Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday - last of 2013

Thankful for the many blessings in this cancer journey.

Thankful for a husband who takes the time to help with my arm.  As long as I get up with him in the mornings, he makes time to help me wrap morning and night.

Thankful for a Christ child born, a tree full of gifts, a family to spend the holidays with, a table full of food.

Not thankful that the tree is put away already.  And the pile of stuff I keep adding to of things that didn't quite make it back into the Christmas boxes in the garage.  Dang it!

Thankful for what will be about 36 frozen crock-pot meals.  The picture doesn't show the 20 or so pounds of chicken parts.  Thank you, God, for below freezing temps a few days ago so I could just leave that on the back porch!  The site I am using for this round is www.whoneedsacape.com.
I used another site during radiation, but most of those recipes turned out pretty bland.  I had to buy a whole lot of spices for these recipes, so it should be interesting dinner at my house for the next two months.  I still have about 6 or so recipes to assemble, right after I buy some more garlic and find some more time!



Thankful for one more round of Mealtrain.com, too.  While I am trying to be prepared, let's get real, it's much nicer when someone else cooks!

Thankful to be winding down this year.  While I have chosen to be thankful through the crumminess, it has not been the year I wanted.  The boys both noticed that while there were gifts from Mom and Dad and Santa too, there wasn't as much as in years past, for more reasons than just money.  We have tried to give them experiences along the way this year, but those are sometimes forgotten in the wrapping paper frenzy.  Tamoxifen mood swings didn't help any of us in the last week, either.  A year ago, we had thoughts and dreams to be in a new house by now.  Maybe, hopefully, prayerfully, next summer.  Anyone want to buy a great little 3 bedroom house with a huge garage?  I didn't have a thought in the world of changing jobs a year ago, but am starting grad school in a few weeks (Masters in Healthcare Informatics through SIUE and BJC) with the vague plan to work my way out of patient care at some point.  I have no idea what my arm will look or feel like after surgery next week, but I am sure that I need to plan for the future and not be schlepping patients to CT scan (or coding them on Christmas) when I am 65.

Thankful that God forgives when I am angry, and selfish, and frustrated, and angry, and want my life all fixed and better NOW.  Did I mention the mood swings?  Yeah, I am not winning "Mom of the Year" this year.  And it's all about me.  And why do my kids have to learn the hard lessons so young?  Yeah, angry amidst the blessings.  But this week we've had some good talks about chore money, hard work, spending wisely all year long and saving for stuff you really want, as we have tried to put a positive spin on Christmas.  Dang it, Clark Howard, and Dave Ramsey, and Suze Orman, it was much easier when Santa just mindlessly swiped plastic!  So a learning opportunity for the big kid, a blessing amidst the crumminess.

Thankful for one more year surrounded by a great community, two churches, friends, coworkers, family, all holding my little family together, every single day.





Maybe I should clarify some of this.  Sometimes, I just need to vent.  I am not looking for anything from anyone to fix my kid's world.  He asked for a 3ds xl and a specific game for Christmas.  We gave him a DS several years ago, and the boys managed to lose most of the little tiny game cartridges after a while.  I think he traded it in maybe last year for who knows what at Gamestop.  When he asked for the new version (and basically that's all he asked for) this year, I could not bring myself to spend $250 on that.  So the aunts and uncles and Santa and the parents all teamed up for giftcards for him.  He is still a little short.  Last year, Santa would have just swiped plastic and been done.  The more we do that, the less we have for a nest egg to build.  What I didn't realize is how much he has picked up on the balance between bills, no paycheck for no work, and trying to be frugal and realistic for the next two months.  He has been upset the last couple days about asking us to help him pay for the only thing he really wanted, and worried that if we helped him, that was taking money away from the weekly bills.  He will be fine with life's decisions, and was talking on his own about waiting for his birthday in the spring to get it.  There is money tucked away for life, and it's not the end of the world if we don't get to build this summer either while we try and rebuild my body and income and our dreams.  It's just been a hard couple days of parenting, and disappointment for him caused by me and my own stubbornness, and sometimes Christmas isn't Hallmark.  Stupid cancer.  I want to give him the world carefree, not lessons in budgeting, planning and saving.  But when he spends his chore money on silly xbox stuff throughout the year, I don't have as much sympathy.  Sometimes I don't know the right parenting answers, and sometimes there just isn't a right answer.

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fantastic Friday

My facebook post for Monday was about 3 days of work, 7 medical appointments and a full moon Monday morning.  Now, we are past 3 pm Friday, and maybe on the downhill slide into the calm before the storm.

It was a good 3 days of work.  I was even willing to pick up another 4 hours this weekend.  Maybe I am feeling guilty for not working at all over the holidays.

Seven appointments, yikes!  Nine, if I include Tom's stuff.  Pre-surgery check-in, PT/ Lymphedema, eye exam, labs, rad onc, med onc and plastic surgeon all this week.  We had a date night after we both had Tuesday afternoon doctor appointments.  Life is a tragic comedy sometimes, and I'll take a quiet dinner out any way I can get it!  From the cancer folks, all is mostly well.  Vitamin D takes a hit with treatment, and mine is low.  Supplement even more than I am.  Easy enough.  I need B complex vitamins, too.  Thyroid is ok, we decided.  There was some question of it being a casualty of radiation, but tsh and t4 levels are back where they belong.  We will do a bone density scan next time. 

Plastics was easy - ready for surgery at the end of the month.  Tissue expanders (the temporary forms that we used to stretch and regrow skin) will come out, and saline implants will go in.  It's another 6 weeks of downtime.  My post-op instructions will amount to moving as little as possible, and arms less than 45 degrees from chest.  I'm getting geared up for it.  There is a mental list of crock pot recipes I want to get made and frozen before Christmas.  Five or so boxes of cereal, 4 boxes of pancake mix, tp and paper towels have been collected in the basement, and a list of stuff still to get on the fridge.

Lymphedema... it's still not much fun.  I am usually wrapped fingertips to armpit with 60 or so feet of bandages.  If I am a really compliant patient, I have a huge foam form and then all the bandaging.  And I should be doing stretching twice a day and massage once a day.  I usually have to rewrap my arm at least once in the middle of the day.  And if you have seen it in person, you can tell it's pretty motion-restrictive.  It's hard to touch fingertips to thumb to grasp anything for very long.  It's hard to bend my elbow.  Can't exactly wash dishes or prepare food, either.  An average day it seems is about 3 hours worth of arm care.  Who has time for that!?  Tom has become quite the arm wrapper, and I am oh so glad.  I do ok in the mornings, but at night, I am way past tired and grumpy.  I still fight fatigue easily.

It was 70 degrees outside today.  That meant a walk in between the 4 med appts.  I forgot how much I need to exercise.  I was in a foul mood after the onc made a stupid comment.  A walk and some music will soothe many things in my life and my head.  And now, it's about 40 degrees and storming.  Crazy weather!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankul Thursday

Hey, I'm still here.  I kept up with the daily thankfuls fairly well on facebook, but blogging takes a bit more time, so got neglected.

How bout I start fresh?

Thankful for two boys watching The Sound of Music with me.  I thought they would hate it, but Evan was mad when he realized it's on til 10, past his bedtime.

Thankful for a Santa and an elf, for a Christmas stocking holder.  A friend makes wooden crafts, and I finally got her to make me a stocking holder that stands on its own, and I can't wait to see it.  I've only bugged her for two years!  It's impossible to hang stuff on our plaster-concrete walls.  And somehow, it's already paid for.  Thank you, Santa.

Thankful for the beauty of the first snowfall.  School isn't cancelled yet, but I am betting it will be.  It's beautiful outside, peeking from the warmth of the front door with the neighbor's Christmas lights twinkling.

