, a friend gave a book to my husband. It was called The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader by Lieutenant Jason Redman. It is about the life of a Navy SEAL who survived horrific situations on the battle field. He was shot in the face six times and lived to tell his story. One of the most compelling parts of his story was a sign that he posted on his hospital door during one of his many reconstructive surgeries. It said, “If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorrow for my wounds, go elsewhere.”

W told me about this. W was so blown-away by Lieutenant Redman’s heroic and positive attitude. We both knew that attitude would play a pivotal role in my fight against breast cancer. So, W wrote a letter to Lieutenant Redman. And, we received a letter back. In fact, he sent me a copy of his famous hospital door sign and a bracelet that said “OVERCOME.” From that moment on, I decided that there would be no pity parties here. (I don’t think they serve champagne at pity parties anyway!)

Last week, I got to meet Mr. Redman. It was so inspiring to meet him and hear his story. And, the timing was perfect. The chemo had started to bring me down. I needed a boost. I can’t hold a candle to a Navy SEAL war hero. But, I can control my attitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I have sad moments. I’m not trying to sugar-coat this situation. I cry. I have scary moments. But, in the big picture, I am so grateful. I will overcome; I know this. And, I will come out of this tunnel a better person.

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation may elongate my life.  But, cancer saved my life.  Even deeper than that, Christ saved my soul . This is what I truly believe.

And, it took cancer and chemo and tears and questioning to realize some really important things. Now, I can safely say, “I’m ok.” Whatever happens, I’m ok. And, that’s a peaceful easy feeling.  

****

So, tomorrow, when you drink your morning coffee, please think of me. Say a prayer for my sweet babies, my incredible husband, my loving parents and in-laws, and the medical team who are removing this tumor from my body. Also, please pray for those who don’t have hope, who don’t have the support that I have, and those who are in situations so horrific that we cannot imagine.

By Veronica Waldrop 17 Feb, 2016
"Monday, February 8th, 2016."  My last chemotherapy treatment.  This date had been in my calendar for months.  That day also happened to be Lundi Gras (the day before Mardi Gras Day.)

"This is huge! Big number sixteen, my last treatment, is going to be right before Mardi Gras!" I excitedly told W back in October.  

"I want to make a really big deal out of this," I told him.  "It's a celebration!  I want to hand out pink beads, bring king cake to the nurses and patients, drink champagne, and maybe march out of Mary Bird (the cancer center) to a second line..."

Will just smiled.  He was used to my shenanigans.

"Oh wow! What am i going to wear, babe? What should I wear to my last chemo treatment? Should I dress like a superhero? Maybe wear pink boxing gloves? Or, should I wear my unicorn uniform? This is a big decision!!"

I decided on a pink she-she (wig) that I named Fifi (after her birthplace, Fifi Mahoney's in New Orleans.)  The rest of my outfit would have to be a spontaneous, game-time decision.  But, I was leaning toward the unicorn uniform!

*****

The week before my last chemo, I had to have a serious discussion with my oncologist.  After fourteen treatments, the chemotherapy was officially kicking my tail.  My pale face was covered with splotchy red patches. My eyes were pink and puffy.  My muscles were constantly achy and tired.  And, my hands were suffering from neuropathy (a common side effect of Taxol).  Basically, the tips of my fingers felt like they had been pounded by a hammer, then dipped in boiling water.  It was the strangest sensation: burning and beaten.  This made buttoning baby clothes, changing diapers, and buckling carseats impossible.  The pain was debilitating and frustrating.  The scary part was neuropathy could last indefinitely.

"I'm starting to really feel it, Doc," I said.  "I have been so positive throughout this whole experience.  But, now I'm just tired."  

I hung my head down. I was so embarrassed. Usually, I kid around with the doctor. Even on the days when I didn’t feel good, I managed to wear a smile and crack a joke. Humor is my way of coping.

"Ok, Veronica.  Let's proceed with today's treatment.  If the neuropathy doesn't get better, we're canceling the last round," my oncologist told me. "I just can't risk crippling your hands forever for one more treatment."

I started to cry.  I felt like I was failing... Like I had signed up for a marathon and quit just before the last mile.  

I looked down at my black yoga pants.  This was NOT my "last chemo" outfit.  Where was my damn king cake?! I didn't have strands of pink beads to pass around! And, I wasn't wearing Fifi the she-she !

****

I spent the next week wondering if my fingers would get better. They didn't.  In fact, they got worse. I had to ask for help to do the most basic tasks like opening zip-lock bags and taking the wrapper off of a drinking straw.  

In my heart, I knew that my last chemotherapy treatment was going to be cancelled.  Rather than feeling exited and happy, I felt a little sad.  Not because wasn't I wanted another infusion. I didn’t want more chemo, believe me.  I felt disappointed or weird or anxious (I get these emotions confused lately) because the plan was changing.  And, I've recently learned that I don't do well with change--specifically when it comes to my cancer treatment plan.  

I thought back to that last treatment when I had that heart-to-heart with the oncologist.  I was wearing a black sweatshirt and those black yoga pants--which has inadvertently become my uniform (maybe because black helps hide the ten pounds that I've gained since starting chemo or maybe because black hides the baby food that gets tossed on me daily.)  

Either way, I was probably wearing something similar on that fateful Saturday morning six months before, when my doctor called me to tell me that I had breast cancer.  I had come full circle in those yoga pants.

On Lundi Gras Monday, I met with my oncologist. This was supposed to be my big “last chemo” party. Just as I suspected, my last treatment was cancelled.  But, I wore Fifi the she-she anyway, just to be festive. W and I passed around king cake to the chemo nurses.  I even got to ring the last-treatment bell, which is a common tradition in infusion centers across the country. I cried as I hugged each chemo nurse tightly.  Over the past six months, these women had become my friends--my angels.  They were all so professional, yet warm. They were cheerful, but empathetic during a very scary situation. I couldn't thank them enough for their tenderness.

Over the years, I have had vivid visions of how events are going to play out.  I hear the soundtrack playing, I imagine what eloquent words I'm going to say, and I envision what I'm wearing.  And, it never fails: I'm always wrong.  

I didn't have a second line band playing that day... I wasn’t popping bottles of champagne... I wasn't wearing some statement outfit, symbolic of how strong or fierce I am... I was just wearing those darn black yoga pants.  

In two weeks, I’ll go under the knife to remove the tumor (which has not decreased in size) from my right breast. I will have to wait a few days after my double mastectomy to receive my results from pathology. God willing, I will hear those four glorious words: You are cancer-free!

I can just see it now! I’ll pop a bottle of champagne! I’ll hug my husband, look toward my family and say something endearing and monumental. And, I’ll be wearing... Who am I kidding? We all know what I’ll be wearing.

**Just to be clear, I have a variety of yoga pants. I should own stock in Lululemon. And, yes, I wash them, usually while wearing a different pair of yoga pants.
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