Tomorrow is my surgery.
I think I'm ready for it... maybe?
OK, I'm not really ready. I feel like I'm finally getting back to "normal" from chemo and now I'm about to plunge into feeling like poo for a few more weeks.
BUT for today, I will just keep telling myself that this is one BIG step towards being done with cancer treatment. This is the last big hurdle. There will be other smaller ones later, but this is the last big one.
I can do this. I have to do this. For future peace of mind, I HAVE to do this. And when it is all over and done with, I know I will be happy I did it.
But for now... I'm just a little nervous.
So if you're the praying type, send some good thoughts and prayers my way. Pray for my peace of mind. Pray for the Lord to guide the hands of my surgeons and their team. Pray for a speedy recovery. And pray for pretty boobies :)
Since I probably won't be around for a week or two, I thought I should share a few photos of my fuzz with you. My hair is growing back thicker... but I still look like a balding 35 year old guy that buzzes his head (so no one will know he's balding?).
And for the record, I really hate the stage my hair is at right now. I kind of like extremes. Bald or lots of hair. The in between just looks wierd. But I'm not willing to shave it again, so GROW HAIR, GROW! GROW!!!
I just want it to thicken up a bit... OK alot.
Grow hair! Grow!!!!
I'm giving up soda and coffee this week. It's part of the diet. It sucks. Here is a little something I wrote about it in the midst of my angst:
Soda, how I love thee!
Your bubbles, they tickle my tongue!
Your sweetness, it makes me smile!
On those days when I'm feeling run down and tired, you are there to pick me back up and keep me going.
Oh soda, how I love thee!
Coffee, you are my friend.
After a sleepless night, you perk me up.
After a long weekend, you keep me awake during those long days of meetings.
And on one of those frigid Minnesota mornings, you warm me up from the inside.
Yes, coffee, you are my friend.
But ALAS! Now, we must part ways.
Because I know you are NO GOOD for me.
NO GOOD AT ALL!
Soda... your processed sugars and chemicals are not welcome anymore!
Coffee... take your caffiene elsewhere! You delicious temptress!
Oh... but I shall miss you.
I shall miss you both.
Goodbye old friends.
During this process, I've made a couple of friends.
I call them my "Cancer buddies".
It's an unfortunate group to be a part of because there are only TWO criteria needed: Be awesome (not a bad thing) and have cancer (very bad thing).
Lisa is one of my cancer buddies. She is awesome. I am so happy that cancer introduced us to one another. Back when I was first diagnosed, I went onto YSC (Young Survivors) in a panic! I was pregnant, I had cancer, what the f*ck was I supposed to do now! And I found Lisa. She was pregnant and mid-treatment. AND SHE LIVED IN MINNEAPOLIS! Just a mere 1.5 hour drive away! I immediately sent her a message that literally said "please be my friend." (I'm subtle like that)
And she responded with an "of course I'll be your friend, do you need me to come to your first appointment with you?"
She left work early to go to my first surgeon appointment with me. To understand the enormity of this, you have to understand that when you have cancer, you miss work ALL THE TIME. So time in the office is sacred! But she quickly and willingly made that sacrifice for me (told you she was awesome).
And was rewarded by getting to see my boobs. That's how I know we're going to be lifelong friends, she saw my boobs on our first meeting. I mean how can that NOT end up in a lifelong friendship :)
Anywho, we've supported one another throughout treatment. We text each other weekly. We'd text back and forth during our chemo treatments. I actually looked forward to some of my Friday afternoons because I knew I'd get to hear from her and have someone to discuss the highs and lows of chemo with.
Basically I just have a ton of love for this girl, even though we're still really just getting to know each other.
And to top it all off, we're both on the same level of semi-hippie-ness. Meaning she cloth diapers her beautiful little girl, her husband is all about natural health remedies, and we're both looking for good ways to nourish our bodies and keep as many carcinogens away from us as we can.
So literally the weekend after she finished Taxol, she sent me an email asking what I thought of the Crazy, Sexy Diet and wondering if I might be interested in doing the 21 day cleanse with her.
What is the Crazy, Sexy Diet? Why, I am so glad you asked!
It's a diet that focuses on eating green, leafy, uncooked vegetables. We all know that veggies are healthy, right? And we all know that cooking them takes away a good portion of their nutritional value, right? So eating alot of raw, green, vitamin rich vegetables is actually pretty intuitive (even though we don't do enough of it).
