Thursday, January 29, 2015


Man, I love that song.  It would be the coolest song EVER to choreograph. 

Soooo, I started radiation this week.  AND my Herceptin IV!  My new oncologist told me it would be okay to do them concurrently. 

And my visit with him was really...odd.  He told me, right off the bat, that sometimes he says things that are in his head, and then he realizes later that he should have filtered these things.  I assured him that I wouldn't mind.  As he talked to me about my cancer and treatment, etc., he started talking about how he's on this big existential search for a way to quiet his mind and prioritize his life.  (No, I don't know how we got from the subject of cancer to the subject of his existential search.)  He tried meditation for awhile; he studied Buddhism for awhile; now he's reading the Old Testament.  I got the impression that he hasn't ever been a religious person.  He told me that he was struggling with the Old Testament.  I asked him what book he was in.  He said he was in Leviticus.  I laughed and said, "No wonder you're struggling!  That's all stuff about how to build the ark of the covenant and things like that!"  I told him that, in my humble Kar opinion, he could safely skip Leviticus - that he wouldn't miss anything crucial.  However, he's determined to continue reading every word.  Good on him.

He forgot to have me put on a gown, and when it came time to examine my chest, he goes, "Well, go ahead and lift up your shirt and show me your boobs." It was a little disconcerting.  I mean, I know that they aren't real boobs, but I still feel a sense of modesty about them.  And I felt like I was on Girls Gone Wild.  He didn't even blink an eyelash, but it was a little awkward for me.  Lack of a filter, indeed.  He's just quirky.  One of those brilliant, quirky guys.

Herceptin is only once every three weeks and has minimal to zero side effects.  Herceptin targets my type of cancer, which is called HER2+.  It's really, really complicated to explain, and I'm not very sciencey, so just hope over here to learn about HER2+ and here to learn about Herceptin.

So I went in yesterday to do my first herceptin treatment.  It was in the chemo infusion room - the room where people get chemo shot into them - which made me have uncomfortable flashbacks.  But everyone is so brave and so positive.  Cancer People are the best!!

The nurses accessed Portia, my port, and hooked me up to a drip bag of herceptin.  I was only supposed to be there for an hour, but with a little education session with the doc and other delays (it was really, really busy), I was there a whopping 3 1/2 hours!!  Mama mia.  But it didn't hurt, I sat and read my book, I chatted with my neighbor in the chair on the right, and it went quickly.  So far, I haven't had any side effects.  I'll keep going in every three weeks for a year.

Radiation.  Sigh, radiation.  What a pain in the butt.  My first session was Monday, and it took longer than the other sessions will.  Just getting everything set up, etc.  My body mold is as hard as a ROCK.  Pretty uncomfortable.  But it's important for me to be in the same exact position every time.  A special light from the ceiling shoots the grid down onto my body, and they line me up with my tattoos.  They also have lasers on each side of me so that I'm lined up on my sides and not, like, tilting too much to one side or whatever.  They use a sheet that's under me to scoot me all around, and I lie on a special table that moves in all directions to put me in just the right spot.  Once they have everything lined up, they do a CAT scan.  Every time.  As I lie on the special table, these four arms of a machine that is behind my head rotate around me to do the CAT scan.  Each arm looks different.  One looks like Baymax's head. 

One looks like the light that the dentist adjusts above your face when he's working on your teeth.  And two of them look like waffle irons.  I can see a green light on my left "breast" (I use quotations, because I feel weird referring to it like that) as the arms slowly rotate around me.

Then the ladies come back in and put this small, sticky mat on the right side of my left breast.  Then they leave the room and shoot the radiation at it, through this sticky mat thingey.  I want to ask what everything is for, but I get the impression that they're in a hurry and just want to get me done and get the next person in.  So no, I don't know what the sticky mat is or what it's for.  I obvi can't see anything when the radiation is shooting.  The only way I can tell that it's being released is that the Dentist Light Arm is lined up to shoot at that side of my breast, and it buzzes.  For about 7 seconds or so.

Then the ladies come back in, move the sticky mat to the left side of my breast, the Dentist Light Arm rotates to that side, the ladies leave, and it shoots me for 7 more seconds.  Buzzzz.  Then the ladies come back in, take away Mr. Sticky Mat, the arm rotates to right above my left breast, the ladies leave again, and it shoots straight down at me.  No sticky mat.  For a good 20 seconds or so.

I mean, it's really not a huge pain in the butt; it's just obnoxious to have to go in every single dang weekday to do it.  And after the first day, they had some issues with my right boob getting in the way of the radiation thingey when it's aiming at the right side of my left boob.  I was lined up the same exact way; everything was the same; and suddenly, my right boob is in the way.  They kind of fudged it that second day, just having me tilt to the right a bit, but that afternoon, I had to go to my plastic surgeon and have him take 120 cc's out of my right boob.  So it's now a size A, and it's so soft.  It almost - ALMOST - feels like a real boob!  It's all loose and weird-looking now.  And there is a glaring difference between the two boobs.  But I'll so whatever they need to get it just right.

