Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Acupuncture Wonders


Just finished my second acupuncture/reiki appointment and I feel way better than I have been. I actually did a little leg work out on my weight bench. Yeah! A small one, but it's a start. I've given my arm a little extra exercise too because it has not been getting enough and hence hasn't been getting much better. Owe, it actually hurts my shoulder to type. May have to keep this short. The acupuncture is supposed to help the nausea and my blood cells and my immune system. I came home and was able to eat w/o gagging, so something must be working. I've been having this weird thing happen where I get a craving for something, like grilled cheese, so I make it. I eat a bit of it, then get a bite in my mouth that I have to spit out, then I have to throw the rest of it away without looking at it. It's a lot like morning sickness, but without the sweet little baby at the end of it all. I guess I get my health and well being at the end of it all.

Ok, this is hurting too much. More later.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Hair, New Day


In a few minutes I'll be going to have my hair done. I'm going to ask for a "pixie" cut and see how that goes. I'll get my wig cut to my style today too. I'm bringing along a bunch of hats just in case the wig sucks. I finally broke through my block last night and had a friend sit with my while I ordered some cute hats online. We talked through the hair thing, and it might be ok. Got a great reminder from F that it's just hair, it will grow back by summer time, and it could be an adventure.

Had my second chemo yesterday. Learned that I have to come in for the next 5 days and get the gut shot to grow white blood cells. It was going to be just one day, but because of the way the chemo was split this time, I have to do it this way instead. Not too thrilled at all at all at all. I'll have them give me two days worth there, then D will do the remaining 3 at home. I guess after getting 5 in a row, it won't be such a big deal to get one every 2 weeks after this.

Yesterday morning was so hard. I took the girls out to a store and got exhausted and cranky. Got home and we fought a little. I crawled into bed and couldn't stop crying. I had chemo at 1:30 and did not see how I was going to pull myself together enough to even get ready and go. J, my awesome babysitter got here early and took the girls to the park. They love him and were so excited to get to be with someone fun. I got a 30 minute nap and some meditation time and woke up feeling much better and more willing to face the day. My friend S came to get me and arrived with a HUGE bunch of cookies and chicken noodle soup and I was ALL better after that! It's amazing how a little kindness and companionship can turn my mood around. Off we went and we got there and there was a bit of a wait. All together it took 2 1/2 hours. I got all the pre-drugs again, the steroids and anti-nausea. The chemo was clear this time, which I prefer to the koolaid red color. I held it again and asked God to put in some healing, powerful energy. The needle didn't hurt quite as much this time, but it's still not fun, I felt better and better about being there as the time went on. It is such a warm, nurturing atmosphere and the nurses are great. Nurse Rugby played the singing bowl again and Nurse Texas was as kind as ever. They greet every patient with a hug and again when we leave. I saw Dr. T for a bit and he told me to exercise my arm more and referred me to PT. The swelling is normal he said.

This morning, waiting for my friend/wise woman to take me to the hair place, I feel oddly happy and peaceful. The weird body feeling I've been having- where I'm just not comfortable in my body, is not here today. YEAH YEAH!!!!!! I feel a tiny glimpse of normal! I listened to a great relaxation cd last night and had the image of a solid bridge being the chemo. The bridge was made up of 8 solid, thick boards. Each board is one round of chemo. On the other side is health and happiness. Well, I know on the other side is a month of rest, then 45 days of radiation. But, I'll make a new bridge with 45 bricks when the time comes. I'm going to ask Kaycee if she can draw this bridge and we can all color in a board after each round of chemo.

Ok, off to change my hair!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Taste of Normal

Dec 28, 2008

I got to go on a date last night with F to the hot tubs in town and it was exquisite. As soon as I sunk into the water, my arm felt great- weightless and almost pain free. Ahhhh, it was nice. It was the first time I've submerged in water since before this last surgery. As I type this, I've got a bath filling up for myself. I think warm water is going to be key in healing my arm. It was nice, too, to be on a date and to feel almost like my old self.

I realized today that I've got some energy, but just not enough to do what I used to do. I was talking to my friend D about how I'm kind of bored. I realized that much of my time was filled with house work and going places with the girls. I can't really do much house work, so I have all this time on my hands. I need some new hobbies I think. I used to do some quiet things when I stayed home with Karina when she was a baby- I quilted and did scrap booking. Maybe I could start that again. Mostly I'm missing soccer and skiing. I'd be skiing right now if things were different.

We went to a Duck basketball game and that felt good and normal. More chemo tomorrow. Blah. I'm not getting my head shaved- just cut really short for now. It's all I can do.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Blah's

Not sure what the date is- a few days after Christmas. I've been so tired- taking 2 naps a day when I can. My brother left, and my mom is still here, so most days I've been able to get plenty of rest. I don't think its the chemo that's making me tired, I think its the anti-nausea pills. The ones that say they cause dizziness and sleepiness and be careful when driving and that I'm supposed to take for 2-4 days afterwards. The good news is that my appetite is ok. Not great. I feel hungry, but don't eat too much. Probably from inactivity though. My main gripe is my arm. I am THRILLED that the drain came out- the dr. took it out right before chemo. But, it is swollen and sore and very hard to type. It gets better and worse throughout the day. Today is the first day I haven't taken anti-nausea all day, so I'm not so drugged up feeling. But, this will be short as my arm is feeling numb. I have to go back in on Monday for more chemo. Last week, only one of my two drugs were available. The other one was snowed in at the Portland airport. So, part two on Monday. Ick.

The day of the chemo wasn't terrible. I started the day getting acupuncture and reiki. Then got to Dr. T's office and it was very pretty and festive. I spent some time in the mediation room first. Nurse Rugby played the crystal bowl right as the chemo was beginning. Nurse Texas ( a very nice, nurturing woman with a Texas accent) encouraged me to hold the bag of chemo and put good energy into it. It looked like red Koolaide. At first all I could do was poke it. Then, I did hold it and put some good, healing thoughts into it. I have read that people who believe that their treatment is a good thing and that it will work do better. I cried when the needle first went in- it hurt and I'm so super sensitive to needles now. I think I yelled a bit too. But, I didn't cuss! Well, I did cuss when Dr. T cut the stitches and took out the tube, but we were in his office so none of the other patients heard.

After the chemo, I was so tired. Again, I don't really think it was because of the drug. I think it was all the anticipatory stress and lack of sleep going into it. Christmas was ok. Lot's of napping and taking it easy, but very festive and fun.

More later when I can type better.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First Chemo- Not So Bad!!


Just got back from my first chemo day. The anticipation was horrible. The actual event was non-eventful- Thank You God!!!!!! More details later. Thank you so so so much to my friend K who drove me and who stayed to be with me through the first few hours and held my hand during the hard parts. Thank you so so so much to my friend D who stayed with me for the second half and made sure I was ok and brought me a nice bamboo blanket. Thank you so so so much to my boyfriend F who brought me food and made me laugh and reminded me that I'm normal.

Here's my message from the universe today. I thought it was great!

