Not out of the woods, but some good news!

FINALLY!!! I have some good news to share. Evan and I spent the day at Stanford last week on Monday, where we saw my second opinion oncologist and my neurosurgeon. Both are fantastic. We are so lucky to have these world class doctors within a short drive from home.

First up was oncology to discuss my bones. My scans have all been super confusing lately – my sternum (where I’ve had cancer before) is lighting up on nuclear bone scans, but not on PET/CT scans, and no one is really sure what that means. This oncologist said that it’s possible that my sternum is lighting up due to a trauma (I’ve had a sternum fracture before because the cancer weakened the bone), or that it’s residual scar from cancer or that fracture. Basically – we can’t rule out tumor, but it is also entirely possible that it isn’t cancer. So, for now, we are not going to change my systemic treatments, which is really good news. If a scan shows more conclusive evidence for tumor in the future, then we’ll have to switch up therapies. For now, though, I can stick with herceptin and perjeta. Phew.

Then we moved on to neurosurgery to discuss my latest brain MRI. As most know, I currently have two spots lighting up on my brain MRIs, and we aren’t sure if they are radiation necrosis or tumors. Radiation necrosis is essentially dead brain tissue that got damaged as a result of the brain radiation that I had back in Dec/Jan. About 5% of people end up with radiation necrosis after brain radiation. It can be dangerous, because even though it’s not tumor, it can grow over time and it’s still something in my brain that shouldn’t be there. So, it causes me symptoms very similar to brain tumors, and if it grows, then I’ll need surgery to remove the necrosis. It’s also possible to have some tumor cells mixed in with necrosis, and there’s really no way to know if that’s the case short of doing surgery and testing the tissue. Ever since these spots starting lighting up, I’ve been on Avastin, which is an IV drug that I get every 3 weeks to treat necrosis.

This MRI was a big deal, because it was the first one I’ve had since I started Avastin. If it showed improvement, that would suggest necrosis vs tumor. If the spots were bigger, we wouldn’t know if they were necrosis or tumor, but either way I would have needed surgery – a big, terrifying, risky brain surgery.

So here’s the really good news. The brain MRI showed IMPROVEMENT!!!!! Which suggests that the two spots are necrosis, and also suggests that the Avastin is working. When they told me this, I burst into tears. That was unexpected for me. I mean, I knew that I was scared, but I did not think I would cry uncontrollably with happy tears. It was just such a relief. ALL I want is to not have brain tumors. That’s it. So to hear that they think that’s probably the case…I just lost it.

It’s not for sure, but we are up to about an 85% chance that this is necrosis vs tumor.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever just straight forward. I am having some side effects from the Avastin which require that we cut my dose in half, which makes me super nervous. Avastin can cause bleeding, so I’m getting lots of nose bleeds and things like that. Nose bleeds themselves aren’t dangerous, but they indicate that the Avastin is changing my body’s bleeding tendencies, and possibly healing capabilities, so we need to take it seriously. I’m nervous that cutting my dose in half will reduce the efficacy of the drug, but there’s not much I can do about it. I just have to hope that it continues to work. If any MRI in the future shows that the spots are growing, I’m still looking at surgery. But for now, I have a reprieve.

Then I had about two days to celebrate before ending up in the ER. Evan and I were hanging out in the evening – I was coloring and listening to a podcast, and then my brain just shut down. Like, it just went bye bye for a while. It’s not the first time this has happened, but this was the worst. I could feel the fog coming on, and when it happens, it feels like I just need to shake it off, but my brain gets so lost in it, and I just can’t find my way out. I couldn’t figure out how to tell Evan that something was wrong, so I just sat there, paralyzed. Eventually he saw that something was off, and then I couldn’t figure out how to answer his questions, couldn’t focus on him, everything was happening in slow motion. It was like my brain was stuck in concrete. Then my head started really hurting, I got nauseous, and I got SO TIRED. Like, just couldn’t stay awake tired, and it came on all of a sudden. Evan could see that something was very wrong so he put me in the car and drove me to the ER. My head CT was fine, no bleeding, blood work was fine, and eventually my mental state cleared up, so they sent me home with instructions to call my neurologist the next day for a full seizure work up. Seizures are also a potential side effect from the brain radiation that I had, so it’s entirely possible that that’s what happened. I see my neurologist next week, so we’ll see what he says. It was all really scary.

