Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Healing Power of a Good Cry

I had a really big powerful cry the other night.

How it started was not pretty, just a simple comment by my wonderful husband that I took as a personal attack on my parenting skills. Mind you, I was exhausted. Our fall schedule is busy enough to make a non-cancer patient a little tired. Plus, this week I have been experiencing a nice steady stream of pain.  Nothing too extreme but a constant dull ache in my kidneys.  On a good day, I can remain positive and envision the zombies destroying cancer cells and that the pain is a result of that battle.  On a day when I'm exhausted and worn down from the pain, I just know that it is a sign that the chemo isn't working and the cancer is spreading.  To make matters worse on that night, my daughter was also emotional. Her schedule is insane right now. She leaves home around 7am and most nights does not return until 9pm or later.  We both were needing a good cry.

A day later and we both felt great. I know it was due to the healing power of a good cry.

So I was thinking maybe we should schedule time for a good cry each week. Best way to do that…sad movies right? So mom and I tried to come up with a list of movies that are guaranteed to give you a good cry.

Big Problem…how do you find one that isn’t all about cancer or a mom dying?

Terms of Endearment - No  
Beaches - No
A Walk to Remember - No
Steel Magnolias - No
Bambi - No

Help! Any suggestions for a good cry fest movie that doesn’t involve a parent dying or the big C….

Right now my list includes:
The Notebook
An Affair to Remember
The Way We Were

If you are going to have a cry fest, might as well have some eye candy too. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homecoming 2010

A little scrapbook creation that I made last night around 1:30 am.  Special thanks to Aunt Jane for the gift of a smilebox membership.  Another example of life as normal while being a cancer fighter.  Although I will admit that yesterday while sitting at Amedae Salon, I teared up looking at my beautiful daughter with her hair all done.  I deserve to see her on all of her big occasions: homecomings, proms, and on her wedding day.  I will not let cancer take that from me.  It made me fighting mad.  My zombies heard the rally cry and are continuing their destruction of the nasty ninja cancer cells. 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Having Cancer is like being Pregnant: A list of similarities

I started musing about how cancer is like pregnacy right before my first round of chemo.  At that point, I swear I was cancer nesting.  Running around like a crazy woman making sure everything was ready for the eventuality that I was going to feel crappy after chemo. 
Here is a rambling list:
1.  You don't tell people until you are positive it is true.  Why get them all excited or upset?
2.  You think about it all the time.
3.  There are hundreds of books you can buy all about it.
4.  You reach a point where you can't hide the fact anymore.  Big Belly or Bald Head
5.  Strangers have advice or a story they just have to share with you.  Horror stories or helpful tips
6.  You feel tired a lot of the time.
7.  Morning Sickness
8.  Constipation
9.  Your brain is in a fog most of the time...Chemo brain or Pregnancy fog
10. You get special treatment.  Friends and loved ones spoil you

Next, maybe I'll start a list of cancer items I wished I had when I was not having to shave your legs ;-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post Round 2 Update

The doctor is right, there is a cumulative effect to the chemo rounds.  The morning after was especially hard. I told Gary I am not sure if on the next rounds if I should drive myself in for the post chemo shot.  I was very weak that morning.  Poor Zachary ended up with instant quaker oatmeal for breakfast.  I spent most of the morning on the couch listening to the Top Chef finale.

The Neulasta shot, the steroids and a nice afternoon of napping/relaxing made a big difference.  I felt well enough to go to the home football game that evening.  It was a beautiful night for football and I was able to get some good pictures of Shelby during the half time show.  Unfortunately, I used her camera and don't have the ability to load those on my computer right now.  As a band parent, I left after the half time show and was home in bed by 9pm.

Nausea was bad Saturday morning but thankfully, I have a big hunky husband who took over the kitchen duties for me and I was able to enjoy a good breakfast without any prep work.  Zach and I headed out for a tennis tournament in the rain.  We knew that it was going to be a car day.  I brought magazines, a book and my lap top.  The tournament was cancelled by the time I read one magazine and barely got the season finale of True Blood started.  Zach and I decided on the way home from tennis that it was like getting a free day in school.  What a great way to spend a Saturday.  We enjoyed lunch and Survivor on the DVR.  Then, I headed upstairs for preBingo relaxation.  It consisted of the season finale of True Blood, 1 meditation session with Belleruth Naparstek "A Meditation to help you fight cancer" (I ordered it from and an one hour nap.  I awoke feeling really good, at least good enough to work bingo for the Brandon All Sports Boosters.  As a stay at home mom, my volunteer duties are important because it is one of the few ways I get to interact with other adults on a consistent basis.  Plus, I like my team and most of the patrons.   The bonus from Bingo, I came home tired and slept straight through the night, that is no small fete when you are taking 100mg of steroids each day.

