Blog Archives - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
I'm going to take a second to whine.

I don't do this often... or, like, ever... so hopefully you will humor me.

I hate chemo. 

Hate it.

In an, "I wish I could make a chemo voodoo doll and stick pins in it", kind of way. 

I know this seems very random considering all my usual peppy optimism, but today is just kicking my ass.  This 3rd round of chemo is wearing me out.  I had an awful cold all of the last 2 weeks and that exhausted me.  Now I am over my cold (thank you Lord) but my energy levels are sooooooo low. 

I seriously have day dreams that involve my bed.  Wait... that sounds kinky.  I WISH that my daydreams were that exciting.

But no, they're not even the good kind of kinky daydreams involving a bed.  They're daydreams about laying IN bed, under the covers, and not moving.  Possibly sleeping, but that isn't even a requirement.  Just my bed and absolute stillness.

Does that sound completely glorious to anyone else? 

Because it sounds like heaven to me.  A big, empty, warm bed and some magical way of getting food into my tummy without eating.  Because food SOUNDS awful, but if I don't eat, I feel worse.

UGH.  Did I mention I hate chemo?

So there it is, my big, grumpy, unfunny blog about how chemo bites the big one.

Upside:  I'm 3/4 of the way done with AC, which is supposed to be the sucky part of chemo.
Downside:  I still have 1 more treatment to go.  BOOOOOOOOO!

OK, whining done now.  Well... for now.  I'm not making any promises about later.
 
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World, meet my parents.

My parents rock.  OK maybe not literally (unless you think Enya and Kenny G are "rock worthy") but they certainly have rocked my world throughout this whole experience.

My parents live in Pennsylvania.  I live in Minnesota.  My mom has come to visit me for EVERY SINGLE TREATMENT.  She flew out here to hold my hand when I was diagnosed.  She flew out to take care of me when I had my surgery.  She's been here for both of my chemo treatments so far and she'll be here tomorrow for my 3rd one.  She does all that "real life" stuff that I just run out of time/energy to do.  She cooks, cleans, does laundry, grocery shops, watches Caleb when I need to sleep, shovels snow, and SO many other things.  She's amazing and I'm pretty sure I would not be as sane/happy/well rested if it weren't for her and everything she does.  Thank you Mom.  I don't think I could say that often enough for all that you do.

My Dad has been amazing in the fact that he's willing to share my mom for all of this.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but my mom spends 5 full days away from home for each visit.  That is 5 days out of every 2 weeks.  That's like 1/3 of her time for almost 2 months.  For any married couple, that is a HUGE sacrifice.  And if you know my dad, you know how much he loves having my mom around so I just want to say thank you for sharing Dad. 

I also want to thank my Dad for his many jokes.  As I've stated many times in this blog, I'm determined to do my best to laugh at what many would consider a very unfunny situation.  Whenever I call home and my Dad is there, he has a joke for me.  The most recent joke still makes me smile when I think of it, so I thought I'd share.

My dad is bald.  OK, maybe not bald, but he's totally rockin the whole "friar haircut".  You know, bald on top with a ring of hair around the sides.  I'm his first child to "follow in his footsteps" and lose all my hair.  The other day he told me he was disappointed I don't look more like him now that I'm bald like he is.  I laughed and laughed. 

Then I went and looked at photos.
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Hmmmm.  I think you're wrong Dad.  I look EXACTLY like you... only you have more hair.  I can't say I ever thought I'd say that!  Enjoy your brief respite from being the baldest person in the family, Dad, cause it won't last long!
 
In case you haven't noticed, the "theme" of this week is voicing my appreciation.  This got kicked off by the bald soldiers and I just figured I should start saying thank you more often. 

Today, I wanted to share with y'all the group that has probably been the most influential in maintaining my sanity.

The Young Survivor's Coalition

This is basically a support group dedicated to women under the age of 40 diagnosed with breast cancer.  It's this great online community of women.  They have online discussion boards, online support groups, and even have an annual conference every year so you can meet all of your virtual friends. 

