Thursday, September 29, 2011


There is a new post that is back-dated - scroll down.  It's entitled "Chemo Round 2" and dated September 15.  Took me a while to finish this one.  :)

Monday, September 26, 2011


It's hard for me to write these days.  I have several items that I've started on, only to either trash or just "shelve." I'm having trouble writing.  For some reason, the words don't seem to come as easily.  Sometimes I'm worried that I've just said everything there is to say about cancer...but I know that can't be true.

I think it's the chemo.  I think it's the phenomenon known as chemo brain!  I can't think straight sometimes.  And writing seems to be the most difficult.  I struggle for words at times.  And then when I do finish writing something, I'm not happy with it so I don't publish it.  I have so many items part completed.

I still have a lot to say but I feel like I can't say it.  Even now...  In the past, I could have gone on for paragraphs about not having anything to say.  But, I'm out of ideas already.

This is bad.  How will I ever become rich and famous as a reluctant writer if I can't WRITE?!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chemo Round 2

Today was round 2 of chemo. It's so hard to make yourself go and have poison put it you, even harder when you now know how it's going to make you feel. Last time side effects were no piece of cake and I knew this time wouldn't be fun either. It's hard to submit yourself to that torture knowing full well what the next few days will bring. You have to remember that it's all for the greater good. Because even though chemo kills good cells; it kills bad ones too and that's exactly what we want.

I took a different sidekick to chemo today. Today's companion was my best friend, Shereen. It's more fun to change it up and take different people. Shereen agreed to take a day off of work and go. Secretly, I think she just likes the thought of seeing me be tortured. Just a little.

My Adorable Puppy!
After dressing my puppy in her new dress...which has nothing to do with chemo, I just think she's cute...we departed.  Our first stop was Starbucks which has become my pre-chemo treat.  Not that I don't get Starbucks on other days, I do...all the time...I'm addicted....but I just make sure to get it on chemo day.  I also get a snack and my favorite bagel.  However, they just discontinued my favorite bagel (the Chonga bagel for those of you in the know) and so I'm not very happy with them right now.  I'm completely traumatized by this.  I don't drink coffee but I'm addicted to a non-coffee Starbucks drink called a Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino.  Yes, I live in Seattle.  No, I don't drink coffee.  Stop staring.  But, since I don't drink coffee, the Chonga bagel was the highlight of my days and now it's gone.  I think it's mean to change things on a cancer patient.  I take it personally.

So, anyway, Shereen and I stopped at Starbucks for a drink and snacks.  I got a croissant instead of my bagel.  Still a nice treat but not my bagel.  <sniffle>  Then we were headed to the Cancer Center.

Upon arriving and checking in, I discovered something fascinating at the Cancer Center.  The hand sanitizer smells like talcum powder!  Well, first it smells like regular hand sanitizer but then when you rub it in, it smells like talcum powder!  I want to stop by there everyday now to use the sanitizer.  Do they frown on this sort of behavior?  And really, what person in their right mind WANTS to just "stop by" the Cancer Center?  (Don't answer that.)

After marveling at how my hands smelled like baby powder, we were called back.  I sat in a different area this time, in Chair #8.  Much luckier, I thought, than Chair #13 like last time.  I was also by the window, but unfortunately only had a view of the construction site near the center.  I was hooked up quickly this time and things started easily.  I'm a pro now.

We spent the next three hours chatting and waiting.  At one point, my supposed best friend, Shereen, purposely drank a carton of coconut milk right in front of me.  If you know me, then you know I HATE anything coconut so this was especially rude.  I tried to have her thrown out of the Cancer Center but it seems that they don't frown on coconut flavored items like I do...weird.

I think this is a good time to tell you that I love the graham crackers they have at hospitals.  They are by Keebler and they come in a little package with two little squares.  I love them.  They are most delicious and I have considered checking myself into the hospital for elective procedures just to score some.  I realize that I could probably just buy a box at the local grocery store, but it's just not the same as ripping open that little two pack and savoring them right there in the hospital setting.  There's something about them.  But it goes without saying that I quickly discovered that the Cancer Center has them.  Another reason to stop by daily.