If it's not yet obvious to you, the real reason for this season is you, Krista. A more perfect child of the Universe has never lived. Until now, only a celebration cloaked in myth and mystery could hint at your sublime heritage and divine destiny. You are life's prayer of becoming and its answer. The first light at the dawn of eternity, drawn from the ether, so that the Universe might know its depths, discover its heights, and frolic in endless seas of blessed emotion.
A pioneer into illusion, an adventurer into the unknown, and a lifter of veils. Courageous, heroic and exalted by billions in the unseen.

To give beyond reason. To care beyond hope. To love without limit. To reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity - traits of the immortal - your badges of honor. Wear them with a pride as great as the unspeakable pride we feel for you.

Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the destiny of all who will ever follow.

This is the time of year we celebrate Krista Shultz.

Bowing before Greatness,
The Universe

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Day


Today is my last chemo free day. I woke up too early and can't get back to sleep. I first got a call yesterday from the dr.'s office asking me if I realized that I was going in for my first chemo appointment on Christmas Eve. Well DUH!!! Of course I realized that. I've been stressing about that for quite some time. I was told that it might be better for me to wait till next Monday because if I have any complications, there won't be anyone in the office for the next 4 days. Oh great, I thought. I had actually come to a point of acceptance about my start date. My family is in town to watch the kids, and the girls will be distracted by Christmas. If I wait till Monday, my family will be gone and the kids are still out of school and I'd have to find someone to watch them. Besides, what about all that stuff Dr. T said about how I needed to start as soon as possible? I told them I wanted to stick to my original start date. A little bit later, another call from the rugby nurse asking if I realized that I was starting chemo on Christmas Eve. AARRRGGGHHHH! Of course I realize it! He asked if I wanted to come in a little bit earlier so I could be done earlier. So, now I'm having my acupuncture appointment at 8:30, then heading straight over to the chemo place afterwards. I had myself reassured that maybe it wouldn't be so bad and maybe I'd be one of the ones who sailed right through with little side effects. But, the dr.'s office reminded me about how I needed to be SURE to have all of my anti-nausea medicine on hand and to be SURE to take it properly so I don't get sick. I have been a little sick this past week with a cold, and I'm very scared about being sick during this. I just can't interact well and take good care of the girls when I'm sick. I'm nervous about having them out of school and home with me all next week, with my family gone. I know I've got people to call for help, but it gets hard to keep asking. And besides, what I really want is for me to get to spend this time off with them. I get to missing them and I get to missing our fun times together when I'm in bed and they're gone.

My drain is still in. Still draining too much to get taken out. I called the office yesterday to INSIST that they take it out. They said no. I had D come last night to unclog it. It was so clogged up that it began leaking out of the incision. She worked on it for a LONG time and while I'm grateful, it totally SUCKED. We took a cookies and milk break in between and that was nice. Karina made a bunch of great Christmas cookies and I'm not holding back at all on the sweets, so I ate a bunch and thoroughly enjoyed them. I thought about starting to exercise a little bit and I got around to clearing all the junk off of my weight bench, but ran out of energy before I could actually put weights on and get started. I had the thought that once chemo starts and once the drain is taken out, I might actually begin to feel better than I have been feeling. This drain is a real drag and it's slowing down and making me cautious of my body. That and my arm isn't all better yet. I've been going to extra Alanon meetings, and everyone hugs afterwards, and I've been trying to protect that side, but people are enthusiastic this time of year so I've gotten some painful hugs. But I'm grateful.

I got too go to a few Christmas parties recently and it was so fun to feel normal for a bit and to just relax and enjoy myself. I did not get to go on my overnight trip away, but F and I got to spend some time together and again, it is so nice to have little bits of time where I feel like myself again. It's nice to remember that I'm not Cancer Lady. I'm actually Krista, who happens to have cancer right now, but won't have it forever. It's just here for a little inconvenient visit and will be gone way after it's overstayed its welcome.

I've been listening to some talks on CD from some people- not sure what to call them- spiritual leaders maybe? All stuff to do with putting my intention out to the universe and getting back what I'm focusing on. So again, I've been trying to focus on health and wellness. The speaker I heard yesterday talked about how going through hard times is like getting into a boat and going down stream. The stream is going to carry me along no matter what. I get to decide whether I want to point my boat upstream and paddle like crazy, but get pulled down stream anyway. Or, I could decide to point my boat downstream an have an easy time of it. The pain is in the struggle, not the destination. I've been trying to hold the image in my mind of the chemo flowing into my veins like a stream, and I can float along in my kayak and go with it and accept it and be grateful for it. My body is going to be a war zone with a strong weapon firing away at any rogue cancer cells. But, there is great beauty even in war zones. I remember being on middle of the night guard duty the night the U.S. first bombed Baghdad in the Gulf War. I didn't know what was happening, but I could see constant flashes of light on the horizon, and I could hear the distant booming. I thought it was a lightning and thunder storm for awhile, then found out what it was. I was horrified deep in my soul with each flash of light. I remember feeling so sick about what was happening. I looked straight up into the sky to ask God what the heck he was doing, and I remember the night sky was so beautiful. It was perfectly clear and full of stars. Right above the horizon where the bombing was happening, the big dipper was sitting magnificently huge and bright. I had never seen it like that before. I had this sense of peace settle over me and I got the feeling that even though big, crappy things were happening at the moment that didn't make any sense, God was in charge and was watching over the world. That's my thought for myself right now- God is in charge and is smart and knows what the big picture is. I view cancer as a big crappy thing, but I don't want to miss the big dipper gift on the other side.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chemo for Christmas


Ok, it's official. I really am getting chemo for Christmas. My first treatment is at 10:45 Dec 24. They are sending me home with the $10,000.00 shot to give to myself on Christmas day. Well, I told them NO WAY could I give it to myself, so D (my friend the nurse) agreed to come over and give it to me. I could have delayed it to the next week, but not after the talk Dr. T gave me last time. I'm glad I've got family here to orchestrate Christmas, and maybe it will be nice to have the girls distracted by presents so I can rest if I need to. Of course I haven't actually gotten them any presents yet. Between the snow, the appointments, and the fatigue, I haven't gotten into the Christmas shopping spirit yet. I do believe that every Christmas after this one will be so good for me and I believe that I will always be grateful in the future that I'm not getting chemo for Christmas.

I was in Dr. T's office for 2 1/2 hours today getting more chemo information. I am astounded at the amount of drugs that are going to be pumped into my body. Two chemo drugs, plus a whole bunch more to prevent allergic reactions and nausea. I will get a whole bunch of drugs to take home with me too to take before and after for a variety of reasons. The good thing about all these drugs is that they are designed to ease the effects of chemo on me. Mrs. T. told me today that I should NOT be puking at all from the chemo. If I do start puking, I first take one drug, then if that doesn't work, I go on to another one (the second one is something like $75.00 a pill), then go on to a third one if needed from there. I got my schedule of when I'll be going in. Every other Wednesday for chemo, the next day for the miracle shot, and a few other times throughout the weeks for various other reasons. I also got the talk from the business office about my cost per month for the treatment- $370.00- enough for a nice car payment. Luckily I will just pay this amount up to my insurance's cap, which I will hit within the first three months. I got a bill today from the doctor's office for the last surgery. I am amazed at the cost of medical care. I spent so long in the military system, where I never received a bill for anything. I really had no concept of how expensive medical care is. I found it interesting that each procedure was broken down- $3,000 for the port-a-cath, $900 for the lumpectomy, part II, $1700 for the removal of the lymph nodes, and on and on. Weird, weird, weird.

