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.