So, as I delighted in my graham crackers and the person who is supposed to be my best friend, drank coconut milk in front of me, we waited.  First there was the IV of steroids and anti-nausea medications and then the first chemo drug, Taxotere and then, lastly, the second chemo drug, Cytoxan.  I find that I have no problems with the first IV or the first chemo drug, but the second chemo drug has some pretty uncomfortable side effects for me that start immediately.  I first get flushed and my face feels hot and then I get a raging headache.  It has happened both times now.  They have learned to turn it down as slow as it goes but I still get the side effects - it just delays them.

Finally, things were finished.  Shereen had downed all of her coconut concoction and I'd eaten 4 packages of graham crackers.  There was nothing more to see or do.  EXCEPT...

Where's Waldo Hat
Go look at hats!  Of course, always have to look at hats to see if I can add to my current hoard.  So, we ventured down to the first floor.  I was so excited to show Shereen all the free hats!  There were a lot of cute ones and she forced me to try on some of the silly ones so she could embarrass me by taking my picture and posting it on the internet.  What a good friend.  I did, of course, find one more hat - a red one.  Hey!  I don't have any red ones!  I might need it!

My Favorite Hat!
After the hat parade, Shereen talked me into trying on wigs.  I was skeptical since this did not go well last time.  But, I decided to humor her.  I tried on a few interesting specimens, including a totally gray one which was truly frightening.  I did find two though that were workable.  Really similar to my actual hair.  I could have taken both but that seemed kind of silly considering I don't even know if I'll ever wear it at all.  I took the one that seemed most like MY own hair and could be cut to look like ME.  I'd have to take it to a professional to have it cut correctly.  I don't know if I'll actually wear it.  It seems kind of uncomfortable and itchy, and I only had it on for about 5 minutes.  Plus, I'm just not sure it's really ME to wear a wig.  It's just so fake.  And with my luck, I'll end up with it crooked on my head without me knowing and people will be staring at me.  I'll think they are staring at my awesome hair until I look in the mirror later and realize they are staring at me because I look like a dork.  That would happen to me.  But, I have it...sitting in the bag.

I was getting tired pretty quickly and I was craving a hot dog (weird) so we stopped by 7-11 on the way home for hot dogs and Slurpees.  For some reason, despite the graham crackers, I was starving.  The hot dog was delicious.

I'm glad to be "half-way" finished with chemo even though I don't really consider it half-way until I've survived all of the nasty side-effects over the next few days.  It's not the chemo day that is so hard even though I come right home and go to bed, it's the days that follow when I totally lose track of time because I'm so sick to my stomach and tired.  When I survive THAT, I'm half-way!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The BALD and the Beautiful?

On Monday, I decided that I couldn't take the hair falling out anymore.  It was time.  It was time to "woman-up" and do something permanent about it.  But when the time came that night, I wasn't ready.  I couldn't do it.  I sat with my head in my hands and knew I wasn't ready.  My hair looked too good, I could last a few more days with hair!  It was okay!  I'd be more careful!  I would stop gleefully pulling it out just for fun!  I didn't even have any bald spots yet - sure it looked a lot thinner but I could live with that.  Maybe I could even wash it one more time.

Essentially, I chickened out.  And that's okay, because that's what I needed to do in that moment in time.

Hair Thinning, Me Looking
Bald Spots
Tuesday, however, things got much worse.  When I woke up there was hair everywhere in bed and my part had grown to about a half inch wide.  And I had bald spots.  Whenever I took hair to try to cover a bald spot, it just fell out in my hands.  I ended up wearing a hat that day.  But I had hair everywhere.  All down my shirt - I could put my hand down the front or back of my shirt and pull out clumps of hair.  It was in my food and in my mouth - it was all over the house.  I made the kids TV dinners that night and reheated leftovers for my husband and I because I knew that if I attempted to actually cook anything, there would be hair all over the place. Not so appetizing.

I knew it was time and I knew we had to do it.  It was one of the hardest and most traumatic things I've ever had to do.  No amount of mental preparation made me fully prepared.  Not really.

