Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I painted the dining room when Dion was out of town...tah dah!

Super Stars Get it Too

You may or may not have seen in the news that Sheryl Crow has joined the sister club of breast cancer. Here's a little something about her diagnosis.....

"Sheryl Crow underwent successful minimally invasive surgery for breast cancer on Wednesday February 22nd. Her doctors confirm her prognosis as excellent and she will receive radiation treatment as a precaution. "

Wow. It sounds as though Sheryl should be skipping down the road, singing a little ditty about how great life is. So what is wrong with the rest of us sisters who obsess about cancer and it's return? Why are we so weak and these super stars are so strong? Because folks, the reality is this, we live in a "feel good" world. We need for everyone to feel good about everything, and how can we do that when we are looking cancer in the face, except to downplay it and pretend that life is a bowl of cherries. I am guilty of it too. I said to a friend yesterday that if I showed on the outside how I felt on the inside, no one would want to be around me.

"But you feel good, right?"

Ugh. I am so tired of that phrase. I felt good when I had three tumors in me too. Let's break this down a little bit, shall we? "But you feel good, right?" Do I feel good.....hmm...let's see....

*I see myself everyday, my body looks like a road map. Yep, I feel good about that...check.

*I have been (and still am) going through treatments for about 2 years. Yep, that's

*I may or may not have a mutated breast cancer gene which would give me insight on
future cancers, but insurance won't pay the $3000 it costs for the test. Yep, that's a warm

*All it takes is for that one little cancer cell left behind from treatment to wake up and start this
all over again, a fear that I have to live with the rest of my life. Yep, that's a GREAT

*The thought that I have put my kids at risk, I have passed on my blue eyes, my long legs, and
my cancer. Yep, I sleep well at night thinking about that...check.

*The thought that all of the treatment I have, and am, receiving can cause a totally different cancer. Yep, that's uplifting....check.

*Do we really want to dive into the thoughts of a woman who has lost both breasts? Yep, that's
an upper.....check.

I could go on and on. I guess the point of my rants and raves is that the media makes it seem like breast cancer is an easy disease to beat, and once you are done with treatment, life is back to normal. Just when I think I am at a point where I feel ok about everything my body has been through, something happens and it throws me not back to square one, but more like to square three. Just when I think I have a handle on cancer, it squeezes tighter around me.

I am going to a retreat in April for breast cancer survivors under the age of 40 (thanks to Beth). And to be honest I have a lot of mixed emotions about it. I am scared, excited, nervous, thrilled, sad, and happy, all at the same time. But I am determined to learn new things and have a good time.

But I have to close because of course it's Tuesday, and I have to go to Mayo for frickin frack treatment. Treatment treatment treatment cancer treatment.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Him Is A English Majur

Oh Dion....I know I am pretty safe in telling this story since Dion just read my blog not too long ago. A little history...

Dion and I met at Carthage College. We had quite a few classes together since we were both ENGLISH majors. That's all the history you will need.

I usually only get to hear this in the fall, but this was a special treat on that cold blustery day. And I have to add that I laugh at him every year for making the following mistake. Every year.

"blah blah blah blah and the leafs blah blah blah." Said Dion (I should note here that I only put the blah blah blah's in because I could not remember all of the conversation, just that he talked about the leafs).

Now, you should know that every year he blames the fact that he says leafs on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is their fault that Dion cannot say leaves, which makes me laugh harder, to which for the first time ever, Dion said....

"Shut up! I don't have problem with other plurals!"

HE DON"T HAVE PROBLEM!!! I about peed my pants! You can't make stuff like this up! But what you should do the next time you talk to Dion, is bring up the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then get him talking about leaves on a tree and see what happens. I tell Dion all the time he is smarter than I am, but when he talks about leafs, I feel like Einstein. Dion rocks!