However, yesterday, with my newly-deflated right boob, it was still in the way!!!  Ugh.  So here's what they did, and what they're going to do from now on - they used athletic tape, attaching one end on the left side of my right boob, and attaching the other end to the table.  They're going to tape my boob out of the way from now on.  It's weird, but no, I don't want my right side radiated if I can help it.  So I'll succumb to the indignity of it. :)  As Gordon on Thomas the Train would say, "Ohhhhh, the indignity!!!"

Gage really likes Thomas the Train.

Ya know, being taped to a table reminds me of a really funny story.  Wanna hear it?  I knew you would!! 

So.  I was pregnant with Dylan, and somebody rear-ended me while I was at a stop sign.  I don't know.  Some young dumb fart.  It really wasn't a big deal, but the ambulance dudes wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out, to make sure everything was alright with Dylan.  They had me lie on this hard, yellow board, on my back.  And they taped me to it.  My head, my feet, my legs, above my belly, below my belly...  I was like, "Um, guys, this is really unnecessary.  My neck hurts a little, but I really don't think you need to tape me to a board..."  However, they insisted, and I figured I could just deal with it during the ride to the hospital, and then they would untape me and let me lie on my side on a cushioned gurney or something. 

Oh no.  Once we got there, they wouldn't untape me.  They just set my board on one of those cushioney gurneys!  And I had to wait, like, three hours!  Ben was there with me, which I was grateful for.  After awhile, I started to get really nauseated, because Dyl was getting bigger, and you get sick when you lie on your back after the first couple of months.  The baby rests on an artery or a vein, or something like that, when you're on your back.  And it makes you really nauseated.  So I called out to the nurses and asked to be untaped, telling them that I couldn't be on my back for very long because I was pregnant.  They still didn't want to untape me until a doctor could examine me, so they just tilted my board to one side and put rolled up towels underneath the other side, to keep me tilted.  I kid you not.  As the time dragged on, I slid a little bit to the side that was facing down, the tape unable to hold my weight very well, but still securely fastened.  It was ridonk.  They eventually untaped me.  But it was really awful.  Haha!

So.  That's my story about being taped to a board, and that's my story about radiation.

I haven't felt any side effects of radiation.  My skin on that side sometimes itches, but I've been vigilant about putting the special lotion on it twice a day.  I can only use all-natural deodorant on that side.  Normal deodorant has aluminum in it, which messes with the radiation, I guess.  I can only use a very mild bar soap, like Dove, when I wash myself.  Body washes have alcohol in them, which is very drying.  I have to wash my natural deodorant and lotion off my left side four hours before each radiation treatment, also. 

They say that, in about a week, I'll start looking red, like I have a sunburn.  By the time I'm done, I may have blistering, as well as the sunburn thing.  But honestly, none of this will be as hard as chemo was.

Strangely, I got really sick the night after my first radiation.  My radiologist says that what I have been experiencing (stomach flu-like symptoms) isn't ever a side effect of the radiation.  I must have just caught a stomach flu bug.  Again.  It's kicking my butt, you guys.  Not as much as that one in December, but still.  Let's just say that I'm pumped full of Immodium right now.  I'm terrified that I'm going to poop my pants on the radiation table one of these days...

Oh, and in other news, dude.  I got a calling.  As first counselor in the Relief Society presidency. What in the what???  I couldn't be more surprised.  I'm brand new!  I don't know anyone!!  (Oh, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, the relief society is the women's organization of my church.)  And I can't remember anyone's names because of my stupid chemo brain!!  The Bishop told me he wants me to really ease into it.  He knows that the radiation might make me really tired, and he says that I should only go to meetings, conduct meetings, etc. when I feel okay.  So I won't do anything really major or full-fledged until my health improves.  It's nuts.  But I'm excited to work with the lady that's the RS president.  She is so fantastic.  A bit irreverant.  And about half as tall as me.  I just love her.  She wrote me letters the whole time I was in Idaho.  What a babe. 

Oh, and last piece of news - my hair is growing in!  A little weirdly.  A bunch of blonde peach fuzz on top, and darker hairs on the sides and back. 

So basically, I'm going to be looking like Friar Tuck pretty soon.  Oh, the indignity!!  Naw, I don't really care.  I'm just excited that my body is showing some signs of returning to normal.  Though my blood pressure is still really low.  Humph.  Boy, am I sick of that. And of the other gross things I can't talk about.  It's been six weeks since my last chemo!!  And I'm still having these side effects.  It's just crazy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

That one time my mom hit on Andy Williams.

A few weeks ago, at Christmas time, my mom and I were doing some dang project at the table and listening to Christmas songs on the radio.  An Andy Williams song came on. 

Now, I'm not familiar with a lot of non-rock 'n' roll artists from the sixties, but apparently, that was his heyday.  He sounds a lot like Frank Sinatra to me.  He was famous for singing "Moon River" on the Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack - a gorgeous song, in my professional Kar Opinion.  He's a handsome feller:
Look at those baby blues.

And, no, he's not that one guy from the sixties who sang really, really cheesy Christmas songs.  I don't know this other dude's name, but oh, how I hate him.  He sings "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," and it's the cheesiest thing I have ever, ever heard.  My Cheesiness Tolerance Threshold is very low.  Nicholas Sparks books and movies - fugeddaboutit.  I also hate romantic comedies.  Blech.  I like action films.  That's just how I roll.  Ben and I went to Taken 3 for our anniversary.  And I was thrilled about it!  (Liam Neeson kicks BUTT!!)

