Yeah, but... the Easy Cancer Killed My Mom

There is an interesting phenomenon that I have come across as a breast cancer survivor.

I've been told by a few different people, "You're lucky, you had the easy cancer." 

Now, make no mistake, I count my blessings every day. I am so grateful to be well. I am so grateful that I wasn't so sick that I wasn't able to recover. But those words bewilder me. At this point, I've had my breasts removed, my ovaries removed, more cancer removed, three additional reconstruction surgeries and medications with not so fun side effects. And another surgery scheduled in September. I feel great now and yes, I'm going to be fine. But getting to this point wasn't easy.

And it certainly wasn't easy for my kids or husband or brothers or friends.

The word easy is dismissive. It undermines my fear and that of my family's.

In fact, I even tried to brush off the seriousness of the situation myself. But my husband nipped that one in the bud immediately. After my first round with breast cancer, once I was out free and clear on the other side, I'd said, "It's all like it never happened. I'm fine."

He let me know right away that he wasn't okay with that take on what we had gone through. "No, you don't get to do that. The threat was real, our fear was real. You ARE fine, but that's only because you went at this hard."

The reason I'd been told my cancer was easy was because I had hormone positive invasive ductal carcinoma and because I didn't have to do chemo. Positive hormone breast cancer means there are more options for treatment, more chances that something will work. 

But the no chemo was only because I found it early and because I chose a double mastectomy. Had I chosen a lumpectomy then I would have had to do both chemo and radiation as well as Tamoxifen. I made the choice to lose my breasts to save myself from chemo.

But I did the mastectomy. I went on Tamoxifen. And it still came back.

Which was terrifying. I felt hunted.

I felt like nothing could keep it away. I still dodged chemo because, again, I caught it before it spread. This time, they took my ovaries, they cut out the recurrence and put me on Aromasin.

I am so grateful I didn't have to do chemo. I've seen the effects it had on my mother, on my many friends. But there is a lasting effect on having a mastectomy, going through a recurrence,  all the fear and uncertainty. Having to tell my children.

But the biggest thing to being told I had the easy cancer. 

The easy cancer took my mom when I was seven. There was nothing easy about that at all.

So please, let's choose our words carefully. Let's try and be sensitive to each others' challenges even if we think our own are harder.

There isn't anything easy about any of it. Every one of us has our own journey to face, and in each moment the fear and pain and discomfort is as real as anyone else's. All of it is hard. But hopefully, we are surrounded by loved ones to help us through.

Was I lucky? Fortunate? Blessed? Hell, yes. I am all of those things. And beyond grateful. There are diseases out there that have no chance at a happy ending. But so far I'm having mine.

Tell a hormone positive breast cancer patient she is fortunate, but don't tell her she had it easy. 

Be kind. Be strong. #knowandgo


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Jane the Virgin and Xiomara ~ Spoiler Alert

Jane the Virgin and Xiomara ~ Spoiler Alert

In the TV show Jane the Virgin, her mother, Xiomara has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Every time I watch a show with this plot thread I automatically approach it with a very fake lasaefair attitude of, ‘here we go again’.

But I’ve realized that it is nothing more than a self-preservation reaction to protect myself from what scares me. In this show, Jane wants her mom to have a full mastectomy because she feels like that would keep Xio from ever having cancer again.

This isn’t how it works.

There is no guarantee, and I feel like it is the responsibility of media everywhere to make sure they get it right. Go ahead and show the misconception, but at the end of the episode, I wish they would have one of the actors state the facts to make sure viewers are properly educated.

I had a double mastectomy, and my doctor said I had clear margins, in fact, she said I had the thinnest skin flaps she’d ever seen. Meaning all the tissue beneath the skin on my breast was removed so much that I have very thin amount of skin left to cover my implants.

But guess what?

My cancer reoccurred. In the same area.

And it could have been as little as one cell because the path report didn’t show any breast tissue, just the same cancer as before along with some muscle and connective tissues.

In the end, Xiomara opted for a mastectomy only on the breast affected. She needed to stay true to her needs even if her family was scared.

I did like this message very much. Everyone will have opinions when another is sick and there is soooo much information out there. In the end, the person who is sick can take in the information, discuss it with their loved ones, then come up with a plan that speaks to them the best.

My point to this post isn’t to sound scary or sad, but simply to inform.

There is no guarantee, a mastectomy does not keep cancer from coming back. Knowledge is power and important to protect yourself.

Knowing this would I still opt for a double mastectomy?

Over and over again, yes. It was the right call for me.


 Well now, that’s another post!