Sunday morning and I am feeling really good - not pre-cancer good but good nevertheless.  Tonight I will work poker for the sports boosters so I plan another afternoon of relaxation.  Plus, I may take the wig out for a test run.  I'm guessing pair that wig with my skinny jeans (an added bonus of chemo) and maybe we will get a few more tips.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chemo Round 2: The Gleeked out one

Sitting by me so we can watch GLEE!
It may be hard to believe but I was actually looking forward to Round 2 of R-CHOP.  My BFF, Lisa, was making the drive over from the Grand Rapids area to be my chemo buddy for the day.  I know it was slightly selfish of me.  We haven't had a good visit since Spring Break even though we talk weekly and she was the only person other than Gary who knew what was going on medically pre-diagnosis.  God thought it was an excellent choice, as well, because my 2nd round conveniently landed on Lisa's husband's birthday and he currently lives in Flint during the work week.  Bonus, a birthday dinner for the happy couple of 20 years. 

I think Lisa was looking forward to the visit as well.  She beat Gary and I to the cancer center.  Although in our defense Duffy was a difficult dog in the morning.  He doesn't do rain and getting him to poop was an ordeal.  Ah, the joys of having a furry member of the family in your life.  Gary stayed long enough for the nurses to get me hooked up and preMeds started. 

Just like last time all the set up and preMeds took until about 11am.  This treatment because I had handled the Rituxan well I did not have to be on a pump.  It made my 99 trips to the bathroom much easier.  After the Rituxan was started we decided to watch the last two episodes from season 1 of GLEE, less than a week until the new season and all.  GLEE, lunch, a chemo drip and your BFF - Life is Good!

Tired after Round 2
Rituxan was faster by about 2 hours so it was finished up around 3pm.  My reaction to the medicine seemed better this time.  Headache not so bad and no low back pain.  The nurse pushed the Oncovin and the Adriamycin and then started me on the Cytoxan drip.  All in all I finished up right around 4 pm.

It sounds like my next rounds will all be between 6 and 7 hours.  Better than that first 9 hour day but still a long day in the chemo chair.  Judy the nurse who encouraged me to run in the Crim gave me a nice warm hat to sleep in and to generally keep my balding head warm.  Lisa and I packed up all our entertainment.  Chemo makes you feel like a toddler with ADHD.  I pack a lot of stuff just in case I get bored.  I am actually starting to wish the Benadryl did knock me out for a little nap.  Because it was getting close to 4:30pm, we decided to just meet Gary on his way home from work and headed that way.  We decided to camp out at Panera. It gave us a chance to talk a little more and for me to pick the kids up some of their favorite bagels.  It was a long day but a good one.

Going our separate ways and my new hat.
We were home in plenty of time to attend the Varsity Blackhawk Volleyball game and God must have known I needed some rest because the team lost in 3.  As you can tell from the time stamp, the Prednisone has made rest a little difficult.  Right now the side effects seem a little different from last time.  More nausea but headache isn't as bad.  No diarrhea but stiff and sore finger joints (a good excuse for editing errors).  No energy with the Prednisone just not able to sleep and new this time very dry eyes.  Hopefully, my shot of Neulasta will help with some of the energy.  Plus, Duffy is headed to kennel for the weekend due to hectic life schedule and his desperate need for a grooming.  I plan to sleep, nap, relax.  Oh yeah, and blog or Facebook any changes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Look Good, Feel Better

Just wanted a short post to sing the praises of the Look Good, Feel Better program from the American Cancer Society. I went Monday and had a blast. I met 3 amazing cancer fighters in all different stages of their journey with cancer. The make-up you receive is quality stuff. I’ve never been a big make-up person but even my face lit up when I saw a Chanel lipstick compact in my bag. You never know what you will get but there was stuff from Bobbie Brown, Estee Lauder, MAC, Elizabeth Arden, Mary Kay, Aveda, Avon all in my bag plus some excellent skin creams. I even came home with a free wig. I wasn’t planning on doing the wig so I decided if you are getting a free wig – Go Big or Go Home ;-)