My mom says that Andy Williams also popularized "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  Which is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Ever since we sang it in 5th or 6th grade for our Christmas program at school.  Back when we could sing songs about Christ's birth.  Sheesh.  Lex sent me some videos of Gage's Holiday program at his preschool - they sang random songs about snowmen and stuff, and they sang Jingle Bells, because that doesn't mention anything religious.  And then they sang Happy Holidays to You to the tune of Happy Birthday, I believe.  It made me sad.  I don't know.  I mean, it's great that they had a program at all.  And I support separation of church and state, and I respect that there were probably a lot of kids in his class that were of other religions.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really love songs about Christ at Christmastime.  And I loved singing them in a school setting.  But times change, I guess.  I'll just make sure I play more religious Christmas songs in our home.

Anyways, I think that "Do You Hear What I Hear" is so magical.  And it's one of my faves. But I do have conflicting feelings about it.  At the end of the song, the king hears of Christ's birth, and he says of Christ, "He will bring us goodness and light."  Which is true, but didn't King Herod want Christ dead??  Isn't that why he originally sent the wise men out?  "Find this kid that everyone says will be the king of kings, and kill him!" I ignore that part of the song and focus on the magicality of it instead.

So when the Andy Williams song came on (I forget which one), Mom started chuckling.

"Did I ever tell you about the time I met Andy Williams?" she said.

"Wait, is that who sings this song?" I asked.


"Oh!  I thought Andy Williams was the name of that horrible cheesy guy who sings Walking in a Winter Wonderland.  You know?  How he changes keys in the middle of the word 'snow'?  He goes, "...snoooooo-OWWWW!!"  And he says in a speaking voice, "YOOOO-hoooo!"  And at the end, he goes, "...winter wonder, winter, wonderland..."  Man, I HATE that dude."

"Oh, um, no, Andy Williams is this guy who's singing right now."

"Well, good.  Then I like him.  And you MET him??"

"Yes!  At Sun Valley!  Our family was there, skiing, and I went over to the lodge to use the bathroom, and there he was, outside the lodge, waiting for his daughter."

"Were people bugging him?"

"Not at all.  Everyone was playing it cool.  And he was so nice!  He spoke to me first!  He said, 'What a beautiful day, huh?'"

"Really? That's so cool!!  So unlike when you met Clint Eastwood."

"Yeah, he was really mean to me."

"So what did you say in return??"

Mom started giggling.  "Wellll, I said to him, 'It is a beautiful day!  Say, would you like to come over to my car for some wine and cheese?'"

Then I started giggling.  "Um, WHAT?? You propositioned Andy Williams???"

"No!  No!  This is what my family did!  We'd take little breaks during skiing and ask friends or people we had met on the mountain to come back to our car for wine and cheese!"

[Let me insert here that my mom and her family weren't active in the LDS church at this time.]

"Well, he probably thought you were propositioning him, Ma.  How old were you? 

"Oh, 17 or 18."

"OMG, so you were this hot young thing, propositioning this major recording star!  Haha!  What did he say???"

"He looked a little uncomfortable and said something like, 'No thank you,' and wandered off to find his daughter."

Good for him.  A family man.  I like it.

What kills me about this story are two things:  1)  My mom accidentally hit on an older, famous, married man.  That's hilarious.  2)  How did I not ever, ever hear this story until now??  I've known my mom for 37 years!!  And it's a major, really funny story!  I shall certainly be telling this story down through the ages.  It's a keeper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Check out my new tats...

Soooo, sorry I haven't written in awhile.  I can't believe how busy I've been since coming to Oregon.

There's the little hugely daunting matter of unpacking.  Low blood pressure, plus muscle weakness, plus two flights of stairs... it's a big deal for me.  I still can't find my earrings or the books my friend mailed to me while I was in Idaho; I think my earring holes are going to grow in.  I just barely cleared a space up in the loft of our townhouse for the enormous couch that has been sitting in our garage since September.  (Our books hadn't been unpacked.  Nor paper nor pens nor any kind of desk supplies.  How does a person last four months without these things??  Men are different than women.)  I made Ben and Dylan carry the couch up these billions of infernal stairs last night, since I'm Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe right now.

Then there's getting Gage into a special preschool and some autism testing.  He starts school Wednesday.  He was never officially assessed for autism in Chicago, but lots of different therapists felt that was what we're dealing with.  He had an initial assessment last week; enough red flags were raised for him to get a very in-depth assessment in the next couple of weeks.  For  now, he has qualified for special preschool under Communication Delay.  If it turns out that he's on the autism spectrum, that "trumps" communication delay, and he may get more than three days a week at the preschool, plus he'll get more therapy services.  So we shall see. 

Then there's the ten billion zillion medically-related appointments I've had.  I counted; literally, 18 appointments in the past two weeks.  Most of them are for me; a couple were dental appointments for the ninos and an orthodontic appointment for Dylio.  I've had to find baby-sitters from my new (very awesome) ward, and often, I have to drive Gage 20 minutes to a baby-sitter, and then 20 minutes to the doctor's office, and then go pick him up, and then take him home. It's cray.  I'll be going to radiation every single weekday for 7 weeks or so.  I get kind of anxious thinking about it.