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Dreaded Words I Didn't Mind Hearing

"I told you so"

That was what was said to me by my friend, my doctor, Beth. The port is not cracked, the tubing is kinked. Of course it is! That is the reason I have to lay in odd positions to get the port to infuse at all. Holy smokes! 12 more treatments to go.3 months. Mark this date on your calendar.....May 9th. That's my last treatment. I told Beth I would be in on May 10th to have the port removed. We are still "discussing" that issue. The saga continues.

So I am reading a new book that I really have to tell you about. There may be someone in your life (besides me) who has been caught by the breast cancer demon, and maybe you are thinking that you really want to understand everything that they are going through, but you can't, which makes sense, unless you have been through it. I have read books about detection, treatment, coping, surviving, and boobs in general. Then I found this one. As I am getting closer to the end of my treatment, I also know what I am getting closer to based on previous experiences. Fear. Anxiety. Let down. Sadness.

That doesn't make much sense to you, does it? Here's the thing, there is so much good information out there about breast cancer, but a limited amount about how life is once treatment is over. But I found this book....

After Breast Cancer by Hester Hill Schnipper

She was a breast cancer social worker before being diagnosed, so she knows her stuff. I am 60 pages in, and I have high lighted similar feelings/thoughts I have had in this whole experience and I am floored at how accurate, for me, that this book reads.

Anyway, this is as close as I can get to helping anyone who has not lived it, understand it. It's a good book, so even if it's not something you want to read, if you have someone who is coming close to the end of their treatments, give it to them. They will thank you for it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So Here's the Thing

Well, I guess there's not really one thing when it comes to this post, but you don't mind that I put that for the title, do you? Do you? Do you mind? I didn't think you would. Anyway, Mayo-land was an adventure, like always. What would a trip to Rochester be, if not exciting? The morning started out fun from the get go. It was snowing pretty hard here in Red Wing, so Dion and I thought we would leave a little early as to not be late. That in itself is kind of a joke since we always ended up waiting to get in to see the doctor anyway. So we leave. The roads are crappy, but then all of a sudden, the snow stops and it's easy driving to Rochester. So easy that we ended up being over a half an hour early. Great, Now instead of sitting there for 20 minutes to get in to see the oncologist, we'll sit 40 minutes. But I was wrong. We actually got called back pretty quick.

Now I have this habit of trying to "read" the nurses face when I go to these appointments. Did she look me in the eye, was her mood somber, does she know something I don't? Hell, I couldn't tell. But I did the same thing when the doctor came in to the room. We did the hand shake thing, and he said the magic words I love to hear....

"All your tests look great."

Sigh. Another check-up passed with flying colors. In fact, my cholesterol level was down too, which was a miracle in itself since we spent the weekend eating all junk food. Dion said it was because I switched from regular marshmallows, to mini marshmallows, and I am starting to believe him. I love marshmallows.

So my echo was fine, which is good, my bloodwork was fine, which is good, then we talked about my chest X-ray. Ah, the chest X-ray. I asked my onc when I could get my port out. Now I will admit here that I am a little on the psycho side when it comes to my port. I am asking everyone and their mother when I can get the prt out, really to try and get an answer that I want to hear. For example, I asked Claire if I could have my port removed after my last treatment, and she said yes. So there you go. Oops...a little sidetracked...anyway, here's how the 411 went down.

"Do you want it out now?" said the onc.

"What? Like right now? Here?" said Sue.

And commence laughter from the doctor. Apparently that was funny, which, now that I think about it, why the heck would he be the one to take out my port? Duh. Back to the chest X-ray. The radiologist seems to think that there might be a break, crack, or whatever, in my port. Broken. What the hell? How would that happen? So my onc gave me a copy of my chest X-ray on disk to take to my doctor at home so she could look at it too. And I did just that....I'm a good patient. Most of the time. So now it seems to be a mystery if there is actually a break in the port, or if the tubing is just kinked and looks like a break. Either way I am having another port study done tomorrow to see what's what. If there's a break, they will be able to see the dye that they inject coming out of it. If they don't see any dye escaping, I assume that means that there's no break or crack.

So what does all of this mean and why am I telling you? Well, to tell you this....

