Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Very Folly Christmas


A week ago today with my LAST Herceptin headache waning, we put chemo completely in the rear view mirror as we loaded up the van (at 1 in the a.m.) to go spend Christmas with my sister, Jennie, her hub, Eric, cutest nephew EVER, Brodie (who I call Charlie Brown), and my Mum (who flew to Charleston for this holiday rendezvous).

We had planned to leave early Wednesday morning. Which I guess, technically, we did; although it was still registering as Tuesday to me because my body doesn't rip the proverbial leaf off the calendar until I WAKE up, see the old leaf and new day in juxtaposition, put 2+2 together, and caffeinate myself enough to perform such acts of manual dexterity such as ripping leaves off calendars. So about 11:59 p.m. we decided that since we had 5 drivers so we might as well hit the road, since everybody was up and already packed.

So we hit the road. Mikey, armed with his new driver's permit, drove the first leg. I took the next shift, at which point my entire load of passengers fell asleep. I drove as far as the Tennessee state line and decided 5 hours of sleep and missing Knoxville rush hour morning traffic warranted a stay in The Jellico Motel.

It did put a good piece of the road behind us, and we ended up at my sister's home in Charleston, SC, just in time for dinner, instead of nightcaps, so all in all, it worked for us.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn on Folly Beach and got to wake up to the loveliest Merry Christmas Eve greetings from the ocean waves. The day that unfolded before us followed suit. Eric took Dave and my Redheads on his boat.
Click on the video link below at your own discretion. They were on a boat...so they HAD to sing the song. They did, of course, bleep out the bad words. But they weren't able to manage calming the wind, so the sound quality is choppy.

video
Meanwhile, my Mum, Jennie, Charlie Brown and I spent the day at Folly Beach. Brodie and I quickly kicked off our shoes and I did what I wanted to do for Christmas: walked barefoot on a beach! Brody said this is his favorite picture and I just love it too.
We would still be running into the waves and letting them chase our chilly dogs today if Charlie Brown had anything to say about it. But thankfully, after the first 347 times, he let me talk him into checking out the warm sand. Was SO MUCH FUN. One of my favorite Brodie and me moments ever.
video
That's what I call a Charlie Brown Christmas!






Monday, December 28, 2009

TGNMCCMAEAA (Thank God No More Chemo Cocktail Mondays Anymore, Ever Again...Amen.


T minus 1 went down a week ago today! That's right, after 24 rounds of chemo cocktails, I told the bartender no mas, and skipped out of the chemo cocktail lounge before he could crunch those numbers. I don't want to see that tab! ;) Thankfully, I don't have to, since our insurance and Dave's company rocks and has completely taken care of us.

I am still trying to process the fact that I don't have to work my life and our schedule around chemo anymore. I'm sitting on our balcony overlooking a sandy white beach and the Gulf of Mexico. It is probably the first time I've sat still since last Monday when I was docked in my blue recliner and hooked up to my chemo cocktail. I think it has been a way of coping, not sitting too still. But now I'm sitting here thinking about maybe slowing down and letting it all sink in. I'm also thinking about taking a very long walk along the beach...but I am going to make myself sit here long enough to process a proper update.

As far as chemo days go, my last one was actually a party in the chemo lounge. My chemo bud, Shelly, saved me a seat and brought peanut butter cookies she and her little girls had made for me. (The fork marks rocked, girls!) My kids came with a bunch of our friends and they caroled the chemo lounge.

Amanda and Matt had written a song (which I will link here when I figure it out) for my last chemo, which everyone in the whole chemo lounge LOVED. There were not many dry eyes in the room, but there were a lot of "Amens" when Amanda got to her chorus of "Cancer...is a b!tch".

What a gift. I am so blessed I can't even begin to tell. It made even chemo cocktails go down with a smile. And not just mine, either. I hope it blessed all my chemo buds there. Speaking of, today is Shelly's last tax-ALL cocktail! Yay for no more tax-ALL Shelly! You did it! May the Herceptin only be like cake for you! And no more sleepy meds in the cocktail! How's that for a bonus Merry Christmas gift?!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Holiday Itinerary

For me Christmas started with being able to taste my famous Rachel Ray turkey this year on Thanksgiving. We have made this amazing drunken turkey three years in a row, and last year the chemo had temporarily taken out my taste buds. So on the first day of Christmas (I know it's not the literal "first day", but hey, I'm a poet so I have a license) I ate my turkey and tasted it too.

Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving we go to a tree farm, methodically pick out just the right Christmas tree. Amanda has a special system where she dances with the one we think has got the right look, to make sure it also has the right groove for The Evanshire. This year, we are taking our Christmas on the road, to my sister's in Charleston, SC, so we got a "portable tree" to deck The Evanshire AND our van. So on the second day of Christmas we decked the Evanshire.
On the third day of Christmas Mikey got his temps! Just in time to get his 50 hours in on our holiday road trip. The rest of us can kick back, relax and watch Christmas movies in the back. Maybe have a little egg nog to get in the Christmas spirit and stuff. We will not think about three teen drivers, three cars to maintain, or the three car insurances that entails because that would totally rain on my parade here.

On the fourth day of Christmas, we went to the Tiffany Foundation Breast Cancer Fundraiser at my tennis club, where this year, I wore hair and got to PLAY tennis! Also, most importantly, I got to give the Tiffany Award to this year's recipient, Mary Jo Cropper. It was humbling to give her the award. She has been battling breast cancer for 17 years. My oldest son, Matt, is 17. Talk about feeling the perspective. Not only has she battled it personally but she has fought for others as well, supporting other survivors and helping raise funds and awareness to fight breast cancer. The Breast Cancer Center at Bethesda North is named after her. Which happens to be where I had my mammogram and ultrasound. How grateful was I to be able to thank her personally?!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my Mum became my sister survivor, as she courageously went through a lumpectomy to have her damn spot removed. Thank God for The Little Red Door, who had a commercial my Mum "happened" to catch, which offered free mammograms (my Mum didn't have insurance at the time). Thank God my Mum responded to the ad. Thank God they found the damn spot. Thank God for mammograms, even if the government is dissing them a bit right now. Personally saving my Mum's life is worth it. Not to mention, I am a little sensitive on the subject since I probably wouldn't be sitting here typing this post if we had not found my cancer early. My oncologist's mantra is "early diagnosis, excellent prognosis". Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. But go Mum! And please everybody continue to pray for her. She begins radiation in January, and maybe will take part in a cool trial with one of my heroes, Herceptin.

On the sixth day of Christmas, we visited The Outlaws. The Outlaws are really my In-laws; it's just a term of endearment, hehe. And I believe it was Dave's Mum who started it; I just let it stick because it is fun to think of them that way, even though they are not really "bad guys" at all. Anyway, we hadn't seen Dave's Dad since before I got sick. Lot's has obviously happened in the interim. For one, he eats pizza every week now (which you wouldn't believe in a million years if you used to hear him razzing us about our pizza consumption) and so we got to hang and eat pizza with the Outlaws.

On the seventh day of Christmas, we hid all the schoolbooks for the holiday. One more semester down...and only one more till I, I mean the boys, graduate from home school!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my singles team went to play-offs! We came in second for the season (out of 5) and in play-offs (out of 2). My personal record after play-offs, was 8-3.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my doubles team won play-offs! We came in first in our division but were the definite underdogs going into the play-offs. There were 17 teams in all; the top three from each division made it to play-offs, and then a 4th team with the next highest number of points got a wild card. Even the wild card team had more points than we did. The top team drew us for the first round match. I think they secretly breathed a sigh of relief when they did, because they beat us 8-1 during the season. I think the other finalist team also breathed a sigh of relief when they had to play us in the finals instead of the top seeded team, since they also beat us pretty badly during the season, 6-3. I think we surprised them both as much as we surprised ourselves by pulling off the wins. But what a pleasant surprise! Here is my team and our coaches. Yay 5 Seasons Ohio Green, GCITA Interclub 4.5 Champions!
And here is me taking a bite out of the trophy! Yum! I can't tell you how good it tasted, not only to get to play tennis again, and with such a delightful group of women, but to even win, after this past year of being on the sidelines cheering on my friends. What an exclamation point on my recovery (I feel like I am about 90% fitness/tennis-wise) and my comeback (my personal record after play-offs, was 10-6)! How blessed am I?! I can't even count that high.
On the tenth day of Christmas...well, that's still to come...but On Monday, December 21, God willing, I will down my last chemo cocktail. Thank You, GOD! I can't even believe I can sit here typing that. More to come on that once I've downed it.

