Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moments

I've been feeling a little sentimental, and thinking about the moments that have made up my life. Wrote this sappy little thing this morning. Not very well edited, but I thought I'd put it up before I get distracted with some shiny new object.

“Wo . . . would you like to . . . ?
“Yes. I’d like that.”
“I’ve been thinking . . . and
wonder if you’d marry me?”
“Of course. Of course I would.”
“I’m so happy.”
“Me too. But there’s no money
in the bank, and we need groceries.”
“It’s all right. I’ll take care of it. Always.”
“I hope so, because
it’s going to be a girl.”
“A girl? A baby girl?”
“Yes, isn’t she beautiful?”
“Wow. She’s perfect.”
“She is. But we’ll need more room.”
“More room?”
“For her brother.”
“A son?"
"He'll be like you."
"I’ll build you anything.
Anything you need. Always.”
“Good. Because I’m hearing
lots of little feet in our future.”
“Then we’ll make lots of little rooms.”
“I’m happy. But so tired.
There’s so much to do.”
“It’s all right. We’ll do it together, always.”
“I knew you would.
Honey, this boy says he loves her.”
“Is he a good man?”
“Almost as good as you.”
“Then we’ll do all we can for them.”
“They seem so happy.
Do you remember that time?”
“Of course. And we’re not that different.
But now my eyes are weak. My hair is gray.”
“Which is perfect, for a grandpa.”
“Grandpa? Oh my. Were our babies that small?”
“Always. And that beautiful.”
“Yes, I remember. So long ago.”
“Honey, the doctor wants to see us both.”
“The tests? They’re in?”
“Yes. I’m scared. Hold me.”
“Always.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Amazing Ups and Big Bumps

It's not supposed to be like this. I was told, very clearly, that each round of chemo would be worst the last. But my Christmas miracle has continued. I can still taste food. Don't even have to use plastic utensils. My mouth isn't raw. Neither is my nose. Everything is easier. Not complaining, but plenty baffled.

Yesterday I had a doctor visit (got a lymphatic draining massage, which isn't nearly as nice as a regular one, but a massage is a massage) then went hat shopping (I LOVE my new hat) then after a long nap had the energy to go see the Zoo Lights, in the dark and the cold. Of course, I forgot the camera and hot chocolate, but it was still a great day.

I had hoped today would be another great follow up. We loaded up the car and headed to Logan to visit my mother. But the roads were awful and in the end we had a close encounter with another vehicle. There were no injuries, and the cars can be repaired. The worst part is that I didn't get to see my mom.

But I'll still take a day like today over the other option.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Bells, Miracles, and Fishies

 



I started to blog about my amazing children and how they saved Christmas at our house, but before I did I read a little story in the newspaper about a farm family from long ago with about twelve children and the mom had to take to the dad to the hospital with a serious illness right at Christmas time. So while they were gone the older children milked the cows and harvested the grains and slopped the hogs and built toys for the little ones and chopped down a tree and made Christmas dinner and fed and bathed the little ones and even sang Christmas carols and told them the Christmas story. And you'll be glad to know Mom and Dad got home just in the nick of time and it was the best Christmas ever.

Kind of deflated my more modern story. But here it goes. Hope it's not too disappointing.

At our house we have one little ten-year-old who is the ultimate when it comes to cheer and festivity. He is trying sooo desperately to cling to the sweet sound of Santa's sleigh bells (if you haven't seen Polar Express please stop what you're doing right now and see it.) We also have a Mom with two problems. First, she's one of most sappy, sentimental people ever and this is her youngest child and she also desperately wants him to keep hearing those bells one last year. But she is also pumped full of these icky drugs that have wreaked havoc with her brain and mind. On Christmas Eve, there were these pumped-up steroid fishy-drugs saying "KEEP MOVING! THAT'S RIGHT! ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER!. DO NOT STOP!" At the same time there were these terribly seductive fishies going, "Come on sweetie, just a little nap. Just come put your head on this little pillow." There was this other fire fishie that kept setting my head ablaze. And finally there were these whacked-out fishies just swimming in circles going "AAAHHHHCCCCHHHH!!" My head was a mess. It would be easier to count the number of times I got out of bed than the times I took a nap, though it's all a blur.

Well, there were no pigs to slop, but those kids of mine cheerfully cleaned the kitchen, did the shopping, took the little guy sledding and helped build a snowman before he became spontaneously combustible, and wrapped presents. I was so proud--even if you couldn't tell by my psyched-out demeanor.

But by evening it became clear that those bells would not be ringing unless Mom took off her crazy hat. I sincerely prayed for a Christmas Miracle, and wouldn't you know, I got it. Other than alternating real hats throughout the day (hard to find just the right 'dressed up but at home all day in a hot kitchen with hot flashes going off bald lady hat') I felt like a regular person clear up until Christmas Evening. And maybe the biggest miracle? I, even I, could TASTE the roast beast! (In case you didn't know, the chemo has taken away my sense of taste for the most part. But Christmas dinner was fabulous! How's that for a miracle?)

We didn't make it out with neighbor gifts and greetings like we usually do, and I was in hiding when most came to my door--but I hope you all had a fabulous holiday!


Proof that there was a snowman:


Santa came!




"The Dude" in his new clothes

Cutest Babe Ever! (Grandma in her workout wig)



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Can't add much to this. Ethan at his First Christmas finest!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What not to say to a cancer patient--A practical guide

Let me preface this posting by saying that I'm just as guilty as anyone else of saying the exact wrong thing to a sick person. Also, this is based purely on my reactions, no scientific research has gone into this, so it could be totally off the wall. And finally, if you recognize yourself here, please keep in mind that I still love you. =)

But with all that said, since it's often awkward to talk to someone with a serious illness, especially when they've just been diagnosed, I thought I'd throw out some of the things I've learned by being a the recipient of a whole bunch of loving attempts.

1. Never say, "Are you terminal?" or even worse, "Are you going to die?" (true story). If you really must know, it is better to say, "What is your prognosis?" But that question is better asked after the patient has had time to meet with doctors and get a grip on reality. It took time for me to come to grips with death as a possibility. Don't be the one to bring it up.

2. Everyone knows someone with cancer. By the time the patient has talked to 100 people, they have heard a 150 stories of others with cancer. It gets old, and even can (not saying it always does, but can) begin to trivialize their own experience. But it is sometimes helpful to know that others have gone through the same thing. So after considerable thought, here's my recommendation: Only offer up someone's story if you are very close to them (like a 1st-generation relative or close friend.) Unless you have a really good reason, skip the small talk about your neighbor's sister-in-law.

3. This is related to the second rule, but unless you have a really good reason, only share the story of your close and personal friend or relative if the person survived and the cancer didn't come back. (I even broke that rule recently.) The first few days after my diagnosis, I heard at least five stories of people who had either died or were fighting a second round. Depressing. Depressing. Depressing.

4. My all-time favorite thing not to say: "So are they going to cut your boobies off?" No commentary needed.

Party's Over...Back to the Drip Mill

The presents are opened (and yes they were sweet), the candles blown, and now it's back to the chemo routine. The good news is that today's round is my third out of six--half way!!!!

I was talking to a relative the other day about her dad's chemo experience. She described the chairs being placed in a circle, and said that she was so impressed with how the patient's bonded during their chemo. They were all going through the same thing and could empathize with one another.

Well, I'm afraid to say there's not a lot of bonding going on here, except with the nurses. The lounge chairs are placed throughout the room with partitions dividing most. The designers were obviously thinking of privacy, not bonding. And I do like my privacy. I sit with my laptop, blogging, catching up on emails, and editing my book--headphones in my ears playing relaxing music.

But today I'm looking at the other patients, all absorbed in their newspapers and books, or napping, and wonder about the stories I'm missing. Hmmm...it's a trade off. People in the room or people in cyberspace? It's not like I have much choice, since the nearest patient is maybe twenty feet away and asleep. But it does make me wonder how much of our lives are spent caught up in cyber-reality instead of real-reality.

For now I'll keep typing and listening to my music. But maybe I'll wander over to the snack bar a little later and see if I can strike up a conversation with somebody.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's My Birthday...Happy Birthday...It's My Birthday..

I'm a Christmas baby. Born four days before, brought home on Christmas morning. Which means I've always shared my big day with the Big Guy. Which is fine. Any day is a good day for a birthday. Yes, that's right. I actually LIKE the fact that I'm getting older.

