Friday, September 30, 2011

Friends

Everyone know the old adage that in times of crisis you find out who your friends really are. I'm here to tell you, it's the truth. I'm sure we all knew that anyway but when you live it, it's still a bit of a surprise.

The thing is, I'm not surprised about my family, I never doubted for a second they'd be here for me in any way they could. I'm also not surprised about my bff. After over 20 years of friendship I would have been more surprised if she wasn't there for me. I'm not surprised by my PP sisters. I've seen (and been a part of) the rallies to support others in our group during their times of crisis.

I think what surprises me most is how some people who I thought of casual acquaintances have really come out in full force to support me. I get regular emails, text messages and cards from a few people that, while I have always had great a report with never would have thought of as being someone I would look to to lean on during this time. And yet, I have, because they have so genuinely offered their shoulders and their help. And it's not just paying lip service as many offers of help in times of crisis are because they don't go away.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound like I'm bashing anyone or looking for anything specific but I'm sure everyone at some point has experienced a time in their lives in which they've had a crisis, big or small, and they hear "If there's anything I can do, please let me know"  I'll bet dollars to donuts that a good 80% of those offers are not really meant and if the recipient actually tried to take them up on it there would be a flurry of excuses on why it's just not possible at this time....with the most sincerest of apologies of course.  But I know it's meant because the offer keeps coming.  And I know it's sincere because, again, it's coming from people who beyond the occasional email about specific things, there is not really a reason for us to communicate....these are not necessarily people who I would have thought of as friends. They were acquaintances. Until now that is. I've learned a lot about friendship in the last couple of months and how it can bloom in the unlikeliest of places and for those new friends, the ones who are by my side, I am so grateful to have you.

I'm equally surprised by a few (thankfully a very few) amount of people who I know for sure know the situation who have yet to even acknowledge it with an "I'm sorry" or  "I'm thinking or praying for you" or a fake "If there is anything I can do"  Again, I've learned a lot about friendship.

But I'm not harping on those losses because the truth is, I'm surrounded by such love and strength and positive energy that I don't need them. I have my tried and true friends and I have my new friends and I'm blessed to have each and every one of them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Great Day

I went to work today. Not to work, just to visit. I had to bring in a letter for HR from my oncologist to buy the rest of my sick time (I was only covered for the duration of recovery from the surgery)

It felt great to be there. I got hugs from some of the kids I've been missing. I got to chat with some of the staff I've been missing. I got to see the chaos in the classroom I've been missing (okay, so that part I'm glad I'm missing)

It felt nice to feel normal though, does that make sense? I didn't spend a lot of time there, about an hour and  a good part of that was spent trying to help the teacher find the assessment materials (organization is not his strong point)

I did make a mental note of all that needs to be done when I return.

It gave me new life. It sounds silly, I know but I felt so excited and enthused. I miss work, stress and all and I know in my shape I can't work right now but I'm hoping, at the very least that once chemo is done and I'm moving on to radiation that I can get back to school, even if it's just once a week as a volunteer for a few hours to start slowly straightening things out. My supply is lovely, very nice and perfectly competent but I think she's also already tired of dealing with the chaos that is the teacher I work with. Her words were, "I have the kids...and him."

I think the visit was good for me and I think I'll do it once a month or so, when I'm feeling sad or down and need a lift. It will cheer me up.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping the weather will cooperate and not rain. I'm going to get my camera out to the woods and get me some autumn pictures. The leaves are just starting to change and I'd like to capture it while it's still pretty.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mind Over Matter

I'm quickly learning just how powerful the mind is over the body. If anything, this has been a lesson in just how important it is to really think positive as often as I can.

Since my first treatment, the weekend from hell, the one in which I began to fear the next 4 months, water has become my enemy.

I love(d) water. I didn't drink it exclusively but I liked a good glass to quench my thirst and we always have bottled water as well as a full Brita pitcher.When I went for treatment I brought with me two bottles of water because they said it was important to flush your system quickly. You see one of the meds meant to kill the cancer can also damage the inside of your bladder so you need to get it out asap (they want your pee to clear within 24 hours - you can tell because it's orange...thanks for the tip on that Deb because it would have freaked me out!) During treatment, one of the other medicines they give you can frequently cause mouth sores. So they give you ice chips to suck to restrict the blood vessels in your mouth thus lessening the amount of medicine that makes it into that area of your body.

At the time drinking the water and sucking the ice was no big thing. As I said, I like water.

Then the sickness came. And my darling husband, being concerned made sure I was staying hydrated by forcing more water on me. It makes sense really and is basic illness care 101 - if you're vomiting or have diarreah you need to stay hydrated - and even moreso in this case to spare my bladder any potential harm. 

The problem is the combination of nausea, lack of food (after my initial throwing up) and 2 litres of water made matters worse.

And now, even just typing this post, especially about the ice chips (for some reason, unknown to me) I feel queasy. The thought of drinking water makes me want to hurl. The thought of sucking ice chips is even worse. When I was in the first hospital room at emergency it was right across the hall from the ice/water machine.

Last night before bed I brushed my teeth and decided to take a pain pill. My sciatica is back in full force (yay for a normal pain!) and I thought a pill would help me sleep, both through the pain killing and the slightly stoned affect. But since I'd already brushed my teeth I didn't want to take it with apple juice (my drink of choice right now) so I drank a tiny bit of water. It was all I could do to keep it down.  And this morning the same thing. I didn't want to wait for my coffee to take a pill but I nearly lost my - well nothing, I just woke up, I had an empty stomach but you get the point.

I guess my love of water is gone now. I can't even think about drinking it without feeling really sick. I may even bring popsicles to my next treatment in a cooler bag so I don't have to do the ice chips.

At least until I can convince myself that water is NOT the enemy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Up and Down.

It's about how I feel right now. I got a text today from a friend asking how I "really" am and my answer was, an emotional wreck but physically better.

I feel better, I'm not tired or nauseous. I'm starving all the time (though I've noticed already my taste buds changing, a common side effect and I can't taste salt like I used to) I have energy and my sciatica is back with a vengeance (funny how that nuisance is like a welcome pain)

But emotionally, I'm having a harder time.

I was able to stay in denial for a good potion of this. Sure, I've had two surgeries. Sure, I've lost a breast but I was able to hide that. No one sees the scar near my armpit and because of the prosthetic no one is the wiser that I'm short one boob but now it's different. I have almost no hair. I wear the 'telltale scarf' in public. I am officially, just by looking at me, a cancer patient. There's no hiding it.

I struggle with everything it's taken from me, my hair, my boob, my ability to live life on somewhat of a whim. I can't plan things because of appointments, I've become a germaphobe, I don't kiss my kids on the lips anymore. My self esteem isn't what it used to be, especially when it comes to Sean. Not that he's done anything but it's damn hard to feel sexy with no hair and one boob.

I struggled with the email I sent about the contest Emily and Mary are in. There was some misunderstanding about that - they are still guaranteed a prize - I just asked that it not be first place. We can't do the travel and Sean will likely be back to work by then.  However, I did hear back from the woman and she did tell me that they weren't the first place winners anyway and she told me what they did win. (I'm not telling though - if you want to know you'll have to watch What's Up Warthogs on Family Channel on September 30 at 4:30pm.)  It certainly takes a bit of guilt away from me to know that I cancer didn't spoil that for them.

I'm going to have bad days and that's okay. I'm allowed to mourn the life I had because the fact is, I have a new life now. My new normal. The one in which I have one boob (maybe a reconstruction in a couple of years), a new hair do for quite a while and that little niggling fear in the back of my mind that it will come back. But I'm also going to be stronger, I'm going to appreciate life on a different level than I did before and I'm going to be able to stand tall about proud and say, I fought, and I won.  Would a "Fuck You Cancer" tattoo be inappropriate? 

I go on Friday night for my MRI guided biopsy on my left breast. I'm nervous as hell. It's one more test that could potentially tell me there is more cancer. I'm scared they'll find some there and want to take that one off too. And if that is the case, so be it, but for now, I just hope and pray for a little ray of sunshine - a good report for a change that there is nothing in the left.  I don't want to be kicked when I'm down.

So if you can spare them, a prayer that the left breast is healthy and clear would be great.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

1 down 5 to go

I can truly say I understand why some people wish for death. I have truly never felt worse in my entire life.

Thursday afternoon it started, the vomiting. At first I figured it was because I overdid it with the pizza after chemo but it kept going. I threw up 6 times from 4 pm Thursday to noon Friday. We finally decided that it was time to go to the hospital.

