Category Archives: Health

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

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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.

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

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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-315 days-December 7, 2012–Chemo sends me to ER

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I was less nervous this time. I have done this once and knew what to expect now. Travis was by my side as always. This time I didn’t get the fully private room like the first time but did get a partially private room. When I walk in I’m AGAIN the youngest of anyone at the cancer center. My anger begins to bubble up again.
I sit back getting ready to be poked and prodded. Things are going normal until they connected the carboplatin. Soon after that I began to have a sharp pain in my chest. The nurses were concerned and decreased the drip rate. The pain subsided. They then returned the drip rate to Normal and the pain returned. It was decided to admit me to the ER. I was terrified. Was the chemo now causing me heart issues? I had read that Herceptin can cause issues for the heart and now here I was. At the ER they did an EKG and decided to keep me overnight. Then a cat scan with a strain. The nurse couldn’t put the needle in and poked me 10 times trying to get the needle in. I laid there with tears streaming down my face with the ridiculous amount of pain she was inflicting upon me. I barely slept.

The next morning I had a stress test. The doctors decided that my heart looked fine. At my follow up appt with Beekman she decided to switch me from carboplatin to cytoxin. She said that if the heart pain continued she may decide to stop the chemo. Not have chemo? That was music to my ears.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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travis

michael

michael

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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!

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Our new shaven heads

Our new shaven heads

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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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.

T-382 days October 31, 2012-Happy Halloween

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photo (3)photo (4)photo (5)For the first time since I have been teaching I didn’t dress up for Halloween.  It all seems surreal……going to work right now….when I all think about is my cancer….when every time my phone rings I need to run and answer it because it is a doctor.  Knowing that my leave will be happening soon.

Driving home from work I became melancholy thinking about Halloween with my kids, still filled with fear wondering if this would be one of the last.  My eyes welled up with tears and I knew at that moment I needed to fully dive into the Halloween experience.  I picked up the kids and they were bubbling with excitement about getting dressed in their costumes and getting candy.  This year Gabriella was going to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Michael was going to be a soccer player from Spain.  Spencer was going to dress up as Zombie and Travis and Connor had masks.  We arrived at home with pizza in our arms, quickly wolfed down the food, and then began the flurry of putting on costumes.   The kids asked what I was going to dress up and I as the n sound started to come out of my mouth for the word nothing I stopped and said “it’s a surprise”.  What was I going to be?  I quickly remembered the witch hat and thought how I could pull something together to be a witch.  I came out and revealed my costume…..the kids loved it.

We began the walk around our new neighborhood as the kids ran from door to door screeching about the fabulous candy they received from the homes I just smiled thinking of how lucky I was to be with them and see such pure joy.

T-401 days–10/12/12–Wig Shopping & Surprises

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Modern wigs on display.

Modern wigs on display. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hairbangers Ball 6

Hairbangers Ball 6 (Photo credit: alansheaven)

On this day I met with my surgeon to find out the facts and lay the groundwork before my surgery.  I love my surgeon.  She is pretty and petite and looks smart.  The looking smart being the most important.  I told her that I didn’t want to have to battle breast cancer every few years for the rest of my life and if to prevent that meant I should get a masectomy then that is what I would do.  She reassured me that with my stage 1 cancer that the survival rate for lumpectomy was just as good as the masectomy.

Now it was time to make a decision on how to proceed; at this meeting we were supposed to have the genetic results in hand but we didn’t.   So do we proceed on with the surgery or wait for the results?  I asked her what she thought; she said that she believed we needed to treat what we knew which was the cancer.  I was very frustrated that there might be a small possibility that I would potentially to have surgery twice; once is enough, but I knew she was right so that is what we did.  I felt very reassured after meeting with her and knew that she would use her skillful and pretty hands on me Wednesday.

Travis and I had some time before we were going to stop by and say hello to my Nurse Angel Karen.  So what does a cancer patient do when they have time to kill?  They go wig shopping of course.  There I sat in this nice room with mannequins all over the place with wigs on their head, as if they were all staring at me and saying “pick me! pick me!”  So there I was with every color and length imaginable to choose from; should I be a blonde, or a redhead now?  The first wig was placed on my head and I looked in the mirror and………..it was terrible,  I looked like I had just stepped out of a hair band rocker video.  The next one I resembled a lion, the next a tranny on a bad hair day and then finally we came upon one that had hope.  I thought that I actually looked pretty and loved how long it was; perfect for the wedding.  I walked away with a cute hat instead of a wig, wasn’t ready to say “I do” to the wig quite yet.

Off we then went to see my Nurse Angel Karen; every time I see her I get excited and calm simultaneously.  As she opened the door another lady was standing next to her, Nurse Angel Sharon!  The very first person I spoke to after my diagnosis!  We hugged and hugged, I couldn’t believe I was meeting her, what an awesome surprise!  The geneticist Kristin decided she wanted to come and sit with us in a room as well.  Travis asked if we were having an intervention; funny.  So there we all were; my 2 nurse angels, my geneticist and Travis and I around this big table.  They were all looking at me with eager eyes and smiling faces so I began to tell them about the day with my surgeon and the wigs and they all said that I looked great.  Nurse Karen in particular noted how I looked so much more relaxed and at ease since the first time she met me….amazing what time can do.  After I was done catching everyone up on my cancer antics; the geneticist says she has the results…………….my heart dropped, I wasn’t expecting this, I thought they weren’t ready, then my heart dropped again when I thought “this is why they are doing an intervention, because they are going to tell me I’m positive!”.  My racing thoughts were broken when I heard in a calm voice “your negative”.  I’m not sure what I did next; yelled, jumped, hugged, definitely smiled.  I felt on top of the world.  It was the best I had felt since the day I received that call on September 18th.  Time to Celebrate!