Why women under 40?  Because cancer at a younger age looks alot different than cancer when you're older.  What I mean by that is there is a whole different set of "issues" that you face in your personal life when you're younger.  Younger kids.  Newer marriages.  A desire to have kids after treatment.  And lots more.

And this support group has been sanity saving for me.  In the first 2 months after diagnosis while I was going through the whole awful mess that was my life, I could go there and say anything.  And they got it.  It was such a great outlet for me.  I could vent all the dirty, nasty, awful that was pent up inside and they could relate.  Not that my friends and family couldn't, but there are just some things in life that you HAVE to experience before you can say "I totally understand". 

It was also a great resource for knowledge about cancer and treatment.  Chances are if you had questions about anything, there was someone there that had been through it before and could share their experience with you.  It made navigating that whole world of diagnosis and treatment plans alot less scary.  Instead, it became almost empowering.  I could go to my doctor with questions instead of having him just tell me what I should do.

I don't think I can say enough about this organization.  I just wanted to share this with you so that if you are younger with cancer (and no 40 isn't a "hard" number, just a guideline) or if you know anyone that is, you can let them know about this group.  I know support groups aren't for everyone, but its better to know about a resource and choose not to take part than to feel like you're missing that support.

To stick with the theme of the week, a huge thank you to all the YSC girls. 
 
OK... so I haven't exactly had my breasts blessed, so maybe they're not exactly holy.

But in the spirit of voicing my appreciation this week, I thought I'd talk about the many prayer groups, prayer lists, prayer everything that I have become a part of.

I think that my breasts are on prayer lists in approximately 5 states that I'm aware of (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, North Carolina, Iowa and possibly Georgia).  And it's not just one church in each state.  No.  What cancer has taught me is that my "network" of friends and family is HUGE. 

And they all know people who know people who know people... and let's be honest, my life kind of reads like a bad Lifetime movie right now, so anyone who hears about me wants to pray for me.

And I'm totally cool with that.  I figure me and my little family could use all the prayer we can get right now.  This process has SO many ups and downs.  We need all the prayers we can get for good health, strength and peace of mind. 

So for everyone out there praying, we thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to think of us and send a prayer God's way when you do. 

And tell all your friends to pray too!  If God had a top 100 chart of most prayed for people... let's get me on that list!  Or if I"m lucky enough to already be there, I wanna move my way up!  My goal is to be at least in the top 50 :)  Now if only I could find a way to track this...

Seriously though, thank you.  This really does mean alot to us.  I don't think I'd be as positive as I am without my faith and the unending support of our family and friends.
 
So I just got these photos from Chris:
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Wow.

First I laughed REALLY HARD.

And then I cried.  (but don't tell anyone, it'll ruin the tough chick image I've been working so hard on)

I cried because it was so unexpected, this display of support. 

I mean, they SHAVED THEIR HEADS!  Being an "experienced" bald person now, I totally get how FRIGGIN COLD it is to have a bald head during winter.  And no, Afghanistan is not the desert where it's 80 degrees in the winter, it's like 50s and 60s there right now.  So I hope you all have some hats!

Let me just say, all you guys rock.  This picture is now the background on my computer so I will see this every single day and know that people all over the world are cheering for me to kick ass. 

Blessings come in so many unexpected forms and both Chris and I are blessed to have so many supportive friends, family members, and coworkers.  I don't think we can say thank you enough for everything that everyone has done.  I know I say this alot, but we are truly blessed.
 
What would you do if you saw me wearing this:
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Yes.  That is a hat in the shape of a moose.  Just call me Bullwinkle.

My hope is that you would laugh.  Or at LEAST crack a smile.

What I've found about being bald, is that as much as I have to get used to it, so does EVERYONE ELSE that sees me on a daily basis.  In particular, my coworkers. 

