Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Relay for Life!

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

IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE!

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

TFIOS

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)...like 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

MRI

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.

Love,
Mom







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 song...it 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. MUCH. DRAMA.

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 it...now. 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 Fallon...so 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.

Dear.....

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 work...at least full-time...is 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.

What? 


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?

LOTS!


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, neighborhood...how 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 survivor...like 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...





Amen!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Music Monday

Probably should have posted this before Valentine's Day. Oh well, still a good song!

And I am completely enjoying getting my Harry Connick Jr fix every week on American Idol!




Sunday, February 23, 2014

Friday Five

Alright, alright, I know it's not really Friday. I am usually SO exhausted on Friday evening that I just barely manage to stay awake long enough to eat dinner. But I like the alliteration, so Friday Five it will remain...even if it really is Sunday.

Here's this week in a nutshell:

1) Another dear friend started chemo this week. I am grateful to have been through this process so that I can answer any and all questions that she has, but her having cancer really makes me angry. This cancer thing is complete crap folks. COMPLETE. CRAP. As in, it's high time we started spending large sums of money on RESEARCH. Not "cancer awareness" but actual RESEARCH. (I will be ranting on this topic another day...I have lots to say). Grrrr.

2) I got an adorable hand-drawn "thank you" POSTER from a student. She was really grateful for the presentation that I gave her class about good books to read. WOW! If that doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing will!

3) The Relay for Life people changed the date, and then changed it back to the original one. There was a flurry of completely unorganized emails from them for about a week. All is settled now, and apologies abound, but they were driving me crazy for awhile. If I didn't want to participate in this SO BADLY, I'd be tempted to try again next year. But all is good, and there's still some spots on the team if you're considering joining!! And the date really is June 7, 2014. And they promise not to change it again.

4) The daughter talked me into doing the Hot Chocolate 5K next Sunday...as in the one coming up in 7 days. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now it seems like the CRAZIEST idea I have EVER had. Oh, we will be walking this 5K, there is no doubt of that. But we will finish!

5) This week, every book I read was about some kid with cancer (or other life-threatening illness). Seriously, I did not plan this, and didn't really even know what any of them were about when I opened them up. But I definitely cried while reading one of them, and had some flashbacks while reading all of them. And Keith laughed at me for continuing to read them all since I was clearly bringing the punishment on myself. It was REALLY hard to read them, but I also couldn't stop. It's like a trainwreck...I couldn't look away. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

Music Monday

Always a fan of U2, I was so grateful that a friend alerted me that the video for their newest song was released this past week. And they'll be on the new Tonight Show tonight. 

Enjoy!

And this is also a reminder to get me your music recommendations!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Five

Wow, these Fridays just keep getting closer and closer together. Didn't I just write a Friday Five last week??

So here's my life in a nutshell this week.

1) Monday started with a special "just because/Pay It Forward" treat from a friend: my favorite cupcake AND a book! She wanted to make sure my week started off on a good note. YEAH! Just what I needed (and don't tell anyone, but I ate that cupcake for breakfast...because, why not?!). And I was so excited for the book she picked. Not because I hadn't read it (I actually had...it's one of my favorites that I'm ALWAYS book talking to students), but because I LOVE the book so much and it made my heart happy to see someone else recommending it. It's a quiet little gem of a book that I really think everyone should read. And I was given permission to pass it along, so I promise you will see it out in the world soon. Just deciding who gets it first. (FYI, if you'd like in on the Pay it Forward challenge, there's still time! Comment here, email me, message me on Facebook. I'm taking any and all who want to pay kindness forward...doesn't matter where you live. And it's not about wanting a small something from me. It's about wanting to pay the kindness forward to others and keep the magic going!)

2) Was so grateful for a 3-day work week this week. This working thing is kicking my ass. Four hour naps every other day just are not a functional way to live. Then you tack on the fact that the insomnia keeps me up until 3am every night (I'm sure the four hour naps contribute to that as well), and I am just ALWAYS TIRED. ALWAYS! Spent Thursday and Friday SITTING ON MY ASS. Watching Olympics, reading books, and playing a crazy game that the daughter got me addicted to. Need all these mindless activities to distract me from what I should really be doing (cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning). 

3) I hate PTSD. And menopause. And the fact that I have both. I will spare you the gory details for now, but when I actually kill people or run over small children or start beating the dog, I don't want anyone to be surprised. Cancer...the gift that just keeps giving...

