5.23.2014

40 Rounds

The prospect of having to go through 12 whole chemo treatments seemed like a daunting task once upon a time - a very long, long time ago.

I came home from my first treatment and made dinner with my infusion pump slung over my shoulder like I was some lady-mercenary from the Amazon. I naively thought this wouldn't so bad after all. I woke up the next morning paralyzed by nausea and everything went downhill from there.

With every treatment, I'd stare at the calendar and wonder how on God's green earth I was going to survive another 11 10 9 8 7 6 40 more rounds of chemo. 40 freakin' rounds!

At the time, I thought my cancer journey would end after 12 rounds and I could slam the book on this chapter of my life forever and never talk about it again; one of my dirty little secrets that would never be part of cocktail hour conversation in those imaginary circles I socialized with.

And here I sit, pump attached to my waist and talking about my 40th round like it's a milestone.

Some of you might be the glass-half-empty types and are wondering what I have to show for the 40 rounds I've been through. And your answer is obviously nothing. I have absolutely nothing to show for it on paper. I am practically still at square one, with those innumerable pesky little things still in my lungs. Chemo has not done its job because I still have cancer.

Then there's my home team; the glass-half-full types. We look at me and know that those 40 rounds are worth it. Sure, I still have cancer growing excruciatingly slow in my lungs, and I'm in just about the same place I was when I started chemo. But being in the same place means that I'm still alive. And it means that cancer hasn't advanced forward, grown more than a few millimeters or shown up somewhere new.  I'm walking around with a disease that has barely progressed because chemo has done its job.

And that's powerful for me to consider. Especially when I meet families or read the stories of people who weren't so lucky, with a diagnoses similar to my own. There are people who didn't respond to treatment and only had 6 months to live, and mere months to love their kids enough to last a lifetime.

So here's to 40 rounds, and 40 more if that's what it takes. I will not go into that oncology building happily, but I will go willingly.

5.19.2014

GYRIG 2014

Team Colon Cancer Chick rocked Get Your Rear in Gear this year. Huge thanks to everyone who participated, either by pounding some pavement on a perfectly beautiful day, or donating to a cause that's so near and dear to my colon heart. 
Just another scooter ride through a giant colon!
And now he can say he's smiled inside the large intestines.
4000+ participants this year!
Merrick's 1st 5K. 
Never taking for granted that I'm here to hold my biggest fan.
Get Your Rear in Gear veteran and loyalest friend, Gina. #BFFs
Carb loading.
Photo booth antics.
My littlest caregivers.

5.15.2014

And Then I Tripped and Blogged All Over the Place

I had the extremely recent privilege of getting a little cozier in our new home town with an invitation to guest blog on our local Twin Cities Moms Blog (also found on Twitter and Facebook and a few other places where I feel like a socially awkward loiterer when I show up). Guest blogging, for those that don't know, is like having a "guest preacher" at church on Sunday. I'm simply invited to do what I do from someone else's pulpit.

If you're an avid reader of my story, this is simply my very chatty self summing up my life in 1000 words or less. And considering I can't sum up most of my Target trips in 1000 words or less, this is a fairly amazing feat for me.

I also can't answer a yes or no question in a 1000 words or less, but what woman can?

I'm just a glutton for cathartic blogging, sharing my message of gratefulness and helping people put their own lives into perspective. I also love any excuse to sit at my desk and yell "Mommy's working so leave me alone!" like it's a legitimate excuse to ignore my children.

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5.05.2014

That Girl's Gone Crazy

I like to consider myself a pretty even keeled kind of girl. A choleric by day and a phelgmatic by night. A type A girl with type B tendencies. My boat rarely rocks, and even with cancer, I can adjust my sails with ease when the wind changes directions.

I've never been one for highs and lows. And until I started dry heaving in the parking lot of the oncology building every time I pulled up, had never experienced hardcore anxiety in my life.

Sure, I've been through those highly stressful moments that kept me awake at night, gave me an endless pit in my stomach or had me dragging my feet like a guilty dog. But never had stress or anxiety turned into a psychosomatic experience for me. I had never been physically paralyzed by mental anguish!

I quickly learned that what I was experiencing was a very real event for cancer patients, and my infusion nurse told me to use my nausea meds to calm myself down. They apparently only moonlight as nausea meds in the cancer world, and spend most of their free time parading around as anxiety meds. I had no clue that I had been downing anxiety meds all this time! Fabulous.

I knew I wasn't alone in this. A float nurse once told me that she had crossed paths with a former patient at the mall, and at the mere sight of that nurse, the former patient turned green and had to walk away with minimal conversation. I think back to those early days of chemo, where driving past the oncology building on my way to Target was enough to trigger a physical response.

Those nausea/anxiety meds are either next to the bed or in my purse at all times. I never know when something as minor as too much time spent thinking about treatment will trigger the domino effect and I'm suddenly looking like a cat trying to hack up a hairball.

So I use anxiety, but only in very specific situations. And I take medication to help me deal with it, but within very limited perimeters. As someone who sails on mentally calm seas, I feel like I have to write a disclaimer for my chemo-related anxiety. But having this very specific anxiety has given me empathy for those people who have general anxiety creeping into multiple facets of their life.

I recently read a memoir (because I am a complete sucker for a humorous memoir) where the author spent at least one chapter writing about her social anxieties and panic attacks. A few years ago, my mind would have wandered while I skimmed over that chapter. But I get it now. I just replace her personal triggers with little old me sitting in the parking lot of the oncology building and it's like I'm a hot mess sitting on the floor of the bathroom with her at that party where she just said the most inappropriate thing to her husband's boss.

Lately, the whole idea of maintenance chemo has been really settling in with me. Some weeks I'm cool with it, and other weeks I sit on the couch all day and stare at my pump and thinking I'm going to go crazy if I have to do this one more freakin' time. I'm still up and at 'em like a normal coffee-drinking American, but I've notice my performance threshold has been ticking down, long naps are now required and I walk around in a general malaise for those 3 or 4 days after my infusion.

It's simply 2 steps forward and 1 step back for me.

And as much as it's always been a physical drag, it's starting to become a hardcore mental drag.

I feel slightly unappreciative to say that I'm sick of doing the one thing that's possibly prolonging my life or possibly killing the cancer for good. And I feel slightly wimpy to say I don't want to do it and that I'm tired of it and that I don't know how much more of it I can do without going batty.

I'm not going to walk into my next appointment and throw around some 4-letter words before storming out with my regrowth blowing in the wind. I'm in this fight. But just because I'm in it, doesn't mean I'm in it with the passion I assume I should have - the passion I think everyone expects cancer patients to have.

All those cliché cancer sayings about being "strong" and "tough" and a "fighter" make me feel like a total fraud. That's what it really comes down to. I feel like I'm having to muster up more mental strength than physical strength when it rolls around every other week - kissing my healthy and happy self good-bye for another week until it can return to normal.

So pass me a bucket and know that my blood pressure is only that low at my next appointment because I'm pharmaceutically artificially relaxed.