Category Archives: Emotional Health

T-231 days. March 1, 2013– Last chemo treatment!!

Standard

The day had finally arrived!! My very last chemo treatment. My sister Alethea flew in for the occasion. My friends Kevin and nurse angel Karen stopped by. My parents and my Aunt Celeste and Dave. It was definitely a party. Definitely a reason to celebrate!!

I had so many people that everyone had to take turns to sit with me and visit. Later we went to eat at my favorite restaraunt Pacific Rim.

What a relief to know I was done!! That said, the after effects of the chemo were the worst with this treatment then any other. The accumulative affect often causes this and makes the last treatment the toughest. I am so blessed to have so many people in my who are my angels and have carried me through this journey of chemo. Most importantly my Travis who took three days off of work for every one of my infusions. He sat by my side, held my hand and wiped my tears every time we had to walk into the cancer center on my Friday infusions. He then cared for me on Mondays and Tuesdays when I was knocked out, felt sick and weak and was in pain. I don’t know how I would have made it without him and his love.

20140709-154558-56758684.jpg

20140709-154600-56760935.jpg

20140709-154559-56759420.jpg

20140709-154600-56760456.jpg

20140709-154600-56760058.jpg

T-231-March 1st, 2013-Awesome Stuff about Chemo!!!

Standard

Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks–chemo is instant nair!!
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts–money you will use on falsies!!
4. Have to get manicures and pedicures to cover your black nails-What color you like?
5. Everyday is Halloween when you wear your wigs
6. No bikini waxing, eyebrow waxing, or upper lip,,,,,keep that hot wax Away, I’ve got TCH!!

T-294 days-December 28, 2012-Chemo Infusion #3, Half way marker!!

Standard

The holidays have always been a joyful time of year filled with cookie baking, presents and Christmas tree chopping. This holiday I found myself experiencing everything on another sensory level. Cancer has backed me into a corner where I am constantly thinking of the fragility of life and has made me take in every little smell, touch and feel. Awesome pros to chemo:
1. No leg shaving. My legs look great with no work and no shaving nicks
2. No armpit shaving
3. Save money on haircuts

3 days after Christmas I had to get my 3rd chemo treatment. My kids were with me but fortunately my parents are local and they were able to stay with them. They visited me for the first time which was an amazing gift. Nurses continued to monitor me closely because of the recent reaction to carboplatin. Cytoxin seemed to give me no issues and thankfully the infusion went smoothly.

New Year’s Eve was when everything hit me. The effect of chemo is beginning to become more and more difficult. The inside of my mouth is raw, I am physically exhausted, my bones feel like someone is hitting them with a hammer. My scalp hurts to even touch a pillow. Travis and I have been watching the entire trilogy of Lord of the Rings. I have never laid around and watched so much tv in my entire life.

Sometimes I think the good lord knew my life was too fast paced, too stressful, too toxic and that this was the only way
he could force me to stop, sit back and take time to reassess.

20140709-143044-52244458.jpg

20140709-143045-52245283.jpg

T-363 days. What does chemotherapy feel like?-November 19, 2012

Standard

After sitting for hours with my body hooked up to tubes and poison going through my body, hours and days had passed as I waited to FEEL something. The anticipation was odd. So much of the anxiety with cancer is the not knowing. The not knowing when I was going to feel terrible. Saturday and Sunday passed with nothing eventful. I actually felt the same. Monday I went to get my Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a shot I get every Monday after my infusion. Neulasta is used to help make white cells so that your body fights infections during cancer treatment. The shot itself didn’t hurt. They didn’t access my port, just a simple jab in the arm.

Chemodrugz.

Chemodrugz. (Photo credit: Drew Olanoff)

By Monday evening it hit me. My bones ached as if someone was hitting them with a hammer. When Tuesday morning came I didn’t want to get out of my cozy soft bed…..and I didn’t. There I lay sleeping for hours until it was time for Travis to drive me to acupuncture. I told Jingfei of my immense pain in my bones; she expertly placed her needles all over my body. Magically those needles sucked some pain away from my bones and I walked out of her office feeling much better then I had.
The next chemo side effect was my mouth. My teeth felt as if I had braces on them that were tightened with a vice grip. The inside of my mouth felt like raw meat. I couldn’t eat. I could barely move. I felt nausea. I felt like shit. Plain and simple, it was awful. My sleep was fitful at best; the worst pain was in my feet and shins. The pain drove me to tears and loud exclamations of profanity. The chemo was working its black magic on me. How would I endure 5 more times of this?

T-365 days-Head Shaving Party-November 17, 2012

Standard

A quick aside before I begin writing my blog.  I am quite behind in real time and intend on catching up.  Regardless, my goal is to capture the moment in time whether past or present with the raw emotions and details of those events.

