Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Many Perspectives Dance On My Eyelash

So I finished my last taxing tax-ALL chemo treatment last Wednesday, and pretty much slept off the weekend, trying to stay ahead of the pain curve. Was leaning forward (Titanic style) to turning the last corner toward feeling better. By Monday morning, I thought we were on top of things, and had somehow passed by this last one comparatively unscathed. Dave took off to a business trip in D.C.; Amanda to classes at UC; the boys to co-op. I was trying to hedge my bets by laying low, and not overdoing it the second I saw the "corner" in view, which I have tended to do this entire chemo process--which I would like to blame on the chemo, but quite frankly, I am just stubborn. Anyway, I did lay low. Dave had contracted for our home to be cleaned, so even on that front, I was feeling like I was ahead of the game. And then late Monday night I turned the corner and drat it all if there wasn't another corner. Right now I feel like a big, fat bruise, sore to the touch, and very possibly, if you look at me wrong. I am cranky (ask my poor kids) have a helluva headache, 2 numb, fat-feeling, freezing feet, 10 numb-fumbly fingers that can't feel the keys, but have an uncanny ability to feel sorry for myself. And I'm really disappointed that I seem to be in a polygon with all these corners, instead of the simple, if obtuse, angle I thought I was diving off of. This is where the needle scratches across the record and, well... so much for the Titanic Theme Song in the background.

Don't worry. I am quite aware that I'm being all melodramatic here. I'm not really wallowing in misery if that's the way it sounds. Just dog-paddling my way through it to the other side.

So last week, Amanda and I went on a sort of scavenger hunt, to secure all the supplies she would need to take the state boards to become Cincy's newest licensed nail tech. While we were trying to find a mannequin hand, a lady gently tapped me on the shoulder and said, "So, you're a survivor."

Yes, it was that uncanny. And no, none of the wit nor irony of the situation was lost on me.

But that is not what stunned me. I don't think I had really thought of myself as a survivor yet. I was just as shocked to hear myself answer, "Yeah, I guess I am."

Without missing a beat, she said, "I could tell because I used to have the same hairstyle." Then she told me her story about how she was diagnosed with a very similar breast cancer as mine a few years ago, and how she had even received very similar treatments. The Herceptin, being a most happy and hopeful similarity to me. The difference, was that she was diagnosed at stage 4, and not really given much hope for survival. But there she was, tapping me on the shoulder and calling me a survivor, like I was one of the gang.

Then she just raved about my eyebrows. They are, amazingly, still there. Still reminding me of the silly time I went and let myself be talked into having them waxed, right before I found out I was going to go through chemo and would most likely lose them. But didn't! (At least not at press time.) But now they also remind me of her, the lovely view of the other side that she pointed out, the floatie she threw me, and that eyebrows are worth raving about.

I also happen to have a couple of eyelashes left, but we didn't get into that. I think it might have gotten a little out of control in the mannequin hand aisle, and we might have gotten thrown out of the store or something.

Btw, Amanda is Cincy's newest licnesed nail tech! And the mannequin hand will most likely be making its debut in one of Matt's and Mikey's home movies.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Slammed Down the LAST Tax-ALL Chemo Yesterday, Last White Blood Cell Shot Today, and Round 2 is History! Game...Set...

Here is a pic of me hooked up to my last taxing Tax-ALL shot in my chemo cocktail! Note, the shirt, which I bought especially from the Lucky Jeans store for the occasion. At first, I thought it was a mouse with boxing gloves, which seemed so appropriate, because I think about the best analogy for what it feels like to fight cancer or deal with chemo, is just that. Or at least that's how I feel about it. Also, they used to call me Mighty Mouse when I played softball and volleyball in my high school and college days. But then, I realized it wasn't a mouse on the shirt at all, but a rabbit. I think this occurred to me yesterday before chemo when I read the fine print right above the rabbit's left foot, which says, "Oswald: Lucky Rabbit". At first this was a bit of a downer, because a lucky rabbit's foot, is most commonly detached from said rabbit and hanging on a key chain, while the poor rabbit is, well I don't even want to go there, but at the very least I wouldn't call him lucky. And that wouldn't exactly be the encouraging message I was trying to convey when I put on the t-shirt yesterday. But then, I thought about it really hard, and decided that this was indeed a lucky rabbit, since, as you can clearly see, he is still standing on both lucky feet, which is exactly what I'm trying to do. Except I can't exactly feel my feet yet; but I can see them as clearly as the Lucky Rabbit's feet on my shirt. So that's a good sign. I'd just like to point out that I'm perfectly aware I don't have floppy ears like that. (Except sometimes my left ear does feel like that when I've been talking on my cell phone.) Anyway, I hope this little "discrepancy" doesn't throw anyone off. So I hope you will all just please try to go with me here on this. And spare me the nasty emails about my ears. Besides the floppy ears, it is perfect fit. Well, I guess if we're being gut-level honest, I must also minus the boxing gloves, because I don't exactly own a pair. But you get my point. I am a poet and I like to use my license a bit recklessly. Which is most likely where Amanda inherited her lead foot on the gas pedal. All that to say, metaphorically speaking I am wearing boxing gloves.