More than anything, it was a really upsetting reminder that despite good news, there’s clearly still something very wrong with my brain. That’s hard to deal with.

becky nisene yogaIt’s not that I thought I was out of the woods with that MRI, but I thought I was getting there. And then the trip to the ER was a painful reminder that I am still very much in the middle of the forest. But, as my therapist wisely said, the reality is that I live in the woods, and I always will. I need to just accept this – something that is far easier said than done. Living in the woods means that I live with constant uncertainty, instability, and threat. I can never completely relax. And it can get really dark in there. The fight that I am in will never end, nor will all that accompanies that fight.

But if I can find a place even close to acceptance, if I can stop raging against this truth, I think I’ll be able to find some peace despite all the unknowns and challenges. Plus, the woods can actually be a really beautiful place. I love deeper and stronger because I am sick. I’ve had some amazing opportunities come my way because of my diagnosis.

When the sunlight filters through the trees and hits the branches just right, when it has just rained and the whole forest smells fresh and alive, when you feel the chill in the air on your cheeks – the woods become a place filled with beauty and life.

Cancer will never be a “gift” to me; I will never be someone who says I am grateful that it happened to me. It has caused me and my family far too much pain to say any of that. But it did happen, and here I am living with it. So, now I live in the woods, where some days are dark and scary and others are just beautiful.

If you’d like to help me and all MBC patients, please donate to METAvivor, a non-profit that dedicates 100% of donations to stage 4 breast cancer research.

To view the short film, bare, that I co-wrote and that is based on my story, click here!

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Love For My Care-Takers

DSC_0350The topic of care-takers has been occupying my mind a lot lately. As I mentioned in my last post, I spoke a little bit about my respect and admiration for Evan on one of the DC panels after being asked about the role that spouses play as care-takers. Articulating that answer solidified some ideas that have been floating around in my head for a while, and now I’m feeling compelled to write it all down.

I primarily use this blog as a means to update anyone interested on my health and what is going on in my life. By nature, it is me-focused. Cancer, though, doesn’t just hit the patient. It batters the lives of everyone who loves the patient, everyone who is in that person’s life. Those who are involved in the day-to-day care taking of said patient go through what I would argue can be an equal (though different) amount of trauma as what the patient goes through themselves.

But people on the outside of the situation don’t always see that. We see the patient losing their hair, witness their physical pain and fatigue, hear them sob – their cancer-related distress is visible and expected and undeniable. And we rally to support that person (as we should). But what about the husband or wife, who must watch the person they love most in this world going through fist clenching pain everyday, without any power to help? What about the parents, who are forced to live through the one thing that they have spent their entire lives working to protect their child from? What about the siblings, our closest counterparts, who are not only faced with all the trauma that surrounds a loved one receiving a life threatening diagnosis, but now must confront the terrifying reality that shit can happen to them, too? What about those who want nothing more than to support their friend, but simply don’t know how to? So many people my age just haven’t had the life experience yet to know how to cope with this type of situation.

On top of all of these emotional layers, Evan and my family do SO MUCH for me every single day, and without a hint of complaint, ever. Evan carries all of our financial burdens on his own because I can’t work, and he’s never complained about that once. He does a ton of the housework. He does everything he can to give me normalcy and happiness. If I’m too tired to do anything, he sets up a little living room on our outside patio so that we can at least watch the Office out in the sunshine. He researches horse shows that we could go to despite having no interest in horses. He reads to me when I can’t read myself. He let’s me cry when I need to. And all of that takes a lot of thought and energy that a husband in a different situation would not have to expend on a regular basis on top of working full-time.

