Friday, November 11, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 8, 9 and 10

I know.  I missed a few days.  I've felt sorry for myself and couldn't get in here type up the things I am thankful for even though I know that is when I need to the most.  I hate cancer.  I am having headaches and alot of pelvic pressure and this is new.  My mind goes directly to my oncologist saying my cancer will most likely come back in my brain, bones or liver.  Well, you can guess what I think headache means...and pelvic pressure is thanks to Tamoxifen.  Sigh.

Anywho, today I am thankful for:

  • Our veterans

My Pop - Walter - on the left was in the airforce

My Pop - "Brubs" - on the left was in the navy

One of my favorite things - real vmail from my pop (Walter) to his family
  • The fact that when I lay my head down to sleep, I do not worry about bombs exploding.
  • The fact that I acknowledge my fear to serve in the military.
  • The fact that some do not have the fear and fight everyday for me.
  • The fact that I have not lost life or limb.
  • The fact that I am not impoverished.
  • Having clean water to drink.
  • Having food to eat (to excess even).
  • Having a piggy bank that I do not count on to pay my bills.
  • Having the luxury of frivolous expenditures.
  • Finding the tiny shirt that the Overtons got my precious Tboz when we first met her.    It is so tiny and is a Texas A&M shirt.  I thought I had lost it and am working on a photo album (OK, really this just means I drug out the giant crate with photos in it and it is just sitting there in my room barely touched - I hate making photo albums) and found it tucked away with my photos.  I can't believe she was ever that tiny.
  • Petfinder.  I look on this website constantly to find my new best friend.  I am thinking I would like a healthy young corgi/basset hound/jack russell mix.  Black or white and female.  I do not know if this exists, but I look all the time or when I especially miss Tboz.
  • Hair paste stuff.  William had given me a huge goody bag of hair products and today I looked through it and found some "paste".  I put a tiny bit of it in my hair to give it some..., well, just because I could.
  • Fleece vests.  I think I have 4 now and they camouflage the no boob and boob roll and stomach roll nicely.
  • Portable heaters.
  • Spinning - I totally escape for one whole glorious hour.
  • In general, that my friends are still my friends even though I am quirky and don't socialize all that well.
  • In general, that my friends are still my friends even though I may say the wrong things.
  • My new sneakers from Privo.  They are white and so comfortable.  They were my present for finally attending to Tboz' remains.
  • Big ass salads
  • My parent's friends Joe and Kat because they help take care of mom and dad.
  • My parent's friends JD and Vanita because they help take care of mom and dad.
  • The prayer that my mom said for me and Tboz the day I let her go.
  • Straight teeth.  
  • Real mail.  Like in the mailbox.
  • Cable
  • Flip flops
  • The email I received from my pal Allison.  I sure do miss her.
  • Discovering that I can make tacos using savoy cabbage as the tortilla.  They sure are good.  I'm a genius.
  • My giant diamond ring.  Even though I feel like I no longer deserve to wear it, I still do.  Suck it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 7

Today I am thankful for:

  • Sleep - fell asleep last night with no Ativan!  Didn't stay asleep, but good step forward.
  • Finding the small piece of greenie that is in my purse.  This was the greenie that I brought to Tboz in the hospital and held while she chewed it.  I didn't let her have the last bit because I was afraid she would choke.  She used to hold them with her little paws.  She loved greenies.  It was her favorite part of the day to get to enjoy the greenie.
  • Oz, the big sheep/husky dog next door.  Tboz loved Oz.  She would visit Oz after peeing on the mailbox. Oz was the only dog Tboz liked.  And they were so cute together.  She would go sniff his nose and then run off like a puppy.  The day before Tboz had to be let go, I took her over to see Oz and held her and bent down to let him sniff her and her him.  To say goodbye.  Shortly after, when we were at home, she perked up.  I think it was Oz.
  • Oz being home and outside last night.  Last night I came home and was wishing for doggie companionship so much.  I looked over to see if Oz was out and I didn't see him.  I went down to the mailbox and heard his whimper and saw him in the shadows.  Yay!  I went over and just pet him and pet him and pet him and told him what a good dog he was and talked about missing Tboz.  It was nice.
  • My pal Christine.  She is my spinning and yoga instructor and she always makes me feel calm and capable.  Lately, OK just twice, I have been doing spinning and then yoga on Tuesdays.  It really helps escape for 2 or so hours and I usually feel so much better.
  • Running into this other lady at work who is a 12 year survivor.  I was given her name by another coworker and called her right when I was diagnosed.  She was so helpful and maybe the only person I talked to who was a survivor before my surgery.  She is flat like me and I think about her telling me the benefits of this almost every day.  She was not supposed to live, and she has lived for 12 years and counting.  She is a survivor.  I finally met her in person yesterday and she had lots to say about perspective.  She also said I was still very new at this and not to expect so much.  She also advised me to try and separate all the bad things that have happened to me to single events - not to say all these bad things happened to me!  But to say my dog died and I will need to grieve her.  This is separate from my breast cancer.
  • Plans to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular thing with pal Allison this weekend.
  • When cold outside and after 2 hours of exercise, the heat blowing on my face while driving with the windows down or top off
  • My dad, for sending me a very nice email and a book (All Dogs go to Heaven) when Tboz was let go
  • Cheese
Wow, this was a juicy one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 6

Today I am thankful for:

  • Cupcakes
  • Ativan - it helps me sleep
  • Fleece hoodies with thumb holes
  • This blog.  I spent a good 3 hours or so re-reading my posts this weekend.  It brought perspective.  I read the comments too and felt the love again.
  • My pal Kristen - she makes me laugh and is always encouraging.
  • My ability to cook.  Thanks Mom.
  • Dr. J for helping me through the painful process of letting Tboz go.
  • My co-workers.  They make me laugh and are also very supportive.
  • This girl at work, and I forget her name, which is terrible.  But anyway, she is also a breast cancer survivor and the other day I was talking to her about hair and fear and what not and she GOT me.  She understood and has been there.  These kinds of talks are so helpful.
  • This other lady at work.  She had cancer too and has a really good perspective on fear.  This talk was also so very helpful.
Just a random note - its like all the cells in my body that produce hair woke up and started producing extra hair.  Its like the cells were all like, hey, we are supposed to shut down.  This sucks.  And then when chemo was over, they were all like, hey, time to wake up!  We're free!  Lets really get after it!  WOOHOO!  Life is good again!  And so hair is coming up everywhere.  Like on my knuckles.  I look like my dad and uncle.  I had to trim that hair on my knuckles.  Ewww.

