First and Last and the Giant Head

Yes, those are the same exact shoes, just a different size. As long as they keep making them, I'll keep buying them.
Despite slamming the door into his head when I dropped him off for school on Monday, Merrick survived his first year of school. My only question is why school has to end. Who invented summer break? Clearly someone who didn't have kids. At least someone with kids was smart enough to invent summer camp.

Sorry, I just was trying to divert attention away from my stellar parenting moment when I attacked Merrick's head with a giant chunk of metal. It was one of those rare moments where I miscalculated the rate of speed to which he was exiting the truck.

It was also one of those special moments of motherhood where my first thought was to look for blood and my second thought was to see if any of the other moms in the parking lot saw my smooth moves. Sure, my kid was crying and I was compressing his head into my stomach as hard as I could. But I was also looking over my shoulder to see if there were any witnesses.

There was and she was so kind as to stop and call CPS see if he was OK while giving me dirty looks looking concerned. She had one of those minivans with the automatic doors that would never close on a child's fingers or head, so I'm sure she mumbled some dirty comments under her breath about my choice to drive a SUV with giant, manually slamming doors.

As I was explaining the situation to his teacher, she could only comfort me by telling me she once slammed her child's fingers in the door while getting out of the car at the pediatrician's office. It helped.

Despite a bump on his head, Merrick has yet to bring up the incident again. And knowing him, he will randomly bring it up 6 months from now at the most inopportune time. Perhaps in front of a police officer during a safety fair or a social worker we happen to be sitting next to on an airplane.

So the first year of school is done and at least 18 more to go! Now to survive the all-school picnic with all the cute 20-something moms from our class. I'd look that young, too, if I wasn't older than you!


Team Fantasstic

I was excited for and proud of one of my besties, Gina, that headed up Team Fantasstic in honor of the Colon Cancer Chick's missing sigmoid colon. Team Fantasstic walked, jogged, "jogwalked" and ran during the 2012 Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in its home base of the Twin Cities.

I blogged about it a few months ago, but the race has arrived and so many I don't even know joined Gina's efforts to bring awareness and raise funds to help colons and missing colons and sick colons and cancerous colons and long lost colons across the country and in her (and my) beloved Twin Cities. 

I am a Minnesotan-by-proxy and can't help but feel the love for this team and this cause coming together in this city!

Running + Colon Cancer + Twin Cities = My Trifecta!

I would have loved nothing more than to be there this year, but it was a treatment week for me and so I cheered from the comfort of my couch while munching mint chocolate truffles nausea pills. Don't worry, I'll be there next year kids!

In the mean time, I'll have to live vicariously through fabulous photos while I await the side effects of my Neupogen shot.

Team Shirts are Fantasstic!
These 5Kers are to be feared more than a colonoscopy prep!
Figi ladies looking Fantasstic!
Queen Figi and Gina!
Getting their rears in gear!


It's a World Record

I don't think I've ever gotten a post-treatment post up this fast. Ever.

I'm going to have to give credit where credit is due, and all that glory belongs to my reduction in chemo dosage.

Despite being above the treatment cut off last Friday, those silly little neutrophils had dropped back down to barely passing by treatment morning on Wednesday. How, after four whole glorious weeks off, do they drop I don't know.

So there I am, treatment morning, trying hard to make my hair look like I didn't go to bed with it wet (by assisting its beauty with a Purdy Band) and the doctor slapping me around and calling me neutropenic again. Again!

Neutropenic is just a fancy way of saying my neutrophils suck.

The cut off for treatment is 1.5 and mine were hanging out at 1.52. Such rebels.

The solution for my problems has been cast in stone and it officially is a 20% drop in the dosage of chemo I will be getting. A few months ago, I would have put up a fight. But at this point, I only hoped it might make me less sick. And any sense of defeat I might have had was wiped out by my loving husband who reenacted a conversation between my oncologist and my nurse when I was first introduced.

Doctor: "This is Sarah and you won't believe the dose of FOLFOX I'm going to give her."

