Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1604

Yesterday I slept all day.  Literally all day.  I got the kids up and off to school, then took a shower before work.  After my shower I was extremely nauseous and ended up calling in sick (after getting sick.... blah).  I promptly fell asleep on the couch.... and did not even move for five hours.  I woke up when Hubby came home from work, and he sent me to bed.  There I went back to sleep until 7pm when I finally emerged, feeling somewhat human. 

I don't know what made me sick, or why I was so tired.  All I knew is that I.WAS.EXHAUSTED.  I can't even explain how tired I was.... it was BEYOND tired.  I didn't have the energy to do one single thing. 

I seem to have this pattern of going, going, going until I hit a wall, and then sleep overtakes me.  But never like this.  Usually it's just an extra long nap, or going to bed one night at 8pm.  Sleeping all day?  That's a bit concerning to me.

That brings me to this post that I wrote almost two years ago..... it's sad that most of this is still happening.  The physical things haven't gotten much better, and some are worse.  I still feel the same as when I wrote this.  I'm tired of being tired.  I'm tired of worrying.  I'm tired of feeling like I can't get anything done.  I'm tired of feeling like the lousiest wife and mother on the planet.  I'm just freaking tired.  (And once again wide awake at almost 1am)

Kicking cancer's ass - day 883

Insomniac blogging....

So I'm wide awake at almost 1am.  This time it's not because I can't fall asleep.  It's because I DID fall asleep.  I had a headache and felt "off" this afternoon, so I slept like the dead for about three hours.  Rest I needed, sure, but waking up at 7pm means I'm still awake in the wee hours.

Hubby teased me about sleeping "all day", and even made the comment "who are you?" when he and K came home from basketball practice.  I know he was just giving me a hard time, but I also know there's a part of him that meant it.  He's probably so sick of my drama.  He has to be, because I'M so sick of it.  If I'm not at a doctor's appointment, I'm worrying about a symptom that's prompting me to make an appointment.  I'm not sleeping at night, I'm tired and napping during the day, I have no energy to do the stuff I used to do.  My back hurts, my knees crack, my left arm swells during the night.  I can't even joke "Not tonight, I have a headache" because most of the time I DO have a headache!  Who wants to live with that 24/7?

Honestly, he got the short end of the stick when he married me.  I've forced the "in sickness and in health" vow on him to the millionth degree.  So on top of all of the other post-cancer crap, I'm dealing with worry and guilt over not being the wife I want to be, and not being the mom I want to be for my kids.  It has been 883 days since my first chemo treatment.  That's a lot of freaking days.  I've been through a lot, no doubt about it, but I'm here, I'm alive and well and I'm blessed with family and friends.  So why is everything so incredibly hard???  Sometimes I feel like I was stronger, happier and more together in the middle of chemo than I am now.  I am a cancer survivor.  I tell myself I should be treasuring every day and just be happy I'm alive.

Yet I'm constantly overwhelmed.  My former perfectionist OCD multitasking expert self is nowhere to be found.  The shelves in my living room are still empty of our belongings two weeks after the carpet guy finished.  One of these days I would like to reclaim my laundry room, but I just can't seem to summon the energy to open the storage tubs full of knick knacks and photo albums.  More often than not we eat out because I either can't remember to plan ahead or can't find the energy to cook.  I stress over making healthy choices about eating because there are so many things I love that are bad for you.  I'd love to lose the thirty pounds I've gained, but it's hard to find motivation when fatigue is my constant companion and every joint in my body hurts.  I want to be the fun, spontaneous mom that makes childhood a magical time for her kids, and yet I'm just not her.  I want to be the sweet, caring woman that my husband fell in love with all those years ago.... not the tired, grumpy, complaining person I am now.  I haven't talked to my BFF in months.  Not because I don't want to, because I forget to call.  I want to do more.  I want to be more.

I found a great blog by Debbie Woodbury called "Running on Empty - Coping with Cancer Stress"
She describes everything I'm feeling so perfectly.  It's worth a read.