I should take a cue from my hairs and live life like they are.  They are excited.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 5

Today I am thankful for:

  • The ability to do not one damn thing but surf the web all day
  • My ambition.  Change.  Its a brewing.  But only a tiny bit.
  • Fizzy drink.  I honestly don't think I could live without this.  For reals.
  • the relative good health of my Mom and Dad
  • My creativity.
  • My best friend of a gazillion years.  Erin and I don't talk alot, but I always know she is there.  She knows me - I mean deep down knows me.  I think those that know you when you were growing up will always know you best.
  • no crying babies that live at my house.  See, there are positives to having to have your lady parts removed.  This will never be a problem that I have.
  • Crossfit Durham.  The majority of my friends are from this place.  And they have supported me more than I can explain in words.  It has also taught me that I can be an athlete.  I'll get there again.  Someday.
  • No blackeyes when I jump rope now.  See, there are positives to not having any boobs.  I totally hang out flat at the gym.  And I know its obvious, because I have asked my friends if they could tell that I have no boobs.  I wonder what other people think when they see me with no boobicals.  I feel like an it alot.  I wonder if I look like an it.
  • The warmth of sunshine on face
Check out these hair pictures:
September 24

November 6 (artsy version)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 3 and 4

Picture from here.
I skipped yesterday so I will write 20 things I am thankful for:

  • Pedicures
  • Massage Chairs
  • My friend Jessica for being there for me during my cancer diagnosis and surgery
  • My friend Joanna for helping me through that terrible day that I lost my sweet Tboz
  • The fact that my friend Mark was at the vet this morning when I finally picked up my sweet Tboz' remains
  • Apple support - helped me restore function to itunes which is like my life support system
  • Itunes - music is healing
  • My friend Beatrice for porpoise checking
  • Jeans that fit
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Mornings that no alarm clock goes of
  • My hair growing back
  • My neighbor Caroline who came over the night before Tboz was let go and she just hugged me and later told me she didn't think that Tboz would make it much longer.  This helped me so much to hear that.  To know that others saw her suffering and therefore validated my decision.
  • My jeep, Sunshine.  She just hit 50,000 miles and I still love driving her.
  • Facebook.  Its such a huge timesuck, but really helps me stay connected when all I want to do is isolate.
  • The beauty that is fall
  • My freedom to write this blog and speak my truth.  The truth will ALWAYS set you free.  You are only as sick as your secrets.
  • Belly laughs.  Not forced "as if" laughs, but real spontaneous laughter that makes your belly hurt.
  • Clean clothes.  Man I hate to put away laundry, but I sure do love the look, smell and feel of clean clothes.  I consider myself lucky to be able to have clean things.
  • My cholesterol has finally come down ALOT (from 353 to 212).  Got the results yesterday and the medication and Paleo is working.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 2

Today I am thankful for:

  • holiday peppermint coffee
  • pajamas
  • my friend Allison B. and all of her support and encouragement
  • my friend Amy for just getting me - warts and all
  • my friend Ericka for opening her home to me and making me feel safe
  • my friend Mischa for being there when I need her like shaving my head
  • that I do not have HIV (I see how terrible this disease is at work)
  • having shelter when its cold out
  • dbt because its one stable thing that I is keeping me sane
  • the memory of tboz' corn chip smelling feet

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 1

There is a thing on facebook that people are doing - 30 days of being thankful.

Thankful is a weird word.

Anyway, I think it would be excellent for me to do this to help me see that it is not always about how shitty things are.  I know this, but actually typing out some things might help it sink in and help pull me out of my dark space.

I will write 10 things every day.  Even if they are small, like I am thankful for the hot water in my shower.  Here goes Day 1, in no particular order.

I am thankful...

  • that I had 17 fun filled years to enjoy my precious Tboz.  I would never give that up to avoid the pain I feel now.
  • that I can call my mom any time and feel better
  • that my Dad has started texting me
  • that I have friends that are willing to help me out of the dark spaces
  • that my body, after all it has been through, can do crossfit, spinning, yoga and pilates
  • that I have good insurance
  • that I have a nice home (even though it feels pretty empty now)
  • that I have a flexible job at a time that I need it to be flexible
  • that I am going home to Texas for the holidays
  • for soft sheets

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Dark Places

I am not sleeping.

My mind wanders into so many dark places when I close my eyes.

My dark places are great places for things like guilt, sadness, fear, anger and grief to hide.  I pretend things are OK and then close my eyes and my brain reminds me that things have not been so OK for me.

These are some of the things that haunt me when I close my eyes:
  • Guilt of not saving my precious Tboz. 
  • Guilt of not being able to go pick up her remains. 
  • Sadness of the loss of my best pal.  
  • Grief over the loss of my boobs.  
  • Loss of hope for my future with a partner - I'm so scarred physically and emotionally and can no longer bare children.  
  • Grief of the loss of my ability to conceive (they want me to have a hysterectomy).  
  • Fear of losing my parents because they are all I have left.  
  • Disappointment with my appearance.  And by appearance, I mean fat.
  • Anger over how hard I worked to not be disappointed with my appearance just to be right back where I started with extra scars, no breasts and lesbian haircut to go with it.  
  • Fear and anger at more surgery ahead (see above re: hysterectomy and boobs). 
  • Fear that every little ache and pain is the cancer coming back or a new cancer forming.
  • Anger that my house was burgled and now somehow because my 14 lb deaf little watchdog is gone, every noise is a burglar.  It is weird how that works.  I felt protected just because she was here with me.
But I try to spend equal amounts of time validating how shitty life has been for me the last year (of course, you are (sad, angry, scared, disappointed), life handed you a shit sandwich) and telling myself things could be worse (I am so very lucky to have such supportive parents and friends, a flexible job that has allowed me to have a very shitty year with little repercussions for having to miss work or work from home and good insurance - health and home) so buck up.

But dammit some days I need to spend extra time in the yeah, shit sandwich alright.  Today seems to be one of those days.