Did you know hospitals have a smell? They do and it's horrible. It's still stuck in my nose.

The triage nurse called me in and asked me why I was there. I started crying as I explained why I was there. I was weak, beaten down, feeling like death warmed over and scared.  And God blessed me with a nurse who was meant to be there for me. She calmed me down, she told me exactly what drug they were going to give me to make me feel better and then she told me I was going to beat this, it was just a bump in the road. She reassured me and made me feel, if even a little bit, stronger.  As it turns out, her mom is fighting cancer too, so she knows.

I was taken right back but waited an awfully long time to see the Dr. But when he came they hooked me up to the IV, got my fluids up and pumped in the miracle drug, Zofran. It was heaven. The nausea was gone.  They decided to keep me overnight though because my white blood cells were up. That is typically a sign of infection but because I've not had any fever they weren't quite sure. I could have gone home but I opted to stay, get the antibiotics and err on the side of caution, as much as I didn't want to be there.

It was a long night. My mom came and stayed with me. She was a rock star, sleeping in a painfully uncomfortable chair beside me all night, in the hospital she least wants to be in. It is the same one my Dad died in. I'm sure it was not an easy night for her but I was so glad to have her there. Sean stayed home with the kids, he needed his sleep to be able to take care of me and the kids today.

I'm still not feeling fabulous. I've thrown up once since I've been home and I'm biding my time until I can take more Zofran (20 more minutes) but I'm keeping a little bit of food down and some fluids so it's a start. I'm a little concerned because my pee is still slightly orange and it should be clear by now but I'm doing the best I can with it. If it's still orange tomorrow I'll call the nurses again.

I'm having a terrible conflict of conscience. I got a call today from Family Channel. Emily and Mary are in the top 3 to win the contest they were in. First prize was a chance to appear in webisode of a show they watch. The follow up email said that they'd have to be in Toronto from Oct 26-29 for taping. With my chemo schedule, this just isn't possible. I emailed the woman back and explained (loosely) that it was not possible and asked that they not be chosen and the grand prize winners.

I really can't believe I did  that. I feel like the worst mother in the world. I feel like this is just one more thing that cancer has taken away from my family and I hate it. I feel guilty and God help me, if Emily ever found out I did that she'd never forgive me. But I don't know how I could disappoint them if they were chosen as the grand prize winners only for me to tell them that they couldn't go. At least this way, they will be saved that.

I hope and pray this gets better. I can't imagine having to go through this 5 more times (it makes me sick thinking about it) but I know I can do it, lots of people do. I just have to be strong and remind myself why I'm doing it. I'm doing it for them, so that I don't have to ever take away their grand prize again. I'm doing it so that I don't have to tell Connor he can only give me cheek kisses. I'm going it because I need to beat this.

For them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Step One

So here we are, done my first chemo treatment and waiting to see what will come of it.

So far, I feel fine. Sean is being the water nazi and making me drink and drink and drink. I have to flush my system because one of the drugs in my chemo cocktail can do a number on your bladder. They want you to pee a lot and not hold it so it doesn't do any damage. Interesting how the stuff the is supposed to save my life is so toxic.

I was a nervous wreck. First the nurse gave me 5 steroid pills plus two anti nausea pills. They put my IV in and the nurse brought out a tray with these giant (yeah giant!) syringes full of red goo (someone called it Red Devil)  She slowly injected this business into my IV. I was to tell her if I felt any burning and each time she did it I would feel pain for a second but then it would pass. I told her this. Well, by the time I was done the nurse who was taking my IV out noticed a lump in the spot where I felt the pain and commented on it. But then she seemed to brush me off when I was worried about it.

Wrong move. I'm a hypochondriac and I leveled with the nurse who was doing my chemo (not the same one who brushed me off ) and told her I am prone to anxiety and if you say this is a side affect, I'm going to think I have that side affect.

So I went upstairs to fill a prescription and get my Dr's note from my oncologist but I was still harping about this lump so I went back down to the chemo clinic and found my nurse and asked her about it. She thinks it was likely just the pressure on the vein and to watch it for colour change.

Sure enough, it feels better now, it's not as swollen and no colour change. Yay me!

So now I wait. I wait to see what types of side affects I'll have. My fingers are crossed that they are few and not severe.

1 treatment down, 5 to go. Step One - underway.

Head Shaving, in pictures.


I think Sean was thrilled to be rid of the hair - it was getting way too long. And the facial hair is gone now too!

My nephew got in on the action too.

Connor just had his hair done two week ago for school but he felt left out so we buzzed him again.

This picture cracks me up. My nephew was a willing participant but it doesn't look that way while Sean holds his head and my brother shaves him.

My oldest brother. He didn't have much there to shave off but we got what we could! 

My before picture. Say goodbye hair! 

The girls and my mom cut the long parts off first.

Connor, determined not to be left out had to help cut.

Sean got the honours. It's right aboutr here that he tells me "Shut up Sinead" (as in Sinead O'Connor)

I can't believe how dark my hair looks. 

One of my PP sisters commented on the girls smiles in this pic. Mary was making a face so I told her smile or your grounded which made both of them laugh. 

Look Ma, No Hair!

I had my head shaving party last night. This will be a heavy post so I might do two, one with video (here) and another with pics. My whole family came out and my friend and we had pizza and cake (it was also my sister law's birthday) and we laughed (and cried) and did so much head shaving that the clippers actually got really hot.

So here's the videos. They are broken into pieces because they were too big to email from Emily's iPod.

The initial hair cutting


Let the shaving begin!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Black and White and Pink All Over?

My new painting!!

I went to an auction on Sunday with my mom. I've never been to one before. It was SO fun!! I highly recommend going to one if you've never been.

We went in and previewed everything and made a list of all the things we wanted to bid on and what the most we would pay is. I saw this painting right away and fell in love. It's huge (like over the fireplace huge) and it's of a densely wooded area. But it's eye level so you're not seeing a lot of foliage, mostly just tree trunks and branches. And then on tree at the front is flowering with white and pink blossoms. It's so very pretty and it works perfectly in my living room.

So I set my bid limit and only went over by $10! (yeah so much for limits)

I also got a lovely pair of peridot (my birthstone) earrings, a 19" flat screen tv for my bedroom, and a knife set for Sean.

I could seriously get addicted to the whole auction thing!

Emily had a major financial learning experience yesterday (I hope)  When I took her shopping last weekend she had $190 to spend. She's pretty good at being fussy about what she spends her money on, she doesn't nickle and dime herself to death but she does buy big ticket things. So she bought herself a pair of lululemon pants - a little longer than carpi's but not a full pant. (I don't know what you call them) Anyhow, after tax they cost her an obscene $90. Yeah, we're not going to go into my thoughts on this because I'm a cheap ass and there is no way I'd be paying $90 for a pair of stretchy pants but it's her money and how she spends it is up to her. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only way she'll learn to manage money. Well, the lesson came.

She decided the next day that she wanted return the pants. They fit her but there is no room for growth and she's growing like a weed. The problem is, she took the tag off. not the price tag tag but the other tag, the one you DON'T take off until you are 150% sure you're keeping them. So now she's stuck with them.

This sent her into tears about how she bought these pants that she'll only be able to wear a short time because she's growing and it's not the right season to wear them outdoors (for much longer) and how she wasted $90. BINGO!

It gave us the chance to reiterate why we refuse to buy her things like this. I'm not spending a small fortune on clothes that will only fit for a few months. And then she said it.

"Well, I don't want to be the only loser in school who doesn't have them."

Yeah. I get it. Really, I do. My parents couldn't afford the fancy, brand name clothes when I was in school and I didn't have an allowance that would have allowed me to buy those kinds of things. I did without. As did Sean. And we both turned out pretty good. But I still remember being her age and being envious of friends who had the cooler, brand name stuff and feeling kind of geeky without it. Which is why I don't stop her from buying it - with her OWN money.   It also gave us the chance to discuss our family's values, that it's not what you have that makes you a good or bad person, it's who you are inside.  You can be decked out in the hottest clothes and have the latest gadgets and be the most monumental bitch there is.

So, in the end, she's stuck with the pants. Mary will be thrilled when Emily grows out of them. Emily will think twice about spending that much on one piece of clothing and will, perhaps, take more time trying clothes on before buying them.

