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.

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.
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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Tiffany Foundation Fundraising Event is a Week from Today

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Tiffany Floth Romero, but I had the honor of running into her legacy last December at the Ballers Against Breast Cancer/Tiffany Foundation Event at my tennis club.

The Tiffany Foundation was formed to honor the life of Tiffany Floth Romero, who died on August 5th, 2006, after a 4 1/2 year battle against Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Tiffany had an indomitable spirit that both stuns me and spurs me on in my own battle against breast cancer.

Tiffany didn't put life on hold while she faced and fought cancer. Her battle was more difficult than I can imagine, but despite everything she lived passionately, loved deeply, laughed, hard and often, and she played tennis. I would have loved to play tennis with her. I would have been honored to be Tiffany's friend.

Last December the Tiffany Foundation gave me a holiday, of sorts, away from the cancer and the chemo: a year of tennis at 5 Seasons to help me get back on the courts. Through the year, both on the courts and off, I have been aware of Tiffany's generous gift and spirit.


This December I get to "pay it forward" so to speak, and be part of the passing on of the torch to the next Tiffany Award recipient. Pictured with me above, is Kristi Frazier, the 2007 recipient, who handed me the torch last year and whose hair growth I am trying to catch up with this year.

The Event will begin with tennis! from 5:00-6:30 p.m., followed by a silent auction, live music, food and spirits, in celebration and honor of Tiffany from 7:00-10:00 p.m.

5 Seasons is located at 11790 Snider Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45249.
The club phone number is 513-360-4332. It's web address is http://fiveseasonscinci.reachlocal.net/trainerfinder/websites/60124/cincinnati/index.html.

Please R.S.V.P. here or by calling 5 Seasons so they can cater accordingly. Also, feel free to bring friends. The more, the merrier. The more to join with The Tiffany Foundation and 5 Seasons in the battle against breast cancer, in honor of Tiffany. The more to stand beside and bless the next Tiffany recipient.

As it is a Fundraiser, the Event is $35 per person.

Cheers, and I hope to see you there!

P.S. Learn more about Tiffany, her story and The Tiffany Foundation at http://www.tiffanyfoundation.org/.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No, This is Not an Amex Ad

As you can see, I made a happy plate at our little Thanksgiving today! Boy does food taste better when chemo isn't the cocktail on the table. This time last year I had just had my first Tax-ALL the week of Thanksgiving and I still couldn't really taste the food from the first flight of chemo cocktails. Not to mention, the first week of Tax-ALL was probably one of the hardest weeks of my life. So so sore. I was a pretty good sport until after lunch, and then I pretty much went to bed for the weekend to put myself (and everyone else) out of my misery. The day after was really about the blackest Friday I've ever had. I was not very thankful and didn't even feel good enough to feel bad about that.

This year, not only was my plate happy, but my tastebuds are still dancing, in a Conga line with the thousand thankful thoughts parading through my head.

TGTWNACW: Thank God Thanksgiving Was NOT a chemo week. I can't tell you how thankful I was to sit at our Feast this year, with everything that has gone on in the past year. I know I could not see forward to this Thanksgiving last year. I know that is the point when I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do this. I feel a little like the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who never quite knew what he had in himself until Gandalf chose him to go on an adventure with the dwarves and he went "there and back again". I didn't not know I had it in me to get from point A: last Thanksgiving, to point B: today. And yet here I am! A tiny part of me is pleasantly surprised with myself. Who knew?! But for real I know God is the one and the reason I supped at point B today. With a thankful heart!

I am thankful that I got to taste the amazing Rachel Ray turkey we have made for the past three years. It is seriously the most Yum-O turkey ever.

I am thankful that my little girl was home from college to do her traditional part of the turkey prep, by dancing around our kitchen with "Feathers" before we buttered him up to get him into the pan, and then gave him a few glasses of white wine to make the ride a happy one.
I am thankful for the amazing team work Dave and I have in pulling off such a fabulous feast. Last year we just made the turkey and all my tennis buds brought us a bounty of sides, which was so fantastic of them. This year Dave and I made stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese shells, cranberry sauce, apple pie, green stuff, puppy chow. So much fun. And so delish.

I am thankful for the Thanksgiving mix we listened to while we cooked and feasted.

I am thankful we watched my favorite Thanksgiving movie, Pieces of April, while the turkey cooked. I love this tradition.

I am thankful for the family time around our candlelit dinner table, feasting away, fearless in the face of the subsequent food coma we all happily fell into.

I am thankful for couches to become rooted in during food coma. And our big screen TV. And the internet, that has allowed Mikey and I to catch up on Glee this Thanksgiving break. Glee makes me gleeful.

I am thankful that my Mum drove from Indy to have Thanksgiving with us, and a few friends as well, graced our home and presence throughout the day.

Speaking of my Mum, I am thankful about the update I have to report. Sorry it has taken me this long to get to it. Things have been spinning so fast it has been really impossible for me to sit still enough to process my thoughts and get them in writing where I can figure out what they are.

The news we got from the breast surgeon was about as good as it gets, not that it's going to be a ride in the park, but it was really the best news I had conjured up in my hopeful imagination. The Doc staged her at a 0, which is really good. Means we caught it really, really early. It was a cluster of cancer cells in a duct. But they had not gone invasive yet, so that was more really good news. Mine was invasive and aggressive and there is where the double mastectomy and chemo came into play. Thank God my Mum does not have to deal with chemo. The Doc gave her an option of a mastectomy or a lumpectomy and radiation. I was hoping hard against a mastectomy for my Mum, and was so relieved when she chose the lumpectomy/radiation route. The Doc said they were equal options according to my Mum's details and that she wouldn't get any bonus points for the mastectomy anyway. So Out Damn Spot it is. On December 8th. Then she will have about a month to recover before she starts up with the radiation. It will be 33 times, on Mondays - Fridays, for almost 7 weeks. Then, God willing she will be done with cancer. Please pray for my Mum's healing, and health, and for all the Little Red Door and Medicaid issues all work out to cover her medical expenses.

I am thankful for the Little Red Door Cancer Agency that provided her the free mammogram screening which found the cancer at this early stage where the prognosis is excellent for my Mum.

I am thankful for the irony of the fact that my Mum found this cancer via a mammogram the very same week the new guidelines came out basically dissing mammograms. I AM NOT THANKFUL ABOUT THE NEW GUIDELINES. If I had not found my own damn spot, I would not be scheduled for my first mammogram for 6 more years. I would not be here typing this if those guidelines were the gatekeepers to early diagnosis which led to my excellent prognosis.