I suppose everyone in the middle of cancer treatment looks at their birthday differently from the Average Joe or Joanne. I realize most adults moan and groan the advancing of age, but I just can't do it. To me, one more birthday is nothing but a reason to CELEBRATE!

And since this isn't my first time at cheating death, or even my second, I've been like this for quite some time. (Sorry if you find it annoying.)

I'd like to say that this cancer thing is my most dramatic brush with death, but the whole 'heart failure and subsequent open-heart surgery with four kids ages seven and under' was pretty, darn dramatic.

Not to mention the growing up normal and healthy despite having a hole in your heart the size of a pencil. I've asked several doctors how that could have happened and they just shrug.

I can't even claim that hole or this most recent cancer discovery as my most miraculous events. If you know anything about colon cancer, you know that finding pre-cancerous polyps in your early thirties when there's no family history is nothing short of a miracle.

And now with finding this super-mega tumor just in the nick of time. I don't know what to think. I'm just happy to be here.

I kind of feel like doing a victory dance, and sticking my tongue out at whatever force is apparently bent on taking these birthdays away. Anybody want to join me? It's my birthday...Happy birthday...Neener Neener...It's my birthday...Neener Neener...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Some People Are Just Born to Play Elvis

 


Brandon played 'Elfis' the STAR of his fifth-grade play. It really was...something. I'm not sure how best to describe it. He was great. Very Elvis. The title of the post is what his sister kept thinking...

Hopefully a video will follow.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Unexplained Cheer

So you know how sometimes you see drivers alone in their cars who are rocking out to their radios--bopping up and down, singing their little hearts out, using the steering wheel like a percussion instrument? And you know how you feel...well...embarrassed for them? And you wonder if they realize how stupid they look?

Well, I have to admit that (ahem) that has been me lately. Not the one noticing the wierdo--the other guy. The wierd one. The first couple of times that it happened, I stopped myself and thought, wait a minute, I'm in the middle of chemo...and bald. I'm not supposed to feel cheerful. But then I figured there was no sense in fighting it.

I haven't decided if it's the Christmas season, denial or just a blessing; or maybe a combination, but I honestly do feel a light heart most of the time these days. Go figure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blatant Bragging





We just got back from Logan where my beautiful 24-year old (24!) got her master's degree. The next day her hubby got his bachelors. Even more amazing, they both (most likely) have jobs. Jen is working with young deaf children. Mike is teaching high school math. If he doesn't get the job he just interviewed for, he'll be sure to get another, cause he's that good. I think the only thing more amazing than both of them earning degrees while so young, is both of them getting jobs in this economy. I'm just a little proud today.

And by the way, we'll be having an open house to congratulate them next Saturday at our house from 3:30 to 6:30. Stop by if you'd like. Send an email if you need the address!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A call for a little Christmas help

I have been touched, moved, and often awe-inspired by the help and generosity that my friends have shown over the last couple of months. I think it's because of that kindness that I just found myself making a commitment that I know I can't handle on my own. And before I go on, let me answer the question that I know most will be asking: "Is she insane?" The answer is, probably.

So here's the thing, a family in need of some help for Christmas was just brought to my attention by one of my beautiful children. The mother who asked for the help is actually getting it for her three children. Problem is, there are NINE children living in the house, and her three are the only ones getting presents. That just can't happen.

Now I know there's no way I can do it all myself, but for one thing I figured it would be a good project for my kids, to keep them focused on something besides us and our stupid luck. And also I was pretty sure some of my great friends could help me pull this together. So...I know there's a ton of need out there this year, but if you're feeling so inclined to help with this project, it would be greatly appreciated.

We'd like to get the gifts gathered by Tuesday the 15th. (Donations would need to be delivered to our home in Draper.) My kids will wrap them and deliver them the next day. One of my friends has already offered to take on two of the kids, which just leaves us with two nine-year-olds, a boy and a girl; a seven-year-old girl; and a six-month-old boy. We're planning on a couple of toys, a couple of clothing items, and a book for each child. Either new or very gently used is okay.

Please send me an email at sr.reese @ comcast.net if you'd like to pitch in with anything!

And Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I am...

No one could accuse my little Brandon of having low self-esteem. Hopefully it's not too much the opposite.

The family gathered tonight to play the game Catchphrase--with a timed gadget that you pass around the circle giving clues while it ticks like away like a bomb. Brandon couldn't quite get past the game Charades, and used clues like "you go" or "it's like". He would then mime the word, with the little gadget ticking away, louder and more frantic.

"Use words!" His frustrated brother would call. "Give me a noun. A verb. Anything."

"I'm more of an actor person than a word person," he protested back.

The biggest laugh of the night? Brandon got the word "amazing."

His clue? "I am..."

Random Bald Thoughts

Wore the wig for the first time today. After fiddling with it for way too long, I decided to lower my standard from looking "normal" to "not scaring young children." I think I did okay.

You might expect "bald" to be a low-maintenance way of life. But until ostriches become pleasing to the eye, I'm afraid bald will continue to be surprisingly time-consuming.

Bald can be absolutely adorable, if done right. Here's proof:


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stepping Out

 


Woke up feeling well enough to go to a church party this morning. Tried on my wig, but Natalie (ahem, "kindly") suggested I go for one of my smokin' hot hats. First time in public without hair. Made me pause before stepping in the door. But then the FUNNIEST thing happened. Still laughing.

I approached one of my closest friends. I mean, seriously close, friends and neighbors for over a decade. She's going through a lot of stuff: husband's job, kid's health, big new church responsibilities. She's been dumped on. But then who hasn't lately? So I give her a hug and ask her how she's holding up. And she says...are you ready for this? Let me preface by saying it hadn't occurred to her that I was wearing a smokin' hot hat for a reason. The woman, my friend, was totally oblivious when she said, "Well, I still have hair."

Yep. You read that right. She still has hair. I stared at her for a minute, then asked if that's the new criteria for sanity. It dawned on her then. She blushed, blustered, blushed some more, stammered. Later she tried to give Natalie a hard time about something, and I told her she'd lost her right to give anyone a hard time about anything. Maybe I'll stop teasing when we're in our 80's, and neither of us have hair. Maybe
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Me and the Kohl's Pot

I've been a little too "blah" the last couple days to post my latest hair episode (lack of energy and taste buds will do that to you). But I did, sadly, have one.

It started on Wednesday, when I was rushing off to yet another doctor appointment. First thing I noticed was that the white shirt I'd only been wearing for about one hour (to treadmill in) had a WHOLE lot of hair on the back. But there was no time to worry about it--I had to pick out a hat that reasonably matched whatever shirt was clean without tight sleeves, make a berry smoothie that wouldn't make my stomach too mad at me, and get out the door all in about ten minutes. It wasn't until I was in the docs office changing into one of their lovely blue gowns, that I realized I was truly, and ferociously, shedding. Little pieces of brown hair traveled this way and that in front of my gaze while the doc did the examination. Rob mercifully tried to clean off my shirt before I put it back on, but he might as well have been dehairing a great ape. Or maybe a hairy coyote.

I would have headed straight home, but had made arrangements to pick Brandon up at the end of his scout meeting, so I had to stall. I headed to Kohls, where I had planned to do a little shopping, but went straight to the ladies room. I pulled off the hat and shook my head into the toilet, hoping to do away with the strays that were floating around my head. But it was like all 10,000 hairs had just figured out they weren't supposed to be there any more. They started by filling the water. Then each delicate hair started building a little pyramid on top of the other, forming a little hair castle in the bowl of the toilet. It would have been mesmerizing, if it hadn't been so humiliating.

I flushed, then built it all over again. Eventually I put the cap back on and made my way to the car--feeling the kind of self-conscious you feel when you know something's not right, but you're not sure anyone else does. Again I would have liked to head straight home, but had to stop for Brandon. And of course the cookies they boys were baking weren't done, so I was invited inside. I moved slowly and consciously, watching my flying hair friends out of the corner of my eye, and tried to act as normal as possible.

By the time I did make it home, I went directly to the bathroom, where I pulled out the hair-cutting kit and took it to my own head. Just like that. It was time. They were noble little hair strands, but we all knew they were done.

Since then I've been trying on wigs and hats and t-shirt bands. I flirted with the natural look last night in front of Brandon. He put his fingers in front of his eyes and asked me to put the wig back. So I went bald all day while he was in school, and I've just put a turban on preparation for his return. Hopefully he'll get used to the site.

