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Beth Bagwell Pendergrass  Living my best life and journaling my cancer journey through picture recreations. #cancersucks #cancerwarrior #fighter #breastcancer

Week 53: "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives." Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones
I'm sort of a lone wolf. I have always been independent and determined to do things on my own. One thing I've learned throughout this past year is I can't do this on my own. I can't do cancer without my pack. I need my pack to survive. Don't be fooled by my collected "everything is fine" exterior. I need you. I need my family and friends to continue to reach out and provide support and a listening ear even when I push you away. I need you to remind me that it is okay to cry and have bad days. I need my co-workers to tell me when I look like shit and it's okay to go home. I need my team of doctors to continue to fight for me and not allow the "Beth plan". I need you, and I am grateful for you. I can't begin to express my appreciation to my pack. Even at my worst, you see my best. You are the reason I fight like I do. You are the reason I continue to laugh and share my experiences. You give me strength in my darkest moments. You fight for me on days when I find it hard to fight. Thank you. Because of you I will survive when the snows fall and the white winds blow. (Special shout out this week to the Presbyterian team who cared for me as I had a short stay in the hospital-- Dr. Venkatraj, Dr. Bashir, Dr. Bishop, Nurse Cindy, the 6th floor Oncology crew-- thank you!! You all do amazing work and I am grateful! ❤) #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #cancersucks #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer #sansastark #GOT #gameofthrones #starks #gameofthrones8

People have been asking, so here's an update. It's been less than a week since I received a right side mastectomy with tissue expander reconstruction surgery. The surgery went well, and I am well on my way to recovery. I will begin radiation in a couple weeks, then following radiation they will put me back on chemo. But for now, I am going to enjoy the beautiful weather and not worry about what's in store. 😎😎 #cancersucks #cancerwarrior #cancersurvivor #breastcancer #fucancer

Week 52: "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump quoting his momma

Wow. Okay, so week 52. One year. I don't even know where to start except that Forrest Gump's mom was right--you never know what you're gonna get in life. The last year has been full of ups and downs, good chocolates and bad. I have cried. I have cussed (boy, have I cussed). I have laughed. I have sat alone in the dark. I have danced in the rain. I have felt pain. I have had moments where I almost felt like myself. I have experienced the ups and downs that anyone experiences when life gets tough. In fact, sometimes both at the same time--like having a chocolate that tastes good for a moment and then you bite into the middle. It's hard to believe you can feel so good and so bad at the same time. But it happens. Your body is going through so much. It is weak, tired and in pain, but then you get some good news or something makes you laugh or you spend time with someone who makes you forget about the pain and you feel good. These moments, all of them--the good, the bad and the ugly--will stay with me forever. They are the moments that define my past year. I have learned to deal with my lows, to put a smile on my face and carry on. I have learned to find the good when I don't feel good. I have learned to allow tears and to be honest with myself. I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. And, here I am a year later. I'm still fighting, but I'm doing it equipped with the lessons I have learned over the past year. And who knows, maybe this year my box of chocolates will be loaded with caramel, hazelnut and divinity... #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer #forrestgump

Week 51: "We are not in control. Every now and then life likes to reiterate that little point." Catwoman, Vol 2 #57

Here we go again. Tomorrow I head in for surgery number 2. This certainly was not in my plans. As a self-diagnosed overachiever, I assumed my body would kick cancer's ass and be done with it. I didn't expect that it would come back and so soon. It is not playing by my rules. Over the last year, I have had to learn to accept that many things are out of my control. I've had to learn to "go with the flow" particularily when it comes to my health and treatment plan. I've had to learn that cancer doesn't care about my plans--cancer doesn't care that it wasn't supposed to come back and that this year I was going to get to enjoy all those things I wasn't able to last year. Cancer has taught me that I don't get to control everything and to be honest, it infuriates me. And that anger and frustration fuel my fight. I am determined to show cancer who's boss. I will rock those things that I can control--my fight and my attitude. And for those things I can't control--bring it on, because regardless of what little points life wants to reiterate to me, I stand ready to kick ass and take names. #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer #catwoman

Week 50: "Give me some pies. Give me some of the good pies." Tammy, Tammy

Sometimes I feel stuck in between "you only live once" and "you have cancer". I feel stuck in between wanting to live my life to the fullest and also recognizing the need to put that on hold. Sometimes I feel like my health is holding me hostage and keeping me from the things I enjoy. Maybe it is. But, it doesn't mean I can't make the most of it. I need to stop making plans for "when this is done" and enjoy life now. I can live "in between" for now--living the life I want within the limitations of the obstacles thrown my way. It might not be perfect, but it can still be exciting and gratifying. And, when I have overcome those obstacles (and I will), I can more fully appreciate living my life to the fullest. The bottom line is this: life is short. We should all be living it to the fullest regardless of our circumstances. Nanea Hoffman (also accredited to Anthony Hopkins) said, "None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you're carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There's no time for anything else." So, if you want the pie, get the pie. Enjoy life. Live life. Love life. You only live once. #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer #YOLO