However, the author suggests that our diet should be, at a minimum 60/40. So 60% of your dinner plate should be covered by those aforementioned veggies. The other 40% should be other healthy, lowfat, unprocessed foods like whole grains, beans, and even a little meat (if you don't want to go vegan). Again, aside from the vegan thing, this isn't really all that crazy. We all know processed foods are bad. We all know whole grains are good.
At it's very basic, this diet makes COMPLETE sense.
However, there are some other suggestions made by the author that will seem kind of alternative/hippie for most Americans. Like going vegan. And introducing juicing into your diet. And she has some other lifestyle suggestions that I don't know if I can completely buy into. Right now I'm just reading my way through the book (I'm on chapter 3) and understanding more of the "why" behind her lifestyle choices.
But, I do need to start eating healther. And, generally speaking, this diet makes alot of sense to me.
So, now that I'm 75% done with my treatment, I think this blog will move forward by trying to explore how to keep cancer at bay using natural methods. Modern medicine has few to no good suggestions other than "eat low fat foods" and "exercise", so this is my way of exploring how deep my inner-hippie really goes and hopefully providing my readers with an understanding of changes they can make in their own lives to help prevent cancer.
OK, that sounds far to "big" of me. Like my goal is to bring about world peace. I don't actually expect my readers to make these huge changes in their own lives. But I do want to bring awareness and education. Because cancer is truly becoming an epidemic in America and I don't ever want anyone that knows me to be diagnosed and say "if only I'd known..."
But aside from all that "beneficial to your health" crap I just said above, I expect this experience to provide me with alot of funny blog material. Because let's be honest, I LOVE junk food, sugar and most procesed foods. I love meat. I think there is nothing better than a hot meal. Basically, my current diet IS the "Standard American Diet". This transition to raw, healthy, green is going to be a tough one. This blog will NOT be from the perspective of an animal loving, bleeding heart, liberal who thinks we should eat more veggies b/c it's "cruel" to eat animals. Nope, this blog will be from the perspective of an average American who knows this is the right thing to do for her health... but isn't going to love making the change. I expect some of my blogs will involve phrases like "this is crazy" and "If I see one more green, leafy vegetable, I'm going to puke." So even if you think I'm totally nuts, feel free to follow along and laugh at/with me.
Thus, my next few blogs will probably focus on the Crazy, Sexy diet, the science behind it, and my personal plans for how I intend to change my lifestyle.
Here's a hint: Step 1, stop drinking soda and caffiene (OUCH!).
I know this might seem a little late, but I often entertained myself by coming up with little bits of wisdom that people should know before going for chemo treatments.
I thought I'd share them with you... mostly just because they're kinda funny and not so intuitive :)
1. Ladies, show your cleavage! What? You didn't think my first (and most important) piece of advice would involve showing cleavage? Well, here is why. You see this?
THIS is the location of my port. You'll notice in my current semi-low cut shirt, it is easily accessible. If I were to wear a crew cut T-shirt or turtle neck... it would be VERY difficult for the nurses to access. It involves either destroying the neck of your shirt, or closing the curtain and having you lift up your shirt. The 2nd option isn't that bad (I've done it before) but I think the nurses prefer to simply have easy access. Plus, a closed curtain isn't helpful when people watching... you can see some very, ummmm, interesting people in an infusion room.
Thus, my first piece of advice is to wear something low cut and show off those beautiful ta-tas! Or if you're a little more conservative, just wear a button down :)
2. FOOOOOOOD! Many people think that chemo induces lots of nausea. And therefore would not take any food with them to the chemo room. While the nausea thing USED to hold true (a nurse told me that when he started 15-20 years ago, almost everyone would vomit whilst receiving chemo), this is no longer the case. Now they have awesome anti-nausea meds. And, generally speaking, from the time I got to the hospital to when I left, it was between 4-6 hours total.
So while you probably won't get nauseous, you WILL most likely get hungry. So bring food. Or bring someone that can go get you lunch. OR make sure you have the number to a take out place that delivers to the infusion room (Jimmy John's anyone?). And if you're like me and totally lose your appetite the next day, you want to eat as much as you can in the days prior to having NO appetite. Long story short, make sure to consider how you're going to get fed while spending all that time at the hospital.
3. Bring along some way to amuse yourself. As I stated above, you will be at the hospital for between 4-6 hours. Some of that is in the waiting room, some is waiting to talk to your doctor, and lots is in the actual infusion chair. And, to be 100% honest, sometimes the waiting/infusion rooms are not exactly jovial, happy places. I once listened to a guy loudly complain about every aspect of his life. He made awful jokes about dying (although judging from mobility and whatnot, I'd guess he had months if not years of life left). He complained about the price of gas and groceries and his job and any/everything else. It was just depressing.