And in answer to the question I know you have, I haven't shed a tear since the hair's actual departure. Maybe those'll come in some dark moment in the shower. But for now I'm just trying to swim.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Swimming with Friends

I happened to check my junk mail this morning, and came across a misdirected note sent last week by one of my beautiful, thoughtful friends. It had a link to this song that she said made her think of me--written by a man who just "swam" through his own cancer experience. The timing was perfect, as my chemo friends are back and hopefully swimming like mad on my behalf. Last night I uncharacteristically dumped a load of discouragement on my husband. He held me and let me cry and told me to just hang on. This song filled in all the blanks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Only Mostly Bald

If there's anything more disturbing than seeing your reflection with a mostly-bald head for the first time--it's having it combined with puffy, red eyes.

On the upside, my hairfall of last Wednesday stopped by the next day, leaving me with only slightly-thinned hair. Which meant I was able to spend Thanksgiving Day hatless and normal. Made me really glad I hadn't shaved.

It started again on Saturday night. Mostly just on top. The fam assured me it was fine, so I refrained from wearing a hat at dinner. Brandon graciously told me it wasn't that bad. That I just looked like a hairy coyote. He was trying to be nice.

It was before going to bed that I got a good look at the partially-bald head, surrounding eyes that were the result of crying off and on all day. I guess something like this, at least in a ten-year-old's eyes:



But the serious shedding didn't start till Sunday morning. I got in the shower, thinking I could just get it over with. After several minutes of scrubbing I was covered with hair from head to toe, bawling, and determined I'd just need to shave the rest. Except it turned out there wasn't all that much missing. There's way too much scalp showing on top to get by without a hat in public (at least without feeling self-conscious), but the sides and back are still full and normal. Again happy I was too big of a wimp to just shave. Both the shedding and the tears have (mostly) stopped, for now. And I look pretty normal in a hat.

The doc assures me the rest will come out next time around, at least by Christmas. But for now I'm counting my blessings.

And for the morbidly curious, here's me, as current as pictures can get, in my second round of chemo, both with a hat and without. Don't ask me what's possessing me to post these. I guess all that journalistic training. But I'm thinking I better push the post button before I totally chicken out.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is it raining?

No, that's just my hair, falling out strand by strand. I'm told by those who have come before me that the least traumatic thing I can do is shave it all right now. And I'm sitting here thinking that sounds like anything but less traumatic. I don't know. the razor may come out in the next few hours, but for now I'm too intrigued by the process, and nervous, to consider anything else.

Last night just before dinner I ran my fingers through my hair and came away with about a dozen strands. I cried a few tears, pulled myself together, and bravely announced over the dinner table that it has begun. Went to bed in a hairnet, to avoid the tales I've heard of waking to a pillow covered in hair. But not a single strand had departed over night. Then just now I ran my fingers through again and came away with a complete clump. I've since started a small pile. A little morbid I know. That's what my daughter tells me anyway. But it's how I'm dealing with it. And I get to deal with it any way I want.

Monday, November 23, 2009

And while I'm on the subject

I just posted below about how I'm a writer. How I kind of forget sometimes. So I after got done smacking my head, and writing a couple of reviews, I dusted off the manuscript I was working on before this all hit me. And then I remembered an email that should keep me going. Came from a friend/family-member of mine who read the manuscript. Now I know copying it here sounds like total bragging. And I don't mean it to. It's just too funny to not share. It goes like this:

"Suzanne, you are killing me! Holey buckets! How do you come up with this stuff?! I'm all tied up in suspense and trying to figure out what the heck! I just finished chapter 23 and want to keep reading, but HELLO! 12:29 a.m.! Aaarrrrgh! Yeaeaeioueauooouieeaaeeeeeeesh!"

That's the stuff we writers live for. Now if I can just get somebody to publish it!

Once Upon A Time

I remembered something today. I'm a writer! You know? That thing you do when you sit at a computer and let your fingers dance over the keyboard? I mean, sure I do that blogging. But ever since the big CANCER word entered my life, it seems that's the only thing I use my flying fingers for.

So...with a huge apology for the delay, I have some reviews to write! Because Shadow Mountain sent me these books with the full intention of seeing a review out of them. In fact, in cyberspace right now there's a new blog (almost) ready to be launched, dedicated to nothing but books and reviews and writing and such. But I can't quite get the header right, and in the meantime these great books don't have my review. So with all that adieu, I'm going to post them right here, on this blog. They don't have anything to do with cancer, and if that's why you come visit, I promise I'll get back to that dreary subject soon enough. But for now, grab a cup of hot chocolate and curl up with one of these books.

****************

Rachel Nunes took on a difficult and ugly topic in her latest novel ‘Saving Madeline’, showing the possible heartbreaking results of the combination of meth labs and children. Her characters are likeable and sympathetic—especially the precocious child Madeline and the mentally handicapped Amy. Even the drug-addicted mother Dakota is portrayed in a complex light that makes it difficult to judge too harshly. The story is fast-paced and intriguing throughout. Nunes deserves high praise for her handling of a topic that needs wide-spread attention. You won't be able to put it down until you find out what happens to poor Madeline.

********************


My favorite thing about G.G. Vandagriff's 'The Hidden Branch' is that it doesn't try to take itself too seriously. The character of Briggie is as fun as her name sounds. She's a senior lady who lands in jail more than once, yet none of her friends seem nonplussed by the news. And even though the story is whimsical at times, there is some serious action and intrigue. There are plenty of characters, which means plenty of suspects and plenty of reasons to keep turning pages. If you read my review of 'Last Waltz' you know that I think Vandagriff is one of the best authors around. 'The Hidden Branch' shows that she's able to adapt to multiple genres with amazing skill.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Still Hair

I'm pleased to report that I've felt more and more like a human being each day since my release from the hospital. Yesterday I folded and put away a mountain of laundry, went hot tubbing with the youngest two kids, did a big shopping a Super Walmart, and made dinner, all before declaring myself out of every last reserve of energy.

I have three events listed on my calendar for tomorrow. The first says "maid service". The Utah Cancer Foundation sends a cleaning service out for free to chemo patients. I'm extremely fond of the Utah Cancer Foundation.

The next item is "Poetry Contest". Brandon has advanced to the semi-finals in a poetry-reciting contest at his school. Not surprisingly, he picked a song that can be sung. It's called 'My Favorite Fibs' recited to the tune of 'My Favorite Things'. A perfect combination with his soprano voice and mischievous smile.

The third item is "Mom's Hair Will Fall Out". It's literally written on the calendar in a ten-year-old script. Happens to be the day they've predicted the hair will come out, though it feels firmly in place today. Brandon is both fascinated and appalled with the idea. So am I.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home Sweet Unsterile Home

I'm pleased to report that my little vacation stay at the hospital ended on Tuesday, though germ-wise the hospital was probably a bit safer than my home. Both hubby and son had developed sore throats and coughs during my absence. Hubby was banished to a spare bedroom, and son was whisked away to a neighbors. (Don't worry, he's been allowed back home.) The whole fam has been pumping themselves with vitamins. And my immune system is not nearly as fragile as it was before. So I'm just trying to relax, though the hand sanitizer is never far.

I was just reading a blog entry about first memories, written by a beautiful friend of mine. (Her blog is new and fascinating: http://thenarcichronicles.blogspot.com)

She poses the question of why our brains lock on certain events in our early years. What is it that makes one particular moment stand out above other moments? If we look at our first few very early memories, they most likely point to something that is of value to us as adults, perhaps help us learn a little about ourselves. She gives the example of a relative whose first memory is running to the aid of a little sister who has skinned her knee--and the nurturing that women has done in her adult life. My friend remembers watching her dad mow the lawn, and even as a 3-year-old noticing the careful, perfect job he was doing. She became an over-achiever who strives a little too hard for perfection.

This made me think back to my own first memories. There are three that stand out as most vivid. In the first, I was about four, playing at the bottom of a large hole behind our house. It was about the size of a swimming pool, and had been dug then abandoned by the city for some industrial reason. My mother hated that hole. I thought it was the best thing ever. On this particular day a friend and I were playing with trucks at the bottom (lady-like I know) when some "big" kids (they must have been 7 or 8) came by, looked down at us from the edge, and told us we weren't allowed to be down there. I remember standing up, squinting up at them with my hands placed firmly on my hips, and telling them that this was "our" hole and we could do anything we wanted with it. They shrugged and went on their way. I thought I was the toughest thing ever. I'm not sure what they means about me today. Except that people keep calling me tough and I always think they don't know what they're talking about because really I mostly feel scared to death about all this.

