Monday, February 23, 2015

Ben wanted to join the club. We should get jackets.

What did I tell you, way back in early July, about us?  Ben and I are hapless, plain and simple.  Bad luck.  :)

Soooo, when we arrived here in Bend at the end of December, Ben was getting ready to take a shower, and I saw this mole on his shoulder.  Now, Ben is a very moley person ("Moley, moley, moley..." What movie?), so I try to keep my eye on him.  I've had some suspicious-looking moles removed in the past, but upon biopsy, none of them ended up being cancerous.  My dermy wanted to play it safe, and I support that line of thinking.

So anyways, when I saw this mole, I said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Ben, you have a mole on your shoulder, and it's new, and it's scary-looking."  He was like, "Pshaw [does anyone ever really say that??  I've read it in books, and it makes me laugh so hard.].  No big deal.  I have moles."

"Babe, but this is brand new.  Like, developed in the last four months brand new.  And big.  And black.  And asymmetrical.  Need I go on?  You need to get it checked out."

I finally talked him into going to get it looked at.  The following photo isn't his mole (we were idiots and forgot to take a picture of it), but it's what it looked like.  Flush with the skin.  It was blacker than this one.  Asymmetrical:
Another reason this wouldn't be a picture of Ben's back is that his back isn't hairy.  Yet.  Haha!

So he went in, the doc agreed it didn't look good, and they cut it out and biopsied it.  Malignant Melinoma.  "The scary kind of skin cancer," as my sister puts it.  So Ben had to go back in last week and they had to dig more tissue out of his shoulder, all around where the mole had been.  It's a pretty big incision:
There is an inner layer of stitches, and then these ones on top.  When he went in for this procedure, his doctor told him that I saved his life.  I like the sound of that.  I saved my husband's life.  Haha!  So now, if I ever need anything, I can play the I-saved-your-life card.  "Babe, can you go get me some ice cream?  After all, I saved your life...  Hon, will you bathe the kids?  I saved your life, you know. The least you can do is bathe the kids..."

Joking, joking.  I'm not like that. :)

But yeah, the doc said that, given another year without having checked this mole out, Ben would have been at stage 4 and fighting for his life.  Unbelievable.  And really scary.  I'm so, so grateful that we caught it and that he's going to be okay.

The poor man's incision got infected a couple of days after the Large Chunk of Flesh Removal.  He went in again and got on antibiotics and powerful pain pills.  He was really hurting.  And I'm not going to even tell you how gross it was looking. Not going to even go there.  I gagged.  I will say that. I've had to be kind of his wound-dresser, since it's in a place he can't directly see.  It's gross.

Today is the first day that he's been able to say that he feels a teeny, tiny bit better.  Phew.

So yeah, we dodged yet another bullet.  I'm grateful.  So grateful.  Ben goes in this week for some kind of skin scan (that's fun to say) to make sure there aren't any more scary things going on.  They've visually checked all moles, and they seem to be fine, but they aren't taking any chances.  Which is good.

This is a weird line of thinking, but Sadie has been working on a project about The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  Who was never called Molly in her whole life, BTDubs.  She was named Margaret and called Margaret.  Anywho, Margaret lived in the late 19th/early 20th century, right?  Her parents had both been widowed, then met, married, and had her.  It reminded me of how often people used to die early back then.  I mean, my own great-grandma died at age 33 of some kind of infection on her cheek.  I'm always amazed at people from the past who were able to live past, say, 60 years old.  Like ole' Molly Brown.  She survived the sinking of a ship in arctic waters!  She later escaped this horrible hotel fire that killed hundreds of people!

And as I've thought about that, I've thought of what my family's fate would have been if we were living in the early 1900's.  Micah and Gage would have both died at birth (neither was breathing when they came out of me and they both needed to be suctioned and resuscitated).  And then Dylan and Sadie would have been orphaned.  It's just crazy.

And it kind of bugs me.

That I wouldn't have lived past age 60.  That I would have died so early on.  I know.  Weird line of thinking.  But there you have it. 

Kar's Cancer Update:

1.  I go to ten billion appointments every week.  And have to do ten billion pages of paperwork and bills related to the ten billion appointments.  I swear it's a full-time job.

2.  The hospital where I get radiation offers free Raiki, acupuncture, and massage to its patients.  So far, I've had one Raiki healing, and it was extremely relaxing.  I fell asleep.  I liked it.

3.  I have 2 1/2 weeks left of radiation left.  That's it!  My armpit and the area underneath it, on my side, is the most tender.  I mainly look like I have a rash/sunburn that is shaped like a large square over that portion of my body.  My armpit is beginning to look a little leathery.  You can see a little of the redness here:
I still have to breathe shallowly, and I still hate that part and get panicky.  But it's for such a short amount of time.  I'll be okay.

4.  I had my second herceptin IV last week. Still zero side effects on that.  Can I tell you how grateful I am for that?  So, 2 out of 17 done.