This happens to be my second port. Why second? Well, because like my normal self, I had to have the first one taken out a month or so after I finished chemo the first time around. Yup. Glad I did that. But do you know who was even happier that I insisted that the port come out? That would be my surgeon. She was thrilled. Just ask her, she'll tell you all about it. I hate it when someone can use the phrase "I told you so" on me, and this was one big fat "I told you so". Now here I sit with the possibility that I have to have this port removed, and Dr Beth is thrilled. Slice and dice. Now I will tell you about Dr Beth, because I threatened her that I would, so I will.

I met Beth almost 2 years ago. She has done my biopsies, both mastectomies, both ports, a colonoscopy (I've got another 3.5 years until the next one....AHHHH!!!!), and in the process of doing all of this medical stuff for me, she has become an irreplaceable friend. She's really the only one who can bring me back to earth when I get all cuckoo for cocoa puffs (and cancer). She's been a valuable sounding board and I love the time that we spend together. So that being said, there were some issues when she was putting in my last port, and has claimed that I have given her grey hair, hence her not wanting to put another one in me. You didn't know I was that powerful, did you?

Now, you might be asking why, after all of the complaining I do about my port, would I want another one. That's a valid question, and here's my answer. Yes, I do hate my port, but my veins are so crappy that almost always they collapse when they are used. And did you know that I hate needles? I am getting better, I don't faint anymore. Plus, I have another 12 weeks of treatment left (3 extra weeks have been added. That was disappointing, but eh...). So do we weigh the pros and cons? I guess it's not even worth doing that until after the port study tomorrow. Wait wait wait. I suppose I would lean towards getting a new port, but holy crap, I don't think Beth would EVER take that bad boy out. Ever. Ugh. Which is worse? Collapsing veins, or the operating room? Tough call.

I better go to bed. We are supposed to get 7-10 inches of snow in the next 24 hours, so school may or may not be canceled/delayed/early released, which means my program would be open all day. Snow....what's that?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Time to feed the babies.

Nadia doing a little naked eating. Well, half naked.

Awwwwwww...how cute are they?!?

Tired Tater

Just seeing how long until Dion notices this picture....to be continued....

Wednesday is Done

Today seemed to go on and on and on. I might even have to go to bed after this, I am tired. Claire had the right idea this morning when I went into her room to wake her up. This is what she told me.....

"Mommy, the sun isn't up yet, I need to sleep more."

That was the best idea I heard all day long. Today felt like a day of putting out fires. I don't feel like I got a lot done, then on top of it, I had to work an hour late, then as soon as I walked in the door with the girls, I got a call to go back to work, and I did. I had to wait for Dion to come home, so I made dinner for the girls, ate a hotdog off of a fork, and left.

But, on a brighter note, we are going out of town this weekend to my college roommate's home. I can hardly wait! We haven't seen each other in about a year, so I am really looking forward to it. Not to mention that her daughter and Claire are only four months apart in age, so that will be fun.

Why do I eat popcorn? At this moment I am contorting my tongue to try and get the kernels out of my gums. They hurt, but it's such a tastey treat!

I know I have talked about Netflix before, but I am going to push them on you some more. Get it. It is worth the money. You'll watch movies you wouldn't have rented, and some of them won't suck. I would be lying if I said they were all good movies. Some will suck. I would be sad if we had to go back to just renting movies. We watched part of The Longest Yard (the original) and I was pretty impressed. What we saw was pretty good, kind of funny and odd seeing Burt Reynolds with no mustache.

I talked about tax time and how much I LOVE it. Well, I am getting closer and closer to being done with taxes, but I did get a final number on who much we spent (out of pocket) on medical and dental. Are you ready? Drum roll please.....dumdumdumdumdumdum (or however a drum sounds) a little over $12,000. No, not $1200, not $12.00, not $1.200, TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. That could buy a lot of Peeps. I know that insurance pays for so much, but I guess now I know where all of our money has gone. That's $4000 more than last year. We are hoping to keep our bills right around $4000 this year. We'll see. Maybe this weekend I will finish our taxes and get some of that money back.