After the appointment, I had an awesome lunch at Laughing Planet with my mom and brother. Then went to a wig shop nearby. I was in a much better mood today. I didn't find anything I liked. They were all so poofy and wig-like. We went across the street to Sweet Life afterwards and I got my cake and tea- delicious and I savored every bite! I went to one more wig shop and sort of liked a real hair one, but it was the wrong color and the wrong style. Finally, I decided to go back to the original shop that I had had such a bad experience in a few days ago. This time the owner was there and she was very kind and helpful. She found a wig for me that she said would be perfect once she ordered it in my color and cut it into my style. I can't quite picture it, but I trust her (no other choice- no more wig shops in town to try). I'm waiting till after Christmas, next week, to have my head shaved and do the wig thing. One trauma at a time.

I also set up an appointment with an acupuncturist for right before the chemo. Mrs. T highly recommends acupuncture before each treatment to help with my immune system and my appetite. I'm willing to do anything I can to hopefully feel ok during the next 4 months. I've got it all marked out on my calendar, and as long as I don't have to delay any treatments, I should have my hair just starting to grow in by my 40th birthday in June. Hair for my birthday- yeah!

Trouble sleeping tonight. So much weighing so heavily on my mind. I've got to find a way back to my positive, upbeat place where I believe the universe will give me whatever I can imagine. Maybe tomorrow. No appointments tomorrow, hopefully just Christmas shopping and fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Heart


I saw my heart today, on an ultra sound machine. It was as miraculous as seeing Karina on an ultra sound when I was pregnant (I didn't have one with Kaycee). I could see it beating, and I could see the different chambers. I don't really know what I was looking at, but it looked pretty strong and healthy to me. The heart is a miracle. It is so amazing the way the human body works. The tech doing the exam commented to me that the human body can take quite a beating, such as with chemotherapy, and bounce back surprisingly well. I was a bit freaked when he showed me a piece of the port-a-cath dangling down into one of my heart chambers. I couldn't quite read from him whether or not this is normal. I'll have to ask Dr. T. The thought of the chemo being dumped right into my heart is awful. But, I like the thought of my body taking a beating, and then bouncing back.

I put in a full day today- a few hours of work, then lots of driving through the snow to my different appointments. I was so tired by the end of the day. I'm wondering- will chemo fatigue be like the fatigue I've had for the past four years from working full time and being a single parent? Or will I have that same fatigue, plus a whole other layer? My last appointment was an ultra sound of my ovaries. That one was not so miraculous like the heart one. I won't go into details here, but I will say it was horribly uncomfortable and a crappy way to spend an afternoon. It was, I believe, my EIGHTH visit to Oregon Imaging. I just repeated over and over again these two phrases: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change" and "I'm grateful for this technology", during the exam. I got through it and I even had 20 minutes to myself today to do a little Christmas shopping! I got a few presents and I got myself some hats made from Alpaca fur. I tried one on and tucked all my hair up in it just to see what it'd be like. I looked at all the people around me today and realized that MANY people are wearing hats right now. So, for the next few months anyway, wearing a hat will be no big deal. And, no one gave me a second look with my hair tucked up. This might possibly not be as bad as I've been imagining it. The only thing was that once I got inside, I wanted to take the hat off- it got itchy and hot.

My brother arrived today for a visit and it was SO nice to come home, completely exhausted, and be able to eat dinner and go lay down for a nap. He cleaned the kitchen and spent time with the girls and I was able to relax and rest without guilt. My mom comes tomorrow and it will be so nice to have extra help with the girls and with the day to day stuff of life.

Tomorrow is my appointment with the nurses to get more chemo info. I'm feeling so good and upbeat today. I knew yesterday's feelings would pass. I should tell myself that tomorrow might be hard again, but it will pass. I should plan a trip to Sweet Life afterwards to cheer myself up with a HUGE piece of decadent, gooey, chocolate cake!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Talk


I got "the talk" today from Dr. T. about chemotherapy. It wasn't fun AT ALL and I'm in a pretty pissed off, weepy, tired kind of a mood. I think I might have a cold too. I also attempted to go wig shopping today, but it turned out bad. Or maybe good, depending on what spin I put on it.

Here's the chemo plan: Beginning soon (still don't know exactly when, but probably Monday), I'll begin. I will get 2 types of drugs for 4 cycles, 2 weeks apart. Then, I'll switch and get one type of drug for 4 cycles, 2 weeks apart. This way of doing it is called "dose dense". There is a reason why I'm having it done this way, but I don't remember, or maybe I didn't really understand when it was explained to me. After each chemo, I'll go in the next day and get a shot of something to boost my white blood count. (Time out here for a little disclaimer. I am sure that I don't fully understand all the medical stuff that is explained to me, so when I explain it here, it is just as I understood it, and may have lots of inaccuracies). A friend went through this a few years ago and called this her "$6,000.00 shot because that's what it costs. I asked Dr. T if this was the same shot, and he said yes, but now its the $10,000.00 shot. Inflation I guess. I also have a bunch of drugs to take just before and just after chemo. I'm thinking they are to help with the side effects. The hard part about today was that Dr. T had to explain all of the possible side effects. And with each side effect, he told me about a drug to counteract those side effects, but then each of those drugs had their own list of side effects, and on and on for almost an hour. I just can't believe how I've lived my life mostly drug free and really prided myself on keeping my body clean and healthy. And now its going to be dumped full of drugs. He described chemo as being like round up- great at killing weeds, but also does horrible damage to the surrounding lawn. Just for today I'm feeling pretty rotten about all of this. I know I need to shift my thinking and put a positive spin on all this, but for today I'm giving myself permission to feel rotten. After his big chem talk, I asked him what would happen if I didn't do it. He said that my recurrence rate is 45% and that if I don't have chemo and it comes back, I'll die. Just like that, he said I'd die. Then it hit me. I have CANCER. People die from cancer. I think he was trying to make the point that as much as chemo sucks, it sucks a lot less than dying. Death is the BIG HUSH HUSH that no one (myself included) wants to talk about or think about or bring up with me. I've pushed that thought so far away that I didn't think about it until today. Ok, this is pretty serious I'm thinking. I guess I'll have the chemo and be damn grateful for it.

F was with me for this whole talk and I was so grateful to not be alone. We enjoyed some humor after we left, then I got back home. I was alone for a bit with the girls on play dates. I got a message from the doctor's office about my next 3 appointments. Two tomorrow. One to check my heart to see if its strong enough to tolerate the chemo that has the side effect of weakening the heart. The other one to check the cyst on my ovary. Just for morbid fun I looked up survival rates for ovarian cancer. Pretty dismal. No one but me seems concerned about this cyst, so I'm taking that as a good sign. Day after tomorrow I have another appointment with the nurses where I get my intro to chemo class. I'm supposed to get a bunch of stuff to read about each of the drugs, the side effects, and what to do for each one. I'm supposed to read all this before starting chemo. I've kind of decided that I need to not delve too deeply into the bad stuff about these drugs- I've got to take them anyway, so maybe I need to remain a little bit ignorant in order to preserve my sanity. And I should try to remember that many, many people won't experience the negative parts of the drugs. I could be one of those people.