In the next, I'm 3 or 4 and my big brother (a teenager) has just arrived home after a long absence. He has swept me up and is swinging me in circles. I just remember feeling so loved and happy.

The last is with that same brother and a bunch of his friends at a party in our basement. There is loud music. And beads. Lots of beads. This was the sixties, in a suburb just outside of San Francisco. I didn't realize at the time that they were probably stoned. (Still love ya, bro. Sorry Mom if you're hearing about this for the first time.) I was about 4, wearing flowered bell-bottom pants that were the coolest thing ever, and dancing atop a card table. I totally believed them when they said I was on the table because my dancing was so amazing. The friends circled the table, dancing in their swinging hippie way, and one-by-one placed a strand of beads around my neck.

It's that memory that brings me back to my current circumstance. You have me doing my best to keep dancing, while being encircled with both drugs and a huge out-pouring of love.

As far as the analysis? I'll let you do that one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Germ-o-phobe


I've been spending my time in this little "resort" getting caught up on my older kids latest television show craze--Glee. I find it wonderful in a disturbing kind of way, and could do all kinds of commentary on many different levels. But I'll just share that part that reminds me of my situation.

There's a scene where the character Emma walks stiff-legged into the boy's locker room, her arms held awkwardly at her sides. Her approximate words are: "I can't stay in here of course. The germs. And the smell."

The coach she's addressing nods his understanding. The woman is a serious germ phobe. She eats with plastic gloves on, just for starters.

And I'm feeling increasingly like her. Since I apparently have NO immune system for the time being, there's a sign on my door that prohibits live flowers or plants. Because of the spores. And fresh fruits and vegetables. Fortunately they haven't prohibited those giant germ caravans known as humans, but it's only a matter of time. Which is why I feel a little like Emma, standing uncomfortably in the locker room. "I can't stay here." I mean, this is a great facility, but it's packed wall-to-wall with sick people and germs. I should be anywhere but here.

I touched my NOSTRIL last night with my STERILE finger while preparing for bed. Gasped. And frantically began flushing the nose, willing back any germs that might have considered that an invitation to take a stroll. Seriously. I'm that bad.

That's when I knew the biggest difference between me and Emma is her big doe eyes. And that I know exactly how she felt when she walked into that locker room. I can't stay here either honey.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Little Off-Course



So my little chemo buddies went the wrong way over the weekend, sending me to the emergency room with a fever. Apparently doctors like to keep you around when that happens. My white blood count is low, and they won't let me leave until it goes back up. No idea when that will be.

I was bawling when they wheeled me to my room, and the sweet nurse kindly says, "Long night in the emergency room?" I felt so stupid, couldn't even say why I was crying, so I had Rob do it for me. I was going to miss Brandon singing at church--a duet. I've been so caught up in this stupid battle that I haven't even heard him practice. Wasn't even sure what song he was singing. One more cancer robbery, dang it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Pacifier

Yesterday Whitney, Jen, and the grandbaby took me and my achy bones on a little walk.

(Let me apologize right up front to Jen. Since I only have one grandchild, anonymity wasn't possible. Love you Sweetie. Remember that.) Anyway, as we turned a corner, Ethan sneezed, propelling his pacifier several feet in front of the stroller. It then bounced ahead, down the hill in front of us. Jen calmly asked her sister to hold onto the stroller, then dashed after the bouncing binky. When she reached it, it bounced between her feet and kept going.

Jen apparently decided it was time to up her game--and began waving her arms wildly. When that didn't help, she started to yell. "STOPPP!!! STOP ROLLING!!!" She continued on her way, yelling and waving her arms, right past one of our new neighbors--who doesn't know us from the Addams Family. I turned away in embarrassment. But then couldn't keep from looking--like when you pass a car wreck--in time to see her trip over the binky again, arms flailing.

The binky made it half-way down the hill before she finally caught up to it and returned, triumphant. Between fits of laughter, Whitney helpfully pointed out that the pacifier probably couldn't hear her screams. I also helpfully added (while holding my sides) that it probably would have stopped on its own eventually. While she had to admit that was true, she defensively explained that it's the only binky she owns that her baby likes, so it's a huge priority to her.

Upon reflection, it's moments like that, Ladies and Gentlemen, that give me the courage to fight the good fight.

I only wish I'd had a video camera.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No more honeymoon

So the sweet delusion of thinking maybe this chemo won't be so bad came to screeching halt this morning. I did manage to sleep. But I woke up with the sensation that a criminal was standing over my bed attempting to smother me. When I tried to move, I realized it wasn't just my chest that hurt. It was bone ache from scalp to toe and everywhere in-between. I was still frozen in place, accessing the situation, when my poor, unsuspecting hubby entered the room and asked if I needed anything.

"Yes!" I pretty much screamed, my body pinned to the bed. "I need THINGS! LOTS of things!"

I then began barking out orders like a mad man. Pain meds. Water. Soft food. Warm bath.

The pain is being caused by one of the good guys. A new drug that goes directly into the bone marrow and protects my white and red blood cell counts from dropping. Knowing that should make it feel better. Should.

Hopefully the pain will start decreasing over the next couple days. And even more hopefully it won't be replaced by something even more gruesome. But for now I'm just sitting around feeling very chemoed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sweet Mood Music

The list so far: Heart burn big time. I have to eat with a plastic spoon cause metal makes the food taste funny. My mouth is dry. My bones hurt. And I keep falling asleep. Nothing traumatic, just a bunch of little stuff. But I think the fatigue is making me sentimental.

One of my beautiful daughters sent me this song a while back, right after my diagnosis, and I just pulled it up. Cries are good if they're happy ones. Right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Human Today

Wow. I woke up feeling human this morning. And not just barely-alive human, but normal human. I do seem to burping a lot. And I have this strange craving for gum (which my children will tell you is very strange.) But other than that, I'm good to go. Drove myself to the hospital for a shot, then went to the store, then another, and another. Bought myself some killer hats. Then I stopped and picked up my grandbaby to give his other grandma a break while I'm able. Amazing stuff for the day after chemo. There are a bunch of side effects that are supposed to turn up throughout the coming days. But for now, I'll take human any day!

Me and Angelina Jolie

Okay - funniest story ever. Well, one of them. My hairdresser's 11-year-old son saw me and asked his mom if she cut my hair. He was very proud of her, and said it made me look just like Angelina Jolie.

I'm sure you've heard of her. That kind of super-pretty lady.





Yep. I can hardly tell the difference.

When I got done laughing I told her to give him a big squeeze. Then take him directly out and get his eyes checked.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just Keep Swimming

At this very moment I'm in a lounge chair at the hospital with every comfort imaginable--Internet, relaxing music, aromatherapy, hot chocolate, a good book, pillows, blankets...and the first of three chemo drugs pumping into my veins. All good so far. Except for the steroids they started me on yesterday. I didn't even get drowsy last night, despite taking Ambien and a sedating pain pill. The doc assures me I'll make up for that tonight--I hope he's right.

They said something in our chemo class last week that stuck with me: Chemo is not the enemy. Cancer is the enemy, and chemo kills cancer. I knew that, but even so had been thinking of chemo as the bad guy. So I'm trying to think more kindly towards these drugs. They are saving my life after all.

And last night, when I had plenty of time to think, I finally thought of my 'visualization'. You may have seen the movie with Cher about a boy with tumor that he caled Planet Meatball? He routinely shot at it like it was the target in a video game. Well, at that same chemo class they encouraged us to use visualization as part of the battle. I'm told one lady brought a Wonder Woman doll to each of her treatments. Another used Elmer Fudd "get that rabbit". Personally that worried me, since Elmer always loses. But I've drawn a blank on my own ideas for a couple weeks--until last night I thought of Dory and Marlin from Finding Nemo.




Of course I've way overthought this--since I had eight or so sleepless hours to kill. But I figure the two of them are like two of my chemo drugs--the ones that kill any fast growing cells. (One gets the drugs that are sitting in wait, the other finds the ones currently growing. Haven't decided which is Dory and which is Merlin.) Sometimes they get a little confused and end up in the wrong places (like shark meetings or my bone marrow and hair platelets), but because of their persistence and dedication to the cause they succeed in their mission of saving Nemo (ie. lille ol' me in this case.) There's even the third drug, Herceptin, (the one I'm getting as we speak, and which possibly gets the biggest credit for saving my life--if it weren't for Herceptin my odds of this cancer coming back in a rage are like 50%). Herceptin doesn't kill cells, but tells them not to keep feeding ravenously on cancer cells the way they've been doing (as if it's chocolate or something)--kind of like the kindly sharks and turtles keeping the water safe for Nemo.

