Sunday, December 31, 2017

Worst Case Scenario

Back when I first starting having pain in the upper outer quadrant of my left breast, I figured, "It can't possibly cancer."

I mean, that would be the worst case scenario, right?

Then, when the doctor felt the thickening and sent me for an ultrasound I still thought there was no way it was cancer. Other people get cancer, but not me and those closest to me.

The day of the ultrasound, they found the mass. They did a biopsy that day. Still, it couldn't be cancer. I mean, I have two kids who need me. I have parents who would be devastated to lose me. Yes, I'm just like every other woman in the world who has loved ones but still, it couldn't be cancer. Heck, even the doctor who talked to me on the phone the day of the ultrasound and biopsy told me the chances of it being cancer were very small.

The weekend after the ultrasound/biopsy, I told my mom often that the chances of my mass being cancer were very small. I was just sure it was nothing.

It was something. When I saw that I had a missed call from my doctor on Sunday afternoon, I knew. I mean...doctors don't call on a Sunday with good news. I had time to brace myself for the news. The worst case scenario news.

Except...even though it's triple negative cancer, it wasn't the worst case scenario. Sure, cancer is a hard word to hear but being told it's stage 1 helps. The mass was small, we'd caught it early.

Every step of the way from the day of diagnosis until now has worked out in a 'best-case-scenario' kind of way.

When I met with the oncologist and we discussed the plan of action for my treatment, he told me, "This chemo will make you lose your hair."


I was okay with that. I told myself my hair was a small price to pay to buy decades of life and health with my family.

But deep down, the thought of being bald bothered me. Wouldn't it bother most people?

And get this...not all chemotherapy drugs make you lose your hair. Why did I have to have one of them that practically guarantees it? I didn't lament this long but I confess that I did think about it more than I wanted to.

But you know what? The worst case scenario of losing my hair hasn't been so bad. Now that it's gone, it's just...not a big deal. I look at myself every single day and it's not a big deal. It's just hair. It will probably grow back.

I'm living through a couple of worst case scenarios here. What I take away from that sentence is that I'm living. I'm here. I'm fighting for years with my girls, with my husband, who has been a champion caregiver. I'm getting years with my parents and my brothers. I'm alive and I'm still fighting. Cancer hasn't beaten me physically and baldness hasn't beaten me emotionally.

It's amazing when the worst case scenarios come true and you realize that they aren't nearly as scary as you thought they would be. You just keep on getting up each day and living your life. The worry before the diagnosis was worse than living day to day with the diagnosis.

Maybe I can take that forward with me into 2018. I'm definitely going to try.

Here I am...all bald and handling it just fine:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Figuring Things Out

I'm not sure how to do this. I mean, I've worked my entire life. I've had a job since I was sixteen, with a couple of months here and there where I didn't. So this is new. It helps that right now, it's Christmas break and the girls are home. But when they go back to school...things will be weird.

I have so much I want to do around the house, things that have been on the backburner basically since we moved in over seven years ago. Rooms need to be organized, closets need to be cleaned out.

And yet, there's still weekly chemo that I'll need to work around. So far my biggest complaint about this current chemo is the dry, red eyes I'm experiencing. I hope that's normal. Who knows? I guess I can ask the nurses when I go back on Wednesday.

But who am I if I'm not working? If I'm not a HR representative...who am I?

I'm Lyss's and Liv's mom. I'm Tom's wife. I'm Evelyn's daughter and Jason's and Mitchell's sister. But who am I besides those things?

I guess now is the time to figure that out. Am I the person who goes back to bed after the girls are on the bus? Will I stay up and actually accomplish things on a daily basis?

I admit to being inherently lazy. I do like my sleep. And bonus! I have the excuse of chemo for wanting needing more sleep. So I guess we'll see how much I use the chemo excuse now that I'm not working and can't use that as my reason for wanting a nap after lunch on a day when I rolled out of bed at 9am.

All I really know is that 2018 better bring nothing but awesomeness.

2017 has kind of sucked, if you want the truth. We'll be happy to say good riddance to 2017 and ring in 2018. 2018 is going to be the year for figuring it all out.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


I started the new chemo on Tuesday. There were lots of dire warnings about this chemo. It's Taxol. The nurses went on and on about allergic reactions. They talked about how they'd treat any reactions. They talked about how important it was to do the first treatment in Fort Wayne where there is plenty of staff to watch over me while the chemo was being administered because of the risk of a reaction.