I am thankful to still be around to know and love on my redheads as teenagers. They have grown into the most lovely/loving peeps. I really dig my kids.

I am thankful for my MacBook and the gift of writing to help me process all the cancer and chemo crap.

I am thankful for a late night followed by sleeping in.

I am thankful for the cup of coffee my hub will have waiting for me when I do rise and try to shine tomorrow.

I am thankful I have the whole weekend ahead of me still. And I have all of my redheads all weekend long.

I am thankful that on Monday I will have my second-to-last chemo cocktail!
I am thankful for all my fam and friends who have helped carry me to point B via prayer.

I am so very thankful. And about as happy as my plate.

Cheers and love,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Heavy Blow

Yesterday I went with my Mum's to receive the results of her recent biopsy; the doctor said the C-word. She is understandably in shock. I am mad. Damn cancer.

We don't know much at this point. The biopsy finding was duct cell carcinoma. There doesn't appear to be any evidence of it being invasive. We are hopeful that we have caught it early. Like the mantra my oncologist told me: early diagnosis, excellent prognosis. We have an appointment with a breast surgeon on Thursday to get her read on the reports, and a game plan.

I do not like my Mum having to go through this cancer crap. I was tested for the gene and it was negative. There was no need for this. If the statistics are that one in eight women get breast cancer, then surely I should have been able to cover my own Mum. Cancer is a bitch.

This is my blog, not hers, so I'll not presume to make it be that. I will update as I find it proper to do so while respecting my Mum's own dealing with it all.

Please keep her in your prayers.

And sorry for the tone of this post. It is a heavy blow to me. I am not even done with my own treatment and just wish I was already done so I would feel stronger to be stronger for my Mum.

That said, I have this at my core that I want to be clear is at the core of even a difficult post like this:

Remember, [my] Message is not about [myself]; [I'm] proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All [I] am is [a messenger], [an] errand runner from Jesus. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and [my life] filled up with light as [I] saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at [me] you might well miss the brightness. [I] carry this precious Message around in the unadorned [clay pot] of [my] ordinary [life]. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with [me]. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know yourselves that [I'm] not much to look at. [I've] been surrounded and battered by troubles, but [I'm] not demoralized; [I'm] not sure what to do, but [I] know that God knows what to do; [I've] been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left [my] side; [I've] been thrown down, but [I] haven't been broken.

(From The Message, 2 Corinthians 4:5-9, with the pronoun personalized from we to me.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dos Mas = Peace

I cannot even believe that I am saying that I am down to only 2 chemo cocktails left! But I am! And all I can say is Thank God!

Had T-3 on Monday. The chemo cocktail lounge was unusually rowdy. The sisters were there. The other Julie was there. My new friend, Shelly, was there. Shelly's sister was there. The other Julie's son and girlfriend were there. My hub, daughter, and friends Jenn and Wren, were there.
And of course our chemo cocktail servers, our angels, were there. It was practically a party, as far as chemo lounges go.
Here's a pic of me and Shelly. We have been doing chemo cocktails together ever since my birthday this year, so I sort of consider her a birthday present. We have very similar stories and treatments, and have become chemo sis-tahs. We do Herceptin shots together, and she is still on Tax-ALL. Thankfully, it is not giving her the grief it gave me, so keep praying that all continues to go well for her. She did have some side effects of turning red after I left the chemo lounge on Monday, but it wasn't really clear to me if it was the Tax-ALL, or she was just missing me? ;) I knew I should have stayed until she was done. Anyway, thankfully they got it all worked out and she is one more chemo cocktail down too! Her light at the end of the tunnel is September. Go Shelly!

I also have a friend named Amy, who I would like you to be praying for. She is a survivor of thyroid cancer, and is currently on day 9 of 19 days of hell, I mean, treatment. Hang in there Amy! Tomorrow you'll be halfway there!

While I'm at it, let me ask you to pray for my mum. She has been having some health issues lately. She had a couple of questionable mammograms recently. They think it is just a sprinkling of calcified deposits, but because she is related to me, they are doing a biopsy tomorrow. Please pray for a good, as in, benign, report. She also is dealing with a chronic infection that has resulted in Bell's Palsy and a number of abscessed teeth. Please pray that we can get this infection and inflammation under control, and for her health. She has had a rough year, to say the least, witnessing my sickness and her mum's passing, and forgetting her own health. I am heading to Indy tomorrow, to sit on the other side of the waiting room for a change of pace. Not really the pace I like though, if you want to know the truth. I'm used to being on the other side, and hooked up with some happy juice. Let's hope I've at least learned some good bed-side manner through all this. See ya tomorrow, Mum!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Countdown: Rewind to T-4 and a Preview of T-3

My answering machine was blinking its ominous light again yesterday. I haven't listened to the message yet but I already know what it is. A message on the answering machine on a Thursday means a chemo cocktail coming up on Monday.

Which reminds me, that I didn't update from the last chemo cocktail I downed three weeks ago. It was T minus 4, meaning I only have 3 left.
Here is the ominous blue sign that means turn left to the chemo cocktail lounge. I think the interior decorator made a good decision to have the sign match the blue recliners so we with mushy chemo brains don't accidentally drive past the oncologist office. It's also good advertising, in my mind, to have CARE highlighted, because honestly, the oncology part makes you want to apply a little pressure to the gas peddle, but then you see the word CARE, and you remember there are really nice nurses in there who you wouldn't mind saying hello to. Even if it is over a chemo cocktail. One last word on the sign, the word EXIT, is also a nice touch. I mean, I like Hotel California as much as the next person, but it really made me appreciate exit signs. Especially at the chemo cocktail lounge.

Here is my roller derby name on the back of my Whip It tee shirt. You might notice that in both pictures I am holding up three fingers. I am not signing a "W" and you do not have to read between the lines. It's just a simple three, silly. As in, I have three chemo cocktails left.

One of which, I will down on Monday! Wow, who would ever expect to see an exclamation point at the end of a sentence like that? This counting down thing rocks.