Besides, and most of all, they all make me smile. Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coconuts and Aliens

I decided to get a haircut. Really short--to help transition into what's to come. My girls helped me search for several styles, and I printed the favorites out on a paper to take to my hair dresser. My son saw the paper on the counter. "You want to look like an alien?" Turns out one of the styles was the lovely Morena Baccarin, the alien on the new TV series V. I could only dream of looking that good. Here's the actual alien cut:



I also got an expander fill this week. Not a big fan of expanders. Here's the recipe, in case you're interested: Divide a coconut in half. Place each side UNDER chest pectoral muscles. (You know, the ones that think they're supposed to lie flat, only because that's how they've spent almost half a century.) Breathe.

I've had a brain worm all week. (That's an actual scientific term: Brain Worm. You can look it up if you don't believe me. It's a song that's on instant replay in your head.) Anyway, I can't get rid of it. "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts."



SIGH. At least it's all only temporary.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hair Obsession

It takes a lot of work to stay healthy. I mean, not just normal healthy, but 'let's kick this cancer in the butt healthy' (Harsh language for me, I know. But we're talking cancer here. Time for tough talk.) Anyway with all the juicing, protein drinks, power breakfasts, supplements, ionic bath treatments, cardio workouts--the routine pretty much takes up my whole day.

But when I do get a few extra minutes, I inevitably find myself at the computer researching ways to save my hair. Not that it can be done--I'm assured with my kind of chemo it will come out. But there are plenty of snake oil salesman that would like you to believe otherwise.

Some methods are even pretty legitimate, just not very well researched. For instance, in 2001 some scientists tested a cream on some poor mice, then put them through chemo. And they only lost hair on the half of their bodies that didn't have the cream. The cream ironically slows hair growth. But since the chemo is seeking out cells that grow quickly, it apparently ignored the hair follicles that had the cream. And the best part is that you can wash it off afterwards and the hair goes back to normal. But I can't find a thing about that magic cream any more recent than 2001. Nada. Zip.

Then there are ice caps. Apparently they're widely used throughout Europe and Australia. Women sit with ice on their heads during their chemo sessions. Apparently the drugs don't like that climate and their hair stays in. But docs in the U.S. speculate that if the chemo drug isn't getting to the hair follicles, it might not be making it to the brain either. And as much as I would like to keep my hair, I DON'T want brain cancer even more.

Finally we have vitamin E. Anecdotal evidence shows that taking mega-doses of vitamin E right before chemo can sometimes either avoid or delay hair loss. And how easy is that, to just take a few vitamin pills before going in? But again docs speculate that antioxidants feed the cancer cell as well healthy cells. I don't personally believe that. And it hasn't been studied enough for there to be any definitive answers. But since I won't be getting a second chance at this game, I want to do it right the first time. My oncologist is ok with me taking antioxidants, just not the mega doses, and not right before the treatment.

So there it is, my dilemma and obsession. Can't ever seem to find an answer, just more and more questions. Meanwhile, the wig is ready and waiting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just One Shot

So the big dramatic thing I learned from the oncologist is that there can only be one round in this war. If it goes into round two, I'll lose.

The good news is that they have a huge arsenal at their disposal, and because of the nature of my cancer they intend to use them all. He started by telling me that if we were to quit now, there's an 80% chance it would return. That's one mean cancer beasty. But by the end of our discussion he had those odds down to 15. Just a fifteen percent chance it will come back. And that's before things like my fabulous organic diet, exercise, and the millions of prayers being offered on my behalf. I figure I'm probably about as likely to get hit by a car.

The other news, whether good or bad, is that this particular cancer will come back quick, if it comes back, like within a year, maybe three. No long wait on this one.

It actually felt like good news to me. I honestly don't think I'm going anywhere right away. My biggest fear has been spending years and years in battle, and the turmoil that'll cause my loved ones. But apparently that's not even an option. To win right now is the only option.

So I have a week and a half until the chemo starts. That'll give me time to get nice and healed before they whack at that cancer again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Very Own Ministering Angel

Ive been anxious the last couple days about my upcoming visit with the oncologist. Mostly because of the numbers. The one the surgeon didn't want me to pay much attention to. I know they'll be bad. And part of me doesn't want to hear them at all. But that's not who I am. I need to know what I'm up against. And I know I'm up against a Goliath. So I'm nervous.

But this morning--as with most mornings these days--I got a visit from my very own angel. She happens to be housed in a mortal body for the time being, but that's a mere technicality. She is, in every measure I know, a true angel--generous and unselfish to the hundredth degree. I'm sure she wouldn't want me to say her name. Angels are like that. But My Angel arrived as she often does, and nurtured my physical body--to turn me into a David--then fed my spirit with a pep talk like only she can give. Then, either sensing the extra level of muck or my extra level of stress--or both--she even cleaned my house.

She slipped out with the house sparkling while I was in the shower--preparing for that appointment--and left me armed for battle.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unreasonable Cheerfulness

I've been told I sound "unreasonably cheerful" in my posts. So I thought I'd come on today when I'm not feeling anywhere near that. I do have ups and downs. Lots of them. Most are small--a quick cry while going to sleep, or reading something discouraging. I try to cling to the ups as much as possible. But it has been a rough weekend, with the pain increasing instead of decreasing. I think that's just because my nerve endings are healing and I can actually feel things that used to be numb, which is good. And maybe because I've done a little too much. I actually went to a party with my husband last night. But it still hurts. And it's frustrating to have to break out the pill bottles that I've tucked away in the back of the medicine cabinet. So there you have it. No sunshine and roses today. I just hurt. But I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ahh Sweet Shower

I showered today. So...so...good. It wasn't the first shower since my surgery. Just the first not spent both crying over the shock of my new reflection in the mirror, and trying to juggle dangling tubes and bulbs along with soap and shampoo. Almost felt human afterward. Such a wonder, those showers. Turn a knob and a gentle spray of soothing warm water drenches you. Pure heaven. Just one of many things I've taken for granted lately.

Also talked to the nurse who is coordinating my care. She told me that chemo is the second-worst part of this process. That surprised me, since it's the part I'm dreading the most. I asked her what the worst part is, and she said I just did it.

Whew. I'm still absorbing that. I just did the hardest part. If that's true, I might just make it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Steps

So...let's see...I slept without Percocet last night. That was a biggie. One step closer to being able to drive. Then I went to a class where I learned how to paint my eyes with so much makeup that no one will know when I don't have any eyelashes. The point was that studies have shown women who get dressed and make themselves look nice actually recover better than women who don't. Looking like a hooker was just a side benefit.

And after that class was the best of all...I got the rest of my drains out! Woo Hoo! It doesn't take much to excite me these days.

I won't have any more big hurdles until next Tuesday, when I meet with the oncologist and go over the game plan. I was told I could start chemo as soon as the next day. But I know I'm going to want a couple of days to review my options and get my brain wrapped around it all.

On a final note -- if any of you nice people out there sent me a soft, fuzzy blanket, with the breast cancer awareness ribbon, will you please let me know who you are so I can thank you properly? I only know it came from Overstock. And I seriously doubt they randomly send out blankets to cancer patients.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big, Tiring Day...

I've pretty much been a slug for the past week, but yesterday I had to hide my bizarre figure enough to leave the house for my first post-op appointment. I say first because I guess there are a whole bunch of them. Two more next Friday. The doc had to do several things that took quite a while and involved blood, stitches and other gory stuff that caused my poor husband to flee the room. The good part was that he took out two of the four drains. The two most annoying ones, as it turns out, so that was good. After that Rob and I walked over to the Huntsman Cancer Center at IMC to make an appointment with my new oncologist. (I seem to be collecting doctors the way I used to collect shoes.)

We got side-tracked in the lobby where we discovered a little library and resource center. I asked about wigs, and it turns out I'm eligible a free one. (You're jealous, I know. I'm just special that way I guess.) They took me on up for a fitting right then. Kind of disturbing. Okay, super disturbing. But I now have a wig. It's pretty much like my own hair, except styled the way mine should look if I did it properly every day. I don't know how often I'll wear it--I guess it'll depend on how itchy and miserable it is. But that's just one of hundreds of mysteries I won't know until I get there.

Anyway, we'd been doing the doctor thing for four hours by the time we finished with the oncologist, so we bought a sandwich, then decided we really ought to grab some milk before heading home, since neither of us would want to leave the house once we got there. (I think the appointments were as draining on Rob as they were on me.) Costco is right by the hospital. But it's not possible to just buy milk at Costco. Not with all those free samples and great deals on giant cheese blocks and such. By the time we straggled home I was ready to never move another muscle again.

