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, 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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 71

Being patient is the name of the game during chemo, because N.O.T.H.I.N.G. happens quickly.  Someone asked me the other day when my next chemo was, and when I said Thursday, he asked if I was dreading it.  My response, "No - I'm ready to get on with it!".  For one thing, chemo day is pretty unremarkable.  Other than my last infusion giving me restless legs, it has pretty much been me sitting in a chair under a blanket for a few hours.  For another thing, it's really hard to wait when I've been feeling halfway decent throughout this process.  Maybe if I was sick as a dog every day I would give my next treatment day the evil eye, but having at least a week of "normal" each time means I'm just ready to get on with the program!  I'm even doing the "dose dense" version which means you have higher doses of chemo more often than regular treatments, so I could just imagine if I had to wait three weeks between appointments instead of two.  I certainly don't look forward to the way chemo day makes me feel, but each treatment day means I'm that much closer to being finished, and that's what I can't wait for!  After today's infusion, I am now 75% of the way through chemo.... two more and I am DONE!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kicking cancer's ass - day 70

In the last seventy days, I've had nausea, vomiting, digestive issues, watery eyes, insomnia, hair loss, fever, migraine, body aches, rash, anemia, sore fingernails, fatigue, mouth sores, and loss of taste buds (just to mention a few). One of the strangest side effects I've experienced, though, is chemo brain.  It sounds silly, but it is a documented condition officially called "cognitive disfunction" by doctors.

Signs and symptoms of chemo brain include:

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words
Let me tell you, for someone who is usually right on the ball (mentally), dealing with these little bouts of chemo brain is frustrating.  I'm usually sharp, organized, focused, and I've never had a problem finishing what I start.  These days I have a hard time even coming up with the right word to finish a sentence.  Thankfully, like most chemo side effects, it should be temporary.  But in the meantime, if I forget something important, I'm blaming it on chemo!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 69

I'm tired.  You've probably said that at least once in your life, but I don't think you can understand chemo tired unless you've been there, done that.  As a mom, I thought I knew tired.  I did the sleepless nights with a newborn - twice.  I've been up all night with a sick kid more than once.  This is different.  It's not like any of that.  It's not the "oh, let me go to bed early because I'm sleepy" tired, or the "I worked too hard today and have no energy" tired.  It's the kind of tired that goes bone deep - just walking to the kitchen or even standing long enough to brush my teeth drains me.  It's the feeling that you need a nap two hours after you wake up in the morning.  It's feeling like you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open one more minute and then you realize it's only 8pm.  Grocery shopping is a cardio workout for me simply because pushing the cart and walking that much is exhausting.  The fatigue of over two months of chemo treatments is extreme.   Crazily enough, life as a working mom of two goes on... and there are still lunches to pack, laundry to fold, bills to pay, errands to run, children to feed, dishes to wash, homework to check and a job to do.  Oh, and a blog to write!  <yawn>

Monday, November 4, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 68

Before d-day, I would have said I was a good person.  I have always tried to be thoughtful and kind, helpful and interesting, caring and reliable.  My children are like me in that they always want everyone to like them.  I haven't always been popular, but I think I've been well-liked by the people around me.  Since d-day?  I love me!  I don't always love the way I feel or the things I do, but I've figured something out:  I am a kick-ass lady!

I've always heard that you should learn to love yourself before you love anyone else, but I've always been my harshest critic.  You know what?  It doesn't matter if I weigh twenty pounds more than I should or if I don't always have a witty comeback.  It doesn't matter if I'm too sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily.  It doesn't matter if I don't always fit in with the "in crowd".  It doesn't matter that my wardrobe consists of t-shirts, jeans and fuzzy socks.  I don't like to be the center of attention, I love to read, I don't get my nails done and I wouldn't know trendy if it bit me on the nose.  Cancer may have taken my energy, my taste buds, and my hair, but my journey with cancer has given me an appreciation of who I am.  I am a woman with a warm heart who loves her husband and children more than they will ever know.  I am a woman I would like to be friends with.  I am stronger than I thought I would ever need to be.  I am walking down a road nobody wants to walk, and I'm doing it with a smile on my face.  Not because it's enjoyable, but because the alternative is unthinkable.  I don't want to be miserable until I don't have cancer anymore.  I am doing my best to treat each day like the gift it is.

