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!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 854

Today is the last day of 2015.  
After spending the last 2 1/2 years going to my multitude of doctors, enduring countless tests and procedures, taking medicine, having a bunch of surgeries (did you remember there were 7 of them?) and recovering from those surgeries, I'm looking forward to what I hope will be an uneventful new year.

I don't usually make new year's resolutions, because no matter how good my intentions, I never stick to them.  I'm making an exception this year.  In addition to the one in the picture above (because we could all be more awesome, in my opinion), my resolution is to NOT max out my health insurance coverage next year.  Ha ha.  After reaching the catastrophic limit three years in a row, it would be nice to keep my insurance claims to a minimum (if there is such a thing for a cancer survivor).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 848

Christmas 2015

A wonderfully quiet, peaceful day with my little family.

The kids woke us up early to open presents.  We had a baked pastry (a.k.a. too many calories) for breakfast, snacked and napped off and on during the day and enjoyed a delicious Christmas meal for dinner.  We capped off the night with a movie (Big Hero 6 which I hadn't seen before and thoroughly enjoyed!).  

Everyone is happy with their gifts.  
My heart is full.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 847

I am so thankful to be spending another Christmas, happy and healthy, with the people most important to me.  Every holiday, every birthday, every day after cancer is a milestone, and I don't take any of it for granted.

To my Hubby:
You are my true north.  In a couple of weeks we'll have reached sixteen years since we logged on and said hello for the first time.  I've never been so grateful for anything in my life as I am for the night I "met" you.  You have changed my life for the better.  You have given me children who mean the world to me.  Your family has become my family.  You are my rock, my sounding board, my shoulder to cry on, the one person I can count on no matter what.  You make me laugh every day.  Your hugs make everything better.  Your steady support has gotten me through the absolute worst time of my life.  Home is wherever you are.  You have my heart forever.

To my children:
You are the lights of my life.  You drive me crazy in the ways only a teenage boy and a preteen girl could do, but I couldn't have asked for more incredible children.  Your pure hearts, your compassion, your creativity and imaginations, your thoughtfulness and delight in the world around you make me so proud to be your mom.  My life would not be the same without softball games, band concerts and Minecraft conversations.

To my parents:
You are two of the best people I've ever known.  You have both suffered severe, awful medical setbacks and have handled them with dignity and grace, and unbelievable strength.  You love unconditionally and have shown me who I want to be when I grow up.  Thank you for raising me right.

To my brother:
I miss you.  I'm sorry that you've had a rough time.  I'm so glad I was able to see you last month and get a hug from my big brother.  You're the guy who first introduced me to football and the Dallas Cowboys (to my Hubby's delight).  You appreciate the novelty of Peanuts greeting cards even though we are not kids anymore.  You love my kids in the way only a fun uncle can, and I know you are here in spirit, even when you can't be with us.  I hope 2016 is your year.

To my BFF:
I promise to make more time for you.  Life has a way of going crazy, as you well know.  We've both been dealt the same hand.... a husband, two busy kids, cancer, moms with cancer..... but you've been the one constant in my life since we were 12.  I hate that phone calls and texts are all we have, because you are the most fun.  Your friendship is what I wish for every girl to have.  You "get" me.  We can talk every week or not talk for two months, and still we can pick up where we left off.  I hope we get our New York time in this summer (and maybe a concert!), but if not, we will have to figure out a time/place to visit.  I miss you.

To Sharon:
Ten years of friendship. Wow, we're getting old.  You are a true and faithful friend.  You have my back no matter what.  I can always count on you for a laugh, a hug and an entertaining story.  Life has its ups and downs, and even during the "downs", you make me smile. 

To Marti (and Emily):
I can't even begin to explain what your friendship has meant to me and my girl.  K and I were dealt a huge blow earlier this year, and you've helped us pick up the pieces by becoming our posse.  I love love love that K has a BFF who is sweet, fun, funny and who loves my girl as much as my girl loves Emily.  Thank you for being there for me.  Your hugs, your dugout duty in relief, your late night text conversations over things that amuse us..... the world could use a lot more people like you and I'm lucky I get to call you friend.