DSC_0453

And then there’s my family. I can’t drive too much right now due to my neuro issues, so someone, often my dad, drives me around to all of my appointments and errands and just to get out, every single day. Someone sits with me at every appointment. My mom comes over and cleans – happily. She cooks healthy meals for us, because she knows that I am often just too tired to do it myself. My brother visits and helps me research whatever I happen to need. My sister drops everything to come help me, or even just to keep me company – regularly. If I’m home alone and start to feel really sick (neurologically), all I have to do is make a phone call and someone is at my house within 10 minutes to sit with me. When I take a step back and look at my day-to-day, I need a lot of help, and I have never, ever felt in need or like that help was lacking. It’s always just there.

I can make these lists and recognize all the help that I receive in an effort to appreciate how much my care-takers do for me, but the truth is that I will never fully get what it is like to have a loved one with terminal cancer. I don’t really get what it’s like to be that support person, because I’m not. I’m on the other side. That said, from my perspective, I believe that everyone who I am close with is going through their own whole trauma as the husband, parent, sister, friend of someone who has terminal cancer. Especially Evan and my family. So they are doing all this work as care-takers, WHILE going through a  major trauma.

I would like to say here, with particular emphasis, that I have made a lot of mistakes in this department. It took me a really, really long time to understand this, and to understand that I will never fully be able to understand what my loved ones go through. For far too long I was stuck in a place where all I could see was my trauma, my pain, my fears. I didn’t, or couldn’t, open that up to allow space for everyone else to enter the darkness with me. I thought that I was there alone, that no one understood, that if they came and sat with me in the fire it was out of compassion, not because they were actually feeling the heat of the flames themselves, too – and maybe needed to sit with someone themselves. Unknowingly, by denying their pain, I was deepening an unnecessary divide between myself and everyone else.

It has taken me a VERY LONG time to come to all of these realizations. Like, years of being stage 4, and many years of having breast cancer.

When I was stage 3 and living with my parents, I was pretty much a mess. I couldn’t accept losing my independence, and I unfairly blamed this loss on my parents when in reality they were trying to care for me when I couldn’t care for myself. Instead of accepting the help, I raged against it. I lashed out. I was very, very angry. And I know that a lot of this was unconscious and a result of simply being diagnosed with cancer at a very young age, but I feel it is important to be clear that I have not always had the mindset that I’m writing about today.

I behaved similarly with Evan when I became stage 4. I was so angry, and he got the brunt of that. In many ways I think it would have been almost weird if we had seamlessly figured out how to navigate all this with love and kindness from the beginning – of course there were bumps along the way – but it did take me longer than I would have liked to arrive at this place. At times I have been, to put it kindly, a less than gracious patient to my care-takers. I have made so many mistakes. There have been times when I have failed to give those that I love the freedom, space, and understanding to experience their pain. I have demanded that they be there for me, and that’s it.

The biggest gift that Evan and my family have given me is to forgive me for those times. I don’t know if it was conscious on their part or just a product of love, but they gave me the time to figure all this out without judging me for being a total ass at times. And of course, there were times when we all failed, but we have always managed to come back together and recoup. This shit is HARD, and it can get real messy, but I think we’ve now learned how to care for each other in a way that is a little less messy, a little easier to clean up.

The foundation of all this, is, of course, just love. Not to get too cliche and warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. My husband and family care for me the way that they do because they want to, and they want to because they love me – and it took me a REALLY LONG time to understand and accept this, as well. I felt like a burden to everyone around me, like they had to take care of me. And that was the worst feeling. But it’s just not true. We care for each other because that’s what we do when we love each other. It’s actually pretty simple. The cancer burdens us all, but that’s very different from me burdening everyone else. And we deal with the cancer burden together.