Before they even started the actual chemo I was given three different meds that were supposed to stop any potential reactions before they started. The three medicines were a steroid, Benedryl, and Pepsid. All of these were given through my port.

Can I just say right here that getting Benedryl intravenously makes it take affect almost immediately. I could feel my mouth drying up, my speech started slur and the sleepiness kicked in before I even really realized it.

But, on the bright side, I didn't have any of the potential allergic reactions. I 'behaved' just as the nurses told me to.

As I dozed while the chemo was dripping into my port, I heard a volunteer a few chairs down from me. She was offering someone a cupcake.

I will confess right here that the offer of a cupcake woke me right up. It stopped that Benedryl drowsiness right in its tracks.

Who knew a cupcake could have such power?

By the way...that was a delicious cupcake.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

End of an Era

Yesterday I finished up a 17 year run at my job. The plant where I worked is closing next Friday for good. Because of this, I decided to take long-term disability starting today.

Non-coincidentally, I start weekly chemo today. So there's that.

I enjoyed my work. I was lucky enough to work with people who were mostly kind, mostly hard-working. Sure, there were bumps in the road over the seventeen years but they were good years.

And now...I start my time off. I start my journey toward getting well, getting healthy, being strong for my family and for myself.

Here's to the new chapter.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sudden Plans

As with most high school kids, Alyssa’s social life seems to have developed a life of its own lately. Which is great, right?

But wait. Alyssa also has a mom who is going through chemo and doesn’t always feel well and she has a dad, who, while wonderful and helpful and awesome before 7pm, tends to pass out on the couch by 7:10pm.

One of Lyss’s new friends is a junior. A junior who drives. Yay!


Sure, great. New friend can take Lyss to the required basketball games at which the band must play and bust out the pep.

The problem comes when Alyssa’s mom wants to go to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night after she’s had chemo the previous Tuesday. And yet, she actually can’t because Alyssa is not home yet from the basketball game that started at 7:00pm and should have probably ended at 8:30 at the latest. And Alyssa is not answering her phone. Why does she even have a phone if she doesn’t answer the damned thing?

Alyssa’s mom doesn’t feel like she can go to bed until she knows where Alyssa is and when Alyssa will be home. I mean, Alyssa is still only fourteen even if she does have friends who have driver’s license and CARS for Pete Sakes!

When Alyssa finally texts her mom to say that two of her friends are ‘bored’ and want to hang out, her mom is annoyed. But she responds with, “Where? You need to call me.”

Alyssa finally calls her mom fifteen minutes later and they talk. The friends want to hang out at a friend’s house in town. The parents are home and are okay with these last-minute plans.

Alyssa’s mom wants to know when Lyss will be home. Lyss doesn’t know.

Her mom decides for her. “You can hang out until eleven. Then you need to be home. I’m tired and you’re fourteen.”

Alyssa, smart girl that she is, agrees to be home at 11:00.

Mom settles in, all achy and yuck, to wait until 11:00 to go to bed. She’s not thrilled about it but vaguely remembers being a teenager about a million years ago and wants her daughter to enjoy this time of her life.

But there will be a conversation when the teenager gets home that evening. Or maybe it will wait until morning when Mom feels a little better and is rested.

The conversation, when it happens, goes well and Alyssa understands. She gets why her mom needs to know where she is and needs some sort of idea of when she’ll be home. She remembers that she’s fourteen (sure, she’ll be fifteen in a month but still…)

Then…THEN!!! Sunday evening rolls around.

It’s 7:20. Alyssa asks if Funniest Home Videos is on that night.

I (I know I’m changing from third person to first person when referring to myself…I don’t care.) pause as I’m washing dishes to tell her that yes, it’s on right that very minute.

“What?” she exclaims. “I thought it started at 8:00.”

“It has been starting at 8:00 but tonight it went back to a start time of 7:00.”

“Why?” she demands to know, like I’m privy to the scheduling reasons of ABC.

I shrug and wash a plate.

She then said, rather hesitantly, “Well, I kind of wanted to know if Nina could come over and watch Funniest Home Videos.”

“Tonight?” I asked.

