Thursday, July 21, 2016

Earplugs

I remember first learning about sensory perception/processing disorder.  My adorbs friend, Shelly, told me about it - two of her kiddos have it.  It's really hard to describe; this is a spectacular article that really explains it in easy-to-understand terms.

Little did I know, when I learned about it, that I would have a child who would struggle with it.  Lots of autistic kids deal with sensory perception issues; Gage is hypersensitive in some ways and hyposensitive in some ways.  His hypersensitivities:

Loud Noises

Exhibit A - Fourth of July Fireworks


Bright Light

Exhibit B - at Tumalo Falls.  He might as well have been staring straight at the sun.  He will only wear sunglasses for a few minutes, and refuses to wear a brimmed hat.  Which leads us to....
Certain Fabrics

Exhibit C - at Richardson's Ranch near Madras, Oregon, in front of an enormous pile of lavender quartz - I die!  I am OBSESSED with rocks.  Anywho, notice the pants that Gage and Micah are wearing.  They refer to them as "soft pants."  Neither of them will wear jeans.

Certain Kinds of Touch

A light, tickling touch is unbearable to Gage, and sometimes he jerks his hand away from mine, or will arch backward when I try to bring him in for a hug.  But other times, he comes to me for a hug (he usually likes to back up into my legs to receive a hug.  Like a beeping, reversing FedEx truck.  Haha!) or slips his hand in mine.

His spirit animal is a cat, I think.  Only wants lovies when he initiates. :)  I'm not offended.  It's what he needs.

Now for Gage's hyposensitivities (a.k.a. He needs more input from his senses in the following ways - regular, day-to-day input isn't enough for him, and he seeks more):

Spatial Relationships and Moving the Body

Gage loves jumping, bumping and crashing activities... (bumper cars are a fave):

And deep pressure, like tight bear hugs.  I worked a lot in special ed this past spring when I was subbing, and we had an autistic kid who craved deep pressure.  There was a gymnastics mat - you know the kinds that fold up like an accordion, and then can be laid out flat?  And his favorite thing was being squished between two layers of those gymnastics mats.  His classroom aid would gently push on him from the top.  He was like the patty in a hamburger.

Spatial Relationships and Head Position

Gage is in constant motion.  He loves spinning around, rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, being tossed in the air (he loooves Ben tossing him high and onto our bed), and jumping on furniture and trampolines.  One of his first phrases when he finally started speaking was "Jump jumping!" which, in Gage Speak, was "I want to jump on the trampoline!"  We once had a trampoline.  And a yard in which to put that trampoline.  And a house which had a yard.  We had a lot of things.  Sigh.

Sometimes I get sad about that.

I digress.

So, as far as sensory perception disorder, there are kids who, when overstimulated, will cry, scream, get whiney, etc.  And then there are those who will avoid the thing which is causing distress, running away from the noise, hiding in a quiet room...  Gage is part of the first camp.  We find that, when he's getting overstimulated, the best way for him to "reset" is to do anything involving vestibular motion - the spatial relationships and head position thing I just talked about.  (And, BTDubs, my sister, Lexi, is the one who taught us ALLLLL of this stuff.  She works in pediatric physical therapy, dealing with lots of kiddos who have sensory issues.  She is amazing.)  He'll ask for "head squishes" - gentle squeezing pressure on his skull with the palms of our hands.  He'll start spinning around and around. He'll run back and forth between our front door and our back door, pausing at each door to jump up and down and flap his hands frantically.  He looooves rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, forward and backward.  Or he'll come for a hug and push to have both he and I rock dramatically left to right or front to back.  Or he'll jump on the furniture.

My favorite.  :)

I think all of us have a little bit of sensory stuff going on.  I find, as I get older, that I am more and more sensitive.  Something that has been off the charts sensitive for me, ever since chemo, is loud noises.  Gage's occupational therapist says it's very common for people who have had chemo, which I found fascinating.  I've done a little research on it, and it sounds like chemo will sometimes affect peoples' hearing.  A lot of people who have undergone chemo start to have hearing loss, but I haven't really read anything that definitively talks about hearing sensitivity and chemo.  But I believe the OT. She is sooooo wise, and has helped us so much.

For me, all of the small, background noises are the same as the important noises.  For example, my fabulous friend, Sara, took me out to dinner for my birthday back in April.  We were in a restaurant, and talking about this very topic, and to demonstrate, I said, "So that lady talking over there with her friend, the music over the speakers, the boy busing tables behind us, the cook frying things in the kitchen, and you and I talking, are all equally loud in my ears.  It's like the volume for all of them is turned way, way up."

I've read some things that say that the extreme stress that cancer treatment causes can make you more sensitive to noise, which I also find interesting.  That would describe the onset, but I'm trying to figure out why it's still hanging on.

Whatever the cause, it's obnoxious as heck.  I've kept earplugs in my purse for Gage when we're in loud restaurants, etc.  (He has a hard time keeping them in.  I need to just buy a pair of those noise-canceling headphones for him.)  But I find that I've started keeping a pair of earplugs for myself in my purse, as well.  And then I added a pair to my catch-all area in the kitchen.  Being Mom, I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen.  And our living room is right next to the kitchen, great-room style.  (Can a room that's, like, 30 feet by 15 feet be called a "great room"?)  Ben seems to enjoy watching TV at eardrum-bursting decibel level in the living room.  He also seems to enjoy tickling his children, which leads to them screaming either in glee (Gage) or dismay (Sadie).  Ben also gets hyper sometimes and loves to sing in a falsetto opera - one of these days, I seriously think he's going to shatter the glass of his big, honking aquarium which sits in our living room.  (I wonder if Ben is understimulated in his nice, quiet office all day and needs stimulation when he gets home...) Sometimes the kids will be yelling at each other in the living room. Or I'll have to put the fan on while I'm cooking on the stove top (which is as loud as a passing tornado, in my opinion).  And it's all I can do to keep from running from the house, screaming and tearing my hair out.  I'm a sensory avoider, as you can tell.

I use earplugs quite often in the car.  Because of the whole falsetto operatic singing thing.  And because Ben loves him some buttrock.  Or the kids will be yelling at each other in the back of the car. (They are particularly adept at yelling at each other.)  So I pop my earplugs in and slip off into oblivion.