I’m not sure exactly when or why everything shifted for me in terms of my thinking about my care-takers, all I know is that I’m thankful as all get out that it did. I am closer with my husband and family than I ever have been, and I cherish those relationships. They are the most important thing in my life, by far.

I think it all boils down to this. It doesn’t matter what you are going through, but if shit is hard and someone you love and who loves you is trying, see their efforts. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Forgive yourself when you make your own mistakes. You will need each other, and you will both need that forgiveness. Give them the space to support you in the way that they know how. It may look different from what you expected, but it still counts. Be kinder to each other than you ever have been before. And don’t forget that care-takers need support, too. They are so under-served, they are our champions, they deserve all we can give.

kindness meme

DC + All the bare (and medical) Updates – the film is out! Please watch!

Before anything else, bare is out in the world and ready for everyone to see it! You can see it here for free, and it’s only 12 min long. We deliberately decided to put it up online for free so that as many people can have access to it as possible. We wanted to create something that felt empowering and that helped others going through similar struggles feel less alone – and I really feel that we achieved it. We also wanted to bring some light to the issues faced specifically by young women with breast cancer and to MBC.

All of that is to say that this film is so much more than a film to me – it’s a tool to start much needed conversations and hopefully effect real change.

Next. Let’s get the medical out of the way. I had a follow up nuclear bone scan right before I left for DC, which didn’t show any difference from the last scan. We aren’t sure what this means. Are the areas lighting up scar? Or slow growing tumor? No idea. So, my oncologist is sending me to Stanford for another opinion to try to get it all sorted out. I have that appointment coming up in a couple of weeks and am hopeful that we’ll get some more conclusive answers at that time. For now, my doc is hesitant to switch over my systemic treatments to the next line of therapy, because 1) the side effects are going to be worse, and 2) we want to get as much time out of each therapy as we can in order to extend my life for as long as possible.

I also have a PET/CT scan coming up this week, which will scan the rest of my body from the neck down (organs). Fingers crossed on that one.

Follow up brain MRI is coming up in about 10 days, and a hell of a lot is riding on that one. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that if that scan doesn’t show improvement, I’m looking at more brain surgery. If there’s improvement, we would be able to keep trying with the Avastin (my new IV infusion drug) to get the brain swelling/potential radiation necrosis to go down.

Unfortunately, I felt pretty shitty while in DC so I’m worried. One night we debated taking me to the ER but ended up speaking with an on-call doc from my clinic at home instead, who upped my steroids pretty significantly to try to bring down any brain swelling. Get ready for puffy faced, ravenously hungry Becky. Those steroids are no joke. I was hoping the steroids would do a bit more for my symptoms than they have, and have still been struggling, so I’m worried about what that means in terms of what is going on neurologically. We’ll see what the MRI shows.

I’m writing this from the flight back home, and the flights are definitely taking a toll on me. The altitude changes mess with me neurologically and make my symptoms acutely worse, which is seriously not fun. Home stretch now, just gotta push through.

becky kerith bare dc selfieIn other news. Aside from stupid brain stuff, DC was AMAZING. I got to spend time with good friends, which was such a treat, go to a bunch of incredible events, bask in all the bare excitement, and participate in some really, really incredible conversations about advocacy, cancer care, and elevating the conversation about cancer care. I feel extremely privileged and honored to have had all these opportunities. And to do it all while surrounded by such interesting, brilliant, kind people (Kerith, Mike, Melanie, Laura, the list goes on and on)? How the hell did I get so lucky??

becky and melanie dc power of pinkMy first day there, I went to a Power of Pink: Working Out to Stop Breast Cancer yoga class that raised money for breast cancer screening and treatment for low income women. It’s such a needed cause, and I was honored to participate. I was pretty nervous about taking the class, actually, because I haven’t successfully attempted a full yoga class since before brain surgery, and while I am good at modifying myself I was worried that it would all just be too much for me, especially the day after flying.

becky laura karen power of pinkBut I really didn’t want to miss it, so I decided I’d just hang in child’s pose if I needed to. And I did, and it was amazing. I literally spent at least half the class resting in child’s pose just absorbing the energy of the room and breathing (this is my Santa Cruz woo woo side), and I loved it. It reminded me that I don’t have to be able to do things all that well in order to just do them, and that I still get a whole lot out of them. Percocet also helped me get through it, which I am A ok with. Why wouldn’t I use all tools available to me to be able to keep doing the things that I love despite some gnarly headaches? If it takes a percocet, that’s what it takes, and I’m cool with that.

