Long Time No Shot

This last week, my dear Merrick has shown me his sweet, compassionate and caring side that I almost never see. Not that it's a rarity to see, we're just usually butting heads with our all-too-identical personalities and I rarely get to experience this directly. I only hear the rumors from everyone else he comes into contact with.

He has been showering me with drawing after drawing of us; just the two of us, surrounded by hearts and telling me that if he makes me happy enough with all his sweet drawings, it will make me better. If only it was that easy, sweet boy. I'm sure my insurance company would much rather heal me with Crayola.

Early Wednesday morning, I sat for what seemed like an eternity waiting for my lab results. An eternity in parenthood is defined as having to wait in the same place for longer than 15 minutes while 2 children fight over 1 iPhone. I had assumed it would be a quick trip and there would be time to kill between that appointment and the start of preschool. When it comes to cancer, I should know to never assuming anything. I naively told Merrick I would treat him to Krispie Kreme in between. Krispie Kreme happens to sit perfectly between the oncology building and his school, so it was a geographically desirable stop to pass some time. It is also next to a drive-thru Starbucks, so I potentially had ulterior motives.

A rare trip to Krispie Kreme is what Merrick considers "The best day EVER!" I, on the other hand, just stare longingly at the case and wonder when they might join the gluten-free revolution. I'm not hopeful.

My blood counts came back low; surprisingly low. The morning donut run got pushed to an afternoon donut run and Merrick started to cry from extreme disappointment. Cancer was once again ruining his perfect little life and that sucks. After consoling him and promising to home school him from here on out (don't ask), my doctor made the call and a shot it was.

Neupogen, for you newcomers, is a booster shot that makes your bone marrow produce white blood cells in overdrive. More specifically for me, neutrophils, which are essentially your very first line of defense in the event of foreign invaders. It makes me feel like I have the flu. Everything aches, especially my bones, as that bone marrow gets to work doing what rabbits do bone marrow does. It also does special things to that digestive tract that chemo has already done a lovely job of destroying. So any attempts to put on weight this round went right down the toilet. Literally and figuratively.

For me, it's like compounding sickness on top of sickness. And on this morning, when I had barely recovered from the sight of all the hair I combed out in the sink the night before, a shot was not what I needed. I sat there still mildly nauseated with no appetite, knowing that the evening ahead would be spent feeling like crap and probably losing that whole pound I'd managed to gain in the last few days. I felt extremely defeated. And now I had let Merrick down. Doubly defeated.

While the nurse was injecting me, I told him that these shots make me feel sick, and with Daddy out of town, he'd need to be extra easy on me that night.

"That's OK Mom. You don't need Dad. I will take care of you when you're sick." 

And there it was, that sweet, compassionate and caring side that I keep seeing. Merrick is so use to his strong-willed mom and her so-often right opinions. Now he is seeing the mom that is often too tired to care about toys being out of their place, socks not finding their way to the laundry basket and the playroom being picked up every night. He's seeing a mom who, dare I say it, is weak. And perhaps seeing me vulnerable is just what Merrick and I need to patch up some of the strains in our bond.

I managed to make it to the car before crying. Crying over the hair I was might be losing. Crying over the battle I was already starting with my white blood cells. Crying over the shot that would take my first day of feeling OK and turn it into another evening laying on the couch and throwing food at my feral children for dinner.

But I survived. And I rebounded. And I was awesome enough to make it to my Friday Spin class and work out that devastation. I reminded myself and my body that despite the weakness, I am still strong. 


Hillary Clinton was Right

When the idea of going through treatment again became a reality a few months back, we knew it would be a greater challenge on many fronts--especially knowing that we would not have the privilege of my mother-in-law's help this time around. Though she was invaluable to us last year, we strongly felt that disrupting her life again would not be fair and we would need to pull from our local support to get our family through this season.

I was immediately touched by the friends and family who were quick with the emails, phone calls and texts offering help on any level needed. Like I said in a previous post, there are some people who run into the fire without thinking, and I saw people running in as soon as we pulled the fire alarm.

I could not help but cry for many reasons during those first few weeks, but not all were out of devastation. Sometimes it was out of the spirit of love and generosity that quickly works its way into places where it's needed most. The light immediately began to shine in our darkness. No sooner had the ride begun than I got a text from a friend that said: "My mom said she will come to town to help take care of my boys so that I can help take care of your boys." And of course I cried. And I'm crying now just typing it out. I was seeing moms layered upon each other ready to mother where I couldn't.

I spent most of the first round of treatment asleep. I can vaguely remember waking up to take a nausea pill or munching on a few bites of a plain rice cake before rolling back over and falling asleep. I can remember hearing Kyle get up, but don't remember him shuffling through the kid's morning routine before hustling them out the door to stay with friends for the day. I can remember hearing little voices reenter a quiet house in the evening and bedtime chaos beginning. But I wasn't part of their lives those days. It was the very reason I chose to stay home to raise them, and yet here I was missing those moments--powerless to do anything about it. Without a choice, cancer is forcing regret. All I could do was roll over and be surprised that it was already dark out again. I was too sick to even care about their day.

And that of course, is sad.

But the most touching and emotional part to come out of this gap in motherhood is the moms who are once again circling their wagons around us; who want to step in and sign up to take away some of that burden; who are eager and happy to be mommy-for-a-day because they know it will be one less thing for me to worry about. They know it will help me sleep away my days with peace because I know the boys are being loved and looked after and cared for and fed.

I felt it at the park today, when all around me stood moms who were plotting and planning the relief that will come and how to orchestrate the much needed care we require. I can envision each of them with their own wagon in tow, circling up to protect that which is currently very vulnerable.

Sorry Pop, but sometimes Hillary Clinton is right. It does take a village. At least that's how I feel when I look out at everyone surrounding us right now. The whole village has come to us this time to take away one of the biggest worries and to make it possible for Kyle and I to focus on the task at hand. He can sit there and worry about me as the sickness once again befalls me in my overpriced recliner, and I can sit there and hope I once again make it out of the oncology building without throwing up. And neither of us must sit there and worry about our boys, because the village is taking care of them.



It's like we were never apart; me and chemo. 7 months away is nothing when you are in love. How could I forget the days sleeping through the nausea, bloody noses and entertaining trips to the bathroom.

But I always come out on the other side, minus a few pounds and hopefully minus a few cancer cells this time.


The (Medi) Port of St. Maarten

I'm not sure how, but in less than a week I went from this, this, this, this and this.

To this, this and this.

Within 24 hours of our arrival at the homestead, I was back to lounging around. I traded my beach chair for a hospital bed and I can assure you it's not the same.

I had specifically told the tech that prepped me that I wanted the port within my tan lines, so I wouldn't be walking around the beach this summer with my third nipple hanging out for everyone to see. Unfortunately, once they swabbed me down with iodine, tan lines were hard to decipher and from the looks of it, my port may be poking his little head out to say hi to all that dare look.

I'm in a surprising amount of pain. Or more pain that I would have expected from such a minor procedure. Enough pain that Kyle had to attempt his first ponytail last night because I couldn't get my arm up high enough to do it myself. His attempt failed, and it is at this time we are grateful he doesn't have daughters.

In the mean time, I've told Merrick that the port is actually my new off/on button because they are turning me into a robot. He feigns a laugh, and I detect a slight amount of concern in his voice.