She says:

But the transition from patient to cancer survivor is not an easy one and the new normal brings its own cancer stress. Even for prisoners, the re-entry phase into normal society is usually gradual, but such is not the case for most cancer survivors. Family and friends want to return to normal life as soon as possible, and who can blame them? The cancer survivor wants that too, of course. But what we want is not always what we are capable of achieving, which causes even more cancer stress (and often, full-blown cancer anger.) After all we have been through, we are running on empty and only capable of so much.  

Who I am right now is unacceptable to me.  And yet.... what can I do?   I'm on antidepressants to help keep my mood even.  I'm taking supplements to help me stay healthy and to combat the side effects of the medicine I'm on.  I try to exercise at least 30 minutes a few times a week, which is the best I can do right now.

But it doesn't feel like my best is enough.  *I* don't feel like enough.
I feel like I'm letting my husband down.  I feel like I'm letting my kids down.  Even after 883 days, cancer is draining me.
I'm running on empty.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1596

Yesterday's blog post got me thinking about concerts.... both ones I've attended and just in general.  Concerts are a big business.  If you don't know that, have you tried to purchase a concert ticket lately?  You practically need a second mortgage to afford most of them.  It's an expensive hobby.... but one that's good for you.  Surprised?  Read on.

US News & World Report posted the following article describing the health benefits (yes, health) of attending concerts:

6 Reasons going to concerts is good for you  (including stress relief and exercise!)

There are three types of concert people in the world:

There are people who go to concerts because they like live music, or they are friends with or married to someone who likes live music.  They don't mind going, but they sit in their seat and maybe mouth a few lyrics while checking their watch every 10 minutes.  They don't take pictures or videos and they certainly do not stand for anything except to hit the concession stand.

There are some people who wouldn't be caught dead at a concert.  Being surrounded by thousands of screaming men and women with music blaring and lights flashing, and having to pay to experience that?  These people say HELL NO!  

Then there are people who can't get enough.  They are the ones who pay more than they should to get the best seats (or the best standing room!).  They are the ones who know the words to every song and sing loud and proud.  They are the ones who stand from the first note until the end of the encore.  

I most definitely fit into that third category.  I've been fortunate to be able to attend quite a few fantastic concerts lately, and more than a few in my lifetime.  There are still some artists on my bucket list that I have never had the chance to see (The Eagles, Keith Urban, Daughtry, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church.....), but from my very first concert as a young girl (Rick Springfield) to now, I've amassed quite a resume of concert attendances.  

I wonder how many I can remember.  (The ones in italics were opening acts)

Air Supply
Kelsea Ballerini
Beach Boys
Clint Black x2
Garth Brooks x3
Luke Bryan x2
Tracy Byrd x2
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Collective Soul
Sheryl Crow
Billy Ray Cyrus x too many to count
Dan & Shay
Jordan Davis
Def Leppard
Neil Diamond
Diamond Rio
Deryl Dodd
Melissa Etheredge
Florida Georgia Line
Vince Gill
Pat Green
Ty Herndon
Faith Hill x3
Alan Jackson x2
Chris Janson
Billy Joel
Lady Antebellum
Miranda Lambert
Cyndi Lauper
Tracy Lawrence
Little Big Town
Lonestar x2
Patty Loveless
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Tim McGraw x4
John Michael Montgomery x2
Montgomery Gentry
Justin Moore
Kip Moore x2
Lorrie Morgan
Brad Paisley
Jon Pardi
Kellie Pickler
Cassadee Pope
Collin Raye
REO Speedwagon
Darius Rucker
Sawyer Brown
Ed Sheeran
Rick Springfield
Chris Stapleton
Rod Stewart
George Straight
Taylor Swift x3
Pam Tillis
Shania Twain x2
Drake White
Trisha Yearwood x2
Brett Young
Chris Young

I'm sure there are more, but that's what I can come up with.  Quite the list, huh?  More concerts than years I've been alive... by a bunch.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1595