Plus, I have a chemo buddy that I am looking forward to seeing. Her name is Shelly. She and I have much in common with damn spots, a not bad bald look, a similar bar tab at the chemo cocktail lounge, and sweet children that help you somehow smile through it all. She is in the midst of her Tax-All flight. So please be praying for her whenever you pray for me.


p.s. If you haven't registered for The Army of Women yet, please do it. Not just for me and my pink Vespa. Although, you have to admit, it does seem meant to be. Go to www.armyofwomen.org. Click on Get Involved. Scroll down and fill in the registration form. Where it says, how did you hear? Choose Pink Vespa Contest. Then fill in my email address: julie@evanshire.net. Thanks.

p.p.s. If you haven't read my article on Christianity Today's Web Mag yet, please check it out at http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2009/10/cancers_mercies.html. Thanks again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julie Got Published!

Hey, Everyone, this is Dave. Don't tell Julie, but I had to jump in here and share the news. My lovely wife was asked to write an article about her cancer story for Christianity Today magazine, and it was published today!

CLICK HERE to check it out, and while you're there leave a comment. I know she would appreciate it!

As always, blessings to you, dear reader, and in the immortal words of Bartles and Jaymes, thanks for your support!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Army of Women Wants Yours Truly to Have a Pink Vespa

Seriously. I got an email from them the other day saying so. Now, normally you know I'm more of a lover and not a fighter. But when it comes to cancer... well, kids, in that case I've had to put on the boxing gloves, throw down the gauntlet (which, honestly, seems silly to me, since I had just put them on, but whatever), and then take down names, get ready to rumble, get down low and play dirty, hit below the belt, take no prisoners, never give up, never surrender, and basically, to sum it up: fight like a girl!

Yes I have joined The Army of Women. No it doesn't have anything to do with the war in Iraq nor is it some feminist bandwagon I've jumped on. It is about fighting breast cancer.

The Army of Women is "an initiative of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, thanks to a generous grant from the Avon Foundation for Women". It's an opportunity to "partner with research scientists to move breast cancer beyond a cure."

So technically, it is a mission of LOVE (Dr. Susan Love, not to mention the whole loving act of fighting breast cancer) which brings us back to the fact that I'm a lover. Even when I have to resort to fighting.

The Army of Women slogan is: "One Million Women. One Research Goal. One Revolutionary Opportunity. Together We Can Prevent Breast Cancer."

When I just checked the web site, there were 316,077 signed up so far.

That's where my pink Vespa comes into the picture. See, The Army of Women wants me to have that pink Vespa; and they want me to help them reach that One Million Women mark in this Love initiative to fight breast cancer to win that pink Vespa.

Now I know what some of you are thinking when you think of me and a Vespa in the same sentence. But let me just say, God gave me a second chance after cancer, and even a third after the "Vespa incident" in Rome, and so I think you should give me another chance too. ;) Seriously. Pretty please?

I'll be very careful and get a really good helmet.

So if you believe in me and a pink Vespa, please go to http://www.armyofwomen.org/, click on Get Involved and fill out the registration form. Please choose Vespa Contest under the "How did you learn about the Army of Women" option, and then fill in my email address: julie@evanshire.net.

Whether or not you think it would be cool if I won the pink Vespa, please join The Army of Women with me and let's put on our gloves and fight like girls and move beyond a cure for breast cancer.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy 17th My Mateo!

Last night I had my night-before-Matt's-17th-birthday-date. These dates are probably one of my favorite traditions I have with my kids, and definitely one of my three favorite days of the year. Of course, the other two are January 19th, Amanda, and May 21st, Mikey... so, no uprisings among my offspring and no mutiny in the shire is necessary at this time.

Anyway, so I have these dates where I get the birthday kid all to myself. We go out to dinner wherever they choose. I turn over a placemat or take out a notepad and my put my journalism degree to use by interviewing them. If there are placemats (and yay when there are crayons on the table!) we trace our hands in the middle of all my chicken-scratched Qs&As. Then we go to a bookstore and they pick out a book, any book, just from me.

This time last year, I think my hair fell out on Matt's birthday. For his birthday this year, I got strep and bronchitis. Better than last year, but talk about a lame date. Not to mention, Matt likes to rib me, that I just keep taking the spotlight off him by getting sick. A few weeks ago he had a sore throat and I ended up on antibiotics. Poor guy. Yes, we joke like that. But he also brings me his own stash of Vicks Vapor Rub when he is worried that I am going to be stuffy all night. So it works for us. "That's what I like about you" Matt...and, of course, Mikey and Amanda.

My kids amaze me how they have handled this cancer thing. I can not even begin to imagine what they have gone through as they have gone through it with me. But I know it has affected them. I remember when it was just damn spots and not yet cancer, begging God that he would not let it be cancer because I was hoping He would spare them the grief of losing their mum. In His sovereignty, it was, but He has spared me, healed me. Spared them. My mum's heart is more thankful for that mercy than I can find words to express.

And yet they still have had to deal with having a very sick mum. This was not in my mum's manual nor my intended homeschool curriculum. It has not been the center of our lives. More like it has been like the elephant in the middle of room that you really can't ignore. So you just
feed it peanuts and get on with life as much as you can with an elephant following you around wherever you go. The cool thing about my kids is that they have somehow figured out how to ride the elephant, at least that's how I like to think about it. They amaze me.

Last night Matt and I were talking about the highs and lows, pros and cons, of this past year of our "elephant" in the shire. "It's definitely THE con, but in a way, it's also been a pro, because even though it sucked, we needed it," my sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old sage said. "I don't really remember what it was like before the cancer but I think it brought us closer together. And it helped me realize it's so much easier and better to just trust God rather than take things into your own hands. Because cancer isn't something you can take in your hands, and you just have to trust God."

Wow. Just wow.

Makes me think of the Simple Plan song, Save You, which Matt gave to me for my chemo cocktail mix that I made on my iPod. Simple Plan is his favorite band, and one of the band members had written the song about his brother's battle against cancer.
Take a breath
I pull myself together
Just another step till I reach the door
You'll never know the way it tears me up inside to see you
I wish that I could tell you something
To take it all away

Sometimes I wish I could save you
And there're so many things that I want you to know
I won't give up till it's over
If it takes you forever I want you to know

When I hear your voice
Its drowning in a whisper
It's just skin and bones
There's nothing left to take
And no matter what I do I can't make you feel better
If only I could find the answer
To help me understand

Sometimes I wish I could save you
And there're so many things that I want you to know
I wont give up till it's over
If it takes you forever I want you to know

That if you fall, stumble down
I'll pick you up off the ground
If you lose faith in you
I'll give you strength to pull through
Tell me you won't give up cause I'll be waiting if you fall
Oh you know I'll be there for you

If only I could find the answer
To take it all away

Sometimes i wish i could save you
And there're so many things that I want you to know
I wont give up till it's over
If it takes you forever I want you to know
I wish I could save you
I want you to know
I wish I could save you
In a way, Matt, you have and you do. It's beautiful irony to me that your whole life I have been wishing I could save you from all the scrapes in your life, and now here you are leveling the playing field. You have grown "in wisdom and stature and favor" into a godly man who reminds me of Jesus. I am the luckiest mum. Even though we don't believe in luck; we just think the word is cool. That, and riding on elephants.

