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!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 124

As if I don't have enough going on (you know, the whole cancer thing), our post-Christmas fun has increased by needing over $200 in repairs to our dryer.  On top of that, our vacuum cleaner pooped out in the midst of cleaning up all of the Christmas tree needles.   Granted there were a lot of them, but hey, it was a big tree! (Thankfully Hubby gave in to my OCD nature and borrowed his dad's vacuum to finish the needle pick-up - it was either that or go shopping right then!)

The dryer deal is almost acceptable.... we've had it for over ten years and haven't had any problems with it before now.  The vacuum thing is aggravating.  I'm hell on vacuums for some reason.  It's not like I go nuts cleaning my house.  Despite my "clean freak" nature, I don't go around using my vacuum for the heck of it.  I don't think I misuse it, so either I just have bad luck or I tend to buy lemons when it comes to vacuums.

Now I'm on the hunt for a new vacuum that will withstand the wrath of Michelle for more than a year or two.  And we probably need to call the dryer repair guy because we haven't heard from him in a week.....

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 123

Last night K's BFF (also "K") came over and one of their usual activities is putting on a concert for us. Hubby and I end up sitting in K's room (in the dark) while one or both of them sings Taylor Swift songs to us.  They stand on a stool in the blue glow of the karaoke machine with the fan pointed towards them (to blow their hair) and belt out the songs even if they don't know all the words.  They even give us written invitations.

One of the songs (my) K sang to us was called "Change".  Maybe it's because I had just written my blog post for yesterday where I talked about being in denial about surgery, but some of the lyrics really struck a chord with me.  I know this song has nothing whatsoever to do with cancer, but my life IS changing and I want to win.  So in the words of Taylor Swift...

Tonight we'll stand, get off our knees
Fight for what we worked for all these years
And the battle was long, it's the fight of our lives
And we'll stand as champions tonight

It was the night things changed, can you see it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back fell down
It's a revolution, throw your hands up, 'cause we never gave in

We'll sing hallelujah!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 122

One of the "gifts" chemo has given me (aside from kicking cancer's ass - thank you chemo) is increasing my restless legs syndrome.  It was really bad during Taxol and continues to hang around.  I tried one prescription and it only helped a little, so at my appointment Thursday my oncologist gave me another medicine to try.  The good news is I haven't had restless legs since then.  The bad news is that I've had trouble sleeping, more hot flashes (these are compliments of "chemopause") and a bad headache every night.  So which is the lesser of two evils???  I'm hoping it will just take my body a little while to adjust to the medicine and after that I won't have these problems.  Only time will tell.

Today I went shopping.  Because my surgery will make it difficult, if not impossible, to lift my arms over my head, I bought a few pairs of pajamas with button-down tops.  I also have several shirts/sweatshirts that have buttons or zippers, so I shouldn't have to pull a shirt over my head for a week or so.  Not exactly my idea of fun retail therapy, but it's necessary.

It's hard to believe that this time next week I will be in the hospital and my surgery will be finished.  To say I am not looking forward to it would be an understatement.  I'm pretty much in denial that it's actually going to happen.  I'm doing what I can to prepare for it while at the same time not think about it very much at all.  Hubby showed me a picture today of a lady wearing a shirt that said, "Of course they are fake.  My real ones tried to kill me!"  I really need to adopt that mentality.  I know this surgery is necessary to save my life, and my life is more important than any one part (or two) of my body.  I just really, really wish I didn't have to go through it.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 121

It seems like the hustle and bustle of the holidays is finally settling down.  The gifts are slowly making their way out from under the tree.  My Christmas decorations are being packed away one by one into the bins where they will wait to come out again next year.  I replaced the holiday tablecloth with my usual everyday tablecloth, and put away the Santa place mats.  Normally I keep my house "Christmasy" until after New Year's Day.  This year Hubby and I will be headed to Dallas on January 1st for my surgery so I think I'm just more ready to have things around here back to normal.  Before I completely say goodbye to Christmas, though, here are a few pictures from this past week (including our annual trip to see the lights at the state school, Heart's last night of mischief and Uncle D's visit):


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 120

This is how I feel tonight.  Actually this is pretty much how I feel every night!  I was so glad to go to bed last night and not have to think about wrapping any presents or coming up with any clever ideas for our elf or worrying about how I'm going to find the energy to make the perfect holiday meal.  I love Christmas, but not running on all cylinders thanks to chemo made it difficult to get everything done this year.

Today is three weeks post-chemo and I'm feeling sort of decent.  I'm still really, really tired.  I'm sick of having watery eyes, a runny nose and a bald head.  The amount of pills I need to take on a daily basis has gotten a lot smaller, though, and for the most part my taste buds are back to normal.  I fear I may have lost my taste for Diet Coke forever, though.  I wouldn't say I'm ready to go out & run a marathon (or even a mile!), but I don't feel the need to be glued to my couch 24/7 either.  I even vacuumed out my car today!   Kind of ironic that I'm slowly starting to get my energy back right before I have major surgery, but that's the way it goes.
I had a visit with my oncologist today.  He gave us a "Wow!" when he read the MRI report from Dallas last week.  Wow indeed.  It was a pretty uneventful appointment, and other than trying a new prescription for my restless legs syndrome, nothing has changed.  I will go back & see him in four weeks and he (along with my surgeon) will hopefully have a decision on whether or not I'll need radiation.  

I can finally say I am appointment-free for the rest of 2013  :-)    

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 119

Here are my two sweeties in a "before" picture:

And then here is the (almost) "after":

Everyone made out like bandits.  Santa was very good to us this year.  We had good company (including my big bro and Hubby's dad), good food if I do say so myself (ham, potatoes, veggies, rolls, cookies, brownies) and a good family movie tonight (Despicable Me 2).  

We are all exhausted, but it's a cup runneth over kind of exhausted.  Merry Christmas from my family to yours.  I wish for everyone to have faith, hope and especially love.  And for me to have good health in the new year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 118

Merry Christmas Eve.  
We celebrate "Little Christmas" so the kids were up early to open their stockings before Hubby went off to work.  After the festivities and breakfast, I baked - chocolate chip cookies, banana bread & brownies, cooked - lasagna, and did a load of laundry, all before 9:30am.   We ventured out to the mall for lunch and some last minute shopping - mission accomplished!

This afternoon we attended Christmas Eve service at church and then went to the cemetery to visit Hubby's mom whose birthday is today.  Now we're all settled back in for the evening, ready to delve into the lasagna and sample some desserts.  

I'm very thankful that I've been able to do as much as I have and enjoy this Christmas, considering what the last five months have been like for me.  My side effects from chemo still linger and sometimes the fatigue is overwhelming, but I am full of the holiday spirit and I can't wait to celebrate Christmas day with my family tomorrow.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 117

Apparently I jumped the gun on my post yesterday.  K and I hit the stores yesterday and last night and I. AM. DONE.  I only have two more gifts to wrap and then I am completely prepared for Christmas.  And all that talk about not knowing what to get Hubby?  I'm thrilled with what he is getting.  Seems once I set my mind on something, I'm still able to get it done.  Good to know.

Tonight my brother (a.k.a. Uncle D) is flying in from Vegas to spend Christmas with us.  He has never been here for Christmas, so it's more than a little exciting, especially for the kids.  Unfortunately his flight leaving Vegas was delayed so he's most likely going to miss his connection.  He has the worst luck with the airlines, no matter where he's going!  Hopefully we'll see him sometime this evening!