My wig experience sucked, The lady who I made the appointment with was out, and the hair person thought I was there for a hair cut and she was running late and Kaycee was home with a friend and the roads sucked and I wasn't going to get out of their before dark and as I walked into the wig room, the lady commented that she didn't know anything about wigs and the first wig I saw was one of those grey ones again. Thank GOD I was with my sponsor. We left and had a hot drink and talked. I made a new plan for how I'm going to have my head shaved and I'll try again another day for the wig. I think today I needed to just relax and talk a little bit. I'm going to end this now before it gets any more negative. Just a day for me to do some more grieving and crying. It will pass.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Delay


It snowed and snowed today, beginning at about 1:00 in the morning, when I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Lot's of soreness, swelling, and discomfort in the area around the drain last night. I can't sleep on my side and last night it was hard to sleep on my back. Finally gave up and watched a chick flick until about 2:00, then went to sleep. I realized that there would be no school, so I didn't set the alarm. Woke up to screaming, crazy kids and they went out to play while I went back to sleep. They were cold and tired by about 9:00, so I finally had to get up. Walked out of my calm, peaceful bedroom into a house full of wet shoes, boots, socks, pants, shirts, gloves, scarves, jackets, etc, strewn throughout the living room and dining room. The kitchen was full of pots of snow and half a bottle of pricey, real maple syrup had been dumped into the pots. They were making candy. Kaycee was cold and upset that the snow was too dry to make a decent snow man and both girls were really, really wanting me to get dressed and come out to play with them. Last year on the first snow day I put chains on and we loaded up the sleds and found some great hills and played and played outside for most of the day. Today I woke up tired, drained, and in pain and irritated at the mess. Every surface, from the counters to the cupboards to the door knobs to the floor, was sticky with maple syrup. I got the girls breakfast, asked them to please clean up, and went back to bed. What a drag. It must be such a bummer to them to have me so un-energetic. They were both a little pissed at me, but they mostly cleaned up and let me sleep some. I was hoping to keep my doctor's appointment today so I could see what's happening with the drain- I think it's gotten clogged up again. But, he had an emergency surgery during my appointment and the only other time, I was told, was 30 minutes from when I was talking with them on the phone. There was no way I could get the girls together, find a ride, and get across town in the snow in that amount of time. I changed the appointment to tomorrow morning. Not sure if I'll make it with the snow and possibly the kids out of school again. Kind of nervous and relieved about the delay- just that much longer to keep my hair. I only have two people that I'm comfortable enough to ask for help unclogging the drain- my best friend and my boyfriend. I asked the boyfriend to come over and work on unclogging the drain. Such romance. Just before he got here, I was trying to take a nap when Karina began screaming about a dead bird in the hallway. I really, really didn't want to get out of bed to see what was going on, but I had to. Karina was in her room, peering out the door. Kaycee was screeching nearby. Grace the cat had a bird in her mouth and was growling. The bird was not dead. I somehow got the bird into the bathroom and shut the door. I thought about how I'm supposed to be having limited stress so I can be zen-like and full of healing energy. Somehow life happens and doesn't stop for anything, not even cancer. Thankfully God is kind and F showed up and dealt with the bird while we all hid in our rooms. He then stuck around and worked on unclogging the drain. This is done by pinching the tube with one hand, near where it is coming out of my body and squeezing all the gunk down the tube with the other hand. It really, really sucks. It hurts so bad, and my entire arm hurt today just from him touching the drain. The pulling sensation is atrocious. I cussed and cried and yelled and we got through it. We have interesting "dates". The boyfriend must be a saint- he keeps coming back!

Last night was hard because I finished the book, "Cancer is a Bitch", and was feeling so emotional at the end. It's a great book, and I really related to the author's sense of humor and so many of her reactions to cancer and to her kids were so similar to mine. But, it ended with her having some thing on her liver and a cyst on her kidney and having to go in a few times a year for check ups and always wondering if and when and where the cancer might pop up in her body. And, one of her friends had a different kind of cancer at the same time and died. And, I've run into a few people these last few weeks who don't really know what to say to me, so they tell me stories about a sister's best friend's mother's aunt who died from breast cancer and sometimes they even sprinkle in a few horrid details. Or sometimes people will offer me unsolicited medical advice about what I should or should not be doing. So far I just kind of stand there frozen and horrified and feeling awful and not knowing what to say. What I really want to say is "Shut the F... up! I'm sending positive thoughts only into the universe so only positive things will come back to me and you're messing up my concentration!" But, I'm too polite or something, so I say nothing. My sponser helped me today to work on a few polite, short phrases to protect my fragile emotions and get people to stop spouting off crap. I'll work on it. Or I won't leave the house. Or something. I walked into a crowded restaurant this weekend and had the image of a flashing neon sign above my head blaring out "BREAST CANCER". But then I looked at the people in the restaurant and realized that to them, I looked perfectly normal. It felt kind of good to be somewhere anonymous where no one knew about me. At the same time, it also feels good to be surrounded by people who do know and who love me anyway. Even the people who make the insensitive comments I know mean no harm. I think sometimes people just don't know what to say. I know that the few experiences I've had with people I've know who have gotten some sort of horrible diagnosis, I haven't known what to say either. Cancer is awkward, messy, inconvenient, inconsiderate, and irrational.

I took some pain medication, which I had hoped to be done with, and took a nap. The girls let me sleep for a whole hour, and when I got up, we made a ginger bread house together. It was the end of the night, but we finally, finally got a little bit of normal, sweet, family bonding time together. I love those girls- they are so resilient and full of energy and life. I hope they are in school tomorrow!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moving Forward


I've rejoined the world a bit this weekend. Yeah! I still have the awful/wonderful drain in, so it makes it hard for me to go out in public. I imagine that everyone looks at me and knows what's under my shirt. But really, who cares? So I went out Friday to a place run by volunteers that gives out free wigs and hats to people with cancer. I brought a friend and am so thankful that I did. It was a creepy experience. The building was old and run down, and the volunteer didn't smile or introduce herself to us. She just led us into a back room with a bunch of wigs and a few hats and scarves. The wigs were creepy and crappy looking. Most of them were grey or silver, and the one long haired curly one was all tangled. I started out with some hats and found a few pretty ones. A lot of them are crocheted and donated and I thought about the people who made them and their kindness. I had to put a pantyhose stocking thing over my hair before I could try anything on. I tried for some humor and pulled it all the way over my face. The stone-faced volunteer wasn't amused. I ended up tucking all of my hair up under the stocking so I could get a better idea of what bald would look like. I tried on a pretty blue hat and with my hair up I could see my neck for the first time. I actually didn't look too bad and I am planning to get a bunch of beautiful, dangly earrings to wear, and maybe I'll even wear make-up sometimes like the hat models do in the catalogues. Its funny, the hat models all have these beautiful, healthy faces and make hats look glamorous and sexy. I have a feeling chemo might not look quite that good on me. Just for fun my friend and I tried on the long-haired, curly, tangled Tina Turner wig. The volunteer, again, was not amused. We got out of there as fast as we could and went to my doctor's office to see about getting my drain unplugged.