I woke up after my first chemo infusion expecting to feel different, look different…..but nothing; it was oddly disappointing.  I jumped into the shower to wash my hair for the last time.  I am not one to feel an unhealthy attachment to my hair but as my fingers were going through my locks tears began to drip down my face.  How many months or years would it be till my hair would be this long again?  I reveled in the sensation of the water dripping through my hair strands, my hair getting stuck to my face….all of these minute seemingly irrelevant motions that I would otherwise rush through in my daily life.  I lifted my head high and reminded myself yet once again that I was making the right decision.  will decide when my hair is going to fall out NOT my cancer.  That sense of control during a time when everything else in my life was toppling over out of control was what I needed.

Many friends and family were attending my head shaving party.  Holly was hosting at her house, Michelle had sent out the invites and made other arrangements.  Everything was set.

IMG_2651

There was champagne and wine flowing, snacks to munch on, many hugs and kisses.  I counted my blessings many times to have such support from so many.  Rather then this being a somber and sad moment it was a time to celebrate!

Me and my boys.

Me and my boys.

So there we all were, with the buzz of conversation flowing through the rooms, laughter ebbing in the hallways.. I knew the time was drawing near, where the buzz would be of clippers against my head.  With my friends and family standing and sitting around me I took the honorary place at the clipping throne.  I did not have a mirror but only the reactions and sounds of everyone to guide me into my transformation.

the head is being shaved

the head is being shaved

IMG_2663

IMG_2664

buzz time

buzz time

As I sat there I heard comments of how great I looked and how the “buzzed cut becomes me”.  All around I had smiling faces looking back at me with tears in their eyes.

all done

all done

In solidarity my dear loved ones also shaved their heads; Travis, my dad, Michael and Spencer.  Every one of them sat down and shaved the hair off their head in love for me.

IMG_2711

travis

michael

michael

IMG_2714

My Mr. Handsome getting his head shaved for his mama with breast cancer.

I am not certain if I was more emotional getting my head shaved or watching

Michael shave for me.

me and my girls

me and my girls

With my new Pat Benatar look I was ready for a night out on the town.  With my first chemo under my belt, my hair shaved away we headed out to eat, open presents and celebrate a momentous weekend!

IMG_2717

Our new shaven heads

Our new shaven heads

T-366 days-1st Chemotherapy Infusion–November 16, 2012

Standard

 

IMG_2631                                                                                          My mom and Me during my infusion

I tossed and turned in my sleep.  I cried….dreading what was going to happen to me.  I took the prescribed steroids and I felt like I was on speed, everything was racing.  Feeling like a baby who wet the bed,  I sweated through my pajamas and the sheets.  Is this what steroids are supposed to do?….no one talks about this when they talk about cancer treatment.  I change out of my wet pj’s and try to sleep thinking of the imminent poison that is about to be put into my veins.   Laying there in the dead of night I start praying to God and ask him to calm me, soothe me, comfort me….and finally my eyes shut.  It seems as if an hour had passed and the alarms begin ringing,  the house is bustling with everyone getting ready to go to school.  I say goodbye to my babies and reassure them that I am going to be ok and will see them very soon.  Once everyone leaves, I embark on the task of getting dressed for my infusion. What does one wear to a chemotherapy?  I grapple with my wardrobe for a moment and turn on fun party music.  As I am singing along to Lady Gaga I decide to go with the fashionable yet practical ” loose and comfortable look  with a splash of pink”. On my wrists hung my breast cancer bracelet and my bracelet with my kids names on them, from my ears my 80’s pink earrings.   I was determined to walk in to the hospital with my head held high and a fearless attitude.  When Travis came home I told him “Let’s get this party started”.  Thus, the party began, we left the house armed with our bags filled with endless hours of entertainment; computers, cards, magazines, books, snacks, beverages.  We were prepared for anything and everything.

I am not certain if I was more anxious about how the chemotherapy was going to feel when it flowed into me OR what everyone else in the infusion clinic would look like.  I continued to want to live in my fantasy world of cancer.  I didn’t want to face the reality of seeing cancer patients who looked as if they were knocking on death’s door.  My anxieties were lessened when I was greeted by my chemotherapy nurse Char.   She shared with us that we would have a private room since it was my first infusion.  Yes!  I could continue to live in my fantasy world of cancer a little longer!  What is even better is I know Char, I have known her for years.  My fears diminished tremendously.  Char begins to tell us how the day is going to run and what we should expect.  She explains that she does not want us to be alarmed when she is wearing a plastic mask and gloves when handling the chemotherapy bags.  She says that she must do this to protect her from the drugs toxicity, since she is exposed to them everyday.  Ok, wait a second!?!  My nurse is going to wear a Hazmat suit to touch the BAG my chemotherapy drugs are in…..the same drugs they are going to intravenously pour into my body……..should this comfort me or make me think that I have lost my mind agreeing to this?  Thanks to the steroids and the tazmanian devil levels of energy it gives me, my mind quickly shifts to another thought……Squirrel!

