12.20.2012

So You Can Know for the Next Time

I wrote this post last Thursday, with the intention of posting it on Friday. We all know what happened on Friday, and it made me reflect and reconsider what I'd written. I think it still holds true, in this moment when America finds itself confronted by tragedy once again.

In the past week, I've read some of the simplest words being written to bring comfort to strangers and it only reiterates what I wrote. Do not be afraid to run toward the fire, even if you do so without being noticed.
______________________________

Everyone knows those situations where you are at a loss for words. I think death is one of them. I think any tragedy is one. Be it anticipated or unexpected, what do you say to someone who is suddenly missing a loved one from their lives permanently or has experienced a serious life changing event.

A friend gave me the best advise -- something I believe she read in a book. When someone loses a loved one and you don't know what to say, sometimes simplicity is best:

"I'm sorry for your loss."

It's a handful of words that say much more. It acknowledges the situation, the hurt, the sorrow, the pain and the confusion a person is feeling. And it simply lets them know you care. That for one moment, you didn't just continue on with your life as usual, but you stopped to consider them.

I think the same applies to cancer, a sudden accident, a chronic illness to any tragedy that alters someone's life forever. They all create that moment that can leave someone at a loss for words; a moment where your heart stops beating if only for a second, and those that surround you must circle the wagons.

Even if death has long been expected and suffering has been so hard to watch, the end is never easy and leaves a trail of sadness that time often never fills. When you pick up the phone and it's the unexpected and the unwanted on the other end of the line, it sucks the life out of you. You either know what to say or what to do or you don't.

We Americans are so protected from tragedy. Everyone knows someone, but not every family has been touched. We live in our modern world complete with top notch medicine within reach, cars that are big and safe, rules and regulations that tell society how to behave and enough food to keep our bellies full. We can lock our doors at night, set an alarm, sleep with a gun and know that 911 will rally the troops if we need them.

But it doesn't take an NPR junkie to know that so much of the world lives with the daily reality of tragedy. They are hardened to it in ways we cannot know in our first world life. We can stand speechless in a moment, dumbfounded by our own complacency.

When it was me being the bearer of bad news, I had that chance to see people in action, and often inaction. I didn't expect every one on my Facebook friends list to call or write or knit me a blanket. I didn't expect anything from anyone other than a prayer or a thought. But as the days and weeks and ultimately months past, people emerged with a level of care and attentiveness that left me amazed. And friends, close friends that I thought would surround me with their love, dropped back into the shadows of silence.

I didn't have the energy or desire to chase them down with my feelings. I didn't force the subject or volunteer information in a fishing expedition for their concern. I just sat back and watched and finally came to the conclusion that so many of us just don't know how to handle tragedy. We don't know what to say when something bad happens, so we opt to say nothing at all.

For some left watching, their instant reaction is to run right into the fire. They are the ones born with that empathetic gene I wish every soul had. They are not afraid and are like superheros with capes made with threads of solid love. They pour out the simple gestures that can lift you up and carry you along for the duration.

For some, their own fear of contagious tragedy makes them silent. If you deny it, it can't hurt you. If you've never experienced it, you don't know how to process it. The fear of pain is far greater than the gift of hands-on compassion, and they step away. I was surprised at the silence sometimes.

And for some, they are frozen in that moment but fight so hard to do the right thing. Their brain runs wild with compassion while they wait for their body to take action.

I now find myself on the other end of the phone. I now have to watch as some of my dearest friends sit in a room and have the air sucked out for that painful second by that one horrible word I've heard so many times over the last year. Having been down that same road magnifies the pain I feel for them. To know their thoughts and that fear of the unknown makes my heart break even harder. It makes me angry. I can't get angry over my own experience, yet theirs almost sends me into a rage.

And yet here I sit, at a complete loss for the intimate words I want to give them. My mind is running but my mouth won't move. Of all people, I now know how powerful it can to reach out with the smallest gesture. Simple words and quiet actions go so much farther during periods of disbelief. I tell you so you can know for the next time.

A handful of words or a silent act of love will radiate brighter than you can imagine.







12.19.2012

Merry Christmas from the Family

We are soaking in so much of this holiday season and grateful to be where we are in our journey. I am thrilled and blessed and openly welcome the chaos that only Christmas will little kids can bring. I will bask in that magical twinkle in their eyes come Christmas morning and know that these are the memories that last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas from me and all my boys.