I mean, I can still communicate with everyone while my plugs are in.  I just feel like they put the noises back in the priority they should be - I can hear my kids when they're talking to me, and it drowns out the TV/the kids fighting while they do dishes/microwave fan crap that should stay in the background.

Before it dawned on me to use the earplugs, I had to take little sensory breaks in my bedroom, covers over my head, door locked, hands squeezed over my ears.  I'm doing much better now that I've gots my beautiful little squishy, neon orange cylinders.

I also do yoga in my bedroom when things get a little too much.  It really helps.  My favorite is Yoga with Adriane on youtube.  She's fantastic.  I do yoga almost more for the mental side than the physical, I swear.  I just crave that peaceful, quiet place that it takes me.  All is right with the world when you've gotten your sweat on and are at the end of your workout, in savasana.

(How did they find this picture of me? As you can see, I've lost 40 pounds and grown boobs! You didn't know?  Weird!)

Psych.

Actually, it's time for me to do some yoga for spinal health, so I will sign off for now.

Namaste.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

It's Been Six Months!

Sooooo...I was visiting Idaho recently, and I had a few peeps ask me why I wasn't blogging lately.  I feel badly.  I mean, I really do love writing.  I just got so stinking busy! Whaaat was I doing, you ask? Oy vey.  So much.  So.  Much.

I think I told you guys that I was working on getting my Oregon teacher's license.  It took some doing.  I've got a provisional license for now - I have to take a couple of tests before next May in order to get the full, four-year deal.  Something to add to my checklist.  I'll get some downtime for a couple of months coming up here, so I'll have to figure that out, study for it, etc.  

I've been applying for jobs, but so far, no bites.  It's alright; I've talked to a lot of teachers around here, and it's pretty tough to find a full-time gig.  I started substitute teaching in April, working at least a few days per week, and it was crayyyyy.  It was such an adjustment to go from stay-at-home mom to working mom.  I was so tiiiiiiiiiired all the time.  But it really was nice being in the classroom again. I mainly got calls to sub in elementary school, and one school 45 minutes south of the city I live in seemed to like me and call me quite a bit.  That was nice - it's hard going to a different school every day, never knowing where you're going or what you're doing.  And I'm kind of okay not having a full-time job; I was able to go online and mark the days I couldn't work.  My kiddos and I have lots of appointments, so I could have the time off that I needed to take care of all that stuff.  So if it turns out that I don't work full-time, I think I'm okay with that.  They pay subs really well here, too, which is awesome.

My dance teaching jobs really started heating up this spring; I had to choreograph several numbers, make some costume pieces:
(poodle)
... make some set pieces:
(this was actually a work-in-progress picture of a fallen log set piece - I forgot to take a picture of the final thing!)
..... attend extra rehearsals, and run auditions for next year's placements.  I didn't mind this kind of busyness one bit - I LOOOOOVE teaching dance!!!  It has been so healing.  Such a rush.  To watch the girls on stage, performing something that I created??  It's so emotional and incredible. 

I can't ever, EVER go back to not dancing.  It's as important to me as breathing.  And working with kiddos in a teaching capacity?  Count me in!

Dancing hasn't made my foot problems any better:

But I think an attempt to jog again really was the final nail in the coffin.  I not only worsened my plantar fasciitis, but I developed a nasty case of posterior tibial tendonitis.  I've had constant physical therapy, I have to tape it up every time I'm active, I wear orthodics, I do the stretches and strengthening exercises...  What has finally provided me some relief is this new therapy that's not covered by insurance, called EPAT.  Electrical Pulse Something Therapy.  The doctor uses this wand thingey, which taps your foot over and over with an electrical current.  It hurts a little bit - not too much.  The idea is actually to create inflammation, which is weird.  Everything I had done in the past was to reduce inflammation.  But to create inflammation stimulates your red blood cells to really go to work trying to heal the area that's been electrically shocked.  I've had more relief with this therapy than anything else I've tried!  I'm grateful.  I still have to baby my foot, though.  No more jogging for me.  I've started doing a lot of yoga.  I need to start swimming laps, or maybe try to get into spinning again.  

Micah really wanted to try ballet this year; he really loved it until about January or so.  It takes away his precious time with his friends, you see?  He fought me every single Monday night about it, but by January, he had already been given a part in a number - Prince Charming for Cinderella.  I told him that he had to finish it out, since the other kids were counting on him.  My boss actually taught his class and cast him in that role, but then we combined her class and mine, and she asked me to choreograph the number.  I created a little pas de deux to do with the little Cinderella.  It was so cute. He really struggled to learn his part, even until the very last rehearsals. 

Which makes sense.  We had him tested this spring by a psychologist, just to kind of pinpoint what it is that causes his rage; but I also had the psychologist check to see if there was dyslexia or some type of learning disability - he still really struggles to read, even the easiest of words.  So the final verdict: He has dyslexia, discalcula (dyslexia with math), a processing disorder (an inability to process, interpret, and retain what a person learns), and some kind of mood disorder - she thinks he may have the early symptoms of bi-polar disorder, but we'll know more about that when he goes through puberty.

Was it hard to learn these things about Mike?  Not really.  I already had my suspicions about all of these conditions; as his mommy, I probably know him better than he knows himself.  And this Micah, the Micah who struggles, has always been.  It's not like he was doing great one day and then suddenly not doing great.  He's struggled since the day he was born.  I don't know any differently.  I think I've mourned more for Gage than with Micah; Gage seemed perfectly normal until 14 or 15 months of age, and then suddenly, my sweet baby was gone, and my autistic son emerged.  I still struggle with that.  But Micah has always been...enraged.  Difficult.  His meds take the edge off; he's gotten a little more aggravated this summer, as he's spent more time with his siblings, but he's doing alright for now.

Cancer Stuff:  So, I've only recently figured something out - these bouts of horrible, horrible...ah...dysentery (wink, wink) would happen almost two weeks to the day from each Herceptin infusion.  Not every time, but maybe every other time.  I never really put two and two together before.  In fact, I had a really bad bout two weeks after my very last infusion.  It was so intense, and my dehydration so swift and violent, that I started having seizures.  I was hospitalized overnight, and glad to be.  It was really scary.  I haven't had any more problems with that ever since February.  Thank goodness.