No one was around the office on a Friday, just a few office staff and nurse Zach, who looked more like a rugby player than a nurse. He worked on unplugging my drain. For an hour. When my friend works on it, I can only bear it for a few minutes- it is so gross and the tugging aggravates the nerves in my arm and gives me the car sick feeling and I have a tendency to cuss and yell a bit. I wanted to kick Zach a few times, and cuss at him, but I didn't know him well enough. The physician's assistant came in too and talked to me about chemotherapy. I am feeling better and better about it. She suggested I stay as active as possible, including playing soccer once a week. The only time to take it easy is if my blood count is low (or something like that) and that they would be drawing blood once a week to check. Once a week?! She suggested I work 6 hour days and not be an over-achiever during chemo. How well am I going to get to know these people? Luckily I really, really like everyone I've met in this office and the atmosphere is so warm and cozy and unlike a doctor's office, so I actually feel kind of good when I'm there. Weird I know, but its one of the reasons why I picked this center.

Today I went to the holiday market and found a beautiful, soft, velvety bag to hold my hair when it comes off. Its purple and has a leaf pattern on it. It reminds me of the vision I had in the MRI machine of the tree with the fall leaves on it. I guess I'll be more like that tree than I imagined. I'll spend the winter bare and resting, then by summer (I hope I hope), I'll have my new, beautiful hair. Many people have told me that its common for hair to grow back in completely different than before. Maybe mine will be thick and curly, who knows. I've been looking at the winter trees, and there is something so mysterious and magical about them- they look so dead, but everyone knows they are ancient and full of life, just waiting to burst forth after their winter's rest. I'll create some sort of beautiful ceremony for my hair. People tell me I will be forever changed after the cancer experience. Maybe letting go of my hair is letting go of some old part of me that I don't need any more. Maybe when my new, beautiful hair comes back, I'll have some new, beautiful part of me too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Bald Trigger


Ok, I talked it over with B and maybe figured out what my big aversion is to having my head shaved. Aside from the regular aversion any woman would feel (except, of course, Annie Lennox and Sinead O'Connor), shaved heads are a huge army memory trigger for me. When I went into basic training, the men were sent through one door and the women through another of a huge processing building. Inside we were "processed" into the military, given uniforms, boots, dog tags, and everything we needed to become soldiers. We were spit out the other side of the building to wait in a big holding area. I could see all the young men going in the entrance, in various styles of dress, with a wide variety of hair cuts- some long, some short, some curly, some mohawks, etc. All of the guys were very young- 18 or so, many were pimply faced, and all were terrified. We young women felt the same too, and were going through the same thing, with one exception. We weren't getting our heads shaved. The men-boys came out the other side completely bald. They looked sick, scared, and terrible. Their army issue glasses stuck out, their ears stuck out, their pimples stuck out, their adam's apples stuck out. We were all herded through that building with a bunch of drill sergeants yelling at us and making us do push-ups, so there was an air of fear and confusion. It reminded me at the time of scenes I had seen in movies of how the Nazi's would process people into concentration camps. I know, I know, this is extreme, but my imagination is vivid and out of my control most of the time.

So, what I realized today is that I have a lot of fear related to that experience around having my head shaved. I have a picture of it being a chaotic, loud, terrible experience. I called a salon today and talked to the owner about it. She was incredibly kind and gentle with me. So much so that I started crying on the phone. It was embarrassing, but she just got more patient with me and really took her time. In the army, I would have been doing push-ups and getting yelled at for crying. This woman explained that I would come in first and she would help me select a wig. She would be able to match my style and color if that's what I wanted. Then, when I was ready, I would come back and she would shave it in the back room, and I would leave with the wig on. I know this experience is NOT going to be like what I saw in basic training. I am also going tomorrow to look at some scarves and hats that the cancer society gives away. It's going to be ok. I am going to keep my hair in some sort of pretty, silky bag and figure out some sort of ritual to do with it later. I might like to get all dressed up and go out with friends the evening I have it done. Or I might go home and cry. or I might do both. I might ask a friend or two to sit with me during the shaving, or I might do it alone. I don't know yet.

After spending the morning in bed, I got up and got a shower and got dressed. I went for another walk. A friend from work stopped by and walked with me and she had bought the SAME shoes as me- the ones designed by the teenaged cancer survivor. She put them on and I put mine on and it was so incredibly nice to be outside. It was a beautiful winter day today. I got home and was full of energy. I've been working my arm throughout the day. I was able to clean up the house a bit, run the vacuum, and even do a load of laundry, including folding and putting away! I hit the exhausted, pain wall around 7:00 and Kaycee and I crawled into bed and watched Frosty the Snowman. Karina got to go to a women's Duck basketball practice and out to dinner with the coach (she was SO thrilled!), so Kaycee and i got some much needed alone time. Karina and I have some special time planned for tomorrow evening.

The day started out pretty dark, but has ended with me in a place of peace, acceptance, and hope.

More Emotions??!!


What a weird day yesterday. I got home feeling great and motivated. Karina went with me for my first walk. I think we were both a little surprised at how slow I needed to go. I hadn't had any pain medication since before the dr. appt, and I began hurting half way through the walk. But, it was SO nice to be outside, and it was a beautiful, clear, crisp day. When we got home, there was a nice surprise- a friend had sent a cleaning lady for me! I had a lot of visitors in the afternoon, and I was pretty talkative, but at some point, I hit a wall and got so exhausted and was in pain, so I took some more medication and laid down for a bit. Once the kids were in bed and everyone was gone, I realized that I was very, very sad. And I realized that I was feeling so guilty for feeling sad, so I kept trying to stuff the sad away and regain the happy from earlier. Of course it was a losing battle, and I cried and cried. I think I was crying for my hair and for the drain coming out soon and for the no more operations. All of these things mean that chemo is starting soon. I have as much fear of chemo as I did of the surgeries. So of course I know that I will get through it just as I did the surgeries, and it probably won't be as bad as the fear of the unknown. But, that knowledge doesn't make a bit of difference to my emotions so the tears came anyway. I stood in front of the mirror and tried to imagine what I'll look like with no hair. I discovered that there is no way to imagine it- I have no idea. And it doesn't really matter- I am still me, no matter what I look like. And, it will be a temporary condition. But again, my intellect was powerless over my emotions last night. No matter how much of a positive spin I put on how cool a wig could be- dream hair and all- it still really, really, really SUCKS! And, of course I'm IMMENSELY grateful for the chemo because I know it is my chance at surviving cancer and living a long, healthy life and getting to know my grandkids and maybe even my great grandkids. The girls overheard some of my wig/hat/scarf talk and they are mortified to think I would consider a wig that made me look totally different- they want me to look just the same. The truth is, I want to look just the same too. I want to BE just the same. But, even without the cancer, life never lets us remain stagnant.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!!!

Just got back from my appointment. There was NO CANCER in any of the other lymph nodes taken out- just in the very first one. And there was NO CANCER in any of the additional breast tissue taken out, and he got enough out that at this point, NO MORE SURGERY!!! Its so nice to have some good news!