12.10.2012

Christmas Card Rejects

Time for the annual "Christmas Card Rejects."

A collection of photos that were good, but not that good.

Or good, but didn't fit with the cropping and cutting and editing I was doing while designing the family Christmas card. So in Hollywood speak, they ended up on the cutting room floor.

Last year there were no rejects. Last year were were just happy to have one casual family photo where I wasn't in bed doped up on narcotics. But this year life couldn't be more normal and we were on a mission to celebrate it.



12.06.2012

A Year Later

This year, Thanksgiving Eve started the perpetual chain of thoughts in my head that were almost always prefaced with "This time last year..."

On that fateful afternoon, I was praying there would be a bathroom in the lobby as I walked in for my first colonoscopy. Pleased I had survived the car ride without a cold sweat or sheer panic, my biggest concern at that moment was finding the bathroom, not finding out I had cancer. How naive I was to it all. I think back and want to slap my silly little self who didn't seem to have a care in the world.

It was amazing how quickly I threw all rules of female bathroom protocol out the window when I had an entire bottle of Miralax sitting in my intestines.


As hard as it is for men to fathom, there are unspoken social mores for ladies and our public bathroom habits. A colon prep makes most of those very hard to abide by. But considering I was walking into a public bathroom adjacent to a gastroenterology office and a room full of fellow colonoscopy preppers, I knew it might be OK to throw caution out the window. Or down the toilet in this case.



And then December 5th arrived.

This time last year, I held my hand slightly over my left hip bone and knew that for only a few hours more I was holding on to cancer. My hand was no more than an inch away from touching evil. Two weeks prior, I would have never in my wildest dreams guessed this would be me.

So yesterday marked my "cancerversary." My official anniversary for being cancer-free.

"Cancer-free" is a relatively ambiguous term at the moment, since I'm not really sure if I'm cancer-free or not. It's like I'm living in cancer purgatory, which is a blast.

On the up side, I can say that I am one year down and have four more to go before I can call myself cured.

On the down side, every time I climb on the treadmill, I have to wonder if every mile I ask of my lungs will be worth it in a couple of months when I climb back on the table for another CT scan.

But life can't stop, I can't stop and nothing can be put on hold in the event of or just in case. Even if, I still have to make the most of every normal day because I CAN. And today will be no different. I'll get on the treadmill and pull inspiration from last year, when I couldn't even make it past the first 10 minutes of Bridesmaids because it hurt too much to laugh.

And later tonight, when the kids are fighting, the baby is screaming and Merrick is begging me to come into the bathroom while he poops so he can recite every line from The Polar Express book, I'll think back fondly to a year ago when I was alone in a quiet room, napping when I wished, the television to myself and heavy narcotics running though my veins.

11.19.2012

Running with Neuropathy

I used my master detective skills and Googled "running with neutopathy" early on in my treatment.

Because neuropathy seemed to be the one lingering side effect that so many people complained of, I was looking for some first hand testimony. Google failed me then and continues to fail me now on so many levels. I think I might be ready to break up. I've been dating a little someone special on the side called Bing, and am thinking I might be Binging everything I need to know in the near future.

There was no doubt when treatment ended that I had trouble feeling my fingers and toes and the bottoms of my feet. But hey, was I going to let that stop me from getting my groove back? No excuses for this girl, people! If I can do it with numb feet, anyone can do it!

I don't mean that. If you can't feel your feet, do not try running. Even if you can feel your feel, I know a few of you that should probably avoid running unless being chased.

I figured Spinning would be safe, as my feet were strapped into cycling shoes and clipped into pedals. Who needs to feel feet when they're locked in?

But apparently running with neuropathy is still a little questionable. I've been heading out for a few miles here and there, taking baby steps back onto the pavement. I'm even trying to make peace with the treadmill. And based on what happened a few weeks ago, perhaps I should take something smaller than baby steps or even heed my own advice and stay home.

Or maybe I just shouldn't look down at my Garmin while running on broken sidewalks with feet I can't feel?

Thanks Google, but I answered my own damn question. How does one run with neuropathy? Apparently very carefully.
For some reason, this photo doesn't do the sight of it or the pain justice. I'm just grateful for that last minute decision to wear capris over shorts. I'm also thankful for Advil and ice packs.

I don't think I've fallen flat on my face in at least 6 months as an adult.