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I'm Walking 39 Miles to End Breast Cancer ~ Avon 39

Okay my lovebugs! I need your help to make my birthday month a special one. I wouldn't ask if it was only for me, but this is so much more. So much bigger.
The Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer raises money for research and to assist women in the community to receive the diagnosis and treatment they need. The organization also puts hot meals on the family's table.

Most of you know by now that my mom passed from breast cancer when she was 39, and I got breast cancer when I was 39. So when I fell upon the Avon 39 event, it couldn't have been more clear that I needed to be a part of this.

I was so lucky. I found mine early, and the benefits that Brian has from his military service let us pay a small percentage out of pocket instead of upwards of $500,000.00 in bills. Unfortunately, that is not everyone's story.

So now, two years out from my diagnosis, I need to help make a difference. To show my gratitude and love. To say thank you.

I'm going to be a 39er and walk 39 miles over two days, (May 6th and 7th) in DC and raise at least $1800.00.

I'm humbly asking for donations toward this wonderful cause. It doesn't have to be a lot. I don't want to put anyone in a difficult situation. $5 adds up to a beautiful gift. ♡

And please share this post and my link. Alone, I'm only MK...but with all of you I'm a 39er!

Thank you so much for all of your love and support!
Hugs, loves, and peanut butter!

Follow my link for more information and the donation button. ♡
#powerof39 #fierceisforever

---> Click here! Or click the banner below! Thank you for helping me make a difference.

The Question...

There are many different journeys we take having gone through an illness that threatens our life, and therefore the life of our children, and of our family and friends.

But there are some journeys that are more heartbreaking than others.

I have two children, Anya, my now ten and a half year old old soul who is a mix of bad ass and hopeless romantic, and Brody, my now nine year old who is a budding paleontologist and snuggle master.

On Fridays our family has a tradition of Finger Food Friday and Movie Night. So every week, we do finger foods, then watch a movie as a family. It's a just an us-hanging-out event where for the most part, all sleepovers and what not are held off until Saturday.

After the movie, Anya and her dad, Brian, play first person shoot 'em up video games into the wee hours of the morning, and Brody likes to go camp out with Momma (raises hand) and snuggle. He and I are usually tucked in around 10:30 p.m. It is the sweetest thing in the world to me, and I absorb every moment, because I know it won't always last.

Apparently, it means the world to him, too.

Because after my diagnosis, once the first surgery was complete and I was on the mend, Brody came in the living room to snuggle with me on the couch.

"Momma?" he whispers.

"What's up, buddy?"

"If you die, who is going to snuggle me when Daddy and Anya play video games?"

It was one of the most heartbreaking questions I'd ever been asked, and during this time there have been a few. 

But I assured him. 

I'm not going anywhere.


My Goodbye Letter from my Mother

I wrote this little post for Mother's Day in 2013.

I feel the loss of my mom every single day. It was a major catalyst to how quickly I moved when I was diagnosed myself. I couldn't stand the idea of my kiddos not having me, so I needed to move and move fast. Double mastectomy and reconstruction...sooner rather than later.

I'm so grateful we got in their quickly. Though the tumor was invasive ductal carcinoma, we got it before it got to my lymph nodes...and since I had a double mastectomy with clear chemo or radiation. 
I'm beyond thankful.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. My mom saved my life.


May, 2013

This is a beautiful picture of my mom, Karen. She wrote letters to my brothers and I when she found out she wasn't going to beat her fight with breast cancer. I was 7 and apparently a busy little girl. She passed at age in 8 more months...seems impossible. <3 (Thanks big brother for giving me the idea to share such love).

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mother's out there who love with every ounce of their hearts and more!

 My beautiful mother, Karen Kauffman.

My beautiful mother, Karen Kauffman.

Fingers Crossed for No Chemo

This post was from January 30th, 2015...10 days after my phone call...

Cheers to the next phase! I had my doctor's visit today.

By the way, I love her. <3

I will be having two surgeries for a double mastectomy/reconstruction with the first one being February 19th and the next about three months later. I will then follow up with a ten year stint onTamoxifen.

During the surgery they will send off a few different tissue samples to pathology including my sentinel nodes (specific lymphnodes) in my L armpit to see if there is any spreading and to check OncotypeBreast Cancer Assay. If the Oncotype is low and no spreading to the nodes, then no chemo or radiation...fingers crossed for this one!!! LOL! If it is moderate, then we will need to assess. If it is high, even if no spreading then chemo, and if there is spreading then we will add chemo and radiation. I'd really love to get out of this with the two surgeries and Tamoxefin - crossing fingers, toes, and every other crossable body part!