The Razor!  Eek!
I sat in the designated chair in the living room (hard wood floors seemed best for clean-up) and told my husband to get the razor.  He was excited that the opportunity to shave his wife's head was finally upon us.  I, on the other hand, saw the razor and burst into tears.  Which, of course, prompted my sensitive ten year old daughter to burst into tears.  As she hugged my leg, we both sobbed inconsolably.  And she said, "Mom, I'm going to go talk to the school counselor tomorrow at school..."  Knife through the heart moment right there.  Mother of the Year Award Gone!

And this is when my husband had his own mini-nervous breakdown and said he wasn't going to do it.  He didn't want to be the bad guy!  "You two are being unreasonable!" he shouted!  And stomped out of the room.  I was quick to label him as a jerk!  He emerged about 30 seconds later apologetic as my daughter and I continued to sob.  I don't think he was prepared to handle our outburst of emotion.  I said, "Just DO it!" and the razor powered up and my hair began to fall.

The Hair
And I sobbed even harder.  It felt like it was the last "feminine" part that cancer could take from me.  I have always loved my hair.  Even though I sometimes did crazy things with it (much to my Mother's dismay), I loved it.  It was always thick, always soft, always wavy and always there for me.  And now it was gone, along with my breasts.  And now everyone WOULD know.  Immediately.  They would know that I'm sick.  And I was going to have some explaining to do.

I cried for the first 15 minutes or so, softly, as I watched my hair fall to the floor.  There really wasn't that much left of it, considering the amount of hair I usually have.  It was the amount of a good haircut.  This is when anarchy ensued and the puppy took off with some of the hair and my daughter grabbed some hair to keep in a baggie.

The Buzz Cut.
The barber (my husband) had to go over it three times.  He cut it short with a razor attachment and it was a buzz cut.  We didn't know what to do at this point.  Do we leave it like that?  We had no idea what the usual protocol is for this sort of thing.  But when I reached up, I could still pull out clumps of hair so that seemed bad.  Little hairs would be EVERYWHERE!  Eek!  We continued on and the barber shaved it down closer to my head with just the electric razor.  Since we'd gone this far, we got a real razor and shaving cream and shaved it as close as we could.  In fact, the barber went over it twice with the razor and cream.

I was really hoping for a Mr. Clean look but, alas, it did not happen that way.  I have a five-o-clock shadow thing going on!  My hair is so dark and so thick, we could never get it all the way "gone."  Not that it matters, I supposed.  But, my hopes of making money on the side as a Mr. Clean look-a-like are now dashed.

The actual shaving was hard, emotionally and physically.  My head was so sore in places that it hurt - A LOT!  But, once it was DONE, my head felt so much better.  Not so sore anymore, not itching.  Relief!  I even looked in the mirror right away which is something I didn't think I could do. was okay.  Not great.  But okay.

I had to shower immediately after because I had HAIR everywhere!  In fact, I was still finding hair all over the house the next day.

I'm glad it's done, I guess.  It was a huge milestone, but very traumatic and one of the worst things I've ever had to do.  I know it'll grow a few months.  And, hopefully, cancer will be kinder to me now.  Because I don't have much more to give.

The barber got a little too intimate after the shaving.  Good
thing I know him!

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Time.

Hair Coming Out
It's Time to officially do something about the hair.  I've had a great deal of fun that last couple of days pulling it out.  It really is entertaining to pull out clumps of your own hair.  I invited my family and friends to pull out clumps of hair too.  My daughter was appalled at the suggestion but my 7 year old son thought it was super cool!!  Despite all the hair I've pulled out, I don't even have any bald patches yet.  I have so much thick hair.  But, it is looking thinner for sure.

Last night I washed it (for the last time, no doubt) and it was excruciating.  My scalp is so tender.  I definitely don't want to do that again.  But, I washed it because I thought that might perk it up a bit and give me a few more days.