In about a half-hour, one of my tennis buds is to pick me up for my last white blood cell shot. Usually we grab a happy meal on the way (I know, I know, I don't usually do fast food, but Mc D's plain cheeseburgers have been a staple go-down/stay-down food during chemo weeks) -but today I'm feeling like it might be a big mac day. My kids will flip when they read this, since I usually have a big mac attack once a year, and that, on a road trip. Plus they will be a little peeved that I'm not bring back a happy meal toy for them to fight over.

Tomorrow I finish the last of my anti-nausea meds. Chemo cocktail 3 is just the Herceptin. It is supposed to have no side effects. No more nausea, no more anti-nausea meds. Yay! It is not traditional chemo, which tears down to hopefully kill off any cancer cells that escaped and all their hopes of regrouping and staging another coup, but is a biological med that actually builds up. It targets the specific breast cancer cells that started all this damn spot business, and in effect, shuts them off, making them a rather moot point. Another Yay! Also, since there will be no more tearing down, no more white blood shots necessary. Yay again!

I will be on the Herceptin, once every three weeks, for a year. I think that puts me somewhere around Christmas, and can't think of a better Christmas present than being done with dealing with cancer and chemo. And getting Port Rapha out and sailing away from all this.

I am coming off this last chemo quite a bit weaker, but the really bad days haven't hit yet, so I wanted to go ahead and do an update while I'm waiting for my ride. The really bad days usually hit as soon as I go off the anti-nausea meds, which will be tomorrow. They usually start out as weakness, which amps up and then morphs into pain that I have a really hard time coping with. I have a hard time thinking clearly to take the pain meds that would keep it at bay, so sometimes it gets ahead of me and I can't quite catch up. Dave usually tries to coax me into taking something to get ahead of it before it hits, but I think I get tired of all the meds and their side effects and may not be the most compliant in such moments. Also, it is quite possible one of the side effects of the chemo is a wee bit of a stubborn streak. Anyway, I'm going to try and be better this time. This LAST time! But then again, it's only day 2, and I'm still on meds which might make me say delirious things.

Once I get past the tear down of the next few days, I am so looking forward to the building up that will follow. I have not really been able to really heal or feel better since the mastectomy, so it will be nice to finally move in that direction and figure out what my new normal is. Also, it seems that the chemo has also targeted my tennis injuries (rotator cuff), so it will be nice to see how that all fairs when I get a little bit of physical therapy and burst right out of my tennis remission. And, my atrophied muscles are looking forward to tuning/toning up. And let's not forget about the hair. My hair will make it's debut sometime in the near future. I am totally taking bets (ante up) on what color you think it will be and whether it will be straight or curly. I know Amanda wants it to be red and wavy like hers. We'll just have to wait and see. Both my hairbrush and my razor are quite excited. My razor, for instance, has been all this time, just sittin in my shower, upside down sort of making a frowny face. But now, it has flipped itself upright and has the biggest smile. I have to admit, I haven't missed shaving a bit. But please don't tell my razor.

All that to say, when I do bounce back from this LAST one, I hope to keep bouncing, and really can't wait to make the tennis balls bounce once again!

Well, my ride is here and I'm ready for my Big Mac.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Historic Day...18 Candles and a 44th President

So today my baby girl is a legal adult. Makes me feel a bit ancient, I'm not gonna lie, but...my cup is overflowing and splashing all over the place when I think of the godly, delightful, lovely, brilliant and beautiful woman she has become. If you know my Amanda Panda Bear, then you can only begin to imagine what a joy ride it has been, getting to be her mum, and watching her, in wonder, every single day of those eighteen years! Happy Birthday, Amanda!
Your Mai Mai (and Daddy-O) Luvs Ya!