Worldwide Lymphoma Awareness

I received this as an email and am posting it here for all of my friends and any patients who stumble across my blog searching for information on Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  I have learned that 1 in 50 people will be diagnosed with Lymphoma in their lifetime.  There is no screening for this form of cancer.   
September 15th is Worldwide Lymphoma Awareness Day. GET INVOLVED!
This is an annual event to help bring awareness of lymphoma to the world.
Lymphoma is the 5th most common cancer in the western hemisphere, and it
is one of the few cancers that is increasing in incidence over the past 50
years. Download the Excel spreadsheet graph at the bottom of our Oak Leaf
Awareness pin page. (Order a pin and support the cause while you are at it)
Teach your friends about lymphoma and have them take the "Know your Nodes"
quiz from the Worldwide Lymphoma Coalition. ( )

Monday, September 13, 2010

A little more fun with cancer...or how to enjoy a head shave!

I know some people with cancer hang on to their hair as long as possible.  I could tell days ago that I would not be that kind of person.  I hate hair around the house.  I'm always complaining and swiffering and that was just with normal loss of hair.  It really is difficult to explain in words the hair loss.  I ended up yesterday showing everyone in my family and my good friend Lesley because it really is easier to understand when you see it in person. The closest example I can come up with is a Kleenex box.  Picture yourself pulling tissues out one right after another.  That is how easily my hair was coming out.  Touch a few hairs and there they went.  No pain, no tug just a nice little clump of hair.  Actually, the amount would have made a nice little moustache if I wanted to glue it on my upper lip.

Shelby and Zach seemed the most upset about the loss of hair.  I think it was probably harder for them to comprehend because I have been feeling so good.  I can definitely tell that the week before the next round will be a strong week for me.  Even showing them how easily my hair was coming out didn't seem to help.  Zach said, "Just don't touch your head."  I offered them each the chance to help with the head shaving but neither wanted to take part or even help with the photographing.  That explains the quality of the shaving photo.

Gary and I had a lot of fun with the head shaving.  I knew he was the right man for the job because I'm married to a perfectionist.  Sometimes it can get on my nerves but when it comes to your head and clippers you want quality.  So first we did a little punk rock mohawk.

Shelby thought the mohawk was high fashion/editorial so that explains the dress.  I tend to agree with her. There is something about a girl with an edgy hairstyle wearing a girly outfit.  The lump is my mediport.  Which I still think is the coolest thing ever invented.  I will miss it when it is gone and hope they leave it as long as possible. 
Finally, we decided on the #2 head shave.  Thank goodness, I have nicely shaped ears and an adorable head.  This could have all turned out a lot worse.  Instead, I'm loving the shaved head look and will probably even like the all over bald look too.  As my darling cousin reminded me this weekend..."Who loves you baby?"  I love you all.  Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.

My biker chick #2 shave: Spring Awakening shirt goes perfectly with it!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Losing My Hair and Keeping it all in Perspective

There is a ticking time bomb when it comes to cancer treatment and it is all about the hair loss.  The literature explains that if you get the red stuff,  Adriamycin, "almost all patients will lose all of their body hair."  You know that this side effect is coming your way.  I've been in contact with other cancer patients and through them I learned that most patients experience the hair loss in the 14-21 day range. So by day 10, you hear that time bomb ticking.  Every hair on your brush makes you wonder if today is the day.  You keep hoping that "almost" isn't every because you hear stories from family and friends of their aunt, father, grandfather who went through chemotherapy and never lost their hair.  But you are just waiting for the bomb to explode.

For me, it was a nice reliable time bomb.  Day 14 and I started to notice that I was losing body hair.  It was Friday and I had a busy weekend planned.  I just kept thinking "please just a few more days with my hair." I want to go to the Football game and Volleyball tournament with hair.  I made it through working at the concession stand fine.  I was on the cash register so I was busy almost the entire night.  No time to think about my hair.  I noticed a few strands but nothing shocking.
This morning I noticed the first clump of hair, when I say clump I mean a group of about 30 hairs all in the same area of my head.  I am sitting at the volleyball tournament trying not to touch my hair.  It isn't like my hair is just dropping out but if I run my fingers through my hair or scratch my head, clump.  For me this is difficult. I'm always running my fingers through my hair or sweeping my bangs out of my face.  Don't touch your hair, Don't touch your hair, Don't touch your hair is running through my mind on a constant loop.