I see my oncologist (Dr. Existential Crisis - seriously, we discuss religion and life and God every time I go in) every six weeks or so.  He still insists that we don't need to do any scans on me.  I guess this is kind of the new thing - you can get more accuracy by feeling for new lumps or changes. I think that, if I had stage 4, or we hadn't gotten all of the cancer out with the mastectomy, we'd be doing scans.  I'm okay with it.  They flush my port every six weeks when I go in.  My local surgeon (Dr. Pirate) checks my chest every couple of months for any weird-looking changes or anything alarming.

Something new, and obnoxious that happened:  In March, when I saw my Portland surgeon, we scheduled my surgery for July 14th.  We scheduled my last pre-op for the day before surgery, and we even scheduled my post-op appointment.  Ben has a client with an empty apartment in Portland, and he offered to have us stay there after surgery.  I was to stay in the hospital for four days or so, but still stay in town in case anything bad happened, for the next seven days, Ben taking care of me.  Ben's mom was going to come down and be with the kiddos during that time, Then my mom was going to come out for two weeks, for when we came home from Portland.  She had bought the plane tickets and everything.

You can tell something bad was about to happen, right?  That's Foreshadowing, baby.  So I get a reminder call for my pre-op a couple of days before, we're all ready to go, Ben and I drive over there, we get to the pre-op appointment, and we meet a nurse.

"So, Mrs. S, I see here that you are allergic to Omega 3 Fatty Acids?"

"Um, what?"

"You're allergic to fish oil, right?"

"Uh, no.  Not at all.  Not in the least."

I should have known something was wrong right then and there.

So we figure out that I'm, in fact, not allergic to fish oil, we update my med list, etc.  Then the Physician's Assistant comes in, he makes sure I had pre-op photographs taken (I did back in March), asks me if I have any questions.

I say, "Yeah.  Uh, when am I supposed to check in at the hospital tomorrow morning?"

"Um, what?"

"You know.  For my surgery.  Tomorrow morning.  Here."

"I have you down for August 4th."

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT???"

You get the idea.  So, um, somehow, the scheduler back in March had scheduled my pre-op and post op, but apparently, not my surgery.  My surgery was given to some other lady.  Frown.  I burst into tears and cried for a good two hours.

The PA had my surgeon come over from the hospital (an airbridge away) to try to clear things up, but there was nothing she could do.  According to her.  We asked if she could maybe do my surgery in a couple of days?  Nope. Her partner (this surgery requires two surgeons) will be on vacation then, you see.  For a good two weeks.  Ben and I explained that people had driven for hours to help, that people had bought plane tickets.  Nope, nothing doing.

I was devastated.  I cried and cried and cried.  Looking at it now, it's not THAT big of a deal.  I guess it's just....I have been waiting for two years to be made whole, you know?  To have my final step pushed back, even by only three weeks, was hard.  And I felt really badly about my mom's and mother-in-law's sacrifices and expenses.  Sigh.

And then there's the issue of recovery time.  I've been told it will take two months; which is why I scheduled it for the summer.  The new date - August 4th - will push my recovery into the new school year, which will affect my ability to substitute teach and to teach dance.  C'est tres frustree.

Ah well.  I have to keep reminding myself that at least I'm alive.  And I'm sealed to my family.  (If that sounds weird, I'm a Mormon - look up sealing on lds.org!  Good stuff!)  And my mom, after four hours on the phone, was able to switch her flight without a penalty fee.

As a consolation prize, Ben and I ate at an amazing place in Portland called Tilt:

We went to the temple trip:
(More Mormon stuff!  lds.org!  Look up temples!)

We slept one night in the fabulous apartment with a beautiful view:


And I got a proper cut and color, by someone besides Great Clips and myself:
I loooove it!

And I get three more weeks of summer fun before becoming, yet again, a Couch Person.  The apartment will still be available in August, as well.  So it will be alright.

Kay, I've gots to go.  Hopefully I'll write soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Anti-Climactic Milestone

Ay carUMBA, why am I blogging when I have dance lesson plans and choreography to work on??? And dishes and laundry to do?  And jogging to suffer through?  And a dear relative's book-in-progress to read and to provide thoughtful input upon?  Why am I blogging, with so much to do?

'Cause I miss writing.

I'm just going to have to schedule writing on my blog like I have to schedule my daily workouts. And my daily scripture study.  Which, strangely, is going swimmingly.  I've had a lifelong struggle keeping my scripture study consistent.  I think I subconsciously made a New Year's Resolution to do so.  (I refuse to make real live New Year's Resolutions.  Because, invariably, I fail, and then I feel crappy about myself.  Just trying to save myself the negative self-talk.  I have to be a good caretaker of my psyche, and this is one of the ways I can do that.)

So anyways, guess what?

I am DONE WITH ALL CANCER TREATMENTS FOREVER AND EVER AMEN!!!  It really is a huge deal.  I remember when I was in the throes of chemo, back in Idaho, more than a year ago.  I was sucking on ice chips during one of the medicines in my cocktail - was it taxotere?  Adriamycin? Cytoxin?  I had to suck on popsicles or ice chips during one, and I had to put  my fingertips on ice packs during one...  I honestly think I've mentally blocked a lot of that miserable time out of my mind.  As well I should.  It was THE worst thing I've ever gone through.

Anyways, back to my story.  I was sucking ice chips, and a really cute gal with very short but curly hair came in.  She sat in the recliner next to me, and we got to talking.  She was there for one of her herceptin treatments.  She had the same exact cancer as me - HER2+.  She had gone through chemo for four months, just like me, and radiation for two months, just like I would, and had a couple of herceptin treatments left.  I remember looking at her hair and thinking, "In a year, my hair might be that long!!"

As she got situated in her chair, a nurse and her doc (who was also my doc) came into the infusion room, enormous smiles on their faces.