Thankful for a week with my mom, even though she left a bit early with the ugly weather forecast.  She joined Tom's family for Thanksgiving, we all traveled to my dad and stepmom's for a couple days, and stayed for 3 6th grade basketball games and a long morning of doctor's appointments today at the Barn.  I miss her dishwashing already.  It is kinda weird though, to tell her how to fold laundry and which dishes were not machine-wash.  Pretty sure I should just be thankful she's doing my laundry and dishes!

Thankful for a new garage door opener.  We put off that purchase for several years, but caved in for a Christmas present for me.  The arm is gimpy, and it's hard to stretch to pull the door closed.

God blesses us, every single day, and we are so lucky.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankful #16 - Aunt Virginia

Thankful # 16...


I am not smarter than my scanner, and it scanned the pic as a 8x11, so forgive that.  This is Aunt Virginia and Uncle Lloyd circa 2002.  They are at the park area of the Nauvoo Mormon Temple sealing.  Us non-Mormons got a tour before it was dedicated as sacred and closed to the non-believers.  Evan was about 2 months old, and he toured it in the Baby Bjorn carrier.  My cousin Keith's daughter was about 6, and she was madly in love with tiny baby Evan.  It was pretty cute, as I recall.  She was thrilled to feed him a bottle and hold him.  It was probably one of my first trips with Evan and without Tom.  He worked every.stinkin.Saturday for years!

Thankful # 15 - the Great River Road

Thankful # 15 - the Great River Road

 The part that holds value to me is between Hamilton and Nauvoo, IL.  It is family, Thanksgiving, Christmas, family reunions, cousins, the bakery and fudge on my mom's side of the family.  It is Tastee Freese, the Palmyra pool, the railroad tracks (now gone) behind Grandma & Grandpa's house, sleepovers with Kristy, Susie and Jenny, and the Cabbage Patch Kid that lives on a shelf in my boys' room on my dad's side of the family.

Today, it was Aunt Virginia's visitation and funeral.  Sad, but a blessing as well.




Becky, my sister, and Dave, my brother, gathered at the church.  It's not easy getting the 3 of us together anymore, with our 3 spouses, 8 kids, and 5 jobs across 500 miles.  It was so good to hang together for a bit.  It was a wonderful time to spend with my 4 cousins and their 3 kids.  But they were not real interested in pics at their mom's funeral.  Totally understandable.  They did take a family pic for the annual Christmas card.


Uncle Lloyd's memorial bench outside the Methodist church in Nauvoo.   Virginia had Alzheimers, and had been in a nursing home for several years.  While she was there, Lloyd developed liver cancer and passed away.




. While we were in that neck of the woods, we stopped to see my dad's family an hour south of Nauvoo.  I found Grandma and Grandpa.



 And a kiss left for Howard and Georgia.  Howard and Grandma were siblings.  If I remember correctly, I ended up with a recliner with wooden spindles on the side that was Georgia's.  It would have been my living room recliner when Evan was a baby.  I think my church has (or maybe it's had by now) it.


Marilyn is Howard and Georgia's only daughter.  All three stones are together, so an easy find for those of us who only make cemetery pilgrimages every 5-10 years.


And the cousins, Susan and Kristy.  We are cousins twice removed, I think, but nobody ever told us that.  Their mom and my dad are first cousins.  Jenny was killed in a car crash in May of 1999.  My daughter was going to be named Elizabeth, a middle name she and I both share.  Tom laughed but agreed to it when we were just dating.

I also got to see Jeanne Beth, a first cousin, bud didn't snap any pics of the two of us.  That only leaves Ken in Kentucky as the only first cousin we didn't see that weekend.

I love God's beauty in nature, and while the trees were brown and the sky was gray, it is still some of the prettiest road I have driven.  And the family it represents is priceless.

Thankful # 13 - Produce Co-op







Thankful #13 - the produce co-op.  I am a co-op newbie no more.  And I have eaten some of everything pictured except the mushrooms and cranberries.  The bananas and apples were gone in no time flat.  The pineapple and oranges went into smoothies.  The sweet potatoes, asparagus, brussel sprouts and some carrots got baked with salt, pepper and olive oil.  The cranberries will get cooked next week.  I am working on expanding my food horizons, slowly but surely.

Next order is in early December, then not again til January, but looking forward to those.

Thankful # 12 - Heat

Thankful # 12 - heat from any source.  It turned cold - in the teens, and I am glad to sleep with a furnace on the other side of the bed, and a heated mattress pad so the bed isn't so cold, and the hot water heater that never runs out, and the furnace, and the car seat warmers, and the hot chocolate while watching Flag Football in the cold, and and and...

Thankful #11 - Yard Crew







Thankful for a yard crew.  A neighbor was headed to run errands & drove by while I was working on the yard while it was still warm.  She gave her son a choice of errands or helping me, and he opted to help me.  I was most appreciative.  He mowed/ mulched the whole yard, and only let me buy him a soda.  I knew I would be in deep trouble with Colby if his leaves were gone when my boys came home from the afternoon out, so I raked what was in the driveway into the side yard, and made a smaller pile to play in.  While I was cleaning up around the swingset and the last of the raking, these 5 kiddos came walking down the street. and asked if they could help me.  Well, of course you can, and then you can all play in the leaf pile!

I am thankful for good neighborhood kids who are willing to help.

Thankful #10 - Down Time & Visiting

Thankful # 10...  Down Time & Visiting

Don't ask me what possessed me, but I spent several hours deleting stuff from the computer.  It was kinda fun to go through and remember ancient email threads, and delete them so I could find whatever it was I was looking for.  Sometimes it's the simple things that make me happy.

Scout popcorn was in, so Colby and I had to deliver to the neighborhood.  It drove him crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed a little gab time while delivering stuff.  And thank you for supporting the local kids.

Thankful Day #9 - Alabama

Thankful #9 was a splurge on tickets to Alabama at the Fabulous Fox, and a night in the city away from the kids.  Ooh, lovely!



 So it's not quite the lights of Broadway, it's still pretty cool!



Yep, Row E behind the Orchestra pit.  On the floor.  The VIP package got us dinner at Powell Hall.  The steak place across the street serves better food, I must say.  It also got us t-shirts, water tumblers, posters, and cloth grocery bags.



  Did I mention 5th row?  Loved them then, love them now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankful Day 8

Thankful Day 8...

Tom said I should be thankful for the 3 debonair men I live with.

I said I am thankful to be caught up with all these Thankfuls.  I know why I don't blog daily, trying to catch up with and write a bit more about what I have posted on Facebook.

Maybe it's that there was a lot of help sorting Scout popcorn tonight, and many hands made light work.  Which also means that we will be delivering popcorn this week, if you ordered any.

Maybe it's that 3 of us have a boatload of new socks and undies today.  It's a sadly exciting day when you get to pick your own new socks out at the store, and get to trash all the old ones.  Cause I don't match old and new socks, and both boys were down to about 4 pairs each anyway.  Hey, it IS the little things in life!  And since I took care of that chore today, Santa won't bring them socks for Christmas, as that isn't a fun gift at all.

Colby is thankful for toys and food.  I am thankful he made one of his first Lego projects from start to finish while I have been blogging tonight; they make Tom and I crazy! I would love to type a great story about how giving and thoughtful he is with this project of 30 Thankfuls of mine, but he's not.  Life is about toys and food, and I am okay with that from him.


Thankful Day 7

Thankful Day 7... for my mom, and her birthday this week.

She got to spend it with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew in Texas, so it was a big treat for her.  My nephew sang to her at Cracker Barrel, where he works.  Life is good for Grandma!  My niece is marching in the band for their Friday Night Lights football game, and football is a religion in Texas.

I love you, Mom.

Thankful Day 6

Day 6... thankful for conversations in the dark.

The kids have always talked more in the dark.  In the car one night this week, or in their room at bedtime when we would sit as they drifted off to sleep, darkness always seems to make their day spill out of their mouths.  Neither kid is really chatty about who did what at school, so getting them to tell me about their day, their thoughts, their friends, is a treat.

