Friday, October 9, 2015

Cancer-versary III

Today marks my three year Cancerversary. On this day, I try to make it a point to pause and reflect on how my life has changed. And celebrate my diagnosis as a turning point to living the dream. 

I know that I haven't been blogging much. When I sat down to write this, I scrolled through my "draft" posts and noticed that I had many things I intended to say this year...but just never got around to hitting "publish." I know that I really should go back and finish all of them, since this is mostly a way for me to remember everything that I've been through. Lord knows I won't really remember anything on my own (thanks, chemo brain! You are the gift that keeps on giving).

So, I thought I would give you a brief update on where I am at...

In the "life is too short" category, I accepted a new job at a school...drum roll Hawaii. And moved on a moment's notice. All by myself, since no one else in the family could up and leave with two days prep. (But never fear, they will be following me this year). It's been interesting to be the family trailblazer. There are so many posts I could write about this experience. Maybe that'll be my new blog. But I will say that one of the things that I'm discovering is that having to find a new oncologist/cancer center (for follow-ups/labs/scans) was something I didn't give nearly enough consideration to. I'm already not the biggest fan of health care here. Again, a post for another day.

Oh, there was that skin cancer that was found (on my face) in May and surgery that was needed to remove it. 27 stitches later or something crazy like that. YIKES! See what I mean about all these updates I never posted?  

Teenage boy graduated on time in June. Which I'm monumentally proud of. Depression is a constant struggle, but he's made it through this major milestone.

Teenage daughter is enjoying her last year of middle school. She made Relay for Life her birthday party. It was an incredible experience, for all of us. We plan on making that happen each year! She looks forward to moving to Hawaii some days...and some days she doesn't want to go at all. She's a teenage girl, what else do you expect.

We're selling the house that Keith built for us all those years ago when the girl child was a baby. It was the "dream house." But, stopped being the dream. I haven't wanted to live there since I finished treatments. It was the house I was sick in, and I just couldn't live there any more. We decided to live small and follow our new dreams. Or rather, follow the dreams we've always had and then put on hold when "life" got in the way. We thought downsizing was going to be a process that took a year or two. Ha, ha, ha. Best laid plans and all that. 

How will I be celebrating the day? On an adventure with Keith and the teen boy, who have come this week to visit me in Hawaii. I love their zest for life and adventure...and how they force me to follow them (up to a point...I'm not quite as crazy as they are). "Geez mom, we've got this. You can do it." And I love their smiles. And how they make me laugh. As I'm typing this, teen boy and I are watching TV and laughing. At the same jokes. And making our own. Because we are so much alike. And as long as the day also includes cupcakes and shave ice, life will be perfect!

When I read the post from my first cancerversary, I realize that I will just keep posting that every year, because I still mean all of those words, and everyone still asks what it was like to get THAT phone call. 

I'm not sure that there is anything I would add to the "advice" at the end of the post. Except maybe "Wear Sunscreen." I still believe it all. If you aren't doing something that you love, with the people that you love, in a place that you love, WHY THE HELL NOT?! You should be happy! 

There is something to celebrate about every day...find it.

Forget the bucket list. Do the things that you've been meaning to do now! Start checking them off. Nike was on to something with their "Just Do It" slogan. I follow @MonsterandSea on Instagram (who's family has also been affected by cancer), and the motto is #gobecauseyoucan. I know that they intend that to apply to stand up paddleboarding, but it really applies to life. 



And to that I add my own: #BECAUSEWHYNOT

And now, as promised, my post from 10/9/13: 

One year ago today I was sitting at my desk after school when my cell phone rang. It was my husband, telling me the doctor had called the house looking for me but wouldn't leave a message. (I didn't tell him at that moment, but that was actually the point that I knew it was bad news. When the doctor is trying to track you down IMMEDIATELY, it's really not a good thing). What felt like 5 seconds later, the surgeon was calling me with the news: cancer. And everything else she said after that word was, "blah, blah, blah...cancer...blah, blah, blah, surgery...blah, blah, blah." Seriously, it really was like the Charlie Brown teacher talking. You DO NOT hear anything after the "C" word.

I hung up the phone, sat at my desk for a moment, and then went home. Where I spent maybe 10 minutes trying to decide if I was going to tell Keith before or after he got into his GIANT truck and drove to referee a high school soccer game. I should've been nicer, but misery loves company, so I told him. And that was the beginning of our crazy cancer journey.  

I am still dealing with it every day and really not in the frame of mind to wax poetic about my thoughts.

But I have learned a lot in the last year: about myself, friends, family, what is important, what is NOT important...the list goes on. 

What I want to say most importantly today is that I have learned that life's too short my friends. It really is. And you should be LIVING the fullest...everyday. Always. 

Be happy. 

Say I love you. 

Be thankful. 

Don't take anything for granted. 

Do what you love. 

Don't wait for "someday." 

Oh, and eat dessert first.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In Which I Try Not To Get Angry

This news post filled my Facebook feed yesterday. (Click here).

And made me ANGRY!

Some complete jackass scams his co-workers out of their sick leave by faking cancer.

Okay, there are stories all the time about people who fake cancer. For the attention, the sympathy, the money, I'm not sure what their mental issue is (and clearly they have many), but it always gets me riled up. Even the gal that's been stealing my blog posts and passing them off as her own is apparently faking having cancer and using my words to tell people how "she's" feeling.

Seriously folks, if you want attention, you can have my cancer. Feel free...even for a day. I dare you. 

But this story touched a nerve. And made me especially angry. Because I don't know where I'd be without a shared sick leave option.