Thus far, my coworkers have been amazing about the whole cancer thing.  They've all been crazy supportive and awesome and I've gotten more offers than I can count for lawn mowing or snow blowing or frozen pre-made meals.  And let me tell you I am SO taking advantage of it.  I'm wondering if I can convince anyone to come scoop dog poop in a few months when the snow is gone ;)

When I went bald, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Would they say anything?  Should I wear a wig?  A scarf?  Could I somehow break the ice and help everyone realize this is NOT the end of the world for me?

So I bought the moose hat.  And a bear hat (for the days when I'm in a bad mood... I'm a bear!  Hehehehe.)

And it helped.  I got some great laughs out of people and the awkwardness is gone.

But ONE person totally surprised me.  He walked into my office and sat down and didn't even bat an eye.  He just started up a conversation about whatever it was he had a question on and acted like I didn't have a MOOSE ON MY HEAD!

I wanted to see how far he'd take it, so I just acted like I didn't look ridiculous.

And after we were done discussing our business, he said thanks and walked out.  No joke.  No smile.  Nuthin!

I wanted to stop him and say "seriously?!?!  I HAVE A MOOSE ON MY HEAD!!!!!!!"

I'm sure he was just trying to be nice.  Or maybe he just doesn't know how to react.  At first I thought, "maybe I should tell him he's allowed to laugh and it won't offend me."  I mean, he is one of the nicest guys in my office who always has a smile for everyone...

But instead, I've decided this is a challenge.  By not laughing, it totally turned this into a contest.  How completely ridiculous can I look and have him not laugh? 

So here is my plea, help me find the most ridiculous hat/headcovering!  Put a link/picture in the comments section and we'll figure out what the best option is and I'll wear it to a meeting with him :)

I can't go bald and not find some way to have fun with it :)  I MUST PREVAIL!
 
What everyone knows about cancer is that people usually lose their hair during chemo.

What I never knew before I got cancer, was that lots of people do this in stages :)

By that I mean many women go from their "normal" haircut to a shorter "pre-chemo/surgery" cut and then finally go bald.  It's not really a gradual process, but alot of women seem to prepare themselves for baldness by at least going shorter with their cut than they're normally used to. 

I totally did this. 

So, on Valentine's Day, I thought I would post a little photo journal of my hair.  What it was like when Caleb was born... and then when I decided to go for the "mommy cut" and then after I was diagnosed...

Happy Valentine's Day!
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Look at all that hair! Well past my shoulders.
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The Mommy cut. I love this hairstyle...
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The pre-chemo cut. Thank goodness this 'works' for me!
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The big reveal... no hair!
 
So I know lots of you have been wondering, "How does Cynthia look bald?  Is her head pointy?"

Answer is: I don't know yet.  That is because I still have all my hair.

Well... all the hair on my head that is.

On a related but seemingly random side note, I read a blog about a cancer patient that had shaved her arm pits sometime near a chemo treatment and ended up with this awful infection from some small, invisible cut she got.  Her immune system wasn't strong enough and she ended up in the hospital.  She survived it and all, but it TOTALLY freaked me out.  

Thus, the last time I did any "feminine grooming" was about 2.5 weeks ago.  

MAN am I hairy.

Seriously.  It's gross.  Thank goodness my husband isn't here b/c this might scar him for life.  I mean that, it might've given him nightmares.  I feel like a distant cousin of Sasquatch.

Moral of the story is that I've been a little on the fence about the hair loss thing.  It'll suck to have to worry about a head covering if I lose all my head hair.  But I'm not really diggin' the whole "european" look and I'm paranoid that if I shave anything, I'll end up with this awful infection and then I'll have THAT to deal with on top of everything else. 

What's a girl to wish for?  Hairiness or Hairlessness?

And then on Tuesday, the body hair started to go.

And I secretly cheered inside that I wouldn't be some freak of nature that lost all the hair on her head but had massively hairy legs and pits (yes, a very weird fear... but with my luck recently I wasn't dismissing it).

