Monday, April 29, 2013

Music Monday

I watched this movie recently with the daughter. It's actually a pretty cute movie...and we were thinking that this song should make it to a Music Monday, so here you go.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Care Package for a Chemo Patient

Since I have been diagnosed, several people I know have also been diagnosed with cancer. And it is sad and scary for everyone involved, trust me. Now, in most cases, everyone has been able to get a clean bill of health after only needing surgeries to remove the offending cancer. They can avoid the entire chemo and radiation journey that I'm on (the joys of getting diagnosed with stage 3 Angry Cancer). I am so happy anytime someone gets a clean bill of health!!! And for those of you that have to follow me down this chemo/radiation journey, I am here for you!

However, this has me thinking, what would I do for you or get you if you had to go through chemo? What would I want you to have? This is really an extension of the question of I get asked a lot: What do you need/want? So, I decided to put together this "care package" of things that would help a chemo patient out, based on what I needed the most.

(1) I would take charge of setting up a care calendar for you. Meals? Groceries? Rides? Transportation for your kids? I might need to ask you for email addresses and what your family likes to eat, but it'll be set up and ready to go on a moment's notice. Please don't cook ever again!

(2) Straws and grown-up sippy cups (you know, those cups you can buy from Starbucks with the lid and straw). Seriously, you need straws, I can't explain how vital they are. It's easier to lay in bed and drink if you have lids and straws. And I'll get you at least 3 of the for water, one for juice, one for ginger ale...because you will want all 3 at the same time.

(3) A case of bottled water for your car. Chemo makes you SO thirsty. Not kidding, there will come a day when you are headed to the doctor, or to brave the germ-infested masses at the store, and you will be dying of thirst! And then you will think I'm a genius.

(4) A goody bag with the new essentials for your purse/car/bedroom (yes, I really do have 3 sets of of everything): Chapstick, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and lotion (all unscented, of course).

(5) Fuzzy socks (with grippy feet) and nice soft hats. Again, when you need these, you will think I'm a genius. Note to self (and anyone out there using this as a shopping list): KEEP THE TAG ON THE HAT so that the patient will know where to go to get more if it becomes their new favorite clothing item!

(6) A soft blanket or shawl, perhaps hand-crafted with love. Unfortunately, I am not crafty so I would have to get someone to do it for me. I have received several of these and I love them all! And appreciate the ones that were made during a prayer circle/meeting. You can feel the love.

(7) Biotene makes a line of great mouthwashes, toothpastes, mouth gels, etc. Trust me when I say, you will need it all!

(8) Really good salt...the fancy flavored sea salt kind...and lots of it. And probably some awesome spices. I'll even throw in a little baking soda with it and tell you how to keep from losing your taste buds like I did.

(9) I will share my meds with you if your doctor doesn't give you the good stuff. But since you will probably get all kinds of good stuff, I'll make sure to bring you all the boring over-the-counter stuff they forget to mention that you need to get through it: Tylenol, Claritin, Colase, Senakot, Queasy Pops, a variety of stuff to help you sleep...all kinds of fun.

(10) Trashy magazines. As much as I love to read, sometimes my brain isn't functioning and I just want to flip through People or Us magazine. And then not worry if I don't remember reading it.

(11) Restaurant gift cards for you and your family to use. Trust me, even if you don't care, there will be a day where your family desperately wants to go out to eat.

(12) iTunes gift cards. I don't know if you have an iPod, iPad, Kindle app, whatever. But you will need mind-numbing games to play, music to listen to, books you can read without carting around a library, audiobooks in case your eyes go to hell like mine did. Thank you Apple.

(13) I will tell you NOT to shave your head before chemo starts. Sure, go ahead and cut it short, but don't shave it off in dramatic fashion like you see in movies and TV shows. Because if you have hair growing in/stubble when your hair really does start to fall out, your head will hurt. Not any fun.

(14) I will send you cards via snail mail just because. I currently have 4 or 5 people that do this and it is so fun to get these cards. Whether they are sunny, sweet, or funny, it is so nice to receive them. And SO much better than the bills that fill up the mailbox.

(15) I will pay for a subscription to Netflix or Hulu or whatever you want. Trust me, you will become infinitely familiar with the television schedule and you will start to hate every channel.

(16) When you figure out which day(s) is your "bad" day, holler. I will take your kids out of the house (because you might find them to be loud and smelly). Or I'll come over and take care of you and send your family to my house to hang out. Or I'll kick everyone out of your house, shut your bedroom door so you can have peace and quiet, and sit downstairs and read a book and wait for you to need something. Whatever you want that day to look like. I didn't want anyone bothering me because they smelled, but I needed someone in my house to bring me drinks. And I was lucky to have friends and family who took my daughter each weekend so she never really had to know what it looked like when I felt like that. (The teenage boy was often so oblivious that he didn't even notice mom hadn't come out of the bedroom for days).