Happy Birthday sweetheart of my heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Making of a Superhero

It's not all that glamorous, but here's how it happened. For me at least. See, I took a wrong turn at the Exit in the hospital one day. If you'll notice, the exit sign has an arrow pointing to the left. Well, obviously I saw the shiny green exit sign, but then quickly got distracted by the BIG blue arrow pointing in the opposite direction, and the next thing I knew I was in the nuclear medicine department, wondering "How in the world did I get here? I had no idea I was that smart."
I took a seat, filled out a few papers. Thought they were just really easy tests. Name, date of birth, what kind of drugs am I on...that sort of thing. Turned them in and got called back to what must have been a super secret nuclear medicine room, because there were stickers on the door that sort of reminded me of the Mr. Yuk stickers you're supposed to put on stuff you want to scare the little ones away from. Yeah, it was scary. But I'm not going to lie; it was also cool. I felt a little bit like Julie Bond 006.9, especially after they brought out the super secret nuclear medicine radioactive shot in such a spiffy tube.
Notice the technician is wearing gloves. And she thought I had nice veins. Well, I've heard that before. (My arms look like a freaking iguana, if you ask me.) I'd like to point out that it is really hard to multifunction when one function is to not look at the needle stabbing into your arm and the other one is to take a picture to document said stabbing. And while chewing gum, to keep from tasting tin.
Then it's lights, camera, action. Time for the photo shoot of my heart, to make sure it still has a groovy beat, as the Chemo Cocktail I am on, Herceptin, can sometimes mess with the way it works. I get one of these MugaScans every three months while I am on it; and I am on it for a year, which ends just before Christmas, God willing. Practically all the pieces of equipment you can see in the picture swivel and then hover over me to make sure I have no personal space, and then they do three ten minute scans of different views of my heart.

My heart really is usually quite introverted and camera shy, but after three of these I think it stepped up to the plate like a champ today. Ready to face the paparazzi. Ready to say "Cheese" for three photo shoots, one right after the other. And then the swiveling and hovering of the equipment began. And right before my very eyes, the flashing screen said; Status: (and in red, flashing allcaps): EXECUTING
That is just not something you want to see on the screen hovering above you. Ever. And with a great big white button that says STOP that you can't reach because your hands are strapped so they don't swivel away with the equipment that has swiveled to surround you, completely boxing you in.
But as you can see I made peace with the situation. And I got three 10-minute catnaps in the process. Superpowers are exhausting I tell you.
And here's the card they handed me on the way out the door. My Superhero membership card, explaining my radioactivity, which I take, is basically my license to set off airport security gates and such. All in the name of fighting evil of course. I've seen Spiderman, and I know the mantra, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Not to mention, it's written on the back of our Superhero membership cards now. So no worries. Hehe.
Well I drove like a madwoman to get home before the transformation took. In my experience, you never know how the superpowers will manifest. Luckily I did make it home just in time. My poor kids had to witness the event, but thankfully they kept their heads about them and grabbed my new iPhone to snap a picture.
After a morning like that, my first superpower surfaced: a superduperpowernap.

The rest, I'm sorry to say, is classified, but as you can see it is 1:35 as I type this, and I am just turning in for the night, fully exhausted from a very superpower-full day.

superCheers and superLove,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

T-5...Check Please

As of Monday, I have only FOUR chemo cocktails left! Yay for the number FOUR!

It's not a FOURgone conclusion, of course, because in the FOURfront of my heart and mind, it is all God willing, that I continue to move FOURward in this health and healing that He has mercifully and graciously FOURordained FOUR me; so without further ado, and beFOUR I FOURget, I would like to thank Him FOUR one more chemo cocktail in my rear-view mirror and this pleasant FOURshadowing of only FOUR more left.
What a good gift that was for my FOURty-FOURth birthday! Makes my FOURhead unfurrow it's brows as my smile tries to meet them.
I won't go on about this FOURever, but I just thought I would FOURwarn y'all, that in a wee bit more than a FOURtnight I will be teeing up for the T- FOURth and swinging like a mad woman. And I think you are supposed to yell "FOUR" when you do that.

P.S. This post was brought to you by the number FOUR, obviously, but also by my new MacBook that I got FOUR my birthday (along with its baby brother, my new iPhone) from my FOURmost supporter, Dave, who is usually not in the FOURfront, but behind the lines working overtimes to save up the dimes to support my writing and rhymes. How's that FOUR gangsta?Anyway, I just want to say thanks to the number FOUR, the peeps at Apple, Dave, and of course, FOUR viewers like y'all!

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Life and in Craps, 44 is a good roll, and pretty much means Happy Birthday to Me! Now somebody take me to Vegas.

Saturday night I got carded. The night before I turned 44 years old. Not a bad way to roll in the birthday festivities.

My sister, Jen, is in town, and she, Amanda and I had a fabulous girls night out for my birthday. We went to see Whip It, the new roller derby movie with Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. Lots of LOLing going on at that movie. Drew Barrymore had way to much fun with her role. Jen, who has always reminded me of Drew Barrymore, is already smack talking about joining the Charleston Roller Derby League when she gets back home. Basically, we LOVED the movie, want to buy the soundtrack A.S.A.P., and will proudly wear our Whip It tee shirts they gave us FREE for attending the premiere (although I like to think they were just giving them out for my birthday) as soon as we monogram our new roller derby names on the backs of them.

After much collaboration over Tapas and a bottle of Spanish wine, we dubbed Amanda, Pandemic; Jen, Jen and Tonic; and me, Chemo-Sabe.

While our review would be simply put in the immortal words of DEVO, "Whip it? Whip it, GOOD!" we all were all a wee bit saddened that this song wasn't in the movie. We were so ready to sing it.

Yet despite the glaring omission of that one song, we managed to pull off a stellar night, not to mention, stellar start to my birthday. Especially, comparatively to last year's birthday.

