Monday, August 31, 2009

Reflections

At this time last year, I couldn't push myself up in bed, drive or lift anything heavier than a loaf of bread. I was one week out of a bilateral mastectomy and trying to get my kids ready for school.

Jackie started school today, much to my mixed feelings of sadness and happiness for her. She was very excited about going to preschool full-time this year. She had a wonderful day today. And instead of answering with her typical "nothing!" when we ask what she did, she simply told us she had a great day. She's growing up at an amazing speed.

Steffie begins 7th grade tomorrow. This year will be one of her busiest since she'll be confirmed this year. Studies will be harder and she'll have exams in every class. Luckily, her classes are very small with 15 kids each. That's a bonus. If I have to pay for private education then the personal attention makes it worth the money. She isn't excited, maybe a little but I think she's ready to go back to school. Last year was a blur for her and a painful learning experience with a sick mother. Here's hoping and praying this year is 1,000 times better than last year...for all of us.

back to my reflections...

I was doped up on hydrocodone at this time. Do you realize I couldn't drive for most of the month of August due to the pain from my lumpectomy. I was out of commission for so long. I think I went almost 3 months without driving a car. Between the painkillers and soreness, I needed a chauffeur - enter Bill :) I remember the complete pain of trying to turn a steering wheel to move the car for him at the gas station. And then, it's like a switch was clicked. I went to get Jackie from school one day just on a whim. It was painful to drive but not as much. It's truly amazing when I think of the major impact of BC on our lives. It literally took Mommy out of the works for months on end. And that's just the surgery.

I do recall everyone's hysteria (and it really was) over my taking pain pills. Other than my Mom (who had a single mastectomy) - no one knows the pain associated with having your nerve endings ripped out and your boobs basically cut off. Everyone thought I would get addicted to the painkillers except my oncologist who knows I have a good head on my shoulders. I went off the painkillers about a week before starting chemo October 1st. Big mistake since putting in my mediport took a literal act of God and the patience of the Saints. Whiplash was awful.

I still haven't finished my reconstruction. I was thinking about that today. I need to call my plastic surgeon to schedule a consult in late October. But you know? I don't feel like even talking to my doctors. I'm happy with them not poking me. I'm happy to not have to drive for rads every day. My blood is my own :) I'm taking my pills like a good girl and taking care of me.

One year makes all the difference and no difference at all.

I think my body's trying to tell me I'm tired because I'm now wearing Bill's glasses to write this post.

Night all!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bill's Grandmother

Bill's grandmother, Nanna, suffered a stroke that caused bleeding on the brain. She's in her last days now and while we're sad, we're also reluctant to demand more from a woman who's been on this earth for 96 years.

The doctor's don't expect Nanna to last much longer. Bill's Dad, Sonny, is on his way to Texas as I type this.

Since I only entered this family about 5 years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting with Nanna a few times during visits to Dallas. She might've been a little forgetful but I watched her hold her own against Bill's teasing and silliness. A beautiful lady, I visited her with Steffie during one of her hospital stays. It was the very first time my Steffie discovered the wondrous joy of listening and hearing an older person speak with both wisdom and knowledge. Nanna and Steffie hit it off instantly.

She's had a full life of wonderful kids, grandchildren and relatively good health. Please keep Sonny, Nanna, Bill and their whole family in your prayers over the next few days.

Chemo Leftovers

Chemo offers cancer patients a miraculous chance to continue living after a serious diagnosis. I said many months ago that chemo was getting a bad rap because the side effects from the supportive drugs (steroid, antinauseas, etc.) were just as bad as the chemo. I want to take that back now...sitting here 8 months after finishing chemo. I won't but you'll see where this is going in a minute.

Yes, I feel better. But I still feel the effects of the chemo. The bone aches are getting really old. However, the reason I'm writing this is Mom. She's having hand tremors and foot pain (neuralgia) that is simply debilitating at times. Mom is a drink spiller because of this. I wrack my brain trying to think of things to help her with this because it's quite frustrating at times. Her oncologist has said he wants her to slow down - to think before she moves and plan her next movement. Of course, she isn't doing this - just barreling along.

She's burned herself on the hand this week with the iron. She is on Lirica to help with some of these leftover side effects. It has eased the foot pain. And we really can't tell if the tremors are lessening because of the Lirica or because she's a few months out of chemo. Whatever the reason, we are thankful she can put on her eye-makeup again and do most tasks without hacking off a finger.

