4.29.2012

Living in Lance Land


This is HOT! I feel like I'm part of Lance's inner circle, compliments of that chick who ran for Team Livestong during the Shamrock half and this little "hook a sister up" gift of Lance-love. She also wanted me to be a soul sister and rock some matching Livestrong when she finished and blend in with all of her mini spawn that were also rocking little Livestrong gear that day.

This is so hot that when Lance finally meets me, he's going to ask for a love child and I'm going to have to deny him the dream.

For starters, I already have a baby daddy, and one is hard enough to keep track of.

Secondly, the shop is closed.

Thirdly, doesn't he have enough baby mamas already?


I also read Lance's book (circa 2000, when he was happily married) on loan from a friend, who dropped it off when she dropped off dinner for us one night. And to think, a few months ago I wouldn't have given Lance the time of day. Now we're practically friends on Facebook.

And for the record, I don't think he was an evil dad who ignored his daughter when he finished the Half Ironman last month (click link to watch it). I would have done the same to my own ducklings had I just completed 5 miles 70.3 miles and there were screaming people and cowbells ringing in my ear. Wait, I think I ignore them already when it's silent and I'm not even running!

Just kidding. Mostly.

And yet I still don't have a yellow bracelet. You would think after all the whining I'd been doing about the yellow bracelet, my baby daddy might have picked me up one when he was at Dick's Sporting Goods yesterday. But that's OK, because his thoughtful self brought me home this visor.

I thought it was so sweet that he had taken the time to go over to the women's department and look around for me. He knows I have a mild obsession for finding Nike Tempo shorts on clearance, so I'm sure that's what he was looking for when he spotted this baby on sale. Then I went to photograph it for this very blog and saw this inflammatory label and realized the truth! He'd never left the golf section! This man would do anything to get me to put on some golfing clothes, even if it means trying to pass off this golfing visor as running gear! And in the name of cancer?!?! That's just wrong.

I've been following Livestong on Facebook and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with what they are doing in the cancer community and how far their outreach goes. They really do a thorough job of covering all the bases, the needs, the questions and the voids that a cancer diagnosis can leave family questioning.

I've actually found some inspiration from the book, and was especially interested in his chapter on chemo. I walked away with some simple confirmation I really need about now. I'm starting to feel like such a pansy for the way this chemo thing is really beating me up and taking it out of me. It's starting to make the idea of a marathon sound sane, because running a marathon has got to be way easier than going through chemo. If super human Lance says chemo is craptastic, then is must be exceptionally craptastic for us regular folks. If Lance says it's hard, you better believe it's hard.

If he can barely bike up the hill out of his neighborhood without collapsing with his bike on a neighbor's lawn during chemo, I need to be happy that I can even get out of bed in the morning and stop beating myself up for not hitting the pavement at this point.

I just know that my day will come again, and there's no shame in starting at the beginning again.

Shawna's bright Nike Livestrong shoes. They're just begging to do the Mud Run!

4.24.2012

My You Look Purdy Today


Feeling a little greasy up top? Just don't feel like deep conditioning that mop today? Want to look cute while sweating? Wish you could coordinate while burning calories? Have a large collection of those rubber-lined headbands that don't stay on? Want to take bedhead to the next fashionable level? Just want to throw in the towel and give up washing your hair like I did last week?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then have I got the solution for you.

Sometimes I like to spice up my chemo routine with a little sparkle.


And sometimes I like that extra feminine touch when I'm bombarding my body with chemicals other than hair dye, age spot correcting serums, Diet Coke, teeth whitener and nail polish remover.

Thanks to a magical velvet under layer, Purdy Bands stay in place no matter your activity. Half-marathon tested, date night worthy and a sure fire way to turn your average ponytail into a specular up do.

They're made by an amazing stay-at-home-mom with the same gentle loving care that she gives to her angelic and obedient children. Angelic children who probably didn't just spend the last 10 minutes obsessively telling her everything she never wanted to know about Walking Sticks and insisting that we must go outside right now and check every single tree on our entire earth until we find one and let it walk on our arm. Angelic children who probably recognize when their mom has a blank stare on her face while typing blogs and just walk away. Angelic children who manage to talk without spraying her with spit.

I love me some Purdy Bands. You will, too. Check out the link in to the right to see how addicting they can get.

4.23.2012

Sexy Seis

A man and his lady friend stepped into an elevator.
Half of you are probably thinking:

"Wow Sarah, I haven't seen you wear khaki in at least 15 years!"

And you're right.