In other news, my eyelashes are beginning to grow back and I think I officially have a head of hair.  It is no longer an "is she sick?" haircut, but a "is she a lesbian?" haircut.

I feel better after typing this out.  Thanks blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Half Dead

I had a dream last night that Tboz was not really dead.

I also had a call from the vet that Tboz' "remains" were ready to be picked up.

So in the dream, Tboz was with me happy and running around AND I had her remains.  Everyone just ignored the little detail that this was impossible.

I have had similar dreams starring my brother.  He'll be alive and hanging out and everyone ignores the fact that we buried him.

I don't know what these dreams mean.  Maybe they are just a way for me to enjoy the life I had with them when on this earth.  Maybe they are trying to comfort me when I am most sad and missing them.  Maybe its just my random subconscious processing stuff while I sleep.

I always wake up from these dreams a little off.  I feel a little off.

I can't bring myself to pick up Tboz' remains.  I feel like I am enjoying a bit of denial.  I'm not ready to face that place or the hard reality that she is gone.  Forever.

Sigh.  At least the crying has stopped.  But I feel guilty about that too.  I really thought that when this happened I would be inconsolable, like forever.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Still raw

I am finding that tears come less frequently, but the thoughts of regret and those last moments consume me.

The only loss that I can compare this to is that of my brother in 2004.  How can the loss of a pet compare to the loss of a human?  Love.  Love is what is common.  I am grieving the loss of love.

I remember going through what ifs with his death too.  At that time, however, I had no idea about the stages of grief.  I went to classes with my family and we learned about this and went through it together.

Perhaps the loss of my brother prepared me to better handle the loss of my sweet Tboz.  I know that I am not going crazy (I totally thought I was going crazy when my brother died).  I know that what I am feeling is normal and that however I handle this is appropriate.

I came across this website that helped remind me how normal my feelings are and I was comforted.

This statement stuck with me (how to feel better right now):
"...choosing to recall the better moments and not focusing solely on the death as representing the totality of the relationship..."

This is advice that has come from others.  Her life was long - 17 years long - and FULL of happy memories.  I was lucky to have such unconditional love, sweet kisses, long walks, ball playing and warm snuggles for 17 years.  This was the totality of my relationship with Tboz, not those terrible last seconds of her life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pitter Patter and Jingle Jangle

I still hear you Tboz.  And its hard.

There are spaces where you should be that you are not.  But I hear you.  I hear your footsteps on the tile, I hear the jingle jangle of your collar, I hear you scratching at the door.  And it is hard.

I wonder if there were more things I could have done for you.  Could I have played with you more?  Could I have taken you on more walks?  Could I have not stayed away from home so long?

And then the terrible comes in.  Could I have saved you?  Did I give up too soon?  What if you were misdiagnosed?  Could steroids have helped you?

The question comes up so often during my days and even more so at night - how am I going to get through this?  And the answer is, simply so, because I have to.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Miss My Tboz

I let my precious Tboz go yesterday.

Tboz was 17 and for 17 wonderful years she was by my side as my constant.  The one and only thing that I could count on 100%.  When things were tough, she is why I chose to fight to live.  I miss her so very much and I have a huge gaping spiky prickly hole in my heart that will take much effort to try and heal.

18 years ago, I was very ill and had to withdraw from college.  While ill, I asked Paige, my roommate, if her Dad (who is a vet) could be on the look out for a small, black girl dog.  Thinking this was so specific, I didn't think I would find such a dog anytime soon.

After I recovered and returned to school, Paige told me her Dad had found me a dog.  Dr. Overton said someone had dropped Tboz off at his clinic with a sibling, I believe. I went to Dallas with Paige to pick up my very own small, black, girl dog.

Young precious Tboz.
She liked to burrow
from the very beginning.
I remember driving back to Paige's house with her in my lap.  She was so tiny and lovely.  She had worms and I let her sleep with me anyway.  I think I loved her immediately.

TLC - Tboz (left), Left-eye and Chile
Paige and I were trying to find a good name for her.  We were perusing CDs that we were listening to at the time (Paige's dog's name was EZ-Z) and came across TLC.

We decided Tboz was a good name for her.  Really, I wanted it to be Roxy, because I loved Lenny Kravitz at the time and Roxy was Lenny's mom.  But 17 years later - Tboz could not be anything other than Tboz.  Tboz was the perfect name for her.

Tboz saw me through college and my first job in Dallas.  When it came time to move to Wilmington for my next job, Tboz drove with me cross country.  I was so scared to be on my own like this, but there was great comfort with having her with me.  Later, I had to make the difficult decision to return Tboz to Texas with friends because I would be traveling so much and I didn't know anyone yet to take care of her.  This was terrible and brought much guilt, but it was the right thing to do for her.
Tboz hated when I traveled.
I found her like this
when packing one night.

Tboz was a great air traveler.  I took her with me to lots of places.  She would lay in her little carryon under my seat and not make a peep.  I usually kept the top open so she could see me.  One time, I was sitting in first class with her and had to run to the bathroom during a long flight.  While I was in the bathroom, she had come to look for me.  Ooops.  Luckily the nice passenger next to me caught her before she went too far.
Tboz hung with me
through my drinking and smoking days.

In time, I got a roommate that would help watch her while I traveled and I returned to Dallas to pick up my girl and she was so happy to see me.  I remember how fierce her little tail wagged.  That was the beginning of a much deeper meaningful bond between she and I.  I was growing up and realizing the responsibility of loving something so deeply.
Tboz loving me
through chemotherapy.

Tboz was my comfort for some of my life's greatest tragedies and struggles.  She comforted me through new jobs, moves to new states, the sudden loss of my only sibling, a burglary and just recently a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I think that much of my independence came from knowing she was by my side.

Over the last week it was time for me to comfort her and be by her side.  A year or so ago, she had passed out a few times.  We put her on blood pressure medicine and no more passing out.  However, last week she passed out again, this time urinating during the episode.  I thought she might be having seizures.  She was still happy and playful.

I took her for her scheduled annual check up a few days later and we did lots of tests: blood, blood pressure, etc.  When I loaded her in the car she passed out again.  Things got worse and she developed labored breathing.  I really don't know what happened between that morning and the tests at the vets - but she got worse.  Much guilt lies here - did I cause this to happen?  Did I not protect her?  Did too much stress cause her rapid decline?  I will never know the answer.