I went to the radiation clinic this morning to meet my radiation oncologist. He seemed quite nice. He explained what radiation would entail and he also gave me a bit more info regarding my particular cancer.  My cancer is HER2 positive. This means it's not a hormonally driven cancer and I won't be taking tamoxifen after radiation. It does mean it's more aggressive though. I will be taking Herceptin for about a year after chemo is done. This is an IV drug I'll be getting roughly every 3 weeks. They staging was on my form too. I'm Tx (primary tumor not found) N3 (this is the level of lymph node involvement - 3 being highest) and M0 (no distant metastasis)  
Basically, it means what I've thought all along. They can't find the primary tumor, there are lots of lymph nodes involved and no spreading (beyond the nodes) 

And what this all means is that I'm glad to be getting the chemo started on Thursday and hope and pray it does its job and does it well.

I'm having more up and down moments. I'm scared. I don't say it often but I am still truly terrified that it will spread or come up somewhere else years from now. But there is very little I can do about that so all I can do is keep on keeping on and live my life. 

Right now, however, I'm going to take a nap. Sleep is not my friend these days, my back and leg make it hard to get comfy and rolling over is painful. I often look like a turtle stuck on it's back.  It will get better.

It will.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Relay For Life

We had planned (see, again with the making plans) to have a Relay for Life fundraiser in the fall, we were thinking a bowling type tournament.

Obviously there was a change in plans. Now, chemo and dealing with life with cancer takes precedent. That doesn't mean that I'm giving up on fundraising and annoying people with my constant requests to pledge our team though, it just means that it going to have to take a different form.

So, instead I planned (see that word again) to have a head shaving fundraiser. I was going to invite everyone I knew (yes, everyone!) and for a nominal donation ($10) the could come and watch me get my head shaved. And that nominal donation would mean that they got to keep their own hair too since if you didn't pay the $10 you had to get your head shaved too.

But chemo got bumped up to a week earlier than I expected so that is out the window. Now my head shave is just a quiet family only event.

And yet, by some miracle my Relay for Life pledges keep climbing. It seems like everytime I sit at the computer I'm getting another notification of another pledge being made and at first, it looked like it was from complete strangers. It took me a couple of pledges before I figured out the source of all this - it took a name I recognized. My bff is out there pounding the pavement and drumming up pledges for me.
I can't even begin to express how that makes me feel because not only do I have her support in my physical battle against cancer but in my symbolic one too. And I can't wait for her to be one of the people by my side in June when I walk that Survivor lap.

Add on to this one of my PP sisters who has begun selling Scentsy products. She so generously offered that if I host an online party she'd donate all of her commissions PLUS and additional $50 to our Relay for Life team.  This is not something she has to do but she asked me if she could and I was overwhelmed by her generosity.

So now the pitch. My dear readers, many of you found my blog by searching for what "I'm 12 weeks and craving pickles" meant. In that post I said, something to the effect of "You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who isn't aware of breast cancer. If you really want to make a difference, try raising some money for cancer research." Well now is your chance. If  you click the link above, and make a purchase you not only buy a gorgeous item for your home but you know that the commission from that sale will be going directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.

***Note*** when you click the link and are directed to the Scentsy page, you meed to check the top right hand corner and make sure the country coincides with yours (ie, US orders US flag, Canadian orders, Canadian flag - sorry, no international orders) The click the link under My Open Parties that says Jean's Basket Party, Buy From this Party)  *** 

It's that simple. That is how you can make a difference. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gifts Of All Kinds.

I did the math yesterday and if all goes well and I am able to keep my white blood cells up enough that I don't have to miss any treatments I will be done chemo right before Christmas. How awesome is that!! Of course, the downside is that the period after the treatment in which I'm supposed to feel at my worst and my white blood cells will be at their lowest is right on Christmas but if I have to delay celebrating with my brothers or with Sean's family, so be it. I'm sure everyone will understand. And for the kids it means Christmas will be spread out over a week or two rather than a day or two. Not a bad deal. We'll just have to see how it goes.

I'm nervous. One of the women at my support group said "Chemo is not as bad as how bad you can imagine it to be" meaning we make it a hell of a lot worse in our heads than it really is. I'm hoping she's right. I worry I'm not making it bad enough and I'm in a for a shock of horribleness. I haven't felt 'good' since the surgery - though it's been mainly because of my back. I long to feel good again. I was supposed to start physiotherapy on Friday but cancelled partly because of our need to go to Mt. Sinai but also because I wasn't sure I would be able to continue while doing chemo. I'm going to ask the oncologist on Thursday. I need to be able to walk again, undrugged.

I got a rude awakening at the mall yesterday. We got there right about when my meds were wearing off. I can't drive when on meds so I didn't take another after waking up. I decided I would walk, slowly, around the mall and when I got sore I'd sit at Timmies. Silly me. This mall is big. I wanted to get the older nieces and nephews done for Christmas so I had to go right to the other end of the mall. I wanted to get my mom something. I wanted to look at something for Sean. I wanted to look at Playmobile for Connor (I think that's going to be the main gift this year - Playmobile ROCKS!!) So about an hour in, despite my best efforts to walk slowly I seized up (this is when my sciatic nerve spasms and I can't walk and collapse if I'm not holding anything. Plus it hurts like a son of a bitch) This happened while I was at a crossroads in the mall, hence nothing around me to grab on to. So I'm wincing, standing on one foot, trying not to fall, unable to move until the pain subsides right in the middle of the mall. I actually saw a man stop and watch me, I guess he was worried I was going down like a ton of bricks. I finally sat down only to get a text from Em to meet them in the food court. 

I feel fabulous and have minimal pain when drugged but I can't live this way forever. I'm hoping physio will be allowed or that he can recommend something to help this pain. Rolling over in bed is getting to be a challenge and when I go up and down the stairs I can actually see my Dad in my minds eye, going one step at a time. I feel a lot older than I am and it's not the cancer making me feel that way.

One of my PP sisters has begun selling Scentsy. I've never heard of it before now but it looks and sounds really great. Who doesn't love a nice smelling house? Go take a look at her page. (and like it for a chance to win some great prizes) I'm going to be placing an order and we're in talks about my hosting an online show. I'll let you know when I do - so you can order too!

Have a fantastic day and remember - everyday is a gift - that's why it's called the present.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm Still Making Plans

In the words of my wise cousin - "Want to make God laugh, tell Him your agenda."

I could submit and just not plan anything because at the end of the day it's not me who gets to decide what happens but I figure if I don't plan anything and God is busy elsewhere then I'm going to be stuck twiddling my thumbs because I didn't have the foresight to plan something just in case.

I'm taking Emily and her bff shopping today. It was supposed to be the Eaton Centre but there's no way my sciatica will allow me to do an all day trip like that and I'm not comfortable taking them downtown while drugged. So we compromised on shopping at two local malls, plus lunch and when I'm all done treatment we'll take a spring trip to the Eaton Centre. Plus, next year, for her 13th birthday my mom and I are taking her to the States for her first official cross border shopping weekend. Let's hope our dollar is still at par then.

Tomorrow is house cleaning day. It's kind of fallen by the wayside as of late. You'd think with both Sean and I home it would be spotless but I think both of us are just not in that place. But it's time to get it done. A big clean.

Sean's been getting the 'get back to work' calls from his work. See, he's on stress leave for the past month and has a Dr's note for at least another 3 weeks. Our Dr (he's been my primary Dr. for 10 years but I've been going to him a lot longer - 20 years or so) will reevaluate and if need be, he'll give Sean another month without a second thought. He understands. 
Sean's work however, not keen on paying him 75% of his income to not be there. But as long as the Dr is signing him off, there isn't a lot they can do except send him to their Dr. And let's face it, what Dr. is going to say that given the situation, he's not under great stress?

He's not going to be off for the duration. We simply can't afford that. But at least until I begin chemo and we see how it's going to affect me (us). Then when he goes back to work I'll have to enlist the help of family and friends with mostly drives to and from the hospital. My mom's role (among other things) is to be there for the kids - I don't want to take that away from them, they (especially Connor) need the stability of the same person picking them up from school so her driving me all over God's farm is not really an option.  But there is plenty of time to work those kinks out.

So next week is a busy one. I've got my support group on Monday plus the photo shoot for the CIBC Run for the Cure. (I'll post a pic of my fabulous outfit before I go)
I've got the radiation clinic and appointment to meet my radiation Oncologist out here in Oshawa. Obviously that's a ways off yet but at least it will all be set up so there is no lag time between chemo and radiation.
On Wednesday, I'm so excited, I'm going to get fitted for my new boob. I wore my prosthetic yesterday when we went to Mt Sinai in my regular bra. It's not quite the same size but only noticeable to me. It was pretty comfy, I didn't notice it the whole time except the padding chaffed a bit (my skin is sensitive) but I'll get used to that. Most importantly, I was able to wear a tighter sweater without feeling awkward. And then Wednesday after school I'm taking Connor apple picking. I love the apple orchard and since it's my last day of freedom before chemo I want to enjoy it.

Wednesday night my brothers, my brother in law and my bff are coming over for my headshave. Two of my brothers are going bald with me (I'm not sure about the third one) and Sean is as well. I'm going to video tape my headshave for all my out of town friends who were hoping to see.

I'm hoping to not cry through it, we'll have to see. I'm trying to stay positive. It's not like chemo is unexpected, nor is baldness. Lots of people (unfortunately) go through chemo and yeah it sucks but they get through it. I will too. Unfortunately we have to get sicker to get better.

But I will get better. That's the plan. MY plan. And while I know I can make all the plans I want, ultimately He gets the final decision so, my friends, don't stop praying that that is His plan too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Today's Adventure

Wow, yesterday was a big day - three posts and still room for one more today.

The nurse came yesterday to take my drain out. I am finally free of the 'bull testicle'. Yippee!! It was horrible. She had to cut the stitch that was holding it in and give it a yank. But since it's been in there for 4 weeks things were starting to heal around it. So she had to yank hard! And I could feel it snaking through my body, near my back as it was coming out. And it bled. Yuck.

The surgeon told me a I had a build up of lymphatic fluid around the side of my breast (well, the spot formerly known as the breast) hence the swelling. She said it's basically like lymphadema (which I am trying desperately to avoid getting in my arm as that will be a chronic life long condition if I do. She recommended pressure to it but since wearing a tenser bandaid around ones chest is ill advised (pneumonia anyone?) she said lying on it might help. Hot damn, did my Dr actually recommend lying on the side I have always slept on and have no been able to and because of that it's contibuted to the horrible sciatic pain I'm dealing with??!! I could have kissed her. (As a side note, this was the new surgeon. She was on mat leave and the surgeon who did my surgery was covering her. Sean and I both like new surgeon much more that old surgeon)

Now, the plan was for me to have an MRI guided biospy on the left breast to determine if the 'blips' seen on the MRI are a primary cancer (or cancer at all) There are very few hospitals that have the ability to do this test. Initially it was going to be done at Sunnybrook - which would be a trip to dowtown Toronto. Me and downtown Toronto do not get along. It's too far. I don't drive there (who the hell can afford to park there??) and taking public transit takes F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  But, it must be done.

Well, the surgeon told me yesterday that Sunnybrook will not do the test. You see, hospitals are part of health networks. Mine is the Rouge Valley Health System. So the Dr's within my network can access all records within said network and order any tests within any hospital within my network. This is why, despite the fact that I live literally 5 minutes from a regional cancer centre I will instead travel 30 minutes for chemo - it's a different network. (I'm okay with that btw, simply because I LOVE my oncologist and have no intention of leaving him - until he declares me cancer free)

So, where does that leave me? Well the surgeon found another hospital that does the test in Toronto (again downtown - woohoo) Mount Sinai, and they will do the test for outside patients but there are rules.

Today's adventure is as follows.
  • Get copies of all breast imaging and their corresponding reports (this would be a mammogram and ultrasound from one network and an MRI and ultrasound from another network)
  • Bring all imaging and reports to Mt Sinai.
  • Get hospital card for Mt. Sinai (this makes you an official patient at Mt. Sinai)
  • Bring all reports and imaging to the breast research dept. and drop it off.
From there, their radiologist will review everything and decide whether or not they will do the test with me as an outside patient. They'll get back to my surgeon and let her know. IF they decide to NOT do the test as an outside patient my surgeon will refer me to a surgeon at Mt. Sinai who will then order the test that they won't do for my surgeon. Stupid, I know, it's one of those flaws in our health care system. Don't mistaken me though, I'm not complaining about it - I can't say enough about our health care system. It might not be the best in the world and it does have some flaws but I couldn't be happier with the care I'm getting and how fast I'm getting it.

So, fingers crossed that I don't have to have a referral and they'll do the test. I LOVE the new surgeon and don't want to have to travel downtown for appointments.

Genetic testing is underway too. Apparently I'll get a lengthy questionairre about family medical history to fill out and then when I send it back they'll book my appointment. Fingers crossed that this is not a genetic cancer - I don't my daughters to have my eyes, not cancer.  Truth be known, I know a lot for my Dad's side (health wise) but my mom's side is a mystery. My  Mom's mom died in childbirth when she was 11. My Great Grandmother lived into her 70's and had no cancer that I'm aware of. But really, the only biological connection I have to women on my mothers side (besides my mom) is cousins. No breast cancer specifically that I'm aware of.

Well, I better get ready for my adventure. What are the odds I could convince Sean to take me to lunch downtown while we're there. What? Slim to none you say? I think you're right.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I don't like country music but this afternoon while fipping channels I saw this video and, well, being a 38 year old mother of three who is fighting cancer...it almost seemed like it was written for me.

This Is Why I Shouldn't Make Plans

This seems to be a recurring theme with me. I make these fabulous plans only to have life interfere and make me change my plans.

I had planned to have a fundraiser - a head shave. It was going to be fabulous with lots of friends and family and goodies and prizes and lots of money raised for the Relay.
I was going to do it right before chemo started so I wouldn't have to watch my hair fall out.

I'll be starting chemo on Thursday - sooner than I'd planned. And while I'm sure in my awesomeness I could throw together a great party for this weekend, I'm not sure I have the gumption to do it so fast, nor do I really want to be voluntarily bald for 4 more days than I need to be.

So, I will be having a head shave party but it won't be a fundraiser, it will just be family and a few close friends. And I'll be doing in on Wednesday night, not the weekend. And as much as I want it to be a fundraiser, there's no time to throw something like that together. I guess I'll just post the quilt for sale on Etsy.

I'm a little disappointed...I love a good party. I don't want this to be a depressing event, me shaving my head and bawling like a baby but I refuse to let chemo take my hair and I think if I do it myself without having friends and family over I'll be a basket case. I'll leave the tears for after everyone goes home.

I should just stop making plans...they never work out for me. Or, I should use this to my advantage, something like I could plan to feel really crappy after chemo so that it backfires on me and I don't. Ha, somehow I don't think that will work.

It Gets A Little More Real

I went for my chemo consultation yesterday. It's basically where the nurse walks you through the next 18 weeks of your life. Most of it I was prepared for, just having talked to others who've gone through chemo (or are going through it) but I'm reminded that this time it's not other people...it's me.

Much like any medication there is a whole host of warnings about possible reactions which of course scare me. At the end of it all I said to the nurse, "just so that you are aware, I am prone to anxiety attacks when faced with new things and because you've told me there's a possibility of having an acute reaction (aka anaphylactic shock) to the docetaxel (the drug I'll be given for the last 3 chemo treatments) I will most certainly think I'm having one, whether I actually am or not."  She kind of laughed and said, well, it's okay, if you do have one (a reaction, not an anxiety attack) we've all seen one and we all know what to do for it, that's why we do it here and not somewhere else in the hospital.  That was reassuring.

I know that (unfortunately) thousands of people go through chemo all the time and I know of many personally and they come out the other side (cancer free, many of them!) and I'll handle it all well too. I know I have to get sicker to get better but I'm not looking forward to this.

I'm most worried about getting sick. Obviously the drop in white blood cells combined with flu season, my husband working in the dirtiest, germiest place on earth (the subway) and three, young, school aged children  there is a likelihood that someone will bring some kind of germs home. We were pretty good at washing our hands before all this but I'm going to be even militant about it now. And there will be a sanitizer pump at the front door for guests. And if someone dares to come in my house while ill there will be hell to pay. (yeah, I'm thinking I might not be very nice through this chemo thing) Frankly, I don't want something like a flu to kill me when I'm trying to beat something tough like cancer.

So, because of that, I've also decided to do the head shave before chemo. See, the nurse told me that the drop in white blood cells will happen roughly 7-11 days after treatment. This would be right around when I'm feeling a bit better and planning for a the party. But do I want a houseful of germs when I'm at my weakest? No, not really. So I'm going to shave my head before.

I go see my surgeon today, I'm hoping she'll take the drainage tube out and give me the go ahead to start chemo. If she does it would likely be another week or two to let the area that the drainage tube goes in to heal. So, if all goes well, I should be able to decide today when the party will be and send the invites out.

I continue to try to stay positive, despite what gets thrown at me. In my package that I got at the clinic they gave me a book about breast cancer and one of the things I read was that the prognosis for those who are diagnosed before age 35 is not as good and there is an better likelihood of recurrence. I realize I'm over 35 but not by much so of course, that plays on my mind. Do I want to fight this again.....and again.  Not really. So after I read that I closed the book and moved on.

I bought my outfit for the photo shoot. A light pink skort and blouse and a hot pink bra. I will look hot! I'm going to decorate the bra tonight and hopefully plan a party. That will lift my spirits.

One day at a time. It's a long road ahead but I can do it. I'm strong and I can beat this. I have to. I have too much to live for.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If You Can't Laugh At Yourself.

It's been a really long time since I've had a good, genuine, laugh. I'm an upbeat positive person and I have a million reasons to smile but as we get older it is often hard to find things that make us really laugh. You know the kind I mean, where your eyes water like you're crying and your stomach aches and (for those of us who've had children) you're afraid you're going to pee yourself.

Well I had one of those moments last night.

I was watching Grease. I love Grease. It's cheesy but I love the songs. It also has fond memories for me. In one of the daycares I worked at, I worked with the 6-9 year old group and we did some of the songs from Grease for our Christmas play. It was the best concert we ever did and I still look back on that show fondly. (Remember Noelle?! You made a great Sandy!)
Sean, on the other hand has not use for Grease so I rarely actually watch it when it's no TV.  Last night it was on so I told Sean I would turn it off when he was done whatever it was he was doing but I wanted to watch at least the first song.  If you've never seen Grease, this is the first song. You need to pay particular attention to the very end, where John Travolta and Olivia Newton John are singing the line "those summer nights"



Now I'm no singer. In fact, I'm terrible,  I admit it. I sound like a cat being beat with a baseball bat and the only time I try to actually sing is to my own kids or my class. Little kids don't care how bad you are. They just love to sing with you. But last night I thought I'd ham it up and Emily thought she'd video it with her iPod. So she caught me right at the end of the song, where I'm really playing around to hit that unGodly note at the end of the song. Emily enjoyed my singing but when she showed me the video....well honestly I nearly died laughing. It was the most ridiculous, pathetic sounding thing I've ever heard. Beating a cat with a bat has nothing on that sound.

For your viewing pleasure.



We laughed for nearly an hour over that. It made me feel fantastic.

And now, since I clearly have no pride or self respect you can enjoy a laugh at my expense.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pink Pumpkins Everywhere


One of my Pumpkin Patch sisters found this picture. For my new readers, the Pumpkin Patch is a group of women I met on a fertility site in 2007 when we were all blessed with babies in (and around) October 2007. We called our group the Pumpkin Patch and in the past 4+ years we've become very close, a sisterhood. Many of us have had the chance to meet IRL and though it's hard for some to believe, we've really grown to love one another.  I can personally attest to the genuine love and support I've received from them since my diagnosis...unparalleled by even some people I know in real life.

So after the rant that brought many of my new readers to my blog, the one about the FB status updates"I'm 12 weeks and craving pickles"  and my saying I was simply going to put a pink ribbon as my profile picture, many of the PP sisters did as well. And then one of them found the pink pumpkin. It couldn't have been more perfectly made for us had one of us actually made it ourselves.

And now, several of my PP sisters have it as their profile pic (and even a few friends who are not PPers)

But today, I display my pic in support of another PP sister who is having her own breast cancer scare. My thoughts and prayers are with her today that she is okay, that she will dodge this breast cancer bullet. One of us dealing with this is more than enough.

My support group yesterday was fantastic. I was nervous at first because everyone who came in was at least 10-15 year older than me (which in of itself is not a big deal but I think being a cancer fighter and having young children puts a unique spin on things...not that one doesn't want to live for their older children just as much but let's face it, a 25 year old gets it better than my 3 year old.)  But then two other women came in who had young children too and it made me feel better.

I was such a nimrod though. We go around the room introducing ourselves and telling out stories and I, like a yutz start bawling at my turn. I swore I wouldn't. But, now it's out and I'll be okay for the next round.

I can't say a lot (they were pretty strict about confidentiality) but I did meet someone who I seemed to click with so that felt good and I got some great tips already about how chemo will feel, when to shave my head (after the first chemo - Stacy, you were right, about 15-17 days after the first treatment is when my hair will fall out) and when to have my party (my first full week after chemo I should feel good enough to have a party)   I also felt strong, inspired by the women who were further in treatment that I am and by the women who are still struggling with their diagnosis.

I've signed up to be in a photo shoot too. The CIBC Run for the Cure is coming up and they are doing a shoot with breast cancer survivors and fighters. We are to wear all pink and a very fancy decorated bra.(over your clothes) I can't wait. Emily is going to help me decorate my bra. I'll look fabulous!

I was talking to a coworker/friend yesterday. She seems to be really struggling with this. She wants me to get a second opinion. I've gone past the point of worry about that kind of thing now. I know she's stuck on the fact that I had a breast removed with no clear tumor in it but I'm not. I'm glad I did it. I don't worry about it now. I explained why a second (actually third) opinion is not a feasible option. I didn't get frustrated. I held it together.

It's going to be a busy week this week. I have to go to the chemo clinic this week for my consultation. I have to go to physiotherapy for my back (I've scrapped the chiropractor and got a physio referral from my Dr.) and I go see the surgeon. And in the off times I have a large quilt to make for my sister in law's mom. At least I can honestly say, I'm too busy to be bored.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's All About the Hair

In just over an hour I am heading to my first support group. It's for those who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm a little nervous.

What if it's a big downer? What if everyone is glum and gloomy? What if there are women there who are in later stages of breast cancer with poor prognosises? (what is the plural of prognosis?) What if I come out of there feeling worse than when I went in because truth be told, besides this ever so annoying and itchy tube in my side and my starting to get better sciatica I feel great. Physically and mentally. I don't want to be brought down.

But, I also want to meet other people who genuinely know what I'm going through (not that all of you haven't been amazingly supportive - I couldn't be this positive without you all)

Fingers crossed.

I'm home alone. It's the very first time since my surgery. The kids are at school. Sean is at a Dr's appointment (extending his stress leave) and my mom is out. It's quiet and I love it and yet it's weird.

I've fallen in love with this quilting stuff. I finished my first one in two days and I've got the stuff to make two more plus my sister in law has ordered  a larger one. I'm pretty excited. If you want to see a pic of the first quilt, it's here.  I'm saving this one though, I think I'm going to use it either as a door prize or a raffle prize for my upcoming head shave fundraiser.

This brings me to another question. I'm planning to have this head shave fundraiser. Basically, the long and short of it is that I think, for me, it will be psychologically too rough to watch my hair fall out so I've decided to beat chemo to the punch and shave my head. But I don't want to be all depressed in the bathroom, I want to have a party, lots of friends and family and fun. And if I'm going to have a party I may as well take that opportunity to use it as a fundraiser for the Relay for Life so I would ask for a $10 *donation* from each person who comes. Anyone else who interested in getting their head shaved can wave the donation. I might even auction the right to shave my head. I think there are some people out there who would get a kick out of that and would pay good money to do it.
But here's the thing. I don't know how long it takes for your hair to start falling out after chemo starts. Is it within days? Weeks? And if it's soon after (days) will I feel up to having a party so soon after my first chemo treatment? But the idea is to shave it before it falls out so I couldn't wait until later when I felt better. So then I wonder, should I do the party before chemo starts? But Sean seems to think after is better when I'll be needing some cheering up.

Opinions on this are welcome.

Speaking of hair, I should go do mine now. I should look somewhat nice for this group. I hope it doesn't suck.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who Needs Meds, I Have A Sewing Machine

I have really missed being creative. Yesterday I decided to get back on the sewing bandwagon  and took a trip to Walmart. They carry smaller bits of fabric as well as larger bolts that are often cheaper than Fabricland, even with my discount. As it turns out they sell these nifty little mix and match pre cut fabric kits for making bags, quilts and a few other things. So I bought the makings for a quilt. I got everything cut and pinned last night and started sewing this morning.

Since my surgery a little over two weeks ago my days have gone something like this:
  • Wake up, roll over and hyperventilate from the pain shooting down from my back into my foot.
  • Take a pill (I keep one in a pill bottle next to my bed so I don't have to get up for it.
  • Lie still for 30 minutes despite having to pee so that the pill has time to kick in and I can get out of bed without passing out.
  • Go about my day for 2-3 ours until pill  starts to wears off.
  • Suffer for the last 2-3 hours of the pill wearing off until I can take another one.
  • Take another pill and go about my day for another 2-3 hours.
  • Spend the rest of the day feeling the pain, tired, uncomfortable and irritable because I don't want to take another pill because it would mean I'm taking 5 pills a day and I don't want to do that. By this time it's not just my back and leg though, it's also aching in the surgery area
  • Long for bedtime so I can take my 2 before bed pills and sleep relatively pain free.
  • Start all over again the next day.
This morning started like all the others so I decided to start sewing while my pill was working. I figured once I started feeling crappy I'd stop sewing and take another pill.
Well guess what. It's 9 hours later and I haven't taken that next pill yet.

I've been sewing like a maniac. I've got the quilt about 3/4 finished and it looks fantastic! And I feel fantastic. I'd go on to finish the rest of the quilt today but I don't have the quilting batting, I need to go buy some.

It's like sewing has brought me my old self back. I feel GREAT!!

Anyhow, the quilt is gorgeous. I tossed around the idea of keeping it or selling it on Etsy but I think I'm going to use it either for a raffle prize or a door prize at the headshave.  And I'm going to make another one. And another one.

I've missed the old me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Plan

Houston, we have a plan. Wait, that doesn't sound right.

Oshawa, we have a plan.

Alright, silly time is over. Let's get down to business.

So, there was definitely no cancer found in the breast. My oncologist said it's possible that it's just so microscopic that it couldn't be seen. That's good. But, he did say that 15 lymph nodes had cancer in them. Not so good.

Let's pause to reflect on my oncologist for a minute. When I googled him way back in June I was terrified to go see him because he had 'bad reviews' from former patients. But I went to him anyway and really liked him. He's frank but he's also gentle and he takes the time to really listen and answer all my questions. So even when I'm not getting great news I come out feeling okay.

He told me he thought I was handling this all really well. I guess he sees a lot of emotional wrecks in his office. Fortunate for him it's been the surgeon delivering all the bad news so when we get to him he's just recapping.

I can't being chemo until my drainage comes out. It will likely be the end of September. So I'll be having 6 rounds of chemo (18 weeks), then radiation (5 days a week for I think 5 weeks) and then tamoxifen for 5 years. It's going to be a long road ahead.

I asked if it was possible that the cancer is not in the breast at all, if maybe it's somewhere else. He said that it is entirely possible especially with that many lymph nodes infected but again, it would be microscopic and that is what the chemo is for. Wipe that shit out.

I barely mentioned my back pain and he was writing me a new prescription. I have to say, that was relief. Today was a bad day and my foot has seized pretty badly a few times.

My bone scan was all clear (relief because I worried about that with the back pain and my dumb ass but cute chiropractor)

He said I didn't qualify for a PET scan, basically, it wouldn't work in this case. (I guess it's only for certain cancers?)

He also told me he'd write me a prescription for a wig so that Sean's insurance would cover it.

So next week I have to go to the chemo clinic to have a tour and get the ins and outs of what I'll be dealing with for the next several months. 

I left there feeling really good. I mean, I still have cancer but he seems pretty positive about it all. He keeps saying to me, "Don't you worry, I'm going to take care of you" and "If you ever need anything you call, I'll always see you"  I can't quite figure out how he got such bad 'reviews' because seriously, I couldn't feel more well cared for. I'm certain I'm in good hands. And most importantly, when I come out of there I feel like beating this won't be a problem.

Mary started her support group today too. She's in a class with 5 other kid one night a week with a play therapist who will help them sort out their feeling about what's happening in their lives. One of the other mother's has breast cancer and two dads have cancer. She wasn't sure she wanted to go and then when I picked her up the therapist said she kept asking, when do we come back again?

Me and Sean have our separate support groups too, next week. I'm looking forward to it. Emily is the only one who isn't going to one but she seems to be dealing with it okay for now. And she does have that friend....peer support at it's finest.

Tomorrow is Emily's 12th birthday. I thank God everyday for her and that I am here to celebrate her birthday with her. I can't believe how grown up she is now.

Well, I'm off now, I need to take some pain pills and go to bed. Night all. Sweet dreams and happy thoughts!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pity Party Over.

In 2006, (formerly known as the year from hell) I changed the start up message on my cell phone to "Today is a new day". Each time I turn the phone on I am greeted with it and it's to remind me of just that. Any of the shit you dealt with yesterday is done because today, is in fact, a new day.

I am re adopting that attitude. Today, IS a new day.  Pity party over. I'm going to focus only on the positives of this situation. Number one being that I got to take my baby to his first real day of school. (and Oh, the drama!)

He cried. And cried. Oh, and then he cried some more. The librarian came out to help the kindergarten teachers wrangle their new charges in, especially the JK's - the new ones who are less than impressed with going to school. She saw Connor crying and Sean trying to lead him in, took him by the hand and said, "Let's go see your sisters....bye Dad!"  Thank God for the librarian. From a teacher point of view there is nothing worse than a parent coming into the school with the little one when they are crying, it makes for a longer adjustment and a pain in the neck for the teacher who, while the parents eyes are on them are saying "oh, it's okay honey, you'll be fine, come with me" in that sing songy voice when in fact when the parents aren't there the teacher is saying, in the matter of fact, teacher voice, "You're fine, hang up your bag and come sit down." Not harsh to the trained ear but to a parent who is suffering just as much separation anxiety as their child...well, let's just say, I've seen parents who've had a harder time adjusting than their kids did.

Sean and I took a walk this morning at the beach. It was nice to walk, just us, no kids at our own pace and just talk. I used to love doing that when I had the daycare and we'd send the kids off to school and take whatever daycare babies I had for a walk. Only now I don't have to worry about strollers, diapers and snacks. (well, except for my Timmies)

I've had a few orders from my Etsy Shop and I'm inspired to start creating again. I've been missing the creative side of things, sewing and what not. I really think I'd like to learn how to sew with a pattern. I might go to the fabric store and pick up a simple pattern for something (what, I don't know) and try it out.

Actually, I'd LOVE to make a quilt....thinking out loud here....that might be a project to tackle. Hmmm.....

It's time to brush myself off and get back on the horse.

I find out tomorrow what our course of action is for treatment and once I know how it's going to affect me I want to start thinking about my fall Papa's Pride fundraiser.  We were tossing around the bowling tournament idea but I think that might be too much of an undertaking at this point so I'm thinking now about the head shave. I was going to beat chemo to the punch and shave my head before my hair falls out and throw a party doing it. But why not kill two birds with one stone. So it's going to be a fundraiser. It'll be a $10.00 'donation' for those who want to come - that being waved for anyone who wants to get their head shaved as well. And at the suggestion of a friend I will try to Skype in anyone from a distance who wants to join the fun. And to make it more fun (and inviting to those outside of my immediate family), I'm going to try to wrangle up some door prizes and maybe if I can some things for a silent auction or a raffle. It might not be a bowling tournament but I'm sure I can turn this into a hell of a fundraiser anyway.

If anyone out there has anything they'd like to donate as a door prizes feel free to email me.  And of course, we're always happy to take pledges for the Relay for Life.

If you thought I was annoying with the fundraising last year....you ain't seen nothing yet!! It's a whole lot more important to me now.

I've got my spirit and my drive back.

I WILL beat cancer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feeling Blue

I've been feeling sorry for myself a lot lately. I'm sure this phase will pass but it's been a rough few weeks. Losing a breast the day before my birthday was just the start.

Today was Connor's first day of school. We brought him for an hour; a meet and greet of sorts to explore the classroom, find the bathroom (and use it 3 times in 40 minutes) and meet the teacher.

On one hand, I'm really happy that I was able to here for his first day at school. I was here for the girls on their first day and was sad that I was going to miss his.

But on the other hand I have a profound sadness that I wasn't able to be at MY first day of school. Walking around his classroom, looking at things his teacher had done on the bulletin boards and for organizing her class gave me ideas...and a surge of energy - like "Hey what a fantastic idea...I could do that in my class."  Instead someone else is in my class today, teaching my kids and using my desk and I already hate her. I'm sure she's very lovely and quite competent but I hate her for being there instead of me. I'm jealous of all the teachers who get to go back to work this week and I sit here wishing I could be there. I'm angry because for once I was in a place where I was content and happy. I was earning money and not worrying about paying bills. And now I panic thinking about what I'm going to do in December when my EI runs out.

I'm sure these feelings will fade and yes, my priority right now is myself and beating cancer and being well but it still a kick in the stomach to know that I've finally found a job I truly love and someone else is doing it for me.

I really need to give myself a lift soon, this trend of "woe is me" has gone on far too long. I need to snap out of it. But I think, for today anyway, I'll mourn what could have been.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Boobs

I wore my prosthetic for the first time yesterday. I'm not really supposed to be wearing it yet, I'm supposed to be fully healed. I still have one drainage tube in (hopefully it will come out today) and the swelling is still there. But I did anyway.

I was having a blah day. My back still hurts, I'm tired. My arm and 'boob hole' ache and I feel like we haven't left the house to do anything fun as a family since my surgery.

I decided to take the girls out for a going back to school hair cut. I got dressed and took a look in the mirror. Now for those who don't know me in person, here's a quick description. I'm not skinny, by any stretch of the imagination but I do have curves, I'm not just a round ball.  I'm also big chested so if I'm wearing anything tighter in the top it's apparent there is only one boob.  Until now I've worn mostly baggier shirts so it wasn't as obvious but I'm tired of looking frumpy.  So I put on one of my regular shirts.

Up until now I haven't been overly concerned about going out. I'm not embarrassed by all this. It is what it is, by yesterday I needed a little boost. So I got out my prosthetic and stuffed it down my sports bra.

It's a bit smaller than my other boob (this wasn't fitted, it was the one they gave me at the cancer support centre based on my cup size)  but you can't tell unless you're really, really looking.  I was more worried about it shifting or popping out of my bra.

So I went shopping with the girls and I had two boobs....and I felt normal (well, I still walk like I'm 97 - but I looked like a regular, two boobed lady) 

I could get used to this two boobs thing. It felt nice to feel normal again.

Faith

I just finished reading the book Heaven is for Real: A Little Boys Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back Todd Burpo and Vincent Lynn Vincent.  It's a true account of a little boy who went to went to Heaven while undergoing an emergency appendectomy.  Just a warning - if you haven't read this book and want to, this post is full of spoilers so you might want to skip it.

Now, I understand this book might not be for everyone, agnostics, atheists, non Christians (since the boy says he met Jesus there) but the fundamental meaning in the story applies to just about everyone. God (by any name you want to call Him) loves us.

I also cried through most of the book.  When this takes place the boy is exactly the same age Connor is now so it's hard for me to not picture him when I'm reading the story.  Two things struck me about this story that I'd like to share.

One day the boy tells his mom that he met his sister while in Heaven. This sister was a baby his mom miscarried before he was born. He describes her and also notes that she didn't have a name (since the parents hadn't yet named the baby) 

I automatically thought of Violet and of the baby I lost in December '05, the one we didn't name. I first thought, geez, I hope Violet is a girl because if he's a boy and I saddled him with a name like Violet he's probably not too impressed.  But it also I thought about how it warmed my heart - to know that one day (many, many years from now, God willing) I will be able to hold my babies in my arms and hug and kiss them the way I never could.

I also thought about something the father (and author) described. You see, he'd undergone a lot of trials, a severely broken leg, kidney stones and a breast cancer scare (for himself, he had a mastectomy - ironic huh?)  But then things started getting better and he was thinking his 'time of testing' was over. But he commented that often times in life, the blow you don't see coming is the one that knocks you out. 

If I look at this in my own life, the miscarriages, the problems in my marriage...these were my tests. Tests of my will, my strength and my faith that He would get me through. Losing my Dad was a terrible event but He answered my prayers. I asked that my Dad didn't suffer and I don't think he did. It was far too quick. I have proof in my life that God answers prayers - he's sitting on the couch 10 feet from me. I prayed for a baby and at the last minute, when we thought we'd lose him too I prayed for God to not take him. And He didn't.
And so my life made a turn. After my Dad died things settled down. Our family was complete, Sean and I were better than ever, I had my dream job and new friends and a great life.

BAM.  Cancer was the knockout punch - the one I didn't see coming.

Despite how this all sounds, I'm not an overly religious person. I don't go to church on a regular basis - I rarely go at all. My faith is more internal, personal. It's deep, don't get me wrong and based on what I've learned from the Catholic church but adjusted to my own feelings about life and God.

This book gave me a lot of hope. Life has a way of tearing you down and coming back up is a true testament of your character. Your strength and faith that everything happens for a reason supports that character and that fight to get back up.

I have some really bad days - more so since my back pain became so bad. Sometimes I find it hard to imagine that I'll ever feel good again or to remember a time when I felt good and not afraid. But what keeps me going (besides my kids) is my faith that prayers are answered.  

I want so much to hug my angel babies. I want to hug my Dad again, my Grandma and all the others who've gone before me.....but not yet and not anytime soon. I'm not finished hugging my babies here and the rest of my family and friends.  I pray every day that I will beat this and I know others are praying for me too. And I fully believe I will. (okay, in fairness I do have my moments of doubt, I think that's probably just human nature) but overall, I am equal to the task ahead of me. I will fight cancer and I will beat it. My faith in myself and Him will remain strong and unshaken. I'm tough.

I highly recommend reading this book, even if you are not a spiritual or religious person, it's a good read. And for me, I couldn't have picked a better time to read it - it renewed my strength of will.

I will beat cancer. I have to. I have too much to live for.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two More Days!

Two more days. In two more days my baby starts school. I can't believe it. Wasn't he just born?

So despite my best efforts to be "that parent" and making the request that he be in the JK/SK split class he is in the straight JK class. This isn't all bad.  I know they likely divided the classes based on age and because he's an October baby he's in the younger set which is why he's in the straight JK. And while on an academic level he's certainly ready for the challenge of the split class, socially, he's not. He's still very much 3 and not ready to be in a class with kids who are turning 6.

He's not happy about going to school. Connor is one who needs lots of prep and we've been talking about what will happen the first few days of school so he's ready. I said "Mommy and Daddy and Nana will take you and Mary and Emily to school. And then the bell rings you will go in to the school with Mrs. (teacher).  He burst in to tears and said "And you're going to drive away??"
Is it wrong that I lied?? "Oh no, no, we're going to stay right outside and when school is finished your teacher will bring you outside and we'll be there"

He's still thinking of daycare and while it's not that he didn't like daycare he wasn't thrilled about certain aspects of it, namely napping. We've explained that in Kindergarten there is no nap and, in our school at least, he doesn't stay at school for lunch, he'll come home at lunch and stay with us.

The girls are happy about who their teachers are too so I think it will be a good year for them.

I've tossed around the idea of dropping a line to their teachers to make them aware of my health situation. It's been a rough summer all around and I think as my treatment begins and I start feeling shitty from chemo and losing my hair it might have more of an effect on them. Not that it hasn't already but let's face it, I haven't been walking around with my boobs hanging out for the past 12 years so while they know I'm less one boob (and they've both seen the scar) it's not as apparent as it will be when I'm bald. And more so for Connor who knows I have a boo boo but really doesn't understand - explaining to him that Mommy's boo boo medicine made her hair fall out. (good luck the next time I have to give him medicine, he'll think he's going to go bald!)

I've got Mary in a support group for kids who's parents have cancer. Mary is an immature 8 and while she understands what's going on I don't think she knows how to process it. This group is facilitated by play therapists and has other kids in the same situation so I'm hoping it can help her deal with this effectively. Emily didn't want to go and I think she's doing okay. Her best friend's Mom mentioned to me that Emily and her bf have talked A LOT about it. (her bf is the one who's Aunt is a breast cancer survivor) so I know she's got support there from people who know how she feels and I'm finding that as she gets older and matures she's less afraid to talk to me about her feelings.

So on Thursday I go see the oncologist. I'll be armed with my list of questions and hopefully come out with a game plan, a time line on when chemo will start. I'm happy to be getting the ball rolling.

I've avoided the one obvious thought - the one Sean feared would send me over the edge when we met the surgeon. The preliminary pathology report was that they failed to find the source of the cancer within my breast. We knew that was a distinct possibility. I went in to see her this past visit expecting it. I mean really, mammogram, ultrasound, CT Scan and MRI and together those 4 tests could not find it definitely.  But - they didn't find it elsewhere either so that's a good thing.
It also means that they removed the breast for nothing.

I knew that was a possibility though and I'm okay with it.  I look at the positive side of it. One day, when I am cancer free I will be able to have reconstructive surgery. And the government will pay for it. And since you can't be lopsided they will have to fix the left one, give it a lift at least, AND they take your belly fat to create your new boob so it's like a tummy tuck too. I can find the positive in this situation - who says you can't have a flat stomach and great boobs after 3 kids!!