(17) Every now and then I will ask you what you need. And please, speaking from personal experience, TELL ME. Do you need groceries? Your bathrooms cleaned? A massage (god, not from me, but I'll take up a collection and make sure you get one)? Soup? Ginger Ale? To go for a walk? To get out of the house? Go to a movie? Talk about how crappy life is? Not talk about how crappy life is? Bring. It. On.

This is just some things that I found I needed...and was lucky enough to have people taking care of me. Happy to pay it forward.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Which I am THANKFUL!

It is now time to interrupt this blog to say a big THANK YOU to all of you that have organized and contributed to the various fundraisers.

It is amazing to see everyone come together to support us through this difficult time and want to help out. Goodness knows that we can sure use's the medical bills that are actually going to be the death of me, I know it. Note to self: never get sick in October again. You get to pay for two calendar year's insurance deductibles. Double the bills. So fun.

Many people donated anonymously, which I respect, but it's kind of annoying because I can't thank you in person! And there were so many people that contributed, that I really can't write personal thank you notes anytime soon, so this will serve as your THANK YOU!!

Some highlights:
My dad's business clients/friends who wanted to give him a gift for Christmas, and the best gift they could think of was pooling their donations to support me.

The friend/fellow teacher who started the online fundraiser so it could reach people far and wide.

The former student who organized a benefit concert evening.

The current and former students who donated their own money to the cause.

Our "soccer family" who are always there for us.

And the list goes on and on and on. Friends, family, neighbors, students, school families, community members, and people I don't even know...

Seriously, you need to know how grateful I am! I could never express my gratitude enough. It truly means the world to me and my family. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but it has allowed us to breathe a little easier without having to worry about how we are going to pay ALL THESE BILLS that have accumulated these last six+ months. This entire journey and everything it entails is so stressful, but this has alleviated one component of it. Love to everyone! And if the daughter could bake you all cupcakes, she would.

It was so amazing to get the check from the online fundraiser in the mail a few days ago. Now to tackle the ten foot tall pile of bills that I've been shoving in a box unopened. And here's hoping there won't be any major monetary surprises in the months to come. Fingers crossed!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Music Monday

Harry Connick Jr. is one of my favorite artists. I would go to the ends of the earth to see him...and I have (which is a fun story in itself). I have all his CDs in my car, but this one is on my iPod.

Sorry I couldn't find a true "video" for you. The only clip out there is a 2 minute segment of him singing the song in the movie Memphis Belle...not nearly enough!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Another Reason I Miss Vacation

Vacation was so relaxing that I just want to go back. And one of the main reasons is the food, and that other people were cooking it for me.

Keith has been reffing and/or coaching every night of the week (and that's actually not an exaggeration), and nothing really excites me about eating right now, so when dinnertime rolls around and the kids ask, "What's for dinner?" I usually say "nothing." Which is a joke, but is how I feel. I'm tired by that point in the day, I don't really want to eat anything myself except Raisin Bran Crunch, and I sure would prefer not to stand up and cook something.

But, since I obviously don't have Bobby Flay on speed dial, we are getting by. We were getting meals delivered throughout this process, but I let the calendar lapse with spring break coming up because I knew we were going to be gone and didn't want a bunch of leftovers sitting in the fridge. 

Thinking that I might have to get that going again. Or I might suffer through these last few weeks of chemo and wait to see if I'll need to throw myself on the mercy of friends during radiation instead. 

It's these kind of things that get you down and make you feel like a sick person. When you just don't have the energy to take care of your family. Maybe I will have to write Bobby Flay a note...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Did She Just Call Me Old?

This past week during chemo, I was talking with the doctor about all the symptoms that I'm feeling. Or rather, not feeling since everything is going numb little by little. 

I started by talking about how I can't feel my hands, or feet, parts of my legs, sometimes my face...boy, neuropathy sure is fun. Then I was mentioning how I had been in excruciating pain before the trip. Probably an 8 out of 10 on their smiley-to-frowny face pain scale (which is pretty funny, actually. At some point I'll have to get a picture of it so I can post it here). My shoulder had been hurting so bad, I was considering stopping the chemo if it got any worse. 

Well, now my shoulder is just numb. I can't feel anything...pressure...temperature...not a thing. Super. So, the pain is gone for now, but the neuropathy is getting worse. Ugh.