I am over two weeks PFC (post-final chemo) and feel like I just finished yesterday.  My eyes water continuously, my nose is running like crazy, I have restless legs every single night, and the fatigue is still overwhelming.  I realize it's going to take time, but I thought I would begin to recoup my normal "Michelle-ness" little by little..... at this point any improvement is microscopic.   I'm having surgery next week and I'm supposed to be working on getting stronger before then.  Fat chance.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to us - our dryer broke.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 116

Christmas is in three days and I haven't finished my shopping yet.  That has to be a record for me.  I'm blaming it on chemo, because normally my OCD self is prepared well ahead of time.  So the bad news is I have to venture out into the stores today and/or tomorrow in order to finish my shopping.  The good news is, Hubby is the only one I have yet to buy for.  If only I had a clue what to actually buy for him - that would make my last-minute shopping a whole lot easier!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 115

So tired.

Between chemo fatigue and being anemic, when the doctor told me I might be able to do about 10% of what I normally do, I guess I should've believed him.  I. Am. Exhausted.

I didn't do anything more than anyone else would be doing during this time of year...shopping, wrapping, cleaning, baking, etc.  We were hosting Christmas for Hubby's side of the family tonight so I did a little cleaning (bathrooms, floors, vacuum, etc) and just did some general preparations around the house.  I made brownies (from scratch and the young Burleson men - including my son - absolutely LOVE these brownies), as well as a baked potato casserole.  Luckily I didn't have to cook the whole meal because I put Hubby in charge and he picked up BBQ.  I tried to do some Christmas shopping with K earlier in the day but went to three stores and had no luck.  I managed to wrap some of the gifts Hubby bought and then I was done.  After the clean-up was finished, so was my energy.  I crashed on the couch around 9pm.  I'd be in bed right now if my restless legs syndrome hadn't kicked in.  

I guess the lesson I need to learn is that just because I'm finished with chemo, chemo is not finished with me. It continues to sap my strength and energy and shows me that my stamina is nonexistent.  My surgery is scheduled for next Friday (January 3rd) and I know I will be weaker than a newborn kitten after that.  At least I will have a few weeks to do nothing but rest, as that's all I'll be allowed to do.  

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can get the best of any of us.  Thanks to chemo, it may take me longer and I may huff & puff my way through, but I'm getting my stuff done and we will have our usual merry little Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 114

When packing for my overnight trip with Hubby the other day, I realized something.  I used to have to pack a ton of hair products, because, well, I had a ton of hair!  Shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, gel, hairspray, comb, brush, hair dryer, flat iron.... you name it, I used it.  Now it's really easy to pack for the hair portion of my morning routine, because I don't have any hair.  Wig?  Check.  Comb?  Check.  Wig stand?  Check.  Done!

The ironic thing is, I used to wear very little make up.  Some mascara & lipstick, powder to cover the blemishes, blush in the winter.... I called it good.  But when you start wearing hats and scarves and hair that doesn't really look like yours, there is more emphasis on your face.  At least it seems that way.  Then when you lose your eyelashes and most of your eyebrows, you have to put in a lot of effort to look even remotely like yourself.  Instead of a variety of hair products, I now have a variety of cosmetics that I've never had to use before.  

To be honest, I'm a bigger fan of hair than I am of make up.  Ugh.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 113

Christmas came a little early for me this year.

Today Hubby and I were in Dallas for six different appointments.  I had a breast MRI, a mammogram and an ultrasound - all to see how well the chemo worked.  I also met with my surgeon (Dr L), my plastic surgeon (Dr T) and my gynecological oncologist (Dr K).

I was feeling a lot of anxiety on the way to today's appointments.  I'm usually calm and very easygoing with doctor visits and tests, and I feel very comfortable with all of these doctors, so I'm not really sure why it affected me so much today.  I guess it was just the unknown - how well did the chemo work?

My first appointment was the MRI.  This only takes about 15 minutes, so by MRI standards it's not bad at all.  Getting stuck for the IV is the worst part.  From there I went to the mammogram.  I've had a handful of mammograms in the last few years and I have to say this one was the most uncomfortable.  Let's just say the girl who did it was very thorough and very determined to get everything in the picture.  Ouch!  Last but not least I went to get an ultrasound of my cancer side.  I had the same doctor who did my lymph node biopsy back in August.  He's young and smart and very, very nice (and his name is Dr. Mann....for some reason that strikes me as funny).  I was happy to see him, and he made me even happier when he said, "I guess I'm supposed to be doing an ultrasound on you, but after seeing your MRI, I'm not really sure what I'm looking for."  He went on to explain that my mammogram from last year didn't really show the cancer very well.  The MRI and ultrasound back in August showed a large mass and the biopsy on my lymph node was positive for a grade 3 (very aggressive) breast cancer.  All bad news.  Today was nothing but good news.  During the MRI, they injected a contrast in my IV to better show any abnormalities.  Dr. Mann said that today's MRI showed no unusual contrast uptake.  In layman's terms, that means it didn't show any active cancer cells in my breast or lymph nodes.  Hallelujah!

The first thing my surgeon said to me when she walked in the room was,
 "Well your images from today look great.  Pretty miraculous, even."
 How's that for a body's response to chemo!  She was very pleased and reiterated what Dr. Mann said.  The tumor can no longer be seen on MRI and the lymph nodes appear normal.  What still shows on ultrasound (located only by the titanium clips they put in during my biopsies) and what can still be felt is most likely scar tissue or dead cancer cells.

Now, to keep it all in check, we won't know anything for sure until I have surgery and they perform the pathology on my breast tissue.  This is all just what the imaging showed today.  Could there still be cancer in there?  Yes.  Is there a LOT less cancer in there than there was four months ago?  Hell yes!  Basically the chemo did what it was designed to do - attack the aggressive cancer cells and not only stop their growth, but make them disappear.  I won't be able to say I am cancer-free until I have surgery and Dr L assures me she was able to remove it all.  Until then, I will rejoice in the fact that prayers have been answered and the last four months of chemo hell have been worth it.

My other two appointments were rather uneventful.  No other exams, no pictures taken (thank you God), no new tests ordered... Dr T, who will be my plastic surgeon for reconstruction, did advise me that it would be helpful if I could gain ten pounds so he would have more tissue to work with.  Seriously?  A doctor is telling me to gain weight right before Christmas and right before I'm laid up for a few weeks after major surgery?  I don't think that will be a problem.  On the other hand, Dr K gave me the standard warning of my susceptibility to osteoporosis since I'm only 40 and in chemo-induced menopause.  She advised me to increase my calcium & vitamin D intake, as well as exercise and do strength training.  I didn't have the heart to tell her Dr T wants me to gain weight.

I have the best, most faithful prayer warriors in the world.  Thank you all for supporting me and my family, loving us and praying for me.  I credit today's news to you, and to God.  You asked, and He listened.  I still have no hair or eyebrows or eyelashes or energy, but I also have no discernible tumor on my scans.  That is the best Christmas present I could have asked for.

Oh, and prayer warriors, while you're at it?  My BFF had a PET scan today (no, we didn't plan it that way) so please pray for NED (no evidence of disease) for her.  She survived the same breast cancer diagnosis as mine.

