Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Heart Healthy Lifestyle

I didn't realize how quickly those three words "Heart Healthy Lifestyle" could send me into a spiral of self-loathing and shame.

I met with the radiologist today to discuss the radiation that will start about three weeks after my last chemo. I can go over all that was discussed later.

Right now I'm so wrapped up in his mention that after treatment I need to try and follow a heart healthy lifestyle. Not only will it help my heart in case there is damage from the radiation but it will also lower the chances of the cancer coming back. The chemo and the radiation will have already lowered it to less than 10% but did you know that fatties like me have a higher risk of developing triple negative breast cancer than non-fatties?

Today was the first time since my diagnosis that I felt like maybe, hell, probably this whole cancer thing is my fault. Never once have I thought that until today. And now I can't stop thinking about it.

See, I'm horrible about self-control. I don't like heart healthy foods. Protein is not my favorite thing. I could live on carbs...except, wait, obviously I can't since apparently my love of carbs and my gigantically fat body is why I got cancer in the first place.

I am also really bad about portion control. I tend to eat until I'm miserable. I know. Lovely. I'm a model of gross.

I don't enjoy exercise. It doesn't make me feel better, not physically nor emotionally. I know a lot of people get a lot of satisfaction out of working out. Good for them. I do not. I hate to breathe hard. I hate to sweat. I don't feel better, more energized after working out.

No wonder I'm fat and cancerous.

I know this is all a bunch of self-indulgent whining. I KNOW this. And yet it's what is going through my head right now. I can't help it and I'm trying to get it out because it's poison. I know it isn't helping that I feel like this. I know the fact that Tom made me a stupid sandwich this afternoon and that sandwich made me sad is so stupid. I ate the damn thing, though. I did tell him that I won't be eating dinner since I ate that fucking sandwich.

He tried to make me feel better by reminding me that tomorrow, March 1st, he's going on a diet. He wants to lose 15 pounds.

I told him, as gently as possible, "Sweetie. I love you very much. But you wanting to lose 15 pounds is not comparable AT ALL to my NEEDING to lose at least 50. So please, don't."

That man can stop eating bread and ice cream for a week and lose 15 pounds.

I can stop eating bread (I don't actually at that much bread) and GAIN weight.

Heart healthy lifestyle. What the hell does that even mean? I guess I have some googling to do. Damn it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Dates, Complaints, Pulling It Together

I have all these days swimming around in my head. August 21...diagnosis. September October 17...started first batch of chemo. December 19...started second batch of chemo. December 18...last day of work. November 27...Olivia's birthday. January 14...Alyssa's birthday.

February 3...Amy died. She died. She died. She died.

She died and yet I still have all these petty little complaints rolling around my thoughts.

My hands have a rash on them. It's ugly and itchy and while at play musical practice last week, I was working with some of the moms on the costume committee. One mom in particular and I were working on the horse that Farquad uses to meet Princes Fiona. We were taping a piece of fabric to this inflatable horse, trying to make it look like a saddle. I noticed how smooth and young her hands looked. She and I are the same age. My hands are gross. But I'm alive, so why am I thinking about how ugly my hands are?

I feel like it is so much work to try and sleep in my bed these days. The best sleep I get is sleeping in the recliner from about 8am to noon on Wednesday mornings after my Tuesday night insomnia. My bed makes me congested, it makes my hips hurt. I have to pee every two hours and I have to roll my gross fat body out of bed, lumber to the bathroom, pee, get a drink of water to try and alleviate the dry mouth I have because I'm so congested that I've become a mouth breather. I blow my nose and get these gross globs of bloody snot. It's disgusting. Then I go back to be and do it all over again. Yes, I'm sleeping with a humidifier next to me. Yes, I've tried Benadryl to help with both the hand rash and the congestion. It just dries me out that much more. I have five pillows in my bed to try and help with the aches and pains. They don't actually help much at all.

I'm back to sleeping in a bra because for the couple of weeks that I tried to sleep without one, my incision started to hurt. My boobs were pulling at it in a way that was painful. I'm a delight and lovely to be around.

Hats...I'm so sick of wearing hats. I'm lucky that it's winter and so no one thinks anything of my hats but my stupid head gets to hot after a few hours in a hat and when I'm in public, I'm not actually that comfortable taking off my hat, even though my hair is growing back. It's only about a quarter of an inch long, though, so not nearly long enough to go without the hat.

But can I say that when I see people wearing stocking caps as a fashion statement, I feel a rage well up in me that makes me want to go and snatch the hat off their stupid hairy heads, fill the hat with butter and beat them with it. Obviously, I don't do this but I want to because they have NO IDEA what it means to HAVE to wear a stupid had day in and day out and it just kind of in infuriates me.

I realize this is not rational. I know. I don't actually care, though, since I know I won't ever actually assault anyone with a butter beanie.