"Hey, Bonnie [I just picked this name because I can't remember her real name, and I just read an article in the Ensign that quoted a lady named Bonnie], guess what?" Doctor Who Doesn't Really Care if You're Dying of Dysentery-Related Dehydration said.  [I picked this name because, well, the name really explains itself.  The dysentery-related dehydration hadn't happened yet, because I was only halfway into my treatments.  The fun was soon to come.  I'm still a little pissed at DWDRCIYDODRD for the not-caring stuff.  My oncologist here actually gives a rat's arse about me. Mainly.  I'll get to that in a second.]

"What?" responded Bonnie.

"We miscalculated!  You don't have to do any more treatments!  You're done!  You've done a year of herceptin!  You're outta here!!" crowed DWDRCIYDODRD.

And sweet Bonnie burst into happy tears.

I yelled, "Get over here and give me a hug!"  Because I couldn't go to her, since I was all hooked up to tubes and might have even had my hands on these ice pack thingeys.  She obliged.  (We had only spoken for a few moments, but we had bonded, as all cancer sufferers and survivors immediately do.) And I might have shed a tear or two for her.

I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm done with my last herceptin infusion, I am going to be so emotional!!!  I'll cry and cry and cry!!"

So,  yesterday, when almost the exact same scenario happened to me (I found out after my treatment yesterday), all these months later, I was surprised that not a tear was shed. (By me.  My cute chemo nurse cried.).  I blame it on my anti-depressants.  Those things are strong.  I still feel extreme joy and extreme sadness, but you won't see one tear dripping from this eye.  That's just how it is.
I often think (because I think really weird thoughts), Man, if I was an actress, I'd have to go off anti-depressants.  Because you gotta be able to cry when you're an actress.  Nobody would hire me. Haha! Like I could ever be an actress!  Even when I wasn't on anti-depressants, in high school drama, I had a hard time conjuring up any kind of tears.  Of course, the only serious play we did was written by my drama teacher, and boy, was it crappy.  It was called Castle Dracula.  The dialogue, plot....heck, everything, was really ridiculous.  A sample of a line I had to scream:  "Stop killing my FRIENDS!!!" With such crappy material, I had no choice but to use the old vicks-vapo-rub-on-the-fingertips trick. Oh, you don't know that trick?  Weird!  Kay. So, you dip your pointer finger and your thumb in Vicks before you go on stage for the scene in which you'll have to cry.  And then, when it's time to cry, first, you put your finger and thumb into where your tear ducts are, like you're pinching the bridge of your nose in frustration and angst.  Or, you cover your eyes while your mouth starts fake trembling, and really, you're smearing Vicks all up in your eyes.  And then you can cry like a baybay.

Tricks of the trade, dude.

Anyways, so yesterday, when I found out I was totally done with cancer treatment, I was just mainly...joyful.  Smiley.  Giving hugs to all my chemo nurses.  Joking around.  Partially because I can't cry, but also because herceptin was a cakewalk.  I had zero side effects from it.  I've felt fantastic, really, since fall or so.  I had my ups and downs last spring and summer, but I think that was just my body trying to climb out of this hole that chemo and radiation had thrown me into.  But since September or so, I'm gooood.

I think that, if the end of chemo had been the end of my cancer-treatment journey, I would have been very emotional.  Because it was so horrendous.  Also, my journey isn't quite over just yet.  I have to tackle the enormous Reconstructive Surgery Beast this summer.  Maybe when I'm done with that, I'll cry those tears of joy.

So, yesterday, though I didn't give an Oscar-worthy crying performance, I still wanted to celebrate. Because it really IS a big deal!  No more cancer treatments, ever!  You know, unless it comes back. But I don't like to think that way.  And you know me - I like to partay.  So I put up a general announcement up on facebook yesterday - "Yay!  I'm done!!  Someone should throw me a party!"  I didn't mean that someone should actually throw me a party. 

But wouldn't you know it?  My good friend Sara saw that post and threw me a fantastic, impromptu dinner party at her house.  We had barbecue chicken sandwiches, intoxicatingly yummy strawberries, and adorable pink mini-cupcakes.  She also got me some pink tulips and a balloon.
Such a cool surprise!  Thanks a million billion, Sara!!

Oh, and we can't forget the small celebration my kids and I had after school yesterday.  My nurses had given me a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling apple cider (and a little certificate), so I left it on the table so that the kids and I could celebrate together.
When they got home, Sadie yelled, "Mom!!  What are you doing with WINE in our house?!?"  I can't figure out why on earth she would automatically think that I had decided to start drinking, despite her ten years of experience with her teetotaler parents.  What in our experience together makes you think I would start drinking now?  And put a bottle of wine on the table to trumpet my announcement to all the world??

After I assured the ninos that I had, in fact, NOT decided to start drinking, and that this was just fancy apple cider, the kids were eager to try it.  "Look, Mom!  I'm drinking WINE!" said Sadie, holding the bottle up to her mouth.  I chuckled, then popped the lid off and poured each kid a glass.  Gage drank his quickly, then said, "Mommy, I want some more bee-yah!" [Gage's pronunciation of "beer," apparently.]  Haha!  It was funny.

He even wanted to clink cups with Sadie and say, "Cheers!"
I don't know where he gets this stuff, I swear!

Anyways, reaching this milestone really made me want to throw caution to the wind and get my reconstructive surgery done ASAP.  I mean, physically, I can do it the second I want to, now.  But after talking to my mom about it, I've realized that this DIEP Flap thing is going to be a huge, hairy beastmaster of a surgery.  I will be down for the count for a solid two months.  I can't do it right now. I have dances to choreograph and dancers to teach.  I'll just have to be patient for five more months. Sigh.  And THEN I can feel like I'm done and can move on with my life.

I'm planning on getting my port out when they do my surgery, so until June or so, they have to flush my port every six weeks to prevent blood clots.  Yikes.  Bikes.

When's my first scan, you ask?  Oh, um, NEVER.  Which is where the my-new-oncologist-may-not-give-a-rat's-about-me-either comment from above comes in.

Sooo, um, I guess most oncology practices don't do scans anymore, unless there's a reason to do a scan.  They assume that all the crap you just put your body through for a year and a half did its job. If you get new pain, or a new lump, or weird blood lab results, then they do a scan.  Until then, you just...hope that this nasty thing that was killing you is...gone??  I don't know.  My doc, GLIHYDGIA [Good luck!  I hope you don't get it again!], said that studies have shown that getting scans every three months is equally as effective as paying attention to new pain, new lumps, weird lab results.  So why do it?  is what they're saying.  I gave him a good answer to that question:  Um, so that a gal can get peace of mind. So that she has scientific proof that the cancer is gone.  He said, "We KNOW your cancer is gone.  Your scan after your mastectomy showed that!"  Then I said, "Um, then why did I just go through all this HELL??"