Kicking cancer's ass - day 112

I missed a post yesterday because Hubby and I were traveling.  We had an overnight stay at the casino (he won a little, I lost a lot) and then I had a bunch of appointments today in Dallas.  I want to do that post on the appropriate day, so for now, this is what Heart (our elf) was up to while we were in Dallas and the kids were staying with their aunt & uncle:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 111

This is who I got to spend my day with today:

He's my (great) nephew and we had a fantastic day together.  He's usually pretty expressionless, but today we snuggled and smiled and even laughed some.  He's just learning to crawl and is pretty impressed with himself, although so far he's only managed to go backwards.  He likes Christmas music and shopping at Target (who doesn't?), but hates the car wash.  I loved every minute with him, but taking care of a baby for 11 hours makes me feel every one of my chemo treatments.  I am (happily) exhausted!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 110

This was me last night, only it was even worse because I didn't even realize I forgot.  Hubby to the rescue!  He remembered before getting in bed and took over elf duty last night.  (You would think having a reminder on my phone at 9:45pm would help me remember, but apparently chemo brain is stronger than technology).
Sometimes it would be really nice if these elves and tooth fairies and Santas actually showed up and did their own work!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 109

For the first time in my life, I'm scared of dying.  I've never said that before.  I suppose having cancer will do that to a person.

There are basically two types of cancer scenarios.  There's the one where the person beats the crap out of cancer, doesn't look back and lives to be a hundred.  The other one is where the person beats the crap out of cancer, only to have cancer come back for a rematch, often again and again.

I'm sure every single person who's ever had any type of cancer must have the niggling thought in the back of their mind that it could come back.  They may not dwell on it, but whether they think about it every day or once every ten years, the possibility of a recurrence is enough to scare anyone.  I'm a worrier, so I know I will spend forever looking in my rearview mirror, wondering once I kick cancer's ass if my fight will truly be over.  This has not been fun so far and I don't ever want to have to go through it again.

When I started this journey, my goal was to try to stay positive and live my life as normally as I could.  Obviously once all of my treatments and surgeries are finished I will just have to find a new normal.  Since I am BRCA+ (that means I carry the gene mutation for breast cancer), I will be closely screened for the rest of my life for a recurrence, as well as for other cancers that I am at a higher risk for developing.  It looks like I will have a future full of appointments and scans in order to keep me cancer-free, but the key word is future.  I love my life and I love my family, so I will endure whatever I have to, now and in the years to come, so that I can have that future.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 108

Random Saturday musings...

  • I've spent a lot of time with Hubby since d-day, and while I don't love the reason, I love every extra minute I get to be with him.  It makes it so much more difficult when we're not together, though.  He was out of town today (Saturday) for a very good reason, but I still missed him.  Cancer makes me a little (more) needy. 
  • A BFF always knows just when to call.  
  • When a prescription is supposed to be taken every day, that means every day.  Oops.
  • One of my pet peeves (and there are many) is when I text someone who is normally glued to their phone and they don't text me back.  Texting needs a little "nudge" button like Words with Friends has.
  • I have only purchased one Christmas gift for Hubby.  How can I not know what to buy for the man I've pledged my eternal love to?
  • I hate not having eyebrows and eyelashes almost as much as I hate not having hair.  I look in the mirror and I see a stranger.
  • Sitting on my couch looking at my Christmas tree is one of the most comforting things in my world.
  • I have really good people in my life who are willing to spend lots and lots of time with my kids.  I'm so grateful.
  • I spent two hours freezing my butt off at the Open House for the model railroad club J belongs to.  One of the members looked at me, nodded at J and told me I must have the patience of a saint.  I don't think he was talking bad about my boy - I think even he noticed we'd been there a long time.
  • There isn't anything much better than chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.
  • Hubby has a bad back and needs surgery.  I hate (with a passion) that his healing has to be put on hold for my healing.
  • If you ask me to do something, make sure I put it in my phone calendar.  I used to have a mind like a steel trap, but chemo stole that from me. 
  • My mother is getting tons of snow tonight in upstate NY, and while I love my family and my life here with them, I would love to be snowed in with her in her cozy house tonight.  That's what Christmas is all about!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 107

Ok, admit it, you laughed.
The holidays are always so busy and stressful for everyone, but I really had no idea how exhausting getting ready for Christmas could be.  I usually give it 110%, but honestly the last 4+ months have really taken a toll on me.  I'm happy to have something other than my health to concentrate on and Christmas is my absolute most favorite time of year.  I'm not running on even close to all cylinders physically or mentally though (no matter how much I pretend), so trying to stay on top of my game and give my family the Christmas they're used to is a challenge.

Like a lot of other moms and dads, I've attended school Christmas programs, made our house cozy and festive with decorations and a Christmas tree (and lights outside thanks to Hubby and J), sent out (50!) Christmas cards and spent a lot of time trying to come up with just the right Christmas gifts for the people on my list (thank you online shopping).  But unlike most moms and dads, I've had to do it all while struggling through the cumulative effects of eight chemo treatments and also preparing for major surgery.  I think I win this round - cancer can kiss my ass!  

While I'm busy high-fiving myself over here, I know there are many, many people out there who are worse off than me so I continue to count my blessings.  My house is filled with the magic of Christmas (including a crazy elf on a shelf), I love and am loved, and I'm on my way to winning my fight.  Life is beautiful.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 106

Yesterday was my son's 6th grade band concert.  I don't know if it's the post-chemo blues or what, but I found myself tearing up several times.  I never knew I could get emotional listening to middle school kids play Christmas songs, but they sounded so great and I was so proud of J and his bandmates.  Each instrument section played a song separately and the band all together played "Jingle Bells" and "Up on the Housetop".  It was very impressive, considering the whole band had only had one practice together.

Here is a video of the last song they played (Up on the Housetop).  My guy is the one in the dark blue sweater.

In the spirit of Christmas programs, today was K's 2nd grade program.  The theme was "It's a Bugz Christmas".  Not sure where that came from, but I have to admit it was very cute.  The only Christmas-y song I sort of recognized was this version of The Twelve Days of Christmas:

As I said, it was all about bugs.  :-)
I'm thankful to be finished with chemo and to finally be on the upswing from the worst of the side effects from this last round.  I'm still taking lots of medicine and resting a ton - most of my Christmas shopping is being done online this year.  Oh well, there's always next year to go all out - after kicking cancer's ass I'll be ready to tackle the holidays head on in 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 105

After yesterday's depressing post, how about something to warm your heart?

This man photographed himself all over the world wearing a pink tutu in support of his wife after her diagnosis, as well as to raise awareness for breast cancer.  Pinktober's got nothing on this guy!!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 104

Breast cancer is such a lonely journey.

I know that's a crazy thing to say when I'm surrounded by people who love and support me and I'm almost never alone.  But all the hugs and cards and prayers in the world don't erase the fact that this is happening to me.  Since finishing chemo last week you'd think I'd be on top of the world.  Instead I seem to have hit some kind of wall where I'm physically exhausted and emotionally wrung out.

I'm finding it more and more difficult to keep my happy face on.  I know people don't expect me to be positive and upbeat all of the time, but the one thing I don't want to be is a "woe is me" cancer patient.  I have cancer and it sucks, but life goes on.  I think a healthy attitude plays a big part in being healthy, so I try to take each day as it comes and live life the best I can.  People are used to seeing me with a smile on my face, and I'm used to seeing myself with a smile on my face.