I was SO blessed to have amazing coworkers who donated sick leave so that I could stay home throughout treatments, concentrate on getting healthy, and not have to worry about getting a paycheck or losing my insurance. These amazing people made it possible for me to stay home for the equivalent of one entire school year (split up over two years). One of these amazing people simply told me, "however much you need, it's yours. Don't even hesitate to ask." I cry every time I think of the generosity of this man, and all those that were so willing to donate sick leave to me. Large amounts or small, it didn't even matter (in fact, the district would never tell me who donated what, so they were really doing it simply out of the goodness of their heart, not to get recognition).

Because, when you get sick, there's a lot of people that want to help but they don't really know what to do. And if they have sick leave they can donate, it feels like a tangible, concrete action that they can show support, to contribute to the cause, to relieve even a small amount of stress. It's no small thing that they do. I mean, what if, god forbid, they get sick and need that leave some day? 

I will never be able to repay these people for the gift that they gave me. I strongly believe that being able to stay home and not stress about rushing back to work contributed to the success of my recovery. I could never say "thank you" enough for what they did.
And then you have this jackass who takes advantage of people who are so willing to help. GRRRR! 

I sure hope you get what's coming to you dude. You suck.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dem Bones

Today I got the first infusion to counterbalance the osteoporosis caused by Anastrozole. 

There was the option to get a one hour infusion or a quick shot. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone to learn that the costs associated with each option were VASTLY different. And that it took WEEKS of conversations with various people to get them to tell me which one would be cheaper for ME on the bottom line. No one seemed to get why knowing these details would drive my decision. Turns out the shot was going to cost me about $4,000 each time, while the infusion was going to be $1,700ish. 

Infusion it is!

The bonus? I got to spend the day in my favorite infusion center, chatting with my favorite nurses and "favorite pharmacy gal." It was like Old Home Week.

The downside? This infusion SUCKS. And it makes me feel like I'm having chemo all over again.

Now that I know this information, I will schedule this infusion better next that I don't have to go back to work the next day. And so that I don't ruin my weekend.

48 hours from start to finish of feeling crappy and then it's gone. 

Good to know.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cancer-versary II

Today marks my two year Cancerversary. Hey, regardless of what you think about Lance Armstrong, I am still a fan. And it's his outlook about celebrating the day he was diagnosed with cancer as a turning point in his life that resonates just a little with me.

I haven't been blogging much this summer and I apologize for that. It's not that I haven't had anything to say. To tell the truth, I discovered that someone (or maybe more than one someone) is out there passing off my posts as her own story. And it made me angry. And I wanted to take down the blog and not give her the ability to steal anymore of my posts. But just yesterday alone, this blog got 176 hits so it is still doing some good and I am glad that I decided not to take it down. But I've been in radio silence mode. (And yes, I know that I should deal with her, but I just haven't had the time or energy's on my "to do list," honest!).

So, I thought I would give you a brief update on where I am at...

I completed the Iron Girl triathlon this summer!!! Thanks to the help and encouragement and talking me down from the ledge of two very dear friends. This is the post I am most sad not to have written this summer. I promise that I will write all the details about how much FUN it was. And I cried just a little when I finished it and I could hear the announcer/DJ guy say, "Shauna Yusko, you're about to finish your first Iron Girl triathlon. And you're a cancer survivor. WAY TO GO!" I get a little teary now just typing this.

I started a new job. Which I adore. In a school that feels calm and happy. Several people out there know what I'm talking about even if it is a little hard to explain. I desperately miss my Evergreen peeps because I thought that I would be there forever. But the energy of the building was just all wrong for me now. And this new school is great! And I get to work part-time. And it just feels like the right place to be.

Teenage boy is on track to graduate this June, even after his attempts to derail his life. We are turning into the month where it historically all goes wrong for him, so fingers crossed we get out the other side in one piece.  I'm not sure if it's the weather, the subconscious memories of the diagnosis, or what makes him start to spiral in October and not come back out until February, but we are really praying this year will be different. And that we finally have a handle on the beast that is depression.

I found my post from last year's cancervesary and thought I would just copy it here, because I still mean all of those words, and everyone still asks what it was like to get THAT phone call. 

I'm not sure that there is anything I would add to the "advice" at the end of the post. I still believe it all. If you aren't doing something that you love, with the people that you love, in a place that you love, WHY THE HELL NOT?! You should be happy! 

There is something to celebrate about every day...find it.

Forget the bucket list. Do the things that you've been meaning to do now! Start checking them off. I read a life-affirming book this summer called "Blind Spot for Boys" (by the amazing Justina Chen). And while it's a book for teens and the teenage narrator is the main character, it is her parents' journey dealing with illness, and another adult character's overcoming adversity to live her dream that really resonated with me. In it, the parents had created a "50 Before 50" list of things that they wanted to do before turning 50. But they never did because that gets in the way. And then the dad gets sick and they will never have the time to do those 50 things. So they pick the one big one and go for it. I do not want to be that person with all those things left to do on my list. I'm gonna go for it! And I started this summer with the triathlon. What's on your list? 

As promised, last year's post from this date: 

One year ago today I was sitting at my desk after school when my cell phone rang. It was my husband, telling me the doctor had called the house looking for me but wouldn't leave a message. (I didn't tell him at that moment, but that was actually the point that I knew it was bad news. When the doctor is trying to track you down IMMEDIATELY, it's really not a good thing). What felt like 5 seconds later, the surgeon was calling me with the news: cancer. And everything else she said after that word was, "blah, blah, blah...cancer...blah, blah, blah, surgery...blah, blah, blah." Seriously, it really was like the Charlie Brown teacher talking. You DO NOT hear anything after the "C" word.