I've always been a music lover (even though I can't carry a tune in a bucket), and it seems the older I get, the more I love it.  One of my very favorite things to do is go to concerts.  Last year was an exceptional year for concerts for me.... take a look:

April 2017  Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood  (my third time seeing him... he just gets better with age!) - Lubbock, TX

May 2017  Tim McGraw & Faith Hill  (I've seen them before, too, but still fantastic!) - Tulsa, OK

August 2017  Brett Young, Kelsea Ballerini & Lady Antebellum - Dallas, TX

October 2017 Tim McGraw & Faith Hill (yes, again)  - Dallas, TX

November 2017  Kip Moore (I looked forward to this one all year!) - Fort Worth, TX

After reliving some of my favorite concert moments from last year, I'm excited for 2018.  We already have two concerts lined up.... Aaron Watson/Pat Green right here in Abilene (Aaron Watson is a local guy) at the end of this month, and Kip Moore at the San Antonio Rodeo in February.  I'm thankful that my daughter loves music and concerts as much as I do!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1586

I'm a day late (and more than a few dollars short... ha ha), but happy 2018!  

Want to know a secret?  Four years ago tonight, probably right about now, I let Hubby take my first ever nude photos (not counting the ones at the plastic surgeon's office, because those are clinical, not personal).  We had to be at the hospital bright and (super) early the next morning for my surgery.  It was surgery #2 in my cancer journey, and it was a biggie.  I would be under the knife for eight to ten hours and would wake up with parts of me gone.  

I've always had low self-esteem and I've never really enjoyed being naked.... so posing for a picture without clothes on, even with my husband, was supremely uncomfortable.  But it was something I had to do.  Cancer had already taken my hair months before during chemo, and on January 3, 2014 it was going to take my breasts.  I wanted a reminder.

Eff you, cancer.

In the four years since that day, I have regained some normalcy with the way I look.  My hair (thanks to my fabulous friend/hairdresser Tonya) looks like it used to.  I don't have that pale, sickly pallor that follows chemo patients around for weeks.  And I have (if I do say so myself) pretty amazing foobs (fake boobs) compliments of my extremely talented plastic surgeon.  They look normal when I'm wearing clothes, and they don't look too bad without clothes.  That's the plus side.

When a woman undergoes a bilateral mastectomy, there is a lot of damage done to her body.  A lot.  The surgeon removes all breast tissue (and cancer!) all the way back to the chest wall, sometimes skin, and lymph nodes.  In my case, being BRCA2+ and already having 2 nodes test positive for cancer, my doctor went all out.  She removed all of my lymph nodes on the cancer side, including the ones on my chest and all of the nodes located under my arm.  24 total.  The good news is.... with a surgery that extensive, a lot of nerves were severed, so I couldn't really feel much pain.  The bad news is.... I couldn't really feel much of anything.  I still can't.  Despite regaining some feeling in certain areas, and despite the fact that my foobs are warm and squishy, made from tissue from my own body, for the most part I have little to no sensation in the parts that count.  Aside from the fact that cancer is a disease that KILLS PEOPLE and it tried to kill me... this loss of sensation is one of the things that pisses me off the most.

I basically have no lady parts left.  My breasts are gone.  My ovaries are gone.  My uterus is gone.  I take an estrogen blocker, so my female hormones are gone.  Trying to look and feel good as a woman is a battle every single day.  

In order for me not to be a complete downer today, I'm going to take that sentence to heart.  I have a lot of scars, and I have a lot of stories.  Not all of them are fun, funny or pretty.  But what I'm going to post next is pretty entertaining.  It's my blog entry from after my surgery, when I had a lot of time to do nothing but make observations about things in the hospital.

Things I've learned in the hospital:
.. It's not as fun being in the hospital when you're not having a baby. The only other times I've had a hospital stay were when I had my kids. Getting to hold a cute little newborn makes up for feeling pain and discomfort!
.. I do not like peas. I definitely don't like peas in chicken noodle soup! The food here is decent, but really... who puts peas in chicken noodle soup?
.. I have got to get me some of these inflatable leg pump things. They would go a LONG way toward helping my restless legs syndrome!! I love them. Think anyone would notice if they disappeared into my suitcase?
.. I hate hospital gowns. I was a thousand times happier once I got cleaned up and into my own pjs.
.. Having a mastectomy makes you feel like you bench pressed 500 pounds. Not that I know what that feels like exactly, but i imagine it's a similar feeling.
.. My hubby is an excellent caretaker. He has been phenomenal... right there to help me up or hand me my chap stick or get me a drink. I bet he's probably almost as exhausted as I am. I love him.
.. Sonic sweet tea is YUM, especially when you're extremely thirsty.
.. Nurses are very concerned with their patient's bathroom production.
.. Oral pain meds are not nearly as effective as the morphine pump.
.. Something about surgery made my hands swell and I haven't been able to put my wedding rings back on. This bothers me.
.. I thought I would be sad when I saw my incisions for the first time. I wasn't. I think of them as battle scars, and wear them proudly since I am kicking cancer's ass!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1574

Friends are the siblings God never gave us. - Mencius

My mother grew up with brothers.  No sister.  I grew up with a brother.  No sister.  We have both been blessed to have friendships that feel like a sisterhood.  Last year my best friend of over 30 years had to say goodbye to her mom right after Christmas.   Today, right before Christmas,  my mom will say her final goodbye to her friend of over 40 years.

Last night I had dinner with a dear friend and we exchanged Christmas gifts (something we don't always do).  The gifts we gave each other were thoughtful and showed just how well we know each other.  It reminded me of my mom's friendship with Nancy.... the kind of evening they would spend together.

In this day and age of temporary and immediate gratification, and people relocating everywhere, how many friendships last almost half a century?  My mother still lives in the house I grew up in.  Up until she passed away, Nancy lived in the house she raised her children in -  a house right up the street from my mom.

Gail and Nancy shared a special bond, a bond that began as neighbors and strengthened into a close, loving, supportive friendship that stood the test of time.

I wish so much I could be there today..... to support my mother.  To honor Nancy.  To comfort her family.  Instead, all I can do is pray for them, send my love, and honor her here.

My mom sent this to me this week.... something she wrote and read to Nancy during one of her visits with her friend before she passed.  (Obviously I inherited my writing talent from her).  I asked if I could share it on here, because it's beautiful.  It's from the heart.  It's touching.  And it honors a friendship that lasted almost as long as I've been alive.

Beautiful Nancy…….my friend for 42 years…..instant connection, friendship, kindred spirits.

I always will be texting two cups of coffee with you on Saturday mornings – you in your kitchen, me in mine;

Always will be walking in town with you….sharing thoughts, dreams, feelings, loves ….. many people asking us over the years if we are sisters;

Always will be toasting each other with Champagne Truffles in front of the chocolatier on The Channel Gardens in Rockefeller Center…awed by The Tree;

Always will be sitting in the Garden Café with you…..talking about life and our precious children and grandchildren;

And, always will be sitting in the outdoor bar at the Lazy Swan…..laughing, drinking wine, drinking in the views of our majestic Catskill Mountains, singing along as Frankie plays “Summer Wind.”

I have not lived my adult life without you ….. but, I will find my way…..knowing that you are watching over me as you sit on the “God shelf” and your spirit is forever surrounding me.

Nancy sent me this quote on October 17, 2017 and it defines how she lived her life.….full of Grace:

"Grace is a power that comes in and transforms a moment to something better." -- Caroline Myss We are all better human beings because Nancy came into our lives.

I can no longer see you with my eyes but I will feel you in my heart forever.
I love you, Nancy

Nancy was a kind, gentle, incredibly beautiful woman inside and out.  The world is a better place for her having been in it.  My life is better for having grown up with her in it.  My mom's life has been enriched beyond measure by the kind of friendship most people never get to experience.  I'm grateful, and I'm so sad.

Rest in peace Nancy.  You were appreciated, you were loved, and you will be missed.