ER visits, Cardiologists, Echocardiograms, ultrasounds, sleepless nights and many pills later Tboz was not improving.  Her little body struggled to breathe - heaving her little chest.  Afraid to shut her eyes to sleep.  Passing out upon standing.  Peeing and Pooping in my arms after passing out. She was still eating and drinking by my hand, but she could not stand to eat or drink.  There was a brief period where she walked around a bit and I had hope.  But the next day, back to heaving breaths and passing out.  Heartbreaking heartwrenching terrible times.

I asked others how to know when it was time to let her go.  I was told I would just know.  That Tboz would give me a look.  And that when she was no longer able to do the things she loved, it would be time.  And if she was suffering, it would be time.

It was time yesterday.

I had decided to take her to the ER so that I would not associate her regular vet, Dr. J, with this terrible terrible thing.  Dr. J, my friend, agreed to meet me at the ER and do this with me.  But as I was driving to the ER, my heart tugged me to Dr. J's office; where there were people who knew her and loved her for the past 5 years.  Dr. J was there waiting and showed me a kindness that I will never ever forget.

Tboz was given a sedative and barely holding her head up, gave me a few kisses which I hope with all my heart meant, "mom, its time and its OK".

Dr. J and I sat on a couch with Tboz laying on my chest and we let her go.  And it was terrible.  The most gut wrenching thing I have ever experienced.

There is a hole in my heart that I know not how to heal.  Every space in my home reminds me of my precious Tboz.  It is an empty home.  A sad home.  No longer a home.  Because I no longer have a family in this home.

Tboz loved playing ball.
And scooting her blanket.

I love you so much Tboz.  You are such a brave, sweet, precious, smart girl and are loved by so many.  But no one loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Noggin Art and 3 year old Me

My BFF, Erin, was here right after my last treatment.  She left her busy life (she is a mom, a teacher about to start back to school, just moved and a wife - super busy life if you ask me) to come and sit with me while I was coming out of the poo poo days. I have known Erin for 25 years and she still loves me just like I am.  Bald, fat and flat!  And, she may be one of my biggest supporters, other than my mom.  I love her and am so grateful for her visit.

The other thing you should know about Erin is that she is super creative.  When she was pregnant, she painted her belly with body paint and it was so cool.  So we decided to do the same thing with my noggin.
Fun with wigs.

If you have seen me during this whole thing, you know I had some freaky yellow hairs that grew after I lost my hair.  Turns out this happens to most people who get chemo - I call it chemo hair.  I HATED THE CHEMO HAIR.  I think it just made me look sick and so I felt sick.  After this last treatment I was thinking how much I just wanted to shave my damn head and get rid of the chemo hairs.  But the docs didn't want me to shave it for fear of nicks that could get infected.

Shiny cue ball.
Well, while in the shower, I took a look at my intuition shaver and just said eff it and shaved my little noggin.  And friends, it was liberating!  I got out of the shower and I of course had missed large spots, but wow!  Its what I wanted this whole time!  A cue ball soft and smooth noggin!

Smooth as a baby's butt.
This is the first time I felt happiness, deep down pure happiness, in many many many months.

It was a perfect canvas for Erin's noggin art!  This art was done with washable body paint crayons we got from AC Moore.  Did you know that you could get body paint crayons?  Me neither.

Here are some photos of her work.  I loved it and it was pretty fun and relaxing.  I highly recommend this activity to anyone going through this process.  There may or may not be a hidden message.  Can you tell what it says?
Earrings from pal Nelly.
Pretty cool, huh?
Plant "hair".
Do you see the message?
Noggin art went out to dinner.

We took my painted noggin out to dinner and got lots of stares and a few compliments.  It deserved much more attention, but I was still in poo poo days, so we didn't do much more.

Noggin art was awesome.  Erin is awesome.  I felt awesome.

Until this past week.

I am trying to make small shifts towards better health.  Trying to not to be like I am with all or nothing thinking.  So went for walks with friends and even went back to Pilates.  Turns out I'm not as unfit as I thought.  Sure, I can't do what I used to, but I was actually able to walk quite a distance and even do the whole loop at Duke trail AND do an upside down push up (my nemesis) at Pilates.  Not bad for going from 3 months of just about no activity.  At all - like sitting in the recliner all day.

However, I got really really tired in the middle of the week.  I think maybe I overdid my activity.  And then I got really emotional.  I mean like the super duper whopper doody doo sad.

I am sad that I have gained so much weight.  I am sad that my cholesterol has increased so much so that they have doubled my medication.  I am sad that I lost my breasts.  I am sad that I worked so hard to lose so much weight and I have put much of it back on.  I am sad that I worked so hard to be fit and strong and am no longer fit and strong.  I am sad that my entire life has been disrupted.  I am sad that I have to worry about my cancer coming back.  I am sad that I no longer have the option to have my own children.  I am sad that my body as I've known it is no longer.

I feel like a failure.  I feel like I did not at all do my best.

No wonder I was so sad.  Plus I am chemopause so no telling what is going on with my hormones.

I fight tears so hard.  I feel embarrassed if I cry.  I call it exploding.  But damnit, things are sad right now.  Who wouldn't be sad?

I exploded on Mom, I exploded on friends, and I exploded on my acupuncturist.

My acupuncturist asked me what I would tell the 3 year old version of myself if she were telling me these things.  I had no idea.  I think this is kooky.  But when she left me to rest with all my needles in, out came 85 thousand years worth of tears and it came to me what I would tell 3 year old me.

I would tell her that it is sad that your body is no longer the same.  It is a loss and is something to grieve and be sad about.  I would tell her that just making it through treatment should be considered success - no matter how you got through it (in my case it was with the help from my pals cake and pizza).  I even patted the pillow I was laying on to comfort this 3 year old me.  HOLY KOOKY BATMAN.  I guess those voodoo needles brought out the kookiness the therapists always want me to believe in.

I felt such relief after this acupuncture session.  Tears are healing and I wish I wouldn't fight them so much.  Who knew I could be in touch with 3 year old Melinda?  KOOKY DOODLE DOO!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chemo can Suck it - Chemo #4

Hey Chemo - SUCK IT!