And once you start to dread chemo because of stuff like this... it becomes even HARDER to get yourself there.
So figure out a way to find a little zen during your chemo time. If you have a love for crossword puzzles, bring along a book of puzzles. If music relaxes you, be sure to bring your iPod. Like video games? Bring along that Nintendo DS. Just do something so that chemo has some element of "fun" to it. Trust me, it'll help keep your head in a positive place.
4. Bring your blankie. I don't actually have a blankie from childhood. But I did have several beautiful quilts that were made for me after diagnosis. I brought them along to cheer me up with their bright colors and cover myself in prayer (some were prayer quilts). AND they keep you warm too. Infusion rooms are cold. Infusions make you colder. And while both infusion rooms that I've gone to have blankets that are kept in a heater, they're thin and cool off quickly. So bring along something that is thick and warm and will hopefully brighten up an otherwise drab space.
5. Be silly. I know I already said this, but chemo can be depressing. First, you know that you're probably not going to feel so great in the days after treatment. Second, infusion rooms aren't exactly filled with beautiful, young, vibrant people all chatting and having a good time. Third, not all infusion rooms are places filled with sunlight... some are downright dark and gloomy. In short, it's an easy place to hate.
So, if you can, try to be silly. One day, I wore a "Making Cancer my Bitch" t-shirt a friend sent me. I was the belle of the ball! It made the nurses laugh. It made other cancer patients chuckle and several of them asked me where to get one of their own. Just wearing a silly (and only mildly offensive T-shirt) improved the attitudes of at least 6-8 people in that room. And doing that made me happy.
I personally love being silly. It makes me feel lighter inside. So if you have a silly side, try to find a way to let it out. Do your best to turn that icky infusion room into a place that holds a little laughter.
Those are my 5 tips for surviving chemo. If you're a cancer survivor and have any tips/tricks for making it through your regular trips to the infusion room, please add to the list in the comments section!
Chemo is over. So now what? Surgery.
Surgery is scheduled for June 30th.
And every time I think about the surgery, I vomit in my mouth a little. OK, I'm exagerating, but that's my way of saying I'm not very excited about it.
So here's my understanding of my surgery/reconstruction process. On the 30th, I will have a bilateral mastectomy, which means they will remove as much breast tissue as they can, including my nipples. That is the definition of a bilateral mastectomy. They also have the "nipple sparing" kind, which is exactly what it sounds like, they leave you with your nipples, but I'm telling them to just take it all! Why? Because nipples are 100% breast tissue and I want the smallest chance possible for recurrance.
After the oncological surgeon performs the mastectomy, the plastic surgeon will come in and do his best to reconstruct my breasts. Step one of my reconstruction will involve tissue expanders (TEs). These are neat little balloon type things that they stick in your chest, under the pectoral muscles. Then you go back once a week or so and they poke a needle into the TE and add saline. The plastic surgeon likened it to "using the principles of pregnancy", meaning they use the tissue expanders to slowly expand the skin and prepare it for the implant.
Then once my TEs have been expanded and my skin has stretched to the point where it needs to be, I'll have an exchange surgery where they will exchange the TEs for the actual implants.
THEN, if I want it, I can go back and have another surgery to create nipples, including nipple tattoos.
Super exciting, eh? No? Yeah, I'm not terribly excited either.
All of this will be done over the next 6 months (give or take a month or two). While I'm excited that I'm embarking on the last major step to my cancer treatment, I'm nervous about how many surgeries I have left. As per usual, cancer has left me with swirling emotions and lots of highs and lows. Although right now, I'm mostly on a high. I can't tell you how much BETTER life is when not getting chemo :)
So in just 10 days, I will be going in for about 5 hours of surgery. Wish me luck!
Next topics will include upcoming diet changes... it's about to get all crazy and sexy in here! (and maybe vegan?)
It's Friday! And it's summer! Which for most of the world would be enough of a reason to celebrate.
BUT I have an even bigger reason!
I DON'T HAVE CHEMO!!!!
For the past 12 weeks, I have been in the chemo chair every single Friday.
And for the 8 weeks before that, I was either getting chemo, or feeling like crap from the previous week's chemo.
So I don't think I can tell you how excited I am to NOT have chemo this Friday!!!!!!
I feel like I should do something crazy. But I don't know what to do! Maybe bungee jumping? Skydiving? Running through the mall yelling "chemo is over! CHEMO IS OVER!" while throwing confetti in the air? All of those seem a little extreme...