As you can see, we had a very frank conversation, and basically, he gently and kindly said that his practice doesn't do that.  That he's had a few women go to a different doc so that they can get that peace-giving scan can be performed.  I know how my parents feel about it - they want scans.  I don't know.  I mean, I'm not the oncologist, you know?  I trust that he knows his stuff.  He has been a fantastic doctor.  He gives his patients his cell number so that, if, for instance, you think you might be dying of dysentery, he can help you.  I really do trust him.  But.... I don't know.  So for now, I'm going to maybe do some research and see what I can find out about this new way of thinking about post-cancer care.  I don't know.  What do you guys think?

Kay, I have to take off and make a lesson plan for tonight's beginning ballet class.  Ciao!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Giving of the Thanks

My title is a reference to how a character on my kids' favorite cartoon show speaks.  Her name is Starfire, and she's from another planet.

Micah is besotted by her and tries to talk like her as often as possible.  It drives me bonkers.

Soooooo, how's it goooooing?.....Um, yeah, I'm a slacker.  Or, more accurately, I'm crazy, crazy, crazy-busy.  Sorry for the lack of posts.

Some updates:  I've decided to apply for my Oregon teaching certificate and get a job teaching school again.  The bottom line is that one income isn't cutting it for us, at least here in Oregon.  I can only think of....one woman that I know here - ONE! - who is able to be a stay-at-home mom.  The rest have to work.  That's just how it is here in Bend (and actually, that's how it is in a lot of places nowadays).  As I've fasted and prayed to know the Lord's will for me, I've felt impressed to go down this road.  I can't completely let go of teaching dance, but I will have to cut down a bit so that I can be home more.  And that's fine.  Making sacrifices is part of growing up, no?

Luckily, teaching is a great profession if you have kids in school.  You're gone while they're gone, and you get home when they get home.  More or less.  Teaching is also a great profession if you want benefits whose monthly premium won't bankrupt you, amiright??  And if you want to have any kind of retirement plan.  These are pretty important things that we're lacking right now.  So I'm-a pull up my bootstraps and DO this thing.

Unbelievably, c'est simple to get my certificate updated and transferred to Oregon.  I can't believe how simple.  I've double- and triple-checked.  I'm just waiting on an official transcript, along with a licensure verification letter from Utah, and I'm good to go.  I got fingerprinted and everything.  Did you know that women's fingerprint lines are thinner and finer than men's?  Something I learned at the ole' police department.  That fingerprinting dude was a chatterbox.

I think I'll probably substitute teach while on the job hunt.  It's a good way to make some money and get your foot in the door.  Here in Oregon, you can't be a substitute teacher unless you have an Oregon teaching license!  Isn't that interesting?  That was definitely not the case in Idaho.  And subs get paid much better here than in Idaho, which is a good thing.  They actually get paid better than actual teachers!!  But I'm still going for the full-fledged teacher thing, because of the whole benefits-and-retirement thing.  And because I do NOT like flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to know my students, I want to make the lesson plans, and I want to teach those plans.  I'm a planner.  Big time.

I feel very peaceful and...dare I say...excited??  I really think that these intervening years, while I have stayed at home to raise my ninos, have brought me more maturity (don't laugh), along with the experience of being a mother of a certain child who shall remain nameless who doesn't give a rat's about his grades.  And the experience of being a mother to a child with ADHD, a child with anxiety and ODD, and a child with autism.  When I was 23, I had NO idea what these parents go through.  And now that I'm a mommy, I really do want to be kept in the loop.  I want to know what assignments Dylan is getting and how he's behaving in class.  I want that connection that I was kind of lackadaisical about keeping when I was a childless young woman.  I think I've learned to hold my tongue better, and I think I've gained more self-control.  I think I'm going to ROCK this thing this time around.  And I'm excited.

And yes, I will be like a zombie.  Teaching sucks the life out of you.  I remember well.  But this is what I went to school for, and this is what will help take my family to where we need to be.  We've been living paycheck-to-paycheck for as long as I can remember, and I'm just....DONE.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving this year; Ben's mom and stepdad came down from Washington for a few days.  This is the first time in a LONG time that I haven't shared cooking duties with my sister and my mom, and daaaaang!!  I cooked for two days straight!!  Vivienne Leigh and Olivia de Haviland kept me company the day before Thanksgiving; I watched Gone with the Wind twice - with commercials!!  I never get sick of that movie.
Oh Scarlett, you fool...

Actually, I did have help with the dinner - my sweet mother-in-law helped me with preparations the day of, and my good friend, Costco, provided the pies.

And, slacker that I am, I forgot to take pictures of us eating our bounteous feast.  Sigh.  But I do have one of us swimming at my in-laws' hotel:

Note my flat butt in Full Effect.

And standing outside their hotel room, with the Deschutes River behind us:
Methinks I'll probably use this picture for our Christmas cards this year, since my darling friend Megs doesn't live in town to do our family pictures anymore (sob).

My in-laws got to see me teach dance one day:
Doing standing panches. Ah, I love those darling little girls.  I love my job.

They got to see Dylan play goalie on his indoor soccer team:

We also went to see The Good Dinosaur.  I cried.  Like, a lot.  I had run out of anti-depressants the day before - it's amazing how swiftly the lack of meds affects me.  I also had an enormous giggle fit in the car on the way home from the movie - also a withdrawal symptom.  As well as heart palpitations and nausea.  Good times.  I'll have to tell you sometime about that one time when I forgot my anti-depressants ON MY HONEYMOON.  Ben and I need a re-do of our honeymoon, for sure. The poor man was probably like, "What have I done???  Biggest mistake of my life!!!"

Luckily, I was able to get a re-fill, and I bounced back within a day or so.