Last year I had my port surgery 2 days before my birthday, started chemo 2 days after my birthday, and a prayer meeting sandwiched in the middle of all that and my recovery, to thank God for healing me of the cancer and asking him to help me during this long hard road of chemo. 43 was a hard year. I'm as relieved it is over, as much as I was relieved to celebrate a year's distance between me and cancer. I feel like I pretty much crawled from 43-44. But now I think I'll pick up the pace and try to widen the distance. If I could roller derby like Ellen Page, I think I could lap it a few times and get pretty far away.

Anyway, I like the sound of 44. For one, it is a good roll in craps, the hard 8. It is rolling an 8 the hard way, two 4's. I feel like that just about sums up how I got to 44, also the hard way. First of all, I would just like to thank God that I even got here. There were times when I wasn't so sure my dice weren't just going to retire. But he has graciously, mercifully, spared me, and rolled the double four. Which is kinda cool when you think about it. Not just any roll, but a hard 8. Not too hard for Him.

Now to see what I make of this roll. That is what I am praying like crazy about. If anybody would like to pray about this with me, I would covet your prayers and any words or pictures you feel God lay on your heart for me.

One last thing I'll say about 44, is that I really enjoy the symmetry of it. It might be a hard roll in craps, but it is easy on my OCDness when trying to tell you how old I am by holding my fingers up. 4 fingers on each hand, no fingers left behind, thumbs just take a coffee break. It's clear, clean, consise, cosmically pleasing, as in, symmetrical, non-competitive and just plain cool.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pavlov's Got My Number

I don't like listening to phone messages on the Thursday before chemo days. That is when I get a recorded message from my oncologist's office reminding me that I have chemo on Monday.

Like I can forget.

Before I went to bed Wednesday night I knew it was coming the next day.

All day long yesterday I couldn't help but wait for it. Wait for it. Not in the looking forward to way. More somewhere between pressing on and panic.

It makes me crazy how even though I know it's not "bad" chemo anymore and therefore is not going to make me super sick, my body still doesn't trust me on that, so it just goes ahead and starts to gear up for the worst. Slight headache...check. Wee bit of nausea...check. Pit in stomach for no reason...check. Cloud over the weekend...check.

Well, thank God it's Friday anyway. And my sis-tah and nephew come visit tomorrow! So take that, pit in my stomach and Pavlov.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Last Time I Blew My Nose

So we started co-op on Monday. I am teaching a Newspaper class. (Finally, using my degree.) By the end of the day I had laryngitis. Thought it was just some allergies, post nasal drip and all that. I think I was allergic to hitting the wall in Rome, because ever since, I have been wondering if I am coming down with allergies or something. It's hard to tell, since my forehead is still numb, whether or not it is allergies or just me still being a numbskull from the Vespa incident.

Anyway, so my throat was hurting after co-op. Didn't know if I talked too much or something. Thought some Tortilla soup and a nap might be just the ticket. But I woke up from the nap and thought a mint chocolate chip shake might be a good idea. And then I took another nap.

I woke just in time to watch the finals of the U.S. Open. Feeling like I was going downhill as Del Potro was during the first set. As he picked things up at the end of the second set, I was wondering if my continued downhill trend would get to unbearable overnight as the heavy night air settled in. Dave decided it might be a good idea to go to a doc in the box and make sure I didn't need antibiotics, since my immune system is still trying to figure out what to do with itself after the chemo. It was hard to leave in the middle of such a good match. But the doc in the box closed at 7. And luckily, Mikey was kind enough to cell phone commentate for me during my medical time out.

At first the doc in the box was a bit cranky. I think we must have caught her just as she was closing up shop for the day. (Probably to go watch the U.S. Open, so I totally understood.) But then she took my blood pressure and all the sudden got nice. It was scary to tell you the truth. I think it was 160 over 88 or something like that. She took it twice. And then told me to go home and go to bed and take an Ativan and relax and take off the next day. I asked her if that meant tennis, and she just looked at Dave and asked him if he had to sit on me to keep me down. She also sent me home with some antibiotics.

So I went home and had a glass of wine and watched the rest of Del Potro winning the U.S. Open (which I have to be honest, wasn't the most relaxing thing in the world...but what a match! Yay Del Potro!) And then I took my Ativan and went to bed. After Dave took my blood pressure about 438 times to see if it would just go down. Which I have to admit, stressed me out a bit. So much pressure!

Anyway, the next day I awoke with a migraine, threw up my coffee, took some Advil, (and of course, Dave took my blood pressure; it had finally gone down a tiny bit) and went back to bed... until 2p.m.

I was hoping that was enough rest because I was a little tired of it all.

And then the congestion fell out of my forehead and into my nose...and I had to blow it, for the first time since I broke it in Rome and they told me not to blow it or my eyeball might fall out of the socket. I have to tell you, I had some real issues with blowing my nose after all that. I know it has been 4 months and everything, but it is a very difficult image to erase from one's mind.

But I am happy to report that I did get over it and have been blowing my nose like a champ. And thank God my eyeball is still intact!

On another note, I got a confusing piece of mail today. It was from the Breast Care Center where I got my mammogram last August 13, when they did the photo shoot of the damn spots. It said their records indicate that it is time to reschedule a routine screening mammogram. Is it me or their records askew? But I was thinking that was a bit pointless now. ;) I mean, I thought that was one of the "perks" to having a freaking mastectomy. Come on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When Blogs Get Backlogged

I feel badly because I have such a backlog of things to report on my blog. Lots has been happening, but I've been so caught up in the whirlwind of it all that I haven't had time to sit still and let the old thoughts flow out through these keys. You can imagine the state of my brain with so much to say, just whirling about with nowhere to go. Yes, my blog is constipated.

First of all, we are back to the grindstone, homeschool-wise. We started up when we ripped the August leaf off the calendar. And much to my boys' disappointment, yes, we did labor on Labor Day. It's not like we dove into some big heavy schedule or anything. It's more like we tip-toed in. They complain anyway, but I think it's really just tongue-in-cheek, because it really seems to be so far so good. The amazing thing, is that this will be our last year of homeschool.

Yes, I am graduating homeschooling this year!

Matt is graduating too, and is intending on going to Cincinnati Christian University and then into the ministry in some form, missions or youth ministry. Mikey will graduate from homeschool, and then do post-secondary education at University of Cincinnati, where he will take his senior year of high school and freshman year of college simultaneously.

I have yet to figure out what to do with myself after cancer, let alone homeschool.