Well, I think I am going to hit the hay. I have a lot to do tomorrow at work, plus I have to pack for the weekend. Oh crap. I forgot to do some laundry. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow night. Or not.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Day in the Life of Me at Mayo

Today was treatment day for me. You will be happy to know that I only have 9 more weeks left. A far cry from the 48 weeks when I started this new adventure. Anyway, it was an interesting day at Mayo for a few reasons. Where to start........

I was sitting in the waiting room, feeling quite fidgity for some unknown reason, literally walking around the whole room trying to find a magazine to peruse. I found one that was somewhat interesting, paged through about 5 pages and put it down. I then heard laughter coming from the area in the waiting room where there is a TV. Hmmm. Interesting. What could be on that is making these three people laugh so hard? I decided to meander over there and check it out. America's Funniest Home Videos? Nope. Three's Company? Uh-uh. I am still in awe as I type this when I think about what they were watching.....dramatic pause.......the nature channel. The nature channel. And not even funny moments with animals or something of that nature (Ha! I slid a little joke in there). It was a show documenting these guys underwater trying to get a DNA sample from a shark. It's a slow TV day when you find THAT funny.

When I finally went back I was lucky enough to get an end seat. There are six chairs to each room, three on each side. The middle chair sucks. All you have are the arm rests and it just is a crappy spot. So to the left of me was a newbie. He was there for his first treatment for pancreatic and liver cancer. He was in a pretty good mood, all things considered, but when I heard this little conversation between him and his wife, I got sad.

"Well, you certainly can't go until you complete your Honey Do list" (wife)

"I don't think I will live long enough to make it through the whole list." (husband)

Ugh. How sad. He was not being negative about the situation, he was being realistic. The reality of his type of cancer is a timeline of 6 months to a year. My co-worker's daughter made it 7 months.

The next chair over was occupied by a lifer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She had a mastectomy and did three years of Tamoxifen (the same pill I am on). 11 years later she found a little lump in her neck, which turned out to be positive for cancer. Seeing as that it was in her nodes, it has spread, but the question was where was the parent tumor? It doesn't just start in your nodes, it has to get there from somewhere. So after scans, a tumor was found behind her reconstructed breast in her lung. Even though it was found in her lung, a test can prove (and did) that it is still breast cancer. 11 years. Some darn cancer cell was dormant for 11 years and something woke it up and got it growing again. Not an uplifting thought for the rest of us, but a reality of the disease. So she is now doing Herceptin (the treatment I am almost done with) for the rest of her life. She was also upbeat and strong. I will quote her too.....

"While you are alive, live."

How true is that? Some days it is easy to forget, but then we meet these people who remind us, and try to get us back on track. I know I was looking death in the face today. When I had my misdiagnosis and was given not so much time to live, all that went through my mind was "Dead man walkin. Dead man walkin." from that the movie of the same name. I felt like a shell, like my soul had already left. I remember getting on the computer one night to one of the online support chat rooms and typing,

"I can't do this! I can't do this!"

Little did I know that I could, and did. Granted the outcome was different after I got the second opinion, or my second chance as I like to call it, but I will never forget those feelings I had in those 2 and a half weeks I had to wait before I could get into Mayo for the second opinion. We were so convinced that the cancer had spread, that I thought the oncologist was nuts when he said he didn't think it was cancer (I have to put in here though that I LOVE my oncologist, he keeps me grounded, he takes me seriously, he makes me laugh, hell, he puts up with me and that in itself has earned him a star in his crown).

So I did my treatment with my port not working only about 3 times. Not too bad. I asked a nurse how long they suggest keeping a port in after treatment is done, and they said a year. A year?!? I guess that is better than the five years my surgeon wants to keep it in, but I am still going to fight to have it out earlier. Here was some of my conversation with my surgeon about this topic....

"A year."

"Good. I agree. It will stay in a year, just in case you need it."

