Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What would your Christmas wish be?

Her name is Olivia, and she is from a small town in rural Alabama. I had breast cancer last year, so a mutual friend was looking for some wigs or hats for Olivia, and that is how we met. Her cancer is stage 4 ovarian, that has spread to her stomach lining. Yesterday I found out that the doctors have called in hospice to help Olivia.
I started helping her because she is alone, has no insurance, no car and I couldn't imagine going through cancer that way. See I had a whole community (Marietta, GA) helping me. They sent me gifts, they baked food, they gave us gift certificates to go out to eat, they prayed, they made donations on my behalf, and my bff drove me to every chemo and was there any time I needed a laugh. I had someone to listen any time I needed to speak. My husband held me when I needed to breakdown. I didn't have to worry about the cost of a pill or whether I could make it to an appointment. I had insurance that was covering most of the cost. Olivia doesn't have any of that. Sure she has some people helping out occasionally, but most days are quiet. So quiet in fact that a radio is at the top of her wish list. (Which I will get to later)
Olivia, is a good person. Does she have some problems? Yes. Has she made some questionable decisions in her past? Yes. We all have! That doesn't mean we should just leave her without help!
Olivia's biggest fault is that she hasn't asked for help. She sits in her trailer and "NEEDS" things, but no one knows. We get busy with our day to day lives and forget about the ones that need us most. I have said all along in this blog, that the biggest thing that has helped me through this past year, is knowing I had people there to help. They were there because I shared my story. Just as I hope my story has helped others, that are now walking in my shoes.
You don't realize what scared is, until you walk in those shoes. But still, even at that; I don't realize and can't imagine the Doctors telling me that it is nearing the end and to call in hospice. I can't imagine having to talk to hospice myself and make the directives. I remember doing that for my dad, but we would have never subjected him to that train of thought.
Sit back and think,  have you ever been alone? REALLY, alone? Now think about the worse thing you have ever been through, were you alone? I can honestly say, no, I never have. Even when I thought I was alone, I truly wasn't. I have always had my sister, my family, my kids. It felt dark, but it really wasn't, I had people around that could come in and turn on the lights for me. So now I sit here reflecting on Olivia, and the unknowns out there like her. What can I do? How can I make her Christmas better? First, I can share her story, because I know it! Second, I can do what I can- I don't have extra money right now, because I am still out of work on medical leave, but I have set up a donation website for Olivia. Plus, she has the wish list I was talking about and I can help put that together and get it to her.
My husband and I were going to do something different for Christmas this year, because we are celebrating early with our kids. We were looking for a family to cook for and deliver their Christmas dinner. I found out yesterday that Beverly, my friend from Marietta, is going to Brewton. So guess who we get to cook for??? Olivia! Beverly is going to deliver Olivia's gifts (items from her wish list) and food for her. We are so excited that we are able to make her smile for Christmas. I just wish we lived closer so I could deliver it myself, but I am so thankful for the Norton's for helping me out. Plus, Olivia wants to see her grandmother, who is in assisted living, so Beverly is giving her a ride over there, as well.
Olivia knows her time here is short. She is scared, but she believes in God and knows that heaven awaits. Her message that she most wants everyone to know is that,  "If you know anyone with cancer or is sick, help them. Help by praying, or help in anyway you possibly can, even if you can't help financially. We need to all come together and stand strong for one another, even if you don't know them. AND by all means, don't kick someone while they are down. She wants us all to read her favorite bible verse, 1st Corinthians 13 and try our best to live our lives by The Word."
If you want to help with Olivia's Wish List, please pick an item and let me know what you will be donating. I will need the items by Monday. Text me at 678 333-4355 if you have questions or need to mail it directly to her.
1. Cards and Letters, she loves getting mail! Add a stamp, so she can write you back.
2. A radio, the silence is depressing and she loves music
3. Long socks, scarves, gloves, she stays cold all the time.
4. She needs her glasses fixed, I don't know how to handle that one.
5. DVD's, she loves horror films, and disney/pixar cartoons. She has a real old dvd player, but doesn't have cable or Internet.
6. Necessities like toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, soap, etc.
7. Christmas presents- she spent Thanksgiving alone and depressed. I want her to have presents to unwrap. That wasn't on her list- I added it.
8. Food- I am adding that one too- if you are cooking any good ole southern vegetables this weekend, please wrap up any leftovers, label them and freeze them. I want her to have some Southern Home Cooking to pull out of the freezer and heat up.
8. Most of all she wants your prayers and she wants you to pass on this Christmas Spirit to anyone you know that may be going through the same thing she is, right now.