And I don't even want to think about what to do with myself without my little whirlwind, Amanda, around. We moved her stuff to her apartment on campus a couple of weeks ago.
Thankfully, UC is still on quarters this year, and classes haven't started up quite yet, so she is still at home until next week. Next week will not be my favorite. I am so excited for her though, and have just been trying to enjoy getting her set up in her apartment, while trying to split semantical hairs in my own mind, by not thinking about the part of it that means she won't be here.
We also had T-6... and counting, chemo cocktail day Wednesday last.
Which means I only have FIVE chemo cocktails left!
As you can tell from the photos, six is just one too many, but five is just a handful and just seems much more manageable. WAY more manageable than the 24 or so we started out with, which I didn't have enough numb fingers and soggy toes to keep track of. Who knew we'd finally get to where I can just hold one happy hand up? I know that one finger doesn't look very happy, with that band-aid on and all. But it was a fun band-aid, and all for the cause, blood counts and such, so it doesn't really mind any minor pin pricks any more. What hurts it, is when people assume it's flipping people off all the time, when it's just trying to count. Not to mention, show off it's puppy band-aid.

In between moving Amanda's stuff out and chemo, I played in a singles match on Tuesday, and a doubles match Wednesday morning before chemo. It is so much fun competing again. I think I am about 85% back, physically. Still working on my stamina. And still trying to deal with the way the port gets in the way of my serve, and my soggy feet. They do not like to be in shoes. I had to buy a half size bigger pair of tennis shoes for this season, and still I have to peel them off after a match. But I am just so happy to be able to play so I'm not meaning to complain. My feet are happy feet even if they are a bit soggy. And as they are so huge, now you know why it is so hard to knock me down. What helps, is having a famous nail tech for a daughter, who works at a really cool spa called the Mandarin, where she cures her mum's pedis.
And just in time to take a walk at Cincinnati's Race for the Cure 2009, which was this past Saturday. So much fun. I just want to thank all of Team Evanshire for walking "all over cancer" (as Amanda so eloquently put it) with me.

My hat had one pink ribbon on it, for my one-year anniversary from cancer. My friend, Stacy (far left, pink shirt, white sweat jacket, coffee cup in hand) ougtha have a hat just like mine on, but I don't know where it is. We played tennis together, and she was diagnosed a bit before me. It was cool walking with her. Stay healthy, Stacy! Right above my left shoulder, is my friend, Amy, who probably oughta've won some kind of award for being the most recent survivor at the Race. Even though her hat wouldn't be pink, since she just kicked thyroid cancer's you-know-what a couple of weeks ago. Some people are so competitive and have to just show you up and beat cancer in one fell swoop when it takes me a year-and-a-half. Go Amy! Stay healthy!

The "race" number on my back, was 232. A cool number, because of the symmetry, but made cooler, because I wrote down the names of a bunch of my friends who are fighting or have fought cancer. I just wanted to put them here as well, to honor them: Sue, Linda, Stacy, Janet, Cathy, Kristi, Teri, Louise, Jo, Clustefook, Deb, Judy and Chuck, Sue, Bill, Cheryl, Julie, Kay, Eileen, Cindy, Vicki. Rest, to those whose race is done. Godspeed and health, to those who are running. Stay healthy, to those who have been there and done that.

Last year I was just two weeks out from my mastectomy when I did the Race for the first time, and I think I was carried more by the good vibes of my friends and fam than I was cognizant of. This year, it was cool to not be in a medicinal fog, and to be able to try and take it all in a bit more. Although, as you can see from the photo, it was a LOT to take in:
It was HUGE. Bigger even, than my feet. As my friend Sue put it on her Facebook status:
"If scientists had taken a satellite photo of downtown Cincinnati on Saturday it would have shown a mysterious pink mist rising up. It was full of love and hope and friendship and courage, perseverance and faith, strength and gentleness. I was glad to be part of it...
" That pretty much says it better than I could.

The only thing left, is to leave you with one more pic, of me and my body guards at the Race.
How lucky am I?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sonnet #911

I remember the sun was shining;
That still amazes me when I think back
To the edge of where I sat, reclining
While the silver lining became a crack

And I watched the sky fall on my TV.
I remember my kids were doing math
When the phone rang, their world having changed...we
Chanted "Our Father" and tried to do the math

In front of the TV set because of glue
On the couch. (But the math didn't last long.)
I remember my kids building Legos, too.
At my feet, building, in the face of wrong.

Methinks this is what the sun had up his sleeve-
I remember; and I still believe.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Joules = 1; cancer is a big fat zero. The Party.

I don't even know how to begin this post. I am 5 days late from sitting myself down to write this; but it is like life, take II just started and I have been busy having my cake and eating it too, so to speak. See above picture, where my very sneaky redheads and I are taking a bite out of my "Happy One-Year Cancer-Free" cake. I think Amanda's face says it all. Btw, the kids wouldn't eat the cake. They just made faces, a few hand gestures that we took pics of but I won't post here, and then absolutely demolished my piece of cake. I had surgically removed the piece that said cancer from the rest of the cake because I was feeling a bit passive aggressive and thought it would feel good to tear into that particular piece with my kiddos, who had their own well-deserved aggression to get out, on the cake that said cancer. Just to be journalistically honest, I did eat the cake. I ate the chocolate part, which coincidentally, was the C, the A, and the N, which I think is pretty optimistic when you think about it. The other half was yellow cake, and it's not like I have anything against yellow cake, but I didn't eat it. It's not like I planned it to end up being all poetic and everything...but I guess I'm just poetic by nature like that.

So I mentioned the sneakiness of my redheads. OMG, did they totally blow the lid off the definition when they threw, and actually got away with, a surprise "Happy One-Year Cancer-Free" party for my anniversary Saturday night, or what?! I have never EVER been so caught off-guard in my entire life.

I had wanted to throw a big party to celebrate, and especially thank all our friends who have been so supportive this past year, but Dave was out of town on business, and his trip kept extending, and I didn't want to plan it not knowing if he'd be back for it.

Enter Matt the mastermind.

Matt called his Daddy-O and hatched the surprise party of my life. On Wednesday. With only a probably that Dave would be back late Friday night. Then he and his sibs pulled off the impossible: surprising the you-know-what out of me. Which I still can't believe they did, even 4 days out. I am super hard to surprise, mainly because I am a control freak and do not let myself be caught off guard. That is just a fact. Ask my kids. I anticipate everything. It drives them crazy. But I would really like to have seen my face when they made me eat those words.