You know what else is cray?  How huge our ward boundaries are!  I had forgotten what it's like living in the "mission field."  I'll be driving and driving and going, "This is still my ward....I'm still in my ward....."  Very different than southeast Idaho or Utah.  It reminds me of our two years in San Diego. 

And can I just say that getting around Bend adventure?  All of the roads curve and change directions.  And they change names.  Like, every mile.  Neff turns into Penn, then turns into Olney.  We live on one side of a butte, so you would think that I could find my way home by just looking for the butte.  But it depends on which side of the butte I'm on. And all sides of the butte look the same.  (And every time I think the word "butte," I immediately think of the word "butt."  Yes, I am immature.  We live on Pilot Butt.  Hahaha!)  Needless to say, I use my map app on my phone CONSTANTLY.

And it's a little overwhelming just trying to keep on top of helping ninos with homework, doing laundry, making dinner, and supervising the ninos for their chores.  Example:  If I don't watch Dylan stack dishes, he literally just throws dishes in the washer and starts it.  Then I'll open it later to see 10 bowls tightly stacked together like they would be in the cupboard.  No water has gotten into each individual bowl.  Needless to say, he hasn't inherited my fastidiousness.  Which is fine.  I can't expect my kids to be me.  And there are a lot of things about being me that I don't want them to ever have. :)  But I do expect bowls to be stacked so that soapy water can get inside of them and wash them.  Haha!  Such high standards, right?

I'm also still suffering from some of the side effects of chemo.  It's weird; you kind of expect the side effects to immediately disappear when you're done.  But they keep hanging on.  I guess the chemo kind of builds up and builds up in your body, so when you're done, your body isn't necessarily done recovering.  It's mainly the muscle weakness and the low blood pressure that are obnoxious.  My hair still isn't growing, but that's the least of my concerns right now.  And then there are a few other side effects that are a little too grody to share.  I don't know how to spell that word.  Grodie?  Groady?  And when did anyone last hear that word?  The late 80's?  Haha!

Anywho, because of the overwhelmingness of all of this, I have felt myself slipping more into my depression.  I have to really baby my psyche.  If it gets overloaded, I start to be more angry.  (My depression manifests itself in anger.)  I've felt my anger build, and that's not good, especially when it's often directed at the kiddos.  So I went to my doc here and asked for a little bump-up in my meds for now, which she gladly did for me.  I hope it helps.  Because I have a really busy, potentially exhausting couple of months ahead of me.

So let's hop to the interesting radiation stuff.  I start next Monday.  It will be 20 minutes per day, every week day, for 33 visits.  I had to go to my new plastic surgeon last week - he took some of the fluid out of my left tissue expander, a.k.a. one of my Mountainous, Rocky Peaks.  (I can't wait to get my "real" boobs - three months after my last radiation.  So five more months of hurting people when I hug them.)  I guess the radiation makes the skin contract and tighten, causing a potential of, um, popping my left expander.  So he stuck his syringe in (I can't feel it. I have absolutely no feeling there.) and sucked out 60 cc's.  The next day, I went in for some radiation prep.  They gave me some sweet dot tattoos.  Wanna see?

Now, don't get all embarrassed.

Who knew that I would ever get fake boobs, botox (on my twitchy eye), and tattoos?  These things were not on my radar, but cancer changes everything. :) 

You can clearly see the tattoo that is right between the Mountainous, Rocky Peaks.  Where a normal person's cleavage would be.  I don't have a cleavage.  I have more of a little valley right there.  Actually, I never had a cleavage, so...

And then three or four inches above that dot is another one.  It looks like a freckle from this angle.  Actually, they all do.  From afar.  If you look closely, though, they look like little pieces of broken-off pencil lead under my skin.  I can't figure out how I know what that looks like - did that many kids that I grew up with get stabbed with pencils and have subcutaneous pencil lead until someone fished it out???  Or maybe it kind of looks like little teeny bits of gravel that get buried under your skin when you fall off your bike.  Maybe that's what I'm thinking of.  I had some bike crash doozies growing up.  My parents can tell you about the time I ran into a potato chip truck.  Or the time I was on my dad's handlebars and my leg got caught in his front spokes, and the bike did a front flip.

I'm surprised I continued to ride my bike after all of these incidents.  I suppose this really demonstrates me as a determined Type 3, huh, Shelly?? 

Anywho, there's another tattoo about three or four inches below the mid-Mountainous, Rocky Peaks.  And then there are two tattoos on each side of my body, where my drains from my double mastectomy used to come out.  You remember the infamous blood grenades, no?  I still shudder when I think of those danged things.

So the tattoos help the radiologists line me up correctly every time I go in. Are these tattoos permanent?  Yep.  Ah well.  I already look like Frankenstein.  No big whoop.

They also made me this cool, individualized pillow.  It felt like a bean bag pillow, right?  So they had me lie down and bring my hands over my head, with elbows bent, the hands just a couple of inches above my head.  Then they had me turn my head to the right, away from my left Mountainous, Rocky Peak.  Then they sucked the air out of the bean bag pillow, and it became hard as a rock.  And that is my mold that I lie in every time I go.

They also did a CT scan.  This time, I didn't have to drink a gross drink or have a weird IV that made me feel like I was peeing my pants.  I appreciated that.