I know the chemo effects are cumulative - I've been through the ringer and I'm definitely feeling it.  Even though I tolerated the treatments very well, putting my body through eight rounds of chemo has taken its toll.  I think there must be some sort of chemo "crash", too, because I haven't been this emotional since the days after I was first diagnosed.

I hate being weak.  I hate being tired.  I hate being in pain.  I hate being afraid.  I hate being sad.

I hate cancer.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 103

And so it begins....

I wasn't sure what not getting my Neulasta shot on Friday would do to my side effects this time, but the answer is...nothing.  Usually the pain hits me by mid-Saturday.  It waited a little longer, but by Saturday night it was working its way up from my sore/numb toes through my knees to my aching hips.  It feels like arthritis and pulled muscles and shooting random pains all combined throughout my body.  One minute the top of my head hurts, the next it's my shoulder, and then it can be anything from my shin to my back.

I don't look forward to the flu-like aches I'll get from the shot later today or tomorrow.... just keeping on top of the pain this weekend was enough.  It's exhausting and I'd get winded just walking from one end of the house to the other.

No matter how awful I feel, though, I'm comforted by the fact that this is my last trip around this particular dance floor.  I just keep repeating "this is the last one... this is the last one..."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 102

I'm an old-fashioned girl, and there is no better time to celebrate old-fashioned traditions than Christmas.

As I posted the other day, we have started a new tradition in our family by welcoming our "Elf on a Shelf" named Heart.  She shows up in a different spot each night after reporting back to Santa on whether we have all been naughty or nice.  She wanted to be a part of K's nativity today.

One tradition that has been in my family for years is celebrating "Little Christmas".  Little Christmas Eve is the night before Christmas Eve and the idea comes from the festivities from many Scandinavian countries who do the majority of decorating and celebrating for Christmas on December 24th - "Little Christmas".  In our house, Santa's elves fill the stockings on Little Christmas Eve as sort of an appetizer for Christmas.  We were always the envy of the neighborhood growing up because we received some special little gifts a day earlier than everyone else.  Hubby doesn't understand it, but he goes along with my desire to keep this tradition going.

Another Christmas custom in my family is to have a real tree.  I am forty years old and have never had an artificial tree.  Obviously a real tree is more expensive, a lot messier (those needles get EVERYWHERE), and a nightmare for my son who is allergic to everything.  But a fake tree is just... well... fake.  Christmas for me begins with picking out just the right tree that will fill the house with that wonderful evergreen scent.  We learned the hard way that the tree farms here in Texas do not have the Christmas trees that I'm used to. Instead, our hunt for the perfect tree takes us to Walmart or Garden World.  Not exactly the "trudging through the snow, cutting down the best tree ever and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies with friends" tradition I had growing up, but in the end, a beautiful live tree is all I really want.

So what brought on all this talk about tradition?  Like I said, I'm an old-fashioned girl, and one of the things I enjoy doing the old-fashioned way is writing out Christmas cards, which is what I spent my weekend doing.  I know most people don't even do Christmas cards anymore, and if they do, they often take a family photo or photos and create a card to send out.  There is nothing wrong with that and I enjoy seeing the pictures of my family and friends from the past year.  I like the ritual, though, of actually writing out the cards.  There is something comforting to me about sitting with a cup of tea, a selection of holiday cards and my address book (a.k.a. my phone).  I hand write the addresses and sign our names in each card.  This year, as I've often done in the past, I've written a Christmas letter summarizing our family's year and I printed a family photo on it.  (If you're reading this and you're a recipient of my Christmas letter, I am well aware that I spelled December wrong.  I blame it on chemo brain, so don't make fun of me.)

I guess tomorrow I will do my part to help keep the US Postal Service in business and go buy stamps for all of these cards.  I may need a loan.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 101

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

While the kids and I were busy working our decorating magic, Hubby had the audacity to ask me "Is it possible for a tree to be over-decorated?".
Ummm....I'm not sure whose house he's been living in for the last thirteen years, but in my world, there is no "over" anything when it comes to Christmas.  I love everything sparkly and shiny and colorful.  And lots of it!
Thankfully he loves me and humors me when it comes to this sort of thing.  If it was up to him, he'd put out a two foot tall metallic artificial tree the day before Christmas and call it good.  Luckily I have enough holiday spirit for both of us.  :-)

On the cancer front, since we are in the middle of a deep freeze (seriously, it's about 15 degrees outside and everything is covered in ice), the cancer center was closed yesterday.  That means I was unable to get my Neulasta shot.  That is both good and bad.  It's good because the Neulasta shot gives me pain all over.  For days.  So no shot means no pain so far.  It's bad because without the Neulasta shot, my white blood cells don't get a boost so I can fight off infections.  It's also bad because I still have to get the shot - on Monday - which means by Tuesday I'll probably be hurting from head to toe.
However, today I did a little bit of "decking the halls", a little bit of Christmas shopping (online) and we even braved the ice in Hubby's 4wd truck to have a meal out.  E
ach day I feel decent is a victory, and I'll take that.

Friday, December 6, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 100

Day 100.

I can promise you there has been nothing enjoyable about 100 days of chemo.... feeling sick, being beyond exhausted all the time, losing your hair/eyebrows/eyelashes, losing weight, gaining weight, worrying about germs, putting toxic drugs in your body.... but I have made it through to the other side thanks to more than a little help from the people around me.  The love from my family and friends has allowed me to stay strong and keep my life as normal as it can be.  Today is my first day after chemo.  Thank God.  And thanks have to go out to a few other people, too:

First and foremost, I have to thank Hubby.  He has been there for me EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  He refuses to allow me to face any part of this journey on my own (well, except for my $9,000 Neulasta shot every two weeks, but I think that's because he's afraid of needles!).  He listens to my endless dialogue about my "breast cancer friends" that I've never even met.  He goes to every appointment with me, no matter how insignificant it is.  He tolerates my obsessive need to research things to death, and supports me in my decisions no matter what.  I never wanted to visit the "in sickness" part of our marriage vows, but we have and let me tell you, this man takes a vow seriously!

To my friends who continue to bless me with gifts, cards, gift cards (ha ha), flowers, meals, etc... your support is unwavering and I'm a lucky woman to have you all in my life.  You always seem to know when I need something, whether it's a few hours without kids or a special present or a girls' lunch out.  I still have a long way to go, so I hope you haven't used up all of your encouragement resources.  :-)

I've also been blessed with absolutely wonderful chemo nurses.  I don't want to think of anyone else I know having to go through this, but if you do, the ladies at Texas Oncology are fantastic.  They are more than willing to do whatever you need to make your chemo days more tolerable (except for bringing you a steak.... yes, I asked).
I'm constantly reminded that I'm not walking this road alone.  So hat's off to my family and friends both near and far - you have made me smile, you have helped me stay positive, and you have encouraged me every step of the way.

Now after I survive the side effects from this last round, I get to enjoy the next few weeks, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year's with my family, and then move on to phase two.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 98

K's favorite Christmas song is Joy to the World.  It's also my favorite Christmas song to listen to her sing.
It goes something like this:

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  
Let Earth receive Her king!
Let every heart prepare him room,

and hea-m&m&m nature sing, and hea-m&m&m nature sing, 
and hea-ben, heaben and nature sing."