I hung up the phone, sat at my desk for a moment, and then went home. Where I spent maybe 10 minutes trying to decide if I was going to tell Keith before or after he got into his GIANT truck and drove to referee a high school soccer game. I should've been nicer, but misery loves company, so I told him. And that was the beginning of our crazy cancer journey.  

I am still dealing with it every day and really not in the frame of mind to wax poetic about my thoughts.

But I have learned a lot in the last year: about myself, friends, family, what is important, what is NOT important...the list goes on. 

What I want to say most importantly today is that I have learned that life's too short my friends. It really is. And you should be LIVING the fullest...everyday. Always. 

Be happy. 

Say I love you. 

Be thankful. 

Don't take anything for granted. 

Do what you love. 

Don't wait for "someday." 

Oh, and eat dessert first.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bone Scan Aftermath

While I was training for the Iron Girl, I noticed that my knees really hurt while I was running (or rather, attempting to run). And some runner friends suggested that it was my shoes, or my lack of training, but none of those felt like the real answer. As it turned out, I ended up walking the run portion of the triathlon, and I survived.

But I was having some major pain and couldn't really figure out why.

At the end of August, I went to the next of my "every 4 month" appointments and mentioned this joint pain (and other symptoms) to my oncologist. Who kinda laughed while saying, "well, duh." Because all of the symptoms that I'm sitting in her office complaining about are all listed side effects of Anastrozole, which is the med that I'm taking every day instead of Tamoxifen. 

(For those that haven't heard me tell the story, Tamoxifen was making me insane. Actually, certifiably insane. Wanting to run people over with my car and I'd get away with it insane. I stopped taking it cold turkey after six months and DEMANDED she give me something else. Hence, how I ended up on Anastrozole).

Now, I am so far into this process that I don't actually look up most things online, especially side effects of medicines that I'm supposed to take. Tamoxifen was making me crazy and Anastrozole didn't. Enough said. I could live with almost anything else. But once she had said this I did go home and look up all the side effects. WOW, what a list. And YES, this is pretty much how I feel. Super.

Serious side effects:
  • sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
  • sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance;
  • a bone fracture;
  • swollen glands;
  • feeling short of breath;
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • swelling in your hands or feet; or
  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
  • Less serious side effects may include:
Less serious side effects:
  • numbness, tingling, cold feeling, or weakness in your hand or wrist;
  • problems with your fingers while gripping;
  • hot flashes;
  • joint pain or stiffness;
  • depression, mood changes, sleep problems (insomnia);
  • cough, sore throat;
  • thinning hair;
  • mild nausea, vomiting; or
  • back pain, bone pain.
Again, super.

So, the doctor decides that I need a bone scan because of the risk of osteoporosis in patients on Anastrozole. Can I just say, EASIEST scan EVER. Why can't everything be like that?!

And, I just received the results of the scan. Which probably should not have surprised me. Because it's bad. such a degree that calcium and vitamin D are "not going to make a dent." So now I get to have a twice a year infusion of some drug that will hopefully counteract the bone loss. Yippee, more infusions. 

And I will start these in January because they are, of course, EXPENSIVE. And I'd like to at least get one of them covered by insurance per year. Good times, indeed.

Cancer...the gift that keeps on giving...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Iron Girl 2014

(Why yes, I'm back...and trying to catch up with my posts via backdating. So, while it is actually May, 2015, I'm pretending that I wrote this after it actually happened. Just to keep the timeline intact).

Throughout this process I had a few "goals" of things that I wanted to do when I was FINISHED with all the doctors and hospitals and scans and treatments. Events that were marked on the calendar, which I would get a little closer to each day. One of those things was the Iron Girl sprint triathlon. 

I admittedly registered only a few months after my last active treatment/surgery, with the "no worries, I'll get in shape for it later" mentality. And it's possible that I suckered some friends into joining me.

So, if you ever want the Procrastinator's Guide to Sprint Triathlon Training, I'm your gal! Because 3 weeks before the event, I was seriously wondering if I was going to be able to pull this off. I had quickly determined that I would be walking the "run" portion as my knees just were not up to the task. But...I also have a pathological fear of the water...and cannot actually swim. Hmmm, how in the world did I think I was going to pull off an open-water swim, even if it was only 1/4 of a mile. (Or maybe it was 1/3 of a mile. I forget at this point...any distance at all was pretty frightening).

Well, long story short, I completed the Iron Girl triathlon!!! And I'll not post here how I managed to actually stay afloat since it miiiiiight have been a rule violation. Shhhh, it's our secret.

But I owe an immense THANK YOU to my friends who jumped into the ring with me. And talked me down from the ledge when I had not one, but two, panic attacks during the swim. In the end I can say that it was FUN! And I completed it with very little training, so I promise you that you can too! I cried just a little when I crossed the finish line could hear the announcer/DJ guy say, "Shauna Yusko, you're about to finish your first Iron Girl triathlon. And you're a cancer survivor. WAY TO GO!" I get a little teary now just typing this. 

Training bike ride to see if we could do the 12 mile distance without dying. Now, we picked the hottest day of the year I think to attempt it, but we survived. This picture, however, was taken before we wouldn't have wanted to see the "after" photo.

It's getting real! Race bib pick up!

YAY! We finished! Here's to friends who come back to the finish line to watch you cross!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Relay for Life!

This past weekend I participated in Relay For Life by leading Team Stupid Cancer.


I had never done a RFL event before so I had no idea what to expect. And it's possible that I wasn't the world's best team captain. But I am so grateful for the friends and family that joined the team. And everyone that stopped by to say "Hello" during the event.

This post would be incredibly long if I wrote about everything, but I just want to include the highlights:

Girl child and some of her friends joined the team! 

Teen boy came to visit and walk some laps with his mom. And he didn't die.