I also saw a podiatrist, begged him to do foot surgery, and he said I have to try physical therapy first.  Sighhhh.  I hope it works.  He said to give it a shot for a month.  If I'm not feeling any relief, he'll do the surgery.  It's not a huge one.  It's called a Something Release and is an outpatient kind of thing.  I'm so skeptical of anything fixing my foot.  I've tried almost everything.  For a year and a half!  So, we'll see.

Oh, I also saw my Occupational Therapist.  She has to teach me about lymphedema.  It's this thing that sometimes happens to people who have had their lymph nodes removed.  Basically, your arm swells up really badly.  Because I've had my lymph nodes removed and am also having radiation, my chances of getting lymphedema are 50%.  So we'll see.  If I get a fat, swollen arm, I can at least console myself by saying, "Hey, at least I'm not dead."  So she'll teach me about lymphedema.  She is also certified to do physical therapy on my left arm - my range of motion has been affected by my surgery and the resulting scar tissue that has built up.  I'll have to see her a few times per week for awhile.

They say that my radiated area will start feeling and looking sunburnt in the second week of treatment. By the end of it, I may have blisters.  Sounds fun.  But I say that anything is better than chemo.

I had to go buy Dove soap - regular bar soaps and any body washes are too drying for the radiated area.  I also had to buy natural deodorant; regular deodorants have some type of metal in them and interfere with the treatment.  And I have to go buy an over-the-counter lotion/aloe combo that is supposed to be absolutely amazeballs.  I put that on my radiated area twice a day.

So, we're getting all revved up.  I've heard stories of the tiredness that you feel when you're on radiation.  Some have said it's nothin'.  Others have said they were as tired as they were when on chemo.  I'm going to have to just watch myself.  If I feel that I can't keep up with the demands of a busy mom of four, my sweet (and really hilarious and down-to-earth) Relief Society president has immobilized the troops to help me.  That's one of the many great things about the church - our women help others.  It's what we do.  No matter where you go.

Monday, January 5, 2015

My own personal Red Ranger

Have you ever read the book by Berkely Breathed, The Red Ranger Came Calling?  I was first introduced to it by some EFY counselor friends of mine back in the day.  I ADORE this book, partially because the language used is delicious.  (And very advanced.  Don't try to get your 1st grader to read it.  I think it's essentially a picture book for adults.)  And partially because the artwork is delicious.

It's a Christmas book, and it's really, really funny.  It's about this prickly pear of a boy who doesn't believe in Santa Claus.  My children demolished my copy long ago, something I still mourn.  I so wish I could find this one picture from the book on the internet.  This kid is sooooo mad all the time, and in this one illustration, his face is purpley red and all twisted up and just...amazingly gross and funny.  Alas, the only two pictures I could find online that kind of convey this kid's constant moodiness and anger are these two:

Why do I bring this up?  Because of Ben's recent attempt to give Micah a haircut and its hilarious results. 

We've talked about this, right?  About how Micah fa-reaks out when it's time to trim his fingernails or hair?  He swears that both kinds of trimmings hurt.  He screams.  Fights.  Cries.  Screams some more.  In fact, he started biting his nails on purpose to avoid getting them trimmed by fingernail clippers.  And it's not like we cut it to the quick or whatever it's called in humans.  We leave some white there.  It's nuts.  Some kind of sensory perception thing, I suppose.  My kids have sensory issues like CRAZY.  (They get it from their mom.)

So Micah's hair looked like...a baby chick who has survived a tornado.  That's the best way I can think to describe what it looked like.  And Ben was like, "Mike, we really have to cut your hair."  Micah immediately started screaming and crying.  I was busy cleaning the kitchen and happily let Ben have at it.  I don't have the muscles to wrestle that kid.  I'm horrifyingly weak.  It's awful.  I don't know if my muscles atrophied while I was so sedate for four months, or if this is one of the lingering effects of chemo.  But it's annoying as hell.

Anywho, I heard random snippets of the brawl upstairs.  

"Micah, it's just a haircut!  This is no big deal!"  


"If you'd just hold still, we could get this over with sooner."  


And so on.

The screaming stopped curiously soon, and I heard Micah pounding down the stairs.  He emerged, buck nekked, hysterically crying.


I hugged him and said, "Babe, your hair was looking really, really weird.  And you wouldn't let us comb it, so we had to trim it.  But, um, it looks like Dad's not quite finished...."


"Um, okay, but it looks kind of dumb..."

Let me show you.


He's the Red Ranger's (the prickly little boy's) doppelganger, no??  (In looks and in personality, wink, wink.  I mean, I luuuuuurve him.  But he's a prickly pear.  No two ways about it.)

The next night, Ben coerced Micah into letting him trim the top up so that he didn't look so...fountainey.  Micah quickly decided this would be a bad idea, and the screaming commenced once again.

I just shook my head and folded the clothes.

And the fountain is gone, thank goodness.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reunited, and it feels so good...

So...the reunion between Gage and me....not at all what I had pictured or hoped.  I went to the airport to meet him, my sister, and my brother-in-law.  Mikey went with me.  Ben, Sadie, and Dylan were still en route to Idaho.  My parents went to the airport, too.  When they came out of those doors and approached us, I saw Gage, I knelt down, and I gently said, "Gagie!" I opened my arms to have him run into them. 