And, don't look so shocked, so do your brothers!
(The above two photos are ones we always take at birthdays. One of those Dave and Julie traditions that they either adore or abhor. I'll just leave it obscure like that.)

Speaking of photos...the following one takes into account both momentous occasions of the day. To me, it is a picture-perfect commentary on both! ;)

Jesus is our King, but Obama is our President.
That's about as political as I care to get.
Now, politics aside (or outside the realm of this blog), it is amazing to live in a country where we are blessed enough to witness a peaceful transition of power, and therefore be a witness to the world. This makes me happy, as my daughter is bursting onto the scene today, of voting age, and chomping at the bits to change the world and make it a better place. This has been my prayer for her, and my boys, every day of their lives. How cool to get to see her launch out. Go Amanda! And Happy Birthday, baby, baby!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Truth About Angels

Dave had his check-up with the gall bladder surgeon today and it was all good. The surgeon said that there had been one stone and that it was about the size of a dime. Ka-ching. Definitely good that we got it out before inflation turned it into a quarter. Dave, for reasons I do not understand, really wanted to keep his dime-sized gall stone but I think the surgeon must've pocketed it (you know how people nickel and dime these days) and thankfully, there was no show-and-tell tonight at the dinner table. I'm just going to warn everyone that Dave will probably go around telling war stories about being nearly literally dimed to death, but let's all just be glad he wasn't nickeled, too. And we all have to bear with one another on things. This will be one of those things. I have been bearing with a joke he cracked himself up with when we were first married, for 21 years now: "Can you hand me the SHAM poo, since we don't have any REAL poo?" Another one, is, "You're stuffed? And all this time I thought you were real." Twenty-one years, and he still thinks they are funny.

Anyway, Dave seems to be recovering from his surgery pretty well; although he is a little sore when he coughs or laughs, so we have trying to not be very funny around our house out of consideration for him. He is back to work, and already pushing the limits on his Jack Sprat diet. He practically begged me for a cookie the other day while we were out with some friends so I thought I was being gracious to cut one in half for him. While I was blinking, he scarfed the other half down as well. And then he bragged about it tonight to the redheads. They kind of got on him about it, and I kind of thought it was funny. But I did not laugh out loud since I didn't want to start anything and bust open the fresh steri-strips the doc put on the four holes in his belly. Speaking of which, he is pretty pshyched that he has lost about 10-15 pounds since his gall bladder attacked over Thanksgiving, giving him a jump-start on his New Year's Resolution for us to regain our health and fitness in 2009.

The timing of the surgery ended up being an extra boost in that direction, since once I bounce back from my next chemo cocktail on the 21st, we can both begin regaining our health and fitness. That will be the last shot of the T-word in my chemo cocktail, which I still don't know (or want to know) how to spell, but have decided to spell TaxALL from here on out. It has been taxing my coping skills to the max. And, unfortunately, the SECOND this "angel" walked in the door from bringing Dave home from the hospital I sat down and had a meltdown at our kitchen table. I have not really had a "crying in my beer" moment before, but I do apparently cry in wine. (And I do try to not wine ;)) I knew at the hospital while we were getting Dave discharged that I was spent and needed to "not pass go, not collect $200" but go directly to bed. But I was starving so I thought I would sit down with the fam and grab a quick bite. Instead it was a quick cry that didn't turn out to be so quick. I kind of melted down and went splat. It was a quiet and lazy, but cozy, few days around our house, with the convalescing Jack Sprat and Mrs. Splat.

So, thank God it's not an emergency gall bladder surgery week NOR a chemo week (TGINAEGBSWNACW) is what I've been going around singing today. Actually, it's kind of hard to sing, so you have to just hum this one, if we want to get all technical about it. But let's not, because that can sometimes rain on a parade.