Things are looking good from the MRI, so I'm feeling positive. I just can't wait to know for sure. I am not the most patient person when it comes to waiting on things. Just ask my writer friends during the writing submission waiting period. I'm a crazy person. LOL!
Anyway, thank you everyone for being so dang wonderful. Your kindness has been overwhelming, I'm not sure how to make you understand how thankful I am.


F&ck Cancer

Stephen Amell does a fund raising campaign each year with the F&ck Cancer organization. His own mother had fought the scary fight.

This year, it meant a lot to me to be able to participate. 

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I am the Phoenix

Hello my lovely friends.

My sweet friend and talented romance writer, Gina L. Maxwell, had this amazing poem and art piece done for me in support of my fight against breast cancer. The poem beautifully captures my story, including the loss of my mom. And the art exemplifies it all.

Thank you Cody Callahan for your beautiful words.

Thank you DMB Drawings for the amazing picture.

You slithered in like a snake
you threatened my life to take
catching me off guard
in the darkness
but you did not know

I am the phoenix

You have taken my love before
but now I live for more
they were created in my likeness,
and for them my heart knows no weakness.
You have brought fire to me
but you’ve forgotten one thing.

I am the phoenix.

So you may take part of me with you
but you will never have all of me
my love burns too brightly
you may try to fight fire with fire
and upon seeing my ashes, feel victorious,
but as I told you, my heart knows no weakness
and out of the ashes
I will rise.

For I am the phoenix.


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I Found My Cancer

I shared this post right before my second reconstruction surgery. It's interesting. I feel like this is a post I should have shared early on in my journey, but I couldn't. I couldn't get these words down. Emotionally, I'd been too raw and it took a little distance before I could face it. 

But I got here you go. 

July 8th, 2015

Well my loves, it is time for my second surgery tomorrow. There is something I need to make clear, but haven't had the words--which is funny because I never shut up.
I. Found. My. Cancer.
Not a mammogram, or the ultra sound, not a doctor, but me.
I have an advantage having lost my mom, as CRAZY as that sounds. But because of her, I became VERY familiar with my body. I KNOW (knew, LOL) my breasts.
I saw an indentation over the Christmas holiday. As soon as the kiddos went back to school, I made an appointment. It took me a morning of phone calls because quite a few offices didn't take Tricare,and on the second to my last call, I broke down because I was scared. I knew something wasn't right, and I needed someone to see me.
When I went in to see the Ob/gyn, she couldn't see or feel what I was talking about. I told her it was easier to feel when I was lying down, so we did that. 
She could 'kind of' feel a lump. So 'lets get a mammo, just in case'.
Yes. Lets.
They took over 25 films. Every one came back negative. Really they came back as white, webby films because I had very dense and fibrous breasts. The mammo showed nothing even though the tumor was just below the skin. I could have been sent home with a clean bill of health.
But, I KNEW something was there.
So, 'let's send you for an ultra sound just in case'.
Yes. Lets.
And there it was. An ugly black cloud. The kind a five year old might draw to represent bad weather. 
My reason for telling you isn't to be negative about what is available to us for diagnosis, but to tell you to be SMART. KNOW your body. PLEASE. It isn't embarrassing. It isn't weird or naughty or any other silly excuse I've heard. Your body is a beautiful, hard working, vessel of possibilities, and you need to KNOW it so you can help out when something goes wrong.
KNOWING your body along with today's diagnostic tools is what will paint a clearer picture. So please. 
Feel yourself up. Look at yourself from every angle. Really become close, intimate friends with YOUR body, and just to be on the safe side, let someone else, too. Not only is it fun, but second opinions give you peace of mind. heart emoticon
If you have a question, or a feeling, or a hunch, anything...make your doctor's look. Don't be put off. You KNOW your body, remember?

Loves, hugs, and peanut butter.

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Facebook Friend's Kept Me Laughing!

One of the amazing things about my journey was the out pouring of love and support from people I've never met in person.

An example of this kindness came through my friend, Jenny Kay Crumpler.

She sent me these two t-shirts and absolutley made my day!

It is amazing how powerful these acts of kindness are. 

Thank you, Jenny!


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IIIB's Foundation...The Bosom Buddy Basket

The day of my mastectomy, I woke up to this basket from The IIIB's Foundation. IIIB's is a local foundation dedicated to helping those on a breast cancer journey. I had no idea what a blessing this basket was until I went home. But wow...every item made my recovery easier.

 &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Click the image to visit the website!

        Click the image to visit the website!

The basket had a blanket, super soft BC awareness socks, lip balm, tummy settling tea, a lanyard to hold my drains during showers (more on this later), and my favorite...a pink, silk pillowcase.

