Sunday, July 31, 2011

first chemo weekend

Saturday wasn't too bad. I had low grade nausea, a few aches, and some fatigue which hit mostly at the end of the day. Aside from that, I felt relatively ok. I even hopped on the exercise bike for a bit just to get the blood pumping. However, I wasn't completely myself, and I'm still not up for talking. Generally speaking, day 1 was ok. 

Today met me with more nausea and much more sluggishness (is that a word?). I spent the majority of the day in bed. For anyone who knows me, you know that this is quite rare. Most weekends we are double and triple booked. Sometimes doing multiple things in multiple states (I'm looking at you, Pennsy). So to have a whole weekend of nothing, including a sunday spent laid up in bed, well, that's just plain weird. 

I know it's normal. Kicking cancer's ass is hard work and it can make you tired sometimes. My oncologist described what the weekend would be like quite well. She told me it wouldn't be as bad as people had it years ago, but it wouldn't be fun. She said that drumming up enough energy to get a glass of water would be a huge event. She was right. I remember Gram needing her few days of rest after her treatment. Those were the days when we skipped our daily chats to let her regroup. The body's just doing it's thing. I'm ok with it because I know it's gotta do some of this in order to be effective. Truthfully though, I can't wait for this whole experience to be behind me. 

Here's this week's schedule:
-tomorrow is my neulasta shot which is the shot to help boost white blood cells count. Then I wait to see what that does to me. They say the most common side effect is bone pain, much like the achey-ness one gets with the flu. Oh joy. 
-Wednesday is the blood work to see how my blood cells are holding up. 
-Thursday is a visit to the reconstructive surgeon, but only if my blood count is good enough.
-Friday is Steve's birthday. Poor thing. Not exactly the best birthday week I guess. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

1 down, 7 to go.

Today was a good day. The chemo has started. The first infusion went well as far as I can tell. There is such a relief associated with the feeling of treating this nonsense. There is something very liberating about it. I am focusing on what chemo is doing for me. It's all about attitude, right?

As you may know, I went to chemo with my makeup done, and wearing my "start strong, finish stronger" shirt. I figured if powerful thinking helps, then I just upped my chance for success. I refuse to let this take me down. I am going to do the best I can to be as normal as I can, and control those things within my power.

I came home and was pretty wiped out. I slept for a few hours until the nausea woke me up. Then I discovered my love for zofran. Within a half hour, the nausea was under control. I still feel a little off, but it's manageable. The best way to describe it is the way you feel when car sickness starts to pass. 

Please know if you have called (there have been several wonderful people calling to check in), don't be offended, but I'm not up to talking, but I appreciate the love, prayers and well-wishes. My energy level isn't quite normal and my head's feeling a little funny. 

Ah well, I'm just going to say that if I feel funky, then the chemo is in there, doing it's thing. Kill the beast!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Chemo Eve!

Happy Chemo Eve, everyone! 

Tomorrow begins the arduous process of kicking cancer's ass while it's down! Surgery was battle #1. I beat that. Now onto the next battle. At 9 a.m., it begins. I take the battlefield. 

I am ready. My port has healed nicely. I have crackers, gatorade and my prescription for zofran (the anti-nausea meds) ready and waiting should the queasy wave hit. I have my wig and baseball caps in the house for when my hair takes a hike. I got my pre-game pep talk from my nurse. I got my song about boobs from my brothers. So yeah, I am ready. To quote my song: "Cancer took my rack, but I'm fighting back!" Bring it on!!

Mentally, I am also prepared for battle. I have read this quote many times in the past few months and it is now my mantra: "Don't think of chemo in terms of what it does to you. Think of what it does for you. It kills cancer". Amen!

Yesterday, I pulled weeds out of my garden, smiling, thinking of it as chemo. Isn't that really what chemo should do? Pull out the crap that clutters the beauty so the beauty can thrive. Weeding pulls out those nuisance plants that that interefere with the flowers' abililty to gain nutrients they need to flourish. My garden is growing so beautifully now. The pink, white and green continue to expand, bringing life to a spot that would otherwise be left barren. I still have more weeding to do, but like chemo, it takes time. It will get done.

I pray that I may continue to thrive, that cancer and it's ensuing treatment gives me more than it takes. It has been a blessing in many ways. I have a bright future that I intend on living. Chemo is one of the keys to unlock that future. 

Know this: tomorrow I start strong, but I will finish stronger.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

a day at the spa. or something like that

I had the muga scan today, and as far as I know, it went well. I haven't heard anything to the contrary, so as far as I know, Friday is still game day.

Basically, the process is pretty similar to any other scan I have had thus far. They go behind a door that says "Danger, radioactive material" and come out carrying a lead box or something like it with the radioactive symbol on it. Then they inject you with it. Kind of makes you wonder.

Anyway, after the dye sets in, you lay down on one of those scanner tables. They are actually rather comfy.The bonus was they offered me one of those warm blankets. It was freezing in there. So I just relaxed while the machine scanned me for about 20 minutes. I just told myself that I was vegging at the spa, and it worked. I thought was a nice touch that they had a tv screen on the ceiling above the machine. The only problem was they pulled me so far in that the screen was blocked by the machine. Oh well, it's the thought that counts.