At the end of the class the instructor said “There’s no limit to the amount of healing in this world,” and I just sobbed. That hit me hard, because I hope she’s right.

The next day we got a PRIVATE tour of the Capitol Building (thank you Nancy Pelosi’s office!) which was so interesting and fun, and I’m not even a history/politics person. Later that evening we attended an event that was launching Tom Hanks’ new book of short fiction stories (he was interviewed by Ann Patchett) and that was, of course, just as fun as it sounds. That was essentially our tourist day, other than a brief monument tour bus trip later in the week to see a few of the heavy hitters.

becky teaching dailey method yoga dcSaturday I taught a fundraiser yoga class at The Dailey Method DC Barre + Cycle, which donated all proceeds to METAvivor. Again, it’s the first full class that I’ve taught since before brain surgery, so I was nervous. But it went really well! We had a great turn out, kept things relatively gentle, and (I hope) had a great class. It felt really good to teach again, and to realize that maybe I don’t have to be as scared of doing it as I thought.

kerith becky asabiSunday we had our big bare screening followed by a panel discussion with myself, filmmaker Kerith Lemon, non-profit/advocacy guru Marisa Renee Lee, and YSC representative and cancer survivor Asabi Olaniye – all moderated by the amazing Laura Evans. We got amazing feedback about the film, I met the most lovely people, and we had such an interesting panel discussion about the film and survivorship issues. One of my favorite questions was asked by a fellow metster in the audience who asked about the role that spouses play in care taking and how we handle that.

It’s SUCH an important topic, because care-takers do so damn much for us patients, and they are so under-served. Evan holds down the fort for us financially, he keeps the house together, he works full time, he takes care of me, worries about me, and then on top of all of that – he’s going through his own whole trauma as a man whose wife has terminal cancer. It took me a really, really long time to understand that, and to understand that I can never fully understand what he goes through. I wish I had understood all of this sooner, but what can I say, it took me a while. Now, though, I am so in awe of all that he does, and the only advice I have for others when they ask this question is that it just takes SO MUCH understanding, forgiveness, love, and and kindness. It takes holding each others’ hands through it all while giving each other the space to be there for each other in the way that we each know how. I think all this applies to everyone in my life, not just Evan – everyone I am close with is going through some kind of trauma as a participant in this experience (I’m focusing on Evan here because that’s what the question was about), and we all just need to be aware of that.

On Monday Refinery29 formally launched bare into the world with an awesome article, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It feels so damn good to have the film out there ready for people to see it! I am INCREDIBLY proud of this and beyond excited to finally share it with you all. Please watch and share. Please watch it here! (https://youtu.be/TzwOTYHdI7Y).

One important aspect of the film is the role of friends, so if you watch it and like it, please share it with a friend. Share with someone who has supported you, whether or not it was through cancer. We all need our people.

GMMB panel for blogOn Monday we had another screening and a second panel, this one hosted by GMMB. It focused more on advocacy and policy. The film once again received an incredible response from the audience, and after the screening I had the opportunity to meet the most interesting people there. The questions that came up during the panel were so thoughtful and thought provoking – I loved it. This time we had myself, filmmaker Kerith Lemon, David Mitchell of Patients 4 Affordable Drugs, and Dr. Alexis Corbitt of Young Survival Coalition – moderated by Janet Goss of GMMB. David’s niece, Jenna Kieckhaefer, who is a young survivor, also joined us on the phone.