Thankful Day 5

Day 5... thankful for healthcare, as an employee, recipient, and family member.

It is good to be back at work earning a paycheck.  It is good to have days that I get to do something really cool and remember why I like my job.  I'd tell you more, but there's this pesky HIPPA thing.

Recipient - you know plenty about if you are reading this!


Family member - got to spend some time on that side of the hospital bed this week, too.

None of us quite know how Obamacare is going to play out in the long run.  Good?  Bad?  I don't know.  Glad for what we have had is the best I can offer.

Thankful Day 4

The eye candy that is God's creation in the spring & fall.  Nobody likes Daylight Savings time changes, but I had a beautiful sunrise and sunset both in my rearview mirror traveling to work and home.



These are from the Family Camp at Camp Joy in Carlyle a few weeks ago.  Bet it's even prettier now.

Thankful Day 3

A month of thankfuls, day 3.

We skipped church & got up early for this:
Colby is toward the left, in a red vest.  Evan is next to him with the dark green sash.  Tom has a red neckerchief.



I don't know anyone in the left pic.  Right pic, Tom is near the blue stripe on the Rams head.  Colby is in the red vest next to him, and Evan next to Colby.  And yes, the flag is 40 yards long.  225 kids and adults to carry it.

Scout Day at the Rams dome.  They played the Tennessee Titans, but lost 28-21.  The Scouts had a good time getting on the field and presenting the flag, though.  I have to comment about sportsmanship, though.  The boys stood on the edge of the field waiting for the flag presentation for over 30 minutes while the players were warming up.  All of the Titans came by and gave the kids High 5's while they were waiting.  The only Rams player that acknowledged the boys was the mascot.  And when the Titans took the field, we boo-ed.  That is not what I want my kids to learn from pro sports.  You don't have to like the opposing team, but don't be openly rude to them.  But maybe I am just too sensitive.

I am thankful for all that the flag represents, for the lessons the boys are learning in Scouts, and for the opportunities the Rams have given them this year.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A month of Thankfuls Day 2

Thankful for my gynecologist.

Really, a post all about that?

Really, yes.

Dr. d (yes,  a lowercase d)  came recommended by the highest form - the lunch table chatter on midnight shift - about 15 years ago.  Back before I needed birth control.  She has walked me through the boyfriend, husband, abnormal panic-inducing pap smear 2 months into married life and the week of Thanksgiving, Kid 1, infertility, lousy infertility drugs and a rogue ovary, Kid 2 in God's time, uterine ablation (best thing EVER!) and back to just the yearly exams.  And for the first time in a year, I got to keep my shirt on!  Hey, there's nothing normal there to feel anymore; why bother?

More than the history, or maybe because of it, she took the time I needed today.  When was the last time you spent over an hour with a doc?  Face time, eye contact, not computer contact, a hug and kleenex.  She asked the hard personal stuff, and wasn't interested in hearing "fine, we're ok."  Not just how am I, but how is Tom, and how are Tom and I together.  And those boys she yanked outta me - how are they, too? What body parts still work?  What can she help us with?  Not just intimately, but emotionally, cause this certainly stresses a good marriage, and crushes a shaky one.

When I voiced frustration about my arm and the treatment of it so far, she offered to ask around and get back to me.  And at this point, I am willing to drive to the city daily (again, ugh!) to deal with it.  When she asked about hot flashes and I said no, I'm cold, she didn't want to wait until I saw rad onc in December to check thyroid function.  She's seen enough to understand my frustrations thus far, and she gets it without having been through it directly.

Thank you for letting me seriously delay your morning, Dr. d, and for calling my bovine scatology.  I needed that! I asked for a larger chunk of time when I made the appt, but didn't know we'd be there that long!

Now, if only the Primary Care folks were that good...





Friday, November 1, 2013

Pinktober Politics - A month of Thankfuls for this season of Thanksgiving Day 1

Whew, so glad that Pinktober is over.  I have tried to stay away from retail for several reasons in October, pink Swiffers and vibrators being two of them.

Marie Claire has an article here from 2011 that speaks to my feelings.  You know I am cynical by now.  Buy pink if you like pink, but please don't do it thinking you are helping us, cause odds are that you are not, despite your best intentions.  Please donate money for research to a charity you have researched and trust.

20% - 30% of us Stage 2's will have a recurrence within 10 years.  10 years from now, I am still not 50.  My baby will be a senior in high school.  Please skip Awareness, and move on to Research.  The number of women and men dying from breast cancer hasn't improved much in the last 20 years.

Ann from "But Doctor I Hate Pink" has two great posts (ok, I could get lost for hours - and have -  in her blog) about men and their nuts and the absurdity of Breast Cancer Awareness, and life from a metastatic point of view.  Really, I am aware of breast cancer, and was long before I was diagnosed.  And I gotta admit, I am still highly paranoid about mets.  I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't.  Chemo didn't kill me.  Mastectomies didn't kill me.  Radiation didn't kill me.  Mets, now that could kill me.

Spend your money wisely, Folks.  Do you want to know where I have found help?  The American Cancer Society gave me a wig (hated it, but it was free) and a million or so hats, and some nice make-up.  I haven't seen a thing from Komen.  I love the idea of their walks and the sisterhood, but I can't pinpoint a single thing in the last 11 months to point directly back to them.

Soapbox now put away.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday Meets Thankful Thursday

One of Evan's buddies stopped by this afternoon and dropped this shirt off for him.  Thank you, Janice and Ebby.

And for Yoplait's lids in my honor, thank you, Antonette.

I am way beyond the crisis point in my treatment that I expect or need things from others, and am humbled that folks keep giving and thinking of us.





Monday evening's sunset while watching Colby's flag football game.




The view on my walk today.  It's a bike trail in Glen Carbon.  I had an appointment in StL early today, and one near GC in the afternoon.  I put a request on facebook looking for something to do in between, and a couple friends suggested this.  It was a great walk, easy and flat, and a bit of eye candy too.  The leaves don't seem to be turning colors like in years past - green and attached or brown on the ground - but it was good to keep moving.  It reminded me of home and childhood - the Katy Trail in Missouri follows the bluffs of the Missouri River, near Columbia.  It was a favorite bike/ walking trail in high school and college at Mizzou.


The interstate overpass and early afternoon shadows.

And a stream the path follows for a while, or maybe longer.

Life is what you choose to make it.  Make it a great week, Folks.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday... or Friday

Thankful Thursday Friday

Another week of blessings from God...

Morning walks.  I know exercise is the most under-utilized anti-depressant and a necessary evil to reduce the chance of mets.  Why then do I dread it so much?  I was glad to have a knock on the door the last two mornings dragging me outside when I really just wanted to drag back to bed.  And... the best part?  I stayed up and moving all day - no small accomplishment when the house is quiet & the to-do list is not much fun.

Mexico on Main.  Very early after diagnosis, a couple of girlfriends kidnapped me for lunch to get me outside of my own head and 4 walls.  I was getting to that point again, and lunch yesterday was a good antidote for my isolation.

A new work schedule.  It really messes up the morning walks and lunches at Mexico, but I need a reason to get up, moving, plan meals, outside of my head and 4 walls, and use my brain cells more actively.  I did not intend to be at home as much as I have been the last 4 weeks, but physically needed it, and there just hasn't been many hours to pick up in overtime shifts since rad ended.  If I am not earning any money, it's best for me to stay home so I don't spend any money.  Funny how that works.  Now if only the Fed govt and state of IL could figure that out!  With a new work schedule comes more consistent work days for me, and I have had enough time off to like my job again.

A clean playroom floor.  That was my project for yesterday morning.  Several hours of sorting toys, pitching & donating, and Colby came downstairs and played with toys rather than the x-box after school.  Amazing!  Love it when they use their imagination, not their electronics.