They made a secret Facebook event (that I wasn't able to see, or come to think of it, was I invited to), called in the help of a couple of my friends who helped extend the invite, and coordinated everything from my "Happy One-Year Cancer-Free" cake to having everyone park in the tennis parking lot behind our home so I wouldn't see the cars or the surprise coming. Completely on the D-L. Deceitful sweet things. Where do they learn these things?

When I found out Dave would be home Friday night, I made plans with our friends Bob and Debbie, to go out and celebrate with us. There is a cool Tapas restaurant near our home that I love and wanted Debbie to try.

It's funny, how many people misunderstood me when they asked how I was going to celebrate, and I said, "going to a Tapas restaurant" and they all somehow hear "topless restaurant" instead. Like I would go to a topless restaurant to celebrate my mastectomy. ;) You just have to laugh at things when they are funny like that. And people who do and say such delightful funny things.

Anyway, so Bob and Debbie were in cahoots with the kids to eat Tapas with us while the kids gathered friends in our family room to surprise me and celebrate with us.

I had no idea.

Amanda had been at work all day, Mikey was doing tech team at church, and Matt was Facebooking and playing Spiderman on X-box 360, when we left. I initially felt bad when I realized we were leaving Matt home alone. I knew Amanda was scheduled to work, but didn't know Mikey had tech team. I was telling Matt how badly I felt, leaving him home alone on such a big day in our life. Inside he must have been shoving me out the door so he could make like crazy and pull the party together...but outside he was so nonchalant, telling me it was ok and he was going to be fine Facebooking and playing Spiderman. Oh, the web of deceit he was really weaving.

We had a fab time with our friends at the Tapas restaurant. I was completely oblivious throughout all the texting that Dave and Debbie did through dinner, even when they abruptly decided we would go do coffee and dessert on my back deck and called for the check. I had a moment when we walked in the front door and I caught a glimpse of a candle burning in the bathroom on our way to the back deck. Why in the world did Matt have a candle burning in the bathroom when he was home alone? But Dave quickly checked this thought in me by practically chest bumping me into the family room, where I cannot believe my kids had packed so many of our friends to give me such a delightful surprise. Thank you, redheads! It was a celebration proper. You guys totally rock at throwing a surprise party.

But the deceiving part of the business makes mum worry a wee bit. I'm just saying.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Life-take II

I stayed up past midnight tonight just to say that this is my one-year anniversary of being cancer-free and I just wanted to thank God for this year of living, loving and laughing despite the cancer and the chemo cocktails and my soggy feet.

Now I lay me down to sleep...



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Year Ago Today...

I got a lumpectomy that turned out to be cancer. Today I'm going to the Smithsonian with M & M. This is WAY much more fun.

Cheers from D. C.,

p.s. pics are up on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chemo Cocktail Lounge

Chemo Cocktail 7-Up Slammed Down. Only 6 more to go! No, I didn't drink the diet 7-Up. It was merely for artistic purposes and aesthetic effect. How about that syringe jacked into Port Rapha? No the 7-Up didn't go there either. That's where the Herceptin goes which then goes and tells any sneaky cancer cells to cut it the crap out or we will send in the diet 7-Up.

This is a cool bracelet (Warning: Don't squint your eyes too much if profanity bothers you!) that the guy next to me had on. I rather like it myself. Methinks cancer is profane. Btw, Andy is the name of the guy and I hope you will add him to your prayers as well. When I was taking the upside down diet 7-Up photo and talking about only having 6 left. He said he wished he knew how many more he had. When I asked him his story, he said he has pancreatic cancer and is on chemo until it doesn't work anymore. I had seen him across the room a few times before, but usually sleeping. I sat next to him on purpose this time and I'm so glad I did. Now I have someone else to look forward to seeing at my chemo cocktail lounge. Not to mention, pray more intelligently for someone who is more than just a face across the room.

Speaking of someone I always look forward to seeing at my chemo cocktail lounge, this is Brenda, one of the lounge angels who take care of me. They are all so amazing.

And every lounge must have it's band. I especially like this one.
Here's a wee bit of the set:

Cheers, Joules

Monday, August 17, 2009

T - 7 and Counting

Chemo Cocktail on the menu this morning. Then a road trip to D.C. and The Big Apple. The boys and I are tagging along with Dave to squeeze in a bit of a holiday since we couldn't pull off a family vacation, in between Dave's work schedule and my chemo schedule. Not to mention the boys' social calendar. Anyway, will document this Great American Road Trip here. And somebody remind me to send my mum a postcard from New York, because she just reminded me yesterday that I forgot to send her one from Rome.

So today's blog is sponsored by the number 7, kids, which means I will only have 6 chemo cocktails left after I slam this one down.


(A few fellow cancer fighting/chemo cocktail slamming/surviving peeps I'm praying for and lifting my cocktail and drinking it to their health: Kristi (stay healthy!), Cathy (stay healthy!), Janet, Don, my Uncle Bill, my Aunt Cheryl (stay healthy!), Amy, Rebecca's hub, Deb, the sister at my chemo bar who told me she doesn't trust a skinny cook, and Julie, another frequent fighter at my chemo bar.)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My 8/11

Last night once I fell asleep, which wasn't easy, even with the Ativan, I slept the night away, which is a rare and lovely thing for me.

Last August 11th I was up all night playing with the marble I found in my left breast and waiting for David to wake up so I could show him and see if he thought it was anything to worry about. And thus began the merry-go-round that has been this past year and will stop sometime around December 21 (my last chemo) at which point I will jump off and hopefully never ride a merry-go-round again.

It is an anniversary of sorts, I suppose. But not really the kind I've felt like celebrating. Mostly I have been just looking forward getting through this week in my memory, and getting to some dates I don't mind seeing in my rear-view mirror. Like August 29th, the one-year anniversary of me being cancer-free. That will be way more fun. The best part being, that it is in the rear-view mirror, and that I get to drive on. Life, take II.

I did keep myself busy yesterday, instead of sitting around all day thinking about it. I spent the day with my boys, taking them school shopping. I have always loved taking the kids school shopping. They do not share my enthusiasm for getting new pencils and cool notebooks, but they have, at least, always indulged me. They are sweet like that. Mikey even let himself act a little excited about the new Zebra mechanical pencils we found yesterday, which I know was a lot for him, but meant a lot to this pencil pusher. Especially since, as it is our last year of homeschooling, it was our last year of homeschool shopping. You can't buy those kind of moments. It was practically a Mastercard commercial. It made me so happy I almost bought two packs, even though I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to pencils. I like real pencils. But don't get me started down that rabbit trail. It's a long one that could end us all up in a Hookah Bar if we're not careful. But I digress.