My drain is still in, but may come out Friday or Monday. Dr. T looked at how I was guarding my arm and told me, "YOU'RE NOT SICK! IT"S TIME TO GET OUT OF SICK THINKING! MOVE THAT ARM!!" I sort of protested, "but I'm afraid of the pain" and he told me that if I don't start moving it, my shoulder will freeze up and then I'll really know what pain is. He showed me how to move it back and forth, not side to side. He also showed me how to REALLY strip the tube on my drain so it doesn't get clogged up. F was with me and as soon as Dr. T left the room, he got all excited and had me start moving my arm. He'll be a good motivator for me.

The next step is to get the drain out, then hear all about the types of chemo I'll be getting, then meet with the nurses and get an "intro to chemo" session, then wait for insurance to approve paying for chemo. (I can't even begin to describe my feelings of relief and gratitude that I have insurance that will pay for this. And my feelings of despair and anger for those people who don't have insurance. There have been long stretches of time in my life when I've been without insurance and it angers me to think that if this had happened then, I might have really suffered. And in such a wealthy country. Well, I could go on and on on that subject, but I'll save it for another time and place). Then, I'll be ready to start. Possibly by the end of next week, but I'm hoping not till the following week. I'm planning a tiny get away and I'd SO like to have one more moment of normal before chemo begins. Dr. T wouldn't talk about the chemo at this appointment, but I did ask if I'd be getting the kind that causes me to lose my hair. He gave me a long, long answer that ended up meaning yes, within a week of the first treatment. He said that the best kind of chemo for me is the kind that causes hair loss. He strongly suggested that I take some time very soon to decide about a wig or not, then make an appointment ahead of time to have my head shaved so that I'd be in control of when, where, and how I will lose my hair.

After I left, I went back to the nurses station to get weighed and measured and saw Mrs. T (doctor's wife and teacher of the mind/body class). She weighed me then took me into a back room where there were 3 donated wigs- they belonged to past people and she said I could have one if I wanted. Or, I could go to Utopia and have one made for me. Or a few other options. I looked at one of the free wigs and it looked so much like a........fake piece of hair. Again, I'm thinking Halloween costume. I couldn't continue as it is upsetting to me to think about being bald. It may be vanity, I don't know. Just something for me to work through. I know the bigger picture here has nothing to do with my hair. It has to do with survival. Its still hard sometimes to believe that this is really happening to me and that this is really my life.

The bone scan showed a bit of arthritis in my right knee. I had to laugh a little because I had no idea and no symptoms. I'll get an ultra sound to check out my ovaries. And hope and hope that the cancer hasn't spread anywhere else. Dr. T said there are two ways for it to spread- through the lymph system and through the blood system. My lymph should be clear. No idea about the blood way. He said if it was going to spread, it would have already happened and it either will or won't show up someplace else in the future. No way of knowing that now. So, I get to live each day as if its a HUGE, AMAZING, WONDERFUL GIFT, for the rest of my life. Not such a bad way to live actually.

I'm going to eat, rest, then WALK for the first time today. Time to be done being sick!

The Next Step


One day at a time is a very common saying in Alanon. Its what's been getting me through the past month. If I focus only on the next test, or the next doctor's appointment, it keeps things more manageable for me. Since Thursday, I've just been focuses on resting and keeping my pain under control. My arm pain has eased up so much that I have been able to slow down on the pain medication. As my arm pain decreases, I've begun to notice the pain in the other areas- my breast and the area where the port is in place. But, this is mostly annoying pain, not crying pain, so it is not too bad. I still feel like I have to walk slowly so as not to jiggle anything.

The flax bags have helped so much. I am astounded at how quickly I got 4 very nice ones. One even came from a woman who has never read my blog and had no idea I wanted one. She just made one out of the blue for me, and it just happened to be exactly as I'd described in my blog. I'm liking this act of putting a need out to the universe and having the universe provide for me.

I got out of the house for the first time yesterday. First, I went into my backyard and touched the grass with my bare foot. It is so cold now! Then, I went to my mind/body class last night. The car ride was hard- the bumps aggravated my pain, and I took another pill once I got there. I really hate the groggy, out of touch feeling the pills give me, but I was determined to go to this class. We learned a second breathing technique and a great relaxation technique. During the guided relaxation, I was able to get back into the same type of zone I was in during the MRI. No great visions this time though- I think the drugs interfere with those. But, I was so calm and peaceful by the end and I slept quite well last night. I was able to get my own shirt off last night without help! Some occupational therapist friends from work visited yesterday and I got some tips on how to dress and undress using my good arm. And, I'm getting better and better and being a lefty- I can eat without spilling too much now!

I'm waiting now for F to pick me up for my doctor's appointment. The doc will look at the drain today and I'm hoping that it'll be time for it to come out. Not much is draining now, so either I'm almost done, or its clogged up somewhere. The drain comes out of my body under my arm and near my back, so I can't see where it starts unless I'm in front of a mirror and I twist around. But, I'm not doing any twisting these days, so I'm not sure what's happening with it. It really freaks me out to picture it stitched into my skin, so I haven't tried very hard to look at it. I also may get the pathology results today if they're back. This is where I learn about what was found in my lymph nodes, meaning how many other nodes (if any) had cancer in them. I think the type of chemotherapy I get is dependent on what is discovered in my nodes. I am visualizing cancer free nodes so I can have less aggressive chemotherapy. I'm visualizing the type of chemo that kills all the cancer, but spares my hair. I thought at first that I wouldn't mind too much losing my hair, but as the possibility gets closer, it turns out that I do mind. I am really hoping that I will have at least a few days when I'm healed up from the surgery enough to get outside and enjoy some holiday activities before I start chemo. I've heard from a few women recently who have had pretty positive chemo experiences, so I'm visualizing that for me too. Although I'm dreading beginning, I'm also eager to start so I can be finished that much sooner.

I looked at my body yesterday. It's hard to look, but it's my body and I've got to keep loving it. My thoughts are so impulsive- they always go to the sensationalism first, then I have to rein them in. When I looked, a flashing neon movie title flashed through my head: "SLASHER!" But, I pushed that aside and really looked. I have a small scar on the upper left part of my chest and a small bump where the port is located under the skin. Its covered with steri-strips right now. I have the same scar on my breast as before, covered in steri-strips. The difference is that its raised up now and puckered and swollen and red. I have a long scar under my arm that I can't really see too well because I can't raise up my arm. It looks like that area is purple from bruising. And I have the tube hanging down my back. I can kind of pretend I'm the bionic woman-I have parts that are not my own that will make me stronger, faster, blah blah blah.

Ok, let me end on a positive note so the universe can create for me what I want for myself: I AM HEALTHY, WHOLE, HEALED, AND BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sucking it up


"Suck it up and drive on!" is a term used in the army when someone is whining about being tired or cold or hungry or what ever and the sergeant is yelling at the person in order to "motivate" him to keep going. I use it with Kaycee sometimes when she is whining about cleaning her room, and she will sometimes cry, "I know I need to suck it up Mama, but its hard!"

I'm learning to not "suck it up" ("it" being the emotion and the sucking being the stuffing of the emotion) but to keep driving on. The pain in my arm has released some more grief for me, and led me to reach out some more for help. Not too long after my earlier posting, a friend loaned me two great flax seed pillows, which she delivered and heated up and I have had on my arm on and off throughout the day. Then my mom let me know that she ordered a big one for me- thanks mom!