A crazy busy calendar.  Again, messes up the walks and Mexico, but Evan is playing basketball to go with Flag FB, Puppets, band & Challenge.  I will be late to some of his b-ball games, but think I can make them all if I leave work on time.  I am glad he is staying active in sports, but yikes, it was ugly to calendar all of it last night and today.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Good Day To Go Flying, Rick

Rick,

I wish I had known you better.  Isn't that the line from most of the folks left behind?

You Scouted with my brother-in-law, my nephew, my parents-in-law, but my boys were still in Cubs as yours were earning Eagle.  You always asked about them, though.

I remember celebrating one Saturday afternoon church service with you maybe 5 or 6 years ago?  We were at Aviston Elementary, with you happy to be another year cancer free.  I knew you were a Stage 4 diagnosis probably 5 years before, something about your knee or leg.  Your thoughts on scans each year - at least you knew you should be around another year.  The rest of us, no telling what was going on inside our skin.

And then you had this crazy growth above your knee a little over a year ago.  I made a point to stop by your hospital room on my shifts, but found you well-medicated after surgery.  You christened me Darcy, your dog's name.  I laughed, as I had woken you up and you had some good drugs on board.  I had a couple of former coworkers take care of me the night of my surgery, and one of them I didn't remember at all, so you were doing better than I did on remembering names!  You fussed at me because I didn't take the time to visit Sybil while she was there recovering, too.  I should have, but wasn't sure she could put a name to my face beyond a friendly "hello" around town.  Having been on the opposite side of the hospital gown now, you were right - I should take the time and check on folks anyway.  It's just the right thing to do.  As for your leg, the pathology wasn't rocket science.  Cancer from the radiation that killed the original cancer.  Well, that was just crummy, but we will put you on the prayer chain, do some more cancer-killing bad stuff, and it was supposed to all be okay.

I was diagnosed on Martin Luther King Monday.  University of Scouting, an all-day adult training event, was on Saturday.  I already knew I was giving up my Tiger Scouts by then, and wondered why I even bothered to go.  I was still hurting from the biopsy, and hurting more from the results.  Tom was sick, and needed to go to the doctor that Saturday morning.  He wanted me to go to some of the classes for him.  I went through the motions.  I learned how to tie a knot or two.  I picked up some easy games and a craft idea or two to use with the Tigers.  I found some resources that I wish I had had to give to the dad that took over for me, and put together a notebook for him. After lunch, I saw you down the hall on the way to one of my classes.  You had that snow white hair from whatever chemo drug it was, and you hobbled a bit on that bad knee.  Your hug and our talk was the absolute best medicine that day.  You were one of the first guys I talked to about this women's disease.  It didn't matter which body part.  You knew the fear I was feeling, and the crap that was to come for me.  Joan made the age connection a month or so ago for me - your boys were close to the age of my boys when you were diagnosed.  There was for you then, and still is for me a lot of raising kids to do.  And I totally understand the adult scouting thing now.  I am ok being a Scout Widow in this season of life.

You got sicker and sicker, and there wasn't a heck of a lot any of us could do.  I've been in hospitals long enough to know about how your story would end, and it was hard for me to watch you while I wrestled my own cancer demons.  I was glad to be able to drive Joan over the river last month, though.  Good to know that my radiation was good for something beyond myself!

I just wish you had gotten one more of everything out of life.  One more Christmas with your now-grown boys.  One more snowfall.  One more night on the back porch...

Jimmy's Eagle project was a labyrinth.  I was sad to see it torn up when we built the church in the cornfield, and glad Matt re-did it as his Eagle project this summer & fall.   I couldn't do the sanctuary for the service today.  Even the kitchen was too close.  And so when I needed some fresh air, I walked the labyrinth.  It was sunny, breezy, cool.  The wind made the yellow corn rustle beautifully.





And in honor of your career, military and civilian, as a pilot, it was a good day to go flying.  Fly high, Rick.  Breathe easy, my friend.




Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Another week gone by, another chance to count blessings & be thankful for the little things...

Thankful for this:
 It's a new lymphedema sleeve and glove, and a huge pile of pillows.  The pillows is what it takes to keep my arm from swelling at night - 3 under my left arm.  My really pretty pewter sleeve left some seriously ugly welts on my underarm.  This one is uglier, but much more functional.  I am still trying to get the thumb & index finger stretched out so they quit cutting off circulation, but it's better than the first one!  It got me released from my wonderful PT/ LE massage lady today.  Dang, I'm gonna miss her, but hope to not see her at work any time soon!  I'm not sure which was more beneficial, the LE massage (really, it's not like a spa massage, just trying to get the lymph nodes working that I still have) or the girl talk staring at the ceiling while laying on her table.  I felt like Lucy and Charlie Brown some days with Lucy's shingle hanging out, "The Doctor is In, 5 cents"  Both were needed, though!  And, the sleeve means I can use this:



 

Tom built me a frame for my treadmill so my arms are up, not swinging down, and no, I don't smack my head on it.  More LE adaptations.  Frustrating to need them, but useful.  Did Darwin say "Adapt or Die?"  I was hoping to have this LE stuff all figured out by the time of my nephew's Eagle Scout 5K Food Drive, but that didn't happen, so I was just moral support instead of an active participant.  We had fun anyway, and my future Eagle Scout got to see a one-day project in action.


And I am pretty sure my sister is glad it all ran smoothly.  1682 items for the food pantry & 114 participants.  Nice job, Z!


Thankful for these boys and their 6-0 season.  Evan (75) had a great assist in their last game, against another undefeated team.  So glad for a great self-esteem boost for him!  And their orange is for Galen, a local kid who lost his fight with leukemia earlier in the week. 



Thankful for small-town community to support Galen and his family.  Breese played Carlyle - county rivals - the day after he came home from Children's with hospice care, and everyone had their "Team Galen" shirts - both teams had orange on.  He got to Skype with the Duck Dynasty folks, and Children's made a music video with him in it, finished the day before he passed away, so he got to see it.  These guys are young enough that they didn't play football with him, but he played Aviston FB a few years ago.  His leukemia was diagnosed the summer of his freshman year during FB tryouts, so he never got to play High School ball.

Thankful for these, a gift from my mom, in honor of our anniversary.  13 years.  I still do.


And one more thankful, for goofy hair.

Because I can, that's why!  We all need a mohawk day once in a while!


I have 2 more pretty slow weeks with just a shift or two at work, and then it's back to 3 or 4 8 hour days a week.  It looks like I have to work maybe one more weekend's worth of 12 hour shifts, then I am straight PRN.  I will miss the weekend rhythm, and the time & a half, but those 12's hurt by the end & take longer to recover from, so I think it's the right decision.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lost & Found & Gone Away

Lost

38 or so pounds since this time last year, and less than 10 of those were surgically removed.  Weight Watchers... it's a love-hate relationship.
8 cup sizes.
The need for perfection.  I can't do it all or be it all, nor do I want to anymore.  I am learning to calmly ask Tom for help when I am tired or overwhelmed by life, rather than the routine every-other-Sunday night fight that I am guilty of picking after I am tired from working & the house isn't "perfect."
The ability to wear my wedding ring on my left hand.  I outgrew my gold band when I was pregnant with Colby, but Tom gave me a ring for Christmas last year with all our names stamped on it that was too big for my ring finger, perfect for my middle finger.  With lymphedema, jewelry on my left arm is just asking for more trouble.  I can't get used to rings on my right hand, but I am trying.


Found

Too small shorts that aren't too small anymore.
2 cup sizes back, 1 fill at a time.  But I still have issues when I look at my disproportionate chest & belly sizes.  One pound, one week, one meal at a time.
A desire to get back to scrapbooking.  I have way too much time on my hands til the next schedule at work starts, and think I will fill it by doing something with all the old pics shoved in the basement closet.
A desire to simplify life, to be able to find things easier by owning less things in general.  My thought for when we build (next summer, maybe?  Anyone want to buy a really cute starter home?) is that I want twice the space and only move half the stuff.