Steroids are evil. I know I need them to help keep the worst of the allergic reactions at bay. But the munchies, the insomnia, the irritation (see the above mention of wanting to use a butter beanie on fashion hat wearers.) They're tough to deal with. I've gained about six pounds in the past ten weeks. I have no energy to do anything about these eight pounds. I just want to eat waffles at 3am after taking a hot bath. Yeah, real conducive to losing weight.

I'm so tired.

I only have two more chemo sessions. Tom and I are meeting the radiologist tomorrow morning at 8. I'll know more about that after the appointment, obviously. I want to be well. I want to go back to work (sort of...) I want to take care of my husband and kids.

I know I'll get to. As long as I'm still here, I have a fighting chance. I know this. And knowing that Amy doesn't, well, it makes me feel like such a whiny brat. I will pull it all together now that I've given myself a moment to feel a little sorry for myself and get all my complaints out of my head.

I'll be okay. Hey, on the bright side, I've managed to avoid the dreaded diarrhea...I can always fall back on that.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Being Useful

I'm learning that I'm better when I'm busy.

I'm really good at sitting in the recliner and binge watching Netflix shows. But that's not really good for me. I feel kind of awful after a few hours of sitting in that chair. Even if some of that time is spent sleeping (which is actually better sleep than in my bed...remind me to tell you about how much work it feels like to try and sleep a night in my bed...)

Last weekend an old co-worker called me. He wanted to let me know that another co-worker was turning 50 and his (the birthday boy's) parents were taking him out for pizza. I created a FB group for my old co-workers to keep in touch. The one who called me asked if I'd post on that page letting people know about J's bday and maybe inviting anyone who wanted to surprise him.

I was happy to do this.

Within a couple of hours of my post, we had about twenty people saying they'd be there. It was great.

The party was set for Thursday.

I felt pretty crappy Thursday. I spent a lot of time in the recliner. I slept, I ate waffles, I watched all the episodes of season 2 of Selling Houses with Sarah Beeny. Then I decided I was going to shower because, damn it, I wanted to see my old co-workers.

That shower was exhausting. But I did it. And then I rested. Then I got in my car and drove twenty-five minutes to the pizza place. And I ate pizza and visited with people I hadn't seen in over two months.

I took off my hat to show off my hair growth and had people tell me how great I look. That was lovely and all but the best part was...I felt better. Getting out of the house, surprising J on his birthday, laughing and just seeing people I hadn't seen in a while was so nice.

Alyssa's got her school musical coming up.

When I went to the parent meeting for this musical about two months ago, I signed up to help with hair and makeup. I mean, I do Liv's hair every single day. How hard can it be to help out?

While at the meeting the mom in charge of costumes asked me if I had any ideas for one of Lyss's costumes (she's got four was five but she had to step out of one of them due to impossible costume changes.) I told L that my mom was great with a sewing machine and that she'd be happy to make Lyss's Blue Bird costume (it's awesome, I mean, seriously amazing.) Oh dear. I didn't realize what I was signing my poor mom up for. She's made costumes for Blue Bird, Donkey, Elf, young Shrek and so many more small projects. She's been amazing.

For my part, I have attended several practices to help with whatever I can possible help with. I've sewn a few hems, ripped out a few seams, etc. But it's the fact that I'm needed, even if just a little, that makes me get up and go to these practices.

I want to be useful. I want to get things done. I want to feel good and even when I don't, knowing there are things that need to be done and people counting on me helps me push past any discomfort and get up and get going.

I think that's the best thing for me.

Heck, some days I feel like I've accomplished something if I just get a load of laundry done from start to finish. It's the little things.

I also remind myself that this part of my life is not permanent. I won't always feel awful just from trying to sleep in my bed. Only three more chemo treatments. It's pretty great to be able to say that, if nothing else.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


I'm tired of talking about chemo and cancer. I'm tired of thinking about it. Maybe that's why I've been quiet here for the past couple of weeks. Sorry about that.

Alyssa has kept us busy with other things, though. She distracts me from my level 2 pain and my sleeplessness. She gets her braces off next Tuesday (one week to go!) She's so excited. I'm excited for her. It will be nice to enjoy her last three years of high school brace free. I will miss that metal mouth smile, though.

But on the bright side, Liv will probably get braces in the next year or two and I can enjoy her brace face for a few years.

Musical practice (I'm not allowed to call it play practice, per Alyssa J. Ordinary) is going well-ish. Mrs. F, the choir teacher and the director of the musical kind of stretches play practice as needed, which frustrates the parents of the kids who can't drive themselves. I've been REALLY lucky that Lyss's friend Tess and her mom usually bring Lyss home from practice. But I feel for Tess's mom because she's the one who often has to wait in the parking lot of the school for a half hour or more as practices goes over the allotted time. The musical they're putting on is Shrek. Alyssa has five parts. She's worked so freaking hard. I'm so proud of her I can't stand it.