My daughter does not have any speech issues, but when it comes to this song, she sings the words like this EVERY TIME.  I never get tired of it, and I have no intentions of correcting her.

Why shouldn't we sing about m&ms and joy to the world?  Maybe the world would be a happier place if everyone sang it like that!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 97

I know, I know... I keep posting about all of the gifts I've received, but what can I say, I know a lot of really amazing people.  Ha!  This cross is a gift for finishing chemo.  Honestly, who else but a BFF would send a chemo graduation gift?  It's beautiful, it's perfect, and I'm so grateful for our friendship that has spanned almost thirty years (gah - I can't be that old, can I???).

We haven't lived near each other for most of our adult lives, but my BFF is and always will be the sister of my heart.  She knows me in and out, has been there for me in great times and bad, and never fails to make me smile.  Our kids are close in age and have the same type of friendship - they can pick up where they left off as if they haven't missed a day, when in reality it's probably been a year. She's the only person I can spend two hours with on the phone and still have things to say!  I wish we lived closer so we could hang out more than once a year, but I'm grateful for whatever time I have with her.

Ironically, in true BFF fashion, my cancer diagnosis is almost identical to hers from two years ago and our treatment plans are the same - chemo, surgery and then radiation.  She is a survivor and even without this cross, she reminds me that all things are indeed possible.  

Kicking cancer's ass - day 96

I'd like to introduce you to "Heart".  She is a mischievous little elf sent from Santa to spy on...er....watch my kids during the day and report back to him at night, so he can make his naughty or nice list.

My daughter is OBSESSED with this elf.  She constantly stares at her, talks about her, asks questions about her, makes pictures for her to take back to Santa (even though we told her Heart is NOT a mailman!)....it's ridiculous.  It's also ridiculously cute.  K epitomizes what the magic of Christmas is all about.  She even woke up on her own yesterday before the time I usually wake her for school, just to go look for Heart.

So far our silly elf has been found perched on the lighthouse in this pic, riding my exercise bike (accompanied by a bottle of water with a bendy straw) and hanging out in a box full of packing peanuts - which my cat tried to eat.  At least she didn't try to eat the elf!

There's nothing like children to bring out your inner Christmas elf.  I may be tired and worn completely out from almost a hundred days of chemo, but my holiday spirit is alive and well.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 95

Insomnia strikes again.

My previous post was just a few hours ago, but it's after midnight so I guess this one can count for day 95.  It's a cruel twist of fate that the minute my head hits the pillow my mind starts racing and my legs get jumpy.  I felt perfectly fine on the couch two hours ago.  Now I can't sit or lay still (I just walked five hundred steps around my kitchen - I counted) and my whole body feels "off".  This cancer thing is the gift that keeps on giving.

Hubby gets mad when I tell him about episodes like this.  He says I should wake him up.  While I would love some middle of the night company and maybe some moral support because I'm frustrated as hell, there's no sense in both of us being tired and cranky tomorrow.

I really, really want to go to sleep.  I have to go walk some more laps instead.
I hate having cancer.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 94

I'm so immersed in my own kicking-cancer's-ass world that I'm disconnected from a lot of what's going on around me.  In a way that's unavoidable.  My life is a constant cycle of cancer stuff - taking pills, going to appointments, battling chemo side effects, researching future treatment & surgery options, dealing with doctor bills and insurance, etc.  It's a daily struggle to keep my head afloat and not let it all overwhelm me, physically and emotionally.  I just try to be the most normal Michelle I can be, for my family's sake and for my sake.  Unfortunately that makes me a little selfish, focusing only on me instead of those around me.  Sometimes something happens that will snap me out of my breast cancer fog.  Unfortunately the thing that accomplished that today was learning of yet another person in my little world that has cancer.

Her name is Jada and she is only seven years old.  I met her mother on a bulletin board on Babycenter the year I became pregnant with K.  Her kids are the exact same ages as my kids - her son only days younger than J and her daughter is a couple of weeks older than K.  Jada has cancer.  Did you notice I said she's only SEVEN?

I think about all of the tests and appointments I have, all of the drugs I have to take, all of the symptoms I deal with - none of which are pleasant, and I can't even wrap my mind around this innocent little girl having to do the same thing.  I know you don't know her, but if you are one of the dozens of people around this country praying for me, please add Jada and her family to those prayers.

Jada's mom told me that she wishes more than anything that she could take her daughter's place.  If there is a silver lining to my journey, it's that it's MY journey.  My heart aches for my friend having to watch her little girl endure this.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 93

Black Friday!

I believe there are two types of people in this world.  First you have the fanatical Black Friday shoppers.  They anxiously peruse the ads days in advance, prioritizing their list of items and even mapping out a route for their shopping excursion.  They make it a tradition with family members and/or friends, often heading out (or camping out!) during the middle of the night in order to line up at certain stores.  On the other hand you have the people who think Black Friday shopping is a legal form of torture.  They would rather pay an extra $50 (or more) for a certain item then wait in line for hours to score a deal.  Camping out in front of Best Buy days in advance to buy an iPad wouldn't occur to them in a million years.

I fall into the second category.  I don't hate shopping.  I don't mind finding deals - I'm an excellent bargain shopper!  However, having worked retail for seven years, which means working Black Friday for seven years, I have no desire to step into a store early on Black Friday morning (or even Thanksgiving night now) to save a few bucks.  My mom and I have gone out later in the afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving once or twice, but by then the crowds had thinned way out and we went only to look for a certain item or two.  Door-busters and early-bird specials are not my thing!

I do have to confess to doing some shopping today, though.  I even brought Hubby and the kids along!  It wasn't your typical Black Friday shopping trip.  K desperately needed a new dresser, so we hit up a few furniture stores and came home with these:

The panels on the front of the top drawer of both the dresser and nightstand are interchangeable and they came with about seven other colors.  So cute - and they match the white closet doors in K's room.  Since the dresser she had before was one I had had for years before I moved to Texas a dozen years ago and the bottom drawer was literally falling apart, this is quite an improvement!  And much more girly.  She's obviously a happy little lady.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 92

That was then...

This is now...

Twelve years ago today, I was six days overdue with my first child who showed no signs of wanting to enter this world on his own.  (He was stubborn even then!)  In the middle of a snowstorm, after being induced and spending fourteen hours in labor with Hubby by my side, I gave birth to our little miracle boy.  At first he wasn't breathing.  All I could hear was "He's not breathing.  He's not moving."  I was terrified.  After a swarm of nurses and doctors entered the room, they swept him off to the NICU.  It was there a little while later where I caught my first good look at my baby boy on the way to my room.  He was in an incubator wearing a little bitty diaper and he had a little heart-shaped patch on his chest monitoring his tiny system.  When they brought him to me hours later and I was able to hold him for the first time, it was one of the most special moments of my life.

Parenting is never easy.  Each year brings its own struggles and challenges, but this not-so-little-anymore guy brings so much joy to my life.  Every single day his sparkly eyes warm my heart, his quirky sense of humor makes me laugh and his compassionate heart inspires me to want to be more like him.  He has a creative mind that is always working, he has an answer for everything (even when I don't want him to!), he always, always treats others as he'd want to be treated (except his little sister) and I am so proud of the young man he is growing in to.