 

 

Gone or Put Away

Wig, shampoo, styrofoam head.  I cleaned out the bathroom closet yesterday.  It was fun to dump the shampoo down the drain & toss the bottle into the recycling.  I think I will let the boys decorate the styrofoam head for Halloween before it goes away.
Port-a-cath numbing cream, all of the chemo pre & post meds, leftover wound care stuff.
Closet clutter.
Bookshelf clutter.  They are still full, but hopefully of meaningful stuff, not magazines from 2010.  In watching too much HGTV in this season of life, I don't want a perfectly matching living room full of eclectic pieces I just bought.  I want a living room full of stuff that means something to us.  I like the family pics and Willow Tree figurines that memorialize moments in life.  The cancer clutter that had begun to take over the bookshelves, not so much.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thankful Thursday









The only cd I played twice was Meatloaf.  I don't have a good answer for my love affair with Bat Outta Hell, but I have always played it when I needed a swift kick of motivation or anger management.  The song as rad ended and they got me off of the table?  Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.  "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you.  Now don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad."  How perfect was that!

The big kid picked lunch - the hometown Subway.  Forty miles of restaurants, and he wanted the hometown favorite.  And as you can tell, Tom thought the little kid should get to skip school, too, in celebration.  A good day for us all!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Radiation Update

So it's T-1 today in the final countdown.  28 days total by tomorrow, and it hasn't been too bad.  I think I only cried the first day and a random day in the middle, and I blamed that one on Tamoxifen mood swings and just being way past tired & overwhelmed with life, cancer and lymphedema (LE).  I planned my time for mid-morning to get the kids to school, get there and get back, but with 3x/ week LE massage for most of it, I think I only got 1 or 2 afternoons with naps.  When I get run down & exhausted, then I cry just because the sky is blue.  My chest and underarm are red and rashy and itchy, but the skin stayed together - which was my biggest fear.  I would not work with open wounds and woundcare, and they would have a hard time getting me back on the table for more pain.  Inside, it feels like a big ol' skinned knee.  The rad can bounce of my esophagus and cause a sore throat... some mild discomfort, they said.  Feels more like half of a biscuit stuck that won't go up or down in my opinion.  Chili, ice cream, mushy spaghetti and cereal have been the menu for the week.  Cold water kinda numbs it, but only a little.  I have Magic Mouthwash - the same stuff from mouth sores and thrush during chemo.  It worked well for the chemo issues.  Doesn't do diddly for my throat, since there is really no "hang time" to coat & numb it when you swallow it, and it's really really nasty to swallow.  I have had a different CD to listen to every day - thank you!  Now if I could only get them to turn it up loud enough to drown out the machine.  I'm telling ya - there are a few noises that sound every bit like sizzling bacon that freak me out, cause that's my chest they are sizzling!  Not really - I know it's the machine, but there are mind games involved in this thing called cancer.

It's a lunch date with my favorite big kid tomorrow for the bell-ringing.  The favorite little kid had a sick day last week, so he got to see some cool highway trucks, all the bridge construction, the therapy dog at rad, McD's playplace, and read books at Barnes & Noble, so an all around great day for him to join me.  The big kid won't get treated quite so well since I have a lymphedema appointment in the afternoon, but we will make it a date anyway.  Wishing there was more vacation time for Handsome to join me, but he will need it for later, as reconstruction is on track for early January.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thankful Thursday - derailed

Thankful Thursday is derailed...  spent two hours trying to figure out flexible spending account reimbursement for the new benefits plan tonight instead.  I'm thinking that for the amount of tax-free money we save, it might not be worth the frustration factor!  Pretty sure our time and stress is worth more than the tax-free savings.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have time to post.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Did you think I would miss 2 weeks in a row?  Can't leave all 4 of you followers hanging like that!  It's another Thursday, thankful for God's blessings.

Thankful that I got to do this with this kid:






and that with those kids in the last two weeks.




"This" was Snooze at the Zoo with the Cub Scouts.  We went on a night hike with the animals boys and put the animals to bed, along with a craft - the cape and Superman pose, cause they were Animal Avengers.  We slept out under the stars, but the city is loud and light, even at night.  That was one grumpy lump to wake up at 6 am to eat breakfast and wake up the animals!

"That" was tickets to the Rams- Ravens preseason game, with two buddies out late on a school night.  They had a great time, I think.  Maybe it was all the cotton candy in that bag, I dunno!  Those 3 were a cheap date.  We got the tickets for free after the Rams summer skills camp didn't work out so well for us - hopefully next year.  Then they were giving away vouchers for a free hot dog, soda and popcorn for kids under 15.  Woohoo!

Thankful for more food in the freezer.  I'm still not cooking, thank you, People!

Thankful for radiation music.  I can't listen to the whirring, clicking and zapping of the rad machine.  It really freaks me out.  It takes some guts to go back day after day for something that is intentionally damaging good healthy body parts, yet I have to do it.  Whatever it takes to get through it, and at loud volumes!  It's not like anyone else can hear it - the door is a foot thick and solid.

Thankful for single digit addition and subtraction.  Tomorrow there is 10 rad treatments left.  That means next week and the week after is 5 + 4 = 9.  I can do that math!  Plastic surgeon appointment is set up for the last week of rad so he can evaluate the "crispy" factor of my chest wall skin and figure out a timeline for whatever surgery we will do.  Saline or silicone implants or autologous (rearranging the fat tissue I already have) are the options.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Implants are quick and easy as far as surgeries go. Any autologous surgery is more difficult with a longer "down time."  Hmm... how much more do I really want to go through, and how many more scars?  I know we won't do anything for at least 3 months to let the skin and chest tissue cool off, so a break from everything.  I am looking forward to that break!

Two weeks from today, and we are done with the "killing cancer" part of this.  Can't wait!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Another week into the history books.  Another list of Thankfuls.


Thankful for another year.  I might have had a birthday in the last week.  I bought a juicer and a used treadmill.  Hmm... these times they are a-changin'!  I am pretty sure those are things that old people or health nuts use.  I think I like my blender better than the juicer, though.  I like the whole fruit, not just the juice.  1/4 pear, banana, 2 handfuls of strawberries, 1 handful of blueberries, protein powder, small chunk of spinach, kefir and skim milk.  Mmm, it's what's for breakfast.  And I am working on the treadmill, but am fighting with my left arm swelling when I exercise, so short spurts.

Thankful for laughter.  There has been a lot of it the last few days, and it does a soul good.

Two wonderful ladies have taken me to rad this week, and we have made the rounds of topics - raising kids, taking care of parents and the role reversal, school, crazy crummy cancer, church plans, girly stuff - not much off limits - and all accompanied by lots of laughter.

Then there are these boys that I live with.  Colby saw a lemonade stand story on TV.  He then wanted to ask his aunt (who makes yummy fudge at Christmas) if she would make him 20 or 30 pounds of fudge so we could sell it like a garage sale and raise money for toys.  20 or 30 pounds of fudge, Child?  For toys?  For you?  Made by your aunt?  Hmm... you call and ask her that, cause I am not!  It took a while to tell her the story because I was in a fit of laughter when she answered the phone.  Evan brought a buddy home to help with homework, and they were just crazy silly, loud, obnoxious, and kept me in stitches over nothing worthwhile today.

And then there is this crazy PT that I was hoping to never see again, but am back hanging out with way too soon.  She was a little bit of sanity and laughter in helping me with range of motion in July.  Now it's working on lymphedema in my arm.  While one more complication of crazy crummy cancer really ticks me off, at least we are entertainment for each other while dealing with it.  There's plenty of laughter from the treatment room.