The other half of you are thinking:

"Wow Sarah, don't you think a 1 inch inseam is a little short for someone your age?"

And you're also right, but I have cancer am going through chemo, so I can get away with it.

And a select few of you are looking at the mop on top of my head and calculating that I haven't washed my hair or bathed since Tuesday night and you're also right. And guess what, that mop is going home and straight back to bed and won't get washed until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or maybe even the next day. This round was really rough. Like "I haven't even plucked my eyebrows since Wednesday morning" rough. And this is coming from a girl who keeps an extra set of tweezers in her truck just in case I have time to kill at a stop light.

Oh well, I have cancer am going through chemo, so I can get away with all sorts of temporarily lapses in beauty and hygiene.

Sexy six means only one thing, I'm half way there. But for some reason, I'm not looking at that with the optimism I should be.

"Half way done!!!" is sounding more like "I still have to go through this shizzle six more times?" I'm owning Debbie Downer on this one because I feel like Debbie Downer right now.

Round six started before they even hooked me up to any drug. As has become my norm, I started feeling nauseated the minute I walked in the oncology building. I did my usual blood-work-doctor-blood-work-results-pick-a-recliner-and-wait-for-your-drugs routine. But my mind knew what was coming and as I mentioned in my previous post, I started wondering if I should move that white trash can a little closer. I tried to distract myself with blogging, but finally realized it was a losing battle and I needed to just lay back, close my eyes and try to not visualize throwing up in front of the 20 other people sitting in my alcove.

In reality, you'd think a group of chemo patients and their caregivers would probably be the most understanding group to puke in front of if you had to. My new nurse picked up on my drastic change in demeanor and as my bags emptied, made haste for my pump and even told us to go ahead and leave, foregoing any future appointment setting which is protocol. She knew I needed to get the hell out of Dodge as quickly as I could and I am grateful for her being so observant. I'm not sure my previous male nurse would have picked up on how I felt or thought to send us on our way pronto and taken care of the dirty work on our behalf. We women, we're just special like that.

I was so grateful to get out of there and instantly felt a little better. But in the end, nausea always brings me to my knees and I spent the trip over to my mother's house a weepy mess. Knowing that you are going to be sick for days on end gets old really fast, and I was already a beaten women. For Pete's sake, it took me 3 years to agree to have another baby for this very same reason.

Bedside view: water, crackers, nausea meds, puke bucket.
I'm not going to pretend to be some tough chick who's out to kick some cancer ass! I mean I am, but that attitude takes a back seat during each round of chemo and recovery. I don't feel like much of a fighter when I'm laying in bed in a darkened room and whimpering the hours away.

The usual plan has been for Kyle to pick me up from Casa de la Madre on Friday, take me to get disconnected from my pump and take me back home. This is where we smack down with our awesome elevator love fest. I'm usually starting to mend enough that I can tolerate the chaos that most refer to as "home", but knowing I was getting a Neupogen shot with my disconnect, and knowing how special that shot makes me feel, it was easily agreed upon that I would just go back to my mother's and stay. Apparently I was drooling and kept my shades on the whole time, so Kyle knew I wasn't fit for motherhood yet. I can honestly say I don't remember too much of that experience as I felt so sick. Yes, I managed to snap us doing the elevator tango, but that's really about it.

On Sunday, I got my second Neupogen shot, but not until the afternoon.  That meant all those fun side effects would be hitting me in the middle of the night. That's great when one of the side effects is a general feeling of flu-like crappiness, but not great when the other side effect I seem to suffer from is reminiscent of a SNL sketch regarding a certain cereal.

If you know of which certain cereal I am referring, pat yourself on the back and move on with a good laugh. If you don't, Google "Colon Blow" and delight yourself in some SNL greatness. Rest in peace, Phil.

Granted, I'm exaggerating here. But needless to say, I was awake and miserable in the wee hours of Monday morning making my 8:15am appointment for blood work a non-option as I was left to sleep in and recover from the misery and nausea of the night before.

I know my doctor is trying to find the right balance and schedule for my chemo and Neupogen. He wants my blood counts to bounce back faster and so can stay on that every-two-week schedule I'm striving for, but this weekend was rough. Roughest of all. Combining chemo and Neupogen is my double whammy. But like magic, my Monday morning afternoon blood work was normal and I can expect to press on with his seal of approval I'm sure. It may have been the craptasticest round yet, but I will press on. I may be a weepy mess who loves to cry through my many moments of weakness, but I know that doesn't mean I'm weak.