So maybe I'll just go home a little early to hang with Caleb. And if the weather is warm enough, maybe we'll break out the slip and slide. And if we're feeling REALLY crazy, maybe we'll go get some ice cream!!!
Either way, today is the first day that it feels real. That Chemo really is OVER. I finally have my Friday back and I couldn't be happier!
So the other night I couldn't sleep. It may or may not have been due to hot flashes.
As I laid in bed, sweating, just staring at the ceiling, I was thinking about my beautiful little boy and how much I love him. And as often happens when those thoughts go through my head, I say a little prayer. Here is about how that prayer went:
Thank you so much for my little boy. Thank you for another day with him, watching him grow and learn. Please let me have many more days like today.
OK... maybe not exactly like today. Today was a little rough. How about lots of days like today minus the tantrums and Mr. Grumpy Pants attitude Caleb was sporting. Let's just say when you created Caleb, you created an excellent lesson in patience for me. Every day. And sometimes every second of every day.
But you know what I mean. Please allow me to have many days and years with my little boy so I can be there for him as he grows into a man. Please grant me the blessing of one day becoming a Grandma to his children.
NOT that I'm in any rush to become a Grandma. Seriously. I have no desire for Caleb to be on Teen Mom Season #523. He better not knock up some 15 year old, dimwitted floozy like I see on that show because you know I'll have to kill either him or her if that's the case, depending on who is dumber.
(and then I remember I'm praying and probably shouldn't use words like floozy or threaten to kill anyone)
God, please help those single young teen mothers all around the world and help guide them to provide good lives for their children. It's not an easy life.
(then my mind turns towards my upcoming surgery)
And God, please help give me the bravery I need going into this surgery. Please be with my surgeons and guide their hands and make this surgery successful so the cancer can't come back. And Lord, I know this might sound vain, but please be with that plastic surgeon and help him do a great job.
Because I really want nice boobs. Please do not let me end up looking like Franken-tits. I just want boobs that are pretty and make Chris want to spend alot of time practicing making babies. *wink wink*
(and yes I even say "wink wink" in my head. God doesn't care because I'm married and married people are allowed to do things that go along with the "wink wink", so there!)
Which leads me to my last request. God please let my fertility come back. Please bless me with the opportunity to become a parent to another child. Just kick start my ovaries soon. Not just for the sake of future children, but also because these hot flashes have GOT TO GO! Seriously! I just can't take it anymore!
(and then I kick off the covers and start fanning myself because I'm literally sweating from yet another hot flash)
Lord, thank you for all of your blessings and your mercy.
In Jesus' name we pray. AMEN!
After I said my prayer, I thought about all that I had prayed for and started laughing. In part because I obviously had ADD/chemobrain while praying (hence all the random side bars).
But also in part because not only did I pray for a long life and many years with my family, I also prayed for pretty boobies.
I think the age that God usually gets prayers for "pretty boobies" would be when a girl is like 11 and about to hit puberty. And it struck me as HILARIOUS that I'd be praying for the same thing as an 11 year old girl.
But I have a feeling that many breast cancer patient's prayers go something along these lines. You pray very sincerely for the "deep" stuff like a long, long life. But you also pray for those things that represent a "normal" life after cancer, like pretty boobies and the ability to have more children.
Because isn't that what we all want? A long, normal life? As a cancer survivor, normal just looks a little different :)
Now that chemo is over, I'm trying to celebrate the last...
For instance, today should hopefully be the last Crappy Chemo Monday I have. Mondays have traditionally been the day when I can't keep a thought in my head for more than 2 seconds and have a difficult time doing any work. It's like having ADD for a day.
Otherwise known as "shiny object syndrome".
Here's an example of what my Monday thought process looks like:
Me: OK, I'm going to sit down to do some work.
*Opens Windows Explorer to find the file that I need for the work I'm going to do*
Me: Wait... what did I need to do again? OK, think... think... think! Oh yeah, I was going to work on targets.
*start to look for the file I need... about 2 clicks into the "hunt", I'll get an email*
Me: Ooooohhh, look, an email! Lemme read that.
*reads email, it's a company wide email about travel*
Me: OH! I almost forgot I need to book that house for that trip to San Fran with my friends in the fall. I should go look and see what houses are still available.
*opens the website to look at houses. Looks at approximately 1 house*
Me: I wonder what airfare looks like.
*opens up website to look at airfares*
Me: Hmmm... the whole goal of this trip is to run a half marathon... maybe I should research a good half marathon training program.