Chemo Sucks.  True Dat Yo.
Button from pal Alison G.
Chemo #4 has come and gone and I have to do it exactly NO MORE TIMES!

I cannot tell you the difference that this makes in how I feel and my overall disposition. I feel so much better!  Yeah, sure, chemo #4 shot me down and I had my bad days, but now when I start feeling better I can build on that.  Momentum baby!

Pink Power bracelet from
pal Sue Dangle
During treatment, I was getting worse (physically and emotionally) with each one and I think this had a lot to do with the fact that I knew it was going to just get worse.  I was just going to keep getting knocked down so what was the point trying to feel better?  In my mind, I kept comparing it to being beaten or abused.  You get knocked down enough you just feel like this is your fate and you submit to it.  Its hard to get out of that cycle.  I really don't know how people go through more treatments.  I guess you just do what you have to do - but holy hannah, 4 treatments did a real number on me.

This is my funny shirt from pal Allison B.
All the nurses got a kick out of it.
Did you know that 6 treatments is the standard for the regimen I was getting?  When we first started treatment, I asked why we weren't doing the standard 6 treatments.  My doc said that they had found similar effectiveness with just 4 treatments.  This is a benefit of going to a place like Duke.  Had I gone to small town USA docs, they would probably just treat with the standard.  My BFF, Erin, believes every thing happens for reason - we talked about this during her recent visit.  I'm not sure I believe this - but maybe I ended up in Durham so I could go to Duke so that I only had to get 4 treatments.  Yay smart, educated and aware Duke docs!

The other thing that made a difference this time is that my momma was here again.  My Mom is the best Mom there is and at the last minute got on a plane and came here all the way from Texas to take care of me.  And to let Tboz in and out and in and out and in and out....good gracious that dog was almost hurt during the last treatment.  She was really getting on my last nerve with the in out in out in out all day.  I love her, but this is really hard to tolerate when you feel like you can't get off the damn couch.

My Momma
Anywho - I am grateful that my Mom could be with me and I really enjoy her company, even when we just sit there.

So to wrap up my chemotherapy experience - it totally sucks, but it is doable.  Side effects are totally manageable and not at all as it is portrayed on TV (at least for my regimen).

Today is Day 9 post treatment #4.  Day 10 is the day my blood counts are lowest.  Once I get past Day 10, I will declare myself a winner winner chicken dinner and will no longer allow myself to feel like a victim of this stupid disease.  From now on, I have more control of how I treat this disease.  There is certainly still more to come, but I am not going to get my ass kicked trying to treat it.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Steroid induced insomnia

I take steroids the day before treatment because they think I am allergic to the Taxotere. Steroids are nasty little hormones and they make me stay up and buy stupid infomercial things. But tonight, I am reading all of my posts and all of your comments.

Things I noticed:
- reading your comments make me all teary and grateful for all of the kindness and support I have received through all of this. Thank you. Sincerely.
- I was so positive in the beginning. What happened?

Final Chemo in about 12 hours!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Flashes are no bueno

Oh yeah, I forgot chemopause brings hot flashes.  Thanks hot flashes for keeping me from sleeping and then waking me up.  Oh yeah, its great that you come visit when its 100 freaking degrees outside.  My head sweats.  Its weird and uncomfortable.

And then I also forgot the taxotears.  I read about them but had yet to experience them.  Basically that your eyes water alot when you are getting taxotere (one of my chemo drugs).  Its true.  It happens and people call them taxotears.  I woke up today with lots of stuff in my eyes.  Where I come from its called eye boogers.  Ewwww.

Weird, huh?

Sharing is fun!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chemo #3 and other stuff

I have been debating whether or not to continue blogging.  Someone shared my blog at work and it went viral and now I no longer can keep work and my personal life separate, which is how I like it.  I don't know why, but I do.  Not to say I don't have friends at work, I do, but I don't know - I just don't want everyone at work to know about all of my vulnerabilities.  I guess that is a risk you take when you put yourself out in the interwebz.

So I thought maybe I would keep my blog private by password protecting or by invitation only, but then it may not reach people who are going through the same experience.  I found reading other's blogs about their cancer experience to be EXTREMELY helpful.  It was like a caring peer sharing with me at any time of day - whenever I needed it.  Sometimes it was at 3 in the morning when fear and anxiety were keeping me from sleeping.  It is for this reason, and for my mom and dad and MANY supportive friends, I'm going to keep blogging.  At least for now.

So to catch you up, I had Chemo #3 Jul 15 and my friend Beatrice graciously accompanied me.  It was uneventful except for the entertainment and support from Beatrice.

I did ask the NP about some of the side effects from the past treatment.  Namely, I was HIGHLY emotional after Chemo #2.  So sad and withdrawn.  And then I got my period, which I wasn't expecting.  Chemo is supposed to put you into menopause (chemopause).  The NP said that my hormones all over the place and that I can still have a spike in estrogen causing me to have a period and that it would explain my emotional roller coaster.  Also, we talked about my shortness of breath.  I have been having a really hard time breathing after just walking around.  And I don't think that is normal.  We did a walking pulse ox test (to check how much oxygen is in my blood) and it was semi normal so she wasn't concerned.  Her explanation is just that the chemo is kicking my ass (OK, I am paraphrasing) and that they just keep beating me up with another round.  And, that I never really fully recovered from surgery, so it is just cumulative effects from everything I have been through.  She said it may just get worse with each treatment.  I read about the fatigue, but WOW.  I really wasn't expecting this.  I can't remember what else we talked about.  See, I should have just blogged it.

When I got home, I felt fine.  Good in fact.  So I went to the movies and to dinner with friends.  Then the next day I couldn't even get off the couch.  I called my mom boo-hooing because I didn't know what to do.  T-boz wanted in and out all day and I just couldn't get up.  This lasted for several days.  It was terrible.

Ha Ha!  This is so how I feel.
For the most part, I haven't had a lot of trouble (side effects) with this round since the initial bad days except for the fatigue.  I have been getting acupunctured once a week which I think has been helping me.  The really bad stuff, however, has been the emotional impact of reality.  Its like all of a sudden I have processed what has happened to me and discovered the huge suck factor of my own reality.  This has translated to alot of social anxiety around my appearance.  Which translates further to isolation.  This is not good for many reasons and I have to fight this.  Whatever.