And while I'm complaining, the doctor asks, "Is it possible that you're just old and that's why you're feeling this pain?" Did she just call me old? Did I just pay for that? As Keith pointed out, the teenage boy can tell me that for free...and does ALL THE TIME. Well, that sure got the doc laughing (which is now our goal each week). 

All this time you've been telling me I'm "so young and in good health" and now I'm old?! And if I am, it's only because chemo has aged me a thousand years during this process! 

Thank God there's only two more weeks of this to go. While the doc does think that the symptoms will just get worse over the next few weeks, and reminded me that neuropathy takes a LONG time to go away after chemo is done (and sometimes it never does), she did remind me that we are so close to the end/goal, that it would be a shame to stop now. So, persevere I will.

But I'm not sure that I'll stop complaining...

And I guess it's time to start getting religion with the glutamine (which is HORRIBLE, by the way. Makes every drink taste and feel like chalk).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Airplane Travel

If you're keeping up to date here, you will know that we recently went to Vegas for spring break. It was SO NICE to get away...and SO HARD to come home. I will be attempting to catch up with all the posts I've been making notes about in the next few weeks.

First, I want to mention how scary it is to travel while going through chemo, especially on an airplane. Here's what I looked like traveling:

Awesome, right?! And if you think that this garnered me any special privileges, you would be wrong. (Well, to be honest, I didn't ask for any). I dare you to travel through TSA security looking like this. It's fun, I promise! 

I was able to board early as a "person needing extra assistance," though I'm not sure this was the best strategy as you end up sitting on the plague-filled flying tube of death longer than anyone else, soaking up all those germs. The highlight? The toddler that SNEEZED ON ME while walking by. Literally. My jeans were soaked with his germs. EWWWW!

But the mask did save me from catching the plague. Other people got sick from the plane, but not me. I am considering wearing this anytime that I fly. When you see those people wearing them in the airport, you should probably not think they're as crazy as they look. Who knew that they were really pretty smart?!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chemo, Week 18

Holy Crap! Who's idea was it to do chemo at 9 o'clock in the morning when coming home from vacation at 2am???? What moron thought that was a good idea? That could not possibly have been me, right?

Yes, I had to come back from a gloriously relaxing week of vacation directly to week #18 of chemo. Really tough to be motivated to do that. In fact, when the alarm (my husband and teenage son) went off at 8:30 to say "GET UP!" I rolled over, cracked one eye open, and said, "Hell NO!" Yep, I became that patient. There was no way that I was getting out of bed. In fact, it's possible that I said something like, "I double dog dare you to get me out of this bed." It had to be something like that because the teenager was laughing. I probably sounded like him when he's been woken up.

So, the loving husband, who could sense his life hung in the balance, called and moved the appointment to 12:45pm. So much better. Well, except for the fact that getting there after noon meant we didn't end up leaving the hospital until close to 6pm. It was a LOOOOONG afternoon.

Nothing eventful happened...

And guess what that means? Only 2 more chemo treatments left (which will now be on Tuesdays). It's almost unbelievable to think about. I might actually make it to the end of this first part of the journey.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Vacation is FUN and relaxing and I'm so glad to be on one after what seems like FOREVER. Yes, I know, it really hasn't been forever...I tend to exaggerate just a little. But it is nice to go somewhere and pretend you're not really a cancer patient.

A couple of notes about vacationing in Vegas when you are sick:

(1) Not the cleanest, most smoke-free city in the world by any stretch of the imagination. Have been trying very hard not to touch elevator buttons or escaltor hand rails. Also trying not to sit near anyone with obvious symptoms of the plague and/or smoking like a chimney (yeah, super easy to do here).

(2) Want to have some fun? Wear a mask through TSA security at the airport like I did.

(3) Having no taste buds means that your eating options are limited. Luckily Vegas has a million restaurants. But, I have to check out the menu first to make sure that there is something that I can eat before committing to a particular establishment, so we've become those annoying people that spend an hour blocking access to the menu posted outside the restaurant.

(4) There is no 5 second rule in Vegas. If it falls on the floor, it's over. 

(5) I am not supposed to sit in the sun (stop laughing). I had to borrow several hats so that I could hang out by the pool and soak up the warmth. No wearing the wig 24/7 since it tends to get a little sweaty.

(6) My neuropathy has gotten SO MUCH WORSE (will post more about this later). Currently I cannot feel my hands, feet, a big section of my left shoulder blade, and part of my chest. Since we've been walking most places, not feeling your feet makes for a really fun time. Especially when you have a cross between Vasco de Gama and Speed Racer for a husband. Now, the good thing? It's Vegas...everyone just assumes that I'm drunk.