11.07.2012

Cee Tee Three

The family that prays goes to the oncologist together, stays together!
Scanxiety: the tension which builds particularly amongst those who have or have had cancer as they move towards their regular check up scan, hyperscanxiety being the period as they await results! 

Boy I missed this...said me NEVER!
Not sure why the definition ended in an exclamation mark, as that implies excitement. The only thing that's been excited today is my heart rate.

Though this scan was just routine and I was given no reason to worry by my oncologist, I couldn't help but feel this scanxiety I hear so much about in cancer circles.

Not the same anxiety I felt walking into the infusion room that made me want to find the nearest trash can, but the kind that bombards the mind and takes over thoughts and temporarily takes you to the land of "what ifs" until you can snap out of it.

I think the anxiety boiled down to the discovery of something new.

In the case of this third scan, it wasn't so much the new that has raised some eyebrows, as there isn't anything new. So that's good. Yeah. Exhale. Just a little bit.

With that said, the all-to-common-in-normal-people nodules in my lungs are still present as permanent additions to my chest. Though the second scan in January showed that they weren't growing and could be written off as little calcified nodules, one of them just had to stand out from the group and measure a different size this time. It's either growing or giving the appearance of growing. Now I can finish exhaling.

Before anyone starts getting all sorts of crazy, know that it could be months and months before anything comes of that little renegade nodule or its fate.

First and foremost, my oncologist let us know it could just be the way the CT scan was cut. These things are being measured in millimeters, and considering that most of you reading this can't even count millimeters without the aid of glasses, let's not put too much pressure on the CT scan to perform here. So there is the chance that the cuts are just a little different from my previous scan, making the nodule look like it's grown a few millimeters when it has not grown at all.

I envision a little fat pocket in a spiral cut ham. Depending on where the spiral cut hits, that little round ball of fat can look bigger or smaller. So perhaps the cut was a little off and this little nodule just got dissected in a different spot. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.

The second possibility is that it could be cancer. But because this possibility is months off from actually becoming more than a possibility, my doctor did not appear to be overly alarmed, rushed, pressed or urgent in his actions. I'm sure if he felt a sense of panic, he would have addressed it immediately instead of sending me off to worry and wonder for the next few months. Clearly he knows that I never over think or over analyze anything!

The next few months are going to be lovely, because I didn't have anything else to occupy my thoughts with during that time.

In February, I'm going back for another CT scan. With the scan Monday confirmating a clean and clear abdominal region, he said I could skip that tasty liter of toilet water oral contrast and just get a chest scan. If only all this radiation would make my boobs magically grow, it would save Kyle from having to buy me some later.

Should that scan show further growth in that one naughty rogue nodule, we will take it up a notch and I'll hang out in the PET scan machine. If that machine doesn't grow me some boobs, Kyle better get out his check book!

So for the next 3 months, I'll walk around in that all too familiar cloud of the unknown that cancer is infamous for producing. The silver lining of that cloud is that I have 3 whole months to prepare for what may come or what may not come. In the end there may be a big medical climax that results in a big pile of nothing to worry about. I will be ready for the next step regardless.

One more scan down, a lifetime of them to go!

How much I love thee, let me count the ways. Now get your heads off this dirty couch in the oncology waiting room!

11.05.2012

The Third Baseline

After that little vacation where I pretended that I never had cancer, I'm jumping off the high dive this week and back into that strange little world.

I've walk back into a hospital and sat in a room I've sat in twice already. I'm drinking the magical liter of tainted water that will make those cancer cells glow in the dark, should there be any that want to glow. Should there be any at all. The water is room temperature and taste about one grade lower than what you might get out of the bathroom sink.

My first two visits were amidst confusion and worry and concern and the unknown. I sat there sick and frail and in shock. I laid on a table and tried to feel empowered knowing that the enemy within had been discovered and its time was now limited. But I was still scared and cold and laying on a table all alone knowing that my fate was being sealed by some fancy tube and some injection that gave me the feeling I might be urinating on myself. Or was that just the liter of water I drank?

There I discovered that two of the harder aspects of cancer are the unknown and waiting. Lots of waiting.

The second visit was after my grand sigmoid removal and belly button renewal project, and explored little spots in my lungs to determine if they were just a common occurance present in a good number of healthy people, or something growing that might also be called cancer. I expect those common little nodules will be admired again, and hopefully just for fun again.

About as tasty as toilet water, but better than barium.
This third visit will establish my baseline scan. My oncologist has no concern for finding cancer, or so he says. I am merely being radiated again to establish where I am post-treatment and have a scan to which all future scans can be compared.
 