My hair is growing again.  I have lots of little colorless hairs coming in.  Chemo head I am calling it because everyone it seems looks like this during chemo.  So it must be typical to have some weird colorless hairs start sprouting.  They are also now falling out.  I guess the Chemo #3 killed them.  What is really cool that I have noticed is that the hairs that are falling out are layered with color.  So like the tip is brown, then a layer of no color, then a little bit of brown, then colorless and then brown.  So what I think is happening is that in between rounds it will grow and then I will get zapped with chemo and it will grow but be colorless and then I will recover and it will grow brown, etc.  Kind of cool.

I wore my new wig for the first time ever to work the other day.  This is the wig I bought at the cool wig store, In the Pink (owner, Dana, is also a breast cancer survivor and is awesome) and then had cut.  I think it looks like justin bieber, but whatever, it made me feel alot more confident.
This is the wig I have, but its brown and now cut.
There's Dana in the background!

Justin Bieber wearing my wig.

So now the countdown to my final chemo begins.  I have mixed emotions about this.  I mean, don't get me wrong I am super excited about no longer having a chemical ass kicking, but I also feel anxious for whats next.

What is next, you ask?

Well, I will have to decide about ovarian suppression.  My tumor was fed by estrogen and progesterone so they want to make my ovaries quit producing these hormones.  That will be done chemically or by removing them.  Argh.  Do I do this and risk the damage it may do to my heart (I have a strong family history of heart disease) and bones?  Or do I not and risk (I have a higher risk of ovarian cancer due to my mutant status) ovarian cancer which is not easily treatable.  Not to mention this means they are taking even more of my womanhood.  They can't just build me new fovaries to replace them like they can my boobs.

I will also have to begin taking Tamoxifen.  This drug stops inhibits estrogens effects on my cancer.  I will have to take this for 5 years.  This will also cause menopausal uncomfortableness.  But the benefits of this decreasing my risk of recurrence are well documented so I am OK with taking this.

Then I want to have reconstruction.  I have been thinking about this ALOT.  I hate the way I look right now and this plays a significant role in my social anxiety.  Yeah, I have foobs, but I don't like those either.  The ones I got at Nordstrom are enormous.  I tried wearing them one day and it felt like that is all you could see.  They were so out there!  The bean bag ones my mom got me are awesome though.  I wear those alot.  But they creep up out of my brazier and that is not cool.  Good thing I have good friends that tell me when that happens.  Anywho - the big decision is implants or my own tissue? If I am being completely honest, I am leaning towards implants because I really like the look of those rounded fake boobs.  Real boobs just sort of spread out everywhere.  There are pros and cons of each - I just don't know.  So I have made an appointment with my plastic surgeon to discuss more.  I would like to have it done by the end of the year because I have hit my out of pocket max and insurance would cover it 100%.

Finally, I need to get my health back.  My fitness level is in the toilet.  And my weight is out of control.  Not to my highest its ever been, but it sure is creeping up there.  This makes me mad because I feel like I've been working so hard just to fight this cancer and now I'm going to have work hard just to get back to where I was.  When do I catch a break?  Sigh.  I can do it.  I know I can.  I've done it before, but its hard people.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support and encouragement.  I feel like I am in the home stretch and looking forward to what my new healthy lifestyle will look like!  I will be unstoppable!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My body is my home

I get this blog feed from Nourishing Connections.  Its about healthy eating behaviors and what not.  Sometimes I agree with what they say (like the one I'm going to talk about) and sometimes I don't (like its OK to be fat).

Anywho, today's blog feed talked about thinking about your body as a home.

"And when we perceive our body as an object, we deny and diminish its value. We lose sight of the fact that this body is where we live. This body is our home. We forget that, just as the house we live in may look a bit worn over time with its sagging shutters and fading paint, we still value it and care for it, understanding that this home offers us shelter and comfort."

I really liked this analogy.  Everyone knows how much I like to do home stuff and be in my home.  Maybe I can start treating my body with as much care and creativity as I do my home?

On a related note, I went to Crossfit yesterday.  We did a nice warm up and presses.

The WOD was
Run 800m
Wall Balls
Kettle bell swings
Run 800m

My good buddy Kristin did the WOD with me with some modifications.  We walked 400m instead of running and I used lighter weights for WB and KB (6 and 25lbs respectively).  And it was perfect.  It was a good workout (I was perspiring profusely and sucking wind appropriately), took around the same time as it did for everyone else and P.S. I did it bald and one week post chemo#2.  I win!

But best of all, my pal Will let me shave his head in solidarity.  It was so fun!
Just two baldies, crossfitting.  You know, nothing unusual.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

10 Bits of Positivity

My friend, and Crossfit Durham coach, Ashley, asked some of us female Crossfit bloggers to write a post about 10 things we like about ourselves.  The things should be physical traits.  I think the point of the assignment is to not be so hard on ourselves and focus on our positives.  

Given my current condition, this is truly a difficult assignment.  My body as I've known it for my adult life is completely different now.  My physical abilities are different now.  So how do I find 10 things I physically like about myself when my entire being screams MUTANT!

Ok, here goes (in no particular order):

1).  I have the ability to be athletic.  My experience with the MetroDash proved that to me.  This is one of my bigger accomplishments.

2).  I can do a pretty mean handstand.  Took a lot of work, but I got it.

3).  My noggin is pretty.  Even bald.  There is lot to learn about yourself and your facial features when you are bald.  My features are nice.

4).  I do not fear physical discomfort.  I fear the unknown.  I think there is a difference.

6).  I can cook some fab paleo food from no recipe.  I just make stuff up and it usually looks pretty and tastes good.  I have lots of ideas about a cookbook.

7).  I have kicked some terrible habits:  smoking (11 years) and drinking (6 years). These count as physical traits, because they were physically hard to break.  If I could only kick cake...

8).  Even with a few, ahem, extra pounds, I still like my belly button.  I have a lovely belly button ring, and it makes me happy.  When I had to take it out for surgery, I thought it looked weird and sad.  It's not something I show off, just something I know is there.  And I have good memories of getting it done with my BFF.

9). Yikes.  How many more.  I can lift heavy shit.  The heaviness is variable, but I know it's more than most regular jo-Anna blows off the street.