Two topics that we discussed that hadn’t been covered in the previous panel were 1) the reproductive needs of cancer patients, and 2) the needs of MBC patients. Dr. Corbitt feels a personal mission to make fertility preservation more accessible to cancer patients, as most aren’t even counseled on the fact that treatment can leave a patient infertile. Most aren’t counseled on family planning options at all. Plus, preserving fertility isn’t covered by most insurance companies and is cost-prohibitive for the average person. This needs to change. For all of us young adults impacted by cancer, family planning is an enormous issue that at the VERY LEAST needs to be discussed so that patients can make informed, educated decisions about their care.

And then there’s the whole MBC issue, which Melanie promised me she didn’t plant as an audience question :). I got a little fired up about this one, as you can imagine, because it is the piece that is nearest and dearest to my heart. With an estimated 30% of early stagers progressing to stage 4 and only 3-7% of breast cancer money funding stage 4 research – the stage that takes lives – we are sending everyone the message that the lives of stage 4 patients don’t matter. In reality, if we directed more resources into extending and improving the lives of stage 4 patients, it would take death off of the table for everyone with breast cancer. All of a sudden the man or woman diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer doesn’t have to live with that paralyzing fear that this disease is going to kill him or her. Said another way, the only way to take death off the table for everyone with breast cancer, no matter the stage, is to attack stage 4. Until we do that, we aren’t curing anything. It felt like a huge honor to be able to share this opinion with a room filled with such accomplished, intelligent, forward-thinking individuals who work tirelessly to effect change every day. Again, I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I’ll take it!!

These panels were an enormous learning lesson for me in what I want to be doing with my life. It’s this work. I haven’t felt so engaged, so compelled to act, so motivated, in a really long time, and it feels damn good. I feel I can make a difference here, and I’m not sure exactly what that looks like yet, but the point is that I care enough about it that I will figure it out. Even simply sharing my story has given me a whole new sense of purpose that for a long time I had lost. This is what I meant to be doing. I can feel it. I’ve been searching for this feeling for a long time, and now that it’s here I’m not letting go.

friends of children panel dc.JPGOur last night in DC we went to a Friends of the Children event as guests, which is an amazing non-profit that pairs a child with the same mentor for 12 years. The results they’ve seen from this model are incredible – everything from drastically reduced incarceration and teen pregnancy rates to improved academics and social-emotional skills. The program is now expanding (they are even international). I was really impressed, and only wished that Evan could have been there to hear the presentation, because he would have freakin loved it.

So, the week has been an incredible, exciting, inspiring, profoundly formative experience for me – but I’m ready to go home and give my guy a kiss and my dog a hug (ok let’s be honest, I’m definitely giving them both kisses). No matter how good a trip is, they are my home, and I’m ready to be home.

 

 

DC Events – Please Join Us!

I wanted to make this easy on everyone in the DC area who might be interested in joining us. I’m in DC now and will be here until Wed attending various bare events, and would LOVE to see people.

Here’s the itinerary, and you are all invited to everything:

bare screening poster1) I will teach a special yoga class in Washington, D.C. on Saturday Oct. 21 at 11:30 a.m. at The Dailey Method to raise funds for METAvivor, research for stage 4 breast cancer. Please sign up here.

2) On Sunday, Oct. 22, bare will premiere at Landmark’s E Street Cinema D.C. in Washington D.C., followed by a free, open to the public panel discussion featuring the film’s director, co-writer, and advocates. Free.

bare is inspired by the true story of Rebecca Hall who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25 and chose to preemptively shave her head before she started chemo. The film stars the emerging talent, Aurora Perrineau, (best known for playing Jennifer Lawrence’s best friend in Passengers.) Please see the film trailer here.

The premiere screening will feature a discussion moderated by Laura Evans, and will include Kerith Lemon, the film’s director; Rebecca Hall, co-writer of the film; and Marisa Renee Lee, a co-founder of The Pink Agenda.

bare pic of braiding3) Finally, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, the cause marketing firm GMMB will host a film screening and discussion with the cancer advocacy community. Find out more and RSVP here. Free.