On the upside I slept really well last night. And today I was able to lift both my arms above my head, (progress from the day before) so I guess the day wasn't too damaging.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Staging Is In - But I am not a statistic

That's what the doctor said...several times..."You are not a statistic."

He also said that dang old tumor was 5.7 cm. If you're not a tumor expert, that is officially "huge". And of the 18 lymph nodes they removed, 12 had cancer cells. T*W*E*L*V*E. Which is officially "a whole bunch".

That puts me at a Stage 3.

I'll be "presented" to a cancer board tomorrow. About twenty of Huntsman's finest. They'll put together a recommendation for treatment, which I'll learn about when I meet with an oncologist next week. Chemo will begin in two to three weeks.

But I am young and strong and healthy and I will beat this thing.

Just do me a favor and do routine breast checks. By routine I don't mean annual. Mammograms have their place, please get them done, but don't count on them for safety. Ten to fifteen percent of tumors are the kind that don't show up on mammos. They call that rare. I call it likely enough to be persistent. While I may not be a statistic, I don't want any of the women I love to be one either.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meanwhile back at the ranch...

Just when I don't think I can handle any more twists or turns...

As you may know my ten-year-old son is a little actor, singer, dancer, etc. Loves to sing and loves the spotlight. Months ago, when life was normal, I took him to an audition for a movie. We do that a lot. He's had some cool opportunities, but for every role he wins, there are a dozen or so he didn't get. I figure the auditions themselves provide unique experiences for him, and plenty of learning opportunities, so we plow ahead. I never heard back on this particular audition, and didn't give it much thought. Then today I get an email asking for his bio to post on the movie's website. I promptly reply asking why the heck they would need that? Is he in the movie or something? Well, apparently he's been cast as an orphan, and will be "featured in several scenes."

Yikes. His big opportunity and I'm previously occupied. I went ahead and sent the bio, but told them my situation. They said it will be several weeks before they get back to me with scheduling. I guess that's all I can do for now.

In case you're interested, it's a western musical satire called 'The Medicine Show' that they're hoping will become popular in the way of 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly'. Or maybe 'Napoleon Dynamite'. (Who doesn't hope to become the next Napoleon Dynamite?) Here's the website: http://www.themedicineshowmovie.com/

Looks like a lot of fun!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wardrobe Quandary

So imagine you have the brilliant (and by 'brilliant' I meaning (wink wink) 'insane') idea to dangle Christmas ornaments from the edge of your bra. Maybe four of them. Nice big ones. For the perfect touch, they should rest right on your waist line. And for ribbon maybe you use, oh, I don't know, how about surgical tubing? Attached with giant safety pins! And since you're on a surgical theme, you make sure those ornaments are clear and filled with a fluid so disgusting that polite people don't mention it in mixed company.

Yeah, that should look pretty.

Now your only problem is you need to hide this nifty decoration so your young and impressionable children don't puke whenever they see you. (Especially your boys. Boys are so not understanding when it comes to jangly see-through tubing hanging from their mother's underwear.)

When the doctor said to plan on "loose clothing" after surgery, I had no idea just how loose we were talking. I knew about the drains, but I never imagined they'd be this bad. I mean, I'm actually shaped like a loose and jangly Christmas tree. The animated kind you'd see in a holiday parade.

I'd include pictures, but I'm much too polite for that. Maybe I'll just find a green shirt with polka dots and call it good.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And then there were none...

At least at think they're not there. I'm so padded I can't be sure.

The surgery itself wasn't nearly as traumatic as I'd imagined it to be. Way easier than heart surgery anyway. The worst of it was the anxiety...they took out lobes. A bunch of them. Don't know the details of what that all means, but I know at least one was positive for C. Cost me a couple of panic attacks. I haven't researched any further since the anxiety creeps in when I do.

I'm going to live through this. That's what I do know. I've built too beautiful of a life to just give it up.

Besides, the Lord went out of his way this weekend to make sure I knew that too. Won't go into details here, but I'm sure it's true.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just Waiting...

Tomorrow's the day. The surgery. Bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders and node dissection. Sounds impressive. And as my friend Lynette said, very "ouchy". It was kind of cool of me to do it in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I was good with the idea of surgery (get it out! was all I could think) until I started reading other's stories. And looking at pictures. Had a kind of freak-out weekend. I sent an email to the surgeon (his preferred method of communication.) And he was good enough to reply with his blackberry from Disneyland. Then he called me Sunday evening, as soon as he got back. I feel very fortunate to have such a caring and skilled team of doctors. I figure their kind of torture will be the gentlest kind possible.

I've actually felt surprisingly good most of the time, but with plenty of dips. I cry at random moments...my grandson's smile, my husband's touch, my little boy's laugh. It's been a blessing to be so busy, to keep my mind off of the upcoming drama. Between the unpacking and the treatments designed to keep the nasty cancer cells away from my nodes for another week (juicing, ionic baths, sauna, etc.)...I hardly have had a minute to think. Which is great.

Here are a couple of my week's highlights:

The Glowing Room. I am not making this up. The colors of this bedroom were apparently picked by a five year old. There was a glow under the door. Even seeing the glow, and having been in the room a half-dozen times, I would still jump when I opened the door. My friend Sharon thought we should keep it in case I needed a good laugh. But poor Whit didn't think she could sleep in it. Here's the BEFORE:



and AFTER:



Not perfect, but much better.

Another good day was yesterday. I got to watch my grandson for the entire day. The docs tell me I'll only be able to have people put him in my arms after tomorrow. Yeah, I know, makes me cry. So I tried to record our day. Usually Ethan is full of all things happy. But that didn't show so much in the pics.



"Hmm, a camera. I'm cool with that."



"We done yet?"



"Okay, that's enough Grandma."

So there you have it--my week of waiting. Keep those prayers coming, I'm so grateful for them!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Healing House

We're in our new house--the healing house--and kind of settled - though we can't find a few vital things like dish and bath towels. The help has been amazing and mind boggling. I hate to think of the number of backs thrown out on my behalf.

This is not the time to be moving, and believe me we've been wringing our hands ever since getting the news. But from the moment I saw this house online I had the thought that it looks like a place built for healing. That impression was compounded when we walked through it. The walls are dusty blue. There is a large deck in the back surrounded by trees, with a gazebo, and a hot tub. From the master balcony there is a perfect view of the new LDS temple, which lights up beautifully at night. There's even a sauna in the basement.

Everyone seems to be thriving so far, except the dog, who can't maneuver the stairs. But he's getting the hang of it. I'm slowly unpacking the less vital boxes--hoping to find those towels--in between doctor visits and treatments intended to help my body fight off those wicked cancer cells.

Please stop by and visit if you're close. Just make sure you call, since I can't hear the door bell from the hot tub or the sauna.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Big Words

So they've pretty much all been used. The big scary words I didn't want to hear:

TUMOR...MALIGNANT...MASTECTOMY...RADIATION...and even...CHEMOTHERAPY.

Each time a new word gets tossed out there it comes with a fresh wave of grief and tears. But then it finds a place to settle in my brain, stretches a bit, makes itself at home, and I move on.

The doctor used the word BIG when describing my tumor. Followed by REALLY BIG. Tossed out "has me worried." When I go onto those cancer message boards, where people talk in abbreviations like "I had a dx on my ILC that was 2mm," I see pitiful little sizes like 2 centimeters and even 10 millimeters. I want to tell them to get back to me when they have a respectable tumor, like 4.8 centimeters. That's 1.8 inches, in case you're wishing you knew metric better. Apparently it's about half the tissue mass of the A cup "body part" that's holding it. At least that's how much they'd have to take out if they tried a lumpectomy. (And in case anyone just felt offended, I do believe any lump commands respect.)

Fortunately, the scariest word of all...METASTASIZED...was preceded by the phrase "No reason to think that it has..." I'm praying (and I mean seriously praying) that it will stay that way. That's one word that is so not welcome in my brain.

The surgery isn't until Oct. 7. They were saying this Monday, but by the time they got all the doctors schedules coordinated, that was the best they could do. The nurse assured me that the tumor has been around a long time and two weeks wouldn't hurt, especially when it bought them time to do it right. Then she added that it's fine with everyone but the patient.