Thankful for food.  You know that food prep and "what's for dinner, Mom?" are not things that I excel at.  I tossed out on facebook a request for frozen crock pot meals that I can pull out as needed when I am gone all day.  I have several bags from coworkers and former coworkers.  Last night it was some delish bbq spare ribs, and I think tonight is mostaccioli.

Thankful for  6 out of the last 8 years as weekend-option prn.  It has kept me home more during the week with the kids.  Tom and I debated for most of the summer about what my job would look like in the big picture of life.  The last 2 work weekends it was not rocket science that 2 12-hour shifts are harder than they used to be, and won't get better for a while.  While I could have used 4 hours of fmla each shift, at some point I have to be realistic and look at what is fair to my employer and even bigger than that, what is fair to my patients.  It kinda feels like cancer won, but I know it needed to happen.  And, it means that I only have to work 1 weekend shift a month when all the dust settles, so that is a family win.  Tom has done a majority of the weekend parenting for Colby's entire life, and I am tired of missing all the fun stuff!

Have a good weekend, y'all.  We have some fun plans to look forward to.  Promise I will share pics next week.

.  


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thankful Thursday

God's blessings, remembered...

Leftover lasagna, tucked in the freezer.  I got a huge ginormous pan during chemo, and froze half of it.  Yummy dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow!

Beautiful days and cool nights.  The a/c finally got turned off yesterday, and it was a beautiful 50's night to sleep with the windows open and air the house out.  It was nice to sit outside this afternoon between rad & school pick-up.

A meaty book - "A Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp to keep me company waiting for radiation.  I love her writing style, but it does require thought.  It's not a fluffy book.  And, the piano melody on her website is hauntingly beautiful.

Friends fighting over who gets which radiation day to drive me.  I can go by myself, but it's so much more fun with a friend!  And I am tired, already.

School routines.  The boys are settling in.  They both like their teachers.  There is a pattern to life again, not random bedtimes and schedules.  The calendar is getting full, but pleasantly so.

CD's left on my doorstep.  The rad suite has a CD player for entertainment, and my goal is 30 different cd's for 30 days.  Despite what I have been told, I can feel the rad zaps - just tingly, but uncomfortably so.  I need all the distraction I can get!

Bonfires.  It's cool.  It's Scouts outside.  It was at someone else's house, so I enjoyed it and left it there.  I got a whiff of the fire smell just a few times today, and it was wonderful.

Got a minute to read and share some love?  Go love on Vicky - Westra's World - on the blogroll.  I stumbled onto her blog and fell in love with her writing and her heart long before I had cancer.  Say a prayer, for her and others who struggle a lot more than I do.  It's not a picnic in my world, but I know my world is still pretty easy in the land of cancer treatment.

Have a good week y'all.  8 pm seems like it's past my bedtime, after 4 alarm clock wake-ups this week.  Nine or so more and I can sleep in... only if I skip church again.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Radiation Day 1



So... wanna hear about my day?  You're here; you must.

I didn't line anybody up to go with me today.  If I had gone to church yesterday instead of sleeping in, somebody would have volunteered, but I opted to sleep after traveling Friday and Saturday.  I debated last night and this morning about asking if anyone wanted to go with me on Facebook, but I didn't.  I thought I wanted to do this on my own.  I really didn't.

And so, I dropped the kids off for an adventure with the 'rents, and I headed to the big city.  Somewhere along the interstate, my game face flew out the window.  Tears at 75 mph just isn't pretty, Folks.  And so I texted two of my prayer warriors while waiting at stop lights.  And they settled me back down a bit.  I was doing laps in the parking garage, and I found this.



Radiation itself  is really not that exciting - like a CT scan on steroids.  I am done in 30 minutes or so, except on Tuesday See the Doctor Day.

My radiation schedule works with the kids school schedule.  Daily til September 19.  It's early enough I might even get a nap before school gets out if I come straight home.  Can I tell you that I find that comforting and depressing at the same time - that I feel the need to build naptime into my days?

And the song on 99.1 JoyFM when I got in the car afterward?  This song.  "Praise You In The Storm," by Casting Crowns.


Ok, God, I get it.  You're in the big stuff, and the details too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thankful Thursday

It's a moment or two to reflect back on the week and be grateful, thankful, joyful for the God-given gifts in the journey of life.

Thankful that the funk from last week didn't stick around long.  There are just random days where the mood is crummy, and the acidity of my mood doesn't match anything going on in real life.  Cancer comes with depression, sometimes situational, sometimes much longer lasting.  Last Thursday was a long rad onc day, and "stupid cancer" tears were just simmering at the surface, and blinked back (or not) more than once.  Friday, and the rest of this week, has been the "usual me."

Thankful for our "Walking By Faith" Relay for Life team.  That walk was Friday night.  In the steady rain.  On the night before my first shift back.  My mom walked with me, both of us in our purple survivor shirts.  I walked 1 1/2 miles that I counted, which is more than I have walked in a long time.  I knew I needed to be dry at home getting ready for bed & work, but I left my heart on the track.  A lap for Rick, and one for Sybil too.




Thankful that while "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was" still applies at work.  It was a good weekend.  Not too much exciting, but the patients live longer that way!  My badge and log-ins all worked, I had time to catch up on computer work that I can't access at work, and my co-workers got to love on me a bit.  They have raised me in the work world, after all.

Thankful to get out an overnight bag.  Last time I packed, it was the mastectomies.  This time, it's the CoMO girls, and I can't wait!  We made it several years to Cards-Royals games, but haven't all been together in at least 4 years.  Lunch with the step-sisters and cousin time for the boys, Rock Bridge State Park and Devil's Ice Box, maybe some Shakespeare's Pizza, and girl-time.  That is a full 36 hours!

Thankful for God's perfect timing.  Radiation starts Monday.  School starts Tuesday.  Perfectly planned, and I had nothing to do with it.  Chemo ended on the last Friday of school in May.  I got my summer staycation with the kids.  A huge part of our goals was that while the kids know all that is going on, they still get to be kids, and life seems kinda sorta halfway normal.  If I had to take them with me to the doc, I tried to end at the zoo, or a splash pad, or something else fun for them.

Thankful for the PTA volunteers.  School shopping for us?  A bag of candy for treats, a few new shirts, haircuts, and we are done!  We can order a box full of supplies tailored to each kids grade in the spring.  I like to coupon, but have no energy or desire to chase down $0.17 notebooks and $0.24 crayons. And, I think we have a cool PTA that takes care of the kids and the teachers too.  No, I am not volunteering.  But I will gladly donate anything you ask for!
  
Thankful for a stupid diagnosis to make me experiment with food more.  Kale chips, zucchini with tomatoes and cheese, chard, canteloupe, watermelon...  The only zucchini I would willingly eat came in the form of bread.  Now, I hate the thought of wasting a) food we paid $$ for and b) fresh fruit and veggies, so we are making a point to eat more of the good stuff, which means broadening the horizons for this picky eater.  Married 13 years, and I had no idea my husband liked beets.  I'm still not eating those, but maybe I will buy a few at the next Farmer's Market I run across.

Stop and count your blessings - eucharisteo is the word I am looking for.  Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts book.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Just A Thursday

I would offer you a Thankful Thursday, but I don't have it today.  It's not all sunshine and roses, and today has kinda been one of those days. 

I spent the day doing Radiation Simulations.  What is that, you ask?  I couldn't have told you exactly until today.  You meet the radiation doc and his nurse again (hey, it's been a long time since February when we met).  You sign a consent form that lists every. single. possible. side. effect.  I have already agreed to being poisoned and slashed.  What's some burning, too.  You hear about the available research trials.  One for me that involves a questionnaire a dozen times over a few years.  There was one on the Rad website that was 3 vs 6 weeks of rad, but only available for those who had lumpectomies and no lymph node involvement, so 6-7 weeks it is.  You go back to the CT room and lay on a chemical pillow of sorts that forms to my shoulder/ neck/ head so I don't move - either during today's CT scans as well as Radiation itself.  It felt like a million years with my arms above my head.  While I have that mobility, I can feel it pull and hurt from my elbow to  the middle of my ribs.  I didn't much care for that!  While I was there, they marked me all up and down the left side so they have a roadmap with definite points.  Some blood drawn to check my thyroid function, and Pulmonary Function Tests.  Radiation can damage my thyroid as well as my lungs - hence the baselines.  Somewhere in there was lunch, too.