Though my medical team sees this as routine and has no reason to be concerned or expect anything more than another clean scan, I can't help but mentally and emotionally prepare for unexpected news. I think I learned my lesson early on in the journey with cancer; you can't naively have expectations.

This CT scan has forced me to get that box out of the attic and open it a little. Then on Wednesday, after I cathartically blog about my follow up with the oncologist, I will put the lid back on and toss it up into the attic again. Maybe I can just be a part-time cancer survivor? Or only be one when it suits my fancy or is required by medical professionals or questionnaires.

It will only be a 48 hour wait between my time alone in a room being scanned and my next follow up with my doctor. And I know that somewhere out there on the information super highway are imagines of my insides being zipped around--fate in hand. Assumingly with no glowing parts. Hopefully with no glowing parts. But none the less, prepared if there are some glowing parts.

11.02.2012

A Normal September

Oh where, oh where did the Colon Cancer Chick go?

Oh where, oh where did she go?

Easy, she went in garage, grabbed an empty Amazon box, put this whole chemo and cancer experience in it, taped it up and threw it in the attic so it could collect dust.

Over the last 10 weeks, I've thought about that box when I looked at the fading PICC scar on my arm. I've groveled at it as I tried to make all the new little baby hairs growing back not stick straight up with frizz. I've contemplated it every time my feet would go numb or I'd sit down and stare at the long list of blog ideas I need to start on.

My inability to emotionally process the last 10 months has left me with a serious case of writer's blogger's block. I've had no desire to talk about something that I'm currently hiding away in an imaginary box in the attic. There's a reason it's up there with the 18 boxes of Christmas decorations I make Kyle drag down every year. Because don't know where else to put it right now.

And here I thought I would have been so empowered and inspired and angry and motivated by my experience. Never did I think I would immediately put the experience behind me and move on with my life like it never happened. No bracelets, no t-shirts, no bumper stickers. Not even a 5K yet.

It's not that I don't want to be empowered and inspired and angry and motivated. I'm just having a harder time integrating my cancer experience into my return to normalcy, so I've elected to put it all away for now.

For now I say. I'm still a little new to this side of the journey so I have no doubt that soon and very soon I'll start emerging from the shell I feel like I'm hiding in. Leave it to me and my aggressive personality to feel like I've fallen short for not climbing the post-treatment mountain already!

Maybe I need to go to a 12-step group for cancer survivors where I can stand up and even admit to being one. 

In the mean time, I'm following through with all my plans to regain my strength, regain my health, regain some weight and be the girl I remember before all this started.

For you visual types who drifted off after than first paragraph, the last 2 months have consisted of things like this.


Ellipticalication.
You Spin me right 'round baby.
Running and tripping. Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, don't trip...and I tripped.
I've been having some romantical pool dates with KY. Even sharing a lane with him at times. He says I'm much nicer about sharing a lane than I am about sharing a bed. What can I say, there's less snoring and farting in the pool.

And these little passing reminders of months past:


PICC scar-be-gone.
Celebrating what little bits of whispy hair I have left during a visit to my beloved Minneapolis!
Every morning I make evil angry eyes at all the baby hairs. I glare at these wiry springs and attack them with a flat iron while reminding myself to be GRATEFUL I only have a few million growing back in and not a whole head.

And then there's those other crunchy things that can't hurt after all the other crap that I've put in my body:

A little electrodermal screening.
A little homeopathic-crunchy-natureopatic-alternative care.
A little infrared sauna-ing.
I hate to disgrace cancer survivors across the globe, but I almost feel like the last 10 months never happened. I've blocked it out for now so I can get this train moving again. I know I'm canoeing down that river named denial, but let me enjoy the paddle for now, keep my memories in that taped up box and pretend that life is normal. Eventually I'll get to the point where talking about treatment will get easier and won't make me cry. But for now I'll just work on rebuilding myself elsewhere.

I'm sure some cathartic blogging can't hurt in the mean time.














9.12.2012

Spin Me Right Round Baby

I've finally been reunited with my first love. At the gym that is.

I've always liked working out, and it's always been part of my life in varying degrees. But it wasn't until I met this hunk of metal back in the late 90s that I really fell in L-U-V with working out.

Being a rule breaker by taking photos in the gym!
Or I at least started a very monogamous relationship with the Spin bike.