Team Stupid Cancer was AWESOME! We raised over $3,500!

Yeah to Lynn who stayed the entire time with me!

Yeah to Shay who came at 3AM and walked through the early morning hours!

Awesome friends who came and walked an hour here and there, or stayed for awhile and put in MANY laps. Next year, we will track our laps walked better.

The luminaria ceremony was incredible! I wish I'd known just how moving it would be. I would've made sure that my whole team was there to experience it. And my friend Senator Andy Hill was the guest speaker for the ceremony so it felt even more special to me.

There was entertainment throughout the event, including a beauty pageant...where the guys did their best imitation of beauty queens. One of the teens I've known since he was very young participated in the event. It was so much fun to watch!

I felt loved all weekend because friends who were not participating kept stopping by to do a lap to two (or more), bring beverages and snacks, and just say hi and cheer us on. THANK YOU!

My survivor friends were out in force!!! Hooray to all of us! Keep up the fight!

Feeling like you missed out? Oh, you did. But not to worry. I will definitely be doing this again, and my goal is to have a HUGE team next year. You can join us!

Thank you to all of you that donated to the cause!

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Yesterday, I went to see The Fault in our Stars (TFIOS) movie with a friend. The date had been circled on my calendar ever since the movie release date was announced. I am a HUGE fan of John Green (the author of the book which the movie is based on) HUUUUUUGE! As in, I actually have a crush on John Green. I love all his books and read TFIOS long before I was diagnosed with cancer. 

But after my diagnosis, I realized that TFIOS really resonated with me as being honest and real. And so, I forced everyone I knew to read it also. Not because it's a "cancer book" but because it's a story that you can get wrapped up in and relate to, that happens to portray being sick in a pretty accurate light.

I could talk ad nauseum about the book, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the movie watching experience. EVERYONE that went to see it was posting on Facebook about how they CRIED AND CRIED and how sad it was and to bring your Kleenex. And because I am an emotional disaster anyway, I was prepared for a variety of reactions.

But here's the thing that's interesting to me. I didn't cry. I'm not even sure that I teared up. 

Now, don't get me wrong, when I first read the book years ago, I bawled. Because there's just so much to be happy and sad about in that book and when you reach the end, you've become so invested emotionally that there really is no other option.

But I didn't cry during the movie. And while that seems weird to me, it also kinda makes sense. Because I've lived that story now. And I've cried so many tears for myself during the two years I've been fighting and all the treatments that I went through, I guess there's just not a whole lot left.

And while I was scared that I might have a PTSD panic attack seeing the movie visualized, it didn't happen. I was just glad to BE THERE! And watch one of my all-time favorite books become immortalized on film in an incredible way.

Did I mention I love John Green?

Friday, May 30, 2014


I promised you that I'd keep you posted when the MRI results came in...

Last Friday, I had my MRI (a Friday before a Holiday weekend...good job planning that. Haven't I learned not to do that???). Then I went out of town to present seminars to librarians on the East Coast. 

Back at school on Thursday and Friday of this week, and it dawns on me that I haven't received any phone call with the results yet. Uh oh, is that a good sign or a bad sign? With my luck, you just never know!

Well, the call just came in and the results are...CLEAR! Holy crap! Good news on a Friday? What the heck am I going to do with myself?!

So, everything "looks good" and I've been deemed "good to go" until August (when the next round of scans and blood work are due).

I'll take it! Now time to enjoy the weekend...and the summer ahead!

Relay for Life next weekend! I'm very excited!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dance for a Cure

This weekend, I was invited to attend the annual Dance for a Cure event. This is an incredible evening of dancing, singing, stories, and speakers to raise money for cancer research. 

2014 marked the 10th anniversary of the event and I am so glad that I was there. Terrific dancing by students of all ages, as well as professional troupes, and musicians coming together to put on an amazing show.

Additionally, I learned a new term: Cancer Champion. Several Cancer Champions (survivors) were recognized during the evening. I've decided that I really like this term and might start adopting it. We are champions indeed!

The highlight of the evening for me was the keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Olson of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He is leading the charge and making great breakthroughs in RESEARCH to CURE, not just treat. AMEN! This is exactly what we need more of. I was so glad that 75% of the $$$ raised from this event go directly to Dr. Olson and his research. (The remaining 25% goes to the Pete Gross House).

Seriously folks, look him up, see the amazing things that he's doing. Or find another center doing legitimate research looking for a cure and donate. The "Fund-an-Item" at this event went directly to Dr. Olson's lab. Keith couldn't get the cash out of his pocket fast enough. The discoveries being made will hopefully help someone else not have to go through ALL the surgeries I had to. 

This is an annual event. PLEASE put it on your calendar for next year! Here's the link to their website so that you can learn the story of the incredible sisters that started this event (and why), and keep updated for the 2015 gala.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Results are In!

It dawned on me today, after being questioned by numerous people at work, that unless you happened to see the post on Facebook over the weekend, you probably didn't know the results of my latest scans and appointments. Whoops! I forgot to post the news here! 

It's been kind of a whirlwind weekend (more on that later), but I wanted to get the word out to all of you that were wondering.

It was a "good news" kind of appointment. Kind of weird actually, because I don't normally have those, but I'm really looking forward to many more of them!

1. Blood work and scans all look good! Well, for the most part. I still need an MRI to confirm these results because several areas not seen by mammogram. (The MRI is not for several weeks though, so stay tuned).
2. Prescription for new meds in hand. These meds still might make me crazy, but at least I'll have a baseline and can compare which med made me the least crazy.
3. Dr. has heard the story of my HORRIBLE experience at the Seattle office through the grapevine and has decided to complain on my behalf in hopes of instituting change for others.
4. Dr. also feels that billing department hasn't been nice to us, and has decided to champion that cause on my behalf also.
5. Reasons why I LOVE my doctors confirmed!
6. We ended the afternoon at a friend's house where we brought lunch in exchange for seeing her twin babies. It was a good day all around!