When it was done, I met with my oncology nurse. I can't say that was fun. She was mentally preparing me for chemo. Granted, there was nothing really new that she told me, but I didn't love what she reiterated. She talked about side effects. She actually encouraged me to stay out of work the whole 16 weeks. There is no way I can do that. I will go stir crazy I think. We will play it by ear, but the plan is still to go back to work part time on August 22. We will see how it goes.

Generally speaking, I am not nervous. I kind of felt the same way before surgery. Maybe it's just peace because it feels better to know I am doing something about this thing. I am ready to get the show on the road. All I want is to get this whole thing rolling.

Hey, on a random other note, when did Rachael Ray get an Oprah-like show? I though all she did was cook.


This morning, I have the muga scan. I never heard of it before, but apparently, it's a heart scan. Cancerville has a whole language unto itself. My vocabulary has been very enhanced of late. Anyway, I have to have a healthy heart to be able to get Adriamycin. So please say a little prayer that it goes well. I am not super concerned, but you never know.

A quick update. One of the two friends of mine that had a mammogram got her results already and everything looked fine. The other is still waiting for her results. Please keep the prayers coming. I'm sure she will be fine. The way I see it, they say 1 in 8 women get this. I'm the one, so they should be good.

One last, unrelated note on this muga scan thing: every time I say I have it, I think of "muggle scan." I have been watching too many Harry Potter movies. ha!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surviving each day

There are different definitions of "survivor". I have always thought it was someone who "beat cancer". Now I am learning that to say that restricts those who have earned the title from getting it. I am embracing the fact that I am indeed a survivor already. Here's the obstacles that I have overcome to earn this distinction.

  • I survived calling my doctor and saying "I found a lump"
  • I survived 3 mammograms, infinite ultrasounds and 4 biopsies in a 3 hour period
  • I survived the shock of hearing the words "you have cancer"
  • I survived telling my family knowing I was ripping out their hearts in the process
  • I survived the battery of tests to determine what I had and where it was. 
  • I survived waiting for the results which was infinitely more torturous than the actual tests themselves
  • I survived consultations and feeling like the world has now seen my upper body which I was never comfortable displaying
  • I survived making the toughest decision I have ever had to make
  • I survived a double mastectomy with tissue expanders, and I healed well
  • I survived having surgical drains in for two weeks
  • I survived the fever that came when the drains came out
  • I survived my first expansion
  • I survived my first two funerals as a cancer patient
  • I survived my port insertion
  • I survived wig shopping (one would think this would be easy, but knowing you are about to lose your hair and have no control over it is not fun!)
  • I survived finding a dress for a wedding that looks great and covers my port (and I love it!)
I have many more trials to go through yet, but I will do so with my head held high. There is no other way. I am proud of my accomplishments and know I will continue to shine. I will keep on surviving. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

a new 'do and meditations

Today, I picked up my wig. One more hurdle down.

I was a bit sad to do it because of what it means. However, the wig itself is great. The color is perfect. It's an exact match to my own (minus the grays I have been letting grow in), and the style is really cute. If it wasn't for the fact that I was getting it because my hair is going to be gone in about 3 weeks, I would be thrilled. And I know there will be mornings when I am getting ready for work that I will be loving the style without having to do anything for it. If I could only forget the part I am sad about.

It's a little strange and surreal to me: to think that later this week, chemo starts. Time goes so quickly in cancerville. I can't believe it's almost here. I am ready. I want to just get this over with and poison the hell out of any cells floating around, poison my fears. 

This afternoon, I attended a wellness community meditation class. I found it humorous that because I was running late (as always) I was stressed out getting there. Once inside the room, that melted away. I followed the meditation facilitator's lead, and embraced serenity. It's quite funny, we ended up focusing on a healing place. She described it as a garden, talked about a healing sunlight, etc. Somehow, my soul ended up walking the grounds at Disney World, predominantly, the Polynesian Resort. I guess my spirit is just looking forward to this all being behind me and celebrating in the happiest place on earth.

At the very end, we got an Angel affirmation. Mine said this, "You are at the end of a cycle in your life.  Call upon us angels to comfort you, and to guide you to your next step.  Happiness awaits you now.” Now, my slightly paranoid self read it, and at first only saw "You are at the end of your life" and damn near had a heart attack. Then I read it again, and instead saw "happiness awaits you". I interpreted it this way: I am starting chemo this week, which is going to be the end of any cancer cells in my body. I will leave behind the fear and the disease, and I will be on to a healthy, amazing life. A life which is not taken for granted, one in which I can help others, provide hope, and inspire. A long life that makes a difference in more than just my "small" immediate friends and family (and yes, small is a relative term). 

Chemo is coming fast and furious! I feel the train gaining momentum. The schedule for this week is MUGA (heart scan) wednesday. Then on Friday, the poisoning of the cancer begins! BRING IT!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

prayer request

I don't have much to post tonight except this:

I have two friends going for mammograms this week. Please pray that they get good news. If for some reason they hear something they do not wish to hear, please pray that they have the strength to fight and that it's caught soon enough. They are both certainly afraid, and understandably so. Please pray that they may get some peace this week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

port day

I remember when "port day" meant the cruise ship was docking at some beautiful island. Where's my fruity drink and the banana boat? Wait, they don't give you rum punch and an awaiting catamaran? What the hell?