I am not a yoga girl or a pilates girl or an anything "cardiovascularly passive" girl. I need music blaring into my ears and people screaming at me. The opportunity has finally arrived when both my schedule and a Spin schedule can start dating again and I am so happy to be back in the saddle again.

Literally, because that's what they call it: the saddle.

Some people were made to run. I was made to Spin.

If ever you thought you were too unhealthy or too unfit to ever start working out, it is never too late. For here I sit, with some mildly uncomfortable saddle-induced soreness, starting my journey from the very bottom of the barrel. When that pesky little tumor was discovered last November, I would say I was fitter than I'd ever been in my life.

I obviously got kicked off the mountain in a hurry and am now staring at the summit wondering how hard and how long it's going to take me to get my grove back. Sure, I look normal on the outside, but I know I'm far from physically sound on the inside. From my neutropenic blood work, to the severe nutritional deficiencies I'm sure to be suffering from thanks to the life-sucking tumor and the life-destroying chemo, I'm a internal hot mess!

I know it's going to be frustrating for me to start at the beginning, rebuilding my body to points it's already passed. As frustrated as I get at how hard it is to do things that use to be easy, I have to remember those frail weeks in bed where all I could do is dream of doing burpees.

But I'm determined! This is where that revised appreciation for feeling good and making the most of every day really kicks in. This is also the point where I have no real excuse to leave the house without my eyebrows or mascara. Society appreciates this.

Though I may be starting at the beginning, I appreciate the fact that I even have the opportunity to do so. Even if I can't feel my fingertips or toes in the process, I appreciate that I even have the energy to climb on that bike or put on my running shoes. Feeling your toes is overrated anyway.

I got all the reminder I needed today at my follow up appointment with my oncologist, when a patient who normally walks in was wheeled in. She had no regard for her own privacy so HIPAA does not apply here, and I was free to listen to her discuss her diagnosis with the person sitting next to me in the waiting room.  The chemo wasn't working, the cancer had spread and she was headed to Duke University for some trial medications. She had just come out of her oncologist's office and was so stoic considering the news. Listening to her fueled my gratefulness, but it also fueled my desire to work harder at this next phase of my life and new found mission.

Here she was too weak to walk and there I sat ready to hit the road running. I know what it's like to get tired just standing for too long. Just ask the mall Santa how pleasant I was last year after waiting for 2 hours in my post-op condition. It rhymes with kitschy I can assure you that Mrs. Claus doesn't like when Santa says words like that in front of the elves.

I am grateful for what my body can still do for me and I look forward to reminding everyone that I'm doing it because I CAN. If this beat up body with numb toes and no immune system can make a come back, anyone CAN.
This girl is available for a butt kicking whenever you need one.














9.07.2012

Only 13 More Years

Yep, still a large mouth bass.
I have yet to find a boarding school for preschoolers, so Merrick was stuck excited to return to his school for the start of his Pre-K year.

I'm hoping that my tires didn't leave marks on the road as I sped out of the parking lot, throwing caution to the wind and blaring explicit music.

I love him dearly, but he is exhausting. My parents just throw their heads back and laugh as karma has presented me with the incarnation of my younger, chattier, high-maintenance self.

And when I ask him why he must talk so much and demand so much of me, he so sweetly says it's because he "has so many questions."

And then I feel mommy guilt.

As Rex said in the first Toy Story: "Great, now I have guilt!"

Yep, still pigeon-toed.


9.06.2012

And Like That it was Over

Officially done.
I'm in a race to emotionally distance myself from the past 9 months of my life. I'm longing for the return of routine and normalcy that will somehow trick my mind and body into thinking this was all a dream. I'm almost two weeks out from treatment and have been putting off this blog post because I can barely stand to look at the photos without getting that wave of nausea that I so enjoy.

So perhaps I'm not racing fast enough into my new reality?

My last bag, being delivered to me like a newborn baby.
The photos were part of my documentation of this whole experience. Partly to remember and partly to enhance this blog. But on this last round they were mainly for the sake of Merrick. For him, the end would be real not just because we told him, but when he could see that my PICC line was gone. He needed tangible evidence that it was all going to be OK and he would get his mommy back.

That simply translates into a video taped the removal of my PICC line, which was neither painful, slow, gross or bloody. I'll refrain from posting it here lest you fall asleep watching its non-graphic removal. But should you want to see, I can always send it to you. It was very unceremonious and quick. Just like that, it was done. And that was all the proof Merrick needed.