4.18.2012

Chemolicious

I'm live blogging direct from my luxury recliner made of vinyl. First class all the way for me, baby! Maybe it is leather, but the color is so horrendous that I'm just going to pretend that they didn't waste a perfectly good cow hide on this.

A lovely shade of teal.
Round 6 is underway and I am trying very hard to suppress that psychosomatic nausea I suffer from. I'm hooked up to my anti-nausea meds now and hoping they work on my brain more than my stomach. I mentioned it to my nurse and she confirmed that I'm not the only one who suffers from it. Apparently she's heard many a patient say they start feeling nauseated the minute they walk in this joint. Forget walking in the door, I get nauseated when I see this building from the freeway. It's a good thing Target is a whole mile away or I'd feel sick walking in to that magical place and we can't have that now can we?!?!

So I'm not crazy! Nausea is the tie that binds we chemoholics together! I'm eyeballing a local trash can in the meantime, and distracting myself with a blog.

We met with my oncologist this morning, and despite my blood counts being totally normal on Friday, he wants me to get a Neupogen shot on Friday when I get disconnected from my pump, and again on Sunday. I think his desire is to help my counts stay up so that I can keep on that optimal two week schedule I'm determined to keep. Apparently they're not bouncing back as quickly as he'd like, so the shot will help inspire them to not be so lazy. 

I guess I'll take one for the team and give up any wild plans I had for Friday night, like sitting on the couch with my eyes closed while Merrick explains the solar system to me. I'm not kidding. Not only will he explain it to me, he'll do it 3 inches from my face, using his outside voice and spraying me with spit.

Last week, while taking a nap on the couch, I told him that when my eyes were closed it meant I couldn't hear him. He didn't get the hint and instead interpreted that to mean he needed to turn up the volume. No Merrick, you never need to turn up your volume.

4.16.2012

Statistics and Survivors

When you leave your doctor's office after finding out you have stage 3 colon cancer, the first logical thing you do is Google "Stage 3 Colon Cancer Survivability." When we think of cancer, we think of our own mortality. It's only natural and I can assure you every person who has heard those words has had those thoughts.

In my case, you'll find sites that say anything from 50% to 64% survivability in the first 5 years. When it comes to your life, that's scary. And knowing I was on the far right end of the stage 3 spectrum with 14 positive lymph nodes, I knew I was probably closer to the 50th percentile. So I had a 50% chance of being alive in 5 years? It was enough to keep me nauseated for days. But as goes most things in life, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or a percentage just because you read it.

5 years is a big deal for cancer survivors. If you can make it 2 years with no evidence of disease (NED) you have an 80% chance of no recurrence. If you can make it 5 years with no evidence of disease, you have a 99% chance of no recurrence. That's HUGE. Next time you hear a cancer survivor say they've made it to 5 years, you can understand the HUGE load that has been lifted off their shoulders.

I may have barely passed Statistics and Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methodology my senior year, but I still remember what it takes to get some good clean numbers, and as I would find out, these stats I was reading online from very reliable sources didn't tell the whole story. I'm going to pull rank and use my admirable and useful Sociology degree and declare them not even accurate.

Now let's put it all in context and use 50% since it makes for easier math for someone who still counts using her fingers.

50% of people diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer will not be above ground 5 years after diagnoses. What that statistic doesn't specify is that those 50% didn't necessarily die of cancer. They just died in general. They died of anything people can die of. They died of old age.  They died of heart attacks. They died in car accidents. They just happened to be dead 5 years after being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and therefore fueled those collecting data to produce that percentage.

And we all know by now that colon cancer is not the cancer of the youth. So you have to factor in that a majority or people, a whopping 90%, are being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in their later years. Not as healthy, not as strong and possibly dealing with other health conditions limiting their longevity.

See where I'm getting at?

These statistics do come with a disclaimer that is even smaller and more italicized than fine print at the bottom of the page.  But the funny thing is, it's rather hard to read when you're in the midst of the initial 24 hours of perpetual crying following the fearful news. My eyes were practically swollen shut. How am I expected to read fine print?

For now, I don't know what the survivability rates are for people under 50 who are diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I'll check with my surgeon next time I see him and get back to you. Something tells me he knows more about colon cancer than my actual oncologist, but I'll keep that to myself.

The moral of the story is this: Don't go home and Google. Ever. Thus saith the Google-a-holic.

In the meantime, I feel like I'm living in this weird cancer purgatory. I had cancer. It was removed from my body, but because I'm currently going through chemo, it's like I have cancer. Again, the chemo I'm doing is called adjunct chemotherapy and is essentially "preventative" in case there are some random cancer cells running lose and looking for a place to grow. I think their next home would be my liver. Nice of them to pick a regenerative organ I do say.