Then my husband gets a call, his cousin at the age of 49 has had a massive heart attack and died.   He has a girl close to Shelby's age and 2 little boys.  It made losing my hair seem like nothing.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some more fun with losing my hair.  Maybe I'll  have a Mohawk with some bright color or maybe I'll shave just half of my head.  I do know that as long as I'm here, it doesn't matter if I don't have hair.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What You Can Do | Stand Up To Cancer

Tonight, most of the major networks will be airing: Stand Up 2 Cancer.  If you want to support this cause, text STAND to 40202 for a $10 donation.  100% of the funds received will go to cancer research.  I have already sent my text and will be wearing my "In the Fight" shirt while working in the concessions stand at our home football game.  I will try to add a photo later.

After a long night in the concession stand.

What You Can Do | Stand Up To Cancer

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Having a Little Fun with Cancer

Just a short little note and update from our labor day weekend.  Here in Michigan, it did not feel like the end of summer break.  It felt more like fall break.  Perfect weather for the man of the house to do yardwork and the little lady to make a big batch of tomato sauce with tomatoes my neighbors have been giving to me.  We also celebrated the 3 year mark in the house and hung pictures in the two basement guestrooms and our formal dining room.  Most of the ground floor is still not decorated but when you move as much as we have in our 19 years of marriage it takes awhile before you think it is worth the effort.

Sunday was actually warm and nice.  I did a 10 mile training run in 2:04 and am considering going ahead and participating in the Brooksie Way Half Marathon that I'm registered for in October.  The guys really wanted to go to the Bucaneer Beer Feast at the Michigan Renaissance Festival but were disuaded by the crowd.  Instead, they played tennis where Zach was schooled by his dad and Gary was exhausted from the effort.

Monday, the weather was chilly and overcast.  Zach and I headed to Rite Aid to get our flu vaccinations.  While at the Rite Aid, I decided to have some fun with my hair while I still have it.  I bought a box of Loreal SuperBlonde.  The great thing about knowing that your hair has maybe a week or two left is you don't even have to follow the directions.  PreTest? Who cares!  I'm loving it.  I think it is a cross between Billy Idol and Draco Malfoy.

Now it is back to school and a very full week.  Gary's parents are visiting and we will be watching 3 tennis matches, 1 volleyball game, 1 home football game and an all day volleyball tournament. All of it hopefully finishing up in time for the U of M vs. Notre Dame football game.  A perfect reward for a long week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A dog's point of view.

Hi, I am Duffy Duff.  I thought maybe you'd like to know what I think about my mom having cancer.  I think it stinks.  It really is affecting my play time.  Mom still takes me on walks but sometimes I feel like she is rushing me.  I don't understand it.  Would it really hurt to let me stop and sniff out that rabbit?  I guess I'm stuck in the anger phase.  It just isn't fair that I don't get all the mom time I want right now.  So I try to show mom that I want a little play time by grabbing socks, shoes, or stuffed animals and running through the house with them.   Mom doesn't think it is fun.  The one good thing about mom having cancer is I do get to cuddle with her and nap a lot more.  This weekend mom bleached her hair and now we really do look like blood relatives.  Of course, she told me not to get used to it because she won't have hair much longer but for now we're having a little fun.

Friday, September 3, 2010

MIA - One lump

Last night I noticed the lump on my thyroid is gone. Not sure if it is really gone but I can’t see it when I look in the mirror and with the weight I’ve lost it should be really standing out. I tried to palpate it and still could not locate the mass. Is this really possible after only one round of Chemo? I know the doctor informed me earlier that having intensely hypermetabolic masses can work in your favor with chemo because sometimes they shrink as fast as they grew. But wow – I am a little amazed.

What I really find amazing is that in doing my visualization during my 10 mile run – the thyroid mass was really throbbing – almost like the battle was taking place right there as I was visualizing the destruction of the cancer cells.  I told you those Zombies could destroy the cancer Ninjas.

The breast mass is still there – I can feel it easily but now when I visualize I’m moving on to that one.  I am also going to have to figure out exactly where my liver and pancreas are so that I can move on to those tumors next.  Luckily, after years of kidney stones, I know where those are.

Today was my post chemo doctor's appointment.  I am happy to report that my blood work is once again excellent.  My white blood cell count is well above the healthy range which is very important for a mom with kids in two different fall sports and marching band.  I hate to miss a high school sporting event.  It is the stuff parents love.