You can drop these items off on my front porch or text me to get her address-

Christmas is not about getting gifts- it's about what you can GIVE!! Let's give Olivia the gift of comfort- let her know she is not alone! As I sit here and ponder, what would be my wish list, if I had to call in hospice? Her's is so simple- it's comfort and warmth. Olivia, you are an amazing and strong woman. The people that have not been there for you should learn from your strength and faith.

Thank you to the Norton's, Lisa, and Pat- who are already helping me, before the blog is even written! You are giving and loving people, but I knew that from when I was going through cancer!
                                                            Olivia McCormick

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Baldness

I had to wait before writing this post- I wanted to get through Brittany's birthday and give it the importance that it deserved. So forgive me that this "Thanksgiving blog" is a little behind.....

Last Thanksgiving (2012) I had my chemo treatment and I knew that it was going to be a bad day. I also knew that I would be losing my hair after this treatment. The fear of losing my hair (as crazy as it sounds to someone that has never been there) was scarier to me, than losing my breast! For those of you getting ready to take this step, I hope this blog post helps you.

I knew that after my mastectomy that I could put on a t-shirt and go out and no one would know I was sick. No one would be feeling sorry for me. I could look in the mirror and not SEE sickness! How ugly would I look? Those fears were running through my head as the day got closer that my hair would be falling out. I decided that Black Friday would be the day I was going to shave my head. I didn't want it to just happen, I wanted to be in control and do it myself! I picked a good day, because that morning when I washed my hair for the last time, it was starting to fall out in clumps. I had arranged for my kids, best friends and my husband to be there for the shave.
 (black friday 2012)

So there it went- the hair was gone last Black Friday 2012!
So everyone want to know what I am thankful for this year? I am so thankful to have fought this awful battle and come out on this side! I am thankful for the wisdom and the blessings I have received through the ordeal. I am thankful for those that stood by me and helped with the fight. I am thankful for the new friends I have made along the way. I am thankful to God and the answered prayers. I am thankful for my new mission in life, to touch others with cancer.
Just the other day I received a message on facebook, from someone I didn't know.
Hi Traci! Just read your story on BCA, then went to your blog. I have just finished the exact same thing, having TNBC too! I start radiation next week. Just wanted to tell you how much I admire you for sharing everything. You are truly helping so many women!!! Happy Thanksgiving to you! We have much to be thankful for!!!
That kind of message makes me feel like there is a reason why this disease touched my family's life.
You will lose your hair, but don't lose your humor, your hope or your courage. I wore more makeup and decided not to wear a wig.
After being so scared that people would be able to tell that I was sick, I embraced it instead, and made sure people knew that they needed to check their breast!! Your hair will come back- it may not seem like it before you shave, but it does. I finished chemo in February and in September I had my first haircut! My husband liked my hair when we shaved it and wants me to keep it like the picture above, instead of growing it back out. I will keep it short, but not that short. NOW you know why I am married to that man! If you are going to lose your hair, being married to someone that thinks you're hot that way, sure makes it easier!! So yes, I am so thankful to him!
Looking back at last year, I realize that fear was for nothing. I got through it and came out of the darkside stronger than ever! I hope if you are getting ready to go through this journey, my blogs help you and some of your fear is deminished....a little.
 NOW, bring on Christmas- it is going to be a joyous one this year!!