Wednesday, December 30, 2009


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.”

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.'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 @ 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.