So after I dropped off the boys from our Mother-Sons Homeschool Supplies Shopping Event, which, btw, I gave them both A's for, I went out with a group of friends, fellow homeschool mums. We went to see Julie and Julia and then out to dinner on the Levy. Good flick. Good popcorn (with lots of butter! Julia would be proud.)Good food. Good company. Good conversation. I give the evening an A, and gave them all an A for hanging out with me last night, and especially for helping me hang in there this past year. Some of these women prayed with me every Chemo Monday as I went from Co-op class to chemo, which really meant a lot to me. So it was fitting, and poetic to me, that they prayed over me last night before we all went home. A perfect night-cap.

When I got home I did not think of marbles. I just went upstairs and lay me down to sleep. And slept. Didn't even dream of marbles. I'd give myself an A for that, but can you really give yourself an A and get away with it?

Anyway, it's a really beautiful day outside, so I'm off to take in a long walk. After all, I'm in training now, for Cincy's Race for the Cure 2009, which is exactly a month from today. Feel free to join our Team Evanshire and/or walk with us.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Treatment Day: T-8 and counting.

Slammed another chemo cocktail down today. Here is me, demonstrating the number 8 in my chemo blue recliner. I chose to use the double 4's because 1) I like symmetry, 2) it's almost Dave's and my age, 3) it's a good roll in craps, and 4) I didn't want to have to deal with the whole competition issue over which hand would be 5 and which one would be 3. I really had other things to deal with today than such "hand to hand" combat. For instance, a few minutes after Dave snapped this picture, I decided to recline my chemo blue recliner back, and pulled the handle right off. I didn't know I still had some latent superpowers left from being radioactive, and you can imagine how I felt almost blowing my cover like that. I shudder to think what could've happened if I hadn't had the foresight to choose the double 4's, and say the reclining hand was feeling all prideful, or worse, jealous.

Anyway, they got a new flatscreen TV in the chemo room. This presented another issue I had to deal with. And by issue, I mean Dave. See, the old TV was just a box, not really any controls to adjust other than the channel and the volume. The new flatscreen, however, is widescreen, which means there is a remote with all kinds of settings to adjust and buttons to push. Besides counting the drips in my IV, Dave likes push buttons and adjust the proper screen ratio and what-not on a widescreen.
It's like I knew what he was going to say even before he said, "Doesn't it bother you the way its all stretched out on the screen?"

"We don't have the remote," I countered, knowing I had totally check-mated him. 1) I was hooked up and couldn't go ask for the remote. 2) It didn't really bother me if the french fries Rachel Ray was making looked bloated. 3) Dave was also sitting in a recliner, which meant he was not going to be getting up soon to go find a remote.

Luckily, there was a newspaper somebody kindly left in the chemo room, and I thought quick, and turned to the crossword puzzle section and distracted him. There were two crosswords, one easy and one advanced. I am still trying to process what it means that we finished the advanced one twice as quick as the easy one.

You'll notice that on the newspaper right next to the YEA, there is an apple jolly rancher. I just took this bonus shot because I always grab two green jolly ranchers from the candy jar at the nurses' desk before I go sit in my blue chemo recliner. I always pop an apple jolly rancher when they flush my port right after they access it, and another before they flush it again and unhook me. I hope this doesn't ruin apple jolly ranchers for me after I'm done with chemo. Because I really like them. They are my chemo chasers and give it that appletini feel to it.

The lady across from me asked for a single malt hooked up into her cocktail. Her nurse didn't catch the reference, so I said, "She wants some Scotch." And Dave decided he could probably do a pretty good business, opening up a bar in the chemo room. Everybody is a comedian.

While I was there, one lady and her hub were getting the tour from my oncologist's nurse; it was her first chemo. I remember that tour last September 29th, on my first chemo day. And there was another lady there getting her last chemo. I totally hi-fived her as I left. Only 7 more for me. God willing I will be slamming down my last one on December 21. I just found it interesting to think about as I sat not literally between them, but metaphorically so.

Also, there was another lady named Julie, in with me today. We have seen each other before, but chatted quite a bit today. She had breast cancer 6 years ago. Then was cancer free for 6 years. Then it came back, in her sternum, I think. She is also on Herceptin this time, so we were doing the same shot. But she is also on a couple others as well. And she told me she will be for the rest of her life. Sobering as I sat there feeling so happy about counting down my treatments and getting this port removed. If you think about praying for her when you pray for me, since her name is Julie, too, and you could just add an s to make it easy, and that would be cool with me.

I didn't have to do the steroid drip today, so once I was hooked up, it was just the 90 minute Herceptin drip. I am so used to it meandering through my whole Monday, that it did startle me when she said I was done and we'd barely begun the Sodoku puzzle. (Yes, we do Sodoku, too.) Not that I'm complaining! I think we were home by 3. Just in time to go watch Mikey's tennis match. (His team won.) First time I did not come home and immediately crash after chemo.

My counts were all in range this time. No red flags at all. Usually I have a white blood cell count flag and maybe a couple others. None have them have been bad out of range, just little flags waving out a hello, just to make sure all keeps going well. And, so far, thank God, it has.

My oncologist checked out a couple of knots that have been under my arms and making us eager to see her to have them checked out. She said they were probably folliculitis, which as far as I understand it, is an infected hair follicle or something like that. Nothing to worry about. It will probably go down and away. And we'll just keep an eye on it, and if it happens to get bigger, she'll biopsy.

I appreciate all the prayers that continue to lift me up, and all the encouragement that continues to rain down on me. It's means more than I can say. I am humbled, and grateful beyond words.

P.S. I don't know if you noticed in the top photo, but I got a haircut last week. Not too much different, but it was getting a wee bit tufty at the top (as in, I was beginning to look like a rooster when I woke up in the morning, and this, quite frankly, scared me. 1) Who wants to get up when a rooster gets up? and 2) I didn't feel like looking like a rooster, let alone getting up like one). So I got a shave (my neck) and a haircut (the tuft). Here's the thing: Up until I saw my hair sitting on the floor in a little clump, I had been in a state of indecision as to what color my hair was coming back in as. Gray. So much for my dirty dishwater blonde. So much for the white I thought I was inheriting from my Gigi, which looked like I highlighted my dirty dishwater blonde hair. It's gray now. Salt and Pepper is what I'd call it if it were a crayon in my crayon box. Anyway, at least I don't look like an old gray rooster anymore. That's something.