Then this morning I tried to brush it and make it into something sort of stylish looking. Besides being extremely painful to even brush, styling is just not working.  My hair has thinned enough that it just lays flat (what's left of it) and any hair that I tried to make cooperate just fell out. Imagine trying to "control" an out of control clump of hair only to have it come out in your hand!  This, of course, gave me an idea and I spent about 5 minutes picking out gray hairs - if these are going to be my last hours with hair, I should be gray-free!

 I don't know why I'm even trying to prolong the inevitable at this point - really, it's kind of silly.  But, now that it's here, now that my hair really is falling out - now that I told my husband he could shave my head tonight...  I'm kind of chickening out.

I don't wanna do this anymore!  I don't wanna have cancer!  I don't wanna wear my cute hats!  Cancer was fun but I gotta go - thanks anyway!

I think, in the back of my mind, I still held out a little hope that maybe, must maybe, it wouldn't fall out!  I mean, I do lots of weird things - maybe I'd be like the .00001% of people that don't lose their hair (percentage totally made up).  It could happen, I surmised!

Alas, it did not happen.  It's falling out.  And as much fun as I've had pulling it out in clumps over the past couple of days - my fun is over.  And reality sets in.  The reality is that I had huge clumps of hair on my pillow this morning.  The reality is that I'm finding hair all over the house and all over myself.  Ick.

And, sadly, the reality is that I'm a cancer patient and now I'll look like one, whether I want to or not.


Hair Status: In Serious Jeopardy!  And, thanks to my friend, Karen, I figured out that my eyebrows are falling out too.  Thanks A LOT Karen!  Geez!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Look at ME! I'm Brave!

The other day, a neighbor from down the street walked down to talk to me while I was cleaning out my garage and watching the kids play.  Her daughter goes to school with my kids.  I didn't know if she knew that I have cancer and I didn't say anything until she asked if I was working right now.  I told her I was taking time off because I have cancer.  That's when she said that she knew, my husband had told her husband (my husband gets around more than I know, apparently).

She then told me a story about a woman that she knows that has breast cancer.  This woman is young as well and also has a very aggressive cancer.  She opted for a single mastectomy.  She has to have chemo every week - and she had chemo before surgery as well.  She told me how her friend lost her hair.

And then it happened.  My neighbor told me how "BRAVE" this woman is that she knows.  I simply said, "Well, when you have cancer, you have no other choice BUT to be brave."

And I meant it.  Because, I really don't feel that I have a choice.  Especially with young children around - I have to be brave, I have to go on, I have to make each day as normal as possible.

But, what I WANTED to say is, "I'M BRAVE TOO!  LOOK AT ME!!"  I felt suddenly jealous of this other woman that I don't even know!  How dare she be labeled as "braver" than me!

It's kind of like when someone says their kid is smart.  As a mother, you suddenly have the overwhelming urge to say that your child is smarter!  "My kid's a genius!" you practically blurt out.  "See that kid in the corner eating glue?  Ya, he's mine - he's SUPER SMART!!  He's only eating that glue to explore the viscosity of the substance!"  Your kid could be as dumb as a pile of bricks and you still feel the need to "one up" the other kid.

And that's how I felt.  I was suddenly MUCH braver, in my mind, than this other woman I've never met. Suddenly it was a bravery contest!  Oh she only had ONE boob chopped off?  Hmmm...well, I had BOTH of mine chopped off - so HA!  Take That!  And I am having chemo too!  That's right!  And um, my hair will fall out eventually!  Ha!  That's right.  I'm brave and stuff too!

I don't know why I suddenly felt like defending my bravery.  It must be some latent personality disorder rearing its ugly head all of a sudden.  I think I'll have to blame it on temporary insanity.

Because, the truth is, I don't really FEEL brave most of the time.  People tell me all the time that I'm brave but I don't really see it that way.  I'm just living my life and trying to live through this the best I can.  If some people want to label that as brave, I guess I'm okay with that.  But, just know, that I don't come by bravery naturally.

Boob Count: 125


Hair Status:  Coming out in CLUMPS!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Yesterday was Day 15 after chemo.  My head has been hurting for a while now but yesterday it got really bad.  When I say "my head," I don't mean as a headache (though I have those too) - I mean as my hair follicles.  It's like when you try to brush your hair the wrong way - it hurts.  That's how my head feels even when I'm not touching it.  I did what I do everyday, I yanked on my hair to see what would happen - nothing did.