And he ducked behind his uncle Chris and wouldn't look at me or touch me.

It was devastating.

I had a hat on, and we had FaceTimed so often that he had seen me bald and he had seen me with hats.  So it wasn't that.  He was just...weirded out.  Plus he had been up for a really long time and had flown for a really long time.  And he has autism.  Change, transition...these things are hard for him. 

I feel so guilty about this whole thing.  He's doing so much better than he was when he left, but sometimes I think, "Did this mess him up emotionally?  Is he going to have abandonment issues for the rest of his life because of me???"  But then he'll actually ask me, in a complete sentence, for something that he needs, and I think, "My sister did such a good job!  He has grown by leaps and bounds!!"  It's just so complex.

Anyways, it took him a few hours to warm up to me, and a few days, really, to get back to where we were when he left, but things have been great since then.  Right before we left - the passing of the child from the aunt to the mommy:

And no, my left pinky isn't deformed or broken.  I'm not sure what was happening there.

He did really well on the long drive to Oregon:

And he has settled in really well to our apartment.  He and Micah sleep on the third floor loft area.  It's a large room with the kids' Wii  and our computer all set up.  There's a couch up's nice.  Because the kids all spend so much time up there, and Gage likes to be with them, he really loves having all of his toys and his bed there.

Micah is also thrilled to be reunited with his siblings.  He and Gage got along for about....a day...and then they got back to their incessant fighting.  Micah is jealous of Gage's toys.  Gage is jealous of Micah's toys.  Neither will share.  It's fun for me.  But honestly, I'm not bitter about being back in Referee Mode.  My family is together!!! 

We have dinner together at the table!  We play games!

We snuggle!  I can take care of things while Ben is at work!  He, Dylan, and Sadie are glad to have me back.

I have to take little rests throughout the day still.  I mean, it's only been two weeks since my last chemo.  The first day we were here, I worked most of the day to organize and unpack things, and I started feeling really gross and had to rest for quite awhile in the evening.  Yesterday, I tried to rest a little bit more, and only collapsed into a heap at about 7:00 p.m. instead of 4:00 p.m. :)  It will just take time, and I need to be patient with myself.  This reminds me so much of trying to recover from my hysterectomy.  The pain from the surgery didn't last long.  It was just the sheer exhaustion that I felt afterwards that killed me.  It was a good two months of major resting.  My oncologist in Idaho told me that it would take about six months to really get back to the stamina I had before this whole thing began.

Things are in the works for me to see my new oncologist soon.  I've had to make a lot of phone calls and jump through a lot of hoops and do all that crap you have to do when you get new insurance and move to a new state - finding a primary care physician, getting a referral from him, blah blah blah.  But my dad and I chose an oncologist here in Bend long before I got here; we chose a health plan that had her in its provider network.  I'm supposed to start radiation in two weeks, so hopefully we can get things going soon.

I got lost yesterday trying to find the bank.  Haha!  But it wasn't entirely unpleasant.  Bend is adorable.  Evergreen trees everywhere.  Cute little craftsman-style houses.  Mom-and-Pop stores galore.  I think I'll really like it here.

The apartment...well, it's drafty.  It hasn't really gotten very cold here yet until the last couple of days, so it's taken Ben and the older kids by surprise, as well.  It's -10 today, and our ground floor is frigid.  It has like five windows, and a really drafty front door, so I think that's our problem.  I'm trying to find all of our blankets (Ben hasn't completely unpacked from clear back in September), and when I do, I'm going to literally tack them against the windows to help keep the heat in. We won't have much natural light, but at least it won't be like 55 degrees in our living room and kitchen.  It's weird living in a townhouse again.  The last time I lived in a townhouse, I was in college.  Lots of stairs, but that's good for the ole' quads.

I tried to get the Two Littles enrolled in school before Christmas break, but I haven't completed that process yet.  I was so sick and didn't finish the forms for Micah in time, so he may start school a day late.  Ah well.  An inconvenience, not an emergency.  And I couldn't get the lady at the special preschool to call me back, and she is off work all this week, as well, so Gage will probably start school a day late, too.  It will be okay.  I'm doing my best.  I'm really trying to watch my mental health, which means not stressing myself out about things not being perfect from the get-go.  I'm unable to hit the ground running.  So I'm hitting the ground limping.  Literally. Because my dumb foot is still giving me trouble.  So I'll limp along and slowly get everything ship-shape, eventually.

Kay, Gage just pooped in his pull-up, pulled a poo berry out of it, and tried to hand it to me.  So I'm on diaper duty (And yes, I need to potty train him.  Don't judge.  And remember that mentally, he's a two-year-old.  Baby steps.  I keep telling him that, if he poops in the potty, he can have a little wooden birdhouse like Micah does.  Oh, boy, does he ever covet that birdhouse.  Yesterday, he ninja pooped in his diaper, snuck into the bathroom, put the poo berries from his pull-up in the toilet, then proceeded to show me that there was poop in the toilet.  The kid has autism, but he is smart.  I had seen him sneak into the bathroom, but I hadn't seen him sit on the potty, so I knew his game.  I gently told him that I had to see him actually do it.  He understood that I was on to him and wisely let it go.). 

See ya!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Too scary for a little six-year-old.