5.  I have occupational and physical therapy on my armpit twice a week.  She's been working on the scar tissue from my lymphadenectomy, range of motion, things like that.  We're keeping our eyes out for any signs of lymphedema.  So far, so good.

6.  I've been jogging and hiking!  I go a few times a week.  I would have never, ever thought in a billion years that I would feel this good again.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, and frankly, I'm loving it.  It feels so good to be outside, surrounded everywhere by junipers.  I love it here.

7.  Still some bladder issues.  I went to a urologist last week.  They did some tests and examinations, and he said that it was one of the chemo drugs in my cocktail - Cytoxin - that can have lasting bad side effects on your bladder.  He prescribed me a temporary medicine to help my bladder Simma Down-a.  He says that, in time, my bladder will heal and be happy again.  It's crazy that my last chemo was two months ago, and my body is still experiencing side-effects from it.  Nuts.

8.  I found out that my radiologist is a lesbo.  Who knew? Not me.  My gay-dar is horrible.  She has a partner and a toddler.  Just interesting information.  It doesn't change how I feel about her as my doc.  Other fun facts:  she thinks that I am hilarious and that I look like Charlize Theron.  Seriously not sure where she sees that comparison...  But I'll take it!  It's funny how much you learn about people when you see them for 20 minutes every single day.  One of the techs is from Bosnia.  She immigrated to Germany during the Bosnian war/conflict thingey, and then immigrated here.  She really loves going to concerts.  She has a crush on the lead singer of Train.  Another tech is engaged.  Another one has a really whiney voice, but she doesn't ever whine.  Does that make sense?  Another one gets deep tissue massages to help with her plantar fasciitis.  Swears by it.  I'm slowly starting to learn their names.  Chemo brain is still a big deal. They're nice folks, and when all of this is over, I'll genuinely miss them.

Kay, I have to gooooo!  Off to more appointments!  Check your loved ones' moles!  CONSTANT VIGILANCE! :)


Friday, February 6, 2015

Fake Lashes upon Fake Boobs

Kay, soo...I'm an idiot, and last week, to make an extremely long story short, I wasn't able to take my anti-depressants for two nights in a row.  Faulty pharmacy hours, my forgetfulness, etc. etc.

Do you know what happens when you go off your anti-depressants cold turkey?  Bad things, my friends.  Bad things.

Let me tell you a leetle story.

Our honeymoon.  January of 2001.  We go to Cancun.  Kar, being the idiot she is, forgets her medications, including her anti-depressants.  She starts having heart palpitations.  She's dizzy every time she stands up.  She's nauseated.  And she bawls uncontrollably at the smallest thing.

Ben must have been like, "What on earth did I get myself into here?...."  Haha!  Poor guy.  He truly is longsuffering to put up with the likes 'o' me.

Anywho, when we got home, I had my meds again, and all was right with the world.

So last weekend, I was a hot mess.  I had all the physical symptoms listed above, which made me feel crappy, plus I cried and cried and cried.  It would let up for awhile, and then something would set me off again. The kids arguing with each other.  Bumping my thumb on the cabinet.  Really stupid crap.

Sunday, the pharmacy didn't open until 10, and church started at 10.  It was important to me to be there, because I was going to get sustained in sacrament meeting and set apart right after it.  I tried to put on my Big Girl Pants and buck up.  I decided to go get my medicine during Sunday School.  No judgie.  Sometimes you have to buy stuff on Sunday.  When that stuff will make you stop crying nonstop and make you stop feeling dizzy and nauseated and like you're going to have a heart attack.

So of course, I cried all morning before church, but then I pulled it together enough to put on my makeup.  I decided to put on my fake eyelashes, because I have, like, three eyelashes left on each eyelid.  And like three eyebrow hairs.  Unfortunately, any hair I had left at the end of chemo continued to fall out when the chemo was all over.  I was warned of this.  Ah well.

I had practiced with them before and even wore them on my anniversary:
 They're hard to put on, and when you wear them, you feel a bit like this:
But I was sick of looking like a sick cancer victim, you know?  So I've worn them on special occasions - mainly on Sundays.  So I stuck them on and moved them around until they looked presentable and felt secure, and we headed off to church. 

Of course, because I'm a psycho without my meds, I cried all during sacrament meeting.  It was so dumb.  I'm really hoping people thought I was just really feeling the Spirit. 

At one point, Ben and I looked at each other at the same time, across the pew, with our kids between us, and I saw Ben do a double-take.  He started silently chuckling (he's so cute when he does that.  For reals.  I love his silent chuckling), and he leaned over and whispered to me, "Um, your eyelashes are on your boob."

Wide-eyed, I looked down, and sure enough, my left set of falsies was on my left boob.  I was mortified.  I whispered, "Is the right side still on??"  Still silently chuckling, he answered in the affirmative.  So I started bawling again as I plucked my fake lashes off my fake boob.  Like I said, the smallest things set me off.