I apparently missed this conversation and the sinister laughs that probably followed, but it was Kyle's gentle reminder that my little body had gone balls to the wall for the first half of treatment. And no matter how healthy I ate and how much good stuff I put in, this fragile shell was no match for the mighty toxin.

Ugly PICC pumping it through.
I was OK with the reduction. I did not feel as though I'd failed. I've realized it's just the luck of the draw. Why some people skate through this very treatment with out missing a step or feeling a side effect I'll never know. At this point, I just want this to be over without taking my body to the point of no return. I want to emerge healthy so I can continue on with life as usual and no residual side effects.

And whether cancer returns is up to cancer. I'm sure there are people who go balls to the wall for 12 straight treatments and have it return. And I'm sure there are people who only complete half the treatment and have no recurrence. It's just dumb luck, or in my case, complete faith in a powerful God.

Perhaps it was my four weeks off or perhaps it was that 20% reduction, but round 7 wasn't miserable in the most miserable of my experiences. Nothing can compare with the misery of round 6, so I imagine it can only get better. I was able to master the art of dry heaving without fear of anything coming up and had no weird side effects like my nubby hands. I am sitting here a mere 24 hours from my pump disconnect typing a post-treatment blog. And some of you faithful followers know those very post often don't show up until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now, because I am neutropenic and my bloody blood counts don't like to bounce back on their own due to laziness, I am back on the naughty list for booster shots. This time it will be Neupogen on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with some blood work mixed in for fun. Good times had by all, especially my hoarded collection of flushable toddler wipes and Imodium. I'm saving those like it's the end times, baby.

Here's hoping that the reduction in treatment and the onslaught of Neupogen make it possible to get treatment on schedule for once.


Non-Political Tea Parties

No, not that kind of tea party kids!
The big event of my chemo-skipping-worthy-week was the Mother's Day Tea Party at Merrick's school. I think it's obvious why postponing chemo another week would be worthy of making this memory with him. Sure, he could have found another date, but there's no date better than your mom. Right?

As long as he can move on to other women before prom.

Though he doesn't know what it's called, he knows I'm sick. He routinely talks about me going to the hospital to have that "big red thing" taken out of my belly. He obvious knows that I go to the doctor constantly and often "go stay at Mimi's house so I can take naps" after getting my "special medicine." And in the days after chemo, he'll often come to me on the couch and ask me if I feel good enough to do a puzzle with him or play a game. Like most kids his age, he's observant and notices when mommy stops driving in the fast lane around the house.

My absence doesn't go unnoticed either. And though I knew he may not remember a 30 minute tea party 20 years from now, he'd have remembered if I hadn't been there because I was sick. Cancer and chemo have already robbed me of so many moments with my kids. For that I will never forgive it.

I'm sure as he gets older, he'll still talk about me being sick. And eventually we will be able to start using all those big girl words that we currently spell out when around him. Our only motivation for spelling them is not to hide him from some reality he's clearly aware of, but to protect his precarious mind from hearing the word "cancer" or "chemo" in relation to death or dying. He's very obsessed with the subject of heaven right now and I don't want him to ever get wind that there's even the most remote chance that what I'm dealing with could be associated with death.

I try and prepare him a few days out that my time to go away is upon us. I spent yesterday bestowing on him the job of watering the plants and garden. He knows how to fill up the watering can from the rain barrel and knows which flowers and plants need to be watered around the backyard. He thrives on responsibility and this will be a good way for him to fill my void while I'm gone. To know that he can take care of things while I am gone will help grow his character and hopefully strengthen his little soul.

Tea for Two.


Though I have been thoroughly enjoying my chemo vacation, or chemo-cation, I had this nagging guilt that I really should call my nurse about having that weekly blood work I've been pretending I didn't need. It had been overlooked when I rushed out of the infusion room almost two weeks prior. I think I was so excited about two whole weeks of normal I didn't want to stay there long enough for them to schedule me for anything.

I ran out of there like someone running down the jet way while deplaning in Bora Bora with nothing but their swimsuit and a toothbrush.