To the Lady Diamonds peeps:
You guys are my family.  Five years ago I never knew how important softball would become to me.  Your girls are my girls.  Their parents are my friends.  I love our team.  We have drama and fun, wins and losses, laughter and tears, and through it all, I wouldn't trade the Diamonds for anything. 

To Kim and Kala:

To Shadow:
My faithful companion.... my world is a little dimmer since you passed on earlier this year.  You were a part of my life for 19 years.... almost half my life.  I couldn't have asked for a better kitty, and I hope you and Pumpkin are happy to be reunited.  You were the best and I miss you.

My son asked me earlier what I wanted for Christmas.  I told him I have everything I want, and I meant it.  I've been a cancer survivor since August 1, 2013.  I have a wonderful husband, fantastic kids, true friends, a loving family.  I get paid to work with my husband, who happens to be my favorite person in the world.  I have two amazing breast cancer support groups through which I've been able to meet the most incredible women.  I was able to see my mom get married, and walk my first 5k in Vegas (and eat gummy bears) with another wonderful friend, 

Life is good.  And I am thankful.
Merry Christmas to all of the blessings in my life.  I am rich because of you.
Now "Let It Be Christmas"

Kicking cancer's ass - day 846

Merry Little Christmas.

If you don't know what that is, you're obviously not of Norwegian/Scandinavian descent.  Ha!

In my family, we've always celebrated "little Christmas".  In Norway, people open gifts on Christmas Eve.  We still open our presents on Christmas morning, but the elves fill our stockings on LITTLE Christmas Eve, so we open them on Christmas Eve morning.  Takes a little bit of the Christmas anticipation edge off, and makes you the envy of all the other kids when you get something from Santa before anyone else!

Christmas Eve is also the last visit from Heart.  Our busy little elf will be going back home to the North Pole tomorrow night -  Christmas Eve - until next year.  As you can see, she had to get all dressed up for her final performance this Christmas season.

Today is also a special day for another reason:  it marks the final step in the reconstruction process for me.  This afternoon I had an appointment at my plastic surgery clinic with the tattoo artist.  Guess what?  Almost two years exactly from the day I had my breasts removed, I have complete breasts again.  They were constructed from fat from other parts of my body, they are scarred, they have little to no feeling and the nipples are fake.  But they look like breasts.  Finally.

I have to wear bandages on them for five days and may need a touch-up session in a few months (because scar areas don't absorb the ink the same way as regular skin so it might look uneven), but over the next month or so, I should be able to look down and see something I haven't seen since January 3, 2014.

God willing, this will be the last in the long line of tests, procedures, treatments and surgeries I've endured over the last 27 months.  I hope to stay on this end of the cancer battle, only seeing my doctors every six months for them to tell me "everything looks good".  If the worst things I have to complain about are my achy joints, restless legs and extra ten (or thirty) pounds, I'm calling it good.

Merry Little Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 845

I don't want to jinx myself, but tomorrow is (hopefully) my last doctor's appointment for the year.

Scheduling a trip to Dallas the week of Christmas isn't my idea of fun, but when you've maxed out your insurance three years in a row, you learn to fit as much into a calendar year as possible while it's paid 100%!  Tomorrow's appointment is at my plastic surgeon's office.  Unfortunately Dr T is out of the office, so another doctor will have to see me.  Just what I want, someone ELSE looking at my naked chest.  Ha.  One of the worst things about going to the plastic surgeon is that they take pictures.  Lots of pictures.  One of the best things about going to the plastic surgeon is that I don't have to get on the scale.

This appointment should be the final step in my reconstruction process, and then I can hopefully be on "see you in six months" visits with ALL of my doctors.

845 days.... about damn time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 839

Someone send get better vibes to my house.

