Tag Archives: Life

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

T-380 days-November 2, 2012–Chemotherapy….please no!!

Standard

Travis and I entered the oncology office armed with my big blue bag filled with files spewing with papers of chemotherapy information, alternative medicine, and innumerable amounts of breast cancer articles.  Affectionately known as my “cancer chica bag”.  I pulled out my purple binder filled with numerous questions.  My oncologist walked in to the room unaware of the onslaught of inquiries that would soon fall upon her.

I filled with pride as I asked many questions about statistics, current studies, new types of treatment.  I had convinced myself that there was no reason for me to have chemotherapy.  Why?  Well, the cancer is out–all of it.  My lymph nodes are clear thus it should not have metastasized into any other portions of my body.  Why would I fill my body with toxic poison when I may not even have any cancer in any part??

So there I sat asking question after question after question.  I could tell my oncologist was becoming a bit frustrated.  What were her answers you ask?  The standard ones.  “Yes, that is a great drug but it so for advanced cancer you would not qualify for it.”  “Yes your cancer has not metastasized based on your lymph nodes BUT you are young and Her2 positive thus we need to do Herceptin and chemotherapy and be aggressive”

Now to backup a bit on my cancer:  I am Her2 positive.  The drug Herceptin (Traztumab) is a targeted therapy drug that directly targets the protein that is surrounding my cancer cells. This drug has no side effects to minimal side effects. Statistically speaking:

  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 negative have a 12% chance of recurrence
  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 positive (ME)  have a 35-40% chance of recurrence–with chemo and herceptin the risk is 20% chance of recurrence, with tamoxifen it is 12%

Armed with all of this information I tried to convince my oncologist that I should just do Herceptin the targeted therapy without the chemo.  She said that wasn’t possible. I told her how I read in other places that it was.  I could sense her blood pressure rising at ridiculous rate although she was tandemly patient at the same time.   She took a deep breath and told me that beginning chemotherapy was not like signing into a 30 year mortage and that if at any time the risks outweighed the benefits that we would then quit.  She then went onto say how difficult she knew his was and that I’m desperately trying to gain control in a situation that I’m wasn’t happy about.  The questions continued on for some time.  She never waivered.  Her recommendation remained the same. Chemotheraphy, TCH, every 3 weeks for 6 treatments.

She left the room, closed the door and I slumped into my seat, defeated.  I couldn’t argue the statistics….what if I did turned down chemotherapy and my cancer came back?!?  I would always wonder.  Wonder if I had done the prescribed regimen that things would be different.  I have 2 little kids, I HAVE to do everything to ensure that this cancer or any cancer won’t ever come back. Or do I?  How do I know she is right?  What if do more harm then good with the chemo?

P Volcano

P Volcano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we were driving home I replayed the words from my oncologist over and over again in my head like a cd with a scratch that just skips over the same words.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I wanted to hold onto my hope that I could somehow fight this cancer without chemotherapy, without losing my hair, without toxins infiltrating my body, without carditoxicity side effects….without any of the evil things that comes with chemo.  A fiery rage was bubbling at the core of my being.  An anger, like one I had never experienced.  An anger so prevalent and fierce that I didn’t know what to do with it.  I ran into the house, into our room and I collapsed into my bed and sobbed.  I pounded the pillows with my fists, threw them on the ground, threw the sheets on the ground…..but it wasn’t enough.  I was a volcano that needed to explode.  I ran into Michael’s room and grabbed his group of small soft balls and I began throwing them against my bedroom walls.  Over and over again I threw those balls with all of my bubbling rage, tears streaming down my face, my chest convulsing in out of sync breaths until I finally collapsed on the floor and sobbed.  My entire body shaking, my breath hyper ventilating, my face covered in tears I lay there on my carpet utterly defeated, angry and exhausted.  Luckily I am a terrible thrower, so my walls don’t even have a mark.

T-402 days 10/11/12 Waiting

Standard

OK, I’m beginning to lose it.   The worst part of cancer is the waiting.  Take the test and wait.  Take the test and wait.  I’m waiting for the genetic results; They are going to run a BRCA 1 & 2 test. If that test is negative the lab will call me to ask if I want another test run.  I never got a call.  So that could only mean one thing; that I’m positive.  I’m freaking out.

I call Nurse Angel Karen and tell her how I’m freaking out and I’m convinced that I am genetically positive.  It’s been over 2 weeks since I gave my blood, the lab never called me thus that must be what it means.  It’s only logical.

Then I get a call from the lab.  My heart stops.  What are they going to tell me? They tell me ……they tell me they haven’t run my labs yet.  WHAT?!?!  I’d rather hear that news then I am positive but they have had my blood for 2 weeks and it’s still just sitting there.  The woman from the lab had no explanation.  Someone obviously dropped the ball.  She said that may not have the results till Tuesday, maybe after.  These results were supposed to determine my surgery.  So now I have more waiting….

T-421 days-9/22/12-How do I feel normal again?

Standard

Soccer games, birthday parties, laundry etc..  Life activities don’t stop just because you have cancer.  Although, it feels like it should.  Today I feel better, because at least now I have a plan.  BUT, chemo?!?!  I hoped beyond hope that I could just have surgery and radiation, like my mom did.  Chemo makes me very nervous.  More then everything else.  I am feverishly doing research to figure out how I can avoid it; because I know more then the doctors, right?  Alethea, has a friend who works for the company who makes Herceptin.  She tells us about TD-M1, this new drug that works on HER2 positive cells and without the negative effects of chemotherapy.  I do everything to find out how I can use this TD_M1–then I hit the roadblock when I find out that the FDA has not yet approved it.  So the glimmer of hope that I had to not do chemo is over.

Today is Gabriella’s bday party.  Thank goodness, my dear friend Michelle made cupcakes and frosting for this.  I didn’t have any energy for more baking-baked out.  Kathy comes over and we open up a bottle of wine and begin the “Cupcake War” themed party.  These 3 little girls have a future in baking. I really was impressed.  Tonight, I actually had 5 minutes go by where I didn’t think about cancer–refreshing.

T-422 days-Cancer 101–9/21/12

Standard

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.