4) Celebrated a friend's 50th birthday this week. A casual event, but so fun. And reminds me that birthdays (and anniversaries, and major life events) are meant to be celebrated! And enjoyed! And spent with those you love! Don't forget this people! EVER! I was actually thinking what an awesome birthday party I was going to throw for myself this year...and then I realized that I was going to be in Vegas for my birthday (because of a library conference). So, I'll definitely be celebrating. But might have to do something before the actual date with all of you...hmmm...

5) I was asked about how my world view has changed since cancer/treatments this week, and I've been trying to construct a coherent answer ever since. It is really something to think about because there are SO MANY THINGS that I just don't give a crap about anymore because these things are not really important. And it's very hard to explain to anyone that has not gone through this type of experience. And I read several books this week (unintentionally) where the main character has cancer and it brought all these emotions back to the forefront (well, that's a lie...those emotions are always there). So, I'm not really answering the question here, but I think that I will do a separate post on the topic soon. I'm still pondering how best to phrase it...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Music Monday

I watched the tribute to the Beatles last night and it was incredible. Didn't even make me sad that I was missing the Olympic coverage.

As this is one of my personal Beatles favorites, sung by one of my favorite artists, I thought this was a perfect Music Monday song this week!

Enjoy!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Five

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly this week:

1) I had a panic attack on Monday while teaching a class. It was awesome (NOT!). Real and true panic attack. Thankful for my friend who's class it happened to be and could roll with the punches. Fun times all around folks...

2) Wednesday was the parade celebrating the Seahawks Super Bowl victory. MANY people skipped work and school that day to attend. I had no plans of attending for a variety of reasons: see above mention of panic attack...this crowd of people would likely set off another one; there is no way that I could have stood up that long; it was FREEZING COLD out.
However, the teenage boy wanted to skip school to attend with some friends. Her prepared a very cogent argument on why he should skip school, and even smartly included words/phrases like "life is too short." Good job! Bonus points! Absolutely! Go...have fun...don't freeze to death. Yep, I've become that parent.


3) The Olympics have started! YEAH! Time to spend every waking moment watching sports. Luckily I also read while this is going on, so I get to spend quite a bit of time doing my two favorite things. Now, if only it would motivate me to workout...

4) Will there ever be a time when I am not tired/sore/angry/all of the above? By Friday afternoon I REALLY want to die. And I hate everyone and everything. Keith and I went to a movie and dinner on Friday night and I knew that it was going to be a struggle to stay awake. Luckily, the movie was INCREDIBLE. However, I was SO tired that I was yawning throughout the show. And so very stiff and sore sitting in the seat for that long, after working all week (and being on my feet all day Friday). Watching me get out of that seat after the movie was over was a sight to behold I'm sure.

5) Cancer is really isolating. For a lot of reasons. And I won't spend the time right now waxing poetic on the how and why, but this week I really felt the ramifications of being so sick for so long. It's really hard to get back out into the world.

Another bonus one:
6) Tuesday was World Cancer Day. Thanks to all of you that turned your Facebook/Twitter profiles purple in honor of Cancer Survivors! It was great to see so much purple! And feel the support!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

World Cancer Day

Today is World Cancer Day!

Yeah, I didn't know there was such thing either, but I can get behind this.

Purple is the color of cancer survivors (and even if I don't know if I'm supposed to call myself one, I'm gonna run with it).

In honor of WCD and cancer survivors everywhere, Chevrolet is making a $1 donation to the American Cancer Society for every Facebook/Twitter profile that is turned purple (up to $1,000,000). Are you on either of these social networking sites??? PLEASE click here to find the link to participate and TURN YOUR PROFILE PURPLE!


Did you see the Chevrolet Super Bowl commercial advertising this? I have had that car ride with Keith before...many times...



Monday, February 3, 2014

Music Monday

I saw a friend post this video on Facebook the other day and thought it would make a good Music Monday! And it's from Despicable Me 2, which is one of our new favorite funny movies here in the Yusko family.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Five

It has been a crazy week here in Seattle with almost everything being Super Bowl-related. It's quite awesome for this sorta Seattle native (I've lived here since I was 10, so that has to count, right?) and self-confessed sports junkie. Very exciting! Go Hawks!