Bye-bye my little noodles.
I was officially noodle-less and that meant I was all better. Hypothetically.

Because I had that panicked look of impending vomit on my face, my infusion nurse did not make me suffer through the traditional end-of-treatment bash in the infusion room that includes noise makers, jester hats, certificates and photos. I'm not even sure I said good-bye to her. She was always so perceptive. Either that or I always appeared to be on the verge of vomiting so she was always quick to let me escape that place without saying a word.

Noodle-less Mama.
Aside from a few thick files and a bag of medical supplies from my PICC that are waiting to be donated to the local SPCA, I've rid the house of everything that reminds me of where I've been all these months. I've thrown away PICC covers, bio hazard bags and chemo spill kits. I've put away nausea pills away in the medicine cabinet, which in and of itself was a relief.

I feel good. I feel normal. I can almost kinda sorta feel the tips of my fingers and my toes. Though there's disputed evidence of how long chemo likes to linger in your body, I'm going to assume the worst and help it along in its departure.

Soon to come are the detoxing body wraps, infrared saunas and the acupuncture.

Soon to come is my channeling of suppressed anger into the passion to help a cause because I CAN.

Soon to come is me building my body back and using my new found appreciation for wellness to help those that aren't and can't.

I think the best summary of the end is really a beginning for Merrick. On the night before I was to get disconnected from my pump and have the PICC line pulled out of my arm, Merrick prayed (in his weird little falsetto prayer voice) that "Mommy would not forget that she can finally go off the diving board with me." For him and his little world, so much of his summer fun was mared by the fact that I couldn't get my arm wet. Ocean swims and diving boards (and normal showers) were off limits.

This last weekend he finally got his wish. See little buddy, prayers do get answered. For him this solidified that Mommy really is back and she is all better. Now the fun can resume.

Jumping for JOY!

8.21.2012

Gratefulness and Appreciation

This week my stoic, unemotional days with a sunny Southern California attitude about life are finally starting to return.

My forecast is now improving with only some spotty clouds and a slight chance of rain. The sort of rain that falls during those random showers that only last minutes while the sun is still shining. Like a happy rain.

I can finally see the finish line, and what a physical and emotional relief it is.

Though I have lost most of my naivete and sense of invulnerability over these last 9 months, I have seen a side of life and a group of people in a community that is bonded over one shared experience. Regardless of age or gender or color or creed, cancer does not discriminate. I think everyone reading this knows that.

You can all read my story and think "Glad it's not me!" But as soon as you dot that exclaimation point, you also remind yourself that it could be you tomorrow. That's how cancer works.

I've had this thing in my body and this experience treating it that could carry me anywhere in the world and instantly connect me with a complete stranger. We cancerous ones have all sat in a room and heard the very same news. We have all had that moment where our entire lives hit rock bottom with a single word.

And it's not just my own intimate relationship with cancer that has robbed me over and over again. It's walking into a building time after time that is stacked full of people connected by cancer. People that have it, people that had it, people that are clearly dying of it and people that are clearly living after it.

To see people day after day who are just grateful to have one more sunrise will put your life in a serious perspective real fast. 

At any given visit I can sit and wait and hear distant conversations that aren't about comparing or one-upping or out doing. In this world it's not a competition. It doesn't matter what stage you have, how long you've been treating it or how many rounds of chemo you've done. We are all equal simply over a shared experience. Cancer is cancer is cancer. It's not a pissing contest.

I may have lost so much of my innocense, but I have also gained a greater appreciation for life, for normal, for waking up and being able to get out of bed. I have a new sense of gratefulness and a greater desire to grab hold of every moment and live it even fuller.

I have had the ultimate attitude adjustment.

I know my sappiness is sounding cliche, but I can't help it when I'm sitting here enjoying my last fleeting day of normalcy before I reconnect to that IV and dive down for one last trip to the depths of misery.

In a weird way I'm grateful to cancer for what it has given me. For in the end, I think it will have given far more than it has taken from my life. It's odd to think of cancer as a giver in my life when it is such a taker in others.




8.05.2012

The Home Stretch

It's Sunday morning and I'm not only out of bed, I'm sitting straight up with my eyes open and the sun shining in.

My infusion nurse could offer no explanation as to why some rounds are moderately miserable (like this round) and some rounds leave me in bed for days on end without food or daylight, whimpering my way through the hours. I'm not being dramatic. It is a sick like no other.