The bottom line of this blog is that while we're undergoing treatment, nothing else matters except systemically attacking the cancer. Our quality of life sucks during treatment but we expect it to improve. After treatment, we feel such relief that we've climbed the chemo mountain, come down the other side...but are we whole and happy? Yes, we're here (and that's a bonus) but these discomforts can be at times debilitating, frustrating and intensely painful as we work through recovery.

And before anyone says "what's the alternative?" - I'm not whining here. I'm expressing that these leftovers aren't broadcasted to many patients, if any at all. I never knew I'd have recurrent, daily bone pain. Nor did I realize the standard treatment is to ply me with pills to make life bearable.

No thanks to the pills.

I just exercise to help with this and pray that someday it will go away. I will say that the pessimist in me seems to think that after 8 months, I'm going to be living with bone pain far into the future.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Follow my footsteps

It's amazing how there's almost a recipe for the progress each one of us makes as we move through breast cancer treatment. Diagnosis, despair, pick up by the bootstraps, surgery, chemo, radiation, recovery...on and on. One after another. Like cookie cutters. I read one blogger friend will finish chemo this week and I think of how I remember the same time in my life. As clearly as I remember the birth of my children.

One of the things that fried me the most when I was first diagnosed was everyone thinking BC made me like everyone else. I didn't like pink (still don't) and don't want to be part of the club. I tear up when I see pink ribbons, pens, socks, purses - because it defines me now. It's who I am.

I don't think a day goes by that I don't wonder if the beast will return. I know I'm reminded of the mess made of my body on a daily basis. I have to laugh when people say to my whining, "yea but what's the alternative?" Hey, no one knows more than someone who's faced what I have. Eye to eye with mortality at age 40 wasn't/isn't fun. I've also had people tell me "it's life" - thanks, but no thanks. I'll take reduced levels of stress for $100, Alex.

I went for marker tests yesterday and a checkup. I'm fine, although Tamoxifen isn't being kind to me. I bought an urban rebounder today because it's supposed to be low-impact exercise and excellent for lymphedema. Hips, knees and ankles hurt brutally at times. I'm 8 months out of chemo here and the bone pain still overwhelms me. I gimp frequently, tottering around holding onto stuff - especially in the morning.

Jackie and Steffie start school next week. I'm looking forward to it, sort of. My baby won't be home with Mommy anymore. She needs to be in preschool for the phonics, writing and socializing. I just can't help feeling this last year was stolen from us both. Hell, it was stolen from all of us.

This time last year I still had my drains. Yuck. I guess that's progress in someone's eyes. Still have another surgery sometime this fall but I don't feel rushed about it. At least I won't have drains this time. Slice and dice - driveby surgery to swap out my implants. I'm told the new tatas will already be filled so I don't have to go in for filling. I sure hope so.

I did something very therapeutic this summer. I chose 20 or so breast cancer articles for the company I write for. I researched and wrote until I purged it all out. I did learn a lot but ultimately, I think a writer wants to help their readers gain a better understanding. It was medicinal for me. If one women who's scared stumbles across one of my articles, then it makes it worth it.

There really isn't anyone who can relate better than someone who's been there...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Year

It's been one year since my mastectomy. Actually, 1 year and 6 days. I spent the last 5 days in Ocean City with Bill's mom, making a concerted effort to forget the previous year of pain and sorrow. This time last year I was trying to push myself up in the bed like a turtle stuck on my back.

I remember every minute of those first days - time blurred when I started chemo. I do remember that in just a week or so from now, I found Renee who seemed to be working in tandem with me. Surgery the same day, eval's the same day, and 4 sessions of chemo at exactly the same day and time. I had two more than she did - lucky her :) Congrats on your one year Renee!!

I have some really incredible pictures to post of the surf in OC during the hurricane. It tore up the beach but southern storms don't usually remove sand. They bring it back whereas a nor'easter takes it away. The surf was extremely high. We didn't see adverse weather from the storm - just monster waves.

We'll do pics instead of getting mired in the one year business. I just don't feel like thinking about it right now.






