Oh, and we also went to this fun center place - bumper cars, bowling, and arcade games:



The kids had a blast.  Thank you so much for spending your holiday with us and for all the fun things we got to do, Greg and Gloria!!We love ya tons.  And how on EARTH do I not have any pictures of you guys??  Man, I'm a jerk.

Welp, I have to sign off - we got a foot and a half of snow last week, and Gage's bus can't make it up the hill to our place yet - it's like the freakin' luge up here.  So I have to walk down the hill to get him. Au revoir until next time!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Duuuuude.

Man, I'm so sorry!  Let me just tell you first off that my scan turned out AOK.  The weird blister/scar tissue thingey on my left chest ended up not having cancer cells in it.  I guess the test they did - called a Fine Needle Aspiration (really, it seems like a biopsy to me) - is 97-98% accurate, and because of that small margin of error, to be on the safe side, my doc is going to monitor it every six weeks or so to make sure that it doesn't grow or change.  I see him again in...two weeks or so.  Doctor Pirate.  Maybe I should bring him a larger hoop earring as a gift.  Wink.

So yeah, I left a lot of you hanging out there.  I had put a post on my Facebook wall, where most people who know me were able to see it, but I realized, after a reader I don't know found me on Facebook to ensure that I was okay, that I left people high and dry.  And for that, I apologize.  I sometimes forget that it may not only be my close friends and family who read this thing.

And I'm so sorry for lack of posting!  Sometimes I get into an anti-posting funk.  And sometimes I'm really, really busy.  Both are the case for me right now.

Yes, I have started my dance teaching jobs!!  Here is one of my "offices":


A nice, big space.  Ideally, I'd want different flooring and more barres, preferably fixed to the wall, but I'm just happy to be dancing, you know?  Adjusting to dancing 7 hours a week is interesting.  I was really, really sore at first.  Heck, I'm sore now!  Which is the way it is when you dance.  Depending on the moves you're doing that day, you'll be sore the next couple of days in the weirdest places.  My knee was sore after doing a move in the yoga pigeon pose when I taught lyrical this week.  My abs are sore from leading those same girls in a core workout.  I've lost some weight in the past several months, so my pants are loose in my waist, but now they're becoming exceedingly tight in my legs.  I think my muscles are getting bigger and bulgier thereabouts.  Which is good.  My inner thighs have been woefully fat for the past several years.

Ben is doing a great job with the kids on the evenings that I'm gone, getting their homework done, getting them bathed, etc.  I'm just...so happy doing what I'm doing.  I probably should get my teaching certificate updated for Oregon, but... it just doesn't feel right.  After all, for the first time in my entire life, a year and a half ago, an actual audible voice in my head told me, "Teaching dance is what you were meant to do."  And I'm not talking about a voice like a schizophrenic would hear.  (I do have mental illness, but it's not schizophrenia!)  I'm talking about the Holy Ghost.  Usually, the promptings from the Holy Ghost come as impressions in my mind and feelings in my heart.  So this answer to many prayers at the time hit me hard.  You hear a voice from the Lord, you follow it.

And hopefully my meager earnings will help us muddle along.  It alarms me more and more how little we're making, and how much more the cost of living is in Bend compared to Idaho Falls.  It's killing us.  I feel like we've backpedaled ten years.

I don't know.  I'm starting to realize even more fully how blessed I was growing up.  I keep comparing Dylan to where I was at his age.  He's 12 and living in a cramped apartment with no yard.  We can't afford to put him in extracurricular activities.  In fact, he has to baby-sit for about 45 minutes each day between when I leave for work and when Ben gets home.  When I was 12, I was living in a roomy house with a huge yard and taking dance lessons, which were extremely expensive.  I had no idea how good I had it.

I just worry, so much, about any detrimental effects our lack of fundage will have on our kids.  We won't be able to help them fund their college tuition, or maybe even their missions.  To say that it's extremely humbling is an understatement.  I'd say it's more...soul-crushing.  I just have a lot of guilt.

Which is why I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't work at the vocation I went to college for.  Maybe I could endure the sheer mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that wiped me out when I taught school, in order for my kids to have a better living situation.  I remember coming home from work, just...a shell.  A shell of a person.  I had no more energy to give to anyone or anything else.  I worry that, if I returned to my original vocation, would I have anything left to give to my kids?  I'd be grading papers and making lesson plans instead of helping them with their homework.  I would have no energy to prepare dinner or do anything fun.  I would be falling asleep sitting up on the couch at 9 each night.  I would have no down time with Ben.

Yet...they would have a more stable home and would be more financially secure.  I don't know.  All I know is that God is at my helm, and He let me know that this is what I'm supposed to do, and that it makes me infinitely happier to teach dance than it did to teach school.  And I have the time during the day to volunteer in the kids' classrooms, to take them shorts when they stubbornly wore heavy sweatpants on a day that it was like 85 degrees outside (one guess as to who that was), to take medicine for Dylan over to his school, to pick up Sadie from her school when she was sick and threw up.  To go through the hours-long process of submitting paperwork for the kids to get insurance for another year.  To arrange dentist appointments, speech therapy appointments, occupational therapy appointments.  My kids have some pretty major needs, and they need a mother, not a shell.

I just hope I'm not being selfish. :(

As far as my health, I'm doing well.  I went in for another herceptin infusion last week:
Badda bing, badda boom.  No side effects.  I'm so grateful.

And I really hate that shirt.  I don't know why I continue to wear it.

I continue herceptin until February, and I have reconstruction in July or so.  My foot is really, really ticked off at me for dancing on it.  In addition to the plantar fasciitis that has plagued it for two years, I've now developed posterior tibialis tendonitis.  That's a mouthful.  I tape it every day that I dance, and I wear my big old clunky shoes with orthodics when I'm not dancing.  I'm due to get some custom orthodics in about a week, and I can't wait.  My feet are my moneymakers!  I need them healthy!

The kids are doing great.  Gage quickly got used to the school routine - in fact, he's doing much better since school has started than he did in the summer, when there was less structure.  Micah is doing fabulously on his anti-anxiety meds.  A complete turnaround in that kid.  Sadie has started speech therapy.  And Dylan seems to be handling having seven different classes better than he did last year.  I can't believe he's a seventh grader!  They're all growing like weeds.  Dylan's feet are bigger than mine!  And he's only a couple of inches shorter than me.  Sadie wears my size in shoes and is only maybe four inches shorter than me.  And I'm a tall person!!!