Here's the 5 this week:

1. MONDAY SUCKED! TREMENDOUSLY! WORST EXPERIENCE EVER AT A DOCTOR'S OFFICE! And I thought I had been screwed over all the ways possible by the medical profession. I was wrong. Because I posted a cryptic message on Facebook right after it happened which led everyone to thinking that I had received bad news, I will attempt to briefly make a long story short, here goes:
I have, all along, been going to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance facility at Evergreen Hospital. I LOVE everyone there. However, being in desperate need of psychiatric help for my PTSD, I had to schedule an appointment at the SCCA facility on Lake Union as they do not offer those services at Evergreen Hospital. It was my first (and last) time in this office. So many things about the whole experience made me twitch. But the reason I got so irate is really long and convoluted.
Had appointment with a doctor there at 1pm.
Checked in at 1pm. They page the doctor.
Sat down in ENORMOUS waiting room, surrounded by signs that say, "If you haven't been called in 15 minutes after checking in, please check in again."
1:15pm goes by, but I don't want to be that person.
1:30pm: I check in again. And point out that I have to leave at 2:00 in order to pick up my kids from school. They page the doctor again.
1:45pm goes by...now I'm mad.
2:00pm: I go check in again (for the 3rd time). This time however, all I want is a manager to talk to and to make sure that I NEVER get charged for this visit. And to point out that I just took 3 hours off without pay and have nothing to show for it. They go find a manager and page the doctor again.
2:02pm: a very young, and clearly not well-versed in how to deal with patients, gal comes flitting to the desk and says, with a slight giggle, "Oh, Dr. Chen? He's not here today."
And then I go crazy!  
So, the doctor was not even at work today? And people knew this? And no one called me? Canceled my appointment? Told me one of the 3 times I checked in? How long would I have sat there? Does the guy have a 2:00 appointment waiting in the waiting room also?
So, the gal they finally send out to talk to me is GREAT. And bursts out into tears with how sad she is for what has happened. And is a cancer survivor herself. Which is a good thing she was the one sent to deal with us because she actually understood my frustration.
By the time I get home, I have 3 messages from different people apologizing for the day. One offers to send me a form so I can apply for reimbursement of my time and expenses (never seen that before). We'll see.

Long story, sorry. Cupcakes made everything better. Keith smartly drove directly from this fiasco to the cupcake store. I had 2 for dinner and took a 4 hour nap and the world was bearable again. 
Seriously folks, probably not best to make the already unstable patient that much more crazy. Just sayin'...

2. I was watching the Grammy's and realized that Cyndi Lauper and I now have the same hair color (or at least VERY close). Wow! Growing up in the Cyndi Lauper era, I have to admit that's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

3. The hospital that was suing us for our minimal outstanding bill ($800...which in the grand scheme of things is minuscule compared to all the $$ that we owe), which they stopped billing us for so how were we supposed to know we hadn't paid it off (but that's a whole other discussion), just garnished my paycheck for $1,300. Awesome. Don't even get me started. Makes me want to become a patient advocate so that others will not get screwed the way we have.

4. It's been a long, hard year for everyone here in the Yusko clan. I try really hard not to diminish all that the rest of the family went through even though my year has been pretty "me" focused. Teenage boy did not have the best year by any stretch of the imagination, and there have been many days that I considered selling him to the highest bidder. But then I realize that he is so much like me...and I appreciate the fact that he can ALWAYS make me laugh. Whatever the situation. I am so glad that no one has lost their sense of humor in this family, especially him. So many times this week I have laughed because of him. Thank you.

5. I could never begin to repay the kindnesses shown to me and my family this past year and a half. NEVER. Can't even imagine trying. So, when a friend posted this "Pay it Forward" Challenge on her Facebook page last week, I jumped at the chance to participate. So, instead of paying it back, I'm going to pay it forward this year! (And since the concept comes, I think, from one of my favorite books, I really love this movement).


Pay-it-Forward initiative: The first five (I'm actually going to do 10) people who comment on this post/Facebook post/email me with "I'm in", will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year - anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something homegrown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These five (10) people must make the same offer in their Facebook status and distribute their own joy. Simply copy this text onto your profile (and again, you only have to do five, but I wanted to do 10). 

I'm really looking forward to doing this! Cannot wait to see who's in it with me.

And a bonus:
6. I hit the "Register Now" button for the Iron Girl Triathlon in August. Yikes! Who's with me??? Who's going to teach me how to swim? Yeah, that's kind of going to be a problem, but one I'm willing to overcome. So real now...no turning back!

Here's a video to get me inspired:


Monday, January 27, 2014

Music Monday

Because I'm SUPER excited about this concert...and the fact that I have tickets...I had to use this song today. Even though I know that I've used it before.