As soon as I pulled it together, I told him I was going to the bathroom, and I grabbed my bag and headed out of the chapel.  Because I had also realized that I had put on a bra that day, and my right boob no longer fills the bra, and it was all lumpy and weird-looking on that side.  Sigh.  So I wanted to take it off and stuff it in my bag.  Which I ended up doing.

And you know what?  When I got into the bathroom and took a good look in the mirror, the right side fake lashes were already starting to peel off as well.  "Screw this," I whispered to myself.  And I threw them right into the trash.

Fake eyelashes kind of mess up your eyeliner, and since I didn't want to look any more of a freak show, I washed my eye makeup off and tromped back into sacrament meeting.

No more fakies.  I think I look just as well with some nice liquid liner, so that's what I'm sticking with.  But I think you should know that I have some new, little teeny eyelashes sprouting along my lash line.  And that's exciting.

As far as an update on all things cancer, here you go:

1.  Lingering Chemo Side Effects:  Still feel like I have a UTI all. the. time.  Still have low blood pressure.  Still feel like my tongue is burnt.  Not bad, overall.  The UTI-ish feeling isn't my favorite, but we're working on it.  And no, I don't have a UTI.  We've checked.  And checked.  And checked.

2.  Herceptin Side Effects:  None. Yessss!

3.  Radiation:  They're still taping my boob to the table. And now I also have to "breathe shallowly" during the CT scan they do every day before radiation and also during the actual radiation.  They tried to coach me on it.  It will prevent the radiation from hitting my heart and causing damage.  It's hard.  It makes me feel a bit panicky.  My lungs are just aching to take in a full breath, but I have to breathe shallowly for probably two or three minutes for the first part and two or three minutes for the second part.  I feel like I'm suffocating.  I'm thinking that forcing someone to breathe shallowly would be a good interrogation technique for the FBI.  Because it's torture.

As far as radiation-related fatigue, I just have to go to bed a lot earlier than I used to.  We're talking 9, 9:30.  At that point, my body just won't go anymore.  I used to stay up and watch TV with Ben until 10:30 or 11, but those days are gone. Someday I'll feel more peppy.

My skin is doing alright.  It's starting to take on a pink color and it's a little sensitive where my upper arm kind of brushes my armpit.  But it's hanging in there.

4.  Therapies:  I go to physical therapy once a week for my dumb foot injury, and some days I think it really helps.  Other days, I'm not so sure.  I go to occupational/physical therapy twice a week for my lymph node arm, where this lady kind of massages my armpit and manipulates it around.  It's very gentle and relaxing.

5.  The hospital I go to for all this stuff offers free Raiki, Acupuncture, and Massage for cancer patients!  I get to start that in a couple of weeks.  I can't wait!! 

6.  Hair:  Growing little stubby eyelashes.  Hair on my head is growing rather quickly now, and it's as soft as  baby's hair. I shaved my legs for the first time last week.  I've got to be honest - it was exciting!  Because it means I'm rejoining the human race and don't feel like such a freak show.

7.  Chemo Brain:  Still there.  Like crazy.  In Relief Society, I stood up and told the ladies that I was going to try so, so hard, and that I'm memorizing their faces and their personalities, but that my brain isn't doing names right now.  And of course, I bawled the whole time I was talking.  They must think I'm a piece of work!  Sigh.

8.  Oh!  And I got this intestinal infection called C. Diff last week.  That's what was making me so sick.  I'm on good medicine for it now, and I'm doing much better.  People who have received chemo often get it.  It's neat.  Not nearly bad as The Great Nor-Easter of December.  That was horrifyingly awful.  This was just...moderately awful.

I've felt a little annoyed at all the stuff I have to deal with physically and emotionally, but Pit Bull put it all in perspective for me as I listened to his new song in the car the other day.  He says, and I quote, "Any day above ground is a good day.  Remember that."  So thanks, Pit Bull.  It's true.  And I appreciate you reminding me of that.  Even though your songs are derogatory to women.  And I usually change channels when I hear you going, "Woooooo-OOOOOOO!" at the beginning of each of your songs.  I was having a weak moment.  Curse you and your infectious dance beats.
everyday above ground is a great day, remember that

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm...RADIOACTIVE! RADIOACTIVE!

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.

"Yeah."

"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 is...an 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!"  

"I HATE YOU!  I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!!  I HATE THIS WORLD!  I HATE THIS LIFE!"  

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

"YOU ARE THE WORST DADDY I HAVE EVER MET!  I'M GOING TO TELL GRANDPA!!  THIS HURTS SO MUCH!"

And so on.

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

"MOMDADCUTMYHAIRANDILOOKLIKEANIDIOTANDIHATEHIMSOMUCHANDIHATE
OREGONANDIHATETHISLIFEANDWHYDIDHEHAVETOCUTMYHAIR???"

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...."

"I AM FINISHED!  DADDY CAN'T CUT MY HAIR ANYMORE!"

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

Let me show you.


Yeah.

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 there....it'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!
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