While the ocean is nearby, alas, there is no umbrella in a drink for me today. At monmouth medical, today, my chemo port was inserted.

I will say this, the meds they give you for the procedure are phenomenal. "Oh, you are cutting into a huge artery in my neck? Awesooommmee. Go for it." Yes, I was awake for it. It would have been weird and stressful if not for the happy juice they put in my iv. It really doesn't take long at all. And whatever they gave me, I really couldn't have cared less what they are doing. 

That sad part about the meds is that they wear off, and the little bugger hurts! I slept most of the day, recovering. 

Every good soldier gets their equipment before going to battle: fatigues, helmet, a gun perhaps. In my case, a port. The site which they will put my infusion line every two weeks, eight times. The site of biological warfare. One week until the battle begins.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Today was a therapeutic day in many ways. First off, I was cleared by Doc Warden to drive, so for the first time in a month, I was behind the wheel of the minivan! Look out Jersey drivers, I'm back! It was a little nerve-wracking, but at the same time, very liberating. I felt like the old me again. Independent, with a hint of road rage.

My first trip took me to the wellness community for creative writing therapy class. I was nervous at first that I was in over my head, but as the time went on, I really enjoyed it, and didn't want to leave when it was over. I hadn't written a haiku in about 20 years, but banged out 3 in a few minutes.

Searching for the words
Digging deep inside myself
fueling inner peace

Writing has been therapeutic for me since day one. Words have flowed from my fingers like water over rocks. I am not sure I could express the jumbles in my mind if I tried to do it verbally. In the class today, the words came naturally. I hope they continue to do so. We did poetry and fiction. I surprised myself as to how easily it flowed. It was predominently stream of consciousness. Perhaps I should write that novel after all. Ok, who knows how to get stuff published? I can write all I want, but it won't mean squat if I don't actually figure out what to do with it.

Then after my class, Jami and I went for lunch and then for a pedicure... Ahhh! I almost passed out in the chair. The woman offered to wax my eyebrows. I usually take her up on it, but to be honest, seems kind of pointless since they will likely fall out on their own in 3 weeks, don't you think?

On another note, my wig is in. I have to make an appointment to try it and make sure it's all good. Oh Lord, chemo keeps marching closer. Tomorrow is port insertion day. Yikes! Courtney said it just might feel a little weird for a few days. Well, since my entire upper half feels weird these days, what's one more foreign object? Oh how I wish I could make time stand still. It would be nice to just sit here, and have tonight drag on forever, watching my son use his newly-developed tumblesalting skills.

On a random note, I just saw on tv that there is a new Charlie's Angels series coming to Channel 7 this year. I wonder if it will be anywhere as good as I remember the old version being. Come on girls, admit it. I know at least several of you pretended to be Angels back in the day because I did! And ironically enough 3 of the Angels went on to fight breast cancer. The two that took conventional treatments like myself won their battles.

I felt more like a survivor today. Perhaps because I am starting to feel "normal" again, even if it will only last a week since chemo is rapidly approaching.

Onward ho!

fill 'er up (7/20/11-posted a day late)

Today was a mixed day. The funeral was, well, a funeral. It was of course heartbreaking in many respects, especially when his kids got up and did a tribute to him. Despite the sadness, I was able to focus on being sad without freaking out about my situation. That was a huge step for me. When the worry would creep in, I found ways to distract my mind.

And despite a family member or two attempting to pop the "girls", they survived.

Then, I had my two doctor's appointments this afternoon.

Dr. Warden's appointment was short but sweet. She said I was healing up nicely. She also commented that my pathology profile is exactly the type she likes to see. Very treatable! I know I have heard this before, but this is the first time I have seen her since the full panel has been completed. She was very pleased about the her2 being negative. She confirmed that it means the tumors are somewhat less aggressive. She was also happy that I will be starting chemo soon. Ah, I love my validations.

Then I went to see Dr. Cohen as a follow up to the issue I was having last week. While I was there, she decided it was time to start the "expansion project". The whole process took about 10 minutes. It was interesting really. You can in fact feel the expansion going on. It's kind of like holding a water balloon in your hands while someone else turns on the faucet it's hooked up to. 80 cc's later, I'm sore, but more perky! Woohoo!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Channeling my inner Oprah

One of the highlights of my wellness seminar is the focus on gratitude. I have tried throughout my journey to pay attention to the blessings in my life, but sometimes, I forget to think about those things, or I let fear block my view. So tonight, I am going to be mindful of what I am grateful for today and let the sun shine in for a bit.

On this day, I am grateful that I am able to hear my son say his prayers at bedtime with us. He astounds me, as he knows his "Hail Mary" quite well. He loves that prayer, and often wants to repeat it several times a night. While it might be partially a stall tactic, I prefer to look at it as toddler rosaries. Perhaps, he too will be blessed in life. As a mother, could I wish for more? I think not.

I am also grateful for naps. Yesterday was a strenuous day for me, physically and mentally. But I made up for it today with two naps! Oy! I find it weird that I still get tired, but I guess its part of the process. And I am glad that even though I get tired, when I recover, I can do more each time.

