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.

video

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:


video

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.