I woke this morning, Day 16, with the same feeling - hair follicle pain!  But, suddenly this morning, when I did what I've done for the 16 days - yanked on my hair - a huge clump came out!  So, of course, I yanked out some more!  It was kind of cool!

After doing this 3 or 4 times and showing my husband, I then decided it wasn't so cool!  It's really here!  It's really happening.  Now instead of pulling my hair out, I'm patting it trying to keep it IN!

Because, let's face it, I love all my hoarded hats - but I love them more sitting on my dresser than I do on my head!  I didn't really ever want to have to wear them!  I just hoarded them IN CASE my hair fell out - but it's not supposed to ACTUALLY happen!

Upon seeing the carnage that is happening on my head (though I have very thick hair, you can't tell anything yet), my husband practically sprinted to get his razor.  His eyes gleaming, he wanted to shave my head immediately.  I find this suspicious and unsettling.  Now that he's a baldy, he is way too anxious to have his wife be bald as well.  What a weirdo!

Me in a Couple of Days.
I'm not ready to shave it.  Not yet.  I know it won't be long now.  It's going.  And I don't want too end up looking like the Crypt Keeper (as my friend, Shelly, calls it).  But, I'd like to hold on to it for a little longer.  It's going to be several months before I see it again and it may never be the same.  I'm going to wash it today, probably for the last time.  We'll see if anything is left after that...though, like I said, I have really thick hair so I could probably hold out for a few days before officially passing for the Crypt Keeper.

After pondering this situation I'm now in, I did what any rational woman would do - I tried to see if some of the hair on my legs would fall out.  Nothing happened.

Life is so cruel.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Does Cancer Look Like?

Lately as I've been out and about more - people are remarking at how GOOD I look.  I still have all my hair and the effects of the first chemo aren't readily noticeable anymore - so, I no longer look like death slightly warmed over.

Even I think I'm looking pretty good considering I have breast cancer and am in chemo.  Which makes me wonder what someone with cancer is supposed to look like?

I don't know that I had any expectations, necessarily, of how I'd look but I guess I just thought I'd look "sicker."  But I don't know, exactly, what "sicker" looks like.  I still have all my hair (which, at this point is just getting ridiculous!), my complexion looks great, my skin looks great, my hair is shiny - I don't look sick!

"Dying Young"
I saw a movie once with Julia Roberts called "Dying Young."  The young man in the movie, played by Campbell Scott has cancer.  Blood cancer I believe.  The movie is really good but it's heart-wrenching.  The two fall in love, of course, but you know he's dying (the title sort of gives that away). The movie paints an ugly picture of cancer.  Rightfully so, because cancer is ugly.

I think of that movie a lot these days.  I even put it on my Netflix list to rewatch.  Is this what cancer usually looks like?  Is this what cancer used to look like?  Has medicine evolved enough that now people with cancer don't look sick?  I have a friend in chemo for colon cancer (shout-out to Beth - Woot!) and she looks amazing!  I've seen pictures of her and no one would ever know she's sick.  No one would know that I'm sick.

And, in a way, I think that's sad.  Because perhaps if those of us with cancer looked sick, the world would treat us differently?  Better?  But, on the other hand, I don't need strangers knowing my business - so maybe it's good that we don't look sick!?  I'm not sure.

Maple Bar with Bacon - YUM!
Yesterday, I stopped to get doughnuts for the family.  I was nearby an incredible doughnut place (at a doctor's appointment - of course!) and couldn't resist.  I was in the store ordering and a woman with 3 young children came in a few minutes after me.  This woman and her children were INCREDIBLY rude.  The children were everywhere and stepped on me and bumped into me and had their hands all over the display case glass (and these children were young elementary age - old enough to know better in my opinion).  This mother did nothing.  I actually had to stop ordering and just let them finish because the chaos was too much.  Then, as I was walking out holding a big box of doughnuts - she held the door for her children and then dropped it on me!  Really, rudest person I think I've seen in a long long time.

