Monday, October 28, 2013

Music Monday

This suggestion came from a friend that lives in another state. I had never heard the song or the singer before. This is what I love about Music Monday...I'm finding all kinds of good songs thanks to all of you!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Feel Like I Have PTSD

Yesterday was further proof that I probably should not be at school because I don't think that I am a functional human being. 

In fact, I think I might have PTSD. Now, I know nothing about PTSD, but it would not surprise me to find out that I have some of the same symptoms.

I have been suffering from lots of craziness, because my brain is WRECKED. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, breakdowns...I've got it all. And have been known to break into TEARS for no real reason at all.

Case in point, yesterday. I am at a staff meeting...really just listening. And then, when I've got the floor to just remind people that they've got about a week until I'm out again for months (another surgery, remember?!) and that they might want to tap into my knowledge base while they can, I sort of lost it. And might have talked about how much I don't really want to ever come back. And there may have been mention of other things I'm not a fan of. And I was trying REALLY HARD not to cry in front of all these people. Please note, these people did NOTHING to me...nothing. It was all my brain.

I managed to make it to my car after the meeting (luckily at the end of the day), and cried the entire way to the grocery store, and while in line at the bank, and the whole way home again. A good 45 minutes of wallowing in how much I don't want to be working. And all the things that suck about my life. Because once I get rolling, there's no turning it off. 

Rational or not...that's my life.

And could be why the oncologist said if I don't get therapeutic help soon, I'm kidding myself. 

It's hard when everyone around you thinks that you are "back to normal." Your hair comes back, you look relatively healthy, you're done with treatments, so of course you should be back at work and doing all those things that you used to do, right? Not so much. Really need to reevaluate.

Luckily, this weekend I am going to a conference sponsored by the folks at Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Hoping to gain LOTS of information that I can use to try and put myself back together. Will surely be writing posts about the experience next week.

In the meantime, be warned...I can break out into tears without any notice!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chemo Brain in Action

Just thought I'd offer further proof that chemo brain is a real thing...and so much fun to deal with. Here are just a few examples from my daily journeys:

(1) At the new surgeon's office, filling out paperwork/forms (because you can obviously never do that enough), I was stumped by one of the questions.
Marital Status     S/M

I was supposed to circle an answer.

I am not kidding when I say that I had to skip the question on the first pass because I didn't even know what marital status was. The second pass didn't really clarify the question for me and I finally had to ask Keith for help. He had a great laugh over this. Good thing that he was there to help my brain along.

(2) Going through the drivethru with the teenage boy on the way to his soccer game. We had hoped to stop for breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks, but they were out, so we were forced through the Wendy's drivethru. I ordered his sandwich, gave the guy a $20, and drove off. While teenage boy is screaming, "What about your change????!" Had no idea what he was talking about or any memory of handing the guy a $20. (Luckily, there was no one behind us in line, so I could do a quick back-up in the lane and collect my $18.50).

(3) A co-worker asked me to order a book for her. She even wrote down the title and gave me her school credit card number. It is on a giant sheet of paper stuck to my desk...I've looked at it every day I've been at work for the past 2 weeks. Yesterday she asked me when I thought the book would arrive. Hmmm....that would require me to have ordered it, right? Whoops!

These are just small samplings of what it's like to be me on a regular basis. This does not include all the sentences I speak where I mix up the words (though this is fun to watch the kids' brains spinning trying to translate what I meant to say without asking me to repeat it). Or the times that I forget the kids' names. Or that I've had my son's paycheck from reffing soccer in my purse for 4 weeks now because I forgot to go to the bank (even though there is a sticky note stuck to the dash for all those weeks that says, "BANK!").

Chemo brain ROCKS...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Music Monday

Just went to the P!nk concert over the weekend with my friend Deb (oh, and the husbands were there too). It was always! Such a good show! So happy to be there!

It's not cliched when I say that having this date on the calendar really was something to look forward to over the last many months.

So, it seemed only fitting that I pick a P!nk song for today's Music Monday inspiration. Tough choice though...finally settled on this one...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Radiation Retrospective

Thought I would do a photo-timeline of my radiation burn from start to finish.

The initial markings and tattoos to determine the area that would be radiated for the first 28 days.