See, let me pause here in this narrative and mentioned that I consider myself an outgoing introvert. I can be social and friendly but I get absolutely no energy from other people. Other people, even my own beautiful, loving family, suck my energy dry and I NEED alone time to re-energize. So having people over saps me.

But I do realize that teenagers thrive on friends and spending time with said friends. And so…

Lyss sort of hung her head and appeared to almost wish she hadn’t asked the question but she didn’t take the question back. She nodded and waited for my answer.

I mentioned the sudden plans to Tom. He started to get loud. I told him that I thought we should allow it that night but going forward, Alyssa needed (she was in earshot, listening to this entire conversation) to give us more than twenty minutes’ notice if/when friends were coming over.

I informed her, as I said, she was RIGHT THERE, that we’d allow the visit from Nina that night but going forward, if she asked for such a thing in the future, the answer would be no. If she wants to have company, she needs to give us at least a few hours’ notice, preferably making such plans a day in advance if possible.

I know that teenagers are notorious for deciding at 6pm that they’re bored and deciding to hang with friends at 6:30 that same night.

But I am no longer a teenager and I don’t want to deal with such sudden plans. I don’t feel good enough these days to put up with those kinds of shenanigans.

And I will use the “You know, ordinarily it wouldn’t be a big deal but…chemo!” excuse with much liberty these days. I have to deal with all the side effects of chemo, I should get at least the smallest benefits (other than the, hopefully, never having cancer BIG main effect of it…)

Anyway, all this to say that teenagers and their sudden changes of plans might lead me straight to a padded cell yet.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Another Thing Olivia Said

I have some “Christmas” earrings that are penguins with red scarves.

I also have a scarf that has a gray background with some penguins in green and red sweaters and other penguins with green and red scarves around their necks and ice skates on their little webbed feet.

Olivia asked me last weekend, “So what, exactly, makes penguins Christmasy?”

The snark is strong with this one.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Some Truths

Now that the last BIG chemo is over, I feel like I can look back and make a decent report on how it went.

First of all, I guess I should say it wasn’t as horrible as I’d anticipated when I thought about CHEMO before it started. I mean, it wasn’t a dance in the rain but there was no puke and very little diarrhea, so there’s that.

But it wasn’t easy.

The first day of chemo is always the easiest. I mean, sitting there with a needle in your chest isn’t fun but there are no feelings of illness or nausea. No, that comes a couple of days later.

The day after chemo isn’t bad. It’s not necessarily good but mostly I just felt like I was coming down with something. Which I guess I sort of was, namely, the Chemo Aches.

I did wake up sweaty the night after chemo and that was always gross.

By the third day after chemo, though, life is hard. I ached from top to bottom. My very skin ached. I mostly just needed to be left alone to sleep. Nothing else helped.

The fourth day, ugh. The intestinal issues kicked in. It wasn’t so much diarrhea, though, which is what I feared. Stop reading here if you don’t want to read about poop talk. It’s okay. Really. But I’m all about being truthful about what this chemo trip has been like.

So yes, on the Fourth day after chemo (Saturdays for me) I would wake up and NOT have my usual morning poop. When I’m not having poison pumped into my very veins, I am a VERY regular pooper. But come the Saturday after chemo and my scheduled is MESSED UP. And I feel terrible all day until I finally do poop, which often took several tries and much straining on the stupid toilet. And stupid me, I never just stayed home and waited it out. No, I took the girls to town, had lunch, went to Walmart to buy groceries. So I found myself in the bathroom at Walmart on several Saturdays after chemo, straining to poop, wishing I could JUST poop because I would feel SO MUCH better once I’d pooped just once. It was as if that first poop on those Saturdays was stopping up the entire system and once it was out of the way, things were on their way to being back to normal. Not quite normal yet but on the way.

We are now over a week out from chemo and things are better. I have more energy. I feel pretty good.

But there are still remnants from chemo.

For one, my pee smells horrible. I figure this is just my bodies way of eliminated the poison of chemo and so of course it stinks. It’s just nasty.

I have a weird taste in my mouth still. Not metallic so much as just yuck. Gum helps and I drink a lot of water, which leads to more stinky pee.

My skin is dry but not extraordinarily dry. I mean, it could just be that it’s winter in the Midwest more so than having anything to do with chemo.