Round 11 wasn't that bad. I was up a little. I ate a little. I caught up on my BravoTV shows a little. I even wasted 5 minutes of my life that I'll never get back on the Kardashians. And here I am on a Sunday wondering if I might just venture out into the world today.

We met with my oncology PA on Wednesday before treatment and she went over the end-of-game plan. I easily volunteered to wait 3 weeks between treatments, not only because it was inevitable with the way my blood counts go, but better for my overall mental state. It's amazing what an extra week of normal can do for my anxiety levels and lowering my ability to burst into tears without much provocation.

So August 22nd is officially on the books. Round 12 is finally here after many delays and it's officially official. As I laid in bed at the beginning of February, I wondered how I was ever going to survive being this sick 11 more times. And to think I only have to do it once more is amazing. AMAZING! For once, I think I will look forward to treatment.

On Friday, August 24th I'll return to get disconnected from my pump. On that day, the chemo drugs will be pumped into my body for the very last time. THE VERY LAST TIME. FOREVER. AMEN.

We were surprised to find out that my PICC line will come out as soon as my pump comes off. No waiting for another clean CT scan. No waiting for a follow up with my oncologist. The pump comes off and the PICC comes out.

This is huge on a lot of levels beyond my obvious vanity, the weird tan line I'm going to be rocking on my left bicep and my incessant need to be mildly fashionable. The relief is mainly for me because I know it will be a relief for Merrick. For him, my noodles represent medicine and sickness. As long as they are in, mommy is sick. As long as they are in, mommy can't go swimming. As long as they are in, I will have to disappear for days at a time. They have been his visual reminder that all his not right and safe in his world.

With the PICC line out, I can return to being a regular ol' mommy, and I know this will be a huge load off his little shoulders.

The hole should be closed on within 24-hours and I promised him I'd be swimming in the deep end with him as soon as I felt well enough. Huge steps toward healing for a little boy.

I'll have a follow up appointment with my oncology team 3 weeks after my final treatment and at that time I'm sure they'll schedule my CT scan. They aren't expecting anything surprising, so this scan will be my baseline for which future scans will be compared.

I will then see them every 3 months for the first two years to check my tumor markers and get a scan every 6 months. As a reminder, if I can make it through the first two years with clean scans, I have an 80% chance of no recurrence. Then it will be on to the 5 year mark and a 99% chance of no recurrence.

I'm also making plans for my return to wellness, primarily through alternative and holistic measures. There will be plenty of whole food, exercise, detoxing and renewing to blog about. My most important focus being on getting this toxic CRAP out of my body. My understanding is it takes the chemo drugs 30 days to get out of my system, and I plan on helping them on their way. I'm all about expediting their journey. But more on that once I get past August 24th.

7.25.2012

My Other Children

If my PICC is my third child, my garden has become my fourth through twentith. Or make that twenty-one so I can one up Michelle Dugger.

I check on them multiple times I day. I feed them. I talk to them. I photograph them. I love them.

I've never successfully grown anything in my life. I've even killed a cactus. So during this draining period of my life, I find the garden to be such a source of life for me, both literally and figuratively.

It's joined the other aspects of the outside that have become my therapy. While I am on a mission to kill what's on the inside of me, I thrive seeing my mission to grow on the outside.

The start of a beautiful relationship that has since turned into an out-of-control party. Those cherry tomatoes are crazier than a frat boy on spring break. Clearly the craziest of all my tomato children.
Cherry tomatoes by the millions. Millions!
First spaghetti squash.
Baby zucchini.
Anaheims.

7.16.2012

10

Somewhere in the weapy fog of the last five days I remember Kyle reminding me that it's the last few miles of a marathon that are the hardest.

I'm finding the end to be more emotionally grueling than any other part of this journey. I play mental games with my anxiety every time I step foot in that building and find that I cry at the slightest thought or discussion of my experience with chemo. It's not because I'm sad for my life or my situation. It's because I'm so worn down from the cycle of sickness and wellness. To willingly inflict something on yourself that will make you so sick for days is bound to conflict with your short term rationale.

In the long run I know I'm obviously doing the right thing. But while sitting on the couch examining my daily life, it's hard to see past the next treatment.

I was in and out of sleep during those last five days, wondering if the misery would ever let up and wondering why my magical pills weren't offering me relief from the nausea. All I could do was lay there in the dark, quiet room my mother keeps for me and hope I could drift off again to pass some of the time.

