Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Relay for Life and an up-date

My Grandmother is a 31 year cancer survivor! When I was just a toddler she battled cervical cancer - she had a hysterectomy and everything was good. Then my senior year of high school she had a battle with breast cancer - after a lumpectomy and 8 weeks of radiation she beat cancer again! She is an amazing and strong woman that I look up to and love very much! 
Every year we do our best to make it back "home" to Iowa to show her our love and support by walking with her in the Relay for Life. Just over a week ago we made that trip again but this time it was very different and even more emotional than in the past- I was also a survivor!  I never thought that I would ever be walking the "Survivor Lap" with my Grandmother!
Walking from the car to the park I was more nervous than I have ever been for a race. I don't know why but my stomach was doing flips! I got registered and was given my purple t-shirt to indicate that I was a survivor. I headed to the bathroom to change and then quickly found my Grandmother as they were gathering the survivors for the opening ceremony. I gave her a big hug and we joined the group of survivors. Listening to the opening ceremony was super emotional for me! I think reality hit me- this wasn't some kind of horrible dream that I had back in December/January- it was real and there I was standing in this group of people that all knew exactly how I had felt and what I went through. I saw them nodding in response to feeling just as the speaker said he felt during his diagnoses and battle with cancer. You know what?  I was nodding too! I know I have had so much wonderful support but it was one of only a few times that I felt like I wasn't alone and that those around me "got it" and understood the crazy mix of emotions that I had. At one point I made eye contact with Tim and I could see how emotional he was feeling as well. I knew I couldn't look at him again or I would lose it!
After the speakers were done we got a group picture and then it was time to walk the "survivor lap". Like I said earlier I never thought I would be walking THIS lap with my grandmother but I was proud to share this with her. She has been such a wonderful example of strength and I hope to one day be the strong woman that she is! As we were walking this lap I think I got my biggest dose of reality- seeing my survivor luminary! Even though I was wearing the purple survivor shirt and was walking the survivor lap- seeing that luminary that said:
Heather Wellendorf
made it all feel so very real. It was the first time I had seen it and I have to admit that it was hard to see at first! It brought tears to my eyes and really made me think about the past several months!
We walked lots of laps with our family, enjoyed a picnic dinner, celebrated Aidan's 4th birthday, and helped with the lighting of the luminaries. I finished the night off by getting a quick massage. It really was a night to celebrate, remember and help raise money to fight back!!
It has been a while since I have done a melanoma update. After sharing about Relay for Life and visiting my dermatologist for a follow-up this morning I guess it is most appropriate for me to do one today.
My appointment this morning went great- everything looks good - I go back again in 6 months. Between now and then you can bet I will continue to analyze every spot, freckle, and mole! I am covered in them so I can't help but look at my skin and worry! It really isn't a fun to have someone look you over from head to toe examining your skin but it is my only reassurance now so I will gladly do it!
 My next appointment with my surgeon is in July. I think everything is looking pretty good. I still have a small area of numbness but that continues to get better. I can finally sleep on my stomach and right side with my ear on my pillow. There are times that it still gets "tweaked" and I just have to position my head in the crook of my arm. There are still a couple of times that I still struggle with it bothering me:  talking on the phone (still can't put the phone up to that ear) and when people hug me. It seems everyone hugs to my right side and then their shoulder or head hits my ear just right that it "tweaks" it. It isn't super painful but it makes me aware of it again.
I am feeling less self-conscious of my ear but there are situations that I still leave my hair down or that I worry if people will notice. I have gotten a ton better and for the most part don't worry about what people think about it. I say that but in the few situations where people have said something it has really bothered me! The few times that I can think of it was more their approach than their response though! All in all- things are looking good. I will wrap it up with some updated pictures that Tim took recently of my ear/neck.


  1. What beautiful words to help us understand what it's like as a SURVIVOR! You are an inspiration! So happy that you were able to be around so many strong, beautiful people for a good cause :-)

    1. Thank you Marissa! It is sometimes hard to share but at the same time I feel like this is the place for me to get it out. I also want to "document" this journey for myself and for others to see what it is like to go through something like this.