Happy 12th Birthday J.  You'll always be my baby boy. (Even when you're taller than me.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 91


I have been the recipient of so many gifts and thoughtful acts since D-day - the kindness and generosity of my family and friends continue to astound me.  I could write a blog post every day about something nice that someone has done for me.  Not kidding.  Each one touches me and makes me grateful that God has put these caring people in my life.  Sometimes, though, something so beautifully surprising happens that it catches me completely off guard.

I received this in the mail today:

Not only does it contain two of my favorite things (tea and chocolate), but each item was thoughtfully chosen for me for what I'm going through - and the bonus is that it all comes from my home town.  The chocolate is from Krause's (if you've ever been anywhere near Saugerties, NY, you know the magic of Krause's), the tea is from Mohonk, the cookies were made by someone I went to school with.  What really got me, though, was the beautiful handwritten note from the sender - someone I met in elementary school and shared playdates and sleepovers with as a girl, but haven't done much more than say hello to at the July 4th parade once a year since I moved away.  I've read her note three times and have been brought to tears each time.  Who does something like this for someone they shared a friendship with twenty years ago?  

So many people in my shoes will ask "Why me?".  Nobody wants cancer, and most people will never know why they were chosen to fight this fight.  I've never wondered what I did wrong to deserve this.  My question is what did I ever do right to deserve all of these incredible blessings being sent my way?   There are days when my horrible symptoms get the best of me.  There are times when I want to throw in the towel.  There are days that I just want to cry - and I do.  But then there are days when I receive an unexpected package in the mail or a hand-written card from a six-year-old girl who loves me and wants me to feel better, and my downward slide is halted right then and there.  

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I am not thankful that I have cancer.  But I am and always will be thankful that people have chosen ways both big and small to let me know that I'm not walking this road alone.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 90

This morning, as I do every school morning, I went into my son's room and woke him up.  I also brought him breakfast, which I do every school morning.  He's not really a breakfast person, so I was surprised when I went in to encourage him to get a move on and I noticed his plate was empty.  I laughed and asked how his pancakes were.  He said, "Good.  But Mom -  no syrup!"

I went back into the kitchen and sure enough, the syrup had made it to the counter but not onto J's pancakes.

Chemo brain strikes again.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 89

Ain't that the truth?  The biggest disruption of sleep for me lately is restless legs syndrome.  I've always had it, but for some reason taxol has made it so much worse.  I can't tell you how many nights I go to bed completely exhausted, only to get up an hour later because I can't keep my legs still.  It doesn't matter how tired I am - RLS doesn't care.  It could be from any one of the many supplements I'm taking to counteract  the side effects I have.  It could be a residual effect of the taxol itself (although thankfully I did NOT have RLS during my infusion this time).  It could just be my body going wonky and my nervous system being unable to handle everything being thrown at it.  

It would probably help if I exercised even a little.  However, on the few evenings I've managed to work up the energy to walk around or ride a few miles on my bike, the mean old RLS still kicked in, so what's the point?  Taking a shower and getting dressed leaves me out of breath - exercise is out of the question these days.  I have discovered that using Hubby's Tens machine helps a bit.  Have you ever used one?  Basically you apply these sticky patches around the area that's bothering you, and then those are hooked up to a little control unit that delivers electrical pulses through the patches.  If you can get through the initial tingly, sore feeling of the electricity zapping you, it does feel really good.  I wore it for about two hours tonight on the leg that was bothering me and so far so good.  Unfortunately I would need another Tens unit to properly use it on both legs, so I guess I'm lucky my right leg is usually the one that acts up.

I've dealt with this annoyance for years, and have done tons of research on what helps and what doesn't.  I've been on medicine for it which helped in the past, but it also caused my muscles to break down, so that's not a good trade-off.  Magnesium is supposed to help.  I take it every night and it hasn't helped.  Potassium is supposed to help.  I eat bananas at night and that hasn't helped.  

I complained to my oncologist about how bad it has gotten and he prescribed Clonazepam.  This is a sedative-type medicine that may not specifically target the RLS, but it does help you relax and sleep.  If I'm sleeping, I'm not pacing the living room at midnight, so I'll take it.  

Sleep well everyone!
(By the way, I am on page 89 - that's a lot of writing - and I have chemo brain, so if I'm repeating myself, I have a good excuse.)  :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 88

If I say winter weather, Dallas Cowboys football and a turkey dinner, what do you think of?

Yeah, we kind of got the jump on Thanksgiving in our house today.  Even though we will celebrate the holiday with about thirty of our closest family and friends on Thanksgiving, we always have our own little celebration each year here at home, too.  What can I say, this girl still loves her mom's cooking!  Grammie outdid herself this year.  She pretty much made everything from start to finish (with only a little help from each of us), and cleaned everything up, too.  I'm so thankful for my mom (and not just because she makes a mean turkey dinner!).  For the last three days she has been doing everything she can to help take care of me, keep the kids entertained and keep my house clean.  Even though I'm not sick, I'm nowhere near 100% since chemo Thursday and it's wonderful to have help with my "mom" duties.

I spent the afternoon in a turkey/mashed potatoes/gravy/stuffing/rolls-induced coma, and topped it off with chocolate cream pie - and yes, I plan to do it all again on Thursday!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 87

I spent the day under a blanket on my couch.  Considering we are in the middle of a winter storm warning, spending the day like that is pretty much ideal.  Unfortunately the aches have settled in, so I wasn't joyfully huddled under my blanket watching the icy weather outside.  I've been alternately sweating and freezing, and little zings of pain have been showing up here and there.  My throat is sore, I feel like I have "swollen glands" all over my body and I have zero energy.

Thankfully the weather is pretty conducive to being housebound.  Hubby took Grammie and the kids in his 4WD truck to Target to ward off some of the stir-crazies and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the movie Gremlins.  Aren't we an exciting bunch?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 86

Today is day 2 of chemo round 7.  It's kind of the calm before the storm, as with Taxol the bad stuff doesn't hit me until day 3.  I felt good yesterday - even slept throughout my infusion - and felt good again most of today.  It was nice to enjoy a quiet, cozy day at home with Hubby and my mom.  Grammie arrived last night - thankfully before the winter weather hit!  Here we are waiting to greet her:

This weekend we are being bombarded with a massive cold front.  When we left the house for the airport last night it was 77 degrees.  When we walked out of the airport 20 minutes later it was 42 degrees.  The temperature did not go above freezing today and we had a mixture of freezing rain and sleet this morning.  This weather pattern is supposed to hang around until Monday.  Most of the native Texans are complaining about the cold, but this New York girl is happy to have a little taste of winter.  As long as I'm in my house under a blanket with a cup of tea, it's all good.  

I had to go get my $9,000 injection this afternoon, so I know the combination of that Neulasta shot and the taxol will cause major aches for me this weekend, so I'm trying to enjoy feeling normal while it lasts.  

Oh - and my abundance of blessings from good friends continues.  My boy went on a movie date to see the new Hunger Games movie this afternoon.  He and my friend R have been planning it for ages.  She picked him up from school and they ate too much junk food and enjoyed the movie.  I'm so blessed to have people in my life who not only love and take care of me, but also my children.

Bundle up everyone - it's cold out there!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 85

Chemo #7 - DONE!  