The kids went off today, Kaycee was not having a good morning at all, but she went anyway. I was in bed trying to rest when the pain came again. I ended up having two friends over for most of the afternoon and it was just so very nice having company and having kind people take care of me. Thank you D and R for your companionship and your kindness. Before they came over, I started crying and couldn't stop again. The same thing happened last night. I have been trying so hard to do the positive visualizations and have been picturing me paddling my kayak with two good strong arms. But, once the pain kicks in its very hard to hold this image and it gets replaced with fears that this pain might be permanent. I called the doctor on call again at 1:00 in the morning and he said that it is probably being caused by the drain tube being placed in a way that aggravates the nerves and that once the tube comes out, the pain would probably be gone. This made sense to me today, because whenever the clots are squeezed to break them up, I get the zinging feeling in my arm.

I tried to be done with the pain medication today, but it didn't work. I looked back at my old postings to see where I was at last time on day 3 after the surgery, and while I was off pain medication, I still hadn't left the house yet. The difference last time was that my surgery was on a Tuesday and by Saturday I had my first outing. This time surgery was on Thursday and I've been in bed all weekend. I'm working on being patient and letting the healing happen. D told me that as a general rule, people need one week per day spent in the hospital to recover. Ok, as long as I know its going to end, I can wait. Although a part of me doesn't want the drain to be removed because once its removed, that means I can start chemotherapy and I'm not too thrilled about that.

A friend at work gave me an image that has been so helpful- she said to picture chemo and other medications as just washing through my body, doing their job, and washing out again. I've been drinking a LOT of water in hopes of flushing all the medication out of my system and I like the thought that it isn't staying in there.

The surgery was different this time because it was so early in the morning and I didn't have any other stuff to do first. Once I got checked in, it went very fast. I had the sudden inspiration to ask the anesthesiologist to do my IV instead of the nurse, and I visualized good, plump veins again, and it was the easiest IV ever- just barely a prick and it was done. He put in some Verced which left me fully aware, but very calm. I remember going into the operating room and being introduced to everyone and not being afraid. I had told the doctor and my nurse my fears and past experience in recovery, and someone made it a point to share this information with the recovery room nurse and she was such an angel. When I woke up the curtains were drawn around me and while I don't remember much, I do remember her kind, calm voice and very little pain. They also let me keep a few things in my hand right into the operating room, and she put them back into my hand right when I woke up- a picture of me with Kaycee and Karina in my childhood fort, and my lavender crystal. They didn't make fun of me or anything- just made sure I was safe and comfortable. After recovery I went straight to my hospital room where my friend D and my sponsor, B, were waiting. They tell me now that they were both in there for a few hours, but I only remember a few minutes. At some point my boyfriend F came in and I remember him reading to me from the "Succulent Wild Woman" book and laughing at his joke about reading the "Succulent Wild Man" book next. I remember him rubbing my feet and not much else. He was there for a few hours too I"m told. I remember the kindest nurse and nurse assistant coming in and out. I was not physically comfortable at all, and the bed was very narrow (well, compared to my king sized bed anyway). D stayed the night with me in the hospital room and she must have adjusted my bed and my pillows for me 50 times throughout the night. I remember thinking that she would get tired of me asking, but she never did. Nurses are such patient, caring people. I remember being really thirsty and having a sore throat from the tube being in there during surgery. I drank so much water, and I kept having to get up to go to the bathroom. Which sucked because it was usually just when the bed and pillows finally got adjusted right. I had to have someone help me get my underwear off each time, and then back on again. It is pretty humbling to get to a place where you've got to rely on another human being to put your undies on and off. It is also a place of extreme gratitude for those people.
I've got the car sick feeling. More later.



A call for help: I am in need of two flax seed pillow type things. Something is going on with the nerves in my arm and when I move it a certain way, or sometimes just because, I get a shooting,throbbing pain all through my arm and hand. Last night I tried wrapping it in a hot, wet towel, then resting it on Kaycee's heated up flax seed doll, with Karina's flax seed doll on top. This gives me relief until the pain medication kicks in. I'm not sure who all is reading this, but if anyone wants to help, here's what I'm needing:: Two flax pillows, a bit longer than my forearm and a bit wider than my arm, pretty heavy because the weight helps, made out of a very soft flannel type of material. If they had something calming, like lavender inside, that would be great to help me calm down until the pain goes away.

Thanks to anyone who can help!

And, a big, HUGE thank you to the many, many people who have stepped in to help me and the girls in so many ways. I am in awe of the amount of love, care, and help that has flowed our way. This is such a big, scary thing for me and each time I receive a kindness from someone, it pushes the fear away a little bit more.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

First Shower/Bandages Off


Last night was a hard night. Lots of pain in my arm with a numb/swollen feeling. The pain medication would work for a few hours, then wear off before I could take more. I never got into a deep sleep- just cat naps. Finally, around 2 or 3 am, I got online and looked up the Unity website so I could put in a prayer request for healing. I ended up calling a number, thinking I would leave a message, and a real person answered. I learned that their prayer line is staffed 24 hours a day and is never closed. This woman was like an angel and she prayed with me and I felt such peace afterwards. She put my name in a place at Unity Village where for 30 days people will pray for me. I do believe in the power of prayer, and I also believe that it is the opposite of laying in bed feeling helpless and hopeless. On the website there are also some guided meditations that I was able to listen to that helped me relax and I was able to sleep much better, despite the pain.

The site is It saved my sanity last night.

I put in a call to the doctor on call this morning just to see if the arm pain was normal. He called back within a few minutes of my message and talked to me for quite a bit. I felt reassured afterwards. The girls went off with friends today and got to do some fun activities. I called a friend and she said she could do distance Reiki for me. After our phone call, I went into a deep, restful sleep for about 3 hours. I woke up and had D remove my bandages and help me with my first shower. It was a bit freaky- I held onto my drain and did the best I could, but I felt very vulnerable and icky. I caught a glimpse of the new and improved scar (bigger) and of the port-a-cath area. I can't do more than glance at these at this point. I'm feeing sad and overwhelmed right now. Took some more pain medication and I'm back in bed. Its that feeling of knowing I just went through a second something big, and now the next thing is coming up. Dr. T. did tell me that he got the results of my CT and bone scan and that there was nothing of concern. Although he did see a few things- possible arthritis somewhere in my bones and one other thing, but he is confident that its nothing related to the cancer. He did end up needing to cut a nerve in my arm, hence the numbness.

I've been working throughout the day on visualizing a healed, whole, functional arm and a quick healing from the surgery. Again, whether this visualization works or not I don't know. But I do know it gives me something to do while I'm laying in bed and it makes me feel positive and peaceful.