My church calling is fantastic, and I'm reading an incredible book right now - Into Thin Air by John Krakauer.  Amazing.  I've had a cold, so I haven't been sleeping well - lots and lots of coughing.  But it seems to slowly be improving.  Life is good!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The last time my abode was this clean...

...was when I only had Dylan and Sadie.  Ya wanna know why?

My oldest three have been gone at camp this week.

Oh, wait, wait, wait.  I'm not trying to be a jerk.  The main reason I got on here tonight was to let you know that I haven't gotten my test results yet.  I was supposed to get them today, but apparently, Doctor Pirate was in surgery until late this evening.  So I'm supposed to hear from him tomorrow.  I'm so sorry to keep you in suspense.  Some people I know (*cough* Lex *cough*) are even more nervous about this test result than I am (I love that you're more nervous than I am, Lex), and believe me, I'll let you know as soon as I know.  I've had a Peaceful, Easy Feeling today, though.  (What classic rock group sang that song?)  Perhaps because I started the day right by praying, reading my scriptures, and an hour of yoga - my back is yelling at me right now, saying, "Too many bridges, Kar!  Too many bridges!  You're in your late thirties, ya know!"  Perhaps it's the Holy Ghost, speaking peace to my soul.  I know I'm going to be alright.

So anywho.  Back to camp.  They go to Camp Kesem.  For those of you who weren't with me last year, Camp Kesem is a nationwide organization that provides a free, week-long camp experience for kids whose parents have or have had cancer.  There are 60-something chapters of Camp Kesem throughout the United States, and it's just wonderful.  My kids went to the Sun Valley, Idaho chapter last year, and this year, they've gone to the Gresham, Oregon chapter.  If you're ever looking for a good charity to support, this is one to think about.  Kids from age 6 to 16 can go.  Even if their parent has been in remission.  They get free camp, every summer, until they're sixteen.  The idea is that they get a week to just...be kids.  A week not to worry about their parent.  In my case, a week where they don't have to baby-sit all the time while the parent goes to a million doctor visits.  Dylan and Sadie have been absolute rock stars since I've been here in Bend.  I had radiation EVERY SINGLE DAY for eight weeks, and Dyl and Sade watched The Two Littles EVERY SINGLE DAY while I went.  I'm proud of them for kind of stepping up to the plate for me, but I also really looked forward to this week for their sakes. 

Also, it's a whole week where I don't have to hear fighting about the damn X Box.

A whole week where my house actually stays clean.

A whole week which gives me the opportunity to de-junk their bedrooms without them saying, "But Moommmm, I still play with that toy all the time!!  I don't want to donate it!"*

Have I told you about Micah's Spidey Sense?  He's so funny.  So, in this neighborhood, there are a lot of rentals, and therefore, people are moving in and out all the time.  A lot of people, rather than cart a bunch of stuff to The Goodwill, throw crap they don't want in a box or on a table with a little sign saying, "FREE."

Somehow, Micah can sense when one of these boxes or tables is set up.  It's like he has this honing device.  So he comes home with crap all the time.  He has a salt shaker, gravy boat, and sugar bowl from some apartment.  Another raid scored him some ceramic birds and a beautiful ceramic high heel which is decorated with little glass roses.  Most recently, his aquisitions were a large box with like 20 little sample-sized bottles of perfume and several broken Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Sigh.

The perfume was AWFUL.  Every time I came upstairs, or really, whenever Micah was in my vicinity, I started sneezing, because this perfume is too old, I think.  You know that very bitter, eyewatering smell that perfumes get when they're too old?  I hate to say it, but...it's Old Lady Smell.  Times fifty.  

We finally told Mikey he had to get rid of the perfume.  Ben gave him an old bottle (but not too old) of his Preferred Stock.  A much more pleasant smell.  Ben also had a stroke of genius when it came to disposing of this perfume.  You see, we've had this issue with our garbage can.  We're good about bagging our garbage and not putting leaky bags in or anything, but whoever lived here before didn't really care about doing that.  So whenever you open it to throw garbage in, you get this horrible Dead Body smell.  Or Old Mildewy Milk.  It's hard to describe. But it makes me gag.  I've sprayed the inside with our sprayer and poured bleach in there and sprayed it some more and emptied it out and aired it out, but that smell is so pervasive.  Anywho, Ben decided to empty the perfume bottles into the garbage can.

And whattaya know - no more Dead Body smell!  All we smell is old lady.  And we are AOK with that.

So today, I went through Micah's...ah...treasures...and threw out the ornaments that were broken - there were a few that were intact.  He'll probably notice they're gone, but dude.  We don't live in a mansion.  We don't have a whole lotta space.  I gotta do what I gotta do.  Plus, I let him keep the Questionable Black Fluffy Boa.  I was sorely tempted to get rid of it, but instead, I laundered it and put it neatly back in one of his toy bins.

The house looks fantastic.  I'm drinking it in, because the second the ninos return, it will go back to its former pit-like existence.  Dude, next year, Gage gets to go!  Which means - a whole week without the kids?  I'm not wasting that on staying at home and cleaning the house, man.  I'm going somewhere fun!  Oh wait.  I might be recovering from boob surgery. Hm. Well, we'll see.

Anyways, do you want to see this camp where the kiddos went?  We snapped some pictures when we dropped them off.  I have NEVER seen a nicer camp.  It's a YMCA camp.