So.  I spend a lot of time on the couch.  We've established this.  It comes with the territory.  The territory of chemo.  This territory should never apply for statehood.  It's not good enough to be a state.  It's a wild west, vigilante kind of desolate place.

Anyways, I end up watching a whole lot of really stupid kids' shows.  My personal top worst kids' show is Caillou.  He is such a WHINER!!  And I know he's voiced by some adult woman who just talks whiney and thinks she can pass as a little preschooler by doing that.  Not.  Caillou is a selfish punk.  Even though his name is cool.  But cool names do not necessarily a cool person make.

Narrator:  Caillou felt jealous.  He wanted his daddy to only pay attention to him, not to any of the other children on Caillou's baseball team.

Caillou:  Daddeeeeeeeee, I know you're the coach and all, but...I'm jealoussssssss!!!!!  Wahhhhhhhhh...

Even the lyrics of the theme song refer to his naughtiness:  "Growing up isn't so tough, except when I've had enough...."

Aw, you've had enough of your carefree life?  Your endless stream of snacks?  Not having to work?

Can't stand that kid.

Though I do need to give the animators of Caillou props for making his mom look like a real mom.  She's got a spare tire.  Because she has borne children.  Reality.  It's refreshing.

So now that there are some good Christmas shows on TV, and because Micah is the Holiday Man, I can usually talk him into switching from Horrible Caillou or Stupid Johnny Test (another hated cartoon of mine - "Hi!  I'm Johnny!  I'm selfish and use people and think it's funny to get crappy grades and play video games with my talking dog all day!"  *Shudder*) to a good kids' Christmas movie.

He's a huge fan of any rendition of A Christmas Carol.  He hasn't seen that one from the eighties with the weird, scary Gollum-like creatures that hang out under the Ghost of Christmas Present's fluffy robe.  Have you seen that one???  *Shudder*

So Home Alone was on the other night.  He was like, "It's not a cartoon.  I don't want to watch it."

I was like, "Babe, this show is seriously hilarious.  You'll love it.  I promise."  He said okay, and we snuggled in to watch.

As the danger to MacCauley Culkin increased with these menacing robbers casing his house, Micah started getting really agitated.  "Mom, I changed my mind.  I don't want to watch this.  I'm weally scared.  Can we watch something else???"  He started pacing and looking around for the remote.

"Oh, sweet, don't worry.  I've watched this show a ton.  Those guys don't lay a finger on him.  He is so smart.  He is going to kick their butts.  And it is really funny when he does."

"But why isn't his mommy there yet??"

"She's getting there as fast as she can.  Don't you worry.  And he has that nice guy next door with the beard that he can hang out with if he's scared."

Brow furrowed, he snuggled back in with me.  There were a couple of more times that he didn't think he could handle it, but ultimately, the blowtorch to the head, the iron to the face, the tar on the feet...he was giggling.

"You were wight, Mom! This show is funny!"

Then we pulled out A Christmas Story to watch.  Looooooooooove that movieeeee!!!  Micah had been playing a game on the iPad, but he eventually lost interest.  As he should.  Because this movie is the greatest.

But during that part when Ralphie just loses it, tackles Scott Farkus, and starts beating the crap out of him, Micah freaked out.  He started BAWLING.  He ran toward the TV, put both hands up to it, and shook them back and forth.  Then he turned around and blocked our view of the movie with his body, weeping and frantically searching the room for the remote.

"No!  NO!!  I can't watch this show anymore!  This is so scary!!!!  I can't!  I can't!!"

"Oh, kiddo, come here," I said.

He ran into my arms and tried to bury his face in my rock-solid weird boobs.  I rubbed his back.

"Are you scared because Ralphie beat up Scott Farkus?"


"But don't you remember all the times Scott Farkus hurt Ralphie and his friends?"

A pause.  "Yes."

"That didn't bother you."

"Well, it did.  It just wasn't as scary."

"Well, Ralphie was so tired of that, and he was so sad that he wasn't going to get that special gun for Christmas, and he just kind of...burst.  But look at Scott Farkus now - he got a little bloody nose, but he's not crying anymore.  And now he knows what it feels like to get beat up."


"And I'll bet he'll stop bothering Ralphie and his friends from now on, huh?  Look, I'm not saying that it was okay for Ralphie to fight Scott Farkus.  What do you think he should have done instead?"

"I don't know."

"Tell his mommy, that's what!!!  Tell his teacher!  Tell his daddy!  If anyone ever tries to hurt you at school or on the way to school, don't be like Ralphie, okay?  Tell me or daddy or your teacher or the counselor or the principal.  That way, nobody gets bloody noses."

Sniff.  "Okay."

It surprises me how tender this little man is.  Very, very sensitive.  It makes me feel badly.  I feel like I'm extremely careful about what I let my kids watch, and I thought I was playing it so safely...

By the way, at the end of Home Alone, where Macauley Culkin and his mom see each other at the base of the stairs and run and hug each other, I bawled like a baby.  It just...I don't know.  Macauley Culkin has these really big red lips, like my little Gagey.  And Gagey and I have been apart, and it's just been so awful, and I get to see him in two days!!  And I hope his face looks like Macauley's face does when I see him. I can't wait to hug and hug and hug him.  My little man.  Back with me again.  I can't WAIT!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No diggety. No doubt. Unh.