I'm going to spend the day with my babies, getting back to school hair cuts, making homemade chocolate chip cookies (there is no better food in the world) and enjoying the last couple of days of summer.

Have a fantastic day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Comments on the Comments

Blogger has been giving me issues for the past few days and won't allow me to post comments on my own blog, unless I do it on my daughters iPod. That is no easy task and nothing is more annoying than trying to type on a touch screen and the auto spell messing me up and my daughter whining because I'm hogging her iPod....

but I didn't want to let some of the comments I'd received go by without response because I think truly, each one deserves one.

However, time, Blogger and the fact that my pain pills will be kicking in soon and making me less coherent won't allow that so I'm going to give a more general response to the comments.

When I first posted my rant it was from the point of view of someone fighting cancer. And yet, as many of you have pointed out there is another issues at hand here, one as equally important to me, infertility.

I don't expect most of you have taken the time to go back and read the past two years worth of blog posts but I too have suffered through infertility. It is that very thing that brought me together with my Pumpkin Patch sisters....our struggle to get pregnant, stay pregnant and give birth to live, healthy babies. And while my struggles with infertility were not as long or as difficult as many women's are, I do understand the pain of loss - I too lost two babies to miscarriage.  Connor is my rainbow baby.

It didn't occur to me when I was ranting about the FB game being a poor excuse for a breast cancer awareness campaign that it was also highly offensive and hurtful to those women who are suffering through IF. To have someone make light of pregnancy - when so many of us truly know just what a miracle it really is. It's already so painfully difficult for a woman who is suffering through IF to hear about friends, family and even random strangers getting pregnant - but to have people imply pregnancy, under the guise of raising awareness for breast cancer - well I don't have to tell you - you're all smart people....it's just plain hurtful.
And the bigger irony to this is, that for many women treatment for breast cancer renders them infertile. Kick 'em when their down.
I've been blessed with three beautiful children on earth and two in heaven and didn't intend to have more but it doesn't make my heart ache any less for those women who I know long to have a(nother) child.

Many of the people who have posted comments to me have expressed this very thing, how it's like a stab in the heart to see these postings on FB and to feel that ache in their own belly.  To those people I send you my love and prayers that you will one day hold a baby in your arms.

I've also received a lot of comments from people who are either fighting cancer themselves or have a loved one who is. To you I say Keep Fighting!! Stay Strong!!! Everyday they are finding out more and more about this horrific disease and one day they will find a cure. Cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence. Be tough, show cancer that it picked the wrong person to f*ck with. I intend to and I know you can too.

For everyone else, thank you for your kind words and prayers. I truly am astonished at how my one little rant has brought in so much traffic (almost 11,500 people at last count)  All I wanted to do was blow off some steam. I've apparently done much more than that. I'm happy about that. If it means that one person who otherwise might not have will donate to the Canadian Cancer Society or the American Cancer Society or my Relay for Life team or my sister in laws CIBC Run for the Cure team or to any other cancer research that is fantastic.

And if my little rant makes others stop for a second and think....we never really know what others are going though. It might seem innocent enough but to the woman who's never been able to carry a child it's something entirely different.

Hopefully blogger will sort itself out and I can reply to individual comments soon. But in the meantime, dear readers, please know I appreciate all your comments, thoughts and ideas.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Might Only Have One Boob But I Still Got It!

It's been a long day. I went to the chiropractor looking for some relief. My back pain has progressed to the point that it's sciatica, my right foot is numb and the pain shooting down from my back, through my ass and into my ankle is almost unbearable.

Since I still have one drainage tube in and limited mobility (between upper body stiffness from the surgery and my back) the chiropractor couldn't do as much as he wanted to. We started with acupuncture. I wasn't thrilled with the notion of having needles stuck into me, especially in light of my current condition but I figured I'd disclosed everything so if this was not a good idea he wouldn't do it.  I gotta say, not fan. I got some weird tingles when some of the needles went in. But, I suppose if it's going to relieve this pain, I'll give it a shot.

So while he's working on me he comes back in and casually mentions to me that breast cancer has a high rate of spread and that often times it will spread to bone. Yeah, great thing to tell me. I said, well, I've had a bone scan and it was all clear so I guess that's not an issue. He back tracks a bit and says "well with the symptoms you describe and the location of you pain, it's XXXXX" (I don't remember what he called it but long story short my hips are rotated and it's pinching a nerve) 

Clearly this fine man didn't know who he was talking too...Queen of Overreacting and Blowing Things Out of Proportion. So naturally because he mentioned something that was already a fear of mine it must be so. It doesn't matter that I've already had a bone scan and it was clear. Damn him.

When I left the office I was still walking like I was 105. I was wearing yoga pants and my very old "proud mom" t-shirt. My hair was a wreck, I was sweaty and undoubtedly had a scowl on my face from the pain. I was on the phone checking my messages, waiting to cross the street and a guy drives past, honks and yells "Hey babe, nice ass!"   Now I know the "Shwa" is known for it's mullets and women stuck in the 80's but there are some fine women around these parts too....and I can promise you, there are many finer asses out there than mine....but I'm not passing up a compliment. So I gave him a thumbs up and a smile. (though secretly I pitied him because honestly, I looked like shit  - he must have a really poor frame of reference if he thought I was fine)

I overdid it getting groceries and came home to lie down. The problem is, I can't find a position that doesn't hurt for more than 5 minutes. After a while it takes it's toll.

This afternoon was a bad one. I'm feeling pain all the time. I have the chiropractors words ringing in my ears, I'm thinking about my Dad and how he seemed to go downhill overnight and I got scared. I wonder if I'm as strong as I think I am. I can handle pain, but not when it's constant and there is no relief in sight. I wonder and worry if I'll ever feel good again. I'm running dangerously low on pain pills and forgot to ask for a new rx when I went to see the surgeon. Now I have to call tomorrow and hope and pray the new surgeon will give me a new rx. Otherwise I'm going to have to bear this pain with over the counter tylenol. That won't do the trick.

Today was an emotional low for me. Pain is draining and it takes all my energy to breath through it - leaving me little for anything else.

I miss playing with the kids. I miss cuddling Connor. He asks for "come up hugs" (picking him up for a hug) and I can't  - not because of the surgery but because of my back. I miss being happy and full of energy.

So for today, I will fight back pain. Tomorrow, I will fight cancer.

Thanks Facebook!

I am not oblivious to the irony that I posted a diatribe about this "I'm 12 weeks and craving pickles"  facebook status business being a silly (and somewhat offensive) attempt to bring awareness to breast cancer and it has in fact done that very thing - though only in part by facebook.

Since I posted my blog yesterday morning nearly 3900 people have visited that page - most started off coming from google searches and such, trying to find out why everyone and their grandmother was posting things like "I'm 6 weeks and craving chicken wings" on facebook. Chances are your post menopausal Great Aunt Tilly is not pregnant. But then slowly the tides turned and I'm noticing people coming from emails and facebook. It's ironic that my complaint about how this status game was not bringing awareness to breast cancer is doing that very thing - bringing awareness to breast cancer or, if I have my way - all cancer.

Let's face it, I may be battling breast cancer but I lost my Dad to lung cancer. I've had other family and friends battle other kids of cancer (some have won, some have lost)  For me, the fight is not against Breast Cancer - it's against Cancer. Period.

And I'm not one to miss an opportunity. All this new traffic to my blog is potential to raise more awareness to the cause as a whole.

So for my new visitors, please take a minute to visit my Papa's Pride blog.  You can find out about my family's personal fight against cancer and our aim to raise as much money as we can to go toward finding a cure. If you want to fight cancer, we'll show you how!

And please, take another minute to visit our Papa's Pride page on Facebook and "like" us. You want to raise awareness for cancer, breast or any other kind add that page your list. And encourage your friends and family to as well.

See, awareness only goes so far - we are all aware. But what makes the real difference is the money raised that goes toward cancer research.

In 2010 we raised over $1500 for the Relay for Life. In 2011 we raised over $3500. Our 2012 goal is $5000 and I will PROUDLY walk the Survivor Lap.

So thank you Facebook and whoever thought of posting mock pregnancy symptoms as a cancer awareness tool. And thank you all of you wonderful people who took the time to google these ambiguous status updates. Thank you for visiting my blog and for all my new followers, thank you for the kind words and emails. I am a fighter. I will survive.

I will beat cancer. I have to. I have too much to live for.