 A horse corral?  An archery range?  A chapel???
 The younger kids' cabins have (dead) grass on the roofs...
And yes, round doors.  Like little hobbit houses.  Taco was standing in front of the door - hard to see.  At Camp Kesem, the kids and counselors all go by nicknames for the week.  So this dude's name was Taco.
 The cabins have skylights, indoor bathrooms...it's ridiculous.
 I mean, if this is camping, sign me up!
The kids' nicknames this year - Dylan is...crap.  I can't remember.  Something about Commander Something.  Or Something Chief.  It's from some dumb video game.  I'll tell you when I remember.  Sadie's is...Mangle.  No, not Mango.  Mangle.  A character who is actually nice from a video game that we don't even own!  It's called Five Nights of Freddie's, or Five Nights at Freddie's, or something.  The kids play some kind of live version of it during recess, apparently.  Mike decided he wanted to be called Spark.  He originally wanted to be called Sparkle, but shortened it to Spark.  Here are the kids, making their name tags:
 Why would such a sweet little girl choose to call herself Mangle?  It's beyond me.  Dylan in his cabin:
 The older kids' cabins are up on stilts - the terrain is pretty uneven there.  And there are these bridge thingeys between each one:
 This is Dylan's porch.  They built around an existing tree.  So cool.  It reminds me of that Tree House show with that excitable tall man.
 Who's the dude in the striped shirt, leaning against the railing?  Uh, that's me.  I look like a dude.  Who carries a purse.

We saw a few of these around.  I wondered if they were the counselors' tents or nurse tents or something.  They remind me of Mongolian tents.
 Dude, I went to camp for church, and although there is a soft spot in my heart for Camp Darby, it was NOTHING like this.  I think I might have liked camp a whooole lot better if I had this setup!  The kids are so lucky.  I know when I pick them up tomorrow, they'll have many tales to tell.  We'll see if Micah is the most popular kid at camp again this year.  Haha! 

*Which really means that they haven't touched the toy for three years.  Or it's a piece of garbage.  Like, literally, a piece of garbage from the street.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It hit a little too close to home.

Soooo, if you have plans to watch How I Met Your Mother, or as Ben and I call it, HIMYM, you'd better not read this post, because it will be a major spoiler.
Ben and I do enjoy a good binge-watch, and we've been bingeing on HIMYM for a few weeks.  We finally finished the last season last week.

And I cried for like an hour afterward.

I've kept it together pretty well these past few months, so for a series finale to make me cry, nay, even a comedy series finale, I surprised myself.  First off, may I just list my beefs with the finale?  If you haven't watched this, you'll find it boring.  But it does lead in to why I started crying.  You may scroll down if you need:

1)  Barney and Robin divorce after only three years???  After alllll that leadup?  And this beautiful wedding that they had?  And all the amazing things they did to surprise each other? And they were both so good for each other! (a.k.a. They were both totally selfish.)

2)  And Robin gets all busy with her job and doesn't hang out with her friends anymore?  Even when Lily stood there crying in her Moby Dick Halloween costume, all cute with her pregnant belly??? 

3)  Here's my biggest beef.  The thing that made me cry.  Ted spends TEN YEARS searching for his soulmate.  So much heartache.  So much loneliness.  Such hard breakups.  Ten. Years.  And then he FINALLY meets The One.  And she is so fantastic! She plays base guitar!  She works to end poverty!  She makes English muffins sing, like puppets!  She totally fits in with Ted's friends!  She is the mother of his children! 
And you see glimpses of their future together.  And it is so great!!  They have a healthy, supportive, wonderful relationship!!

And then she dies, ten years into their relationship/marriage?  She dies??  This light in Ted's life, his soulmate, the mother of his children?  Dies?  So that the writers can make this big arc come back full circle and he is free to finally date Robin?  Because, conveniently, she's single now, since she and Barney divorced?  What about Ted's wife?  The unselfish one?  The one that wanted to be with him from the get-go???

I cried because this girl died.  I mean look at me.  I can't even remember her name.  But here's the thing:  she is more significant than for me to not know her name.  She is more significant than only being in Ted's life for ten years.  It's bad enough that her boyfriend, who she really thought was the one, died when she was 21.  But for her to finally find love again, but then be taken away at the age of 39?? (Yes, I calculated it.) 

It's not fair.  She didn't get a fair shake.

And I'm scared of dying.

No, that's not it.  I'm not scared to die.  I just don't want to yet. I want to be an old granny.  Like 80 or 85 maybe.

The thing is, I'm trying to ignore this...bump...on my mastectomy scar.  And I've done pretty well so far.  But when What's-Her-Name died when she had young children... It was staring me right in the face.  So I cried and cried.  Ben held me, and I sobbed and told him that I don't want to die!  I like to pretend that cancer is completely behind me, but until I've gone the perfunctory... three years?  Five years?  I don't know what it is, even.  But until I've gone that amount of time without any traces of cancer, I don't know how easily I'll rest. 

I suppose this is premature scanxiety.  I won't start scans to see if cancer is still staying away until my last Herceptin treatment, in February.  But I'm going through a type of scanxiety, really.

I went to a breast specialist today ("He's obsessed with breasts...hey, that rhymes!"  What show?).  He looks like a pirate.  He has a Jeff Goldblum Jurassic Park-era jerry curl mullet going on, and one gold hoop earring in his left ear.  I liked him the second I saw him.  And he really took the time to talk to me and look at my bump and measure it and figure out a plan of action.  Taking into account my type of cancer's tendency to recur (my type is HER2 Positive), he decided to do this needle extraction thing.  It entailed a small, hollow needle extracting some cells from this bump.  It was painless, because I don't have any feeling there.  Gage was in the room, however (my baby-sitters are at My Mom Has Cancer Camp this week), and try as I may, I couldn't shield his curious eyes.  He was fascinated by it, at first, but then commanded the doctor, with some concern, "Don't hurt my mommy!"  It was sweet.

Doctor Pirate says that tomorrow, they'll get the results back and call me.  There are three possibilities: 1)  It will be positive for possible cancer and they'll have to do a biopsy.  2)  It will come back benign and we don't have to worry about it.  3)  It will come back inconclusive, and they'll have to do a biopsy.  They are trying to avoid a biopsy in case it's just weird scar tissue; radiated skin is very difficult to heal, and they don't want to cause any damage if what we're looking at is scar tissue.

So it's not scanxiety, per se, since this isn't a scan.  But it's the same kind of a deal - a test to see if I'm cancer-free.  So, dear friends, can you pray for me today??  (Let's face it, it's like 11:30 while I write this, and you are all in bed.  So I'm saying "today" because you'll most likely read this tomorrow.)  I'd appreciate it.  I really am, for the most part, thinking positively about it and assuming that it's no big deal.  I guess I'm just coming to a realization that...I guess I won't be out of the woods for a long time.  And I so want to be out of those woods. 
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