Once I down said final chemo cocktail on Monday, we are heading south. First to Charleston, SC to spend Christmas with my sister, her hub, the cutest nephew EVER, and my Mum. Then we continue south-er because on the eleventh day of Christmas I'm going to walk my soggy bare feet in the sands of Marco Island, FL. Snow angels are cool, but sand ones are more my speed and temp. My little family is so looking forward to a little R&R after the past year and a half of having our lives revolve around a chemo calendar. My Redheads have been the most amazing troopers through it all. Boy do they deserve a break! Not to mention, Dave, who is practically a circus performer with all the plates he's been keeping spinning. Btw, Dave and I will be celebrating our 22nd anniversary while we are on holiday; we got married when we were 22 so we'll be married as long as we weren't, which is kind of mind blowing and cool.

I have also scheduled the surgery to have my port removed on January 6th, which, appropriately, is 12 days after Christmas, and also Epiphany, which is a good way to start the rest of my life. On the twelfth day of Christmas, I will say Bon Voyage to Port Rapha! There will be a non-chemo cocktail party at The Evanshire on Friday, January 8th that we'd like to invite all our friends and family to, to celebrate the END of this cancer with us. Game, Set, Match! More details to follow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

One More Round

Monday was T minus 2, which means that I only have one more chemo cocktail to go, as is demonstrated by my pincushion of a finger. I won't specify which finger it is, but if you know me at all, you don't even have to ask which finger was flying high to shout it out that I only have one more left. I actually and very happily made my very last appointment at the chemo cocktail lounge, and had Cassandra my chemo calendar goddess autograph my LAST appointment card. December 21 at Noon! That felt really good. And then mix in a wee bit of the surreal, I mean, half of me can't even believe that I have made it to the point where I can say I only have one more round! 24 rounds of chemo cocktails seemed like the biggest number in the world a year and a half ago when I started this chemo trip. And yet here I am almost on the other side of it all. Look how happy the little girl on the band-aid is and that about sums it up. Can I get a hallelujah?

I have a chemo cocktail music mix that I have compiled and worn out to encourage me when I've needed it. I've walked many miles trying to fight off tears, fighting to get my fitness back, trying to walk off my foggy brain and soggy feet from the chemo, with this soundtrack on my iPod, and it has ministered to my soul. One of the songs is practically my very own theme song. I don't think it is about chemo, except that it has become so, to me. And I really am in the mood to especially blare it these days, as I have finally gotten to the title!
"One More Round"
by The Barlow Girls

Round one wasn't what I thought it'd be
Round two I'm struggling to breathe
3, 4, 5, 6, 7 times I wondered why I stepped inside this ring

I may be knocked down and so bruised
But I'm here to tell you
I may be knocked down but not for the count
1, 2, 3, 4
So take me one more round
I'll just keep fighting
One more round
You're messing me up but I'm still here

One more round
I'll come out swinging
One more round
I'm telling you now I'm not going to lose it here

It's so hard to get up off the floor again
But I know that victory is when
I'm pushing through the pain that tries to feed me lies
That I wont reach the end

I may be bloodied and so bruised
But I'm here to tell you
I may be knocked down but not for the count
1, 2, 3, 4
So take me one more round
I'll just keep fighting
One more round
You're messing me up but I'm still here
One more round
I'll come out swinging
One more round
I'm telling you now I'm not gonna lose it

I am not defeated
Though you cannot see it
I have never won a battle on my own
I find strength in weakness
I find hope in believing
God is for me who can bring me down?

So take me one more round
I'll just keep fighting
One more round
You're messing me up but I'm still here
One more round
I'll come out swinging
One more round
I'm telling you now I'm not gonna lose it here

Last month Amanda and I got to see The Barlow Girls in concert. I wanted so much to tell them how much their song meant to me but we didn't get to stay to stand in line to meet them. I did however buy a couple pairs of really cool mini boxing gloves for myself and my fellow chemo junkie, Shelly, that they were selling at the concert. They say "One More Round" on them. I have mine hanging from the rear-view mirror in my Mini. Shelly has hers tied to her purse, and every once in a while she busts them out and starts shadowboxing. It's cute. But then, she is cute so what are you gonna do? Here is a pic of Shelly and me, not duking it out with our mini boxing gloves, but en-garding with our holey fingers (hehe) in honor of my one more round. Also, I guess it's entirely possible that we accidentally became blood sisters, which just makes me smile when I think about it.
Cheers and love, everyone. And thank you for praying. Your prayers have been like a magic carpet to me, carrying me through this chemo trip. I'm your grateful travel guide, Joules