My mom, the saint, got volunteered by someone to help with costumes. I will not confess to being that someone who volunteered her. It's not my fault she's so great with a sewing machine. She shouldn't have developed such skill if she didn't want me to brag about it and get her roped into making about seventeen costumes play musical.

Olivia is...Olivia. She's reading like a champ, struggling with math, stubborn as a mule while managing to keep us all laughing. She argues with her dad as if they're opposing lawyers in a criminal trial. She's so smart and yet sometimes, channeling that intelligences is tough. Her teachers are amazing.

Tom continues to be a source of strength for our family. He helps so much. His support humbles me. When we started this journey, I felt a lot of guilt over needing him and I felt I didn't deserve him. I've changed my mind. He's great but I do deserve all that he does for us. I'd do the same for him. That's what marriage is all about. Sometimes one person takes more than the other but at some point, I will be able to give to him and our family again and knowing that makes this a little easier.

Three more chemos. I meet the radiologist in a week. More to report soon, I guess.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Memorial

We had my cousin's memorial last Thursday. It's tough having a memorial for a 48 year old. I mean, I'm 47, so 48 feels REALLY young to me. Aren't we basically 16? Sixteen is way too young to die. So is 48.

There was so much I wanted to say during her memorial and yet...I didn't stand up and say anything. All of The Aunts spoke. (My grandma has 6 living daughters, since my teens my cousins and I have always called them The Aunts. The Aunts run the family.)

They talked about how loving Amy was right from the start, how much she loved babies, even when she was just a baby herself. They talked about her bright, sunny spirit, her love for her family, especially her two kids. They cried and made the rest of us cry.

Growing up, there were six of us kids that were separated by about nine years from oldest (Tanya) to youngest (Jason.) We were the offspring of four of The Aunts (there were more to come, but they were basically a half a generation behind the six of us.) We were always together, always finding trouble and backing each other when we did.

After the memorial, there was a dinner in the basement of the church. Fun fact, Tom and I got married in that church. It is a block away from the house I grew up in. The Ladies of the church provided a lot of the food for the dinner but The Aunts provided most of it. Even in grief, they take charge and manage everything. It's just who they are.

I was hugged a lot during that dinner. So many people offered their prayers for my continued treatments and healing. Quite a few reminded me that Amy would not want me to indulge in survivor's guilt. Some told me that my recovery was no longer just my recovery but also a tribute to Amy. No pressure, right? Some expressed surprise that I was at the service at all, saying I should avoid crowds and germs. I reminded them that I have two kids in public school, germs are a given. I also told anyone who said anything about it that the whole point of treatment is to keep living. I can't lock myself away and wait it out.

Tom and I talked quietly during the dinner. He informed me that when he dies, he wants to be cremated and then have his ashes spread during the following family reunion. He thought that would be a nice tribute. He also declared that he doesn't want any sort of service. He said it didn't make sense to him. I will remind him at a later date that services such as the one we were attending aren't so much for the dead as they are for the living. And I'll tell him that if his children want a service, I will have one for them. If it gives them comfort and a sense of closure, well, it's the least we can do for them.

This is all assuming that he dies before I do. That is obviously not a given.

I think it was my brother who told me not to feel guilty for continuing my fight against cancer and for living. He then turned to Tom and told him he shouldn't feel guilty for my health and for still having his wife in his life. Tom shook Jason's hand and said he wasn't feeling so bad about that as much as he was fighting his own guilt over his continued good health while I endure chemo and fight to regain my health.

This was the first I'd heard of Tom feeling guilty for being well while I battle cancer. I expressed my surprise over this and he shrugged, "Well, I am older than you are. I'm supposed to be the one who gets sick."

Yeah, it doesn't work that way but it was a very sweet sentiment.

It also proves my suspicion that it's harder for him to watch me go through all this than it is for me to actually go through it.

My prayer is that my cousin Amy is at peace, that she's celebrating in Heaven with my uncles, Grice (aka Smokey) and Keith. She loved a good party and I pray they're up there dancing with the angels.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Toothless Wonder

Olivia has lost three teeth in the last three or so weeks. The first one was one that was loose for all of a day and a half. She ripped that one out while at school.

The second one was loose FOREVER, so long, in fact, that the adult tooth is completely through. It had come in behind the baby tooth. It drove me nuts for months, but didn't bother Liv at all.

This last tooth, the one she yanked out this evening, I didn't even realize was loose. She's been acting weird about chewing on the left side of her mouth for a week or so but she always told me it was her inner cheek that was bothering her, that she'd bitten it and it hurt. She is a lying liar who lies.

This evening we sat on the couch together to wind down before going to bed and she opened her hand for me. Clenched in her fist was a tooth incased in a silver crown.