I love that people view me as a fighter.  This journey truly is a fight every day... a fight to stay strong, a fight to stay positive, a fight to combat a thousand side effects - seemingly a new one each day - and a fight to rid my body of cancer.  This fantastic little bag was another surprise gift from another of my fantastic friends (and it was filled with chocolate!).   Do I know cool people or what??  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 84

Every Wednesday before chemo I give myself a mani/pedi.  Not because I want to, but because wearing dark polish is one of the preventative measures I take to avoid a chemo side effect.  Taxol can sometimes cause problems with your nails... namely turn them black and make them fall off.  Just...ick.

Two things I've been told might help prevent that are icing my hands & feet during treatment, and painting my nails dark.  I've gone to my first two treatments armed with bags of frozen peas, prepared to ice my extremities.  Too bad my premeds cause restless legs syndrome and I spend my infusions taking my IV pole for a walk instead.  Hard to keep frozen veggies on your fingers and toes when you're walking laps.  I have been sporting pretty nails, though, and so far (knock on wood) have not had any issues.

Tomorrow is taxol #3 (chemo #7 of 8).  Fifteen days and I will be DONE!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 83


Steam-cleaning carpets should be off-limits for chemo patients.  Good LORD I was exhausted last night.
Probably lugging that contraption in from the garage & cleaning the living room carpet after working that morning and grocery shopping wasn't my brightest idea.  When a woman sets her mind on something, not even mean old taxol will stop her!

Yesterday a good friend of ours had surgery for colon cancer.  It went well and he is resting in the hospital, but David and his family could use your prayers.

Thank goodness it's fall because apples are my new food addiction.  I think maybe I should live in Michigan, since every "Michigan apple" I've had lately has been absolutely delicious.  I love everything apple:  apple pie, applesauce, apple cake, apple muffins, apple juice... but mostly I just love apples!

Even though my taste buds have returned to semi-normal, my taste for diet coke hasn't.  This is probably a good thing as far as my health is concerned, but I miss it.

My daughter spent the afternoon yesterday after school on the porch in her Easter dress singing and playing her guitar.  A free spirit, my girl.

All four of J's teachers began their responses with "J is a sweet boy and a very bright student."  It's not as if I didn't know that already, but it's nice that these teachers are recognizing his awesomeness, too.

My mom arrives in two days and I don't have to work for 13 days.  Both of these things are celebration-worthy, especially because within that time we have Thanksgiving, which also happens to be J's 12th birthday.  If only I didn't have another stupid chemo treatment between now and then.  Kind of puts a damper on things.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 82

Last night I rode six miles on my exercise bike.  That may not seem like a lot, but considering just folding laundry makes me winded these days, six miles is a marathon.  It's recommended that you should exercise throughout chemo so you can feel better and tolerate the treatment.  Ha.  Maybe if you're a person who goes into chemo loving exercise, you will at least have the motivation to attempt it.  Aside from walking and playing golf, exercise is never something I want to do.

Unfortunately I have been plagued with bouts of restless legs syndrome lately.  Saturday night I woke up in the middle of the night and had to walk laps around my living room at 1:30am because I could not lay still.  Not cool.  So in hopes of avoiding a repeat of that performance, I decided to put in some time on the bike.  I figured ten minutes was a lofty goal and hopefully enough to send my jumpy legs packing, but for some insane reason I just kept going and going.  Maybe it was J playing "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" on his trombone that kept me energized.  Who knows.  Whatever the reason, I managed to work up a sweat and maybe work off some of the mint m&ms I've been eating lately.  Unfortunately I still had restless legs the minute I laid down in bed.  If anyone has a miracle cure, I'm all ears!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 81

You know what I hate?  Well, I hate cancer, but that's a given.  I hate that sometimes, no matter how positive my attitude is, a little bit of fear still creeps in.  For the most part, my anxiety level and emotional state have been kept on a relatively even keel  (maybe thanks to my awesomeness, along with a little help from my wing man Lexapro), but every now and then something about my journey will strike deep.

My latest fear?  What if the chemo isn't working?  Silly, right?  I can feel what it's doing to my healthy cells (thanks to all of these marvelous side effects) so I can just imagine what it's doing to the cancer cells.  The main idea of neoadjuvant chemo (chemo before surgery) is to target any rogue cells and prevent the spread of cancer (and maybe hopefully shrink the tumor at the same time).  I can feel that the lump is smaller....but I can still feel it.  After twelve weeks and six chemo treatments, I don't like feeling it at all!  If the chemo drugs can make my hair fall out, steal my taste buds, and make every muscle & bone in my body hurt, why can't they make that sucker disappear?!?!?!?

My last chemo treatment is scheduled for December 5th (celebration day - want to join the party?), and two weeks after that I am scheduled to go back to Dallas for post-chemo/pre-surgery imaging.  This means mammogram, ultrasound and MRI to see exactly what the chemo did to my tumor.  I am alternately eager for these tests and dreading them.  I bet I'll be sneaking one of Hubby's xanax that day!

Realistically, it doesn't matter.  My surgery will be the same regardless of whether the tumor even still exists or not.  For my peace of mind, though, I'm hoping and praying that it is smaller... much smaller.  And those pesky lymph node cancer cells?  They'd better be long gone!

People constantly tell me that they are praying for me, praying for the chemo to work, etc.  I can honestly say that 99% of the time, the chemo not working doesn't even cross my mind.  Maybe I have too much faith in modern medicine, or maybe I'm just living with my head in the sand (although I do know not everyone on this journey has a happy ending), but the thought of enduring months of chemo, major surgery, and weeks of radiation and NOT being completely healthy again isn't even an option.  Something is wrong, I'm doing what I have to do to make it right, and then I'll be ready to move on.

Going back to the beginning of this post, though... sometimes I get stuck in the 1% where fear and doubts take over.  I'm strong, I'm healthy, I'm young and I'm a fighter... but I'm also human.  And sometimes I'm afraid.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 80

We had a long day of softball today and I'm tired, so I just thought I'd give you a laugh for today.  My mom sent me this in an email.  Sometimes we all just have to turn ourselves around, right?

Friday, November 15, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 79

God always has the last laugh, did you know that?

I don't mean that in a bad way.  I mean it in a great way.  I've been told that I'm such an inspiration.  I don't feel like an inspiration.  Most days I'm cranky, I'm exhausted, I don't feel good for one reason or another (or twelve), but I try to keep my big girl panties on and just keep going forward with life.  What else can I do?  The world isn't going to stop because I have cancer.  I still have to be Michelle.  I have a beautiful life to live, so I try to do that even on days when I just want to curl up into a ball and hide.

I just had a conversation with Hubby at lunch today about how I realized I only have three weeks of chemo left.  Considering I've already logged thirteen weeks of this crap, three weeks is nothing.  Piece of cake.  Gah.  It might as well be three years.  I'm sick of everything about this.  I want to wave my white flag and be done.  Chemo sucks, and it's just the first part of my journey.

So... on a day that I'm feeling like that, and after telling Hubby all about it (I know how to show a guy a good time on our lunch date!), I come home to find a Priority Mail box on my porch.  In it was this:

And the card explaining each item:

I've been the recipient of many gifts and thoughtful deeds since this whole thing started, and I appreciate every single one more than anyone will ever know.  God didn't send me this care package, but He made sure it was delivered to me today - on a day when all I want to do is surrender.  How can I do that when I have this beauty in my life? 