Bright spot?  One of the Rad Techs grew up in northeast MO, and Edina, and her brother lives near my uncle in Palmyra.  She now lives in the town northwest of us.  Small worlds in a parallel universe!  

The funky mood? 

The roadmap - I have about 6 dots tattooed on now, but they really want the paint/ marker to stay on as long as possible.  So, the Plastics doc okayed the pool finally on Tuesday.  Rad Onc took it away on Thursday.  The little kid has been asking me to go swimming with him, not just drop them off & pick them up.  I was planning a hotel trip, and I can get in the water up to my waist.  Gee, thanks.  Ugh, why bother!?

I realize in the grand scheme of the cosmos, it's one summer in my kids life.  But in realizing school starts in a week, we have not ventured farther than 40 miles all stinkin' summer.  They have had no. summer. vacation.  What did you do on your summer vacation?  Uh, played xbox, watched unlimited TV, had sleepovers, and went to my mom's doctor's appointments.

I went back to Weight Watchers in July, as I promised myself I would after chemo and surgery. I weighed in once since then, and was up 0.8 lbs.  I have tracked food about 4 days in a month.  If I want the tummy tuck at the end of the scar-filled road, I have to be down 60 lbs.  And today I ate 2 Paul's Delights, pizza for lunch, and drank a can of Mountain Dew.  Food is controlling me, not me controlling it.  My give-a-dang is busted, and I need to fix it.  I am hoping the routine of school and radiation will help me get my groove back.

Sometimes cancer just stinks, and today is one of those days, for no particular worthwhile reason.  Tomorrow will be better, of that I am sure.  Ears finally pierced and Relay For Life.  Saturday & Sunday, it's back to work.  Purpose.  A challenge.  Prayers for endurance appreciated.




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

It's time to take a moment to be thankful for the God-given gifts in my life.

I am thankful for a little Dave Ramsey and a little gifted money and a little perseverance in working during chemo.  The truck is in for a laundry list of neglected maintenance, and there is cash in the savings account to deal with it.  I am also thankful for a father-in-law that says "sure, you can have a set of wheels, when do you need them?"

I am thankful for the local PT gal who has focused her continuing ed on Women's Health.  She is fun to hang out with and pretty good at the art of distraction while she stretches my arm farther than I really want it to move.  9 visits in 3 weeks, and I might will be ready to work.  But the 4 lb weights were heavy yesterday, so I am a ways yet from schlepping 300 lb patients. We will get there.

I am thankful for the guy that took my spot in leading the then-Tigers, now-Wolves in Scouts.  He and the gal that I started with have taken the boys and run with it, doing more stuff than I had even thought about.  And really, if I had to feed you by campfire, it's hot dogs or peanut butter, and breakfast would be powdered doughnuts.  If I had to get you un-lost in the woods, well, we're in trouble there, too!

I am thankful for a crazy wonderful jet stream disturbance causing low 80's in July.  It is Cub Scout week at our house, Twilight Camp in the evenings x 4 evenings at the local Sportsman's Club.  BB's, Archery, Crafts, Games, Fishing, and dinner in there somewhere, too.  It has been a joy to be out there helping with the Crafts, in the cool weather.





I am thankful for the other folks who volunteer their time for my kids.  Some of the folks helping are older Boy Scouts of varying rank.  Some have grown kids, but keep volunteering just because.  Some like me have a kid in Scouting.  One of the Sportsman's representatives commented to me that he was impressed with the sheer number of adults helping out.  I was proud of that.  We have a good representation of our moms and dads walking with their kids.  Only in the first year of Cub Scouts do you have to be at every activity with your kid.  I have walked Scout Camp at least two years with the older boy, and while I had to walk it last year with the younger one, I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I have been on the sidelines enough the last 6 months.  As a tandem thought, I am thankful for the Hubs/ Dad, giving his time as an Archery & BB Rangemaster.  The lack of vacation hours and my surgery fouled it this summer, but he has been out for 2-3 camps each of the last few summers, and they were ones that our boys probably weren't at!






Really, he is having a good time!


And one more pic, cause I don't think it ever made it on the blog.  I am thankful for the support of my sister, nieces, boys and mom on Komen Day, 2 days after surgery.




Ok, two more pics, cause I am thankful I am not still a shiny pool ball on top!  It's darker than before, and baby soft.  And I am thankful for Grandma's quilt in the background. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Follies

So... a dose of dark humor for you.

I can finally wear deodorant again!  Woohoo - it's July in the middle of the middle west - you should be thankful for that!  The surgery wounds and JP drain holes are almost completely healed.  The irony in this?  I can't feel my left pit to know if I am getting any deo on or not.  Sigh... bought aerosol deo so I just have to aim somewhere under my shirt.

I have as much hair on my legs, and jaw line????  as I have on my head.  Shouldn't there be a bonus no leg hair growback or something for going through cancer?  And really, I look estrogen deficient with the blonde beard that I see in the mirror.  Oh wait, thanks to that pesky ovarian cyst removed a few years ago, and chemo, and tamoxifen, I AM estrogen deficient!  You'll be happy to know that since I can't feel my pit, and I am missing those 22 lymph nodes, I get an electric razor for the pits and legs!  Now you all know what to get me for Christmas!

I got called Sir about 3 times last week.  Two more fills for the foobs, please and thank you.  I refuse to wear pink!

I promised a paint story, so here's that one, too.  One of the things I was working on pre-surgery was getting our back porch pretty-fied.  It has been just insulation stuck between the 2x4's since Tom and his dad enclosed it before my entrance to the family or this house.  So, I put up cardboard when the toddlers started picking at the fluffy pink stuff, and then plastic thinking I knew what a vapor barrier was, and hallelujah, there's some leftover roof $$, so it got drywalled last fall.  It finally got several coats of paint between chemo and surgery.  And there's 4 coat hook racks ( 16 hooks total - and we still will have coats on the floor!) to be hung up now.  And I am looking for a bench to go under the coat hooks.  And shoe organization?  Probably delusional on that one.  But back to the paint...


The tray on the ladder wriggled as I was filling it, and I was quite certain it was going to come crashing down and I bumped it trying to catch it.  Takes a special kind of painter to get paint in your belly button and on your bra!  Eh, that size bra is unnecessary now anyway!  So Tom, what floor are we putting down, cause that's just a mess!

To finish the paint thought... Tom and his dad tore apart and reconstructed the (only) bathroom when I was pregnant with Evan, and they took a bathtub sized chunk from the 2nd bedroom, so had to redo the bedroom too.  By this time, I had given birth, and was probably driving my in-laws crazy, and they were both painting the now nursery, along with help from my mom.  My mom stepped in and spilled the paint.  All over the hardwood floor.  And we had accidentally gotten oil-based paint, so I am pretty sure all 3 grandparents were high from the fumes.

Like mother, like daughter!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Lots of things to be thankful for this week...

Anthony & Gavin, 2 neighborhood buddies, who mowed the lawn last week.  They wouldn't even take a gift card for the local ice cream place. 

A hug and short chat with Marilyn, an old friend at the local community college.  She was directing traffic (parents) for their kids classes as I was dropping the boys off for kids college this week.  She babysat Evan as a toddler, and every once in a while I still find a toy around here from her garage sales :).

Sunday night with the girls and some 'ritas on the patio.

A ride to Siteman with a real Rita a few weeks ago.

An extra day off for the hubs.  I was spewing bodily fluids everywhere last Monday, and he stayed home to make sure I was ok.