I asked her if it had just come out. She nodded. She showed me the place the tooth had previously been in her mouth. The adult tooth is right there, almost even with the surface of her gums. Ick.

I asked her if that tooth had been bothering her for the past week and she'd just said it was her cheek so I wouldn't try and wiggle the tooth for her (I'm guilty of that, more on that in the next couple of paragraphs.) She nodded. Stinker.

There is a fourth tooth that needs to come out. It's on the top right, just above the one that had the permanent tooth emerge behind the baby tooth. This one is lose too and...the permanent tooth is also already through. This time, the tooth came in ABOVE the baby tooth. She looks vaguely vampiric. It's kind of creepy.

Each night, after I brush her teeth, I close the bathroom door and make her let me wiggle, push and kind of twist that baby tooth. I tell her we close the door so no one can hear her scream.

Yes, I'm sadistic. But wait, no. I never actually make her scream. I just say that because she's cute when she says, all outraged, "Mom!"

But I do try and work that tooth for her. She seems perfectly happy to have two teeth where there should be only one.

It shouldn't be long before she's managed to rid herself of all the late moving baby teeth and she joins the world of orthodontia. I hope so anyway. I'd rather not spend another $800 to the oral surgeon to do what I can do behind a closed bathroom door.

Monday, February 5, 2018

No Words - Or Maybe All the Words

Before I started chemo but after my diagnosis and surgery to remove my tumor, my cousin, who is just a year old than I am, was hospitalized. After a week in the hospital, she was released with a diagnosis of cancer. But they weren't sure what her primary cancer was.

The details aren't mine to share but the grief is.

She died on Saturday after months of treatments, hospitalizations, suffering and fighting. Her doctor says she probably had this cancer, whatever type it was, for more than two years.

By the time she died, the tumor on her neck was pushing into her windpipe, she couldn't breathe, she couldn't eat, she couldn't sleep and yet, she couldn't wake up.

I know my family isn't all the different from other families in that my mom and her siblings raised their kids more like siblings than cousins. We spent summers together, the six of us. My mom and three of her sisters all lived within two blocks of each other and we kids were sent outside at 9am and expected back in for dinner around 6. We were always together. Sometimes it was all six of us, sometimes, we'd separate into two groups of three, separated by gender.

I don't know where I'm going with this.

Maybe I just need to mark the day, write a reminder of all that she meant to all of us. Amy has two kids, Truman and Hannah. They're both grown now, but you never don't need your mom. My heart is broken for them.

This all brings the fact that cancer kills to the forefront of my brain. I know we caught mine early and I don't want to make Amy's diagnosis and death about me. But isn't that what we do? We make everything about us. It's all about our perspective, how we handle things as they happen. She's the closest person I've ever lost. I know how lucky that makes me. But acknowledging that luck doesn't make losing her any less sucky. I guess I'll take Julie's advice and wallow in the yuckiness of it all for a while. That's often how grief works.

She will be missed. She is loved. Her memory lives on and will continue to do so.

I will continue to fight my own battle because how can I not?

I pray she's at peace, she's resting, she's no longer fighting and suffering. I pray for her mom, her children, her boyfriend, who loved her so. I pray for all of us every single day.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


I've been quiet the past week or so...

Last week was tough physically. I felt pretty awful on Friday, my feet are numb off and on, which is annoying and worrying but not really that big a deal. By Sunday, I felt good enough to make potato soup and chili and on Monday I baked some cookies. So I'm trying here. I'm trying to contribute to my family and our household. But sometimes, I just want to sit in the recliner and snooze.

This week has been low emotionally. I feel like all my emotions are very close to the surface, as if I'm constantly near tears.

I haven't cried much since my diagnosis. I mean, why? What's the point? Sure, it's like a release of tension but in the end, we just have to keep on keeping on. But this week...I'm just kind of sad.

And yet I know I really don't have any reason to be. I'm so, so lucky. I know this. I'm fine. I'm getting through it all. I have an amazing support system and yet...there are tears in my eyes as I watch Maury tell some dude he is NOT the father.

It's so stupid.

I met a lovely woman today at my gynecologist. She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer about a year ago. She's still got her port and going for treatments (hormone blockers) very three weeks. She had a double mastectomy and there was cancer in her lymph nodes. She was so kind and lovely to me. She was so sympathetic to what I'm going through and yet she went through and is STILL going through so much more. I felt like such a fraud for accepting her kindness and her support.

I should have been supporting her.

Here I am...I was diagnosed with a single tumor in just my left breast. It was removed and there was no other cancer anywhere else. My cancer was stage one. I am currently cancer free and over half way through my treatments. I'm not facing breast reconstructive surgery because I just had a lumpectomy. My eyebrows didn't fall out. I never threw up from the chemo.

I'm fine! Why don't I feel fine today?

Tomorrow will be better. It always is.