I am grateful for my mother. Her selfless support has been endless. I'm sure she's exhausted and stressed, but she doesn't let it stop her from being there for me in whatever way I need. She's an awesome woman, and the best mother a girl could ask for. This week, she is dealing with the loss of a younger cousin, continuing to watch me fight my fight, which I am certain is pure hell for her, and she still maintains her smile and to be a positive example. I can't imagine how she manages to keep going despite her heartache, but she does. She does the best she can despite the difficult circumstances that she is facing, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. God bless her.

I realized I haven't posted my schedule yet this week. Tomorrow, I have the "sad-eral" for my cousin, and I have 2 doctor's appointments. Ah, a long day in North Jersey. Thursday, I have a writing seminar and a pedicure (probably my last for a while, since they are banned during chemo). And friday, I have my port insertion. YIKES! One more hurdle will be down. And that means one week to go till I get to poison any stray cancer. Take that you little bastard cells!

Monday, July 18, 2011

"somehow we win out"

I want to start my post with a quote: "My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose - somehow we win out." -Ronald Reagan, president and co-survivor of Nancy Reagan, a 30 year breast cancer survivor. 

Here's my goal. To be a long-time cancer survivor. One who when people hear my story, they smile. One who gives hope to others who fear the worst. I take strides every day to improve my health. I figure, if I work on my overall wellness, it can only help me achieve my goal of being cancer-free and living as a survivor.  Today, I walked for an hour and sweated my ass off (even before the heat peaked out there.) It felt good to be so strong. I'm tired now, but that's ok. I will recover and keep pushing on.

Today, I had my "managing worry effectively" seminar. It was good session, but yeah, I still worry. I do think I am getting a little better about managing it. And there were quite a few techniques in there that I already do (T and J, I actually learned a few things in the stress management class at TCNJ. Imagine that!). I did pick up a few new tips though. I found it funny when a few of the ladies commented how brave I was for sharing my journal online. To me, it's been so helpful. First, I get the emotions out. Second, the feedback I get from people fuels my soul and motivates me to keep pushing forward.

I did enjoy my foray into the wellness community. There are some wonderful people there. I intend on continuing with the program. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the director, who told me several long-time survivor stories. Oh how I love them.

I do however think that as wonderful as the session was, going to a wake the same day may have lead me to take a few steps back. I've said it before, but wakes are different when you are fighting cancer. Especially when the service is someone who died of cancer, albeit different than what I have. Thankfully, there were survivors in the room who made me feel better. And there were some wonderful family members who I just chatted with a bit which helped me not to spiral to a dark place. And the good news is, my salt water boobs survived a million hugs at the funeral home. And that branch of the family has some solid huggers. Whew!

I have one more person whose memory I have to fight for now. A person who didn't even have a chance to fight. I will beat this for you! The only thing I cannot do is wear a Yankee shirt in your honor! Instead, I'll just vow to take treatment like a champ and beat this beast. Hope that's good enough.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The "sonshine" of my life

I watched my little boy playing today. He's so vibrant, feisty, spirited and just so damn cute. I felt various waves wash over me as he ran around, laughing and carefree. I felt waves of pride to be partially responsible for someone so precious (Steve gets 50% credit too). I felt waves of sadness because I worry how much of his life I will get to see. And then I felt waves of determination. I cannot let this stupid disease defeat me. My son deserves better than that. He deserves to have his mommy and daddy right there all the way encouraging him as he grows into the amazing man he is destined to be. I refuse to let cancer take that from him. Or from me.

He makes my heart sing. His silliness, the fact that he thinks he's much bigger than he is, his rough and tumble ways. He's an angel sent from heaven to keep pushing me to succeed. His smile is like the sun warming my soul. It overpowers the shadows that cancer tries to cast, tossing a bright, warm light in every corner.

I don't know what he will grow up to be, but I know he will be great in whatever his chosen path. He has too much beautiful spirit to not be. Perhaps he will be a doctor who will cure people like me. Or a sports star, as he showed his fearless spirit today, tackling boys twice his age and size. Or a song writer, as he makes up his own little ditties and sings them for me now. Whatever it is, he is destined for greatness. And I am destined to be his biggest fan.

Screw you cancer. You will not defeat me!!! I am going to win and watch my boy conquer all he sets his heart to and I am going to give him the example of a lifetime. I am going to teach him to pick your battles, but when you do pick 'em, you stack the deck and you charge like hell until you win. Sometimes I feel sad for him that his mommy has cancer. But he doesn't know any better, and like someone once told me, he's going to thrive from the experience. He's learning compassion and kindness. He's going to learn determination and hard work. He's going to learn faith. He will come out even more amazing. He has to because he's our boy. He's our one shot at this, and we are going to see to it. I cannot wait to see what the future has  in store for us.

Please keep the prayers coming. I continue to need them.  Faith has been so critical to me. Poor God, if he isn't sick of me yet, that in and of itself will be a miracle.

One other side note directed at someone so very special in my life. Stop being so sad whenever we part. We will have lots of partings in the future because I am not going anywhere, ok? You are stuck with me. I have a job to do. I have to pick out your lot in the 55 and older development, and I have a lot of years before I can do that. So smile for me. No more frowns ok? Love you!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hitler didn't get cancer...