Week 49: "Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it you'll never make it through the night." Princess Leia, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Well, it's official. The cancer has returned. The good news is that it is a local recurrence and has not returned to my lymph nodes or spread to other parts of my body. We have an aggressive plan moving forward, and I am ready to fight. This is my rebellion against cancer and "rebellions are built on hope." I believe we should never lose sight of hope in the face of adversity. Despite our challenges, we should always hope for a better tomorrow. Each new day brings with it an opportunity to renew our hope and to keep going. I know that I am strong, but I hope I am stronger tomorrow. I know the power of positive thinking, and I hope that tomorrow brings more positive thoughts. I know the power of a smile, and I hope tomorrow brings a brighter smile. My hope keeps me going and gives me confidence that everything will be okay. That doesn't mean that I don't know what I am up against. I know the Rebel Alliance may not always win against the Empire, but they always come out on top because they are fighting to leave the galaxy a better place. Always hope for that--always hope, regardless of the outcome, to leave the world a better place. The force tied to hope is a powerful force. So today, I say to each of you, "May the force be with you." #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer #hope #starwars #princessleia

Week 48: "They're baa-aaack" Carol Anne Freeling, Poltergeist II
Well, it's been a Poltergeist kind of week.  During the exam prior to my infusion on Tuesday, my oncologist felt a new mass that she wanted checked out. I went in for the ultrasound and mammogram on Wednesday and it was confirmed--two new masses at the site where the original tumor was removed. It's never good when a doctor begins a conversation with "I'm sorry" and a hug. But, I held it together. I wasn't going to cry in front of her. I smiled and thanked her. I smiled and thanked the sonographer as she walked me out. I smiled as I left the office and thanked the front office staff and told them to have a good evening. I almost made it to my Jeep before the tears came, but they did come, and I let them. Being strong doesn't mean you don't get to cry every once in awhile. Being strong means that you pick yourself up and keep going. Thursday morning, I woke up, got out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and kept going. Cheryl Strayed said, "Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal." I will continue to fight because my desire to heal and move in the direction of my best and happiest dreams is great. I will endure, and I will do it with a smile on my face. #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #fucancer

Week 47: "I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then." Lewis Carroll

Ok, I know. This is not my typical re-creation photo. The first photo is a year ago. I am pictured with my two brothers. I remember the day well. I decided at the last minute to travel to watch my niece play in a volleyball tournament. And that was the day--the day I found the lump. To be honest I knew. My gut told me it was cancer, and I knew my life would change. And, here we are a year later. Back with my brothers at a volleyball tournament. If you knew me a year ago, please, let me reintroduce myself. I am not the same person. It is amazing what has happened since that day. I've been on an unexpected journey. I definitely feel like I have grown and changed in so many ways. Dean Karnazes said, "Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself — expanding and learning as you go — you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip." I've had an extraordinary trip over the last year, and I feel accomplished. I feel that I have given my all, been strong and achieved an incredible feat. I am not choosing a numb existence but instead making every effort to grow and learn. I've been through a lot and plan to continue my cancer journey with the same resolve. It has changed me but for the better. I can't go back to yesterday. #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong

Thank you @midland for the picture. Super nice crew. #classact #midland #baldisbeautiful

Week 46: "Reality is something you rise above." Liza Minnelli
In reality, most days I wake up tired, many days sore to the touch and bloated, some days emotional. In reality, I don't remember the last time I went to bed without pain. I don't remember the last time I slept through the night. In reality, challenges happen at work or in my personal life--plans don't always go as expected. These are things mainly out of my control. But here's the flip side. In reality, every day, I choose to be the best version of myself. Every day, I try to share a kind word or greet someone with a smile. Every day, I find something to be grateful for. Every day, I spend time with or talk to the people I love. Every day, something makes me laugh. Every day, I learn something new. Every day, I feel I am rising above the reality of being a cancer patient. I am choosing to push myself beyond my reality or those things I can't control and create a new reality--so in reality, at the end of the day, I can say I had a good day. #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong #lizaminnelli

Shout out to my incredible niece @elle.hillers and her "two bids for Nationals", rockstar volleyball team @psvba for supporting the cause. Some of the best lessons I learned in life came on a court or a field--learning to support each other, working as a team, leadership, dedication, dealing with disappointments, etc. Thank you to this team of athletes for honoring another extraordinary team of pink warriors that I am proud to stand with. #pinkout #cancersucks #cancerwarrior #breastcancer #cancersurvivor

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