By the way.... My friend L who sent me the goodies lives hundreds of miles from me and is a busy wife and mom of FIVE kids.  The fact that she took the time to be creatively thoughtful and send me a pick-me-up out of the blue when we haven't even talked in weeks is beyond awesome.  Once again I'm humbled.  And I think maybe I owe her a hot chocolate.

kicking cancer's ass - day 78

Oops.  Looks like I missed a day of posting.  Actually, I knew I did.  I sat down to write something last night and ended up going to bed early because chemo decided to throw another new side effect at me.  I won't go into details, but as with all side effects (with the exception of not having to shave my legs...I have no problem with that one), it wasn't fun.

Anyway, what can I write about for yesterday?  Oh - I know.  You will never know how touched I am by how many people think about me and pray for me.  It's astounding, really.  I have friends and family all over the country, some I've never even met in person, who have sent me cards, constantly ask how I'm doing, and pray for me.  My father has me on every prayer list at every church in his area.  His bowling team bought the t-shirts to support me!  I belong to two support groups online, one on www.breastcancer.org and another on Facebook, and these women are in the trenches with me every single day, making me laugh, sharing their experiences and answering my questions.  A few weeks ago my cleaning lady left me a pretty cross bracelet with a breast cancer ribbon charm on it.

I had sent an email to J's school counselor and principal at the beginning of the year, just to let them know about my situation so they can keep an eye out if J starts struggling with things at school.  The principal said he would let J's teachers know and they would all watch out for him.  The other day I had to send an email to J's teachers.  I've only met one of them, because now that he's in middle school, the moms aren't involved so much anymore.  Drives me crazy.  Anyway, the response I received from one of his teachers had this added on to the end:

My family continues to remember you in our prayers.  I served on the cancer board for six years, and we still help on the transportation needs of patients.  In the church where I preach, we have the longest surviving cancer patient for Taylor County.  I hope that describes you some day - for your sake and for Jared's sake

See what I mean?  Astounding.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 77

I had a different post written for today, but it wasn't very upbeat and I'm feeling pretty happy so I'll save it for another day.  Know why I'm happy?  After six days of a taxol-induced haze of pain and after spending the last two days at home with my sick daughter who wasn't really all that sick anymore, today she went back to school and I feel pretty good!  Hallelujah!  Happy hump day to me!  Since she has been fever free since Sunday, I decided to rebel against doctor's orders and send her back to school early.  Honestly, if she can beat me at board games, run around the house chasing the cat, make herself dizzy on my office chair, sing at the top of her lungs and ask to go to Target, I'm thinking she can go to second grade.

K going back to school meant I had to go to work (boo!) but I got a lunch date with Hubby out of the deal, and then did some retail therapy at Kohls (a.k.a. "I saved more money than I spent").  I didn't need everything that I bought (I limited myself to one impulse buy - that's good, right?) but everything was on sale, I had a 30% off coupon, and another $5 off deal.  Who can beat that?  Oh, Kohls can - they gave me $10 in Kohls cash, too!

See, Hubby?  Now I have to go back.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 76

Did you hear the story of ABC News reporter Amy Robach?  Her producers recently asked her to have her first mammogram (at age 40) live on Good Morning America to kick off GMA Goes Pink (October 1st).  She was healthy and had no family history of breast cancer, and yet doing that show saved her life.  She is having a bilateral mastectomy this week because her mammogram revealed cancer.


In that article, she says she was told that for every person who has cancer, at least 15 lives are saved.  You know why?  Because knowing someone with cancer makes you more vigilant.  It makes you more careful.  It makes you aware. So while more and more people around us are diagnosed with this horrible disease, maybe that many more people will have their lives saved because they were careful and went to their doctor.  Not all cancer will be detected, and not all cancer that is detected will be done so early enough, but I like to think that knowledge is power.  Knowing what to look for (and feel for) may just save your life one day.  So if you know someone with cancer, pray for them, help them if you can, but also learn from them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 75

So.... if you read my blog yesterday, you've probably figured out that # 74 was a pretty sucky day for me.  My body hurt from head to toe.  I tried to explain it to Hubby, but it's hard to describe.  It's bone pain, and muscle pain, and an overall "achy" feeling kind of like the flu.  You name it, it hurts.  A lot.  My beloved (stupid) Cowboys forgot to show up in New Orleans.  I even wore my Cowboys socks all day - to no avail.  My fantasy football team is losing going into tonight's game - to my brother of all people!  On top of all of that wonderfulness, Hubby and our sweet little girl spent almost three hours at the walk-in clinic yesterday morning.  Diagnosis?  Strep for K.  Now I get to figure out how to take care of a sick little girl without getting too close so *I* don't get sick.  The doctor says no school for her until Thursday.

I guess I must complain more about my pain than I did about feeling sick.  During our conversation yesterday, my mother commented that "this one" (taxol) seems even worse than the other.  Not exactly.  It's like trying to compare apples and oranges.  They are both fruit, but totally different.  I've heard people say that taxol is "a breeze" after the red devil.  I wouldn't go that far.  There isn't any part of chemo that I'd say is a breeze.  With both chemo drugs I get several days (at least) of feeling lousy each time.  The adriamycin side effects would hit me within hours - with taxol, there's a delay of a day or two before I start feeling bad.  Adriamycin meant nausea.  Taxol means pain.  While neither one is fun, I'll take a few days of hurting over feeling pukey 24/7.  I don't enjoy hurting this much, but I enjoy feeling queasy even less.

What I really enjoy is feeling like myself.  So give me another day or two and I'll be back to my smiling, cheerful, upbeat self.  These dreadful side effects are only temporary, and I'll gladly endure them if it means the drugs are doing their job of kicking cancer's ass!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 74

You know it's bad when even your fingernails hurt.

Everything hurts.

That's all.  The end.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 73

Last night I had the house to myself.  K spent the evening with her BFF, and my guys braved the chilly, wet weather to go to a football game.  As I was sitting on the couch all alone in the quiet, my phone chirped.  It was a text from K saying hi.  I wrote back "sweet girl" and she replied "Sweet Mommy".  I told her "I love you bunches" and she said "I love you the whole universe".

Life may be throwing heaps of struggles my way, but in the end, I have the two most wonderful little people in the world calling me 'mom'.  I am blessed.

Friday, November 8, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 72

I can think of one down side to not being really sick during chemo - I'm gaining weight!!  I can't eat a lot at one time, which means I eat a little bit here & there throughout the day.  My taste buds haven't really affected my appetite for food, but water tastes awful and pretty much the only beverage I can stand right now is grape kool aid.  Needless to say I am drinking a lot more calories than I used to.  Add in the fact that I have zero energy to exercise (being anemic means just washing dishes makes me out of breath) and there you go - pounds are creeping on instead of falling off.  Boooo!  Breast cancer - the gift that keeps on giving.

One of my Facebook friends in a breast cancer group I post with was getting ready to donate her wigs and asked us first if anyone wanted them.  None of them looked remotely like my hair other than the color, but what the heck - even with rotating my wig with bandanas and scarves and hats, I'm sick of what I have.  The wig came yesterday and I really like it.  It's short and straight - two things my hair has not been - ever - but sometimes a new look isn't a bad thing.