I read that in a book recently. It's funny, so many people (myself included) have said that I don't deserve to get cancer. But in that book, I read something that struck a chord. It said, people often say how it's not fair for someone to get the beast called cancer. But the truth is, cancer doesn't go after bad people. As the book cited, Hitler never got cancer, nor did Attila the Hun. Point being, maybe it's a warped compliment that I got this disease. It reminds me of my favorite quote, "I believe that God doesn't give you more than you can handle, I just wish he didn't trust me so much". (Mother Theresa said that.)

Besides, "Who said life is fair? Where is that written?" (Yes, I am watching the Princess Bride while typing. Classic!)

With that said, God does trust me. But trust must be earned in order to be sustained. So I have to keep the faith. I have to keep on keeping on.

I have a friend who is going recently found a lump. She has her mammogram on July 26th. Kindly keep her in your prayers that she gets good news that it is nothing to be concerned with.

Friday, July 15, 2011

this is what bugs me about cancer (ok, one of the things)

It's an ongoing, seemingly never-ending battle. Yesterday was a great day! I did a lot, I felt good.  It seemed like things were on the up and up. Today was rougher. I guess because I was as active as I was yesterday, I was flat out tired today. After Steven left for school (thank you Jami!), I passed back out for 3 hours. I planned to take an hour long walk, and clean the bathroom today. The energy just wasn't there though.

Then I woke up to a minor issue with the tissue expanders. I won't elaborate other than to say it's nothing detrimental, just annoying. Oh, how I look forward to the exchange surgery. That's the final reconstruction. Everyone tells me that is much more comfortable than these damn things. The way my nurse described the expanders is to imagine square ziplock bags filled with water hanging out under the muscle. Lovely image! UGH!

I did end up having a lovely time with my cousins for lunch and later my wonderful friends for dinner. God help me, I am not getting on a scale tomorrow. I am going to pray for energy to work out! I guess my point is, I can still manage to enjoy the rough days. So that's good news.

I hate that cancer is something that you just battle and battle. I hate that you never quite know when the next curve ball is coming. I am not a control freak by any means, but sometimes, rolling with the punches just gets old.

But, I will keep on rolling because rolling is the only way to get anywhere. I can't move forward if I am standing still, now can I?

Oh, and here's my tip for the day:
Cancer patients, don't ever assume it's a safe day to wear non-waterproof mascara! It's never safe! You never know when the emotion will sneak up on you. Or perhaps, when you will receive an awesome message from your brother that will make you a bit weepy, and make a mess of that non-waterproof kind.

Chemo count down:
2 weeks to go!

Other miscellaneous time facts:
Monday will be 4 weeks since the surgery.
This week is 10 weeks since diagnosis.
If all goes well, chemo will be but a memory in 18 weeks.

The point is, time goes quickly in cancer-land. It's important for staying ahead of the game mentally. Before I know it, chemo will be done and I will be wearing my shirt!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

one foot in front of the other

Today was a productive day. I was able to empty the dishwasher without assistance (not sure whether or not that is a good thing.) Aunt Bern took me wig shopping. I was worried I would be more emotional than I was. It wasn't bad. We went to her salon that happens to also have people that specialize in this sort of thing. The woman there was exceptionally kind and made me feel very at ease. We tried on a few different styles and colors, and came up with what I think is a nice fit. I even put one wig on crooked just for Stup in honor of Grandma. It gave us both a chuckle. I find the only way to manage this craziness is to not take it too seriously, or at least try not to.

Then we went for a lovely lunch. I had sushi since I suspect that will not be so tempting once chemo starts. (For those who know my fish aversion, I had a california roll and a cucumber roll. Nothing crazy.)

After that I came home and realized the day was too pretty to sit in the house. So I laced up my sneaks and took a 50 minute walk. Pretty decent for someone who got tired walking around the block two weeks ago. I am getting stronger each day. Better and Better!

I have two weeks and a wake-up until chemo starts. It's coming fast and furious. I need to build myself up as much as I can before that starts. I want to be as healthy and strong as possible. I figure the better shape I am in to start, the better I will be going through. I have my wardrobe all ready to go for my very first day. Shorts and my "start strong, finish stronger" shirt. Is there really anything more appropriate than that? I don't think so.

Tomorrow I am getting together with cousins for lunch and maybe a bit of craft shopping. Before that though, I hope I have enough energy to get another nice walk in. Maybe I can shoot for a full hour. I also need a pedicure. I have to get a good one before chemo starts because once you start chemo, they aren't allowed while you are in treatment. Talk about sad!  They take away all the fun stuff. Oh well, at least I won't have to shave my legs for the rest of the summer. That's right folks, when the hair goes, apparently, it ALL goes. The oddities of chemo.

I just look forward to November when I can say the worst is behind me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mosquitoes love cancer patients

Apparently, we are yummy bug food. I believe I have 18 mosquito bites on my legs from the past 3 days. The good news is, this is because I have spent a lot of time outside: healing, soaking up the sea air, spending time with people I love. So I don't mind being being bug bait. It comes with the territory I guess. Although, for the sake of the mosquitoes themselves, drinking my blood can't be very healthy. Sucks to be the blood suckers that target me! (oh, and p.s. Courtney, I know when I am in chemo I have to avoid mosquitoes like the plague. Don't worry!)

Today was the first day I felt almost completely normal. Very little pain at all. In fact, if you drew a line down the middle of me and asked me about the right side, I would almost say I wouldn't even know I had surgery. The left side is a little slower to heal, but that's because there were many more lymph nodes taken out of there. 