*googles half marathon training programs*
Me: I wonder if I'll be even recovered from surgery fast enough to DO this thing... *sigh* I wonder what surgery is going to be like. I wonder what my boobs will look like when this whole shenanigan is over.
*opens google and types in "mastectomy results"*
And THAT, my friends, is how I go from doing work on a Monday to looking at pictures of post-mastectomy surgery results (aka boobs) while at work. Don't worry, I usually don't actually look at the boobs. I usually catch myself before I ACTUALLY go down that road with a "GET BACK TO WORK!"
But this is the cycle I go through about once per hour. Start to work and get very easily distracted.
For an entire day.
If this is what real ADD is like, I have NO idea how any one with ADD gets anything done.
My coping mechanism for Mondays was to make Monday my "meeting day". I'd schedule meetings all day. Because when you're talking to a person, you HAVE to focus. Well, you don't HAVE to, but it's darn hard to start googling things when you're not at your computer :)
So here's hoping that this is my last Crappy Chemo Monday! Forever and ever!
If you need me, I'll be googling something random.
Hey! Guess what!?!?!?!?
I'm DONE WITH CHEMO!!!!!
Yep, that's right, Friday was my twelfth and final Taxol treatment. It's official, chemo is over!!!!!!!
If I was feeling extremely generous, I'd share video of myself doing the running man... but as I don't have any actual video of that, you'll just have to imagine it :)
I spent my weekend celebrating with my parents and my son. My Dad is in town for a dental conference, so my mom, Caleb and I played all day yesterday. And had a BLAST!
First we went to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Caleb got to run around. There is a particular sculpture there that is basically a big swing and Caleb enjoyed the gentle swaying motion of it.
Then we went to Como Zoo. It's the perfect sized zoo for a 2 year old. We saw polar bears, lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, orangutans, monkeys, flamingos, and a few others.
Caleb LOVED the monkeys. "More Monkeys!" was the tantrum cry when we left.
Then last night, my parents took me out for a wonderful dinner. Caleb got to play with an old friend so I could have a "grown up" evening. We went to McCormick and Schmick's and had a delicious meal. Then we walked down to the Blue's Festival and enjoyed part of the outdoor music festival.
It was a perfect day.
For my "online" celebration, I share some photos of my darling little boy. He's been my constant through all of this, from Chemo #1 until now. My constant motivation, my constant comedic relief, my constant hugger and kisser, my constant companion every day through the good and the bad. I love him more than anything in the world. Enjoy these photos from our outing to the sculpture garden.
OK, so this particular "activity" wasn't really motivated by boredom.
More by my strange sense of humor.
First, a little background. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, one of my coping mechanisms was to try to find a way to make cancer funny.
The first two things that became big jokes were 1. Nipple tattoos
and 2. Looking bald and badass.
What do I mean by looking bald and badass?
Well, I thought it would be fun to put on some fake tattoos, maybe a fake piercing or two and go out on public. And take lots of photos. Mostly because I don't plan on ever being bald again, so I might as well get some awesome photos to show the grandkids someday of when their grandma looked like a badass chick.
And I thought it would be funny.
you I had a strange sense of humor.
And since the hair is starting to grow in, time was getting short for me to take advantage of this opportunity.
So this past Sunday, I did it!
Thanks to the steriods they give you before chemo, I couldn't sleep and was fully awake by 5 am. Chris, Caleb and I were planning to go to the cities to run some errands. And I figured that the trip to the cities was the perfect opportunity for me to let my freak flag fly! So I got up, showered, pulled out my stash of fake tats and went to town! (No, I don't normally have a stash of fake tattoos lying around, I had purchased these a long time ago in preparation for this day)
A few hours later, we were in the cities, running some errands and the game was on. Let's just say that people are alot more prone to staring when they see someone like THIS out in public chasing around a 2 year old.
And honestly, it was refreshing to have people just openly stare. Up until this weekend, everyone who sees me bald does the whole "look-but-pretend-I'm-not-looking" thing. So it was just kind of a nice change of pace to have people gawk.
Chris and I had a ton of fun with it. I had lots of little kids just openly stare. One of them very politely told me, "You don't have any hair." (it was cute) And the response from adults was varied. I heard one guy say "That's just WRONG!" but there were other dads that struck up some conversation while we were waiting in line to ride some rides at the Mall of America. And one nice teenage checkout clerk told me I had a really nicely shaped skull.
I was just a very entertaining day. My mission was accomplished. I had fun and I got some great photos. Enjoy this brief glimpse of me as a pretend rocker chick!