The doctor cautioned me that each round of chemo will become progressively more difficult.  I think he was trying to make sure I was prepared for the road ahead.  Right now my only real side effect is falling asleep early in the evening.  I'm not complaining about it at all.  I've meet a lot of cancer patients who cannot sleep or require Ambien for a good night sleep.  I am sleeping great.  It must be all the energy it takes for my zombies to eat up those cancer cells.  

So this long weekend, I will be destroying cancer cells and sleeping.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Je me souviens: Sugar Pie and Divine Intervention

Being diagnosed with cancer especially when you are an otherwise healthy person can be mind boggling.  As I mentioned in an early blog post, I had a physical in May and everything looked great.  I have a copy of the bloodwork.  I look at it in amazement.  All of my numbers are in the healthy range.  Even my bloodwork after I found the lumps is all good.  I ask myself all kinds of questions.
How can you have a blood cancer and all your bloodwork be good?

How can you walk around feeling healthy and actually be walking around with aggressive tumors invading your body? 

What if I had not found the lumps? or why did I find the lumps?

Today on my walk with Duffy, I started thinking about what I have learned about cancer.  Cancer loves sugar.  It gets so worked up about sugar it glows all pretty on the PET Scan for the radiologist to read.  I am normally not a sweets person.  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm more the beer and nachos kind of girl.  But I started thinking about our trip to Quebec at the end of June and I remembered the sugar pie.  This dessert is amazing and I became a huge sugar pie junkie during our visit.  I think I ate sugar pie everyday we were there.  So on my dog walk this morning, I decided to blog about the power of sugar pie.  Maybe that sugar pie feed the tumors in such a way that they just kept growing.  Growing so much that a week after we returned from Quebec, I felt that lump in my throat.

And then I remembered my trip to Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre.
I visited a lot of cathedrals during the trip.  I am personally drawn to them.  I believe there are definitely spots on earth where God's presence is felt more easily.  New age believers call them spiritual vortexes.  I've felt that pull in many places in nature; Sedona, Yellowstone, and even the sunset over a corn field. I've always believed that a church or cathedral can be a man made version of those.   My trip to Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre was different in that I went alone.  Gary and the kids were tired of cathedrals and they headed off to the honey museum.

Pilgrims from all over the world travel to Saint-Anne-De-Beaupre because it has a history of healing miracles.  Pillars in the front entrance are covered in crutches from people who have been miraculously cured.  I was not there to seek healing.  I was drawn to St. Anne because of our connection as mothers.  It is a beautiful basilica.  While there I lit a candle and prayed for the health of my children.  I wish I could remember with more clarity my actual prayer.  It was more of a plea for their health and safety.  I may have prayed to keep our family healthy.  I now believe my prayer was answered.  I may be one of the miracles of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre.  What I know for certain is that on June 19th I donated blood to become part of the American Cancer Society's cancer prevention study having no clue that I had cancer.  On June 25th, I lit a candle and said a prayer at the basilica.  On July 4th, I developed the sore throat lump that would lead to my diagnosis.

If not a miracle, I am still blessed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So long steroids, hello naps!

It has now been 48 hours since my last dose of Prednisone.  So technically, I'm in the valley of the lows for my immune system.  I will bottom out and then slowly begin to improve until time for my next round of Chemo.  Gary and the kids will probably enjoy this period.  Okay, I admit it. I've been a little like the energizer bunny around the house.  It is  probably part cancer nesting and part what if I don't feel up to it tomorrow.  I noticed the low coming yesterday.  I would compare it to feeling like you are coming down with the flu.  Solution - Netflix, the recliner and China Fare for dinner.

I am happy to report that my mouth sores are still quite manageable.  The nurse offered to call in a script for magic mouth wash but I really want to avoid it if possible.  I'm already ingesting huge quantities of drugs and toxins and would prefer to keep side effect management as close to natural as possible.  Right now it is working.  I am hydrating, eating nutrient rich foods, exercising and gargling with the salt water. I feel blah and nauseous in the morning but it passes quickly after I take the dog for his walk.  I think it is the fresh air and exercise.  It also gives me the peace and quiet to work on my ninja destroying visualization.  There is nothing a zombie likes more than a long walk.  Did you ever notice in Zombie movies that they are always on the go?  Never a down moment, they just keep coming - just one more advantage Zombies have over Ninjas.