My issues are nothing new.  Everything hurts.  BAD.  My knees crack when I stand up, sit down or climb stairs.  I have no strength in my wrists or elbows and even my ankles feel the hurt.  I have a newfound sympathy for people who suffer from arthritis.  It sucks.  
I can't sleep because I can't sleep and because everything gets restless as soon as my back hits the bed, especially my legs.  I'm trying a switcheroo today and taking my Arimidex (a.k.a. the devil) at night in hopes of being more awake during the day and more sleepy during the night.  We shall see.

The other day J stepped on a piece of glass in the bathroom.  We're guessing it was from a light bulb Hubby dropped which then broke.  Poor guy has been limping for days.  We think the glass splinter is gone, but it's hard to tell on the bottom of a foot.  He somehow hurt his back, too, and has confiscated my back massage pillow.  I love that he gets a good workout in during off-season football, but it makes me worry a little bit that he might overdo it with the weights.

Today was just another in a string of bad days for K.  She had a bad stomach ache at school and had to leave before her Christmas party even began.  Monday she stayed home because she still wasn't feeling good after being sick (throwing up) on Sunday.  At her softball tournament Saturday she hit herself in the mouth with her bat and busted her lip and cut her gum.  Luckily the tooth she hit is a baby tooth.

Hubby is the only one with no real issues right now, other than his usual aches and pains and some sniffles.  It's probably just a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

Then we can all be miserable for Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 836

Insomniac blogging...

I feel like a newborn baby who has her nights and days mixed up.
I wonder when I will ever have a good night's sleep again.  I'm sleepy when I wake up.  I'm exhausted by late afternoon.  I make myself go to bed around 10-11pm.  Then I wake up all night long.  And when I do sleep, I have crazy, crazy dreams.

4am seems to be my magic hour.  I wake up, almost wide awake, around that time every night.  Nothing is wrong.  I usually get up to use the bathroom.  I'll wander to the kitchen to get a drink.  Sometimes I'll check the weather on my computer.  Then I go back to bed, eventually fall back asleep, and then curse my alarm when it goes off an hour or two later.

Yesterday I dozed on the couch for more than an hour.  I guess that little bit was enough to keep me up.  I made myself go to bed at midnight.  I tossed and turned, made it through a couple of hot flashes by flipping my pillow over to the cooler side, and finally gave up a few minutes ago.

If the rain hasn't put a damper on it, we have to be at the fields by 7am for an 8am softball game.  Getting up at 5:45 is going to be loads of fun when I'm still wide awake at 1am.

I miss the days when I could fall asleep anywhere and sleep through an apocalypse.
Think Hubby would notice if I tried this?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 831

I want to share something that one of my KCA sisters shared.  It's from a blog written by a cancer survivor named Betsy Hnath.  I'm also sharing the link so credit goes where it's due.

I could not have written anything more eloquent or more accurate about life after cancer.

Sailing the Waves of Cancer

It’s been four years since my diagnosis with stage II breast cancer: One and a half of them I spent in treatment, the other two and a half I spent dealing with the aftermath.

As time passes, and my emotional ship sails in relative equilibrium for longer stretches, I try to spend more time on the deck, taking in my surroundings, living in the moment. Then cancer sends up a flare in the distance and my attention is shifted: A random pain, tightness in my chest, or some extra fatigue. These bright, red burning lights remind me it is always there, hovering, perhaps waiting to attack again.

Sometimes cancer is a cannon, launching its missile close enough to graze my bow, as it has recently. When I hear that close friends, young friends, healthy friends have been diagnosed, I begin to sway. I know they will soon begin building their own ship and join the growing fleet that surrounds me of loving, faithful, undeserving patients. I mourn for their loss of the “old normal.” I know what it does to you.

I have to sit back and powerlessly watch during the excruciating 2-3 weeks it takes to learn everything they can about their enemy through scans and tests, and formulate their plan of attack. Nothing can be done to slow down or speed up that time.

I can tell them what I know from experience: that this is the worst of it, this first part. Shifting uncomfortably in scratchy, paper gowns as you wait in sterile, silent exam rooms; the inability to get the smell of hand sanitizer out of your nose; shaking hands with one doctor after another as he or she flips through your life, which has been neatly assembled onto a clipboard. How you can go from feeling normal to completely despondent, sometimes within the same ten-minute span. That ache, burning in your chest, as you inhale yesterday’s Suave when you bend down and kiss your children’s heads as they sleep, wondering how many more nights you’ll get to do it. I can prepare them and reassure them, but in the end they will sail through it on their own just as we all do.