10).  I am surviving a diagnosis of invasive ductal adenocarcinoma, being told I carry a genetic mutation for a high risk for ovarian cancer, being told natural born kids are not in my future, having both breasts cut off, losing my hair and getting Chemo.  I still have so much more to go, but I have perseverance like it was on sale at target.

The other ladies posting their top 10s are awesome ladies that I could write a top 10 for easily.  I suppose that is the point, no?  You are your own worst critic and probably no one else noticed your fat arms but you.

I need to notice #10 and #1 more.

Here are some links to the other top tens:
Beatrice - general soft hearted badass who takes good care of me and reminds me that I am loved
Nelly - all around superstar.  Bootcamped with her forever and so glad she now see's how badass she is
Amy - makes me laugh hard.  Brings me crass cross stitching to taunt the cancer.  Super proud of how hard she works and glad she found Crossfit.  It suits her.
Colleen - I don't know Colleen, but I can tell I'm going to like her.
Lindsay - I can always lift more with Lindsay around.  One time I tried to kill her with my poor spotting abilities and she is still my friend.  That shit is deep.  Plus she sparkles just like me.
Ash - badass of all Crossfit badass girls.  Pretty much who you want to be if you are Crossfitting. And she makes me giggle and act silly.

Chemo Schmemo #2

Friday I had round 2 of my Chemo regimen taxotere +cytoxan. 50% done! Wahoo!

My lovely friend JHO (Jennifer, but I like JHO much better) accompanied me. Thank you JHO, you definitely eased the anxiety and made me laugh.
JHO and Baldie with nice steroid bloat

We started our day at Duke at 8:30am. I went all natural. No foobs, no scarves or hats, just me. And i was feeling good and confident and peaceful and healthy. Such a shame that they knocked me down from that because it was a great feeling.

Anywho, I had my labs drawn to make sure I was well enough for round 2. And then waited to see the nurse practitioner that was covering for my normal one. I don't really like my normal one, I don't feel very cared for with her, but I liked this one. She listened and took my concerns seriously and appreciated my list of questions I had. She had suggestions to help manage my side effects (notes taken by JHO, thanks JHO) and she examined me. My other one didn't even examine me last time. I wish I could switch. Sigh. Maybe next time will be better with the old one.

Then we went down to check in early for treatment. Just in case. Duke merely has suggested appointment times, so it was worth a shot. We took our restaurant pager downstairs and grabbed lunch. Halfway through lunch we got paged! Sweet! Early!

And to "the chair" I went. Had my same nurse, Amy, as last time. She is super nice and caring. I got all hooked up and it was a much easier stick this time because i wasnt so nervous.
That's Amy - she had a cough, so wearing a mask.

So last time I had what they thought was an allergic reaction, so this time I took the 'roids the day before. I was a little nervous that I would have a reaction again or even one that was worse but I knew they would manage it FAST if it happened. Sure enough after they started my taxotere I was drinking my diet coke from lunch and mentioned in passing to JHO that I felt pleghmy. A passer by nurse overheard this and all hell broke loose again. They stopped the drip and added more drugs afraid that this was another reaction. I asked if we could wait and see that I thought it was just my soda, and they weren't going for it. But they agreed to give me only half the benadryl dose so I wouldn't snooze through this one. I still snoozed, but not as long. I'm keeping my comments to myself next time unless I am sure it's something. Sheesh, they must see bad stuff to react like this.
It's really not so bad.

And then I got the cytoxan and was done. Just like that.

On the way out, we stopped by the survivor boutique to look at wigs and what not. They had a few nice ones and MANY that were stuffed in a basket from I think the 70s. I did find one that was nice and normal looking. I was allowed to take one wig and can exchange it two more times if I get tired of it. Plus, I got two beanies and a necklace. Score! Seriously I am set. I need to post and show you all the cool things I've gotten.

Where's the PTA meeting?
I didn't get one of the "real" wig I took.  I will post when I post about wigs.  I ordered some wigs last night through TLC (American Cancer Society site) during a post chemo online spending spree which I think is caused by the 'roids.

JHO took me home around 5:00pm and I felt ok. Tired and a little loopy. I went to target to pick up a prescription. One of my prescriptions is for Zofran, an anti nausea med. It is expensive, but my company makes it so it is free so I wanted to go back and get the brand name, not generic. I think brand is better than generic, I just do. I saw the retail value on my target receipt and it retails at $1143. What the bleep, man? More benefits for working at my company. I have really good benefits.

I also went to petco for some TBoz treats. I noticed that there are stares when you are bald in the real world, but there are many more smiles. Maybe they are pity smiles, but they are smiles nonetheless. I am just waiting for the insensitive teenager comment or the innocent kid comment. I hope those won't hurt, but that's what you get for roaming around all bald and different.

As for how I'm feeling, kind of crappy, not gonna lie. I don't have the steroid high and I have ALOT of nausea and bloating. Boo. And my confident, healthy feeling, it went bye bye. Double boo.

I am having that metallic taste that they told me about and the things that appeal to me right now are anything in the potato or milk family as well as the ginger ale family. The best fix it "meal" has been salty chick fil a fries and chick fil a ice cream. I don't know why. So much for my no sugar challenge, but I gotta be kind to me and that seems to come in the form of the chick fil a "ice dream".

I will leave you with a rhyme that JHO wrote me while I was in the chair (she is kind of famous for these):

On my way to Chemo with J-Ho.
My head is bald, but so is my ass.
Damn, that happened really fast.

I scan my card and then we sit.
Is that me beeping? No. Shit. And so we sit.

Time to see the doctor and sit on the bed.
Hold on, let me first lint roll my head.

The nurse comes in to take my vitals.
She's definitely not graceful like a ballerina at a recital.

She tells me to undress and the doctor is on her way.
I ask her why, but she doesn't that ok?

So let me recap what the doctor said.
No coffee, lots of chocolate, and aloe on my head.

Time for my Chemo, where's the Ativan?
Phlegm in my throat, Benadryl, and off to never never land.

The machines, the tubes, and how can we forget the beeping.
Next time I'm wearing earplugs to stop the bleeping beeping.

So many people affected by this disease with a room full getting the magic potion.
One would think it would be sad, but it's a room full of faith,hope,bravery and positive emotions.