(7) As the kids pointed out, "Mom, you fit in here." Meaning me and the Katy Perry wig look relatively "normal" here (for Vegas). People don't stare quite as much. It's actually kind of nice. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Chemo vs Field Trip...Tough Call

Today is Chemo, Week 17. And it's also the day of the "best field trip" of 5th grade: Marine Science Afloat. Since I obviously have to be at chemo (and I don't do ANYTHING related to boats and/or water), Keith volunteered to chaperone this one. 

Yay for the friend who volunteered to come with me (read: chauffeur me) to chemo. And she bought me lunch. And she got to experience the mind-numbing boredom that is sitting at chemo. Yes, that is a good friend!

I do want it noted that I actually got the better end of the deal this Friday. It is COLD and WINDY out on the water and the kids are dropping like flies (puking up a storm) on this field trip. A car full of giggly 5th grade girls, plus choppy water, plus boat ride, plus the smell of vomit everywhere? Sounds like an awesome time--NOT! 

In this battle of Chemo vs. Field Trip, chemo definitely wins.

Though there is a great picture of Keith and another friend pretending to be "king of the world" a la Titanic. Hilarious!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It Starts to All Look the Same...

If you haven't checked out the blog in awhile, you're probably thinking that you haven't missed that much. You might be right, depending on how long it's been. Hmmmm, why is that?


It's like being pregnant, only WORSE, because the closer that you get to the end, the longer and slower the days go. Holy crap, I have completely lost count of where I'm at. So, let me try and update you:

After my uber busy week last week, I have pretty much curled up into a ball and died a little this week. So exhausted! And in pain (more info on that will follow).

Tomorrow (Friday) is Chemo Week #17! Only 3 more to go...Hallelujah!

We are going away for spring break! The doctor said that I could delay the next round of chemo a few days, and she okay'd a short plane trip. Vegas, here we come! Which is actually kind of funny because it may only be a two hour plane ride compared to Hawaii's six hours on the flying container of plague, but I'm pretty sure that Vegas has to be a hot bed of diseases from all over the world. Oh well, I'm just grateful to get away to somewhere warm, that isn't my house or the hospital, and pretend that I'm not a cancer patient for a little while. I wasn't going to nit-pick details with the doc.

My weeks pretty much look like: chemo...blah, blah, blah, sleep all day Sunday....blah, blah, blah, try and walk Wednesdays and Thursdays...blah, blah, blah, start it all over again on Fridays. Throw in some teenager angst (I'll be devoting an entire chapter to this in the book someday, should there be one), some kids' sports, a husband that coaches or refs just about every night, and a family that expects to eat every night (which is one of the most annoying things that they do because I could CARE LESS about dinner)...blah, blah, blah. When is it going to end?! 

Aren't you so jealous of my exciting life?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why Don't They Tell You These Things?

Another in a long list of things that would be GREAT if they told you up front: my hair is starting to grow back. Which I was told wouldn't happen until well after chemo had ended. 

So, when I have to shave my legs on Sunday...and notice that there is slightly more hair on my head on Monday morning than there was the day before...I do what most people in my situation would do. I FREAK OUT! Because surely this means that the CHEMO ISN'T WORKING, right?! 

MAJOR freaking out going on here over the past few days. I've decided that all hope is lost and started considering plans that I should be making. Seriously, it's a little scary to think that all this time and effort I've put in to something that has made me feel like crap and now might not have worked. UGH!

Well, I broke my own "don't look up anything on the Internet" rule (seriously, it is a good one because the stuff you find online about cancer is CRAZY talk for the most part. And can be confusing and contradicting). This morning I typed in "hair growing back during chemo" and I discovered a whole host of women asking the same thing. Because we're all freaking out, for obvious reasons. Because they tell you your hair WON'T grow back until chemo is done. From what I can tell, every single one of them on the WebMD and blogs about this topic were all on Taxol, and all had 4 weeks left to go when their hair started growing back in small amounts. (All still had their eyebrows and eyelashes falling out though, which just doesn't make any sense, but is exactly what is happening to me).

Imagine that! That's me. 16 weeks in, 8 of them Taxol, 4 weeks of Taxol to go...presto.

At least I can breathe a small sigh of relief, right? I won't die before my next treatment. Or make myself crazy imagining the worst. Is it really too much to ask for someone to type at the bottom of the pamphlets, "Hey, don't worry if your hair does start to grow back when you have four weeks left to go. It happens...don't freak out. The chemo is still working."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Music Monday

I think I missed last week's Music Monday. Whoops!

Here's one from a group that I love...and an interesting video...