She sure got that right. But despite the anxiety, it'll give me time to get settled into the pretty new house we found. More on that later.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More Ups and Downs - Mostly Ups

Based on the phone calls I've received today, I guess I'd better post again. The fact of the matter is I didn't want to because the news I received today had me shaken. Turns out though, as I sat down and studied it tonight, that it was actually good news. It was just me being stupid. And since I've talked to so many people on the phone today, I guess I'd better set the record straight. Or as straight as my rattled brain can get it.

A nurse called with the full biopsy report, and I misunderstood and got it in reverse. I thought (and told a few folks) that it showed the tumor as slow growing but extremely aggressive. Fact is, it's actually on the low end of the aggression scale(talk about relief). It does have all three of the factors that can make it grow quickly. (Go me!) I was pretty stumped when I was all mixed up and thought it was a slow grower, but this one makes much more sense. And I'd way rather have a grower than an aggressor. (And if you happen to really know all about this stuff, please forgive me if I still have it wrong!) The only real bad news is that one of those factors is apparently caused by "wear and tear and old age."

Yep, you read right. Old age. Wow. It's getting really hard to keep thinking of myself as a youngster. Isn't that right all you little whipper snappers?

But seriously, in case I haven't said it enough - I'm really, really grateful for all the thoughts and prayers going out on my behalf. I'm absolutely feeling like the Lord has taken the wheel of this little roller coaster, and I'm just along for the ride.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today's Traumatic Experience

It was actually a very good day. The housing situation still isn't settled, but we have some good prospects and believe we'll be able to move into one of a couple of good choices by next week. We also have some substantial packing taken care of, with a plan for the rest. The blessing so far is that the upcoming move is doing wonders at keeping my mind off the other upcoming thingymajig.

But the day wasn't all sunshine and roses. While standing on the porch of one of the homes we're considering, an adorable 4-year-old blond girl came running up saying, "Who are you?" I told her I was just visiting, but she wasn't satisfied and repeated the question, and I repeated my answer. She was followed close behind by an equally adorable 3-year-old blond girl who said. Are you ready? Cause seriously I was floored.

"ARE YOU GRANDMA?"

I wasn't sure I heard her right. I couldn't have. I promise, every single time I tell someone I'm a grandma, they react with surprise. "Oh, you're much too young to be a grandma." And it has to be genuine. Right? I mean, people don't just say things like that unless they mean it. Right? Plus, I'm just BARELY a grandma. But she repeats herself. "Are you Grandma?"

I swallow my indignation and tell her that I am A grandma. Then she studies me for a moment with her wide little innocent eyes, and says, "I want you to be MY Grandma."

Sigh.

I guess if I have to look like a Grandma, at least I apparently look like a Good Grandma. But I'll think twice before going out of the house without makeup again.

The Best T-Shirt Slogan Ever...

I have a dear friend who I just learned is a bc survivor. She said, "There are lots of us, you just can't tell because we look like everybody else." During our conversation she told me about a t-shirt she'd seen that she immediately coveted:

OF COURSE THEY'RE FAKE. MY REAL ONES WERE TRYING TO KILL ME.

Friday, September 18, 2009

But For You...

So one of my good friends told me last night (at that party I was talking about where I might as well have spilled the punch all over myself) that she checked my blog several times throughout the day for the update that I hadn't bothered to post. So for her benefit, and any other of you curiosity-challenged, I'm going to break a record and post twice in one day.

I visited the plastic surgeon today. He went through about three different treatment options, in great detail. The third sounded perfect. I was actually feeling a teeny bit excited. I mean, seriously, I get a tummy tuck out of this? How sweet is that? A six-week recuperation. I can handle that. Have had worse. But just as he finishes, and I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy, he puts up his finger and says, "But for you..."

Yeah, of course I'm special. Apparently due to the size (3 cm) and type of tumor, he's fairly confident I'll be needing radiation. He then described the process he recommends, which will mean two, maybe three, surgeries, spanning a long time and who knows how much pain. He finished and asked if I had any questions. When I shook my head he moved on to the need to take pictures. A big bubble of emotion came out of my mouth. He paused, and asked if I objected to the pictures. Rob took my hand and said he'd go with me. I didn't--couldn't--say anything, but couldn't have cared less about the stupid pictures (though I have to admit that was a tad bit humiliating). But I hadn't thought that far. I hadn't been listening. I was still back on the radiation. I'd somehow convinced myself that wouldn't be necessary.

He had no comment on the possibility of chemo. That'll be decided after the surgery. But it looks like I'm officially in this for the long-haul.

How NOT to make smooth exit

Couldn't sleep again last night. And I know, you don't have to tell me, my body needs its rest. Of course I tell my body this, which sends it into a panic. My brain starts screaming: "How are you going to heal if you don't rest!?!" And of course nobody ever fell asleep with their brain screaming. But I'm working on it, really.

Anyway, while pacing the house, and lying in bed, and sitting on the couch, with my stupid brain screaming at me to stop thinking so much and just fall asleep, I thought of some brilliant advice to give you all. Just in case it comes in handy for someone. Here it goes: if you're ever trying to move away from a place you love without making a big fuss, do not go and announce you have breast cancer. It's like trying to slip out of a party and knocking over the punch bowl just as you get to the door. Everybody in the room looks up and says, "What the heck?" And then you just stand there all wide-eyed wiping red goo off your dress and smiling feebly at everybody.

Of course it's not exactly like that. Because at that party they'd probably just laugh for a minute then go back to what they were doing. But in my case they then all come rushing up to you to give you a hug and ask how they can help. Which is really good. It's just not the smoothest way to make an exit. But then I always was kind of a klutz.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

First the Good News...

Wow do I feel loved. The support I've received in the last few days has been wonderful. I also feel incredibly under control under the circumstances.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the tumor is malignant.

For those that want more gory details: they don't have all the results of the biopsy, and ran a bunch of new tests today, so I guess the answers will dribble in over the next few days. What they do know is that it's a rare type of tumor (rare is what I do best) a Lobular Carcinoma, which just so happens doesn't always show up on mammograms. (Hence the reason for SELF-EXAMS!!!) The good news to that is that it didn't just show up and start growing out of control. The bad news is that it's been hanging around for a while, so who knows what its been doing. I have a theory on why it at least seems to have grown so suddenly recently, but won't know if it's correct until some more tests come in.

The surgery doesn't have to be immediate, but will be soon--about ten days--which will give them more time for more tests. Love those tests. Especially the way you repeatedly get asked, "So how are you today?" And then you repeatedly think of snarky responses that you'd never actually use. I mean, they're holding the chart. They know the diagnosis that was just received. Isn't there a better greeting than that?

So for your homework tonight, please either: A. give me a good response or B. suggest a better greeting. And most important, please keep those prayers coming. I can truly feel them.

Oh, and if you know of a vacant house around Draper that will be available in the next few days, let me know!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day One: On the Edge

I'm sure you've seen a scene in a movie--there have been several--where a character in a nice, comfortable house goes to the front door; and upon opening it discovers nothing but open, unknown space.

That is where I am standing right now. Clutching the door frame and staring into the darkness.

There have been notable moments leading up to this day: Day One. But this feels like the first. The beginning of something I don't even want to imagine.

One of those momentous days was four months ago, when my husband and I decided to put our home up for sale. We have lived here eleven years. My youngest son doesn't know any home but this one. And it's a beautiful house. We were highly reluctant, but for many reasons it felt like the best thing for the family.

I know the exact date of the next event. June 28. Two and a half months ago. I had a routine mammogram. A couple weeks later I got a routine call notifying me that it was normal. I had no idea that would become momentous.

It was the beginning of August that I noticed the lump while dressing in front of the mirror. About the size of a walnut. It startled me, how obvious it was. I even showed my husband, something I've never done before. But I tend to be lumpy. And I'd just had that mammogram, so I put it out of my mind.

Wednesday, September 2. We were scheduled to close on the sale of our home. But I was in mourning. My feet weren't just cold, they were frozen. We had found a beautiful home to move into. But that had fallen through. I couldn't stand the thought of selling this home without knowing where we were going. And all I could think about were the reasons not to leave our home. But my husband and I went to the Lord for advice, and individually felt strongly that it was the right thing to do. So we signed. And proceeded with an obsessive search for a new home.

Just two days later, Friday, September 4, I realized the lump had changed from a walnut to a plum. I had an appointment already scheduled with my doctor for the following Thursday, the 10th, to followup on some unrelated health issues. I told myself to stay calm until then. Besides, I had to find a house before the end of the month.