I don't think I'm the best person out there, but I am the best me that I know how to be.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 67

Chemo kills cancer cells - no doubt about that. But laughter kills cancer blues, and sometimes that's more important.  Last night we spent a God-awful long time playing the family version of Trivial Pursuit (we gave up on the previous game considering most of the questions were too hard even for Hubby and me!).  I discovered this nifty kid-friendly version at Target (where I went in for one thing - this game - and ended up spending $150, but that's another story) and it has separate questions for adults and kids.  Hubby and I played individually answering the adult questions (Hubs knows about knitting - who knew??) and J answered the kid questions, along with K and her BFF (also a K) who played as a team.  It took forever and a day to actually finish this game, but it was so much fun to sit around and laugh until we were sweating and our bellies hurt.  Trivia has never been so entertaining.  Laughter was my medicine of choice this Saturday night.
(In case you're wondering, J was the victor.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 66

Today marks the end of an era.  It was J's last youth football game ever, as next year he'll play for the school in seventh grade.  It was also Hubby's last opportunity to coach J in a sport.  They had a long (unfortunately unsuccessful) season, but I'm so proud of my guys for working so hard, right up until the end.  Hubby is great with the kids and I hope all of the boys at least take this much away from the season:  they might not have won, but they had a coach who cares, who enjoys being with them, and who truly loves the game.  

"It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." 

I'm so grateful that my son appreciates that sentiment.  He wants to win, and works hard toward that win, but also takes pride in a job well done, regardless of the end result.  The boys who stuck it out all the way to the end of the season are to be commended for their loyalty to the team.  It bothers me more than just a little that not all of them shared that sense of "team" (and it's beyond ridiculous that parents don't make their children honor their commitments).  What are you teaching your kids if you allow them to quit for no reason with only three, two or even one game left?  That only hurts the rest of their teammates who continue to work hard, and doesn't teach anything about responsibility.   The boys who are being taught to stick it out even realize that - as after the game they started naming the names of "the quitters".  

Ok, off my soapbox.  I know probably none of them will ever find their way to my blog, but I'd like to extend my thanks to the Bulldogs - the parents who hung around and supported the team (and who continue to pray for me and my family) and the players who continued to put their hearts into the game week in and week out.  I love football and that's one of the reasons!

Friday, November 1, 2013

kicking cancer's ass - day 65

I wish I didn't have to wear something on my head every. single. day. I wish that chemo hadn't stolen some of my eyelashes so my eyes would quit watering.  I wish I could drink something other than grape kool aid.  I wish I would stop waking up at 4am for no reason, even after sneaking one of Hubby's Ambien pills at night.  I wish I didn't have to plan every aspect of my life around my doctors appointments.  I wish my skin would stop itching.  I wish my digestive system would make up its mind.  I wish my fingertips would quit hurting.  I wish moisturizer would do it's job and actually moisturize my hands.  I wish I didn't feel like I needed a nap at 10am.  I wish I didn't have to take so many damn pills every day.  I wish I had the energy to take a walk.  I wish I could go have lunch with my kids.  I wish my face would quit breaking out like a teenager's.  I wish I could eat a salad.  I wish my mouth wasn't sore.  I wish I could see my BFF.  I wish I didn't have to brush my teeth a hundred times a day.  I wish I didn't have cancer.

Today is the first day of November - the month of Thanksgiving.
I am thankful to be alive.  I'm young, strong, and happy.  I love and am loved.  Cancer tries to fill me with little bits of negative energy every single day, but at night when I go to bed, I do so as a fighter, a survivor.