Time to rest. More later.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back Home


Back home today. Not much sleep in the hospital, but it was so nice to be taken care of there. Much better surgery experience this time. Practiced positive visualizations and only the best, most compassionate nurses and doctors. Another very easy IV. Not freaked out at all during surgery/recovery- Anestheseologist hooked me up with some good drugs for anxiety and pain. Recovering well, resting a lot. Dealing with the drain. Not as bad as I expected cleaning it out, but a pain keeping track of it and keeping it pinned and out of my way. Arm really sore. More later.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Round Two


I should be asleep right now since I'm due to get up in a few hours, but I'm still awake. I figure I'll have lots of time to sleep tomorrow. I'm feeling pretty good about the surgery right now. Well, I've had moments of sheer terror and crying at odd times and in odd places. But, overall I believe that it will go better. Its so early in the morning that I won't have all day long to get anxious. And, last time I started the day off getting a wire inserted into my boob and driving across town right afterwards. By the time I arrived at the hospital, I was in pain, stressed, cold, thirsty and hungry. And, I had to go through yet another needle in my breast for the sentinel node thing. This time I will go straight in, get prepped, and go into surgery- drugged up and happy this time! I'm practicing my positive visualization right now: I am getting the BEST recovery nurse and when I wake up I am going to feel safe and well. I am getting the BEST IV giving nurse and my veins are plump and hydrated (they really are- I've been drinking a LOT of water today). My surgeon does his BEST work first thing in the morning. My body is strong and healthy and will recover well.

Today I had the bone scan. I went in first for a shot of radioactive stuff. It was injected into an IV. I started getting panicky when the nurse was getting ready for the IV. Then I remembered and I took a few minutes to visualize my great, easy veins. I felt a little prick, then nothing. I thought she was numbing me up with something first, but when I asked, she said she was done! The IV went in so easily, just as I had visualized. It was really, really cool. I didn't feel any different at all with the radioactive stuff binding to my bones. I left and went to the mall for a pedicure. That was heavenly! A whole hour of a foot and leg massage, and beautiful nails at the end! Then, I returned to the hospital and explored the lobby and had lunch before the scan. It is a beautiful hospital. I felt a little bit like I was at a luxury resort somewhere. My lunch was cheap and delicious, and I had a view of the river and of some walking paths. I looked around and saw many, many employees of the hospital and I realized that this is really an ok place to be. This is just a place with a bunch of people in the helping profession all working to get people well. It really helped me today to see this side of the hospital, instead of just the little surgery area. I'm kind of looking forward to staying the night there. Yes, I realize that once I'm there it won't really be a luxury resort, but right now I can kind of imagine it that way.

The bone scan was fine. Two painfully young men were my techs (why are these people so young? Or am I getting old?!) My sponsor was with me and I was so grateful to have her calm presence there. I laid down on a very narrow table and a big camera (huge) very slowly moved across my body. It was a little weird having it so close to my face, but not bad. The two techs were at the computer talking about something, and my sponsor and I talked about how in awe of the machine we were. I had a moment of gratitude for the brilliance of the human mind to create machines such as these. Earlier in the day I had a huge amount of gratitude for all the women who came before me in the early days and doctors learned from them what treatment options would and wouldn't work. I am so very grateful for the amount of research and work that has gone into fighting cancer. I felt a little like there is a huge amount of power in so many people working towards one goal- treating cancer.

The mind/body class last night was so great for me. I am so happy that my friend K went with me. I don't think I could have walked in there alone. I had so much fear and anxiety about joining the "cancer club". But, I felt ok in the group and it was even ok meeting other people who have cancer. I'm still not really ok that I'm one of them, but I am happy to be in such nice company. The big thing I learned is how to breath deeply and how to use more of my lung capacity in order to reduce stress. I've been trying it today and it is very calming. Mrs. T (the instructor and Dr. T's wife) is a great teacher and I think I will learn a lot from her.

The girls are all taken care of. We had a nice evening today, Kaycee has decided that she wants to play on a basketball team, like Karina. So, we went shoe and ball shopping and Kaycee got her first pair of basketball shoes and a pink basketball. For those of you who know Kaycee, this is a HUGE deal. I'm hoping playing a sport will be good for her. And, the girls have been getting along so well- its been very nice and peaceful.

Not sure when I'll write next- I'm going on a mini vacation to a great luxury resort......

Monday, December 1, 2008

Strip Malls and Starbucks


Today was my first day back at work. It felt weird at first. But, then it felt good to be back to a somewhat normal feeling day. Until I went in for my CT scan. (I thought it was a cat scan and I kept having images of my kitties). It was located in a strip mall in between a Starbucks and a Wok restaurant. It looked like one of those strip mall offices where you go to sign up for a temp job. The waiting area was cold and had these high, modern ceilings like you might see in a night club. The receptionist took down my information and said, "Your portion will be $250.00. Would you like to make a payment on that now?" Like I was buying a car or something. She gave me a barium drink in a medical looking bottle with a cheerful label that said "Berry Flavored Barium Smoothy!" I sat facing the outdoor tables of Starbucks and pretended that I was having a Starbucks drink and sitting with friends, without a care in the world. I tried not to be envious of the people I saw going in and out, a part of the every day world. It worked for the first half, then the drink started tasting gross- I needed to have an empty stomach for the scan, and the smoothy was giving me the grossed out shudders. A motorcycle guy walked in and was giving me the flirty eye. I had to laugh to think I might be hit on in such a place, feeling as I was feeling. Very surreal.

After almost an hour I was called back and I was happy to learn that I didn't have to take my clothes off! The table looked a lot like the MRI table, except that I got to lay on my back with a very nice pillow for my head and for my legs. The tech was a painfully young girl who was friendly, but way too young. I hadn't been expecting an IV, but she told me I needed iodine in me to help with the pictures. After the failed attempts at IV's for my surgery, I was not too happy to hear that. I told her about that experience and offered her my right arm, which typically has the best vein and was not the one used for surgery. She did a bunch of jabbing and tried to feed a catheter in- ouch! No success. Then, I remembered that I'm supposed to be practicing what I learned from watching "The Secret". I am supposed to be doing positive affirmations- not just saying "I hope the IV goes in", but saying "I have great veins and I'm thankful that the IV will go in with no problem." So, I told her that I had made a mistake and that I actually had a great vein on the left arm that would be really easy. I sent a silent prayer of thanks for my great vein and I visualized the needle and catheter going in easily. It worked!! She was so surprised, so I let her in on my secret.

The scan was simple- in and out of the machine several times for a few minutes each. The iodine was warm in my body and reminded me of being buried in warm sand as a child at the beach. The room was very cold and I was feeling resentful of all those people happily chatting and sipping warm drinks next door. Then it occurred to me- I could actually go to Starbucks and be one of those people! I got finished and got my stuff together and was almost out the door when the youngster called out to me and said she needed to take a few more pictures. Back in I went and again it was pretty quick. The machine was funny- it made a sound like an airplane makes when it is revving up its engines getting ready for take off. A computer voice would come on and tell me when to hold my breath and when to breathe normally. I was able to close my eyes and imagine that I was an astronaut in the space shuttle, ready for take off. It was actually kind of fun for small bits of time.

Once I FINALLY left, I stopped by Starbucks and got a yummy peppermint coffee and a pastry breakfast thing. I so thoroughly enjoyed it, and I got to pretend to be a regular person participating in the regular world for a bit. The results of the scan go to my doctor tomorrow and I'm wondering again if I should call him.

I ended the day with Kaycee's last vision therapy check. She has made HUGE improvements and I am so glad that I stuck it out with that and that we finished when we did. Got home pretty late and was EXHAUSTED. Kaycee is bugging me for a walk right now, so soon I'll put on my cool motivating shoes and head out. I took off the last of the steri-strips and my scar is pretty cool looking, as is the purple bruising.