Kay, first, a little housekeeping.  Thank you, oakleyses, for ruining the fun for ALL of us.  As Oh said in The Year One, "Well, there won't be any berries in the fruit salad now, so we all lose."

Oakleyses, this...this person, or computer program, or whatever the heckfire he is, spammed me.  He put all of these stupid long-arse comments on here that just listed products for fancy-arse clothing and purse brands.  Like five comments on each post.  The d-bag.

Look, Oakleyses.  You have NO IDEA WHO YOU'RE MESSING WITH HERE.  I have gone to hell and come back.  And I will get up in your grill and cause you a world 'o' PAIN if you think for one MINUTE that you can get onto my teeny little piece of the internet, where my friends and I gather to enjoy some peace and fun and communing with each other, and ruin it!!!  I will find out where you sleep.  And I will find a way to insert the Red Dragon into your body.  And then we can see how you feel about stupid-arse Louis Vuitton bags or whatever the hell you're selling or whoever the hell you work for.  Can you sleep at night??  Really?  Is it really worth whatever they pay you to get onto a CANCER SURVIVOR'S blog and ruin it??????????  (Hint:  No, no.  It's not.)

And just so you know, Oakleyses.  My readers don't give a rat's ARSE about Coach Bags or whatever.  They have more substance than that.  I ain't no fashion blogger.  We talk about deep stuff and funny stuff on here.  We talk about raising kids.  We share our souls.  My readers probably have one purse that they got at Wal-Mart.  Because Dolce and Gabbana bags DOOOOOO NOTTTTT MATTERRRRRRRRRRR.

Now let me just say that, if you really love bags and choose to spend your money on them, good on ya.  I'm just saying that my bet is that most of you don't really care about that stuff.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be visiting my blog.  Am I RIIIIIIIIIGHT??

So.  Goodbye, Oakleyses.  You watch your back.  I'm not kidding.  I may be weak right now, but I'm scrappy.  Visualize Joanna's two seconds on screen in Mockingjay Part 1.  She's skinny and bald. Um, I'm fat and bald.  But the point is, she is ripping out that oxygen thing and getting ready to fight whoever is up in her grill.  That's me.  Picture me sneering.  And please picture me skinny.  I will punch you.  I'll sit on you.  Whatever it takes.  Get off my piece of internet.  Buh-BYE.

Sorry.  That lasted longer than I thought it would.  Phew.  I've got a lot of anger inside sometimes. As Sadie used to say, Saw-yee!  So now I have comment moderator turned on for my blog.  I'm sorry I have to put another obstacle in front of good, honest, nice people.  It makes me mad.  But we gotta do what we gotta do.

Now to the fun part.  No Diggety.  By Black Street.  Circa...I don't know.  1995?  1996?  My very hip sister, Nat, had the CD.  One year, in that 1995 or 1996ish time, we were given the assignment to wrap presents.  We were sick to death of Christmas songs by then, so Nat popped Black Street into the CD player, and we listened to No Diggety on repeat.  Really loudly.  I'm surprised my dad didn't put a stop to it.  There are some nasty verses in there.

Thus a tradition was born.  Every year, all through college, and whenever we got married and visited, we listened to No Diggety and wrapped.  And rapped.  Bwahaha!  We loved it like 18 years or whatever before Pitch Perfect made it come back.  When I studied abroad in London, we went to an LDS singles dance, and I requested it.  That is how long No Diggety has been a part of our family.

One of my favorite parts of the song (there are tons) is at the end, where each singer names his girlfriend or wife.  I mean, during the song, each guy talks about how cool his girlfriend or wife is. Which is awesome:

Sheeee's got class and style...
true knowledge by the pile...
baby never act wild....
very low-key on the profile...

Isn't that cool?  I love that.

And then at the end, each guy says his wife or girl's name:

Jackie in full effect.
Lisa in full effect.
Nicky in full effect.
Tomeka in full effect.

So, of course, we would yell each others' names during that part of the song.  "Nat in full EFFECT!  Brianna in full EFFECT!  Alexis in full EFFECT!  Karlenn in full EFFECT!!"  It was the best.  Of course, we played No Diggety at Brianna's wedding reception, and I was in dang China for Lexi's, but I have a hunch it was probably played at her wedding, too. [I will regret missing Lexi's wedding until the day I DIE.  It makes me want to cry.  Every day.]

I actually felt good enough to wrap some presents yesterday! This is a HUGE deal, you guys.  I got the flu with this last round of chemo, and I couldn't even sit up for like five days.  So the fact that I'm able to sit up yesterday and today is HUGE!!  It's funny what you become thankful for.  I'm thankful I can sit up.  So, since I couldn't wrap/rap with my sisters, I sent them a leetle video:
Warning:  I look really poofy from IV's and from the chemo.  I'm starting to not even care anymore.  I mean, the jig is up.  I don't have hair, dude.  Who cares if I'm poofy?  I'm alive.  So I sent it to the sistahs, and you know what I got in response?

Lex:  Karlenn in full effect.

Kar:  Alexis in full effect.

Nat:  Beej in full effect!

Beads:  Nat in full effect!!!

I love my sisters.  Merry Christmas, my loves.
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