Speaking of parades, I hit a real live tennis ball today. I went over to the club to watch my team practice, and took my racket with me because I had had enough of the sad looks it kept shooting me from the sweet perch I had arranged for it, next to my brand new tennis shoes I got for Christmas, (orange ADIDAS barricades that happen to match my orange Head racket, which one would think would make said racket happy) and near my bed, where it's practically the first thing I see when I wake up and stumble out of bed. Anyway, so after the practice, I was talking to our tennis pro, and next thing we knew she had fed me a whole basket of tennis balls. Now, I'm not saying it was pretty, but I hit 'em. My racket was so happy it could barely stand it. I do feel a bit bad, though, because I didn't bring my new shoes. I don't wear my tennis shoes except on the court, and I didn't take them with me to change into because my feet are having some issues with the TaxALL (It makes my fingers, face and especially my feet, numb. Like when you get a Novacaine shot at the dentist and it makes your lip feel fat. My feet feel fat like that 24/7. It sort of drives me crazy sometimes. They fit in my shoes but they don't feel like it. I haven't been wearing shoes, as much as possible, let alone change shoes once I put them on.) Still, I'm sure I'm going to deal with some attitude from my tennis shoes, since I KNOW my racket will not be able to contain itself.

Cheers, and thanks for keeping us in your prayers. We know we have a great debt of love out there, and so we thank God, we thank you, and we thank God for you.


P.S. to my Daddy-O...Happy Birthday! This is the year of good crap shoots of birthdays: You are now 66, which is a hard twelve; Dave and I will be 44, which is two hard eights. Not to mention, it was our 21 anniversary, which makes it our 22 year, which is a hard four. I think Vegas is calling. Destiny. Love ya.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Touched by an Angel

Hi Everyone, Dave here. I'm pleased to report I'm home and doing well. The bomb squad successfully removed my ticking time-bomb of a gall bladder yesterday (Sunday) morning, and Julie brought me home around 7pm the same day.

I've never been known for good timing, and this gall bladder attack was no exception. Julie was just coming off her worst chemo day on Friday when my agony started early Saturday morning. I realized, or rather, was reminded that I am married to an angel, as she put aside her own misery to take care of me. I knew she was weak and hanging on by a thread herself, but she sucked it up to be there for me. One of my favorite memories will always be the two of us snuggled up together in my hospital bed. I am touched by this angel, my Julie.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I am quickly on the mend and should be in good shape for Julie's last Taxol chemo on the 21st. Then we both look forward to spending the rest of 2009 getting healthy and re-growing hair!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Gall of Dave's Gall Bladder

So in an interesting turn of events, I am sitting on the waiting room side of things, while Dave is in the hospital bed, awaiting gall bladder surgery tomorrow morning. We sure are an interesting pair. I think we actually confused the hospital staff at first when we walked in, me with my bald head and still a bit unsteady from my chemo cocktail on Monday; and then it was Dave and not me who sat down in the wheelchair.

He had a severe gall bladder attack last night. I came down early this morning and found him doubled over in pain. I knew it was bad when he didn't argue with me when I suggested going to the hospital. Matt, Mikey and I took him to Bethesda North, where we figured out why they call it a "waiting" room, while Dave writhed in pain for 3 hours before we got back to the ER room, which turned out to be yet another waiting room, teaching us nuances of the word "wait" we had never imagined. The attack started around 4 a.m.; we got to the hospital 7ish; a nice nurse gave him some morphine and finally some relief around noon; then they decided to admit him for surgery (thankfully) and we proceeded to wait for a room. He really did ask for a room with a view. And a queen bed. I thought the staff put up with him pretty well considering.

We got into the room about 2:30, and after stuffing himself on a cup of ice chips (since he can't eat or drink anything until after the surgery) he crashed until the surgeon came in to check on him and let us know the surgery is tomorrow at 10 a.m. Interestingly, the gall bladder surgeon's name is Goel (pronounced Go-yal), which seems quite appropriate to me, and also gets high marks because of the cool alliteration. Not to mention, the fun slant rhyme.

We have had an uneventful evening here in the hospital. Which is a good and novel thing. The boys brought me some delish pasta a friend had brought over and sat with us while I ate an embarrassing amount of pasta. Really, you have no idea how much pasta I can put away. Dave had a second glass of ice chips while I ate so I wouldn't have to eat alone. But then he conned the new night nurse into a third one. And just now, a passing candy striper or some innocent ice carrying hospital worker fell right into his trap, so I'm getting a little concerned at this point. Plus, it's really loud, all that crunching, while I'm trying to type and think and stuff. I think I will grab the book of crossword puzzles we brought with us and see if I can get his mind off the ice for a while. And quiet him down a bit. It really was so peaceful and quiet in here until all this crunching of ice.

Thanks for your prayers. We will update here and on Facebook as soon as we can tomorrow.