All unique in their own special way,
Kicking cancers ass all along the way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

I'd like to first start out by saying I really think that right now, I have some of the best friends I've had in my entire life.  This time right now in my life, I feel loved and supported.  WOW.  This is a really nice feeling.  Thank you friends.

I don't always know what to say or how to act.  Sometimes I say and do some things I regret.  But I just don't know quite how to be yet.  I feel like an outsider.  I'm someone different now and I've just got to figure it out.  So thank you friends.  Thank you for hanging with me even when I'm a mess or say the wrong things.

Anywho, these really great friends got together and threw me a chemo shower thing.  And IT WAS AWESOME.  People brought me super fun scarves, hats and earrings and in return I let them participate in the cutting of the do (do. I said doodoo).

This is what was coming out that morning.
This was shocking.
It was planned for 16 Jun which was Day 14 from my first treatment.  The doc predicted that my hair would start coming out anytime between Day 10 and 14.  I wanted to have the party far enough out that if I was the 2% that does NOT lose your hair I would know.  But then again if I was the 98% that would lose my hair I would not be losing it at an alarming rate.  The universe was on my side - it was that morning of the party that it started coming out and it was disturbing shocking and terrible.  I was grateful for the cut to come.

The Hostess with 
My hosts, Allison and her husband Scott have a wonderful home and they are just really good people and gracious hosts.  Everything was so nice and thoughtful.  And I felt totally peaceful about it.  Oh who am I kidding, I was nervous as hell.  I am so totally not used to being the center of attention.  But then I took a little happy pill and it was all good.  Happy pills are totally acceptable in these circumstances.

So there were like eighty cajillion friends there that came from long and far.  And they all brought me some lovely lovely gifts.  It was overwhelming.  What did I do to deserve this?
Here is me with hair and with my first present!
Yay presents! :)

So as the presents came, it was decided I would stack the hats and scarves on top of me while I went.  Hilarity ensued.
Bling hats and earrings...

And with every card came a "Dammit" because I was just so overwhelmed with the sentiments and thoughtfulness that I needed to cry a little.  Dammit.

And then the finale.  This makes me laugh a lot.
I have lots of generous, kind and thoughtful friends.

Then I disrobed of all of my gifts and moved on to the big cut.  Allison procured a real life stylist named William from Wavelengths in Durham.  He was awesome.  I didn't know him at all but he made me feel very comfortable.  He kept calling me beautiful.  Allison told me earlier he was really into the experience. 

Here we are getting ready to get started.  He asked what I wanted and I told him a pixie.  Someone had shown him my blog post with the pictures of the pixie cuts.  He said no problem.

Then I asked him if my friends could cut chunks off.  William obliged and was so patient and taught my friends how to cut my hair off.  

P.S.  Do you see how awesome Allison and Scott are that they let me do this in their dining room / kitchen?  There was hair everywhere!  I love them.

OK, back to the cutting.  Here comes my friends rolling up to get in on the action...

This was really fun because it was a really hard thing for me to do and having my friends doing the cutting first really made it much easier on me.  And OMG did I laugh.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.
The sound of chunks of my hair getting cut off was freaky.
But it was all good.  Here's Lindsay going to town.

Gratuitous cute dog shot
Chunks of my hair make good mustaches and unibrows.
Look closely at this photo for a special little surprise.

Then once everyone who wanted one had a turn at chopping a chunk, William got down to business.

He was really good and all of my friends stood around me and told me how good it looked.  I mean this is how I am going to have to have my hair cut from now on.  Instant validation!

Here are some shots of my new do (do, I said doodoo).
Boy was I shocked.  But I really liked it.  But most of all I was just so glad that the very long hair was no longer going to fall out.  Little did I know how traumatizing this short hair falling out was going to be.

Anywho - William and I hugged it out and I'm pretty sure that he will have some new clients.  I mean did I mention he DONATED his time and talent.  Good Karma coming your way William.  I sent him a thank you and he said "your welcome, my queen".  Umm, don't you want to be called beautiful and a queen when getting your hair did?  I do.  I didn't know it before, but now I do.
The One.  The Only.  William.

If you are reading this blog and have the big C and about to do chemo or just started chemo, I highly recommend you throw yourself a little partay.  It was super fun and all of the love and support made the terribleness SOOOOO much easier.

And, I got some really nice scarves, hats and earrings that conservative me may never have picked out.  And I love them!

My happy fun shortcut lasted a total of 5 days.  It was just coming out so fast and it was everywhere and gross and sad and I couldn't make it stop no matter how many times I pulled it out or washed it or scrubbed it.  It got to the point where I just wanted it off!  Pronto!  So I called up my good pal Mischa and she came over and buzzed it.  Here is the before and after.  Boy this was a tough day - many many hard real sad tears.  The crying where you make funny noises and you just can't help it.  Son of a bitch.  Effing cancer.
Had a scarf on all day and had just revealed to Misch.
Many tears were shed.  Look at my male pattern baldness.
Can you see the relief in my face?  Oh man.  It was great.
I think Misch was relieved too.
So now I'm just hanging out bald.  I have tiny hair but really even today pretty much the whole top is gone.  And its flaky.  Ewww.  And my scalp hurts.  It hurts like I've kept a pony tail in for days or weeks! Its actually been feeling like this since before the party.

I haven't really left the house bald except to the wig place (more on that another time).  I tried to go to the crossfit with a scarf or bald and I just couldn't do it.  I'll get there though.  I mean, I have a pretty nice little noggin!  I think I just need to get used to it.

Treatment #2 is tomorrow.  I REALLY don't want to do it because I know it is going to make me sick.  I'm just now feeling better.  I Crossfitted 2 times last week and everything!  Will try to meet my pal LF at the gym to Crossfit on Saturday, but I may be overestimating my abilities for that day.  But I do love to be at CFDurham on Saturdays.

I have so many other things I want to blog about - my crossfitting experience, the free stuff I have gotten because I'm fighting the cancer, the wig shopping and acupuncture (WOAH this is pretty cool stuff) and my no sugar challenge.  Some fellow blogger girls and I will even be posting self love posts soon.

I'm glad I got this no hair one out in the universe though.  Whew.  It was a doozy.