28 days in, you can't see much in this picture as the "damage" is mostly in my armpit and other parts not shown in the photograph. However, the last 10 days of radiation were a concentrated gamma type that required a different treatment area. The purple sharpie is marking this new area. Note to self, should there be a next time, just leave the sharpie on. Scrubbing it off was a BAD idea. Monumentally Bad.

On day 35 of radiation? Almost the end, not quite sure anymore which actual day I took the picture (and too lazy to look through my Facebook page for verification). Looks like I've been ironing myself. And that's what it felt like also.

After the 38 days of radiation were over, the burn got progressively worse for the next month. This was one week post-radiation.

This was 2 weeks post-radiation. was really getting disgusting by this point. Oh, and have I mentioned how much this actually hurt? Yeah, there was PAIN. Kinda like you'd expect if you did take an iron to your skin. Only you have to imagine that through all the layers of skin. 

This was after we returned from Vegas, and after I went back to work, so sometime at the beginning of October, making this about 3 weeks post-radiation.

Haven't taken any pictures since, which is pretty funny. It's almost back to normal except for the fact that if you know to look for it, the entire area initially marked (see the first picture's sharpie markings) is a different color than the rest of my skin. Kind of a tan/dirt colored rectangle all around the left side of my chest, from sternum to armpit. Awesome.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A New Doctor and a New Plan

Because you can never have enough doctors on your team...or doctor visits on your schedule...I now have a new one: a surgeon specializing in gynecology. Yippee.

You see, the estrogen in my body is what is trying to kill me as it's giving the cancer something to feed on. I've been on a daily dose of Tamoxifen (anti-estrogen therapy) since August, but the oncologist has felt all along that it would be benefial to my long-term prognosis if I would consider having my ovaries and other parts removed. Initially, we agreed to discuss this issue further after radiation.

Well, guess what? Radiation has come and (thankfully) gone, so let's discuss it. To be honest, there's really not that much discussion that took place.
Me: "So, I need to have them out? Can I have it done before my calendar year out-of-pocket maximum expires? Yes? SOLD!" Don't need them, don't want them.

Yep, that was the end of that appointment. Didn't research the pros and cons, didn't look anything up on the Internet, nothing. Because frankly, I'm just exhausted, and maybe don't care as much as I should. I'm an expert patient now, so bring on every medical procedure that you can think of. Really. Bring. It. On.

I left with an appointment to meet with this new surgeon and off I went.

And I think that the appointment with this doctor took a grand total of 15 minutes.
Me: "So, what's involved? How soon can we do it?"
Dr: "Blah, blah, blah, robots...blah, blah, blah hospital. I've got an opening in November."

DONE and DONE! Another surgery on the books for the beginning of November. The pre-op appointment is this Friday (no, I have no idea why the pre-op appointment is so FAR in advance of the surgery, but that's not my job), so I'll hopefully have more details about what this entails.

Right now the biggest decision that I have to consider is how long I'm going to be out of work this time? Hussle back and salvage sick time for the spring? Or burn all the time and come back in the New Year refreshed, rested, and maybe healthy? Hmmmm...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cancer Buddies

Funny story:
Teenage boy has had a "suspicious" mole on his cheek for, um, a few years. As per usual with our family, we have ignored it. Until now. After this summer, it really is looking stranger.

So, I make him an appointment at my dermatologist (who diagnosed the immediacy of having the strange spot on my foot removed), but I don't tell him. Because, let's be honest, we've worried enough about cancer in our house this year, teen boy especially (though he would NEVER admit it).

On the way to the doctor is when I actually tell him why we're going. And we had a pretty funny conversation. And I remembered that he really is a great kid who I love dearly, even if this past year has NOT been proof of that.

He decided that we were going to be "cancer buddies." Because he's as much doom and gloom as I am, and was sure that he was going to have skin cancer. I can't really recreate the conversation, but it reminded me why we get along so well...same grim sense of humor!

Oh, and it turns out, there was nothing to worry about. Mole was completely normal. So, he's not going to be my cancer buddy after all...THANK GOODNESS!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Today marks the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis; a day that completely upended my say the least.

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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

In Other News, I Went Back to Work... an idiot.

Seriously, my brain is clearly not functioning properly when I thought that I could actually do this.