So that’s it. That my report on how chemo went for me. At least how the first four chemo infusions went, which were a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I was also given Neulasta, a weird patch thingy that injects medicine into your arm 24 hours after a chemotherapy infusion. It’s supposed to boost my immune system. I think it also made me feel a little crappy. But who really knows?

Next up…weekly chemo infusions in which the medicine is Taxol. I’ve been assured by all the of the chemo nurses I’ve encountered so far that taxol is not nearly as physically hard on a body at the Adriamycin and Cytoxan cocktail I’ve endured the past nine weeks.

We’ll see and you can rest assured I’ll be here to report on it as we make our way through the next twelve weeks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Winter Concert

My mom and I attended Alyssa’s high school band and choir concert on Sunday.

Olivia and Tom stayed home because Liv had a really annoying cough and we decided it would be better for everyone sitting around us to not have to deal with her weird, dry hacking.

So my mom and I got to enjoy the concert while Tom and Livie got to enjoy being home in their jammies, watching football (Liv was in her pajamas, Tom was watching football.)

While of course I thought the Jr. High was great, it amazes me how much difference a few years makes when it comes to performing. Alyssa is a freshman this year and her high school choir and band are awesome. I was blown away by the voices I heard and the musical talent of the band members.

When it was over, I told Alyssa that I could hear her voice during the choir’s performance.

She asked, “Is that a good thing?”

Oh my goodness, yes!! She has such a beautiful soprano voice. It’s bright and clear and the tone is so nice. She’s come so, so far and she’s only a freshman.

I told my mom after the concert, “I watch her up there and I marvel that she’s mine.”

My mom nodded, understanding exactly what I was saying.

I am so lucky that I get to watch three more years of this kind of thing.

And there’s more awesomeness to come. Next week, Lyss is auditioning for the school’s spring musical. How fun is that?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Once a Smartass...

In the car last Saturday afternoon, Olivia was on a roll of pushing Alyssa’s buttons.

I mean, of course she was. A little sister’s most amazing talent is knowing exactly how to irritate her big sister.

Olivia was singing one of the songs from the school program she performed in on Friday. Not that she sang during the actual performance. OMG, no! That would never, EVER happen.

But boy did she sing on Saturday. She was having a blast; mostly because it was driving her sister crazy.

Alyssa finally lamented, “Please stop singing that song! It’s making me crazy.”

Olivia paused singing just long enough to suggest, “Maybe it will be your funeral song.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

What's Best for Her

Last Friday was Grandparents/Friends day at Olivia’s school. As a fourth grader, this is the last time she’ll take part in a program like this.

My mom attended and spent time with Olivia. After the program, my mom and Liv talked and Olivia told her Gram that she was so scared on the top level of the risers that her legs were shaking.

The teachers did notice Olivia’s discomfort and let her move to the floor beside the risers but…this is not the first time Olivia’s been miserable during a school program. I mean, hello, she’s been forced to participate in such programs for, let’s see, seven freaking years.

So after the program, my mom told me and Tom that she didn’t think we should force Olivia to relive that program on Tuesday, which is when the kids are performing it for their parents and siblings. Grandparents/Friends Day is basically the schools way of breaking up the audience into two shows so they can fit everyone into the gym.

Tom and I talked about it, both with and without Olivia and we decided I’d email her teachers today and let them know Liv won’t be there tomorrow night.

But before I could send that email today, yesterday, I attended Alyssa’s high school band and choir concert (it deserves its own post) and I was able to speak to Mrs. F. She teaches both Jr. High and high school choir along with elementary music. She is the one who put together the entire program the elementary school is putting on tomorrow night.

I shared Olivia’s feelings about the program with her. “I was a totem pole,” Olivia declared somewhat stoically last Friday evening. I reminded her of years’ past when Olivia simply could not bring herself to even pretend to sing.

Mrs. F told me, “I support whatever you think is best for Olivia. I wish she’d show me her feisty personality that I know is in there but I agree that if she’s miserable, she should just stay home. It won’t affect her grade.”

So that’s what we’re doing. While the rest of the elementary is singing Elfie Selfie and dancing their little hearts out, Olivia will be at home, taking a bath, relaxing, enjoying a snack and basking in the joy of a long winter’s night.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Last Time

I keep telling myself that this is the last time I’ll have to feel like this. Since this past Tuesday was the last BIG chemo infusion, I won’t have to feel this achy, icky, crappy way again. Right?