Doctor did bring up some interesting points, which I am pondering, and may write more about in an upcoming post.

Was the Tamoxifen really making me crazy, or was it that taking it every day was a constant reminder of having cancer? Well, I grant her there might be some credibility to that argument, but I vote CRAZY. Ask anyone, especially anyone forced to live or work with me. CRAZY! And whatever the reason, since I stopped taking it, I'm starting to feel slightly more sane. Will fill the prescription this for the new drug she prescribed and start taking it soon to see if there's a difference. 

She's also concerned that my dire need to not live in my house anymore isn't going to make me better. She called it "bringing your muddy shoes to a new house." Dealing with my issues will make me feel better than moving to a new house. Or at least, that's what she thinks. And to this, I respectfully disagree...until proven otherwise. New house, new car, new life...all of it is about celebrating being alive. Embracing the things that are actually important. Simplifying. Enjoying. Finding a new place in the world where I'm not reminded of being sick. Life's too short...time to start living the dream.

So, that's my news for now. Thank you for all your prayers, support, messages of love...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scan-ticipation is Making Me Wait...

It's that time...the first (of many over the course of the next five years) series of scans/bloodwork/doctor's appointments is coming up.

It has been four months since my last set of scans and appointments, so now it's time for another round. This batch, however, will be the first after an extended period of time without treatment. 

I wish I could say that I was clever enough to have come up with "scan-ticipation," but I stole it from one of my cancer peeps. We also use the term "scanxiety." It's a scary thing to always be wondering what the next scan might reveal. And to have to continue to subject yourself to them for YEARS before you can actually get a clean bill of health.

So, while you think positive thoughts and hope for the best, in the back of your mind (or maybe closer to the front) you are always thinking, "what if....???"

In this day and age, I don't really understand why there can't be a test or scan or something I can do that would give the "all clear/thumbs up/no worries." Seriously, so maybe curing cancer is outside the realm of possibility (though I don't understand what's taking so long for that either), but there's got to be some sort of cool machine that I can walk through every morning that tells me, "yes! You're healthy! No more cancer!" You know, kind of like the machine at the airport. You mean to tell me we can't utilize the concept for a better purpose?!

Anyway, these are just rants designed to distract me from how anxious I'm feeling.

If you're reading this post, send out good vibes, positive thoughts, and all kinds of prayers tomorrow. I won't know anything unfortunately until next week when I meet with the doctor, so don't expect immediate news. Bummer.

Fingers crossed...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Music Monday

Have recently fallen in love with this song...

Especially the line..."you're crazy and I'm out of my mind..."

Yep, that about sums it up!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

To my darling daughter...

I know that she doesn't read this blog, but someday I hope that she finds this letter.

Dear AJ,

It has been a tough couple of years in our house, and I'm sorry that you had to go through it. I wanted to say that I'm so immensely proud of how you survived it better than any of us.

I'm sorry that I missed so many of your activities, and that my being sick meant dad couldn't be there either for the field trips, camps, and all the fun that 5th grade and the beginning of middle school had to offer. I hope you know how lucky you are that you have some AMAZING friends and their families who scooped you up, took you in, and made sure that you could do all the things you wanted to these last couple of years. You might not realize it now, but these people took such good care of you. I will never be able to thank them enough for making it so your life could be as normal as possible.

I'm sorry that I am tired...and grumpy...and seem like a crazy person sometimes. I'm trying my best, but it's hard.

I'm sorry that I'm not the same mom I was before cancer. And I'm sorry that things change. But, maybe that's a good thing too.

Thank you for being you. For desperately wanting to take care of me. And for always trying to help. It must be so hard to be the youngest in the family and have everyone tell you, "don't worry about it," when I'm sure that you were worried. 

Thank you for sock monkey. Who saved the day more than once. Really and truly...I believe!

Thank you for your kind heart that always wants to solve all the world's problems with cupcakes. I actually think that if given a big enough kitchen, and enough time, you probably could solve many world crises through cupcakes. Baking for all my caregivers was such an amazing gift that you gave people. Don't ever lose that spirit. World domination with baked goods cannot be a bad thing.

Thank you for being worried about everyone in the family, not just me. Yes, it was hard to live with a big brother who was not having his finest moments either, and I'm sure there were times you thought your family was coming apart. Honey, I promise you, I thought the same thing. But we are all hoping for better times ahead.

Thank you for being the child that is ready for change...and is excited for new adventures and experiences. I love that you are the one person in the family that I can make plans about what our life will be like in the next couple of years. I know your mom's crazy ideas for getting rid of everything and going on a life-changing adventure are the most disruptive to you. But I appreciate that you're up for something new and willing to come along for the ride.

You and I are going to write that book someday, and you are going to help so many kids in the same situation. I hope that someday you are able to look back on this time in our lives and realize just how strong you are...and how caring...and how much you make a difference. And what a survivor you are too.

Don't forget:

Always be happy. Always.

Nothing is more important than love.

Live your dreams. And dream big.

Have fun. 

Enjoy life. 

I love you. Always.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Relay for Life

I'm really and truly doing this, folks. And it's getting closer and closer. So, if you've ever thought about joining, NOW is the time!

Here's the link to join my team. Contact me with any questions that you have.

Fundraising is minimal...they ask that you raise $100 or more, but not a requirement. The registration fee is only $10.

Yes, it is an overnight event. But you don't have to be there the entire time. Or even walking the entire time. The goal is for every team to have someone (or more than one person) on the track every hour of the event. But the entire team doesn't have to be out there at once.