Cancer’s most effective attacks come with news of a recurrence. So far it hasn’t been mine, but the disease has resurfaced in people I love. It rips a hole in my side, allowing the visions and fears of my own eventual diagnosis to flood in. This is when family, friends and sometimes professionals come help bail out panic by the bucketful as I struggle to stay afloat. Even though objectively every person’s experience is unique, if you’ve had cancer, it’s impossible not to see yourself in both the successes and disappointments of your peers who have it, too.

Sometimes I wish I could distance myself from my armada, because when their seas are rough, I can’t help but toss along with them. I want to pull away and go back to my views of the shore as I sail on my own, calm water. But there is an unspoken family in cancer and there is strength in numbers. By sharing information, support and love, we break through the chop, making it easier for those behind us; but that doesn’t make it easy.

By remaining a resource, it’s impossible to rid myself of my memories. I can’t stop my heart from breaking at news of a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, either newly or with a recurrence. I also can’t help but scrape wounds that had only just started to heal in me after my own experience. My BRCA2 didn’t only damage my genes. It attacked my soul.

Most who have crossed the ocean of cancer often end up with some PTSD, and I am not immune. A smell, taste or even a certain item of clothing, can trigger a memory of a dark day, sending me into a spiral of depressive thoughts. Seeing a stranger in a bandana, with penciled-in eyebrows still both repels me and makes me long to talk to them. It’s hard to look and not be thrown back into days filled with chairs in a row, IV poles next to each, a rainbow of poisons connected to chests and elbows, all in an attempt to fend off death.  Still, I want to approach these individuals, to tell them if I can do it, so can they. Most often I settle for an “I’m in the club, too” nod and smile.

Maybe by year five I’ll learn how to cruise my cancer seas more effectively.  To better balance my desire and responsibility to help others with my own need to get some emotional distance from the experience. I need both to feel whole, but the equation of how they best fit together in my life has yet to present itself.

Until then I will sail along, offering what I can, taking in vistas, and learning as I go.
By Betsy Hnath

Monday, December 7, 2015

Kicking cancer's ass - day 830

I have a love/hate relationship with this whole Elf on a Shelf thing.
K loves our elf.  I mean loves our elf.  She started counting down in November, saying she couldn't wait until Heart gets here.  She asks me every night if I will wake her up early so she can look for Heart.  The joy she gets from this silly little tradition is amazing.  Even my fourteen year old asks every morning, "Where's Heart?".

That's the part I love.

The parts I hate?  Having to a) remember to move the darn elf every night (which I mostly do thanks to the reminder on my phone!), b) staying up later than my kids, which isn't always easy! and c) thinking of new and creative things for Heart to do.  Ugh.

I've seen a lot of ideas passed on through Facebook and Pinterest.  There are a lot of desperate elf owners out there.  We've done the roasting marshmallows over a candle bit.  Heart has made minions on the bananas with a Sharpie.  Last year she toilet papered our Christmas tree.  But frankly, who has the time for most of that?  I just don't have a miniature toothbrush hanging around so our elf can pretend to brush her teeth.  I don't want to sit and build a fort out of Legos so she can have a snowball fight with marshmallows.  Our house is only so big, and this is our third year of Heart appearances, so I'm running out of places for her to creatively hide.

Bah Humbug.

This morning Heart was taking in the sunrise from our front door.

Cute, right?  
Too bad I still have eighteen more ideas to come up with.
Stupid elf on a shelf.  

On a positive note, even though I'm not quite feeling my usual Christmas cheer this year, we got our tree this weekend.  It's up, decorated and I love it.  There's nothing quite like sitting in the evening with the twinkling lights and the scent of the Christmas tree filling the room.

If only Hubby would let me have a fire in the fireplace, our Christmas card scene would be complete.