Now I'm secretly hoping I'll be a different type of freak of nature.  One that loses all the unwanted body hair but keeps the hair on her head :)

Yes, I know that's unrealistic, but a girl can dream right?

Anywho, my expectation is that after this weekend, I will probably be totally bald.  But please don't mourn my hair.  What did my mother say when I got a bad hair cut?  It's just hair!  It'll grow back!  Sure, keeping my hair would make life easier, but I'm not so emotionally tied to it that I'm dreading the loss.  Actually I'm freakishly interested to see what being bald is like.  This way when the Hubby goes bald, I can relate ;)

So sometime soon, the question will be answered.  Do I have a good head shape?  Stay tuned to find out (and yes there will be pictures)!
 
So here I am at work.

Taking my normal 10 minutes to blog stalk (that's code for read my friend's friend's blogs) and I found one blog that pointed me to this website.

Damn You Auto Correct!

Basically as I understand it, the iPhone has something called Auto Correct, which is kind of like spell check for texts?  I dunno, I don't have an iPhone and none of MY phones have the kind of dirty mind that AutoCorrect apparently does.

Anywho, this made me laugh really hard.  And since this whole blog is about laughter, I wanted the share. 

Be forewarned... AutoCorrect is seriously perverted so many of the texts have some sexual innuendo.  This is NOT for the faint of heart ;)

Hope you have a wonderful day!

PS  Click on the "Parents Shouldn't Text" option on the menu bar... that was hilarious too!  And maybe a little less perverted...

OK, I'll pick myself up off the floor and get back to work now :)
 
So I started chemo last Thursday, 1/27/11.  Happy belated birthday to me!

Actually I was very excited to get this show on the road.  I think my doctor/nurses/everyone had no idea what to do with me because they kept asking “are you OK?  How is your anxiety?” 

And I was all, “I’m GREAT!  Let’s get this party started!”

Then they’d look at me like I’m nuts (because I am) and I’m fairly certain they made hand signals behind their backs so I couldn't see that translated loosely as “let’s give this chick loads of drugs… this isn’t normal.”

Anywho.  Here is how my first Chemo treatment went.

My mom and I got to the hospital around 10:30 for an 11 meeting with Tara (Dr. Yee’s Physician’s Assistant).  We leisurely strolled over to the hospital, got ourselves some latte’s and got to the waiting room just in time for our appointment.

I was only expecting to talk to Tara, but Dr. Yee was waiting for us.  Too bad for him, his nurse had to get my vitals and ask all those important questions “Are you taking any drugs we should know about?  Could you be pregnant?”

That took us about 10 minutes and we laughed because the nurse and my mother seemed to hit it off and used a lot of nursing humor that I totally didn’t get.  Then my mother would say “OK, I’m going to behave now…. Who am I kidding, no I won’t.” 

And they’d LAUGH. 

And I sat there shaking my head, like “is this for real?”

So the nurse eventually left and Dr. Yee and Tara came in.  They were both very serious.  Like in a “the dog has died and I have to tell you” kind of a way.  I assured Dr. Yee that I was perfectly fine and wonderful and happy and this is where I think he wrote orders for lots of anti-anxiety meds… because who claims that they’re not nervous before pumping their body full of chemo drugs?

Then my mother gave him a wind up inch worm. 

No.  I’m not kidding. 

It was this little green inch worm that you could wind up and it’d crawl along.  Her comment to go with it was “because I’m sure with your job, you sometimes feel like you’re just inching along, but always remember that you’re getting somewhere.”

And then I think Dr. Yee put some more drugs on my order in hopes I’d sleep through the car ride home with this crazy woman.

I really don’t think anyone knew how to handle us.  I mean, I know this sounds awful, but I don’t understand why cancer treatment is so sad.  Yes, it sucks to have cancer.  It sucks to stand face to face with your own mortality and wonder who will win.  But how can you NOT be excited about being handed the weapons that will help you win that battle?