Except, we all know that cancer can come back. I mean, we’re doing all we can to reduce the chance of that but it’s a definite possibility. And if it does, I’ll do this all over again.

But for now, I’m going with, Tuesday was my last big chemo. I feel horrible today but for now, we’re going to believe that this is the last time I will feel like this because of chemo.

According to my chemo nurses, the next infusions I’ll be getting won’t be nearly as difficult. They’re once a week for twelve weeks but they don’t induce the crap feelings that I have right now.

I’m holding on to that. I have to.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Deer

So yes, I hit a deer on the way home from Gram’s house after Thanksgiving dinner. We live three miles from my mom’s house. I was half way home. Which means I was a mile and a half from my mom’s and a mile and a half home. That just feels ridiculous

We finally got an estimate from the insurance company on how much damage was done to my car.

Before I say how much it will cost to fix the car, I would like to point out that I was going maybe 40 miles an hour. Yeah, not all that freaking fast.

That damn deer came out of nowhere and managed to do $8200 worth of damaged to my car. The deer flipped around in the air, hit the ground and then…she got up and ran away!!

Thankfully, neither of the girls or I was hurt. It just crumpled up the hood of my car, damaged the bumper and passenger side headlight. The car is leaking some kind of fluid and the driver’s side seatbelt won’t retract, which the insurance adjuster just said proves I was wearing it. So I guess that’s good.

I’d felt pretty awful while at my mom’s for dinner. I managed to eat the awesome roasted vegetables and, of course, a piece of cherry pie but then I made my way to my mom’s bedroom where I laid on the floor and dozed. Tom came in at one point to check on me and found me on the floor. He asked if that was more comfortable than the bed.

I told him it absolutely was, then I dozed again.

When I finally pulled my sickly carcass off the floor, the girls and I headed home and wham, we hit the deer.

It is amazing what a jolt of adrenalin can do for one’s over feelings of health. I felt better for hours after hitting that damned deer. I hope she was bruised and sore the next day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Tree Is Up, the Tree Is Up, You Guys...THE TREE IS UP!

I knew this past weekend was our best chance to get the tree up and decorated before the dullness of chemo descends tomorrow.

Last year, I did most of the decorating. For some reason, neither Lyss nor Liv was all that into putting ornaments on the tree.

This year, though, Olivia was quite the helper. And, best yet, she didn’t put three ornaments per branch. She’s growing up!! Awww….

Tom, because it’s his schtick, lamented the fact that I’d even bothered with the tree. He likes to be all Grinchy/Scroogy and then I have to remind him that we have kids and so he’s not allowed to be anti-Christmas.

Friday night, before I even opened the box stores the tree, I moved the furniture in the living room. We’d decided to put the tree in the corner by the front window rather than directly in front of the window this year. But that meant the recliner needed to move, which meant the couch, which is a U-shaped sectional, also needed to be moved.

I ended up spinning the couch, curve of the U was against the tree/window side of the room and moved the recliner so it was now on the left side of the entertainment center. It makes the room kind of cozy. If nothing else, change is always kind of interesting.

We didn’t deck out our entire house this year. It felt like a bit much to take on. But having the tree up, and the Nativity all placed just right by Liv, it makes our house feel good, like we’re ready for this season of love and giving and joy and peace.

That’s something that even chemo can’t take away. Right?

Anyway, here's a blurry picture of two girls and a Christmas tree:

Friday, December 1, 2017

Little Joys

While there is a lot of pain and indignities that go along with being a chemo patient, there are also a lot of joys, pleasures that come even during the pain and frustration.

-Sweet eleven year olds who don’t care if you’re sick, they just want their mom.

-Fourteen year olds who still want you with them even though you’re bald and kind of gross.

-Husbands who will rub your back for hours just to soothe the aches.

-Movies with my mom and Lyss, even when you don’t feel good.

-Friends who are amazing and sweet and kind and never forget to check in.

-A mom who is always there, always supportive, always understanding even though she’s got enough going on in her own life.

-An understanding employer who makes it easy for me to come and go as appointments are made and kept.



-Healing incisions that lead to more and better sleep.

-Christmas socks. It’s December 1st, I’m now allowed to wear Christmas socks for the rest of the year. Wheee!!

Like I said, it’s the little things that bring joy that really get use through the little things that cause angst/frustration. We will get through it because there’s no other choice.