 

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

Travis and I at my 1st Chemo Infusion

As you can see in the above picture we had a pretty cozy set up.  My own bed, complete privacy, a nice little lamp….it was like the Taj Mahal of chemo infusions.  It was time to begin.  They needed to put the needle (which looked more like a fishing 

hook) into my port.  My port is on the inside of my right arm.  Char asked if I had put the numbing cream on my skin, I bravely told her that I didn’t think I would need it.  Shots, and pricks in the arm are not a big deal to me….well let me tell you when Char drove the “fish hook” into my port I thought I was going to scream….no wait I did scream.  It was the most torturous part of the entire day.  For some reason I had this illusion that the port was supposed to me my safety tunnel into my veins, the safe passage way, like the gumdrop pass in Candy Land.  NO!  It was like the Go To Jail card.  After the initial shock and pain of the insertion, they began a saline drip on me, followed by a anti-nausea drug, followed by another anti-nausea drug (I think they don’t want me to have nausea).  Then the party was truly about to start.  They first began with the chemotherapy drug Taxol.  With her hazmat suit on Char hung the Taxol bag on the hook.  I waited to feel something, anything..but I didn’t.

As the Taxol was coursing through my body along with the other drugs that were put in me I had many visitors in my room; my mom, my dear friend Kevin, my nurse angel Karen, the hospital deacon, my dad.  I may have picked up a tinge of annoyance from Char of the constant party like atmosphere in my room.  All we needed was a strobe light and some bass.

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

Chemotherapy Infusion Party

The next drug invited to the party was Carboplatin.  Char hung the bag of Carboplatin up on the hook.  Drip, drip went the drug and again I waited to feel something…..nothing yet.  Continuous monitoring took place.  Everything was on course.  The party was really going to start with the liquid benadryl they were going to give me.  The purpose of that was to combat any potential allergic reaction that I could have to Herceptin which would be the final drug of the TCH cocktail.   As I was biting into my salad lunch I was hit with a tsunami wave of exhaustion.  I couldn’t end the party by sleeping so I continued to attempt conversation while sounding like a sloppy drunk.  Travis and my mom broke out in laughter as they tried to piece together the garbly gook that was dripping out of my mouth.  Char entered the room with the final cocktail mix; Herceptin.  She reminded me that they would keep a close eye on me to ensure that I didn’t have an allergic reaction and if I were to have one it would be immediate.  She hung the bag and I waited in breathless anticipation to breakout in a rash of purple dots but alas I sailed smoothly through the choppy waters of the Herceptin test.  As the time continued to tick away I realized we had spent over 6 hours in the infusion lab and not once dove into our bag of party goods.  We had been kept so busy with teachings, monitoring and visitors that the party bag collected dust.  My first chemotherapy infusion was drawing to a close.  Other then being drunk on benadryl, I felt no different. As we walked to the car I felt the wind rustle through my hair and I became melancholy knowing that in hours it would be gone.  One major step today and another big one tomorrow.  One step at a time…

T-367 days–My Cancer Leave Begins-November 15, 2012

Standard

IMG_2628IMG_2626

 

I walk into work with a strange feeling.  I know it will be my last day for quite some time.   I notice one to many people wearing pink and then I realize they are all wearing pink for me.  My eyes tear up at the thoughtfulness of my fellow staff members.  I grab my coffee and head to my class to prepare for the day.  My stomach is in a knot as I know this will be the last time I see the kids for awhile.  For lunch I go to my favorite Mexican restaurant Mi Pueblo; it will be quite some time till I eat Mexican food like that again. The kids start to come in and one after the other they are dressed in pink as well, even the little boys.  I swallow back my tears and thank them.  I feel robotic as I go through the day, going through the motions, thinking of my cancer at every turn, emotional for the displays of affection.  Teachers and parents come in with presents for me.   The entire day was spent with a constant puddle around my eyes.  I drive away thinking of them and thinking of tomorrow and my first chemo treatment.  I am so fortunate and blessed to have so many people in my life who give me such support, solidarity and love.  My medical leave has officially begun….