So that alone crushes any chances I have of using the "But I have cancer!" excuse on Kyle to get out of chores like dishes, lawn sculpting and cutting his hair.

I've now switched over to the "But I'm going through chemo!" excuse, and he sees past that too as I continue to obsessively spot clean my floors, eat healthy portions of Jelly Bellies and maintain my feminine mystique while walking normally in heels.

I also cringe when I hear people use the word "survivor" to describe anything I'm doing because I feel like you have to fight hard to survive something. Being a survivor is a big deal. Those are the people who have been to hell and back. I just had a luxury vacation in a hospital, spent four weeks on heavy narcotics with zero responsibility and get to stay in bed and sleep for 2 days every other week. Granted, I feel completely craptastic and nauseated for days and days afterward, but I feel so unworthy to be in the same category of people truly battling cancer. The people with cancer in their body. Don't get me wrong, chemo is rough and I think everyone knows how debilitating nausea can be. But I'm not trying to buy a few extra months or shrink a tumor in hopes of making it easier to operate on. I'm there just in case.



You always have to step back and look at the big picture. The big picture that more often than not we can't even fathom. I laid in bed after my first round and thought there was no way I could do this 11 more times. And here I am almost half way through.

It's like running. For me, the first 1/2 mile always sucks. You're partly warming up and partly trying to get in your grove. Then you just get in the zone and go. I laugh as I type this because it's been weeks since I've even worked out. Granted, they've been some rough weeks, but who am I to talk about doing anything aerobic that requires endurance right now. As anyone who faithfully works out knows, so often it's more a mental challenge than a physical one. And right now neither of those parts of me feel like functioning.

I'm trying to tackle chemo in the same way. Yes, the physical aspects are grueling, but I try and arm my mind with powerful things that are greater than any nausea or fatigue and general feeling of blah or craptasticness. Like running, I know my body can do it, but it's our minds that we must really overcome.

"Only when I die of something else can you carve 'Cancer Survivor' on my tombstone." 

I saw this quote somewhere long before cancer became my reality, but it left such an impression that it's stuck with me. It's true. I don't want to claim my survivor status until I beat cancer to the grave. I don't feel I'm worthy of that club. But I also feel like it's not cancer I'm out to survive right now, it's chemo. That is what you can carve on my grave: "Chemo Survivor."

In the mean time, I'm just girl who's taking a 6 month detour on the road of life. And I have to believe that the path I'm now on as a puny little human is a small part of my big picture. I sit back in faith and know that I will one day see why this part of the journey was necessary on my road to Glory.

4.11.2012

Cinco

A delayed round five started with great spunk as usual. Apparently it only takes me a few days to forget how miserable it is to feel miserable and I walked in smiling. The Friday before, I did not walk in smiling.

My sugar daddy had to leave me early to trek to Richmond for a meeting. Apparently sugar daddies have to go to meetings if they expect to maintain their sugar-making abilities. And I support sugar-making!

After the previous Friday's intoxicated dehydrated trip to the doctor, I was eager to actually return and talk to him while not sitting in a chair and sleeping with my head resting on the wall of sound and hydrated mind. As I mentioned in that post, chemo works best when delivered on schedule. We weren't sure if the doctor was sizing me up on Friday and deciding I wasn't "tolerating the Neupogen" based on my current condition or something he wasn't telling us. Those symptoms I was suffering from were easily controlled with the right meds, which I didn't have with me at the time.

Understandably, Kyle and I want to stick to the every-two-week chemo schedule. We want the best possible outcome and I don't want to finish this season of my life with any regrets. Who would? I'm willing to suffer if it means knowing I did everything I could to keep the cancer from coming back. Are you with me? Making sense?

I LOVE feeling nauseated all the time if it means never having cancer again! I just returned from having my weekly blood work done, and while sitting there waiting for results I realized that I could pretty much throw up on demand. I deal with the random waves of nausea, but I'm sure walking into the oncology building just invokes some psychosomatic reaction. That blood work was normal, by the way, so no booster shot today. This further fuels my theory that the only reason my blood counts dropped after getting a booster was that weekend I spent cleaning up vomit. The oncologist and his PA seemed to agree with my theory when I presented it last week. My immune system did everything it could to keep me from getting sick, but could not rebound after it was all cleaned up.