4) On Monday, Oct. 23 the film will go live online! Please watch, share & be aware, regular exams (bare): http://bareshortfilm.com/ #BCAM

Articles/Links:

Bustle

Glamour

Contribute to Metavivor: https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/bare

the other 50% podcast interview with Kerith Lemon and Rebecca Hall (can listen here or download on ITUNES)

Relevant Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/BareAShortFilm/

https://twitter.com/bareshortfilm

https://www.instagram.com/bareshortfilm/

Twitter: @bareshortfilm

Instagram: @bareshortfilm

Facebook @BareAShortFilm/

Thank you all so much for your support!! ❤ 

My First Podcast Interview Is Out!!!

Another mini post to let you all know that the other 50% – a herstory of hollywood has released our interview! Kerith Lemon and I discussed bare, my story, and Kerith’s journey to becoming a director. I narcissistically listened to it, and narcissistically loved it.

Please download and listen! I’m so excited and proud.

You can listen here or download on ITUNES. It’s Episode 70: BARE and Get In Touch. Our portion of the interview is about the first 40 minutes. I’m really happy with how it turned out and would love for everyone to listen!

 

Bustle Article!!

Just a quick mini post to let everyone know that Bustle ran a piece on me and on bare today, and they did an incredible job. I am so honored. The writer, Brandi Neal, did a stellar job, especially when it comes to sharing the realities of MBC. METAvivor even got a shout out!

Please read – I am seriously so proud of this.

Link to the article here

bare official poster

As you all know, things have been pretty rough around here medically, so an article like this running means the world to me right now. Well, it would always mean the world to me, but I’m especially appreciative right now to have things like this happening because they balance out all the shit. I spent the day at the hospital yesterday and had a rough one emotionally, so to have this today was much needed.

It’s exciting to get the press for the film, of course, and also in a “how is this happening to me” kind of way, but the most exciting part is that I feel like MBC is getting the press. And THAT is everything. This article does such a good job of sharing the realities of what it means to live with MBC – a message that often gets lost and is just plain ignored. I can’t tell you what it means to me to feel like people are listening. People care.

And with articles like this out there? Even more people will care!!!

❤ ❤ ❤

NYC Recap + Upcoming DC Trip (and med stuff)

About 10 days ago I went to NYC with my mom for a whirlwind and extremely special trip. We were essentially only there for one day, so that afternoon we were graciously invited to GLAMOUR for a tour of their offices since they had just published one of my articles. The editor who showed us around was so kind and welcoming, their offices overlooked the World Trade Center Memorial, which was truly beautiful, and it was an all around awesome experience.

becky and kerith selfie for blogLater that evening Maggie came over (YAY) to hang with me while I got ready for my big night out! Kerith and I had been invited to the Pink Agenda’s 10th Annual Gala, hosted by Giuliana and Bill Rancic. I had gone out and bought a new dress and shoes, gotten a make-up tutorial from the amazing Bonnie, and borrowed jewelry from my family. I am not used to going to such fancy affairs, but I was READY for this one. As I typically don’t even know how to put on eye shadow, I literally sat in front of my hotel mirror with detailed instructions that I had written down from Bonnie on how to put everything on, and I followed it to the letter. My mom spent about an hour steaming my dress so that it was perfect (because I tried and majorly failed. I’m seriously useless at getting dolled up). And in the end – it all paid off! Aside from my wedding day, I’ve never felt so beautiful in my life.