And that's when the whirlwind began to pick up. The right house remained elusive. And the doctor assured me it was probably just a cyst that needed to be drained. He scheduled me for an ultrasound the next Tuesday, yesterday. September 15. But by then I was calling it an apple.

I was late to the appointment, even though I'd planned to be early, since I'd never been to the facility. The freeway was backed up and not moving. I exited and took State Street. I uttered the word 'cyst, cyst' over and over as my car crept slowly along. I told the lady at the front desk that it was a very stressful way to arrive at a stressful appointment. My husband was waiting for me, but was in the wrong part of the building. They called me back before he found me, so I asked them to send him back when he showed up. They told me he'd have to sit in the waiting area, where a couple of men were already waiting. Reminded me of labor and delivery rooms from a couple decades ago, when they thought men were wimps.

I changed into the ugly blue gown, and was seated in a room with four other ladies who were discussing the joys of mammograms. I had barely put my touche in the chair when I was called back, breezing past those other ladies like I was something special. The technician was very kind. Very gentle. And after her perusal of my delicates (with me silently chanting 'cyst, cyst') she stood and said she'd get the doctor who would chat with me.

A couple years back, I had a cyst on my thyroid. A big, ugly thing growing out of my neck. The technician pulled out a syringe when he was done looking and drained it. There was no doctor. No chat.

I felt a bit of foreboding and asked for my husband. She said she'd check with the doctor. She seemed uncomfortable. Like she shouldn't say too much. And I really began to worry.

Then the doctor arrived and announced he would be doing a biopsy.

"So it's not a cyst?"

"No. It's a tumor."

That was the word. The one I'd been dreading. The tears started, and he made a swift exit to find my husband. All I could think about was my bed. And how I wanted to curl up in it. Except it isn't in my room.

I don't have a room.

My treatment has been put into high gear. I should be getting the biopsy results today. I meet with the surgeon tomorrow.

I remember fumbling with the little locker key in the dressing area afterwards. I couldn't see what I was doing through the tears. A woman asked if I needed help. I knew she and all the women in their blue gowns knew the news I'd just gotten. And they were thinking how it could be them. I wanted to tell them not to rely on the mammogram alone. But I couldn't talk.

I cried all the way home. Expressed my anger to the radio. About how unfair this was. I eat right. Exercise. Watch my weight. Besides, I already paid my dues with open-heart surgery at age thirty. I should have gotten a free pass after that. Fortunately I was able to stop the flood in time to tell the children. My littlest broke down at the word cancer. The only people he knows with cancer have died. I told him that wasn't going to happen to me.

So today, Day Two, I'm just counting on the Lord having a plan. And I'm thinking it would be nice if he let me in on it real soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wahoo! It's a Contest!

One of my good friends and favorite authors has a new book coming out in the next week, and to celebrate she's having a contest. I love contests. I happened to be a winner of the contest for her last book, and loved the story even more than the chocolates that I won! The author is GG Vandagriff, and if you haven't read any of her stuff you've been missing out. The Hidden Branch is a novel of mystery, romance, and comedy that takes place in Huntington Beach, CA, (one of my favorite places ever) and is the fifth in the Alex and Briggie Mystery Series. Fortunately it can also be read as an introduction to the series, so you can jump in now if you haven't read the others. See http://ggvandagriff.com for more info.
-Buy the book on line or in the store before September 17th and qualify for an Alex and Briggie gift package, and a chance to win an autographed set of the entire series. Just make sure you do the following:
E-mail GG your name and address at ggvan1 @ gmail.com
Tell her where you bought the book

That's it, and you're in the running!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Suess Madness




I'm in the home-stretch of a surreal couple of weeks supervising ten adorable Who Youth, one Little Kangaroo, and an Elephant Bird. Mostly I just color backstage, straighten scarfs, and push hats up so the audience can see their cute Who faces. Every once in a while things get really wild and I have to make a mad dash for one of those hats, or a shirt, or maybe a butter knife, before the anxious little Who has to be on stage. The other day I made one such sprint into the men's dressing room and ran head-long into a trio of acrobatic monkeys. Talk about hazardous career paths. Though that's probably not as risky as being one of those monkeys, especially when wild-eyed grannies go running into the middle of their practice. All in all, it's been a blast, the show is great...and I'm exhausted.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Everything's Coming Up...SEUSS!!


My Little Actor Extraordinaire is once again preparing for a big production. Can you believe it's only been two years since he dragged me on stage with him for his big debut in Music Man? I guess what's amazing is this is his seventh musical since then! Seven musicals in two years? Man, am I an insane mother or what? AnyWHO...(ha ha, I am so laughing by myself right now.) I'm laughing because we are living and breathing everything WHO these days. As in, Seussical the Musical (LIVE! At the Sandy Amphitheatre! Showing August 14-22! Tickets on sale at SmithTix! Okay, enough advertising.)

Dress rehearsals start tonight--as in a whole week of them. In a couple hours I get to attempt to create Ken Hair on my little one's head. I've been stocking up on hair gels and glues and sprays. Not to mention mascara, eye liners, and lipsticks. His dad is so proud. =)You can bet pictures will follow.

Today he had me take him to the library so he could check out every book mentioned in Seussical that we don't currently own, so he can be up and current on the entire story. Anybody remember the Butter Battle Book? Or Gertrude McFuzz? I think she's my favorite. Although Mayzie is pretty amazing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Great Outdoors and Other Wonders

I’ve just finished my last load of laundry from back-to-back camping trips. The first was in Yellowstone with just the family--with me and Rob playing the role of Grandma and Grandpa for the first time. It was kind of deja vu since we used to camp in Yellowstone with his parents when we were newly married. I think we did okay in our new roles, except for the part where Jen thought I was bringing the baby’s crib and I thought she was. The little guy ended up sleeping in a suitcase. Hopefully he won’t require therapy in the future.

The second week was spent at girl’s camp. Even though girl’s camp is one of my favorite places in the whole world, I kind of think there ought to be a rule that Grandma’s shouldn’t be invited. At least that's what my old bones are telling me. Next year I’ll make sure to bring that up if I get another invitation. But I did somehow survive.

I'd be here all day if I tried to list all the funny moments (that's why I love it so much), but I'll share some highlights. Like when a woman walked by our camp as we were setting up and asked if this was an intervention. “Huh?” I replied. (Brilliant conversationalist, I know.) She pointed to the truck parked out front. It belongs to the husband of our camp leader, who I’ll call “Matt” and who we all love despite his obnoxious truck that is high enough to cause nosebleeds and makes the sound of an actual train when you honk it. (Which he does as he passes our house each and every day--but I digress.) It also has his company’s logo emblazoned on the side: Inkdoubt, tattoo removal. “You have a girl with a tattoo?” The woman asked. Ah, hence the intervention.

We had no tattoos, (as far as I know) but just like any rugged camp we did have plenty of glitter, bracelets, hair beads, and be-dazzles. There were glittered bras, glittered people, glittered tents. Even my cell phone and hiking boots got bedazzled. And you should see the bald spot of one of our male visitors. Twenty-eight girls. Twenty-eight cans of glitter hair spray. You do the math.

Other favorite memories are the time a cook (not me, I swear) dumped a trash can supposedly filled with paper products in to the fire, and two aerosol cans of glitter immediately exploded.

Then there was a young leader who gravely confessed to our tent that she’s a claustrophobic who has been known to take down tents in the middle of the night. “But don’t worry,” she assured us, “I haven’t done that in twelve years.” Then she added, “Of course I haven’t been in a tent in twelve years.”

When we got done laughing, we made sure she was nice and comfy.

No list of favorite moments could leave out our camp leader Sharla and her horns. The first I’ve already mentioned—which was fabulous for waking the girls in the morning. The second came from a package that stated it had an “impressive blast”. Yeah, impressive in that it sounded like a cow in labor. I had to make a strict rule that she couldn’t blow the horn while we were glittering—the ensuing laughter made a mess.

Rumor quickly spread through camp that Sharla was pregnant. With twins. She did confirm the news—twin cows, that is.

Sharla instructed us to wear our bracelets on Sunday. The girls spent hours braiding them. I was busy cooking and guilted a couple of girls into making them for me. Sharla said it was so I'd stop flashing my naked wrists at them. Anyway, I digress again. She said that when we pass in the halls we can hit them together, and there will be a great “KAPOW” noise, and sparks of our awesomeness will fly out.

My Natalie tells me that’s why Sharla makes a great camp leader. “Because she gets us.”

And that's got to be the best compliment any camp leader could get. KAPOW!