Apparently we didn't have to go in fighting last Wednesday. The doctor and PA heard me out and agreed that I could stick with the every-two-week schedule after all. The catch is I have to not only get my blood counts checked on Wednesday as usual, but also Friday. I signed on the dotted line with ease.  Should I need Neupogen again, he's going to lower my dose due to my "size." Apparently he's just realized I'm still underweight? He thinks that will lesson my reaction.

So here's my week in review, in case you haven't caught on that the blogging takes a hiatus after each treatment. That's because my life takes a hiatus after each treatment, even though this last week was quite eventful.

Last Wednesday, while sitting in my $11,500 recliner, I noticed something I'd never seem before. How I missed this I don't know, but it made me unplug my IV pole and make haste for this shrine to all sources of useless information.

Yes, please! Can I have another dose of chemo so I can spend all day here?
Dreamy.
I woke up Friday morning after a solid 11 hours of perfect sleep to a text from Kyle at 11:30pm that said: "What's the name of Merrick's doctor?" Before panicking, I check my email and found an explanation. Despite seeing a very normal and happy Merrick on FaceTime before he went to bed, he apparently was suffering from a massive ear infection. By 11pm, he was a flip-flopping mess and Kyle realized that laying in bed with him wasn't going to fix anything.

The PA that fawned over him attended him in the ER said he must have a high pain tolerance because his ear drum was bulging and about to rupture. How a kid that tells us everything we never wanted to know managed to not mention that his ear hurt at all we don't know. But one trip to the ER resulted in Merrick having his first ear infection and his first experience with antibiotics. I've always said that Merrick has single-handedly proven that breastfed babies aren't healthier because he seems to be sick all the time. But he still managed to make it this far without actually needing the bubble gum drug. Can't say the same for his little brother.

Way cuter than everyone else in the waiting room.
After many hours in the very ER that he built, Kyle came to fetch me for my return to reality pump disconnection. As always, I'm thrilled to get rid of it. So thrilled I'm self-family portraiting in their brassy elevator again.
It's those pump disconnecting hipsters again.
Saturday morning, Merrick was well on his way to mending and asking us every two hours if it was time for that tasty amoxicillin again. He went on his way to The Man Store for their monthly kid's workshop, made a bird feeder and further fueled his absolute belief in the Easter Bunny. Ideal for the day before that bunny was to go around pooping eggs in our backyard. Of course the bunny poops the eggs as he hops around. How else do they get there?

Sunday morning, the Easter Bunny worked his magic outside while Memaw worked her magic inside with Easter lunch, including a homemade sugar-free key lime pie. Props to her for slaving away while I laid around uselessly. Had I been left in charge, it would have meant Easter dinner at Cracker Barrel.

Though Easter and Christmas are the two times of the year I want to avoid church because of my love of massive amounts of people, we went and it wasn't that bad. I wish I could say the same for all the attempts at a family photo. At least 50% of us looked normal and followed directions.
But say yes to coordinating family outfits while you still can and hiding your PICC arm behind your husband!
"Just hold on to him long enough for me to get a photo!"
I'm pretty much back to feeling good despite my random waves of nausea. No Neupogen shot today. Wish I could say the same for the 64 year old great grandma waiting with me. I was trying to do the math when she finally admitted that she got married when she was 17 and had her first baby at 19. I was still trying to do the math and had a few questions, but I kept them to myself considering I'm not that confident in my math skills with a calculator. I'm definitely not confident doing it in my head.

I'll have blood work done again on Friday so I can prove my staying power to my oncologist and then I'll look forward to my magazine rack of goodness and thousands of dollars in nausea meds next week.


4.02.2012

Dear Easter Bunny

Merrick slept with his letter to Santa under his pillow the entire month of December.

While backing out of the driveway a few weeks ago, I saw this in his window.



He asked me to help him write a letter to the Easter Bunny. He wanted a bubble gun. At that time, the Easter Bunny had sworn off adding anything else to the already overstuffed little basket.

Then the Easter Bunny saw this note, so innocently placed in a window, and had to oblige.

"Merrick, did you put that letter in the window?"

"Yeah, I wanted the Easter Bunny to see it and read it when he was hopping around at night."

Well thought through and creative, little buddy. I'm sure the Easter Bunny can find a little bit more real estate for a bubble gun. Or better yet, the Easter Bunny can just get a bigger basket.

And where does the Easter Bunny find a bubble gun? At Target of course. The Easter Bunny dreads finding excuses to hop in to Target.

Spring



Playing with Bugs.
Last call at the beach.
Tempting fate.
Going down slides.
Looking for clovers.
Talking to neighbors.
Exploring the corral.
Finding neat treasures.
Running from jellies.
Catching some air.
Wiggling our toes.