"What would I need it for?"


"What would I need it for?"

And cut. So my point was this, for me, to keep the port in is not only uncomfortable, but I will feel like I am not done with all of this crap until that little demon comes out. How do I move on with that still in my body? I want to think about my future NOT as, "what if I need a port again?" but as, "Thank God that is over and I can move on." And I hate it. I just plain old fashioned hate it. That fight is not over yet, and the winner is to be determined. I'll keep you updated, but we're dealing with two people who don't like to lose. It shall be interesting, but don't mock me if I lose. That's not nice.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Claire's performance as a make-up artist

A nice moment.

And a fine job on herself too.

Tater's castle

Our new little Cotton.

Our little girl is almost 2!

Nadia's new bed...she now sleeps about10-14 hours a night. She kind of likes it.

Claire and Tater


Pretty little girls

Bath time

Snuggle time.

Ironic, Quirky, Funny, Stupid

Just a random list of things.....

I count stairs when I go up or down them. Always.

I have quit biting my nails on 7 different occasions. None have kept.

When Dion and I first met, he was metal, I was grunge. Now we are a mix of everything.

I can't stand finding hair on my fingers after showering. Then I have to do chemo which makes chunks of hair fall out into your fingers.

The lady who did my pink ribbon tattoo was diagnosed with breast cancer this past summer.

I drive a minivan.

I am starting to warm up to the color pink....by force.

I never really liked cats before. Now we have two, Tater and Cotton (or Girl Kitty as Claire calls her).

All the complaining I did about hauling Dion's GI Joe junk around for all these years, was in vain. He has made us a nice little profit on eBay with those same toys.

Before becoming an English major, I was an Early Ed major. I now work in two grade schools, neither as a teacher or anything dealing with my English major.

One third grader at work says that I am 13 years old. 31 backwards. I will be 12 this year.

If I didn't have my miscarriage before Claire, I would not have found my tumor myself.

This past summer I broke my finger doing laundry. My ring is still bent.

I still love the movie "Annie".

Diet Coke....breakfast of champions (me).

Nadia calls Sponge Bob "Pee Pop".

Some of my closest friends in town are 10-20 years older than I am. I like to remind them of that.

This year Dion and I will have been married for 8 years.

If it didn't cost so much, I would love to build a deck off of the end of our driveway.

I still want 4 kids.

When I was diagnosed with cancer I remember holding my head in my hands bending over (as much as I could 8 months pregnant) and crying, then sitting back up and saying "What do we do now?" and thinking that what I said sounded like a line from a movie.

I can't remember what my life was like before we had kids. What the heck did I do all of the time?

I wish I had the nerve to sit down and write the books I have been dreaming.

If you look at the characters of Winnie the Pooh, you will see people you know in each of them....Eyeore's negative thinking, rabbit's almightier than thou attitude, Piglet's everyday fears based off of his size, Kanga and Roo's epitome of a parent/child relationship, Owl's determination to show everyone how smart he is, when in fact, he really isn't, Tigger's care-free attitude where nothing really bothers him, except when his feelings are hurt, and good old Pooh bear. He's ok with himself, he knows he's not perfect, he knows that he isn't the smartest animal around, but his heart is huge, he cares for others. If only we could all be like Pooh bear.

When I eat cake at home, I put it in a bowl with milk and eat it with a spoon. Don't judge me.

I have a weakness for Peeps and cotton candy, in that order. Oh, and marshmallows, but I suppose those fall under the Peep category.

One of my favorite things to see is someone tripping and falling. I wouldn't laugh (out loud) if they got hurt, but I would if they jumped up and pretended like nothing happened. Come on, we've all done that before.

I have a weakness for American Idol. I don't know why.

I used to watch Survivor all of the time, but it seems like every few years or so, Dion and I miss a season. I think this is that season.

I think I need more hobbies......

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Was Going to.....

....do a little writing, but I made some popcorn and now Dion says that we have to watch a movie. Well, if we must......