There were other things like a coffee cup and candles and more, but my little list above were used just about every day of my recovery. The basket was thoughtful and well-thought out.

I was and am...extremely thankful. So, if you ever know someone going through a mastectomy check out the website or the basket above.

Or email me at and I'll give you some idea. In the meantime, my little list above is a wonderful start.  

Hugs, loves, and peanut butter!

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Reconstruction was a No Brainer For Me, But...

There are many things I'd wished I'd been warned about when it came to my breast cancer journey. For example, there is a lot of aggressive language and judgy speech out there.

When I was researching mastectomies and reconstruction, one of the first websites I was directed to had this on the first page. And I broke down crying. 

I was wrecked. In my scared and vulnerable state, as a woman who chose to have breast reconstruction, I read this to say I was not strong, I was not confident, I was not active, and I was not mature. It made me feel awful.

I can read this now and understand the intent was to simply empower those who choose not to do reconstruction, but this could have been done in a way that didn't judge the decision or the decision maker.

There is never any reason to put one person down in order to build another up.

The very next day I called my doctor's office and let them know about the information on this website so they could make sure it was seen by the right patient.

I was not the right patient.

Because regardless of what this page implied, I had great strength to meet my journey head on, I had confidence to make the decisions that were right for me and my family, I am constantly active and working toward better health, and all of this has required a high level of maturity.

Remember, only YOU  know what decision is right for you.

And sometimes you have to filter through a lot of bullshit.

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I Didn't Know What to Say...

This was a really thoughtful post sent to me during my journey. A link to an article that talked about what you can say to people when they are ill. It's okay to say you don't know what to say and you don't know what to do.

In the end, just be there. 


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Day of Mastectomy...

February 19, 2015

Time to go get this shite outta me! Can you believe they won't let me wear makeup? So mean! Lol! Have a great Thursday my friends! Thank you for all of your love and support! You lift me up and wrap me in warm fuzzies! Thank you for that! Smooches!

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I Am the Phoenix...

You guys. My lovely friend Gina L. Maxwell had this amazing poem and art piece done for me in support of my fight against breast cancer. The poem beautifully captures my story, including the loss of my mom. And the art exemplifies it all. Thank you Cody Callahan for your beautiful words. Thank you DMB Drawings for the amazing picture. And Gina, you will always be my Little Dipper.

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Telling Our Children

January 23, 2015

One of the hardest things about breast cancer is how scary it is for everyone who loves you. Telling my husband, telling our children...was worse than having breast cancer.

From my husand's facebook page...

Today we experienced one of life's most difficult tasks, one that we hoped we would never have to.

Today, we had to tell Anya and Brody that their mom has breast cancer.

How does one even begin to gather the strength to tell them knowing that, at a very young age, they already understand the effect this disease has had on this family? I will tell you there is no way you can prepare yourself for it...for the look on their faces. There isn't. There. Just. Isn't. I've tried. You just go.

I shake with thunderous and uncontrollable rage as I write this, knowing that Mary Karen, one of the most wondrous gifts this world has ever been given, will fight through this with the same strength, grace, humility, stubbornness, and in the end, victory that she always has. She will do just what she has always done...continue to teach the world what it means to be a survivor.

So through her strength I am also strengthened. And I ask that you let her strength carry you, and to love and support her as much as she loves and supports all of you.

Mary Karen, you will always be my favorite.

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I'm An Open Book...

When I found out I had breast cancer it never crossed my mind to keep it a secret. My children were too smart. They can smell a wrinkle in the atmoshphere miles away. My way foreward was by being open. By being me.

As a romance writer, I have a large and wonderful facebook community. So this is what I shared with them. And I'm so glad I did. I don't know that I've ever felt so loved as I did that day.

My facebook post on January 22nd.

Hey there my lovely friends. I am beyond humbled to have received such amazing birthday messages, and I hope to respond to each and every one. Iappreciate your friendship and well wishes for my turning 40!!
I have a little bit of news to share, and for those who know my brothers and I lost our mom when she was 39 from breast cancer, it is kind of a slap in the face...but my stupid boob got the cancer. I have stage 1 as of right now. So, a small area on the left side. Next week we'll figure out if it spread, which could make it stage 2. I plan on getting a double mastectomy and reconstruction, I will be on a lovely cancer med for the next 10 years, and chemo will depend on what we find out next week. Fingers crossed that I don't need it, because I really like my hair. LOL!
I will be fine! I have an amazing husband and kiddos, brothers and all of you.
Stupid boob cancer doesn't stand a chance. I wanted to let you know because I'm not a bottle it up kind of gal. Big surprise, right?
Hugs and squeezes to all of you!
And no sad faces...they're just sad. LOL!

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