But I never could have imagined how special the actual night was going to be. Kerith and I had been invited through a friend of a friend and didn’t know anyone there, which I was a little bit nervous about – turns out completely needlessly. We were introduced to the three founders of the Pink Agenda who blew me away with how welcoming and kind they were. They had saved seats for us in anticipation of me being in treatment and needing to sit down; one included me in her speech and had me stand for a round of applause; and despite how busy they were hosting a spectacular evening they made so much time for us. And they raised $250k in one night for breast cancer research!!!!

becky kerith giuliana pink agenda for blogAnd the excitement didn’t end there. Later in the night I was introduced to Giuliana Rancic, who, like the Pink Agenda Founders, was just lovely. She gave me a big hug, took lots of pictures with me, and was so kind.

I really admire all of these women for all that they are doing for the breast cancer community, particularly young women with breast cancer, and it was a true honor to be there. I hope to be as bad ass as they are one day.

The whole night was such a Cinderella, once in a lifetime night for me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who made it happen. In fact, the whole trip was pretty freakin fantastic.

Flying home was less fantastic. My brain did not appreciate it at all. I spent the entire next day in bed with some serious neuro symptoms and debated going to the hospital, but spoke to my oncologist who decided to up my steroids dose. Unfortunately, the fact that I’m still having so many symptoms is causing some concern and I was told in no uncertain terms earlier this week by my neuro team at Stanford that surgery is on the table for me. That was really, really hard to hear and threw me for a bit of a loop. Again, it’s this up and down swing thing that my life is doing right now. Spectacular NYC gala…possible horrible brain surgery. How do I deal with that? It’s hard, I’m telling you. I’ve been feeling really emotional about it all, because in addition to troubling symptoms, this is all really f-ing scary. This is my brain. Doing my best to keep my shit together. At the same time, I am really, really grateful that all the film stuff is happening now, because it is providing a great distraction and a sense of purpose and joy when I need it most.

In terms of the brain stuff, everything is hinging on the next brain MRI. If it shows improvement, then great. If it doesn’t, then we have to get more aggressive. I also have a bone scan tomorrow to figure out if I need to switch up my systemic treatments.

Back to the good stuff. I leave for DC on Wednesday for another week of film events, and I can’t wait. If you are in the DC area, I would love to see you for these!

1) I’ll be teaching a gentle yoga class at The Dailey Method on Saturday, Oct 21st at 11:30am-12:30pm. All proceeds go to METAvivor!! Register Here.

The Dailey Method - bare yoga dc invite

2) And….drum roll please….bare will officially premiere on Sunday, October 22 at 11 AM – 12 PM EDT at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (555 11th St NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20004). The screening will be followed by a panel discussion hosted by Laura Evans. I will be on the panel with filmmaker Kerith Lemon, survivors, advocates, and experts to discuss how the film raises awareness about cancer in young adults. The event is free, but please register here! Please join us!

Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis.

I’m nervous about flying again, but crossing my fingers that all goes fine.

becky and java2I would also like to share that the yoga/horse back riding retreat (Big Sky Yoga Retreats’ Cowgirls vs Cancer) in Montana that I went on this past spring that I wrote about and told so many of you about is currently taking nominations for the next group. I can’t recommend it enough. Know anyone who is going through or who has been through breast cancer who needs a restorative, joyful, luxurious experience? This is it. Nominate her today (or nominate yourself! no shame in that. I did!)

With all of these film events and the advocacy work that I’ve started to take on, I’ve become a lot more public about my health and struggles than I ever have been in the past. It’s a vulnerable feeling which is kind of scary, but I’m also excited about it. It makes me feel useful, and I feel more in line with the way that I want to be living my life. When Evan and I were visiting his family in Hawaii, we swam with Manta Rays, which are just the most unique, beautiful, graceful creatures (despite their somewhat alien-like appearance) you’ve ever seen. Bonnie describes them perfectly by saying that they perform a beautiful alien underwater ballet. I love that idea of unconventional beauty and grace. I’ve been thinking a lot about our pictures from that trip lately, because I think they do a pretty great job of describing how I feel.

manta ray for blog

This is how I want to be in the world; how I feel inspired to live as of late. Heart first, baring my scars, undeterred by the surrounding darkness and unknown.

It’s a tall order, but something to strive for.