I am able to enjoy things more now. It's a beautiful thing. I feel more like myself.

Maybe that's driven by having hope again. My oncologist is a miracle worker in that sense. Just by doing what she does and giving me a plan, it makes life feel more clear, more certain. I feel like the treatment plan seems so doable. 8 rounds isn't so bad, and the first week in November is not that far away. And trust me, I plan on proudly wearing my survivor shirt (which I received from my wonderful Helen just yesterday) as I make my way through Disney in celebration. As Tammy says, when they ask me "what will you celebrate?" my list will be long: "the 3rd birthday of my precious boy, our 7th wedding anniversary, the completion of chemo, being a survivor and the fact that life is wonderful!"  I'd say that's a pretty damn big celebration!   I cannot wait. 

I met with my favorite person yesterday

Ok, one of my favorite people: my oncologist. I love her for doing what she does and giving me the best shot of living until I am 85. I love her for knowing her stuff, for staying on top of recent information and protocols. And I love her because she gives me hope.

Before I get into the most important part, let me brag a little. She was super impressed with my range of motion. I would dare to say she was almost shocked. Go me! I love to impress doctors. It's the overachiever in me. Then, she wanted to check out the goods... After taking a peek, she replied, "wow! you're doing fabulous!" I find it funny that my boobs get more compliments now than they ever did when they were real. Sigh. But then again, no one (ok, almost no one) really ever got a flash, so I can't really say whether they would have been impressed or not.

Ok, now on to the meat and potatoes of this post: the plan! I am a woman with a plan and that makes me happy. I will be receiving a cocktail of three drugs A, C, and T (also known as Adriamyacin, Cytoxan, and Taxol). There will be 8 cycles, each lasting 2 weeks. I get infusion on the first day, feel like poop for a few days, and then feel normal until the end of the cycle. The first 4 cycles will be a combo of A and C. The last 4 will be T by itself. All infusions will be done at Monmouth Medical Center.

Here's the schedule:

AC infusions: 7/29, 8/12, 8/26, 9/9
T infusions: 9/23, 10/7, 10/21, 11/4 (two days before Steven's birthday, also meaning I should finally feel good and be done just in time for our 7th anniversary! YAY)

I will then have about a month off and then will do a month of radiation. I should have peach fuzz on my head just in time for Christmas!!! Who needs two front teeth? All I want is some hair.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today, I wore pink.

To start, let me say if you read my last post and were wondering, I never even got my head back on the pillow. Within 3 minutes of me closing the laptop, I heard "MOMMY!" I knew it. I love that kid.

Ok, back to pink. The truth is, most of my wardrobe pre-cancer had some pink in it anyway, so that's a no brainer. However, I hadn't been able to wear most of my normal clothes until lately. Today it just felt right to wear a pink "life is good" shirt. I need to buy more of those. So convenient how my cancer is so nicely color coordinated with my closet. To quote Nancy Brinker (the founder and sister of Susan G Komen), "some think of pink as a soft and delicate color, but not our pink. Pink is strong, pink is fierce, pink is brave, and pink is mighty." I am a warrior in pink and I am going to fight like a girl!

We had a good day today. Me and my love had lunch and took a short walk by the bay. We went food shopping (I saved 36 bucks in sales and coupons! Go Shoprite!). I rode the exercise bike for a while (ok only 15 minutes, but it's a start). Then we went to Jami and Billy's for an excellent dinner. After which, Jami and I took about a 30 minute walk. So, likelihood is, I will be complete toast tomorrow!

I felt alive today. I still had my sad moments, but generally speaking, it was a good day.

I also finally got my her2 results. They were negative, which means no herceptin for me, and likelihood is I will have 8, 2-week cycles of chemo. I'll know for sure tomorrow when I see Dr. Ray. I'm actually a little excited about it. Having a plan is so empowering!! Of course, that's today, on another day, I am really not looking forward to it one bit. But for today, I am ready. Full steam ahead!

My quote for the day (thank you Mrs. A) is "The best way out is through"... Just got charge ahead. It's the only way to win.

cancer sucks

It just does. There are no two ways about it.  It messes with your mind like nothing else in the world can. It can make you feel limited, scared, vulnerable. It's amazing how powerful it can be. It's so important to fight back because if you don't, it will consume your mind, dragging you under.

I learned a family member is in the advanced stages of the disease yesterday. Talk about a kick in the gut. My heart bleeds for those closest to him, more keenly aware of how cancer must be gripping their hearts and souls right now. They are all in my prayers, although I am not sure what to ask for on their behalf. My best guess is strength and some sort of peace.

Selfishly, it makes me reflect on my situation and scares the crap out of me. No one should have to hear the words "cancer" because when you hear that word, a light switch goes on in your head, and I haven't yet found the switch to turn it back off. It's like an annoying beeping sound or a jackhammer. It's this "noise" that is just disruptive and irritating, grating at your insides.

I did do something this morning. I looked at the calendar for "the wellness community". My oncologist highly recommends it, and I intend on participating in their workshops and classes.  My soul was feeling lost in the middle of the night, but then when I looked on their site and saw the programs, I realized how normal I am. One of the classes next week is "managing worry effectively". Holy cow! How did they know? Oh right, I am not the only person in the world who has gone through this. I am only one of 2.5 million alive right now with cancer. I guess that's a decent enough sample size to get an idea of how this affects people.