T-370 days-Chemotherapy 101 day-November 12, 2012

Standard
Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer (Photo credit: bloomingdalelibrary)

I am sitting in a tiny room surrounded by books, pamphlets and magazines about Cancer.  A Cancer Library.  Since my surgery, I have often almost forgotten that I have cancer.  I look the same, feel the same…..but now it’s time to buckle up and get ready for the Chemotherapy ride.  The nurse sits with me and goes over every chemotherapy drug they are going to give me.  My chemotheraphy cocktail is TCH.  Taxol, Carboplatin and Herceptin.  She gives me thick paper copies of each drug and goes over the side effects of each one.  Exhaustion, nausea, hair-loss, neurapathy, mouth-sores, cardio-toxicity,  menopause…..the list was endless.  With a smile she asks me if I have any questions.  Do I have any questions?  In my mind, I wanted to ask her am I nuts? I feel great and I am going to sign a paper to make me feel like that?  But we weren’t done.  She then tells me about Neulasta.  Neulasta is a shot that is given a couple days after the chemotherapy infusion to increase white blood cell production.  This ALSO has some side effects; bone pain, joint pain, mouth sores, GI sensitivities etc…   I signed my signature on papers to agree to all of these fabulous ways I was going to feel.   Now it was time to get my blood drawn.  There is a special lab devoted just to cancer patients.  I received a special stamp card that basically signified I would be a frequent visitor.  Like, a frequent flyer card but not nearly as fun.  I took my place in the chair.  The techs knew I was a new girl.  I still had my hair……, my skin wasn’t yellow…..  They asked me questions, took my blood and told me how much they looked forward to seeing me again.  Again?  Right, again.  With my green stamp card I would be visiting my new friends in the lab quite often.

Chemo 101 day was not yet over.  Now it was time to get an ECHO.  The echo cardiogram was necessary so that they could have a baseline for my heart function.  Since there are so many cardiac side effects with the chemotherapy it is required.  There again I sat in another waiting room, 30 years younger then the average age of my fellow patient.  It was a painless procedure really.  A little gel, ultrasound and pictures,  done.  If there was a competition for who had the healthiest heart out of all of the people in the waiting room I am certain I would have won.

 

IMG_2620

The day would not be complete until I went and had lunch with my dear friend Michelle followed by some more wig shopping. This time we went to Fantasy Attic, a treasured Halloween store.  These wigs were not nearly as nice as “la fancy” wig but they were also only $30.  After trying on many I decided to splurge on another wig.  A long, red haired wig, otherwise known as “Ginger”.  Now Ginger wasn’t nearly as well made as la fancy wig but I still thought it would be fun to wear.  My wig buying addiction was just beginning.  I decided then, while I have no hair I am going to make the best of it.  It will be Halloween until my hair grows back.

T-373 days-The Wig Has Arrived-November 9, 2012

Standard

ImageImageThe day had come.  The day that my “new hair” had arrived.  I anxiously drove to the wig shop with thoughts of Lady Gaga, Madonna and all other proud Wig Wearing Women.  As I sat in the “fitting chair” at Feke Wigs, I felt  like a child on Christmas morning. I waited with breathless anticipation for the great reveal.   Ta-da!  There it was, MY new hair……long and luxurious.  She put it on my head and it fit like a glove.  Perfection! As she continued to talk to me about how to brush my wig, wash my wig, care for my wig my thoughts wandered…..who was this person in the reflection? Like an actor playing a part I felt like a different person.  A vixen with a long lioness mane, sexier, younger…..Me but not me.    I still had my own hair which is thin and short in contrast to the thick luxurious locks I had just acquired, otherwise known as the $600 “la fancy wig”.  I walked out of the store trying to manage my long tendrils blowing in the wind, getting stuck in my coat, getting stuck to my face…by the time I arrived to my car the wig was pulled off my head and placed on my passenger seat.  This was just the beginning of my love/hate relationship with “la fancy” wig.

Who am I?–A Cancer Poem

Standard

Who am I now?

Where did I go?

Cancer arrived and like a strong wind blew me away, parts of me scattered

Uninvited and unwelcome

Pieces thrown about

Hair in hibernation

Who is that in the reflection?

An unrecognizable shell

A flicker of who I once was I see in a photo

Scattered mind   A flicker of who I once was I see in a photo

I already said that?  Right, I forgot….scattered mind

Achy bones, creek and ache.   Bones that once ran, leaped and jumped.

Body like a jar of molasses, slow and thick yearning for her spry, limber flexibility

Tingly fingers and upset stomach that  waltz harmoniously

Broken drippy faucet of tears; drip, drip, drip

38 going on 55

Pop, pop, pop, goes every pill in my mouth

Heavy lids, heavy steps pace the day a step ahead of the exhaustion that will befall

Tired, so tired

Where did I go?  I miss her, I call for her, I cry for her,

When will she come back?  Will she ever come back? Did Cancer take her forever?

I want me