As I got in my car scowling and praying for Karma to give her a swift kick - I wondered if she would have treated me differently if she knew.  If that woman had known what I've gone through the last few months, would that have given her pause to, perhaps, hold the door for me?  To treat a fellow human more kindly?  Maybe not...

But, sometimes I think the world is harsh enough and, maybe, if people knew what I've been through...what my friend Beth has been through...what thousands of other cancer patients have been through...maybe...people would be just a little kinder to each other.

Sometimes a person's struggles in life are obvious - but sometimes they aren't.  And maybe that should give us all pause to be just a bit kinder to each other because you never know what that person is going through.  Which in turn made me look at the woman with her young children and try not to judge her too harshly - I know nothing of her daily struggles.  Heck, she could be a cancer patient herself; she didn't look sick and neither do I.

But, I still wished for a little bit of Karma to teach her a lesson...I'm only human.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School - Parents Rejoice

Wednesday is the first day of our school year here and the first day of school is widely known by parents as the "Happiest Day of the Year."  It beats Christmas in some households.

My daughter will be in 5th grade and my son in 2nd.  Since my daughter attended preschool, we have had the first day of school for 7 years now.  Every other year I have rejoiced along with all parents at the coming of the new school year.  My children, like all other children on Earth, spend their summers playing outside, arguing, sleeping in, bugging each other, eating Popsicles, driving each other crazy, swimming, annoying the living daylights out of each other, riding bikes and, did I mention arguing?

This summer was no different and there were many days where the children were sent to their rooms so that I could survive without throttling both of them.  They are generally good kids and other people (including their grandparents) think they are perfect little angels (they are all brainwashed). Even though they are very close, they still take great delight in driving each other crazy.  Which is why, I celebrate the first day of school just like every other parent in town.

Except this year.

I'm dreading it.  It's not the getting up early (though, really, does school have to start so stinking early for goodness sakes?!).  It's not the homework or the schedules or the bazillion papers that come home on a daily basis.

I'm dreading the first day of school because I have cancer.

This year, I'm not so anxious to send my babies off for the whole day.  I want to treasure these moments.  I want to be around them and just know they are here.  I want to talk to them any time of the day and laugh at their little jokes and silliness. I just simply want to be around them. And I want them around me.

It's not that I didn't want to be in their presence in year's past.  It's just that it didn't seem so urgent.  So pressing.  There would always be another summer.  There would always be another day.

Having cancer means you might run out of summers before you would like.  And, though, hopefully I have a lot more summers in me, I guess no one can be sure.

That's why I'd like this summer to last far longer than it will.


Hair Status: Hoarded Hats Sit Unused

Friday, September 2, 2011

Good Days, Bad Days

I had such a good day the other day, on Wednesday, that I thought, "Ha!  I'm doing great! Less than a week out from chemo and look at me, out and about and feeling goooooooood!"  Because except for a bit of lingering bathroom issues, the aches and pains were gone and I had some of my old energy.  I even got great news from my urologist on this day.  Renal Cancer GONE!  No cancer in lungs! Come back in 6 months!  I was elated and feeling great!  Cancer won't beat me! HA!  I laugh in the face of Cancer!

And then Thursday came and I paid for my ignorance.  Not only was the diarrhea back with a vengeance, but I felt exhausted and miserable.  As the day wore on, the bone pain was back.  It was so bad that I had trouble walking and I felt like I had lightning bolts going through my body.  It's incredibly painful.

The one good thing that came from the day was meeting my friend, Imodium AD.  After the last few days I've had; I suspect we are going to become frequent companions.  It really does work.  Thank Goodness!

Today is Friday.  I'm feeling more tired than usual but okay otherwise.  I know now to not get too cocky about a "good" day because I learned that cancer isn't a straight road from beginning to end.  There are twists and turns and some days I feel like I'm even going in reverse.

Today's New Fun Side Effect: Mouth Sores!  (Oh joy)


Hair Status:  Even My Kids Want it to Hurry up and Just Fall Out!