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...