I just wish I could keep my head above emotional water all the time. I know it's normal to feel the emotions I feel, but I hate it because it's not me. I want to get back to being me. I think I will feel better when I am at the next stage of treatment. The sitting around healing thing is a bit slow paced for me. I want to get that chemo in and flowing and killing every last stupid cancer cell in my body. I read recently that it's important to focus on what cancer does for you, rather than what it does to you. Someone remind me of this in a month or so when I am crying over lost hair and feeling like shit, ok?

I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Ray tomorrow (my oncologist). She has a way of making me feel more confident. I guess it's just the nature of what she does. It's like she holds the antidote to this beast. I want to euthanize cancer... No, that's too gentle, I want to poison the hell out of it!  Beast be gone!

Having been up for the last two hours, I hope to get some more sleep this morning. But cancer or not, I am still a mommy. Ten bucks says the minute I drift off is when my precious, crazy child will wake up and start yelling for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

life is still good

I am going to beat cancer
I am going to have an awesome life with my family
I am going to live out my dreams
I am going to witness many more sunsets
I am going to walk a million more miles on the sand
I am going to do whatever the doctors tell me to do
I am going to be healthy again
I am going to have days when thoughts of the big C are far from my mind
I am going to win and
Nothing is going to stop me

Friday, July 8, 2011

there's no place like home.

Ah yes, I finally am back in my own home... Hurray for Toms River! My heart sang when I stepped out of the van and heard a boat on the bay. I forgot how much I love my little house. I missed it and didn't realize how much until I got here.

There are things I miss though about Mom and Dad's. Of course, spending time with them was great, and having the extra help was huge! It was definitely a good place to be for me to start my healing process. I also miss having the big bed for Steven to fall asleep in. Trying to get him to sleep in his twin bed required my best Karate Kid impersonation to avoid getting clocked in my newly installed salt water balloons as he flipped and flopped around in his attempt to get comfy.

It's a good day though. Being well enough to be here without 18 sets of hands to help is progress.

I was able to shower completely on my own today, shampoo included! Wooohoooo! There was a time, less than two weeks ago when a shower required a helper, an assistant, some medical tape, a shower chair, and then a two hour nap. Today, it just required me.

I was able to put a sweatshirt OVER my head. Also a huge moment indeed. I am proudly sporting my 15 year old TCNJ sweatshirt. Go Lions!

It's funny because sometimes I underestimate my own progress, but today I did show that I have come a long way. But, doing all that stuff knocked me out! Here's hoping a Benedryl will knock me right out tonight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

call to act.

Each of us is put on this earth with a purpose, a calling if you will. It's up to us to determine what that is and answer that call.

A spoke today with my "reach to recovery" volunteer. She is a woman who has been through what I am going through and volunteers with the american cancer society to support women going through this dreaded disease.

Chatting with her was wonderful!

Despite the most wonderful support group a girl could ask for, I still feel isolated sometimes. Talking to someone who has been here before is a huge boost for me. Fortunately for me (unfortunately for them), I have a few of these beautiful women in my life, and today, I added a new cheerleader to my list. I am grateful that she chose this calling. She's a mom herself, she works full time, and went through this same nonsense four years ago.

We talked and chuckled about some of the oddities of post-mastectomy recovery. It was wonderful. She understood why I wasn't devastated by the ability to "downgrade". She told me the boob cramps are normal and gave me tips on how to manage them.

Each survivor who has come into my life brings a different perspective and approach. All unique, but all helpful, and all hopeful! Thank you ladies!

It's so important that we learn and grow from our trials.

The bottom line is, every one of us will encounter shit in our lives, but what do we do with it? Do we hide and cry? Sometimes. But we can't stay hidden and crying forever.

We rise up. We take the lemons and make lemonade, lemon merangue pie, lemon chicken, lemon drop shots, citrus margaritas, or we throw the lemons at someone who pisses us off.

Whatever we choose, we just have to do something. That's what our obligation is. Pay it forward, backwards or sideways. Just do something good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

do what you gotta do.

My thought has always been, I don't care how difficult the recovery is as long as it will give me the best outcome. I don't care what they have to do to fix it, just fix it.
I have come to find some interesting things during this process. It's very interesting to me that the doctors all seem to feel that they need to convince me to do the best thing. By that, I mean, I have noticed that they basically expect me to push back on their rcommended treatment and come into appointments ready for a debate. One that they do not encounter.

For example, when discussing the mastectomy as an option, they all seemed to think it was the right choice for me, but were afraid I was going to grab one of their heavy medical books and chuck it at their heads for even suggesting something so radical.

Then the other day, I asked my surgeon what she thought prognosis was for me post surgery. She looked panicked and quickly responded "well, you still need chemo". She relaxed when I said I knew that already. I guess some people choose not to go aggressive, and figure if they do the surgery, they can back out of other treatment. In my mind, this was never an option. Even from before my diagnosis was confirmed, I knew I was going to need chemo and was ok with that. Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to feel like I have the worst flu ever for 4 months, but what's the alternative? There really isn't one.  Living is the only alternative.

My fighting spirit was fueled tonight in a happy way. If you have been reading along, you know that one of my main concerns/fear is being a good mommy to my sweet boy through this nonsense.

Steve and I have noticed how beautifully he is handling this "adventure". He's very gentle and concerned with me, while remaining his happy, silly self. Well, as I was putting him to bed tonight, he smiled sleepily at me and said, "you're the best mommy ever!" Ahhh bliss!!!! And a key reason to fight this beast with everything I've got: for my precious boy and my whole family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

good day/good night

Today was a good day. My appointment with Dr Cohen was set for thursday, but the drains were slower and funky, so I called. They said "come on in today and we will take them out." HURRAY! You don't have to tell me twice.

So I went. And presto! I'm drain-free! Yyyyaaaaayyyyyyyyyy! It's wonderful.  It's amazing what a difference it makes. I can move so much more freely. And I don't have to be grossed out anymore. 
A huge step in healing! I am proud of the fact that the doctor's are happy with my healing progress. They have advised me to do certain things: rest, take my antibiotics, take certain vitamins, do my physical therapy stretches at home, and start walking again. I did them all, and it has paid off.

Now I am living a drain-free life! Ahhh the good life (funny how your perspective shifts). I can lay down again! Ahhhh.

And tonight, I was able to put my son to bed without assistance. AND, he fell asleep in 5 MINUTES (with only two inadvertent flying elbows to the incisions)!!! Now, anyone who has participated in the bedtime activities knows that this is a miracle in and of itself! Wheeeehoooo!

So the rest of this week is dedicated to resting and healing some more. I guess I can handle that.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

every day a little stronger.

Each day, I see a little bit of improvement, progress. It's not as rapid as I would like, but it's definitely there. I know that each day, I get a little closer to being a true survivor. Today was a low-key day. I was sadly not ready to go to a bbq with some awesome friends. I know they understood, but I hope they know I missed being there as much as they missed me. I wish I was back to normal, but I am getting closer.

The tail end of this past week was a dark one for me. Fear and doubt clouded my mind. But I pushed through. I just kept telling myself "I am going to beat this. I am going to survive" over and over and over again.  And I felt a little bit of sun shining through the clouds over time.

I actually was strong enough to walk for a half hour around mom and dad's neighborhood and didn't need a nap immediately. See, progress!

I can cut my own meat and sometimes open my own prescription bottle again. (sad the things that impress me).

As I walked this evening, the sky was a beautiful, funky shade of pink, almost as though it were especially made for me.

I think my drains are getting a little slower. I just want these damn things out already! I hope this is my last week with them in. I have an appointment with Dr Cohen on Thursday.

I didn't take a nap today.

I have only taken 2 motrin in the last 48 hours, and that was only because I had a headache.

I am able to get my hoodie on with minimal to no assistance.

If I do it slowly, I can reach the top shelf in my parents' pantry.

My range of motion is getting much better.

My pain is minimal...

Oh, and here's a funny side effect: boob cramps! Holy mother of God, they hurt! I think I hadn't been drinking enough water in the last day or so (which I have since fixed) and I got charlie horses in each of my boobs. Yikes! Since the expanders are under the chest muscles, I guess this is a funky side effect as the body adjusts. It takes pain to be beautiful. Sigh.

Here are some more post-mastectomy tips:
  • Google pink bra and get the mastectomy tanktop with drain pockets. This makes life much easier. This was passed on to me by another sister. They are comfy and helpful.
  • Get a chair to put in your shower when you have to have someone else wash your hair. It makes it easier on everyone.
  • Gently push yourself and do your stretching exercises. I haven't been perfect about this, but I am doing them. I think it is what is helping me to improve.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


It means different things to different people. For years, it meant being able to express my feelings verbally, having equal rights as a woman, living in a culture of respect. These were beautiful rights I was grateful to have.

This year, it means something completely different. This year, it's something I seeking: freedom from cancer. Even if they got it all in surgery, I don't think I am ready to declare victory quite yet. I still seek more.

I want freedom from my drains. There is nothing more irritating than having tubes sewn into your body. I feel like I look like I'm smuggling grenades around under my shirt like a terrorist or like I'm pregnant. Neither is making me feeling too good these days. 

Freedom from the incessant "what ifs". I was always a relatively confidence person, never doubted my choices, never was afraid that things wouldn't work out, never pessimistic. The fear and the uncertainty is an unwelcome intruder. I need to find a way to get rid of that. I spend much quite time driving out defeatist thoughts, trying to remind myself that I am going to beat this, I am going to survive.

Freedom from my "new normal". I have heard do many survivors speak of this. It's not a place I like very much. I haven't made it my home yet. 

Freedom from my sleeping restrictions. Oh, how I long to sleep in my bed on my stomach, instead of in a recliner. Sometimes, it's the little things I miss the most.

Freedom to move how I want without pain. Freedom to fully use my arms again. Freedom to drive a vehicle. Freedom to carry my little boy. Freedom to lay down with him at bedtime to help him fall to sleep. Freedom from being the subject of people's sympathy.

When I earn my freedoms, they will be much sweeter because this time it is something I am fighting for myself.

I am grateful to live in America: the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is the promised land, the place where miracles happen, the home of the best doctors in the world. I wonder if I can get fireworks for my survivor party. Seems appropriate.