I was going on a chemo-cation, so lather me in sunscreen and point me to my beach chair.

But all great vacations must come to an end and at some point I remembered my real life back in the $11,500 recliner.

It occurred to me that almost 4 weeks off of chemo might not be enough time for my blood work to bounce back after all. What if I showed up this Wednesday and my counts were still too low? I had only one rational choice. I felt like the nerdy kid in class that reminds the teacher they forgot to assign homework right before the bell rings on Friday afternoon.

I ratted myself out like a teacher's pet and called in for an appointment on the off chance that my blood counts hadn't really climbed back up and something needed to be done about it between last Friday and this Wednesday.

Everyone can rest easy knowing that I'll be back at it come Wednesday. The only team player that still refuses to play along are those silly little neutrophils. Though still low, they are at least high enough to get treatment.Thrilling. Can't wait.

This last month has been well needed in so many way. It was my half-time, minus irrelevant musical performances by non-Americans during America's most popular sporting finale. I will now gear up with a refreshed body, mind and spirit and try to keep my head above water as I drag my feet back down this long, miserable road.

I have no doubt that I will be skipping a few more weeks down the line, but at least I've crossed the half-way point and got to enjoy a long layover at some trashy airport sports bar. As much as chemo should stay on schedule, my body is not giving me a choice and for once I am grateful.

6 down. 6 to go.


The Youngest in the Room

I heard it about 40 times during that first appointment with the oncologist: "Because you are so young," and "You're just so young to have cancer." And young, young, young, young young. Yeah, tell that to my sun-damaged face and gray hairs. They haven't gotten the memo yet!

While waiting for my second colonoscopy, I had four different nurses come up and do a variety of things to get me ready for that special trip to sleepy land. Everyone would come to the edge of my bed, notice how young I was and inquisitively ask "What are you doing here?"

It's understandable. I'd explain the previous two months of my life and they'd inevitably get that confused but sad look on their faces. If they didn't say it out loud, I'd know they were thinking: "But you're so young."

Blood draws are a way of life now and I don't think a week has gone by since my diagnoses that I haven't had to donate to the cause at least once. I've such a giver, I know. I don't mind needles so it's not a bother, really. It's nice to walk into that place and know I'm going to be walking right back out and going on with my day.

During one of my draws in the weeks leading up to treatment, the nurse set me up and asked if it was my first visit. I told her it wasn't and she said she hoped to not see me again, not knowing I was just beginning my journey. When I told her I was becoming a regular, that now infamous look came over her face. I was starting to get use to it. Little did I know these people would know me by name after a few visits. Was I memorable because I was so young?

When I first met the nurse who would be assigned to me for the duration of my chemo, my oncologist told him that I would be receiving FOLFOX (one of the chemo regimens for colon cancer) and that infamous look of surprise and concern came over his face. "FOLFOX? Really?" Yes, I know, I'm so young.

And week after week, I walk into the waiting room, the lab, my doctor's waiting area or the treatment room and I get noticed by the crowd. And not just by all my old prostate cancer buddies in my treatment alcove that I like to impress with my skinny jeans. I don't blame them for the looks and I'm sure it would help if I just wore a shirt that says: "Yes! I know I'm so young."

Or "Hi, my name is Sarah and I had colon cancer!" I'm sure they're wondering.

And every so often, I might see someone under 50. But rarely do I see someone who looks like they're in their early twenties like me my age or younger. But when it happens, it's like this curious connection occurs and we have this unspoken acknowledgement that we're the odd balls in the room. I often wonder if it might do me some good, when all is said and done, to seek out younger people who have made it through their cancer journey. It's a young life, interrupted.

I have no pity on myself and still walk around thinking this whole thing is so surreal. And there are still mornings I wake up and think it was just a dream.

I also feel a certain responsibility as a young person with cancer. I am the face that reminds everyone that it can happen to anyone at anytime no matter how healthy a life you lead. I'm routinely surprised to read other stories of young people with colon cancer and find that so many are just like me, doing everything right, yet still having everything go so wrong.

