Tag Archives: Family

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

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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…

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T-375 days-November 7, 2012-Cancer Support Center, Time to Focus on My Kids

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photo (7)

 

Minutes, Hours and Days had passed and throughout that time I came to slowly accept my fate of chemotherapy.  In the mail I had received my 6 months worth of oncology appointments.  As my eyes scanned the dates, the words, the times I knew that this chemotherapy was going to be a much more arduous and grueling journey then my surgery.  With diligence and care I entered each date into my phone and watched how my life was being consumed with doctors appointments.  Each date entered was another step closer to the acceptance of the journey ahead.

With this new found acceptance I poured all of my energy into my kids and their adjustment to this metamorphosis that I was about to begin.  I had learned of the Cancer Support Center from my Nurse Angels.  An amazing facility that offers many types of activities and seminars for people with cancer.  I took my kids to the Family Support time.  We entered a bit nervous and anxious.  We had dinner and I was delighted with how my kids were incredibly open and comfortable.   We separated into groups after dinner.  The kids went and completed their own activities and the adults had time alone for talking.  At the end we came together to complete a family activity.  During the kids time they created their own individual wish boxes and as a family we created our own family wish box.  ImageWe cut out pictures from magazines and used stickers to decorate the box that were symbols or traditions of our family.  The most touching moment was when we found words in the magazine to put into the box.  Words like bunny, pictures of baking, words that say happy.  The two clippings that brought tears to my eyes were a picture of a mom and a daughter hugging that says “imagine a life without breast cancer” and lastly “With God All Things Are Possible”  photo (6)As we shared our box clippings with the rest of the group Michael said that he hopes everyone gets better from cancer.   In my kids faces I saw courage and resilience. Their beautiful little faces reminded me that there would be times that I could draw strength even from them.

T-393 days–October 20, 2012 Wig Shopping & Goodbyes

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Wigs

Wigs (Photo credit: modhousewife)

I am surprised at how quickly I seem to be recovering from surgery.  My arms are still sore to lift at times.  My port in particular seems to be the most tender.  Alethea, Gabriella, Isla and my mom are all headed out for wig shopping today.  Heading to a place that was recommended by a couple of women who have been through this.  It was a small shop and although the shop owner herself has never had cancer she obviously loves wigs.  She wears one all of the time. 

So we begin trying some on; we quickly find a favorite–the long brunette.  I ask her how much it is and she says $600.  $600!!! I can’t believe I am about to spend that amount of money on fake hair.  It almost seems like highway robbery.  The wig shop owner goes onto explain how the wig will only last me for 6 months or so and that I will definitely need another one before my wedding in June.  I nod my head as if I agree with her but I am thinking to myself is she nuts?!?  I am NOT going to spend another $600 on another wig.  This will be the wig that is only worn on special occasions, sorta like the church coat or the fancy dress.  I will wear it if I am going out on the town, that’s it; otherwise you will be seeing me in a hat… Lucy at the deli counter or Bill at the pharmacy….no wig for you folks. 

Gabriella, Alethea and Mom all give me their nod of approval for the wig.  They like it.  I sorta feel like a vixen in it.  My hair has never been this full and luxurious. We talk color, we talk length, we talk about how to take care of the wig….then it is time to pay.  I know that insurance company will not cover the wig or what they term as a “cranial prosthesis”.  They deem it medically unnecessary.  So I swallow the hard pill, pay the money and place the order.  My custom made wig will arrive in 2 weeks. 

So off we go to lunch, later we go pumpkin picking, and eat amazing doughnuts and drink cider.  It was a perfect fall day.  Family, pumpkins, doughnuts, cider, hay rides, mud, and laughter.  It was now time to say goodbye to Alethea and Isla before they catch their plane the next morning.   I say goodbye to Alethea with tears in my eyes and hold her tight.  I don’t know when I’ll see them again and I don’t want the comfort of them being here to end.

T-422 days-Cancer 101–9/21/12

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10 years ago today I gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my heart could be filled with so much love. I walked into my baby girl’s room who is now 10 this morning to wake up and sing happy birthday to her and I thought “what if I won’t be able to do this again?” My own mortality is hitting me square in the face at every turn. When your 38 you don’t think about dying….you just don’t. Until now…..

Gabriella had her first breakdown this morning. I know she is scared. I’m scared. I wish I could take away her fears but first need to work on mine. She was furious that I wouldn’t drive her to school before we went to the doctors. Normally I crumble with stuff like that, cave in and concede. Can’t anymore, egocentric mom is in the house now.

Travis and I drove to St. Joe’s. I reviewed my hundred questions for the doctor. My stomach feels like it is in an Olympics gymnastics meet. We pull up and the side of the building says Cancer Center. It doesn’t seem real. I don’t want to walk in there–I’m not ready to accept this hand I’ve been dealt. I breakdown. One of those cries where you cry so hard that you can’t breathe.

It’s time to take the first step. Hand in hand Travis and I walk in and I take my first step to acceptance when I enter that building. The next 2 hours was a revolving door of nurses, surgeon, oncologists, techs, volunteer from cancer society. Overwhelming, exhausting, surreal…over and over this is what I hear; “We are going to be very aggressive with you because of your age.”

This is what I learned:

I’m triple positive.
Staging me at 1 until further information
Prognosis in 90% that I will beat this.
Since I’m Her2 positive and my age will have 18 weeks of chemo
Want genetic testing done
Lumpectomy recommended pending genetic results
Radiation for 6 weeks after chemo is over

Then my Nurse Angel Karen walks in.  I have spent hours on the phone with her.  We are eerily the same person.  Both vegetarians, she was young when she had colorectal cancer and also engaged.   She gets it.  She has lived it.  Her just being in the room calms me tremendously.  She gives Travis and I an assignment; to take a $10.00 voucher, go outside, to the cafeteria get some food and DON’T TALK ABOUT CANCER.  Really?  I’ve just had a crash course of Cancer 101 and not we shouldn’t talk about it.??  But I knew she was right…..my brain needed a break–I was already exhausted and still needed to meet with the radiologist, get blood tests.  So that is exactly what we did.  And the day went on.  At least now I had answers and a plan.  The plan for the consummate planner.

This was not only a big day; Gabriella’s bday, Cancer 101; but also the day I had to tell my parents.  They were back from their trip.  I called them to tell them that Travis and I were going to come by.  They both seemed so excited to tell us about their trip. it just broke my heart that I was about to take them from this place of pure joy to devastation.  After being so emotionally exhausted from the days events I couldn’t handle my parent’s possible breakdown.  So Travis went first and broke the news so they could do that with him and then be more calm for me.  I felt weak that I couldn’t be the one but I just couldn’t.  I felt like a fragile piece of glass with numerous breaks and one more I would shatter into hundreds of pieces.

So then it was my turn; my parents were so sad, concerned, worried, upset.  Everything a parent would be.  I didn’t even cry–I think my tear well was all dried up.

After a very emotional day it was time to put on my wonder women costume again for Gabriella’s 10th birthday party.  Pretend like I just didn’t have one of worst days of my life, paste the smile on my face and keep my emotions in check.  Julie, expertly handled all of the details.  Although, I did manage to make her 10 year old birthday cake as I do for all of their birthdays.  I couldn’t let my cancer take that away from me–my birthday cake tradition.  I sang happy birthday to Gabriella with tears in my eyes.