Yes, some of the teams are going to be wild and crazy and probably have costumes and who knows what else. I don't actually see us being that, but you are more than welcome to help us find our slightly crazy side.

It's supposed to be a fun event, that brings the community together, to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. Cancer survivors take the first lap, and it's a pretty cool experience. JOIN ME!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Music Monday

I don't care if I've actually already used this has been a crazy few weeks and I need a song that makes me feel happy! And that makes me want to kick ass and take names!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Five

So, I haven't been blogging for a few weeks. Mainly because life has SUCKED and I haven't been in the mood. 


Too many stupid people who just don't get it.

I'm over it all.

But, I thought that I would offer up some insight into my week.

1. Yes, I feel the need to create a drama-free zone, maybe make posters and signs, maybe electronic fencing to keep the stupid at bay. My job/boss/district are just not the healthiest place to be right now. But after this week I've decided that I'm just over it. I'm not getting sucked into the arguments. Time to find a solution without drama or stress.

2. Tamoxifen is making me crazy. No really, I think it is. CRAZY. And it's probably bad that I haven't taken it in a week, right? I know, I KNOW. But I feel slightly more normal without it. And I dread the fact that I really need to start taking it again because it really is helping keep the cancer at bay. But sometimes, in my crazy brain, I do go over the pros and cons of taking it...and sometimes the cons make more sense.

3. I had to schedule my follow-up appointments/scans/blood work this week (for April). Yikes. It's exciting to think that I haven't been into the doctor (except for physical therapy) since December. But it's also scary to wonder, "what if?" This is something that you really never get off your mind after you've been through treatments. What if...
...the scans aren't clean?
...something is wrong?
...the cancer has come back?
There's always that worry that lives in the back of your mind. And it never really goes away. And you hate talking about it because to give it a voice might make it real. It's a constant fear of the unknown.

3a. So, in attempting to schedule these scans, I had an interesting encounter with the secretary who didn't want to make the appointment for me because I "just had a scan a few months ago, and we typically only do these scans once/year so you should be fine until November." Ummmm, NO. That's not actually how it works. Did you see the orders my doctor faxed over requesting this scan? You know, that paperwork sitting right in front of you? Did you become a cancer specialist since the last time I was in that you're giving me medical advice now? Deep. Breath.

4. I wore my "Survivor" t-shirt this week. Even though I feel like I'm jinxing everything by doing so. Damn it, I deserve to wear it. At the very least, I survived the last year and a half of hell and I should get to wear my cool t-shirt! Stupid Cancer!

5. I am desperate to get out of the house. No, not get out and see the world (though I'd like to do that also), actually out of this house...permanently. It actually bothers me to be living in this house where I spent so much time being sick. There are days I don't want to come home, and days I consider running away. I just want to sell it and everything in And even as much as I love our neighborhood and our amazing neighbors, I can't keep living here and stay sane. Must do something about this soon.

There you have it...not my finest week.

Going for a much more enjoyable week next week...fingers crossed!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday

Recommended by a friend...she's right, this is the perfect song for a Monday. And you 80s kiddos will appreciate the flashback!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Music Monday

Another Oscar song for your musical inspiration this week. This is from the movie, but if you can see a clip of Idina Menzel singing it on the Oscars, that was an incredible performance!

And here's Idina's performance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

To My Husband...

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time. And I keep starting it and then saving it for later. If I was actually really smart, I would have posted it on Valentine's Day...or maybe wait until our anniversary...and then it could double as a gift.

But why not now?! And based upon my own "life's too short, tell people how you feel" mantra, I shouldn't delay. And since he only occasionally keeps up with the blog (reading it is kind of like having flashbacks for those of us in the trenches), he will probably never see this anyway. And I'm sure if no one ever tells him it exists, we could start a betting pool to see how long it would take him to read it...

Dear Keith,

We have been together forever. And then some. There are very few memories I have that don't include you. We have weathered some major storms in our lifetime...more storms than two people should have to face. Each time we plowed through hoping to simply get out the other side with minimal damage. But, to be honest, I think each trauma left it's mark on both of us. 

It is no secret that the past few years (pre-cancer) we were not friends. It might even be safe to say that we didn't like each other very much. I don't think anyone in our family was happy. One stressor too many had just pushed me into a place where I didn't care any more. And now that I can look back on it, I am so monumentally sorry for those shitty years. I'd give the world for a do-over.

Like they say, be careful what you wish for. Because now I get the do-over, but I had to go through hell to get it. 

No one knows what it was like for me these past 20+ months. But, if anyone comes close, you sure do. You've been there in the trenches every step of the way.

I'm sorry:

...for all the times that people asked, "How's Keith doing?" and I had to say that I didn't know. I'm sorry if it sounded like I didn't care. But I just didn't have the strength to care about anyone but myself.

...for all the times that you had to hear me say, "I'm done with treatment, and I don't care if that means I'm going to die." There were days when I really didn't care about leaving you and the kids because I was so over the entire process. And I'm sure that makes me a bad person, and you might have even thought I was terrible for thinking it, but you never said so. And you let me rant. And you promised to agree with me (even though I know you really didn't). 

...for all the times that I said, "gawd, get out of here, that food smells." But it really did. Who'd have thought trail mix could smell so awful?!

...that I don't have any idea what it was like to be you throughout this ordeal. 

...that I will not be a good caregiver if our situations are ever reversed. I am going to suck at it. I've considered running you over with the car instead. You might hear words like, "suck it up," "get over yourself," or "you think this is bad?!" I cannot imagine going through this process again, and I'm not sure that I'll be able to come up with the requisite sympathy. Though I will be able to bring the jokes.