I look forward to the day when I can return to the petty nuances of life.

I'll put my hair back now in its thinning little pony tail, hoping it can hang in there for two more rounds and head off for my third Neupogen shot in as many days. What little glimpse of normal I started to see today will be gone by the evening, so for now I'll wallow in it and say to myself:

"Only two more times. I only have to do this two more times."

6.29.2012

Fashionably Naked PICC

Because I'm walking around with a very obvious elephant in the room every single day when time I go to Target, it's about time to devote another entire post to my beloved PICC. I've gone into detail about some other fun aspects of colon cancer and chemo, so why not strip down and show you what else I've been hiding.

I had my on little internal debate before starting chemo over getting a PICC line vs. a Mediport. I obviously opted for the PICC because it was the right choice for my vanity me. I knew vanity would be set aside during this season, but in the long run, I liked the idea of not having another scar on my body and being able to bare my abnormally bony clavicle for the summer without having that bulging port staring everyone down like my absorbed twin.

I'm sure I'll end up with a very tiny scar where the line goes in, but it's on the inside of my arm and will be no bigger than a well used pencil eraser. Unless you're staring at the biceps I plan to replenish when I'm done with this chemo bit, you'll never notice.

We are one now, me and my PICC. It's like I was born with an extra toe or a miniature arm. We are so tight that I'm willing to show off her nakedness. In the raw. Out in the open. My secret little friend. Since it made a semi-nude appearance more than a few blog posts ago, I might as well let it all hang out and let you see how dressed up it likes to get. Then maybe you won't have to stare next time you bump into me in the dollar section at Target.

I refer to it as my danglies. Merrick calls it my noodles. My infusion nurse calls it pigtails. All are perfectly suited and I embrace this thing like my third child.

That doesn't mean I pretend it's not there. I still have to play dress up and treat it like its own person sometimes or it starts slapping me around, but my life has not been drastically altered because of it.

I gave up the rubber waterproof cover pretty early on. It was taking more time to get it on than it was to actually take a shower. It finally dawned on me that if I turned the shower head towards the wall for that half-wet effect and mastered the art of bathing with my left arm in the air, I could survive.

It's now summer and my sleeves are up. There's no hiding anything anymore, so here's how I make it work.

Baby Legs
This worked with long sleeves, but I really only need about half of a Baby Leg to cover my little partner so it's gone to the wayside with the warmer weather.

No need to bring me Krispie Kreme, I've gain 1.5 whole centimeters in my upper arm since this was taken.
Wrist Wallet
Made to make your clubbing experience easier, the Wrist Wallet is meant to go on your wrist (or abnormally thin arms) and has a little pocket perfect for an ID, cash or your Target Debit Card. This enables you to leave your European Man Purse at home and enjoy dancing uninhibited all night long.

Yes, I'm still in my jammies at 11:30 in the morning.
Medical Mesh
Not sure what to call it, but it's standard issue any time they mess with my arm.  It's very wash-and-wear friendly and so breathable for all that summer humidity! I also have a whole roll of it compliments of my home care nurse. Ideal for sleeping, when I don't need to be fashionable, when I don't care or if it's hot out. At this point in the process, I don't care 80% of the time and wear it with no regard for what anyone at the mall might think. Nothing says: "Something is wrong with me!" like medical mesh! If you've had a baby in a hospital recently, you'll recognize that mesh from those special undergarments they give you in recovery. One size fits all!

The mesh gets two one thumb up!
Knee Socks
My friend Karen started getting overly crafty with her sewing machine one day and making DIY Baby Legs for her pending baby girl out of women's knee socks. Knowing I was using faux Baby Legs, she ofter to make me some. That means I had an excuse to go to made haste for Target and their bright and colorful knee sock selection. She was able to customize them to a short fit and now I'm rocking some socks in public. I've only been busted once, when a friend pointed out that she had bought the very same socks.
Some people like to take self-portraits looking all sorts of sexy. Clearly I just like to take them of my arm.
And then there she is, in all her naked glory. My PICC nurse comes every Tuesday to change all my bits and pieces like a pair of dirty underwear. Given that it is a constant unnatural opening directly into my body, it needs some artificial protection. Infection is the big, scary monster in the room and we must guard against it. You can also see why it's best to keep this little missy under wraps as to not scare away small children.