Another extra day off for the hubs.  Three boys to Raging Rivers on Member Pass appreciation day.  He's not a huge fan of sun, water or crowds, but it was cold or flooded when I tried to take the boys.  I love him for this!

A lime green basket of goodies from a friend and co-worker, left on my porch.  She was trying to surprise me, but I was running college with the boys and missed her, dang it!  It is the ultimate compliment when you let your coworkers take care of you, and she could, any day.

Another hug and grocery store chat today with another Survivor from town.  We will have to chat more soon!  At one point Komen had "yard decorating" as a fundraising option around Race For The Cure time, and I had her yard decorated.  I think she was just barely out of treatment, and it made her day.  Komen wouldn't decorate my mom's yard 150 miles away, but they would Ruth's, so she was my substitute.

A full fridge from Lanette and Jenn.  Thank you, Ladies!

Nine God moments that I can easily recall, but probably another 90 that I have missed naming.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pathology

So... what did they find?

Two separate tumors in Lefty.  One was still in the milk glands near the nipple.  This is the "well, something else is there, but we don't know exactly what" from the original PET scan.  The second was the lump we could see on mammogram and biopsied in January.  It was outside of the milk glands, on the border of areola and skin.  And 22 lymph nodes were removed.  The original armpit lump that led to diagnosis is the only one that was positive for cancer.

Can you say "Thanks, God?"  I sure can!

Chemo worked beautifully.  The lymph node shrank to 2 cm.  The other tumor was 2 mm.  Two stinkin' mm!

Unfortunately, I still get radiation.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

3 Weeks and a Day

So it's now 3 weeks post surgery.

We (me and the foobs...  fake + boobs) are up to weekly fills with saline - 90 ml at a time.  Good thing I like the plastic surgeon, as often as I am seeing his office.  It's not the most comfortable thing to have your skin stretched, but not nearly as bad as the first week after surgery, either.  It's just really tight - like a belt cinched tight from armpit to armpit.  When I lay back in the recliner (yeah, still sleeping there) and I wake up groggy, it feels more like a cinder block on my chest.  There is 480 ml in the expanders so far, which is about the amount of water in a 16 oz bottle.  We will stop at about 900 ml, so a few more weeks to go.  Radiation simulations (getting markings figured out and tattooed on my chest) will happen probably the week of the last fill.  I still have the evil compression bra 24x7 and restricted movement.  Hopefully we can get some PT going fairly quickly in the next few weeks. 

It's Independence Day today.  My boys went to the movies.  I think I will find a book and sit on the patio.  It's been beautifully cool this week, and I haven't gotten outside enough.  I would love to think I want to go to the air show and festivities, but I am really not up for it.  Next year...




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Week Later

And so it is a week post-mastectomies...

The incisions are pretty yucky, I must say.  My arms are still bruised from IV sticks, and the tape residue won't come off easily.  The post-op instructions were pretty much "go home, sit in a chair and don't move for the next 2 weeks."  I find that hard to do, but am trying to comply.  A 1/2 gallon of milk is too heavy for me to lift.  In the normal world, under your skin is the fatty breast tissue, and under that is the pectoral muscle.  In the reconstructed world, the docs want the skin to stick itself to the pec muscle, and the tissue expanders go under the muscles.  The more I move my arms, the less the muscle adheres to the skin.  Anatomy 202.

Went to the Plastics PA today, and she pulled 2 of the 4 drains that I have.  They are little grenade-shaped plastic balls with tubing into my chest wall that drain fluid.  Tom or my mom have to empty them three times a day and record the amounts.  They are a bit painful - the best I can describe it is a really bad underwire bra that just keeps poking me in the same spot.  Sometimes I can reposition myself to make it less bothersome, but it never really goes away.

I still can't make it through the day without an afternoon nap.  I am madly in love with my new recliner.  I had no idea just how useful the automatic foot lift and back adjuster button would be.  I can't use my arms to propel myself forward, and don't have a ton of leg strength to kick the foot of a recliner down.  There is no way I could sleep in a bed at this point in life.  Or at least no way to get up from laying flat.

I can take a shower, but it's a group activity since I can't wash my head or move my arms much.  And no deodorant or antiperspirant... late June.  Sorry if I stink, Folks, but not much I can do about it.

My fridge has stayed full thanks to Becky, Rita, Beth, Yvonne and Pam later this week. 

The big kid is at Scout camp til Saturday.  The little kid thinks he is king of the house this week.  The hubs has been wonderful the last week, and I am thankful for a light workload for him this week, too.  He has been home a little earlier than usual, which makes me very happy!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Last Chemo Party

May 17 was the last chemo, and a little surprise party.

Lynn, whose son went through chemo and surgery for testicular cancer last year, and Beth, who is a Stage 4 melanoma survivor, both from church, picked me up for the last hurrah.  They each had a gift bag from the Women of Faith ladies.  I had Kami & Karmin's pink scarf for good measure.  For the most part, I have stayed away from pink - it wasn't a color I wore before cancer, and sometimes I dislike the pink-ification of breast cancer.  Ya know those little pink ribbons on everything, which advertise that a percentage of their sales goes to BC research?  Yeah, sometimes it's about 1% to an obscure company with 80% overhead and so about one penny of that $20 item actually makes it anywhere close to BC research or prevention, but you get a warm fuzzy feeling.  But I digress...

The first stop is always the lab for blood draws.  My oncologist likes me, but he likes numbers to look at and objective data more.  With some coaxing, my port worked for blood draws.  It frequently is clotted and we have to do some altepace and wait an hour, and only maybe does it work correctly then.  So, a good day for labs.

The second stop is the doctor.  He was out of town, so no need for that.  A good day for that, only cause it made the day at least an hour shorter.

The last stop is the chemo chair.  But wait, the tech is walking me back to a room again.  I don't need a room, and I really hate hospital beds.  I am good with just a recliner.  Ugh, ok, whatever.  Let's just get this done.  And then she opened the door.  And behind Door #5 is Roxanne, Becky and Ginny, three more WOF'ers.  And flowers, and decorations, and Paul's Delights - my favorite treat, only available in the summer, and a bucket full of suckers and a tag that said "Cancer Sucks."  Yes, Rox, it does!  And a Courage figurine from Willow Tree.  On Facebook there is a pic of me with that surprised look as I opened the door.




I had a roomful of my favorite WOF girls from church!  Ginny's sister Kathy came at lunch after working a half day.  They even took off work to hang with me in a little bitty chemo room.  I am blessed to be surrounded by these ladies.  Karmin and Phyllis and Rose and Lisa were there in spirit and by text, too.

The chemo nurse pre-medicated based on taxol, not abraxane, so I had a ton of benadryl that I didn't really need, which was the only mishap of the day.  Medication errors happen, but it was a multitude of reasons.  We didn't even try taxol that day since I had reacted badly to it twice.  I asked if I needed it with the abraxane, but I didn't question forcefully enough.  It's a different nurse each week, but typically the same order set, so she didn't realize all the premeds were for taxol.  The doc wasn't there to ask or clarify.  So... I am sure there are a few pictures of me sound asleep and drooling or snoring.  Love the girlfriends for that!

When all the chemo stuff was done, the nurses gave me a certificate and a t-shirt, and a confetti shower.  Yes, I survived the chemo-athlon!  With some help from my friends.


And the very last stop is to ring the bell.  Chemo is done.  What did not kill me made me stronger, or something like that.  I wasn't looking forward to ringing the bell, only because my treatment is nowhere near done, so it's not an endpoint for me.  I understand and appreciate the symbolism, but the thought is anti-climactic in my world.  Here it is anyway.


Back in town, we stopped at a great little Mexican restaurant for a (very) late lunch, and Rox brought the kids over after school.  A small margarita will cure many things!

And my 3 favorite boys were my designated driver & companions for the weekend.

It was a great day, if for a crummy reason.