Everyone reading this knows that it could be them tomorrow. I think that's why cancer touches such a nerve in people. If they haven't already been directly impacted by it through a close friend or family member, they know that could all change tomorrow. And though so many of us strive to do all the right things, I'm proof that it doesn't matter. I did everything on any prevention list and it still found me.

My only hope is that sharing my list of favorite flushable wipes all the dirty details, people will look forward to prepping for a colonoscopy not only tune in to their bodies, but fine tune their lives.


Delay of Game

I'm sitting at home on my couch and not in a recliner today. I did sit in one this morning, but not long enough to get treatment. Just long enough to find out my platelet count had continued to drop from last week's plunge and my neurophils, those silly little neurophils, just can't hang.

Round 7 has been bumped.

I wasn't shocked in the least given the results of last week's marathon of blood work. My only conflict to the delay would be missing a very special tea party to which I have been invited to next week by a very small boy. Merrick beamed with such excitement when he handed me the tea cup invitation and was so proud to invite me to attend.  I know he would be disappointed if he had to substitute another mommy because I was sick. He's so very aware of me being sick and going away for days at a time. The idea of missing out on some special time with him because of treatment would break my heart.

He's recently told me that once I'm done getting "my special medicine," he wants Memaw to go back to Texas. I was surprised, as he was practically ready to pack her bag and take her to the airport. The more I dug, the more I discovered his reasoning. As long as Memaw is here, Mommy is sick. If Memaw leaves, then Mommy is all better. So as much as he'd love for her to live here forever, in his mind her presence equals my absence.

Like most little boys, Merrick has never had a tea party, so I'm not sure what he's thinking this will be. I hope he's not expecting a political rally.

In the meantime, let's go back to that pricey recliner and my blood work. When my nurse showed me the low numbers, I told her my only disappointment in skipping until next week was that it would force me to miss this tea party. While she went to talk to my doctor, I told myself I'd just have to suck it up and try and make it. I am usually able to open my eyes by Fridays during the treatment cycle, so I'd just have to make sure I had enough chutzpah, a shower and nausea meds in me to suffer through for the sake of my loving spawn.

This is where having a new (and female and sweet and understanding and caring) nurse comes in to play. My doctor said I could just take my treatment next week, but she put in a request that I skip that for the sake of all non-political tea parties being held in honor of Mother's Day and move my next treatment to two weeks from today.

He approved without an issue or concern.

Yes, it's best to keep chemo on schedule, but for a little boy who would remember the disappointment of his mom not being there, I'm willing to skip the extra week. Though I don't want to have any regrets about chemo, I more importantly don't want to have any regrets in making memories with my kids. My nurse also reminded me that because I'm doing this for "preventative" reasons, the extra week really won't hurt me that bad.

So now I have two weeks off. No booster shots. No blood work. Just me and my bone marrow making some white blood cell love on our own. Boom-chica-wow-wow. Might even be able to put on a couple pounds, too! I'm going to continue packing in the whole food and getting a little vitamin D with our glorious weather in hopes that it helps.

I can't offer you any oncology fun photos from this morning, but I can show you what it looks like when blue is the color of the month around here. Every month at school is represented by a different color and every Wednesday the kids in Merrick's class dress in those colors. They then graph how much blue each little friend is wearing and the girls always win because they can accessorize! To be fair, Merrick's teacher is now allowing Band-Aids and temporary tattoos to count as accessories.

But for me, this means WAR on all those decked out little girls with cute ribbons in their hair! Merrick has a closet full of blue and we are on a mission. A mission to WIN!

The only snarky comment I got out of him this morning, after turning him and his hair into the coolest kid in his preschool:

'"This is dark blue. I wish is was light blue because light blue is my favorite color. This blue is just boring."

What? Your "Coolest Mom Ever" just gave you a Mohawk and blue hair and that's boring? Wait till you show up next Wednesday with blue nail polish and blue hair! Then who's going to be the boring one?

Little Boy Blue. Head to toe.