Thank you:

...for running to get crappy McDonald's milkshakes and bland chicken noodle soup at all hours of the day and night because those were the only things that I could eat for days at a time. And for making three different kinds of soup until we found one that worked. And for heating it up until it was just the right temperature. Lord, I sound like Goldilocks...

...for laughing with me throughout the entire process. And at the doctors. And getting yourself put on the "no-fly list" at one of them. (Kidding). Thank you for appreciating my morbid sense of humor. Perhaps it's not the most healthy, (and you do realize that our son has it also, so we might not win the best parents award), but laughter was definitely needed on many an occasion.

...for respecting my wishes to be alone during chemo even though EVERYONE thought that made you a bad person. The looks they gave you...

...for shaving my head. And bringing humor to the situation. And for shaving your head for all those months.

...for finding my Katy Perry wig!

...for telling me you'd do whatever I wanted when it came to treatment options. And for backing me up when I went against medical advice. You had some pretty hard shoes to fill when I needed to find friends to sub for you at various doctor appointments. 

...for being there every day. And taking care of me so completely. I will never find all the right words to express how I feel. And I can never say thank you enough. 

Please know:

...that I am so grateful that we have the same outlook on life now. And what the future holds. And where we want to be.

...that I intend to live a life that is all about being happy.

...that it is unlikely I will ever go through treatments again. Every day I saw all the old people going through chemo/radiation/both and it made me so monumentally sad that this was how they were spending their last days. Sorry, that is not going to be me. 

...that we've both come out the other side of this completely changed. And I think it's a good thing. And I think that means that we get a do-over on life...and love...and us. 

Love, Me

Monday, March 3, 2014

Music Monday

Okay, I must interrupt the previously scheduled Music Monday for today to include this amazing Oscar performance by Pink. AMAZING!

And what Whoopi Goldberg said about watching the Wizard of Oz as a kid? Yep, that's my family.

And if they keep pulling the performance for "copyright" issues, just Google it until you can find a clip. I'm including several versions here because throughout the day they keep getting taken down by YouTube.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

An Open Letter...

In lieu of this week's Friday Five, I've decided to post this letter, even though I'm not really sure who my target audience is.


It is hard not to reflect on your life when you have taken the journey I have over the past 20+ months. I struggle with not letting cancer define me, even though in all honesty, it has completely redefined who I am. And I know that in writing this letter I will likely offend all of you at some point, or make you sad, or make you angry, or all of the above. Please know that my intention is none of those things.  I am not writing this letter so that you will take pity on me or treat me with kid gloves. I am simply trying to be honest and say all the things that I never say when you ask me, "How are you doing? No, REALLY, how are you feeling?" Quite honestly, you probably don't want to know the real answer to that question, and you'd get tired of hearing me rant about what it's like to be "the new me" anyway. 

You're right, I look pretty good right now. Thank you for noticing. My hair has grown back (and it is an awesome color); I have color in my cheeks again (mainly because we went to Hawaii); I don't look like a sick cancer patient (because I'm still up about 15 pounds from when I started this journey. What I wouldn't give for clothes that fit). If you just met me, or passed me on the street, you would never know the road I've traveled. And that is weird to me. There are at least half a dozen people that I work with now who didn't know me "before." Throughout my life, I will continue to meet people along the way who weren't there during the treatments that knocked me on my ass. They've never read this blog. They don't know that what I've been through has re-shaped my view of the world. At this point in the journey, cancer feels like such a defining experience that I feel like I need to wear a badge that says, "Survivor" or "I kicked cancer's ass" or something. Shout it from the rooftops? Maybe. Will it ever be something I don't feel compelled to start a sentence with? (I don't actually start my sentences with this, by the way, but there are so many times I feel like I have to). So maybe what I'm really trying to say is, you just never know the journey that anyone has been on or is currently traveling. Kindness moves mountains...maybe we should all start practicing more of it?

When I say, "I'm tired" in response to your question, here's what I probably mean:
a) I AM EXHAUSTED. I WANT TO CURL UP IN A BALL AND DIE FOR A FEW DAYS. I completely understand that being back at least not helping the situation. One friend recently told me that she was out of work for 3 years before going back. Yeah, that sounds like about how long it will probably take for me to feel like a functional human being again. Folks, cancer knocked me on my ass. And then backed up and ran me over. And then did it again and again and again. The chemo regimen I had is called "the red devil" for a reason. There are days where I really and truly cannot get out of bed...for no real reason other than my body won't function. Still. And the PTSD-and/or-menopause-induced insomnia doesn't help.

b) EVERYTHING HURTS. Everything. And lymphedema is a pain in the ass. Not sure why one day is better or worse than another. If I sit or stand too long in one position, I cannot move. Watching me get up from a seated position (at a restaurant, at my desk, off the couch at home to go to the bathroom) is HILARIOUS. It takes sometimes 10-100 steps for my hip/knee/back/leg to actually function properly so I don't look like a 90-year-old hobbling down the hall. At least it makes Keith and the kids laugh when they see it.
c) I forgot the question, but you were probably asking how I was doing, so I reply with my canned answer.

Here's the thing, every one "does" cancer differently. No two journeys are the same, and I am only speaking to mine. Do I wish I could run a marathon right now? Sure. Do I wish I could have run a marathon during treatments? Actually, yes. Am I happy if someone you know has the energy to run a marathon during the middle of chemo? YES! I think that's terrific. But THAT'S NOT MY STORY. Chemo made me want to die. Curl up in a ball and die. I remember one stretch where I didn't get out of bed for SIX DAYS. And I'm sure that I'm so tired now because I wasn't very active during treatments, but save the lectures because I was too busy trying not to die to give a crap about getting exercise. I was way too exhausted to climb the stairs some days. And I wish I was exaggerating.