The ocean hacked out what we called a "cake" - a chunk of raised sand the width of the beach. This chunk is still there. The really cool part was the tidal channel up near the dunes. This thing had a serious current, similar to those you see on a lazy river. Very dangerous rip current at the entrance of this channel to the ocean - where the guy in the grey shorts in standing. Parents congregated there for two days watching the kids. The lifeguard was out of his chair constantly saving people from the rip currents.

Literature often uses the term "angry ocean" to describe all sorts of waves and boating. The ocean was definitely angry this past weekend with the onslaught of Hurricane Bill.

















The hurricane was located between Bermuda and MD at this point.



















The noise from these crashing waves was so loud that we often couldn't hear each other sitting right side by side. It made a popping noise at times - almost like a loud slap. We'd jump every time. Pictures really don't do the waves justice so I took video as well. I filmed a surfer for perspective.
video

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to School Freak Out!

Dropping Jackie off at camp today, I noticed a calendar on the wall. I realized in that very moment that my kids have less than 2 weeks before school starts and I've done nothing. Compare this to last year when I was ready 2 weeks ahead of time because I had a major surgery scheduled.

Time flies in the summer.

I didn't have my cell phone with me so I couldn't call Bill to freak out. So I went to the bank and then drive home. It's my quiet day - just me and the cats. But I was freaking out about school starting. I called Bill and he didn't freak out but commiserated with a "Moo" when I told him I was having a cow over this.

Money is tight for everyone but it's especially tight here right now. I'm buried under thousands of dollars in copayment bills. You know the spiel. We all have tight finances at times. This is one of those times.

So I started chugging through the coupons sites to find coupons for Stef's favorite stores, school supplies and shoes. I stopped myself about 10 minutes into the hunt and decided to craft an article for posting on one of my favorite sites. I usually don't post my published work on my blog unless it's something really useful to the friends who read this blog. This one is REALLY useful to the Moms and Dads. I even tweeted it on twitter.com because I started doing that yesterday too!

Visit my article HERE!

Cheers and happy shopping!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Parental Experiment #525

So I picked a random number for this experiment. Sue me. I'm at my wits ends with these kids.

We have arguing, with me and amongst themselves. We have dallying, on the level that we miss the bus to camp. We have dishes everywhere, as well as clothes tossed onto the floor. Mommy isn't Mommy - Mommy is a maid.

I had a brilliant idea after missing my Friday morning breakfast with Mimi, Poppa and Aunt Pat (of voodoo doll fame) because Steffie missed the camp bus. I decided that every time one of the girls does something I've asked them not to do, I'm charging Steffie $1 and Jackie $0.25 (Jackie has less money).

I'm giving each of them a list when Stef gets out of camp today. They'll know the parameters of what is expected of them.

I'm tired of yelling, tired of asking for things to be done repeatedly. Tired of arguing. Tired of them thinking they can back talk, do what they want and act up when this home needs peace and quiet.

I just might be getting a pedicure out of my collections each week.

It has occurred to me that $1 is a pretty steep price for Steffie. However, you need to understand that this happens every day, ALL DAY. It's a nice way to inflict pain without raising a finger.

I'm off to decorate my coffee can :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Still chuggin along...

Been busy. Writing, being Mom and having family in town. I'm still recovering from 2 days and 10 people staying with us. It wiped me out.

We went to Ohio to visit my aunt who has early-onset Alzheimers. She recognized us all, except for the babies that she had never met. A good visit. A great visit. But I can honestly say that MD to OH is way too long for a 3 day weekend. Especially with three kids that need to pee at different times :)

I've started another blog. This one political. I'm having alot of fun with it as well as enjoying the ability to get my thoughts together.

I originally started this blog to document my course of treatment to construct a book. A book which I cannot write at all now because I dissolve into tears.

Maybe someday soon I'll be able to write about this nightmare.

Breast cancer is so cliche ridden it makes me cringe. Whenever I do write it, I want to have a voice that doesn't say what has been said before. I need to have all my brain cells firing on overdrive to do that.

My girls are fine as is my Bill. Clyde is still ruling the house (or so he thinks) and Maui is still kicking. My old kitty gave me quite a scare a few weeks ago when she seemed to suffer a stroke. She was totally unable to control her left back leg. But she came out it and appears to be in no pain. Maui is the definition of a tough old bird.

I'll let her go when the time is right, just like I did with her brother and sister.

I was talking to Mom today about everything and nothing. And we both agreed that cancer seems to be quite liberating. It makes a body want to say what's on the mind.