50 years ago, cancer was a death sentence.  Now, 75% of people emerge victorious!  The battle is hard, it’s exhausting, but every single treatment is just one more step towards life.  If the drugs do their job and luck is on your side, you will just have a some scars and hopefully can make up a great story to go with ‘em. 

Like “this one time I got into a fight with a bear, and the bear ONLY WANTED MY BOOBS!”

OK, kind of off topic there.

So after meeting with Dr. Yee, Tara walked me through the potential side effects of the chemo.  Lack of energy, possible nausea, reddish orange pee for 24 hours after chemo (b/c one of the drugs is red) are all pretty common side effects.  All were things I expected. 

Then we got a little pager (kind of like when you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant) and we were told that once it went off, head up to the infusion room.

Approximately 3 minutes later, we were getting beeped and off we went, up to the brand spankin new infusion room.

And in my usual awesome fashion, I got a private room.  WOOT!  WOOT! 

I'd say it's kind of like being upgraded to First Class on a plane... only I didn't get a meal or free booze.

Anywho, we met our nice nurse, Pat (boy, not girl) and he's been doing this stuff for like 20 years.  I felt I was in good hands.

Then I got hooked up to the IV and begain waiting for my drugs.  Since I was a chemo virgin, they had to check, check and triple check all the chemo orders and dosages.  Which means I was waiting for quite awhile to start getting drugs.

The first things they give you are the side effect drugs.  One of the biggest side effects of chemo that everyone is aware of is nausea.  So they give you 2 different drugs to help with this (or at least they gave me 2 drugs).  They both affect the absorbtion of some chemical in your body that induces nausea.  One blocks absorbtion of it to your stomach and the other blocks the production of it in your brain.  At least that's the really dumbed down version they gave me :)

The Ativan (one that blocks something in the brain) also makes you tired.  And HOLY GUACAMOLE did that sucker hit me like a freight train.  I'm happily sitting there working on my cross word puzzle and suddenly my brain got all fuzzy.  I looked at my mother and said "Well I guess I can start using Chemo Brain as an excuse for being dumb now."

My mother's response was something along the lines of "Well I'm not going to believe that one!"

I guess she didn't want me making excuses for why she kicked my butt at puzzles (we were racing). 

Later, when she figured out I was seriously fuzzy, she apologized and we laughed that I know where I get my competitive spirit from.

Chemo in total took about 3.5 hours the first time.  From what I understand, this time should shorten a little with the future infusions since the orders will be in the system and not just being processed for the first time.

I can say that it's been relatively painless.

Main side effects: very mild nausea, lack of appetite, and being tired.

It's kind of like when you're getting over the flu.  You know that feeling when you've been sick and your stomach just isn't ready for real food yet?  That's what I mean by mild nausea. 

And the appetite is AWOL.  I mean totally gone.  It's like food and I used to be friends, and then food ticked me off and my body still isn't speaking to it.  In fact, my body refuses to even acknowledge that food exists.  I didn't think I'd miss having an appetite as much as I do, but MAN this sucks.  (Update as of Wednesday, appetite is BACK!  YAY!)

The last is the tiredness.  Right around 2:30 every day, my body is all "naptime!" and the brain turns off.  Which would be cool if I didn't have a job... or a child... or a life in general.  So now I am attempting to figure out coping mechanisms for how to work through the period with no brain.  Like doing all the hard stuff in the morning and saving all the brainless stuff (as if that actually exists) for post 2pm. 

Aside from all the complaining I just did, I truly do feel thankful that chemo is this under control.  10-15 years ago (or less) people were sick to the point of puking during infusions.  I just sat there and worked on Sudoku and crossword puzzles.  I even ate dinner that night. 

Now if they could just come up with a solution for losing your hair... the world would be AWESOME!

So long blog made short, Chemo wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and 6 days later, I'm feeling pretty OK.  Actually, with my appetite back and the nausea gone, I feel like I could conquer the world.  I'm happy, I'm positive and if I could drink large quantities of coffee, I'm pretty sure I'd even have a pep in my step.

First round of AC conquered, three rounds to go!