When I say, "chemo: the gift that just keeps giving" in response to your question, I might mean a variety of things:
a) I am stupid. HOLY CRAP, legitimately stupid. I have NO ability to retain information. I cannot hold a conversation with anyone, especially students. It hurts me to listen to myself talk about books with kids now because half way through, I forget what we're talking about. Chemo brain rocks!

b) I am so ADD now, it's frightening. Squirrel.
c) Menopause BLOWS. Enough said. Okay, maybe not enough. I am 42 years old and have been in menopause for over a year. SUCKS. 
d) It's hard to breathe sometimes...and not because I was trying to exercise. Probably because chemo damaged my heart and radiation damaged my lung.  
e) I can't feel the bottoms of my feet ever. Or my hands sometimes. I no longer have fine motor skills. Opening a jar??? Bwahahaha. That's a good joke.
f) I have a heightened sense of smell. (No kidding, school dance in the gym last week. The minute I stepped out of the library door, all I could smell was sugar, pizza, and sweat. Had to leave school immediately).
g) My tastebuds are shot (which really blows since I can smell everything now).
h) My hair has grown back thicker (yeah), curlier (boo...chemo curl sucks), and with a lot less gray (yeah...although I color it so you wouldn't be able to tell anyway). Doesn't make any sense to me, but there's the truth of it.
i) I'm sure there are many other things which I'm just not remembering right now...because I'm stupid.

When I say, "I hate everyone and everything," I probably mean:

a) I hate everyone and everything.
b) I am so tired.
c) I am sad.
d) I am angry.
e) I do not understand why everyone still cares about stupid, unimportant stuff. (Okay, I really do know, but I get frustrated when forced to confront someone who is taking dumb stuff way too seriously).
f) I'm trying not to say that my PTSD has kicked in and I'm trying to hold it together.


I'm angry? I'm sad? 

"But why? You're all better now, right?" Here's the thing: PTSD is a bigger bitch than menopause. And I try really hard every day not to let it get the best of me. Or to let you see it. But the reality is, I am an emotional wreck. WRECK. I've cried twice while typing this post and I haven't even gotten to the stuff that's sad. I am at least able to see the panic attacks coming on now, but that doesn't mean they are any fun. Ask the family about the one I had in Hawaii while we were out in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure that the three of them thought someone was going to die. I only have a vague recollection of the event, but it scared me. The best one was trying not to bring the plane down on the way to Vegas. Because my brain was telling me that the panic attack would go away if I opened the plane's emergency exit...while we were somewhere over the Nevada desert. Not kidding. The people sitting next to me were really freaked out.

So, besides PTSD (which, is not just for soldiers, BTW, and which I really need to write about in a post all it's own), what makes me sad and angry?


Ignoring all the "what if the cancer comes back?!" "What if I don't see my kids graduate/get married/grow up?" "What if, what if, what if?" questions that constantly swirl in my head, here are just a few things that I think about... 

I feel guilty about everything my family has had to go through, and the damage that it's done to their mental health. None of us will ever be the same, and whether that's a good thing or not, the trauma wrecked havoc and did it's share of damage. 

I get sad when I think of all the things that I want to do that I could have, and maybe should have, done long before now. Why was I waiting to check those things off the bucket list?

I lost a year and a half of my life. Literally. I don't actually know how old I am anymore. I answered the question wrong the other day when someone asked. Seriously.

Cancer is isolating. Whether that's by force, or mitigating inherent health risks of hanging out with people who carry germs, I barely saw anyone during the entire time of my treatments. And now I'm so used to hanging out in my room, by myself, it's really hard for me to remember to be a member of a family, community, to be a friend. I struggle with getting outside the shell that cancer created.

Treatments have bankrupted us. Not just emotionally, but financially as well. Actually bankrupted.

I don't know if I am a survivor. The doctors sure don't call me one (I have to wait 5 years for that), but I feel like I should surely get a label for all that I've put up with! Or a special place in Heaven. Or a better dessert than everyone else. But I also get twitchy anytime someone calls me a maybe they're jinxing it for me. 

I think I'm a different person. And I desperately didn't want cancer to change me. But the reality is, while cancer did not change me, living through it has definitely made me a different person. And that makes it feel like I've let cancer win. I struggle every day with feeling like I'll always be "that cancer patient" in your eyes. And my own.

I am nesting in reverse. I am getting rid of EVERYTHING. And science major me who took enough psychology classes in college can see why I'm doing it. I know that I'm doing it because I don't want my family to have to sort through all my things if I were to die. And because things don't mean anything to me anymore. But I can't stop.  Just spent the last two weeks giving away ALL of my books. 

I am so mad that there is not a cure for cancer. And that people are still diagnosed with it every day. Research, people, research!!! 

I get so angry when I see that you are not living your dreams. Or you are unhappy. Or you aren't saying, "I love you" to those that matter. Or caring so much about things that don't matter. SERIOUSLY! Life. Is. Too. Short. And I know that unless you've lived through something like I have, you understand the words that I'm saying, but you don't really GET. IT. You think I sound like the teacher on Charlie Brown. But if you aren't happy, then what the hell is the point of being healthy????!!!

So, before I alienate everyone, I'll wind this up with a few simple statements.

Cancer is not for wimps.

At the end of the day, there's no prize for being a workaholic, or the "perfect" wife/mother/family, or having the most stuff. Let it go.

Be happy. And let those around you be happy. Whatever that might look like. 

Eat dessert first.

And I'll be doing a regular "Inspirational Quotes" segment here on the blog. So I think I'll end this letter with the first one...