I went back to work on Wednesday and worked the remaining 3 days of the week. And then came home and died. And then today I died a little more. 

I told myself that I'd give it 5 full work days and then re-evaluate. Let me just say that after 2 hours, I knew it was a bad idea, but I will give it 5 full days before confirming my initial thoughts...which is that I'm an idiot.

What was fun:

Just kidding. 

It was great to see everyone. Or at least everyone that has made their way down to the library to say hello. I have not been venturing too far into the germ-infested building. (I did get a giant goody bag of supplies to keep away perfect!!!) Plus, I might walk too far and then die and not be able to get back to my desk. 

Talking to the kids about books has been fun. I've seen two-thirds of the school this week in the library and had fun talking about good books they might like. Plus, added bonus: giving a lesson to all in keeping one's germs to oneself. Seriously folks, middle school kids carry the plague, I'm sure of it. I'm working on getting spray-misters installed above the door so that they are showered with hand sanitizer every time they walk in the room. There has to be a way for this to work!

What was not fun:
All the things I've realized that I can't do anymore: stand up for any length of time; sit or stand in one position for very long; pick up just about anything; lift my arms above my shoulders; remember anything; and the list goes on and on.

SO. VERY. TIRED. Seriously. I wanted to die. It's possible that I did for a little bit today. I cannot imagine making it 5 days in a row ever again. (I'm beginning to be a little grateful for all these doctor's appointments that are going to break up the month).

I am in way more pain than I have been for awhile. While I expected the tired part (because, let's be honest, when haven't I been tired this past year?!), I'm not sure where this pain is coming from. And it hurts to move...all over...ugh.

I used to joke that I loved my job so much that they would have to throw me out of the building when I got old and they were tired of me. Yeah, that's not gonna be the case any more. I might love my job, and I might even be pretty good at it, but you know what? Entirely new outlook on life now. So many other things on the top of the list.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

And So The Follow-up Appointments Begin...

First in a long line of follow-up appointments began today with a mammogram. Because, get this, I'm "past due for one." And they're "concerned." 

So, I actually tried not to laugh at the poor nurse assigned to tell me this. Because, I have to say, that I kind of think with all I've been through, I should get a pass on the mammogram for awhile. Or at least, get a pass on being berated for not scheduling the appointment.

To be fair, they did clarify that they only wanted to do a mammogram on the right breast (non-cancerous side), so I did see their point. Sort of. Really wasn't worth the effort to explain the joke. And this is definitely not the hill I am going to die on, so I'll save the energy for another battle.

And honestly I'm well past the point of caring about medical procedures, so why not have another one? Yippee!

It was quick and not-so-painless. Bonus points to me today however because I did NOT pass out (like I did last time). Long wait while the doctor looked at the images. I brought a book to keep me occupied (this is not my first rodeo). I will admit that there was this gnawing in the back of my head about what they might find, and I would not have been surprised to be told there was something. Because I'm just that lucky. 

But, miracle of miracles, they deemed the results "benign" or "clear" or whatever term you prefer. And they sent me on my way with a letter saying as much. (Of course, as I told Keith, I never really believe these machines any more since I've had more than one in the last year not actually give accurate results, but it's the best I'm going to get). 

In the next 30 or so days I have no fewer than 10-12 appointments/scans. Next up is a meet and greet with a new surgeon. Scans regarding parts with cancer to come takes time for radiation to dissipate and make the scan worthwhile. Fun times ahead! Stay tuned!

Vegas Vacation

In an attempt to reclaim a small piece of my soul, and to celebrate the end of almost one YEAR of treatments, hubby and I ran away to Vegas for a few days last week. Without the kids. I did nothing but eat, eat, sit in the sun, eat some more. Oh, and I got SICK! VERY, VERY SICK! So, at least one of the days was not any fun, and a lesson in the fact that compromised immune systems don't magically come back.

We broke the bank and chose Gordon Ramsay's Steakhouse has the "official" celebratory meal. Final bill could have been scarier, but we opted not to get the Hell's Kitchen tasting menu. I did get the life-changing dessert however. Looking back, I almost wish that I'd just had 12 of those. Seriously! Life-changing! Pictures below!

Here are some highlights of the sun, food, and relaxing that went on: