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!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1477

Do you want to know what's terrifying?

Waking up from a sound sleep for no reason.... then realizing that my heart is racing, my thoughts are scattered, I'm filled with fear.  Nightmare?  I wish that's all it was.

I have *that* feeling.

Every time this has happened to me..... always at night..... this feeling that something bad is going to happen?  It happens.


I'm not just talking about waking up with a cold, or having a bad hair day, or losing my car keys.  When I get this feeling, it's usually a life or death situation.   I don't know who, or what, or where, or even when..... but this feeling always leads to bad news coming my way.

Tomorrow my son is riding 4+ hours on the bus to a football game.
Tomorrow my daughter is riding 4 hours with a friend to the football game.
Tomorrow Hubby and I are driving 3 hours to Dallas, then another hour to the football game.

That's a lot of hours, and miles, for something bad to happen.

I had cancer.  My best friend has cancer.  
My mom had cancer.  One of her best friends has cancer.
My dad has a myriad of health problems stemming from a heart attack and stroke (and yes, I had "that feeling" right before that happened).

That's too many people in my little circle with serious, scary health issues. 

Tomorrow I'm having a chest CT scan.  The purpose is to see if they can discover a reason for my sudden onset of lymphedema.  As a cancer patient, having a feeling of foreboding the night before a CT scan is enough to send me into a panic attack.

It's 1:48am and all I can do is worry about tomorrow.  Will this be the time "that feeling" is wrong?  Or do I just have to wait until bad news hits me like a ton of bricks?

Do me a favor:  be extra careful.  Do it for me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1460

Four years ago today I had my first chemo infusion.

The red devil.  It made me sick.  It made me weak.  It took my taste buds, my energy and my hair.  It gave me migraines, constant nausea and mouth sores.  

It also killed my cancer.

When I was faced with the start of treatment, I couldn't even begin to envision my life four years down the road.  All I could think about was that I had cancer.  There was something in my body trying to kill me.  I was 40 years old with two young(ish) children..... I wasn't ready to face my own mortality.

I knew chemo would be no walk in the park, and it wasn't.  It sucked.  Big time.  And I didn't even have it that bad.  I was basically a 90 year old bald woman with morning sickness..... that's what I felt like.  Everything hurt, I was too tired to do much of anything, and I only had a handful of things I could eat or drink.  I drank slushes from Sonic during chemo to try to prevent mouth sores.  The Benadryl they gave me in my pre-meds gave me restless legs so I would have to pace the infusion room with my IV pole.  I tried using cold caps to save my hair (God bless Hubby for going along with me on that).... they didn't work.

The only thing worse than being a cancer patient is being a cancer patient and looking like a cancer patient.  I had a wig (that I hated), but no amount of fake hair or makeup can hide the devastation chemo does to your body.  Think about it..... this toxic substance is injected into your bloodstream to kill cancer cells, but there is no way to only target the bad cells.  So your whole body suffers.  Your hair, your skin, your fingernails, your teeth, your eyesight, your appetite....everything is affected, and not in a good way.

Looking back to four years ago, I was smart to dread chemo.  I was right in thinking it would be worse than awful, because it was.  I've had seven surgeries and thirty-three radiation treatments, but none of that even came close to the awfulness of those eight chemo treatments.

I'm not writing this to scare anyone.  If you have cancer, and you need chemo, DO IT.  It's not fun, but you can get through it.  I did.  There are tips and tricks, things you can eat, drink, take or do to make it bearable.  You won't enjoy any part of it, but you'll survive it.... and hopefully your cancer won't.

Today I had an appointment with my surgical oncologist.  Other than my sudden onset of lymphedema, I got the "everything looks good, come back in six months".

After four years of doctor visits, scans, blood draws, surgeries, infusions, radiation and physical therapy, a six month checkup is just a blip on my radar.

I'm beyond grateful for what's in my rearview mirror.... and blessed beyond measure to have my Hubby, my kids, my family, and wonderful friends in my corner.

I can't think of a better way to snub my nose at cancer than to turn a checkup into a fun girls day road trip.  Wonderful company, good tunes, lots of laughs and even chocolate cake..... 1460 days and still kicking ass!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1454

Two months ago I developed lymphedema in my left arm and hand.  It was instant.... one minute I was fine, the next my hand blew up.  The risk was always there.... having more than twenty lymph nodes removed meant my chances of getting it were pretty high.  It could have happened right after surgery, or a month after surgery, or now, four years later.  Or it could have never happened.  If I had a choice I'd pick never.

I've seen a lymphedema specialist who showed me how to wrap my arm for maximum compression, and I've spent almost a thousand dollars (after insurance!) on a pump that is supposed to help move the built up fluid away from my arm and throughout the rest of my body.

It's quite the contraption, and I have to wear it for an hour every night.
So after almost four weeks of Flexitouch treatment....

And an even longer time wrapping my arm before bed every night....

This is what my left arm/hand looks like (and this is with wearing my sleeve and glove all day):

Discouraging to say the least.  Obviously it's getting worse despite the my efforts to contain it.  
What can I do?  I can wear the bandaging 23 hours a day..... which is not only uncomfortable and hot but makes it virtually impossible to do simple things like work on my computer (I'm pecking at the keyboard like Hubby usually does) or even wash dishes.  Or I can look into purchasing a custom sleeve and glove, which will hopefully work better by fitting better.  That will cost hundreds of dollars.

It's depressing that those are my best options for treating a condition I will most likely have the rest of my life.  

I have my six month check up in Dallas Tuesday with Dr L (my breast surgeon) and I hope she has some other ideas that could help.

Lymphedema is more than annoying..... it's ugly and uncomfortable and painful.  And expensive. 

Stupid cancer.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1438

It's National Lighthouse Day!

It was on this day in 1789, that Congress approved an Act for the establishment and support of lighthouse, beacons, buoys and public piers. In Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Act and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse, Congress passed a resolution which designated August 7, 1989 as National Lighthouse Day.

If you know me at all, you know that I have a deep love for lighthouses.  It began a long, long time ago when my family would vacation in Maine every summer.  We would stay at the same beach house and I'd sleep in the same bed, putting my pillow at the other end of the bed so I could see the lighthouse blinking in the distance.  That was the Wood Island light.

Even though I've never lived on the coast, I've been fortunate to visit many beautiful lighthouses.  Watch Hill Light (RI), Cape May (NJ), Fenwick Island (MD), Cape Henry (VA), Sullivan's Island (SC), Morris Island (SC), Hunting Island (SC), Harbour Town (SC), Tybee Island (GA), St Augustine (FL), and Jupiter Inlet (FL) and some others I've probably forgotten.

One of the most amazing places I've ever been is the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  The sand, the sea, the small towns, and the lighthouses!!  Currituck Beach, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, Okracoke, and Cape Lookout are some of the most majestic and scenic lighthouses you'll find.  I could retire a very happy woman if I could wake up every day to a view of any of those.

Even my small hometown of Saugerties, NY in the Hudson Valley has a lighthouse, and you can even stay there (it's a B&B)! 

I know that technology has diminished the usefulness of lighthouses for navigation purposes, but these beacons are a beautiful and unforgettable part of history.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1437

August is a strange month for me.  If you've read any part of my blog over the last four years, you know that August 1st was d-day for me.  That right there should put this month in the crapper for the rest of my life.  Three years ago my dad was fighting for his life after a heart attack and massive stroke.  Seven years ago my sweet mother-in-law was days away from taking her last breath.

You'd think when I flip my calendar to August, I'd make sure I had an adult beverage in my hand.  But.... whenever I need inspiration for something to write about, I go back and read my blog posts from this day in years past.  And tonight, reading the post from 8/6/14 hit me almost like a blow, but not in a bad way.  More like in a reality check way.

Three years ago I wrote:

Last night I went to bed in tears, afraid I was seeing the last of my dad. Tonight I am going to bed with a thankful heart... for God giving my dad some peace and rest, for the nurses who are taking amazing care of him, for Marion who is most definitely standing by her man, for my mom and my brother who are with me as we watch over my dad and hope for the best, for my BFF who I saw today for the first time in a year, and for my Hubby who is giving me whatever I need.
Blessed, even in troubled times.

Blessed, even in troubled times.  When did I get so wise?  Even when life f**ks you over, God is always good.  
Most of my life I have been accused of being a dreamer and living with my head in the clouds (or in a book, take your pick).  After all of the things I've been through in my adult life, I call it something else:  finding the silver lining no matter how bleak things look.

August of 2010 was incredibly sad.  August of 2013 was the absolute worst time of my life.  August 2014 was the scariest time of my life.  But you know what?  There's always a silver lining.  

August 1, 2015 was a lovely, wonderful, romantic day.  My mom and her longtime love were married in a simple outdoor ceremony at one of her favorite places.  She and her hubby celebrate birthdays in August.  My BFF's birthday is August 10th.  My big brother's birthday is August 23.  BFF's daughter's birthday is August 28th.  My beautiful amazing daughter was conceived in August.  I have plenty of reasons to make this a month worth celebrating.

Before I know it, summer will turn to fall and life will go crazy.  Between work and school, band and football games and the ever-present softball, we rarely have a free minute.  So for now, I'm going to enjoy these last two weeks of summer vacation with my kids.  I'm going to soak up some sunshine, sleep late when I can, and try to talk my daughter out of making yet another container of slime.

Dog days of summer..... let's make the most of them.